Month: April 2018

605, Sunday 29th April 2018. Anzac Day, last minute technical drama and packing begins…

This week there is little photographic content to look at.

Instead there is a great deal of wandering narrative about things that go wrong at the last moment.

Some might say, ”lots of ado about nothing”.

Tuesday 24th April

Tomorrow at 5am we begin the Anzac Day Services here at our village.

Today we set up the clubhouse to cater for 81 people who will attend the Anzac Luncheon. As always a small team brought out the folding tables and put them and chairs in place. Tablecloths and flags were set up. Once the clubhouse was looking great we then arranged for 120 chairs to be taken to our cenotaph where we also erected shade shelters. As usual with all this lifting, pulling, pushing and stretching my back yelled out in protest.

Grrr! Another week of bad back will plague me.

Tonight I am wearing a back brace, head pad and have just finished 45 minutes of TENS. That is, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation along with a couple of Panadol should give me a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday 25th April

ANZAC DAY.

Well no. I did not get a good night’s sleep. In fact I was almost back pain free but I did set the alarm for 4.45am. Whenever I set an alarm I seem to wake every hour until I am wide awake long before the alarm goes off.

Dawn Service was attended by about 60 people, mostly residents but with a few visitors. One surprise visitor was Christen Bolton our local Gold Coast City Council, councillor.

The birds never fail to wake during the service and fly around and chirp and sing to each other. It adds an extra dimension to the solemn service.

This year marks the final year of Anzac 100 Commemoration reflecting on the spirit and birth of of the Anzacs during the years of global conflict from 1913 to 1918.

I wore my Dad’s medals on my right breast as dictated by military protocol. These are the medals which my father rightfully earned during his service to the Middle East, including Egypt during World War II. Due to Defence Department stoicism for many years they were withheld. Unfortunately dad passed away without ever receiving his medals and they were all but forgotten. I took up the challenge in 2012 to gain those medals, finally receiving them a week after Anzac Day 2017.

As reported last year, I had lost all my military badges and uniforms in a bushfire in 1968. I finally replaced them, after Anzac Day 2017. This year is a fitting milestone to be able to wear Dad’s medals, my service medals and Armoured Corps badges for the first time.

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Wearing my Dad’s medals on my right breast. My service medals are naturally worn on my left breast. I am also wearing my regimental beret badge and lapel badges. I was a member of A Squadron 2 Cavalry Regiment.

I was a member of A Squadron 1 Cavalry Regiment, based at Holsworthy NSW until, due to a paper shuffling exercise eartly in 1967 a new regiment was created so that the name did not conflict or become confused with a US Armoured Corps unit also named A Squadron 1st Cavalry Regiment. Without even a ceremony to recognise the changes we were suddenly A Squadron 2 Cavalry Regiment. Our unit did go to Vietnam on active service while at the same time the US 1st Cav unit was based there. Although our unit had seniority of years of formation, the US unit had seniority of ranking. We had to change our unit name.

We also at that time took on a Wedge Tail Eagle as our mascot and the unit badge reflects that change by showing a regimental lance clutched in the talons of an eagle.2nd_Cavalry_Regiment_cap_badge Previously our badges were simply the Australian Armoured Corps and did not directly signify our unit. The original eagle mascot, known as Trooper Courage has passed away as indeed have subsequent Trooper Courage replacements. Trooper Courage is still part of 2 Cav now based in Townsville.

The 11am Service had 120 attendees. This time with a larger number of visitors, some relatives of residents but a surprising number were guests of the Treasure Island Holiday Park next door. In addition to our local councillor, our elected member of State Parliament for the seat of Bonney, Sam Connor also attended. At the end of the service we were surprised by a lone Piper who played a number of tunes on bagpipes.

Our planned luncheon got off on time. The caterers, Spit Roast Company,   http://goldcoastcatering.com.au/   continue to provide a great meal, great service and quick pack up and unobtrusive staff. We always get compliments about the, tastiness, quantity and quality of the food. Afterwards we played two up…with paper money of course.

Getting things ready for our holiday means preparing a computer notebook.

I went to turn on my Toshiba Satellite L500 Laptop but nothing happened. Several times nothing happened.

Gulp! I need info from the 10 year old Satellite laptop to set up on the little 6 year old Toshiba Notebook. This is a disaster so close to starting our holiday.

Thursday 26th April.

I called in Affordable Geeks   https://www.affordablegeeks.com.au/    because I know this is a hardware and not a software problem. His diagnosis was what I expected. The motherboard is cooked but the SSHDD and the RAM are both still OK. We transferred those pieces of hardware to the Notebook which boosted the speed slightly but here we ran into a new problem.

The wireless connection will not umm err connect. For that matter neither will the Ethernet connect. The geek suggested I buy a USB WiFi connector. I did but it requires either internet connection or a CD drive to set up. I have neither on the Notebook.

I went onto the HP Desktop computer and downloaded the USB WiFi driver to a thumb drive then connected it to the Notebook. I now have the driver installed but it will still not connect to WiFi or Ethernet. I called partial guru geek friend, Val. We discussed the problem and tried seven hundred ways to connect the USB WiFi. None worked.

Sigh! We gave up in disgust.

Thanks for your help and support Val.

Saturday 28th April

I returned the WiFi dongle and got my money back. Donnis then suggested we use a laptop we are minding for Peter. In the laptop bag I found a Toshiba Satellite Laptop which weighs about 4 Kg and is too big and heavy to take with us. In a cushioned bag beneath the laptop I found a slim Asus laptop with a 13 inch screen and SSHDD and eureka, a WiFi connection! It only weighs 1.3Kg and has a lightning fast RAM. It is perfect for travelling. I spent a few hours this afternoon charging the battery and setting up internet favourites I will need while travelling. This is the perfect solution and my only regret is we did not think of this sooner.

Hmmm! I wonder if I switch the SSHDD originally from my Satellite, now in the Notepad into the Asus…

Sunday 29th April

It was a mistake helping to move tables and chairs and set up tents and lift and pull heavy stuff and use a vacuum cleaner in preparation for Anzac Day. I knew at the time I should have known the outcome. My back protested and continues to protest this morning. Actually it protesting louder this morning. I had better pack some pain killers and my back brace. I suppose I could find room for the TENS machine as well.

Just a lot of last minute preparation and beginning to pack today. Really, packing is relatively quick when you know what you want to pack. In our case we are running through different climactic zones and will have to pack some cold weather clothes as well as more early summer clothes. After all we will be arriving in Spring but in some places the lakes are still frozen over.

Gulp!

Only two more sleeps until we fly out of Brisbane International Airport bound for our first destination, Vancouver, Canada.

Posts over the next several weeks will be spasmodic depending on WiFi availability and whatever adventures we are having. Posts may be weekly as usual, they may be every day or even every two or three days.

Expect to see lots of photos.

We also expect our plans to change to places a bit out of the way. Although we have an itinerary we are flexible and will be open to opportunities.

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604. Sunday 22nd April 2018. A poor review of the closing ceremony and a big party regardless…

Monday 16th April

Woke to hear and read lots of Social Media complaining about last nights woeful Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony. In fact all the day time TV talk shows condemned it. By the evening news the organisers could no longer hide behind their implausible reasoning. Even the State Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk weighed in and criticised the ceremony or lack of it. I was personally affronted by the fact that,

  1. The program was organised by an American company and not by Australians. Is this a case of the cheapest quote being accepted rather than being granted to an Australian organiser of which we have several world class people right here in Queensland.
  2. There was too much singing and dancing and there was no volume to the singing making it difficult to hear. The dancing was repetitious to the point of wondering how long can this go on? Most of the music was unknown to most people.
  3. A 15 minute boring video of the next games location in Birmingham appears to be an advertisement for the gay community. There was nothing about athletitism in the video. It was all about signing and dancing in front of a few landmarks. All dancers were in colourful costume with boys dressed as girls and vice versa.
  4. Athletes were not seen marching into the stadium and not given the rousing reception they are entitled to. They were hidden from view.
  5. The Australian Flag Bearer, Kurt Fearnley was not seen.

Tonight, on the news, the Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk commented she had heard that a volunteer party organised for Saturday 21st where the volunteers are expected to bring their own, food, drink, chairs and blankets. On top of that there is no parking so only public transport is available. Can you imagine trying to lug an esky with food and drink, a chair and perhaps a pillow and blanket on public transport then another 800 metre walk to enter through only two gates? She has promised that her Government will ensure free food and drink will be supplied. That is good news and will probably ensure the large numbers of volunteers who were originally going to boycott proceedings will now attend.

Tuesday 17th April.

The rest of the month seems to be rushing at us. We leave for Canada and USA on 1st May and I am beginning to feel a bit underprepared. Today I organised a Travel Card and some real US and Canadian dollars. Our air tickets are paid and printed. Our Amtrak Train tickets are also paid and printed. Our three internal flights within Canada are also paid and printed. Out hotels in Niagara Falls CAN are booked as well as a hotel in Mississauga near Toronto Airport. I still have to book a car at Niagara and we are all done.

Saturday 21st April

Right from the very beginning of my journey with the Commonwealth Games, volunteers were called Games Shapers.

This afternoon and evening was a Games Shaper Party.

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A sea of yellow and blue congratulating each other and being congratulated.

Donnis and I caught the bus to Southport and joined the hundreds of other volunteers walking to the Broadwater Parklands for the big party.

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Some groups knew it would be impossible to find each other so they held up a flag or a sign.

First we had to run the gauntlet of security then queue to obtain our free meal and ice cream tickets and free bottled water. WTF!!! The free meal ticket was only given to the volunteer. Our invited guest got nothing….well I suppose an ice cream and a bottle of water is a bit more than nothing. The three meal tickets I was given were worth $5 each. Most meals were between $11 to $16. So, if I bought a meal valued at $14 and handed over three tickets worth $15 there was no change given.

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The numbers are increasing and the lines to buy food got longer the closer it got to darkness.

We arrived on-time and were amazed at how full the park seemed to be. In the next hour the numbers swelled and the small space around us got smaller as more people arrived.

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More and more people kept arriving.

Not long after we arrived and received our tickets we found fellow driver Ross.

Ross called and told us we would find him in the park and he would be wearing a yellow and blue shirt to stand out in the crowd. Yeah Ross, everybody in the crowd was wearing a yellow and blue shirt. Oh said Ross well I am wearing blue shorts, white ankle socks and white sneakers. Hahhahaha. Good one Ross. About 97% of the crowd was wearing the official uniform which included the blue shorts, white ankle socks and white sneakers. Before us was a sea of people dressed in blue shorts, blue and yellow shirt, white ankle socks and white sneakers.

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Ross is in the same pose as the last time he appeared on this blog. At that time he was reclining in the back of a Kia Carnival.

We spread a blanket and wished we had chairs and were pleased we didn’t. Just lugging a bum bag or back pack was enough. Carry a chair each on the bus then a 1 Klm walk was more effort than we wanted tonight.

There were a couple of bands.

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The bands played on and the boppers bopped and the rockers rocked and for most of the bands this was probably the biggest gig they have ever played to,

There were lots of speeches by various dignitaries and speeches by athletes and interviews of volunteers. They all told us how great we are. Nay they said we were fantastic. They said it often. Chairman, Peter Beattie was there. He gave a good speech, considering as chairman he accepted the blame for the bad closing ceremony. He went up in my assessment. It’s a pity those really responsible did not put their hands up and admit they were wrong. Later I joined a queue of people who wanted to be photographed with Peter Beattie. Although I did not take my camera or phone with me I explained all I wanted to do was shake hands with “the boss”.

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and even more

At a guess I would say there were several thousand people in attendance most wearing the yellow and blue shirt.

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and the call went out, “hey there’s a bit of space here” and somebody came and filled it.

After sitting on the ground for a couple of hours became uncomfortable. Time to leave early and get the bus home before the fireworks began and before thousands of other people left at the same time. Lots of volunteers had the same idea.

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Although the party had a bar and many people attended, these guys were kept quiet. Apart from walking through the crowds a few times it was uneventful night for them. It just proves that large numbers of people and responsible alcohol consumption is possible…with the right crowd.

As we arrived on the bus at Harbourtown we could hear the fireworks at Broadwater Park some 7 Klms away.

Sunday 22nd April.

As I write this we have 8 more days and nights before we wing it to Canada. It is time we unpacked our winter clothes and sort through what we want for the trip.

603. A surprise birthday party. Can you guess her age…?

LOTS OF PHOTOS.

Donnis had four surprise Birthdays this year.

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From L to R. Errol & Nicole with Hannah, Crystal Murphy, Donnis and Frank, Chris with Amelia, Alecia and Peter.

We are only a third of the way through. Should we expect more surprises?

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L to R. Errol with Amelia, Donnis with Hannah, Peter, Chris and Alecia.

The first surprise was on 20th March when her daughter Alecia and sister Linda and niece Simone arrived from Canada and called out surprise when they quietly entered our home and waited until she came out of the bedroom.

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Bill Percy, Donnis, Marie Percy.
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L to R. Donnis sister Joan, Hannah a& Amelia, Donnis, Frank, Donnis other sister Linda.
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Donnis and daughter Alecia who was the organiser all the way from Canada. What a great job she did.
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Karen, Donnis friend from when she arrived in Australia last century.
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Frank’s family from L to Right. Ken and Enid (or Sue ), Peter married to my sister Be and on the right Sandi married to Dave.
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Donnis sister Linda with hubby Doug. Not a bad looking specimen of a man for a 78 year old or is that 79? He had a birthday a few days before this photo. We celebrated with dinner and drinks at Southport Surf Life Saving Club.
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Donnis neice Simone, sister Linda, BIL Doug, sister Joan and friend Marilyn.
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Donnis with niece Simone. Its difficult with three cameras flashing. You never know which one to look at.
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With Robyn.
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Wencke and Graham with Donnis.
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L to R. Nicole with Alecia and Errol with Amelia and Hannah in front, Donnis, Karen with her grandsons Liam and James, Donnis son Peter and Karens son Mat.
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Regelyn with her son and Donnis grandson, Chris. At 13 he is going to be a big boy.
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My sister Sandra on the left with Karen.

A few days later the second surprise occurred when son Errol arrived from King Lake in Victoria with wife Nicole and their daughters and all went out on a houseboat on The Broadwater for three days.

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On board the SHADEE LADY Houseboat on the Broadwater. While Errol rows the dinghy, kite surfers can be seen at Runaway Bay.
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Hannah and Amelia saw something…what was it?
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Simone enjoys steering SHADEE LADY.
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In the lee of Wavebreak island Hannah and Alecia do a spot of fishing.
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On board the houseboat with Donnis, Simone, Nicole, Amelia and Hannah.
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Simone on the houseboat somewhere on the Gold Coast Broadwater.
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Hannah catches her first fish…ever.
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Amelia and Hannah on the houseboat.
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It’s meal time again with Errol, Nicole, Donnis, Simone Hannah and Amelia.
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This is the life Hannah Donnis Errol and Amelia wallow in the warm water around Wavebreak Island.
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On the beach at Wavebreak Island. Alecia nd Amelia, Donnis, Nicole, Errol and Hannah
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Life is tough for Alecia and Donnis but somebody has to do it.
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Jump for joy on avebreak.

Next was the BIG surprise birthday party when her other son Peter arrived from Atherton in North Queensland, her other sister Joan arrived from Calgary in Canada.

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Amelia with her party mastermind aunt, Alecia.

One day we took a drive to Springbrook to see Purlingbrook Falls

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Frank Joan and Donnis at Purlingbrook Falls.

and the Best of All Lookouts.

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Alecia, Joan Donnis Frank. A couple of locals being tourists took the photo at Best of All Lookouts from an ancient volcanic caldera overlooking Murwillumbah in NSW.

My sisters also arrived along with family friends from her past, invited by Alecia, arrived and hid in our Clubhouse until I conned her into going there to see somebody…just for a moment. That moment turned into a 6 hour party. Suddenly about 30 people jumped out from around the corner and called surprise!!! They were all surprised because Donnis did not fall down with excitement.

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Somehow the crew found time to have a day at Sea World. L to R at back. Fred, Peggy, Linda, Simone. Front Alecia, Joan, Amelia, Errol and Hannah and Donnis.

Visitors were from Vancouver, Calgary and Prince Edward Island in Canada.

King Lake in Victoria, Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland. Noosa on the Sunshine Coast Queensland, Mackay in North Queensland, Townsville North Queensland, Brisbane Queensland, Gold Coast Queensland, Gymea Bay Sydney New South Wales.

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At yet another BBQ at the clubhouse. Peggy a visitor from Canada with Donnis sister Linda, Donnis and Nicole.
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…and this is the BBQ in the outside BBQ area. from L to R, Fred, Peggy, Hannah.Simone,Joan,Doug,Nicole,Peter, Errol, Amelia, Donnis, Linda and Frank. Photo by Alecia.

Finally, her real birthday occurred on Thursday and came as a surprise creeping up unexpectedly after the other three surprises. Alecia, Donnis and I went to a Thai Restaurant for a birthday dinner.

Alecia flew home to Prince Edward Island in Canada the next morning.

All  the photo credits, taken with an Olympus Digital is by Alecia Wilson.

602. Sunday 15th April 2018. Commonwealth Games positives and negatives….

Monday 9th April

A Commonwealth Games Driver depot workmate, Ross, gave me a Quilpie Boulder Opal Pendant.   http://www.gemstory.com.au/boulder-opal-field-quilpie.html    I should mention that Ross fossicked for the small pebbles, cleaned them, polished them and attached a cord so it can be hung around the neck.

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Fellow driver Ross knows how to relax.

The pebbles have a thin vein of opal running through them. Especially when wet, the opal fire of red, blue, yellow, green and purple flash their colours when moved in light.  Quilpie is about 1,000 Klms west of Brisbane, located in a harsh arid landscape on the edge of the desert. I gave the pendant to Donnis sister Joan as a reminder of her time visiting from Canada.

Tuesday 10th April

Up early at 4am for a 6am start at the Commonwealth Games. Also up early was Joan, packing her bags. After Donnis dropped me at the Games shuttle bus service she then had to take Joan to Brisbane airport for her return to Canada.

On arrival at the depot I was handed two folders, each containing car key, phone and a country flag. One folder for Malaysia and one for Samoa. After almost 4 hours without either team booking a car I called each of them. Malaysia seemed a bit stunned there was a car set aside for them while Samoa said they would need a car within 2 hours. Just as I took a sip of my coffee and a bite of muffin, Malaysia called and made a booking so I drove 500 metres to collect them. After waiting 10 minutes past the meet time they called and cancelled. It seems the team decided to catch the light rail which runs past the gates. Grrr! I drove 500 metres back to base and returned the folder etc. I had already handed back the folder for Samoa. Now I was car less and relegated back to waiting.

My second attempt at a fresh coffee resulted in a sip plus a bite of muffin before I was offered a car to drive a Nigerian team. Well, not team really. The athlete was a 100 metre para sprinter, the rest of the “team” was his team manager and interpretor and an Australian volunteer assigned as local shopping guide and companion. We went shopping for three hours. The Nigerians had a wonderful excursion and were just amazed at the size of the sports store. I pointed out it is a smaller store compared to others. They were astounded by Robina Shopping Centre and the Bag Store had more stock than they have ever seen. I think the range of choice was overwhelming. I arrived back at base in time to finish my shift.

I would like to comment that so far there has been a lot of waiting around for jobs. Mostly the drivers will complain in a light-hearted joking fashion. We all feel the same way. We volunteered to be drivers and we want to drive. Waiting is boring. The only way to deal with it is by good humour, otherwise the annoyance soon becomes anger. Anger becomes infectious and leads to aggression and even quitting. We have three shifts per day and about 60 drivers per shift. In addition to the Games Village Depot there are other depots, Central and North who also have a huge bunch of drivers waiting for work. Now it seems our village TX (basically means taxi) shifts are being taken over by those depots. Our depot is now concentrating on CGA (basically bookable vehicles where the driver stays with the passenger for the length of the booking which sometime includes going to dinner or shopping or even events) bookings.

It seems large organisations use a lot of acronyms. The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games is a large organisation and is no stranger to acronym infection. There are hundreds of acronyms most of which are included in a large book which nobody reads or understands. Lately new acronyms have begun to appear on signposts at various venues. The signs will have several “nyms” ( oh look, I have created my own acronym) with an arrow pointing left while another bunch of “nyms” appear with a right pointing arrow. Drivers look for a “nym” they know and wonder about the rest. So far things have mostly worked.

Still smiling and making jokes with the other drivers. We are having fun and remind ourselves we are.

Thursday 12th April.

Today is Donnis birthday. At last after all the surprise parties and dinners and trips and visits her day finally arrived.

I went to the Commonwealth Games and started at 6am. Before I mention what happened today let me tell you how the day ended. On the shuttle bus back to Runaway Bay the atmosphere amongst the drivers reminded me of the Camp Granada songs by Alan Sherman. ( have a look at the song here   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3_xiUYMnXA   )

The song starts with a young boy writing home to his parents complaining about all the things that have gone wrong at the camp and how the rain will not stop and he wants to come home. Suddenly the sun comes out, the rain has stopped and there are things to do so he now wants to stay. My relationship with Commonwealth Games Fleet has been like that. Nothing was fun and it was waiting waiting waiting and in the beginning, lots of rain. Today we were busy busy busy and my relationship with CGF changed and everybody else on the bus put in a full days work. In fact we all worked an hour beyond our shift and we were enthusiastic.

Now back to my day. It started slow when I was handed two folders containing keys and phone, one folder for Jamaica and one for Bermuda. After two hours of no action I called both Chefs de Mission to remind them I was their driver for the day. Eventually Bermuda called back and we arranged to meet. I handed back the folder for Jamaica to despatch. I had two athletes and an official who wanted to see the Mountain Bike Races at Nerang.

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I was impressed by the quality of the food vendors except the Espresso machine broke down shortly after I got my coffee. They made a nice spicy sausage roll too. Further down the hill was vast sea of food tents.

(one athlete, Tyler, is a marathon runner due to race on Sunday)

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Commonwealth Games Bermuda Marathon runner Tyler Butterfield (he finished 12th) is on the right he bumped into his in-laws at the Mountain Bike track. His mother in-law is the lady in blue beside me. They insisted on a group photo. Apart from Tyler and myself I have no idea who they are although the man at the back in the red shirt is a Bermuda team official. Somehow a Policeman got included. After I drove them back to the village, Tyler mentioned that until the marathon he has to rest. Stay out of the sun, no strenuous exercise, but simply vegging out and focusing.

I agreed to stay with them until they wanted to come back to the Athletes Village. I got to see the ladies race.

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The Australian Ladies Team Competitor, Rebecca McConnell.
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The Australian competitor has just been passed by Canada.
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Canada

Once back at the Games Village Depot Bermuda decided they did not need a car for the rest of the day. Luckily my old partners in crime, Mauritius needed a car to take an athlete to Coolangatta Airport. No, he was not fleeing the country, it was a domestic flight. (By the way there are now 13 athletes who have absconded, 8 from Cameroon, 2 from Uganda, 2 from Sierra Leonne and 1 weightlifting coach from Rwanda. He said he was going to the loo and never returned…One of the Mauritian athletes said, jokingly, I think, that he was going to abscond too. After dropping the airport passenger I dropped two officials at a shopping centre and took two athletes to Greenmount Beach and told them I would be back in an hour. After collecting the shopping officials I went back to the beach but the athletes were missing. One official went looking for the them. The other was not well so we waited. After half an hour I was beginning to wonder if they had all absconded. Eventually they arrived back, apologetic and the official looked relieved to see them again. I arrived back at the depot about an hour late in good spirits because of my busy day.

Friday 13th April…Oh what an ominous sign…Friday 13th!

It started out as a good day. I did not have to start until 4pm and work until 1am. I had breakfast and checked my email. Then the Friday 13th curse struck me. I was gobsmacked. I was stunned. I was angry. I, and many other drivers received an email telling us our Sunday afternoon shift, our last shift and one we were looking forward to was cancelled. Just like that. No discussion no warning. Cancelled. The mood on the shuttle bus was nothing like the buoyant happy people yesterday afternoon. That enthusiasm had evaporated this morning and it was difficult for anybody to make a funny comment.

I met up with fellow drivers, Ross and Keiko. Keiko is Japanese and has lived on the Gold Coast for 16 years.

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Drivers. Myself, Keiko and Ross.

She is a very positive, enthusiastic and funny lady. She is also a marathon runner although did not enter the games. Today one of her passengers was the Australian Chef de Mission, Steve Moneghetti the Australian Gold Medalist Marathon Runner. She was so excited and said it was her dream come true to meet him. They chatted about various events they have competed in and he agreed to have a photo taken with her.

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Friday 13th!!! Ross and I being assigned our final set of keys.

Once again I was given two folders car keys and phones. One for Uganda and one for Rwanda.  I called both Chefs de Mission, left messages and followed up with a text message.

Uganda called back. Please pick up three athletes from Harbour Town Shopping Centre. The three passengers were all squash players and we had a lot to talk about. I was once a very avid squash player (My family might say obsessed). I told them I was their driver until 11 pm and where did they want to go. No nightclubs but they would like a guided tour or a karaoke bar. Well that’s fine with me, I will do either or both. They wanted to have dinner, a shower and get ready to go by 7pm. By 8pm I sent a message to say I was ready for them. They said thanks but by 10pm I had heard nothing. By then I was disappointed and not interested in any more waiting and finishing late. By 10.30pm I found a shuttle bus going my way and jumped out at the lights. My volunteer duties were now complete. All us final night drivers received a gift of a stylised chrome surfboard with some words of thank you which somehow seems a slap in the face at the moment.

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The chrome surfboard issued to all volunteers as a thank you.
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This is my accreditation which includes badges (sometimes called pins) Those on the right are issued by Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 while those on the left are from various Commonwealth Countries collected as I drove athletes and officials. From bottom to top the are:- Mauritius, Nigeria, Jamaica, Bermuda, Namibia, Botswana

Sunday 15th April

Just watched the closing ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. It was a bitter disappointment. Even the Channel 7 Commentators complained. They could only broadcast what the Independent TV Crew from the Organisers allowed them to broadcast. We did not see the athletes march into the stadium and we did not see Kurt Fearnley as the Australian Flag Bearer.

Apart from some of my negative comments and the disappointing closing ceremony I still feel, overall, the games were a huge success. I still feel proud to be a part of it. So proud in fact that Donnis and I will attend the Volunteers Party at Broadwater Park next Saturday evening.

Grrrrrrr! Just as I was preparing this blog to Post I noticed a tiny warning that the link with Facebook has failed….Again!!! This is ridiculous. Facebook are riddled with so many problems. Created by and managed and perpetuated by a bunch of adolescents with no life skills and no idea of how to solve a problem when one occurs. If Facebook was a motor car they would be in serious financial trouble and on the brink of collapse. Unlike car owners, Facebook users seem to shrug and accept what is dished up to them. There is no repair shop we can take the problem to.

601. Sunday 8th April 2018. Commonwealth Games, a fugitive, abseilling a waterfall and a dam…

Monday 2nd April

Working as a driver for the Commonwealth Games on night shift is not much different to day shift. It is darker, cooler and quieter. I am beginning to believe we have too many drivers and the athletes are not using the service as much as anticipated. Today I worked early shift to allow me to attend the Dress Rehearsal of the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at Carrara Stadium. The live music and sounds of the Ceremony are awesome when heard live. Live TV loses that magical sound but on the other hand you see more on TV than being live at the stadium. On TV there is usually a commentary but live at the stadium there is no such explanation. I left early to catch a shuttle bus home.

 

Thursday 5th April

Day shift at the games. It was a long, hot day with few passengers. We are given a little soft bodied Esky and two fresh freezer blocks (I now have a large collection of freezer blocks)The little Esky contains our lunch, which comprises a muesli bar, a piece of fruit, a sandwich and a muffin.  I am getting a little tired of soft bread and soggy tomato on every sandwich.

Today I drove two Anguila Track and Field team managers to their hotel at Broadbeach. The address was not on my list of approved destinations. It seems the hotel is really an Air B&B within a hotel and hotel reception know nothing of the arrangement. We drove around for ages trying to find the entrance as several streets were blocked off while entertainment events were being held. We tried calling the Air B&B but the lady who answered was Chinese and difficult to understand. The ladies phones were running out of battery until they found a help number. The man they called was a bit aggressive and not helpful except to say we were parked in the hotel entrance but not to go inside to see reception. Instead we should walk along the side and through a gate and into a small lobby where we would find keys and instructions. The ladies by now were quite tired and so relieved their journey was over so they could go to bed.

This is the second time I have dealt with Air B&B in the last week and I find their arrangements are quite unsatisfactory. There is nobody to call if the room is not cleaned or bedding or bath towels are not in place. Usually keys are dropped off at an agreed place or left with somebody else.

Tonight we joined Karen and her son and grandsons at Southport Chinatown for dinner. The streets have been closed to allow a street party for the next 10 days, One street has a giant TV screen

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Giant TV Screen in Chinatown

while another has a live band on stage and amongst this was a giant inflated moon suspended via a crane.

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Full Moon in Chinatown

As well as the amazing Asian restaurants there were lots of street food vans. It was a nice warm evening and a relaxed safe atmosphere. We at at a little Vietnamese Family place with a limited menu. The food was good, plentiful and cheap.

Friday 6th April.

Afternoon shift at the Games. I was asked to pick up 5 members of the Mauritius Officials and take them to the airport. It turns out I was only taking one to the airport and the other 4 were minders including the President of the Mauritius Commonwealth & Olympic Games Committee. They rarely spoke and would not answer any of my questions unless they discussed the question first then somebody else would answer. Once I left the airport the remaining 4 men fell asleep. When I arrived at the Presidents hotel I asked if he was tired, he turned to me for the first time and said “we are all very tired but now we can rest”.

Hmmm!

My final passenger finally talked with me all the way back to his accommodation at the village. It seemed they were all under instructions from the President not to talk. After I got home I was curious and found an official of the team was earlier in the day charged with sexual assault but he was allowed to retain his passport. His photo on the internet was suspiciously like the man I took to the airport. Later (Saturday) I found this news report.   https://www.smh.com.au/sport/commonwealth-games-2018/police-won-t-pursue-absent-mauritian-games-official-charged-with-sexual-assault-20180407-p4z8b2.html

And this report later Saturday morning.  http://www.sportingnews.com/au/athletics/news/commonwealth-games-2018-mauritius-chef-de-mission-charged-sexual-assault/ys6tp0cnk2o11aus5qles8h4s

That’s him, same shirt and coat and nice trimmed beard. The report stated he fled the country last night!!!

I drove the fugitive to the airport and the other 4 helped him leave the country.

Sunday 8th April

Alecia arrived last night so today we drove her and Joan (Donnis sister) to Springbrook to see the waterfalls, especially at Purling Brook Falls. We were surprised by a man and his two mates show up with a bag full of ropes and preparing to abseil or rappel down the cliff face near the falls. (Actually abseil and rappel are the same thing. Rappel was the name of the Frenchman who invented the technique)

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Waiting for the abseilers.
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Getting into position.

I had every confidence the man knew what he was doing and was suitably prepared with safety equipment.

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He has reached the point of no return and it is all downhill from here.
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Look closely and you can see the abseiler in position in relation to the cliff face and the waterfall.

Donnis was too scared for his safety to watch.

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Only another 80 or so metres to go.
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I am not sure if he is taking photos or making a call but he is still descending.

I was not so confident of the pair of backpacking idiots who jumped a safety fence, despite signs asking people not to climb the fence as the rocks are slippery and it is a 100 metre sheer drop to certain death. One backpacker in particular stepped right to the edge and used a selfie stick to record his lack of brains.

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I have called this “Idiots”, This backpacker jumped the safety fence, ignoring all safety warnings and signs. He was rock hopping when he suddenly realised there was nothing left to hop to. The rocks are wet and covered in slippery slime. Beyond his left foot is a 100 metre drop.
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He is joined by another idiot who decides sitting with his legs dangling is cool.
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We are so pleased this did not end in tragedy. The people on the viewing platform were quite concerned for the safety of these two.

In the meantime the abseil was underway finally running out of rope a metre above a rock slide.

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Getting closer to the bottom.
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Almost there but running out of rope. Although it looks as though he has reached bottom there is still about 10 metres of steep wooded slope to scramble down…without the safety of his rope.

He unhooked then struggled through thick bush to scramble to the creek below.

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At the base of the waterfall is a bridge which connects both banks. Normally there is a circuitous walk winding back up the cliff making a 6 Klm return walk. A landslide after recent heavy rain has closed the track so now it is a simple 4 klm down and back along the same track.

While his mates pulled the rope back up the cliff face he started the 2 Klm hike back up the cliffs.

To finish our drive we went to Hinze Dam which supplies most of the water to the Gold Coast.

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Hinze Dam Visitor Centre.

With all the rain we have had over the last two months, water is running over the spillway.

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Spillway at Hinze Dam. This is the first time we have seen water on the spillway. Dam is at capacity.

 

600. Sunday 1st April 2018. Commonwealth Games driving, a big surprise party and family all around…

Monday 26th March

Another day as driver for the Commonwealth Games. It seems that although most of the athletes and officials have not all arrived, the daily increases in security and road and lane closures are increasing.

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Official uniform. The shorts are also trousers. The trouser legs can be unzipped to make shorts.

The annoying part about being a driver is for each shift, there are several shift as a day, for my depot alone, there are around 60 drivers. As yet there is little demand for drivers so most are sitting around all day getting grumpy as they are not doing what they volunteered and trained to do.

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I never have a great deal of faith in photos taken on an mobile camera. They just never seem to be as sharp as I can get with a big camera. This is the scene at Commonwealth Games Athletes Village Driver crew base.

I managed to get a job of driving the Jamaican Team Manager to Coolangatta Airport to collect an athlete and bring him back to the village for issuance of accreditation and room assignment. Next, I had a two hour shift at the Sheraton Grande Mirage waiting for a games family member needing a driver.

None did.

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Sheraton Grande Mirage Hotel. OR, as it is known during the Commonwealth Games, The Games Family Hotel.

Next I drove two Australian Media officials to Coolangatta Airport to meet the Australian Boxing Team. Those boxers were bussed to the Games Village so I drove there as well albeit with no passengers.

In the meantime Donnis and some family members hired a houseboat and escaped for three nights on The Broadwater.

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Out on The Broadwater in a hired houseboat.

Half their luck.

Tuesday 27th March

Had the stitches removed from my nose and had another cancer removed from my back. Ouch! Another 5 stitches.

It was Doug’s Birthday. (he is Donnis brother in law from Canada) So tonight I joined Linda and Doug and Peggy and Fred at Southport Surf Life Saving Club for dinner. It was “Members Night” which involves a draw of a member number. The prize was $9,200. The member was not present so the jackpot increases to $9,300 next week. The place was crowded but once the draw was over most people left. It was still noisy.

We had some heavy rain in the evening and our thoughts strayed briefly to those spending the night on the houseboat.

Wednesday 28th March

I had a late afternoon shift for the Commonwealth Games. Much like other days, about 60 of us sat around waiting to be called to drive. A new system is in place. Each driver is issued with a number. They call a number, issue keys and when you return, the keys are handed in. When a driver is required the next number is called. Although the system makes sense there are still not enough athletes in the village at the moment to need 60 drivers. To relieve the boredom of waiting some of us were given keys to choose a destination and take a partner and drive. My partner drove to Coolangatta Airport. When we arrived back at the depot we sat around until our shifts ended at 1am. Grrrr!. Waiting to be a driver can be so frustrating.

Friday 30th March

Donnis and family went to Seaworld for the day.

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On Good Friday we had a Hot Cross Bun morning and Donnis niece Simone joined us.

I have been holding a secret for 5 months. The reason why most of Donnis family arrived was to surprise her with a big birthday party which included some of my family and some of her friends from years gone by. I pretended we were meeting the family at the surf club for dinner but stopped at our clubhouse with the excuse I had to see somebody inside. Donnis said she would wait in the car. I insisted she come inside with me. The clubhouse lights were off and once inside 35 people errupted with “Surprise” from where they were hiding. The party went from 6pm to 10pm and was a big hit. Donnis daughter Alecia organised the party, the guests, the timing and the caterers via on-line from Canada. An amazing job. Was Donnis surprised? The look on her face was a bit mask like rather than surprised. She took it all in her stride and managed to circulate and talk with every guest. I kept the secret.

 

Saturday 31st March

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Breakfast at home the morning after the surprise party.

Another late shift with the Commonwealth Games.

In case I have not mentioned this before, here are some facts about the games.

* 60 competing nations and territories will take part in the Gold Coast Games

* It’s the 5th time Australia has staged the Commonwealth Games

* 18 sports, including 7 para-sports, will offer 275 gold medals.

* 6600 athletes and team officials will travel to the Gold Coast.

* 3500 accredited and non-accredited media will cover the Games.

* The Games are estimated to have a $2 billion economic impact on the Gold Coast and Queensland

* $320 million has been invested in sport and community infrastructure.

* Four sources of funding to deliver the Games. Qld Govt – $1.507b, Fed Govt – $156m, Gold Coast City Council – $115m, commercial income from sponsorship, ticket sales, licensing and merchandising – $240m.

* Games will generate 30,000 full-time equivalent jobs across various sectors.

* Over one million spectators to watch the Games across 18 venues located on the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville.

* 350 cameras set to broadcast 1100 hours of live sport.

* 15,000 volunteers to be selected from 47,000 applications.

 

Tonight I drove a team manager of Lesotho from the games to her accommodation.  The Kingdom, landlocked within Africa, has a population of 2.2 million people. The manager was just amazed at how big the Gold Coast is and how friendly are the people. The other aspect which impressed her was the security arrangements which are quite visual and even in your face. She is grateful for the security so they can compete in safety.

Later in the night I drove another official, this time from Nigeria who was enthused about how beautiful the Gold Coast is. He also considers the security visibility is important to the athletes and gives them a great sense of safety. His job was to ensure all athletes are in their rooms by 9pm before he returns to his accommodation. I asked about the reported thousands of condoms handed out to athletes on arrival. He laughed and said he has to ensure athletes are in their rooms when HE leaves. What they get up to after that was a matter for them.

So far all the visitors have spoken good to excellent English.

Getting into and even out of venues requires multiple security checks. After awhile it becomes routine for the drivers and the passengers.

Tonight there are more road and lane closures as we get closer to the games opening on 4th April.

The Police have a drone, equipped with guns hovering over the games village. Earlier this week an unauthorised drone was shot down.

Sunday 1st April

Yay! Today was just a lazy stay at home day without direction or effort. Most of our visitors have gone away for a day and it was just good to simply do nothing.