Saturday, July 30, 2005

Count Down

Only a few sleeps left until we move into our own home again. Yay. We took ownership on Thursday; and as we speak there is a carpenter creating built-in wardrobes in the bedrooms and a painter painting the bedrooms. I hope they get along OK. The carpenter will be finished by lunch-time (fingers crossed once again). The removalist arrives on Wednesday, the mother-in-law arrives on Tuesday and hopefully touchdown (the point at which we can move into a fully furnished home) will be a week today. My wife and her mum will spend a few days unpacking stuff and no doubt I will spend a couple of evenings putting the shelves back together, setting up the home cinema, etc.

It is my view that when you purchase or sell a property that banks, lawyers and real estate agents cannot resist the large bucket of money sitting in front of them. It seems that no matter how tightly you keep an eye on the costs that one or all them seem to find a way to grab a bit extra.

In this recent experience it was the turn of the conveyancing firm. They rang me one day and said "we need you bring us a bank cheque for a very large amount of money". "OK", I said, "however please tell me what are the elements that make up this total figure." I asked this because I had kept a log of the amounts we were expected to make out but had not seen this particular figure. It took roughly half an hour for them to stop thinking in legal terms and actually give me break down. They started off by explaining that the house cost "this" amount, we were borrowing "that" amount and that the difference plus a number of fees was what they wanted me to bring along. So I said well please tell me what costs are the breakdown of this total amount. With some exasperation they started explaining their same story again. So I said "I understand what you are saying to me however I want a breakdown of that final figure please." With increased vexation they proceeded down the same explanation thinking I was some sort of simpleton or troublemaker and refusing by ignorance to provide me with the breakdown I asked for. It took roughly 40 minutes for them to finally get with the program and give me a breakdown of the figure. Some of the costs were: their fees, bank fees, sundry utility costs like water, rates, etc. I questioned why I was paying their fee in the lump sum bank cheque but it was explained away as an anomoly I couldn't figure.

Anyway, a few days later I get call from same conveyancing firm, apologising that they needed another bank cheque for a very tiny amount because in all we were $48 dollars short of the settlement amount. Why? Bank fees, the bank is insisting. OK give me the bank's phone number and I'll talk to them. I ring the bank and it turns out that the conveyancers were charging the cost of breaking up the big cheque into much smaller cheques, to us. %$#%#%$@@!! Out of contrariness I said to the bank that they should waive the cost of the cheques because in the long run they were going to be making squillions out of me, more than enough to pay for 6 cheques. Oh no, oh no, cheques are not free, even to staff!!

I rang back the conveyancers asked them for an explanation. With vexation - "Look we are doing this on your behalf you know, we have to raise these cheques for the final disbursement. You have to pay for them, they aren't free." I pointed out that in first place they asked me to include the amounts for these 6 bank cheques into the first monster cheque - "You are double dipping on the cost of cheques!". I was then told (with a touch of anger and much frustration) - "Alright, we'll pay for the cheques!". They hung up. In the past I would have just coughed up the money but this time I made them roll over. Quite pleased with myself really.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Grrrrr! I have only myself to blame. I was overjoyed to find my wife was clever enough to keep our digital camera out of storage. Yesterday was a glorious day. Windy, sunny and occasional showers, cold. The mountains looked fantastic draped in clouds and rain. I thought it would be great to take the family up to Mt Ainslie lookout and snap some landscapes of the city with magnificent Brindabellas in the background.

Get camera, try to turn on. Dead battery. Recharger in storage, where I put it!! Grrrr!

We went up the mountain anyway and it lived up to all my expectations. Tremendous views. We also went to see our first home. Our youngest was born there on the living room floor and he wanted to see it. I was also interested to see how all my trees were going ten years later. The ones that hadn't been removed or had died (don't know which) were beautiful and tall. It was at this house that I also spent 6 months and $3,000 building a darkroom in the backyard. Gone! Removed? Not there! Sadness. Disbelief. Severe annoyance. Except for the technical bits like plumbing and electricity it was all engineered and built by hand by my wife and I.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


Trees are the most gentle and amiable of creatures. They grow mostly wherever they can and sometimes oblige humans by growing in rows. Outstanding. I love all sorts of trees however my favourites are big ones. The street overlooked by my balcony is also an avenue of large oaks. They are probably about 60 or 70 years old, quite young really as I have seen oaks much larger than they. Canberra is a fantastic place for trees. Autumn is particularly beautiful and sadly I missed the full splendour of it however there is always next year.

I need to tell you about one particularly obliging beauty. I have started riding a bike again since returning to Canberra. Yay! It just seemed absurd to try and ride a bike in Sydney. It was not a friendly city in that way, although a number of brave souls would ride there. They would love Canberra.

One of my particular rides takes me from the city (where I am currently staying) to the northern suburb of Dickson which is where my post office box is. Part of my route is along a footpath. (I must warn you I am being side-tracked, not only by my own discourse but, by breaking news of some blasts in London where my sister-in-law currently lives). In the front garden of a house along the way there is a large tree next to the footpath. One of it's branches grows directly out into the path at head height for a bike rider. Bummer. It would never have occurred to me to do anything other than duck my head, however it did occur to someone in the dim past to cut the offending limb off at the point where it intersected the path. In response the obliging creature regrew the shortened limb but with one minor adjustment. The new limb arced over the path before resuming it's life's passage. Now one rides the path safely and briefly passes under a living arch. Truly outstanding. I hope when I get my digital camera out of storage to provide a photo.