Young P.C. Ray Sousa
Merry Christmas and Healthy, Happy 2024
From Western Australia

Hello Family and friends,

2023 year is ending and 2024 is about to begin.  I wish I could say it has been a great year; but I would be lying.  Fortunately, I did not have the run of injuries I had the year before such as getting hit in the nose by a heavy steel door, T-boned in a traffic accident, getting caught up in a small tornado, caught up in a chemical fire etc; but I had my share of other challenges.

A common saying I heard a lot during the year is “getting old sucks”.  Another saying is “dealing with old people sucks”.  I have to agree with both statements and add that dealing with the aging also applies to ‘fur friends and plants’ that you have cared for over many years. . As to be expected at my age a lot of friends, some real heroes died during the year. Possibly harder to accept is people, ageing in different ways and different speeds. For example I know people in their 60s who were once super fit athletes who now can barely walk.  Then there is the growing number of people with dementia. Some can be funny to deal with because although forgetful they remain cheerful; and every day is a new experience, even meeting family and friends ‘for the first time’.  Dealing with other such people can be stressful, and annoying especially when they become aggressive not understanding the world around them.  To all of you who have lost family, friends; or had to deal with ageing/ health issues you have been in my thoughts during 2023.

On the home front despite health issues Pat keeps busy. Her main project during the year has been to continue to coordinate the Vinnies [St. Vincent de Paul Society] welfare calls for the area.  Despite most members being old, some with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel; we still help over 500 needy families to the value of over $150,000 a year.  Pat plays a key role in ensuring the help goes to those who need it the most.  Always present trying to protect and calm Pat down, is Jesse-Belle, Pat’s old, one toothed fur daughter. If Pat gets upset or goes out JB has a go at me; believing all the problems in the world are my fault.  There is almost a competition on which of the old girls has to take the most medication each day.

To my knowledge all the kids and grand kids are doing well. Chris is the highly respected Regional Emergency Service Manager in the south west of WA. His daughter Jada, recently turned 18, got her driver’s license, and within a few weeks rolled / wrote off here old car.  Fortunately, no real injuries, other than her pride being hurt. She is trying to get into the Navy and become a nurse. Her brother Braydon left school to become a roof carpenter apprentice. Addison is still in high school.

Although I have not seen them for a while Andrew’s family are also doing well.  The last I have heard his two sons are in high school and specializing in making films.

Again I have not heard from Rebel for a while although I understand she is still in Victoria.

Amanda is still working hard in Bermuda.  Jasmine represented Bermuda at the Scout Jamboree in South Korea.  Whilst at the Jamboree she became good friends with UK Scouts.  No sooner was she back on “the Rock” she decided she wanted to go to boarding school with her UK friends in Somerset, England. A number of other Bermudians are also at the school.  Joshua, her brother is still in Bermuda with Amanda.

Now that gets to me. As summer and Bushfire Seasons were coming to an end, I tried relaxing a bit by spending more time in the garden.  To my disappointment a tall Rosemary hedge died. Needless to say I had no option but remove it.  That is easier said than done. Besides what can be seen on the surface, there was a large root system under ground.  After many hours of hard work I ended up with trailer loads of material; which would have cost a small fortune to get rid of.  The cheapest and best environmental solution to the problem proved to be to buy a small mulcher and put the waste back into the ground.  In the process the mulcher broke down.  I claimed under warranty and got a replacement to finish the job.  I then redesigned the area using different native plants to attract native wild life.   This work was been done in additional to my normal volunteer duties and work around the house including helping Pat.

It seemed that I had just sat down to take a break when Pat started complaining the house was too big for her to clean etc.  The kids and grandkids were visiting less so a big house was not really needed.  Retirement villages were considered, but we felt they were too expensive.  At the time the housing market in the area went crazy.  In some instances rents rose from $300 to $600 a week; and house values went up in many cases by $100,000.  Of course to get the best value, a bit [a lot] of extra maintenance work including painting had to be done to our home.  It is fair to say it was costly.  Within hours of the house being on the market we had offers.  Rather than set a price the system  now used is to say offers from $500, 000 etc.  Within a week the house was sold for more than predicted.  The next challenge was to find a smaller house.  At one stage it appeared we could become homeless! We looked at some homes which were a bit of a letdown, and they went quickly for a high price.  Then we visited a house which Pat really liked.  It was build 3 years ago to a high standard by an old lady who died [not in the house].  In ½ hour period 9 families visited and put bids in for it.  Pat was determined she wanted it.  We ended up offering $55,000 above the starting price; which was accepted.  A month later we moved into our present home, and new owners moved into our old home the same day.  Moving day was very hot and the removalists were “cowboys” who caused a bit of damage to furniture, houses etc. The day we moved was the same day that HAMAS attacked Israel.   The district has a special connection with the Holy Lands and Middle East generally.  During the Boar War a Horse Regiment that became the XLH [10th Light Horse] was raised in Western Australia. The XLH served in Gallipoli during the First World War, suffering heavy causalities.  After the withdrawal the Regiment was sent to Egypt and reunited with their horses.  Here they made a name for themselves helping defeat the Ottoman Empire [Turks] in the Middle East / Holy Lands; the first European army to take control of the area since the crusades.  A lot of the members were from the Byford area which among other things is well known for horse racing.  The local war memorial with a statue of a trooper and his horse is 2 minutes walk from our present house.  When I arrived in WA in 1974, I joined and served 2 ½ years [in addition to normal work] in the XLH which had become a reserve Armoured Regiment. According to folklore my great grandfather Joe Ferreira from St. Kitts was in charge of horses in the West Indian Regiment which for time was stationed in Bermuda. A lot of members of the Regiment stayed on the “Rock”, and were granted 99 year land leases to properties in areas such as Pond Hill.  One of his sons also named Joe was bit of a horsemen and sold vegetables that were grown in the Glebe Rd property from a horse cart.  As a kid we discovered horse bones that were buried there. So I feel a certain attachment to horse regiments.

The house we moved into is 166 square metres  [ sq. ms] on a 383 block; compare with the other house 227 sq ms on 800 sq ms block [attached to large government verges].  Officially it is a 3 bedroom, two bathroom house.  We have turned one of the bedrooms into an office. The alfresco at the rear is the width of the house with roll–up insect screens, plus overhead fans making it ideal to be used as a sleep out / entertainment area in summer.  It has fewer rooms than similar size houses, but the rooms are bigger. It is a corner block with the front facing Chidlow Rd to the west; whilst the back faces a water drainage reserve to the east with the Darling Ranges [hills] in the distance. If there is once in a 1000 year flood we will have a lake side property.  We added solar roof panels, security screens, internet, and ceiling fans to complement air-conditioning; Pat is very happy.  I had / have some issues.  The front had artificial grass. At the rear from the alfresco to boundary was 3 metres of concrete pavers.  No room for a garden shed, and none allowed, is a downside.  As a true environmentalist I had real issues. I have removed the fake grass, and put in a rose feature in the middle of the new small lawn. Around it facing the house I planted roses in a horse shoe shape garden.  At the rear I removed about 650 concrete pavers and created native gardens with bird bath and lawn areas.  The intention is to encourage regular visits by birds, like we did in the old house. To say the least a lot of hard work was involved. Landscapers cost a fortune and waiting times are up to 6 months.  Eventually I found one who was prepared to provide the materials and technical knowledge; provided I did the backbreaking laboring work. The gardens and lawns including lookouts into the reserve are environmentally and wheelchair friendly.  Fire prevention is also a consideration. Keeping plants / anything alive, even with new reticulation during the hot windy summer will be a challenge. We have been granted approval to water every day for 42 days to get lawns and gardens established.  Normal restrictions are twice a week between 6 PM and 9 AM. I am happy with the way my likely last landscaping project turned out.

Our present property is only 2 KM south of our previous house, still in Byford and the estate is called The Glades.  Although more densely populated it is quieter. Most homes were built in the last 10 years, and a lot of new homes are under construction. The area is very multi-cultural with a large Indian population, and a noticeable number of people from different parts of Africa who regularly, proudly wear colourful, traditional clothing; plus carry on with their traditions.  For example a lot of people celebrate Diwali with home decorated in lights similar to Christmas lights.  Moslem and Buddha inspired landscaping is common. Within walking distance are various shops, dentist, medical centre, restaurants, and a brewery / pub who some of you who visited us would remember as a restaurant on a lake. Judging from the smells I would say they specialize in South African and Indian foods. The estate is well designed with a lot of parks and bush lands. Due to the cost of properties, most residences are middle working class who do an excellent job of maintaining their properties to the high standards of the estate.  Although I miss my large sheds and gardens, the Glades is not a bad place to live.

Thanks for those of you who have asked about my health.  As some are aware my tinnitus [ringing in the ears] was really bad at the beginning of the year to the point it affected my balance and generally wellbeing. To a large degree this has eased since I tried wearing hearing aids.  The problem is still there, and I am likely to have it for my remaining years. A guy I knew was a technician in the RAF during the war. His job was to pick up German aircraft heading to England radio frequencies, and then send a high pitch noise. This caused the pilots to scream in pain as they crashed their planes. Although it was important work it did not stop him having nightmares and feeling sorry for the young men. The tinnitus  gave me a pretty good idea of their pain.  I still have problems with my knees but to some degree control the pain by walking often beyond the ‘pain barrier’; plus taking fish oil and turmeric. Except in extreme situations I avoid taking pain killers.  This is not what I recommend for the faint hearted; but for me at present it is better than having knee replacements [which do not always have positive results], or being in a wheel chair etc.  I occasionally surprise people with my level of fitness, but I don’t tell them about the pain.  When mixing concrete, working with bricks, moving trailers of dirt etc I have to remind myself I am quickly approaching 80, not 18. The young landscaper helping with our project told me he wished he could find an offsider to work to my standard. He listed incentives including special diets he had offered people; with no takers.  Among the issues with such work in heat are leg cramps, which can be extremely painful.  My young friend suggested I have a bit more than a donut and coffee for breakfast to avoid, or at least reduce the pain.

Among reasons I rushed to get the work done was to beat the main summer heat, and  my present level of fitness. I accept this could decrease in a very short time. Injuries are also always a possibility.  Unless I got the gardens sorted out immediately, they [due to cost] will never be done.

2023 seems to be finishing with a ‘bang’. We are having heat waves, with extremely high winds. Temperatures are well above average and we have had major bushfires.  The bushfire season has been declared started 6 weeks early after lighting strikes caused a number of fires that kept us on our toes for over a week. A lot more fires followed. Unfortunately there have been homes and other buildings lost. A number of firefighters injured and at least 2 killed in the Eastern States. There has been wind damage including to a big water bomber. Although the report is not officially out I am reasonably sure strong crosswinds caused the bomber crash that killed the pilots last year.  We are also about to enter our cyclone season. A new major strain of COVID is hitting us [although to some degree ignored] with mask re-introduced in hospitals and some public places.  Although we could have perfect weather, we are more likely to have a challenging end to 2023 and start to 2024. Think about us when you celebrate Christmas and New Years Day.  Ours could be interesting.

Despite the forecast for the last month of the year; I hope that 2024 will be an easier year and I will be able to slow down a bit and enjoy “retirement’.  As I often hear, “ getting old with aches and pains sucks”; but what can you do ? Another saying is that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!  I am sure I must have been born in a lemon orchard, not a nurse’s home, like my mother told me!  A saying I have heard from both Queensland and the West Indies when the sugar cane industry collapsed is, “laugh. Don’t cry.  Make rum, make the world happy”. I hope that in 2024, despite any misfortune you might have you are able to find a way to laugh and make others happy.

Have a Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy 2024