Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I despair: Telstra

WARNING: Rant follows

Some years ago I lived in another country and there I had a home telephone line.  I never thought much about it.  I just paid the bill every month and whenever I wanted to phone someone I just got on the blower and phoned them.  Simple.  I had my home internet service with the same provider.  The only time I ever heard from them was one snowy day when my children had been stuck indoors for an entire school holidays and had used up our internet allocation for the month.  Then someone from my internet service provider phoned me to suggest we move to a different plan as that would be better value.  Nice.

Then I moved to Australia and somehow fell through a telecommunications crack in time that now sees me with the sort of home phone service that my mother wouldn't have stood for back when I was a girl.  These days I spend a considerable amount of my time and energy just trying to keep phone and internet services connected to our house.  Those of you who have done away with a home phone line may think that just going mobile might be a better option.  But alas, I live in Falcon WA, which despite being in one of the fastest growing cities in Australia, has extremely poor mobile coverage.  Neither my home mobile (Telstra) or my work mobile (Telstra) work at my house. 

So yet again today I did not have the day I had planned to have because of Telstra.  Today for the third time this year, I went to use the phone only to find it completely dead.  On the past two occasions (this year, this rant would be far too long if I catalogued all the various problems we have had with Telstra since moving to Australia) it took several days to get the problem fixed.  The last time was only two weeks ago.  For two days our phone was dead.  Then Telstra cheerfully phoned me at work to say that the problem was fixed.  Next thing we discover that all our calls were being transferred through to the home phone of a woman who lives in Mittagong, NSW.  I chatted to her several times while we were trying to get Telstra to fix the problem.  In the end she told me that I was probably being too nice and needed to get grumpier with Telstra.  So I faked another case of early onset grumpy old woman syndrome and suddenly it got fixed.

Today I spent the day at home with a seriously ill child, no home phone and no mobile reception.  When I finally ran down the road to report the fault Telstra's response was that hopefully someone would get back to me within 3 working days.  I said "Er, not good enough" before my mobile lost reception and cut out.  Later when I rang to follow-up I was told "They needed to get a part in" as if I was calling from Antarctica!  So to all of you desperately trying to phone through with birthday wishes for my son or with exciting party invitations for me (mwah ha ha), I have absolutely no idea when we will next be able to chat. Sigh.

The thing is, Telstra and their gob-smackingly poor service have worn me down.  I despair that because of the numerous times I have had to deal with them over the past 18 months, with problem after problem after problem, that now I really do have early onset grumpy old woman syndrome. (I think it has even altered my looks.  That's me above, what do you think? ) Their inability to deliver such a seemingly simple service as a home telephone line beggars belief and has left me desperately seeking an alternative.  The problem is that everyone I've mentioned this to reckons that the alternatives are just as hopeless.  Double sigh.

A big project in Australia at the moment is the National Broadband Network.  Politicians bang on about it constantly as if somehow building a fatter pipe is going to change the world.  Well good luck to them, but given my experience of Australian telecommunications, that seems like attempting to make a souffle when you haven't even mastered boiling eggs.

To all those people who write to me about whether they should move here (and who I always have great difficulty replying to), you have been warned.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Summer holiday at our beach house

This summer we didn't go away for a summer holiday.  This was partly to do with the fact that I had just started a new job and had to work part-time right through the school holidays, and partly to do with the fact that we already live at a summer holiday destination.

Truckloads of people come here for their summer holidays; many mornings we would wake to find a seemingly abandoned beach house in our street suddenly populated with boats, vehicles and holidaymakers. Shade sails went up, patio furniture went out, shutters were opened, barbeques were cranked up.

As my household relaxed into holiday mode suddenly our house felt like a beach house too.  Days were spent waking late and hiding indoors from the heat.  Sustenance came from homemade cold tea punch, iceblocks from the freezer and GYO meals. Our soundtrack featured the pounding of the sea, tinny cricket commentary from a neighbour's radio, the faint whir of the ceiling fan and favourite music. Occasionally an adult would brave the outdoors to water our new garden, being wary of the initial stream of scalding hot hose water.  Then we'd retreat back indoors to cool air and lukewarm water from the cold tap. Hours slipped by as we read, played board games and read some more.  My housemates developed and cured various computer-game addictions.  I had no hope of getting near the computer to write.

By late afternoon, when the sun had lost its harshness, we would venture out for slow walks and sunset swims.

If you head west from our house, you will soon find this in the path.   (Don't be fooled.  There is no naked lesbian pool party. That arrow actually points into a snake-filled reserve which ends with sharp crumbling limestone cliffs which drop away into the ocean.)

Stick to the path, walk on a few more minutes and you will come to this sign.  (Sadly the only snakes we have seen here were squashed on the road.)

Then you will arrive at this gorgeous stretch of coast. 

We don't know if this patch has an official name but a well-named friend who lives a street over from us has named it Harvey's Bay. It is perfect for exploring rock pools when the tide is out and swimming when the tide is in.

Head slightly north of our house past this letterbox, which always makes me think of all the wonderful people I know in Christchurch,

and you get to this craggy coastline.  Perfect for fishing, walking and sightseeing.

Head east from our house past this sign

and you quickly reach the Peel Inlet.

Perfect for walking, kayaking, crabbing and boating.

Head south from our house past this sign, which always makes me smile,

and you soon arrive at our favourite part of Mandurah's beautiful 52km coastline: fabulous Falcon Bay.  It is always popular with the locals but in peak holiday season it gets packed.

It is perfect for boogie boarding or surfing when the surf is up or swimming out to the pontoon when it is calm.  It is perfect for shaking off workday crapola at any time, but even so I'd still arrive home from work too written-out to fancy writing more.

Some days we would venture slightly further afield to one of Mandurah's other beaches: Madora Bay, San Remo, Silver Sands, Town Beach, Doddies, Blue Bay, Calypso or Avalon.  Then we would all agree that while those beaches are lovely too, we still love Falcon Bay the most. 

In the evenings we prepared simple fridge-to-plate dinners and sipped icy-cold cider.  We'd throw the windows open and let the welcome sea-breeze in. Sweep the sandy lino and hang out the wet togs. Rinse off under a cold shower despite having plentiful scorching hot solar-heated water. Put the sofabed down, the spare mattress out and welcome a sleepover guest. I'd end the day too tuckered-out to write properly.

So head to bed to read to a soundtrack of the faint drone of a distant road, revs of courting motorbike frogs, laughter from a neighbourhood party and the flapping of gauzy linen curtains.  Finish one book. Pick up the next one from the pile. Read until the wee small hours.

Do the same again the next day and the next day and the next. No packing and unpacking.  No marathon drives.  No beach house rental costs. Just a perfect summer holiday at our very own beach house.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Come ride with me

Today for the first time in eight weeks, I am at home alone.  I've been compiling an update to stick on here.  However I love this little taste of what one member of our household has been up to so much that it needs its own outing.

Click below and go for a ride around Perth's Cultural Precinct in some mighty fine company.  The children and I just happened to up in Perth as well that day.  We enjoyed watching the smiling faces of various participants then suddenly there was someone we knew taking part.

MOBILE MOMENTS sets out across the Perth Cultural Centre for a new series of Film Portraitures for the PROXIMITY Festival, presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights as a part of Fringe World 29 Jan - 19 Feb 2012

Most of the time I really like Perth, but sometimes I just love it.