Monthly Archives: October 2015

Giving us the Trotts

WE’VE laughed at them. We’ve marvelled at their mistakes.

But finally, after eight years or so of bringing us doozies like the Nevillectomy, Trotts creator Alan Cornell is waving them off, both in search of new horizons.

Warrandyte’s fallible family first appeared on page-two of the paper in July 2007 after Diary founder Cliff Green approached Alan to write a regular column.

Page 2 was precious to Cliff. It had been the nook of late Herald journalist Lee Tindale, his Smoky Joe column a superb fit.

“It took Cliff a while to work out what to do with it and he left it to me to come up with something,” says Alan. “I didn’t really have an idea, I only knew I didn’t want to do ‘Alan Cornell’s opinions; there were plenty of other people giving their take on things.”

He eventually decided on something amusing: a Warrandyte-flavoured situation comedy.

“It’s always confounded me, there’s so much comedy on television and radio but newspapers are dry. There’s barely a smile to be found – with rare exceptions.”

Alan says inventing the little family gave him a number of different characters who “could do all sorts of things and react to different situations”. He admits the character of Gran was “an afterthought”.

“It quickly turned out Gran was a very valuable addition who gave the writing an edge. She might only be in a storyline for a couple of sentences but could instantly give it the focus.”

I ask him, tongue in cheek, how much of Living with the Trotts is a case of art imitating life? (I’m thinking of the time Cinnamon penned the “balletic tour de force” Duck River after borrowing Black Swan, Billy Elliot and Flashdance from VideoEzy, curious whether Alan has a script tucked away in a drawer.)

He laughs: “Yes, a storyline can be based on something personal. But that’s a trap because then people presume you’re as crappy a handy- man as Neville is – which happens to be true!”

“The surprising thing is, after the initial enthusiasm when you seem to have any number of things around you to draw from, I always imagined it would get easier and easier. But it doesn’t actually. It gets harder as time goes on.”

Which brings us to his decision to end the popular chronicles.

“Everything has it’s own life. I’ve probably been finding it harder to write the Trotts over the past 12 months. When I looked back and realised I had been doing it for eight years – about 90 episodes – I just felt the time was right for something new.”

‘Something new’ is something of a tonic for creative people.

Along with various literary projects, (he’s written novel The Gentle Art of Tossing and had short stories published) Alan’s quick wit and stellar performances with a guitar are well known to Warrandyte Theatre Company audiences.

“It was a very Sunday-school-concert concept when I started performing in the Follies 30 years ago. With some awful things, some quaint things, and every now and then a good thing which sparkled by comparison. But it had a real naïve charm about it that I always liked,” he recalls.

The amateur production was Alan’s introduction to performing on stage. Low-key, he characterises his Follies involvement over three decades more or less by saying he “got quite good at writing silly songs”.

However, this belies his visible growth as a performer – his improved skills led to paid gigs outside of Warrandyte – and as a writer/director who has created about 100 Follies sketches and directed three productions.

One skit, which Alan developed with the help of his Bushfire Press colleagues into the musical Open Season, has since been published and performed by high schools and adult amateur theatre groups.

Follies aside, Alan recently co-directed The 39 Steps and this year directed one-act play Arctic Fevers, which has likewise been touring successfully, picking up awards.

“I wouldn’t say I have remarkable insight into theatre,” he says, “but interpreting someone else’s work is quite interesting. And then bringing your own ideas to it – so you don’t just reproduce what the last person did – I do enjoy finding ways of making that work.”

Alan also worked hard at serious song writing for a time but “never quite cracked” the music industry.

“I won a few awards and some of my songs were signed to a couple of record labels. Judith Durham was going to take one and record it as the title song on her new album; the seekers asked me to write a couple of songs for their comeback album,” he reveals.

“So, for a while there I was around the fringe. Unfortunately, it all just… fell over. Still, it was very enjoyable while it lasted.”

When he’s not doing “fun stuff” (or getting behind a microphone as an emcee) Alan works as a copywriter and creative director who has run small ad agencies.

And though he no longer lives locally, the Trotts author remains attached to the township he credits with unearthing his writer-self.

“I actually started out in economics but switched to advertising just before moving to Warrandyte,” he says.

“When my family and I arrived here some 30 years ago, everything gelled. You could say Warrandyte has been the inspiration for my creative side, because it gave me a sense of belonging I hadn’t experienced before.”

He talks of living in Balwyn before the shift.

“Not long after my wife Jan and I had our first child, we went to Edinburgh for a time. It was terrific; we felt a real sense of community. Then we came back to Balwyn, to a life of peering over 5-foot fences pretending you couldn’t see your neighbours, because that would be intrusive.”

He laughs: “We used to get mail from people in Scotland, but some of it accidentally ended up at the house opposite. Our neighbours kept posting the letters back to Edinburgh! And we thought – this is not a community.”

When they eventually bought Stonygrad, (a North Warrandyte stone pile, hand built by sculptor Danila Vassilieff) the Cornells found themselves part of a genuine circle.

“We met all these wonderful people through schools, groups, and the theatre company of course.”

He mentions the enjoyment of seeing his characters come to life each month through one of these “wonderful people”, Diary cartoonist and Living with the Trotts illustrator, Jock Macneish.

“Usually, you have an idea and when you pass it on you hope to see it made bigger. And that’s exactly what happened under Jock’s expert care”, says Alan.

trotts bookI wonder if the Trotts will ever return. (Imagine the travel stories… Gran bellowing on about the virtue of seeking adventure before dementia!)

“Probably not, but they could. I’m not purposefully driving them off a cliff or anything like that, so you never know,” he says.

Meanwhile, Trotts fans will be happy to know the little family is being immortalised in a book, to be launched locally next month (see ad for details).

Before talking future plans, I ask Alan what he has learned from the Trotts’ antics over the years.

“That we’re one big happy family here in Warrandyte. And that writing a column in the Diary is like riding a bicycle – you better be wearing a bike helmet because every now and then you’re going to crash,” he replies, true to his comic nature.

As to what’s next…

“Now that I have a bit more time, I might look at further directing. I’ll also keep doing a column for the Diary, something along the lines of ‘children’s stories written for adults’,” he says. “I think parents like to read something bright to their children but at the same time enjoy the language.”

Wilful and wickedly funny, the Trotts have left our building.

We leave you with an earlier memory of the Diary’s most loveable weekend warrior cocking up a camping trip in The Man from Yarra River.

Neville, Narelle, Cinnamon, Jasper and Gran, you will be very much missed.

Living with Lyme disease

Is there anything worse than not knowing what’s wrong with you when serious symptoms kick 
in and affect
 your health and wellbeing? Yes – when you know what’s wrong with you but the Australian system can’t help you. SAMMI TAYLOR investigates

EUGENE Hansen has lived in Warrandyte his entire life. He’s a successful small business owner, a coach at the Warrandyte Junior Football Club and is a familiar face in our local community. He is a loving husband and a father to three children.

But Eugene has lived with a painful secret – an incurable disease. His health is rapidly deteriorating; his quality of life is in decline, yet he’s not receiving the help he so desperately needs.

Eugene suffers from Lyme disease, an infectious disease caused by bacteria and borne by ticks. Lyme disease is characterised by a steady break down of the immune system, causing those infected to become vulnerable to several co-infections. If left untreated, over time Lyme disease can cause a myriad of issues—seizures, migraines, cognitive impairment, arthritis and insomnia are all common for those with Lyme disease. These symptoms are often extremely painful and can, in some cases, be fatal.

But this is more than just your daily pains and aches.

“I’m in excruciating pain. I have seizures. I suffer excruciating migraines, between 21 and 25 days per month of migraines,” Eugene tells the Diary.

“I get pneumonia pretty regularly. I can’t battle illness. I avoid as many public places as I can—hospitals or any place where I could pick up any illness. I don’t have the capacity to fight off any infections.’

It took over 14 months, and 220 medical appointments, before there was even a glimmer of diagnosis or the hope of answers. Treatment, a cure and an end to this excruciating pain seemed like a lifetime away.

“I had CT scans, MRIs, blood tests…I had absolutely everything. The only logical conclusion they could come to was: ‘you’re nuts’. Neurologists throw their hands up in the air and tell you it’s all in your head. But, really? Simply, I am in pain and it needs to stop.”

Eugene’s blood was tested in Germany and America to diagnose the disease—and both tests came back positive. However, Eugene’s Australian tests showed no sign of infection.

The reason? As a technicality, the condition does not exist in Australia. Our doctors aren’t trained to diagnose it and our pathology testing doesn’t have the sensitivity to locate the infection in blood tests.

There’s cruel irony in what comes next. In the northern hemisphere, Lyme disease is not only treatable but curable. If diagnosed within four weeks, a simple course of antibiotics eradicates the disease from your system: 28 pills and you’re cured.

“It’s like if you stand on a rusty nail here in Australia, you go and get a tetanus shot. All I needed was those antibiotics for four weeks. It’s exactly the same as treating the common flu,” Eugene says.

There are at least 1494 diagnosed cases of Lyme disease currently in Australia, according to the Lyme Disease Association of Australia.

Another Warrandyte man, Terry Ryan, 45, has also suffered Lyme-like symptoms for over a year. The similarities between him and Eugene are indisputable: they’re both tradesman, living and working on expansive properties in the Warrandyte area. They’re both family men, devoted to their community and battling a mysterious illness that has destroyed their immune system and quality of life.

“I’ve been to dozens of hospitals, seen dozens of neurologists, cardiologists, immunologists. They pretty much told me it was all in my head and I needed to see a shrink,” Terry told the Diary.

But the physical pain and symptoms many Lyme patients suffer are clear signs the disease is far more than a mind game.

“I’ll collapse and have seizures and sometimes I’m just really out of it. I have no control over my body. It’s like there’s this big fog cloud over my head. It’s like you’re in a mist and you just don’t know what’s going on.”

Terry and Eugene are just two among the potential cluster of Lyme disease patients in Warrandyte. The Diary is aware of and in contact with at least a further three members of our local community who are battling the condition.

Australia’s medical boards, federal government and insurance agencies all deny Lyme disease exists in our country. For Lyme patients, these auhorities turning a blind eye to their suffering is just another punch in the guts. With no acknowledgement of the condition, there’s no accessible, or legal, treatment and no Medicare rebates.

Eugene says: “You basically end up paying for all of your treatment and there are locals here in Warrandyte who can’t afford that. They suffer through all the side effects, the seizures and the chronic symptoms, because they simply can’t afford to pay for the treatment.

“I could go to Germany. It costs $77,000 for the treatment there. We’re now looking at selling our home for the treatment. We shouldn’t have to go through this.”

But Eugene is determined to not only overcome his own illness, but fight to improve the lives of other Lyme sufferers.

“I want to just go and shut the gates of my property and get better. But I can’t do that unless I get the acknowledgement that [Lyme disease] exists,” he says.

“I’m going to scream into any microphone until they say that the easiest way to get this bloke to go away is to get off the fence, acknowledge it and fix the issue.”

The Lyme Disease Association of Australia is pioneering that fight. The dedicated group of volunteers provides support for Lyme patients—connecting them to medical services, peer support and updating them with new information. A recent awareness campaign, launched in May this year, saw 20,000 postcards with Lyme awareness messages sent to politicians across the country.

“I believe the government needs to take action right now. They need to indicate there is a Lyme-like illness here and it’s an emerging disease,” says Sharon Whiteman, president of the Lyme Disease Association of Australia.

“Lyme patients need to be given the best standard of treatment. It is hard for anybody to understand that in a country like Australia patients, who are obviously very ill, would go to a doctor and be told that their symptoms and all kinds of abnormal tests are being ignored. It is unbelievable, but it is the truth.”

The next step for the Lyme Disease Association of Australia is to get our federal government to take notice.

“The politicians are skirting around the issue. We’ve been bashing [Kevin Andrews’] door down to meet him but he hasn’t responded to me at all,” Eugene says.

“[There are] constituents here who are suffering, who are in horrendous pain. He says he’s a strong advocate for families—well what about my family, Kevin? Come and spend some time with me and my family when I’m having a seizure or a migraine at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Come with me and tell my children why I’m sick.”

The office of MP Kevin Andrews has sought advice from the Minister for Health, Hon. Susan Ley. They are in the process of investigating the issue of Lyme disease in our community.

“I understand and sympathise with the concerns of people and their families who are suffering from a chronic debilitating illness,” Mr Andrews told the Diary. “But it must be up to the patient and their treating doctor to decide on an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.”

There also is some consolation in the support from the Warrandyte community and those battling the illness are drawing strength from one another.

“I keep in contact with all the others,” Terry says.

“Every now and again we catch up down the street or at footy or whatever, just to see if there’s anything new and what’s going on.”

Eugene says: “And Terry has been a tremendous support. He’s become a part of our support network. I want to try to arrest this thing. I don’t want to give in. I’m in a constant battle with pain because I want it to stop. I want to get better.

“I’m prepared to do what I need to do. I’m going to show everybody here that I can beat it.”

 

If you have any information on Lyme disease, or think you may be experiencing symptoms, please contact your doctor. More information on Lyme disease can be found at www.lymedisease.org.au

Diary triumphs again

WARRANDYTE Diary has been named Newspaper of the Year for the second year in a row at the Community Newspaper Association Victoria (CNAV) annual conference and awards night on the weekend.

Diary editor Scott Podmore and one of our 45-year-old newspaper’s founding fathers Jock Macneish were there to enjoy the spoils at the Foothills Conference Centre in Mooroolbark after early conducting “community engagement” workshops for other community newspaper representatives from throughout the state.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for our Warrandyte community in particular,” Diary editor Scott said. “A community newspaper is only as strong as its community’s spirit and their willingness to come together to ensure the voice is strong in its local newspaper. We have so many great people who contribute whether they be volunteers, cadets, creatives, experienced writers and photographers or even those who put their hand up to deliver bundles of the paper to a pick-up point.”

“The Diary and the Warrandyte community are a force to be reckoned with. We know how lucky we are but it’s nice to be recognised like this. It’s a pat on the back for our people.”

From the nine CNAV awards the Diary featured in six, winning three and being a finalist (top 3) in three others, the same result as last year. As well as winning Newspaper of the Year, the Diary won for Best Layout and Design and Best Sports Coverage.

To win Best Sports Coverage is a real feather in the cap of our new sports editor Mikey Di Petta,” Scott said. “He’s a terrific kid doing a sports journalism course at university and he’s taken the reins of sport with confidence and enthusiasm. You only need look at our recent footy, tennis and netball coverage with all the flags they won. Well the Diary just bagged three flags tonight, too.

“As for the Best Layout & Design award – well that’s one we tuck away in our hearts, because that ackowledges the fantastic work of our dear little Rachel Schroeder who passed away earlier this year and also the equally as brilliant work of our new designer Hayley Saretta.”

The three finalists categories we featured in included: Best News Feature Story (Lara McKinley’s excellent coverage of eating local), Best Photograph (Bill Hudson-McAuley’s amazing ANZAC Day photograph of Ruben Harris-Allen), and Best Article By A Person 18 Years Or Younger (work experience local Sydney Lang’s first ever published story about 10 top things to do for winter was an absolute ripper!).

To add credibility to the Diary’s achievements, nine separate experienced newspaper industry judges were given the task of judging each of the nine CNAV awards. Their comments were:

 

Best Design and Layout – winner, Warrandyte Diary

Many large publishing companies would be proud of the standard achieved by the Warrandyte Diary. The design and layout hallmarks are maintained throughout this bright tabloid newspaper with professional placement of advertising, consistent headline fonts and appealing photos.  “For the community, by the community” is an appropriate slogan for this stand-out publication. Creative flair in design is reflected in every page.

 

Best News Feature Story – finalist, Warrandyte Diary

Eating Local – Is it possible? An appealing, inspiring package of words and pictures giving first hand experiences of eating only local food – info that residents can readily use to ‘eat local’ themselves.

 

Best Photograph – finalist, Warrandyte Diary

Ruben Harris-Allen. A very engaging image. Direct communication with the photographer at time of capture, translates to direct and strong communication with the viewer.  The subject is isolated from the background by both shallow depth of field and the beautiful warm side/top lighting.  Excellent technique in a challenging low light situation.

 

Best Sports Reporting – winner, Warrandyte Diary

The Warrandyte Diary was the standout to me. While it appears it may have a bigger budget then some other entrants I was impressed by its overall modern layout, fantastic eye-catching photos (particularly the emotion-charged shot of the dejected footballers which I thought was a really different angle from your usual action pic) and interesting and varied content about a wide range of local sport and achievers.

 

Best Article by a Person 18 years Or Younger – finalist, Warrandyte Diary

Top 10 things to do for the rest of winter by Sydney Lang. A clear, concise and colourful article to entice people to use their local neighborhood house, serving an important social function.

 

Best Newspaper – winner, Warrandyte Diary

Many big mainstream newspaper editors would be proud to say they produced a publication as professional as the Warrandyte Diary. Its layout can’t be faulted, the photos jump off the page, and there’s a great mix of news, sport and longer feature articles. It’s those articles that are a standout, so compelling that they sent me scrambling to the online editions to look for more.

Snakes on the slither

WITH an exceptionally warm start to Spring breaking all sorts of records, it makes sense our local “Snakebuster” Raymond Hoser has been in demand.

On the day we caught up for a chat he had been out to collect and move nine different snakes from seven different homes around Melbourne, including Donvale, Wonga Park, Warrandyte and incredibly even in densely developed Coburg. At two separate jobs he came across fights between two male Brown snakes, with all of them being captured and moved on.

In Warrandyte and surrounding suburbs, people can expect to see Tiger Snakes, Lowlands Copperheads and Eastern Browns, which are all incredibly dangerous.

While snakes will usually go away if left alone, anyone with dogs or children on the property are advised to call a snake catcher immediately. Although they charge a minimal fee, they will be there much faster than the council or DSE and he advises keeping an eye on them from a distance so they can easily be caught on arrival.

Generally, snakes don’t particularly need food to survive on a property and will seek out places to make their home based on shelter rather than the availability of food and water.

Things to avoid leaving around the home that create the perfect shelter for snakes include pieces of wood, metal, rocks and anywhere a snake can hide, no matter how small the area.

He also recommends making holes along the bottom of fence lines if you have dogs, so the snake has an escape route instead of being forced to defend themselves.

Many will choose the option of escape if available, rather than attacking the dog. According to Raymond, if a dog is bitten, owners can expect a bill of several thousand dollars with no guarantee of survival.

In Warrandyte, walking along the river especially, residents are urged to take care as the water source and plenty of northern sun maintains a healthy ecosystem for them to breed, sometimes in clutches of up to 26 at once, not uncommon for the tiger snake. Browns and Copperheads will still average around 8 to 12 eggs a clutch, which is why it is important for the snakes to be removed in the first instance they are seen as they could bring harm to children or pets.

If someone or a pet is bitten, it is important to be able to easily identify the snake so that the right anti-venom can be administered.

Evident by its name, the Brown Snake is brown, averages about 1.5 metres and has a small head that is barely distinguishable from its head alone. Hatchlings may present with dark markings around the body and head.

The Lowlands Copperhead is less common and tends to grow to about the same size, range in blackish to grey brown, sometimes with an orange or brown flush, which often results in them being mistaken for a Red Belly.

The Tiger, the most aggressive of the three, can be identified by its bands ranging in colour from blackish brown, to olive, yellow and black.

Always remember to carry your phone with you when out and about in the warmer months, not only so you can call an ambulance immediately if bitten, but to snap an identifying photo of the snake if possible.

While snakes will very rarely strike unless they are disturbed, their incredible camouflage skills continue to result in inevitable accidents. If you or someone close by is unfortunate enough to be bitten, don’t panic, ensure they stay still and apply a pressure bandage above the bite before getting them straight to hospital.

Call 9812 3322 or visit www.snakebusters.com.au

$2mill in 12 years

WARRANDYTE Community Bank Branch has ticked over the $2million mark in grant and sponsorship contributions in its 12th year of operation.

Warrandyte Community Bank chairman Aaron Farr said the Warrandyte and surrounding communities had thrown its support behind the locally owned and operated branch, transferring banking business across since the bank opened its doors in 2003.

“Local residents, traders, business owners and community groups have all seen the benefits of banking close to home,” Aaron said.

“We are extremely proud of reaching this milestone because it reflects not only the ongoing success of our business, but most importantly, shows how much of a difference we have been able to make in the community.”

Aaron said Warrandyte Community Bank Branch was a true community venture, which offered a full range of banking products and services in a business model designed to strengthen the local community.

“Achieving $2 million in funding shows that taking control of our community’s financial future is not only possible, but profitable,” he said.

“And the more people who choose to bank with us, the more profits we can return to the community through sponsorships and grants.

“Reaching the $2 million mark is such a fantastic achievement for a community enterprise that many per- ceived as a far-off dream 12 years ago.

“But we have taken this dream for a locally-owned and operated bank and turned it into a reality, financially sup- porting hundreds of community initiatives in the process. Thanks to the support of our shareholders, branch staff, company board and customers, we have been able to grow to be one of the biggest sources of community funding in the local area.”

Funding granted by Warrandyte Community Bank Branch has gone towards supporting a range of community groups, projects and events including:

Manningham SES – Inflatable Rescue Boat

An inflatable rescue boat is an essential and important piece of Manningham SES’s range of life-saving equipment. Receiving $18,254.60 in the 2014/15 grants program ensured the SES was able to replace a very old rescue boat with a new up-to-date model to be used in emergency situations.

Wonga Park Primary – Raising the Roof project

Wonga Park Primary School has been able to complete stage one of its Raising the Roof project. A $35,000 grant enabled the school to build the framework and raise the roof over an existing basketball court.

The undercover area is used for physical education, general play, before school tennis, after school basketball training, OSHC outdoor activities and community events.

Park Orchards Primary School – running track

February 23, 2015 saw the official opening of the new running track at Park Orchards Primary School (POPS). POPS received a Warrandyte Community Bank Branch grant of $33,000 making the school’s dream a reality. The two lane synthetic running track has been a hit with the school’s children who have been putting it to the test ever since.

Greater Warrandyte CFAs – Thermal Imaging cameras

A grant of $42,900 enabled the Greater Warrandyte CFA brigades to purchase much needed thermal imaging equipment. This is a huge asset for the whole community as it enables firefighters to check for hotspots which could reignite fires, to locate persons in burning structures or for search and rescue missions that were previously unseen or difficult to detect.

Warrandyte Pavillion

The Warrandyte Sporting Group with members of the Warrandyte senior and junior football clubs, Warrandyte Cricket Club and Warrandyte Netball Club along with the general public has been able to enjoy the newly built sports pavillion following its completion in 2014. Warrandyte Community Bank Branch contributed $150,000 to this local project.

Scholarships

Since 2011, local tertiary students have been able to kick-start their further education with a scholarship from Warrandyte Community Bank.

With $10,000 each over two years to pay for study related expenses such as course fees, equipment, book and travel expenses a scholarship can help ease some of the financial burden of tertiary education.