Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grim trophy shows risks that lurk in shadows of everyday life

A GRIM trophy sits beside my keyboard. It's a solemn reminder of the fine line we may walk in life: the line that defines good and bad, ability and disability, even life and death.
It's what is left of one of the screws that held up the stairs to my front door – the rusted screws, each with only a millimetre or so of metal entrusted with the safety of those who climbed an apparently safe pathway.
The stairs would have collapsed if the fault had gone undetected. The disaster may have been only minutes away.
The victims would have been my family and friends, or an innocent stranger, maybe one or two, but possibly more – maimed or killed in a mangled, bloody mess.
My discovery is a warning to householders everywhere to check the security of their buildings, particularly on the high points of older houses. See my earlier post for more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Behind facts, figures,stats and graphs,church eases pain

Image of despair from the church website.

HIGH or low, fast or slow – the nation's economy has always created top of mind issues, but the intensity of the focus on the ups and downs seems to ever increase. Some believe in 'talking it up' as sentiment and confidence are major players in the complex web of influences. Others do their best to tell the truth without the spin, but the public faces  a quandary in what to believe. Most of us do not have the resources or ability to do our own sums in such a sea of facts and figures.
AWAY from graphs and stats, there are pointers that can help clarify the economic picture. On the ground in the bayside suburbs, Victoria Point couple Phil and Lyn Cropper have no doubt that times are tough. Pastors of the pentecostal Rhema Word of Faith Church Redlands, the Croppers have been hearing many stories of hardship. "Costs have been going through the roof and there have been job losses; there's no doubt people generally are doing it tough and finding it hard to make ends meet," Phil says. FOR the past six weeks, the Rhema op shop at Redland Bay, has sold $35 food parcels including fruit, veges and dairy and pantry items.
PHIL says the number of people using the service has increased steadily as word has spread and although some clients undoubtedly are in considerable hardship others are simply budget conscious. "We don't discriminate," he says. "Even people who may appear to be wealthy can be doing it tough as many are up to their eyeballs in debt."
NOW, the big announcement that I promised a few weeks back. Well, the magnitude has certainly dimished in the interim but that's 'all good' for those who enrolled in the Redlands Community Weight Loss Challenge (Classie Corner, July 6).
Kim Phillips and Gordon Mills, of Capalaba, organised the challenge with eight participants. Kim has advised that Greg Harrison now has the title of 'biggest loser' after shedding 8.9kg in 12 weeks. Kim and Gordon are consultants for a nutritional system to help in losing weight without gym membership but nevertheless promote a balanced program for a healthy lifestyle. Kim, a registered nurse who now has the occupation description of 'wellness coach', says Greg was amazed at the ease of his weight loss.
"Greg changed his eating habits and commenced on one of our Cellular Nutrition Programs, which we have available for people to use if they would like to," she says.
"Four people were using our products and the other four chose not to. We had lots of laughs as well as shared information to help people move towards a healthy active lifestyle, along with encouragement and support."

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Astrology and the law: cop's story inspires study

Image from wikipedia, where many have expressed their knowledge and/or beliefs about the power in the heavens.

THE North Queensland cop who chatted with a young woman about his work more than 20 years ago could not have predicted what he would start. Wendy Smith now recalls the policeman as "courageous and pragmatic" and says she listened attentively because of his strength of character. His insight was neither particularly profound nor unique but two aspects of the conversation stuck in her memory: The cop had direct experience dealing with violence and behavioural deviations about the times of a Full Moon; he believed police were susceptible to being killed or injured during those periods.

THUS Wendy gained "a healthy respect for Moon cycles" and developed an interest in astrology, the study of which she is sharing through classes with the theme, 'Live your life by the Moon". Now an Alexandra Hills resident, Wendy promotes the classes through The Redland Times/Bayside Bulletin Training & Tuition column.

"STUDENTS learn the basics about planets, signs and houses, while seeing and experiencing how the Moon affects their lives personally," she says. "The Moon is the fastest moving planet, which rules our emotions. "People interested in astrology can learn about the subject and analyse their own personal charts, which I will draw up during a 10-week beginner course, as they know themselves better than anyone else. "I think for us to grow as humans we need to look at ourselves first, warts and all through our birth charts, which are personal maps, and learn to love and embrace who we are. "Then we can move forward and deal with all the other complications – partners, money, jobs, relatives – and use some astrology tools to see how the transiting planets may offer us opportunities or challenges to deal with it all."

ALTHOUGH Wendy's focus is on personal charts rather than general predictions such as appear in newspapers and magazines, she believes "on-going difficult aspects" between Pluto and Uranus are having a big effect on humankind. "Pluto is a planet of transformation – that is, it breaks things down before they are rebuilt – and Uranus is the great awakener, which brings change and unusual outcomes," she says. "With these two planets squaring up to each other and from time to time at an exact angle, everyone is under pressure of some kind. "The world has seen economic crisis – and is still going through massive collapses and restructuring and changes; these planets are forcing change with most of us having to downsize or re-evaluate our lives on many levels." Wendy sees no conflict between astrology, religion and science. "All are necessary parts of the whole perhaps," she says. ? Thanks for joining me to meet the great people in the marvellous community of newspaper classified advertising. For more information and stories visit

Monday, October 08, 2012

Timber lover says it's time to 'let go' of treasured objects

Image: One of Graham Chataway's timber creations. Courtesy,

A FEW seconds of eerie silence follow the frenzied scream of a chainsaw. Then, a thundering crash announces the passing of another of nature's most gentle giants. The felling of a tree is solemn work for some but becomes enthralling entertainment for others. Even when the mood is festive a certain sadness surrounds the fallen.

GRAHAM Chataway has heard those distinctive sounds from time to time since he and his wife Teresa moved to Cleveland 23 years ago. Both have doctorates in different academic disciplines. Born in central western Queensland, Graham developed a deep connection with trees and timber early in his life. He feels the sadness every time a tree crashes to the ground, but he can also see beauty in the mangled mess. On the ranks of timber lovers, Graham must sit among the highest boughs. "I just love the feel, the colour, the smell of some woods," he says. "I love the natural appearance, the patina and the linkage with the soil."

WHEN the chainsaw has screamed around Erobin Street, Graham has joined the throng, not to celebrate a death but to honour a life. He has air dried the timber and created beautiful objects. Graham calls his works "craft" but they are also "art". His collection includes avocado, mango, olive, rose apple and Norfolk Pine from Erobin Street. Other pieces are made from Cunnamulla bloodwood, St George mulga, Gympie messmate, ironbark, redwood, cypress pine and Lamington red cedar.

THE handiwork was be on proud display on Sunday, when the Chataways held a clearance sale as they move toward completion of a major project, the demolition of the home they have occupied since 1989 and construction of a new house on part of the site. The Chataways retired about 10 years ago, Graham was a specialist in the impact of technology on corporate environments and work culture; Teresa’s research was in legal and political philosophy.

THE couple decided "to let go" of their antiques, collectables, woodcraft, and some furniture and enlisted Kalbar auctioneer Neil Goetsch. The auction notice also listed woodworker's tools, shed, landscaping materials and fishing gear. Graham says he also has a long-standing interest in agricultural machinery. Many of the auction items came from rural clearing sales in the Lockyer Valley and on the Scenic Rim and Darling Downs. He promised some surprises for the auction crowd but the big message: "See what can be done with local reclaimed timber and some imagination."

This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Tales of shock, relief and another heart stopping 'near miss'

Joey the Tenterfield terrier looks a little worried
 about those screws
SHOCK that transforms into gratitude and relief etches some events into the human memory. The term 'near miss' covers a multitude of situations. We experience them on the roads, in our homes and probably anywhere we work, rest or play. Time seems to stop. A vision of a 500 millimetre wide rock, which was dislodged on a hillside, bouncing at high speed toward my then toddler daughter and missing her by only centimetres is just one of the near misses I will never forget.

ANOTHER memory, not quite so dramatic, has joined my special collection. This risk developed slowly and the accident was waiting to happen, but now it never will. Screws holding the stringers on our stairs had corroded so much they could have given way under the weight of just one heavy person. The experience underscores the need for householders to pay close attention to maintenance, and now with the vision of 12mm bolts holding up the stairs I wonder how the builder could have expected a few roofing screws to secure them over time.
BUILDING and pest inspector Jeff Gronvold of Wellington Point says he has seen many compliance issues in older houses. Jeff says building practices have tightened considerably and elements of older houses may not meet modern standards. For instance, he has found many handrail heights under the mandatory one metre on decks and stairs. Another key point is that paint can hide termite damage and wood rot in older houses. However, Jeff emphasises that although a pre-purchase building inspection will detect some such problems, the full structural compliance checks are scheduled during the stages of construction.
JEFF, who set up his Redland business in 2004 after working as a building inspector with a bigger firm, says attachments on decks and stairs are certainly on his check list that meets the relevant Australian Standard. He advertises in our Trade Services classifieds offering "complete building and timber pest reports" and says he qualified for the two licences to save his clients from the combined cost of two separate inspection visits. "It takes bit longer to do the pest inspection as well as the building inspection but it's less expensive," he says. "As a small operator, doing only two or three inspections a day I also have the time to talk to the people. "I like to have the client with me during the inspection so they know exactly what I look for and find."
BRISBANE-born Jeff, who moved to the Redlands in in 1973 when a teenager, proudly advertises as a "local family business". Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times. 

Tool crazies can step aside for sake of island nation's needy

A POWERFUL question echoes around the homes and yards of Australia every weekend as householders bundle out their trash and treasure at garage sales. From the first glimmer of Saturday dawn to the Sunday sunset, blokes of all shapes and sizes surrender to an obsessive mania and rummage through mountains of offerings. Sometimes they'll shout from driveways and footpaths but more often they'll corner a householder away from the thronging bargain hunters and whisper: "Eh, mate, ya 'ave any tools?" Canny tool hunters know well that an overheard whisper can cause a stampede.
THIS Saturday, just watch the tool crazies elbow each other out of the way as they look for their holy grails of things that grab, pinch, cut, turn, drill, clamp and polish. Tool manics always believe they will be the saviours to rehabilitate injured servants. Even tools that are scarred from hard service and fully deserve a graceful retirement are hot property at garage sales.
THAT's why it was a big ask when Cleveland resident Gordon Lawrence recently advertised for donations of tools for a remote region of Vanuatu. But Gordon, sales consultant with The Redland Times and Bayside Bulletin, knows the power of the Classifieds and is now accumulating a special toolbox, bound for The Banks Islands; the consignment package is still far from full. Gordon became aware of the need for hand tools and medical equipment, such as walkers and wheelchairs, on his visits to the region. "It's a third world country and these areas have no electricity; the beautiful people there badly need hand tools and basic medical aids," he says. He is working with other Redlanders as Friends of Vanuatu to supply tools for a youth training program.
RETIRED fitter and turner Clive Oldroyd, 82, of Victoria Point, saw Gordon's "wanted" notice and donated eight toolboxes of equipment. Born at Gladesville in Sydney, Clive did his apprenticeship with a firm that manufactured mainly railway rolling stock, and he later plied his trade in Queensland. He says he's happy to donate the gear to such a good cause. Clive and wife Josie have lived in the Redlands for about 40 years, and even after two decades of "retirement" Clive admits he's still not totally content without "work".
NEVERTHELESS, Clivesorted out tools that were surplus to his requirements for pick-up. Josie seems to have had a fulfilling retirement. She kept busy as a potter, now makes jewellery and is a life member of the Old Schoolhouse Gallery, Cleveland Point. Thanks for joining me to meet the people in the marvellous community of classified advertising.

This column has appeared in the Redland Times.