Thursday, 30 April 2015

NSW Deployment - day 2

Hi everyone

Grr: typing this again after accidentally deleting it!

Slept really well last night!  The New Olympic Motel is clean and comfortable and does a good breakfast of sausages, bacon, eggs, muesli and coffee. Not haute cuisine, it's true, but very warm and lots of it. 

Lismore is a good distance from the sea, and in a subtropical area.

There are lots of Palm trees and the architecture has a Queensland-ish feel to it. It feels like a kind of pocket-version of Thibodaux, Louisiana.  As you may imagine, this makes me happy!

The Lismore SES unit is below a rocky cliff. The people are friendly, and they've warned us of the dangers of leeches, paralysis-ticks, and the likelihood of catastrophic flooding.

Weather forecast is still for 150-200mm rain and pockets of thunderstorms. There's a festival of some type down at Nimbin, where there's a risk of flooding. At the moment though, it's a case of 'hurry up and wait'!

NSW Deployment - day 1A

Hi everyone,

Here I am in Lismore, NSW.  I actually typed this entry on the road and tried to post it from my iTouch, but there were tech issues that stopped it.  All my photos are on the iTouch, by the way, so this entry will be textual I'm afraid.

Anyway, we got to Melbourne airport this afternoon for muster at 3pm. It was explained that a BIG rain dump is expected in northeastern NSW over the next few days - hence the request for more crews.

A chai latte later half of the volunteers present were boarding a Virgin flight and the other half on a Qantas flight. I was on Virgin, and seated with a nice chap named Ian from the north-East RSU and a volunteer from a unit near Geelong; we all talked happily for the flight up.

We hit a little turbulence coming into Brisbane. Once in the ground it was explained that volunteers from the country units would go to Lismore (a fairly rural area) and the city-based units to Tweed Heads, a more urban area.  Coaches were supplied to get us to our respective towns over the border in NSW.  By this stage it was getting a bit late: dinner was a (surprisingly good) lamb and feta wrap from the McDonalds at the Coomera BP.  We're all bunking in different motels.  Rain was falling pretty much all the way and is still falling now.  Looks like the forecasters will be right.

Don't think I said in the last post that I didn't get the job at ANZ.  Apparently I got very close but no cigar. I'm a little bummed about that: feels like I'm banging my head against a brick wall some days.

Anyway, you never know.  Eyes are coding so I'll post this now. Need to sleep!

More later.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

NSW Deployment - day 1

Hi everyone,

Typing this in an SES vehicle bound for Tullamarine airport. I had a call from SES this morning asking me to report to the Benalla office at midday for dispatch to Brisbane and deployment to NSW for storm damage assistance. As best I can tell, I've been allotted to the imposingly named Taskforce Echo-C and to be sent to Lismore.

I'm a little nervous, I'm not going to lie, but also excited. I guess I kind of need this: after feeling like a bit of a loser for some while now it's a relief to do something big, that I can be proud of and that hopefully Grace and Rachel would be proud of their daddy for doing.

Battery's low so I'll post this now. Will try and put updates up in the days ahead and generally tell you what's going on.

Wish me luck!

Failure to Start

Hi everyone,

How are things?  It's been a bit of a non-starter day here today.

Took the dog for a good long walk in the morning - about 5 kms.  Kind of struck by how different our side of the fence looks compared to the neighbour, who had crops in last season

Looked for work on the computer. Feels kind of futile is the truth of it: one of the baddest sides of the constant knockbacks is that eventually you reach a point where in applying for work you feel like you're just going through the motions. A couple of good jobs have shown up, but I feel like "what's the point?".

Reading and a few other things in afternoon.  The old boy got back about 5pm with heifers to unload, and then asked me to come round the rest of the cattle with him. This was fine but messed up my plans for a run or a ride; planked and did weights for a bit instead.

More tomorrow.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Adventures in gardening

Hi everyone,

Sorry there was no post last night: truth is I was utterly tired and passed right out!

So yesterday I had some work for the gardener I've mentioned previously.  I met him at his place sand we headed to the job in Mooroopna.  The job itself was to remove about 15 sword-grass shrubs from the garden area. It was nowhere near as hard as I'd been led to expect.  Cutting under the roots with a spade worked effectively, followed by levering the plant up in as few pieces as possible with a mattock.  In about 5 hours we went from this -

... to this -

And from this -

... to this -

The only downside was that we had to keep trekking back to the far side of Shepparton to drop the cuttings at the tip.  Pay not great but I've still declared it to Centrelink.

One thing that made me smile was stopping for fuel and seeing the swap-n-go gas labelled as propane. I can't see that without thinking of Hank Hill!

In good news, the cow in the yards is now consistently (if a little unsteadily) on her feet.  Praise God for small mercies!

Today has been much more settled (bordering on inactive). I've applied to go up to Sydney as part of an SES relief crew after the storms up there.  Some paperwork in the afternoon, and volunteering at the Legal Centre in the evening. Not sure how much longer I can be a legal Service volunteer for. I always feel like I'm giving people bad news or always needing to be 'Dr No'. We'll see.

More tomorrow. Think I'll sleep well tonight!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Mo' labour mo' muscle...

Hi everyone,

Typing this on my phone before I flake out.

Shortly after I finished the preceding post, Michael showed up. We spent the next couple of hours rejuvenating a fence on his place, he tasking me with removing an expanse of ringlock from the line. This was a fiddly job of cutting wire and manipulating it to free it.  This post reflects what I had to untangle each end to get it free -

Anyway, I got it all off and rolled it up. This was what the end product looked like - 

I repeated the exercise with the length of old broken down barbed wire and ended up with something that looked like a colossal Crown of Thorns!

The wire attended to, we moved on to driving steel posts in next to the old posts to bring the fence back into line

The posts themselves were a mixed bag: the old style cut from a single piece of eucalypt with the wire threaded through.  That said, they were old and the white ants had eaten into some of them. 

I headed back to my place about 4pm, then over to the property at Nagambie to bring the steers in to go south tomorrow.

Oh, and we have a small calf with trouble feeding, so we're bringing his mother into the crush and holding her in place so he can get a drink from her.  Tried to get a photo but phone died.

Have some paid labouring work with a gardener lined up tomorrow.  Truly looking forward to it.

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Morning on the Bike

Hi everyone,

I'm typing this on my phone at my brother-in-law's place at Violet Town as I wait for him and the old boy to get here.  The barbecue is on and I'll cook up some  schnitzels for lunch. Mmm, protein!

It's been a full morning for me. I think I said yesterday that I was cycling in Ride the Ranges 2015 today?  It was for that that I wandered over to Euroa this morning.

Because I haven't been cycling long I registered for the 30km route, rather than the 80km or 130km routes.  It was a dirt cheap ride to enter and the registration area had a really friendly feel to it. It was even a pretty place to wait to start, just by the floodgates in the middle of town.

The 30km route was nice and flat and all bitumen aside from about 100metres of gravel. Basically, a recreational track.  I did feel a little underdressed: nearly everyone else was in Lycra with cycling jerseys; I was in running shorts with my short-sleeved Melbourne Marathon shirt. I can only deduce that runners are either dumber than cyclists or feel the cold less!

The route took us on a bit of a tour of the edge of the Strathbogie Ranges.  The countryside is rocky -

but every so often a hill would be wrapped in trees and I found myself singing 'Jerusalem'

And did those Feet, in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green?

Runkeeper tells me the final distance was 26.6kms, which I did in 1:19:35. I'm pretty happy with that and had a great time.

The local Rotary club had a barbecue going when we finished and a steak sandwich was included in the entry fee (score!). I had mine and a bottle of water and got on the road for Michael's place, where the plan is to spend the afternoon stringing fencing wire.

I stopped in Violet Town proper as I passed St Attracta's church: it was open and I didn't think I'd get to Mass anywhere else today.

As it turned out the priest was rostered at another parish this morning (ergo, no Mass), so this was a worship and prayer service for a dozen or so of the local laity. I was happy to be there though: nobody seemed unhappy that I'd come in in my sports clothes, and afterwards a couple of people asked how I'd come to be there and so on. Honestly, it felt like a nice welcoming congregation, and I'll see if I can get a Sunday Mass in there at some time.

Which brings me to the present: I'm waiting for the others to show up, which may be a while as there seems to be a problem with a calf back at the farm.

Still, the sun's coming out and I'm in no hurry. Time for a cup of tea with honey and maybe some planking. And maybe googling up this piece of décor set into the wall of the house:

I'll update you on the balance of the day this evening.

Rain, new boots and fencing

Hi everyone,

An outdoors day here in the Goulburn Valley.

The day started, in a way, at about 3:30am with a short sharp storm that rolled through and woke everyone up. It dumped about 9mm of rain here. Michael tells me it dropped about 20mm at Violet Town and Barry that there was over an inch at Mansfield.  No callouts for SES, interestingly (I kept waiting for my beeper to go off).  Destructive or not, it's beautiful to see the paddocks putting in a green garment of new grass.

I got the day underway with feeding the cow in the yards. She's still down and not able to fully stand up. This worries me with the weather getting colder and the ground being wet - she could easily get sick (in addition to injured). I've been giving here generous servings of oaten hay, and her appetite is good, but if she's not up by Monday the vet may be in order.

After I'd attended to the cow I dashed off a quick note card to an old and dear Canadian friend, to go along with some correspondence to Grace and Rachel, and to Centrelink (a feedback form to say: you guys actually do a great job!, which I'm sure they'll find a change to endless complaints).

I'd agreed to go and help Muchael fencing at Violet Town, and I decided this was a good day to break in some new boots to replace my old ones which (at nearly two hard years old) were starting to come apart.

Fencing at Michael's place took the form of stabilising the more decayed wooden posts with star pickets and fitting standouts on the fence to run electric wires. Good robust work.

Michael and I came back over here about 3pm.  Barry had also come over to lend a hand with getting the seeder running and we pitched in till day ran out of light.  Cool evening and glad of a fire.

Off to Euroa tomorrow morning for a cycling event ("Ride the Ranges"). Looking forward to it. It'll be interesting to see if cycling events are different to foot races! 

More tomorrow.

On the Centenary of Anzac Day

Oceans of ink and hurricanes of breath have been expended parsing the centenary of the Anzac landings in recent months.  Much of it has been platitudes about sacrifice; some of it has involved historically problematic claims of defending 'our' freedoms.  All of it has labourered under the ancient difficulty of extracting meaning from the terrible slaughter of the First World War.

I suggest that the reason people both at the time and now struggle to make sense of the vast human toll of the Great War is because the principle it was fought to defend seems so insubstantial.  In the end, for the British Empire at least, it was a war for the rule of law.

The United Kingdom's stated reason for entering the war was the defence of Belgian neutrality.  In 1839 Germany signed the Treaty of London which created the Kingdom of Belgium, with that Kingdom recognised as remaining a neutral power.  It was that promise of neutrality which the German Empire intended to violate by executing the Schlieffen Plan in order to inflict a rapid defeat on France.

Treaties - promises between nations - are a form of law: ultimately they are a promise by a sovereign to behave in a particular way, in the same way that an Act of Parliament is a promise that some behaviour (like murder) will not be countenanced.  By making war on Belgium, the German Empire repudiated its sovereign promise.  Britain's acceptance of this as a cause for war declared that it was willing to shed blood to maintain the rule of international law.  Its willingness to endure horrendous bloodshed in this cause was a demonstration that the rule would not be violated with impunity (1).

I think that the sacrifice of the Great War seems meaningless today is because the principle that sovereignty is not unlimited is now taken for granted.  The sovereign power of making war (or of "making die") (2) that President Hussein sought to exercise with the annexation of Kuwait in 1990 prompted Security Council resolution 678 and ultimately resulted in the Persian Gulf War.  At present a long-running dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica over the location of their border has lead not to a call to arms or a gallant defence of the Fatherland, but to proceedings in the International Court of Justice.

It is for this reason that I find the hostility to international courts of William Safire (3) and Ted Cruz (4) to be somewhat concerning.  These courts are a sign that law is accepted to exist at an international level, and that state sovereignty ought conform itself to it - precisely the principle for which the British Empire went to war.  Courts like the International Court of Justice - slow, procedure-heavy, grindingly technical, unexciting - are the lasting monument to the courage and suffering of the British- and Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces.  I can think of few greater gifts to the people of the world.


(1) An interesting 'what if' is whether Britain would still have entered the war against Germany. Personally I think it would: the potential gains in the form of not allowing a single power to dominate Europe, and the promise of territorial gains for New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, would ultimately have been too great a temptation for the Empire to remain aloof.
(2) Sophie Wahnich, In Defence of the Terror (trans. D. Fernbach) (2012), at 58-59.
(3) William Safire, 'The Purloined Treaty', New York Times (9 April 2001) at np.
(4) Ted Cruz, 'SCOTUS rejects authority of World Court', Human Events (1 April 2008) at 1.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Time in Wodonga

Hi everyone,

Typing this in my phone before I pass out. Tired!

So today was the day of the job interview at Wodonga with the bank.  I drove up there at about 11am - it's about 2 hours to get there.

I'm not that confident about how the interview itself went. I sold myself as well as you can without being a pain, but I don't feel I closed the deal.

Went for a 9km run along the Noreuil Park trail post interview. Felt good.

Went for a swim afterwards at Wodonga Sports and Leisure centre - really pleasant.  Then got a few groceries from a supermarket in a shopping centre. A little saddened by how it could have been a centre anywhere.

Caught some of 98.5 TheLight radio on way back.

Not usually a fan of Christian stations but this one wasn't bad!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Old Skool

Hi everyone,

I was on the computer yesterday preparing for a job interview tomorrow and also reporting my details with Centrelink for unemployment benefits.

I couldn't resist a tongue-in-cheek observation in my "Dole Diary" that records positions applied for.  I emailed off for a job as a stable hand, and noted to myself that "I'd be doing what my teachers always said I'd end up doing!" (i.e., shovelling, err, horse exhaust)

It struck me that my current situation is kind of the opposite of the sort of thing my high school would be proud of.  I went to one of Victoria's flagship government schools, Melbourne High School (it would be my 20 year class reunion this year, now that I think about it).
It's the sort of place that attaches a huge amount of importance to how well its former students do as captains of industry or as eminent doctors or lawyers or as leaders in government and so on and so on.  The flipside to this is that it's rather exclusionary for anyone whose life has gone in a different direction*.  This is one of the reasons why I let my membership in the Old Boys' Association lapse over a decade ago: the massively self-congratulatory attitude of everyone connected with it.

It's also the reason why I don't refer to going there as part of my past unless I have to (as far as Facebook is concerned, for example, my high school was Rosebud Secondary College, where I went until I was 13).
What about you good people?  Do you retain links with your high school?  Or have you taken your life in a different direction to what was expected of you?
* That said, it's not hard to understand why it doesn't draw attention to its most notorious former student, Victoria's premier rampage killer and general nutcase Julian Knight.

A calf in boots!

Hi everyone,

I'm not sure what to make of today. I came in under my calorie goal on MyFitnessPal somehow; it's a miracle to me as I think I was pretty stupid idle all day.

To recap, I spent a big whack of the late morning and midday on the computer preparing for a job interview in Wodonga tomorrow and attending to a few other things.  Michael arrived along about 11am.

I think the most striking thing for the day was an exercise in bovine orthopaedics.  One of the calves who was born a few days ago has been walking with its back hooves bent under its feet. Imagine walking on the front part of your ankle. Most likely this is because it's a big calf and would have been cramped up pre-birth, and the tendons haven't acquired their proper tension. To save him injuring himself this afternoon I crash-tackled him and Dad and I held him down while Michael (being an ambulance volunteer) strapped the hooves into their proper position with crepe bandages and tape. The little fellow was walking about right when we left him, and God willing his feet will settle in their right position over the next few days.  He looks most fetching n his silvery coloured boots!

Not much else exciting today. Seminar on radio use at SES training tonight.

Looking forward to telling you about the interview tomorrow!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Time on the road

Hi everyone,

Lots of time on the road today.

I had a morning appointment with Centrelink - the social security agency here - about now getting unemployment benefits and my duties to look for work.

I'm not going to lie: I'm still a bit sensitive (for want of a better word) about being on benefits.  That's why this is how I've labelled my own file of social security documents -

And, really, why I always try to look well presented when I go in.  Maybe it's snobbery or a pride I have no right to, but I'd hate to be turning up disheveled in thongs and a raggy t-shirt like I'd given up on life.  

After attending to Centrelink and some other business in town I went back to the farm and in the afternoon the old boy and I went over to the block at Rushworth to put away a tractor that had been delivered there for use sowing some grain for feed.

I was a little struck while I was there by a line of fence we put in maybe 12 years ago.  Somehow it seemed pleasantly enduring and somehow trustworthy.

The drive back to the place at Nagambie and then in to the Casa took us through Whroo.  I felt a little odd about this. When the ex and I were first together we visited Whroo the same day as we had our first "let's get all dressed up" date.  So it seemed somehow important.

I'm not all broken hearted or anything; just, I suppose, wondering what one does with these memories.  I'm not sure.

Not much else to note. Got steers in at Nagambie to go south tomorrow.  Fed that heifer who's still in the yards.  Hopefully some rain in next few days.

More soon,


Bits and pieces

Hi everyone,

It's been a day of bits and pieces here in my world.

Did I remember to mention yesterday that we had to pull a calf late in the afternoon. Sadly, the calf didn't survive and its mother was pretty sore afterwards. She's able to get up but was clearly not comfortable.  She was mostly unchanged this morning; through the day we've given her water and good oaten hay - I think with a few days TLC she'll be ok.

Through the morning I applied for some more work, although it's disheartening because I know full well I'll never hear back about them. Gripe: all I need is a start and I can work a miracle.

After trying to find work the dog and I went for a longish walk and, while we were out, found the horseshoe of draft horse.

I've hung onto it - I think it'd look good buffed and polished and displayed.  I'll look into what's good in the realm of equine décor.

I got in a quick cycle in the late late afternoon and some planking late evening. Eating a lot at present, which annoys me.

Will need to go to town tomorrow for a few things. Off to Wodonga in Friday for a job interview. Let's see how we go.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Out and about

Hi everyone,

It's been a surprisingly full day.

I slept a bit late this morning (no great surprise there). Spent part of the morning checking for new calves, including spotting a cow who was having trouble calving. Awesome.

I had to go to town about midday as I had an appointment at the Blood Bank to make a plasma donation.  No matter how bad things get, sharing my blood (well, blood product) always makes me feel good! 

I learned something interesting too: when the nurse was checking me he said that my haemoglobin was too low to donate.  We tried again and I was over the threshold but still very low relative to my last measurement. Eventually we got a high enough score. I mentioned that I'd done a half-Marathon the day before and he said this was probably the reason - the body was tired!

By the time I was back at the farm Dad had returned from Flinders. He was working on the cow with the stuck calf; eventually we got it out, and I'm pretty sure the cow will get up tomorrow too.

No more for now (very tired). More tomorrow.