Tuesday, 29 March 2016

An update on the bank

After three wasted weeks waiting for the arrival of a replacement ATM card which was never ordered I was relieved finally to receive a card.

My relief was short-lived. It was chewed up by the ATM at my first attempt to use it. A call to the bank resulted in some words of sympathy but no explanation for this latest annoyance.

Another card was ordered which yet again the bank said I should expect to take 5-7 business days to reach me.  When it arrived I asked a reluctant bank officer to accompany me to the ATM to observe for themselves what might happen. To her disbelief, this second replacement card also was swallowed up by the ATM.

'This shouldn't happen' was her response. Further attempts to get the card working, this time at her desk seemed to have been successful until I took it back to the ATM where yet again it was swallowed up. This time with an explanation receipt. 'Too many PIN attempts. Card is retained' the clever-dick ATM informed me.

The teller remained confident the card would work, just 'not today'. Wait until tomorrow, she advised me.

I was back at the bank the next day and, relief of reliefs, the replacement card finally worked.

Then the following day I received a letter advising me of the PIN for the already activated card. This was a week after an earlier letter advised of the new (but different) PIN. I think the unsynchronised despatch of the two PIN advices for the two replacement cards might have been the problem.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Bye bye tropical island

The view from my hotel room

A last lingering look at my view for the past five days on Hamilton Island. I'll miss it....and the weather.

Back to Sydney today.

(Posted retrospectively. You will notice from the inclusion of a photograph that I am back on MacBook air; so to speak.)

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Stalking the reef

An early start with a full cruise and visit to the Great Barrier Reef booked.

I got myself to the Marina with plenty of time and meandered around to Bob's Bakery for breakfast. I learnt quickly that Bob's establishment is very popular and it was no surprise to see a substantial queue even early on Easter Sunday (or should that be Easter Day?).

Then returning to the wharf I noticed the sullen youth from housekeeping yesterday studiously attending to his mobile phone in an adjacent park. Thirty minutes later I was even more surprised to find him sitting next to me at the wharf. I was just contemplating whether I was being followed by a stalker or even less likely a handsome youth who likes gay men 40 plus years his senior when he responded to an announcement to board a ferry. Not my ferry.

Thoughts of an Autumn/Spring relationship vanished like a soap bubble in a cyclone.

The day's cruise from which I have just returned was enjoyable and to be recommended for visitors to this part of the world. A two hour trip to the reef, followed by four hours at the reef, then two hours return trip. Whilst at the reef you can indulge in snorkelling and/or scuba diving; no experience necessary. You can view the reef from a submersible as well as from an underwater viewing chamber. You can take helicopter flights over the site as well. It is all very well organised and controlled including training and supervision.

Morning and afternoon tea and lunch are included although the best I can say about that is they provide food. Edible but not the lure of the tour.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Housekeeping, buggies, a surprise, orange

When you are at an island resort the last thing you expect at 8.15am is the sound of housekeeping announcing themselves with loud banging on your hotel door. It was clear they weren't going anywhere until I presented myself which I did with a towel covering the modesty of my not so modestly sized torso. A young woman gazed back at me rather sullenly as though my appearance was lowering the tone of the resort. Behind her was a young man with an even more sullen gaze whose youthful beauty would have had me inviting him in with alacrity in my own youth. But those days are long gone.

I asked them to give me a few minutes which, as I type this, they apparently interpreted as 'housekeeping is not required today'.

'What to do today' I wondered over a breakfast which included the curiosity of lamingtons amongst the croissants and Danish pastries. I sat myself down and read some of the literature promoting activities and decided on a full day cruise through the Whitsundays, which I booked at the Resort Centre. Booked for  tomorrow, that is; as I had missed today's cruise delayed, of course, by my unexpected early visitors.

So I was still left with the question, what to do today? I decided I would hire a buggy. The island is packed with holiday makers and indeed residents and workers criss crossing the limited road network on buggies.

As it turns out I was too late for a buggy. The hirers were overbooked and had a waiting list only. I decided to take the Green shuttle bus across the hill and to the marina area with its shops, eating outlets and general people watching activities.

Who should be the first person for me to watch but a fellow volunteer from the hospital who does the identical volunteer job to me at the hospital. She introduced me to her husband as 'Victor who does her job at the hospital' (on other days) when of course if it was me doing the introducing the correct explanation would be that it is she who does my job at the hospital. But let's not be petty.

The chance meeting was as amicable as you'd expect when one side (them) is staying at the most exclusive and expensive resort on the island behind a high wall and the other side (me) is staying at the all you can pack in, no fence at all, 'el cheapo' resort.

Not surprisingly no promises were made to catch up for pre-dinner drinks before holiday's end.

I made a quick departure just in time to catch the Orange shuttle bus for a sightseeing junket around the island which as Murphy's Law would decree included a run alongside the high wall separating my volunteer colleague and her husband in their resort from we sweaty mortals on the bus.

Don't you love chance meetings?

Friday, 25 March 2016

'Airlie dreamin'

Without any planning or forethought I turned up at the Marina and booked myself on the Port of Airlie via Daydream Island ferry route thus creating a day's cruising and sightseeing program for myself.

It worked quite well. The first leg of about thirty minutes through what I guess might be the Whitsunday Passage to Daydream Island was very pleasing visually. Arriving at DI we were serenaded by two Islanders playing gentle vaguely South Pacific sounding melodies. All very romantic for this ageing gay solo traveller.

I had two hours on the DI resort which was more than enough to get the feel of this tiny island resort. Quieter than Hamilton Island even with families and young children frolicking in the various pools. Somehow I managed to lose my cap during those two hours. I retraced my steps several times but found no trace of it. Added to the apparent death of my MacBook that constitutes two 'disasters' and no I wonder whether the proverbial third one awaits me?

Then on to Airlie on the Queensland mainland which was heaving with youthful energy on this hot Good Friday. I can't say there is a lot to see there on a quick visit but I had splendid stroll around the main town area and the garden lagoon packed with young semi naked bodies engaged in a surprising amount of romantic cuddling.

Then it was back to the Airlie ferry wharf for the return journey - including a second stop at DI - arriving back at Hamilton Island in the late afternoon.

All I all, a very satisfactory day of crushing and sightseeing considering that I had not planned a single activity for the day half and hour before the departure.

I put my feet up in the evening and read a book until sleep hit me like a bulldozer.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Hamilton Island and a modern disaster

Sharp eyed readers may have noticed something different about my posts for the two previous days and indeed this day's post. All will be explained in good time below.

This morning I flew the 1917 kilometres (according to Google Maps) from Sydney to Hamilton Island for the Easter long weekend.

The passenger in the adjacent seat was not exactly the passenger from hell but he was an irritant. First he was super fidgety, constantly moving about. Second he had no sense of personal space and repeatedly knocked my arm as he jumped about in his seat. Third, and worst, he sniffled non stop from when we took our seats until landing at the Island. It was two and half hours of irritation.

Arriving on the Island I can report the weather is sunny and delightful with temperature around 30°c and a nice breeze. It all feels very relaxing.

I have completed a brief reconnoiter of the resort. My room has a lovely view of the sea.

I would love to show it to you but that's where the disaster has struck.

Retrieving my MacBook from my case I find it has died a total death without the slightest forewarning. Did it suffer from some manner of behind the scenes Airport security screening? I don't know. I have taken it all around the world in the past couple of years without incident. Now I have to wait until return to Sydney to contact the Apple Store and either have the MacBook revived or replaced by a new model.

In the meantime this and the two previous (retrospective) posts have been created on my iPad on which I haven't worked out how to download my photos, images or symbols such as the stars I use for rating films and theatre.

First world problems!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016


Golem is the latest offering at the Sydney Theatre Company.

It is a performance piece by the British performance group 1927 and it mixes human performance with animation live on stage using split second timing and movement. It is a very clever piece which relates how humans are being seduced and overtaken by developments in technology and fashion.

It is quite fascinating, although at 90 minutes without an interval I felt it to be slightly overlong. Perhaps I was a little tired following two long days of work and evenings out.

Three and half stars.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

London Has Fallen

A Pakistani arms dealer whose family was killed by an American missile attack on his residential compound seeks revenge when world leaders descend on London for the funeral of the British Prime Minister.

As far as that goes, in these times, such a plot is quite plausible. Where 'London Has Fallen' extends itself into a universe of total implausibility, however, is the manner and extent to which that revenge is wreaked. It is not just the scale of the vengeance, nor the antics of its hero, Gerard Butler, which are laughable at times but even incidental moments are risible. Two examples. First, the British have perfected the ceremonial street procession into an art form and would never have a Prime Minister trapped in a traffic jam as depicted here. Second, the natural reserve of the British Public Servant would never allow the officers of London's Metropolitan Police to whoop and holler American style as presented in another scene.

As terrible as many of them are, I quite enjoy watching disaster movies where internationally known landmarks are destroyed. In this movie the CGI effects are reasonable if not always fully convincing and there was some fun in seeing those moments.

However the brain has to be switched off in order to sit through much of this film. One moment of personal amusement was my realisation that the actor portraying the Canadian PM also plays the American Ambassador in the Norwegian political disaster television series 'Occupied' which I have been watching on Netflix this week. Clearly if his acting career stalls he has a future as a Diplomat in disaster situations!

A lot of nonsense mostly and also quite brutal at times.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Daughter

'The Daughter' is an Australian film adaptation of an Australian theatrical adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's 'The Wild Duck'. The writer and first time film director is Simon Stone who also wrote and directed the theatrical adaptation which was a huge success in Sydney a couple of years back.

Family secrets are revealed at a family wedding which have repercussions far beyond the wedding party.

Shot in semi-rural areas outside of Sydney as well as within the city this is a well acted film. The heartbreaking story unfolds slowly and packs a punch in its climactic moments.

Geoffrey Rush curbs his usual flamboyance and Ewen Leslie and relative newcomer Odessa Young are excellent.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Leaving on a jet plane

It's time for travel plans.

First up the weekend after next is Hamilton Island. I've never been there before and maybe I have made a mistake in arranging the trip. It seems to be a place for holidaying families, groups and couples.

Hamilton Island

I am travelling solo with the intention of enjoying a quiet, relaxing Easter long weekend doing absolutely nothing apart from reading and eating and doing very little else. I may regret the destination. Or maybe not.

Then in September a trip in quite different circumstances. I'll be joining five friends visiting Malta, Sicily and Rome. It will be my first visit to both Malta and Sicily and my second visit to Rome more than forty years after my first visit there.


Planning for this trip has been underway in ernest for a month or two and today we got together over lunch at Icebergs Club to confirm various accommodation options canvassed earlier through the internet.

I also paid for my flights this week so am now very much committed financially to this overseas trip.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Machu Picchu

(Sydney Theatre Company)

A married couple, both Engineers, are involved in a road accident leaving the husband a quadriplegic.

'Machu Picchu' sets out the problems the couple faces following this life changing incident, how they handle these problems and through flashback sequences the aspirations they had which now may never be achieved.

A new play, probably still undergoing development. Nicely acted.


Sunday, 13 March 2016

The Lady in the Van

'The Lady in the Van' is the film version of Alan Bennett's real life experience of a woman who camped on his property in her van for fifteen years creating havoc for himself and the neighbourhood.

The trailer suggests this film is a comedy but seen in full the story is a drama with humorous aspects. Maggie Smith does her arched voice, hand flapping acting that has become her signature style and Alex Jennings is superb as the put upon, conflicted Bennett.


Saturday, 12 March 2016

Son of Saul

The Hungarian film 'Son of Saul' won this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

It is a very grim film set over a period of about thirty-six hours within the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. A 'Sonderkommando' (Prisoners forced to work in the crematoria of the camps before themselves being killed) tries desperately to find a Rabbi to attend to the funeral rites of a young gas chamber victim.

It is filmed in a most unusual style. The screen ratio is the old style 'Academy aspect' which makes it look at times like a home movie and also narrows substantially the viewers' field of vision. The camera focusses mostly on extreme close ups of the main character. Most of the rest of the vision is out of focus so that the viewer concentrates entirely on the main character and is spared a direct view of many of the horrors of the holocaust. Most of the shocking events are portrayed obliquely at the edges of the screen and through the soundtrack of events occurring off screen and are no less horrendous for that.

There are two main plot lines neither of which are revealed by direct narrative but which the viewer is left to slowly discover as the events unfold.

Unlike the fantasy horror of '10 Cloverfield Lane', this is real horror.


Friday, 11 March 2016

Let me tell you about the bank....

AdRad commented on my blog recently about my unprecedented letters of complaint to several bureaucracies (Qantas and Bupa). He is a perceptive young man, that AdRad.

To confirm those perceptions I am about to fire off a complaint to a third organisation, this time my bank.

The background to my complaint is what happened here.

On 26 February I was told by what was almost certainly an overseas call centre* that I would receive a replacement for my compromised ATM card within five business days. When ten days passed without a new card arriving I called the centre back and was given conflicting information from the earlier advice but was assured my card would arrive within several days.

Yesterday, with still no replacement card received, I called the centre for a third time. The operator put me on hold then told me she would conduct investigations and call me back. She didn't.

Today, I went to my branch to make enquiries in person. It turns out that my replacement card hasn't arrived for the most obvious of reasons. I don't know what the call centre thought it was doing but no replacement card had been ordered.

That has now been rectified and I should be receive a new within 'five to seven days'.

We'll see.

(* All three calls were answered by operators with sub-continent accented English and the calls sounded as though they were travelling through a pipe.)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane

I never saw 'Cloverfield' (2008) and I gather that '10 Cloverfield Lane' is not a sequel to the earlier but rather exists in some type of 'similar universe'.

John Goodman is keeping a young woman imprisoned in his specially designed underground bunker for her 'protection' because of some undefined catastrophe that has killed off life on earth and left behind a toxic atmosphere.

As B-grade horror movies go this is of superior quality and should best be viewed on a stormy or wintery evening not as I did on a gorgeously sunny day when I should have been out and about. It does go a bit loopy in the final fifteen or so minutes and has an open ending tailor made for a sequel.


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Wartime Sydney

It was the Second World War but Sydney didn't seem to have a care in the world. Footage of Sydney and surrounds in 1940, taken by an unknown American tourist, recovered from a garage in California.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Hail, Caesar!

Maybe it is just me but these Coen Brothers films are all alike. The trailers promise more than the films deliver.

'Hail, Caesar!' is for film buffs who know enough to recognise the minute by minute references from Hollywood history. Set in the 1950s, a film star is kidnapped from the lot of a Biblical epic and the Studio Head is confronted with a ransom demand whilst simultaneously he manages the production of a kitsch array of musicals, westerns and romantic extravaganzas.

Ce and I chuckled at moments but most of the large audience watched in complete silence. Some dead spots made the film seem long. Perversely the film gave us lots to discuss and giggle about on the bus trip home.

The after taste was better than the meal?


Saturday, 5 March 2016


A young Irishwoman migrates to the USA in the 1950s leaving behind her mother and sister. Homesickness is eventually overcome when she falls in love with an Italian American. A family death causes her to return to Ireland and the woman faces a dilemma when she is courted by a an eligible Irishman from her home town.

'Brooklyn' is a picturesque but cliche ridden movie. Saoirse Ronan does her best in a role that offers only one real scene to demonstrate her acting skills whilst Julie Walters chews the scenery as though it is the last buffet meal of her life.

Highly regarded generally but I found it mostly pedestrian apart from the climactic final 15 minutes or so.


Friday, 4 March 2016

Eye, Eye, Sir

I haven't had any response yet to my letter of complaint to my health insurers about their online booking service, or more accurately non-service.

My eye examination was yesterday. It went well.

There is only the slightest change to my left eye and none to my right eye. The variation from the previous examination, two years ago, is minimal and there is no need for me to get new spectacles.

There is no evidence of macular degeneration. No evidence of cataracts. My eye pressure is 'excellent'.

All is well on the 'eye front'.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Flying low

My letter of complaint to Qantas about response times on their 'priority' line has not elicited the compensatory gifts predicted by Andrew.

I did, however, receive a telephone call from someone in Customer Service apologising for the delays, agreeing that these delays were unacceptable and 'assuring' me that my complaint and others on the same matter have been brought to the notice of senior management.

The assurance may be code for 'placed on file and closed' for all I know.