Monday, 8 December 2014

WA Inc-arnated again

Suddenly every minister in the WA cabinet wants to pop a little extra onto car registration fees as a way of topping up their budget in the absence of regular funding from the State’s coffers. I think this means my little Peugeot will be sponsoring its own Government department. I'll put my hand up for Culture and the Arts – at least ballet dancers don’t eat much.

 I recall that there was a surcharge added to the car rego fees in the 1990's to pay for the indiscretions of WA Inc, for which we, as drivers were held responsible. I never quite figured that one out. I had assumed that rego fees would be reduced again once it was paid off, but after only twenty odd years my optimism has faded. Maybe the government took out a mortgage to pay it off, at 'private bank' interest rates, and they will start to pay off the capital any day now. That Laurie Connell was a lad and no mistake!

Now it looks likely that we'll have to pay a bit more each year by way of a Congestion Fee, because the current pittance hasn't been steep enough to keep us off the road. Sadly it seems that even making people unemployed doesn't stop them driving to Centrelink rather than hitchhiking, crawling or begging for the bus fare. Assuming there are buses to take them there.

 It's reassuring though that no-one has tried to pass the buck on the congestion problem by suggesting that the Government should take some responsibility for poor road planning. It's not like they could have guessed that if you design freeways that have wide bits and then skinny bits it's going to slow things down.
The only hope is if the Government makes a firm commitment to not spending money on road improvement. For start, they will be able to save a fortune on witches hats and those encouraging signs so appreciated by drivers crawling past in a ten km long tail back, as they issue a hearty electronic back slap of '6km/hour -well done!’ Furthermore, retaining our potholed and patched roads, (some of which could legitimately be granted 'heritage' status) will result in more careful driving, at least by those not in Government cars. Where road topography causes your major organs to undulate like a sackful of nervous jellyfish on a roller coaster, there is an incentive to slow down. While the Government may find that this has a negative impact on speed camera revenue,( d'oh, Dean Nalder) at least the Toorak Tractors will be able to get in a bit of 'off road' simulation without having to leave the Stirling Highway.

 So- it looks like the registration fees for my little car will be creeping up towards the $1,000 a year level and some economies will have to be made. Perhaps Mr Barnett would consider some sort of lease-back scheme on first borns? Now she's finished school, she certainly won't be able to afford to maintain a car and will sink under the weight of debt from a university education quicker than you can say ‘WA’s credit rating has been downgraded again'.

I've just heard though that the Government is planning on spending $280,000 on a urinal that rises from below ground in Northbridge at night to collect the waste of the wasted. So here's an idea to save some public money. Stop taking the piss.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Postcards From The (comet's) Edge

Hi to everyone back home - wish you were here! To be honest - I wish anyone was here. This place seems as popular on the tourist trail as a wet Tuesday on the Gaza Strip. There isn't even very much traffic, although what there is seems to rush by really fast and burn up in a fireball. It's a bit like a Saturday night in Rockingham.

I had suspected that booking a budget airline to get me here might be asking for trouble and I was right. They called it the mothership, but I reckon she should up on child-abuse charges. The inflight service was completely non-existent and the landing was really turbulent. They say that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing, so I suppose it must qualify, assuming you're cool about walking with your left kneecap embedded in your right ear. It'd take the smirk off that beardy berk Richard Branson, I can tell you.
I'm staying in a different neighborhood from the one I expected as well and there doesn't appear to be a sea view. Either that or the tide is out - by around 500 million kilometres. Still - I'm here for an archeological dig, not for a paddle, so I'm looking forward to that once I get the feeling back in all my legs again. Economy class travel is no laughing matter when you’re more supermarket trolley than biped.

The weather's not exactly what the brochure promised either - bloody dark and cold. If that was what I wanted for a holiday I could just have gone to Glasgow where I could at least get a beer and a deep fried Mars bar. They tell me the weather will be getting warmer, but they always say that, don't they? ''It's not usually like this at this time of the year'' or ''Don't worry, we're hurtling towards the sun at 18kms per second, so it'll stop drizzling soon.''.

 I read that this place hasn't changed in 4.5 billion years, which I suppose explains the discarded Chico Roll wrappers and uncanny similarity to Adelaide. Quite honestly, it's so depressing I think I'm just going to go to bed and set the alarm for August.

 Firstly though I've got to pop out and pick up some souvenir confectionery for everyone at the office. Honestly, they're obsessed - all they kept saying as I was leaving was ‘bring back some rock, bring back some rock.'
Can’t wait to show off the sun tan when I get back



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Projectile Travelling

I've been forced to the conclusion that there are those of us who travel with ease and others who are physiologically unsuited to leaving the sofa.

Holidays with my daughter are a rare treat, but without exception they are always punctuated by physical manifestations of travel-induced distress that result in jackpots for local pharmacists and lingering odours on unfortunate upholstery.

There are no countries we've visited that haven't seen the local cuisine returned with
emphasis to its pavements. No hire cars delivered back to their point of origin without a distinctive piquancy to their atmosphere that even a forest of pine tree - shaped air fresheners had been able to impact.

Before reaching the age of 16, Siana was taken from one aircraft by wheelchair, having swooned on top of a passing flight attendant. She has barfed into bags in the airspace above most countries you can name, and below the river Thames in the Blackwall tunnel. The majestic beauty of the NZ countryside has echoed to sounds that would make Orcs retreat in fear and revulsion. There may be a call-up coming from Peter Jackson.

Ever the optimist, I've been certain that she would grow out of it and that the latest holiday would see a cease-fire between her semi-circular canals and her digestive system. How wrong is it possible to be?

Thirty-six hours before our latest trip the first signs of a cold appeared; not something that would usually cause much problem in and of itself - in most people. In Siana's case however, I'm certain that colds are a suitcase-borne virus as they are an inevitable part of travel preparations. They bode bad shit.

The morning of our flight dawned and Siana was roused from bed as the sun's first rays filtered through the windows. In the usual groggy fashion of a teenager for whom a good night's sleep would, in other species be considered hibernation, she headed to the kitchen, filled a bowl with cereal and stuck her face in it.

 Things went downhill quickly when I decided to medicate her in preparation for flight. The effect of trying to add cold and flu tablets to juice and sugar was a bit like adding baking soda to vinegar. Siana went pale and ventured outside to get fresh air. I hope that the petunias thrive on the second hand orange juice and crunchy nut cornflakes with which they were liberally crop-dusted.

With the reassurance that it was at least 'out of her system', we set off for the airport, having very kindly been offered a lift there by an elderly neighbour. While I was sat in the front making polite conversation with the gentleman, murmurings from the back seat informed me that all was not well. I subtly retrieved a small plastic bag from my handbag and emptied it of its contents, quickly passing it back. The bag was rapidly refilled accompanied by a full symphony of guttural sound effects as peristaltic waves slammed into reverse gear. However, it seems that our neighbour was deaf to Siana's Vomitorium in C minor, as our conversation continued on its chipper little path without deviation or interruption. This created a somewhat surreal state of affairs, as to me it
sounded like Alien vs Predator was being re-enacted in the back seat.

I was loathe to draw our elderly driver's attention to events unfolding behind us, as he had already nearly driven straight through a red light even when his full attention was on the road. I feared that his concern for the rear upholstery in his new car could quickly become terminal for all three of us.

The back seat chorus abated but relief was short-lived as I was quietly informed that the bag was leaking. Further paperwork in my hand luggage was quickly stripped of it's file protector sleeve to serve as a barf bag reinforcement and handed back, just as the airport hove into view. I thanked our kindly neighbour profusely, praying that the  small souvenir of the experience that remained on the back seat would also escape his attention, but we fled into the terminal too quickly to find out.

A couple of hours later we boarded the flight, Siana resplendent in a newly-purchased pair of shiny jeans. The old ones had been forcefully confined to the case lest they tried to make an unaccompanied break through Immigration.

By the time we boarded the plane Siana's condition had stabilised. At least until the engines were switched on. Barely had we achieved cruising altitude when the flight attendants experienced a sudden flurry of demand from people in the seats adjacent to ours to please be moved to the rows behind the screaming babies.

Apparently in space no-one can hear you scream, but at 30,000 feet they can definitely hear you chunder.