Yes, I have been slow to update this month. The two things that have had me preoccupied have been my bad back and my sister's struggle with hydrology.
Moving that big market umbrella around the back garden so we could find a spot to sit out on the lawn last Saturday was a mistake. The degenerated disc in my back hasn't bothered me for a long time, but it certainly did this week.
What makes it difficult is that I'm at my stiffest when I get out of bed in the morning, but 75% of all my bending takes place in the first hour after I get up. Feeding cats, put out birdseed, getting dressed... you should see me trying to put on my socks.
A mixture of ibuprofen and paracetemol at various times of the day helped me get through things, but it wasn't much fun. You remember that Bill Cosby routine about hearing himself make the same sound that his father used to make when he got out of bed? That's what I was like.
And what, you ask, of Julie's problems?
Well, if you've seen any pictures of her house you'll have noticed that it's below the level of the road. Recently the front yard has become more and more wet. The dampness slowly spread across the yard and down the side, finally becoming a visible trickle of water.
Muddy patches become puddles. Puddles became pools of water. After a few days I couldn't get from one side of the yard to the other — I had already fallen over once attempting it.
After a few days, Julie phoned the Town Hall and asked if some of this water could be coming from the water pipes in the street. A crew arrived, looked around and dug down to the stopcock for the water supply to Julie's house. They turned this off so they could judge if the water was coming from her pipes or theirs.
Then they left.
And never came back.
Julie waited for a few days. There was no water inside the house, but there was plenty outside. Fortunately she was staying with me so it wasn't a personal difficulty, but she still had to carry water to her animals.
Do you know how much bottled water a horse gets through in a day?
(No, just kidding – there was enough water in the creek for Julie to be able to fill the horse trough with a bucket.)
Finally she phoned the city council again. Nobody seemed to know who it was that had been there the first time. Finally they referred her to what they called "the plumbing inspector".
He duly arrived (it turned out he rejoices in the title of Hydrology Investigation Officer) with an assortment of metal-detectors and other instruments. He went all over the footpath, making cryptic marks on the sidewalk with bright blue paint.
A couple of days later another crew arrived and dug a hole six feet deep in the footpath on Saturday morning. I bet the neighbours were pleased when they cut their way through four inches of cement.
While we were looking down at the water in the bottom of the hole, one of the workmen said conversationally "We've found some more water after that first lot."
I looked at him. "Is this good news or bad news?" I asked.
It must have been a good sign though. Within 36 hours they completed their excavations and filled in the hole. Almost instantly the pools of water around the house began to dry up – they're now just muddy patches and we hope that in another couple of days they'll have dried out.
We live in hope anyway.
I don't know if it was 40 days and 40 nights but it felt like it.
Called in for lunch at a new outlet of Pasta Resistance in Collins Street, just near the entrance to the Chickenfeed discount store. A small restaurant but nicely turned out.
I had the pasta salad with bacon and broccoli and thousand island dressing. Quite acceptable.
I don't pay a lot of attention to sports at the best of times, but I did tune in for the telecast of the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
The climax was the presentation to the Queen of the ceremonial baton. She accepted it and spoke to the assembled athletes.
"One year and one day ago - on Commonwealth Day 2005 - I placed this message in this hi-tech baton. It has since been carried round the Commonwealth on every continent and across every ocean by many thousands of voluntary Queen's Baton Relay runners.
I hope that everyone who saw the Baton during its journey recognised it as a symbol of the unity and diversity of our Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth Games are both a product of our unique organisation as well as a tangible example of the value of this partnership of peoples.
Tonight we celebrate the value of sport as a means of bringing together people from seventy-one nations and territories, and from a wide range of cultures, traditions and beliefs.
As we look forward to the next eleven days, I would like to remind you of the very successful Games at Sydney in 1938, in Perth in 1962, and in Brisbane in 1982. Together they underline the impressive contribution that Australia has made to the successful development of the Commonwealth, and to the encouragement of good sportsmanship and friendliness throughout the Commonwealth.
I am glad to have this opportunity to offer my best wishes to every athlete and official taking part in these 'friendly' Games. I congratulate everyone who has worked tirelessly to organise this great sporting celebration, which I hope will entertain hundreds of millions of people round the world."
FROM THE ARCHIVES:
Radio was seen as eminently practical on the farm, providing the latest
weather forecasts, agricultural market reports, and other information that made
the business of farming more productive. But perhaps more importantly, radio
brought formerly isolated homes into close daily contact with the rest of the
nation. This led many of radio’s developers to believe that the new medium’s
greatest promise would be realized in serving rural listeners. In a 1924 speech at
the University of Missouri, RCA's David Sarnoff argued,
Radio's greatest contribution to civilization lies not so much in what it
does for the city dweller but upon the signal influence it can bring upon
the life and action of our farm population. . . . the message that radio
brings to the farmer is the message of human contact, human sympathy,
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