Mar 18, 2014

Financial advice: the catch-all is all!

One of Australia's greatest financial assets is its regulations regime. Australia has a very good financial regulations regime, strong and well-structured and still conducive to business.

In 2001 the Financial Services Reform Act (FSR) was implemented, bring much-needed reform to financial advice. Among the changes were licensing for financial service providers, ongoing training for all finance sector employees, segregation of duties between workers who are licensed to provide advice and workers who are not, rigour around know-your-client requirements to ensure appropriate advice is given, and mandatory plain-language statements for customers about the services provided and the financial products sold.

In 2012 the Future of Financial Advice Act (FOFA) commenced, which added further requirements around giving appropriate advice to clients. The main components were: a ban on conflicted remuneration, such as "trailing commissions" earned by advisors from products for which they sign up their clients; transparent fee structures for financial advice; and the requirement to act in the client's best interest at all times.

Together FSR and FOFA have benefited consumers, added rigour to an industry which wants to consider itself a profession, and weeded out the worst providers of lazy or detrimental advice.

So it is a concern that FOFA will this year be amended to remove its most important requirement: the catch-all rule to always put clients first.

The FOFA amendments

I think all the other points in the FOFA amendment are good:

  • Removing the 'opt-in' requirement, for existing clients to re-paper every two years: Fine. It is difficult to do over a large client base and doesn't in itself increase consumer protection. Good providers will probably continue a form of this anyway: if you're in regular contact with your client you schedule a review; if not then you review the arrangements at the point the client requests a service.
  • Removing the Annual Fee disclosure requirement for existing clients: Fine, as above. Clients don't want yearly mail-outs anyway.
  • Scaled Advice: Good, allows cheaper advice options for small customers
  • Grandfathering: Good. Allowing customers to easily transfer from one provider to another is essential to consumer protection and competition
  • Exempting "general advice" from conflicted remuneration: Well, OK... as long as you keep the catch-all provision!

Trail commissions vs paying for advice

It has been argued by insiders that removing trail commissions makes financial advice too expensive for small customers, and that is a valid point. But it's no argument to retain commissions and kick-backs, which are frowned on in other professions. Cheap, compromised advice is not good advice. If commissions are removed or restricted properly then financial service providers will find other ways to provide fair advice to customers. (And the "scaled advice" provision in the FOFA amendments does just that).

The catch-all rule

The catch-all rule to always put the client's interests first is critical.  To anyone outside the industry it must seem a no-brainer. To financial planners and brokers it is not quite that straightforward, because there are often multi-layered and multi-party transactions where clients, counterparties and broking/advice firms all have a stake. Financial deals are also often complicated and volatile, and outcomes not easy to predict. That's why there are safeguards for advisors built into this rule. ASIC summarises it as:

A duty for financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients, subject to a 'reasonable steps' qualification, and place the best interests of their clients ahead of their own when providing personal advice to retail clients. There is a safe harbour which advice providers can rely on to show they have met the best interests duty. This is intended to be the minimum standard of compliance with the best interests duty.   (ASIC, FOFA Background and Implementation)

You know what happens when advisors act more in their own interests than the client's interest?
The Goldman Sachs hedge fund scandal happens.

Less spectacularly, advisors with a conflict of interest fail to offer the best product for their clients or offer completely inappropriate ones, so they can get the trailing commissions, future referrals, or other benefit.

The advisors and brokers I know are all good people who enjoy looking after their clients and take pride in their professionalism. They are happy to comply with regulations and do so.  I'm not an advisor, but I can't see much of a downside in being part of a professional body that safeguards you and your clients by way of some manifestly sensible rules.

The importance of the 'catch-all' provision is not to trap advisors in a red-tape nightmare, or hang them for deals that don't turn out well. Its purposes - and this is why it's so critical - are these:

  • provide an over-arching ethical boundary: always put the client first! This guards against seeking loop-holes to other rules and acts as a brake for advisors to consider, any time they look at a new offering
  • last resort: provide a way in to terminate or prosecute a bad advisor, who can be shown to have disregarded the ethics while ticking all the other boxes

It seems to me that every profession has an over-riding 'catch-all' requirement to look after the best interests of the people they serve or represent. If financial advisors and planners want to be considered professionals, then in my opinion they should be happy to accept the same basic requirement.

I am an operations project manager at a stockbroker's, and have no direct dealings with clients or financial advice.

Further reading for those interested:

Australian Government's FOFA website:


"Save our FOFA" consumer protection site (of which I'm not a member):

Mar 16, 2014

Sunday Selections #163

It's time for Sunday Selections!
Sunday Selections is a weekly meme hosted by River at Drifting Through Life. 

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under the Sunday Selections title
2. link back to River somewhere in your post
3. leave a comment on River's post and visit some of the others who have posted and commented: for example:
    Andrew at High Riser
    Gillie at Random Thoughts From Abroad

A hodge-podge of photos today, most of them old, the first one new.

This was part of a farm drawing by A. done last week. I really liked the shape of this cow.

This one is a "keep calm and carry on" kind of quote that was stuck to my sister-in-law's fridge in Greece, which I really like. It's a little rhyme and it means, basically, "Be strong, hold your head high - good days will come again."  So apt for Greece at this time.

Another one from Greece. Here we are at Y's good friend's taverna in Afissos in the Pelion region of the mainland.  Our girls are sitting at the table, and Y's friend, Y and his brother are standing looking at...something? in the water.

Another rooftop photo from the carpark on my work building's roof. I've taken a lot of photos up here - not that I'm anything but a terrible photographer - because the shapes and reflections are so interesting.

My daughter M's keyring. So pretty, I covet it myself.

Tia, asleep on a chair outside.

Our fridge door. Time for a clean-up, perhaps?!

How was your week?

Mar 15, 2014

The value of money

My kids have a really skewed understanding about money which I admit I don't do a whole lot to fix because (a) it's cute and innocent and (b) our finances can't handle them knowing the truth.

They think we have lots of money. Like "a hundred dollars" in the bank. That's not because we're constantly buying things or showering them with gifts, but because we are grown up and we work and we give them pocket money, and we go to the supermarket and pay for things, so we must have lots of money.

(I do tell them we don't have lots of money; but I don't want them to worry that we're poor either).

We give them $2 a week pocket money which they mostly save. Whenever they want something I say "Well, if you REALLY want it you could buy it with your pocket money", and then they get me to help them do sums, to find out how much money they'd have left if they bought this thing, and then usually, once they understand the true value/cost of what they want, they decide not to buy it.  And that makes me proud, except sometimes when I have to stop myself from saying "Dude, you should totally go for it, it's only three dollars, man!"

But their notions of what money is worth are still skewed.

In their world, there is a sliding scale of value to money which goes like this:

  • notes are always worth more than coins. A five-dollar note is more valuable than five one-dollar coins
  • a ten dollar note is more valuable than two five-dollar notes
  • a gold one-dollar coin is worth WAY more than five twenty-cent pieces
  • a shiny gold coin is worth more than a dull gold coin
  • a two-dollar gold coin and a one-dollar gold coin are of roughly equal value (unless one of them is shiny)
  • a commemorative coin is worth more than a normal coin
  • the greatest value of all is a shiny, commemorative two-dollar coin. Really tempting even compared to a five-dollar note.
  • silver coins (fives, tens, twenties and fifties) are worth very little; even when you group them together to make up $2, they are worth so much less than an actual $2 coin. An actual SHINY $2 coin? Forget about it!


Do / did you give your kids pocket money?

Mar 11, 2014

How a spider ate my day off

This post is going to make me sound like a spoilt brat, okay.

Also it has a picture of a spider. Just warning you!

Today was my day off work. I had planned to spend the school hours writing my short story and starting work on my online project management course. So, naturally, it was an easy decision to go to the shops and look for a book I had promised my mother.

Once at the shops I bought the book and then thought, Well hey, I've got all day ahead of me; I can stop and have a coffee.

I bought a newspaper and a coffee and sat and enjoyed them. Then I thought, Might as well drive round and give the book to Mum.

I got in my car and started the engine, and then a big grey spider scuttled up the passenger side window and across the windscreen, and up onto the roof.

When I say "a big grey spider", I mean it was one of these: a huntsman:

beer ninja/flickr


I'm not arachnophobic, but these guys make everyone a little arachnophobic, don't they?

This one wasn't huge but it was big enough, and hairy. I could see its eyes.

I checked the windows were all wound up tight, then thought, oh well, it'll blow off when I start driving.

I drove (fast) out of the carpark and onto the street, and it scuttled down the windscreen again and near my rearview mirror. I careened round corners, drove down straights at maximum speed limit and waited for the spider to fly off the windshield, to no avail. He buckled down and didn't budge.

I stopped at a mini mart, waited for a few seconds, then opened the door, jumped out, slammed the door and looked around wildly. No spider visible.

At the store I bought spider spray, and then I sprayed all around my car, inside every nook and especially all around the doorframes, rearview mirrors and where the windscreen meets the hood.  I gingerly opened the door and sprayed everywhere inside until the car interior was cloudy and toxic. I waited but no spider appeared, so after a while I got back in and drove off.

I was almost at my mother's place when it scuttled into sight again and wrapped its legs around my rearview mirror.

Once again I stopped the car, leapt out and sprayed wildly, and still no spider appeared.

I drove to my mum's and didn't go in her driveway but parked on the street, because my mum IS arachnophobic.

By this stage I didn't know what to do, but Mum had a suggestion: go to a car wash!

I got back in the car - Mum waving goodbye and good luck from about ten feet away - and drove to the closest car wash where I didn't have to wash the car myself. That was in the underground carpark at Chadstone shopping centre, which is expensive but fortunately I'd just been paid and also I kind of didn't care.

At the car wash I did my usual check, open door, leap out and run routine, and explained to the guy: "I'll take the Gold wash thanks and there's a hunstman somewhere in the car, I'm really hoping you can get it out!"

His face visibly fell but he said unenthusiastically, "Oh okay sure."

I know it's not their job to get rid of pests in the car. I always clear out my rubbish before leaving my car to be washed, and sometimes I even wash it myself! So I'm not a dick, really. But I was hoping the car being washed would cause the spider to run out, and in my heart of hearts I was hoping the car wash guys would see it and step on it and produce its dead carcass for me when I got back.

I had an hour to kill at the shopping centre, so I mooched around a bit, then told myself I was "getting a good walk in", then thought, Oh well, I really should have some lunch.

So I went to a cafe and had an iced coffee and a burger. You know, because you've got to eat.

When my car was ready I asked the guy if they'd seen a spider and he said no.

I had bought more spray at the shops because I'd emptied the first can so I sprayed a little around the door frame, then opened the door and looked around. My car was lovely and shiny and smelled delicious and there was no spider in sight.

I drove home and no spider appeared.

I choose to believe it was driven out by the car washing, and is not hunkered down somewhere in the recesses of the inside of my car.

Twenty minutes after I got home it was time to get the kids from school.

Mar 9, 2014

Sunday Selections #162

It's time for Sunday Selections!
Sunday Selections is a weekly meme hosted by River at Drifting Through Life. 

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under the Sunday Selections title
2. link back to River somewhere in your post
3. leave a comment on River's post and visit some of the others who have posted and commented: for example:
    Andrew at High Riser
    Gillie at Random Thoughts From Abroad

I guess it was silly to think I could acquire a working wall clock for $10. But this was exactly what I was looking for for the kitchen so I snapped it up, only to find once home that it just didn't work.  I kept it for awhile because it's so beautiful, but in the spirit of de-cluttering I finally threw it away this week.

I also had to throw out my favourite wooden spoon - it cracked and split.  This was won by me coming last in the footy tipping at work nearly 10 years ago. My colleague who ran the competition had had his children write "LOSER" and my full name in lovely sparkly purple pen. The writing eventually wore off - you can just faintly see the "L".

A birthday card I gave my sister last month. I liked it.

The ruined pot from our recent burnt eggs and fire brigade adventure. I should have attached this photo to the post and may go back and do that now.

Oh dear - one night recently poor Harry had to sleep elsewhere, at least for part of the night. I found this when I opened the door in the morning.

This was a little weird. One day recently there were some roadworks in the street adjoining ours. I saw this sign outside our house when I collected the morning paper.
We live in a cul-de-sac. There are only 9 houses on our street.

Has it ever taken you years and years to get round to watching a movie you want to see? You know, you miss it at the cinema, and then... just never get round to seeing it?

I finally watched Quiz Show last week - rented the DVD, only 19 years after the movie came out.
It's true what everyone says: it's a good movie.  I loved it.  Great performances from everyone.

Ah, Ralph Fiennes, pre-Voldemort....

How was  your week?

Mar 8, 2014

Children's Chanting Games

I love the chanting games kids play. Some of them have been around for years, some are new. They are invented by children and some survive with minimal changes for generations; others get reworked and change rapidly.  Often snippets from one chant work their way into another.

The benefits of chanting games are hand-eye co-ordination and memory training, but most of all friendship bonding. It's interesting to me that they are mostly played among girls.

Skipping rope chants

This one was what we chanted jumping rope when I was a kid, and I heard it all through my primary school years - but my kids had no knowledge of it (until I taught them):

Cinderella dressed in yella
Went upstairs to kiss a fella
Made a mistake, kissed a snake
How many doctors did it take?
One, two, three....

Here's one my kids do know:

Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around
Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground
Teddy bear, teddy bear jump up high
Teddy bear, teddy bear say good night! [jump out]

Hand Clap Chants

Years ago I taught my kids the classic Pat-a-cake chant:
Pat a cake, pat a cake, baker's man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
Pat it and prick it and mark it with B
And put it in the oven for baby and me
That one appears in every nursery rhyme book and was probably written by an adult.

But more interesting are the chants that are made up by children and passed around between them, from primary school to primary school, between cousins and friends, and morphing with generations.

These come with more complicated hand-clap routines, which I was never good at as a kid. I learned the chants in my head but rarely got to say them as I couldn't do the hand-clap routines.

I remember this one from when I was a kid:

Under the bamboo bushes under the trees, boom-boom-boom
True love for you my darling true love for me
When we get married we'll raise a family
Of fifty children, all in a row-row-row your boat, gently down the stream, 
Throw your teacher overboard, listen to her scream [make loud scream noise]

My kids don't know that one.  They do this one:

Kiss a fella
Naughty boy
Ping pong
Armela, kiss a fella, naughty boy, ping pong
Turn around, touch the ground, push your friend, freeze!

...and this one. I remember my cousin's daughter chanting this with her friends years ago, too:

Apple on a stick
makes me sick
makes my heart beat two-forty-six
not because you're dirty, not because you're clean
just because you kissed the boys behind the magazine
Girls, boys, having fun
here comes the baby with the big fat bum
with a jiggle and a wiggle he can do the splits
but I betcha, I betcha, you can't do this:
Close your eyes and count to ten,
if you don't muck it up you're my best friend
One, two, three..... [continue complicated hand-clap routine with eyes closed]
You didn't muck it up so you're my best friend! [hug]
You mucked it up but you're still my best friend! [hug]

I have a video of my kids playing Apple On A Stick (with cameo from Harry the dog) - I haven't been able to upload it here (too big, and having trouble compressing it) but you can see it here on my Flickr.

Here are some other kids doing it:

Counting games

These are the chants you use to count off among a group of friends to see who will be "it".  They're variations on Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe.

Ibble obble black bubble 
Ibble obble out
Turn your trousers inside out
If they're black, turn them back
Ibble obble black bubble
Ibble obble out

Mickey Mouse had a house
underneath the movies
when the movie started 
Mickey Mouse farted 
What colour was it?
[child landed on chooses a colour, then all spell out the colour to finish counting off]


At our primary school in LA we learned this one:
Great green gobs of green grimy gopher's guts
Marinated monkey's meat
Carbonated birdies' feet
Ten bear eyeballs floating in a pool of blood
Oops, I forgot my spoon
But I have a straw.... [make gross slurping noise] 

The kids have learned a couple of variants on Happy Birthday, the most recent one being:

Happy birthday to you
Put your hands in the loo
If you feel something squishy
It's a present for you: poo!

I love this stuff!

Do you know any more? Remember any from your own childhood?

Edit: here are a couple more.

Here's another hand clap game my kids and their friends play:

Two kids face each other and do hand-claps saying: 
Tick tack toe, give me a high give me a low
Johnny got hit by a UFO!
On the syllables "UFO" they do rock paper scissors.
The loser then turns around and the winner pokes the loser in the back with one or more fingers, then holds their hands out in front of them.
The loser turns back around and has to guess which finger or fingers were used.

This is pretty funny, because it's impossible to work out which finger has poked you in the back.
But they all look over the winner's hands and try hard to guess.

And here's a "new" song for them:

While looking for a YouTube video for Apple on a Stick I came across "Sally was a baby", and I thought my kids would like it.
So I taught it to them and they LOVE it, and they have taught their friends.  Yesterday it was going around the playground and one of their friends performed it for their PE teacher.  It's a hit!


Mar 5, 2014

What's the difference?!

The modern (wealthy) world is a world of surplus and too much choice. We have to fend off salespeople trying to get us to switch energy billing provider, and spend time resentfully comparing phone deals, insurance packages, mortgages, credit cards, etc.

Then we hit the supermarket and are confronted with whole sections of aisles devoted to different brands and permutations of very specific things.  I'm pretty sure this has got worse as I'v got older. I remember when we moved to the US in 1979 and being amazed by the variety of types of thing in the supermarket. What amazed us there then has long been the norm here now, too.

But I'm pretty sure I remember, when I was young, that supermarkets could fit all the tins and bottles that related to 'tomato' (tomato paste, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, bottled sauce) in one aisle. Now they're spread out among at least two. (Oh, the difficult lives we lead!)

Then there's this stuff:


WHY are there a million types of Panadol? I'm not talking varieties of painkillers or brands, but different types of the SAME brand of the SAME kind of painkiller.

I understand choice of delivery system: some people prefer soluble tablets, some prefer traditional tablets, and some (like me) prefer "caplets". (Capsules are no longer sold as they can be tampered with).  But still, aren't a couple of choices enough? As long as one of those includes caplets?

As for type of pain targeted and speed of relief: headache vs osteo, normal vs "rapid relief": do they really work differently?  It doesn't seem plausible to me, and if you turn the packets over and read the back, they seem pretty much the same.  But apparently I am wrong: there are apparently (small) differences which you can read about here.


When I was a kid, I'm pretty sure there was just one kind of Band-Aid. That one kind was one size, and came in little paper envelopes threaded with red string that was supposed to tear the envelope open when you pulled it down, but usually did not. They stuck to your skin like glue, left a grey residue outline, and were ripped off by your mum when a corner came unstuck and they started to tug at your knee hairs but you were still too chicken to tear them off yourself.

But I'm on board with child-friendly band-aids. I've bought my share of Dora, Wiggles and Barbie band-aids, marveled at how easily they peel off, and stifled impatience at kids rifling through the packet searching for the one they want or refusing to wear Dora when we've run out of Barbie. I'm kind of glad we're past that now, and the kids will only wear regular band-aids.

But the shapes - so many shapes! When did it ever get so complicated?

Dog mince and Cat mince

Here is beef mince for dogs:

Here is beef mince for cats:

They are actually not different colours though it looks that way from my photos. (You try taking surreptitious product photos in a supermarket).

Since they're both made of minced beef one can't help but wonder, what is the difference?

Well, it's not much. Both are mostly beef and contain the same ingredients. They both contain kangaroo and seaweed extract, and the cat mince has a little more of those in it. I bought one pack of each and feed my dog and the cat both from the same pack. We used the dog meat first and then the cat meat. No preference was shown by either animal, of course.

The only important thing for both pets is that meat from the other animal's bowl generally seems to taste better.

What kinds of consumer choice make you happy, and which ones make you crazy?

Mar 4, 2014

I've unfollowed all the gurus


I've unfollowed all the 'live your best life' and family / planning blogs I used to read.

I still like some of them. But I don't want their stuff on my Facebook / Twitter / blog feed anymore, and here's why:

They mostly don't resemble me.  While I admire anyone who is managing their life well, has changed their life or is energetic, achieving things, healthy, happy or what have you, I think of the people that run some of these blogs the same way I think of those motivational salesman of the eighties and nineties: admirable but basically of a certain personality type, once called "Type A", who is kind of wired that way.

Their lives are not mine. I'm not saying my life is more difficult or complex (it's not), but my life is my life, and the way I live it is basically working for me as is.

I've already found my methods. It's been trial and error, like everyone's life, and I'd never claim it's perfect, but through years of living it, I've found what works for me and my family, and the limitations of every method.

Their stuff doesn't work if you work full time in an office with a commute. All those slow-cooker recipes, housework schedules and the like, don't work if you work full time and don't work at home. I know these blog writers work hard, and they juggle as all of us do, but managing what you do before you "sit down to work" [in your house] is honestly very different from having to commute to work somewhere else, and do that every day.

I don't need relentless motivation and positivism. I'm not depressed (been there), and I'm motivated to get up and go every day by the need to keep my career going and keep a roof over my kids' heads. I get pleasure from the things I like and I keep active and interested in the world. That's all I need to keep going and achieve what I have to achieve.

Their stuff is repetitive. If you read any of these blogs for any length of time you'll tend to read the same intros, tips and pep talks over and over again. These blogs are designed so that anyone can pick them up at any time; the downside of that is they can irk you if you read them regularly.

We have a basic difference in life philosophy. I believe you can get nuggets of helpful information from just about anything you read. So these blogs can provide some good tips. But I also think life is messy and sometimes hard and you can't create a system that will keep you on top of it all the time.

I kind of resent what they do.  I'll admit it. There's something about running a blog about how to blog, or how to work or how to live, or how to manage family/home life, that seems like a bit of an easy out to me. I know that's irrational and unfair. Some of these people have really good blogs. But there are some I read which make me totally understand the existence of GOMI.

There's so much more interesting stuff out there to read. I read news, online magazines, blogs, tweets, fiction, you name it. I download podcasts and listen to them while I walk or while I lie in bed (but then I tend to fall asleep halfway through). There's so much to read, and so much to make you think and keep you busy, engaged and entertained. THAT'S where I prefer to direct my internet energy.

I prefer reading small blogs. Tiny ones in fact. I love reading the regular blogs I follow to read how people like me manage life, work, family and existential despair. Yes, that means you!

Do you read any of the 'big' blogs?
Do you follow any gurus?

Mar 3, 2014

12 Resolutions: March

This year I'm playing along with #12Resolutions on Twitter and Facebook. The idea is to set yourself short-term, achievable goals, one each month. 

January started out really well. I stuck to that resolution and am still doing it: I walk the dog at least once a day and occasionally even twice. The dog is happy, I'm happier, all good. 

February? Oh dear. Not so good. I am ashamed to say I did not even pick up my pen/laptop to write those stories I intended

I was full of confidence and enthusiasm at the end of January, but I overestimated myself with this goal. Despite constantly writing notes and story snippets and thinking of fiction in my head, the truth is I am a novice writer and that goal was probably too lofty or me.

I hummed and hawed about whether to discard this goal for something else, or to stick with it, and I have come up with a middle way: for March I will attempt to write ONE short story, and it won't matter if it's not publishable or even the final draft; it will be enough to have something notionally complete on paper, and I can improve on it later.

I have also paid for and enrolled in an online project management course for work, and promised myself to start that in March, so my plate will be full this month.

Image by Africa/

What's on your to-do list this month?


January: walk 5 times a week (done - I now walk daily)
February: write 2 short stories  (failed!)

March: write ONE short story; begin Project Management course

Mar 2, 2014

Mr K's busy day

This happened one day last month.

My husband Y had a very stressful Friday. It ended with an eventful evening for our neighbors, a shock for us, and a very lucky outcome.

Y was busy that day. It was one of the first school days after the holidays, and my first day back at work. Y had to get the kids up and ready and off to school.

The kids were tired because they had been awake till late the night before, due to the heat (see: Melbourne Heatwave of 2014).

After a couple of hot weeks our front lawn was about a foot and a half in length and covered in prickly weeds and dandelions, and Y had promised to mow it.

He was also working that night and had a lot to do to get ready.

At around 1pm he rang me in consternation, asking how you look after newborn baby birds.

While mowing the lawn he had come across two tiny baby birds on the ground, with no nest anywhere in sight nearby. He picked them up and put them in a plastic container. Should he take them to the vet? he wondered.

I had hazy ideas about liquid food in eye-droppers and warm quiet boxes. I knew the neighbors across the road had once cared for a sick bird so I suggested he ask them, but they weren't home. I asked a couple of colleagues who said to ring the local council who would have a local wildlife care number. I looked up the council website and found nothing, so I Googled it.  It turns out, you can indeed take newborn wild birds to a vet, and in fact you definitely should do this if you are not experienced with baby birds, as they are very intensive to care for and obviously very fragile.

I rang our vet and they said they would take them. However - if they were really very little (newborns) they would most likely be put down, as they have to be fed every hour and need experienced care, and they would not survive the time it would take the vet to send them to a carer.

After one final search for the nest, Y had no choice, so he took them to the vet.

That was very very sad.  Knowing Y I know this would have upset him hugely, and of course it added stress and took a bit of time out of the little time he had.

He picked up the kids who were hot and tired and after the initial happiness of coming home and having a snack, quickly set to grizzling and "I'M HUNGRY!" for the rest of the afternoon.

As Y was running around, loading his car and trying to get the kids to hurry and change so he could drive them to Grandma's house and then go to work, they were dragging their feet and complaining they were hungry, so Y put some eggs on the stove to boil, while he got everything done.

At this point the kids (I learned later) were giving him grief, arguing and saying "We're not going to eat the eggs!" and Y was saying "Yes you will!" and still trying to get everyone ready and out the door.

Eventually after much yelling, threatening, pushing and complaining, they all got out and off they went.

With the eggs still boiling on the stove.

Meanwhile, I was having a lovely time at work. We finished at five, and it was just one of those things, there were drinks on and four of us ended up having a really good conversation, so I was there almost an hour later than usual, without really noticing the time.

My mobile was set to silent and I didn't notice three phone calls, until I picked up the messages two hours later at my mother's house.

Two were from a policeman at my house, and one was from the school.

Long story short:

The eggs had boiled dry and started to smoke, setting off the fire alarm.

Our neighbors heard the alarm, came to check and saw smoke, and not having my mobile number or a spare key, had had to call 000.

The police and fire brigade arrived, and had to break the door to get in. They turned off the stove, put the ruined pot on the front porch, and opened every window to get the smoke out. Searching for a mobile phone number, they got mine off the name tag on my daughter's schoolbag.

In a weird co-incidence, they first mis-dialled and rang the mobile number of a parent of one of my daughter's classmates, who then rang the school.

The school tried to reach me, and as I didn't answer the assistant principal drove round to our house to check if everything was alright.

I got the messages at 7.30 and rang back the police, and got the full story. I rang the school and filled them in and thanked them profusely. I asked who the other parent was who had alerted them, and it was someone I don't even know. I asked them to please pass on my thanks as well.

We went home and I thanked our neighbors profusely - not only did they potentially save our house from burning down, they were even apologetic for having to call the fire brigade and getting the door busted.  Are you kidding?? Don't even worry about it!

We did previously have a spare key at the neighbors - until I locked myself out one day and got it back, and just hadn't got round to returning it.

I am going to give the neighbors back a spare key and my mobile number, but I didn't do it straightaway because I didn't want it to look like "Here's our stuff so you can save our bacon next time we stuff up."  Does that sound paranoid?  I was a bit embarrassed though.

But: thank goodness for community. I am so glad - again - that we know our neighbors and are on good terms with them all, but everyone involved was magnificent, and they don't all know us. The other parent who alerted the school, the school itself which went out of its way to check we were ok, the police and fire brigade who went out of their way to minimise damage and did more than they had to to clear the smoke from the house. When we got home two neighbors seperately apologised for not being able to do more. Of course I apologised for the hassle and thanked them so, so much - as far as I'm concerned everyone involved saved our house.

And Mr K?   He had been so stressed out and busy that he never even recalled he had left eggs cooking on the stove. I had to wait up till after midnight till he came home to tell him, so he wouldn't freak out at coming home to a busted front door.

Not our house fortunately.
Photo by OldOldliner via Flickr Creative Commons


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