116 days to Antarctica..."Where the River Flows" Collective Soul


Approximately twelve minutes reading time

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.” Walt Whitman

Hello, I hope that you have had a good week. Thanks for joining me. What can I say other than I hold Walt Whitman’s words close to me and hope that the shadows cast by others fade quickly and forever. I know that his words are true but the waiting is too long, yet wait out the storm I must. Shadows follow me everywhere, there is no running, no hiding, no escaping them.

I was optimistic starting the week. Seeing progress on my bushfire rebuild was encouraging and incredibly welcome. Then I did not get the proof I was promised that the little bits of wood I paid $65 and $75 each for the internal and external light fixtures were not provided. These small bits of wood total thousands of dollars to me.They've thrown away more wood than they have used. The eaves were being put up before the confirmation of compliance to contract was provided. I was told that photos of each and every noggin in place would be provided to me. They were not.

Horror is what I felt on Monday when I saw all the water pipes in my ceiling in breach of my build contract. I immediately called the Site Supervisor. He said he didn’t know that the Plumbers had been to install the water pipes. Apparently, as I was told, the pipes were installed as per normal build installation in July. Strange that I never noticed the pipes and neither did he. Strange that the pipes weren’t in the photos of the frame that I took last week? I was told that he would get back to me about the fix. The air-conditioning system was installed in the roof space. The man installing the air-conditioning system was the only one who could explain the strange wall that had been built in the middle of my large open plan living space. The Site Supervisor did not know what the wall was and why it was built. It was meant for the fireplace. I went to the Fireplace store locally where it had been purchased to confirm the safety requirements for the hearth and fitting of the fireplace. The wooden frame and gyprock wall was a fire hazard and not suitable for a four-sided slow-combustion wood burning fireplace. As a space and cost mitigation strategy I decided to build a smaller hearth at 1.5 metres by 1.2 metres square and 70cm high with the external bricks as a design feature bridging the outside of the house with the interior in a functional and harmonious way. I hope it works.

On Wednesday the Site Manager called to let me know the eaves were being installed. I went and to my surprise a team of men installing the eaves were with the carpenter. The frame inspector and the site manager were also there and after much discussion mentioned insulating or lagging the ceiling water pipes might be an option instead of moving the pipes, which I said I would consider after being supplied with all the specifications of the materials and timings as I did not want further and extended delays on my build. My next door neighbours' chickens and rooster were in my back yard and had seemed to claim my property as their territory as they have undisputed access to my property from underneath the paling fence. This is not okay. 

The reason I don’t want water pipes in my ceiling is that a few years ago, whilst I was away from home for a few weeks there was a terrible frost. This frost caused a tiny crack no bigger than my pinky finger nail in the copper pipe. My twenty two and a half thousand litre water tank pumped and emptied into my home. When I returned home the carpet felt wet and I thought it cold. There was no water when I turned on the tap to fill Schrodie’s water bowl. I went to get water from my car. Living in the country I have learned to anticipate problems accessing resources like water and always have a supply on hand, just in case. Anyway my neighbour came out and told me what had happened and we went inside and I saw the extent of the damage to my home, which was complete destruction and devastation. The walls were bleeding water from the ceiling, in waterfalls after weeks since the event had occurred. It was like “The Amityville Horror” but with water instead of blood. Schrodie and I were evacuated and spent almost a year away from home whilst it was restored until we could return. We were living in a cottage on a horse property while our home was rebuilt. Other horrors also befell us, the worst being Schrodie getting hit by a ute in Sydney where I had taken him for safety. He was only a baby, being one year old. This is a story for another time. Even after we returned home, the ceiling collapsed twice more in two different places, from two new tiny cracks in different parts of the water pipes. Three times in total, the copper water pipes in the ceiling cracked and collapsed the roof and destroyed my home and much of my property. I then paid the plumber a fortune to take all the water pipes outside the house and insulate them. Any further cracks would not affect my home or property. Destruction caused from cracked or leaking pipes in the walls is less than that from the ceiling. My decision is one of risk mitigation. I explained this again to the Site Supervisor. He said it shouldn’t happen and that these plastic pipes are better. The frame inspector agreed. I did not. I explained to them that I had researched these plastic pipes and that they still crack. I understand materials as I have studied Materials Science and Fluid Dynamics, Fluid Mechanics. I am not prepared to take that risk. I was told that the Site Supervisor was waiting for the plumber to respond with details, specifications and time delays for both fix options. I went and researched all these materials and their effectiveness so I would be armed for a conversation. No conversation or phone call eventuated.

Should does not cut it for me. I do not like the word “should” as it is loaded with expectations and is dangerous as well as constricting.

The Masterton frame Inspector was there on Wednesday and he pointed out a few mistakes with the frame that I was forced to accept. We agreed with the Site Manager that the wall that had been erected in error for the fireplace would be demolished and an appropriate and safety complying brick plinth would be built in its place. The frame inspector was the only person to be properly respectful and ask if I knew how to read house plans. I do not but I am learning and have learned much. The Site Supervisor told me that my build probably won’t be finished this year. The contract end date for the build was September 18th 2021. Another breach of contract by the builders. They are incompetent and lack integrity. They already have eighty five percent of the full build cost so there is little incentive for them to finish. They start new builds to extract more money.

Thursday the brick cleaner was on site and did his job. Before he left I asked him if he had been asked to clean the Colourbond fence, he said No. I asked him and he did but the damage and marks which the Site Supervisor had assured me were superficial were not. After the high pressure water clean the brand new and very expensive fence was unchanged and still terribly damaged and marked.

Friday there were men installing insulation and covering the pipes in the ceiling. This was an attempt to hide the breach of contract. I was beyond horrified. The men left upon my arrival. I do not believe that this was accidental. I realised that they were trying to play me by lying and using emotional manipulation. On Wednesday I had been told by the Site Supervisor that they had checked and the pipes complied with local Council Regulations. I replied that I hope so but they did not comply with my contract. I realised that they were going to proceed. My sister was outraged and rang the Area Manager who was rude and dismissive as well as aggressive and worst of all dishonest. He lied to her blaming the old Site Supervisor. I had been told that the Area Manager would be making the decisions about my build although he feigned ignorance. He also told her that he did not care that it was a Bushfire rebuild and that he did not start the fire. Tsk, tsk, tsk. This arrogant, ignorant man boasted that he has been a builder for forty years. So what? From my perspective this makes the situation so much worse and is a poor reflection on him, both as a man and a builder. In the words of Shania Twain “... you don’t impress me much...” .

This has all been too much for me. I have been struggling to function, even to breathe as the stress and lack of control almost cripples me. This is why my post is late again and I apologise. This has also made me second guess myself and wonder if this blog is really worthwhile. This has all had such a terrible toll on me despite how fortunate I am to still enjoy love, laughter and joy every day. There is no equilibrium currently in my life. I do not function well when I am out of equilibrium. I will restore my balance and harmony as soon as possible but alas, not yet. As such I have decided to let them finish the build as they are ignoring the contract and excusing doing what they want through petty excuses like the note was on another page and he did not see it.They miss the point, it is a Valid and In-force Contract. What they have done is not excusable or justifiable. Where is the disclosure? Imagine if a Surgeon, Accountant, Financial Adviser, Lawyer or anybody else in any other industry did this, they would be facing criminal charges, jail time, hefty financial penalties and fines.Why is this different for builders and tradesmen? Why are we forced to pay their Insurance Premiums for policies relating to our build? Why are we forced to carry their business risk and worse? This situation is beyond ludicrous and intolerable.

I will seek recompense once I am home. Then they will learn what it means to breach contracts and be so disrespectful. Once again I go back to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In common parlance this is known as consequence. An intense and overwhelming despair, sadness, numbness, malaise and perhaps serenity consumes me as I surrender to this process. The Area Manager agreed to follow-up the correction of the pipes and told my sister that we would hear from him on Tuesday. As a consequence of everything Masterton have done, I am revisiting my building contract carefully and have discovered a tiny clause stating that if any variation caused by the builder is not challenged in writing within five days of discovery then it is deemed accepted by the owner. I informed my sisters that after forty years the Area Manager knows this and Tuesday’s response would be along these lines. I sent my written complaint within the five days. My current priorities are to return home and to retain my right to recourse for the builders negligence and breaches of contract. I want compensation for what they have inflicted upon me and my life, the constant and conscious wrongs, misery and havoc. Like Shylock, I will seek my pound of flesh. Shylock is the Jew who is wronged in “The Merchant of Venice” by Shakespeare.

On Monday after visiting my home and checking on the build Schrodie and I walked around our village and loved being back. It is strange becoming reacquainted with the village and the locals, old and new. We have seen old friends after almost two year’s absence and made many new friends which has been wonderful. Every day but today we have walked at home. Schrodie relishes being home, as do I. Relationships with friends and neighbours have continued as if uninterrupted which is fabulous and a welcome relief. We also continue to enjoy our walks in our current home in town, enjoying seeing friends, meeting new people and enjoying the glorious location and most especially the countless Ducklings of all ages by the beautiful local Lake.

Now that Covid lockdown has eased we are all able to go out into the world and mix together which is wonderful, we can enjoy the world more easily. We’ve risked hugs between friends and human touch is so important to me. This is why it was so terrible when I lost all my sensations of feeling last year while I was disabled and in recovery. I could never live happily in a world without feeling anything, especially as I am tactile. Not being able to feel a loved one, including Schrodie through touch would have killed me by heartbreak and overwhelming despair. Thankfully my sense of feeling although still a little different in my feet is pretty much fully restored throughout my body, against all odds.

Although this week my Physiotherapist literally taped me together, my back at least to help support me as the stress is causing me to crumple. The pain in my shoulders and back are aggravated and compounded by the stress and its impact on my body. My posture has slumped. I told my Physiotherapist, Ann, that Schrodie and I are still dancing to between three and seven songs every day depending on how I feel. Some days I am simply too weak to dance at all. This and walking helps build my core strength as Ann reminds me. I told her that being taped together, is literally a band-aid solution that I can only accept temporarily. My aim is to build up my muscle strength. I will buy a water rowing machine once I am home and find someone to assemble it for me as I no longer have such strength. Ann worries that it might aggravate my back. I told her that I will slowly build up my strength. Hopefully I will be strong enough for my trip to Antarctica and enable my kayaking and camping safely down there on the frozen continent. I am so looking forward to this Scientific Expedition.

Wednesday night’s downpour stopped me from attending Trivia. I shrink in the rain, or when I get wet....shhh...’tis a joke. There was too much rain. Thursday night was great fun. Johnny and I are spending more time together again, which makes me happy. My guitar lesson was great and my playing was actually pretty good, which impressed my teacher and myself. What a welcome relief. I am learning new chords and songs. The best thing that happened to me over this last week was running into a man I have not seen for a long time and having him serenade me a greeting. He made up a song just for me. It was so unexpected and wonderful. It cheered me up immensely and I felt so fortunate and grateful for this experience. It's fun for us all.

There has been so much to do every day. There are never enough hours in a day. I do not rest or sleep and I am exhausted beyond belief. Today, I made a salmon salad which is one of my favourite warm weather meals. It is cheap, easy, quick, delicious and nutritious and fat free. I do not eat much but as much as possible, tiny portions. I used tinned red salmon for a change but normally use pink salmon. Red salmon has a stronger flavour. I add lots of onion slices, tomato and cucumber, sometimes lettuce or spinach and season simply with the oil from the tin and salt. Sometimes just salmon and onion rings dressed with salt, lemon juice with oil from the tin. It's also delicious, healthy, inexpensive and very nutritious. I eat it with bread. 

The weather has once again become sunny, warm and glorious. Today on our walk we enjoyed the scents and beautiful sights of Spring with gardens like blooming rainbows. People have been out all weekend mowing their lawns. One of my favourite scents is that of freshly mowed lawns. After a Spring rain, all the better for me. Today we ventured for our walk and it started sprinkling but the rain was warm against the cool breeze and we walked in the rain as the storm started. The rain stopped as we arrived home, sopping wet, as I knew that it would. Walking, running and dancing in the warm Spring and Summer rain makes me feel happy, alive and invigorated. I love it. Cold winter rain is a death threat and to be avoided at all costs by me.  

I hope that you have a good week and have fun every day. I hope that by me sharing my experience it helps keep you inspired to push through your challenges and adversities, whatever they might be at this time. Keep on. I hear my mother constantly telling me that “...this too shall pass. Have a cup of tea to assuage that sinking feeling”. Thank you Mummy. I have a few cups of coffee every morning as I am up every day at about 3am, then 4am, then 5.30am to start the day. All day and night long I drink tea, lots and lots of tea, countless cups to assuage me. I believe it helps me and it works.

Australia’s international borders are re-opening although we cannot travel freely within our own state of New South Wales (NSW) which defies logic and reason. Anyway, Antarctica may be a possibility. Given that my home build will probably not be finished by December as I was told by the Site Manager on Wednesday. My paid rent under my Insurance Policy with the NRMA, who have been wonderful, lapses on the 5th January 2022, after two years. Builders stop working in mid December for six weeks, returning late January when I am scheduled for my Antarctica journey. This timeline becomes seriously problematic for me. I try to not focus on this yet but need to prepare for this eventuality. I am not yet decided on what to do. 

These are some of the main events of this week for me. Next Sunday I will endeavour to post on time. Thank you for your patience and understanding if I am late. Wednesday and Friday or as close to these days I still plan to post my pages. Please read my other posts and pages. I hope that they interest and inspire, help you in some way, even if to make you smile or laugh. As always, thank you for your company and I hope that you leave Schrodie’s Mummy a little better and happier than when you arrived. Please feel free to direct anyone here who you think might benefit from joining us here at Schrodie’s Mummy.

May you enjoy this week's song of the week "Where the River  Flows" by one of my favourite 90's rock bands Collective Soul. This song reflects where I find myself at this time and how I feel. I love the power, energy, their sound and lyrics, they keep me going. I love it, always have and will.

Bye for now.

Take care and stay happy, safe and well. Do something fun and laugh every single day.

Watch this space...


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