Secrets, Lies & Chat

Monday, August 22, 2005

My First Market Day

My first market day as a seller didn't turn out the way I hoped.
Yesterday, Sunday August 21, my partner Bryan and I decided to try our luck at a market day. I wanted to see if I could sell some books, create some interest in the book even, and Bryan had his toys to sell. We decided on the Kiama Seaside Markets as we had visited the last market day there in July and were very impressed.

The venue is idyllic, in a park by the sea with the ocean gently breaking against the rocks onshore. The market stalls stretch almost across one side of the park along the water's edge, and back towards the roadway. The sellers can either face their stalls to the sea, or to the inner part of the park. The buyers have a concrete pathway to use to access all those stalls close to the water, and grassed areas to walk across for the other stalls. It's a craft market so there are no stalls selling imported or shop goods. There are of course second hand book stalls but the majority are selling goods made by the stall holders or their families. It's a wonderful, colourful market, and as it's only on once a month, it draws large crowds from 9.00 am until 3.30 pm each time it's held. There are a few food stalls selling wonderful cakes and bread and vegetables.

As Kiama is quite a distance from where we live (near Penrith), we set out from home at 5.30 am. Bryan was up until 2.30 am finishing off his toys, and I hit the sack at 1.30 am after helping him all I could, doing a bit of work on the computer, and catching up with a chat friend who lives in Kiama to tell her we would be down there later in the morning. At around 4.00 am the clock radio swung into gear... LOUDLY! I almost fell out of my waterbed, which is difficult to achieve, with fright wondering what on earth the noise was. I ended up kicking Bryan out of bed first (not literally, just ear bashed him a bit lol) and some time later I managed to crawl out. Bryan packed the car and I got myself ready ... I had to do the important things like get dressed and do my make-up and hair.

It was a fairly cold morning as we are still in winter, and we left home in the dark, on our 2 hour trip. Saturday had been a horrible day as far as the weather went, and it was a wonderful surprise to see the sun come up and a clear sky emerge. I wasn't too sure about which way to go to Kiama and decided to go a different way; one that my daughter assured me was quicker and a better drive. I made a fatal error in a right hand turn and we ended up on a freeway that seemed to have no left hand exits! I knew we were heading south, for Goulburn actually which is on the way to Melbourne, certainly not east to the sea. I was sure there was a turnoff to Kiama, but it wasn't long and I began to feel a bit afraid that I had taken us on a wrong road. And I was right, it was wrong. I finally suggested to Bryan that we exit to Moss Vale, not telling him where I thought Moss Vale was. He is from northern NSW and knows nothing much at all about south of Sydney. Actually he knows nothing much about Sydney either!

Anyhow off we went and headed for Moss Vale until we hit a T intersection and I wasn't real sure then where we should go. Bryan opted for left, he was sure it headed east. Trouble was around the next bend we seemed to be heading directly west. I started to fidget and chew my fingers. I was worried, not that we had to be anywhere really, but we were both so excited about doing the market. It was now 7.30 and we had been on the road 2 hours. We should have been at Kiama, but we were lost. I saw a man walking along the road up ahead so Bryan stopped the car and called out asking which way to Kiama. The man scratched his head and looked at us disbelievingly. "You're about one and a half hours away from Kiama" he said as our mouths dropped open.

After getting directions on how to find the right road to head east, we took off and found ourselves eventually on a Scenic Tourist Route. Now this was some tourist road. It was barely wide enough for one car, let alone another one coming the other way. The sign said "7km of winding road" and that was very true, it wound alarmingly, all downhill, with the car hanging off the side of the cliff it seemed at times. We came into the rain forest and it was very pretty, but I was too nervous to appreciate it. "Hope we find a servo soon", Bryan said. I glanced over at him and my heart sank. "Had half a tank when we left home, now it's almost empty", he added. I moved slightly so I could see the fuel gauge and felt very ill then. I had these visions of the car running out of petrol, nowhere on the road to pull over, Bryan having to walk to find help (on a road where there appeared to be no human life), and me having to stay in the car alone, waiting. I silently prayed to whatever God might exist that we wouldn't run out of petrol and, at the bottom of the 7km winding road we hit Jamberoo, and I saw it up in front, a servo sign! I almost jumped out of the car and ran ahead to stake my claim on one of the bowsers I was so excited.

Fuel was extremely expensive there so we only put in $20 worth - I think it was $1.26 a litre so $20 didn't buy much fuel, just enough to get us to Kiama. The sign said "Kiama 10km" so off we sped and eventually arrived at the gate to the park at 8.30 am, one hour late. I suggested to Bryan that he explain to the woman sitting at the gateway collecting money and allotting spaces, that we had car trouble on the way from Penrith. It wasn't a lie really, as the car was trouble, it headed in the wrong direction! She was very understanding fortunately, and took Bryan for a walk so he could choose our spot. He came back and drove us around the park to where we were to set up, unloaded the car, left me there with our bits and pieces, and headed off out of the park up through town to the public carpark.

Upon Bryan's return we began to set up our stall area. I had bought us a pergola type contraption to keep the sun off and protect us a bit if it rained so it came out of its box first. I looked at it with my usual disinterested look at anything that comes out of a box in pieces. Bryan found the directions for erection and started putting all the pieces of rod together to build the roof trusses and the legs. I started to straighten out the cover that was all squashed in the box. The wind was coming up and I had to stand on part of it so it didn't blow away. A young chinese couple has the stall area behind us and were sitting looking out to sea before we plonked ourselves in front of them. I saw them watching us with interest, grins on their faces and figured what they may be thinking. Two old farts trying to set up a stall who obviously had never had the pergola out of the box before. Bryan eventually started to put the pieces together and I think it was all too much for the Chinese guy as he wandered over and asked if we would like some help. Would we? Wasn't long then before the men had the thing erected and we thanked our helper gushingly before setting about putting up our tables and arranging our goods on them.

Finally we had ourselves sorted out and settled down for a cup of coffee before the market officially started. People were already wandering around and the day was just superb weatherwise. The sea looked dreamy and the air was fresh but not too cool. The sun was a delight on our backs as we sipped our coffee and laughed together about our trip down from home and getting lost. As the day wore on the crowd grew and a lot of people stopped and looked at Bryan's toys, remarking how lovely they were, well made, how much time must go into each toy, have you been to this market before to sell, are you coming back next month etc etc. Many lookers, many touchers, but few reaching into their purses or wallets. However, Bryan did sell three toys and that paid for the cost of the stall. I, on the other hand, didn't sell a book. I also had a few people chat to me about the book and the Internet, but no buyers. Disappointment but the result wasn't unexpected. I'm thinking of ways that I could get Bryan to make furniture out of the 480 books or so I must have left in the house if I can't sell any of them.

We had our lunch that I had packed, chicken on bread with tomato and cheese and coffee we made ourselves with the hot water in the thermos flask. Our stall was set up near the Lions Club stall that was selling steak sandwiches and sausage sandwiches, so the chicken was a bit boring after smelling onions from the time we arrived. Around 2.00 pm we became drowsy after almost no sleep for about 32 hours or so, and we sat there next to each other, in our chairs and snoozed. My daughter remarked later that night when I told her of our adventure that it was no wonder we didn't sell anything, we were asleep!

Eventually 3.00 pm arrived and we packed up. Bryan had to make the long trek, uphill this time, to retrieve the car and I impatiently waited at the site for him to come back so we could go home. The wind had picked up by this time and we had fun pulling down the pergola, not. No way could we get it back in the box so we just did the best we could and tossed it all in the back of the stationwagon. Gear once again packed, we set off home. We bought more fuel and I settled down to have a snooze. I woke up sometime later and Bryan said, "were we supposed to turn off on a road that said to Picton?" I replied in the affirmative and he said, "oh oh, I passed that a while ago". Why wasn't I surprised? We found another exit before we hit Brisbane (joking of course) and ended up arriving home around 6.00 pm.

We dragged all our mess inside and I unpacked and Bryan cooked us a quick but tasty dinner. We ate, cleaned up, and then we decided not long after that it was too hard to stay awake and we should hit bed. I'd already had a shower so I hit the bed first and was almost asleep by the time Bryan got there. I tried hard to not feel guilty this morning and to stay in bed and feign illness, but like a good robot that I am, I rolled out and got ready for work. I left Bryan in bed sleeping away like a baby and he finally arose just before I left for work.

We were disappointed in sales and yet we had a great day with lots of laughter, and just enjoyed being where we were, out of the house, in the sea air, together. That's the story of my first market day as a seller and our first market day together as a team. I think next market day I'll let Bryan go early and I'll make my way there later in the morning. He is after all the marketer, I'm just the novice having a bit of fun doing things I've never done before. I'm hoping that the next market he goes to will bring him some much needed sales and I'll keep working on the idea for furniture items to make out of all those green covered books I have stashed in cupboards in boxes.

Until next time and hoping whoever reads this enjoys the laugh.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Teenagers In Chat In Australia

It's Tuesday evening, 9.17 pm Sydney time, 16 August 2005. Before I get onto the subject ‘Teenagers in Chat in Australia’ I’d like to reminisce a little first.

The cool air comes in on dark still even though Spring is around the corner. We have had the coldest weather of winter in the last couple of weeks with the biggest snowfalls recorded in about 50 years in Australia, I believe. Some people have never seen snow in areas where it has been falling this month. It's forecast to be around 3 degrees celcius here tonight, with -1 only 1/2 hour away. It's great weather for bed though, and much preferred, by me anyhow, to our hot summer nights that drag on for most of the year it seems. I dread the summer coming and hope that by summer 2007 I will be in Western Australia, by the sea, where at least I can walk on the beach with my feet in the water. I have a lovely inground pool and yet, in the heat of our summers, there are days when the only way to get to the pool is with shoes on because of the intense heat of the concrete outside the house. As I am fair skinned I burn very quickly, so outside in summer is not the place for me to be, not in Sydney anyhow. The heat, the flies, and at dusk the mozzies, ruin having a pool to cool off in.We are drought stricken and have been for the last few years. Water restrictions have been in force now since last year, and most of our gardens are dying along with our lawns and indeed, our countryside. The frosts of winter have almost destroyed what greenery there was left from the sparse rain we have had this year. The winter has been idyllic, cold nights and beautiful days with an azure sky most of the time. Small white clouds waft across the sky and, if only the rains would come, it could be called paradise. Our Governments are now at a running pace trying to find ways to increase our water supply by building a plant to convert sea water into water we can use for gardens etc., and devising plans to find other water sources.

Once upon a long time ago everyone had at least one water tank in their yards, but the city fathers in their stupidness outlawed them as unsightly and they were banned in the suburbs. Now, after the horse has bolted, water tanks are back in vogue at high cost to the home owner, and new homes are being built with water tanks under the slab or built into the guttering, along with a water tank standing in the yard, as mandatory items. I wonder when they will allow the urban dwellers to have their chooks back and backyard vege gardens will come back into vogue. I often think about what will happen to all of us if war breaks out. No longer can many of us go out into our yards and feed our families on our own produce. The only thing in my yard that can be eaten are lemons.

Can't anyone see that we have been made to be reliant on supply of all our necessities to the degree that if something goes wrong, we will all be at the mercy of those suppliers? I for one don't fancy lining up for food like my parents had to in the Second World War. My intention is to get out of Sydney as soon as I can and make very sure that where I end up living I can grow veges and have some chooks and also have a water supply that comes from rain. Perhaps I am fretting over nothing, but I trust my instincts, and I feel strongly all is not well in this our world, and there are worse things coming than those that have already invaded our living rooms. I know I'm not alone in my thoughts, as there are many people opting out of city life and Sydney, I believe, is experiencing not only an influx of new inhabitants, but a departure of many others who have had enough and want out. The simple life my parents had, the world I grew up in, was so much further advanced than this world is, even without all the mod cons and all the 'things' we think we can't live without. I visited Camden and Menangle on the weekend, calling in on a couple of my delightful aged aunts, and the memories flooded in of the times in my childhood when I went to the same areas with my parents and swam in the rivers around Camden and Liverpool and the creek at Menangle. Today you wouldn't put a toe in any of those places. The children of the future and indeed of the present, will never know the pleasures in life, the simple ones, that I grew up with. An unspoiled city, a poorer city yes, but what is poor? We had family, we had values, principles, respect. We never missed what we didn't have, we were grateful for what we did have. I treasure those memories and feel a sadness that no one will ever know them again. Prosperity has ruined Sydney and it's time for those of us who mourn the passing of all the things we knew and loved, to move out and leave it to those that never knew those pleasures and therefore don't care they are no longer there.

Now to the subject matter. As an author of a recently published book about online chat and dating, I have managed through some exposure in newspapers and on television and hard work to get my profile into search engines, to become ‘noticed’ by some people who are surfing the net or reading the papers looking for insight into the subject of my book. Since writing the book and experiencing all I did online and in ‘reality’, my passion, an overused word I know, is children online and teenagers. I’m not slow to point this out to anyone who chooses to read what I write or listen to what I have to say. I have said for a few years, and still say loudly, “the Internet is a wonderful world of knowledge, an incredible medium, but it is also a dark place, an addictive place, and indeed highly dangerous”. Some people listen, others make light of what I say, others ridicule me. I take it all on the cuff because those that deny there are dangers have their heads stuck in the sand and are too involved in their own agendas to care about anyone else. I allowed my life to become public knowledge because I care about others more than myself. I have made no money out of having a book published and on the contrary, it has cost me a great deal. I believe I spent my money well and I have already reaped my reward.

I have been contacted by two sets of parents from Sydney. One couple have read the book and now realise their daughter, who they thought was just having some fun on the Internet, is in fact addicted to chat and has brought a degree of danger into their lives by giving out personal details. She has also lied to her parents, something they now realise after reading my story and seeing some signs in her that I wrote about in the book. I received an email from the mother thanking me for giving her an insight into what was going on; something she refused to believe for quite some time. That family is now working hard to turn the tide in their home, and not a minute too late either from what they have told me.

I received a call at work one day after a local newspaper did a story on me, and the book. The lady who called was distraught, unable to work out what was going on in her son’s life. He had become mixed up with a chat group online and had started acting in strange ways. He began wearing all black clothes, had body piercings done, started drinking and taking drugs; all at the age of 14! His parents were distraught, didn’t have a clue what was going on in his life or why. The father took time off work, learned to surf the net, found ways to research the information he needed and when he had enough evidence, he went to the authorities. He and his wife have had a torried, horrifying time; nothing worth doing is easy and this proved that to the extreme. Only for the fact that one person actually listened to them, they would still be fighting for help. But that one person opened doors that hopefully will soon allow the authorities to move in on this group and shut them down. The story they told me is frightening and yet, knowing as much as I do about the Internet, I was not in the least bit surprised to learn all I did. I can’t say anymore than that as I respect their privacy, but be assured, their son is not alone in this. This group is spreading their web across our city, and I imagine across many more cities throughout the world, and all parents who know their kids spend a lot of time online, should sit up now and take notes. Any changes in attitude, dress, activities, friends, should send out loud alarm bells that something is going on that they should find out about post haste. From what I heard this is not something any parent would want their kids involved in, and it starts out so insidiously, so innocently.

Please all of you who have kids who use a computer, take the time to watch them, talk to them, ask to sit with them and watch them online. If they have nothing to hide they won’t object. If they do object, then you best find a way to suss out what they are doing on their computers. A crash course in how to find hidden documents on the puter is a necessity, a spy program, anything at all. This is not a joke, this is not something any of you should be taking lightly. Your children are at risk. If you know they are exchanging photos with other people, be afraid, very afraid. Learn how to surf the net, do searches, find help. I recommend in Australia, a Government run help website that has so much information and help for kids and parents. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t think you are being paranoid. This is a whole new world and it is one that you, as parents, should know as much as you possibly can about. Teach your children never to give out personal information like their real names, their addresses, phone numbers, school information, sporting groups, friends’ names. There are some very clever people online who can track down others with just piecemeal information. Do some serious reading about crime online because it is happening, and your children may very well be mixed up in it already without even knowing it. There is mind manipulation going on to the max in these groups, self mutilation, suicide, attacks on other people are all on the agenda. Kids are being programmed online to carry out some pretty horrific things, and believe me, IT IS HAPPENING as I type this.

Take care, and remember, be aware, be wary, and beware.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Catch Up Time :)

It's now 9.35 pm in Sydney Australia, Thursday 4 August 2005. How hard to believe that winter is 2/3 over already! I personally love winter, love my fire at home and the different heat from that of artificial heating that I have to spend 5 days a week in at work and then another kind in my car. All drying heats, so different to a wood fire. Yes I know all the arguments against wood fires and yet the stacks spew out their gases 7 days a week all over the country with never a whimper. So, whilever I can burn wood of a winter I shall continue to do so as I firmly believe that human beings found how to use fire for many reasons, and one was to keep warm by and another was to cook by. As in most things fire was a natural progression, something that was put there for early man to find and respect. The so called better alternatives line the pockets of those that produce them and at what expense to the world as a whole?

I managed to sneak away 0ut of Sydney for a week to God's country, Queensland, last week. I had some family obligations, mostly to visit my mother who suffers from dementia and is in 24 hour care in a nursing home not far from where my brother and sister-in-law live. I trek up there two or three times a year to see my mother even though she doesn't always know who I am and forgets I was ever there as soon as I walk out the door. I used to come home extremely depressed until I realised that she doesn't seem to know a thing is wrong and the family are the ones that are suffering, not her. My greatest sadness is knowing how my mother would be totally apalled if she knew what she looked like now and would feel so degraded. She was always proud of her appearance and never went without lipstick, was always repairing it after a meal. Now I rarely find her with her teeth in her mouth although once the people in the nursing home know I'm around the teeth miraculously appear in her mouth each day after the initial first toothless visit. If she would touch me, say hello, just show some recognition I would feel better about things, but then she may be distressed when I leave if she knew; now it doesn't matter whether I go or don't. I usually sit and stare at the walls as trying to talk to mum is like talking to a brick wall. She either stares at anything but me, or focuses on the television set, or rolls over in the foetal position and goes to sleep. But is she asleep or is she just ignoring me? I wonder about that as sometimes I catch her out and she knows only too well what I've said to her. I tried to make her acknowledge me, to look at me and not the television set and eventually I stood at the end of the bed where she had to look at me. She stuck her knees up in the bed so she could look up at the television and not at me. Clever mum, well done! I took a copy of my book to show her on my last visit in February. I wanted so much to hear her say 'well done, I'm proud of you'. How insane of me to expect that. She stared at the book showing no emotion or acknowledgement that she even knew what it was. I wanted to leave a copy with her but there wasn't any point, it would have disappeared for sure.

This trip to Brisbane was different to all the others I've made since mum moved up there in 2000. I was going to fly up as per the norm and meet my man, Bryan, and go together to visit my mother then spend a few days out in the mountains with him. However plans changed and Bryan moved to Sydney, to me, before my holidays and we drove from Sydney to Brisbane together. How neat it was, after 17 years solo, having someone to carry the bags, load the boot and unload it, to fill the petrol tank, open the door of the car for me and do all those loving things a lover does for a lover :) How neat to have someone to visit my mother with me, to hold my hand and know why I felt like I did after being there with her. Sharing mealtimes, wake times, just being together times. It was a special week for me.

We left Sydney on Monday and drove to Coffs Harbour and found ourselves a bed for the night before driving on to Alexandra Hills on Tuesday where we stayed in the Alexandra Hills Hotel for the next 4 days. We spent the days busily visiting the nursing home, my relatives and Bryan's daughters and friends from chat who live in Caloundra. After leaving Brisbane on Saturday we idly drove to Nimbin but arrived after dark and decided to mosey on to Lismore for the night with a planned return to Nimbin the next morning. It was so dark out there driving on narrow country roads. As Bryan's night driving vision isn't too good I did the driving and I was pleased to arrive in Lismore and find a bed for the night. We went to town to find somewhere to have dinner and ended up finding a takeaway place. After placing our order we thought we would eat there but were told they were closing and we would have to take the food away with us! So much for country hospitality. Next morning we drove to Nimbin and spent an hour wandering amongst the locals and visited a marketplace where I bought some jewellery for my daughter and grand-daughter that was made by the locals. Nimbin is like going back in time to the 60's - flower people. They still wear clothes like we did in that era and everyone is very layback. The air is thick with the smell of incense and ..... leave the 'and' to your imagination :)

We left Nimbin and went on to Lismore once more and then headed south, ending up in Port Macquarie on Sunday night where we managed to get a motel room overlooking the beach. We had our last dinner away from home (thank heavens for that I was sick of takeaway and hotel and club food). The motel in Port Macquarie is built on the site of an old gaol and has a wishing well. We both tossed in some coins and made our wishes, climbed in the car and headed south once more, this time to Forster/Tuncurry. Bryan had never been to either town and I had wonderful memories of Forster, having spend some happy holidays there when my children were young. We initially stayed in a caravan and then when I was back in full-time work I used to rent a two bedroom unit for us near the beach. I found a Forster I didn't remember, with the exception of the beautiful waterway where the bridge crosses from Tuncurry to Forster. There are so many apartment buildings there now, so many houses, cars, people. I'm glad I have memories of it when it was a sleepy, lovely place for a holiday.

After lunch on a cliff overlooking the rocky beach below, we set out once more, this time for home, Sydney. We eventually arrived back here just on dark on Monday evening, unpacked the car, lit the fire, unpacked our bags, had a shower and hit the sheets for a while to recoup. (It gets like that when you get a bit ragged around the age edge :) Tuesday and Wednesday were the last two days of my leave and I spent them catching up on washing, ironing, a bit of shopping and washing my car.

Today was my first day back at work and it was nice to have a few people tell me I had been missed and everyone seemed pleased to see me back. The fact I wasn't all that happy about going back didn't matter after a while, and I got stuck into the work that had piled up on my desk while I was away. I had a tree to organise to be removed from a part of the work site so I look forward to perhaps a boot full of firewood for next year. The tree has been marked as offending a neighbouring property by ripping up the sewer pipes continuously over the last few years at the cost of a few thousand dollars to the house owner. Our dry weather has caused this kind of problem all over Sydney with many householders finding their pipes clogged with roots from trees. One thing about it, the plumbers are never short of work and builders must be getting plenty of work as well repairing cracks in ceilings and walls and concrete slabs. I have noticed in my own home that there are a few cracks appearing and it's probably time I contacted the builder as I have a 25 year structural guarantee on the house due to the fact I had 35 piers sunk under the slab and two huge concrete beams built into the slab at a cost of $7.5K in 1990. Time to call them in and see which way they dance.

So, until next time, for anyone who cares to read this, well done! Take care and see you soon :)