Winter has apparently been kicked out of office here in Australia and Spring, known as Miss Congeniality in the seasonal fashion parade, has taken its place.  Not that I would have noticed.  I’ve been too busy fending off a cold to notice much of anything.  I thought my little naps and efforts to conserve energy were actually working, too, until last night. Then, I found out that they have been entirely futile.

Toward the end of the evening, my opponent rose to its full height and let me have it.  My head swelled enormously, turning into an elephant head, with a long trunk full of mucous.  My throat began to ache, as if it had been used by our cat as a scratching post.  I had a series of sneezing fits, followed by the inevitable drip from one nostril to the other as I attempted to find some comfort tossing and turning in bed.

Now it is entirely possible that I have developed an allergic reaction to pollen or the cat or something that has not previously triggered such a reaction.  This morning I took an over-the-counter allergy medication to test this theory.   If it works, we may have to shave the cat.  Or move.  Or do something drastic.

On the other hand, there is a strong possibility that this is entirely psychosomatic.  I have started to assemble some numbers for our Australian tax filing.   It is not due until the end of October, but we are are going to be busy then, and it never hurts to get a head start. To say I have an aversion to taxes is a colossal understatement, a bit like saying the Beatles were just a band.  Or Bush is… , well, you get the idea.

There are a few quirks associated with doing Australian tax that I may not have mentioned in a previous posts.  For one thing, the tax year runs from July 1 to June 30, which does not help when one has to file in two other jurisdictions that have not adopted the same calendar.  And filing in Oz seems to be based on the honor system, which may be a legacy from British boarding schools or something.

Then, there is the complicated issue of medical expenses.  For reasons that appear to have more to do with ideology than sense, this country has chosen to follow America down the costly path of privatized health care.  In terms of tax, it means you are penalized if you don’t take out private medical insurance and subsidized if you do.  Depending on your income.

I have been doing other things besides suffering.  I took the tram down to the Writer’s Festival on the last day of the event.  I tuned in to three discussions on very diverse subjects, from Chinese factory work to the hard work of writing a cracking good mystery.  An Australian writer by the name of Don Watson delivered some very incisive homilies on my homeland reminiscent of Will Rogers, a humorist in the thirties.  Watson was sufficiently steeped in American history to mention the name.  I bought his book and read the first chapter last night.  It was about his visit to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.  Not funny at all.

If my allergic reaction (or my cold) is, indeed, psychosomatic, then my best medical strategy may be to discontinue all medications, shelve the taxes, read a very funny book and hire a good accountant. I’ll keep you posted. By now, you are no doubt wondering why your faithful blogger has been going on at length about his miseries when he could have been passing on some news that you have been dying to hear– the results of Australia’s premier cross-country ski race, the Kangaroo Hoppet.  Considering recent events in American politics, it may not have been featured on your local T.V. station.

On August 31, in Falls Creek, Victoria, 1200 competitors from fifteen countries took on the grueling 42 km challenge.  This year a young Australian, Ben Sim, took the men’s title.  He is one of Australia’s best hopes in the winter Olympics in Vancouver.  Evelyn Dong, a young American, beat the field of women.  I’m sure they were all healthy as all get out. Happy, too.  But have they done their taxes?

by Alan Lam

by Alan Lam