The TV show or the book?

I really enjoy the English TV series, Agatha Raisin. It’s light-hearted murder mysteries bring Agatha Christie into the now. Kind of a Midsommer Murder meets Miss Marple. 

Just the thing for a Friday or Sunday evening viewing, I never bothered trying he books on which the TV series was based. Slightly too light-weight for me.  Something I’ll watch but not really read. 

Until now.  I needed something to distract being stuck indoors on the lounge with my bung knee. And I can borrow the electronic version online from my library while away. 

I found the books were perfectly distracting, and entertaining. 

But book-Agatha doesn’t have a blonde bob. And she isn’t noted for her lovely figure. 

What? I know. The blonde bob is so perfect for the character. 

Oh! You mean why would I focus on the blonde bob? As if that makes a character. 

Well, yes, I grant you that it could be seen as trivial detail, except the story isn’t deep and Agatha with a blonde bob is like Phyrne Fisher’s black bob. It seems to define the character. 

Anyway, I have accepted that the book-Agatha is slightly different from TV-Agatha. And that’s OK. I enjoyed the first novel so much, I borrowed the next instalment. And read it. And reserved book 3 – my library only has book 3 in real book so have to wait until I return home. And I borrowed and read book 4. All from the unit down the snow, 8 hours away from home!!!

Have you ever been disappointed by how a character has been portrayed in transferring a novel to a TV show? Or the other way? Or enjoyed both, even if the portrayal isn’t the same?

I know I will probably tire of the books. Like Alexander McCall-Smith, MC Beaton churns out a new volume in the series every year. And some of the details are more than slightly silly. Fine for TV series. And fine in small doses when house-bound. 

I’m so glad the series is being repeated on TV. I will have another look, especially as I missed some of the episodes. 

Changing doctors 

I have a GP that I trust. She makes good calls. And she knows me well – knows I hate taking medication, so tells me why I should. And she seems to know the best specialists. 

Several times my GP has been unavailable and I’ve stressed about finding another. I have gone to medical centres when things are not really bad but I need to be checked out quickly, throat infection and the like. (My GP can be hard to get in to see – the downside of being popular – and she takes her time with patients so is often running two hours late.) But I don’t want to see medical centre doctors for real needs and they rarely look at you as a while person, listening to the one thing you say is wrong and quickly getting you out the door. Given that many of them are overseas trained doctors, I don’t trust they know the right/best specialists. 

One time I tried a doctor recommended by a friend. I had a bad throat infection. I just wanted to be checked out before I left for the snow. To be trapped on the mountain with a secondary infection wouldn’t be fun. But I was in there for ages. I know I should appreciate the thoroughness (especially as this was the opposite of my medical centre whinge and she was trying to get to know me) but being quizzed about my uterus and periods when I wanted my throat looked at and getting a referral for an internal ultrasound and more blood tests was not what I wanted. (I didn’t go for the ultrasound or the blood tests and went back to my GP who didn’t think they were necessary.)

So 24 hours in from my knee injury and I still can’t walk. I try to make an appointment with my GP. I haven’t seen her since last year. The number is disconnected. Bugger! She must have retired!!!

What to do?

I contact some friends for recommendations. Of course, good GPs probably aren’t taking new patients. 

I am about to phone one when it hits me. I’m in another state. I need to put the area code in front of the number. 

Success! Well, of a kind. My doctor is on leave. But I will see her colleague. I don’t know her but at least I’m not starting afresh. 

Do you have a general practitioner you have been seeing for a long time? Do you stress about changing doctors?

A WHOLE year off

You may remember I mentioned Mr S and I are in the Deferred Salary Scheme. I mentioned it here.

We are being paid 80% of our salary. 20% goes into an account that we cannot touch. Until the fifth year. Then we get a whole year off. On 80% of our salary. 

Some people have asked why we don’t just save our money. We’d earn more interest. Which wouldn’t be hard because the state government (my employer) keeps the money in an interest free account. We have no say in where the money is kept. 

Well, I know we wouldn’t save. We’d put it on the mortgage. We’d fritter it away. We’d never save 20% of our pay for four years. 

And we couldn’t guarantee that our boss at the time would grant us a year off. In five years time I could have a new boss and he/she could deny my request for leave. With the DSS, the right to leave is guaranteed. Mr S will be 60 when we take the year off. It’d be unlikely his boss would have granted the year then. More likely put pressure on him to retire. And DSS doesn’t count as leave without pay. 

Others have asked why we don’t work through and retire a year earlier than we planned. Retirement is a big decision. When we retire, there will be no more big money coming in. We’d be unlikely to find a similar job at the same pay. This way we can return to work and keep receiving the income that gives us the opportunity to travel. 

Mr S was hesitant about being in the DSS. He is always anxious about any change. He was worried we wouldn’t be able to manage in the reduced income. Never mind that we took on our mortgage when we both earned less, having received promotions since. And our offspring no longer need our wallets for all manner of expenses. 

Anyway, the only thing that has suffered is paying off our mortgage. We are still over paying, just at a reduced rate. But half a year in and Mr S has decided he will apply for another round of DSS as soon as this one ends. So he will get another year off when he is 65. But that’s a long way off. 

We’ve taken small steps to reduced waste, especially in groceries, which reduces wasted money. But our lifestyle has been maintained. And we have a WHOLE year off to which we can look forward. 

Yes, a WHOLE year in addition to our LSL and our regular term breaks. I know! Lucky.! Greedy even. Our pay isn’t too bad. I know many people in private industry who have the same level of responsibility earn heaps more. But they don’t have the security of tenure and the hard won conditions. Time is what I’m greedy for now. Not money to buy stuff. Money to buy time and to do things. 

What are we going to do in our year off? Fulfill some dreams. Do lots of travel. 

  • I’ve always wanted to live in England over spring and summer. So we will rent a cottage in a village and travel around England. Visit lots of towns and villages; do lots of walks along the coast and in the countryside. 
  • Massive roads trips! Up the east coast to the Cape; inland around Victoria and NSW; the Great Ocean Road. With a combie-sized van. Not something reall big but with a bed we can sleep on and a small fridge. Yes, we’ll be grey nomads before we’re too grey.

As we get closer to the year, our plans will firm up. And I will share them here. 

Getting old 

Old age is close enough now that I can imagine it, feel it in my bones, so to speak. Especially my knee after yesterday’s incident.  

Getting old, as opposed to getter older which we all do, is that thing you can’t imagine happening. 

I had an elderly neighbour, tough as old boot straps she was, from the north-east of England, a Geordie, and she summed it up by saying, “Getting old is no fun.” This from a woman who was still very fit, fitter than people a quarter of her age; she walked distances which most young’ens couldn’t consider going without a car. 

I’m now at the stage where I can see old age. I give myself about 12 to 13 more years of working and 25 more years of travelling. 

Earlier this year, I read two novels on aging. 

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf was a beautiful book. Until the end. I won’t spoil it for possible readers except to say the ending spoilt the whole book for me. I was so angry!!! I was still angry the next day. 

And not in the “but at least it made you think about issues” angry. 

In the “that was so stupid and not real and not in keeping with the characters” angry. In the “I want to cut out the last few chapters and write the real ending and stick that in” angry. If it wasn’t a library book, I would have done that. In fact I think all future readers would thank me. 

Maybe the author was ill? (He has since died and this was his last book.) And he had to finish it quickly? Or maybe he was not thinking clearly, being irritable and sick? 

I do not want to read any of his other books, least this is his schtick. What he does to the people of his books – subvert the whole story and take the ground from under their ( the characters’ and the readers’) feet. I think an author has a responsibility not only to his readers but to the characters they create. You can’t treat either so abominably. 

I think I was meant to consider if I would miss having someone sleep next to me if my husband died before me. That’s the main premise of the novel. Someone to lay next to you like a puppy dog!?! Like a teddy bear. No, I think it would be my need. For me the intimacy (and I don’t mean sex), the comfort of having someone have your back and sharing adventures and joys and successes and worries. That’s what I’d miss. Not the empty bed. 

The other book was The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old and I loved it. The tone. The character with his undercurrent of sadness but trying to get some joy from life. The sense of boarding school rebellion. The reality. The mocking of old people and their routines. The grief, the laughter. I enjoyed it all.  It’s always about finding your peeps, your crowd. No matter the age.  Though this reads like it was written, not by someone who is actually elderly, rather someone who has witnessed a lot of elderly people, it still has a sense of athenticity.  

So read this. Not Our Souls at Night. 

I told you I didn’t want to ski

We come to the ski fields every year. Actually that’s a slight generalisation. We come to the same ski resort every year. 

I’m over it. Have been for three years. I like to see different places. There’s not really any place new to walk in the village.  And I’m not really a skier. 

I CAN ski. I just don’t really like it. I mean some runs have been great fun but speed and heights are not my thing.  Which kinda rules out sliding down a mountain. 

For the last three years I came under sufferance. Or with caveats. Like, “I’ll come but only if we do a Ned Kelly tour first.” And, “I’ll come if we go on this dirt road to see where Ned’s mate came from.”

So now I’ve exhausted the Kelly places I want to see in winter. And I don’t want to be stuck on the resort for 10 days. Two years ago there wasn’t any snow, so we went walking. Which I really enjoyed. Mr S less so as skiing is One Of His Great Joys. (I don’t get it. He knows all the runs. He’s not seeing anything different.)

Anyway, I thought I should go for a ski. I mean, I’m here. There’s snow. It’s sunny. I shouldn’t just sit and read for the 10 days. And I get a little stir crazy in the tiny (but expensive) unit (which is a fancy word for a room).

It’s easy to stay inside when it’s snowing or the queue’s massive or the visibility is limited. 

I bought a two day lift ticket. You can go up the afternoon before. So I went for a run. Mmm. It was OK. Mr S, as usual, wanted me to do more. Why? Cause you’ve paid for the lift ticket. Nah, that’s enough. My back has been twinging. 

Today was spectacular. How could I stay in the room with a day like this?

 I thought of taking my book up top and reading. No, I will do some green runs. 

And wouldn’t you know it. One of the green runs is actually harder than the blue run next to it. Rocks and grass are exposed but of course you don’t know this until you’ve committed. 

And as I was going slow because I’m a nervous Nelly, I hit a rock and fell. And twisted my knee. 

I managed to right myself and limp home but that’s it. I’m not risking my limbs. I want to be whole for France. 

I asked my son to bring me some snow in a bag so I can ice my knee. (My eldest is spending the season here, working and skiing and drinking beer. Mr S is jealous. He’d love to spend a season in the snow. Do it, I say. But without me.) 

When you send your son to get you some ice, be specific. Or you will get a massive amount.

The next few days I will dedicate to finishing the novel I am reading. And blogging. I am not risking being one of those who are taken off the mountain by skidoo. It’s just not worth it. 

You know I wish I’d stuck to last year being my last ski. Then I could have gone out with pleasant memories and stories of skiing well. Not, I fucked my knee and I’m just too old for this malarkey. 

Hornsby garden

Mr S and I like to go for a walk in new places. One weekend at the end of April (I wrote it them but forgot to post) I remembered somewhere I’ve been meaning to go a decade: Lisgar Gardens. Full of camellias. Lush with trees and ferns. Building on it started one hundred years ago. 

I especially love the steps leading into a garden. So evocative. And what about the tree growing from a rock. It looks as though it is melting over a rock.

The garden is on several levels, falling down a deep slope. Along the path, among the boulders and trees, were lamp posts. Mr S said we were entering Narnia. Too scary!!!

We ventured beyond the garden boundaries, down the steep valley to the creek below. The track was really not a track. “Should we walk here?” I asked Mr S. 

“Looks like leech territory to me,” he replied.

Yes I squealed. Rightly so as it turned out. Four, yes FOUR, leeches I found in one shoe.  Blerk!!!

“Leech Hollow”, Mr S named it. (The valley, not my shoe.)

Up we went, back along the track, returning to he civilised garden. 

A beautiful public garden. Well worth a visit. Next time we will bring a thermos of tea. And we will be back in camellia season.  

Long service leave (LSL)

One of the perks of my job is long service leave. In addition to the regular, annual leave, I accrue extra leave, which I was able to access after working for my employer for seven years. 

I thought LSL was just to reward people for staying with one employer for an extended time. And, naively, I thought everyone got it. As in all the western world. Not just everyone who was permanently employed in Australia. 

Turns out it’s pretty unique to Australia. 

I love what Wikipedia says about it; LSL remains one of the great entitlements for working Australians. (My emphasis.)

I think we have to give a big shout out to our union movement who fought for all permanent employees in Australia to get this and who have fought for us to keep this entitlement. 

Apparently LSL may relate to our colonial heritage, with Victorian and South Australian civil servants given the opportunity to sail home to England after 10 years’ service in ‘the colonies’. The extended time being necessary given the long sailing time. They probably had to add perks to get people to SA! Sorry croweaters but let’s face it, no one wanted to go there st the start. 

LSL gradually expanded to other states, after federation. When the NSW Minister for Labour and Industry introduced the legislation after WWII, he said one purpose was to reduce labour turnover. 

Well that’s worked in Mr S and my case. I currently have   Mr S, who’s worked for the one employer longer than me and who has worked more years than me without any breaks of service has.  

We used LSL to travel to London in 2015, (in a nod to the colonial heritage! Lol) We used some LSL for our tenth wedding anniversary when we went on a cruise. I also used some to help my son through his high school final exams. Good mum that I am!

So what’s next? 

This year we are taking four and a half weeks, combined with two weeks of school break, to travel to France! That’ll be five and half weeks of travel with a few extra days at home to get ready! Makes the long haul flight worth the trip. 

My plan is to use LSL every second year for a trip overseas. 

  • 2015 London 
  • 2017 France
  • 2019 ???

Mr S would like to ski in North America and visit places in the US. I’d like to visit Italy and do the Cinque Terre walk. 

But hey, that’s years away. Let’s look to this year’s trip. In coming posts I will share my dreams and plans and organisation.