Gathering the straws of life together

Recent Posts

Happiness and ageing

Happiness and ageing

Does happiness and ageing go together? Is everyone who is ageing – happy? Most developed countries have accepted the age of 65 years as getting older or “elderly”. If you, like me “just” over 65 years old you are a senior, an older person or […]

In bed with Andrea

In bed with Andrea

Yes, I am spending more and more time in bed with Andrea. My One&Only (O&O) knows what is happening and he is okay with it all. I enjoy a relaxed night in bed when I have Andrea singing me to sleep. I know what you […]

Feeding the Farmers

Feeding the Farmers

As a community we rely on farmers feeding us and now it is time for us to take a role in feeding the farmers. My comments come in the context of severe drought conditions across Australia. However, given that I live in Queensland I want to focus on feeding the farmers in my backyard, in Western Queensland. It is a tough life being a crop farmer or a livestock farmer. The worst times for farmers is when there is little or no water. Not enough water to raise crops for feed or not enough water for the grass to grow. The paddocks turn to dust and before long, the dust forms a tear in the eyes of the farmer.

Australia…a land of sweeping plains…of ragged mountain ranges.

Feeding the farmers is an opportunity for all of us who live in the city to lend a hand in time of drought. There are a number of charities that will channel gifts and money to those farmers most in need. If you are thinking of helping feed the farmers there are a couple of charities you could consider. There groups will channel my gift and yours to a needy farmer – Aussie Helpers; Buy a Bale; or the Thirsty Cow.

Want to know more about what is happening for farmers. Read here about Rural Aid Australia and the work they are doing. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has taken an important step in giving a helping hand and feeding the farmers. The NFF has joined with Rotary Australia and Channel 9 on a national fundraising effort to support drought affected farming families. Mateship is alive and well in Australia.

Reading about the struggles the farmers face with drought is very confronting. Every time I turn on a tap or have a shower I am aware of the value of water. We all need water. The farmers who grow our food need water. My post “what about water” tells another story about water. Whatever way we look at it – we need water for our survival. But now our farmers need our help at a time where a drop of water becomes their most precious commodity. Why do farmer’s keep going when things are so tough? They have put so much hard work into their land and like others even though Australia is a land of extremes – they love their land, they love Australia. Just why they love Australia and just why I love Australia is summed up in Dorothea Mackeller’s famous poem “My Country”.

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze …

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

National Heart Foundation Tick

National Heart Foundation Tick

When I spoke about the National Heart Foundation Tick recently with my sister Debbie, she told me it was no longer trustworthy. I was astonished to hear this and decided to investigate. The National Heart Foundation Tick has been a trusted symbol since 1989. It was […]

What about water?

What about water?

Have you ever heard someone say, “what about water”? You may be going on a picnic, a long drive or even going fishing. If so, you will need to take water with you! Yesterday we were told we would have no water for the day! […]

Saying G’day and R U OK?

Saying G’day and R U OK?

Saying G’day is something we do most days as well as “how are you going” meaning R U OK? There are days at our place when we say lots of G’day’s, and all we are doing is walking around our neighbourhood! We have met people and found out about others who live around us just through saying G’day. However, it takes more skill to delve deeper and find out if someone is OK. It depends on our relationship with the person and how comfortable it is to take that next step into finding out how the person is travelling in life! How are you going – R U OK?

Some months back my O&O and I met Ben when out walking. He lives at the end of a cul-de-sac with his young family. He was looking at the view from a great vantage point near his front gate down to the Lockyer Valley, beer in hand. No doubt a reward after a hard day’s work. Then a few months later we see Steve again but at the back of his property, beer in hand, looking at the view. We yelled out G’day and he motioned us over. We met the family’s pet sheep, behaves just like a dog. Like us the family have chickens and a coop with an auto door-opener. They have a large block of land backing onto Jubilee Park (313ha of bushland). We met his two daughters and this all happened through just saying G’day. When chatting to Ben he did not have one mouthful of beer. I felt that we were interfering with his afternoon tradition of relaxing outside, with a beer. Maybe next time we go walking we will take three beers in a backpack for an occasion such as saying G’day.

Then there is Jack who lives around the corner from us. He has lived in the same house for over 40 years. We said G’day and he stopped to chat. He told us so many interesting stories about some of the neighbours around us – Jack is the type of guy who does not hold back! Then there was John a few doors away. After we said G’day he chatted and shared about his life including the recent death of his wife. He has two children, still at school. Saying G’day can make a difference to someone’s day. Just by being willing to stop and listen.

Then there is Alan we meet regularly in the supermarket. I think he lives on his own, early 60’s, and always stops to say G’day. He talks loudly, maybe some hearing loss! He tells us about his cooking, his favourite sauce and what he likes with his baked beans. A while back we missed out on saying G’day to Alan as he was busy saying G’day to someone else!

Saying R U OK takes more skill then just saying G’day. Firstly, when saying R U OK, it should not be a glib statement. If I ask someone who I know and care about R U OK I must be ready to listen. This reminds me of a story about the woman at a party. Everyone was floating around, being polite, and saying “G’day, how are you going”? The woman says, “I am dying” and the response is “that’s good” and then the person moves on for another conversation. They did not listen!

Life can be a lonely place. Take time to say G’day and R U OK?

The R U OK movement gives us simple steps to follow: ask, listen, encourage action, check-in. Not all of us know how to behave in a situation when we notice that someone we know, love or care about is not in a good place. The R U OK movement helps boost confidence and skills of people to connect meaningfully with others.

It all started when Gavin Larkin’s father took his own life in 1995. Then in 2009 Gavin decided it was time to step up and champion the cause that a conversation can change a life. Yes, a conversation can not only change a life, it can save a life.

R U OK? If not, see someone you trust and have a conversation or see a health professional. There is always someone who would like to say G’day and follow this with a meaningful conversation.

Note: The names of people in this post are fictional, but the stories are factual.

Cashless society

Cashless society

More and more I see the evidence that we are moving to a cashless society. Fewer and fewer people carry cash. All we need is plastic – a plastic card! At least our plastic cards are not “single use” – we use them time and […]

Time for a siesta

Time for a siesta

When visiting Spain, you will find that this is the country of the siesta! When we were there, 16 years ago, we discovered the siesta. Everything quietens down from around 2pm – 4pm or longer. The Spanish then come alive in the evening. They eat […]

Waste not want not!

Waste not want not!

Waste not want not is a saying that dates back to 1772. There are two meanings. The first is “do not waste as you might need it in the future”. Secondly, the “less we waste the less we will lack in the future”.

It is in vogue to be waste conscious, to be environmentally friendly. And so, it should be. But this is nothing new! When I was growing up we reused things, we recycled and reduced our waste. Milk came in a bottle on our doorstep. Flour bought from the corner store came in a brown paper bag. Newspaper was recycled via the outside toilet.

As a family we would often take a Sunday drive and go to the “dump”. It was the place we would take our waste. We would do it ourselves. We did not rely on the council to pick it up from our front door. Further, when at the “dump” we would look around for treasure in another person’s trash. Now someone else is paid to do this and then we must pay to buy another’s trash, now repurposed as treasure. Waste has become very organised. When you turn up at the waste management facility there are very clear directions of where to go and what to do! Such as, follow the green arrow for green waste, take another arrow for cardboard etc.

My “One & Only” (O&O) has a great mindset about “waste not want not”. He grew up in Ireland and as one of six children they were taught not to be wasteful. His father grew vegetables, heaps of potatoes, and kept chickens for eggs and Sunday roasts. My O&O’s father did this to keep the family well fed and healthy but also to make the weekly pay go further. Therefore, there was very little waste. Meals were made from scratch and cooked over an open fire. The same heat from the fire that dried clothes on a cold winter’s day (just like we are doing today with our combustion wood fire).

Having the right mindset about waste my O&O has shelves full of treasure in his workshop. One thing I have learnt over the years that so much of what he has kept has been used by us later e.g. timber for the chicken coop modification. Then there are times he will want to give something away that we no longer have a use for. I tell him, no one will want that and most of the time I am right! This has come about due to our consumer approach, always buying something new and throwing out the old. Am I any different?

This is our recycle waste for a few days! Note the Indian Style Butter Chicken meal bought in a box. It was a “taste test” to see what the meal was like. A possible meal for my mother who will be 92 years old in a few weeks. She can’t manage cooking every night. It was surprisingly good, bought from Aldi for less than $3. My O&O and I shared it for lunch. Then there was a little wine one evening, or was that two – to make the heart rejoice!

But now we are all being challenged to think differently and behave differently. No more plastic single use bags. There is even concern that people will abuse retail staff if they don’t provide them with a plastic bag (free of charge). The attitude is all about me, my needs, my wants, and I want a plastic bag now! There are some people who just don’t care about the environment, the pollution, and what we are doing to our waterways and oceans.

Last Saturday I read an interesting article in the Courier-Mail QWeekend Magazine (story Elissa Lawrence). It was about families who are “zero” waste supporters. There was a great photo of the Carter family (parents and three children) from Hobart, Tasmania. They had two years of waste in a 700ml bottle (three-quarters full)! How do they do it? They buy food in bulk and use reusable bags. Their milk comes from a nearby dairy in returnable glass bottles. Paper or cardboard is used in the garden or fireplace. They shop at farmer’s markets, go fruit picking together as a family and have chickens.

Our glass bottle is empty, none of our waste will fit in the bottle!

It will be a while before we have just a bottle of waste after a few years. In the past few days we have accumulated containers, cardboard, tins and an egg carton. We have had to buy eggs! Our two chickens Golda and Melba have been with us for four months but have not laid yet. Lucy is taking a break while she gets over her moult and Carmella is our only reliable egg layer. We have our citrus trees, passionfruit vines x 2 and a mulberry tree. We are trying to do our part, but it takes time and a change of habits. How about you? Any chance you might be able to fit two years of waste in a glass bottle?

Walk on water

Walk on water

This week when delivering the 2018-19 Queensland State Budget, the treasurer Jackie Trad took a walk on water. Nothing would deter her delivering a budget full of billions of promises. All the treasurer, premier and the Labor government must do now is to follow her […]

My Diary

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This week when delivering the 2018-19 Queensland State Budget, the treasurer Jackie Trad took a walk on water. Nothing would deter her delivering a budget full of billions of promises. All the treasurer, premier and the Labor government must do now is to follow her and walk on water. Can it be sustained or will they soon be “trading” water or should that be spelt “treading” water?

There was no mention of the “D” word, that is DEBT in the treasurer’s inaugural budget speech. Queensland’s debt is expected to blow-out to $83 billion by 2021-22 and there were “no apologies for borrowing to invest in infrastructure”. Given the smile on her face, Jackie Trad, seemed rather happy in announcing the “big spend” as she walked on water in denial about Queensland’s debt. She wants to change the conversation too. This means, let’s not talk about debt. Look at me, Queensland will be fine, I’m walking on water!

Would you like to change the conversation? I would. I would like to change the conversation and talk about how the State can start paying down the huge debt!

It is a very different story in New South Wales, just over the border. The government in their 2017-18 budget delivered a 4.5 billion surplus and by now it was projected the state will be debt free. But not so for Queensland – spending money we do not have and then borrowing more to pay off what we borrowed! I found it ironic that on the Queensland Government website they give advice to Queenslanders, stating, “when we’re low on cash and want to buy something, it can be very tempting to borrow money. But before you use your credit card, take out a loan or borrow from the store, make sure you know how much it will really cost you”. Should the Labor government follow their own advice?

Under Labor Queensland lost its AAA credit rating, the top credit rating. Now we have AA+1 by 2021-22 will this be AA- or worse? What will life be like if the state becomes bankrupt? Are Queenslander’s adequately informed about the state’s financial mess? However, it seems that Queenslander’s focus on the “what about me” or “what will I get out of it” rather than realising the State is drowning in debt. Every day we are getting “deeper and deeper in debt” while so many take the mythical walk on water.

Certainly, Queensland is behind with its infrastructure, a legacy of earlier Labor governments. Queenslanders were not happy with the Newman Government because Campbell Newman was making the tough decisions, cutting back to get the state out of debt. The response? He was voted out after one term.

If the Queensland government does not manage debt all we will have left is small change!

It seems that most people in Queensland like living with a huge debt hanging over their head. Or is it a case of too many plastic cards, too much credit, too much taking what we want now, rather than delaying our gratification! Have a look at the debt clock. The debt in Australia is in the trillions. How long will it be before we are talking in quadrillions?

On the 26 June 2016 I wrote a post titled “Super Slippery Slide”. Some of this is worth repeating. I asked a few “what if” questions. What if the $4bn taken out of QSuper can’t be repaid? What if the Queensland government plummets into further debt? And what if the economy becomes more volatile and the QSuper fund loses money given the current and future global financial situation?

Further I went on to say that one ‘blackhole’ that is a ravenous consumer of $’s in Queensland is the public service payroll. As at June 2014 there were 195,724 Full Time Equivalent (FTE’s) staff in the state. The number of Queensland employees as of December 2015 FTE was 205,529. There was an increase of 312 staff for the September 2015 quarter (0.15% increase). The government today is on a trajectory to spend its way into further debt through increasing the number of public servants which in 2015-16 was more than double the government’s budget projection.

As of December 2017, there were almost 219,000 FTE’s public-sector employees. That’s fine, just borrow more money. After all, we have a government in Queensland who can walk on water. No “trading” water after all! All we have to do is watch out for the storms ahead!

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