Getting Out of the Slipstream – Cadel Evans in Le Tour de France

It has been inspiring to see Cadel Evans battling on in the Tour de France, taking on the Schlecks, leading out chases and straining for every last ounce of energy when his team have lost their puff. I would personally love to see Evans win Le Tour this year, because the last time we had these expectations, it was 2008 and I was in a different place, physically and emotionally.

Just before Le Tour had started, I had been evicted from the marital bed, one of the many symbols of a marriage about to end. I was sleeping on an improvised arrangement of two single mattresses on top of each other in the lounge room. Next to the television. And I found it fairly hard to sleep. So, watching Le Tour was my comfort in 2008. I knew next to nothing about it before that event, but by the end, the excellent commentary pairing had educated me completely about pelatons and teamwork.

That is why I was gutted by the Alpe d’Huez Stage in 2008, when Carlos Sastre, helped by his superior CSC Saxobank team – containing both of the Schlecks – swamped Evans during that stage and took off, gaining those minutes that saw him win the race. It felt like Evans was a lone student in school, being ganged up upon and left bleeding on the street. He was in a pathetic team – Silence Lotto – that went silent when anything tough was even hinted at happening. But there was CSC, a powerful external force, overwhelming him, leaving him no chance to attack or fight back. I felt the same in my life at the time – that things were riding in my slipstream, but then ganging up and leaving me in a heap. Though, finishing 2nd in Le Tour de France is a little better a conclusion than sleeping on a lounge room floor.

Thinking back to that race, though, it seemed that Evans was relying more on being somewhere in the pack, being consistent, getting in the slipstream, keeping close, ready for the time trial to help him win. It is a curious approach, which didn’t come off in the end.

This time, I have watched in far different surrounds. There’s a gas heater, large television, beautiful house and fantastic partner all here. I’m happy with how I’m propelling my life – I have got out of the slipstream of others. Cadel, too, seems to have a more positive outlook on his work. I have seen him at the front of packs much more than I did in 2008. At times this tour, he seems to have decided to get out of the slipstream more and lead. That was especially the case with the Alpe d’Huez this time around. He wasn’t going to let Contador and Schleck take it away, in the same way he didn’t the day before, on that amazing stage that finished at Galibier Serre-Chevalier. Interestingly, Evans was critical of the leeching tactics of Thomas Voeckler in that stage, sitting back and waiting for others to do the work. Evans’ attitude has changed in the passing years.

It also seems that Cadel has in BMC a much better team around him this year. The Alpe d’Huez stage showed that in spades, when his bike has problems and his team were there to help him propel back into the fray. That wouldn’t have happened in the Silence Lotto days. Le Tour seems to be as much about having a good team than it is to be a great individual and that could well be the reason that Cadel might well win this thing.

Let’s hope. My 2008 self is certainly cheering him on.

Cultural Comment

Renting V Ownership – The Great Australian Dilemma

When I got married, I didn’t care too much that we couldn’t afford to buy a home. So, we rented.  That was when a nice three bedroom house in Wagga Wagga (where we first lived) was going for somewhere near $150,000. The first house we rented was $175 per week – it had air-conditioning, gas heating and a backyard with two sheds. And, most importantly, an owner who was all too willing to fix things if stuff went wrong. Good because not long after we moved in, we were a single income family with a baby on the way. And we stayed a single income family for the rest of that marriage. Therefore, tenants.

Why is this important? It’s because there is a rarely told story out there about the schism between the world of rental and house ownership. We are told frequently that home ownership is “The Great Australian Dream”. Indeed, when I was a tenant, I was told “you’ve got to buy!” – by someone whose parents gave them the deposit for their home. Yeah, thanks for that advice.

I liked to think that being a tenant was an reasonable lifestyle to live – after all, Europe has a pretty high percentage of tenants.  And these days, renting your first place – and perhaps your second or third – is a very real necessity for young adults moving out of home and new arrivals into the country. As buying a house has become considerably more expensive over the past few years – and with banks less willing to hand over their cash since the GFC – it is an issue that needs to be confronted.

It is unfortunate, however, that I found being a tenant nothing less than a stressful, frustrating experience.  That is, after we left the friendly surrounds of Wagga and came back to Sydney. The first place we moved into was $50 pw more than the Wagga house and it had no aircon or heating. It did have, however, old carpets and hadn’t been painted for a while. And a neighbour / owner who made comments about our lifestyles. An ex-nun, no less. Each time we needed something fixed, she’d get a friend to look at it and not fix it. The property agent was next to powerless – she’d make suggestions, but then we’d get snarky responses from the owner. The situation wasn’t helped through the property inspection process.  My ex is a great power of cleanliness and the place was spotless each time. Yet, on one occasion, the property manager was clearly relishing her work as she pointing out to an accompanying trainee tiny bits of dirt and grime. It was a nightmare.

But then we moved to Rosemeadow, south of Campbelltown. We lived in a four bedroom place. There were several things that were broken or needed fixing in the house and we wondered why the property manager couldn’t get anything done. It turned out our place, along with most of the rentals in the suburb, it seemed, was owned by a company – one that didn’t like to fix anything. They did hire maintenance people – we even met one or two who did quotes to send back to the company. But we never saw them again. Whilst the company didn’t like to pay maintenance companies too much, they liked to put up the rents each time they could. The property manager was powerless to do anything, due to the monolithic nature of the company.

Then, one day, one of our children slipped in the bathroom. The same bathroom that had significant leaks. I rang the property manager and told him the situation. Then, by some miracle, I actually got a call from someone associated with the company and we had a maintenance man sent out to fix the leak. This was like gold-dust. And, while he wasn’t getting paid a whole lot, he was actually good at what he did and was keen to help us as much as he could.  So, we got him to fix all sorts of things in the place.

Otherwise, life was a bit less stressful in that house – the property managers were far less anal retentive when doing inspections.  This was Campbelltown and we weren’t wrecking anything – so we were a five minute rush through for them.

My point here is that being a tenant should not be that hard. It shouldn’t be about poor maintenance, risk, snarky property managers, owners who don’t care. But for many it is. And there is little that can be done about it, because property investors are treated a bit like lairds in this country – there’s relatively few of them, rental properties are scarce and negative gearing makes the whole investment thing easy. It then becomes about money, not providing a place in which another human can live in dignity and comfort.

This time around, Preston Towers, the name my partner and I have for the flat in which we lived until last week, is now an investment property. The rental return compared to the value of the flat is insane. The rental price has gone up $70 p.w. since I bought it two years ago.  But we didn’t want to leave it as it was. So, as I said in a previous blog, we put in new carpet, taps, shower screen and lights into the place before the new tenant came in – as not to cause disruption for that tenant. When I mentioned this at work, I was told by a work colleague that we were crazy – it was better to wait to be told to replace things. It apparently “didn’t matter if you disrupted a tenant”. Clearly, she hadn’t been a tenant. That was a fairly startling insight.

In addition, I got an insight into how tenants are selected. The property manager gave me detailed rundowns on the situation and background of prospective tenants – she was most scornful of tenants who were just moving out of home – 18 year olds, looking to start out. Don’t forget, this is for a flat in South Penrith, not exactly the most flash area around. There was a cavalcade of prospective young tenants ready to pay the rent asked for. In the end, she found a couple in the 30s who had just had a child and had a long, positive rental history. I quite liked that idea, so that’s who now lives there. But I was less worried about young tenants than the manager.  It gave me a big insight into just how hard it must be for young people wanting even to rent a place. In Penrith, they probably shuffle down the levels of quality and end up in the not so pleasant areas of Kingswood or Werrington. To mix with all the other young tenants – hopefully building up enough brownie points to have a shot at somewhere like Preston Towers. Mind you, I can also see this from the property manager’s position – she would have dealt with some bad tenants as well in her time. And she didn’t seem as anal as the ones who I have dealt with as a tenant. Mind you, I am not a tenant anymore.

The night of our final departure, the one before the arrival of the tenants, I was chatting to my neighbour. She arrived not long after me and was fairly ill – I remember a Christmas Eve where she had an ambulance officer looking after her. She was in the flat as a result of a public housing “Cumberland” scheme, where people with good histories are placed in private flats. And her flat was extraordinary in its neglect. The carpet was the same as the original, early 80s carpet that had been installed in all the flats (I know, I found some in one of the built ins in ours). There was no range hood, light fittings were broken and the shower leaked.  The owner seemed impervious to suggestions to fix things – and little wonder, considering that the public housing tenant had little choice but to stay and put up with it. What annoyed me is that the changes that needed to be made would have cost very little money and is all tax deductible. Especially a range hood. The one in our flat cost $80 and $50 to install.

We are not going to be that kind of landlord. The philosophy we have is that it is their home, not your cash cow. Sure, if there was no negative gearing and the rest, we couldn’t do it – and I have taken out landlord insurance. But it doesn’t take much to be a good landlord. Being a tenant makes you realise how just little things make a tenant’s life that much more comfortable and happy.

I am troubled about life as a tenant for so many out there, especially the young and those new families who may have little tenanting history. It’s an issue that won’t be fixed by the shiny new suburbs promised by Barry O’Farrell, which will be expensive to buy and build upon (already, it costs nearly half a million to buy and build in Oran Park, 30 minutes from Campbelltown in peak hour). We need more apartment blocks, within easy access of train station, owned by people who are prepared to respect the dignity of tenants. Then perhaps there would be a touch less anger about.


A “Boganised” Carbon Tax V The “DLP” Direct Action

I have long supported a price on carbon.  Scientists know what is happening to the planet and have plenty of peer reviewed evidence.  As I am an English and History teacher with no scientific qualifications, I tend to trust people who are qualified in such things. In this, I differ from the former History and English teacher from the Kings School who has a radio show, the mathematics grad who writes a column and that journalist fellow from the Mornington Peninsula who has been given his own TV show (reputedly) by a second generation miner who doesn’t like the idea of paying more tax. It shouldn’t be a discussion. But the current reaction to the carbon tax has made it a discussion.

Australians hate paying tax. The sensible GST causing all sorts of panic in 1993 was evidence of that, as was the hysteria surrounding the same tax in 1998. It’s a good tax which has been a vast improvement on the previous sales tax model. This tax, however, has created even more hysteria than the GST. That’s because I suspect most of the people who oppose it like their short term money more than they like the long term health of the environment. A chunk of those opponents would therefore also be ready to accept any “argument” put by a climate change denialist that it’s an unnecessary measure.

The irony of all this is that these “working families” won’t be paying the tax. It’s not a tax in the traditional sense – the tax word is related to fixed nature of the carbon price for the first 3 years of the scheme. For most of us, the tax will relate mostly to energy costs – because even petrol is being excluded from the tax.

This carbon tax, I suspect, should appeal to the famed “bogan” to the max. There’s a whole range of compensation payments and taxation changes that is meant to be a siren song to those people who “aspire” to have more money. It’s families that receive the compensation, not singles. There’s a bigger lift in the tax free threshold, so there’s more scope for a part time job to be undertaken by the second income earner without having to pay tax. And, surprising as this may seem to many, the rich of the outer suburbs enthusiastically took up the offer of the Rudd Government in helping to fund solar panels.  Drive down Englorie Park Drive, Glen Alpine – one of the highest concentrations of McMansions – any day and you’ll see a heap of them, saving money – especially now, as their lower energy consumption from the grid won’t be caned by the carbon tax.

The messaging of the ALP, then, should be about the taxation reform and the “real” costs to the “working families” and say that the side benefit is a long term environmental benefit.  The money first, the environmental stuff second.  And also tell them that mining jobs don’t affect them in the slightest.  Because they don’t. This week’s offer made to Macarthur Coal tells us that it’s business as usual in mining land – all they were waiting for was certainty and we have that. The reality of this carbon tax is that it hasn’t touched the middle class welfare system started by Howard and Costello. There’s still that system of compensations and payments that working families that earn a combined income of $100,000 and above actually don’t need.

Then there is Tony Abbott. The more I hear about the “Direct Action” plan, the more I think it’s pure DLP central planning. The DLP love a central planning idea – after all, the Catholic Church is a massive centrally planned organisation. The idea of using taxation revenues to compensate the reformed polluters is very Catholic, in that it’s almost as if the polluters are being rewarded for having their mea culpa moment and their return to the flock.  I am also amused by the idea of funding a range of oddball environmental experiments. It sounds like those plans in the late 90s where independent and state schools were falling over themselves to invent some kind of environmental project, in order to attract Howard pork barrelling money.

The analysis of the carbon tax must run alongside analysis of Abbott’s “Direct Action”. It’s not enough anymore for Abbott to just say no. This is why the disingenuous opinion piece in The Drum composed by Erin Riley is seriously flawed. It tells us that it’s the overcompensation in the carbon tax that is “making her a Liberal” – whilst she ignores the Abbott plan and the Howard/Costello middle class welfare system.  If Riley was serious about being a swinging voter, she would have included analysis of Liberal taxation and welfare policy and how it rates next to this tax reform. I suspect, though, that she isn’t serious about her Road to Menzies House conversion.

Fortunately, though, we do have people comparing the packages – Peter Van Onselen sees the vapidity of Direct Action and Peter Martin showing just why it’s dangerous nonsense for Abbott to write off economists as easily he does climate science. When I heard Abbott saying that, it made me more fearful of an Abbott Government, simply because he really does seem to have little idea of the complexities of economics and is dedicated simply to enforcing his 1960s DLP view of the world on the country, where life and money were simpler things.

For what I have seen, however, the carbon tax “debate” has had large dollops of stupid. There was this outburst from Prue McSween and there’s the usual stuff from Jones, Hadley, et al. But that is Australia, to an extent – if it’s about losing money, we are immediately in outrage. It’s better to switch off sometimes.


Refugees and Neo Liberalism – Are Abbott and Morrison Really Communists?

It is telling that Australia is still responding so strongly to the Tampa incident of 2001. It’s been 10 years and we are still talking about Australia’s request to rescue those drowning refugees and then John Howard’s rallying cry that Australia decides who comes here and the circumstances by which they come.  This time, it’s the documentary Leaky Boat that has been produced that reminds us of that time.

John Howard, in 2001, made no mention of the illegal immigrants who come by plane, mind you. I imagine that Australia is happy with them arriving and overstaying their visas. It is, and always will be, about the boats.

Australia’s fear of Asians arriving by boat is an instinctive response, which, amongst other things, helped to unify Australia as a Federation.  Indeed, the first government had restriction of non-white immigration at the heart of it (from Wikipedia):

The government following Federation in 1901 was formed by the Protectionist Party with the support of the Australian Labour Party. The support of the Labour Party was contingent upon restricting non-white immigration, reflecting the attitudes of the Australian Worker’s Union and other labour organizations at the time, upon whose support the Labour Party was founded.

And then there’s these quotes from the time:

“The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman.”   Edmund Barton

“It is not the bad qualities, but the good qualities of these alien races that make them so dangerous to us. It is their inexhaustible energy, their power of applying themselves to new tasks, their endurance and low standard of living that make them such competitors.”    Alfred Deakin

We can’t really say with any great certainty that these views of our Asian neighbours have changed profoundly throughout the country. If we did, we’d be putting British visa overstayers into detention on Christmas Island and we would be welcoming Africans and Asian refugees into all of our workplaces without complaint.

But then we have the boats in 2001.  The new line used to justify the exclusion of these boat people is that they are “queue jumpers”. This is the John Howard line. It still exists – Scott Morrison still trots it out. Now Chris Bowen and Julia Gillard trot it out, because they know it has stuck in the mind of the “average person” John Howard talks about in the documentary. But, the reality is, there is no queue. No way for Iraqi and Afghani escapees to register with an orderly “queue”. Howard and his successors were clever using the word “queue” because our society is essentially a conformist one that respects things like queues and waiting for what is yours. The “queue” then is an attractive concept in terms of demonising these new boat arrivals. No mention, though, of potential “queue jumpers” who arrive by plane. The arrivals by plane actually pose a much bigger “threat” in terms of national security and jobs, by the logic used to justify stopping boat arrivals.

When this line gets tired, there are the new ones coming out from Team Abbott. Boats Sink and The Boat People are Rich – They Can Afford a Boat. The first one is an attempt at showing compassion – we need to stop these boats from potentially killing these people. This argument tells us that “they” should stay in their “queue” wherever it is in Asia. This leads to the second, which states that only the rich refugees can afford to get on a boat, unlike the thousands of poor refugees that can’t. The same poor refugees who can’t seek asylum because there is no way to in the countries in which they are contained.

Again, no mention of the even richer people who can afford to get on a plane – people who have access to consular offices but choose to not go through the “right channels” to apply to stay permanently. I have never heard Scott Morrison or Tony Abbott referring to plane people. Until they do, their arguments about boat arrivals are void. Just a veil for the continuation of attitudes about “alien races” from the days of Barton and Deakin. I say this because in reality, if we really were concerned about restricting illegal immigration, we would be as harsh in our language about plane people as we would be about boat people.  But we really have Barton’s quote, except in this form – “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the plane arrival and the boat arrival.”

All of this is curious also in light of our more neo-liberal attitude towards economic development and operation in Australia. It actually flies contrary to that attitude.  Chris Berg neatly sums up the proper neo-liberal attitude towards migration here. Our economic units are encouraged more driven to reward initiative – WorkChoices was predicated on the philosophy that people should be driven to work harder in order to demand a more juicy individual contract for themselves.  And yet, Morrison and Abbott wants us to think that refugees that pay for a boat are bad because they didn’t “wait their turn”. Under Liberal Party thinking on society and the economy, shouldn’t we be rewarding these people for their initiative?  To say that queues are more important than showing initiative sounds decidedly Communist Soviet Union to me.

Ultimately, the concept of getting excited about boat arrivals is a silly distraction. Except that it does show that both major parties are entirely stuck in the continuum from 2001. When Beazley said that it was important to be “infinitely flexible” in the documentary, he meant that there are as many fearful of boat people amongst Labor supporters and members as there are in the Liberal Party.  Julia Gillard has played along those lines as well.  Though, the Malaysian solution is quite a breathtakingly cruel fork in that road.

The bigger issue is actually population growth. I agree with Berg on his thesis that immigration is a good thing for Australia – this is one issue on which I disagree slightly with Bob Brown.  Brown, like Howard, comes from a time that sees Australia as a particular size and struggles to see how it could be bigger in a sustainable fashion – especially as he understands that population growth in the past has usually meant further unthinking destruction of wildlife. Berg, however, has erred in his article by indulging two of his favourite pastimes – to belittle Greens philosophy and champion the idea that our major cities are superior to regional areas. That way, he doesn’t provide a realistic path forward in a nation that has healthy regional areas, ready for expansion and a significant support for the Greens.  The Greens need to embrace a bigger population in conjunction with greater regionalisation – building trains to regional centres that could have sustainable population growth. That way, we can pursue a neo-liberal pathway towards a sustainable economy as well as use government to build the infrastructure that would mean that could happen. These refugees – the ones who come by plane and boat – can help build that future. This is something Comrades Abbott, Morrison, Gillard and Bowen are seemingly too afraid to pursue.



Cultural Comment

Moving from Preston Towers – Learning from Tradies and Salespeople

As some of the people who read my tweets might know, Preston Towers is a place. The nom de plume of your author is derived from a set of apartments that many would categorise as just some kind of dull, anonymous two story apartment block built in Penrith in the early 80s. And now, almost precisely a year after that moment of the birth of this name, I am no longer a resident of those Towers.

It’s been a fascinating two years as a resident of Penrith. It’s also been a very interesting past few weeks. As we have vacated the apartment, we made a decision to upgrade the apartment to a standard in which we would like to live if we were tenants – though with an eye to increasing the value of the place. And through that process, many lessons have been learnt. We have also been purchasing new furniture for the new place in the Blue Mountains.

Preston Towers has had a makeover – the place, not me – where we have replaced the taps, vanity unit, lights, carpets and I am about to tackle a shower screen. The bench tops are being resurfaced and my partner has taken on the painting of the bathroom and kitchen. I think she is insane – I don’t mind 80s style yellow/beige tiles and doors.

In order to achieve this, we have achieved our objective and purchased everything from within 2 kms from the front door (except the benchtop resurfacing – there’s nowhere near as many firms in Sydney doing that as there are in Melbourne – I suspect we in Sydney just like to get new stuff all the time). It helps being in South Penrith, mind you. But really, I can’t imagine a better place to be if you are wanting to do an inexpensive makeover.

What we have learnt, though, is that it’s not just about the prices, though, in terms of searching through the shops within the 2k circle. It’s also been getting into contact with a commercial world that is trying to cope with a shift in buying habits and patterns and coming up with a range of solutions.

First of all, most of the shops don’t have a good online presence. The furniture shops try, but you see pictures on the net that don’t really do the furniture justice and the prices are hard to keep up with, so they don’t have them. The people who run the shops are usually in some kind of frustrated battle with head office (which seems to be Wetherill Park for a number of them) who hand out misleading stock details, have items on the website that are sold out, or create long delays in delivery windows. So, really, you need to go to the shop. And Saturday and Sunday are ground zero for these shops – one of the very best things about being a teacher Is being able to go after work. And know that as soon as you can feel like the shop isn’t going to be your kind of place, just leave. No point in deceiving the shop owners.

Second, you really do need to ask questions and find experienced people on the shop floor who can give you sound, realistic advice. And there’s plenty of those in South Penrith. People who will get to the point, size you up and tell you exactly the choices that would suit. That way, I bought items that weren’t that much more expensive than things with dodgy brands on the net – but things that already had proven track records in reliability. I also picked up genuine bargains, like a mixer tap that was more expensive than the quoted price (they’d run out of the one I was getting) but I got it because the plumbing supplies bloke sticks to his quotes.

It’s a world away from Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi where you find kids who have to constantly dash off to kind the one experienced person on the floor. The working conditions of those places must be terrible if experienced people don’t want to touch the places. It’s also a world away from the soul sucking Harvey Norman. I hadn’t realised how manipulative that place was until I was in the middle of my LCD/LED TV discovery tour. I had my price range and optimum size worked out, and there was the bloke in HN trying to push me up. I can imagine they are taught those tricks and are told to stick to them on a daily basis.

Third, carpet installation ads are lies. Carpet installation is never as cut and dried as you measuring your place and then predicting the price of your carpet installation from the ads. One of the interesting features of this whole process was the carpet. The grey, horrible stuff in the apartment was hard wearing industrial carpet – the sort you see in foyers of outer suburban dental surgeries and schools. Stuff that’s impossible to keep clean. Apparently, it was only 4 years old. But it’s rubbish. So, we wanted to get new stuff. And were told on a few occasions that we were mad. “But it’s only a rental” was the message we got. As if tenants are just scum that should only have depressing grey industrial carpet in their home. Even people at work whom I respected held that view – I heard “wait until it’s completely rubbish and replace it while the tenants are still there – it doesn’t matter if that inconveniences them”. Even one of the people who provided a quote on the job was wondering why we were replacing it. The same one who asked me what nationality I was. Me, who is so pale that I sunburn when I look at the sun, red headed and has a Celtic name. Cote d’Ivoire, clearly. (Needless to say, he didn’t get the job).

We did get carpet that’s more at the upper end of the “rental carpet” segment of the market – polypropylene carpet with a pattern. It actually looks like carpet that should be in a home, not in an 80s rural club. I did that thing where I had already got one quote – but when the second bloke told me exactly how he was going to install it and didn’t treat me like an idiot, I told him what the first quote was. He lowered his quote and got the job. And, now I know how carpet people actually do their quotes.

Fourth, one of the best guides to the success of your purchases is when tradesmen came in to install the things you have bought. Experienced plumbers, for example, install a whole range of things in apartments across Sydney. And you can tell the good ones from the rubbish ones when they tell you exactly what you’d be paying for and give accurate time estimations. And my taps were hard to install, because the original 80s installed bath and laundry taps needed oxy torches in order to remove them. The plumber had never needed to do that before. He thought the taps were a bit fancy for a rental property – as was the ceramic sink vanity. Indeed, he had not seen one put in many rental properties ever. We had no idea, because it was a cheap one bought from the bathroom shop 500m down the road. The bloke there (yes, they were mostly blokes – except in the lighting and bed shops) told me that the ceramic Chinese built vanities were better than the more expensive Australian built resin ones.

That is one common theme – many of these people don’t seem to want to “upsell” you to a more expensive thing if you go into a place with an open mind and are prepared to listen to expert advice. Unlike Harvey Norman.

Fifth, Hire a Hubby is a poor option. There is a bathroom screen to be removed and new one to install – the old one is terrible. I am not terribly competent as a handyman, so we thought that it would be better to get someone in who could do it. But he quoted $528 to install a $130 shower screen. A one hour job for an expert. So, I’m having a go at it – after all, I was told at the shop that it’s actually pretty easy to do, even for the handy challenged.

Sixth, building relationships is one of the best things about the whole experience. I wouldn’t mix socially with any of the people who have sold us stuff, moved stuff or installed stuff. Not because of any fault on either side, it’s just differences in groups and lifestyles. However, it’s been great to build positive bonds that form quickly and disappear just as quickly. I have talked a lot about rugby league, the carbon tax and a whole range of other things. The conversation with one of the movers about the conspiracy involving the IMF, Illuminati and the Carbon Tax was one that will stick with me for a while. Still, a nice bloke. I also remember making a couple of trips across the road (literally) to a storage place that also sold boxes and having a detailed conversation about how GWS will go next year. But the AFL shouldn’t get too excited – I still get more comments in response to my Swans gear in the Blue Mountains than I do in Penrith.

So, now I am out of the physical Preston Towers. Well, sort of. We are terrible packers and I have to transport more stuff up here tomorrow. But, never fear, the Preston Institute lives on and I’m pretty much stuck with this name.