The Coffee Table Book (Part 3a) – A thumbs up for customer service

If you recall dear readers, at the end of Part 3 there was an unfortunate crossing of the beams, or rather the drum of the power planer and a piece of cloth. We’re digressing here for a moment to tell a story that follows the classic narrative arc:

  • stasis
  • trigger
  • quest
  • surprise
  • critical choice
  • climax
  • reversal
  • resolution

Once upon a time I started making a  table out of reclaimed timbers. This project involves the trimming of gnarly old, hardwood deck timbers with saw and power plane. The power plane is a hugely important character in this tale, without whom we would altogether be at a loss. His name is RYOBI, and he is a fetching shade of bright green, and is about fifteen months old. One day RYOBI accidentally swallowed some cloth, which wrapped itself around the drum before his operator could stop him spinning.

IMG_0462His operator (after unplugging RYOBI) unscrewed his side plate and tried to flip off RYOBI’s toothed drive belt so that the blade drum could be turned in a reverse direction so as to free the cloth. Sadly, the belt broke during this exercise. “No problem…drive belts on such power planers are user replaceable items,” thought RYOBI’s operator, “I’ll just get a new belt.”

And so to the store where RYOBI was originally purchased; the local Bunnings Hardware. Here the friendly Tool Section man, Luke, advised that belts could only be ordered via the Special Orders Desk in the store. “Bah-Humbug to that” thought RYOBI’s operator, and he promptly went home to order one online instead.

Here our story takes a dark and frustrating turn, as it turns out that the sole merchant for RYOBI products, including spare parts is in fact Bunnings. In fact the “Spare parts” page of the RYOBI Australia website is simply a store locator to allow you to find the nearest Bunnings outlet. Rather than head out the door again, RYOBI’s operator let his fingers do the walking and with a quick phone call later an order was placed for a new drive belt. All seemed OK in the world, and RYOBI would soon be happily spinning again and helping with the job of making the coffee table.

Hope was crushed however when a couple of days later a young lady by the name of Ali’ rang from the local Bunnings to advise that the RYOBI company had discontinued the supply of the needed drive belt. “But how can that be!?!?!” RYOBI’s operator exclaimed “They are still advertising that model planer on the website as being a current model, and you’re still selling the planers in the store!” Ali’, being only the messenger of the bad news in this saga was not held to blame however, and she offered our heroes redemption in form of a warranty claim “If you’ve had the planer for twelve months or less, and have the sales receipt just come into the store and we’ll replace it for you.”

Alas, RYOBI was already fifteen months old, and the sales receipt had not been kept. Drat! Double Drat!! And furthermore…Botheration!! However a few days later, after much seething about the Wasteful, Throw-Away Society in which we live and the expense of having to buy a new planer in order to replace a perfectly good one RYOBI’s operator noticed that RYOBI’s original box documented that he came with a TWO YEAR warranty. Still no sales receipt, however usually such a store as Bunnings will do a product swap or similar on supply of the credit/debit card used for purchase.

RYOBI’s operator tucked him all up neatly and snugly in his box, along with all his accessories and headed off therefore to the local Bunnings outlet. Now this Bunnings is not actually the same Bunnings where our hero was purchased, as that outlet has subsequently been closed and the store reopened to larger premises just a throw of a hammer distance away. Presenting himself, RYOBI nestled in his box, his tale of woe and his card at the service counter RYOBI’s operator was told “We can’t actually look up card purchase history from that other (now closed) store as in our IT systems that is officially a different store than this one and we don’t have access to that store’s records. Nevertheless, go and see Luke in Tools and we’ll sort it out somehow.”

Off to see Luke, to again tell the story, point out the illogic of the fact that Bunnings is still selling the same model of planer that the manufacturer is no longer stocking parts for even though its only fifteen months old and advise that the lovely lady over at the Service Counter has promised a happy ending. “But we can look up the purchase.” says Luke “We can’t in-store but our central IT department can do a search if you can tell me roughly when you made the purchase. I’ll need your card details and a rough idea when you made the purchase, and if you give me your mobile number and wait a while I’ll see what we can do.”

RYOBI and his operator thus went on an extended browse around the BBQ section, the plant nursery, a toilet stop (Note to Bunnings – you need more than one hand drier in the men’s toilet) and then back to the tool section to ogle the selection of Dremel fittings…until….some 45 minutes later….bbrrrnngg bbrrrngg goes the mobile with Luke on the line to say “Come and find me again and we’ll sort you out.”

It transpires that the IT department was still doing whatever Central Bunnings IT Departments do to try and locate a purchase in their records, but that Luke had decided to Do the Right Thing and process it all as a product warranty swap, and worry about the paperwork later. Sad, not-really-broken-but-needs-a-new-drive-belt RYOBI was thus left with the lovely lady at the service counter and replaced with a brand, spanking new replacement model.

Our Beautiful Assistant Shwoing off the NEW planer.Our story ends mostly happily then. The RYOBI company remains in the bad books for discontinuing a simple, user-replaceable part for a model of power tool that is still current and still being sold, and during the warranty period! Bunnings however demonstrated good customer service and sorted out the problem.

I now have a brand new planer, with a two year warranty starting now, and a new sales receipt that I will file away for a rainy day. However I am still annoyed that what is basically a perfectly good tool chock full of metal and plastic and the embedded energy and other resources used to manufacture it is no doubt destined for landfill. Totally and avoidably wasteful! Grrr!

<-Go to Part 3 …. Go to Part 4->

Horsing around

Annie’s down for a visit to the ‘ahem’ pasture. Sadly she ate everything green before Elevenses on the first day, and since then its been hay, just hay two times a day is all she’s got to eat. However the grass IS always greener on the other side of the fence, in this case OUR side of the fence – in the orchard to be exact where it grows long and lush due to the higher watering and nutrient runoff from the composted gardens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It seems only fair to share a little of all that nice, green grass. After all, there’s only so much grass a vegan can eat.

A very special guest for dinner

When I was living in Ol’ Blighty I had the glorious pleasure of spending time regularly with a friend Tim. Together with other mates we’d go sailing on Tim’s yacht, Moody Blue, around the Solent; we did the Palace to Palace bike ride, drank beers, laughed at the sometime silliness of office life, watched each other’s kids grow up and generally shared many good times together. I miss Tim (amongst other good people too).

A little while back Tim emailed to say that he was in the midst of a career change, and that during the gap-month he had the opportunity to sail from Fiji to Auckland on his friend’s 58 footer. An opportunity not to be missed, clearly. Which just left the question; “So Tim, are you flying back to England directly from Auckland, or are you coming via Sydney?”

Well, faster than you can sunburn an Englishman at midday it was all arranged and soon enough the day came around when Tim would here for dinner. It was surreal to say the least to speak to the man at 7:00am on the phone and to utter the words “See you this afternoon”, after not having seen each other for three years, and on the other side of the planet. On the train down to Central to meet Tim it was interesting to have a holidaying English couple sit immediately behind me, and hear their various exclamations as the train journeyed through the suburbs; a timely and very relevant insight into what an English visitor would find notable.

“Oh, look a those blue trees, they really stand out don’t they” – hhmmm, yes they do but Jacarandas are generally recognised as being of purple bloom.

“Look, an Olympic sized outdoor swimming pool” – yes, and it doesn’t freeze over during Winter like it would in England.

“Did you see that kangaroo hopping down the middle of the road?” – OK…I made this one up.

After winding our way back North again Tim soon had a Resch’s in his hand watching the lorikeets flit through the trees in Rumbalara. Entree (spicy grated eggplant on a bed of lettuce, along with hommous and flatbread), Shiraz, Butter bean tagine with cous-cous, Shiraz and no room for dessert soon followed (and to honest, I never offered one). Just to make sure that we properly solved the problems of the world, we lubricated our minds with a cheeky glass of VET Antivirus commemorative port which has been lying in the bottle rack for at least ten years. It had more sediment floating in it than the dam at ridgesong, but we checked for tadpoles first and sucked it through clenched teeth so all was good. It was this latter technique I think that rendered our conversation difficult to follow and so SheWhoMustBeFed took herself off to bed to leave us fools to stay up until Stupid O’Clock talking bollocks and nodding wisely. For the benefit of all I must say here that VET put their name to better software than to port.

As Tim could stay only overnight before heading back to England again, the next day brought the challenge of what to include on a lightening tour of the Central Coast, a problem solved by a tour through Woy Woy, Ettalong, a visit to the rock platform in Boudhi National Park overlooking Maitland Bay, then through Terrigal for a coffee, a postcard, and a marvel at the concept of beach volleyball being played for afternoon school sport. Oh…and the sight of lots of those pretty, blue Jacarandas.

The train took Tim away far too soon as he headed off to the airport, but we remember him still – not least because we can still get a whiff of his aftershave every time we use the bathroom. They say that the olfactory sense is the one most closely associated with the recollection of the memories, and so he lingers still in our thoughts and our nostrils. And long may he remain there.

 

 

Journey’s end

One journey’s end is another’s beginning.

It’s hard not to look back at the last eleven years and wonder how else it might have all been if we had not flown out of this wide, red land to foreign shores. What fortunes we might have made and lost? What friendships deepened by eleven years of shared experiences in this adopted land I choose again as my home? What tears shed and soaked into the dry soil and what laughter might have shaken our bellies and wet our eyes around a campfire amongst the gum trees.

We are formed by the hammering and grind of life’s forge. Polished and shaped by the delicate brush of unexpected friendships, wherever we find them.We know not what we choose each instance, only what each turn we make leaves within us afterward.

It is only within the laugh lines etched around our eyes, the small scars of adventure left cut into our hands, and the conversations and half remembered voices from around the fires in campsites and backyards half a world away that we can begin to chart the course we have taken on the way to what we each are at this moment.

I don’t remember each detail in crystal clarity, but the overall impression is an artwork that I would not go back and recommission. It is as perfect as it could have been made, whether we like the end result or not.

Perhaps the last eleven years are my own personal Blue Poles. A wide expanse of many hues, expensive yet rich in all its colourful and splattered wealth. Sometimes we are unsure if we ought to have made the decision to “go for it”, but the decision made together some yesterday long ago it hangs there now iconically influencing what we represent today.

On the final miles to this journey’s end there lies behind us not a closing of a chapter nor a turning of a new page. There lies ahead only the continuation of the building of the final person we will each be when we take our last breath.

Behind us is only fluffy, white clouds. Ahead lies one more step in the next excellent adventure.

Purple Hearts beyond Adelaide

Beyond the spectacular folds of the Flinders Ranges lies some charming old, sleepy country towns, set amongst fields of purple that stretch to the horizon.

A rare radio signal found us listening to The Herd’s remix of Redgum’s I Was Only 19, the iconic and powerful song about the Vietnam war. As the signal blew behind us to static we swapped to the iPod and listened to a long ago recorded podcast that told the story of the original version by John Schuman, together with the story of The Herd’s revisiting and reworking of the lyrics.

Redgum was a soundtrack to many roadtrips back when I was nineteen or so. Now I’m not. The nineteen year old soldiers are still dying though for conflicted, confused and constructed reasons in lands they would have struggled to find on a High School geography lesson map. The whump of the Huey’s blades have been replaced by the thunderous scream of an F-16, and the ladders of falling explosives by laser guided missiles. Agent Orange might not be needed in the already defoliated hills of Afghanistan and the sands of Iraq, but we are still blowing up wedding parties and creating one legged orphans.

In the back the kids are bored and have lost interest for now in looking out the window. May they remain so, with all their limbs attached.


Outside this small circle of quiet there is a purple bloom for each spill of unnecessary blood. Lest we forget.

Observations of Australia

Arriving back in Australia after 11 years living overseas, I can’t help but make some observations about the country that is again to be my home. The intervening decade-plus have brought some changes both in Australia, and to be fair – in the observer. One thing that strikes me so far though is how expensive Australia has become. For the Aussies reading this I have a message – “My fellow Australians – someone is having a lend of you!”

Aubergines – $9.90 a kilo
Baby courgettes – $14.00 a kilo
Bananas – $7.99 a kilo
A small jar of cashew butter – $7.99

And the vegetables are grown locally!

Blooming heck.

The power of the internet

Musing today on the difference the internet has made to everyday life.

This trip for instance. We hit upon the idea of flying into Perth, buying a car, and driving to Sydney just about 4 weeks ago. In the span of 4 weeks we’d researched what car were available at various car dealers around Perth. We’d found an apartment to stay in whilst in Perth, we’d learned of a little place just south of Margaret River called Hamelin Bay, and found a house to rent for a week.

And we’d researched the logistics of driving the 4600 or so kilometers from Western Australia to Sydney, including figuring out where to stay each night, what accommodation was available (often a choice of one small motel, or nothing in the more remote parts of the crossing), and booked rooms for every night between WA and the Eastern NSW border.

Its even more amazing to think that when we left Oz 11 years ago, much of the information we looked up would not have been available via the web. Neither car dealers or the small business operators who own and run the house we’re in in Hamelin Bay, or the motels across the Nullabor would have had a web presence. It is a sobering thought as to the pernicious presence of the interwebbynet.