Month: March 2018

599. Sunday 25th March 2018. Driving for the Commonwealth Games, a surprise for the co-pilot and a tour along the coast…

Monday 19th March

Today the stitches in my eyebrow were removed. There now, that wasn’t so bad. Was it? No, but the surgery on my nose which followed was a bit more uncomfortable and I realise that I have a reaction  to the local anaesthetic which I understand is Xlylocaine and sometimes includes a mild dose of Adrenaline. I seem to get a weakness in the legs, a headache, swelling around the wound and nearby sites, bruising and a general feeling of being unwell. I need to discuss that with my doctor when I front up for the next bit of surgery.

Tuesday 20th March

Donnis was surprised by a visit from her daughter Alecia, sister Linda and her partner, her niece Simone and some friends from way back when. All arrived from Canada today. The surprise was planned about September 2017 and I had to keep the secret all these months. The shock and squeals and tears when Donnis saw all these people, in our lounge room when she emerged from the bedroom was worth waiting for.

Thursday 22nd March

Today was my first work day as a driver for the Commonwealth Games. My job was to collect 10 officials of the Ghana team and bring them to the Games Athletes Village for an inspection of their new accommodation. I drove a Toyota 12 seater Commuter Bus. Communication with the Ghana Officials was quite easy as it seems they were all, if not fluent, at least proficient in English. Before leaving their luxury hotel I politely informed them that wearing a seat belt in Australia is compulsory by law. They all belted up without protest.

The next job was to take 10 members of the Botswana Officials on a shopping excursion. Once I was issued with the car keys and rolled up to collect them we discovered they had been double booked and had already left.

Drat!

Most of the day was spent sitting around and waiting. Many of the athletes, their families and officials have not yet arrived. We had more drivers than people needing drivers. This will change over the next few days and we will be very busy once the games begin.

Friday 23rd March

Another day working for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

I drove the Botswana Team manager to Runaway Bay. Then I was assigned the transport desk in what is known as The Games Family Hotel (otherwise known as Sheraton Grande Mirage.) Wow! That is one delightfully fancy hotel on the beach. I spent two hours waiting for a family member to require a driver.

Alas, my time was wasted.

Sunday 25th March.

Today was busy.

I saw the doctor about my nose surgery as a blister or haematoma is growing inside. As well I wanted to discuss a way to get rid of my belly which stays the same even when I have lost weight elsewhere. A fasting blood test was carried out.

Afterwards I drove visiting Canadians, Fred and Peggy on a tour of the Gold Coast and northern NSW. First we stopped at Burleigh Heads and headed along the coast through Currumbin Beach, Kirra Beach, Coolangatta and the Dangar Point Light Station on  the border. From there we went to Fingal Heads in NSW to see the lighthouse and the Giants Staircase.

The headland itself was made from a lava flow from the now extinct Tweed Volcano. In fact the remnants of the Tweed Volcano stretch all the way into Queensland at least as far as Burleigh Heads where the same Basalt columns can be found. The rock composition in the area is mainly basalt or andesite. These formed into hexagonal columns on the headland and nearby Cook Island when molten lava flowed into the sea and cooled rapidly. About 500 metres offshore from the headland is Cook Island, a rocky uninhabited island first charted by James Cook in 1770 and is named after him. The stretch of water to the island is called the “Giants Causeway”, named after the famous Giants Causeway between Northern Ireland and Western Scotland. Cook Island was made a marine reserve in 1998 and fishing is prohibited in the waters nearby.

A provisional light station was established on the head in 1872 and in 1878 a proper lighthouse, built as a sandstone construction in a round design, was inaugurated.

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The original Fingal Lighthouse and accompanying building…not the keepers cottage. Note the unique way of climbing to the lens deck.

It was part of a series of five such lighthouses established between 1878 and 1880. All the original lighthouse buildings including the keepers cottage are gone. Only a few foundations still exist almost hidden by the encroaching scrub. The lighthouse is fully automatic although checked and monitored on a regular basis.

We stopped for lunch at Kingscliff Surf Life Saving Club. The club uses the following as their dining motto. “Great food, comfortable surroundings, friendly staff and the best views in town.” I cannot argue with most of those comments except that the menu is mostly what I call club or pub food. That is, mostly deep fried food including chips.

Although Fred and Peggy were both gobsmacked with the coastal scenery the next destination was the highlight of the tour for them.

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Peggy and Fred at Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Byron Bay, the Easternmost point in Australia and first noted by Captain Cook in his epic 1770 voyage.

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First view of Byron Bay Lighthouse.
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Steep cliffs meant the lighthouse keeper needed to be a man of sober habits.

This was the first time I have stopped and parked at the lighthouse and discovered what a truly iconic building on a rugged clifftop this really is.

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Afternoon sunlight was ideal.

The lighthouse commenced operations in 1901 after a decision in 1890 to build the lighthouse and work commenced in 1899.

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Established 1901.

Snap snap snap went my trusty Panasonic DMC – FZ200 camera. It was having a great time dragging me around via the neck strap.250318 lighthouse4 I had no option other than to follow, scrambling up and down the myriad steps and staircases.

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The pathway is a favourite running track for activity and health conscious people. We watched as they ran up the hill from Byron the the lighthouse then down the tracks far as the top of the cliffs and then turn around and do it in reverse.

Spectacular seems to be a word which is bandied about by many writers.

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Keepers cottage on a challenging steep cliff.

In this case I really cannot think of another suitable word.

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Seeing the lighthouse through the grubby windows of the nearby keepers cottage.
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Even the Army Helicopter came by for a view flying about 50 metres above the water. As the nearest base in in Brisbane they could be part of the military presence in training to support the Commonwealth Games. Look closely and you can see two crew members sitting in front of the open hatch.

Byron Bay itself is a good size town with a modern hospital serving a large district. Most of the population is young backpackers and surfers all looking for a hedonistic lifestyle. The town is overly well endowed with night spots, eateries, coffee shops, bars, surf clothes stores and surfboard shops.

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Looking over the town of Byron Bay with a slowly setting sun, scudding rain clouds and reflected sunlight.

Leaving Byron Bay we drove home via Murwillumbah and over the Murwillumbah/Tweed/Nerang Range into Queensland in failing light where the speed limit was 60 KPH, the corners were 35 KPH and my passengers, not used to such roads, left finger imprints in the upholstery. My thought to take them for a drive up the mountains to Springwood and Binna Burra later in the week has been cancelled. The drive to those locations is steep and with twisting tight corners and even sections of road which are one way. I will have to plan another adventure for them.

I really enjoy being a driver and tour guide, sharing what I know about topical information and local history.

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598. Sunday 18th March 2018. Tattooed lady, Junior Rugby League and cancer surgery…

Monday 12th March

My appointment at the Skin Clinic resulted in a little surgery requiring 5 stitches in my eyebrow. Because of the delicate area where the anaesthetic was injected I ended up with a bonus black eye! I still have several other squamous cell carcinoma to be removed over the next several weeks.

Thursday 15th March

My final training session with the Commonwealth Games new phone App. Today I drove the people mover, the Kia carnival, capable of carrying 8 persons. It is easy to drive and although comfortable I found the passenger seat without lumbar adjustment was not kind to my back. We used the App to drive to Coolangatta Airport which should have been a simple drive along the M1 for 90% of the journey. Instead the App GPS directed us to leave the M1 and exit at the Smith Street Motorway and join the Gold Coast Highway. This added at least 30 minutes to the journey with the stop start traffic lights and driving through busy, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Palm Beach and Currumbin. I call it the scenic drive and is great for first time visitors to the Gold Coast. It is not good if you are in a hurry. We reported the analogy to HQ who agree the GPS should have directed us along the M1. Apart from that the App and GPS functioned well. This was my last training session as we are live next week picking up athletes and families from Brisbane or Coolangatta Airport and driving them to the Athletes Village or their hotel.

Commonwealth Games commence on 5th April for 11 days.

Friday 16th March

We went to The Broadwater for a walk and for Donnis to have a swim.

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The lagoon is man made and the water is naturally refreshed 4 times a day. The lagoon was made by filling giant sandbages and arranging them in a circular egg shaped pattern, leaving one end slightly open. The sandbags are were covered with a big layer of sand. The lagoon now looks natural apart from where the tidal movement refreshes the water.

Donnis was intrigued by a lady with a back of tattoo of a tree and birds and butterfly’s.

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I am not a fan of tattoos. Donnis was taken by this tattooed lady with a tasteful tattoo.
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Closeup shows the gentle theme of the tattoo but there is something not so gentle lurking on the front.
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From a distance this trimaran looks a delightful safe ocean going boat.
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Look closely and you can see that simple routine maintenance has not been carried out for some time.
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Even worse sails have been allowed to shred. It must have experienced some horrendous conditions.

Saturday 17th March

In the morning with the social committee set up our clubhouse for St Patricks Day party tonight.

The party itself was a lot of fun. We had 60 people attend with most of them getting into the spirit by getting dressed up in Irish Green. We helped the spirit by adding vodka to the slushy machine. Wayne produced a Shepherds Pies with soda bread as a supper snack. Graham reminded us that the snack was once a staple part of the Irish Diet. In fact their shepherds pie was less meat, more potatoes and vegetables. Most Irish families could not afford meat, although potato was almost a staple of their diet.

Sunday 18th March

Donnis and I drove to Springwood to watch grandson Chris play his first rugby league game of the season.

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Kick off. Let the game begin.
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When Chris gets the ball his mother, two grandmothers and various aunts and cousins scream “go Chris”.

Chris has grown tall and lanky in the last year and although he does not have the muscle of some of the other team members he is quite fast and is a difficult player to tackle.

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Meanwhile various mums, dads and grandparents on the opposing side are screaming “stop him”.
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Often players don’t like being tackled or how they were tackled. A brief faceoff occurs before they get on with the game.

597. Sunday 11th march 2018. Rain, skin cancer, driver training and a quiet week indoors…

NO PHOTOS THIS WEEK.

The week begins and ends with rain.

Some very heavy rain at times.

At other times the rain comes scudding, pushed along by strong winds and finding its way under eaves and verandah overhangs. It even finds its way into an open window normally sheltered by an awning.

They have had so much rain up north there is flooding around Townsville and Cairns and places between and to the west.

All this wet weather has messed up any plans I had for this week. Some people say it is unseasonal and part of climate change and we should be concerned. Climate change may be real but it will not change warm and sunny to cold and snow overnight. In fact there was a night of cool where we needed an empty quilt cover on the bed. A quilt cover is equivalent to  two sheets.

Not two blankets!

Two sheets!

Besides somewhere during the night we kicked off the quilt cover and sought the comfort of a sheet, which itself became a little over warm. Summer has not yet deserted us but autumn is just around the corner and will be here soon enough.

Finally after a little agitation via emails I received a reply to say Commonwealth Games Driver Training will resume. I was surprised when I turned up to find the new round of training has been going on for several days. So, at last, the driver App has been released for us to work with. However amongst the excitement and hurrah we were informed it still has a few bugs. A few bugs? Yes. For example in the Map mode on the screen there is an arrow to say turn left. That arrow is not for the next turn. That arrow is for the next turn after that. Somehow we have to be pro-active and anticipate the next turn and not rely on the GPS. Sigh!

Apart from that and a few minor bugs the App is well thought through and will a useful tool. Although I am comfortable with the training I have booked in another session next week.

Did I mention that one of the two drivers in our household had a small accident last week?

We submitted an insurance claim and took the i30 to the panel beaters for repair. They assessed the damage took the keys and said it would be ready by next Monday. They organised a cab to take us to Hertz Rent A car where we were given a new i30 for the next week. What do I like about the new i30? A bigger motor with more get up and go. The driving lights come on automatically. There is a big 7 inch dash screen with all the radio data, GPS, reversing camera, Android Auto for full connection of all features on your mobile phone. What don’t I like? The console cover is not a solid lock and wobbles when I rest my forearm on it and when you take the key out of the ignition the radio does not turn off until you open the door. This car did not have weather shields fitted unlike our car which has it on all four windows. In rain I can open our windows about 40 mm without rain coming in. With the new model you cannot even open the window 1mm before rain comes in.

Donnis and I both had Skin Clinic appointments. She had one rather large cancer removed with about 10 stitches. I had three biopsies carried out. I get my results next week and no doubt some surgery as well.

Sigh!

596. Sunday 4th March 2018. Heat and humidity in Autumn…

NO PHOTOS THIS WEEK.

Friday 2nd March

Every Friday Donnis attends an art appreciation and encouragement morning which doubles as a social gathering at a neighbours house. Sometimes as many as a dozen people turn up, including me. Mostly they turn up for the social gathering as I do. My art is in my photos so  select about 20 photos on my ancient iPad and hand it around as they have coffee and cake.

Saturday 3rd March

Where has the year gone?

Summer was here (and still is according to the outside temperature) and all our plans for going to the beach and surfing have all but dissolved. We managed to get to the beach a dozen times but life has a way of getting in the way of plans.  Hmmm! I think John Lennon may have said something like that once upon a time.

According to the calendar it is now autumn but the weather still feels like summer. The Commonwealth Games are rushing up at us and our overseas holiday is getting closer.

In a little over two weeks I am rostered to begin driving for the Commonwealth Games. I now have my uniform and accreditation pass which is designed to provide identification and access to most venues especially those requiring security clearance.

Today I attended what is called Venue Specific Training at the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village. Wow! What a place. The accommodation part of the village is complete. The main dining hall is complete as is several other buildings. Many of the temporary facilities are housed in large tents which in themselves look quite attractive. The landscaping is still being carried out and an area known as The Backyard including a huge water feature are all but complete. The athletes and officials will have some nice areas to relax and socialise. There are games rooms, Internet rooms, multi denominational prayer room, main dining hall and smaller specialist food areas. There is a medical centre and x-ray facilities. Each competing nation has its own space for officials, team meetings and even their own medical facilities. Depending on the size of the team they may have to share with another nation. There is a gymnasium, ice bath facilities and steam rooms and lap pools. In fact there are 4 pools in the complex. For those athletes still wanting to burn off a bit of nervous energy there is a walking track.

The accommodation will house about 7,000 athletes. I was part of the morning session of 300 people being shown around. There is another 5 sessions booked in over the next two days. We were asked not to take photos as the Games organisers want to keep the facilities a surprise until opening day on 20th March. I was too busy with the tour to even consider taking photos but several people did.

Unfortunately the tour did not include any advice on the next driver training sessions. Training was delayed waiting on the release of a mobile phone App which will be capable of booking all jobs for the day and specific pick-up and drop off instructions and a special Google Maps designed for The Games. I am keen to use and learn this App so early training will be instrumental in delivering quality drivers.

Still waiting.

Sunday 4th March

Today was hot with humidity of about 92%.

For the past few days weather forecasters have warned us about thunderstorms and rain. Both seem to miss us entirely. While watching the TV and the reporter is showing heavy rain somewhere on the Gold Coast to the south or somewhere between here and Brisbane we got nothing. That can be a good or a bad thing.

To escape the humidity we went to the movies or “pictures” as we used to call them when I was a kid. Now we have adopted the American name. We went to Australia Fair as we can park in the shade of a multi-story carpark and walk a short distance to the theatre. The cinema complex has one of the cheapest ticket prices anywhere on the coast. For that matter anywhere. $10 each.

We saw the movie Game Night which is a black comedy and is full of shocks, surprises, sniggers, snickers, chortles, guffaws and laughs. Well worth going to see, especially if you want to escape the heat and humidity for a few hours.

Or escape the cold if you live in the northern hemisphere.

Or just looking for a good laugh.