Saturday, November 20, 2010

Santa arrives by boat

It's catch-up time as I post an accumulation of columns from recent months (image courtesy microsoft:):

EVERY year, as the tailenders in the Melbourne Cup thunder past the post, Australian society starts its crawl toward the annual Christmas shutdown.
That's why it was not surprising in the Classifieds this week when Santa Claus signed a Boats & Marine for-sale notice offering a 4.6-metre Horizon aluminium dinghy with centre console, a 50hp Evinrude motor and "all the bells and whistles".
One of Santa's helpers has been taking the calls. "If you lose your sense of humour you may as well be dead," Doug Jackwitz, 78, said, adding that he had received visits by three "lookers" but the boat was still in the shed.
He estimated the motor would "be lucky to have done a hundred hours" and he wanted only about about half the price he paid five years ago, or $12,000 negotiable.

HIS ad not only indicated the boat condition as excellent with very little use but extended to that of Santa and said, "old age has caught up".
Doug said he needed his sense of humour right now. His wife, Jean, was battling a serious illness and he had been using a wheelchair for about a year since breaking his hip in a fall, so he was unable to take out the boat.
His son, Bill, had also left the vessel idle, so Doug decided it was time to sell.
Bill and his sister, Christine, were of primary school age when the family moved from the Lockyer Valley to a Cleveland property in 1966.
The family grew "strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and so forth" for several years until the State Government resumed the property for Cleveland High School, Doug said.
He then bought land at Victoria Point for flower production. Doug said he was still kicking himself for selling the property in the mid 1970s because it later became the site of Koala Park shopping centre.

DOUG said he and Jean hunted for a plot with the right sort of red dirt for flowers and thought they found it at Alstonville in northern NSW. "But the ground was hopeless, so I went into the water drilling business."
The couple returned to the Redlands about 14 years ago and have enjoyed living close to the younger generations of their family.
Doug is delighted both his son-in-law, Simon Walker, and Bill both work for the chicken producer, Golden Cockerel, which has the status of an institution of Redland primary production. Simon's father, the late Harold Walker, had been well-known as the operator of the Cleveland-Dunwich ferry, Doug said.
Santa Claus looks forward to especially enjoying Christmas Day with the Jackwitz family this year.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Stay alert - stay alive, drivers told

Image from

VEHICLES require essential maintenance, as any motorist knows, but driving instructor Richard Sparks did not get any letters from "the mechanics" when his own body needed a major service. Instead, Richard suffered the rapid onset of symptoms including numbness in his fingers and excruciating pain in an elbow. "I have a good GP; he ordered a CT scan and found discs in my neck were misaligned and were pinching a nerve," Richard said.

THE proprietor of Redlands Driving School has been recuperating at his Victoria Point home after surgery at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where the surgeon took bone from a hip to rebuild two discs. Richard says the cause of the misalignment is a mystery but he played a lot of soccer and squash when he was younger. His neck, however, must have had considerable work during his time at the dual controls of the Holden Viva sedan he uses for the business that he set up in 2006 after two decades as a driving instructor in the Brisbane region.

THE need for observation is the golden rule that Richard impresses on his students. Richard is not the type of instructor whose passion for driving leads to an addiction to motor sport. He says he simply enjoys working with people and helping them get ready for the challenge of the practical driving test that will decide whether they can obtain a licence. He shares the much-reported belief that higher standards of testing hold the key to reducing the road toll.

"THERE will always be people who do the wrong thing but road safety does come down to attitudes," he says. "If it is is easy to get a licence the person may be less likely to value the process as much. The examiners do a good job but can only work with the guidelines they are given. I do believe that the test should be tougher." Richard says recent changes to the test have not been as comprehensive as he had hoped. He believes the emphasis on observation, for instance when changing lanes, is not strong enough. He says an observant driver can see a risk, take action and save lives.

RICHARD's students, the ages of whom have ranged from 17 to the early 80s, are unlikely to forget this message. He says he has instructed people with many disabilities – including quadriplegics and paraplegics – with modified vehicles, and the deaf, but not the blind. Now, back to Richard's own temporary disability: he expects to be back in action in a few weeks, again teaching Redlanders to stay alert, stay alive and, it is hoped, save other lives through observation.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

13: lucky number for ducks

Image courtesy The Redland Times.

SHE's a country girl at heart after growing up on a Redland strawberry farm but Birkdale mother Diana Trenerry admits her surprise at the appearance of 13 ducklings in her poultry pen. Spike and Speckles – a pair of bantam ducks that Diana says the family bought at a Lismore market as "pets with an egg bonus" – delivered a baker's dozen of the cutest creatures outside the frames of a Disney movie.

THE new parents made sure the Trenerrys shared their delight over the hatching.
“Our drake usually makes noise in the morning before we feed them but on this morning both the ducks were really quacking away," Diana says. "We went out to see what the racket was about to find them proudly parading their new brood for us. We knew our ducks were broody and the mother duck was sitting on her nest but we had no idea her first batch would produce so many birds. After a few days the reality of having so many sunk in. As we have hens as well the pen was going to get very full. "We were so impressed with these tiny yellow birds that we decided others should also have the opportunity to enjoy them."

DIANA advertised a giveaway in the Classifieds and found homes for all the ducklings within days. "About half went to families whose children wanted them as pets and the others to people on acreage with dams; two were even taken to a new home west of Maryborough," she says. Ducks are "undemanding creatures, less susceptible than hens to some poultry diseases", Diana says. "Some duck breeds will outlay hens, and the duck eggs are bigger. A duck will continue laying for a longer period than a hen; ducks do eat more and tend to be messier than hens, but they are also more efficient scavengers and, if they have access to a pond as well as grazing, will find a lot of their own food. Ducks are less destructive than hens which will scratch up every vestige of plant growth if allowed. Ducks will investigate plants for insects and slugs, but will not usually cause damage in a herbaceous border or on a lawn. They do though absolutely love young lettuces, peas and brassicas."

THE pen is enclosed with wire to protect the birds from predators. "Foxes have been sighted and taken chooks from neighboring properties," she says. "I had a muscovy duck taken about 20 months ago by a fox. The two Silver Appleyard Bantam Ducks I have now were to replace her. I expect to have more ducklings from my two ducks in the future. This was just the first batch. I am unsure of how many times a year they will breed." Readers should watch the Classifieds for Diana's next duckling bulletin.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people and other creatures in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Mowers sing symphony of season

Image by Carl Wozniak

A DISCORDANT symphony has celebrated an unusual season as a chorus of small engines has echoed across the Redland suburbs. Householders and professional mowers, taking advantage of every break in the spring rain, pulled cords, pressed buttons and fired up their machines in a race against the clouds. We are lucky to live in a culture where it's 'not uncool' to talk about the weather; the unseasonal deluge this spring has had everybody talking about 'millimetres overnight' and wondering when the washing will dry.

WE are also lucky to have free access to a damful of information from the Bureau of Meteorology. If the bureau charged for clicks on its website, the consolidated revenue would go a long way to paying back the billions in the government's controversial economic stimulus packages – especially during a season like this. The weather records make absorbing reading. They can soak up a lot of time – and that is just to find the page you need, but patient browsers are rewarded with all the facts and figures they could possibly want.

THE bureau's observations on our city come from Redlands Horticultural Research Station, with records dating from 1953 and featuring in more tables than you'll find in the typical club dining room. The data for the first 18 days of October made a tasty snack, showing that Redland received 224mm for the period. This was almost 280 percent of mean rainfall for the entire month (81mm). Redland had its wettest October in 1973, with 371mm. Back then, the fields grew mainly fruit, veges and pasture but now the suburban lawns have taken over.

SOME lawn specialists who feature in the Gardening Services column have been too busy to talk during the breaks in the rain, but Brad Denham took a short breather between jobs at Capalaba and his home suburb of Redland Bay. Brad, a former real estate agency licensee, said he set up Redlands Mowing about two years ago because the type of work allowed him to be a "Mr Mum", while his wife, Mara, practised as an accountant. Mowing gave him time for household duties. "I was a bouncer for few years but I was doing lot of night work and I got sick of the [troubles with] young ones and the drunks, and I can't handle the doof doof," he said.For the benefit of elder readers: 'Doof doof' means the 'techno' dance music that is popular in night clubs. It's quite different to the harmony Brad enjoys from his Honda self-mulching mower.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Designer looks upward for living space

THE past two years have been busy for a young man who has devoted his life to building a better Redland, or at least, ensuring optimal use of space in our rapidly growing city. John-Paul Hartill grew up at Capalaba West, attended St Anthony's Primary School and Villa Nova College, then knuckled down to a career in residential housing design and drafting. The career choice came easy. John-Paul is the son of John and Loretta Hartill, who were the proprietors of Classic Constructions, not only building new homes but also specialising in making better use of existing homes through second storey additions.

JOHN-Paul was in-house designer for the family company for 12 years before his parents retired about two years ago. While mum and dad were still packing for their move to a relaxing lifestyle on Bribie Island, the son set up Urbane Residential Design, which he operates from his Wellington Point home. He has continued the second storey specialty, while also providing 3D design and drafting for other extension projects and new residential construction. John-Paul estimates he has completed 350 to 400 such design projects with both firms over the years, so he certainly would have a special 'feel' for the requirements.

"THE good things about adding a second storey are that you are not using any more of your site, you can live in the house during the construction work and you don't have costs like conveyancing and real estate commissions that apply when you move to a new or different home," he says. "On a typical three-to-four-bedroom home you can usually add three to four bedrooms upstairs." He says the cost of a second storey of that size would range from $2000 to $3000 a square metre, including all standard finishings except floor covering.

AS the flow of international students to South East Queensland institutions has increased, John-Paul has found a market with home owners setting up student accommodation. Such usage generally has involved the addition of three bedrooms and three-way bathroom, with separate shower, powder room with vanity unit and toilet. John-Paul says about half his work has been in bayside districts and he works closely with local builders.

URBANE Residential Design, which has featured on the Classifieds 'Find Us First page, will have its second anniversary in January, but the champagne corks have already popped for another important celebration – the first wedding anniversary for John-Paul and his wife, the former Helen Fletcher, who grew up at Alexandra Hills and is now a nurse at Brisbane Dental Hospital. John-Paul thanks his sister, Sarah, for introducing him to 'the love of his life'. Sarah and Helen studied nursing together and became good friends. John-Paul and Helen married at Guardian Angels Church, Manly, on November 14, 2009.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times. (Image from Microsoft)

Red light race gains pace

Image from Microsoft.

THE Redland City population boom reflects in the heavy traffic on our roads – formerly quick and easy trips have turned into stop-start crawls through queues at intersections. The traffic snarls seem to worsen, week by week, and impatient drivers are keen to make up for lost time – undoubtedly taking more risks. The dangers weigh heavily on the mind of retired factory executive Glynne Butler as he counts the cost of an accident, just a few kilometres from his Alexandra Hills home.

GLYNNE was driving the Ford Focus CL sedan he bought in 2005 to serve he and wife Maureen through their senior years. Maureen was the passenger. At Finucane Road and Cambridge Drive, the Butlers' car was involved in a collision. Glynne says his traffic stream had a green light. "I saw the other car coming and braked hard," he says. "We could have been killed but luckily we weren't injured; neither was the other driver. But the insurance assessor has said our car's a write-off and the insured value won't cover a replacement of the same standard. We have no car at the moment. I want to warn people about the hazards: since the accident we have seen cars going against red lights and others racing to get through the orange."

THE September 10 accident was the first for the Butlers since they migrated from England in the late 1990s. The move followed Glynne's retirement as a director and manager of a packaging company in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Eight weeks after they arrived in Queensland, the couple bought their Gerbera Street home, where Glynne says they could not be happier, living near Maureen's two daughters and son, along with "many grandchildren". "My wife is about to celebrate the birth of her first great-grandchild," Gynne says.

THE couple placed a notice in the Classifieds to thank everyone who helped them after the accident – police, fire and rescue and ambulance crews, witnesses who stopped to help and others who called the emergency services. Glynne has a message for all drivers: "The road rules are there to protect everybody and must be obeyed – please think about what you do and be responsible."

SINCE 1991, the State Government has installed cameras at intersections to catch red-light offenders. The Transport and Main Roads Department and the police jointly manage the program.Program officials say crashes caused by motorists running red lights are usually serious and result in high costs to the community. They base their placement of cameras mainly on crash data, installing them at intersections with a history of crashes.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

London commuting means Redlands computing

Image of Poole, Dorset, UK, posted by Barret Bonden at wikipedia.

THE name that computing trainer Tracy Robson awarded to her fledgling business enterprise less than one year ago sums up her outlook with six catchy syllables.The message that using a computer can be as "Easy as A-PC" quickly found a market for the Thornlands mother-of-two's training service, which uses her experience in information technology in the United Kingdom and Australia.

TRACY worked for 20 years with the IT departments of insurance companies. She and husband Martin, with their then two-year-old daughter Emily, migrated to Australia in 2005. Tracy says they lived in Poole, Dorset, and after closure of her employer's local branch she had to commute to London to work. While suffering the two-and-a-half hour train trips, she said to her sales consultant husband: "Let's go to the other side of the world."

THEIR family has grown in Queensland; their son Zac is now two years old. Emily, as one would expect from a daughter of a 'tech-savvy' mum, started her computing career at age three, using a cute little mouse, half the size of the standard and shaped like a bumblebee. Tracy worked for a Brisbane computer consultancy as an IT project manager before starting her own business. She offers "patient and professional" training for people to "learn on your computer at your home and at your pace". Her clients range from beginners to professional computer users who need to update their skills.

A QUALIFIED IT trainer, she has found that many senior people dislike 'classroom type' group training. "There is a lot of free training for older people but many feel silly asking questions and do not really learn what they want," Tracy says. "They need assistance one on one." Tracy gains great satisfaction from empowering people to overcome their fears of computing. She says many find great benefit in the notes she writes to detail the specifics of each session.

HER oldest client has been a 90-year-old woman. "She had bad arthritis in her hands, so I had to show her ways she could use the keyboard and the mouse," Tracy says. "I wrote the full notes on how to do things and what we did and she had something she could always refer back to. After a week or two she loved going online, even just looking for holidays, and she found benefit in checking the train and film times."

EASY AS A-PC offers to beat any written quote on "all aspects of computer training" including email, MS Office, web, shortcuts and photographic programs.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lions thrive on 'leftovers'

AS the wave of bargain hunters subsides and weary householders count the cash from weekend garage sales, a team of dedicated volunteers kicks into action. The Lions Club of Redland Bay-Victoria Point stocks its monthly flea market stall partly from garage sale "leftovers", which otherwise would often be discarded. The club's weekly advertisement for such donations produces items including furniture, bric a brac, clothing, books and toys that help finance a wide range of Lions programs and projects.

ANN Reed, in her second term as club president, says the donations account for a large proportion of the club's annual earnings from the flea market. She says the market raises about $9000 a year for the Lions, who share stallholder fees with Coast Guard Redland Bay. The next market will be on October 10. The most popular items include books, which the Lions sell for 20 cents each or $2 a bag. Some regular customers get a month's reading at a time, and donate the books back for resale. The club, with 31 members and a long list of beneficiaries, must be one of Redland City's most active service clubs.

ANN says the movement's accounting system ensures that funds raised from the community go back to the community. "We have two accounts: one for administration costs, all of which come from our members; and the community account, of which 100 per cent goes back to the community," she says. The latest disbursement list includes wheelchairs, donations to the aged, a computer for a boy who needed to study at home for health reasons and donations to Mount Cotton Scouts, the YMCA learn-to-swim program, and STAR Transport.

AFTER the Lions read that Stradbroke Island's Yulu Burri Ba Dancers needed costumes, the club donated $1200 for the material. Ann says the club provides annual bursaries of $300 to each of five primary schools to award to students on their transition to Year 8. It has paid cash to help sport achievers and others doing voluntary work. The club also donated $2000 to two Victorian clubs in areas affected by the recent floods. The Lions Club of Redland Bay-Victoria Point is now working towards one of its major annual fundraisers, a baby show at Victoria Point Shopping Centre on November 13.

WITH all this activity and more, the club always needs new members, Ann says. Looking to the future, she says her club hopes to establish a Leo club to introduce those aged 18 to 30 to the service movement.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

'Dogalyst' becomes business catalyst

Image: Microsoft clipart.

CONGRATULATIONS are in order for a small business that has just completed its first year in providing a special service in Redland City. Today, we say "happy anniversary" to Debra's Mobile Dog Grooming, which is a one-woman enterprise for Alexandra Hills mother-of-three Debra Brehmer. Business advisers counsel that the first year in any business can be tough but Debra says she has been having a ball pampering the city's canine population. "I love working with animals," she says. Debra grew up on a Beenleigh farm with "cats, dogs, horses, chooks, ducks and cattle".

DEBRA has had a range of jobs including window tinting, rustproofing and servicing on-site commercial waste separators. However, a fluffy Maltese terrier was the catalyst – or, in this case, the "dogalyst" – that brought her mobile dog grooming service into reality. The business plan started to come together as Debra groomed her own pooch, Tammy, now about five years old.Debra says she started a dog grooming service on weekends at her home, then late last winter she launched the mobile service, with all the gear for the job.

HER eye-catching pink and blue ad often features in the Classifieds' Pets & Pet Supplies column, listing all the essential services – Hydro Bath, clipping and coat stripping – with delicate attention to all the sensitive areas, like the nails, ears and certain other places of which dogs are highly protective. Debra says she has had some difficult assigments but if a dog gets snarly she just chats to it and calms it down.I f that doesn't work, there's always the muzzle. She had found some nervous dogs behave better if their owner takes a dog-less stroll ands leaves her to communicate directly with their pet, one on one.

SHE works according to the principle that "every dog is different". The Classified notice is the firm's only promotion, apart from word of mouth – and, of course, "bark of jaws". Debra is pleased with the response to such advertising in her local paper and says setting up her own business was "probably the best thing I have ever done". The Classifieds in The Redland Times and Bayside Bulletin are part of a proud tradition of local papers sharing in the hopes and dreams of people who are turning their ideas into business success. Debra supplied her artwork and picked the colours for her highly successful Classified advertisement. It is an inspiring fact that this business started "from scratch".

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Prayers are answered as cat finds new home

Image: A chocolate Burmese; photographer Vik Olliver; courtesy wikipedia.

THE potentially heart-breaking experience of giving away a much-loved pet cat became heart warming for Birkdale's Marja and Lawrence Opperman. Marja and Lawrence worried about the fate of the desexed 'chocolate-point' Burmese male, Lewis, for many weeks as they organised their affairs and put their their home on the market to allow them to travel. As she prepared a classified advertisement offering Lewis free to a good home, Marja prayed for the ageing and deaf cat which was suffering a bout of the flu.

THE Oppermans owned Lewis about a year after he was advertised as a giveaway in Logan City. "When we picked him up we were told he was about 12 years old and he had been neglected," Marya said. "He was skinny and had patches; he had no whiskers. But he was a fantastic cat. He was very sweet and very good natured. He started purring as soon as he came near you. It was a rescue mission but I have had cats all my life – I stabilised him and his diet and got a vet to look at him."

MARJA said Lewis became "part of the family" as she nursed him back to good health. He loved to sit on her shoulder. A Jehova's Witness, Marja said: "I prayed and prayed: Please let him go to a good home that gives the attention he deserves, maybe with someone in a wheelchair." On the day the ad appeared, the first caller was a woman who said she had suffered a stroke, was paralysed on her left side and now needed a wheelchair. "I told her that he was old and deaf and had been sick but he was sweet and loved attention, and she said, 'That's just what I want'." Marja and Lawrence delivered Lewis to the woman's Victoria Point home that afternoon. "She was so happy she burst into tears – it was very emotional," Marja said. "She offered us a cup of tea and she called herself his mum." I think she will suit him and he will suit her perfectly. Her carer also seemed to think it was a good match up."

MARJA said Burmese cats seemed to have long lives. She owned one of the breed for 20 years from its kittenhood.The Oppermans, who have lived in Redland City for the past 13 years, plan to see some more of Australia. With Lewis's future now secure, they are plotting a route that will include visiting friends in Cooktown but still have more preparation to do before they hit the road for the trip of a lifetime.

This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Boating community gets active

Image of storm over Moreton Bay, courtesy

SOFTLY spoken Janis Clarke, who grew up in the land-locked English district of Essex, will always remember her first experience in a sailing boat on Moreton Bay.
"It was quite beautiful really," says Janis, who describes herself as "very unboaty" and "a non-swimmer".
Luckily, Janis has a very boaty husband, John, who also hailed from the English countryside at Surrey, but nevertheless has seawater in his veins.
Janis says it took time after the couple bought a Farrier trimaran for her to build up enough trust and confidence to venture out on the bay.
WHEN she took the leap of mind and spirit the reward was memorable: A beautifully clear day with the sun shining.
"We motored out then, John put the sails up and the wind caught them," she says. "That was my first experience with sailing - it was quite relaxing, quiet calming, no noise, just pleasant.
"I felt very very safe; the boat rode the waves beautifully. On another occasion we even went through a storm and I wasn't worrried at all.
"It is very stable because it's a tri, but I wear my life jacket at all times."
The Clarkes live at Birkdale. They had two teenage children when they migrated to Australia 17 years ago; now they have two grandchildren.
"We are very settled and very happy here," Janis says.

THE Farrier has featured recently in the Classifieds Boats & Marine column for $21,000, with options to reduce the price by including just the original motor and removing the solar panels.
The column has been looking busy. The boating community, while active year round, seems to spring into action at this time of year, when the Redlands subtropical climate and the glory of Moreton Bay combine in heart-melting splendor.
The view across to Straddie and Moreton, with the multiple layers of the other islands, always evokes in this bay-lover a vision of an English ship arriving here in the 1840s.
If you pick your vista, without channel markers, you can tell yourself it hasn't changed much in the past century and a half.

YET here we are in a modern Redland City, with a vibrant culture of human activity reflecting in every edition of our local papers.
That's how I found out the Clarkes are selling their trimaran. Don't worry, they are not turning their back on the bay.
John has simply bought a new boat, so the Farrier needs a new skipper.

Thanks for joining me today in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Cocos palms 'on the nose'

Image of Syagrus romanzoffiana in Argentina - by Pablo D. Flores and courtesy wikipedia commons.

EVERYONE has a pet hate, and right now mine is the ugly old cocos palm. One of this species, Syagrus romanzoffiana, sent its roots from a neighbouring property to suck nutrients from a garden bed where yours truly, in mid-winter frenzy, has been digging.
During the removal of the roots to allow a crop of veges this spring, the gardener has suffered bomb attacks from cocos seed, which fruit bats have chewed at night, leaving the tree with an amoury to drop on any grounded assailant.
Invasive roots, squealing fruit bats, mushy fruit drops and the tattiness of difficult-to-remove dead fronds are not the full cocos horror story: Across the domestic patch, two S. romanzoffiana shade the house's solar panels.

WATCH for a public notice forming a Cocos Haters Collective. Gillard and Abbott ought to announce their cocos palms policies because the species is undoubtedly 'on the nose'.
The ABC show Gardening Australia must have prompted cheers in lounge rooms around the nation in 2007 when it announced the cocos palm was "now ... regarded as a weed of national significance".
The register of Weeds of National Significance (WONS) is like a rogues' gallery of nasty pests. However, a check on the Federal Government's Weeds in Australia website this week found no mention of S. romanzoffiana among 21 WONS-rated plants.
S. romanzoffiana also failed to get the thumbs down among Redland Council's declared plant pests.

OBVIOUSLY, not everyone feels as strongly as me. It was pleasing, however, to find in the Tree Services section another cocos hater.
Josh Bell, who with dad Chris operates The Tree Musketeers (employing casual workers to make up the trio), gets much pleasure from cutting down a cocos.
He says the full list of problems aside, they're just unsightly. One would expect someone with a company name like the above to have a sense of humour but Josh says the cocos joke is on him.
About 30 of them create an avenue on the family property; his job is to climb high, prune off the dead fronds and try to make ugly palms look good.

JOSH recently worked off some rising tension by removing Washington palms from a Birkdale address. He says that species, also known as the Chinese fan palm, is another pest, with nasty spikes, so the job was "not much fun".
For the record, says the undesirable impact of the cocos is its spread into riparian areas and dry eucalypt forests, not any of those cited here.

Thanks for joining me today in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Knitting toward a better future

Image courtesy African Equity.

THE ancient art of knitting is a handy hobby for many modern Australians but half the world away in Kenya it can be a survival skill. Kenyan families, like those in the town of Nyahururu, near the hometown of US President Barak Obama's family, depend on the garments they knit, not only to clothe themselves but also to earn income from sales. That is why the charity, African Equity, placed a Classified notice seeking hand-operated sewing machines.

THE aim is to equip a Nyahururu orphanage to train its youngsters.African Equity, which Cleveland businessman Chris Anderson founded about two years ago, focuses on "breaking the cycle of poverty through education and employment – creating an environment of self sufficiency and autonomy, not dependence". Mainly supporting Kenya's largest orphanage, Heroes of the Nation, African Equity also runs other community projects such as medical clinics, adult education and vocational training. It has set up business initiatives, including maize grinding and agricultural and mechanical services, and regularly ships containers of goods, many of which are donated.

THE call for knitting machines followed a recent trip to Nyahururu by African Equity volunteers including Alexandra Hills dentist Debbie Leong, Cleveland accountant Derek Grewar and former Rural Press Cleveland general manager Greg Watson. Derek and Greg took their families on the working holiday. Greg returned with advice that the knitting machines are "like gold" in the Kenyan culture. Bayside Bulletin/The Redland Times sales coordinator Gordon Lawrence, who also is an AE volunteer, had good news for a meeting of the group this week at Noci Italian Ristorante, Raby Bay. Three Redland donors are keen to back the cause and their machines will be shipped to the orphanage soon.

GORDON says the warm response points to a big future for the Redland-based charity, which has about 20-30 volunteers and a policy of encouraging direct contact with the Kenyan beneficiaries, whether through visits or other methods including internet hook-ups. "African Equity is helping the kids over there in a myriad of ways," he says. "They have only just received seven containers that were sent about a month ago." He says shipments have included clothing, kitchen utensils, a piano and even an ambulance.

THE website,, says 47,000 pairs of reconditioned prescription glasses from the Redcliffe Lions Club and 300 all-terrain wheelchairs from the Gold Coast Rotary Club were part of the 2009 inventory, along with surplus stock, seconds and clearance items. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars of benefit has been created from products that may have otherwise been left idle in warehouses," the charity says.

Thanks for joining me today in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column appeared in The Redland Times in early August.

Jasmine the mini horse: She's 'almost human'

Thanks for joining me to meet the great people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times. Image shows another miniature horse (courtesy

THE cute creature that won Tony Castelli's heart just a few weeks ago still has him cooing with deep affection. But Tony has realised it's not the right time and place for him to own a miniature pony, so he needs to sell the three-year-old chestnut mare, Jasmine. The decision to place the notice in the Classifieds this week was hard for Lancashire-born Tony, who generally prides himself on his good judgement after 34 years in business in Queensland since he migrated from England.

THIS time, he has had to admit that his emotions ruled and he made an 'impulse buy' after he fell in love with Jasmine at first sight."I just don't have enough grass here," Tony said from his small Thornlands acreage property. "She needs to run around in a big paddock. "The ad said "cute as a button, very intelligent", but Tony said that was an understatement – the horse was "almost human", sticking her nose into his tea mug in the morning and trying to get a nip of port in the evening. Jasmine found her way into Tony's downstairs pool room and had a game with the red balls, and she showed mechanical skill, selecting sockets from his toolbox.

TONY grew up on a farm in the north of England and has owned full-size horses. He first thought Jasmine would be good for his two-year-old granddaughter, Jorja, but had to acknowledge the child was too young for a horse, even a miniature. He is grateful to Jasmine for introducing him to "the lovely people" at the Pinklands-based pony club, from which he sought advice. "When I took her down there, she fancied a big Arab stallion and I had to tell her, 'Sorry but he's out of your league'," Tony said. As the venture into horse ownership unfolded, the miniature proved herself to be out of Tony's league. Still, he marvels at how the local schoolchildren call "Jasmine" as they pass the Dinwoodie Road property. He said she had so much personality he would be very sad to see her go, and his wife Nerida, daughter Jo and Jorja would be more so.

TONY started training Jasmine to pull a sulky that he hopes the new owners will take in a package deal, with the two at $450 each.Tony, who was an award-winning master butcher in England, said he had made many good decisions on buying and selling – he went on to own 21 businesses in Queensland. He is busy improving his Thornlands property, which unfortunately is too small for Jasmine.

Cultural, economic views on the big Australian house

Image of housing courtesy microsoft clipart.

THE Australian obsession with big houses has been a visible social trend while sustainable development and wise use of resources have been a focus.
Some may regard the 'upsizing' as a snub to environmental considerations. Of course, many families need big houses and others do not but whether need, want or greed is the driver, analysts find positives as well as negatives from the big-house trend.
Less than one year ago, statistics showed the typical size of a new Australian home had reached 215 square metres, Fairfax Media economics writer Peter Martin reported.

QUOTING Statistics Bureau data compiled for Commonwealth Securities, Martin said Australians were piling on sitting rooms, family rooms, studies and extra bedrooms, with the size of our homes overtaking those in the US as the world's biggest.
Commonwealth Securities economist Craig James acknowledged that "the biggest homes in the world ... could be better utilised'' but he said the number of Australians living in each home had risen slightly.
"Population is rising, as is the cost of housing and the cost of moving house, so we are making greater use of what we've got," he said. "Children are staying at home longer and more people are opting for shared accommodation ... If sustained, it will save us building 166,000 homes.''

MY research into house size followed a recent Classified notice seeking host families for about 40 Japanese teenagers who will visit Redland City next month under a program involving Education Queensland International and Cleveland State High School.
Yoshie Harris, who organises the annual visit through her study tour agency Speaknow Education, says Australian house sizes are the biggest surprise for the Japanese teenagers.
Website references indicate the average dwelling size in Japan is under 100 square metres – less than half the size of the typical new Aussie home.

ALTHOUGH house size has topped the list of student comments, Yoshie says the visitors also note the beautiful greenery and beaches, and the friendliness of Australians.
She enjoys working with the young people from her homeland. Yoshie and her husband Leon met while he taught English in Japan about 20 years ago. In 2004, they settled at Alexandra Hills with their children, Erica, now 12, and Leonard, 10.
The Redland visitors, aged 14 and 15, from Shukutoku Junior High School will be part of a 162-student group, which will be split among four South East Queensland High Schools.
By Wednesday, Yoshie needed only two more host families for the Cleveland group during the three-night stay from August 26 to 28.

Thanks for joining me in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Monday, August 30, 2010

King Kong can step aside at 'tax time'

Image: The original King Kong from the 1933 movie. Courtesy wikipedia.

MONSTERS of the big screen, such as King Kong, Freddy Krueger and even Godzilla, fail to evoke as much terror as a certain real-life antihero. A film producer should glorify 'The Taxman'. Imagine browsing the cover notes in your favourite video store: "He keeps his victims in bondage and tortures them for their entire lives – they scramble for their records but no one can escape The Taxman." 'Return of the Taxman', 'Son of Taxman' and 'Nightmare at Tax Time' would definitely get an X rating.

PLEASE forgive my attempt to inject humour into such a serious matter: Every winter many have tremors, not because of the cold but because the end of the financial year brings the dread of reporting to one of the most powerful authorities. My dad gave me good advice. "Never tell lies – but especially not to your mum, your wife and the taxman." That was it, without even a permit for the occasional 'little white lie'. Before I hunt through bundles of paper and ransack the wardrobe, a recent notice in the Classifieds caught my eye.

PHIL Higgins asked, "Are you having trouble with accounting records? Need a hand?" and even gave an answer: "Retired accountant loves a challenge." Phil was born in Sydney and worked for one of the "big eight" firms, Smith Johnson and Company, which evolved into Peat Marwick Mitchell and further into the professional services giant KPMG. In 1971, he moved with his family to Alexandra Hills, which became his base as he continued in commercial accounting on international projects in many countries.

PHIL worked on joint ventures for large-scale interests including the Packer group, CRA and BHP and, mainly in the early 1980s, also the floating of public companies. He retired for health reasons and now takes much satisfaction from assisting small businesses. His main interest is not directly in tax but rather in "resurrection" of business recording, but Phil agrees some tend to suffer a type of tax paralysis in which fear hinders the task of getting their affairs in order.

"PEOPLE fall off the bandwagon for various reasons; in some cases their accountants let them down; in others they are simply scared they haven't done things correctly," he says. "They can be afraid of the taxman and get very bad visions locked in their head about what will happen, when the reality is very different." Phil says small businesses cannot afford to pay the fees that big agencies need for the often-time-consuming task of rehabilitation, so he is happy to provide an afforable service, made possible because of his retirement.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cafes raise the bar-ista with beans

THE blank looks and 'what does that mean?' headshakes that once greeted a nifty little word of Italian origin have disappeared in the modern era of Australia's oh-so-sophisticated cafe culture. The word has escaped the crossword grids that formerly rested on bare tables beside cups of lukewarm instant coffee – which always seemed to come out half strength even if you asked for hot and strong. Few adult Australians nowadays would need to ask the meaning of 'barista', which appeared out of a cloud of steam over the past two decades or so and now hovers around the crispness of ironed tablecloths.

AS 'barista' has taken its place in everyday language, the evolution of the cafe culture, in fact, has created a profession. Where once the common belief was that virtually anyone could accept money to make a cup of coffee, nowadays society demands a specialist, even when no payment is required. Redland City counts among its entrepreneurial businesses A Class of Barista, which has trained coffee makers for about the past year at Capalaba. Carrying a subtitle as 'the Brisbane Barista School', the business is the brainchild of a highly experienced hospitality manager, Nathan Fleury.

NATHAN spent 17 years in 'front-of-house' food and beverage management with restaurants, cafes, hotels, resorts and even six-star ocean cruisers before he acted to meet the need for barista training in south-east Queensland. He says he affiliated with Sugar'n Spice Coffee to conduct his schools at the Dan Street coffee roast house, is pleased with the handy Redland location and already has trained dozens of hospitality professionals as well as 'home baristas'. "The demand of discerning consumers for excellent coffee means that it is a crucial factor for the cafes," he says. "Coffee is such a competitive commodity, if a cafe does not make good coffee the cafe down the road will get the business."

AT the highest level, A Class of Barista takes gradutates to national accreditation for their skills but it also supports local schools' vocational education training (VET) for Year 11 and 12 students. Nathan says the industry has experienced a trend away from blends to single-bean grounds that have propelled Papua New Guinea's coffee to rank with that of Ecuador and Colombia among the connoisseur's choice. Nathan's passion for coffee comes through as he talks about his search for "one of the rarest delicacies" in the coffee universe: a cup made from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a small animal that inhabits parts of Indonesia.

SUCH a cup is rather expensive but Nathan hopes one day to have the chance to hand over as much as $90 for the treat. That is how far the cafe culture has come. We know that one will be hot and strong. Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising.

Classie Corner, which celebrates its 30st anniversary in 2010, year, now appears in The Redland Times, a Fairfax Media/Rural Press newspaper. Image is Microsoft clipart.

Rust sets in as trust loses a 't'

Image is Microsoft clipart.

A 't' has dropped off one of the most significant words in our language. Good old-fashioned trust: it's still around but the 'rust' seems to have set in. Once upon a time, it was in so many places we took it for granted; nowadays society seems to regard 'trust' as a characteristic of the gullible. A police officer recently told on ABC Radio of the continuing success of internet scammers in gaining trust of those who fall into their bulging email addressbooks. The interviewer expressed dismay at anyone falling for the faulty English in the spam messages. This dismissive attitude is understandable.

SCAM spam examples in my trash folder are hardly worth quoting, even to illustrate their basic lack of believability, but the following is rather cute: "I want us to team up and convince the bank to release the money to you as the nearest person to our deceased customer ... " And another, direct to the point: "I will soon retire from the bank and without wasting time I will like the fund to be release into your account." But the police officer emphasised no good would come from blaming the victims who for whatever reason – whether promised riches, romance or anything else – have bestowed their trust in someone communicating in this bizarre manner from a remote and exotic location. He said the scammers were ruthless criminals known to kidnap and even murder.

THIS was 'heavy stuff', just when I had been thinking about trust and feeling grateful to the many dozens who have trusted me when I have called at an odd hour to talk about their classified advertising. An elderly reader recently lamented the general suspicion in modern society. We had a good cry together because, as this column's 'intro' tries to say, modern life has turned into a monster that keeps snacking on the 't'. The reader was sad that her kids had to tell their kids to be wary and suspicious of everyone; it never used to be like that.

IN my email inbox last week, sandwiched between messages from a "Reverend" and a "doctor", and wrapped in others from a "casino", a "lottery official" and a lonely heart named "Eva", another reader simply asked for the phone number of a person about whom I wrote a few weeks ago. This showed there is good reason to check the email subject lines carefully and not just delete the unfamiliar – a seed of trust was in that weed pile.

IN the marvellous community of classified advertising in local papers such as The Redland Times, trust has taken root in a stable culture over many generations. We've bolted on our 't's because we know life's always been a bumpy ride.

Digital TV = Fingernail-curling frustration

Image from

A SUBSTANTIAL mood of frustration is seething behind the doors of many Australian households.Again we can blame the digital age but this time the cause is neither the home computer nor the internet connection. The internet hook-up gauntlet seems surprisingly to be leaving fewer bruises on confidence with technology as 'techno-time' has continued its forward march with refinements. But just as one set of fingernail-curling circumstances subsides, another has emerged. And the level of mass annoyance was immediately evident when this writer visited to find a synonym for this article.

AT the top of the list of the sponsor notices on the 'frustration' page was, the Federal Government site explaining the changeover to digital television. This association undoubedtly proves that reception problems are widespread.Sudden disruption of the images and loss of sound on digital TVs risks driving the nation crazy. Just how many times can a dad miss seeing his league side cross the try line, a mum miss a judgment on a cooking show or a daughter miss the punchline in her favourite soapie before they call in an expert to track the fault.

'PIXELATION' - in this sense meaning a breakdown in the image - has graduated from the ranks of computer jargon to true 'household status' with a vengeance.The term has also featured in the Classifieds as antenna experts including Birkdale's Tony Woodcock offer to end the frustration for suffering families. Tony and wife Jenny have equipped their firm, Antenna Express Installation, with state-of-the-art test equipment and proudly proclaim: "This business employs or engages antenna installers who have been endorsed under the Australian Government's Antenna Installer Endorsement Scheme."

TONY has been in the antenna trade since he was a Sky installer in New Zealand in the mid-1990s. He came to Australia in 1998 and climbed on roofs around the nation for Foxtel before the couple settled down about six years ago in their Redland City base. Tony has found most digital reception problems, such as pixelation, stem from the use of older antenna systems. "It is very important to have the correct antenna in the correct position on the roof because factors such as trees, the general terrain and the height of the nextdoor house can all have an effect," he says.

A FEW of Tony's clients have been lucky enough to have just a small fault in the wall plug but he says the interference can come from anywhere in the cabling and connection system. In addition, this digital age has a new technical term, 'impulse noise', describing certain types of interference, for instance from the household electrical systems,Tony says the modern 'quad-shielded' coaxial cables have four layers of protection against impulse noise. However, he says the fault tracking requires an individual assessment in each case.

IF you see Tony on the roofs around the Redlands, give him a wave for me.Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising.

This column has appeared in the Redland Times.

It's enough to make you scream!

THROW out the daily crossword -- here's an idea for all 'wordnuts' out there to form a new compulsive habit.This word game beats racking your brain over cryptic clues 'down' and 'across'. Some may say it deserves a patent; others may suggest some serious counselling. At risk of chorus of "get a life" feedback, Classie Corner today launches 'The Great Exclamation Mark Hunt!'. It's easy! It's fun! It's addictive! No maths involved!

THE exclamation mark has long been a sacred symbol of grammar. In the publishing professions, we have been conditioned to use it so sparingly that this tiny blot of ink on paper almost gained a heritage order. Crusty old sub-editors on journals of record would peer over reading glasses, sneer and utter, "Never", at any noviciate who dared press the holy key. The less fervent traditionalists would tolerate the occasional indulgence. The mark has carried a downmarket status in the highbrow world of grammar. "Serious" writers have often scorned it as the tool of the advertising copywriter; such critics may betray some professional jealousy because we all know who pays the most tax.

OF course, the exclamation mark has also been a hallmark of 'sensationalist' reporting but few journalists want to be paraded on Mediawatch so we keep a leash on the !-finger. As the handy websiste notes, the mark is known by "various slang terms: bang; pling; smash; soldier, control; screamer", but certain terms that have been heard around the editing desks are not suitable for this G-rated location. Nevertheless, strict grammarians chanting "only use it when appropriate" have failed to the keep lid on the !-box.

IN the new age of communication through email and 'texting', the exclamation mark has proliferated like the plague.The tiny symbol certainly becomes more important in the abridged messages flashed around on mobiles.The intruiging exercise of working out whether an exclamation mark is warranted is the game plan for The Great Exclamation Mark Hunt!

GRAB any page of the Classifieds, search it for '!', and work out whether it's needed. A page I just scanned expounded: "This is not a carboot sale!" So next Saturday, I'll get down to the monthly markets at Russell Island Motel to make sure no one dares deviate from the "art and craft" theme. So now its LOL! and thanks for joining me on my !-hunt in the marvellous community of classified advertising.

This column has appeared in The Redland Times, Queensland, Australia.

Shedding light on mushrooms

A LONG tradition in primary production continues at Thornlands where the son of an Italian immigrant from the 1950s applies the knowledge and skills under a brand name that is synonymous with the heritage of Redland City. Eprapah Produce is the business of Peter Comuzzo, who for the past 16 years has specialised in growing mushrooms. Peter employs five people to help him send up to 2.5 tonnes of mushrooms a week to Rocklea Markets from the property he bought 22 years ago. He was one of four children of the late Mario Comuzzo and his Blackbutt-reared wife Norma.

THE family farmed at Wishart for about 30 years before, as Peter says, the fields there "started growing houses". The Thornlands property was Peter's first venture outside the family small-crop business, which had irrigation from a creek. He started his own venture with lettuce, tomatoes and eggplant. "The property has two dams but we soon pumped them dry," he says. "That's why we went into mushrooms - they don't take anywhere near as much water."

ALTHOUGH the output may appear substantial, Peter says it is small compared with some large-scale production in South East Queensland, where the biggest operator produces about 70 tonnes a week. Mushrooms give stability of year-round growing but Peter says consumer demand picks up considerably during winter. "During summer, there is more choice of fruit and vegetables so more competition for the household budget," he says.

MUSHROOMS have high protein content and have been promoted as "the meat for vegetarians", Peter says. Despite the emergence of exotic mushroom varieties in recent years, Peter has stuck with the tradional. 'Buttons' are his biggest crop but he also produces smaller volumes of field mushrooms, or 'flats' as they are known in the industry.

REDLAND householders have a bonus from the by-product of Eprapah Produce's farming - a constant supply of spent mushroom compost that is ideal for gardens, big and small.Peter says the growing medium is replaced in nine-week cycles, resulting in the availability of 300 blocks of compost a week. He sells the compost in 20kg bags and delivers locally for free.Winter is not only the ideal time to throw a handful of buttons into the minestrone but also to dig some compost into the home garden before the warmth of spring.
Thanks for joining me to meet the great people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times, Queensland, Australia. Image from wikipedia.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Twists and turns in language, life, love and loss

Image: A Rolls-Royce 20/25 - courtesy

WITH great respect for the vast majority of our loyal readers, newspapers have long suffered from the very small minority of 'difficult customers'. Whether they are forever dropping in on deadline day to discuss the twists and turns of their pet interests or back again with a complaint about this or that, we try to always be courteous, politely answer their needs and get back to business. Sometimes this is not enough and things get a bit tense or even heated. One of my editors way back dubbed them 'serial pests'; we love to hate them, or should that be vice versa?

SO when an associate, reading aloud during a recent browse of the Classified muttered, "crank ... lost", I thought tempers had flared and wondered if a crank had 'lost it' in the foyer. This was far from the meaning of the Lost & Found notice under scrutiny. Who would expect, in year 2010, to read about the loss of a vehicle crank handle?

RETIRED engineer Rob Gabb, now on holiday at Evans Head, is still lamenting the sad event of April 13, when he took his 1933 Rolls-Royce 20/25 on the first trial run after years of restoration. "I inadvertently left the crank handle in place and I heard it fall out but in the five or 10 minutes it took me to turn around and get back there someone must have picked it up," Rob said. This all happened between Long and South Streets, east of Bloomfield Street on Tuesday, April 13.

THE handle is quite a miniature for a car that is classified as a 'limousine saloon' - it is only about 100 millimetres long. Rob at least can still start his beloved 20/25, on which he has worked "seven days a week" for three and a half years. "The car has a dual ignition system so it also has an electric starter," he said. "Rolls-Royce always said their cars 'should never fail to proceed'. "I bought it from a chap who acquired it with a property. It had been under the house for more than 20 years. It was a mess. The engine was full of water ... all the woodwork was rotten. I needed to get a new cylinder head and other parts from England. It has been a major project."

ROB says the car is now ready for the finishing touches and he will soon take it to a trimmer to get new leather upholstery. "A bloke in England is looking for another crank handle for me -- they are hard to find," he said.The 20/25 has a garage-mate at Rob's Princess Street, Cleveland home -- another 'Roller', a 1926 Super Sports. Ron certainly has been busy on his labours of love in the decade since he took down his electrical consultant's sign at Cleveland House and 'retired'.

Thanks for joining me to meet the great people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times, Queensland, Australia.

Veteran 'general' plots bridge campaign

Map from wikipedia.

THE campaign has been long and hard but Joyce Webb, the general of the Russell Island Bridge Lobby, shows no weariness as she marshals her troops to keep up the battle. Joyce, just weeks from her 87th birthday and suffering from health problems, shows no sign of giving up her dream of a bridge from the mainland to the southern bay island. She is "positive and hopeful" that the breakthrough is near and she has joined the Liberal National Party to speed things up a bit.

JOYCE's critics undoubtedly will seize on this apparent change of heart as she is a former Labor Party member and in fact served in some of the party's local positions. But that was more than a decade ago. Nowadays Joyce looks back on that 12-year stint as a mistake. "I never should have been in the Labor Party because I am all for progress and development with planning," she says. Joyce's bridge dream started in 1984 after she and her husband, Ron, then newly retired after three decades with the South East Queensland Electricity Board, built their Russell Island home and moved from the Gold Coast.

THE couple quickly became known as leaders of the bridge lobby. Joyce's resolve on the issue seems to have strengthened since Ron's death in 2002 at age 83. She says her three heart attacks and an operation to install a pacemaker prompted her move to Thorneside in 2007. "I've got a button here I can press to get help quickly if anything happens," she says. "If I was on the island, without a bridge, there wouldn't be enough time (for medical help). I can't live there anymore without a bridge."

JOYCE has other health problems but she will not let anything get in the way of her preparations for the annual general meeting of "RIBL Inc" in which she is honorary secretary, treasurer and chief fundraiser. Her Public Notice for the May 8 meeting seems to indicate the stormy history of the Russell bridge campaign. "Bridge supporters only welcome to attend," it says. Joyce hopes for a good turn-out for the 1pm meeting at Redland Bay Community Hall. She says the RIBL membership list represents 484 families and 1476 individuals throughout Australia and New Zealand."I write to them every time we are having a meeting," she says.

THE AGM will hear that Joyce is now "very hopeful" of the breakthrough. She says RIBL has been talking with three construction companies that have expressed interest in taking a proposal to the State Government. Joyce admits she is worried about the influence of the Greens in the political landscape. "They want to knock everything on the head," she says.

Thanks for joining me to meet the people of the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Call for doll's pram meets need

Image: Example of a white cane doll's pram - courtesy

A RURAL town of yesteryear, Cleveland had dirt footpaths when June and Bob Fenwick brought their young family to the bayside in the late 1960s.The Fenwicks moved from Oxley to a 15-acre (6ha) plot on Panorama Drive. The property had an old farmhouse but the couple built a new house, where the two youngest of their three daughters grew up. Bob was a builder. He died in 1995 at age 72. June says she is grateful to have had the support of very closeknit family in her 15 years as a widow and she has never regretted the decision to settle in the Redlands.

NOW living at Thornlands, June at 84 years old is at the head of a big clan including five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She counts carefully and says she hopes she hasn't missed anyone in the younger generations.June's great interest in her twilight years is her doll collection. "I used to make porcelain dolls," she says. "I used to go to a shop at Coorparoo."They used to make the moulds. We had to clean them, cut out the eyes, mouth and the head and paint them. It was very very nice and I enjoyed it." However, June says the shop closed and "nobody seems to be doing it anymore". It is in fact "quite a while" since her circle of friends has been assembling the dolls.

JUNE doesn't expect to make any more.However, she enjoys maintaining her collection of just a few.This week, one of her favourite pieces, a life-sized "baby doll" is in a new setting. June placed a Classified ad with a big and bold headline, "Wanted. White cane dolls pram -- must be in good condition..." She received two responses and bought one of the prams on offer for $200."It is very nice and in good condition, all steel underneath and with a lovely fringe around the hood; I think it was made in New Zealand," June says.She laments an accident in which another favourite, a 30-inch doll called Hilary, was smashed but she says she has finally found a woman who has a mould and looks forward to getting to Wynnum to meet her.

A FEW weeks ago, I wrote about Victoria Point guitarist Sam Shepherd, 21, without having heard his music. This sort of disappointment happens quite a bit in journalism with deadlines requiring us to often rely on quotations rather than first-hand (or -ear) experience.Since then Sam sent his 2006 CD, Finally, to preview another he expects to release soon. I can now add that those quoted words of praise from some big-name musos weren't misplaced.Sam's distinctive and relaxed playing in a complex finger-picking style is a real "touchdown". You can see it at youtube. Search for "Sam Shepherd - The Gypsy and Caravan".

This column has appewared in The Redland Times.

Female dog? No, just the office manager

IT wasn't any mix-up when an ad for a labrador, cattle dog, kelpie and border collie appeared several pages from the Pets & Pets Supplies column.T he notice wasn't the standard "free to good home" type but rather reflected a Victoria Point woman's search for a job. The woman, chuckling over her "dare to be different" hunt for an administration role and asking to be quoted simply as "Jan", delighted the dedicated readers who soak up 'every word in the paper', knowing they'll find a gem in an unexpected place.

RIGHT there in the small type under the terribly serious headline, Positions Wanted, Jan described herself as possessing the loyalty of a labrador and devotion to duty of a kelpie. The canine metaphors kept barking, with the notice saying she was as hardworking as a border collie and as trustworthy as a cattle dog. The list ended with Jan declaring she was an "admin b....h" and adding two exclamation marks just in case anyone missed her reference to a female dog.

JAN came to the Redlands with a young family about 20 years ago and now rules her turf on a household that must get pretty hectic with a "combined family" that includes five offspring, ranging in age from 17 to 22, from the two partners. She occasionally has to show her teeth to a serious rival. An ageing Australian terrier, Winnie, shares the address. Jan says a workmate gave her the dog about six years ago when Jan was doing the admin for a Capalaba car yard. Jan seems like a life-long dog fanatic and she previously owned two, a bitsa and a Pomeranian, but "that was long ago when I was a child". Asked how long ago, she quoted the unwritten rule that the 'admin b....h' never reveals her age. 'Keep 'em guessing' is the best tactic to stay in control of the office, she reckons.

AFTER referring to just about every dog in the pound, Jan's ad said she actually had a few more qualities, was experienced in "reception/administration/accounts roles" and was available for immediate start. Days later, she had received only one call - from a woman who asked if Jan could tutor her in office work but at least didn't want Jan to check her for ticks or clip her nails."Teaching someone was not what I had in mind," Jan howled. Then she growled about not getting a better response, but still she remained hopeful of collaring the right position.

Thanks for joining me to meet the great people and other creatures in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.