Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Phantom

“Dear Phantom,

How are you?  I am fine.  Your missus is not dead!  She is in Gravelines Prison!  Drop by and ask for Prisoner Cole.  She is not very happy and missing all of you terribly. 

Your good mate,  Greg Bray, Esq.

P.S:  When you get time, can you find out what’s happened to Trevor?”

Well, thanks to my tip off, the Phantom has finally found his wife.  Why this sort of stuff is left up to me, I do not know? 

And even though the Phantom has never replied to one of my many letters, I know he reads them because he always acts on my advice.  Over the years I’ve helped him bust drug rings, arrest pirates, and bring corrupt politicians to heel.  I’ve also supplied him with marital tips, helpful suggestions for looking after his pets, and advice on dealing with uppity pygmies.  Sometimes I mail him tinea powder and various creams, to stave off fungal infections and prevent chafing, because anyone dashing about the deep woods while wearing a full body nylon suit is just asking for skin trouble.

In return he’s given me countless hours of reading pleasure.  Phantom Phollowing runs in my Phamily.  My Phather is also a big Phan.  Years ago we all chipped in and paid for Dad’s membership into the Phantom Club.  He appeared surprised and delighted with our gift, but for some reason, has been reluctant to put on his purple outfit and patrol the neighbourhood at night beating up baddies.

I would have joined, but the Phantom Phranchise has strict rules about having too many operatives working the same turf.  Apparently the wolves don’t get along when they cross paths.

And even though I’ve never been able to locate the Phantoms’ country on a map of the world, I know that it is in the tropics somewhere, possibly in Asia, and peopled by African natives.  You’d think that sort of demographic would be relatively simple to find?

I’ve been ridiculed for writing to him, but I still do it, because one day I might need his help and I’m certain he’ll pop by to assist a long term correspondent.  Anyway, it’s not as if I’m writing to Santa Claus is it?  But I feel sorry for the sad, lonely folk who do.  Imagine how gullible you’d have to be to do that! 

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It’s funny how life works.  In the same week I wrote this column:

where I gave the Win News mob a bit of a shellacking, guess what happens?  Yep, I’m walking my bike up the cliff face that is our main street, and I’m approached by a young lady and a cameraman… from Win News. 

I was half expecting to hear, “There he is!  Get HIM!”  Instead they asked me for my opinion on the LNG / Rental crisis that Gladstone will be experiencing.  I gave my answers, as did my mother, who also happened to be up town. 

Then I slunk off. 

I don’t think I can handle any more coincidences for a while…

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“I’m going to the LNG!”

The title of this post is an abridged version of  the comment I’m hearing most lately, the full sentence goes something like this:

“Stuff this place!  I’m going to the LNG!” 

To which an old workmate muttered the other night, “Have you contacted them yet to let them know of this earth shattering news so they can prepare for your arrival?”  🙂

Many workers in the various plants and industries around Gladstone are all anxiously waiting for the Liquid Natural Gas job vacancies to appear in the paper.  Rumours abound about people / mates / etc. currently working at jobs on Curtis Island, or out west, and being paid in exess of $2000 a week to sit about twiddling their thumbs.  Doesn’t sound very exciting to me, and I’m yet to see a pay packet to confirm the validity of this particular rumour.   

As for me, I don’t think I’ll join the ‘gold rush’ for a job at the LNG plant.  Instead, I might take my pick of all the jobs that will be vacant when the other folk leave.  Or, just drop out of heavy industry altogether.  Unfortunately this will result in a big pay cut which may mean having to leave Gladstone altogether.

Our rental market is starting to crank up, although nowhere near the ludicrous levels of a certain mining town out west, which I’ve been reliably informed has increased rents to $1200 per week, all but guaranteeing that the mine workers will be forced to take the Fly In/Fly Out option in order to save money.  An option which will be the death of many small mining towns and communities. 

Gladstone too is gearing up to take on FIFO workers as well for construction of the LNG and steel plants.  So, I’m thinking that a lot of locals who have been pinning their hopes on changing jobs may be a tad disappointed.   

Regardless of what happens, there are some big changes in the wind for Gladstone and surrounds… hopefully the breeze won’t be full of toxic gases.  At the moment though, it’s quite full of hot air…

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Trouble Brewing Locally

Carlton & United Breweries recently launched a new beer in Rockhampton.  After surveying Rocky drinkers, they created a tipple called Great Northern Lager which has won much acclaim from the locals.  But Gladstone beer drinkers’ first response to the news was, “I hope it doesn’t taste as bad as Mac’s!”

Mac’s beer had the reputation of being Australia’s worst tasting beer, and was universally despised by everyone outside of Rockhampton.  Parties were held around the nation the day the brewery shut down.

Did you note what I did then?  I just did to Rocky, what Rocky does to Gladstone; taken some good news and rubbished it.  I’m often gobsmacked at the bias shown towards Gladstone by Rockhampton news broadcasts.  On the odd occasion when a good news story involving Gladstone crops up, they can’t help but sink the slipper into us, while replaying tired old footage of our mudflats and smoking chimneys’ as if to confirm we live in the Third World.

The recent news regarding the LNG investment was the lead story on all the national news broadcasts, but came in a poor second on our local news; behind the story of Rockhampton’s new rubbish recycling facility, where it was mentioned, possibly with a slight rolling of the eyes, that Rockhampton is also recycling Gladstone’s rubbish. 

Then came the LNG story, which mainly focussed on how unprepared Gladstone is, and the potential environmental harm.  Ok, they have a point, but they didn’t have to rub our noses in it!  You know, I’m starting to think they don’t like us.

Anyway, upon learning that a new beer was being brewed in our region, I took it upon myself to find a sample and do a taste test as part of my public duty; and not because I have some sort of undiagnosed alcohol problem, as suggested by a certain long suffering member of my family.

After bravely taking several dozen swigs I wrote the following report:  “To my utter amazement, Great Northern Lager is a lovely beer.  Refreshing, tasty, and definitely worth a try, BUT, it is brewed from Fitzroy River water, so you’ll be taking your life in your hands drinking it.  They should move the brewery to Gladstone.”

And while they’re at it, we’ll have the new Recycling Centre too, because Gladstone folk have had an awful lot of experience dealing with all the rubbish thrown our way.



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What you really want, what you really, really want?!

Ah the Spice Girls!  The lasses who were able to bundle up all the meaningful questions of philosophy into one line of a song.

On my last night shift I was reading Carmel McConnells’ book,’ The Happiness Plan – Simple Steps to a Happier Life ‘, it’s a good read, and I highly recommend it.  Anyway I got to the section where she asked the question:  When are you happiest in your job?  The consensus amongst my workmates was – ‘When we finish our last nightshift on Monday morning and are walking out the factory past all the unhappy day workers.’   

We spent the rest of the shift laughing about it… unfortunately, it’s true.  That really is the best part of our jobs.  I’m not going to go into great detail here about what I don’t like about my job (WordPress has a limit on how much you can enter into one blog), except to say, I’ve been looking for ‘something else’ now for some time.

The big trap is to just say, “Stuff It” and quit.  Sometimes this works, mostly it doesn’t.  Many of us are trapped in jobs we hate because of debt.  This is a sure way of retaining good workers, and bad companies make the most of it by abusing their employees.  Other options include, winning Lotto (don’t hold your breath), marrying or inheriting wealth (see Lotto), finding a better employer (call me if you do… anytime), buying or starting your own business, or dropping out and living on home grown vegies in a commune.

Some leave to follow their dreams, and find themselves in a situation where they are forced to leave their dream career and return to their miserable jobs because the pay is crap (eg: The Simpsons episode where Homer gets his dream job as a Pin Monkey at the Ten Pin Bowling Centre, but has to return to the Nuclear Power Plant when Marge falls pregnant with Maggie… that episode still makes me cry 😦 ). 

I also am a big fan of the following post by the very funny, and wise, Tim Brownson:

So, at the end of the day, What Should I/We do? 

Continue to buy books like ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ which I bought, read and have grave misgivings about… and hope that one of them contains “THE ANSWER“? 


Give up, and join the ranks of the Working Retired (people with jobs who do the bare minimum to avoid trouble), and find, then enjoy, what Happiness you can in the world about you?

I’m starting to lean towards the latter, maybe it’s time to stop assessing my options and just accept that while things could be better, they could also in fact, be much worse.  Much, much worse. 

So, everyday for the next week, I’m going to start each day by mentally listing all the things that bring joy into my life, starting with Good Health, a Loving Family, and a Safe and relatively Secure Lifestyle.  Everything else is a bonus. 

I’ll keep you posted.


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New Idea Ginger Bread House

The Eldest Princess decided to make the Ginger Bread house featured in New Idea this month:

A picture perfect result


It took 4 hours, and Dad (me!) had to help with some of the structural difficulties, mortaring, and shoring in particular. 

Maybe we need a better camera...


As you can see, we need a bit more practice…

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Banking Blues

It’s a week late, but here it is 🙂

Last week the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, lifted its’ interest rates, and quite a lot of people got upset.  But has it occurred to anyone that the CBA may actually be the victim here?  Seriously.

Just imagine for a moment that you’re the Chairman of the CBA.  It used to be known as The People’s Bank, but you secretly call it The Sheeple’s Bank, a little private joke which you share only with your wife, your mistress, and your chauffeur.

As part of your job, you meet regularly with the heads of the other three Big Banks, and even though they’re in direct competition with you, you discover that they’re not a bad bunch of chaps, even if one of them wears dresses, and another one happens to be a woman.  An English woman!

Anyway, last week the Reserve Bank, before popping off to the horsies in Melbourne, decided to lift interest rates well ahead of Christmas, so they wouldn’t have to put up with all those nasty comparisons to Scrooge, or The Grinch, from the media. 

You immediately met with your chums from the other Big Banks and they suggested an immediate rates hike; a big one.  Actually, a very big one.  Secretly you were shocked, but chaps must stick together, even the one in the dress.  So you popped back to your office and made the outrageous rates announcement, completely confident that across town, your bestest buddies were doing the same thing.  Sadly for you, they weren’t.

So now you look like a greedy monster and ‘The Sheeple’ are bleating for your blood.  Your politician friends are threatening you with the ACCC but this doesn’t worry you, because you saw how effectively they reined in petrol, grocery and electricity price fixing.  In desperation you jet off to Tahiti for a couple of weeks with your family, mistress, and polo pony, until the media uproar dies down.

What truly upsets you as you try to unwind in eight star luxury, is the fact that your three banking peers have made you the biggest ‘Patsy’ in the biggest fiscal practical joke ever seen in Oz.  And right now they are sniggering in their sleeves at you; even the one who wears a dress.  You can no longer trust them.  And if you can’t trust bankers, well, that places you amongst The Sheeple, and that really, really hurts.

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