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.

Dogfight threatens household balance

Image: My former best friend, the late Penny. More about fox terriers in the Classie Corner archives.

BEN Reid's voice reflected the depth of emotion when he said: "It was like giving away part of myself." Ben was talking about his sadness at parting with his dog, Oscar. Oscar is the nine-month-old fox terrier who featured in the Classifieds Pets & Pet Supplies last Friday as "free to good home". The ad, in which Ben revealed his heartbreak with the words, "reluctant giveaway but desperate", prompted about 40 calls.

"I HAVE to find someone to move into my place and it's just not fair to expect them to put up with a dog in the house -- he is an 'inside' dog," Ben said yesterday. "I wanted to give him to a family but a lady who lives up the road liked him too. She already has a little foxy and she's there at home all day, so that's good for a dog, and we thought Oscar would be good company for her dog. She said, 'Come up and have a look at my place' and I walked into her house and she has ornaments of dogs all around. She loves dogs and she loves him but I am a bit worried. She rang me the other day and said her dog and my dog had a fight. Apparently they were on the bed and had a bit of a bark, so I don't know if they are going to get along. I'll ring her this afternoon or drop in and have a talk about what's going on."

BEN said he had kept the numbers of some other applicants for Oscar, so others on the shortlist still had a chance late yesterday. Ben's a tiler who was born in Darwin, grew up on the NSW north coast and has worked his way "pretty much around Australia". He has lived at Redland Bay about seven years.

DOGS certainly have their own set of rules and manners on their canine friendships. I once thought my dog needed a companion and introduced another dog to the household. Months of agony followed, with the first dog bullying the newcomer 24/7, and making all our lives hell. The new dog was a happy-go-lucky type who seemed to really try not to get in the other dog's way and it was tragic to see him constantly harassed. My older dog would not accept my counselling and show any tolerance.

THESE experiences suggest the canine territorial instinct can overrule a human attempt to create new doggy friendships. Whether there's a solution, only a dog expert could say. Some excellent dog trainers have advertised in the Classifieds over the years. If anyone has ideas on two-dog diplomacy, please let me know. Thanks for joining me in the marvellous community of classified advertising.

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