Thursday, 26 July 2012

Roads and how to get from Point A to Point B

As I tramp around my suburb, to and from the bus, I reflect on the state of the road system, and modern attitudes to it.

In the olden days, roads were built to enable the traveller to get from Point A to Point B. During my last trip to Italy we learned quite a a lot about the Appian Way, and how the Romans built their roads. They worked out the most direct route, and then they set about building the road. They cut through physical obstacles, such as rocks and mountains, they built a very firm base on which they placed the road, they ensured that there was good drainage, and then they placed the stones stones forming the road, allowing for drainage, rest stops, and all the other necessities of ancient travel. Worked a treat: helped create and maintain an empire, and brought the world the marvels of Roman engineering, water supply and means of communication.

Many of these ancient Roman roads form the basic of our modern road system. We walked along the Appian Way for a kilometre or two, which was bedecked by useful signs giving all the relevant information, and identifying, for example, all the plants along the way. At one point we saw how a huge cliff had been cut through - masses of rocks removed to allow the road to proceed without having to go up hill and down dale. Just cut through it! Those Roman engineers certainly knew what they were doing, and their work persists to this day. Modern roads follow the route of the Appian way and other Roman roads, suitably adapted for modern travel and cars and trains, but the old engineering genius persists today.

I look around me today, and I observe a certain desire to impede rather than to facilitate travel. Sydney is built on what can only be regarded as a difficult topography. Hills, very steep hills, in fact, interspersed by lots of rivers, creeks, harbour and sea. My own suburb is on very steep terrain. The inner city is characterised b y small blocks of lands, terrace houses, and narrow and winding roads. Everybody bemoans the difficulties of public and private transport here. In the couple of hundred metres between my house and the foreshore, the path is so steep that it is impossible to walk down it safely- rather one careers down it in a precipitous and hazardous manner. It is more dangerous to  descend than to ascend.

But what do we do about it? Despite the construction of toll roads, bridges, tunnels and the like, government and local government seem determined to make life as difficult as possible for the traveller.

In my little area, there is an absolute speed limit of 40 km. Notwithstanding this, we are bedecked with signs indicating that there are school crossings and that you may not exceed 40 km. Then the council persists in placing traffic obstacles every few metres. I believe they are known as traffic calming devices. What a misnomer this is. It makes the person seethe and the blood pressure rise. Gentle law abiding persons such as myself never exceed the speed limit anyway, and get rewarded for this by a half-price driving licence, but nothing prevents the young (male) hoons from  vrooming noisily all around the suburb.

And then you cannot simply go around corners. No, a traffic calming device or several is placed on every corner, so as to ensure that you have to go around a corner at an angle as difficult as can be placed in such a limited space. In addition there will be speed humps, just in case you are going faster than 25 km per hour. Then there are the other traffic calming devices, cunningly placed across the road so that one side of your car is higher than the other side. It certainly distracts your attention from the actual traffic.

The latest thing has been for the council to paint stencils of bicycles on the road, every 20 metres or so, to indicate that cyclists are also using the road. Well, I know there are cyclists. I can see them. I do not need distracting and superfluous images of bicycles to remind me of their presence. My eyes are being used to show me what is actually on the road, rather than what might be on the road.

I am wondering whether it has occurred to the council to add to the amount of painted/stencilled visual aids to traffic management.

Perhaps they could come around one dark night (this is when these things get done) and stencil images of CARS on the road? Then the cyclists and the pedestrians might realise that they are not the only users of the roads.

Friday, 20 July 2012

What I did this morning

Although the world in blogland might not be all that interested in the knitting and crochet world, I had such a good time this morning that I now intend to share/inflict the experience on anyone handy.

The little group is meeting weekly in the local library. It feels rather like Graham Base's Animalia, wherein he writes and illustrates, for example, for the letter L:

     Lazy lions lounging in the local library

I first came across this book, Animalia,  in 1998, in Washington DC, where I spent a few days visiting/working at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. I had a little browse around their bookshop, and there it was. I was enchanted. (You'd think I would have come across this book before going to the USA!) I pored over each letter, and when I came to L, these were the delights I discovered:

There are:

Large majestic lions, dwarfing the books, lolling about, surrounded by lutes, lemons, lamps, ladders, locks, lizards, leprechauns, lilies, literature, law, ladles, lorries, lettuces, lobsters,  with all these books, such as Lassie come home, Limericks by Lear, King Lear, Let's Learn Latin, Lacrosse, The Lone Ranger, Living Legends, Levitation, Little Boy Lost, Lady Chatterley's Lover, John Locke, Dr Livingstone, Longfellow, Love's Labour's Lost ...

Practically everyone, except me, was knitting away. Except that some seem to have been inspired to do a bit of crochet, and are edging their squares with crochet, all the better to join them with.

The pile of wraps has grown hugely. There was a large number of finished wraps, and quite a few more to come. We were all so impressed by our collective achievements that we took over the entrance to the library and arranged all our work tastefully on a table, anchored with various library books on how to knit, sew, crochet, or other means of creation. We did not have a camera as such, but one of us used her phone's camera.

It has become a very jolly group, as we all get to know each other. I have trouble remembering all the names, but no one seems to mind. I spent most of my time teaching a knitter how to crochet, and perhaps, who knows, one of them might teach me to knit. They are all very talented women. It is good to get together to do such work, and to join in human fellowship.

All those lions might be lazy, but we certainly were not.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Floors - a hole in one.

The serious floor problems are being investigated and solutions proposed. It is all rather daunting, what with all the remedial work required, with the full extent of the damage yet to be determined, and therefore with no realistic estimate of the cost clear as yet. It seems likely that both arms and both legs will go.

I called in at one of the local tile shops, and the manager came around and gave me his diagnosis and solutions. David has a lovely Scotttish accent and says thungs like 'a but duffucult' and rrrols his rrrs admirrably. The next day Fernando, recommended by friends, came around and had a thorough look at it all. Both these experts agreed that it was serious, that it should be fixed, and who knows what it will cost. 

It all makes me feel worried, and very cross at the causes thereof, which are shoddy building work initially, failure to install drainage and to put in flashings, resulting in water flowing straight onto the bases of the tiles, and also a fairly shoddy tiling job, with cracked tiles abounding. I am also feeling very s****y with Dr P for not being prepared to get it all fixed, when it was patently obviously it was necessary. He did not want to spend the money, and, see, he didn't have to, because I will be spending it instead. This latter is a fairly pointless emotion, so  I have told it to flit off and stop bothering me.

Today I went to several tile shops, and the first shop I'd been to David's,  has some good tiles. Fernando thinks it would be lovely for me to have marble tiles. He knows just the place for them, which would give me a good deal, he says. I love marble too, but my preliminary investigations show that the desire for it must remain unsatisfied. Also, now that I have reached a significant birthday, it is important that I do not have slippery floors, in case I should fall over and remain cold, starving, helpless and undiscovered indefinitely. One must be provident and avoid disasters.

However, needs must, and the main thing is to get it all done, and to gird my loins and grit my teeth for the difficult duration, and to put up with being without access to the kitchen, laundry, back door, etcetera, doubtless having dust and rubbish everywhere, not to mention hammering, noisy drills, and mess, mess, mess. Ideally I could go away, have some days at a beach far far away, leaving a competent and inexpensive overseer in charge, and come back to find it all finished and gorgeous, and costing much less than the estimate. Not that I have an estimate as yet. Just a wild imagination. Well, one can dream!

What with the hole in the floor, I thought perhaps I should leave it uncovered in the hope that it all dries out a bit, but then I bethought me that leaving a nice easy entry to any nearby rodents might be a really bad idea. The rat would invite all its friends and family and awful extirpations would be needed. So at night I will cover up the hole with the piece of marble, which originally came from Old Parliament House when something or other was being renovated, and which has been hanging around my house ever since waiting to be used as a pastry board, or the slab on which to pull humbugs. The marble slab is heavy enough to keep rats out.

As I do not wish to have to drive around Sydney looking at flooring places, getting lost and even more stressed, I think I must content myself with those in the vicinity. And I must just hope that I make the best decisions and manage to endure it all. I have not had to deal with many building matters in my life and it is all quite scary.

Yet another light globe has gone bung, and I cannot reach it. I think I might need to buy a bigger taller ladder, or maybe perhaps just to have an annual light globe changing event, presided over by Bruce, the very tall and helpful handyman. I have a nasty feeling that the bathroom light is so high and awkwardly placed that a ladder won't fit into the available space.

What with all these things to worry about, it has not been possible to worry about such major issues as the emissions trading scheme, or the alcohol fuelled violence at Kings Cross, let alone even contemplate the joys of the Olympic Games.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Journeying through places and time

I arrived back yesterday morning by train from a brief visit to see my older sister, whose birthday is today. She is permanently in hospital, suffering from dementia, and my other three sisters arranged a quick visit to celebrate her birthday. They drove from Melbourne the previous day. It is very sad to see my sister now. She can no longer feed herself, or stand or move unaided. Her mind and memory flicker on and off, but much more off than on. She looks old, and suddenly now resembles our brothers. Her hands restlessly pick at the various fibres, of sheets, or the knitted blanket she uses in the adjustable hospital style armchair. She remembers all the music she enjoys so much, but forgets the simplest things of everyday life, and details of family, who has been to see her, what they do, and so much of the external world.

We love each other, and share our family bonds and history, as well as passionate interest in art and music. But we have never been particularly close. She is the only person who has known me all my life. Our hearts all ache to see her like this, and I suppose we all fear the prospect of being stricken by this type of illness.

After I left the hospital I returned to the motel to wait until it was time to go to the station to catch the return train at 1 am. I read, drank some tea, watched TV intermittently, ate the food I had brought along (as everything closes in the town). Rain and a violent electrical storm began, and soon after all the power went off.  Most of the town was affected. I sat in the pitch black hotel room for close to three hours. I had not brought a torch with me: the only thing I had was the iPod, which I pressed now and then to check the time. I sat there wondering whether the taxi I'd asked to be booked to take me to the station would arrive. Fortunately it did - it was far too dark to risk walking.the station.

It was not a pleasant journey, too uncomfortable to do more than doze, and the very large young man in the window seat beside me spread into my seat space, and he snored! When eventually the lights were turned on we were told the train was running an hour late, and then, outside Campbelltown, we stopped. The train had to wait for a track to be cleared to allow it to get to Central Station. we arrived two hours late. Given the scheduled duration was six hours, another two hours is a significant delay. I caught the bus back home and waited out the day until such time had elapsed for normal sleeping habits to be resumed.

Some of the day was spent at the local library, which hosts a knitting/crochet group to make and complete squares for the ABC's hosting of the Wrap with Love. As the big day approaches, this little group will meet each week. I took a completed blanket along and have another ready to go, as well as one approaching completion. There are some very expert knitters in this group, and one has offered to teach me to knit. Hmmm. It is tempting but daunting.

The sun is shining, the weather is warm and pleasant, I have been to the market for the bread, vegetables and flower, the washing is on the line and will get dry, and I am about to go out for my Saturday strolls and to go to the city to pick up a CD of a glorious 40 part Mass by Striggio, which the ABC played a couple of weeks ago, and which apparently made people rush in and buy it forthwith. I had to order my copy, and it has now arrived. And I need another ball of wool. I ran out of the turquoise wool half way through the fourth square of the strip.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Reaching forth again

I have had a couple of weeks off. Not that I wanted to: it is just that other things conspired to impede blogging.

I had a birthday, and a couple of birthday parties, one in Melbourne with sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews and their children, and my eldest child and her children. It all went very well, albeit somewhat bittersweet. My feelings are not yet quite blog-able and so I think I shall not explore it all further in the blog. Also it seems that there is some lurking going on, and I do not wish to give this particular lurking any encouragement, licence or ammunition. You know who you are. All I will say is that I have always taken care not to say hurtful or damaging things. Anything I can or do say can be verified. This is my personal blog, my feelings and my own experiences, and no one else's. If you don't like it, reading is not compulsory.

Last Sunday my children and I celebrated my birthday most enjoyably, with old friends, mostly local but with some who were able to travel here. It is a great joy to celebrate friendship and our shared pasts together, and to reflect on our lives. Many pleasures, some griefs, some regrets, and many hopes for our various futures.

What with my new oven, I indulged in quite a lot of cooking, such as I have not done for over a year. The results slipped down everyone's gullets pretty easily. It is good to know I can still do it. Anzac biscuits, the buttermilk spice cake, a chestnut cheese cake,  spanakopita, baba ghanouj, pumpkin soup, these are all favourites of yore.

Lots of dear friends came along, and we all had a very good time. At this party, and at the other one in Melbourne, I was not expecting speeches, but they happened, and I spoke in reply, quite impromptu. This time I reflected on my friends, where and when we had met, the duration of our friendships, our shared experiences, what was particular and special about each of them. I should have spoken more about my children, but in some ways my feelings here, though deeply felt, were not so readily expressible, and thus perhaps I have sinned by omission. If so, I am sorry: they are, all three, most precious to me. (Perhaps I can have another party next year, and do better then.)

When you speak impromptu, you follow the train of thought that occurs, while thinking ahead, and trying to keep to a theme, and to be coherent.  I am glad that I did recall how and where my friends and I met, and all the experiences we shared. We do not often have the opportunities to express openly and publicly how we value our friends. Celebration is important, and I feel I have done quite a lot of it in these last couple of weeks.

One must always come back to earth.  I discover I now have serious floor problems, which will undoubtedly cost a lot to fix, and require a lot of time and trouble. Just when I thought I had finished feeding all the lawyers, etcetera.