And so this is Christmas

Another  Christmas – our last in Cobar – is drawing to an end and  I’m looking forward to next year’s  coastal Christmas, with its mandatory prawns and oysters.

Of course, there’ll be quite a few good memories and people that we’ll miss because Cobar has been  nothing if not welcoming. From the garbage man when we first arrived, who waited just long enough for me to remember that it was bin day, to the postie who runs the Rural Outback Animal Rescue and, on Christmas Eve, takes bags of dog treats to all her “little mates”, to our beautiful neighbours, who surprise us with human treats over the fence.

From Christmas house decorating to teddy bears and wheel rim / shoe trees on the road into town (who knew?) – through the best of times and the worst of times – Cobar has been quirky and fun.

May we all have a peaceful and relaxing Christmas with better times ahead in 2022.


After Elvis died (the car, not the King) we were hopeful that our financial woes might be behind us as we set about re-building the bank balance. While Nigel was busy with strike forces and a fair amount of overtime – not to mention the border crossings – I put my hand up to work at the Electoral Returning Office in preparation for the September 4 council elections…. Yes I know they were postponed, but not before we were sent quite a lot of materials, to be sorted and stored for the 4th December council elections.

Also and just for fun, I took on an editing job for a friend’s daughter, who was writing a book – and whose grammar and vocabulary would have put most journalists to shame – while, at the same time, also exploring my heritage in concert with a genealogist on the coast. Life was hectic but enjoyable and with the new car engine done and dusted, we were on the road to financial recovery.

All up, there had been quite a few late nights and not many sleep-ins so when Covid travel restrictions were finally lifted and, owing in part to the change of the election date, we found ourselves free to return to Paradise for a leisurely couple of weeks – catching up with friends and neighbours, walks on the beach, prawns and oysters for dinner……… Border crossings and returning offices became a distant memory.

Of course, when the tenants/tourists are also the landlords every holiday has a slight “down-side” so, in the lead-up to Christmas, there was just a “pinch” of maintenance thrown in for good measure.

It was during one of these “tiny” maintenance projects that a conversation with our builder ensued, which went something along the lines of….”See that rust there, do you think it’s something we should be concerned about?” and suddenly the holiday was over.

Without boring you with the details, let’s just say that our holiday dreams pretty much evaporated – walks were replaced with work, dining was replaced with digging and catch-ups were replaced with concreting. While Nigel and Ron did the heavy work, I culled the jungle / sub-floor, giving away King ferns, Clivias, Philodendrons etc for fear they’d be trampled underfoot.

As it turned out, two weeks was far from enough time and, with tenants booked within the month, there was a hasty retreat home for more electoral/policing work (while Ron kept working) before returning to finish the job.

Now that the work is completed, I’ll leave you with some before and after shots…… Roll on 2022!




PS for anyone wondering about that bed to bench project…..

Well my lovely neighbour has kindly taken it and painted it and it now resides on their front porch.

And now that the December elections have finished, here’s my next project.

PS I could tell you some stories about the elections but apart from saying that I worked with lovely, funny, supportive co-workers and a very patient boss,  for the rest of it I’m sworn to secrecy:-)

Bouquets and Brickbats

Disappointingly, I still haven’t received a Yes / No reply from the “Department of Customer Service”, Service NSW as to when we might ever see our repaired van again but thankfully our handyman has moved it to his backyard where at least it won’t be stolen. Plus Nigel’s bike is back on the road so I now have the ute to go grocery shopping or take Bowie to the off-leash park….. or the vet, as is happening today…. Shhhhhhh

Continue reading “Bouquets and Brickbats”

Please Gladys……. Is it Yes or No?

There was too much at stake to assume that collecting our repaired van was a reasonable travel excuse and so, with the threat of huge fines looming, I decided to email the Department of Customer Service as recommended by Service NSW.

Here’s my email:

Are we allowed to travel to collect our repaired vehicle?

Four weeks ago, on the 19th of July, we were returning to Cobar, where my husband is completing a 4-year employment tenure, from our home on the mid north coast. With a large amount of furniture to move between the two properties, we were driving a car each (a ute and a van).

When our van broke down at Jerry’s Plains the NRMA, in conversation with our VW mechanic, agreed that it possibly needed a new engine and organised for it to be taken back to the mechanic on the coast while we continued in the ute, plus a hire car, to Cobar. I should point out that there are no VW mechanics in Cobar and the closest is in Dubbo(600 km round trip). Plus our mechanic advised that he already had and could install a reconditioned engine.

The engine installation was completed two weeks ago on the 3rd of August and, with no Covid restrictions in Cobar or on the mid north coast, we planned to take advantage of four consecutive Rest days to drive back and pick it up this Thursday. However, the state has now gone into lockdown.

After the installation, the mechanic delivered the van to our carport where it’s been sitting ever since and while I’m not overly concerned about the furniture, clothing, medications (I’ve bought more online) etc or a flat battery I am concerned that it’s quite visible to passers-by and, with all the blinds drawn, all day every day, it’s also quite obvious that no one is home.

I understand that it’s impossible to clarify every rule and restriction and we are both unsure whether collecting the van is a “reasonable excuse”. However, if the state lockdown continues, there’s a real risk that our van will become a target for thieves.

I’d really appreciate some advice because, like everyone else, we don’t want to make an uninformed choice and be faced with a huge fine, especially after just paying more than $9,000 to install a reconditioned engine.

Regards, Kaye Matthews

And here’s their reply:

Dear Kaye,

Thankyou for contacting the Department of Customer Service. The best source of information about the COVID restrictions and rules is available at
For more information about specific areas please see the websites linked below:
Regional and rural NSW rules

Greater Sydney rules

Local government areas of concern

Legislation and penalties

The rules summary tables on the common questions

I have also forwarded your email to the COVID customer care team at Service NSW for response.

The COVID customer care team is experiencing a high number of enquiries so there may be a delay in responding to you about this matter.

They can be contacted directly on 13 77 88.

Department of Customer Service

Now it seems to me that a question like Are we allowed to travel to collect our repaired vehicle? would simply require a Yes / No answer and so it was a surprise to receive a list of web sites and, even more surprising when, after reading them all, I realised that none of them related to my question.

Alas, it was time to ring the 13 number.

I must admit that the customer representative was quite pleasant and listened attentively as I basically read her my email and asked, again, whether travelling to collect our repaired van was a reasonable excuse. Everything was going smoothly- after checking with her colleagues she was able to state that Yes, travelling to pick up the van was a reasonable excuse – until I naively asked, “Can I have that in writing?” at which stage, the wheels promptly and without warning fell off.

Apparently no one wants to be held responsible for handing out incorrect advice because the best she could suggest was to carry the repair invoice plus a note from the mechanic to the effect that our van had broken down hundreds of kilometres from Cobar…….. but after that, we were on our own.

Today, six days after my email, I did, in fact, receive a reply – albeit unsigned:

(Subject:Re: Request to withdraw your application [ ref:_00D4a8aWL._5004a4Nj4Q:ref ])

Hi Kaye

Thankyou for your enquiry with Service NSW in relation to reasonable reasons for Travelling in regional NSW with the restrictions I have attached a link to the SNSW website for your reference

Kind regards
Service NSW

Of course, the suggested web page said absolutely nothing about whether collecting our van was a reasonable excuse to travel and I was none the wiser so, in one final effort to obtain clarity, I’ve just fired off this reply:

Dear Sir / Madam

I have just read the web page that you suggested and it says nothing helpful about collecting our car, which broke down more than a month ago, hundreds of kilometres from our residence in outback NSW.

I’ve waited for 6 days for you to respond with an answer to my question, namely, Is this a reasonable excuse to bring our repaired van home? Please don’t close this application without answering my question. I just need an answer – either Yes we can bring our van home, now that it has been repaired or No, we are not allowed to bring our van home and it will have to sit unsecured for the duration of the lockdown. We are both fully vaccinated and are prepared to make the trip in the shortest possible time.

If you don’t know the answer, I have no idea whom to ask.

Regards, Kaye Matthews

Sadly, in the meantime, I’m not holding my breath. It seems that no one, even Service NSW, is prepared to give advice nor to put their name to that advice, in case it’s wrong. It really begs the question, ‘Why even have a Customer Service department?’

More importantly, after making me wait six days and then failing to answer my question, why on earth would they assume that I’d be happy to withdraw that question?’ (“Request to withdraw your application”)

PS And in case you’re wondering, No I didn’t add those question marks in Elle’s reply.

Murphy’s Law 2

Spoilt Border Collies and home renovation addictions, as it turns out, are both quite expensive. Let’s start with the Border Collie.

There’s nothing pleasant about driving nine and a half hours with a neurotic dog lunging and yelling at oncoming vehicles that he perceives might veer too close to his ute.

After trying various ‘solutions’, which all consequently failed, we simply admitted defeat and bought a van, where Bowie is more than happy to sit on a purpose-built platform behind Nigel and lick his ears the whole trip. Problem solved!

The home renovation problem is taking a bit longer.

First, let me just say in my defence that when you have two houses, the compulsion to redecorate is much stronger. Plus, to be fair, there was no way that anyone could tell how enormously large the swivel lounge was, just from the online photo, until our handyman actually delivered it.

As it turned out we had accrued quite an excess of furniture, even before the lounge (remember the bed saga?).

Bedroom 1 sorted

Bedroom 3 sorted

and so it was decided that we’d do a quick trip to the coast (driving both the van and the ute) to pick up all excess furniture (queen bed, double bed doonas, bedside chest, two outdoor chairs, large wall art, tall timber shelf and a partridge in a pear tree)…… plus the swivel lounge and return to Cobar where we’d install the lounge while divesting ourselves of beds and bedding at our leisure.

Having just accepted a casual position in the Electoral Returning Office for a few weeks, the trip would be a perfect opportunity to purchase new clothing. (with Vinnies at the end of our street, my current ‘unemployed’ clothing has become more second hand, comfortable than smart casual as decreed in the employment conditions).

After blocking in a 5-day booking for the Shack and lining up as many ducks as possible we set off and, despite having to drive two cars, our short break on the coast went remarkably well – clothing shopping, lunch with friends, walks on the beach and even getting all the furniture to fit on the ute and in the van – all tasks successfully completed.

On the morning of our departure, and concerned about impending rain (transporting mattresses on a ute is a surefire way to make it rain) we skipped breakfast and were on the road by 6.40am. All was well until at Jerry’s Plains, the van suddenly decided that it really didn’t want to go up any more hills and could we please pull over…… right in front of Hollydene Winery.

Resisting the urge to set up camp and enjoy the serendipity with a glass or four, we devoured a breakfast of hamburgers (Kaye and Nige) and toasted ham and cheese sandwiches (Kaye, Nige and Bowie) while waiting for Zac, the friendly NRMA man.

Unfortunately Zac’s news wasn’t good and the trip to Cobar was diverted via Muswellbrook ……. Zac and an unimpressed Bowie in the van, Nige in the NRMA truck and me in the ute.

Several phone calls (VW mechanic) and discussions (warning lights and catalytic converters) later, it was decided that the van would be returned on a carrier to our mechanic while we continued to Cobar.

With a ute tray and camper van packed with furniture, Plan B was not without its own challenges, especially considering hire car companies don’t actually approve of large, fluffy dogs taking up passenger seats and so with not an inch to spare in the ute tray, Bowie was relegated to the single cab with me.

Our trip continued almost uneventfully ….. if you don’t count the rain ….. and fifteen hours after leaving Paradise, we arrived in Cobar – grateful to be home safe, if not dry, and glad that we did take two cars because Bowie might have otherwise been forced to hitch-hike home!

Shortly afterwards and in true Murphy’s law style, the upcoming Council election was cancelled and the smart casual clothing has now been relegated to the “might wear one day” area of the wardrobe. Plus, the van repair bill came in yesterday and at $9,208 it actually made the smart casual clothing bill look quite good.

PS I think I might finally be cured of the home decorating addiction…… but look how “worth it” it was!

Watch this space

Last week Nigel sadly (and with a degree of envy) said farewell to Andrew, who is now working on the NSW north coast after completing his 4 year tenure. While Nigel is hoping that he won’t be alone for too long, he’s also mindful that it took almost a year to fill his own position 3 years ago so he’s not holding his breath.

Now, unlike general duties police, highway patrol officers work most shifts as a single unit unless they’re working at night (hence the “afraid of the dark” jokes) but it’s always nice to talk to someone, who actually understands the job and he’ll miss that camaraderie.

So here’s my attempt at talking up the vacant position.

Continue reading “Watch this space”

Vale Lillian

When we first moved to Cobar, I was impressed by the way everyone got along. From the welcoming smiles from passers-by to the ‘let me help you with that’ offers (trying to lift a 12 litre bottle of water up and over the ute tray).

Before social distancing became the norm there was no shortage of community craft work-shops, sporting events including horse racing, dance classes and library projects – always something for anyone who wanted to get involved. Houses were decorated at Christmas time, Halloween took place in October – but only with houses that volunteered to be involved – and there were even regular street parades and festivals. I attribute a lot of that community spirit to the town’s mayor, Lilliane Brady.

Continue reading “Vale Lillian”