Packing it all in

suitcase1I write to you from the land of the Kiwis, the home of the All Blacks and bottlers of the finest Sauvignon Blanc. Where chips are “chups”, sex is “sux” and lots of fun things “hair-pen” (happen…)

New Zealand.

It’s a bit of a mini-break. My husband had a few meetings in Wellington and I had a few dollars spare on my credit card.  Win win – for him, for me and for Westpac.

Wellington has more bars and restaurants per head of population than anywhere else in the world. It also has more shoe shops. Walk down Lambton Quay, which is the shopping equivalent of the Queen Street Mall or Orchid Avenue in the 1980s, and you’ll get sore feet from walking in and out of shoe shops.

The only smart thing to do of course is to have a nice sit down on one of the comfy chairs in the shoe shop. And while you’re there, it would be silly not to try on a few pairs. Wasteful, really.

I know I’m not alone in saying that I love to travel. Hell I get excited at an overnight stay in the country to attend a wedding. By country, I mean Ipswich. I try not to go too far west of Kenmore.

What I’m not good at is the packing part. I’m not good at working out what I’m going to wear for the next few days or weeks and getting it all into a suitcase.

Sure I check ahead to see what the weather is going to be like. I see what functions and events we will be going to. I ask my husband to tell me what the baggage weight limit is on the plane.

Then I pretty much open my wardrobe and throw its entire contents into as many suitcases as required.

In the second Sex And The City movie, Carrie gets on the Abu Dhabi-bound flight wearing a hat so enormous it needed its own boarding pass. That hat is never seen nor heard from again. Yes yes I know it’s a movie but she sent a very clear signal that packing doesn’t need to measured or sensible.

What I tend to overlook is that for the most part, I’m travelling to places that have shops and credit card facilities and ATMs etc. If I forget something crucial – a particular lipstick in a fetching shade of rose pink or a pair of black tights – there’s always more at the shops.

The bigger problem is that I don’t leave room for any holiday shopping. That normally requires the purchase of an additional bag. And quite often the purchase of additional baggage allowance.

Travelling by car, whilst devoid of the whole international immigration clearance and duty free shopping fun, means that there’s no real limit on bags.

And it means I become delusional.

Say I’m going to the Gold Coast for a week. I get it into my head that I’m going to be all Mother Nature and Mrs Home Maker and cook a few recipes that are on my cooking wish list. This requires the packing of the wok, my knives, my mortar and pestle and goodness knows how many other kitchen gadgets.

Reality being that we eat out pretty much for three meals a day.

Once I was determined to embrace a healthy outlook and packed my juicer and all manner of vegetables. The juicer never left the boot of my car and the vegies went the way of the compost bin.

About 10 years ago, I was in Singapore with one of my best friends, enjoying this Asian hub’s sights, sounds and tastes. There was lots of fun things to buy, especially in the newly emerging electronics sphere. When it was time to come home, I couldn’t for the life of me get my bag shut.

In desperation, I held my bag firm while my friend bodily dove from one of the twin beds to the other where my case lay gaping, attempting to use the force of body weight to shut it. It is possible we may have been drinking when we came up with this Herculean idea. It didn’t work. I had to buy another bag.

Another time, in Europe, I was at a check-in counter in Slovakia being told that the baggage limit was 15kg or face horrendous fines.

I got the weight of my case to the prescribed limit, but only through wearing three jackets, draping two pairs of boots about my neck, throwing out my shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, and dragging two carry-on bags.

This trip is only a week but I think I’m doing ok. The test of course will be at the Qantas counter on Monday.

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WWT’s solution to speeding

In 1974, when my brother was a tiny baby, Mum would sling his basinet onto the back seat of the car, and then get behind the wheel and drive off to the shops. I don’t think she even put a seat belt around it. I can also remember leaving a New Year’s Eve party with my folks around the same time, and laughing at my dad because he was honking the horn and driving all over the place, because he was pissed.

Thankfully now, with compulsory seat belts, red light and speed cameras, air bags, better roads, better designed vehicles and driver awareness education, we know better. We know not to speed, we watch our number of drinks and we take care when driving in the rain.

Well, most of us do. There’s still some idiots who sit in the pub and go, “glug glug glug, I only live down the road, another schooner thanks Doreen, glug glug glug, no one is out at this time of night, glug glug glug, I’ll be right.”

And maybe they are. And then one day they’re not. One day (or night) the police are wandering around that neighbourhood and they’ve got a fresh breathalyser and they see this fool leaving the pub and think, “I might just check that out.”

Then there’s an 18 year old who has just got his Ps and a 1994 Commodore, all on the same day. What’s he going to do? Drive it like he stole it, of course. There am I, tottering along Gympie Road in my 1.6L car when this idiot rushes by, weaving in and out of traffic without much thought for his fellow drivers or his indicator.

Or when it is bucketing down with rain and I’ve slowed my speed, another fool is sitting right up my tail pipe. If I cared less for my car, and my own life, I’d be tempted to slam on the brakes just so I could say, “You tosser”.

Now anyone who knows me will know that I do not have the cleanest of driving records. I’ve got what is affectionately known as a lead foot, even though it is shod in fabulous heels. I’ve been nabbed by the red light camera on the Story Bridge approach from Main Street, and I’ve had those intimidating blue flashing lights behind me when I was doing 130 on the Gold Coast highway.

So I am in no position to judge.

All the media hype and police advertising is correct though. Speeding kills. You can’t disagree with that. It’s a message that has been drummed into drivers for so long now it is almost like the 11th commandment. Thou shalt not speed. Yet still it happens; yet still it is identified as the blame in road fatalities.

Why?

My concern is that in Queensland we don’t have severe penalties. My fine was about $200 and three points. The government let me pay off this fine at $20 a month if I chose, and will still give me a chance to accrue a further nine demerit points before they get serious.

What if, my loves, what if the fine for speeding was $2000? What if you were not allowed to pay that off over five years at $20 a month. What if you had to produce your living expenses budget to some authorised officer, and he/she would say, “Cancel your gym membership, no money for going out or buying clothes, your hair appointment can wait, so can your nails, cut your grocery bill in half, no alcohol and only pay the minimum on your credit card. Now, you will live like that until this fine is paid.”

Would that make a social change? Would that be a big enough incentive to make speeding a disincentive?

I earn a reasonable enough salary, but let me tell you, a fine of $2000 is going to hurt. Really hurt. With the goal of hopefully making it hurt so much that I would think very carefully before ever exceeding the speed limit again.

The bleeding hearts amongst us will cry that it is discrimination or unfair on minimum wage earners. To me, discrimination is when the car mechanic will only talk to my husband, and unfair on minimum wage earners is when they are denied free health care for their children.

As a kid growing up, I had a mother who was somewhat fond of the wooden spoon when I was naughty. So fond of it in fact that she broke one or two of them in the process of whacking my backside. Even now, I cannot use a wooden spoon when cooking without feeling slightly menaced.

When I outgrew the wooden spoon, I was grounded when I misbehaved. I had my pocket money and phone privileges taken away and I wasn’t allowed to even walk down the street to get milk.

Ergo I was punished in a way that severely impacted on my standard of living and my quality of life.

Ergo (again) it was easier to simply do what Mum and Dad asked me to do ie keep my room tidy, do the breakfast washing up and not take up smoking.

In simple terms, don’t break the rules.

So if you’re speeding along at 90km/hr in the 60 zone, and you get caught, you should get the wooden spoon from my mother.

Failing that, you should be hit with a dirty great whack of a fine. A fine so big that it disrupts your standard of living and your quality of life to such a point where you realise it is easier to follow the rules.

After all, they’re there for a reason.

Have you met my mother?

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Is once a month enough?

Why is it that I feel richer when I get paid weekly, yet feel stony broke when I get paid monthly?

It’s still exactly the same amount of money, and I still have exactly the same number of bills.

But it seems the weekly pay packet lasts longer.

Or perhaps I’m kidding myself.

I’ve been paid weekly, fortnightly and monthly over the years. When I first started working back in the 1980s, this wonderful German lady would come around to my desk each Wednesday bearing this yellow coloured envelope which contained novelty items that in this day of EFT we identify as cash. [Read more…]

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