Tuesday, 16 April 2019

2019: so far, so crap - and loving my community.

Well, I had every intention of making 2019 a good year, but 4 months in, I have to say it's a bit shite.

Most days for the last 2 months it's been a struggle to get out of bed. No, not the Black Dog, although the click click of its nasty little claws patter about in the recesses of my mind now and then as I haul myself up, gingerly place my feet on the floor and wonder how much will it hurt today?

Most days, the answer is - a lot.

So..... this is what Ross River Virus feels like. Its other name is Epidemic Polyarthritis. Ouch.

The mozzies this year have been dreadful - clouds of them, nasty bitey little monsters who attack in squadrons and leave victims flapping helplessly (and futilely) at two or three simultaneous bite-zones. Bastards. And it only takes one of them to bring you down. I hope I managed to splat whichever one it was that got me.

I used up all my sick leave in the first 2 weeks, way back in late February, so now I hobble in to work, thankful that my shifts are short. Sometimes holding a pen is difficult. Bending down to reshelve books on the bottom shelf is - unpleasant - and keeping the smile on my face when all I want to do is cry, or go home to have a little lie-down, is getting harder every day. Nerve pain in my right arm and hand - the joint swelling appears to have exacerbated my not-too-bad carpal tunnel problem - wakes me up in the night, most nights.

It's cruel. There were two consecutive days last week when, for the first time in 2 months, I had NO PAINS in my feet! I was so sure I'd "turned a corner". Perhaps I had, but there was another brick wall waiting there for me and I splattered headlong into it. Fuck.

The pains and swellings in my extremities are one thing, but the blow to my energy is perhaps the most cruel. My calendar painting is very behind schedule. My house and garden are a mess. I get hungry but have zero energy or motivation to cook. I eat a lot of biscuits. I've gained three kilograms. I miss my walks.

I've painted a fairly bleak picture, haven't I? Come on, shines, where's the silver lining? 

This is the bit where I tell you how wonderful it is to be part of this small community. Wonderful friends have leapt to my aid, mowing the lawn, pruning, providing meals, firewood and a hot water bottle; offers of errands and shopping have abounded, and I've never had so many hugs. I love you all, my lovely, kind-hearted friends.

Abundant birdlife, visible from the kitchen and lounge-room windows, has been extremely entertaining. This is the time of year that the bowerbirds descend, stealing the chook pellets, splashing in the birdbaths and doing all sorts of interesting things. And I've read a LOT of great books.

Another thing that makes it bearable, believe it or not, is dispassionately observing the path of this stupid ailment as though I'm somebody else - an outsider watching with a sort of weird fascination as a rash appears and disappears, as random fingers swell and subside, as knuckles or ankles disappear and reappear. [Side note: this may not a good thing to tell a GP, especially if you are a middle-aged woman. It could go either way, really - you might be thanked for your accurate observations because they've been helpful in the eventual diagnosis of your debilitating, rapid-onset mystery illness, but you could just as easily be accused of neuroticism or somatisation.]

One more good thing - Ross River Virus, while incurable, is self-limiting. This too, will pass. I still have high hopes of 2019. Pass the aspirin, please!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

As 2019 Begins...

Happy 2019 - a year for more watercolour birdies!

A friend asked me whether I'd made any resolutions for the new year. As I never keep them there isn't really any point - why build in failure before the year even begins? Besides, I've already given up the things that generally feature in New Year's Resolutions - smoking and drinking - my weight is more or less where I want it to be and I'm mostly happy with the person I am.

I can live with the level of mess in my house and the lack of organisation. Ditto money. So don't make promises to yourself that you can't keep! Gosh - can I be getting older and wiser (or at least, more realistic)?

Then I thought about it some more. Bugger. There are some things I'd like to have a go at this year. Here they are, divided into "more" or "less" sections:


  • learning - try to learn something new each day (that sounds wanky, doesn't it? But it's fitting for a New Year's resolution, right? They're often pie-in-the-sky wanky...) In any case, learning new stuff may stave off brain deterioration as I get older. And face it, I spent enough years burning as many brain cells as I could. I need all the poor struggling ones that are still left!
  • painting (or drawing) - art in general, really. Maybe get started on the mosaic I've been threatening to do. And poetry - more poetry! Words are fabulous. Enter a short story competition. Whoa, take a step back - actually write a story first. to enter into a short story competition. That's better. Aaaaaaand - planning for the 2020 art calendar is already underway - that's a good start. So far, so good!
  • salad (no point resolving to cook more as I loathe cooking and would be dooming myself to immediate failure!) Can I at least TRY to get excited at the prospect of salad....thinking thinking thinking... nope. No excitement - just do it!
  • saying 'No' - it will ensure I go into 2020 less tired and less cross with myself.
  • anger - at the right things!

"Mollymawk" - watercolour/mixed media and original words © Sue Hines 2018


  • plastic
  • pessimism
  • procrastination - that will definitely make the "more" list easier. No more last minute rush to get the last painting finished to get to the printer for the next calendar, ok?
  • stuff - I will turn 60 this year, and ought to be culling, not collecting; streamlining, not swelling (confession: I started this one already, with beneficiaries being the Community Op-Shop and the Sea Shepherd garage sale.) Good start, Hinesey. Big tick for you 🗹
  • arseholes - (oops, bad grammar - that should be "fewer", not "less"). Begone, all those who would bring me down, make me sad or fearful, frustrated or feeling inadequate. I am perfectly adequate, thank you very much!
Onwards and upwards.
Happy 2019!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

For the Hoodies

For the Hoodies
On learning of the deaths of MK’s chicks at Betka Beach, Mallacoota.

There’s something about these tiny courageous creatures,
Some imperative of instinct, some inescapable miracle of persistence.
Year after year they come to the beach. They scrape, they lay, they sit
At the mercy of the tides (which are incapable of humanity).
In the flailing fists of storms and the beating of the summer sun they sit bravely
Between the trampling feet of tourists and locals alike and
the thundering paws of all those dogs who “never chase birds”.
They hatch, defend, almost inevitably mourn
The tiny souls whose lives they cannot protect.

They can be forgiven for following their bird nature,
The pull of place each season, however hopeless it turns out to be.

And we?
We who are capable of change and choice, who choose to ignore the signs,
Who choose not to leash our dogs,
Who choose not to walk somewhere else for a brief, life-giving time -
We who pat ourselves on our highly-evolved backs, full of civilised self-regard -
We will never have half the courage and sweetness of these plucky little birds
Who struggle in the teeth of adversity.

We cannot be forgiven.

(c) Sue Hines 2018

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Littering over Summer


In the midst of tourist season I’ve a most compelling reason
To put forth a proposition to the people of this town
To avoid the awful bummer that confronts us every summer
We could bring in prohibition just to keep the litter down

Almost every can and bottle scattered freely through the wattle
And the Mallacoota beaches and the Mallacoota streets
Was once full of beer or bourbon and it’s messing up our urban
Grassy verges and the reaches of the natural world so sweet.

Tourists spend a lot of money but it isn’t very funny
When the trade-off is a heap of litter halfway to the sun
It seems the summer drinkers are the dirty rotten stinkers
Groups of bottle-dropping creeps with no respect for anyone

Every year when they’ve departed, groups of locals, broken-hearted
Get together to clean up the filthy mess that’s left behind
It’s our home, we want to share it - but we have to then repair it
After boozy litter-droppers of the grubby thoughtless kind

This harsh message I should soften, for the folks that visit often
Love this place for all its wild and pristine loveliness, it’s true
It’s the litter-chucking scum who should feel free not to come
Back to places they’ve defiled – and take your litter back with you!

© Sue Hines 2018

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Air Mail - the new snail mail: A Rant

Apparently Australia Post has done well enough to pay its CEO squillions, while reducing the efficiency of services and increasing the cost of those increasingly inefficient services. What a business model - it says so much about the times in which we are living.

That CEO, Ahmed Fahour, has quit AP now - check out this fat golden handshake as you bemoan the increase in the price of a fucking stamp: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-25/ahmed-fahour-walks-away-from-australia-post-with-$10.8-million/8841226

One of the cost-saving measures touted as a possibility by Australia Post a few years ago was not, as you might expect, reducing the astronomical six figure salary of the CEO, but reducing the number of postal deliveries from one per weekday to 3 per week. Poor Australia Post was losing money hand over fist. Nobody writes letters any more (although everyone sends parcels, it seems, and I'm quite certain that is a very very lucrative part of Australia Post's business.)

The three-deliveries-a-week thing, thankfully, did not happen here, and now that Mr Fahour has taken his money and ridden off into the sunset, the new Australia Post CEO, Christine Holgate, will take home a considerably smaller six-figure salary, saving Australia Post several million dollars per year. That is a Good Thing.

BUT (there's always a 'BUT', isn't there?)

Across the ditch, our Kiwi cousins have not been so lucky. NZ Post delivers thrice weekly. What that means, for anybody who posts anything from Oz, is that delivery times have slowed. A lot. I'm not altogether sure of the finer details, because really, you'd think it'd only mean a one-day delay, wouldn't you? (No delivery on Tuesday? No problem - deliver on Wednesday instead.) Instead, it appears to have added more than a week to the delivery time. Yes, I'm serious.

Once upon a time, posting something via Airmail - which used to be the speedy option - took just a few days to get from Canberra to Christchurch - add a day, perhaps even two if you're posting from Mallacoota, because Mallacoota mail takes a day or so to get to Melbourne before it can fly to NZ.

This year, my Dad's birthday card arrived late. I made sure I posted his Fathers Day card earlier than usual - it still arrived late. I posted another card  MORE THAN TWO WEEKS before a special event AND IT WAS FUCKING LATE!

It would appear that our postal non-services would like us to pay extra for "EXPRESS AIRMAIL", adding several dollars to the already high cost of airmail. It's true - your letter/parcel to NZ can now fly cattle class, just like you, or you can pay through the nose for it to fly (probably on the same flight) the equivalent of First Class. Unless its getting a bed to sleep in and complimentary in-flight champagne, they can shove that up their inefficient bums!

So - I posted a SMALL STANDARD item AIRMAIL WITH TRACKING to my Dad on 14 November.  It weighed about 320gms, went in an A3 sized tough-bag and cost me $17.76 to post. I've been tracking it - you bet I have - to see why it takes so bloody long.

So..... looks like it's been cooling its heels in Auckland since Monday morning after being cleared through Customs. And now it's Thursday.

Why, NZ Post?

I know that Thursday is not a delivery day, but does every single person involved in the postal process only work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as well? Even if that were the case, why wasn't my item happily whizzing from Auckland to Chch on Monday, which IS an NZ Post day? Or even Wednesday, which is also a delivery day? Why is it still in Auckland on Thursday?

In Chch, a private document delivery service has sprung up to fill in the gaps left by NZ Post. We Australia Post customers, however, are stuck with AusPost and NZ Post's abysmal non-service. I'm angry.

I'm thinking of getting a carrier pigeon. Or learning to swim. It'd probably be quicker.

UPDATE: Dad texted to say a courier had delivered his article around the middle of the day on 23 November. Something in the "tracking" was evidently awry, with no notifications between Auckland and Christchurch. So - 9 days to travel airmail from Mallacoota to Christchurch. This article arrived more quickly than cards I have posted - does this mean parcel post is taken more seriously/quickly? (for all values of 'quickly' equal to "not very quickly" or "pretty slowly, actually, but it's all relative"?) You're still not off the hook, Aus- and NZ Post.