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Missed out on the celebrations last night. Having to start work at 05:00, it was prudent to have an early night. I was asleep by 22:00; not even the revellers outside stirred me.
I believe the fireworks in Sydney were spectacular. Sydney being the first major city in the world to celebrate the New Year. Melbourne’s celebrations were dampened by much needed rain - but why did it have to wait till New Year’s Eve to fall? From what my passengers told me this morning, the rain did not detract from the spectacular fireworks over the city of Melbourne, at midnight.
St Anthony, please help me find my purse.
This was going to be my productive day at home. Instead I have spent it searching for my purse. Trying to remember when I last had it. Where I could possibly have put it. Having turned this house inside out - and back again - I have come to the conclusion that it may have been taken from the car. But by whom?? Surely not one of my passengers! There was very little cash in it and none of the cards have been used. Leads me to think that I must have lost it.
My passengers were not upset when I was 90 minutes late for the pickup. I had managed to get a message to them, telling of my dilemna and subsequent delay.
But how embarrasing to have to explain to these lovely people, that I, a professional driver, had slipped off a friend’s driveway, whilst reversing, and there was no way I could get back on again. First tow truck which came was too big to get past my car. Next tow truck was too small and light. After two hours I was on the road again - no damage, 90 minutes late!
The family group which I was asked to show the city sights, was Hungarian.
Time came for a toilet stop.
Now every tour guide in Melbourne knows that the 35th floor of the Sofitel hotel, has the best view from the toilets. This is where I took them.
There was a family relaxing in the lounge area, on the 35th floor, who, on hearing the daughter translate my description of the view to her mother, came over and introduced themselves. These people were Hungarian born Australians.
We did not complete the tour. This meeting was the highlight for my visitors.
The Great Ocean Road, one of Victoria’s premier tourist attractions, was the destination for the Hungarian family, today. I stand in awe, each time I visit this remarkable coastline. It is every bit as magnificent - though different - as the coastal road from SF to LA in CA.
Their sheer delight at each attraction, their invitation to join them for lunch and the gift given to me when I picked them up this morning, made for a most wonderful day. On top of that, I was travelling through one of the loveliest areas of the State, and getting paid for it.
Today the Hungarians and I visit Philip Island, a holiday resort along the Victorian coast. I now know that the patriach of this family is a bit of a wine buff, and so offer to include a visit to a vineyard and winery. Result!! One delighted gentleman.
As we walk through one of the reserves, the mother - who neither speaks nor understands any English - spots a kangaroo. (Wallaby, really.) One very excited lady.
At the koala centre, they were able to see and photograph koalas close up. The highlight of their trip.
Back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes.
Imagine my horror, when, while cleaning the car this morning, I found the camera belonging to the Hungarian passengers, whom I have entertained for the past three days. They had already left their hotel by that time, and so far, no one has been able to locate a contact number or address for them. I know where they were travelling from here on, but have not been able to find out where they will be staying. They do not have any contact details for me, either. I must get that camera back to them. Maybe the Hungarian travelagent can help?
Today, Wednesday, is hairdresser day. My hairdresser was not there, when I arrived. Her husband told me she is in hospital. Again?? She had a scare with a mild coronary only a month ago. This time, I am told, it is breast cancer. It was picked up in a routine check only a few days ago. And she is so young. Poor lady, I do pray for her family’s sake, that she will be better soon.
Connected with the Hungarian family tonight - they are in Sydney. Made arrangements to get their camera back to them. Will mail it to Cairns.
Yesterday, when as usual, I arrived at the hairdresser things were distinctly different. When I got there, my hairdresser was not there.
Now, she did have a scare a month or so ago, when she had a mild coronary (she’s not 50 yet) and was hospitalised for a day or two.
This time I am told that she is in hospital again, and of course, I thought it was her heart again. Imagine my horror and devastation when told that she has breast cancer, was operated on on Tuesday and will be undergoing a course of chemo for some time.
Had an interesting job tonight. It involved taking a bridal couple from their reception to the hotel where they were to spend the night. The distance between the two places would be around 4km (no idea how to translate to miles, for those of you on the other side of the globe). I am not the only driver the company has, there are four others, and four other cars. For me the job involved 125km round trip. To my knowledge, the other drivers live considerably closer. It is a mystery to me as to why I was given that job.
One side benefit of my job is, when I am in an area where family or friends reside, time permitting, I am able to visit them. And so it was that I went to visit my daughter and her family last evening, on the way to my late night job.
It is here that I am able to cuddle my 4 month old grandson and his 2 yo sister. These are always special times, as I admire the latest ‘painting’, read her favourite book to both of them - dare not leave out little brother - and admire her latest toy aquisitions.
My back garden here, is only pocket handkerchief size. In it I have selectively planted the magnificent Jacaranda which my son gave to me the Christmas I moved in, a couple of fragrant roses, strelitzia’s - for sentimental reasons - a small forrest of irises, a tall cactus which I brought from my old place and a few easy to care for succulents. The bird bath completed the picture.
Then, at Christmas time, I was given some solar garden lights. Now I sit here thoroughly enjoying the faint blue glow they cast over the garden. My little haven of serenity and satisfaction
Besides my little garden, I have a small concreted patio. On it I am fortunate to have space for a great four burner barbeque, an outdoor setting and a selection of pot plants. The outdoor setting, made of wood - Jarrah - seats eight. It needs regular painting with an oil, especially formulated for the job, and is then able to be left out in all weathers.
In my pots I have planted a variety of plants, including tomatoes, rhubarb, herbs, a collection of different orchids, carpet roses and several varieties of hoya.
Weather permitting, this is where I enjoy my meals.
Horror of horrors today. A semi trailer, one of those B double monsters, overturned on the outskirts of a regional city, 100km from Melbourne. The vehicle was laden with 40,000 litres of diesel fuel. The whole lot exploded and went up in flames, incinerating the driver who was trapped in his cabin. All this on top of all the bush fires which are still blazing around the place, mostly in inaccesable areas and nearly all lit by lightning. In the alpine region, the places where we used to go skiing and wilderness camping have been burned out, or are threatened.
Another Wednesday - hairdresser day. These used to be the best days of the week, but now, with my hairdresser with breast cancer, the sky is grey, nothing is certain. Amazing how one becomes attached to the person who does ones hair, just the right way. Last week she was operated on for breast cancer, and now no one knows how long it will be before she is back at work - if at all. I find it devastating... imagine what it must be like for her husband and children. Sometimes I think I am quite selfish feeling the way I do.
Sometimes happy events have a sad side.
Today I chauffeured for a Japanese couple’s wedding. From the hotel to the church, then to take photos and back to the hotel. The young couple came from Japan just to get married in Melbourne, and have their honeymoon in Australia, before going back to Japan. The bride had been to Melbourne before, and fallen in love with the city, chose to get married here.
To me the happy ocassion had an air of sadness. I mean, on your wedding day, don’t you want your family and friends around, to share the joy?
Today started with 4 hours work this morning. A great job, city sights with an Argentinian honeymoon couple and their Spanish speaking guide. We included a coffee stop, in the Italian restaurant precinct. I had only just got home, when I was given another two jobs, the latter of which would see me late into the night, and next morning, and each involving around 100 kms. No sooner do I finish the first one, and I am requested to do another immediately, before I go back to do the late night job. Not sure when I am meant to eat.
The smoke haze which hangs over this city today, has blown in all the way from the alps. Much of the area in which in the past I have enjoyed walking, skiing and camping has been burned in the savage bushfires, which were lit by lightning over a week ago. Many of the alpine villages and ski resorts have been evacuated, and a historic Chalet up in the mountains was threatened. Fire fighters from all over the country have come to help, the huge water bombing planes and helicopters have been in constant use and the army is on standby.
The firestorm which hit Canberra yesterday and overnight, has now claimed four lives. Many were injured and some are still fighting for their lives. Over four hundred houses have been razed. The velocity of the fire was such, that few had time to save any possessions. The suddeness and intensity of the disaster caught all emergencies services by surprise. The Mt Stromlo Observatory, to which scientist from all over the world come to study the southern skies, has also been destroyed, as is the Australian Defence College. Vital services such as water, gas, electricity, sewerage and others, have been damaged.
Awoke this morning to the smell of smoke - even in the house. Outside it was as if a thick fog had descended on the city. Visibility was down to little more than a kilometer. It was quite eerie. The sun was blotted out completely. People with respiratory problems would have been in great difficulty. On the radio they were urging asthma sufferers to remain indoors and take their medication. At the Australian Open tennis tournament they were even talking of delaying play. And all this, because of the fires some two or three hundred kilometers away, in the Victorian Alps.
Today my thoughts turn only to the fires, those involved in fighting them and the victims of same. It is hard not to be constantly concerned. The hourly newsbulletins and the constant ‘updates’, interrupt everything on the radio and on television. One moment the situation eases a little, as the winds calm down and the temperature moderates. Then things suddenly change. The wind swings around, the temperature rises, and literally, all hell brakes loose, once again. Residents of fire prone areas have for years been encouraged to have a ‘fire plan’. Now it the time for them to activate it.
Such a pleasant and mild day today - 22 Celsius. What a pity I had to start it in such a rotten way. Last night I made a point of going to bed early, since I had an early start this morning - 5am. My alarm goes off for one whole minute, at the designated time, and then repeats that twice more, at five minute intervals. More than an hour later the telephone rang, boss wanting to know where I was.
Collecting newspapers of the fires as a special request for family member living overseas. Best send them air mail.
At last I have a day of. It is about time. I have been slowly moving from fatigue to exhaustion. Not a good sign. Therefore my day of has been filled with leisurely pursuits. There was a short walk to get some shopping. Spent quite some time weeding the front garden. Looks much better now. And then there was the tennis. Thoroughly enjoyed the marathon match last night, which kept me up till after one in the morning. Today I relaxed and watched Agassi and one of the Williams sisters. Good quality tennis, great to watch. A truly relaxing day.
Another very hot day... very, very hot. Today the city was once again shrouded in smoke. The city sky line was barely visible, as I drove my passengers into town from the air port. Some small towns had a harrowing night. With extremely hot and windy weather fore cast for the next day or two, life will not be easy for those defending their property and the weary volunteer fire fighters.
These fires were started by lightning, more than two weeks ago, and have burned out many hundreds of thousands of acres of native bushland - National Parks - beautiful alpine scenery.
For those of you who have not yet come across to the metric world (it will come) I have gone to my conversion chart, to have this make sense.
Today was the second hottest day on record, with the temperature reaching 44.1C (111F). Only 13th January 1939 has recorded a hotter day, when the temperature reached 46C (115F). The lessons learned from the disastrous bushfires twenty years ago, have been tested - successfully - for the first time. To date there has not been any loss of life in Victoria, and minimal loss of property.
A change in weather is expected tonight.
The day we celebrate the settlement of this country by Europeans. The anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet. Whereas many of us take the opportunity to demonstrate a pride in our country, it must be recognized that some of the natives of this country do not see it as such. They see it as the anniversary of when this country was invaded, and as such, not an ocassion to celebrate.
In deference to the weary firefighters, who are still on duty tending to the numerous wild fires threatening private property, all celebratory fireworks have been cancelled.
Today is a public holiday, except for service industries. People still travel on public holidays - perhaps more so - and cars still need to ferry them to their destination. Of course, those arriving from overseas, are not aware that we are celebrating the anniversary of white settlement in Australia. The actual anniversary of that was yesterday. We have a day off on the Monday to compensate for a holiday falling on the weekend. There was talk some time ago, that it would only be celebrated on 26th, regardless which day of the week that was. Wonder what ever happened to that?
Two more water bombing helicopters arrived today. These enormous machines transported in ‘pieces’ and put together here, in readiness to help contain the fires, which are still burning fiercely. It is now some three weeks since these started (by lightning), and many hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine native forest, pine plantations and private agricultural land have been lost. This is not to ignore the cattle, sheep and wildlife which have been killed. As well as that, much infrastructure has been lost, in the way of bridges, water and sewerage treatment plants and electricity and telephone poles and lines.
Tonight, when I was outside, tending to my BBQ, the sound of an approaching helicopter made me look up. It was, ever so low, one of the two water bombing helicopters which arrived from the United States of America, yesterday. It was so low, I felt I could wave to the crew. What a magnificent machine! It had been re-assembled at Avalon, near Geelong, and was flying to the local airport, Essendon, before departing to the fire regions, some two hundred kilometres away. Many small communities are still in heightened danger from the ferocious firestorms. Their most vulnerable citizens evacuated.
Almost the end of the first month of the year, and my New Years resolutions are way, way behind schedule. Some lie in tatters. I can see that I am going to be busy these two days, to at least make up some ground, in an effort to be on track again by the end of February. That will also make February a busy month. If it is not tackled, then this year will not be the year of achievement I aimed it to be.
My 2003 year planner fell off the wall the other day! an omen?
What a productive day today has been. In between my ad hoc work commitments and endless telephone calls - both in and out - my sleeves were rolled up, and I got on with it. Yeah! it has been a productive day.
A good way to end the month, and make it a springboard into the second month of the year. By the end of the second month I will need to have done two more correspondence lessons, finish two chapters of my book and have mailed out at least two dozen marketing letters. February, here I come, making up lost time.
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