Coffee adds value

A coffee shop in the vicinity of residential property for sale increases the value of the property by tens of thousands of dollars, according to an article in the real estate section of the West Australian Newspaper the other morning. That really struck a chord.

Coffee beans 2

Coffee shops serve many functions. They’re places to nurture old friendships and consolidate new ones; discuss the world and how to put it right; share our sorrows and joys with people we love; meet  book club friends; enjoy solitary indulgences; delight our senses with the aromas of good coffee and freshly baked goodies; hide ourselves away; seek solace when the world seems too tough; quench a thirst or satisfy caffeine desires; read a novel or a memoir or textbook; read glossy magazines and newspapers that we haven’t paid for; and shelter from the rain, the wind and the sun.

And, of course, cafes are where some people write.

We drank coffee in one of these cafes beside the Canal du Midi in Agde in the south of France

We drank coffee in one of these cafes beside the Canal du Midi in Agde in the south of France

Cafes in new cities and towns are especially good for simply sitting in comfort and watching the world go by, absorbing the sights and sounds and odours of the new, the unfamiliar and the unexpected.  Sometimes in a strange place there’s the added bonus of engaging with people from another culture and the opportunity to demonstrate one’s aptitude, or at least willingness to try, a language other than English as we order coffee.

The simply named Coffee Pot in Wellington Street was first coffee shop I remember. Close to Royal Perth Hospital where I trained as a nurse in the late 1950s, the Coffee Pot seemed the height of sophistication to my sheltered, seventeen-year-old self. Soft, low lounge seats, thick carpet, dim lights augmented with candles, and jazz playing softly on a stereogram in a corner rendered my favourite Vienna coffee, served by an elegant French couple, even more exquisite.

My parents thought my coffee-drinking in general, and the Coffee Pot in particular, were the height of decadence. But they never checked it out and I chose not to disillusion them. Visiting the Coffee Pot with other nurses after a Saturday evening shift that finished at 10.00 p.m. seemed like a minor rebellion, especially as we were all expected to be tucked up in bed on the second floor verandah in the nurses’ quarters by midnight.

Writers seem to have a special affinity for coffee shops. Or perhaps it is the other way around.Think Hemingway, de Beauvoir, Sartre, de Balzac for starters… many of my current writerly friends and acquaintances confess to enjoying regular writing sessions with their lap tops in their local cafes.

The first, handwritten draft of my own memoir, Other People’s Country, took shape in several coffee shops to which I could walk from my house in Bayswater. Walking stimulated creative ideas, and the caffeine in the bitter drink seemed to concentrate my thoughts.

Sitting in a corner, or sometimes in the spring or autumn sunshine on the pavement outside, I sipped coffee and scribbled, almost oblivious to my surroundings and the people around. At home, ‘thinking’ breaks were punctuated by coffee. I feel sure that coffee added value to my writing.

Coffee time

Coffee time

The culture shock I experienced when I left Bayswater a few years ago and moved to Scarborough, where a few shops by the beach boasted loud music, sandy-footed surfers and tourists, came as a major surprise.

There has been a  breakthrough in Doubleview, where I now live. Although I don’t plan to move from here anytime soon, so that property values won’t affect me, I’m sure that with the event of new coffee shops they have soared, as the journalist predicted. The cafes have certainly added a new dimension to our lifestyle.

Three years ago, there were no coffee shops within walking distance of home. But since then at least seven of them have have emerged, in unlikely places in shopping strips at both ends of our street and further along Scarborough Beach Road to the west, as well as one in St Brigid’s Terrace. All of the shops are trading well.Two open at 6.00 a.m., others later and, by morning tea-time, seating is at a premium.

I’m still checking out and making up my mind which one I’ll adopt as ‘mine’ within the next week or two, when I finally get down to the serious business of beginning my next book.

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Make a stand

An article in the West Australian’s financial pages a few days ago left me almost choking over my muesli. A financial adviser wrote on ways middle-aged children could protect ‘their’ inheritance. My elder-abuse-antenna shot up. Such an ageist, abusive idea!

The article  suggested that the children should set in place enduring powers of attorney for their elderly parents. When – not if, but when! – the younger people had to make plans to care for the seniors, they would have access to control over the parents’ finances.

There are a few problems with this advice.

The first is that everyone should arrange to give their enduring powers of attorney to someone they trust, in the same way everyone, not just old people, should make a will. Blank powers of attorney documents can be bought at most newsagents and Australia Post shops. Solicitors can also assist. The documents require the signature of the person donating the powers and those of two witnesses.

Enduring powers of attorney provide some legal protection against the possibility of financial abuse or exploitation following an accident, the onset of dementia or some other unfortunate event which might impair a person’s decision-making process. Who gets to look after your finances is not something that should be left to chance.


The second problem with the advice in the newspaper is that older people should not allow anyone decide who will have these powers: it is their decision about their own future. Sons and daughters can suggest that mother or father puts powers of attorney in place, but the idea of the children attempting to put them in place suggests coercion, even potential abuse.

Statistics show the prevalence of financial abuse of older women and men that is actually reported in Australia. The statistics are probably the tip of a very large iceberg. And it seems that relatively few older people recognise that they, too, can be victims at the hands of those they should be able to trust.

Most older people understand that strangers can harm them financially and in other ways. But it is too shocking to think that our own sons and daughters, step-children, grandchildren, other relatives or friends would harm us, intentionally or unintentionally. No one likes to think something like that could happen to them!

Everyone, including old people, should obtain and maintain control of their own financial affairs. This applies even when a person is part of a couple. When one partner deals exclusively with shared financial matters and makes the decisions, the survivor can be left unable to manage for themselves should their partner become incapacitated or die. Decision-making can then be taken out of the hands of the survivor, sometimes with ill-effect.

I worry when I read articles such as the one in the newspaper. Misleading information such as that makes it easy to assume that adult children have some rights over their parent’s money or property; easy, too, for children to expect to be given access to their parents’ funds.

Ageing with style



My sister-in-law, Lois Hunt, is planning a trip from Perth to Launceston to spend Christmas with one of her sons, her daughter-in-law and three grandsons. She’s just come back from a week’s holiday at the beach in Busselton.

‘I’m ready to go,’ she says. ‘My plane fare is booked. I’ve bought and wrapped Christmas presents for my four sons and their wives, twelve grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.’

Nothing remarkable about that,  you may ask?

Nothing, except that Lois is eighty-four and has impaired vision. As well as that, a cerebro-vascular accident (stroke) seven years ago left her almost completely paralysed on her left side. Oh, and she lives in an aged care facility – in a place we used to call a nursing home.

Sign on a resident's locker

Sign on a resident’s locker

In all my years as an aged-care nurse and later as an advocate for residents in aged care facilities, I never encountered anyone like this woman. She is a model of ageing gracefully, and sometimes not so gracefully, in extremely adverse circumstances.

Enjoying her retirement and holidaying in Sydney, Lois was unconscious when she was found, slumped across the bed in her hotel room. Had her plight been discovered earlier so that she could have received more urgent treatment, she may have made a better recovery. (See below for signs of a stroke.)

Although initially devastated,, when she was sufficiently recovered, she decided not to let a stroke beat her. Always a determined, woman, she made up her mind to live fully, in spite of her disability. Fortunately, she has retained her mental acumen and her speech is unaffected.

A large circle of friends and family (including her grandchildren who adore her) take her to dinner in restaurants and their homes; to the theatre; on shopping excursions and to football games. She organises holidays at the beach and has become an inveterate phone shopper.

Lois and brother David Fleming at Karratha Airport

Lois and brother David Fleming at Karratha Airport

Happy days!

Happy days!






Every week Lois attends a church service in the chapel of the facility; another day she has her hair done by a visiting hairdresser. When she’s home, she joins the other residents in the dining room for meals and the activities room for whatever is planned by the occupational therapist for the day.

Our visits to the facility are interrupted. Women in wheelchairs stop by Lois’s room to exchange local neighbourly gossip. Other people, visiting relatives, come to say hello and greet Lois and her visitors like friends. Staff members on errands stop to chat.

Room with a view

Room with a view

Seated in a wheelchair, this remarkable woman presides over a pleasant, homely room full of family photos, mementos and flowers.  Residents of aged care facilities have tenure over their room for life. In practice there are restraints relating to housekeeping and safety which dictate what furnishings and belongings are acceptable. But Lois cheerfully ignores requests to tidy her room.

‘This is my home,’ she says. ‘This is where I live.’



Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the   person to smile. Is their smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both   arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak   or hard to understand? Ask them to repeat a simple sentence, like “The   sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 000 – If someone shows any of these signs, even if the   symptoms go away, call 000 and get the person to the hospital immediately.   Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.