Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where to now?

It was like an allegory. Those winds that blew in the bad weather felt like a reflection of the currents that seemed to be stirring up the stagnant pond that my life had become.

Remember those bio-rhythm tables we used to consult back in the 1970s? All the different areas of my life seemed to be moving to a crisis point simultaneously. The car had deteriorated till it can only drive on flat roads. My sister's dog died. Problems at the office made me consider my job might have a limited life span.

I was chronically short of sleep and the cat keeps waking me up at dawn to feed him.

My diabetes flared up, just as it had last winter. The house needed repairs but my bank account was sinking fast.

I couldn't even change the light bulbs in my house as they burned out, due to my vertigo that kept me from climbing ladders. I was slowly being consigned to the dark. Symbolism anyone?

Was I approaching some sort of turning point, I wondered. Since my mother died, maybe I'd just been marking time. Maybe I needed some sort of shock to galvanise me into action.

Like they say, "Sometimes bad things happen because God needs to get your attention." Could be.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wheels (or not)

What would you say counts as an "old car"? Some people who trade in theirs every two years may think that five years is old. Until about a decade ago, I was still driving a 1963 Toyota Tiara -- I only stopped using it because it began refusing to turn left.

Since then I've been driving a 1980 Toyota T-18 and it's been pretty reliable. But this year it's been developing a few problems and I've been meaning to get it looked at. This week I finally took it in.

The mechanic phoned me up a couple of hours later and said "Well, it's not good news." He gave me a run-down of all the things that were wrong and said it would cost $1200 to fix... and that this was more than the car was worth in his opinion.

So it looks like I won't be driving myself into the city again until I can find another car. I can get around the northern suburbs all right because it's mostly flat, but it can't handle the hills going in and out of Hobart.

In fact that's why I was finally motivated to get the car checked -- driving uphill in peak-hour traffic in the city centre was a nightmare.

Ideally I'd like to pick up something cheap and boring like a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic. My man at the garage said he gets them sometimes and he'll keep an eye out for me.

But if you're coming to town and you want me to drive out and pick you up at the airport.... sorry, no can do.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fuel prices

It's always difficult to work out the prices of fuel in other countries - by the time you convert the currency and then convert gallons to metric, your head is spinning. So it was nice to see this piece on ABC radio this morning:

AM - Wednesday, 11 June , 2008 08:05:00
Reporter: David Mark
TONY EASTLEY: Americans are complaining because their fuel has reached around one dollar a litre.

Australian motorists believe they're doing it tough at $1.50 a litre or thereabouts but petrol pain is acute in Europe where the prices are much higher. There, people have taken to the streets and highways in protest.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: Around the world petrol prices are rising. Motorists and truck drivers on the street are on the street.

In Spain where the price of fuel is the equivalent of $AU 1.89 a litre, around 90,000 truck drivers have blocked the country's motorways with their lorries in protest.

VOX POP (translated): This is like a tug-of-war we mustn't give up at the beginning. This is the last bullet in our gun, if this doesn't work, we're lost.

DAVID MARK: Spanish petrol prices are in fact among Europe's cheapest. In Portugal where truck drivers are also protesting, fuel costs around $AU 2.40 per litre. It's about the same price in the UK and Italy.

The price in France and Germany is only marginally cheaper at around $AU 2.30 per litre.

Europe's most expensive countries for fuel are Norway at $AU 2.67 per litre and Turkey at $AU 2.68.

(Sound of people protesting)

The protests aren't confined to Europe. Motorists in many Asian companies are also up in arms about the petrol price hikes.

In Nepal, protesters are on the streets of Kathmandu after petrol rose 25 per cent. The price there is the Australian equivalent of a $1.58 per litre

Protesters are also on the street in Hong Kong where petrol costs around $1.99. It costs a $1.06 in Pakistan and in India it's a $1.24.

In South Korea, where the Government has offered to resign in part because of fuel prices, petrol costs $AU 1.96.

But while most motorists are doing paying ever more, in some countries fuel is virtually free. It costs just 12 cents per litre in Saudi Arabia and just five cents a litre in Venezuela.

Most motorists can only dream of paying so little for the fuel, but they can take some heart in a forecast by the International Energy Association which is predicting oil prices will fall over the next two years to below $US 100 a barrel.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Quizzers of Oz

The monthly pub quiz run by the Irish Association was Monday night. Five of us formed a team under the usual name of The Amnesiacs but we failed to triumph this time round. We came second in our category (of course there were only three teams in that section!).

The categories this time were "Who am I?", Australian trivia, movies, music, books, "Yesterday's News" and a table quiz where we had to identify celebrities whose faces had been morphed onto other bodies (surprisingly difficult).

Sometimes you find that even things you thought you knew refuse to come to mind. Quick, what year did Roy Orbison die? [It was 1988.]

And at times the entire audience disagrees with the quizmaster. Only 16 countries in the Commonwealth? We all said 52. But what the question actually wanted to know was how many Commonwealth countries have the Queen as their Head of State. Like Elizabeth, confusion reigned.

We always have a meal while we're waiting for the quiz to start. Usually I have the Caesar salad, but this time on a whim I tried the Venison Sausage Pasta; not bad, but a bit spicy at times.


Fuel at my local station has reached 159.7 -- that's A$1.59 a litre. Forecast is it will only go higher. *Sigh*


You'll invariably find me at home on Friday afternoons listening to the Community Radio station to hear Alan Rider's show Theatre Organ Showcase. Always lots of great old tunes played on the Wurlitzer or the Hammond organ. This week's selection was particularly enjoyable.