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After arriving in South America. I had a couple of days in Buenos Aries before my connecting flight to Ushuaia. So I had some time to meet my Royal & SunAlliance colleagues and get acquainted to South America.

Monday 15th January 2001

I was woken up at 9:00am by the knock on my door, it was my breakfast. I had ordered a lot of food for breakfast and I gobbled it up. I probably over-ordered, the serves were quite large.

After eating breakfast and getting myself ready I called Jason Storah – from Royal & SunAlliance here in Buenos Aires. He called me back and we arranged to meet for lunch at 1pm.

So I went exploring. I went out a different way to yesterday. I walked along Florida to Plaza Libertador Gral. San Martin. It was a delightful park and from there I could see Tarre de los Ingleses – it looked a bit like Big Ben. I wandered around and had a look at the station – Estacion Retiro – quite an impressive structure.

Then wandered through the park some more and then back down Florida to the hotel. I waited for Jason and at around 1:15pm he arrived.

I went out and met Kent Hendricks and another guy Mike. We caught a taxi in the traffic and went to a restaurant on Peurto Medero. The traffic was a lot worse than yesterday – that was because yesterday was a Sunday afternoon!

Anyway sat down at this restaurant with the others and talked. It was really pleasant – we were there until nearly 4pm. We talked about life in Sydney and Buenos Aires. We talked about Mission Antarctica and also about Royal & SunAlliance. We talked about the markets, politics and economics. It was really good.

The food was pretty good – I certainly ate well. The meat was of of good quality, but they have different cuts in Argentina.

After we finished lunch we got a taxi to the Royal & SunAlliance offices in B.A. I got there and Kent was my guide, he introduced me to a whole bunch of people. I gave out my little koalas to as many people as possible.

The operations in Argentina are small, but profitable! I met people from all over the organisation and I met James – the Personal lines manager. Most people spoke with some English – but there were many in the office with no English at all.

I met the portfolio kind of manager guy, the call centre people – I saw the call centre (certainly much smaller than on levels 3/4 in Chatswood).

I had a good time meeting people and I lost track of time somewhat. Kent was going to take me out to dinner at 10pm!! I bade him farewell and I wandered around the streets of Buenos Aires for a bit.

I walked up to Congreso de la Nacion – a very large and impressive building. It was a really pleasant evening and I walked around the park there.

Then I caught the Subway to ‘Peru’. The Subway was cheap and quite a novelty. Nowhere near the quality of a Tangara – but it moved you around. Manual doors and open windows – a good experience though.

Then I wandered down Florida – it was really buzzing. I soaked up the atmosphere and I watched some of the buskers. A juggler and I saw a ‘free’ Tango show. A couple on the street – they were good. They also had a guy doing Flamenco (?) – a lot of foot stomping anyway!

Then it was 8:30pm and I went back to my hotel room. I’m a bit concerned of how I’m going to pay for this hotel. I tried calling Jim Hughes but I got his voicemail.

I waited around and got a couple of phone calls from Kent. Initially we were going out at 11pm or so – but he called later to call it off. I was a bit relieved – so I had a shower and went to bed. I tried calling Jim Hughes again – left one final message and then off to sleep.


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Our family loves the Big Bash.

We love the Melbourne Renegades.

We love going to the Renegades matches.

The favourite item of clothing of my two boys (aged 4 and 8) is their Melbourne Renegades replica shirts.

We love the reaction of my four year old boy pumping his fist and shouting “he’s out” every time the Renegades take a wicket.

We love their enthusiasm at watching replays of Renegades matches.

We love having a ‘club’ cricket team to support with a passion in a genuinely competitive and exciting national competition.

We are planning to attend the big match against the Melbourne Stars this Saturday night and cheer on our team.

Hence my dismay at the comments made by Renegades opening batsman Chris Gayle in his interview with Mel McLaughlin last night. He commented on her eyes, before suggesting the two “have a drink later”, then telling McLaughlin “don’t blush baby”.

Only moments before I’d been cheering and celebrating his remarkable 41 off just 15 balls including some huge sixes.

Yet now I’m not quite sure what to think.

I want the Renegades to win, but I also want the Renegades players to be some kind of role model for them. I realise that all athletes are people and hence are ultimately flawed. But I don’t want my children to see videos of Gayle’s comments – I had wait until all the kids were in bed before I could write this.

His comments were foolish, bold, brazen, condescending and insulting. Some have rightly pointed out that they do verge on a form of workplace harassment.

Yet Gayle’s “apology” was perhaps even worse:

“There wasn’t anything meant to be disrespectful or offensive to Mel. If she felt that way, I’m really sorry for that. It was a simple joke. The game was going on. Entertainment, things get out of proportion but these things happen.”

His “apology” indicates that he doesn’t really seem to think he’s done anything wrong. Maybe Gayle has taken the ‘Renegade’ designation too literally?

So now I am in two minds about cheering for Chris Gayle this weekend.

I’ll be there with my eight year old and he’ll be cheering for the Renegades with all his might. I want our team to win, but the mighty sixes that we hope that Gayle will hit will seem a little bitter-sweet. Gayle has tarnished his image and I don’t want to cheer or encourage a person who has behaved in this kind of way. I wish it was a Melbourne Stars player who had made the comments so I could boo them heartily during the match. I do wonder how the crowd will react on Saturday.

So I feel conflicted about supporting the team our family are growing to love.

It has reminded me that our sporting role models are all flawed. Maybe I should be just content in seeing the sixes fly and ignore the one wielding the willow with gusto. Maybe my children should just view their cricketing heros as just cricketers and we’ll put the mute button on during any interviews.

But maybe that just seems a little too shallow.

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Today we celebrated the official opening of the snow season with a day trip to Lake Mountain. Our previous visit to Lake Mountain was in 2010 (before Callum was born). We had a really terrific day. It was pretty much 2 hours to drive there from our house and we arrived before the crowds. The tobogganing was definitely better in the morning. Only one toboggan run was open, but it was enough for the kids. We also found our own patch of relatively untouched snow – that patch of snow has  most definitely been touched now.

Here is a quick video of our family all ready to go at Lake Mountain.

Here are a selection of photos from the day. A really enjoyable day trip. We’re really looking forward to the snow season this year – perhaps even another visit to Lake Mountain.

Aoife ready to go Aiden ready to go The family ready to go Happy Aiden in the snow Aoife going down the slope Aoife and Poli Rob in the snow Happy Callum Di in the snow Kookaburra and Cocky enjoying the snow Aoife and her snowman

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Today our family spent the day ‘living below the line’.  Live below the line is a campaign to help Australians eat on $2 per person a day – the equivalent of the extreme poverty line. For a variety of reasons we weren’t able to participate over the whole week, but our family of 5 (2 adults and 3 children) decided to give it a go today, we certainly benefited from the experience. What we ate today:


  • Rob, Di, Callum: plain porridge with milk (1.3 cups oats = 59c, 1/3 cup milk = 15c) = 74c
  • Rob and Callum: 3 goji berries each (1c each) = 6c
  • Aoife: 3 weetbix and milk (Weetbix = 5c each and milk 18c/100ml) = 48c
  • Aiden: 2 slices of bread and butter (Bread = 10c eac and butter 4c per serve) = 24c

TOTAL Breakfast = $1.52

Lunch: soup, bread and scones (provided at school working bee) – pumpkin $2, onion 15c, garlic 10c, spices 5c and scones/bread: $2.50.

TOTAL Lunch estimate = $4.80

Dinner: pasta ($1.69), carrot (20c) and cheese (24c)

TOTAL Dinner = $2.13

Snacks: 3 x fruit = $1.74

TOTAL: $10.19

Some of these numbers are estimates and we didn’t count specials (particularly with the fruit), so we pretty much lived on just $10 for a family of five. Gives new meaning to ‘feed your family for under $10’.

Even just for a day it was a challenging and eye-opening experience. We really benefited from the experience and I thought I’d share some of the things that we learned:

1. We experienced hunger. We were deprived during the day. There were many times I longed to eat more. I would have loved to have had a little snack and I write this now with a growling stomach. We really did experience something of what it might be like to go to bed still hungry. It’s been hard to block out the food ads in the Eurovision telecast.

2. The food we ate was plain. We could have no real sweets, no honey on the porridge, no treats, and no dessert. It was particularly difficult to say no to the sweets served at the working bee (the lemon cake looked fabulous). But it makes us realise that to just survive we needed plain foods which maximised our energy – hence plain oats and plain pasta. Boring, but it did sustain us.

3. We recognised that processed food and eating out were luxuries. Poor Aiden wanted a bagel for breakfast, but at $1 each he would have half his food allowance in one go. He tried to assure us that a bagel was filling, but it just wasn’t going to go nearly far enough. Then a milkshake at $4.5o each (Aoife’s request) was completely out of the question. It made me realise that to make our money go further we needed to make our own food. Going out to dinner really is a luxury.

4. The mother will be the one who suffers. When choices were made to feed the family, when resources are scarce, it will generally be the mother who fares worst. She has a stronger concern for her children and ensures that they get fed and gives them extra to her own detriment. I (Rob) also sacrificed food for the children, but Di felt this more strongly.

5. The kids coped pretty well. The kids asked for treats and food during the day, but knowing why we were doing it seemed to help them accept that we were going to eat simply today. When Aoife agreed to join in yesterday, she said ‘I want to be poor Mummy’, as I(Di) had explained that just like Jesus gave up heaven to come to earth for us, we would give up our normal food for the sake of those who don’t have much food.

6. It was harder to do physical labour with less food in the belly. Today coincided with our school working bee. I (Rob) worked away cleaning a drain and sweeping some of the pathways. The physical labour made me feel hungry and I realised that it would be more challenging to work productively all day (particularly at manual labour) on less food. This would also make breaking the cycle of poverty harder as getting ahead might require extra work and energy, but your diet precludes this – hence you might just not be able to offer anything more.

7. Food as an ‘experience’ seems so indulgent. It made me think that gluttony is a bigger problem in wealthy Australia than we realise. I was more concerned about being full and nourished, not so much if the onion was caramelised well enough or if the custard was lumpy. Sure, we can enjoy our food, but it’s important to remember that this really is a luxury.

8. Tomorrow we will eat better. We knew that we’d eat well the next day. The really sobering aspect of this experience was that tomorrow we will eat well again. I’m really looking forward to some yummy fruit toast and yoghurt and other treats tomorrow. For those living in extreme poverty, they won’t have this luxury.

9. I constantly thought about Sandra and Edgar and their three children. This was a family I met in Mexico back in 2012 when I helped build a house for them. They survive on $2.77 per person per day. Experiencing ‘living below the line’ made me really empathise more deeply with this family. Sandra and Edgar have to live on this all the time, and they have to pay for everything out of this money i.e. housing, medical bills, entertainment, clothing, school expenses – everything! The cost of living is lower in Mexico, but still, it makes me realise that the gift of a new house that we gave them would be such an enormous boost to them. Hence living below the living below the line helped me see how valuable our Mexico house building project was. The house building project also helped me personify poverty.

I’m planning on returning to Mexico in September this year. If you’d like to join me, you’d be very welcome.

We found the whole living below the line experience very valuable.

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Facebook election prediction

On election eve I thought I’d think about who will win. Rather than listen to the opinion polls, I thought I’d compare Facebook likes as some kind of de facto measure of popularity. So the numbers…

Australian Labor Party 154,585
Australian Liberal Party 200,313

(I couldn’t find an official Nationals Facebook page).

So from this it appears that the Coalition will win comfortably.

Then comparing leaders:

Tony Abbott 243,628
Kevin Rudd 121,690

Again, Abbott very comfortably.

So with the Lower House sorted interest moves to the Senate. Who will do well?

Well, it’s an interesting story and perhaps the numbers reveal more about savvy social media campaigns and core members than actual political clout, but let’s have a look and make some predictions.

Australian Greens 83,424
Australian Sex Party 29,848
Australian Christians 10,890
Palmer United Party 7,815
Pauline Hanson 5,529
Pirate Party 5,190
Rise Up Australia 4,325
Katter’s Australia Party 2,978
Secular Party 1,859

Not all major minor parties have Facebook pages and hence obviously don’t want to get elected.

So, the conclusions…

Greens to hold Melbourne and to generally poll well. Sex Party to increase vote. Palmer United to do better than Bob Katter, but still not as well as they’d hope. Pauline Hanson to be a moderate success. Rise Up Australia, Pirate Party and Australian Christians to do better than expected. Although I wonder how many people will vote for the Pirate Party because they think they’re advocating eye patches and jolly rogers? And all will do better than the Secular Party.

So there you have it. Completely unscientific, but the people have spoken.

Thoughts and other parties I’ve missed?

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A couple of weeks ago we took advantage of a cheap campervan relocation deal to drive to Adelaide.

It was a pretty good deal. We got to relocate a massive Britz campervan from Melbourne to Adelaide. It cost virtually nothing (something like $15 per day) and Britz gave us around $150 towards the cost of the fuel. The rationale for this is that Britz don’t have to pay anyone to bring their campervans back to where they are based. We can take the van wherever we like as long as we returned it on time (we had about 2.5 days to get there)

There are fairly stiff penalties for being late, if we were less than an hour late returning it, we’d be charged an additional $150. If we were more than an hour late, we’d be charged $1000!

It was a bit of an adventure. The kids were very excited about going in a giant campervan. And, we had a massive campervan – the Britz Renegade. It seats and sleeps 6 people (it’s a dual cab). Our first stop after leaving Melbourne was the Otway Fly, a treetop walk in the Otway Ranges right near the Great Ocean Road. We parked there and I didn’t have an appreciation of just how big our campervan was until I realised the vehicle jutted way over the back of the normal car parking space. Cars had to swerve to get around our vehicle. It’s a big unit.



The Otway Fly was quite a nice afternoon. It was a little freaky being 45m above the floor of the forest.


We then headed onto the Great Ocean Road and saw the 12 Apostles. Di and I quite enjoyed seeing them, the kids were all a bit tired, grumpy and hungry, which made the experience less than tranquil (as well as the other 800 tourists who were there also enjoying the serenity!)


We stayed the night in a camping ground in Port Campbell, which was great. The advantage of a campervan is that you can eat wherever you want. So we packed up the next morning and ate breakfast in the carpark of ‘The Arch’. It was a great spot for breakfast (again not entirely appreciated by the kids).


We really enjoyed stopping and seeing the Great Ocean Road. We saw London Bridge.


And Aiden and Aoife really did enjoy the Grotto (they enjoyed playing on the beach even more).


We headed along the road, stopping for afternoon tea and an ice cream in Mount Gambier. We saw the Blue Lake for about 2 minutes before the allure of a nearby park (which was actually excercise equipment) was too much. We had a nice little work out.



We then belted along the road (as fast as one can with a giant campervan) to Kingston on the South Asutralian coast. Kingston was a little gem: a quiet little beachside town with a gorgeous (and almost empty beach). The kids really enjoyed playing on the beach there. We stayed there and the next day drove to Adelaide arriving in 40 degrees. We returned the campervan at 2:30pm, half an hour before our cut-off time. It had been a great campervan adventure.

We had booked flights with Tiger that evening. So we spent an hour in IKEA (free child minding) and then walked to the airport to catch our plane home. What had taken us nearly 2.5 days to drive, took less than an hour on the plane. Yet the drive was much more of an adventure.

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Farewell Poppa

Last week I attended the funeral of my maternal grandfather, who was always known to me as, Poppa.

As my dad pointed out at the funeral, Poppa’s death was a surprise. Though he was 91, and suffering from dementia, Poppa was not on any medication. Physiologically he was well. But it seemed as though he felt his time was up. It was significant because we had just passed the 20 year anniversary of my Nanna’s death.

As a child I loved Nanna and Poppa. I loved visiting their house in Merrylands and staying. I remember going with Poppa to watch Sydney Olympic play an NSL soccer game at St George stadium. It was very exciting for me, at that stage a country boy, to go to a real live NSL game. Sydney Olympic won and to this day I can still remember the chants “Olympic, Olympic” (to get the real effect you need to put a bit of a Greek accent on it). I also got to play at that stadium some 10 years later, though the crowd for my game was significantly smaller. Poppa and I also went to watch Australia vs England at the SFS back in June 1991. It was a fantastic atmosphere and we was Gary Lineker play (and Paul Wade score an own goal).

It was a real shock when Nanna died suddenly in 1992. I found that very sad. I was concerned for how Nanna’s death would affect Poppa. And, remarkably, Poppa lived another 20 years, for most of that time on his own. It seemed he survived on cheese melts and Tim Tams, but he managed quite well (with steadily increasing help from my mum).

When we lived in Parramatta a few years back we lived not far from Poppa at all, and that was nice. We used to enjoy going to the Merrylands RSL for lunch on Thursdays with Poppa and my mum. Di went every week with Aiden and I joined when I wasn’t at college.

It became harder to keep in touch with Poppa as we moved to Melbourne and his dementia worsened. So it was sad when he died two weeks ago.

He will be buried next to Nanna in the Leura Crematorium. I took Aiden and Aoife there at the funeral last week. It was sad to see Nanna and Poppa’s places there. I really loved seeing Nanna and Poppa.

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