Why I hate banks – and the NAB in particular!

Customer service at banks has gone the way of the dinosaurs – and just like this ancient crocodile the modern banker will take all in one big bite and give back nothing!

When I was a teenager my father went with me to a local bank to open my very first account.  The bank manager, a family friend, was exactly what bank managers used to be – conservative, avuncular, nicely dressed.  He positively exuded TRUST!  And my father said “Always remember the bank manager is your friend.  And that the bank is the best place for your money.”

How times have changed!  We don’t have bank managers any more; they have gone the way of those other dinosaurs, financial accountability and customer service.  TRUST?  Don’t make me laugh.  Banking today is awash with scandal as over-paid CEOs and other senior staff vie with shareholders to grab and mis-spend your hard earned dollar.  Maybe if you’re Warren Buffett you might get some customer service – but if you’re Josephine Average, forget it.

I embraced internet banking with enthusiasm.  The fact that sometimes I can’t get into my accounts because the site is for some reason unavailable I have tried to bear with patience.  The other fact, that if for any unfortunate reason you should need to contact them direct you will wait for up to an hour gnashing your teeth on the phone I have born with less patience.  Banking today is not for wimps!  And certainly not for the elderly who were raised in a different and more gracious era.

The only reason I bank with the National Australia Bank is because it was one of the two banks on Tamborine Mountain to offer counter service.  You could actually go in there and meet REAL people.  And there was a handy ATM outside.  A few months ago they arbitrarily closed this branch despite Tamborine being a growing community – and likely to grow more as a dormitory suburb for the Gold Coast and the new satellite community of Bromelton.  Customers were not consulted.  Instead they got an insulting letter from some bloke in Brisbane telling us how wonderful the bank was and how it  had our interests at heart.  Oh yeah?  Do they really think we fall for that stuff?  They even took away our ATM!

So this week I have bought new a car and need to pay for it.  Because, even in this digital age,  bank transfers take up to three days, and as the car is ready to collect tomorrow, I wanted to pay by bank cheque.  Remember cheques?  They do at least have the virtue of taking effect immediately. So we ring the head office and after the usual long wait we are told we will have to get a cheque from the Nerang Branch – a 40 minute drive away.  Knowing full well that this will mean queuing for gawd knows how long (bearing in mind our ages) in a bank in a hot and horrible place we try to arrange for this to be ready for collection.  But, oh no, that’s MUCH too difficult for the modern bank.  We are told that the Nerang Branch “isn’t answering its phone”!!!!!!

Well, obviously we are not going to take the risk of going down there and suffering all the usual mucking about that passes for customer service these days.  It’s too stressful.  So, we have to delay picking up our new car from the dealer while the bank takes its own sweet time to transfer OUR money – just a few kilometres to Robina, down the road.  No wonder people rob banks – it’s probably the easiest way of getting your money out!

If you go onto the NAB website you will be able to read all the guff about how socially responsible they are and how they offer services to those with language difficulties, visually impaired, otherwise challenged etcetera etcetera and sobloodyforth!  How about offering some service to ordinary people…or, more importantly, those customers who are elderly and often frail and who need all banking transactions to be as simple and straightforward as possible.  THAT”S customer service.

Banks are so big that it’s difficult for any of us to do anything about them.  We can’t fight them, or appeal to their better natures – in fact today it’s almost impossible to get into any meaningful contact with them at all.  We put up with them because we don’t know where else to put our money.  All we CAN do is vent our rage on social media – oh, and of course be as difficult with them as possible.  When I have time I shall amuse myself by continuously ringing them up and tying up bank personnel with frivolous questions, going into what I call my dithering Margaret Rutherford old lady act.  Bombarding them with ridiculous queries.  Going into bank buildings – when one can find such a building  – and dithering around in the queue and at the window.  If I can’t be a respected customer I can at least be a damned nuisance.  Because the one thing we oldies DO have is time!

Oh and by the way, I am going to transfer my accounts to Suncorp – because that’s the only bank we have left here on the mountain.  At least one can go in there and deal with real people and sort out problems in THEIR time without hanging about on a phone line or web line.

Goodbye, NAB, it’s been no pleasure knowing you.

 

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Happy New Year!

Bob and I on Christmas Day – our 54th Christmas together

Well it’s been a very pleasant Festive Season with heaps of activities – singing, acting, partying – leading up to a quiet family Christmas lunch and culminating in one of the best New Year’s Eves I’ve had in many an auld lang syne!

In fact I went to TWO parties this year.  One next door with a quietly merry bunch of Anglicans (Church of England to non-Aussie friends and relos) including one bishop, two vicars and little old wine-drinking atheistic me!  Not, mind you, that this lot can’t knock back a glass or two when the occasion warrants it.  Anyway,  it was all thanks to our lovely neighbours Barbara and John who put on a good spread along with the good cheer.  Also present were our other lovely neighbours The Rev Rev Robin and my even uglier older sister Pauline.   I should explain, Pauline and I played the Tarty Twosome in a very adults only version of Cinderella – the Capolettes (our community players) panto for this

 

At Barbara and John’s, all dressed up ready for a festive evening

Christmas 2018.  Me busting out of my bustier and she with flashing nipple decorations and both of us with fright wigs – but I digress….

So I left Bob safely at home and ventured forth at 8 pm with friends Brenda, Bernice and Wolfgang to a party at the home of our madcap Scottish friend Louise who really knows how to turn on a guid hogmanay.  There were banners on the gates to her exceedingly long driveway – the cross of St Andrews and the Lion of Scotland or whatever it’s called, and more of them at the front door.  It’s a great house for a party – huge kitchen, wide deck overlooking her green acres, great sunken music room with baby grand.  And it was there we gathered to sing our hearts out- many a Jacobite song was bellowed bravely along with some feeble Sassenach responses from myself – my valiant attempt at Rule Britannia and Jerusalem was quite drowned out by Scotland the Brave and various laments from all those battles which the English won (okay, there was Bannockburn but after that we didn’t let them have a single tartan triumph until we thoroughly got our own back at Culloden – Will he no come back again? Not bloody likely and who’d have wanted him anyway that plump little princeling?!) ….where was I?…oh yes, we sang all the lovely old Scots favourites like Annie Laurie and Ye Banks and Braes too.  And what Hogmanay would be complete without a rousing rendition of Donald Whaurs Yer Troosers!

Cometh the hour, cometh the man and this hour produced a couple of very good male singers among the predominantly female chorale, some of us Bella a Capella members who – though only five of us – did a fair job of I am Australian.

Then it was Auld Lang Syne and promises of eternal friendship and let’s do it again next year and a bit of dancing.  The party was still going strong when  Brenda, Wolfgang and I dragged Bernice away and as I climbed thankfully into bed after a quick shower I tried to remember the last NYE when I was carousing after midnight.

I still managed to be up by 6 – an hour later than usual this time of year – and Bob and I did our usual walk (in his case ride) over to The Knoll which was deserted at that hour.  We sat at our favourite table and ate our bacon sandwiches and drank our coffee and made our new year’s resolutions.  2018 was a pretty good year for our family so let’s hope 2019 produces more of the same.  Here’s wishing a Happy New Year to all our friends and relos around the world!

 

I took a pic of Wolfie napping in a chair, with Beau the Beagle, and he promptly woke up. Obviously a power nap because he was up dancing with Sandy not long afterwards!

Bob is happy he’s made it through another year!

The morning after – and a somewhat hazy westward view from the spot where for yonks now Bob and I have celebrated the coming year with a picnic breakfast. Not so long ago that view showed little signs of habitation – now there are houses and dams scattered everywhere

Looking forward to the first breakfast for 2019!

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The baton and the fire!

The ceremonial fire comes to life on our mountain

Well April 1 2018 was a great day for those of us lucky enough to live on Tamborine Mountain.  The community turned out in force to welcome the Queen’s baton relay, the end of a worldwide and then Australia-wide journey for the Brisbane-made baton that carries the Queen’s message to the 2018 Commonwealth Games.  From here the baton was carried down the mountain to the Gold Coast below, where the games are being held.

Actually the Commonwealth Games bore me rigid but it was still nice to see such enthusiastic support for our local baton carriers.   And our beloved mountain looked lovely in the aerial shots on TV.

For myself and friends the real highlight of the day was the Shared Fires Celebration  which began at sundown with a welcome to country by Aboriginal Elder Aunty Ruby and some spectacular lighting of the fire circle and adjacent flame trees (to commemorate Judith Wright’s poem, written here on Tamborine and locally much-loved).

The whole event took place on the Geissman Oval, within easy walking distance of my house which was good because all available nearby parking was taken up by the crowds and the workers, with people being bused in from various parts of the mountain.  The oval and its forest backdrop was brought to life with fire pits around which people could sit, craft stalls, food trucks, a bar,  tables and chairs, lights.

Bronwyn Davies who looks after such cultural events for the Scenic Rim Regional Council did us all proud and so did all of her helpers.  But my personal gratitude goes mainly to Andrew Veivers, a lovely man and Brisbane-based musician, musical educator, composer and fine flamenco guitarist (think the acclaimed Flamenco Fire) who pulled the whole musical event together.  This involved the specially-formed Scenic Rim People’s Orchestra featuring musicians from all over the area as well as school orchestras and a guest singer (Kaycee? Casey?) to lead the vocalisation of the song and music composed by Andrew especially for the occasion, Quiet Enough to Hear.

We were all given our scores on-line and had only four rehearsals to pull it all together (though of course we practiced in our various sections with members of our local ukulele group, led by Linda, rehearsing together. Thus we had five ukulele players and the same number of guitarists, all of us friends.  Thanks to sophisticated sound techniques and good micing up we were able to be heard up there on stage with all that brass and woodwind!

The didgeridoo gave the evening a haunting start as the firelighting ceremonies began and then the combined choirs and orchestras played and children  costumed as fireflies and birds and others a-twinkle with lights (as were those of us in the orchestra) paraded and danced.  It was a glittering spectacle in the gathering darkness when the rain clouds, presumably summoned by Aunty Ruby who spoke of the rain spirit in her welcome, began to threaten.  Luckily they waited until we were headed for home.

A great day for Tamborine, a great night for myself and musical friends, and I am just so happy and proud to have been a tiny part of this historic event.  Playing up there with an orchestra!  Who’d have thunk it!

Linda, Brenda and I pose with musical director for the event, Andrew Veivers.

The Queen’s message baton arrives on Tamborine Mountain

It comes with a large support group as well as TV crews

…and a police escort

The baton relay ends in Main Street before heading down to the Gold Coast for the start of the Games

Our fifth and final rehearsal in the Vonda Youngman Hall, Andrew out front as the kids gather below/ We are on stage behind him, before going down to the oval to perform

Barry and Linda dressed up and raring to go – it’s always so much fun to play and sing with them.

The distant stage taken from the audience – and by my friend Pat.

Bob, sitting with friends around one of the fire pits, waits for the entertainment to begin

The fire circle is lit by traditional Aboriginal methods

The fire circle is complete….

…and now the flame trees on either side, commemorating Judith Wright’s famous poem, are lit too.

The flame bearers take the fire through the crowd

The choir and orchestra perform Quiet Enough to Hear, celebrating the natural wonders of our region. I can just be spotted far left behind the keyboard player

The view from the stage, looking over the crowd

Barry and Brenda all smiles once the performance is over and our efforts over the past many weeks have come to a successful outcome

The rain held off until it was time to go home.  Here Sue and Dave perform their version of Singin’ in the Rain, wearing ponchos thoughtfully provided by the organisers, before  a wet walk back to ours for a welcome drink to end the night.

 

 

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An old-fashioned wedding

Signing the register

It’s more than 30 years since I’ve been to a wedding and a very long time indeed since I’ve been to an old-fashioned one – in a church, with the old vows and trappings.

Today our neighbours Barbara and John got married and theirs is a love story that – as Barbara’s son said in his speech at the reception – really is an affirmation of life.  Because Barbara and John are not in the first flush of youth, nor even the second.  They are in and around the eighth decade and, both having lost their lifetime spouses, decided that their late life romance should be celebrated in the traditional way, with a traditional wedding ceremony.

Very sweet it is to see them holding hands; to see Barbara’s simple but elegant engagement ring and, now, the gold bands on both their third fingers.  Sweet, also, to see their two families suddenly united with apparent amicability and warm tributes to the bride and groom from both sides.

Most of the wedding ceremony was according to the King James version of the Bible – a relief to we oldies who appreciate elegant prose even if we are not religious.  Three of the four hymns were equally traditional.  One of Barbara’s son (a noted musician and teacher) played the organ and there was a trumpeter too, sending the bride and groom back up the aisle with Clarke’s Voluntary in fine, traditional style.

But there were modern touches too, surprising to those who no longer go regularly to church. Our Archdeacon is a woman, and nothing at all like the Vicar of Dibley, being slender and elegant and warm of voice.  Martin Honeybun, friend to many of us and who  presided over the ceremony, is the kind of Rev who makes even non-theists like myself think kindly of his calling.

Most surprising of all – people clapped!  After the readings, after the vows and stuff.  Clapped!  In a church!  MIrabile dictu!

The little parish hall was packed for the reception, the food was sumptuous and the wine flowed as freely as the tea urns – and it was only late morning!  Even more surprises, some parts of the speeches were quite raunchy – a lot raunchier than those I remember from the weddings of my wild youth.  The Christians all laughed their heads off – only a couple of we non-believers showed shock when Viagra got a mention!

I’m not usually a fan of weddings – I live in the wedding capital of south-east Queensland and today most of them are all about the show; expensive ceremonies with little to say about the real commitment of marriage.

However Barbara and John’s wedding is one I’ll long remember for its warmth and optimism.  It really IS a triumph of good hope over the vicissitudes of experience to unite in marriage so late in life.  They make a lovely couple so I wish them all the happiness in the world for however many years they have together.

 

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An unusual birthday gift

Sandy – an elegant vision at her 60th

Cliff in reflective mood (or possibly taking a quick nap!) at Sandy’s Arabian Nights-themed 60th birthday bash

Being a member of the Bella a Capella singing group is not just about the music – it’s about love and friendship – and having a damned good time even in the face of adversity.

A couple of years ago I wrote on this blog about my friend Sandy’s Big Birthday, at which her partner Cliff gave her a moving accolade.

This week Sandy had another birthday but, sadly, Cliff is no longer here to celebrate it with her because some weeks ago he died, after a long illness, leaving Sandy to cope with a large house and garden alone.  She has decided to make the most of her assets by converting part of the house to a B and B.  It’s a big challenge but Sandy is full of grit so she’ll undoubtedly make a success of it.  To help her get off to a good start, her friends in Bella a Capella decided to give her the best birthday present they could – a working bee.  First priority was to restore the vegetable garden and ornamental border adjacent to what will become the guest quarters, which had become neglected during the long period of Cliff’s illness – and that’s what we did yesterday afternoon.

Eight of the Bellas* turned up for the occasion, in our scruffiest clothes and armed with gardening tools (and food and wine!). At first sight the job seemed overwhelming for a bunch of not-so-young women but despite occasional showers we got stuck in and after 2 ½ hours this section of the garden was transformed – cleared, weeded, tidied, raked, swept, rubbish bagged up, beds fertilised and mulched.  All ready for Sandy to plant out with a selection of organically-grown foodstuff.

The thing about being a Bella is that we always have fun and just love being together.  It’s a very varied group of women that includes health professionals, writers, artists, scientists, teachers, social workers and corporate executives – among others.  Most of us are good gardeners and cooks, too (okay Bernice K, that excludes you but then you do have other talents!).  So taking on a gardening task gave us a chance to share our knowledge and reminisce about vegetables we have grown, herbs we have harvested, fruit we have turned into jams and pickles.

Mind you, all this knowledge didn’t stop some of us pulling out Sandy’s chives, thinking they were nut grass!  And there was some disagreement as to whether the asparagus foliage should be cut back or not!

After the work was done and we’d straightened our backs and washed our grubby hands and swapped our muddy boots for other footwear we gathered on Sandy’ big verandah from which you can see nothing but trees (the B and B will prove very popular with birdwatchers) to consume our wine and nibblies.  Dianne, the El Supremo of cake-making, had of course made a gorgeous birthday cake for Sandy and we toasted her and each other (and Bernice for organising it all) and then did what the Bellas do best – sang!

We all had such a good time I think we shall have to do it again!

*(Bernice, Brenda, Louise, Sue, Julie, Linda, Dianne, Renee)

Before we start, Linda checks her s ecateurs and Dianne check s her phones.  Meanwhile I am checking out Sandy’s wine cabinet!

At first sight this once-flourishing vegetable garden looks overwhelming in terms of work to be done – weeds everywhere

I’m certainly raring to go, with my mattock and weed basket

A very weedy corner

Brenda, Sue and Di get stuck into the central bed ….

Until Di comes to grips with a particularly tough Siratro root – and the weed wins. Though not for long. This was just one of many hilarious moments during our weed-busting afternoon!

Even the rain doesn’t stop our LindyLou – she’s come prepared with a shower-proof jacket

Not everyone likes to garden. Louise and Bernice opt to do some painting instead – here they inspect a piece of furniture which Bernice has first had to clean off the mould before trying to restore it to its former glory.

Gradually we create order out of chaos – Di has almost cleared this bed of weeds while Sue cleans up in the background.

The end is in sight! Renee drags a final barrow-load to the bagging area

Hurray! It’s just about done!

Brenda and I dance for joy – and hope nobody mistakes us for a pair of scarecrows!

Food for the weary workers – and wine. Those are my potato and cheese scones in the foreground.

The birthday cake, made by Dianne. Beautifully decorated but with a mysterious indent in the chocolate icing. Many wild theories were put forward as to how this got there – Sany’s cat? Linda’s nose? Somebody else’s thumb? We never did find out but ate the cake with great relish. Lucky for us Di’s talents include cake making as well as singing and directing.

At the end of a very happy afternoon and evening, Sandy tells us ithe working bee was the best possible birthday present we could have given her.

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Delicious and easy left over pork recipe

The finished dish. The basil is just for garnish!

I love inventing new food ideas instead of just slavishly following recipes.  Once you’ve spent years doing the hard yards in learning the basics of how to bake and make and blend flavours skilfully you are free to do just as you like.  And in the age of fusion cuisine there is endless potential to create rather than conform.

Today I came up with a way of using up cooked pork which was so good I thought I’d share it.  And the basic idea can be adapted to other meat, vegies and ingredients.

Earlier in the week I’d roasted a shoulder of pork (from IGA at only $3.99 a kilo!) and though we’d had two meals from it and a lot of sandwiches there was still heaps left over. And what else do you have left over after roast pork?  Why, apple sauce of course!   So I needed to use that up too.

RECIPE (feeds 2 – 4 depending on what you serve with it)

Olive oil (about 4 tablespoons – I rarely measure!)

1 onion

1 carrot

4 baby eggplant (brinjal, aubergine) or one large one

Quantity of cooked pork (I used about 250 – 300 grams)

Chopped lettuce (or cabbage; I happened to have the last of a week-old lettuce to use up)

1 dessertspoon (approx.) mustard seeds. Optional.

1  dessertspoon of garlic (fresh or minced)

1 large glass of white wine

Water as required, about a small glass full

Salt and pepper

4 large tomatoes

Apple sauce

Sage, thyme and fennel

Heat the oil in a heavy pan (with thick base and lid) and lightly fry mustard seeds, then add onions.  When lightly browned add eggplant and carrot, then meat.  Turn it over with a wooden spoon so it is all coated with oil and lightly fried.  Add lettuce, garbage, garlic, the leaves from a sprig of thyme, and just a tiny bit of fennel.  Toss around a bit with the spoon, then add wine, salt and black pepper.

While this is gently cooking, cut out the tomato stem scars and make a bit of a hole in the top, scooping out some pulp and adding to the pot.  Fill the hollows with apple sauce, sprinkle with salt, black pepper and fresh sage and place carefully on top of the meat and veg in the pot.  Add a thickener to the mixture in the pot – either flour, cornflour (mixed first to smoothness with cold water) or a packet or mushroom soup (which is what I used) – using just enough water, about a small glass, to make a sauce that is not too thick and not too runny. Put the lid or other tight covering on the pot and simmer for 15 minutes, making sure it doesn’t stick and burn.  You could also cook for half an hour in a pre-heated medium oven.  Slow-cooking would be okay but the tomatoes would wrinkle and not present so well.  Serve with rice, pasta or potatoes – mine today will be served with potatoes that have been boiled and then lightly browned in oil.

The good thing with this dish is that the astringency of the tomatoes and sweetness of the apple sauce (lightly flavoured with sage) cuts down  the rich and slightly fatty taste of pork.  It’s a delightful contrast.

Any left over vegies could also be added to this dish, or a few frozen peas, or fresh pumpkin, or sweet potato – anything you fancy.

You can make this dish early in the day, or the day before, and reheat gently when required.

 

 

 

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Norbert’s last message

The green banks of Cainbabel Creek

 

Recently I had an inquiry on this website about an article I’d written some time ago, about the O’Reilly family of Green Mountains, an hour from where I live.  Terence Egan wanted to know more about Norbert O’Reilly’s poem Cainbabel Creek.

The poem appears in Bernard O’Reilly’s Over the Hills; in Bernard’s own words: “The lines below were sent by my brother Norbert to the Kerry* girl he had hoped to marry.  They were written in France and arrived in Australia weeks after the news of Norb’s death had come by cable”.

Like his brother Bernard, Norbert was a fine bushman and a man accustomed to tough challenges yet he possessed a poetic soul.  How terrible it must have been to find himself amidst the mud and blood and pointless misery of trench warfare, so far from the green hills and valleys of Home. How poignant that he knew, as he wrote the following lines in August 1917, that he would never see that home again.

Today I often wander the banks of Cainbabel Creek and I never fail to think of Norbert.

(*The Kerry valley, between Beaudesert and the mountains where Cainbabel Creek rises)

CAINBABEL CREEK

Thoughts come to me as I wander

With a loose and dropping rein,

Thoughts of days gone by and ended

Flash into my mind again

 

When I rode in blissful silence

With a heart to full to speak

There was one who rode beside me,

By your banks, Cainbabel Creek.

 

Crooning streamlet full of beauty,

Banks of  darkest emerald treen,

Tiny waterfalls that ripple

Over rocks with silken sheen

 

Fig-tree branches softly clustering,

Blending green of every shade

With a harmony more perfect

Than e’er human heart has made

 

And there rushes swiftly o’er me

Memory that is almost pain,

As there comes the fresh, damp perfume

Of those fig-tree boughs again.

 

Cainbabel, you’re watching dearest

Haunts me daily like a spell,

Calls me back again in spirit

To the spot I love so well.

 

Brings me back when I am weary

The peace of soul I vainly seek,

Though I never more shall see you

Peaceful, cool Cainbabel Creek.

 

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