Darwin… waiting for a Train.

Arrived in Darwin yesterday – had a lovely and uneventful flight.  Business class worth every penny (well, QFF points, but same/same) for the Tall Guy who for the first time had leg room to spare.  A couple of piccolo bottles of sparkling and the flight passed quickly enough.

Darwin is quite the change from my recent cool and relaxing trip to Tasmania. It’s hot and unpleasant, and feels very deserted – literally no one was around and the streets felt eerily empty, at both 2pm when we arrived as well as 8pm when we went out for dinner. 

There’s more CCTV cameras than central London and more massage parlours per square inch than Bangkok – together these give a palpable sense of imminent violence and/or criminal activity.  With signs that say children are not allowed in stores without being accompanied by parents (and similar), the local business owners aren’t exactly doing their bit to dispel this notion either…

Had a late dinner reservation at a place called, ‘Phat Mango’ – was widely and positively reviewed as being a ‘foodie favourite’ in Darwin but actually was a bit of a disappointment.  The entire restaurant smelled of burnt olive oil from the moment we walked in, and every dish seemed to be deliberately charred.  For whatever reason, this restaurant that prides itself on local produce had exactly three seafood offerings – some barramundi (smoked and served cold; wasn’t great), some king prawns (served charred with a nondescript creamy sauce) and peri-peri Spanish mackerel?! Go figure.  There was some kangaroo sausages (which of course, being kangaroo, fell into dry crumbly mince as soon as you cut it), a Brahman hump silverside bruschetta (served with some weird pickles that didn’t complement the cold grey silverside), a beef marrow dish (which had oil drizzled all over it because marrow isn’t rich enough?!).  For a ‘local produce’ restaurant – I was curious where all the buffalo, crocodile, emu the plethora of fresh fish options were?  We tried seven different dishes and shared them tapas style. None were super impressive. All up about 6/10, chef needs to buy a sous vide and branch away from the chargrilled everything.  

After our late dinner we wandered back to the hotel for a quiet night in… lest we be caught between all that CCTV, the heightened police and seemingly anticipated criminality of those visiting beautiful family friendly Darwin!

Thankfully, some friendly travellers named Mat and Iz left themselves logged into their Netflix account so we watched a rather good mini-series called ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ (starring a rather sweary Michelle Dockery who we haven’t seen this angsty since Cousin Matthew was killed in an automobile accident).

Tomorrow… I have BIG plans, (HUGE!), for staying out of the heat while we continue to wait for our train.

PS: thanks so much to the Branch Da-Gideons for their in-room bible… it’s been super useful: as a support under our afternoon snackage of washed rind D’affinois, a block out for some annoying LEDs on the TV, a door stop for the odd plastic (?) bathroom door, a coaster and as a prop/chock to hold open the fridge cabinet which seemed to be overheating.

 

Niall’s Iron Chain

There has been quite a bit of curiosity about the Iron Chain that was bestowed upon Jarl Niáll at Coronation… Please see the text below for the words that were shared at the time of presentation regarding the history and intent of the award:

Good populace, We beg your indulgence, for We have a tale that We would share with you all… a letter of Our Gratitude, an Unusual Quandry and an Extraordinary Request.

“DEAR…? During this reign, We have found in Our midst, a singularly unusual Gentle who is a citizen of Our Fine Kingdom of Lochac. This Gentle is one We would see showered with accolades for His exceptional personal virtues of courtesy, grace and chivalry; His uncommon valour, exceptional bravery and Laudable sense of
Honour – attributes which he exhibits in Our Society, as well as in His Mundane Life.

Sadly, We found Ourselves faced with an Unusual Quandry as there is no fitting Award that exists in Our Kingdom that would appropriately mark the deeds of this Extraordinary Gentle. The singularly
honourable person of whom We speak is Niáll inn Orknevski, Duke of the Kingdom of Lochac and mundanely a high-ranking Commander with the Australian Border Forces

*Let Jarl Niáll be bought before Us *

Within the Society, the valiant and selfless deeds of this Honourable man are but little known – with the exception of one occasion where he saved a woman from choking at a local feast. For those who
never heard of this deed, Niáll noticed a commotion across a candlelit feasting hall and saw a Gentle in obvious distress. He strode across the room, took charge of the situation, lifted the afflicted gentle to her feet and performed a Heimlich manoeuvre to clear her airway, thus saving her life. We dread to think how an incident of this nature may have played out had He not been present and in possession of a
particular level-headedness in a crisis. We relate this story as but one example to convey how Niáll is, and continues to be, an Asset to Our Society.

However heroic this rescue may have been, it is actually His mundane deeds that We wish to draw Your attention towards. Niáll has worked in law enforcement of diverse types over the years, where he has
variously been responsible for coordinating border management across
numerous multicultural stakeholders throughout the Australia/Pacific arena. Additionally, he has extensive experience in investigations, counter-proliferation and immigration. Indeed he has applied all these skills to Our Society’s benefit as well, having acted for two years as Deputy Kingdom Seneschal, in charge of investigations.

In September 2021 (which now seems ever so long ago!) Niáll was called upon to be Forward Commander in a very particular response operation responsible for the evacuation of the entire Australian Cohort
from Afghanistan, which included a large number of Australian civilians and refugees. As part of His execution of these duties, He unexpectedly found himself responsible for the extraction of a number
of unaccompanied minors. His role in the rescuing of these children from an uncertain fate under a pernicious foreign power, is such that We cannot provide much detail – the exact nature of the work executed by Niáll is not widely known and We are not able to paint a clearer picture for the Wider Populace due to the nature of His work. The only reason We are privy to the personal cost that Niall faced to
secure these children – is because We recently have had the unusual Honour of assisting Him in updating His curriculum vitae.

Niáll’s conduct during the Operation went far and above His remit in his role as Forward Commander. We are fortunate He and his team were returned safely to Us, and We are all surely grateful that through
his service there are families and children living safely in Australia today because He is the sort of person who does not think twice about putting himself between Innocent Children and Dangerous Men.

Niáll does not readily speak of this trial, (nor should anyone press him to), but having known him for many years, We can say that for some time, this experience noticeably changed him.

Which brings Us to Our Unusual Request… We would from the depths of Our ever so humble heart, recommend unto Your Most Gracious Majesties King Sven and Queen Rauokinn of An-Tir, this extraordinary
Gentle for Your Consideration. Though He be distant from Your Lands, We believe that this remarkable Soul is deserving of admission to An Tir’s famed Order of the Iron Chain, for He is the very epitome of
everything this Order stands for. We know it is not common to bestow awards to Gentles across Kingdoms in this manner, particularly during these Plaque Years when Wayfaring is difficult to impossible, but it would be the singular greatest Honour of Our Reign if We were
able to see this award home to such a worthy recipient should You find Our petition agreeable.

Yours in Service to the Crown and
Kingdom of Lochac,
Queen Sabine”

For any who may be unaware, the Order of the Iron Chain is a polling order established in An Tir in AS 12 (mundanely 1978) it has been bestowed but 17 times in the 44 years since its inception, to recognise rare acts of selfless bravery in a mundane and/or Society setting.

“Niáll, it is therefore Our very great honour and privilege to announce that on the 23rd day of April, Anno Societatis 56, at Honor War held at the College of Lyons Marche, Their Most Gracious and Undoubted
Majesties King Sven and Queen Rauokinn of An Tir, did admit Niall inn Orkneyski, Duke of Lochac, resident of Politarchopolis and Noble member of the Ravning, to An Tir’s prestigious Order of the Iron Chain.

Assembled populace, Pray join Us in offering three of your heartiest cheers for the newest member and only the 18th Gentle in the last 44 years, to be admitted to the famed Order of the Iron Chain of An
Tir!

For Niáll inn Orkneyski, Hip hip, HUZZAH!”


Niáll inn Orkneyski was admitted to the Order of the Iron Chain
By King Svenn & Queen Rauokinn of Antir at Honor War, Held in the College of Lyons Marche, (Clarkston, WA, USA).
The award was conveyed through the hands of King Leofric I and Queen Sabine II at the last court of Their Reign in the Barony of Borders Cros May 7th, Anno Societatis 57

Lochac Order of Grace – Lokki Rekkr

I am delighted to be bestowing this award today, though I do regret that the Plague has meant it is being awarded in absentia.

Our modern medieval society has been built as the embodiment of the courtly ideals of honour and integrity, courtesy and Grace. We can live these ideals by being kind, sincere and genuine in Our interactions with the community around us. Too often, this means exemplifying a conduct that sometimes we feel is sadly lacking in Our modern lives. Even under the very easiest of circumstances, Our best selves can inadvertently be buried under the strain of modern and mundane commitments.

The ability to face adversity with grace, courtesy and honour is a an even more uncommon virtue. I wish to speak to you of one who has shown Us exactly that virtue.

During my previous reign, We encountered an extremely stressful and difficult situation where the confidentiality of a grievance procedure had been breached.  Our procedures for complaints and grievances are by necessity, confidential – to protect the dignity and privacy of those who may find themselves victims of poor behaviour, and to protect the reputation of any being complained against from premature reputational harm.  Are our procedures perfect?  Certainty not… but We promise you, there are a team of hard working and well-intentioned Gentles charged with overseeing this less than pleasant aspect of Our Society. They are extremely diligent in their duties and take great care of each and every incident brought to their attention.

Unfortunately, this particular confidentiality breach led to widespread condemnation of an individual before to the facts and the minutiae of the investigations, or the formal outcomes of the complaint process were able to be released.  The result saw one of Our populace widely and publicly criticized, and the administrative arm of the Society left somewhat powerless to take any action to rectify this.  Given this happened under my previous tenure as Queen – I have felt a heavy responsibility for this situation.

The Gentle of whom I speak is the Honourable Lord Lokki Rekkr of Aneala. I did not know Lokki at all prior to travelling to Aneala in Nov AS54. When I did finally meet with him, I was and continue to be, impressed by the graciousness and the generosity of spirit that he has displayed throughout this situation. When faced with numerous slings and arrows, Lord Lokki expressed himself humbly and with uncommon grace and courtesy. His countenance at the time was one of sadness – not for himself and the attacks he was enduring, but for unknowingly having left such an impact on someone in his past. He had thought the apologies he had offered at the time, had been accepted and was visibly pained to discover that wasn’t the case.

To be completely honest, I think I expected to be met by a young man feeling aggrieved at being lambasted so publicly, but instead I was met with mature member of our populous who displayed an extraordinary grace, courtesy and empathy, even under the weight of this enormous stressor.  Surprisingly, he repeatedly took pains to defend his detractor’s right to speak their version of events, and would not allow any within his earshot to speak a single bad word against them. 

Ever since, I have been somewhat awed at the courtesy, grace, integrity, and honour that he displayed in the face of this adversity – I somewhat suspect that I might not have been able to face a situation such as this, with half so much of his grace, courtesy, or generosity. His conduct for the last decade in Our Kingdom has been exemplary – he is as chivalrous and gentlemanly as any Knight of Lochac. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a role model to his Barony and a positive influence in Our Society. I believe him to be a good man, with a good heart and would therefore see him awarded with one of the most precious gifts in my favour – the Lochac Order of Grace.

Lot 1 Channel Highway, Gardners Bay.

OMG – what a trial.  :/

So, Mr K and I have been looking for a property in Tasmania to semi-retire on… you know the sort of place we can keep working here and there but can live in for most of the year to basically get away from the Queensland heat.  We’ve put in offers on a few places over the last twelve months even though the market was going through one helluva crazy uptick of interest from Mainlanders wanting to avoid Covid lockdowns, so prices have gone up since I first started pondering this idea about six or seven years ago.  Anyway, we are hunting in the Huon Valley and found a few places that we loved.. there was one 30 acre lot up on Sky Farm Road in Deep Bay with beautiful views down the Huon and a wonderful guy named Jeff selling the place (Jeff lived next door); he already had a contract on it but the purchasers were just having trouble getting finance, so we made a back-up offer in case it fell through.  Seems our backup offer was the leverage Jeff needed to put some pressure on his purchasers and somehow they managed to pull it off at the last minute, so we missed out on that one.  Then there was another gorgeous 30-acre property on Rocky Bay Road (which for ‘reasons’, I kept mistakenly calling the Rocky Road Property, rolls eyes) with a large flat building envelope and views over the Huon that were to die for.  That property sold for $70K over the asking price within four days of being put on the market!  So we were outbid almost immediately.
And then there was this other place we recently found at Lot 1 Channel Highway, Gardners Bay Tasmania… it is listed as 20 acres (8.33ha) of Residential Land for sale on offers over $275,000.  Which I have to admit sounds a bit cheap for the area and the current state of the market, but we realized pretty quickly that the access needed some serious upgrading before you could get into the place without a 4WD.  So we contacted the agent to do some investigating on our last day in TAS on our most recent trip. The agent didn’t show us the place, just told us how to access it, so we put on some walking shoes and hiked up to check it out… about 1.km from the road and mostly ‘UP’.
This property too, has water views over the Huon – or at least it would once you built the road in and did some clearing, and was a really cool bush block with some fern-filled gullies and a large enough flat-ish area that could serve as a good-sized building envelope. Beautiful spot and so quiet compared to living barely ten clicks from Brisbane’s CBD, next to the noisiest neighbours this side of … well, probably only this side of the Gateway, because let’s face it, city living is full of noisy neighbour problems.

lot one gardeners bay channel highway

So we made an offer on this property.  Which was initially rejected because we had put a 21 day due diligence clause.  It took the vendors over a week to get back to us to say it was rejected, by which time I had well and truly started the due diligence (inasmuch as I am able considering I am not a lawyer and wasn’t in TAS at the time!) by having several conversations with representatives from the Huon Valley Council, the Tasmanian Dept of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and I even started a dialogue with a local consulting engineer. From what we could find ourselves, the access to the property did look challenging.  Because the property is accessible from a State-controlled Highway, you needed to have an Access License – the existing owner has one such license and we couldn’t obtain a copy without requesting it from the current owner or until we were the current owner.  I got conflicting information as to whether this Access License could be transferred to new owners – the State Government representatives I spoke to indicated that it could be transferred (and pointed me to a form and a $99 application fee) but a conveyancing lawyer later told me that you couldn’t and that the existing Access License would expire and we’d have to apply for a new one at a $299.00 fee… which is neither here nor there and would be a bridge to cross when it came to settlement (We would have aimed to fill out the transfer form and if it didn’t transfer you’d apply for a new one.  Given it’s the only possible access to the property – the Govt would be unlikely to deny granting a new license).
The other challenge the property presented was a small segment of ‘Reserve Road’ which chopped through the property at a rather annoying spot which could reduce the building envelope significantly.  Bushfire planning insists that any building must have a 25m clearance around the house, and none of that clearance may consist of Crown Owned land.  So in the interest of gaining the best and largest possible building envelope, any buyer would likely have to go through a State Govt application process to have the ‘Reserve Road’ valued and request to purchase it.  I had a few conversations with people from Crown Land Sales that indicated a very high probability of this being doable – especially if you applied for a ‘Small Adhesion’ to the Folio Plan rather than requesting a Reserve Road acquisition.  I don’t have a clear legislative picture as to why this would make it easier or have a greater opportunity of approval, but it seems a ‘reserve road’ that goes nowhere is not really considered ‘reserve road’ anymore, so may require less surveying etc if it’s considered a Minor Adhesion. Either way, this would have taken about 9-12 months and a nearly $700 application fee for them to value it and hopefully approve the sale before they calculate exactly how much it would cost to buy.  There is no official appeals process for this application should it get refused, but there’s often more than one way to skin a cat when you’re dealing with Government. So this didn’t overly deter us either.
So this is roughly where I’d gotten to when we sent in a counteroffer, we upped our price a little but dropped our due diligence clause to just 7 days – mostly because I had spent the last seven doing a LOT of it myself.  That offer was accepted and we thought we were off to the races!  We then hired a local conveyancing lawyer in Huonville and jumped into the formalities.  Things were progressing pretty much as expected with the conveyancer turning up exactly the things I had discovered (okay, almost as much information as I had discovered but I largely had covered off far more detail in my discussions that he found in his searches.  UNTIL last Friday when we discovered that the ListMAP for this particular property at Lot 1, Channel Highway, Gardeners Bay, Tasmania, property ID 5858700 was WRONG.
The property is NOT zoned RESIDENTIAL it is zoned RURAL RESOURCE.  Which is a massive pain in the arse!  Several years ago, the Huon Valley Council (and it seems many other regional councils in Tasmania) re-zoned huge swathes of undeveloped land from being ‘residential’ to being ‘rural resource’.  This change was ostensibly done to keep the agricultural importance of the area and stop it from being ‘gentrified’ by part-time mainland owners.  At the time, people who owned properties impacted by these changes could apply to have it zoned back to Residential for a period or time without penalty… or so I was told by one real estate agent last year. Once the period had elapsed, people can still apply to have their properties rezoned back to being ‘residential’ but it now came with a hefty application fee (several thousand) and no guarantee of success. The more cynical (or pragmatic as I like to call it) may say this was a quick and dirty council cash grab, aimed at absent owners who weren’t paying attention, and they’re probably not wrong.  Either way, this changed this considerably.  No doubt… NO DOUBT… both the vendor and the real estate agent in this transaction were aware that the zoning of the property was not RESIDENTIAL as advertised, and the push to get a low or no due diligence clause into the contract is a hail Mary attempt to dupe some unwitting buyer.
But worse than this re-zoning application that would be required is the real deal-breaker… the property is roughly 290m x 290m… which is a goodly size.  HOWEVER, the property next door is zoned ‘SIGNIFICANT AGRICULTURE’.  So what?  Well, zoning requirements require that any building under the Rural Resources Zoning provisions require a 200m setback from any ‘Significant Agriculture Land’ even if that’s got nothing on it but some cows. So this would mean that the building envelope goes from being at the highest flattest point of the ridge to a narrowish strip of undulating gully.  Not at all ideal and would certainly have presented so creative architecture solutions.    So, we asked for an extension on the due diligence to see what the council might be able to offer by way of remedy (not that we were hopeful that there is any remedy because we are totally unable to exert control over how the neighbouring property is zoned or managed), but the vendor refused the extension which negated the contract – presumably because they knew the jig was up, that we had discovered the block is not just challenging to build on, but damn near impossible with so many restrictions you’ll never be able to optimize use of the land, and you’ll certainly never be able to build to get any views over the valley.
So, that’s been the last three weeks of my life and $1000 of legal fees down the drain… now I just imagine the exciting things I could have been doing instead.

Well… fuck.

I am a mess.  But you all know me, ever the optimist *rolls eyes* I can say ‘at least it’s not a stroke or a brain tumour’.  😐

Last Sunday (it’s Friday morning now), I noticed some tingling in my tongue and around my lips and it felt like the allergy reaction that I get if I’ve been exposed to, or ingested, sulphites.  It’s normally something that I have only experienced from drinking certain ciders or wines (which I tend to avoid because I’m not fond of the sweeter stuff anyway), but because this sensation had persisted for a few days and because of my family history, I was fairly convinced something else was going on.  I spoke with BigSal and she had me do a bit of winky-blink test and asked if I could swoosh water around in my mouth, and it was fine – both tasks doable.

The following morning, Monday, woke up and – nope.  Couldn’t wink my right eye at all, and failed the swoosh test while brushing my teeth most spectacularly.  So off to the doctor I went – something I was trying to avoid since I have been effectively going nowhere except for groceries and to my mum’s or my sister’s homes since Feb 23rd.  Get to the doctor, tell him I have been experiencing dreadful headaches (with hideous light and noise sensitivity for over four weeks now), and that I have woken up with severe facial paralysis with considerable pain, numbness and tingling, primarily down the right side of my face.  He asked me if I was experiencing any other referred nerve pain or weakness, particularly on the right side of my body to which I replied: “Is this a trick question?”  Because of course, I do. I always have nerve pain in my extremities.  He did a double-take and seemed to remember who he was talking to, and said, “Well, I think you have… ” – “Bells Palsy,” we ended the statement in unison.

Him:  How did you know?  Me:  My father had it when I was a teenager and my sister had it perinatally, so I guess the dodgy nervous system and bullshit immune responses kinda run in the family.

If you don’t know what Bell’s Palsy is – you can google it.  Doctor’s are not convinced they know what causes it.  Some say it is the immune system having a meltdown response to exposure to a virus (Great… I’ve been isolated since late Feb, and gee lemme think, what crazy arse virus is globally running amok atm?).  Others say it is caused by prolonged periods of stress which causes the immune system to go haywire.  Either way, the thing is effectively inflammation that causes all the facial muscles and nerves on one side of your face to go ‘Oh ferfucksake’. No idea, why it only occurs on one side..?!

For reference and comic relief… I provide this almost photo-realistic artistic representation of my face right now with Bell’s Palsy:

Anyway, because of the horrific never-ending battle with chronic neuropathic pain that has taken over my entire adult life, the doctor decides I should go have an MRI of my brain to double-check there are no signs of a stroke or brain tumour lurking about that we might miss because my relationship with pain is somewhat NOT NORMAL.  Had the scan on Tuesday night which in itself was not fun. The technician had said that we may need to add contrast if they see something that needs further investigation or can’t get a clear scan, but that it often wasn’t needed.  So I’m in the scanner for about 40 mins when she comes over and says that she called the radiologist and we are going to need to use the contrast (not exactly comforting given her earlier statement).  Then about another 20 mins in the scanner before I can go – but of course they won’t tell you anything about the scans, ‘Your doctor will have the results by midday tomorrow.’

Which wasn’t overly helpful given my doctor doesn’t work Wednesday afternoons (he opens Saturdays instead) and that meant I didn’t get the results until Thursday morning (yesterday).  No signs of stroke and no signs of brain tumours… which was weirdly both a relief and a disappointment.  Yeah, disappointment – my ‘interesting’ relationship with chronic nerve pain actually had me half hoping they’d find some bizarre (but operable) brain tumour that has been causing my shitty pain condition these last 30 years.  Perhaps that kinda unusual thinking is something I need to spend some time on down the track…

When I did finally call and find out that I have the all-clear, and it is *just* Bell’s Palsy as we suspected. Which means a few days of prednisone – if it helps, take it, if not, don’t… though how you are supposed to tell if it’s helping when I’m feeling so completely shit, is fucking beyond me – and then I just have to wait it out.  The paralysis and pain symptoms should abate in two to three weeks with a bit of luck, and then facial massage and physio-type facial exercises to rehabilitate any muscle atrophy for the next three months or so.  Most people will recover entirely and have no noticeable long term effects – and given I recognised this for what it was really early (due to familiarity with the condition), we jumped on it really quickly.  My dad was not so lucky as he probably ignored his symptoms too long, and had a facial droop/weakness for the rest of his life that left him with a lopsided smile for the rest of his life.

These last few weeks of self-imposed social distancing/isolation have not been fun. Our work has dried up almost completely, and while it has been wonderful having Mr K home so much, it has also been stressful trying to navigate the potential financial implications, cancelling all our travel plans for the entire year and the exhaustive hard work to avoid people – all the people who seem so unconcerned about this pandemic!  I’ve been watching many of my friends struggle with the adjustment of working from home and trying to help school their children (oh my god, my heart is daily going out to my teacher friends – they have been under such inordinate strain in such extraordinary circumstances.  We have been spending our days sharing health information and news articles on Facebook and seriously dark memes on Twitter, while watching America’s dumpster fire of a response to the pandemic scare the hell out of all us (and so it should – this is what happens when an apathetic constituency elects an uneducated, mouth breathing bigoted, misogynistic, narcissist to high political office), making us ever so pleased to be Australian.

Given I have no other symptoms related to viruses we are chalking this up to a genetic predisposition to stupid nervous system and immune system responses and well… stress.  Which is why I decided to write something about this and share it with my friends. We are ALL under weird stress right now, drawn-out and low-grade for some, intense and ever-increasing for others, and of inordinately long duration and with an unknown point of cessation!  I am not great at the self-care thing.  I have never mastered it, futilely seeming to prefer to ignore rather than coddle the various infirmities my traitorous body throws at me… and look what has become of that. So, I implore you all to look after yourselves and look out for each other in your isolation bubbles, and if you suddenly start to feel like you’ve just been to the dentist and the anaesthetic hasn’t worn off when you haven’t been near one for months – off to the doctor, pronto!

Updates: