Category Archives: Grumpy Old Lady Stuff

Fish and chip wrapping….today


I have had a long love affair with the newspaper.  I love padding out in my dressing gown to find it somewhere in the garden; I swear at the plastic wrap because it’s taking too long to get into it; I love getting lost in it and looking up and thinking “Ye Gods- is THAT the time?”

But if there’s one thing that’s going to push me over the edge into digital newspapers it’s reading two-day old news in ‘todays’ newspaper.  Jonathan Holmes on Media Watch some time back mentioned that because the Age sold its printing works in Tullamarine, the newspaper is now printed regionally, going to press at about 4.00 p.m. of the previous day.

To make matters worse, most of the articles in ‘today’s’ newspaper have been published online the previous day.  As a result, I flip through the paper thinking ‘read it, read it, read it’.

But the thing that really annoys me is that their stories are obviously written days earlier.  Take this paragraph in Friday‘s paper:


Adrian Bayley, the man who raped and murdered Jill Meagher is expect to appeal his convictions and sentence for raping two women before he attacked the ABC staffer in 2012.

Bayley’s barrister, Saul Holt QC is expected to hold formal appeal documents with the Supreme Court on Thursday.

I can only assume, then, that this article was written on Wednesday.  I noticed some time ago that the Age started naming the day of the week instead of saying ‘today’ or ‘tomorrow’.  I assumed that it was to be more specific in an online environment, but when articles don’t appear for two days in the newspaper, it suggests that their definition of ‘news’ is no longer time-bound.

Then there’s the sloppy editing. I think that I could find five mistakes in every edition of the newspaper.  It wasn’t like that previously.

I suspect that all of this is intentional on the Age’s part to force people to read the newspaper online.   I don’t really like the Age’s app. I find myself swiping just to get onto the next story without reading the story that’s already there on my screen; I can’t remember anything I’ve read later, and I don’t have a sense of having finished the paper. Besides, sticky Vegemite fingers are not good for swiping screens.

Print-based media companies complain about the demands of the 24 hour newscycle,  and I acknowledge that it’s certainly changed the whole environment. But then they offer you news that’s well and truly fish and chip wrapping and you have to wonder how hard they’re trying.

Does it have to be this ugly?

When I first heard about Baillieu’s plan to put armed guards on railway stations, I was not impressed.  I am even less impressed now that they’re actually arriving at my local station, Macleod.

Could a donga be any uglier?

Please Sir, may I have some more ….

A letter to Noel Whittaker “(financial adviser and international best-selling author”) in the Money section of the Age Wednesday September 11, 2013

My husband is 61 and retired.  I plan to retire when I reach 60 this year. We live in an apartment worth $1.7 million with an outstanding loan of $350,000. Our combined super is $1.2 million.  Do we have to draw on our super to pay off the loan so we qualify for the aged pension when we turn 65?

Well, obviously even Noel Whittaker (“financial adviser and international best-selling author”) found this a bit rich… (groan for bad pun):

Your assets are at a level where you’re almost (my emphasis) over the threshold for pension eligibility; therefore I certainly agree you should use $350,000 of your superannuation to pay off the home loan.  Just keep in mind that you are four years off pension age and even when you make the withdrawal from super, it is possible that good returns over the next four years will push you back over the asset-test threshold.  That’s a good problem to have because it puts you in the top 1 per cent of Australians in a financial sense.

I hope that this letter writer and her husband and in your sights for the ‘sense of entitlement’, Joe Hockey.

Can women apply?

I can’t quite believe that I’ve seen this.


Can women apply or only young men with sexy five o’clock shadows? The St Vincent’s Medical Education webpage is no better.

Hell, why not go back to the ‘Men’s’ and ‘Womens’ Positions Vacant columns and be done with it?

No thanks, bank.

I don’t get my cash from a “hole in the wall”.  Instead I go to the “money box”:  a squat little stand-alone unit that stands inside the hideous shopping mall that I use. But when I went to the money box last week my card was returned with the ominous message that my card was declined and to contact my bank.  There must be something wrong with the money box, I surmised, and  trotted off to the supermarket , intending to EFTPOS my cash when I got to the register.  But – oh dear- the card was declined again and once again I was told to contact my bank, which I promptly did after scraping together enough cash to buy my groceries.

My card had been compromised, the voice in the call centre said.  There had been a suspicious attempted withdrawal of 56 cents from “Melbourne Mobile Services” or something, and so they had closed my card down.  If desperate, I could go back to the money box, call them on my mobile and they would lift the ban for five minutes while I stood there withdrawing my cash, then reinstate it instantly.  No thank you, I thought, envisaging my pre-paid phone balance leaking away with each recitation of “Our customer service officers are busy at the moment….”  I could wait until Monday to withdraw cash in person from the bank, and I would patiently wait for my new debit card within 5-6 working days.

You might note that it is a debit card, not a credit card.  I am a rather old-school bank customer.  In the wake of the breakdown of my first marriage, panicked by the tightness of my budget in paying a mortgage on just one wage, I started withdrawing a set amount of money every fortnight and using only that money for food and pocket money while paying bills and mortgage from the account and through BPay.   Once my allowance of “spending money” cash is gone, it’s gone and I do without.  I haven’t had to change the amount in ten years, probably because my children have either left home or pay for their own food now, so it’s just me. And I admit that  I now have to use the card for petrol instead of paying it from “housekeeping”, and I sometimes have to withdraw extra cash for large one off purchases, clothes and haircuts.  But in general, I pay myself a cash allowance and use that.  I have never had a credit card, only debit.  I B-pay everything, and have only one direct debit which was unavoidable.  I’ve never understood automatic debits- I wouldn’t dream of opening my purse to Telstra, the council, electricity etc. and saying “Here, help yourself once a month”, relying on them to take notice of me when I might say someway down the track “That’s enough- stop taking it now, please”.  I am uneasy when I send off my credit card details to pay through the mail- how do I know that it’s not going to fall into someone elses hands? How do I know that they’re only going to make that one withdrawal?  I’ve never had any trouble with this, but it still seems a remarkably lax system.  Likewise when I use my debit card- why don’t I have to sign AND pin?  Often I sign when my card has been given back to me and my signature is never checked.  Why are the banks encouraging this?

So, given my old school proclivities, I was horrified to find that my new debit card arrived with Paypass technology.  No need to sign or pin- just wave it in front of the console beside the register and away I go with up to $100.00 of purchases. Or maybe it’s someone else waving it in front of the console and going away with $100.00 purchases on my card without my knowledge.  I didn’t ask for this.  How ironic that the alert on my card was triggered by a small purchase, and yet this technology encourages a string of small purchases, all of which would be so small that I doubt that I would notice them.  No worries- says the bank- you’re covered against fraud as long as you comply with the terms and conditions on the website.  But  I can imagine a whole number of scenarios where this could be abused- the sulky teenage child who slips the odd purchase here or there (not that MY children would do that!), the elderly neighbour who asks someone to pop down to the shop, or an opportunistic use of a card in a wallet left carelessly.   I can’t understand why this is the default provision- given to everyone whether they want it or not.

I have complained to the bank and asked for this feature to be blocked on my card. That’s another irony: being left on hold in order to complain.  After 5 minutes waiting, I sent an email.  I’ll be interested to see what the response is.

Just say No at the MCG

Off to the MCG last night with my son, a long-time and long-suffering Tigers supporter to watch Richmond v St Kilda.  A draw- hah! I say.  At least a draw in Aussie Rules is not one of those dour nil-all matches in the other codes, and everyone, whether black/yellow or black/red/white left saying “That was a good game!”

Now, I don’t think that I’m turning into a gun-toting libertarian (yet) and perhaps it’s just my Grumpy Old Lady stirring, but one comes away from the MCG feeling put-upon and nagged.  Apart from the live-betting scores that flash up on the screen to enrage me at the ubiquity of corporatized gambling,  there is also a string of prohibitions and admonitions all aimed, no doubt, at lessening the MCG’s  public liability and protecting their assets. Here, according to the messages on the scoreboard, is  what you can’t do at the MCG

1. Smoke

2. Run onto the ground during a match

3. Go onto the ground after the game for a bit of kick to kick (a time-honoured tradition and the only way that a lot of us would ever get onto the MCG turf)

4. Take alcohol out of the stadium (or bring it in for that matter. Or drink full strength beer)

5. Stand on the seats

6. Put up an umbrella (flashed onto the screen the very minute a gust of virga eddied onto the MCG in its own little micro-climate)

7. Fall on the steps because it’s wet (ditto)

8. Be anti-social, and they gave a handy dob-a-hoon SMS number so that you could report them – quite a good idea actually.

I’m sure that there were more, and I’ll add them as I think of them (and you suggest them).  I was surprised that there wasn’t one about racial vilification  and they’ve obviously given up on people photographing, filming etc.  But my goodness, do we really need to be harangued and nagged the whole way through a match?  Do I dare say the words ‘nanny state’?


‘Talk to the Hand’ by Lynne Truss

2005,  210 p

Lynne Truss is  right in many ways: we are surrounded by obnoxiousness, rudeness and aggression every day, exemplified by the Jerry-Springeresque “talk to the hand coz the face ain’t listening”.  I must admit that no-one has ever said that to me directly, but unhappily I know exactly what it means.

Truss herself admits that the book is a “big systematic moan about modern life” and that’s what it is.  It is only a short book, which is a blessing in a way- it’s a bit like sitting through a boxed DVD set of “Grumpy Old Women”  and even for me there’s a limit to such unmitigated grumbling.

Her six good reasons to stay home are:

1. the absence of ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ (one of my own moans is the ubiquitous “if anyone takes offence…” )

2. the way that companies push their demands back onto you as your responsibility ( my contribution: the con of ‘self-serve’ in petrol stations which is slower for everyone and means that my oil is never checked and my tyres are always flabby)

3. the invasion of personal space (yes, the mobile phone in the train).

4. the “F### off” response ( I hate it but must also confess to being too ready to drop the F word myself. It’s a bad habit that I would like to work on)

5.  Disrespect and non-deference  (I agree: I don’t necessarily want my first name used by everyone)

6.  the idea that someone else will clean up your messes (my own teeth-grinding trigger- junk food packaging thrown out of a car window).

We can all add our own-  for example, it makes my blood boil when an unsolicited phonecall rings you then puts you on hold!!!  I don’t thank John Howard for much, but tougher gun laws and the do-not-call register are two good things.

She makes the point that her book is not an etiquette or manners book, and now having read about the 19th century literature of this type, she’s right about that too.  An etiquette book is premised on helping you as an individual to join the  others, by doing the right things.  The 19th century version was based on the precept that you could judge an individual by the way they behave, and that there is a connection between manners and morals.  The outside world and the people in it was a world that the reader desperately wanted to be part of. If changes had to be made to one’s behaviour and demeanour in order to be accepted, that was a price gladly paid.

All this is reversed here.  As she says, many people think that it is harmful, unhelpful and simply wrong to judge a person by the way s/he behaves (p. 193).  Instead of the outside world being something we want to join, it’s them out there who are the problem.

It’s ironic that the 19th century version of the etiquette book was based on making “me” part of “them”. In the 21st century version,  it’s all about me- with  our ‘i’pads, and ‘My’ spaces and, heaven help us, ‘My’ school (which I still haven’t looked at because I don’t want my visit to count as approval of the whole concept).  But now it’s me against “them” who are so obnoxious because they all care only about their own “me”. And let’s face it, who’d want to be them?

All these pronouns are confusing me (or I).

A sad story

I bought myself an I-river Story e-reader on the weekend.  I wanted an e-reader with a qwerty keyboard because particularly when I’m doing “work” reading, I take notes- usually on a piece of A4 scrap paper that I fold in half and insert into the book, adding extra pages as I go.  With a keyboard, I thought, I could take notes as I go- albeit probably shorter than I am used to, as the keyboard is very small- but it would mean that I wouldn’t have scribbled A4 half-pages scattered around the place.  I didn’t want to be tied in Kindle’s publishing format- it seems that EPub is working out as the common format, and I resent that the Kindle doesn’t support it.  I was hoping that I-river would reduce its price in competition with the Kindle, but no such luck.  I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t buy it until August, in the vain hope of a price-reduction, and last weekend I finally made the purchase.

So far, I’ve been really disappointed- so disappointed that I can hardly bear to look at the thing. The instructions are HOPELESS- barely one paragraph on a fold-out sheet with every other language known to mankind.  There’s a manual on the I-river itself, which is perverse as you need to be able to use it to read the manual.  To be honest, I just don’t get how to use the wretched thing.  The opening screen gives you 2 options: 1. Charge battery  2. Connect removable disk.  What disk? The little card that came with it? Do I need to charge the battery first?  Stuffed if I know.   But I do know that to make your computer recognize it, you have to select “Connect removable disk”.  The I-river is the “removable disk”.  Is it just me, or is this a rather obscure instruction?  Then, about 40 pages into the manual, I learn that I need to download software from the I-river site.  Would it not have been useful to have that information up front? What ever happened to Step 1, Step 2, Step 3.   Sometimes I can get my computer to read it; other times I cannot- is it faulty, or am I faulty?

Along with Tony Abbott (shudder), I am not a tech-head (nor do I aspire to be Prime Minister), but I’m not an absolute dunce with technology either- although I suspect that my children would beg to differ.  I am the only person in the house who can programme the video, for example.  But this I-river has me stumped.  I think I’ve been sold a pup.

I shall let you know if I ever get to like it.

Miles Franklin and other stuff

Well, I shall have to be seriously disgruntled, won’t I?  A poor decision in my opinion.

There’s much else to enrage me in the newspaper and news this morning. 

  • Protecting the profits of large energy companies and their distribution networks by not embracing the desire of ordinary householders who want to make use of the sun that streams onto their roof. 
  • Importing trams and trains from overseas: surely the public transport needs of Australia as a whole could justify one major manufacturing centre in the country
  • MisterRabbit looking smug
  • What happened to the photograph of the young woman in that mining executive plane crash?
  • European governments going all hairy-chested over who can cut their deficit the most harshly.  Wasn’t it resistance to this type of economics that averted depression two years ago?  Has the world economy really rebounded that strongly?  Do I dare mention the words “double dip recession”?
  • Just to prove how shallow I am, Stephen Milne (I am a St Kilda supporter). On second thoughts, I should leave this one alone.

Bah, humbug!

The Rechabites might get me yet

When I was twelve years old and  in grade six at Heidelberg Primary School, a crusty old gentleman from the Independent Order of Rechabites came weekly to instruct us about the evils of alcohol.  There was a statewide exam at the end of it, and I’m rather proud to say that I won the state prize with a score of 91%.  I was awarded a book which I have since lost without regret and a beautiful certificate which I do regret losing because from memory it was a highly ornate document with beautiful copperplate writing.  Prize notwithstanding, I have never been a teetotaller; I  am not one now and I find the whole idea of the Rechabites rather quaint.

But I’ve got to say that I’m finding the emphasis on alcohol over the last few years rather overwhelming.   I know that I’m hypocritical here- looking back I don’t know why we felt we had to drink champagne at our children’s birthday parties and I don’t think I’d do it now.  I am disconcerted that every celebration of a sporting triumph, a career achievement, an opening of some civic building or service etc. needs to be marked with alcohol.  I don’t know why bars and bottleshops  have to stay open all night.  I find the idea of going to work in the morning while the nightclubs are disgorging the last of their patrons quite unnecessary.

I was puzzled to find this advertisement on the label of Spring Valley apple juice.

When a bender begins and when it ends is not an exact science.  However, our not so rigorous testing proves that when the bender has been and gone, it leaves behind a primordial need to consume something of substance, something so angelic and good, it probably grew on a tree- and preferably for that something to be almost like an apple in liquid form.

This is APPLE JUICE, remember…consumed by children, old people, people who are just plain thirsty and not necessarily recovering from a bender. Why does it have to market itself this way to everyone who buys it?

Then in the weekend’s paper there was a rather trite column about “how to decorate a Christmas tree” by Kate Duthie This is the last thing I need to read, given that  I have decorated my Christmas tree three times this year so far after it has fallen down twice this year (or maybe I do need to read that article, particularly the part where it tells you to make sure that the tree is stable before putting anything on it).   But the last paragraph particularly grated:

Whatever you do, make it fun.  Involve your family and friends, pop some champers and make it an event.

An event? Champagne? It’s a CHRISTMAS TREE for Christ’s sake! (I feel I can say that without blasphemy).  Why do you need a drink to put up a Christmas tree?

Bah. Humbug.