Things I Encountered for the First Time in my 65th Year Part I (But It's Not All Bad)

If brevity be the soul of wit, time and time again I prove myself witless. I worked on this post off and on for four months, finished and posted on Christmas day. That evening, then one of these issues came back to bite us, and I wondered why I feel compelled to (over)share, and I withdrew. But a week removed, I feel if this allows one person to laugh with me or at me or feel relieved their year was a tad saner, why not. So with lightness of heart, but never forgetting the folks with real problems, here I go again.

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A word of caution, warning, something: there's no need for alarm or concern. Most issues were solved; others are now part of our lives. 
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At around October last year, I started wishing the year would end soon and that 2023 would be a much better year. I can't remember what exactly was bad about 2023, except I did have a mild spell of depression, not bad enough to consult with the doctor but a prolonged period of extreme ho-hum. Plus an over-the-top new hay-fever symptoms that were painful and kept me inside with windows closed for maybe six to nine months. Little did I know 2023 had nothing on 2024.
This year started OK. I wove a bunch of Swedish Cottolin, and moved on to the multi-color tied-weave, before the big loom broke, and then I messed up the threading/sleying while checking to see if the loom was fixed. I haven't touched that loom/warp since, but I know I will get back to it. The loom is in the basement, so not a bad place to work in the height of the summer, or the winter for that matter. 

I did a lot of gardening, making up for nearly a year's neglect, and because friends got in on the veg gardening early. Most of winter and spring was spent aerating the veg patches, breaking chunks of clay by hand, and of course weeding. This work hasn't stopped, but I've learned to pace myself, rather than to follow the veg's schedule, because it's getting harder and harder on the body. 

In August, our world started to... I won't say crash or crumble, but let's say it's been a dozen-gazillion paper cuts day after day after day. We seem to be on a break at the moment, but the year has changed our attitude from "glad that's over" kind of easy outlook to "what next?" dread all the time.
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Ben was hospitalized for bacterial infection after a routine test on August 1, after a 20-minute test took nearly an hour due to two faulty test kits. Neither of us had ever been really sick, the only time we went to the hospital was to visit family, plus a super detailed health check available through work back in Japan, which we signed up for because neither of us had ever stayed in a hospital. I tried hard to remember what Mom had in Dad's always-ready bag, packed an abridged version and brought it with us after a specialist nurse told me to get him get to ER ASAP. After nine hours in the ER, he ended up in a ward and was stuck there for four days. They never figured out which bacteria was the culprit, except Ben was told, "not Ebola." I hope not, because he had a pre-op roommate!
We learned hospital stay is all about waiting; waiting to be seen by a doctor/nurse/specialist, waiting for meals, waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for a doctor/nurse/specialist to "be right back," and waiting for the lovely tea lady to come around to make tea/coffee and leave bickies. And hospital wards are noisy! Everybody's machines are ticking and beeping; nurses are being called all the time; some folks talked loudly, and to boot they had an emergency bell test, (or was it failure?) Down the hall there were seriously sick folks, and the air was heavy with hushed conversation amidst all the other noise. 

On the plus side, Nelson City Council revamped the bus system and the new all-electric services commenced also on August 1. They didn't gauge usage/popularity beforehand, but just started running several new lines at once, and made the connection at the CBD (city center) better, so I didn't have to take the taxi to/from the hospital. Best trip took 45 minutes, worst 90 late at night, but it felt so civilized to have public transportation in little old Nelson. And since I'm over 65, non-busy hours I ride free, otherwise half price. Last I read, the buses remain very popular. 

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A pension office staff gave me the wrong information on the phone. I didn't believe her but the young woman was so adamant, I had to accept it. It turned out she was wrong, and long-story-short, I had to make several phone calls and resubmit forms, causing other folks to rework my case. I did get an admission of error of sorts from a second staff, but, oh, what a lot of bother! Also unusual for the usually knowledgeable and courteous office.  
I am, though, having increasing problem understanding simple admin procedures, so I try to read things several times before asking questions, or worse expressing displeasure. But also, I've correspondingly decreasing patience with other people's mistakes. After all, they get paid to do their work.

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In the same week I learned my bank changed its notification policy, but put it only in a small print, so I missed out on the government contribution portion of voluntary retirement fund savings. I made a complaint, and the staff asked me what outcome I was hooping for, (which I thought was a strange question,) but I gathered my courage and said I wanted either the bank or the government to pay me the amount.
In this scheme, account holders must deposit a minimum amount to qualify for government contribution every year; for waged folks it happens incrementally but automatically every time they get paid, but for us unwaged, we have to make a deposit. The staff checked the last ten years of my deposits, confirmed I always deposited requisite amount immediately after the bank reminded me of the due date. 
The hard part was, it took him a few days to find out where the change was "announced", at the bottom of their regular financial reports, instead of a targeted email as in all the past years. He thought it was unfair, and guess what, I got the amount from the bank, which to the unwaged, was no small win. My bank is well-known for good customer services, and the chap was a ever-so calm but conscientious. I was rude at first, but wanted to adopt him at the end.

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In the same week: the coating on my eyeglass lens "melted", which apparently happens when folks feed the wood burner, or open a boiling pot or hot oven, with our faces too close. It was a first for me, even though I've been wearing glasses with similar coating for nearly 30 years. Anyway, Jim, whose taken care of my optical needs for as long, said insurance covers this.

So I rang, emailed, filled online forms, but nothing. About a week later, I received an form email with a claim number, saying someone will call me. Another nothing for a week and a fortnight? I had to get back to Jim because it had taken too long and I got the glasses back, and Jim sorted it out at his end.

A month or so later, insurance folks sent us the annual invoice, in which for some strange reason they decided one of Ben's cars we had since 2006 suddenly moved to a different city! In retrospect, we should have just emailed back, but I rang, and it took a long time to get that sorted, and check the info on the other car.

Then, because they had just upgraded their system days before, could they go over the details of our house and contents insurance? I said no, I've got to go, but the woman went on and on about the responsibilities of the policy holder, at the same time saying she was verifying all data was transferred from the old system correctly, and it became easier to just answer. We've had the same policies with the same people for over 20 years, and re. the house or contents, (who lives here, how many stories,) nothing had changed. But she insisted the information wasn't in the system, and she will update it for me, for $48!! I said don't because nothing had changed since the start, but she said it's too late, she's already input it. I felt tricked! 

Had I presence of mind, I would have checked documents received in the past years to see if I could prove that the information was there before their computer system upgrade. But I was too flustered I didn't. So we were charged $48 for nothing, for being a loyal customer with only a couple of claims in over 20 years. (OK, they did replace a car in 2001, but it wasn't an expensive car.)  
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2004 turned out to be an Unprecedented Year of Technology Updates, another first. I hate mindlessly upgrading for the sake of upgrading, (and what do we do with all the electronic rubbish?) and if we must, we've staggered our purchases, but this year was all go:   

1) Ben's 10-year-old desktop, except the monitor upgraded after the first lockdown, which was starting to cause trouble when he was working from home;
2) Ben's new laptop, after his ancient tablet suffered a slow death;
3) Ben's personal cell phone, after his work-issued cell became outdated after 4(?) years; 
4) My laptop, which wasn't old but always had power supply problems in spite of frequent parts replacement, and; 
5) My phone battery, because I dropped it on the bathroom tile and it started ballooning, which alarmed Ben... alarmingly.
6) And because of the many purchases, we accumulated enough points for Ben to get an eBook reader, which he needed after the loss of his tablet, laptop being too clunky and bright.

Luckily, Ben sold 1), 2) and 4) for parts. Poor guy, he's what you call a nerd, but his somewhat Greenie wife doesn't let him indulge in modern, short-lift-expectancy toys. All the savings we made in petrol and living frugally during the lockdown years disappeared, if it hadn't already to cover the high cost of food, but that's Twenty First Century life, I'm told.

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My Dad and I have low blood pressure and that was one thing we weren't going to have to worry as we aged and accumulated health woes. Well, that changed for me a couple of months ago; I was told to loose weight and lower BP or I'll have to go on meds. It's still under observation, but I have been marginally more physically active, or at least aware on days I'm not, and we were suddenly eating outrageously healthily, until the arrival of the festive carbohydrate season. 
Must. Do. Better. 
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I had a woman come knocking on my door one day asking if we'd be interested in fully-funded solar panels. She mentioned a supposedly government-funded organization, and she could send an engineer to assess our suitability. But what really made me suspicious was, we just had an election and an "all-for-businesses, nothing-for-free" government was elected. I doubted such schemes, if it existed, would stay. And our government tend to do things directly, and the onus is usually on us to apply, not them coming around to see if we want free anything. Plus, I daresay, mine is not the street where people who need help live, and "government" money would do better elsewhere, (although, Right-leaning parties may want to curry favour with folks on our street.)

She didn't have an ID, and wore a polo shirt that just said, "Solar", but other than that, didn't look dodgy. I politely/pointedly declined when she asked for a copy of our power bill. It was a first cold call of this kind, not online or by phone, which made it a little creepy.

I also thought about how easily I open our doors, and whether we need some kind of security system; I think about that often, but secretly think something bad would never happen on our street. I'm not sure if this is wise any more in a year when our Courthouse was closed once, the Airport twice in December alone because of unspecified threats, while our new government run their thoughtless mouths like everybody else's Right Wingers. 

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There is the reorganization of the Polytechnic (tertiary but not university) organization nationwide that Labour started before the 2017 election. Ben works in one. There is a whole lot I could rant about but they are not necessarily fact-based, so I'll just give you the gist that really bothers me. 

Although stuff had been happening like staff leaving, nothing directly affected Ben's work until October/November that I was aware of. After the election, when it was clear Labour lost, the powers that be kept travelling, holding all day meetings, and distributing steeply vertical, multi-page organization charts, (with some slots still unfunded,) in which every Polytech IT staff around the country were to be slotted in. After intense consultation, with folks safely slotted, a big announcement was made that effective April next year, operation will be switched to the new mode. And then the new government, after six weeks of gestation, announced their first Wish List, among them, "begin disestablishment of Te Pukenga (the consolidated Polytechnics,)" followed by the ministerial announcement Polytechnic management will revert to the local level by the start of April. My vague feeling is, this was a whole lot of announcement with not thought/plan/specifics, because to which stage will they return? But... enough. Watch this space. Or not.

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On the same week, in Early November, came Ben's big inheritance problem. Long story short, A family member passed away a year and a half ago, with ten years' of unpaid taxes on a farmland, (not sure if the deceased even knew about it, or if it came up with the inheritance,) and since those nearest and dearest have forfeited said "inheritance", Ben was among the next in line. This one consumed us for a fortnight, until Ben's sister came forward saying she forfeited the same six months ago, and crucially her forfeiture was accepted about the time Ben received the tax office letter. For now, we've sent her all the documents we/she understood were needed for her to submit to the appropriate place, but who knows what will come next.  

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Still a week left of 2023, I sincerely hope this is it for the bad news for us. If you lasted this long in the Ben and Meg's Horrible Year 2023 Saga, I promise the next bit is a bit more uplifting.

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