February 2009

I am pleased to be able to announce that we have made it through January, and that we are still married … to each other. The stresses on the month certainly took their toll along the way and we have managed (sometimes only just) to work through them, both individually and together. February certainly looks busy for Julie, as she transitions from the handful of shifts she was given at the Convention Centre for the next 2 weeks, to a full-sized program of shifts at her new job at the Australian Institute of Sport. She will be part of a large team of receptionists at the “residences”, accommodation units for visiting athletes, both short and long term. The AIS is a government funded establishment for the promotion of sporting excellence in Australia. Great place to work for a new Aussie!

So far this month has really turned on the summer weather. I believe Adelaide had its usual week of max temps over 40 and not below 25 or so overnight. Melbourne was not much better. Here it has been not quite that bad, but still stiflingly hot and dry. We have been particularly grateful to come home each day to a house that is cooled by an evaporative air conditioner (Julie calls it a Swamp Cooler). Not perfect but certainly is dramatically cooler than outside. Each main room has an outlet with 4 vents that can each be turned 4 ways, so we can set up each room according to how much we are using, where we want the cool air to blow, etc. The dining room has 2 vents flowing towards the sliding door that then gets pushed sideways by the other 2 vents into the kitchen. Can’t have the Cook toasting now, can we?

There have also been numerous photos circulating of wildlife (especially koalas) approaching humans in a desperate search for water. It occurred to me watching one of the cockies on our street tree sitting there with her mouth open, as well as a string of galahs on the wire doing the same while I was walking Kelly, that I could fill the 3 ornamental containers in our back garden with clean water each and I have now started doing that.

Meanwhile, my regular trips to Sydney to get my back massaged with the goal of getting the muscular structure balanced, so that it can then hold the skeletal structure in place, seem to be having the desired effect. Combined more recently with taking Kelly for a walk almost every night, now that it’s just him and he’s so easy to control, I am starting to look and feel a bit fitter. And Julie is indeed busy, shuffling between job on most days, although she does at least mostly single shifts coming up.

And an unexpected bonus for me. During January, I have been helping out at the IT Service Desk, because with the traditional military moving going on, it is their busiest time of the year and KAZ still has to meet their service level agreements, regardless of the level of demand. So I’ve been working there for the first 2 mornings of each week, until the managers figure that the demand has dropped off enough to let us go. I got a prize (2 movie tickets) for being one of the 6 that had put in the most number of hours. My name was called at number 6 and with the amount of time I had taken off for Datsun, thought I wouldn’t be anywhere near it, so it came as a complete surprise. On the second Monday back to work (the 19th), we broke the previous record for calls answered – over 6,000 in the day. It was funny to watch the people who come in for the afternoon shift (1-9 pm) arrive at 1 pm, to discover that there were no desks for them to sit at, not a single one in the whole building. I think we finally got away about 1:30 that day.

Because the new car is on a salary sacrifice deal, we need it to travel a certain distance each year for FBT (Fringe Benefits Tax) purposes, otherwise we switch up into the next tax bracket and it costs me. With the end of the FBT Year (31 March) bearing down on us, we had nowhere near enough kilometres on the clock. So we contacted our friends the Tannahills and suggested to them they might like to plan one of their frequent trips to visit friends and family in a different vehicle. For once, I had Leon stuck for words, albeit for just a few seconds. They have just returned from a wonderful trip across to the Riverland area of South Australia, and these photos are theirs.

With Julie working evening shifts, I have a LOT of time on my hands. Tonight for the walk with Kelly, I finally remembered to take the camera. Some nice shots there.

We have also started looking at motorhomes, with a preference for converted buses, on the basis that they tend to be “built to last” and tend to be at the lower end of the price range for vehicles up around the 35-40′ mark. I already have a MR (Medium Rigid) licence, so I can legally drive up to 10 tons, with a single rear axle. As soon as a vehicle has 2 rear axles, it becomes necessary to have a HR (Heavy Rigid) licence. Julie will need to take the course to upgrade anyway and I am seriously considering taking it as well. Our intention is to travel this vast country for as long as we can.

It has also been a dream of mine to provide an IT service to the people of the Outback, and now we have the opportunity to take it one step further, by offering a “we come to you, wherever you are” service. What a great excuse to go visit a remote cattle station! I am starting my OutbackIT website as an adjunct to what I already have at the aussierodney.com domain with the blog and the main site, both of which talk about our process of gaining sustainable wealth through property investment.

This whole process went one step further when I reviewed the converted bus that I was interested in and discovered that it had taken a huge price drop. So I had very early start on Saturday to fly to Brisbane, hire a car and drive to Bargara (pronounced B’gara) and check it out. I spent 4 hours there all up. It was Merv’s pride and joy – he had spent considerable amounts of money and countless hours (and probably lots of favours) on it, and it shows in all the little touches. Like the former front step area being converted into a slide-out BBQ. And the step well handle popping out to reveal the washing machine.

Combined with a toad (towed) in matching paint.

With the assistance of Glendda’s son Cameron, who just happened to be there this weekend, and Glenn a neighbour who knows his way around the local area, we took it for a drive. Hey, synchro gearbox, yay! Can’t hear the engine, have to guess the revs. The ride is very smooth.

We have now committed to buy it, just as soon as the refinance on half the portfolio comes through. I got back to Brisbane that night, followed by another early flight back to Canberra.