Tuesday, October 21

Who Killed Cock Robin?

This is a song that will forever haunt me.  Many years ago when I was about ten years old I sang this on state at the Warradale Institute for a concert for my ballet school.

Why I was picked to sing I don't know - I doubt it was my good singing voice, so maybe it was my poor ballet skills.  I don't know, but our little troupe played out the song as I sang each part from the front of the stage.  The song has haunted me ever since. I never know whether to laugh or cry.  Is it why I have never been able to sing?

On the rare occsions I have heard the song on radio (I don't recall hearing anywhere else!) I mouth the words, just as I did this morning on the ABC (Classic Radio).  I laughed when I then found this version of the Wiggles - complete with junior dancers.  Oh, the memories.


The Lilium

They are fantastic flowers - large beautiful flower with long stamens (though this can lead to some staining of furniture etc), which always provide a fantastic show whether in a bunch or an arrangement with other flowers and greenery, or just on their own.  They are so picturesque and dramatic.

Recently I bought a bunch of delightful pink ones (see photos) which lasted nearly two weeks before the petals faded and with the old leaves started to drop.  Sad, but they don't last forever.




I don't know where I found the information, but somewhere about that time I read about them online. The article stated that they were easy to grow, loved living in pots and it was the right time to plant them.  I suspect while the information was correct at the time of publishing, it was a little late by the time I saw it.  Undaunted though I headed for Bunnings on another excursion looking for something else, and decided to see if Bunnings had any Lilium bulbs for sale.  I found some - rather sad, almost neglected on a shelf.  There were a few there, but I chose two and took them home.

After reading the instructions and learning again that I was a bit late in the season, I decided to plant them anyway.

For a few days they looked shocked and near death.  One bulb showed no sign of life!!

However, undaunted I visited them every day, added water when I felt they needed it and waited.  Soon new growth appeared.  The "dead" bulb took a while, but it now is flourishing.  Will I get flowers?  I don't know.

At the moment though it looks promising as all four bulbs look health and the green leaves are pushing onward and upward.




There are instructions here for growing them from Tesselaar in Victoria, Australia.  Tesselaar have a wonderful Tulip Festival each year - which I attended in 2012.  Just awesome. 
The first bulb to produce foliage


Two bulbs in the left pot are pushing upwards, and the other pot has the flourishing bulb, and the near dead one is showing signs of life.  :)

Friday, October 17

Customer Service - is it dead?

Don't you sometimes wonder why people go into business?  There seems to be a perception in the business world that if you have a business - you just have to open the doors and the people will come and you will get rich.  I often shake my head as I leave a business, wondering how the business people think they can survive.

Business is generally a tough gig.  I suspect that there are more businesses that started and failed, than have made a success.

Appealing Shop Front.

Have you ever entered a shop and been dismayed at the lack of appeal - perhaps crappy notices falling off the front window, a display that looks old and miserable, untidy in need of a good vacuum and clean, windows all marked with handprints, and the greatest mistake of all - a grumpy unwelcoming staff member behind the counter?

We'll come to the grumpy staff later on, but a business has to look and feel welcoming.  Fresh, clean, and with products well displayed and with prices easy to read.  How many times do you go into a shop and the price is not visible, or easy to read?

                        Business Open when it says it will be.

You'd think that this would be a given.  I can name two shops around the area I live who don't seem to understand that if a customer goes to you shop in the hours that you advertise you will be open, and the doors are shut, you are doing your business terrible harm.   Strangely the two business I am referring to for this example, are in the food business.  One an Indian Restaurant that advertises on its window that it is open from 8 am for breakfast.  It was once or twice, and maybe business was slow, but it takes time to develop a business and increase your client/customer base.  Despite saying that they will be open for lunch - I seldom see the doors open.  I don't know how many folk I know have said they have gone to dine there, but it was closed.  Strange way of doing business.  

The second business is a supposedly boutique cafe - owned by a couple who are full time workers who set the cafe up to help an unemployed daughter.  The shop is pretty ordinary - nothing appealing about it at all - and they too are seldom open.  The girl is a party animal and often feels seedy and is unprepared to work.  When she does her mood is not conducing to good business.  She looks and dresses badly for a business, and has no personality or welcoming skills.  I have tried to support the business dropping in for coffee with friends but we always leave a little unhappy.  There's nothing special about the cafe, and of course customers drift away.  It is sad because the parents have tried to help their daughter, but it looks to me, and I don't know the full story, that she is somewhat ungrateful.  Sadly the business is doomed to failure.

                                        Useless Marketing.

Not opening the shop/store at the times you advertise is one of the silliest marketing strategies there is.  Another is having flyers printed - that are pointless.  The second business asked me to help with their marketing - oh, and they couldn't pay.  Mmm.  I have done nothing other than put limited information on a website, but the same business supplied me with a flyer they had printed.  It was very colourful - and could have been useful - but the name of the business was in such small print in the midst of a colourful splatter of pictures (not of anything in their shop!) and the address was not listed. It was as if they assumed that everyone would know the new business.  What??

They scatter signs throughout the district - but it is pointless.  If you see the sign and head for the cafe, 9/10 times it will be shut anyway.

                             Grumpy People Behind the Counter

Now this really annoys me.  I don't care if the person behind the counter is having a bad day (oh, I sort of do, but in business you have to put on a brave front!), but if you go into a shop and the shopkeeper does not welcome you with (a) a smile (b) bright words of welcome or an offer to assist, you are not likely to inspire your customers to return.

I can recall several businesses that I had either frequented or have known the business person, who have reduced their customers to tears by their rudeness.  Now, I know that some customers can be challenging, but the men I refer to had a habit of doing this.  I guess one of the golden rules is to NEVER EVER forget that in business you need to be friendly to all your customers and having them run from your shop in tears is not a good look.  There were a couple of women two renown for their bad treatment of customers - especially customers that look but don't buy and "waste" their time.

Bright and bubbly, and helpful characters behind the counter will be most appreciated by your customers and those who enter your shop.

                                    Customer Service

There are many great articles about quality Customer Service and I don't intend to add much here, other than to suggest that if you are going into business you (a) study the qualities of good customer service businesses and (b) visit a number of businesses, similar to your own if you can, and focus on what they do in the customer service area which is working for them.

Things like doing what you say you will, deliver on time, friendly, courteous and helpful persons that the public come into contact with etc. Set your own goals and standards and see if you can improve them.

Perhaps even have some (short)  feedback questionnaires for your customers too - if there is a problem YOU need to know about it and fix it quickly. It is better you know than other potential customers.

Study the best businesses

Take a good look at businesses like yours and see what  is working!!!  Business is tough - and you need to be a good competitor to make it through and I guess then, there are no guarantees. The two businesses I mentioned above will probably not be surviving in a few months from now.  Sad, as they have put time and money into it - but they have ignored some of the fundamentals of good business.



Wednesday, October 15

Health and Us.

It is a weird world.  Despite all the progress in all areas over the last few hundred years, we still have terrible issues with health.

Every now and then there is a great epidemic of a disease - I know that when I was little it was polio, and in the 1980's it was HIV Aids. Two very infectious diseases - and now it is Ebola and in Australia there is concern about a new strain of Tuberculosis. One person has died with this drug resistant version of the disease.

Cancer is still not under control and other health issues are increasing - obesity, diabetes to name just another two.

One disease/illness that has touched me on more than one occasion is Multiple Sclerosis - something I first learned about in my nursing days years ago. It is an insidious disease where many folk deteriorate slowly with nothing much that can be done, though I am aware that some folk have found some respite in various alternate and other methods.  It seems that no one "treatment" works for all.

I learned today that my daughter is taking part in a Moonwalk to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis - you can visit the page here.  Donations welcome of course.  To donate you can go here - to support my daughter Janet Gough, who is doing it because a very close friend has the disease.

I am unable to attend, and would not survive the long walk with my wobbly legs, but it sounds a lovely walk in the moonlight around the Brisbane River. I hope the weather is fine and the moon shines down brilliantly on these lovely volunteers who are supporting MS Queensland.


I am not sure that the route passes this part of the Brisbane River, but it was the only photo I could find in a hurry - one of my special photos looking across the river to the city.

We all have to play a continual role in helping scientists resolve our health problems - and do what we can to keep ourselves healthy!!

Monday, October 13

Oh, "The Block"

I have watched Channel 9's series "The Block" mostly this season, and did see the results last night when the auction was held.  OMG!  How gutted would those that did not make a good profit feel.
We know it is a competition, and we also learned that each contestant gets $700 each a week to participate in the program but so much hard yakka went into the competition, and for little or no reward it would be an awful feeling.

Chris and Jenna, and the two Voss guys made good money!!  Well done.  I suspect that having so many apartments to sell did not help the program.  Is it too much to expect that 5 buyers will come out on the one occasion to buy high end apartments.  Do I sense an element of greed in the program?




I have always enjoyed these "reno" type programs - would love to be able to renovate something, but my days of doing something have long gone.

I do hope all contestants are able to move on and gain other benefits from their hard work!!!

Sunday, October 12

Real Estate Agents

It is quite a change from being a home owner to being a tenant.  I do recall many years ago when we rented as a family it was much easier.  In fact I recall that in most of the places we had rented in Victoria, New South Wales (with one exception) we had no trouble.

The NSW story was fairly simple.  We were to move out on a certain date - company transfer from Sydney to Brisbane, and the removalists which had been organised by the company my husband worked for did not turn up on time - and the delay upset the plans of the home owner who had wanted to move in.  He was very angry that we had not moved out when he arrived and became abusive.  It was a nasty episode - but the only bad one we have had in rental.

Many things have changed since those days - and the experiences of myself and friends give some indication as to some of the issues that tenants face.

There are official bodies which take care of the bond these days - though I believe that the real estate company that "looks after" the property I am in, did not send my bond when I moved in.  It appears to have taken a year for them to do it - which I understand is not what they are supposed to do.

But that is not the main issue.  A real estate agent with a "Rental Section" has two clients.  Obviously the house owner - who "pays" for his services is the key client.  I have no idea how these clients are treated - I can only speak of the experience I have as a tenant - but judging by the poor service we get, I wonder how the owners are treated.

I do not intend to give the name of the company that "looks after" this property, but relate some of my experiences.  The owner was the one that showed me two properties in the new estate, and I happily chose the one I am in now - it was a mirror image of the other one, but a much better outlook - as it happens onto a park and a lake at the back.  I happily moved in to the brand new duplex with things that I had never had in previous homes.  A walk-in robe, an ensuite, and a garage with a remote so that I just drive up the driveway, press the "button" in my car, and hey presto the door opens and I drive in.  If it is raining I don't get wet.  (Please send rain this way - it has been very dry!)

One of the first issues was that on the brand new brick letter box, one of the bricks was not properly cemented into place.  It "sat" on the top - despite my many written and verbal requests, it took 15 months to repair!!!!

I know there are often issues with new buildings and I have had more than my fair share here.  I think the first major issue was the fire alarm.  Every time I turned on a light, the alarm would shriek briefly.  Annoying.   But worse was to come.  One Friday morning around 3 am, the alarm went off.  As it turns out I had two grandchildren staying and it woke us up.  I couldn't turn it off.  We hunted inside and outside the house for any source of smoke which would set it off.  There was none.  I contacted the agent when their office opened, but they could not get anyone to inspect it until the Monday.  It screamed its head off on several occasions until the repairman arrived.  I did use a broom stick in a futile effort to turn it off at times, but it had a mind of its own.    The repairman came and "interefered with" both alarms, and left telling me it was fixed.  For several weeks nothing other than the shrieking when I turned on a light happened, until again it started screaming at all hours of the day and night.

This time they sent an electrician.  It was he that found some anomolies and replaces some parts - apparently a dodgy  (cheap) system.  However, he did fix it and since then it has not gone off. I hope it is functional.  I've had had a smoke issue so I don't know.

At the side of the house are two power points - one connected to the water pump on the tank.   I use an electric mower - so having an outside power point is helpful.  If it worked.  The one for the tank was ok, but the other never worked.  So, an other request to the agent, which eventually resulted in an electrician coming.  Apparently the power point was not installed correctly.  Luckily it was fixed on that day.

Then at the height of summer, when the temperature was at its highest my son who was staying with me, turned on the air conditioner.  While it made a noise and puffed air, it was incapable of cooling.  Back to the agent.  It took them 6 weeks to "repair" and I learned that during the building of the duplex, thieves arrived and took items - including the air conditioning motor at the back of the house and a new one had to be installed.  However, it was never done properly.  6 weeks of wrangling with the agent, lots of false promises - including waiting for a repairman who never came, and I learned later had never asked to come.  Six weeks it took - and of course by then the worst of summer was over.

I did go to the RTA - Residential Tenancies Agency and submitted a formal complaint to the real estate agent - but I think they laughed at me.  They didn't bother with anything!!!

The the water tank emptied.  Eventually a man came to fix it - and apparently there was a problem that he felt related to the installation.  I guess it is no surprise to learn that some property investors get things done at the cheapest rate possible, and no one checks that things are done properly.  Clearly that is evident at this property.  I am not sure it is working properly yet.  We have had little rain and I can't easily gauge the level of water in the tank.  I keep my fingers crossed.

There have been a stack of minor issues.  When I returned from China and my mother's funeral the place was full of spiders, and ants had eaten away the grout between the tiles in two places and the ants had made a mess of debris.  The spiders were sprayed after a few days, and it took 3 months for the grout to be fixed.

One of the things that I have been "negotiating" with the agent over, is the security.  There were no security screens on the windows, or the back door.  It has been a concern for me and my next door neighbours that we cannot leave a window open, and anyone can easily get in the back door.  The front door did have a security screen.  It means that in summer we sleep with the windows locked - leaving no fresh air.  If we go out - we lock all the windows - why make it easy for thieves to access your home?  The issue of security screens has been an ongoing issue with we tenants and the agent.

The agent or his staff seldom contact us - the handyman, repair man is the one that lets us know that something is being done.  It was a surprise a few months ago when the handyman phoned - he was getting measurements for security screens on our windows and back door.  Whoopeeee!  He promised to be back the following week.  The only communication we had from the agent was (a) the agency boss telling us that he was waiting to hear from the house owner, and another (b) on the same day saying that the handman had been given instructions a few weeks earlier to instal the screens.

I saw the handyman one day and he told me that he had not been given instructions to install the screens.  Mmmm.

Then a week ago, he phones - he has been given authority to install a screen on one window (the main bedroom) and the back door and he duly arrived and installed them.  My neighbour and I were talking and I said, I would have been prepared to pay for one more - the loungeroom window screen, and he said he had already asked the agent if he could too.  Around $100 - but worth it in that we could leave the window open when we went out, or at night.  Again we have communicated with the agent.  We are prepared to pay for the screen and installation.  No response so far.

It is not just we tenants that have issues with real estate agents.  It seems universal.  And the avenues for complaint or conflict resolution are limited.  The RTA seems to be a toothless tiger.

A few days later.  Nothing has changed. Am still waiting to hear from the agent.

 Postscript: I received a phone call - the owner is happy for us to pay for the extra screen. Why not? It's ok - it only took a week for a response.    And I asked again for the house numbers to be replaced.






Monday, October 6

Fabulous Scenery

It was a long weekend - Monday Labour Day - but I had many things to do.  On the Saturday I was in Brisbane for an interview with a client, and on the way home called in to see a friend whom I haven't seen for many years, but we have kept in touch.

Then for two days I kept working.  I made two tablecloths, painted some things, mowed lawns, clipped edges, and finished lots of writing.  This afternoon I had a shower to remove all the dust and dirt from my garden activities, and then decided to go for a walk.  

I set off to the Sandstone Point end of Beachmere, and stopped near the lake and walked through the bush to the beach.  It is a "secret" little place that I have visited several times before.  There's a short walk along a sandy track within the trees to the beach. 

The tide was very low - making it a bit easier to see the southern tip of Bribie Island and over to the right, it was easy to see the huge cranes of the Port of Brisbane.  Also thanks to my Canon camera and my Tamron lens.


Sandy track through the bush.

Mangroves and shallow pools

Close to Brisbie Island  - using my big lens.

Port of Brisbane in the distance.
I always love the beach at low tide - there were a few horses out for a run on the beach, and a few folk fishing, and a few boats bobbing in the shadows.  It really is a beautiful place.