Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Review: New Blood Bank in Shepparton

Hi everyone,

Regular readers will know that one of the things I'm passionate about is blood donation.  A new Red Cross Blood Bank opened in Shepparton this week, and I wanted to review it.

This particular blood bank is on Corio Street (enter off Vaughan Street).  The first thing you notice on going in is that it's very open.  On one side there's a line of consultation rooms where the assessment for donation is carried out, but otherwise the area blood donors encounter is a single large area where the only walls are essentially there to direct traffic.

The decor is subdued and soothing - red, white and timber - and you move through in a counterclockwise direction.  First, to a waiting area to fill in the paperwork, then to a consultation room where your health (including blood pressure, heart rate and haemoglobin) is checked, and then to the donation area.  After donating, you proceed to another area for water, milk, biscuits and (hopefully) to make another booking.  This pattern gives donating an orderly, low-pressure feeling.

I usually donate plasma rather than whole blood, which takes a little longer (the process is fascinating - the blood is taken out of your arm, spun in a centrifuge to extract the plasma, and then what remains is returned to the arm with saline fluid).  There's certainly nothing to be afraid of however you donate: the staff are all nurses and the chances of misadventure are infinitesimal.  Because they're experienced, insertion of the needle into a vein in the elbow involves no more than a tiny sting.  This needs to be remembered because the needle itself is the largest gauge in medical use (after you've had this used once or twice, you'll never fear a needle again).  Blood bank staff never fail to make you welcome, and in umpteen donations I don't think I've ever felt like I was just another arm.

The Red Cross Blood Service has plenty of material on the value of blood donation, and I don't suppose there's a need to rehearse it here.  What I can tell you truly is that if you have a mind to give blood, I can't think of a better place than the Shepparton Donor Centre.

Monday, 28 September 2015

While the tea brews...

Hi everyone,
A couple of blogfriends have done some interesting "coffee posts", about things they'd talk about over coffee.  It seemed like an intriguing way to write, so I'm wondering what we'd talk about while a pot of tea was brewing.
While the tea brews ... I'd explain about loading steers to go for sale yesterday.  There were 35 to go onto the truck.  Unusually, they were mainly loaded by the driver and the stock agent rather than by Dad and me.  The most useful thing I did was to buttress part of the yard with a tree branch (in fairness to myself, it was a pretty good repair).
While the tea brews ... I'd note that Dad seemed more tense and uptight than usual for loading cattle (which is a task that raises the blood pressure at the best of times).  I think he's probably more stressed than he's been in years, with mum being sick, the season drying off quickly, water getting short, and Little Sister and Michael hitting the skids.
While the tea brews ... I'd sound you out about jobs.  I'm looking again: I mentioned to one of my co-workers that I don't have much to do most days.  She pointed out that my predecessor in the role had much the same experience, mainly using her time at work to study.  In any case, I can't abide the thought of bring out of work again after April (Shudder).
While the tea brews ... I'd comment that the flipside of the weather drying off is that the nights are warmer and the days are glorious.  There was never a better time to be a runner, and I have a hankering to go and rack up some miles at Noreuil Park in Albury or on the Yarra Trail in Melbourne.
Image from here
While the tea brews ... I'd change tack and mention that I had a curious insight the other day.  The pharaoh Tutankhamun's name translates as "Living Image of (the god) Amun".  His original name was Tutankhaten ("Living Image of the Aten", ancient Egypt's short-lived montheistic deity).  To me this leaps out as a parallel of the statement in the Old Testament that God made people in His own image (Genesis 1:26).  I'd probably note that the time of Atenism is roughly contemporaneous with that of Moses (give or take a few centuries), considered by tradition as the author of Genesis.  Depending on whether you looked bored or not I might wonder out loud whether this isn't telling us something about a change in how people saw themselves then.
What would you talk about while the tea brews?

The Gospel According to Bubba

Hi everyone,

This will be a somewhat rambling, God-bothering post.  If that's not your thing, feel free to surf on over to something more fun!

After sharing a few things on some of the Rednecks / Country Boys / Cowboys / Hillbillys G+ communities last night, I had a few ideas going through my head as I drove to work this morning.  I started out with a fairly pedestrian idea: what could rednecks learn from religion?  Then, when I inverted the question I started seeing a bunch of new ideas.  So, what can religion learn from rednecks?

The answer turned out to be: quite a lot.  One thing that leapt out at me was that when people have an uncomplicated life, they can find God an easier idea to get hold of.  There's an argument that a belief in one God comes from desert cultures, where a belief in many gods comes from forest cultures (1).  Is the life of country boys simple?  Perhaps: it might be condensed to work, family, sports and the outdoors (yes, I'm speaking in stereotypes, but I'm probably close to the mark still).  Maybe the people most receptive to the Bible might be those for whom life, and things in it, are robust, clear and firm.

The second thing that I found myself thinking is that for many country people, death is no great mystery.  I recall that the book Deer Hunting with Jesus noted how the good people of Appalachia tend to have a high rate of enlistment in the United States' armed forces.  Over the last decade, this would have also meant a tragically high rate of death and severe injury.  Rural workplaces the world over have a singularly high rate of accidents, fatal and non fatal.  Ernest Hemingway said of the people of Spain's Atlantic coast -
Death, to people who fish in the cold parts of the Atlantic ocean is something that may come at any time, that comes often and is to be avoided as an industrial accident; so that they are not preoccupied with it and it has no fascination for them. (2)

This might mean that priests and pastors might make headway in some communities by framing salvation as an exercise in preparing for an eventuality.  A meaningful thing to prepare for, to be sure.  Fundamentally, though, as sensible and practical a choice as taking out life insurance and putting on a hardhat.  It might only be when people try to live as if death were not real that they cling to life the way a drowning man clutches driftwood - like the alcohol and drug-fuelled expatriates of mid-twentieth century Tangier (3).

The third thing is that people living an outdoors life may have little need to be told about God himself.  In a sense, they live with His fingerprints.  Visiting a ruin in the Algerian desert, writer Albert Camus said
I felt myself whipping in the wind like a mast. ...  Eyes burning, lips cracking, my skin became so dry it no longer seemed mine.  Until now, I had been deciphering the world's handwriting on my skin.  There, on my body, the world had inscribed the signs of its tenderness or anger, warming with its summer breath or biting with its frosty teeth.  But rubbed against for so long by the wind, ... I lost consciousness of the pattern my body traced.  Like a pebble polished by the tides, I was polished by the wind, worn through to the very soul. (4)

Where a person's life is experienced overwhelmingly through what the senses tell them of Creation, telling them of the glory of God is like shipping coals to Newcastle.

People who talk about evangelisation sometimes speak of Jesus meeting people where they are.  Thinking about what rednecks can tell us, that might be a bit presumptuous.  Without putting a name to the experience, it's likely they've already met Him.


(1) Bruce Chatwin, letter to Shirley Hazzard dated January 1984, in E. Chatwin
and N. Shakespeare (eds), Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin (London,
2011), p.378; Guy Pagès, 'Le polythéisme de la forêt contre le monothéisme du désert?', 16 November 2013.

(2) Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon (London, 1994), p.233

(3) Ian Thomson, 'Tangerine Dreams', The Spectator, 28 August 2010.

(4) Albert Camus, 'The Wind at Djemila', trans. E.C. Kennedy, in P. Thody (ed.),
Lyrical and Critical Essays (New York, 1970), pp.74-5.  Camus was an atheist, but
it must be said he displayed no real scorn for Christianity.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Country boy goes running

Hi everyone,
Another day of backroads life.
I slept very heavily last night.  Possibly I woke in the night; I'm not sure.  Apparently Mum fell getting out of bed last night, and Dad had to wake Michael to get her up, as he couldn't manage it unaided.  This is a bad omen.
Shearing shed, this morning
With that in mind, Dad and Michael left me here at the farm to keep an eye on her while they went back over to Violet Town.  It seemed to me to be overkill, but as Mum had no plans to do more than read this morning (thank Christ she retains that power) I headed out to take the dog for a walk and try to pair up some cows with their newly tagged calves. 
I did pretty well with pairing them up, being able to connect 5 confidently (meaning the cow was feeding the calf) and 4 tentatively (not feeding, but together).
The dog certainly enjoyed the outing too, although he's lost some fitness.  He seemed like a happier dog when it was clear we were turning back up for the house.
With the cattle attended to and dog walked I got on with a few other jobs till lunch, over which we watched Landline.  A few more jobs after lunch before Michael headed off.  Getting water from the well is a constant worry now - there's about 15 minutes pumping at best from it.  Dad thinks it might be getting a bit longer; I suspect there's an element of wishful thinking.
Not having any other work to do, I headed out on my Sunday long run about 3pm.  I had no real speed in mind; just a desire to rack up some miles at whatever pace happened to occur.  This low pressure approach suited me fine: it was just a good long run on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon.
I took the route out past the Miepoll Hall.  I'm always struck by how neat and cared for it looks: Miepoll is barely a village - indeed, it's little more than a few houses, a CFA station and the Hall itself.  Somehow, though, seeing it makes me feel good about the world in general.
Having a good long way to go meant I could keep taking in the landscape.  There are crops out everywhere!  The country looks healthy even though it'll surely dry off quickly.
Dinner was an odds and ends affair.  Dad made himself a sandwich, and Mum and I finished the stew I made in the slowcooker the other night.
No more for now.  Back to work tomorrow of course.  I'll need to leave early to help load some cattle out of Violet Town, although the loading itself won't be difficult (I hope).  There's more that I want to write, but I haven't thought it quite through yet.  It'll keep.
Hope your Sundays are starting well!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

A farm-photo heavy post

Hi everyone,
Another Saturday here in Farm-Werld.  For me it kicked off with breakfast and a load of laundry.  Because every time the machine goes through a drain- or spin-stage it empties a couple of buckets of water, we were ferrying buckets outside for the garden all the while.
Shearing shed
About mid-morning Dad, Michael and I headed over to the property at Violet Town to reconfigure the yards there so the steers can be shipped off for sale.  It's actually not a bad job.  Kind of life size horizontal tetris.
Naturally, some of the stock came down to investigate.  For herd animals, cattle are surprisingly inquisitive!
Dad and I came back a bit early because Mum called me and explained that the deck-chair she'd been sitting in on the verandah had given way and she couldn't get up off the concrete.  She took that surprisingly well, or at least seemed to.  I know that she's pretty down about her limitations.  I guess, like many such things in life, some days she feels like she can live with it, and on other days not so much.
Diesel tank in the afternoon light
While he and I were back here we had lunch, and as we were doing that Michael rang and advised that he'd finished off the yards on his own.  As there was no need to go back, I spent the afternon tackling small jobs here (sweeping a small mountain of sand and dust out of the workshop, getting the dinner underway, peeling potatoes, walking the dog etc etc) and Dad continued to investigate what can be done with the wells on the place.,  Late afternoon Michael came back over for dinner and to stay the night.  Little sister stayed away, which was perhaps just as well for the sake of keeping everyone's stress levels down.
A bit before 6pm I went out for a bike ride, to give my legs a bit of reconditioning after a couple of days running.  The evening was cool and smelled fresh, and the sky was clear so that the sunset painted everything in beautiful colours.
I went up as far as the sealed road.
Flood marker 
 A Shire, with no known hobbits
Everyone took an early night as there was nothing on TV.  I'm catching up on my bloggage and I'll probably sleep too: I've felt tired for a few days now.
Hope you're all doing great!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Running trails, dinner and an accident

Hi everyone,
Sorry it's taken me a while to get to writing another post.
It's been a good spell since the last post.  After work wrapped up yesterday I went out for a run in the greater metropolitan Tatura.  I was a little pressed for time, so I just headed out for 35 minutes to pre-emptively burn some calories ahead of a farewell dinner for two SES officers who are going non-operational.
I headed out to the town limits and then doubled back through Cussen Park.  I got a bit lost in the park and eventually needed to get my bearings from Tatura's only multi-story building (the butter factory).  The weather was good - setting sun and cool air - and I felt great.  I had to laugh when, while I was lost in the Park, my iPod started playing Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere".  It may have been set to random, but apparently that setting includes a sense of humour!
I had a shower at work and put on some civvies, before heading up to the golf club for the dinner.  It was great to see these friends in a non-training context, and the food was great.  I had the beer-battered barramundi and chips, which was done to perfection: not heavy or greasy, and went well with wine.
Today got off to a startling beginning with my pager going off for a Category One job - a person trapped in a road accident at Kyabram.  The accident was an hour and twenty minutes from me, and I'm at best half an hour from the LHQ, so I had no chance of being there in enough time to be a help.  I had to message in 'not attending', but I felt pretty bad about that for most of the day.  The accident was a fatality, and I felt like I'd piked it and let the side down.
Today at least I had some actual work to do by helping one of my colleagues who's just back from leave.  It was a beautiful day and for lunch I went outside and read and ate a couple of small tins of fish.
The best bit of the day came after work when I ducked down to Murchison to try out the recently built rail-trail down there, that covers the route of the old Murchison to Rushworth railway.
I can't speak highly enough of it as a place to run.  It's almost dead flat and very straight.  It's finely gravelled which reduces the impact on your knees and ankles, which lends itself to speed.
There's some pleasant variation in the way it crosses one road and a couple of irrigation channels.
I smashed out 12 kms in a little over an hour before heading home.  I think the full route from one town to the other is about 20 kms, which would make a good use of a Saturday afternoon, especially as both towns have some good pubs and coffee shops for post-run refreshment!
The weekend will give me a chance to burn off excess energy from today (run notwithstanding, I still had too many calories today): we'll be setting up some temporary cattle yards and drafting in some steers. Just keep working.
No more for now.  I hope you're all doing great!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Hi everyone,
Another day here in water-world.
Perhaps I should say rather, lack-of-water-world.  Talking with the old boy over breakfast he noted that the two wells on the place are now down to about 18 inches of water, which means that there's not going to be a whole lot for cattle and people (or indeed, for cattle OR people).  He has an idea of getting the drilling rig up here and re-working the holes, or at least cleaning them out.  I have some doubt that this is a viable plan - the rig has been idle for years now and whether it'll need work before it can be put into service is (I think) doubtful.  Further, getting it up here will involve a couple of trips in the semi-trailer and dodging the traffic authorities and the police.  I suggested that maybe having a contractor do the work might be cheaper in the long run, but he said that in that case he might as well sell the cattle now.  I wondered aloud whether that was such a bad idea given that the market is good at present and we're facing a long dry summer.  He was disinclined to agree and I let the matter drop.
I hate myself for how I'm struggling to respect Dad at present.  I really do hate myself for it.  But, I also find it painful that he seems to have become more close-minded.  He scoffs any time there's a news story about climate change, and especially at the idea that human activity might be involved, which I find disheartening when the changes in the world are now becoming very real.  I find it hard to explain it, but it hurts me that he'd never consider getting a hearing-aid despite getting harder and harder of hearing, so that both mum and I have to shout to make ourselves heard.  And that he takes so little care of his body that, once he's ensconced in his armchair of an evening, he really can't move out of it.  I know he's a good man - I've always known that and never doubted it - but somehow something about the way his life is going, and the way it's taking mum's life with it, just breaks my heart.  The truth is that I don't know if I want to watch this particular drama falter and sputter its way to a conclusion.  If something happens that lets me be a better father than I am a son, then I think that will be the boundary post of filial duty.
Continuing the water theme, the highlight of today was a field trip with the work-experience girl to Goulburn Weir, which included being shown how the new flume-gates work.  The weir is a great piece of design from the late Nineteenth Century (somewhat upgraded since then).
However dry the country is, the sight of this much water is something to gladden the heart.
The day has otherwise been dead quiet, and tomorrow will be quieter too (the boss will be away and it remains to be seen how many of my co-workers will be here).  Tonight SES training is being replaced by a dinner at the golf club to farewell our Unit Controller and his partner, who are both having to step away from operational service for work reasons.  I'm looking forward to it, and also to the fact that this means I can get a run in here in Tatura after work, then have a shower here and head over to the dinner.
No more for now.  I'll try and get some good pictures while running this afternoon, and maybe to show you some of the tribe at SES.  Hope you're all doing well.

More maps to fold

Hi everyone,
Another post for tonight: the recap of my day.  Frankly, it was a struggle to fill the day in.  How difficult?  This was what my diary looked like for the day -
Probably the most challenging bit of the day was the hour or so the work-experience girl and I spent folding whacking great A0 and A1 size maps and charts down to A4 size.
Well, it WAS interesting to skim over the old plans prepared long ago by the State Rivers Commission.  So there was that.
I was going to pick up some fruit for lunch, but I hadn't had a decent coffee all day and swapped it out for a whacking great chai latte.  Oh, and when I went to the opp shop on the way I was lucky enough to pick up a 50c copy of Immanuel Velikovsy's entertainingly nutty book Ages in Chaos.  Score!
The afternoon disappeared into filling in time, some filing and also printing and collating the business' current crop of insurance policies.  Again, I had the uncomfortable feeling of doing a make-work job.
Image from here
Home from work in enough time to gather a couple of barrows of firewood, give the dog a walk, and cut up the vegetables and generally set up the slow-cooker to make a stew for the parental units overnight.  I think it should come out well for them.  I'll set it before I go to bed; the only thing I haven't yet decided is whether to throw a roux in (I think I will).
No more for now.  Hope your days are more interesting than mine!

Hating Pope Francis

Hi everyone,
A two post night tonight.  This is the first one.
I've been looking at a bit of the coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the United States.  I should know better than to look at the comments sections of a lot of the stories, because where people can comment more-or-less anonymously, it seems to bring out the absolute worst in them.
I genuinely don't understand the enmity that makes people say things like -
Welcome to The Roman Catholic Church whose clergy have elevated child molestation to an art form and now under the direction of a Socialist/Communist Pope is about to issue a papal bull that will establish an ecclesiastical tribunal and sponsor an inquisition for the suppression of Globull Warming heresy.
You will be required to attend U.N. sponsored Roman Catholic Socialist/Communist Reeducation Camps administered by the self-ordained and self-anointed U.N.High Priest Maurice Strong and the most holy reverend AL Gore and their minions of "SELF-FELLATIATING" lunatics and fanatics of the "CATASTROPHIC GLOBULL WARMING ORDER" where you will be indoctrinated in the delusional ideologies and lunacy of Liberalism, Progressivism, Marxism, Socialism and Communism and be required to listen to the endless and mindless drivel of these lunatics until you acquiesce and succumb to their Lunacy and atone for you egregious heretical and sinful beliefs!
It hurts for an rusted-on right winger like me to say it, but there's a strain of opinion now that would reject Jesus Himself if He were to return today, on the grounds that He was insufficiently conservative.  For my own part, I have seen nothing in the things Pope Francis has said and written that is cannot be traced to a belief that every person - however sinful - is stamped with the image of God.
"Tend my sheep?"
Surely no doctrine and no dogma that human wisdom can create is good, if it doesn't assume every person is the living image of God, and doesn't assume that the whole world shows the fingerprints of our Lord.
I may have been thinking about these things a bit too much lately, but I'm getting to think that the command that we must love one another has nothing much to do with what that does for other people.  I think it's probably about what it does to ourselves.

Monday, 21 September 2015

The day I fold maps

Hi everyone,
I'm feeling more like myself today, and less like the dud-battery-bunny in the Duracell ads.  Last night I was reading at about 10:30pm and my brain threw in the towel altogether.  I gave it the largely passive exercise of lying in the dark listening to ABC Classic FM and just let the music wash over it.  I woke up at about 2am to turn the radio off and then went right back to sleep.
I'm still light on for work, and the weird politics of this place mean I can't even offer to help out the other groups like property that could use a hand.  I mean, I'm not sure what's more absurd: that with an 11-page CV I've been tasked with folding a bunch of A0 size maps, or that I'm saving that job for after lunch so I'll have something to do!
On the plus side, the signs of spring are ever more observable.  I photographed the tree in blossom above just before when I went out at lunch.  The days are warmer and the nights are cold but not bitter.  The improved weather has me looking at the running calendar and trying to rationalise paying a bunch of further race fees.  Something else that's a source of encouragement is this letter which came yesterday:
I'm still not convinced it'll come to anything, but I have to keep painting my life in Technicolour.  I surely don't want to wake up one day and find that I've just slouched my way through life with dreams I never made real.  Too many people do exactly that, and I know it's a bad temptation for me too.
"Just look at the face: it's vacant, with a hint of sadness.
Like a drunk who's lost a bet" (Image from here)
Besides which, I've been missing Grace and Rachel more and more all the time and the closer I can be means the more of a proper Dad I can be too.
No more for now.  I expect I'll post again this evening from the farm.  Hope your days are kicking off well.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

My life at work...

Hi everyone,
Finishing out the day at work.  What sort of day has it been?  This sort:

Image from here
I have to tell you, I was epically demotivated arriving at work today.  My brain simply did not want to work and (in any case) had little enough work to do aside from checking the status of a couple of potential claims, most of which had long since petered out.  Hell, even the drive over seemed to be in slow motion.  The Goulburn River seemed more sluggish than usual -
- and I found myself stuck behind a truck carrying earthmoving equipment.
I took some time to look for a few other jobs and registered my details with a private company providing disaster-recovery services.  I have some doubt anything will come of it, but you never know.  Honest to God, I've spent the day largely looking for jobs to do.  It'll give you some idea of the situation when I say that I'm alarmed that I'll need to give about half of the work I do have to the high-school kid who's here on work experience!
The high-point of the day was going down to Lake Bartlett to have my lunch and read a bit in the open air.  What kills me is that the higher-ups must think I'm lazy, when the truth is that I genuinely have very little to do, and when I ask for extra work I have a distinct feeling of being given make-work jobs.
I have no idea what I'll find when I head back to the farm later.  Maybe Michael will have come back to Little Sister.  Maybe he'll have come over and thrown a large public tantrum.  I honestly have no idea.
Will no doubt post more tonight.  Hope all is well at your ends.

Skyping with Grace and Rachel

Hi everyone,

I wanted to write a special couple of notes about last night's skype with the girls.

It was (then) Saturday morning for them, and initially it was just me and Grace as Rachel was still sleeping.  She was most excited to show me some new Slotkins she'd been given.  As best I could understand they're little collectable minature shoes and cars and telephones and the like.  Then she showed me her new iPad game called "Dr Panda", where a panda variously runs a restaurant and a daycare (I was just happy to watch her play).

One of the best bits was when I softly sang a few bars of my favourite Cajun song, "Colinda" to her.  She said that when I did that, she could have fallen asleep, and would I sing to her while she had a nap?  She then curled up and pretended to sleep, and I sang "Colinda" to her, and then started working through as many of the old colonial songs as I could remember - "Botany Bay" and "Wild Colonial Boy", a few bars of "Black Velvet Band" and "Ten Thousand Miles Away".  My sleep-deprived brain was running out of ideas after this point (which is why I didn't throw in "Waltzing Matilda", for example) and I moved on to anything remotely lullaby-ish ("Non, je ne regrette rien").  I eventually regressed to my university days and moved on to Semisonic's "Singing in my Sleep" when Grace announced that she'd slept enough and wanted to go and finish her cinnamon roll (seemingly she's not a fan of late-90s rock!).  I love that she likes it when Daddy sings to her!

By this point Rachel was out of bed and she and I talked, and she told me what she'd been doing at school in the way 5 year-olds tell you those things (viz, lots of disjointed details, of which the only one I can remember is that the school headmaster has a moustache!).  By then Grace wanted to watch something on the ipad (which would disconnect me).  Rachel tried to dissuade her and I heard her tell Grace "he just wants to spend time with us".  I melted: I just love how much they "get it".  Although I should add that this didn't stop Grace hanging up on me!

Being a long distance Dad isn't great.  But Lordy, I wouldn't swap being a Dad for all the tea in China.

Drafting Cattle and Running

Hi everyone,
It's been a good day here in most respects.  Indeed, in nearly all respects!
Because I got to bed late after Skyping last night, and had been up early from the get-go, I switched off the alarms on my phone.  I slept very soundly and until about 8:30am.
The morning was taken up with drafting and marking calves.  We had quite a team to do it: Dad doing the marking and tagging, Little Sister and Second Oldest Sister loading up the ear-tags and marking rings, and me, Michael and Barry S droving and drafting them in.
I lost count of how many cows went through for drenching and calves were marked and tagged.  At any rate it was a beautiful sun-drenched morning for it, and Michael was on his best behaviour.  It was good to have Barry especially: he handles cattle well and he's a very level-headed man.
We'd finished with the cattle by midday, which happened to coincide with the corned beef finishing in the pot.  Score!  It was as good a piece of silverside as I've ever had, eaten with lettuce and tomatoes.  Oddly, Michael stayed sitting outside on the verandah in a deckchair.  I don't know if he was sulking or just enjoying the sun.  It's just kind of awkward.
After lunch there was some activity on Fran's and my car - Michael volunteered to change the oil in
both(!) and I changed the tyre on mine that kept slowly going down.  Good to get that off my conscience.
At about 4pm I headed out on a long Sunday run, in a big loop to the east of here.  You know that I've been kind of avoiding the more awkward bits of the Little Sister - Michael situation, and on a long run bullshit can never catch up with you.  Never have I been so thankful that when the ex wanted out of our marriage, she zapped the relationship with clinical, hitwoman-esque efficiency.  Clean wounds heal fastest.
Anyway, it was a truly stunning day to be out.  The crops of canola and triticale are coming up everywhere, and the afternoon sunlight was positively golden.
When I got back I gave the dog a short walk and admired a pink-gold sunset.
This was about as good as the evening got: dinner was logistically awkward as Little Sister and Michael spent several hours on a heart-to-heart in the kitchen.  I don't know what the outcome was, although Michael came into the lounge room about 15 minutes ago (while I was typing this), leading to this exchange -
Michael: "Alright all, I'm off"
Mum: "Oh OK.  See you in a week or two?"
Michael: "No."
Mum: "No?"
Michael: "No."

And with that he left.  Sigh: I can understand a great many things, but I doubt I will ever understand people.
Not much more to add.  This week looks quiet at work and I may well spend some quality time looking for a second job, or a post-April 2016 job, or both.
Looking forward to updating you all!