What would Saturday mornings be without breakfast?

Before I left Adelaide, Saturday mornings would find me at the Central Market in search of breakfast. I arrived at around 8am and would meet up with whichever family members dragged themselves out of bed. While seated at our customary table, friends would often drop by. They knew where to find us.

Breakfast

Fast forward and I relocated to Melbourne for work. Living in the CBD, I had plenty of choice for breakfast and I was keen to continue the tradition, albeit mostly by myself. Occasionally visitors have joined me but mostly I have explored the culinary offerings of the laneways and café’s within easy walking distance. On occasions, I dragged out the car to travel to Port Melbourne or perhaps to Williamstown, searching for new experiences, but mostly I have confined my Saturday mornings to the CBD.

The breakfast ventures are more than just food for me. It’s the social experience as well. I look for a place that has good coffee, the weekend papers, and a certain level of ambience. Today it was Grey & Bliss at Port Melbourne. When you live alone, seeking experiences outside your four walls are important; plus fresh air, stray conversations, things to see, and perhaps good food.

Would you believe, I left my phone at home today. Once I have finished the papers I usually scan the emails or other news. Today I had to look around me. It was noisy. Typically, the floor was polished concrete and grating chairs and chatter bounced off it. Alongside my table, two women watched a video on their phone, with the volume up loud. It matched their shrieks of laughter. I considered frowning my displeasure, but they wouldn’t have noticed.

Outside, a small dog yelped incessantly. The owner had tied it to a pole and left it there while she did her shopping. The yelping ricocheted around my head. The café owner came and shut the adjoining door in an effort to soften the noise. He said that probably someone would steal the dog. That often happens when people leave cute dogs tied up in the street. Eventually, the dog stopped barking, but whether the owner returned or a thief took advantage of the opportunity, I have no idea.

You can overhear strange snippets of conversation. Two other women were discussing their various medical conditions, or perhaps those of their family. I tuned out, not being interested in disturbances in someone else’s gut. Only a few people are reading papers, which is good for me. It means that there are copies available for me to feed my newspaper addiction. I wish tables were bigger to accommodate my coffee, the water bottle, the paper and my breakfast. Most people are reading screens, even those in the company of a partner or friend.

One young couple sat side-by-side instead of opposite each other. He was in dude dress, with his baseball cap turned backwards. She was wearing a simple black shift, teamed with ankle boots and socks that showed above the boots. They weren’t speaking or reading – just sitting with each other.

My usual menu choice revolves around eggs, but feeling the need for change and adventure, today I ordered the ricotta hotcakes with poached pears and whipped mascarpone. It was a good choice.

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A Fair Go for Whom?

As Australians, we have been brought up on stories of giving everyone a fair go. It’s part of our culture and is a value that we hold most dear.

My European ancestors came to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century looking for a fair go. They came from times of hardship, unemployment and poverty. They hoped that in this new country they could make a reasonable life for themselves and their children. Their descendants are now spread far and wide, leading by comparison comfortable lives in middle Australia. Someone gave them a fair go.

There are historical examples that support our belief.  The miners fought for a fair go at the Eureka Stockade, some of them giving their lives for it. A few decades later, Australia was the first country to both give women the vote and to grant them the right to stand for election.  We were brought up on stories such as the bravery of John Simpson and his donkey, bravely providing first aid and carrying the wounded until he himself was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign at Anzac Cove. Heart-stirring stuff.

1856 saw the introduction of the 8-hour day for stonemasons in Victoria, granting them Saturday afternoons off.  This was fought for on the basis of not sacrificing health and shortening the duration of human life; allowing working men the time to develop their minds through education; and allowing tradesmen to be better husbands and fathers.  In time, these working conditions spread throughout the workforce.

We have believed that education is the right of all Australian children and that access to affordable health care should be given to everyone. We like to think that if anyone puts their mind to it, they can do anything.

Post WW2, there was mass migration to Australia from war-ravaged Europe.  Those people didn’t always have an easy time of their re-settlement, but they and their children have helped to make Australia the multi-cultural society that it is today.  In spite of calling them Wogs, Eyties, Ethnics, Poms and various other names, we like to think that we gave them a fair go and often use those names affectionately today.

It is true that our concept of a fair go was often biased. Our indigenous Aborigines rarely got a fair go and many struggle to do so today. Immigration policies restricted Asian neighbours from migrating here, although early Chinese migration played a significant role in the development of nineteenth-century Victoria.

Common sense and a review of history tells us that the concept of ‘fair go’ is very subjective. It is reserved for PLUs – People Like Us.  We are the ones who deserve it and as for the others – they just have to buckle down and earn it or else learn to change their ways and to become PLUs – if we let them of course.

In recent years, even the righteous and deserving are questioning what has happened to the fundamental value which underpins our way of life.  We have seen government and commercial actions which have threatened our Australian pride.

We imprison people who have fled their homelands as conditions there have become untenable or worse, life-threatening. We deny them adequate health care, education, and the opportunity to lead a meaningful life and to contribute to meaningful society. Even worse, we deny them any form of hope for the future. When we are being particularly scornful, we accuse them of being just ‘economic refugees’. Since when is that a crime?  So were my ancestors economic refugees, and one of them even jumped ship to remain in Australia.

We erode the benefits and working conditions of the most vulnerable of our workers. We also have begun the process by which penalty rates are reduced, a move that will spread to many industries. It seems that we no longer deserve compensation for giving up our evenings or traditional family time.

We are increasing the cost of education, ignoring the fact that for us to truly be a lucky country, we need a skilled and educated workforce. We need our scientists, our teachers and our technicians. We need to invest in our people if we are going to innovate, to develop industries, and to keep up with other nations. The return on this investment is a clever society and dare I say it, a fairer society. It is one in which everyone has the opportunity of developing their skills and talents for the benefit of us all. Increasingly, only the wealthy are able to educate their children.

We refuse to pay our job-seekers a livable sum of money, choosing to label them leaners and bludgers in spite of the fact that changes in technology and the economic environment has seen many jobs disappear.  Some are too inexperienced, some are over-experienced, some are too you and some are too old. Some no longer have skills in demand and others have never had the opportunity to develop them in the first place.  Whatever the reason, it is their fault that they can’t find a job and they don’t deserve our charity.

Just to make sure that life is really difficult, we restrict their eligibility to social security benefits on the theory that this will make them try harder. Bad luck that they can no longer afford the costs of applying for work, nor can they afford to pay rent or keep up the mortgage payments while they search. They just need to try harder.  We also reduce the number of staff within Centrelink and make it more difficult for those who need social security assistance to access information and accurate advice.

We hound our social security recipients on the theory that they are all out to defraud the government and therefore the tax-payer of valuable funds. We use poorly defined algorithms to decide just who is a miscreant and put the onus of proof on them in establishing their innocence. We then use bullying tactics and private debt collectors to enforce payment, whether they actually owe it or not.

Our political leaders, with the self-assurance that they are acting on behalf of us all, explain that it is a system that is working well, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. In the meantime, their colleagues are caught out rorting their entitlements to the tune of thousands of dollars. If they lose their parliamentary seat, they can seek comfort in the knowledge that entitlements and a comfortable superannuation payment will follow them into private life. After all, they deserve it. It’s only fair.

So what does a fair go meant today?  On the evidence available, it means to strongly define who deserves it and who doesn’t. Those who deserve it are the ones who get to decide who don’t. Those who don’t, only have themselves to blame for their situation. If only they were a PLU (employed, educated, and fit) they might be deserving also. That’s only fair.

Do you think that we still abide by the maxim of a fair go?

Blog Spam

Aren’t you sick of it?  Isn’t it just so infuriating? Every time that I upload a new post to my blog, the ‘likes’ start to flow into my in-box.  The message from Word Press says:

     Fred liked your post. 

     He thought the post was pretty awesome.

     You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours!  

That’s nice, I think to myself.  Somebody likes my post.  I should return the favour and look at theirs.  Perhaps we’ll have something in common.

We don’t, and that’s not surprising because when I look at my blog stats, I can see that none of those likes have actually read my blog.  All the spammer has done is gone fishing to gain my response so that I will increase the visitation levels on their blog.

And that’s not all.  Their blog is likely part of an on-line multi-level marketing scheme, focussed on making money from signing bloggers up for a fee to learn more about money-making ventures via affiliate relationships, and through signing up others to the scheme.  Information is provided by hyper linked videos which show cool-looking dudes in their early twenties who spruik the perfect money-making ventures, if only you will sign up.

I have no objections to anyone making money from blogging, from affiliate associations, advertising, or any other means.  What I do object to is being spammed with the empty likes and trying to entice me to read the spammer’s blog without the courtesy of having read mine.  It makes me feel used and I don’t like it.

Am I alone here?  Have others felt the same way about these spam bloggers and their likes?

Building a Retirement Village

I often think about retirement years, where and how I’ll live and with whom.  I’m not partnered so of course the ‘with whom’ questions might be easy to answer:  I’ll live alone.  That might not always be possible though, and I might not always want it either. 

So what are my options?  I have thrown ideas around in my head for a while and had over-coffee discussions with friends that have given rise to general agreement but have gone nowhere specific.  All of us value our autonomy and independence and want to live an active life for as long as we are able, part of the community still and definitely not located in a closed retirement enclave.  We don’t want to live our lives by the rules that we typically associate with retirement villages.

For this reason, I was interested in the discussion that took place on ABC Radio National this morning on ‘To move or not to move?”

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/to-move2c-or-not-to-move-as-you-get-older3f/4640128

Guests on the program and those who rang in discussed many of those issues that I have cited: the need for control and autonomy; remaining part of the community but living in a supportive environment and having access to the support and facilities that they also required.

It seems that we are all thinking along the same lines.  I love the house that I have built, but I know that it will be too expensive for me to run and maintain in coming years, plus I don’t want to spend all my time working on or maintaining the house.  Ideally, I would develop a solution that is environmentally sensitive and as a consequence cheaper to run and maintain.  Besides the facility that I have now – lots of storage, cleanable surfaces, welcoming character and atmosphere – I would like to build a place also that has those sacred and secret places either inside or outside.  I would like to be able to entertain guests or dare I hope, one day the grandchildren.  My secret indulgent wish is that I could also have a heated lap pool as I love swimming.

There are advantages to looking at a combined development – one that takes you into the future with shared facilities (I’m happy to share the pool), reduced costs, shared maintenance costs and with other like-minded people.  My preference would be for a metropolitan village, as I am a city-based girl.  I like having access to cinemas and cafés and a range of cultural and artistic facilities.  If feasible, I would live in an inner-city location.  That could be achieved with buying up a cluster of houses that back onto each other and demolishing the dividing fences and creating shared areas.

Alternatively, and preferably if one had the financial resources, another option would be to demolish those houses and to start again, with purpose-built housing solutions and a site that was master-planned from the beginning.  Those who were interviewed in the radio program seemed to be taking the rural option, building their village on a green field site close to a town so that they still had access to facilities, but had enough land available to provide each dwelling with some acreage.

They all seemed to have similar ideas.  I liked the provision of gopher tracks so in times of reduced mobility, the residents could ride their gophers to the local town as well as around their ‘village’.  There was talk of communal gardens and shared tradespeople and bulk purchasing, all of which sounds sensible.  Every proposal talked of eco-sensitive design which was going to result in sustainable development and reduced running costs.  One project sensibly talked about a central guest accommodation unit so that there was somewhere for visitors to stay, and meaning that individual houses did not need to be as big.  Something to contemplate although I would still like to have visitors staying with me.

Although frequent mention was made of like-minded people, it was also stressed that the community did not need to be of a homogenous age group and that having interaction with a variety of ages was also important.  That could have be with visitors or local community interaction, or even people of varied age groups living permanently within the community.

I like the concepts that have been discussed here and have been mulling over the options for some time.  I haven’t yet come to grips with how to get other people on board and how to decide on the type of development.  I still have time to play around with the idea.

If others have thoughts along these lines, or know of other retirement communities, I would love to hear about it.

 

 

On the Brink

2013 promises to be a defining year for me – to some degree anyway.  This is the year that I turn 60.  I have only just adjusted – sort of – to the description of middle-aged being applied to me.  OK, I don’t exactly feel ‘young’ any more but middle-aged sounds staid and matronly and it is a term that I have been happy to ignore in relation to myself.

Embarking on my seventh decade though is both confronting and scary.  It is also a time for acknowledging realities:

  • I am not going to be Prime Minister of Australia.  This was a teenage ambition but I never did have the required degree of focus and intellectual retention.  Probably the main person who takes me seriously is myself.
  • I am not going to meet my Knight in Shining Armour (KISA).  If it hasn’t happened by now, then it is unlikely to do so and I remain one of life’s unclaimed treasures.  Sadly, his armour is probably all rusted up anyway.
  • I am not going to be rich, or even just comfortably wealthy.  This is assuming of course that richness is measured in monetary terms.  I am certainly rich in other aspects of my life.
  • The attractiveness that was evident in younger years (never great and never conventional) is fading fast as my waistline thickens, my hair thins and there are jowls framing my numerous chins.
  • I am becoming invisible and a person whose opinion is of diminishing importance.  (Being patronised by someone whose nappy you changed is a bit irritating.)
  • Suddenly it is considered not appropriate to shop for clothes in boutiques that I have patronised for years – OK decades.  Apparently some clothes are the prerogative of the young and I should now be confining myself to elasticised waists and florals.

Still, I am sure I can cope with all of that.  In my usual style, I’ll just ignore it and go on behaving, dressing and dreaming as I always have.

This looming birthday is just one of the issues that I am confronting in 2013, but the others can wait for a later blog. 

The Finer Points of Dining

I have had occasion to eat out several times this week.  These were social events and the opportunity to share company and break bread with friends and family.  All good.  My waistline and purse are suffering a bit, but hopefully this is not a permanent state of affairs.

I had some wonderful food, served with attention to service and detail.  Good experiences. You can hear the BUT coming though can’t you and there is a bone of contention in all this.  There is a practice now in many restaurants of not providing vegetables with a meal (whether cooked or salad variety).  You are provided with a piece of meat or a piece of chicken or a stack of vegetarian equivalent, tastefully displayed with a sauce or jus or perhaps some cauliflower foam, and a decorative garnish.  If you want vegetables with that, then they are ordered and paid for separately.

The restaurant I dined at last night did not do combined vegetables, so it was another $10 for a plate of beans, lightly sauteed in butter and served with toasted slivered almonds, or another $10 for chunks or roasted potatoes, seasoned with sea salt and rosemary, and then there was the usual roast beetroot and rocket salad – probably another $10 but I forget how much exactly.  Admittedly, these dishes each provided enough vegetable to be shared between two people, but given the cost of my main dish, I would have expected that an array of vegetables would have accompanied it.

The preceding night, I dined at a fish restaurant – new and with very positive reviews.  The service again was wonderful, but a platter of fish and the ubiquitous chips only was supplied.  A Greek or Green Salad had to be ordered extra.  No bread was provided – that had to be ordered extra as well.  The owner of this restaurant spent many years assisting his parents to run a Fish Cafe – great and unpretentious food with lots of repeat customers.  Eventually the parents got tired and decided that it was time to retire and their son moved on to his own restaurant.  He must be focusing on a different clientele.

On a positive note though, we did not realise when booking at this restaurant that it was run by the son (who also cooks).  My father had become quite well-known at the Fish Cafe, as he was a regular patron and always ordered the same thing.  Battered Garfish, with one fillet on the plate and one in a bag to take home as he could never eat the two.  (His appetite has declined in recent years.) When they saw him come in the door, the staff anticipated his requirements.

At the restaurant, Dad again ordered battered Garfish.  When it arrived, it came with a take-away box and the waiter explained that there was an extra fillet provided and that we would understand what the box was for.  It was only then that we discovered whose restaurant it was and were tickled that not only did the owner recognise my father, but that he catered for him as he did.  We will probably only go back on special occasions, given the cost but the gesture in looking after my father (in his nineties) was much appreciated.  That as much as anything will draw us back.

Am I alone in feeling that restaurants are gouging in pricing their meals as separate components, or am I exhibiting a lack of understanding in how costs are rising for restaurant managers?