Snow falling in Jindabyne

Jindabyne is a small town in the middle of nowhere. Yet in spite of an ungodly location, it remains a top winter hotspot. It boasts one thing that the rest of the state cannot: being the gateway to the snow. I’ve booked the Jindy accomodation about two months in advance. This has become my trend: securing seats and rooms early to avoid disappointment. Our last two trips had an average of about two months between booking and travel.

The arrival

One thing that stands out about Jindy is the painstaking journey to get there. The bus left Sydney around 7am, and we arrived there before 2pm. In that time, I could take a round trip to Auckland with time to spare. The coach made several stops along the way, including lunch in Canberra. I slept walked through check in at reception and soon we were in our room. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was workable. The other door opened to an open area with views of the lake. I sat there for a while, ignoring my throbbing head. After twenty minutes watching the birds and hearing the crashing waves, we went for lunch. The food is pretty much the same: standard Aussie pub food. We walked through town afterwards, but the whole place had a backward, sleepy feel. I guess people just went for pit stops on the way to the snow.

Mixed bag

The rooms were comfortable, with daily housekeeping and climate control. No shower gels and shampoo, no premium pay TV channels and no room service. There was complimentary daily breakfast though, and free in room wifi. There was a closet too to hang your stuff. The breakfast met my expectations. Though quite Aussie, there was tea, three choices of fruit juice, and a reasonable selection of go foods. Staff were friendly and welcoming, but they didn’t have the things I requested. In the end, Lake Jindabyne hotel is a worthy three stars. Some might argue otherwise, but it’s a mixed bag. It does a few things well while lacking in other respects. What wins me over though is the view of the lake. There is a trail around the lake, and we walked this during our first day. The greenery refreshened my mind, the wind rejuvenated me. After the cumbersome coach journey, wandering along the path was a real shot in the arm.

Snow fallin’

On our last day, we were in for a special treat. As we waited for hours for our return coach, it started becoming very cold; my hands were freezing. Suddenly, the snow fell. I’ve never ever seen real snow in my life; it was awesome. The kids were having a field day; surely this was the way to be stranded. My friend commented that he hadn’t seen snow like that in a very long time. He was 2 or 3 when it last happened. He was so young he only realised this through the pictures. I’ve read that it rarely snows in Jindy. If it had to happen once in a few years, I’m glad I was there. Being a natural chronicler, I captured the moment on my mobile phone. Others followed suit and started recording. How did you find my shots?

To be continued…

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High-calibre fiction 

It’s sad that people nowadays aren’t really into reading. Yes, they read Facebook posts, LinkedIn profiles, Google reviews, and Twitter updates, but seldom do they chip away at books. Even less read newspapers; everything is online these days, especially through mobile devices. Personally, I’ve outgrown the dailies. I rarely borrow magazines, but when I get the chance, I do devour my share of books. That’s why I am adept at judging the rightful contenders from the flashy pretenders.

Quality reads

I’ve outlined my book list here previously. I tend to go for Grisham, Matt Reilly, and Mitch Albom. They produce quality reads, with reasonable description and captivating dialogue. Grisham alone has offered at least thirty books since his debut in 1989. That alone shows that he’s doing some things right. He has become a household name since his second book, The Firm, was released in 1991. Through time, he has always managed to find a way in his meal ticket, legal fiction. Being a former lawyer also helps. His books are easy reads. Although they have legal and American jargon, it’s better than wading through mountains of rubbish descriptions. 

Steig Larsson 

That’s exactly what I faced when I tried out Steig Larsson’s Girl with the dragon tattoo. My chiropractor recommended this, having heard that I was reading Michael Patterson’s latest. When I confirmed that was the kind of books I go for, he said I should read dragon tat, and 1984. Having done some research on both, I was convinced that 1984 was a stream of consciousness drone that played for far too long. I may have reviewed the film adaptation here, but the novel is a whole different version. So I tried dragon tat. At first, all those mountains of description was annoying me. Then I became irked, too irked at too much Sweden and how the characters looked or felt. By the time I reached 80 pages, I gave up. I had to. Lesson number one for any writer out there: do not play with fire. This means stick to what people would know. If you’re a Swedish writer, it’s understandable that you’d write about Stockholm. But please; don’t overdo it. I’m sure your readers could care less about settings and roads and islands and companies. That’s all background noise. Once is enough. If you haven’t been to China, then focus on your plot. Don’t attempt to thicken everything by yapping on and on about a foreign country.

Are you joking?

At times I thought about whether he wasn’t serious about the whole spy thing. I really couldn’t believe how this could be a classic. I guess exotic locales and characters charm some people. Meanwhile, I’ve written about places I’ve never been to. Someone even asked me: have you been there? I just didn’t let on much, but inside I realised how shortsighted he was. The bottom line is this: you can dream and write about anywhere. Anywhere. That’s what fiction’s about: to dream, to teleport. But do realise this: with that fantasy world comes a condition: the place does not have to define your story. Remember that: if everything were all setting-driven, then how bored would the crowd be? Know your audience. When it’s all said and done, write a novel, not a travel guide. Now I know dragon tat made its mark, but as they say, ‘No two persons ever read the same book.’

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Writing with a cause

Over a span of three weeks (the standard borrowing period), I managed to devour James Connelly’s latest novel. While a lovely read, the main thing I took from the piece is the legacy that the dying character leaves behind. In the book, there’s this ageing billionaire who yearns to give everything he has to a missing heir. Having borrowed the late Stieg Larsson’s work, I became even more intrigued. 

Steig

Of course, Larsson is that Swedish author who finished three mystery novels, dubbed the Millennium trilogy. All this was posthumously published, with significant material covered for two other books. I read online that he intended to write 10 books in the series. Having witnessed his work, I can avow that this is not wishful thinking. What bothers me though is that Larson, while alive, never approached a publisher. He wrote purely for his own enjoyment. Being a writer myself, I can never grasp why someone as talented as him would just shun it all. 

Brave authors

It’s much like Franz Kafka, whose novella The Metamorphosis I reviewed on this blog ages ago. He wrote throughout his life, only to instruct his friend to burn his manuscripts. If not for the quick thinking friend, every bit of his great fiction would’ve been lost forever. We have more than our fair share of inept writers, of bad language, and even badder grammar. We’ve read enough sloppy prose, awkward sentence structures, and paper thin characters. At the end of the day, what we need are more brave authors who would have Larsson’s twists and Kafka’s imagination. 


Start young

I can’t imagine a world where everything is revealed when you can no longer enjoy it. This lifetime is our chance, so we must live it to the FULLEST. I’m not saying you can’t be the next Salinger, but it’s just a lot more rewarding if you’re the next James Connelly. Write, love and laugh. What is the use of all that material, if it hasn’t left your shelves? Quality fiction is meant to be shared, and each one is a learning experience. Growing as a writer would be tough, without sales and feedback. Be driven enough to publish consistently and make your mark, but don’t do so as a lone wolf. Everybody needs a team. Let’s not leave our riches for tomorrow. Write as much as you can, put it all on the table right now, because you might never get another shot. ‘Be firmly resolved to let nothing stop you!’

Note: Books and other library material can be renewed, but there were pending holds on Connelly. The secret was out.

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The flawing kangaroo 


Qantas. They’re synonymous with an unblemished safety record, premium service, and are ‘the spirit of Australia’. I’ve had the pleasure of flying with them twice (one was a code share flight with Emirates). They offered hassle free travel with excellent in-flight entertainment. They likewise provided 30 kgs of check in baggage, a lot more than the market average.

In trouble

Over the past few years, their image has been covered extensively in the news. We Aussies remember how they were losing money fast, causing widespread job cuts. Or how a few years ago they were given a junk credit status. Through the years, numerous emergency landings have set them back. Who could forget the pie incident? You know, the one where a man hit Qantas CEO Alan Joyce face first with a pie?

The fightback

Economically speaking, Qantas has recovered. They have posted huge profits thanks to the downsizing and budget cuts. As a result, they’ve rewarded their stakeholders. They have likewise overhauled their frequent flyer (FF) program. They’ve been offering fewer points for every dollar spent on flights, and a trickier tier system. Requiring more status credits to reach the next membership level has made it harder for frequent flyers. Instead, they’ve partnered with various banks and credit societies, offering massive joining bonuses on credit cards. Qantas has become synonymous with exclusivity or elitism, perhaps more than ever.

A charade?

A quick look though at Qantas servicing has questioned whether this elitism is indeed warranted, or is merely a charade. It’s like something purporting to be ‘Made in Australia’, but ‘from imported ingredients’. What’s the use of charging your clients premium dollar when at the end of the day, you’re outsourcing plane maintenance to SE Asia. At the moment, Qantas has sustained its immaculate safety record, but for how long? It seems like every few months, there’s word of another emergency landing. I don’t have to document the when and where, but anyone following the news would know. The latest incident happened just this week, where a direct flight from Melbourne to LA had to stop in Sydney due to excess fuel. Ground workers removed gallons of petrol to stabilise a wobbly plane. I understand the safety factor, but adding 4 more hours to a 14 hour flight is preposterous.

Where to, Qantas?

At this point, we could envy Air New Zealand. They’re just as competent as Qantas, and just as safe. They are most of the things that Qantas could improve on. Where Qantas is wanting, they deliver. For Air NZ, being over 50% government owned also helps. You see, paying premium price is OK, but make sure it is worth the difference. Me? I still collect Qantas points, but not from flights. I earn mainly from my Qantas card on everyday purchases. I do not shop the Online Mall, rarely if ever order from Deliveroo, and do not opt in on to receive Qantas points from Woolworths Rewards. I am wary of mobile phone contracts, so there goes the bonus points. I would say that you won’t get much value if you do not fly regularly with Qantas, spend money overseas, or have a FF linked credit card. At the end of the day, an old hand is no doubt worthwhile, unless of course, you’re ‘still a pre-op transhander.’

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Beware of cat

‘There either is or is not’, that’s the way it is. There are no grey areas: you are either a cat or dog person, or you can be neither. Sadly I never had a cat, except for a brief time when I was a kid. I was hanging around the patio when I chanced upon a stray white cat. I immediately began thinking, as the cat appeared to have no owner. Soon I was ignoring our three dogs and spending more time with the feline. I even fashioned a house for it, basically a cardboard box with some ornaments lol. 


String ties

To put my stamp on my newest pet, I cut a piece of string and attached this to it. This proved handy that night, as the cat had practically escaped via the patio. I pulled and pulled on the string, which fit tightly round her neck, until the black sheep returned. I was just glad to have her back; the manner of her recapture was trivial. Meanwhile, our dogs would have none of this feline phase. As I was making the cat at home in the cardboard the dogs started attacking the slim animal. She was no match, so I decided to remove said box and let the cat in the house. At this point I was feeding her some meat and veggie soup, but at least she wasn’t a fussy eater.


Endless future

I was beginning to think about our future when I woke up one day to see the string on the ground, the cat gone. At that point, I felt betrayed, but not all cat owners would feel the same way. My former classmate, Danielle, had a cat and she absolutely adored it, proudly showing me a pic of her friend eating Purina. She wouldn’t say no to a dog either, maybe a chihuahua or a labradoodle, but I can’t imagine how she’d be able to reconcile those two species.


A dog person

Now I just feel nostalgic. That’s the thing about pets: some are loyal and unstinting companions; others, not so much. I grew up having dogs as my guards; I’ll always have a soft spot for canines. 

And cats? I’ve had a brief link with those creatures, but by all means I won’t domesticate them. They’re a lot of trouble, and are high maintenance. Given our history, I’m just not that convinced that they’ll desert me once more. So think before you scat. While cats may be fun, dogs will always be ‘man’s best friend.’

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Afterpay reviewed

It has been touted as ‘the new layby’. With the tagline, ‘wear now, pay later’, Afterpay has taken the retail world by storm. The Melbourne based, stock exchange listed payment option is now seemingly everywhere. While there are others of its kind out there, Afterpay is different since it does not offer a line of credit, is interest free, and has instant approval. Today we take a closer look at the conceit that has changed online shopping forever.

Layby

Before the advent of Afterpay, layby had been the preferred option for instalment shopping. Similar to the latter, you pay off the item/s in four instalments, with the first quarter being deducted right away. It was an easy way to manage your spending, as four equal payments was more tolerable than one giant transaction. The biggest drawback of layby was you’d only get your item/s upon paying off the entire thing. Factor in transaction fees, and the potential of missing a payment, and the dangers are apparent. 

Now of course, with retailers offering interest free finance, layby would appear outdated. The problem though with these offers is that once the interest free periods are over, you will be slugged in galleons. You’ll sure have a rude awakening. 

Afterpay drawcards

Enter Afterpay. It’s been around since at least three years ago, but now it’s the new face of buying online. I’ve heard of Afterpay since last year, but it hadn’t caught on yet. I was wary of trying a new product; I didn’t want to be the guinea pig. In a space of a year, it’s transformed from a little known novelty to payment juggernaut. Afterpay’s biggest draw card is that you could enjoy the items right away upon payment. In other words, you don’t have to wait till payment no.4 to grab ahold of your shopping. The payment cycle could take anywhere between six to eight weeks. At first, some clients pay the initial instalment right away; with others, it’s after the first fortnight. 

Out of curiosity, I decided to sign up to Afterpay this week. There was an item from Myer that I was keen on, and it was eligible for Afterpay. At Myer, the minimum price tag for an item to be eligible is $100. This varies by store. Some retailers, like JustJeans and Jag, do not have a minimum amount. I’m glad to know that Kathmandu has also joined the Afterpay party. Meanwhile, some items at Myer, such as Apple products, are excluded. The signup process was cruisy. They asked for your date of birth to ensure you are over 18. They likewise asked for your mobile number, for added security. Once you give your full name and address, and have verified your account thru password and mobile code, you’re good to go. The credit card details come later, something you must add before making transactions. 

Drawbacks

I heard you get reminders prior to the other payments being debited. You could even pay early. There are some late fees though. If you forget your payment, you will be charged a $10 late fee. There is a subsequent $7 fee if you still do not pay within the next 7 days. And if you don’t pay at all? You will be referred to a third party debt collector and things might get ugly. I’ve heard before that Afterpay has poor customer service, and requests or refunds take a while. In my case, you couldn’t get a refund in store, only an exchange. The hassle and cost of sending it back thru the post would negate any further savings. 

My verdict? I think it’s as good as advertised. I see a lengthy future of Afterpay dominating the retail scene. 

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Some winter chronicles

Vivid light show at the Sydney Opera House

It’s the middle of the year and for us that means winter has arrived. You know: shorter days, colder temps, and of course torrential rain. The past week has been a classic winter one, with the drenching, 14-degree weather, and chilly air. Night time is much longer than daylight hours, and you’d be sensible to pack a parka (or two). In summer, you’ll see more shorts, tees, even singlets. While we would’ve wanted the warm weather to go on forever, it has hung around for too long. We had a run of warmer weather as late as May, with whole weeks of sunshine and no rain. But that was last month, and it’s time to turn the page. 

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney is among the most popular activities during the cold season. For three weeks, crowds flock to the city to witness the dazzling light and music display around points of interest. From the Opera House to the Harbour Bridge, from Taronga Zoo to The Rocks, Sydney comes alive after dark. All this started a few years ago, and at night, the CBD (city centre) has been a beehive of activity, ever since. The reception has been infectious, with Darling Harbour and even Chatswood joining the party.

Hot food

Another staple of winter is the consumption of hot food. While this is not peculiar only to winter, this becomes even more so during the coldest months. Take coffee for instance. Many Aussies love the smell of coffee in the morning. Whether it’s a cuppa before work, a mid-morning energy boost, or a breakfast beverage, Aussies know their coffee. In the colder months, the queues in cafes are longer, and the whole workplace is brimming with the aroma of coffee. The same goes for pho, that wondrous Vietnamese soup. The taste of warm noodles not only soothes the throat, but also clears the head. 

Mid year sales

Early winter is also the perfect time the polish up your winter wardrobe. From the start of June, many clothing retailers will have their annual mid year bargains. So, ‘Let us count the ways’. Myer and David Jones both have their stocktake sales. This could range anywhere from 25-40 percent off original prices. At the moment, David Jones has a further 20 percent off clearance, which are mostly summer stock. At Myer, I was able to grab a pure merino thermal top and long john for almost half the retail price. 

I was able to score something small from Kathmandu during their short pop up sale, where everything was 40 percent off. Even Aldi, famous for their rock bottom prices, has had their annual snow sale. From prior research, I’ve heard that everything is plundered on the first day alone. I wanted to avoid the crowds, their shoving and elbowing, so I went on the second day. I managed to get a pair of grey snow gloves and a compression long sleeve top. Looks like the cold doesn’t stand a chance lol

Silver lining

There are less people wandering around during winter, which is odd since it coincides with the school holidays. I guess the oldies don’t want to get caught up in gloomy conditions. At night, the suburbs are virtual ghost towns; everyone is either on their computers, reading or watching telly. This makes winter appear like an cruel drone. In spite of the winds, the somber weather, and the isolation, the good thing is that it’ll be over soon. You’ll be enjoying those sunny days again in no time.

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