Cost of Living Crisis? What Cost of Living Crisis?

The other day my son tried to explain to me why products on the supermarket shelf cost so much and all the various stages of production and costs in between. From the farm, the processing/packaging stage, to the distributors, then on to the shelf in the shops… Of course I know all that ‘supply chain’ stuff but I humoured him. It’s good he is getting an understanding of how all that works and how the price goes up, each step of the way. It’s business and how most of the (so called) free market operates.

Recently I have paid more attention to the supermarket prices and it seems clear to me that all this talk of a “cost of living crisis” is probably just bullshit. Yes, most things have gone up in price. But these are artificial price hikes which they (if you know, you know) can get away with because they are constantly telling us that there is a “cost of living crisis”.

But there shouldn’t be any such thing. There is no reason for prices – especially for local produce – to be as high as they are. And below I present evidence that I believe clearly highlight the “cost of living crisis” scam for what it is.

Exhibit A – One tin of Chickpeas:

Analisa Chickpeas. Other brands are available.

The price of this tin of processed imported chickpeas is $1.90 which comes in at $4.80 per kilo. And BPA Free too – whatever that means?! (I have no idea). These are produced, processed, canned and shipped from Italy.

There is another – even cheaper Woolworths ‘own branded’ – tin available for just $1. That equates to $2.40 per kilo. Those cheaper chickpeas are also from Italy.

For comparison, in the same shop, you can buy a 1 kg packet of dried chick peas for $3.70 – and those are Australian made (grown)! Not only are there cheaper imported alternatives but they are already cooked. So there is no (or little) additional cooking expense. Makes you think eh?  All of those growing, processing, transport, handling, distribution costs and labour involved; yet still cheaper. Nuts! (Well, chickpeas in this case).

And yes, I do realise that factories buy fresh produce in bulk for canning (so therefore cheaper than we would pay in a market) but still… Isn’t the cost of transport meant to be very high these days? Fuel prices anyone? Or is all that inflation just for us plebs who have to put fuel in our cars?

Every link in that supply chain will be making a profit. They wouldn’t do it otherwise – or at least not for long. So: Where is this “cost of living crisis” coming from exactly?

Exhibit B – One tin of Italian Tomatoes (peeled even!):

Woolies “own brand” Italian Tomatoes. Peeled no less! That’s nice of them eh?

Who doesn’t love Italian tomatoes eh? But these are a fraction of the cost of fresh tomatoes grown in Australia – according to what the supermarkets dictate. Another example of food being grown in another country, being processed, canned and then shipped to the far side of the planet. Then there is all the distribution by lorry/van and handling at warehouses. Somehow the cost is among the cheapest on the shelves. The price of that tin of tomatoes is $1.10 – which equates to $2.75 per kilo.

Meanwhile, the cost of fresh Australian grown tomatoes varies wildly – sometimes seasonal maybe, other times who knows? It can be anything between $12 to $18 per kilo. (You can check on any supermarket’s website.)

How is that possible? How the hell can (relatively) locally grown, fresh produced tomatoes cost at least 6 times as much? How can it be justified? Nobody will be taking a loss in all this. The canning factory will sell the tins on for profit. The shipping company will charge according to weight and size (as always) and the importers will charge the supermarket who then charges you/us. Everyone is getting a cut. The Italian farmer may be practically giving his tomatoes away in real terms, but must then surely be subsidised (probably with European Union grants – i.e. taxpayer’s money). Otherwise nobody would bother. Would they?

So tell me again please: Where is this “cost of living crisis” coming from really?

And now a personal favourite of mine…
Exhibit C – ‘Edge’ Razors, pack of 20:

Best value shave on the market. Bar none!! But other brands are available (of course)

Question: Who is old enough to remember John McEnroe when he was at the height of his tennis skills and also the height of his notoriety? If you remember those days then you will probably have seen McEnroe advertising those Bic razors. He was playing a game and the umpire made a call something like “that was a close shave Mr. McEnroe.” To which McEnroe yells out his reply (something like) “When I need a close shave you dick, I use Bic razors!” – close enough for this blog post… Classic McEnroe behaviour back then.

Anyway, the point is – and surely anyone who has used them will agree – Bic razors are really shit and rip half your face off. Guaranteed the worst shave you will ever have. Well that’s my opinion anyway and I’m sticking to it.  But they still seem to be everywhere. Weird eh?

Incredibly these “Edge” razors cost only 22 cents (Australian) per twin blade razor as opposed to those crappy “cheap” Bic things which are 35 cents per twin razor. These “Edge” razors on the other hand, give a really good smooth shave. As good as anything I have used. So forget the expensive Wilkinson Sword and Gillette – which are extortionate by comparison – or even the garbage Bic razors. In the competitive market of shaving these razors are incredible value for money.

However, my point is what is on the reverse of the packet. It says this:

“Blades made in USA
Assembled in Mexico
Packed in China”

I kid you not! Then of course they need to be shipped to Australia, warehoused and distributed to your local supermarket. What!? Isn’t that crazy? Yet so much cheaper than even other well known “cheap” brands.

OK. Packaging in China may be damn cheap and assembly in Mexico could well be equally as cheap. These places have a plentiful supply of cheap labour right? But making the blades in the USA? Not so sure. Then of course there’s the logistics of that whole operation. Get them made, then shipped to the other side of the world (China) to be packed, then shipped on (again) to Australia. Double shipping costs! How the hell???

How can companies supply such good value when others are using the “cost of living crisis” to massively increase the cost of their goods? It’s a question you should all be asking your friendly local politician.

Top Tip: All you women out there should also be buying these value for money razors. They are not only for men – you know that right?


There are other examples but you get the point I hope. So..

Is there really a “cost of living crisis” or is it just made up to frighten people and for the news outlets to constantly harp on about? The chick pea and tomato farmers in Italy are no doubt also being told every day that there is a “cost of living crisis”. But do they know that their produce is being sold so cheaply on the far side of the world? What are they paying for similar produce in Italian supermarkets? (Other countries apply equally of course).

Undoubtedly a lot of products have shot up in price since the big “cost of living crisis” announcement. Why wouldn’t they? If the government tells everyone such a “crisis” exists many will jump on that bandwagon. Without fail. And put a huge increase on their prices. It’s a great opportunity to cash in. That’s capitalism I’m afraid…

The point is that many locally produced/grown products should cost almost nothing. These examples prove that. Or there is a lot that they (yes them again!) are not telling us…

So. I ask again:
Cost of living crisis? What cost of living crisis?

And yes. The title of this post is a nod to that great Supertramp album “Crisis? What Crisis?”

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High Drama at School

OK, first of all I wasn’t sure about the title but here goes…

Yesterday was very different for the kids at Dani’s school. Not far away – and just about the time when most kids were arriving for another day’s education – there was as shooting incident. A deadly one as it turned out.

The school got to hear about it quickly. Not sure how but I guess the police must have called every school in the area and told them that it was probably for the best that all children remain indoors during break times. Anyway, that is what happened at Dani’s school.

There may have been an understandable fear that it could be a “school shooter” – the kind of thing we seem to have become accustomed to hearing about in the USA. It turns out that it involved a well known “gangland boss” was shot in the underground car park of his apartment block. It happened at 8.30am right when kids were on their way to the many schools in the immediate area.

From news reports it seems that there were two shooters who escaped the scene in two separate cars – both later found abandoned and burnt out. The police also were quick to point out that the man shot should have been aware something like this would happen. They said: “He’s a major player… he obviously had a big target on his back.” He was a member of a notorious motorcycle (biker) gang involved in “organised crime and the drugs trade”.

Naturally gossip eventually turned to actual news in the school. So it wasn’t long before the kids in Dani’s class knew what had gone on. When I spoke to him after school Dani explained that his school colleagues were affected in different ways. The girls he said were anxious while many of the boys were making jokes about it all. Typical eh? Well, maybe. I like to think some things haven’t changed since I was his age. That is probably how my class would have reacted.

By having to be kept indoors while police sealed off part of the locale I think the kids feel they have been (even in a very small way) part of a big news event. And they have. It was – dare I say it – an exciting and dramatic day for them. As one newspaper headline wrote: “Lunch bag and a body on the school run”. Hey! That may have been a better title for this blog post. Ah whatever.. I am just glad nobody else was hurt.

I thought I should record yesterday’s events so that my son can read about it when he is older. Possibly remind himself. That is if he ever gets around to reading this blog… LOL


Isle Of The Dead – A Cemetery With a Difference

Isle of the Dead Cemetery

All you regular readers out there (all 4 or 5 of you?) will know I have a thing about the old historical cemeteries in Australia. But this one is different. Trust me; this place is very  different…

The Isle of the Dead

This place is called The Isle Of The Dead and is, no doubt, self-explanatory. The small island sits about a kilometre off shore from the main part of the convict colony at Port Arthur in the southern tip of Tasmania. The opposite side the isle sits quite close to Point Puer, where the boys prison once stood. There is little left of the boys prison but it was said to have incarcerated boys as young as 9.

For more about the Port Arthur penal colony see our earlier post here.

The mainland penal colony viewed from The Isle of The Dead

As convicts and their guards (and families) came – and passed away – over the years, the authorities needed to find a site for a cemetery. The isle was used as a cemetery for the penal settlement from September 1833 to 1877.

A lone grave at the edge of the Isle of The Dead

The cemetery was divided into two designated sections. Convicts were buried on the lower, southern end of the island. No headstones or markings were placed on convict graves, as they were not allowed. Free people were located on the northern western corner of the island and their graves were generally marked with headstones and tombstones cut by convict stonemasons.

Very few on the convict side of the cemetery have headstones or markers


Contrasting view from the non-convict side of the cemetery

The actual number of people buried on the island is unknown because of the destruction of many official records but there is thought to be some 1,500 graves on the island.

Henry Savery was a convict and Australia’s first novelist with The Hermit of Van Dieman’s Land, published under a pseudonym in 1829 and Quintus Servinton published in 1831. He was buried on Isle of the Dead in 1842. There is even a literary award named in his honour. The Henry Savery National Short Story Award. Crazy eh?

Burial site of Henry Savery. Convict and Australia’s first author.

In 1992 the Fellowship of Australian Writers placed a memorial stone (see above) marking the 150th anniversary of Savery’s death. The stone’s inscription describes his book, crimes of forgery, imprisonment and death.

Convict prisons, old goals and historic cemeteries: You (probably) either love them or hate them. We love them.

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Eisteddfod time again. Was that a year?

You know how sometimes you think to yourself, ‘Wow, was that a year ago?’. Well this time for me I actually thought it was more like two years ago. I had to look it up on the blog. And here it is – actually from 13 months ago – the first Eisteddfod Dani took part in: (Click here→)  Eisteddfod School Choir Competition.

Well today, Dani, and quite a few of his colleagues, took part in the Sydney Eisteddfod choir competition again. It was held in the same concert hall in Chatswood, just north of Sydney – a great venue. It was even the same Master of Ceremonies introducing the event – I definitely remember him from last year and will probably never forget him after today… He told everyone (again) not to take photos and this year I obeyed.

There were only four school teams in their particular contest with prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and a ‘Highly Commended’ for fourth. No losers these days eh? But seriously; it is just a singing competition; not a battle for the last fresh water in a desert.

All four entries were excellent I must say but one choir was a bit younger and despite their best efforts I would have ranked them 4th. Personally – and clearly unbiased as I am – I thought that Dani’s school was at least 2nd best. I found it hard to split them from one of the other schools but hoped for the best.

And the winner is….

The judge came on stage to talk about choir singing and hand out the prizes. When it came to announcing the results the bloke doing the Master of Ceremonies role read out the 4th and 3rd places. The team I thought might just beat Dani’s school was 3rd. When he read out the 2nd place team it was of course obvious which team had won. He announced Dani’s school in 2nd place. That meant that the youngest team (who I would have had 4th) were the winners.

But then – after what seemed like an age but was less than a minute – the judge intervened and corrected him. He had read out the results incorrectly. Dani’s school were in fact the winners. What a fool! While they were clearly happy to have won he actually managed to cock it up and stole their moment of glory.

OK, OK. We are all grown-ups here. This is a choir contest, so there are no real winners (or losers). Right? It’s all about the taking part and enjoying it OK? Well, yes. But it’s not like that for the kids is it? They were in it to win, and you’d better believe it.

In fact, wait a moment. Did I say “What a fool!”? Strike that. And replace with “What a complete dick!” Not only had he taken away that moment of triumph from Dani’s team, but for half a minute the team of younger kids actually thought they had won. Oh noooo….And this was the same bloke telling people not to take photos. I won’t be listening to him ever again.

Something noticeable in this year’s contest was that each school chose some kind of indigenous (for want of a better word) song as part of their entry. In the case of Dani’s choir it was a song originating from the Torres Strait Islands. An interesting tactic? Perhaps…

Another school chose a South African song complete with movements that reminded me of a classic 1960s movie. I almost broke into a verse of ‘Men of Harlech’. If you know, you know… I’ll just leave it at that eh?

Anyway, Dani’s choir won a 1st prize of $500 for the school so good for them.Well done! And the latest news is that they may go to compete in the Gold Coast Eisteddfod. Now that would be a great trip…

Port Arthur – Amazing Convict Settlement

Port Arthur is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site located 95 kms from Hobart. It is probably Australia’s most intact and powerful convict site. Port Arthur was named after George Arthur, the lieutenant governor of Van Diemen’s Land (as Tasmania was called at the time). There are more than 30 historic buildings and ruins to explore covering over 100 acres. One full day’s visit may not be enough, but that is what we did…

Dani behind bars. A familiar sight for regular readers…

The many buildings and ruins around the site manage to combine grim prison conditions with the neat home life of soldiers (guards) and free settlers. All in all a quite different experience from any of the (many) classic old gaols we have visited.

Geographically, this place really was at the end of the world for those unlucky enough, or deserving enough, to be sent there.

Really down-under. This convict site was genuinely at the end of the world.


The Port Arthur penal settlement was just a small timber station in 1830. But with the arrival of convicts from the other side of the world  it would soon become a very important site for convicts and shipbuilding. On the one hand large scale ship building was a way of providing selected convicts with a useful skill they could take with them once freed. Such prisoners would go on to build much of the newly evolving colony of course. But there is always a flip side. If you were a skilled carpenter (or similar trade) in the old country and got caught up in a petty crime it was quite possible that you would be seen as excellent cheap labour and shipped off to the new colony never to see your home land and family ever again.

Looking over to the Asylum and Separate Prison
Cells in the old four storey prison block were tiny.

Old Convict Church and (newer) St. Davids Anglican church

The old convict church was built by the convicts but never consecrated. Every Sunday up to 1100 people (both convict and free) worshipped at the old church. It was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1884.

In 1853 the transportation of convicts ceased but that did not stop the growth of Port Arthur. Other prisoners were moved to Port Arthur during the 1850s and 1860s. The prison was even expanded during the 1850s as second offenders and problematic prisoners in other convict sites around the colony were moved there.

Separate Prison and Asylum

Built in 1849 the “separate prison” was based on the Pentonville prison in Great Britain with four separate wings built around a central hub. Next door, the asylum was built in 1868 to house mentally unwell convicts. It later became a town hall and is now a museum.

The Separate Prison built in 1849 was based on Britain’s Pentonville prison
Cells seem much bigger than the old prison block

The prison was designed to keep prisoners “separate” and it is said that no talking was allowed. Even in the Separate Prison chapel convicts were kept in separate stalls and the only sound was that of the cleric. The whole experience was all about depersonalisation and instead of leading to reforming prisoners it led to high levels of insanity. It was clearly no accident that the asylum was built next door.

The chapel at the Separate Prison. At least prisoners were allowed to sing hymns here.
Two wings and chapel in the Separate Prison. Plus the Asylum

When Port Arthur ceased to be a prison in 1877 there was split opinion as to whether the area would attract tourists. Port Arthur was renamed Carnarvon and during the 1880s, land was sold to people wanting to take up residence in and around the old site. Those who bought Port Arthur property began tearing down the buildings. Fires caused further damage in 1895 and 1897 – which destroyed the old (4-storey) prison house.

However, the natural beauty of the area plus the haunting stories of old convict prison system drew people to the site. By 1927, tourism had grown to the point where the area’s name was reverted to Port Arthur.

Carnarvon settlement viewed from Isle of the Dead
Pat Jones’ Cottage

In and Around Eaglehawk Neck 

Close to Eaglehawk Neck you can see some of the stunning coastline. There’s also a large natural arch carved out by the sea known as  The Devil’s Kitchen.

Devil’s Kitchen

Here are some of the stunning views off the coast with close-ups zooming in on one or two features:

  Port Arthur was sold as an inescapable prison, much like Alcatraz Island in the USA. The peninsula on which Port Arthur is located is a naturally secure site being surrounded by water (back in those days few people were able to swim). The peninsula is only linked to the mainland by a 30 metre-wide strip of land known as Eaglehawk Neck. This thin strip of land was fenced and well guarded; by soldiers, man traps, and even half-starved dogs!

Inescapable! Savage coast and half-starved dogs

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Art Exhibition and Competition

One of Dani’s after school activities is Art Club. He is not very good at it (not that I am really qualified to say) but he genuinely does like it. And that is what is most important.

For most of this term his Art Club group have been making a painting for an exhibition at the local library which just also happens to be a youth art competition. The prize is several hundred dollar worth of art supplies, so the kids at the Art Club are keen to win. The other day I spotted it on display. There was plenty of competition too. See below…

Some of the large collection of artwork entries
The painting by Dani and his school Art Club

Dani’s Art Club painting (above) is basically a collage of individual paintings – one per member of the club – brought together to form two hands. A clever idea that allowed the kids to more or less do their own thing while being part of the bigger picture.

It is located half way up the stairs in quite a prominent position. Hard to miss actually. Perhaps that will sway the judges. I will of course keep you informed.

Oh, and Dani’s contribution? The second square from the right, on the top row.


Snails and a Bad Reptile Movie Review

How much do you know about the sex life of snails? More specifically, I suppose, what do you know about snail reproduction?

The reason I mention this is that we have a fish tank – bought for Dani’s birthday a few yeas ago. Recently it has become infested with tiny snails and I was sure they were breeding like crazy. So, eventually I decided to look it up (i.e. google it). And this is what I found…

Right you can forget rabbits. These little shell covered bastards are even more prolific breeders. It turns out that they don’t even need to meet a snail of the opposite sex!

Many species of freshwater snails are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. Hermaphroditic snails can actually fertilize themselves, so all it takes to establish a breeding colony in your tank is a single snail. Well, I can confirm that we are well past that ‘single snail’ stage.

They usually have to climb above the water line to lay their eggs. That’s (mostly) when I see them and try to scoop them out. It turns out that snails don’t go through different forms as they age. They hatch out of their eggs as tiny, perfectly formed versions of their parents. That’s why I often see lots of tiny snails hanging around on the tank walls – which I also scoop out.

The first snails must have got into the tank on a plant I bought (for the tank) some months back. Anyway short of cleaning out the whole tank and getting new gravel for the bottom it is going to be hard work getting rid of the slimy little f*ckers. But not to be put off I have once again sought the help of the internet and come up with a plan to sucker the little suckers into a trap.

Apparently if you put a piece of lettuce in the tank overnight, they all come out to feast on it. By early morning it should be covered in snails, large and small. Then all you have to do is scoop out the lettuce leaf and voilá! Or so they say… We shall see.

Reptilicus – A Really Bad Movie

Classic poster. The posters were so much better than the films in those days eh?

The other day I found out about something called ‘The Bad Movie Club’. They show old films at the local library, deliberately picked out for being really awful.

Of course there are plenty of candidates – the majority of which most of us will have never heard of. This was one of them. It is called Reptilicus, a Danish monster movie made in 1961. It was terrible, but funny. I thought Dani would like it and sure enough he did. He saw the funny side of it but also thought it wasn’t that bad. I understand what he means. For the time it was made, I suppose…No. Hang on. It really is crap regardless of the year it was made and the lack of special effects.

Plot and Spoiler Alerts (as if!)

After copper miners discover part of the frozen tail of a prehistoric monster in Lapland, scientists take it to an aquarium in Copenhagen where it is kept frozen in a cold room.  However the cold room door is inadvertently left open and the tail thaws and is brought back to life. Scientists then notice that it is regenerating. One scientist calls the creature Reptilicus. Foolishly they decide to keep it alive and enhance the regeneration by drip-feeding the tail section. Inevitably the monster grows far quicker than they could have imagined and soon fully develops and breaks free.

Reptilicus goes on an unstoppable rampage through the Danish countryside and into the sea. Then to the panic-stricken streets of Copenhagen. The monster is finally knocked  unconscious by a sedative developed by the scientists. The drug is administered via a  bazooka shot into the creature’s mouth – in one of the funniest parts of the movie.

The film was made twice. It was remade in English for the American audience and a few scenes were deleted from the original (Danish) version – like where Reptilicus flew. This was due to the fact that it looked so bad. Speaking of which, some effects – like the monster spitting a luminous green acidic slime – were added afterwards, and very amateurishly. I am sure the flying monster scenes would be no worse.

The acting was very poor. Wooden. Plus it was full of bad timing. But we stuck with it. And why not? There was a supply of free drinks and snacks. At least I think it was free. Dani helped himself to a can of coke and two bags of popcorn. So overall he enjoyed himself. As he correctly pointed out; it is only the most modern monster movies with up to date CGI graphics that don’t have silly looking monsters (like this one). At school his class is working on making a short stop-motion movie in art class, so he was actually very interested in this ‘bad movie’.

Another poster for the movie.

Surprisingly, you can even find the “official trailer” on that old favourite, YouTube. Here is the link for anyone interested:

If you are really keen you can buy the movie on Blu-Ray and DVD. But best keep your money eh? Spend it on some modern crap movie. There are more than enough of them.

Unsurprisingly, this was Denmark’s first, and up to now, only giant monster film. That said, and as always with these daft old movies, they are worth a look, if only for a good laugh.

Sheffield – Town of Murals

Sheffield – Town of Murals

More from our Tasmanian tour…

We passed through this little town on our way from Cradle Mountain National Park to Launceston. It was well worth stopping off to spend some time strolling around. The artwork is everywhere. Mural after mural. I am sure we never saw them all. And I am certainly not going to try to get all of those I managed to photograph on this post. But here is a fairly good sample…

Dani almost looks part of this life-like mural

A Bit About The Town…

Sheffield is a town 23 kilometres inland from the north-west coast of Tasmania and sits in the shadow of Mount Roland. The Sheffield area is well known for dairy farming, lamb and beef production. It has a population of around 1,600.

The town was named by Edward Curr (who was appointed manager of the Van Diemen’s Land Company in 1824) after his home town in South Yorkshire, England. I worked there a long time ago – it’s a great city. But this much smaller place of the same name is very different.

Mount Roland overlooks the town and dominates the local scenery.

As usual with rural towns in Australia, the architecture is also interesting.

The town thrived during the 1960s due to the construction of seven dams and seven power stations nearby. But things started to decline after the completion of the power scheme in 1973 and the population began to decline.

Becoming the Town of Murals

Sheffield’s revival as the Town of Murals began as a bid by a small group of residents determined to save their town. The Kentish Association for Tourism (KAT) had a vision to combine art and tourism to revive their town’s fortunes, which was apparently inspired by the story of Chemainus, British Columbia. That small Canadian town did a similar thing using artwork and murals to revitalise itself.

Personally, this place reminds me very much of the NSW town of Eugowra, which is like a walk-around art gallery. You can read more about that place by following this link: The Village of Eugowra – A Living Art Gallery.

The first mural was painted in December 1986 and it grew form there. Sheffield has now become a major tourist attraction promoting itself as a “Town of Murals”. The murals attract an estimated 200,000 people to the town each year.

More Murals…