Friday, October 2, 2015

Swings and Roundabouts

In a savage attack of community spirit, Miss Pink and I have flouted the fine print on the Local Council’s OH & S charter and erected two rope swings in our local park.

To hell with the rules: there’s that big old fig and all its thick curling boughs, just begging for action.

So we did it; recycling timber from the side of my shed and some rope I used for our  IKEA Hack porch swing. Pinkster was my pilot, helping me position both swings for little legs to reach the ground.

They’re very simple, one a traditional swing with rope attached at each end of the seat (and I do use that term loosely) and the second for bigger more adventurous kids/ adults/ drunkards.  A single plank with one rope attached through the centre, for some serious out-of-control- in- all-directions swinging!

So each day since, playdates or solo, has ended at this lovely park. And so far the council sphincter police have not removed our swings.

The Orange Dog is loving it; where he never got used to missing walks on school holidays, especially those days when we were entertaining small people, now everything ends with ‘mummy can we go to the park and use the swings?’

Our other big project this week was the renovation of the cubby house, which is now Cactus Café and Organic Grocer.  Pinkster and her friends have always been keen food servers, so after I found a blow up cactus on the roadside during a council clear up, we renamed and renovated.

Adding shelves inside, an outdoor grocery stand, and long timber bench (also curb-side finds). I bought an outdoor setting from Aldi and IKEA sold us our DUKTIG cash register.

Another curb-side find was a gorgeous rustic timber picture frame that morphed into a stylish ‘specials’ board with the help of timber I had lying around and White Knight Black Chalkboard Spray Paint. (which doesn’t need leaving overnight between coats like the paint of stuff.)

The open closed sign was more elaborate than we’d planned, Pinkster and I, but that’s par for the course with our projects:
I cut a cardboard template and cut out two cacti from craft wood, shaped these with an emery board before paining.  Then I glued these to a make-your-own doorknob sign from the hardware store.  I didn’t trust my hand writing using a paintbrush but fortunately we found some foam letter stickers in a craft shop in the perfect colour.

So between our renovated café and our park swings we’ve kept busy, had a lot of fun and so have Pinkster’s friends. 

I think we should start a community spirited movement: Random Acts of Swinging where everyone who can, puts up a swing in their local park for the kids to use.

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Uninsured Assets

I'm Mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore! I really hate starting my day with a telepohone screaming match...

I have been paying just over $24 each month for three years for an accident policy for The Orange Dog.  
If I had put this money into a regular savings account I would still have over $1000 that I've paid in premiums and I wouldn’t have to spend my time screaming at my insurer's call centre people and threatening law suits. 

I would have benefited from the compounding interest on my money and I would have had the ready cash to pay his vet bill after his accident.

I have been fighting with Pet Sure (under the comforting guise of RSPCA Pet Insurance) and I’ve come to the conclusion that PetSure is benefitting from and tarnishing the good name of The RSPCA.  Then I discovered their other ‘brands’ all credible reputable trusted company names. 

So what happened? We had a playdate, the kids were playing totem tennis, Orange Dog was with me and the other mum, having a cuddle on the deck, then he jumped up and ran to the kids catching a racket backswing in the face.  It was awful, Buddy shrieked, and staggered backwards, he couldn’t open his eye the little girl, who couldn’t possibly have seen him behind her, was sobbing her heart out… it was an awful accident. 

In the morning his eye was still closed and his face was very swollen, so I took him to the vet. The child’s mother texted me, asked after him and offered to pay the vet bills. I told her not to worry, it wasn’t her or her child’s fault ‘and anyway Bud is insured for this so please don’t worry.’

Pet Sure refused my claim saying this was not classed as an accident but an illness. So I called them and informed them that being struck in the face was neither viral nor bacterial. They said they’d look into it and I heard nothing for months.

On my second call I was told that the Vet nurse hadn’t sent through the case notes, that is why the claim was rejected. To cut a long story short this went back and forth until this year the vet took over and spoke with the Pet Sure people, asked what they wanted exactly and sent exactly that. Then nothing for another seven weeks.

So today I called to ask why they hadn’t paid my claim or provided any feedback.
Pet Sure told me that they did not and would not pay the claim because they consider this to be an illness because there were no fractures involved. I told them that was irrelevant; an accident as defined in their product disclosure brochure is this:

Certain words and expressions used in this policy have a specific meaning: Accident means sudden, unforeseen, and unintended specific event causing Injury to your Pet as Specified in Section 2 which occurs at an identifiable place and time.”
I won’t bore you with section two it’s longwinded, but it covers seven ways in which the injury must have resulted.. "OR involve:
   1. A bone fracture (excluding teeth)
   2.      A traumatic ligament or tendon injury; or 
   3.      Lacerations, abrasions or wounds”

In Buddy’s case it was a combination of 2 and 3 to the lens of his eye and his cheeks, which did take a while to recover. If you ask me, facial abrasions are hard to locate underneath thick fur.

They claimed it was written up (by the vet) as a soft tissue injury and therefore was refused because the pollicy only allowed for ligament injury:

'In anatomy, soft tissues are the tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being bone. Soft tissue includes tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, fat, and synovial membranes (which are connective tissue), and muscles, nerves and blood vessels (which are not connective tissue).[1]     Wikipedia

Since this farce began I started putting money into an interest bearing savings account which has generated more interest than the payout I should have received from RSPCA Insurance.

My conclusion is that anyone considering insuring their pet, on the off-chance they have the right kind of accident, resulting in the very specific injuries allowable, and  they have located and read all the fine print, followed the trail of additional clauses, and they can persevere for years to get the claim paid.. is crazy.  

Far better to create your own insurance policy in a bank earning interest where there is no fine print, no excuses, no cheating and you keep the money you don’t spend directly at your vet.

Furthermore when I looked up PetSure I was staggered to see most of the other pet insurers are their own ‘brands’ and all underwritten by Holland Insurance.

So I can’t say I have any confidence in any of them being fair and honest.  
Isn’t life is hard enough without cheaters?

After launching my social media campaign which involved, emails, blogs, Pinterest posts and tweets to everyone including the CEO of underwriters Holland Insurance. PetSure have revoked their refusal and scheduled the claim payment of $124.00 - "as a good-will gesture- Not an admission of any wrong doing'. I cancelled my policy immediately; I told them neither their service nor their product are worth $24 a month.

They really wanted to keep that $124. Well from now on I'll keep my premiums.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Born Supremacy

Three Sisters: 21 books; six international best-sellers; two Number-1-New York Times bestsellers and a multitude of literary awards..surely these authors were just born supremely talented.

This week’s author event at the Warringah Library was the second in my life.

The last author event I attended was  in 2009. That was Emma Tom talking about her then latest book Attack Of The Fifty Foot Hormones. I had a sickly toddler in tow, who succeeded in making it 'her'show, rather than the author's.

But this one I wasn’t going to miss: it was after-all the Moriarty Sisters!  <fanfare playing>

I adore them, not just as fabulously talented authors but also terribly nice women.  Especially Jaclyn Moriarty who is 50 shades of awesome and just so happens, used to be just my lovely next door neighbour .

I was told by the real estate agent who sold us the house;  “I think the woman next door  writes children’s books or something”. 

As I became friendly with my new neighbour, I thought I’d better take an interest and read at least one of her books; so during a week in Bali I got lost in Dreaming of Amelia.  
It was the most beautiful, intriguing and original story I’d read and I posted as much on Face Book. Immediately my Facebook page was bombarded with fan-spam, gratuitous use of exclamation marks and comments like ‘OMFG! Do you know Jaclyn Moriarty?!?!?’ JM? She’s amazing!’ ‘Oh , I LOVE her books!’.
There were more LIKE clicks than when I post pictures of the dog wearing wigs, and those are mighty popular (especially when he was Katy Perry).

Oh, I thought; seems  my friend Jaci-Next-Door is kinda famous, why am I always so slow on the uptake?  Well since then I’ve continued reading and relishing her books. And re-reading and re-relishing them. (I’m on my third run of A Corner of White)

Eventually I became curious about Liane’s books and Jaci recommended What Alice Forgot & The Hypnotists Love Story, both of which I read, feet up on the dashboard, totally shirking my duty to take some turns at driving the long way to and back from Melbourne.  

Back in Sydney I immediately downloaded The Husband’s Secret onto my E-Reader and did nothing else with my life or family until I’d devoured that one too.

So an author event with all three was not to be missed.
I text Jaci-Next-Door: I’m super super super excited: eeeeee
And Jaci being Jaci, never mind prepping before heading up to the podium: texts right back. ‘Nervous!’

It’s a fascinating and rare opportunity to hear three successful authors from the one family talk about their individual experience of the writing process.

Liane Moriarty apparently is a rough outliner. She’ll come up with a plot premise, adding bits and pieces of inspiration that  day to day life throws in her path, but still lets the story take its course. Jaclyn related a wonderful quip about describing to Liane her amazement at a twist in her book,: 'I couldn't believe when this happened',  and Liane responded; 'I know! Me neither!’

Jaclyn Moriarty is a planner: she plans her plot, her characters.  But responding to a question on this she told the audience for the most part her characters do as they’re told, but sometimes she might have to wrestle them back on track or occasionally let them wander off on their own.

Nervous she may have been but Jaclyn Moriarty is as charming and engaging speaking  as are her words on the page.

Mae West once said, “ Keep a diary, and someday it'll keep you”, and Nicola Moriarty’s latest book Paper Chains apparently grew from her own diarised (and blogged) struggle with post-natal depression.  

She explained how interesting and a little therapeutic it can be to take your own life dramas, your choices and turn them around on themselves in a big ‘what if’, to create a work of fiction that explores what might have happened.  Sort of like a Sliding Doors treatment I guess.  Like Nicola, I’m a diary keeper when times get tough, so Paper Chains is definitely next on my list. 

The next time these three appear on stage together, I’ll be there again.  Listening to the three of them relate stories of their family life growing up together is a treat in itself.  But the stories of their struggles to get published before success and the reality of writing fiction  for a living, is an eye opener for their fans and an inspiration for any aspiring writer.

I’m so very lucky to have that inspiration on tap walking back home from the school run and over the occasional cuppa. 
Jaclyn Moriarty, my very clever gifted friend, who’s taken more literary prizes than Venezuela has Miss World titles, will ever be in my mobile contacts as Jaci Next Door. 

It makes me smile to remember how much I liked her, long before I knew her last name.

If you 'd like to read more about these awesome authors:

Jaclyn Moriarty

Liane Moriarty

Nicola Moriarty

Friday, September 4, 2015

More Bambi than Bond

If Idris Elba is too gritty, too 'street' to play James Bond, then what was Daniel Craig?

OK I’m going to jump right in and join this ‘Idris Elba/ James Bond’ debate.

I think the actor’s been handed a packet of short straws.  But Anthony Horowitz the newer gen Bond Author says he’s 'too street'.

What then was Daniel Craig if not the grittiest roughest version of James Bond?

Elba has played Nelson Mandella for goodness sake; a man of great elegance nobility and strength. It is acting after all and that is a craft at which Elba has proven his enormous talent and versatility over and over.

But Adrian Lester? Seriously? He has more of a puppy face than a ten week old Beagle. I suppose he could be effective in that the bad guys wouldn’t be able to aim a gun at him – they be too busy pinching his cheeks and going ‘awwwww”. 

Adrian Lester's: more Bambi than Bond

I’m sure it's just one of those, I’ve been put on the spot moments; clearly Horowitz was not familiar with Idris Elba’s other work beyond ‘Luther.’

I have to confess my familiarity with Elba doesn’t go much beyond his portrayal of Heimdall in the Thor movies (and most of the time I’m heavily distracted my Chris Hemsworth) but that character is anything but gritty and street. 

Idris Elba positively ooozes suave.

You might even say he’s suave.. as much as any man could be, wearing a golden mardigras helmet and matching armour; sort of Iron Man meets Aztec.

But in my humble opinion I really did and still do feel less than comfortable watching Daniel Craig play Bond. Craig doesn't have that natural suave and well he just seems 'a bit too street – too gritty' if you ask me.

Roger More was so smarmy and sleazy I couldn’t bear it. The way he smirked at women was so cringe worthy I’d have this overwhelming urge to put my fingers down my throat just to speed up the process.  How that man ever got laid is beyond my comprehension.  Last time a man in a bar leered at me that way, I discreetly blacked out two of my front teeth with Kohl pencil and smiled ingratiatingly back at him. 

The problem is that men ostensibly struggle to differentiate between suave and sleaze; that has to include casting agents, directors and authors. And that  is why I avoid bars like Establishment here in Sydney; ever aiming for suave but entirely missing the point and ending up just plain sleazy.
Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton were better cast in my humble opinion but then I was a reader of Ian Flemming’s original character; I’m not so familiar with Horowitz’s take on the character.

Idris Elba said in a recent interview that he can go to a bar and no woman will approach him; he’s apparently “not getting the love”. Not until someone recognises him and then he draws a crowd which he describes as ‘bullshit’.

I think he needs a visit down under – I’m sure he’d get plenty of love here without being recognised. What's not to love?