Sunday, February 17, 2013

'Braveheart of the buffet' finds kilt in family's closet

Image from fellow blogger The Bagpiper.

THE adage refers to "skeletons" in the family closet but a sibling's research found a kilt in ours. Scottish genes must be strong. Noted through history for austerity, the Scots seem to have had quite some influence over me. Thank goodness I found out before I cut open another toothpaste tube. A mate has recalled a dispute or two or three over shared restaurant bills and disparaged my mental notes on those who hogged expensive dishes (and they weren't haggis).
PLAIN packaging on supermarket shelves has been like the call of the bagpipes. And now I understand my childhood fascination with Scrooge McDuck in the Disney cartoons and why I have such deep respect for an elderly mate who buys new tyres one year before he puts them on his car.
WITHOUT actually trying the tyre method I can understand his rationale: the rubber hardens during the interim, making the tyre more durable. A tyre expert has debunked the theory, saying harder rubber would in fact wear quicker, but my mate swears by the practice. After all, he is a Scot. A recent television documentary about the highland warrior known as Braveheart topped the ratings in my household, and some predictable links are now in my web browser. It takes some courage to write that much information about the Scots is available – free – on the internet.
A US site,, lists profound Scottish proverbs: A fool may earn money, but it takes a wise man to keep it; a full purse never lacks friends; never marry for money – ye'll borrow it cheaper; a penny saved is a penny gained; and money is flat and meant to be piled up. Such sentiments must explain why the change pocket on my jeans is never big enough for a coin-grabbing clinch of thumb and forefinger.
ALL this ticked over in my mind during my storm season clean-up as I waterblasted everything except the family dog and oiled every board of unpainted timber. No.1 on my conscience was the indignity over a certain retail outlet seeming to 'hide' the linseed oil that is cheaper than the specialist decking-oil products. One would think that all such products would be displayed together but I always have to hunt for the linseed oil, which is so far away I need a McGregory's directory to get back to the checkout. How does all this relate to classified advertising? Well, the Classifieds are a great place to make and save money, and today I simply acknowledge many Scots in the readership.

 This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

FOOTNOTE: A critic has commented at

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A walk in the wet forest, Part 2: Beauty in southern Moreton Bay

TODAY has been cloudy with bursts of rain but the sun came out and some jewels of nature radiated beauty to a world that's usually blind to their charms.
Fungi always star in such a show around my southern Moreton Bay island home but have a supporting cast.
The exhibition was enough to bring out the soft side of anyone, maybe even the family dog. So I grabbed the camera and lead to simply stroll a few hundred metres and record the following:

A walk in the wet forest, Part 1: Beauty in southern Moreton Bay

TODAY has been cloudy with bursts of rain but the sun came out and some jewels of nature radiated beauty to a world that's usually blind to their charms.
Fungi always star in such a show around my southern Moreton Bay island home but have a supporting cast.
The exhibition was enough to bring out the soft side of  anyone, maybe even the family dog. So I grabbed the camera and lead to simply stroll a few hundred metres and record the following for your enjoyment:



'They don't give you a manual' but help is freely available

Image: Lovely illustration of parenting from the blogger known as rightwaysrichard

WHENEVER a touchy topic dominates the dinnertable talk, someone will refer to a lack of much-needed documentation that could solve a problem or two. Nowadays the statement, "They don't give you a manual with one of those", often relates to a mobile phone, and manufacturers are condemned for their failure to give their customers adequate trouble-shooting tools. However, another "product" is traditionally associated with the lack of a manual, and that of course is the child. Parents generally still face up to their duties in bringing up their children with the belief that simply because the hospital didn't supply a little booklet they must navigate through the problems, all by themselves. In fact, handy tools to develop parenting skills have long been freely available, and one has featured recently in our Training and Tuition column.
SHELDON mother-of-four Diane Rooker is offering parenting courses using the respected Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) guidelines that US psychologist Dr Thomas Gordon developed more than 50 years ago. The parenting component is just one aspect of psychological theory that Dr Gordon based on effective communication. Melbourne-born Diane, her South-African-born husband Robert and their children, now aged between 11 and 20, have been Redlanders for about the past decade. She studied at The Awakening Group in Brisbane to qualify as a counsellor and followed up elements of the course to delve deeper into Dr Gordon's much-celebrated systems. "It's all about active listening and building emotional intelligence, showing children how to find solutions themselves and develop skills that can set them up for life," says Diane. "As parents we may feel we need to tell them everything when we really need to listen and allow them to speak more. "There's no yelling in the house anymore. It does come back to the values of the parent, working out who has the problem and whose needs are not being met.
"PARENTS need to work out what their values are and whether they may be in fact those of their great-grandparents and ask if they really want those same values for their child." Diane's agency name is Pearl Counselling. Her notice offers to teach parents to speak to their child so they will listen; understand their child; resolve conflict so no one loses; and help the child become emotionally intelligent. Active and empathetic listening and strategies to cope with stress are also on the list.
THE theories of Dr Gordon have benefited thousands around the world but, sorry, there's no system for the mobile phone user without the manual.

This column has appeared in The Redland Times

Smiles in, tears out as day one brings fun into education

Image from fellowblogger dearoneshealingministry

THE nervous tension that builds during the countdown to start of a new school year always puts the littlies in the spotlight. Not only mum, dad, brothers, sisters, nans, pops, uncles and aunts but often a whole stream of friends and neighbours will whisper in hushed tones: "How do you think he/she will cope?" Will there be smiles or tears on that momentous first day? Without doubt, the first day at school nowadays is less likely to involve the traumas of the past. While I recall I settled down straight away in a battered desk of a country school, a mate decided during the morning recess that he had suffered enough and headed home.

MY vision of day one will always be the plump little boy, red-faced and screaming, bear-hugging a power pole outside the school gate as a teacher tried to prise him free and carry him back to the classroom. As pupil management theories have advanced and society generally has thought a lot about the importance of a good start to education, such scenes have become rare among the happy, smiling faces. Some schools, however, have always been virtually tear free. They are places where the learning is fun, even when that scary word 'discipline' is etched into the background. Take, for instance, a ballet school such as the one Nicole Ashfield set up in the Redlands more than three decades ago. The 'first day' for the littlies there means lots of fun, jumping, skipping, hopping to music and nursery rhymes as well as having an introduction to basic positions in dance training, Nicole says.

ASHFIELD Ballet School's youngest students are just three years old, and Nicole has gained much satisfaction from seeing them grow up. She says the discipline of dance training boosts self confidence and can be a lifetime benefit. Nicole first developed her love of dance under the tuition of her mother, Avril Binzer, and has a long list of performance and education credits. Nicole's daughter, Hayley Ashfield-Predl, who also has many career credits, is her partner in Ashfield Ballet School. They employ other teachers and run junior classes in Cleveland, Alexandra Hills, Capalaba, Wellington Point, Ormiston and Thornlands, with Ashfield Ballet Studio in Moreton Bay Road, Capalaba, as the headquarters.

MANY of their students have been high achievers. The Ashfield award winners for 2012 were: Most promising junior (ballet), Lisa Verstraten; most promising junior (tap), Jaden Guerrini; most promising all-rounder, Anna Booth; overall encouragement award Kiri Morgan; most consistent effort in solos, Jordan Predl; dance excellence, Taylah Forbes; most promising contemporary, Tamara Camilleri; and Avril Binzer Classical Ballet Award, Gemma Carroll. Remember these names, which are likely to get star billing in important places in years to come.

This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Number games rule as Carl's accountancy mission tallies up

THE news headlines focusing on the official unemployment figures which were released yesterday are like the top of a proverbial iceberg. Nowadays, all but the keenest statistical analysts seem to simply shrug at the government count and ask: What about all the underemployment? The 'grey area' appears to reduce the credibility of many reports and of course apart from the overall national figures every area has its own labour market influences. This week, the Fairfax Media network reported authoritative economists estimating that the national unemployment rate would rise to 5.4 per cent from its current level of 5.2 per cent. While most of such attention to the labour market neglects to look past the numbers to the realities, the 'grey area' is not totally ignored.
ROY Morgan Research said 19 per cent of the nation's workforce were underemployed or in part-time jobs in 2012. This reflects across the nation in homes from which the multitude of underemployed wear out their computer keyboards seeking more work. In a family home in Paterson St, Capalaba, Carl Arganda is not even a number for most of the suited analysts on his television screen. Carl, 19, has grown up in the Redlands and graduated from Capalaba State College in 2010. His schoolmates may remember him as the flanker in the college's rugby union team and the second rower in the rugby league. Some of his teachers, however, will recall Carl's passion for figures and can be pleased he is on a mission for a career as an accountant. "I like playing with numbers and that's what I am good at, pretty much," he says.
CARL says he has written between 200 and 300 job applications since early last year, while he studied at Mt Gravatt TAFE for his Certificate IV in Bookkeeping. Casual work as an office assistant and on a Wynnum factory's product packaging, has been paying his bills and running his 1999 Mazda MX-5 coupe, which is one of his main interests. Now with a qualification and after many months of combing the job notices, Carl has tried a new tactic, advertising in The Redland Times' Positions Wanted column: "Junior accountant looking for an office job, preferably an accounting role." After several calls, Carl was optimistic this week that the ad would help him break into his career. "My aim is to get that job and get more experience," he says.

This column appeared in The Redland Times in January 2013.

Tribal artefacts take sister, brother on cultural journey

Image: From my collection of tribal artefacts, bought from garage sales.

THE great British broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, or a similarly eminent personage, could make a 'doco' paddling around in the cultural streams that flow through the Classifieds. Classified advertising always offers some intriguing posts as collectors of all things great and small pursue their passions. Even without the dulcet tones of an educated Englishman, a browse through any edition is a cultural journey littered with messages from the hearts and minds of people who really 'know their stuff'.

RECENTLY I had the great experience of chatting with Beth Saussehrd, who with her brother Jonathan, recently placed 'wanted' notices for Aboriginal and Oceanic tribal artefacts. The Saussehrds grew up in the family home in Price Avenue, Birkdale, and inherited their collector genes through their mum and dad, Angela and John, who had an antique shop at New Farm. With the family now living on the Sunshine Coast, Beth enjoyed a trip down memory lane when she returned to Redland City to follow-up the responses to her notice. She says she bought several small items to add to their extensive collection of artefacts, which they started about 15 years ago; the pair has a special interest in old shields and clubs.

"ABORIGINAL shields were used importantly as weapons of defence to deflect spears boomerangs clubs etc in warfare and combat but there significance is much broader than that," Beth says. "Depending from where or what tribe an Aboriginal belonged the shields and their form varied in shape and use separate to their primary function of defence. Shields from Central Australia were used for making fire; placing the shield face down two men squatting would rub the face of the shield in a sawing motion with the bladed edge of a spear thrower until the surface glowed and began to char.

"CENTRAL Australian groups also believed that shields carried powers of divination forewarning owners of death. Painted with totemic bearing symbols they were also used in ceremony and considered necessary accoutrements in some types of ritual performances. The shields from NSW and Victoria frequently were highly carved with series of parallel undulating lines traditionally incised, using possum tooth engraving tools. The elegant form of these shields and meandering patterns really transcends the ethnographic value and can be appreciated and as standalone pieces of art in their own right."

BETH says the pair's study into the shields' origins and use has uncovered fascinating history about their owners and the former colonial owners. The search has taken them to "far-flung corners of Australia ... from rummaging through junk shops and driving dusty roads in the country visiting old outback farms". Accustomed to some arduous journeys, Jonathon was delighted to find a shield under a firewood pile in a rental house that he had just moved into, Beth says.

This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

Moving house: A truckload of magical moments, memories

Image: Cartons and cultures - from Friends of African Village Libraries.

YUK. That's the quick way to sum up the task of moving to a new address. Now a slower way: It's a subject that everyone seems to dread and certainly would get more thumbs-down clicks than the carbon tax on an internet forum. Chaos rules when moving, no matter how much planning has gone into the 'big day'. There'll always be clashes in normally tranquil relationships as spouses wrestle with heavy objects. It's in the script: She tilts one way while he twists the other, and Newton's law jumps out of the textbooks into painful reality – gravity is fearsome.
A TABLE leg will scar a wall or door; a dent will mysteriously appear in the fridge door; the removal truck will be either early, which creates destabilising urgency and risk of panic, or late, which instills fear of blowing the schedule. A comforting thought for some: Removalists, whether 'good' or 'bad', can be blamed for just about everything that goes wrong. A mate with a truck started doing removals but gave up saying he couldn't handle misplaced blame for damage and losses, and some overbearing master-servant attitudes.
ON my last move, in the cool of the early morning before the sweating and groaning, I called aside the removalist and offsider. Their eyes rolled in agony as I began: "Now, I want you to understand the cartons contain some very important things." Feet shuffled. "I want you to take special care. One of those boxes contains my tax records and I need you to lose it." We got on fantastically after that. They welcomed me to the cabin for the trip and the driver shared personal thoughts and details, including how, as a teenager, he had climbed through the bedroom window of the girl next door in the dead of night and fathered a child. And he explained the beliefs that ruled his life in a population infiltrated by little grey alien men in human skins, pulling strings in people's lives and fiddling in their affairs.
EVERY move offers its magical moments and memories. But today, here's some serious advice: Don't throw out good gear because you run out of bags and cartons. Always get more cartons than you think you'll need, and take everything for a garage sale at your new abode. With a sore back, you'll need the money for painkillers. Removal cartons are available through our For Sale column and the Garage Sale column is the definitive guide to the Redland City bargain hunt.
This column has appeared in The Redland Times.