November 2010

Only one week into November and so much has happened. It turned out that what was making Julie cough so hard was plain ol’ Hay Fever! Dr Susan put her onto some allergy treatments and she brightened up within less than a day. So nice to have my wife back.

Part of my process towards the Bus Driver Authority was to do the proficiency course. I’ve had the manuals and question sheets since before we went to Seattle, so I had a really good chance to study them on the way over and again on the way back. Saturday was arranged to be the day for the formal course part of the certification, where 3 of us from Canberra had to make our way down to Pambula (almost to Eden, the last town on the coast road before Victoria), to meet the trainer and another applicant from Eden. As it happened, I had already planned to take the car for a run to get some miles on the clock and I ended up taking another applicant with me. We shared a motel room, sat the test and drove home again. We had already had ample time to work through our answers on the copy of the answer sheet, so the “course” part of the process was working through the answers and verifying the correct answers for each section, then transferring those answers onto the official answer sheet. If you don’t score 100%, you’re an idiot. So I am now one step closer to picking up weekend driving shifts.

Hmm. Haven’t updated this for a while. The weather this Spring has been incredibly wet, pretty much all over the country as far as I can work out. It’s almost as if it’s been trying to make up for the 10 years of drought. Probably a typical La Nina effect, and the dams are now up to 90% full, where they have been struggling to get above 55% for ages.

Julie got talking to one of her replacement temps after we returned and mentioned that she reads books on her iPhone. He offered to give her a heap of books, so she now has a plentiful supply for whenever we go away next. Meanwhile, after losing her mother, she has finally acquired the impetus to quit smoking. It’s still pretty hit and miss, but she has certainly cut back quite dramatically, which in turn eases the budget a bit. Work has been just as stressful since we returned as it had been when we left, compounded by the news that they are moving to another location in Mitchell in January.

I took another step towards being ready for the bus driving work. I discovered I would need not only the Driver Authority for NSW, but also a similar thing in the ACT, called an O (for Omnibus) classification on my ACT licence. Before we left, I had made an appointment with our doctor for a few days after we returned, and together we filled out the required medical form. I put together all the papers they would need and took them in person to the ACT RTA (Road Transport Authority) office, and not just the local one, but the main one at Dickson, over the other side of town.  The lady who served me got copies made and certified, and she would fax them to “upstairs”. Several days later, got a letter saying that, just last month, they had changed their requirements for a first time application and the medical had to be done by Medicare Health Services (or something).

OK, I have a NSW DA and I should be eligible for “mutual recognition” in the ACT. So I looked that up on their website, got all the relevant papers together, took them and handed them all to the same lady. Got a phone call from her later in the day, that “upstairs” would need a NSW Driver Report. Huh? I haven’t had a NSW licence for over 30 years! Anyway, called up the NSW RTA and spoke to a lovely lady who took me through the whole process, took a payment over the phone (safer than faxing credit card details), gave me a receipt number, emailed me where to find the form online and what to write where, I faxed it off that night from home, and the report arrived in a few days. Took that into the ACT RTA and handed it to the same lady as before. Got another phone call, this time needing a copy of my Passport, probably to prove my right to work here. Several more days later, called the lady again, who called back to say it had been approved. Bolted out of work that afternoon down to the local RTA office and got it all squared away. Whew!

Along the way, we had a Visit from CMCA colleagues Julian & Ali, who have a motorhome that looks a lot like a refrigerated container, on the back of a 4WD truck. This things goes almost anywhere! We chatted about the CMCA Forum and the GeoWiki, which is a map-based database of all things a motorhomer needs, like Dump Points, Campgrounds, Caravan Parks, Rest Areas, etc. Until now, it’s been mostly Julian’s work, he needs to move it to a collaborative style of development and I have offered to contribute to that process. As they were back in Canberra to visit their daughter, they also called in again yesterday on their way back to Queensland and we talked some more. Ali was delighted to be given a selection of Julie’s e-books. Julian also pulled the truck up next to the bus for some height comparison photos. I was surprised to see that their is not much higher than the bus.

As it was towards the end of Eemeli’s stay here in Australia this month, he has been staying with his parents in the Gold Coast for a couple of weeks. On their last night here in Canberra, we hosted a BBQ for the 3 of them, plus the other host parents, our neighbour Tim, and our long time friends Bob & Jen. It was a our one and only opportunity to meet and get to know Jukka & Annakaisa. Poor Angel was pretty traumatised by all the people, and ended up on Jukka’s lap for a good part of the evening. I think he fell in love with her as I have. It was certainly one of our better parties, as everyone was happy to get in and talk, and enjoy each other’s company.

Kelly & Angel continue to “grow their relationship”, as Kelly becomes even more tolerant (most of the time) and Angel has become more playful and just a little bit more confident around him. Sometimes, she even backs him up on his guard duty. At times, we have seen them not so much snuggled up, but more in “close company”, like being tail to tail on the same step, for example. Angel still has no clue of what to do with a leftover or a piece of meat. She knows it smells good and Kelly eats it, but it’s not Angel food!

We elected not to go to the company Ball this year. The previous year, it was held at Parliament House and we found a great parking spot for the bus only about 200m from the front door, tucked away in the trees and it felt relatively safe. This year, the Ball was at the National Convention Centre, surrounded by open car parks, where I would think twice about even leaving a car there overnight, let alone an attractive looking bus. On top of that was previous events we have attended there, and we haven’t been impressed with the food.

The news for this week is that the Deanes Transit Group have won the contract for the 3-month trial of the Night Rider service. On Friday when I dropped in my employment details and forms, I had a quick chat with the Operations Manager and he explained that the service runs on Friday and Saturday night. We leave the depot in Queanbeyan at midnight with a security guard on board each bus, to operate 9 routes to the various parts of Canberra from Civic. Each bus has its own route for the night. It’s likely that I would get one of the Inner South routes, covering Woden and Weston Creek, which is my current stamping ground. Depending on the length of the route, we would expect to do between 3 and 5 runs with the latest departure from Civic being around the 4am mark, arriving back at the depot somewhere around 5am. The route we take depends on where the passengers need to go, as it is our aim to get them as close as possible to their destination, while staying on reasonably negotiable streets. Scott suggested that I could quite easily use the security guard as an assistant to seek out and bring forward passengers destined to where we are heading next and get them to provide directions. If they’re not too drunk, of course. The trial runs for 3 months from the first weekend in December (next weekend), pausing only for the Christmas weekend, so that means weekend work right through to the end of February.

Last weekend, we put both scooters on eBay. Julie’s Orion sold for the rock bottom price of $1,500 to a local person. Turns out his wife was doing the bidding while he was at work (driving buses!), her English is not good and she missed the bit about the steering lock being broken. Turns out that it will cost over $500 to fix. I wouldn’t bother, but it was important to her to be able to lock it and it was equally important to him to keep her happy. So the sale fell through. Meanwhile my Hawk was bidded up from $1,000 to the final price of $1,460, and sold to a couple from Wangaratta. They drove up to Canberra yesterday (Saturday), were very happy with it, loaded it up on the back of their ute and took it away, together with a pair of heavy jeans that I didn’t need anyway. Kinda sad to see my scooter drive away, but we are moving on. This one was Julie’s.

So the end of this week brightened up a bit with all the above activity. In addition, Julie’s family called her on Friday, while they were gathered at Nancy’s place for Thanksgiving, which was nice, as it helped her to feel part of their celebrations. And we celebrated in our own way by taking Tim to the local club for dinner, where Tim won a meat tray. It’s just good news all round!