Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Friday, February 28, 2014

Invercargill hospital experience.

Loved this... the notice below explains it. So funny, so Kiwi. 

Burt Munro stuff - google "The Fastest Indian" A great story of Kiwi ingenuity.  
Hardware and old vehicles - "man heaven"
Old tools - many of which I have.
1956 Morris Commercial brought back memories.
I have been in Invercargill hospital where they gave me another TURP operation.  It has been a roller coaster ride of different experiences.
Good Samaritans
We had to be at Invercargill Hospital at 11 a.m. on Monday for pre-op checks and interviews. We left home about 7:45 a.m. to drive the 220k trip south.  About 26k out of Invercargill we were headed along a straight bit of highway amongst other traffic and heavy trucks.  We passed a woman standing by an older vehicle, parked strangely across a road, desperately thumbing a lift. We were in a small Toyota Starlet car with luggage filling any empty places so we kept on driving, but discussed her predicament. Eventually compassion overcame us so we pulled over, did a u-turn and went back to see her. With jump leads we made an attempt to start her car. It looked a more complicated problem and we did not have time to spend fiddling with it. We pushed it to a safe place, moved our luggage around and squeezed her in the back seat. She was heading for a job interview in Invercargill. I have never heard anyone talk so much – for the whole 26 kilometres she talked and we listened. - It had been hard finding a job. She had just got engaged to the love of her life.  He was so good for her. Where did you two meet each other? Her little girl had health problems. etc etc. - We were pleased to drop her off and regain a measure of silence. But I am glad we picked her up. We helped her out in a tough situation. She, and the people she talks with, will feel better about life.  We felt good about doing something useful and sharing our resources.
Bad news then good news.
We had an interview with the surgeon who was to do the operation. He looked at the notes on me and very bluntly said that he did not think he could improve my “peeing problem”. He said that the purpose of the operation as he saw it was to check for cancer, but he would take a good look at what the problem was. Well they did the operation and later he visited my bed and told me he was sure that I would find life easier. He had cleared obstructions and made an excellent channel. I am hopeful that when everything settles all will be well.
Fun in hospital
We were told it was “TURP Tuesday” at Invercargill hospital so from Tuesday until Thursday afternoon I ended up in a room with three other blokes who had urology surgery. We competed, we joked, we helped each other and we enjoyed our time together. I was extremely appreciative of the nurses and staff. They do a great job, and were so much fun to talk with. I had to laugh. A new shift came on and as we met two nurses and two student nurses coming into our room on their first visit, their comment to me and my neighbour was, “We’ve heard about you two!” They were really lovely to us, having to do some awkward things,  (Men with peeing issues involves strange things) but they did them with friendship and yet matter of fact professionalism.  Nearing the end of the stay my neighbour gave the head nurse a box of chocolates to share, while I waited with a bottle of successful pee for her to measure. “He gives me chocolates, you give me urine! What goes on here?” she joked.  At one stage when we were told we would be discharged, we said, “You’ll be pleased to get rid of us.” “Nah.” said one, “You guys make looking after you easy. You are fun.”
Hospital visitors
Last year when I was in hospital in Dunedin I had an embarrassing number of visitors. I thought that this time in Invercargill I will receive none. I was wrong. I received more than any in my room. #1 In the recovery room a nurse came up to me and asked "Are you Pastor Brown?" It was Emma, and she had been telephoned by a nurse friend in Dunedin and asked to visit me. #2 & 3. My daughter works for the local Dominican Sisters, and "Paddy" is one of them. Well Paddy had got in touch with her sister and her niece-in-law. Her niece in law, Michelle, is a nurse in Invercargill hospital and three times she popped in to make sure I had everything I needed. We had never met before. Then one evening a woman arrived with flowers for my wife and grapes for me. It was Paddy's sister on her way home from work... the gifts she said were from Paddy. Both of these ladies spoke of Paddy's high regard for our daughter, and therefore her high regard for us. Paddy's sister mentioned that she was the one who gave a donation each year to our Christmas Day dinner. #4 Then one afternoon Terry, a Workplace Support Chaplain in Invercargill called in and we caught up on each other. #5... but most important of all was my wife. She stayed down and visited regularly. I once suggested that I could go down to Invercargill by myself instead of disturbing both our routines. I received an almost angry response, she was going to be there, like it or not. 
Hardware Store heaven. (E Hayes & Sons Hammer Hardware store.)
While I was in hospital my wife had been looking around Invercargill. She had found Burt Munro’s world champion Indian motorbike in a glass case. She had also learned about more Burt Munro stuff in a hardware store.  Burt Munro’s story was featured in the film “The Fastest Indian.” Today we visited that store.
The store itself was amazing. There was an amazing range of trade tools on sale. I simply loved it drooling over them. There was also a great range of hardware stuff. But all around the modern goods on sale there were a few older vehicles, a lot of motorbikes, old tools, various bits of machinery and odd inventions. I was simply in “man heaven” and loved it! One of the last things we came across was a 1956 Morris Commercial which the store had as a delivery van years ago. 42 years ago Jean and I with our six-month-old baby girl, and our belongings, drove from Dunedin to Auckland in one of these to catch a ship to take us to a four year life-changing theological training experience in Melbourne, Australia. We drooled over this van.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A day of two halves.

Sunday Morning
We went to the local Presbyterian Church again this morning. It is so small it cannot have a regular minister so has a different visiting speaker each week. We were not impressed with this week's speaker the last time he came, and nearly decided to try out a Methodist Church in town. But loyalty to the people in the local parish prevailed and we went to the local church. I was so angry. The sort of drifting through the service, the meaningless prattle and the whole manner of presentation felt like blasphemy. At one point I nearly walked out. I did not know where to look, I am sure my feelings were written all over my face. I generally try to attend well to the speaker, to give unspoken support and encouragement. But this time I gave up, and spent much of the service looking at the floor. We decided not to go to the cup of tea afterward, we felt so angry that we wondered if we could be civil if the speaker came and made small talk. 
We went to the cafe in the Forsyth Barr Stadium to get a coffee and debrief.... bad idea...  I have never had to wait so long for a coffee. I think they forgot our order. People who had ordered after us were receiving theirs. This did not help our mood. My wife who tends to be more assertive than I was furious and this was not helped by the attitude of the waitress. (On reflection they may have had new student staff members learning the ropes) We went back to the car parked in a virtually empty stadium car park. We had a $65 parking ticket under the windscreen wipers! Since in town parking is not monitored on Sundays we had assumed the same situation for the stadium park.... Wilsons Car Parks will gain, we rue our very slow and now very expensive coffee. The amount we ratepayers are having to fork out for that stadium and its losses, we ought to be given a cup of coffee!
Lunch time ... The power of friendship expressed.
We proceeded to the supermarket to do shopping. There we bumped into two Indian friends from our old Church. They were so pleased to see us and she said, "Come home for lunch Pastor!" She was so insistent that we decided to go. They gave us warm impromptu hospitality, stacks of food and love, it made us forget the morning.
After that I went for a walk with my friend.  We both did not feel like running because there was a cool wind blowing. By the end of the afternoon my negative thoughts about Church, the long wait for coffee and the $65 fine were all gone. Replaced by a feeling of warm companionship in the journey of life. Certainly a day of two halves.
Tonight I packed my bags in preparation for my hospital stay and the surgery. Life will have to go on hold for now.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


The Dunedin Night Shelter. 
We have lots of cute visitors while these flowers are blooming.
Auckland grand daughter - growing up fast!
Edinburgh grandson. We skyped with him on Monday.
Night Shelter operation...
This week we have had a Dunedin Night Shelter Trust Board meeting. We had a long session during which we talked about the types of people using the shelter and the issues surrounding that. The shelter manager talked about some of the difficulties at length. Lately there seems to have been some urgent drama every week to deal with. We are readying ourselves to get into asking the people of the city of Dunedin to help us fund the purchase of the buildings. Sometimes I want to yell, "Hey I am meant to be retired! This does not feel like retirement!" I was looking forward to bigger spaces of time to do projects around home, to go tramping, to slouch around in old jeans, and to do more exercise. But I still seem busy having to go into town every day for some reason for somebody. Even then I am not getting all I want to do completed for the shelter. My long term goal, before I finish my involvement with the trust, is to have the shelter operation secured and on a firm foundation for the future needs in Dunedin. 
The operation of a firm...
One of the involvements I had this week was to support a woman as she talked to her bosses.  She is a longterm worker in the firm (she had worked for the current bosses' father) but lately the dynamics within the firm had got her down and stressed her out. I was asked to go as a support person when she went to talk to the bosses. My job was to listen. I could not say much, but as they talked I would loved to have chipped in and given my perspective. That was not my role.  It was my feeling though, that the way the bosses ran the firm they were contributing to the toxic dynamics and low morale. As they talked about some of the interactions that had taken place, I would loved to have taken them aside and asked, "Don't you think it would have been better to have....?"   But then who am I? I am not the world's best organiser, administrator nor people person.  I tend to be a loner. I felt sad because the operation of this long standing local firm, seemed not to be working as well as it could.
Unable to operate..
I had a phone call from an Australian couple who were on a cruise ship and spending a few hours in Dunedin. "Can we catch up some how?" I have known this couple for years, our paths have crossed every now and then and each time we have enjoyed catching up.  He is an ex-minister, became a counsellor,  together they ran a retreat centre mainly for couples, and I have always appreciated their way of thinking. We recalled a marriage enrichment weekend they ran that my wife and I shared in, when we first got to know them. They are both eighty now, and he seems to have a very active mind, falling into lively discussion with me. She was a lot quieter than I had remembered her and did not seem the buoyant woman I had known... As the three of us sat at a cafe out in the country, looking at the scenery and chatting (Orokanui Ecosanctuary) he told me that she was suffering with the early stages of alzheimers, but looking at her he continued,"You are doing very well, aren't you? I have told (her name) that I will look after her as long as I can."  She looked at me with a worried expression, I guess to see my reaction. What can you say? What are the right words? "Oh that must be so frustrating for you?" was all I thought to say. "Yes it is!" she responded quietly and seemed to relax. This once bright, active and very intelligent woman is fading and cannot operate like she used to. It is sad. My guess is that this will be the last time I see them. None of us knows what is ahead of us.
Surgical operation...
I had a phone call on Monday from the hospital inviting me to be admitted to a different hospital to have another TURP operation. I had one last year which did not really work so they are going to check it out and try to fix it. "Next Thursday." they said. I agreed. A few days later another phone call said, "Now it is earlier, on Tuesday, pre-op stuff on Monday."  People are saying, "Isn't it good? You will get it over with."  I am not so thrilled. I have been trying to settle into retirement and weddings and other things have hindered getting into a routine. This will not help that process. I have been doing more exercise, but now what fitness I have gained will be lost during the weeks of recovery time after the surgery. As well as this, I have little confidence that the operation will be successful.  In my "prostate problems" journey, from the early biopsies to last year's operation, every time they have treated me, it has felt like I have ended up in a worse predicament. I hope this operation will be better. Wish me luck. I have had blood tests and check up, and tomorrow I will pack my hospital bag again. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A great book.... a confidence booster.

"Jesus" by Marcus Borg
I just completed a great book, so I HAVE to blog about it. The book is simply called "Jesus" with the subtitle of "Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and relevance of a Religious Revolutionary." written by the Jesus scholar, Marcus Borg.  I have read most of Borg's books so there was not a lot that was completely new to me. But the beauty of this book is that it is so thorough and draws everything together.  It renewed for me a great feel for Jesus and sense of partnership with him. It helped to feed my passion for the things he loved and lived for. 
Different paradigms...
Borg points out the differences between "an earlier Christian paradigm" and "an emerging Christian paradigm" as being the major divisions in the Christian Church. He then goes on to paint a picture of Jesus from the "emerging Christian Paradigm" point of view with its historical-metaphorical approach to the Bible. His understanding of the biblical passages makes sense and rings bells for me. He summarises his sketch of Jesus as;
" ...the pre-Easter Jesus was a Jewish mystic, healer, wisdom teacher, and prophet of the kingdom of God; he proclaimed the immediacy of access to God and the Kingdom of God; he challenged the domination system, was executed by the authorities, and then vindicated by God. Easter is the beginning of the post-Easter Jesus. In the decades after Easter his followers spoke of Jesus and his significance with the most exalted language they knew: Son of God, Messiah, Lord, Light of the World, Bread of Life, and so forth. This language is the community's testimony to him." (page 303)
Profound yet simple...
I was talking with a man who had given up on Church but still read books on faith. His comment was that while he was liberal himself, "so many of the liberal authors do not leave you with much".  I find Marcus Borg has a real sense of mystery, respect and awe for the sacred. He leaves you with a sense of awe for Jesus and the God he knew. This mystic experience and openness is an important part of Christianity for him.  I love that having worked your way through 300 odd pages of Biblical scholarship and intense exploration, in the epilogue he has three paragraphs headed by very simple truths.  "What Would Jesus Do?" - "Jesus Loves Me - This I Know" and "For God So Loved the World". He passes on a colleague's mother's summary of the faith,
"We are in good hands; therefore, let us take care of one another."
Every searching thinking person should read it.
As you can guess I enjoyed the book. It was a confidence booster for me, because over the years the position that Borg holds, through my own stumbling thoughts, reading and preaching, I had come to.  If you are honest, pastoral ministry and involvement with people can force you again and again to re-examine the faith you grew up with.  But the normal paradigm has often made me feel like a heretic. Hymns, prayers, liturgies, expectations, religious cliches, most religious books all seemed oppressive to me, bouncing from a different place. "Am I so far out of line?" I would ask myself. As I read this book I felt like it was a letter from a companion on the same journey. He is thinking what I think, except he can present it so well and back it up with extensive scholarly exploration. I would love to see people who train ministers take this book as a text for a year's exploration, discussion and debate. Even if they disagree with it, they will have covered many issues and learned heaps about Jesus' life. (The trouble with many religious training schemes is that they train ministers to be religious and to successfully fulfill a role, but do not necessarily have them grapple with Jesus, who is meant to be central to Christianity.) I would love to facilitate a course on this book with theological students and reflect on its implications for ministry in the church. I would love to facilitate a group of interested explorers and explore Borg's sketch of Jesus! But I am retired.... what do I do with this renewed passion? 
Jesus - the man I can't let go.
When I was a boy aged 9 - 10 years, my attraction to Jesus began. I devoured comics of the gospel stories and knew them by heart. The gospel readings in Church I listened to carefully, and even the sermons, perhaps only partially understood, attracted me to Jesus. He "made sense" to me. A month or two ago I met a man in the street who I knew as a teenager. We talked often at youth group camps. Our ways parted, he did academic studies, got into different philosophies and spiritualities and lived in different parts of the country. He has attended church a few times in my ministry, and had followed my career and knew my reputation. When we met in the street we talked about my impending retirement. He said to me, "I remember at a youth camp when we were teenagers seeing you reading a book about the life of Jesus. You have gone on to follow that line. You present him so well in your preaching, but more than that you have led a ministry living out his lifestyle. Well done."  I was quite moved by that comment, he is a thoughtful man of few words. I remember the cover of that book I read so long ago. I was surprised that he could recall my reading it.  Fifty years after that first book, Jesus still attracts me, drives me and motivates me, and this latest book about the life of Jesus has stoked the fire again.
Marcus Borg... well done! You did this old man good.

Friday, February 14, 2014

"What's been happening?"

Our campsite
There was a kitchen available but we wanted to try cooking our  meal freedom camping style.

Theo tries out the van
My son, his son Theo and his wife at Theo's first birthday party. Theo is trying his birthday cake.
Christchurch visit
After the wedding last Saturday, we packed up and drove first to Timaru (2.5 hours) stayed the night, then on to Christchurch to attend our grandson's first birthday party.  We stayed in Christchurch until Thursday morning. It was our first attempt at camping in the van. We have a queen size mattress on a platform in the van, and we erected a gazebo with curtains beside it to be our dressing room, eating area. We booked a tent site in each camping ground and "roughed it".  We realise that now that we are retired and not earning a big salary, staying in motels on such visits is an expensive exercise, and we kind of like the adventure of doing it cheaply.  We found the bed comfortable. We have already thought up better ways of organising our luggage so that we can have better access. We enjoyed the people we had contact with at the camp ground and the independence of having our house and bed with us. We will do more of this in time to come.
Christchurch is still a beaten up looking city even after three years since the big earthquake. The facilities in the campground were all temporary buildings brought in after the quake with the old kitchen and shower blocks all fenced off and deemed unsafe to use. The roads are still very bumpy and there are heaps of drainage repairs, bridge repairs and road works going on. You can work out on a map where you want to go, but then you encounter detours and have to rethink your plans. 
Surprise prize... "Letter of the Week"
In my February 4th blog post I shared a "Letter to the Editor" I wrote to the local newspaper. (Otago Daily Times)  When I wrote the post I wondered if they would even publish it. It was about the care of people with mental health issues. Well they published it, giving it quite a prominent headline. When we returned from our Christchurch stay I discovered that I had received a book from the newspaper with the note that my letter had won "The Letter of the Week" prize.  I never even knew that there was a competition each week. But better than that I had a message left on the phone by a man I have known all my life. He has had his share of mental health issues to cope with, but he left this very affirming message expressing appreciation for my passion and compassion. 
What happened to retirement?
Driving home from Christchurch my cell phone rang three times. One call asked me to catch up on a patient in the hospital on behalf of a chaplain from another city. I agreed to do that. Other calls also sought my assistance. I am conducting a wedding later today, Saturday. (In a garden... but as I write the rain is falling heavily outside?) Yesterday I had wedding service preparation, I visited St John Ambulance for lunch as their chaplain. (volunteer position) I then visited the man in hospital and spent nearly an hour with him. (He has unexpected major surgery on Monday) I did my fire service chaplaincy where there were people with heavy issues I talked with. I raced from the last fire station down the very windy Otago Peninsula road to lead a wedding rehearsal. As I drove home I calculated I had "worked" around 8- 9 hours and I will get paid for two of them.  I will have to start charging for the extra's I do! It was OK while I was working and earning to be generous with such things, but just fuel costs for such running around will absorb a reasonable proportion of my pension.  When I was the Church minister I had a free car park in the centre of town. Now when I visit the hospital, St John Ambulance or the brewery I am having to pay quite a few dollars a week in parking charges. I recognise that I have to be more efficient in the way I do things... Having said that we have lived a foolishly generous lifestyle for all of our married life and have never gone without yet, so I don't expect to be begger any time soon.    

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Saturday's good news.

Wedding love
On Saturday I conducted a wedding. I am not sure if I want to do too many more of these, even though I think I am good at them and able to put a ceremony together with a couple that is an expression of who they are. But this wedding had a couple of special things about it. I got involved with this couple because the bride was a daughter of a guy who used to work at St John Ambulance as a mechanic. He had been made redundant about a year ago, though he was retirement age anyway. He had phoned me and asked if I would get involved. I agreed. Two good things happened…
(a) A couple arrived as guests at the wedding who had assisted us with the Christmas Day dinner. We had had earlier contact with them because we allowed them to use the Church for their family music group to perform a concert.  They are simply lovely and loving people and were good friends of the bride, with their daughter being a bridesmaid. Well I was blown away by the warmth of their greeting when they saw I was the celebrant. They were still buzzing about Christmas Day dinner. “It was the best Christmas of our lives” they enthused as they met me with hugs. They also wanted us to come visit them. I enjoyed the love.
(b) The father of the bride (the ex St John Ambulance Mechanic) was trimming trees the Saturday before his daughter’s wedding, in a bucket lift arrangement attached to a tractor. A branch fell where it shouldn’t have and somehow the bucket tipped him out. He hit the ground and ended up badly beaten up with all sorts of broken bones, in a body cast, arm in plaster and in hospital.  He was apparently, unable to attend his daughter’s wedding. His ex-colleagues at the Ambulance station got their heads together and when I arrived at the wedding (in a public rose garden) here was an ambulance paramedic with him all spruced up in a stretcher. We unloaded the stretcher at the right time, wheeled it into place and tilted it so he could see proceedings. At the appropriate time in the service he, with the rest of his family said in a loud triumphant voice, “We do” when it came to giving the bride away. He received hugs from the bride as she walked down the isle to be married, hugs and greetings from guests and we even included him in the family photos. Then the paramedic loaded him into the ambulance and took him back to hospital. I loved the unselfish love of his ex-colleagues to make this possible. It was such a warm loving thing to do. I got quite choked up as the bride kissed her father and wondered if I had the voice to begin the ceremony. 
Benefits of exercise
On the 6th of January I conducted a funeral.  For this I got my suit I seldom wear out of the wardrobe and put it on. It buttoned up but was uncomfortably tight and the jacket was not sitting right because of that.  I have put on a lot of weight. On Saturday 8th February I conducted a wedding and put the same suit on. It fitted well.  In that time I have been exercising, not heavily, but exercising. I have a friend that would like me to participate in a 10k run in March, so I have been running, walking and cycling more. I was delighted that the suit already fits better! I have also noticed a difference in my breathing. I was getting very wheezy and short of breath, but I notice now that my lungs and breathing systems have improved greatly. With regular, though not too difficult exercise, my health and wellbeing is improving considerably just in the last four weeks. It is so encouraging!  It helps in all areas of life to have others to push you along.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Care of people with mental health issues.

Locally, it has been announced, there is to be a reduction in the number of beds allocated for mental health patients at one of the local public hospitals. There were letters to the editor in the local paper about this and a response from a representative of the District Health Board. There used to be big hospital complexes dedicated to this care, but these have been shut down in favour of care given in the community. I am not convinced the care in the community is adequate, though I also do not agree with the style of hospitals they used to have. I favour various sorts of supervised caring facilities within the community. I wrote a letter to the editor in response, though I doubt it will be published. Here is what I said.....

In Tuesday February 4th  "Letters to the Editor" Heather Casey of Southern DHB defends the reduction in beds at Wakari Hospital by saying "inpatient care is not the preferred option".  Cherry farm may not have been appropriate care. In patient care at Wakari may not be, but I know from experience that there are many mental health patients who are not coping under the present regime. I have run a Friday night drop-in centre for eighteen years. I am currently involved in the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust and I have other involvements with these people, many of whom I would class as my friends.  I could tell story after story of sad situations and circumstances of mental health patients in Dunedin. There are people struggling to feed themselves adequately. Lives that are sad existences, going from crisis to crisis. There are those who live in unhealthy dirty rooms, seemingly unable to do basic hygiene tasks. Sometimes the organisations funded to support them ban them if they misbehave, so they have even less community support. I am aware that many receive amazing support, but I am convinced there is a real need for many others to have care that is much more involved and controlled, so that their lives will be more healthy and fulfilling. On Saturday I appreciated the warm obituary your paper published about Pat Perkins. In my conversations with her, she shared an incredible list of often tragic costs and sad statistics, and passionately pleaded for higher levels of care. Her compelling argument was that in the long run, we as a community pay dearly when we avoid the cost of adequate care in the first place. In my experience, for a number of people in our community, we are a long way short of the care required.

It will be interesting to see if it is published. I have deep concerns for the people often at the bottom of the heap in our communities. We have no jobs for them in our super slick high tech economies, and that means their struggles are exacerbated by relative poverty, isolation and a sense of hopelessness. The late Pat Perkins was a local woman who out of hard experiences in her own life campaigned for adequate care. She often quoted cases where patients had harmed themselves or others, worked out the financial fall out from that, and raised the question, "Wouldn't it have been better to spend that money on adequate care in the first place? Much more cost and hurt could have been avoided." If compassion does not work, I think she reasoned, plain financial figures might bring change. "Do the maths!" she would say.

Having said that I do know there is a lot of care given, sometimes by very compassionate, dedicated people who go the extra mile. Many, though are falling between the cracks and struggle "out there".

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday night reflection..

This year we have walnuts on some trees we planted years ago. 
This bush has never flowered before but it is starting to bloom.
I love the colour.
Apples for desserts and apples for apple jelly. Quite a few trees of them. 
I nearly threw this out- a gas water heater that used to heat water for the Church baptistry.
It is like an antique so I didn't have the heart to chuck it!
Part of our secluded backyard. It is slowly getting tidy.
Getting things tidier..
Retirement has meant that after 20 odd years of not keeping up with the gardening and maintenance around our house and acre (My wife has done most of what has been done) I am now making some headway in tidying it up. It is a nice feeling. Confession time... on Saturday the local council had a couple of big rubbish skips parked up the road and we could take rubbish there for a small charge. We sorted out quite a bit of rubbish, paid our $12 and began loading it into the skip. We saw tanalised posts and some timber thrown out in the skip! My wife said "We should take those?" "We can't do that!" - "But it is just getting thrown out! Surely they would not mind?" This was a whispered argument going on as the lady in charge watched us unloading. Shortly afterward the woman said, "I am just going down the road to collect the sign, I will be back soon." and climbed in her car and disappeared. We grabbed a length of timber out of the skip, then a couple of posts and put them in our van. I pulled on the third one madly but it was stuck under some other junk. I tried to clear it but fearful she could come back, I gave up and left it there.  My wife argued that we would have the time to retrieve it, but I did not like the thought of being caught. It is silly. They are perfectly good posts which would have just been dumped in a landfill. I thought later that maybe the woman had heard our whispered argument and disappeared on purpose? Anyway, I figured with the ones we got we had our $12 worth, and I am all for recycling.... but is it theft?  You will visit me in prison won't you? :-)   I am pleased I am slowly bringing some order out of the chaos of our place.
But it is luxury..
Our house is old, with lots of things needing done to it. But it is our house on our land and very usable. We are not rich and will have to survive on the government superannuation. We invited a guy out to our place for the evening meal. He had attended our drop-in centre and the church and his mum had died so we thought it was a good way to catch up and let him know our support. As I sat with him in the lounge, I thought of his life. He has some disability, is unemployed and lives with the bare basics in a rented room in a boarding house. I had shown him around our acre and as we sat in the lounge  I noticed him looking around at our "things".  I realised that though compared to many in our society we are not well off, compared to him - and probably most people in the world - we lived in absolute luxury.  I really should appreciate that more.
Getting old but exercising again...
I am fitting in some exercise. This week I have had a run, a bike ride, two fast walks and today a run. I am also doing a lot more physical work and enjoying the feel of aching muscles. I run with a lady twenty years younger than me.  We have run or walked regularly together for at least ten years.  Most of that time I have been as fit as her and been able to keep up or even sometimes better her.  These days she is the fit one and I puff along behind.  Perhaps I need to gracefully accept the limitations of aging.... but not just yet... I am improving!  It is still at the difficult stage, but it is nice to be running again.