Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Last Meme of 2010

I'm stealing this off the Plastic Mancunian - King of the Meme. I have heaps to say, but as Mercury is still in retrograde and I have a large ironing pile, I recking it's iron a piece of clothing and answer a question.
PM has given people permission to steal this, so please go ahead (Thanks PM)

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?

Hmm. Quite a few things.

I went to the Netherlands and Spain.
I ran a full half marathon, all the way.
My job got made retundant and I got retrenched - that's never happened before.
I saved money.
I kept my car reasonably clean - normally Andrew is filled with empty water bottles, not this year.
I won a competition with a big prize.

In the scheme of things, nothing that big - but they meant a lot to me.

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

No - and partly because injury and illness played with my head - however, I did make a resolution to write more, and I have kept this blog for the better part of the year. I'm pleased with that, as I'm writing regularly - even if it is navel gazing drivel.

Resolutions for next year will be discussed in another blog. I have a few things I want and need to acheive this year, but I want to write about it in more detail later.

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

I'm going around to Blarney and Barney's for a house party. Can't drink as I'm driving, but I have made a cassata - a large ice cream cake. It will be a mellow affair, especially as we're expecting 40 degrees in Melbourne tomorrow and also because most of Blarney and Barney's mates have young kids.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

I lost two friends from my co-freemasons lodge - both very special women in very different ways. Though not particulary close, they are missed.

5. What countries did you visit?

For a change, I can say something here - Singapore, Malaysia, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany for about six hours (transiting through to the Netherlands...)

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

Oh, that's too easy. Sex - in the words of my favorite Patrick Marber play, what do you have to do to get a bit of intimacy around here?. And a few more adventures. I like going on adventures.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

30 May. It was the day that I ran a full half marathon.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Running the full said half marathon. I'd done two half marathons before this but I walk/ran them. This time I ran all the way - okay, so the 21.1 kms took me two hours and 33 minutes to complete, it's just the fact that I RAN THE WHOLE FREAKING WAY. This isn't a think I'll forget easily.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Losing some weight. I'm a kilogram heavier than I was at the start of the year, but I've maintained - which is good under the circumstances. This wasn't a weight loss time. There were other things to concentrate on. (To be discussed in a0 later blog)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Unfortunately the last six months have been a litany of crap. A badly strained  calf muscle, followed by this recurring pain in my side, which turned out to be a benign tumour around my fallopian tube - that was operated on in September. Then my right knee blew up late in the year - and I'm still waiting for my whooping cough results. Not a good year for injury and illness.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I didn't really make any large purchases this year, but I'm rather fond of my GPS, Shirley. I bought a purple dress in the UK at TK Maxx - I love that. Oh, and two pairs of Asics Kayano trainers in the US - at a third of the price of what we pay here. Rather fond of my little food processor too - I have no idea how I functioned in the kitchen without it.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Rent. But I managed a five week overseas holiday this year - and that took up quite a bit too.

13. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Unfortunately it will be something from Lady Gaga - I'm not really a fan, but they play her all the time at the gym and her music gets in your head.

Martha Wainwright's "Motherfucking Arsehole" will always remind me of a session at dream group - but this can't be discussed here. It was an incredibly intense evening and the song fitted what was going on perfectly.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Laughed. It hasn't been a laughing year, though it's had it's moments. And writing - I wish I had more time to write.

15. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Sat in doctor's waiting rooms. I'm over doctors. Next year will be much better.

16. What was your favourite TV program?

Ah, I have a couple.

I adore Glee - just great fun and positive messages.

I'm still a sucker for medical shows like Embarrassing Bodies and RPA.

Masterchef and The Biggest Loser are my can't miss shows - the only reality shows I watch.

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

I don't hate people - too strong a word. I have had a recent blow out with a friend, yet to be repaired. He's not in the good books, but I don't hate him. I'm hoping time and space will sort this out.

18. What was the best book you read?

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas was amazing.

I listened to Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood on the way back to Adelaide and loved it - now I have to read Oryx and Crake - I adore Margaret Atwood.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

I'm going to put a few.

The Argentinian masterpiece, "The Secret in their Eyes" was sublime. I have no trouble with subtitles, but this was an unexpected gem.

"The King's Speech" has to win a few Oscars - adored it.

"Inception" was great in an action way. Fantastic thought processes.

21. What did you do on your birthday?

Went out to dinner with friends and my folks. A very pleasant night was had.

22. What kept you sane?

Writing, sleep and exercise. And the occasional ice cream.

23. Who did you miss?

Nobody at the moment. Ask me this in three months - as I'm now no longer employed at Tin Can, String and Whistle, I'll miss quite a few people, but as it's only been a week this hasn't sunk in yet.

I have missed running with Dan and Roger over the last few months - but I still see them occasionally, so they're not missed per se.

Now I think about it, I miss Reindert - well, I talk to him most weeks, but I miss having him about. He's fun.

24. Who was the best new person you met?

The Rosemary and Colin, the couple I met when I was in Granada at the Alhambra.  I can't single out any new friends, but these two kept me entertained all day, and it made it all the more memorable - they were a laugh - and a breath of fresh air after speaking Spanglish for the entire week before.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

A positive attitude and a bit of perseverence can get you further than you would ever think.

Oh, and never stop wishing on stars. It does work.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The King's Speech

I'm currently in a wonderful state of flux at the moment and I know that this is part of the reason that I'm currently coughing my lungs up with painful regularlity. It's like I have something on my chest that can't excape. Some call it Christmas, others, change, others would say it's the fact that my soul isn't sitting well in my body. Whatever it is, it's uncomfortable in the least. I'll find out in a day or so whether it's whooping cough or not. Regardless, that's what the doctor at Victor Harbor is treating me for - better safe than sorry.

Thankfully, all the Christmas merriment is over, what merriment there was. I chose to skip the traditional lunch with my stepdad's family, as I was feeling like crap, choosing to stay at my Mum's place and read a book instead, to join them at my sister's later in the afternoon - it wasn't the day to be nice to popele I'd never met. On arriving at my sister's, the family were found in the living room and my sister was lying on the bathroom floor, crying because she wanted to vomit. Seems she'd picked up a round of gastro. So a quick meal of cold cuts, salad and prawns, with some left over Christmas pudding, that was it for the year. A bit of an anticlimax, but all I was up for at the time. Actually, thinking about it, it's not a bad way to spend Christmas, with a good book and the odd DVD. Okay, I got my wish - minimal participation. Kewwwllll.

Boxing Day - not that we have it here in South Australia - only place in Christendom that doesn't - was a bit more special.

Mum and I sent off for the movies to see "The King's Speech". Mum and I do this quite often when I'm over - both of us like movies, but she rarely goes - so if there is something she might like, I take her. It was great to go down to the cinema to see that ninety percent of the cinema were in sensible shoes and baggy jeans with elasticated waists, sporting grey hair and tiffing with somebody my age about the seating allocation. Seems half of Southern Adelaide had the same idea - take Mum and Dad to the nice movie on Boxing Day - better than seeing the rellies.

Of the movie, if either Colin Firth or Geoffrey Rush don't get an Oscar nod for this, then something is very wrong with the movie industry. It is EXCELLENT. Superb film. Not only because Lionel Logue, the King's Speech Therapist, was originally from Adelaide - just the whole thing - the subtle relationships, the push me/pull you jibing, the conscience of the king... it all rang too true - especially the sight of the voiceless man struggling in his own family. The costumes were brilliant, the acting divine. Just see it. Definitely worth the price of the ticket, even if it is to only drool over Colin Firth.

There was some extra poignency for me with the film. Not only because there were tones of what a friend is going through at the moment and how he copes, but for my own situation. At one point in the film, the king was talking about his childhood and what things were like. How he was made to write with his right hand, how his family teased him mercilessly about his stammer, how he was born with knocked knees and spent a lot of time in calipers to correct the legs.... it all was a bit close to the bone.

Both Mum and I left the cinema wanting to go back and see it again. A seriously good film.

So now what? I'm about to leave Myponga and head to the big smoke for the day. Taking my nieces to the movies this time. Big niece, Lola, and little nice, Gigi, are now eleven and seven. You can do things with them now, and thankfully they're good kids. Going to the movies is a legitimate outing - and a good excuse for me to see a kid's film on the big screen. I was thinking about going to the gym beforehand, but I spent an hour coughing during the night - best leave it for a day or so.

It's going to be hard leaving Myponga this time. I've had a lovely break. I haven't had to cook or clean or do much about the house. I haven't eaten too much for a change. Mum's new kitchen is spectacular. After fifteen years suffering a 1950's kitchen set, Mum now comes home to this:

There is something pretty special about watching the kangaroos under the willows as you're eating your breakfast. Mum also said I had to put up the photo of the poppies that adorn the back wall of the kitchen on the blog. Mums, phah. What can you do with them?

She's in love with her new kitchen. Actually, so am I - it's wonderful.

Tomorrow morning, after a night at my sister's place, probably spent snuggled up to the golden retriever for the night I'll set off back for Melbourne in the morning.

In the mean time, I'm going to sit on the verandah and watch the kangaroos graze under the clothes line. You don't find that everywhere. Just a bit of ordinary magic.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Notes from the Road

It might be an Australian thing, but I love road trips. I really don't give a second thought to hopping in a car and driving near on a thousand kilometres in a day, by myself. It's just one of those strange Australian things that many other cultures just don't get.

I love to drive. And I love long drives.

As a nation, we're quite apt at driving a few hours just to get to a party. Oh yeah, party in a woolshed out the back of Woop Woop, no wukkas - haybales for seating, lots of beer and Bundaberg rum (or Jim Beam, depending on your taste), a big barby, white bread, a bit of salad, somebody's Mum suppling the pavlova and cheesecake, recipe straight from a Woman's Weekly cookbook. There's a good chance you'll be sleeping on a mattress in the tray of a ute, covered with a tarpaulin, but hey, that's what parties out the back of nowhere are about. Okay, I'm betraying my bogan youth here.

So yesterday, armed with my talking book (Margaret Atwood's "Year of the Flood") a bottle of water, lots of panadol for the sore throat, newly inflated tyres, a full tank full of petrol, a fully charged mobile phone and Shirley the GPS, I set off for the Adelaide. Or more correctly, Myponga, South Australia. According to Shirley, it was 785 kilometres away from my home.

Shirley and I had our first altercation when she directed me down Punt Road. I don't really need Shirley to get to Adelaide, but I like that she tells me when I'm going too fast or when there are speed cameras about the place. I really have to find the Elliot Perlman setting on the GPS, however. In Perlman's book, Three Dollars, the protagonist is trying to find words of wisdom for his newly born daughter - after three days of racking his brain, all he can come up with is "Darling, what ever you do, what ever time of day it is, avoid Punt Road." Sage advice. After half an hour, I was at the start of the Western Freeway, bound for South Australia, the burbs of Melbourne a dim haze in the rear vision mirror.

Shirley and the talking book provide company. Road trips are really best with somebody you either don't know, or get on with very well. The last real road trip I took was with Reindert, when we went to collect the Grounded Dutchman's Landcruiser from Newcastle and drove it 1500 kilometres back to Melbourne. We came home the long way, through such odd places as Dunedoo, Dubbo, Parkes (home of the Dish), Wagga Wagga before doing the obligatory wine stop at Rutherglen. Other than Reindert nearly losing his licence, that was a fantastic trip. We bonded on that trip.

On your own, you have time to think. Time to reflect. And lots of opportunity to play "What's that dead thing on the road?" I saw a couple of wallabies, an Eastern Grey kangaroo, a fox and various possums this trip. It's all in the fur colour.

This time, Andrew, my trusty Toyota Echo sat happily on the speed limit, glad to be out of the stop start of suburbia.

Once clear of Ballarat, the book was getting interesting and I was into the groove of the narrator, I started to look for signs of change. This time, first time in a long time, there are lots of changes.

This is the greenest I have seen the country in years. There is water in the lakes and rivers. After years of road trips, when passing over a signed waterway, there is a requirement to glance over and have a look. For the first time in years, I haven't glanced out and said "Nup, no water today." It's really lovely to see the Pink Lakes, the other side of Nhill, shimmering in it's full mother of pearl glory.

There are other small rituals of the road. The Keith BP Roadhouse, my petrol stop of choice, does the best traditional road food available. Milkshakes that come in tin containers - the way that the best milkshakes come - they even do green lime ones - not to my taste, but my friend Sam swears by them. Yesterday, I took a nostaligic trip and had a hot dog - with sauce. It tasted like the ones we had as a kid. Glorious.

I also love hitting Bordertown. After a swift stop to change my rego plates, I feel a bit safer. Since the "Kick a Vic" campaign there are many South Australians who make it a point to change their registration plates back to the Croweater variety when they get across the border. Victorian rego plates will get you run off the road or tailgated. I tend to do this at Bordertown - where I can also go into the service station and look at the rows of Farmers Union Iced Coffee, FrucChocs and Samboy Salt and Vinegar chips and I know I'm home. If I'm really feeling nostalgic, there's the option of the candied potatoes, made from coconut. I was on the lookout for Woodroofe's lemonade, the best lemonade in the world - nice and tart, not too sweet - but it seems that's been seconded to supermarkets now.

The only downer to this trip, the locusts. Not only are we having floods of biblical proportions here, there's also a plague of locusts infesting a lot of the southern continent. These things have no road sense to speak of. Just out of Horsham, the heat haze became peppered, a repeated banging on the windscreen and streaks of green and red - it was like this on an off all the way back to Adelaide. The stupid things are everywhere. Getting out at Bordertown, the front of the car looked like a bad Pro Hart painting, completely covered in yellow/green sludge, with bits of wings and bodies sticking out for good measure.

This morning, armed with a hose, a sponge and a bucket full of soapy water, I removed the carcasses from Andrew. It took about an hour to go over him, paying special attention to the radiator which was half clogged as well.  After years of drought, washing the car on my parent's lawn still feels like an illegal act. They're on bore water - it doesn't really matter. The car is free of the dreaded green sludge - until next Tuesday, when I'll make the trip back.

The final part of this trip is always my favorite. Heading off the highway at Mount Barker, I take the back roads home. Winding back roads through some of the prettiest countryside in Australia, through Echunga and Meadows. It does remind me why I call myself a South Australian. A Croweater. Half an hour behind in time, fifteen years behind in fashion - with great wine. I don't care. This is home. Just like Frodo, returning to the Shire, I get that strange feeling of peace as I motor around the winding roads through the green tree lined hills.

Maybe being a South Australian isn't that bad after all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Precious Pain

I stood looking at myself in mirror at the gym last night. A 20 kg barbell lay over my shoulders. A 6 kg medicine ball at my feet, a variety of dumbbells and kettle bells strewn around the place. My face was red, hair sweat soaked and dripping from all over the place. My t-shirt clinging in places I wish it wouldn't.

There was no escaping the smile on my face either.

And for the first time in a few weeks, I felt happy. I was back doing something I loved. Okay, so I'm not quite up for running yet - my knee is still giving me some grief when I do impact stuff - but it's walking fine and bending well and as long as I don't shove any pressure on it and ice it after, it's giving me no trouble. It's aching less as days go by, so something is going right.

Pinochet was thrilled. "You're back? I know where you've been, but you're back. Now another 20 squats, four rounds, madam!" He barked at me. He left off the word, bitch, which he will throw in occasionally if he really wants me to work hard. I tend to spit at him when he calls me that. Madam gets me working well enough.

It's been a bad six months for exercise. The one thing in my life that helps keep me sane hasn't really been available. A bad calf strain, a benign tumour that needed surgical removal and now this bung knee have kept me away from the gym, travelling - and lately, just getting my head around the rest of the stuff in my life, the gym has fallen by the wayside. Kay, Emm and Jules, the girls I work out with have been at me to come back, but they've been really understanding too - but I'm ready to really get back into this.

Lying down on the bench, Pinochet handed a 9 kg dumbbell in each hand - "Chest press these - 10 reps." I managed 20 with ease. Next round I was handed 10 kgs dumbell. Still too easy. I started to baulk when he handed over the 12.5 kg dumbells. I managed 12 reps before putting them down, thrilled at how I was travelling. I haven't done many chest presses in months. I haven't done anything overly strenuous since June!

I should be aching. By rights I shouldn't be able to move. But I am and I can. There's a few residual pulls and tugs, but I'm not hurting. This surprises me.

More disturbing is the sore throat I've had for three weeks. Two rounds of antibiotics later, it's still there. It's been turning up every Monday morning for these three weeks like a bad smell. It's been driving me nuts. I spose in some way's it's getting better. It's only the left side that is giving me jip now. If I look at this spiritually, sore throats are the inability to say what you need to say.


Right, I'd better get off to enjoy my last day at Tin Can, String and Whistle. This part of my life is nearly over. Despite the lead time, this is all still very surreal. Maybe this is why my throat feels like it's been embedded with razor blades.

The 800 kilometre drive tomorrow will be good for my spirit. And what's the bet my sore throat will be gone by morning.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Precipice

There comes a time in the hero's journey when he must say goodbye to all he has known and take a flying leap into the unknown. This journey can't be taken with others, it has to be done alone This step comes after the ordinary world has been done and dusted, the call to adventure has been rejected at least once and the mentor has been visited and consulted. Well, that is Joseph Campbell's theory... I should take note of this for Rainbow Robertson and her adventures.

Like Frodo Baggins setting into the fires of Mordor or Harry Potter stepping into the Forbidden Forest, I'm sitting here wondering what else life can throw as me after all the stuff I've been through lately, feeling like I'm standing at the edge of a cliff, arms outstretched, eyes wide open, wondering if I should let myself fall.

In the Tarot, this journey is signified by the Fool card. A young man, about to walk off a cliff, everything he needs in his bag on his back, his little white dog by his side. He has choice. He can turn around and walk away if he wishes. If he is brave, and trusts, he will fall off the cliff and leave his fate to the Universe. The number of the card is zero. The beginning and the end. Alpha and Omega. The snake swallowing it's tail.

I will fall. Life will never be the same. I do feel alone, but I know I'm supported.

The thing is, I know this is all good. This is how it's supposed to be.

There's many conflicting emotions running through me at the moment. As calm as I am about leaving Tin Can, String and Whistle, I know that there will be a few tears on leaving. It's been a huge part of my life for the last three years. I love the people there even though I've hated my actual job for the last year. This redundancy is a good thing. I have the luxury of a bit of time and money to go out and find a job I want. Yes, I'm worried about money, but I'm confident in my abilities to get another role.

It's a balancing act between standing and falling. Just like the Fool.

The want list is set for the new job, whenever it arrives, but hopefully it won't take too long. If I don't find most of these features on the list, I won't take the job - good money, good people, centrally based, a role with lots to do, but not so busy that it will take more than eight hours to complete my tasks. Ethical people, preferably in a mixed environment. Well, they're the main things. If there's a little travel interstate or overseas and the ability to work from home occassionally, even better. I'm really not wanting to work in an office full of women, staring at a computer screen, doing the same thing every day.

I also look at the week ahead of me. Tomorrow I have a leaving lunch at a pub local to work. Tuesday I'm going to my big boss's, Geerrt, for dinner - mainly to meet the cat I'll be looking after when I get back. Wednesday, leave work with as much grace as I can muster. Thursday, drive the 800 kilometres back to Adelaide. Friday, sit in my mother's living room and read a book.

I think this about all I will be able to do by then. Read a book, drink wine, wake up snuggled up to my sister's Golden Retriever, Bozley, maybe take my nieces to the pictures. This is about all I expect out of Christmas. Some much needed chill time.

On my return to Melbourne I can start to think about this brave new world I'm about to enter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fights, Fairy Floss and Fairy Bread

Before I begin this post, I need to publicly apologise to the Grounded Dutchman for a post written in anger two days ago, up for two hours and subsequently taken down. I'm sorry I offended you - there were things said on the blog that should not have been put there. I've said this now and will leave it at that.

Yesterday's events showed me just how powerful anger can be.

I had a fight with a friend. I don't fight with people. I'm happy to argue, tiff, row, but I generally don't fight. I rarely raise my voice in anger. In fact, I don't think I've screamed at anybody for well over four years - the last time that happened I was breaking up with a bloke - he hurt me terribly - I screamed t him. It wasn't a pretty sight - I turn into a harpy when I get like this.

 Last night, I felt the absolute rage of hatred. The knowledge that I felt deeply wounded by somebody I trust - and it's a feeling I don't want to feel again any time soon.

Looking back, I know how the incident started and I know where it ended up. What I wasn't expecting was the rage that grew inside me as the day went on. It stoked itself every time I looked at my emails. It bubbled away, it stopped me concentrating. By the end of the day all I wanted to do was scream at this person. I had said stop. They kept on going.

It wasn't what was said to me. It was how it was reiterated again and again and again... I heard what was said the first time. It was meant in kindness, but by the third iteration I was battered, bruised and completely worked up. I fought back. The time for keeping the peace was over.

The aftermath of this fight wasn't pretty. I was left a puffy eyed, hyperventilating mess. Worst of all, I was due out at dinner. Making things worse, I had a scheduled visit to the dentist and he was running an hour later. That helped things fester more. There was no way I was going to face my dream group at my favorite restaurant in such a state. There are things you do, there are things you don't. Facing dream group at a social event looking like the Wreck of the Hesperus just wasn't on. So I sat for a while and tried to calm myself down. Maybe I'd pop in later. Maybe not. I wasn't in a state to face people.

A shower, a lie down and a walk around the block and I made my way back across town to meet the girls just in time for dessert.

I've pretty much come to believe that Rusk Restaurant's Halva Ice Cream, Orange Water Syrup, Turkish Delight and Persian Fairy Floss Sundae can fix the most dreadful of problems. If I was to be shot at dawn, this would be on the menu for my last meal. It's all just a bit too divine. This stuff is dessert heaven.

Making it even better, I realised that by the time I got to the restaurant, I hadn't eaten for ten hours so no guilt over the calories!

The strange thing is, for these rather low, lows, came some fantastic moments to follow.

The Brok Piwo Club Christmas party to be precise.

For the last few years this has been a bit of an Tin Can, String and Whistle Institution. It is really just an excuse for a few quiet free beers, some pretzels and Polish Wedding Sausage. This year, as there has been a  change of guard, the menu changed a bit. Normal party fare - cheese, chips, bread, dips, olives. And two large plates of fairy bread. For those not from Australia reading this, fairy bread is a rather iconic children's party food. Fresh white bread, butter and hundreds and thousands. Basically it's a mix of carbs and sugar that sends kids crazy.

Personally, I think that fairy bread is the perfect foil for beer - It soaks up the alcohol but it's not too filling.

Bringing out two plates of fairy bread was a pretty naughty thing to do. I work with big, tough engineers. They don't eat fairy bread, especially with beer.... nooooooo. You could see the guys looking around before sneaking up to the plate. It was really rather sweet.

Strangely by the end of the night, it was all gone. Actually all the food was gone, as was most of the beer. It was a great night to catch up with past members and generally stand around the courtyard and chew the fat.

And for the first time in all this saga of redundancy, I got a bit teary. I'm going to miss this part of the company. Running the company's clandestine beer club has kept me sane over the last year. I got some lovely comments from the guys - how it was great that the institution kept running, how I'd kept it going even under the difficulties of the last few months.

But the killer was when I was having a chat to Number One - our Number One member. He's now working for another company, but came back for the night. He shoved a beered up arm around me late in the evening and said, "Pand, what are they going to do without your awesomeness around here? Everybody who meets you loves you. They're stupid to let you go."

I ended up in tears again. These were happier tears than those of the night before.

I think Number One had it a bit wrong. The boys love me here because I supply the beer. Not everybody loves me, but I feel respected most of the time. If people don't like me, so be it. As long as they're civil, that's all that matters.

This little interlude with Number One I'll take with me. It's not often you are let known you're appreciated.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taking Stock

I'm at home, nursing this week old sinus/throat/chest infection. I really don't feel that bad, but the doctor's advice was to stay away from work and get better, take the antibiotics and rest. By rest I believe that means mooch around the house and get some gentle jobs done rather than infect the throng at Tin Can, String and Whistle. It also means I can get some jobs I've been avoiding done.

The big job at hand is one set to me by the career consultants. Fill in a questionaire about my work history over the last twenty years.When Sue, my contact said I had to do this I felt nauseous. You mean I have to think about the wasted opportunities, the misery and desperation, the abject boredom... okay, positive, Pandora. "You mean I have to go back to when I was putting price stickers on stuff in the sub-basement of a department store in Adelaide?".

She said no. She asked me to go back to my first real, proper full time job. Ah, London, 1994. So that was the date we decided on. That takes out some of the pain. The four pound an hour admin jobs in dodgy companies in Neasden, the three months at a lease company as a car buyer, the time at the car dealership and best of all, the two months spent in Hounslow working for a recruitment company - yes, I was a recruitment consultant - the only job I've ever walked out of.

What Sue wants me to do is look at why I took the job, what were the key challenges of the role, what my major acheivements were, what skills I used, what the fit was like  for people, culturally and work/life balance and why I left the job. Hmm. More confonting stuff.

I think this is a forum for all the stuff I can't put on these forms that will be going to the Career Consultant.

1994-1999 - Lehman Brothers, London

Why I took the job: My boyfriend at the time had started to work in finance after a few years in the family book shop. He was making eight quid an hour. After working at jobs for half that money it looked like a cash cow and I wanted to prove I could do it. It took me a few weeks, but I got a job doing data entry which lead to other stuff. We'll gloss over the fact that I didn't have a visa to work there. We certainly will gloss over the fact I stayed for five years.

Key Challenges in the role: Abject boredom through repetition. Dealing with mega egos with money. Coping with a bullying tax accountant named Beth - it was my first real experience of being bullied - and I coped by crying, and taking the issues straight to management saying nobody had the right to treat me so. She was reprimanded and gave me a wide berth after that. The main challenge was doing something I really didn't enjoy for 10-12 hours a day for five years. It equated to burn out.

Skills used: Fast typing, attention to detail, nerd liaison (the ablility to talk to both business and technology is a rare skill I'm finding), my sense of humour, the ability to drink large qualities of lager and still get home on the tube. Denying the fact I was miserable for many years - hence the Queen of Denial. My burgeoning IT skills were beginning to out here, but I had no idea how to make the transition. Knowing if my immigration status was found out I'd be thrown out of the country, I kept a low profile and cruised in the drudgery.

People / Cultural / Work/life balance: The people fit was good in parts. I met Lachlan and Verity here, two of my longest standing friends. Most of the traders were arseholes, pure and simple, but there were also come great people there. Culturally, not the best fit. I'm not that greedy or money hungry. I like having money, but not to that extent. Also, working for and American corporate, you're subjected to a hell of a lot of wank. My refusal to play politics didn't help. I'm a bit too easy going for the London office methinks. No work life balance. Ten to twelve hour days five days a week, six in dividends season.

Why did I leave the job: My sister was having a baby and my grandmother was turning 100 and my father was dead. Time to return to Australia. To return to Australia before this would have meant never returning to England. I think that by this time I knew I was burned out from banking.

2000- 2004  Merrill Lynch Australia - Margin Lending Department

Why I took the job: I'd spent the six month on returing to Australia in a dead end role working for the custody department of a Multinational insurance company. I thought the prestige of working for another American Corporate would do me good. I'd done a few corporate actions before I got there and I got lumped in the deep end.

Key Challenges: Dealing with one of the biggest dickheads I've ever worked for in the short term. Dealing with long hours and indifferent management were ongoing issues off and on. By the last year, staying awake was a big thing for me - by this time I was really burned out from banking. I knew it was time to move on, I just needed a kick. Moved to Greece at the start of 2003 for a few months, proving to me that getting out was a good thing, only to have the trip cut short and move back, into the old role. I lasted six months.

Skills Used: Fast typing, organisation, the talent to talk to everybody and anybody, some nerd liaison. Looking back, I wasn't that challenged for not that great a money. Who was I kidding? Time to get out of banking.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: Pretty much the same as Lehman but with nicer traders. Met Blarney and Sam here, two of my inner sanctum and I'm still in contact with a few others. The hours weren't quite as long. The work was just as boring.The money wasn't as good as we were lead to believe. Major self esteem challenges.Too much corporate wank for my liking but not quite as bad as London.

Why did I leave the job: In the end, the abject boredom and need for change sent me back to "do my teaching papers and go be an English Teacher". The plan was to go into a temp job that would let me out for evening lectures and top up my degree to an English Major - then do the Dip Ed. Needless to say, I've never done the Dip. Ed. Strangely, this was the best move I've ever made.

2004: Banking Bastards  R Us- Custody Division: Custody Officer / Test Analyst

Why I took the job: It allowed the flexibility of temping as well as I could get out for lectures at 5.15 at Melbourne Uni. Little did I know it would lead to a career change.

Key Challenges: At the start, keeping awake and not strangling my very inefficient manager. Once on the project it was about getting up to speed with new skills, including testing software and the joys of systems and UAT testing.

Skills used: Fast typing and organisation. Things got better when I got moved onto a project which involved testing corporate actions for the new custody system. Project Centaur - or Banking Bastards R Us speak for White Elephant. It did, however, introduce me to the word of software testing. We have to be thankful for that.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: Surprisingly good. Banking Bastards R Us were actually really good employers and my friends who are still there are really happy. They have good HR, the managers are on the whole pretty good and I was allowed to develop. It was an eight hour a day job, the people on the project in particular were great. Being an Australian Corporate, wank was kept to a minimum.

Why did I leave? They were going to send me back to the business, processing custody crap. After a year in IT, there was no way I could go back to processing stuff. I got out. Also, the salary, being in the business doing the real work was twenty grand lower than what I should have been earning in IT.  It was time to get ahead.

2005: Semi Government Grey Cardigan Brigade - Test Analyst - Project Aquarius

Why I took the job: There was a twenty grand a year pay rise to do work I could do easily. It was a chance to improve my project and testing skills. Also it was near to home and the people seemed nice.

Key Challenges: Working to tight deadlines and having to discover all about a new system in a new sector. Learned more about testing and project management. Started to do some mentoring and training. A good six months was had here.

Skills used: Burgeoning Testing and QA Skills. The ability to beg an antacid tablet off one of the aging grey cardies who worked there proved useful. Generally a good stepping stone project.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: Pretty good, though a bit "grey cardigan / public service" for my liking. The people were great, management good, eight hours a day for most of it. Can't complain about that.

Why did I leave?  Contract was ending, found another position.

2005-2007  Dangerous Software Technologies - Senior Test Analyst

Why did I take the job? More money and a "real testing job". A good opportunity to hone skills and possibly move overseas. This was what was dangled in front of me at the interview anyway.

Key Challenges: Learning a heap of technical stuff. Staying awake. Finding out what it was like to work for a company that wasn't a large corporate. Working in the strangest environment I'd ever experienced with some of the strangest people. Dealing with one person I had absolutely no time for. Collected Alice at this job, as well as still being in touch with a few people. Great socially. Good professionally, just not a place to stick around after a year or so - or you started to drink the cordial neat and smelling like cabbage.

Skills Used: Testing Skills. Found technical skills I never new I had. Patience and a sense of humour needed in abundance.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: People and Work/Life Balance were excellent. Culturally not a great - it was a strange place. It had the feeling of decay. Two years on only half the staff are left there - most have left very disillusioned. It's a pity - they're great people.

Why did I leave? Other than a manager I nicknamed Barney Rubble who I couldn't stand, staring at a computer screen all day did my head in.

And that lead me on to Tin Can, String and Whistle.

But that one if for another blog.

Well, that's the unofficial version. A tale filled with ennui, lost opportunities and quite a lot of movement. I'm so glad my hobby jobs have helped to keep me sane. Now, as the career consultant has told me, is a time to go out and get what I want.

I just have to work this out. At least I know know what to avoid, what I'm good at and what I can bring forth given the right mind set.


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Stages of Redundancy

Just like the five stages of grief, there appears to be a number of stages to redundancy. Also, like the stages of grief, you can go through all of them in a matter of hours, or sit in one of them for days. They appear to be very similar to the bargaining, denial, anger, depression and acceptance.

I've had enough time to lull myself into the thought that I am accepting of this massive change - but now I'm getting to the sticky end of things, there are a few doubts hanging around the place. I mean, Tin Can, String and Whistle have been a part of my life for the last three years. I've made some incredible friends. Then again, I'm looking at the last year, knowing I stayed on because I had a holiday booked and the company was paying for the airline ticket. Professionally, it's been the most boring year of my life. Okay, I've managed to do some study, finish a qualification and do some interesting stuff periodically, but in general, I've been pigeon holed into "Writer Girl, Word Nerd and Barbeque Organiser" and that is all I'm seen as good for.

Sitting in a meeting the other day, Jaspal was there among others. He wanted some document work done. The question got raised - who's going to do this? There are no technical writers left in the company - all gone.

It was then that the grief set in. It hit home. There would be a role for me if the company valued what I did - and if there was enough work to go round all the time. And here comes a blast of the depression. Why don't companies value clear, concise, well constructed words? Why do they see what I do isn't valuable? Even worse - why don't they want me around.

Thankfully these thoughts were banished in a few minutes, before the anger set in.Why can't they see the value of what I do? Of course there was the bargaining - "I'm not doing anything in January if you want me to come back as a contractor". And of course, denial - but not on my part. I heard my current manage say, "Oh, Pand will sort that out," to which I fired back, "Oh, no I wont! I've got better things to do!"

I also don't mention the other states you find yourself in this situation. Apathy, belligerance, playing hookey, tea room time, where you find yourself in long conversations about life, the universe and everything with people you normally wouldn't have contact with. It's a funny, twilight state.

I'm really grateful that I've had a long time to come to terms with this. I'm grateful for the three and a half months pay that they're giving me to go away. I'm grateful they are letting me surf the internet for jobs at work rather than do "productive" stuff. I'm especially grateful for the career counselling the company is providing. I had my first session with the consultant on Friday and she's given me a lot to think about. What do I want to do? Where do I want to do it? What do I want to change about my work situation? What would I really want do with my working life? (Be a full time novelist - but this isn't practical - I don't have a rich husband or the talent and I like having a roof over my head and food on the table) I'm seeing her again in Friday after doing a psych test and filling out a long questionaire about my working history. It's good for focus, regardless.

I'm accepting of the huge changes coming my way. I had a talk with a friend this morning who said, "Ah, Mars/Uranus Square - huge, unwanted changes. It's happening to everybody. I bet you've been ill." Yep, snot

How I will go without Popeye, Wozza, Glen Waverley, the Grounded Dutchman and the crew, that will be the hard bit. It's not the job I'll miss, it's the people.

Right, back to "work". I've got a doctors appointment in a bit, see if we can clear the snot that's been a constant in my life for the last week. Like the job and the waiting around, I'm over it.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010


This meme was borrowed from Kath from Blurb from the Burbs and the Plastic Mancunian. I try not to do too many memes, but as I'm struggling with the task at hand at the moment, this has filled the gap between rewriting and formatting a document that will never get used by anybody. Besides, I walk out the door in a fortnight - what do they care?

There are some confronting questions here - some silly other really touched a nerve. I've tried to be as honest as I can.

1. Are you happier now than you were five months ago?
Definitely. Five months ago I had a dead end job in this company, a rotten pain in my side that would not go away and I had no idea what it was, I was staring redundancy in the face and I was wondering if I could go on a long holiday. Well, I’m being retrenched in a fortnight , the pain in the side has been fixed, the holiday has been had and I’m looking forward to a bright future.

2. Have you ever slept in the same bed with anyone that you shouldn't have?
Umm, yes, but I’m not going into details.

3. Can you sleep in total darkness?
I prefer it. Add quiet to the list and I’m in sleeping heaven.

4. Your phone is ringing. It’s the person you fell hardest for, the one who got away, what do you say?
Hello, no, you can come out to Australia – you know where to find me if you want to be with me. You know the terms.

5. What do you think about the weather this summer?
Bleargh. I hate humidity, though I’m loving the rain. I do rather like that it’s not 44 in the shade – that’s a bit unbearable – I just wish it wasn’t so humid.

6. How many people do you trust with everything?
Nobody totally, but that’s because there’s stuff in my life I’m not at liberty to share fully. Blarney comes pretty close to me trusting her with everything, but there are one or two things I have to hold back on – mainly around the spiritual side of my life which are bound by confidentiality which Blarney is aware of and doesn’t think the worst of me because of it.

7. What was the last thing you drank?
Water, from my water bottle on my desk. I try and drink two litres of water a day minimum.

8. Is there anyone you want to come see you?
See question four. I'd love to see Reindert again too - life is far more fun with him around the place.

9. Name one thing you love about winter?
Being able to sleep snuggled up under two duvets. Comfort food. Soup and toast. Cheese on toast, open fires, being able to run and not get too hot… the list could go on and on. I love winter. Oh, that's lots of things.

10. Have you ever dated a Goth?
No. Have dated a baker, an arms dealer, plenty of blokes in finance, accountancy and IT, public servants, a removalist and a house painter, but a goth, no.

11. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
A second interview with a consulting company (crap that’s tomorrow) and finishing off my dream from last week’s dream group.

12. Name something you dislike about the day you’re having?
We lost the cricket badly. It was wet and windy to walk to Carlton for a meeting so I’ll have to dial in, and I hate dialing in to meetings. Oh, and I will have an argument with one of my fellow masons about staying for supper. I had a mason’s meeting last night. I have another tonight. I don’t like eating at ten p.m. But I have to bring the sandwiches – this will also mean I have to clean up. Whoop de effing do. Grrr.

13. What's the longest that you have committed to one person and one person only?
Hmm, that’s a bit confronting. I was with somebody for a year in the early nineties. We lived together for three months. It goes down as one of the worst years in my life. He hung around, off and on, for three years in all. Not something I’m overly proud of.

14. What’s the first thing you did when you opened your eyes today?
Grabbed a friend’s cat that was asleep at the end of my bed for a quick cuddle. She’s a lovely, cuddly mite.

15. Has anyone ever told you they never want to ever lose you?
No. The nearest thing I’ve had happen to me like that was when I was leaving London, Lachlan told me not to go. It’s not the same though.

16. Is there anybody that you wish you could fix your relationship with?
Hmm. Yes. There are a few people who have got lost in the woodwork, but I rather wish I could have a closer relationship with my sister. It’s not like we don’t get on, we just have very little in common.

17. Could you go out in public, looking like you do now?
Yes. Writing this from my desk at work in between tidying up a document – hell I’m on the way out the door, I can get away with this. Regardless, I’m wearing business casual and I look respectable, though my hair could use a brush.

18. Do you think things will change in the next 3 months? How?
Hell,yeah! In the next three months I will have a new job, maybe a new car, will hopefully be running again, maybe even ten kilograms lighter and a hell of a lot happier. I’m really looking forward to revolutionising my life in the next few months. Massive life changes ahead.

19. Do you believe that you never know what you got until you lose it?
No, not really. I’m a great believer in appreciating everything you have daily. Going into things with an attitude of gratitude makes life far more bearable. Occasionally yes, you’ll trip yourself up when something or somebody leaves your life, but as a rule, I like to think I know what I have – which is a hell of a lot.

20. Do you have a friend of the opposite sex you can talk to?
I have a couple of them. I’m really lucky like that. I’ve thankfully discovered that men, with age, get better like wine. Though they still occasionally smell and say stupid things, doesn't stop me talking to them.

21. If you were to live your life without your best friend, what would change?
Oh, I don’t like that question. Life without a bestie would mean no kids or cats to cuddle for a start. Nowhere to go on weekends. Nobody to bitch to about work. Nobody to turn to when things go awry. I don’t like thinking about stuff like that.

22. Tell us about a era of your life that you really miss.
I still miss London. I loved the freedoms. I loved the variety. I loved the strange people I used to meet, the culture and cultural events available and the brilliant theatre you could see. I don’t miss the fact that I was an illegal alien at that time and forever looking over my shoulder and unable to leave the country – but life was good.

23. Have you ever been betrayed by someone that came as a complete surprise? Without revealing the person, if yes, tell us about it.
Yes – but I can’t talk about it as it’s still working itself out. The betrayal has gone on under my nose. But again, I can’t talk about it – I’m still coming to terms with it, though a card reading a few months ago said of it. Funny how things like that come to pass.

24. Do you ever think that is a good idea to hide your feelings?
Sometimes, it’s a good thing. A very good thing. Like in the situation described in the last question - best to shut the trap and say nothing for a while.

25. Tell us about your favorite year when you were a student.
I remember year eleven at high school as being pretty good. Top of the class, first boyfriend, finding out about life and realising that I wasn’t stupid for the first time.

26. When was the last time you were in a very good mood? What caused it?
Skipping around Toledo with severe déjà vu was really good. Cuddling Blarney’s babies on the weekend was lovely. Cuddling the cat this morning was great too. I like being happy, what can I say.

27. Have you ever had a romantic relationship with a sibling of a good friend?
No. Thank goodness.

28. Tell us about the last thing that you did that you truly regret.
My regrets are really minor. Eating the whole tub of White Christmas ice cream on the weekend is something I regret – I enjoyed it, but I regret it too. Most of my regrets involve comfort eating.

Oh, and I regret not taking off another week on that big holiday as I would love to have seen more of the Netherlands and Spain.

29. When did you laugh today?
This morning, I was having a meeting with Jaspal, my counterpart at our Joint Venture company, Loud Hailing Bastard Corporate Co, discussing templates (that which I’m supposed to be fixing instead of writing this). As always, we have our meetings in the kitchen at work. The cricket was on the kitchen telly – a 50 inch flatscreen affair. Jas was barracking for the Poms. Seeing this guy with his big belly, turban and charming Indian accent sing, “Barmy Army!” touched my funny bone. Jas and I laugh a lot regardless, but this was just cute.

30. Do you trust easily?
Not really. Trust takes time. I’m open, but I know what I’m open about.

31. What do you care about that you wish more people would?
This will get a few people’s backs up – the right to safe, legal abortion, especially before twelve weeks of gestation. I certainly don’t believe that abortion should ever be taken lightly. It would be a lovely world if we didn’t have to have it – but for those have to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy, they should be able to do this without fear of being labeled a criminal. At the moment, in Australia, in some states you can be charged for having a termination. This is so wrong. It’s almost as distressing as the thought of going through a termination. I’m not going to go into the ethics of this. It’s just something I think we should have national laws governing.

32. Is it easier for you to go without food or go without sleep?
Not getting enough of either sends me barmy, but I have to err on the side of sleep. I only need five hours a night to function and can go a week on short hours without too many repercussions. I get weak, dizzy and crotchety without food.

33. What non-alcohol beverage do you enjoy drinking the most?
COFFEE. It’s a tradition. Love it. And not instant, but the good stuff.

34. When you walk into a room full of strangers, generally how is your confidence?
Pretty good for the most part. Though I’m naturally shy, I have nothing to fear, but it’s taken a lot of time to learn this. Strangers are just people. They eat, they drink, they poo, they put on their undies one leg at a time.

35. Does talking about sex with anyone but your lover make you uncomfortable?
Not really, but I don’t appreciate talking about sex in sleazy ways. See the following blog entry for details.

36. Do you tend to believe members of the opposite sex mostly behave the same way?
Absolutely not. Men are as diverse as women. Everybody is unique. There are a few generalised tendencies, for sure, but no, men are all different.

37. Did you drink any alcohol this week? If yes, what?
I had a beer at beer club with Wozza. As I’m on antibiotics I won’t be drinking alcohol again until next week.

38. Would you ever consider being a vegetarian?
Yes, but it’s not my preference. I was a vegetarian for two years when I was at university, but went back to meat after contracting glandular fever. But I have meat free days a couple of times a week.

39. Do you believe in the concept of soul mates?
Sort of. Yet to be proven, though I’ve seen evidence in friends.

40. What are your plans for this weekend?
Lots on. Saturday is meditation, followed by coffee with the crew from meditation, a massage, shopping cooking, cleaning. Sunday, pump class, coffee with the girls after pump, more cleaning, a bit of writing and some relaxing. May have dinner on Saturday night with friends if their son recouperates in time.

41. Do you think someone might be thinking poorly about you? Why might that be?
No, not really. If they are thinking poorly of me I hope they say it to my face. If my boss was about he’d be thinking poorly of me as I’m writing this rather than fixing the sodding template.

42. What features don't you have that you would like on your cell?
The ability to tell me who the blocked callers are. I have an iPhone so I have everything I need. I love that it has Angry Birds and Bejeweled Blitz on it. I wish there was an iPhone app for the Biggest Loser club website – would make life easier.

43. How many people can comfortably sleep in your bed?
Two – standard double.

44. What are you hoping happens by the end of 2010?
I'd love to have a job lined up to start in the middle of January. I'd love for this humidity to break. Winning the lottery would be lovely. But most of all, I'm hoping the job situation will sort itself, though I'm not too bothered if it doesn't happen until late January/early February.

45. What was the last video you watched on YouTube?
The Grounded Dutchman sent me this. I nearly pissed myself laughing. And it's clean...

46. Would you ever agree to an open relationship with someone?
Although I say no, there is a part of me, a very small part of me,that thinks it may suit me on some levels. If I was to enter into such an agreement it would have to be very mutual and very honest.

47. Is there something that you could never give up?
Ice cream

48. Would you, (or did you) prefer a small, intimate wedding reception, or a big-scale, over-the-top reception?
Not that I’ve ever had the opportunity to have one, but I’d got the small, intimate affair.

49. What’s bothering you right now?
Other than I have to go home and make a loaf of sandwiches for masons tonight, very little.

50. Do you hate anyone?
No. I’m lucky like that. I dislike a lot of people, some of them with a passion, but hate is too strong a word. The nearest I’ve come to hating somebody is our former Prime Minister – John Howard. He was odious.

51. What were you doing at 12 am last night?
Listening to the fan drone at the end of my bed and the cat’s bell as it stalked round the flat in the dark while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while in bed.

52. Is the last person you kissed before your current situation mad at you?
Maybe, if he’s still alive. It’s been about three years since I’ve kissed anybody (baby’s heads and friend’s cheeks excepted) – and I’m still of the opinion that this relationship left me more scarred than any other. It’s time to let that one go.

53. Can a man and woman be friends without having feelings for each other?
Yes. I have that sort of relationship with the guys from work. Once again, I’m lucky.

54. Do you think long distance relationships work? If you’ve had one, tell us about it.
No, but I’ve never had one, unless you count living the other side of London from the guy I was seeing. Long distance friendships can work very well.

55. Do you know why it’s called “Random Boredom“?
Yes. Working the last weeks of a job is randomly boring. Hence writing this.

56. Do you think that it’s always the man’s responsibility to initiate sex?
Absolutely not. How boring would that be?

57. Have you ever made love while you were in the same room with another couple?
Um, I think I have to answer yes to this on a technicality – all I will say is that lots of strange substances were involved and it was sorta like, oh I can’t explain it. Drama groups breed strange friends and even stranger actions.

58. Tell us the best thing about your current or most recent S/O.
Never had a real significant other so I can’t answer this. I do hope when he comes along he’s incredibly kind.

59. Tell us the worst thing about your current or most recent S/O.
As above, though will probably moan about snoring or farting loudly.

60. If you could write a novel, what would it be about?
Rainbow Robertson and the Adventures at Hippy Corner has been brewing for years. If I could write something as brilliant as Cloud Atlas or The Moor's Last Sigh I'd be really happy - but I don't think I'm that good a writer

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Stupid Season

Christmas freak out mostly over, it appears my anger issues are waning, thanks partly to a magic kinesiology session and partly to the fact that a bit of time and stillness fix everything. Now I have to get on with the next few weeks.

For somebody who doesn't really participate in Christmas - well only when I have to, it appears that things have got stupid indeed. Thankfully most of it is not Christmas related but still, when you need a bit of time to sit and reflect, things get silly. My next two weeks evenings look something like this.

Monday - going up a degree at Masons. This means getting to lodge for 6.30 pm after a day at work, during which I'm to go and see the career consultants at lunch.

Tuesday - my normal lodge meeting - normally this would be a rehearsal, but we're doing a ritual, so have to be there for seven. Somehow I have to find the time to make a loaf of sandwiches before this.

The only thing I tend to buck against with masons is that supper after the meetings is next to mandatory. You're also up against all these little old ladies who don't work who have been making supper  for forty years. It's a roster, and when it's your turn you have to bring along a sweet, a savory or sandwiches. I really don't like not having the time to bake myself. This time, I scored sandwiches, not too hard really.

Wednesday evening - dream group. Standing appointment.

Thursday evening - the work Christmas party. I'm unsure what it will be like, but I will go for a bit. The powers that be had the brilliant idea of putting the invite on the work social networking site. It took twenty minutes to accept the invitiaton online. Due to the long, drawn out, utterly pointless method of accepting the Christmas party invite, I'm not too sure how many people will turn up. The whole thing has got people's backs up.

Friday evening is currently free. I don't think there will be any point running beer club either - those who are there will probably have hangovers. This has been the case for the last few years. It's also a good chance to prepare for the following evening.

Saturday - another busy day. Meditation in the morning, followed by a massage around lunchtime, then prepare dessert to take around to a dinner party. I always make dessert -  it's almost a vocation. From special saused up fruit salads to lemon polenta cake to flourless chocolate cakes to bread and butter puddings - desserts are my calling. The theme of the night is Christmas, so I'm currently searching recipes for the night.

Sunday is currently free as well. A visit the the gym for pump class, a coffee with Emm or Kay after, then out to Blarney's for a visit to the boys and the Maow Maow.

Monday - oh yes, the Mason's Xmas break up. Fun. More food. joy. Must also work out when I'm going to prepare for the following day's events.

Tuesday - Final book group for the year. It's the book choosing event. My book group has this night every year to choose the books for the following year. Over dinner, everybody in the group brings along two books which they think are worthy of reading. These are discussed at the meeting and voted on using lollies - everybody is given 25 lollies and every induvidual can distribute their votes as they choose - only they can't vote for their own choices. It makes it very democratic. But I have to get the lollies sorted before the meeting. Bagging up 225 lollies isn't hard - just another drain on my time.

Wednesday - Dream group break up at a favorite restaurant. This will be fun. I get my favorite dessert on the planet - the Rusk Halva ice cream sundae with Persian fairy floss, Turkish delight and orange blossom water syrup. This will be a good night.

Thursday - The Beer Club Christmas party. I have to run this. It will also serve as my leaving do from Tin Can, String and Whistle. It won't be a long night, just have to pack up after the event.

Friday - Nothing at the moment. Probably finish the Christmas shopping or see Pinochet.

During this time I also have to look for a job, try and get to the gym in the morning, return the cat that is visiting, interview when required, get over the sore throat that is gracing the back of my head, remember ritual, tidy my CV, keep the flat clean, see a few friends I know I won't see until the new year...

I leave Tin Can, String and Whistle on 22 December. I drive to Adelaide for five days on the 23rd. Getting back to Melbourne there are cats to look after and the odd party to attend. It just doesn't stop.

The list goes on.

And this is the day book of a person who only participates in Christmas under duress...


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fire Bad, Tree Pretty

There is an episode of Buffy, at the end of season three, in which after slaying all of her demons and saving the world, she is spent, unable to function, near catatonic. Giles makes the comment, "There is a certain dramatic irony attached to all this. A synchronicity that borders on predestination, one might say."

Buffy: "Fire bad. Tree pretty."

I so get this.

I rarely write about the rage.

As it’s now December, it’s time for the annual Christmas freak out, which I’m sitting in the middle of it at the moment. By the time I drive to Adelaide on the 23rd, all will be calm and bright. It’s best not to ignore the annual pre Christmas freak out. If I ignore this, there could be war at Myponga at Christmas with all the dramatic irony and synchronistic predestination. It won't happen though. I'm braver than that.

But for today, I will sit in a mire of green, flaming rage that has so far had me postpone an interview, indulge in junk food and stare down a guy at the traffic lights whose iPod was playing too loud. Oh yes, I’ve also shouted at an idiot from the other office – but I do quite a bit of that, so there’s nothing new there. This bloke irritates me at the best of times.

There is no make up on my face. I’m in my normal work comfortable clothes. To look at me, I appear quite normal – maybe a little quieter than usual.

It’s the storm inside which is fascinating me. I feel it in every pore of my body. The seething rage of betrayal and despair that lingers like a sooky cat which comes and goes of its own volition – I’m not used to owning it as my own. Now I have to face it. This crap is mine to deal with and I’d better get on with it.

Ah, it’s a hippy shit blog today.

Yep. Too right. This all started at dream group last night. My dream was given. Of course, the others laughed at my dream – they always do – but this is okay as well – its how dream group works. Dreams of trams and bile and babies and the best one, that of being prepared to be beheaded, shaving the back of my head in preparation, my hands tied behind my back, worried that when my head comes off that the head will be able to see and think and feel.

It was a bit of a heavy session. I came out of it feeling flayed. Not as skinned alive as I have in the past, but it felt like I’d had a decent going over with sandpaper. Matter of my absent family came up. Was I hurt? Yes. Was I being too nice about them? Probably. When will I own that this stuff continues to tear strips off me? Well, now.

And Christmas brings everything out into the open.

For the last few years I’ve avoided going home for Christmas. I hate it. For one, I’m not a Christian, and I don’t see the point in personally celebrating the supposed virgin birth of a Jewish carpenter/reprobate in a cow shed. I’m happy for other people to do it, but leave me out of it. I particularly hate that the corporates get involved and insist you turn up for a company sponsored drinking session, along with rarely seen friends who make plans to “catch up for Xmas.” I really don’t like the hypocrisy.

Then again, I do see the need to celebrate. Another year has passed. Look at your achievements, your losses and your gains, and celebrate them. I have a lot to celebrate this year.

Rather than not participate at all, I take a line of least resistance, going to some things, passing on others, turning up with a smile on my face when I have to and giving the impression that all is well.

Thing is, I think I’ve been damaged by this time of year too much to let it slide any more.

Memories of being in London, spending it alone, not talking to people over the days from Christmas Eve to New Years Day, having your grandmother challenge you as to why you “don’t have a fella?” at the lunch table, feeling like the spare wheel when spending time with my sister’s in-laws, who are perfectly nice people, but like me and my sister, have I have very little in common with and making the effort is tiring. I spend a lot of time talking to the kids and the dog at Christmas when I go home.

The last two years have been better. Xmas Day 2008 was spent riding elephants in Thailand. Last year I stayed in Melbourne and was out all day with friends, breakfast with one person, drinks with Gloria and Gaynor before heading out to Blarney and Barney’s where a lovely lunch with the whole of Barney’s family who are well cool, then went out to my bosses place for a dinner with other Christmas orphan workmates, which was also also lovely and chilled. Glen Waverley, Geerrt and I ended up playing Mario Carts until midnight.

It almost took away the sting of not having somebody special to spend the days with – something that society appears to feel is mandatory and the media throw this down your neck with the full force of a tsunami. Hey, I’m alone. I don’t have people to spoil me rotten around the place. I wish the media would stop telling me this is what’s supposed to happen and start extolling the virtues of being good to each other, patience, kindness and love – which is what I see Christmas as really being about.

As to owning the anger, well, this is all mine. At least I don’t turn it in on myself as I used to. I don’t try and dampen it with food or drink. I don’t lash out at others (stupid workmate aside), nor abuse anything, nor cry myself to sleep. I’m allowing myself to feel this in all its intensity.

It isn’t comfortable, but it’s the only way through it.

That, and I have an appointment with a kinesiologist this afternoon, who might be able to help bring things back into balance. I have the offer of the use of a bathtub the other side of the suburb, which I might take up – soak out the anger. I’ll get to the gym on the weekend to grunt some of this out, and of course, I will go and cuddle Blarney’s babies, who can dissipate rage with a gummy smile and a grab of your finger.

Fire, bad. Tree, pretty. For now.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's in a Name?

I bought a Shirley yesterday.

Yes, a Shirley.

What is a Shirley you may ask?

Well, Shirley is a Global Positioning System - or a satellite navigator as it is known to some.

Yes, I've named my SatNav. I think it suits her. Annoying voice, always trying to tell you where to go - most likely right all of the time except for when you really are in a hurry then she leads you down the garden path. Gets hysterical when you make a wrong move whether you know it or not, then she really lets you have it. Something that you will be talking to saying, "Yes, Shirley. What every you say, Shirley." Behind her back, you're more than likely saying ,"Eff off Shirley, there's no sodding way I'm taking Punt Road - or Chapel Street - go to hell!"

I think Shirley is the perfect name for a GPS. Lachlan's mother's name is Shirley. I think it's apt. I could have named it after the Grounded Dutchman's mother, who has many of the same traits of Lachlan's mother, but her name is long and Dutch and it can't be served up with the same amount of vitriol. (and she's a nice lady too - we couldn't do that to her). The Grounded Dutchman's mum would also never be seen with a pint of bitter and a fag in her mouth at ten a.m. either.

Naming things is something I love to do. As I'm probably never going to be a mother, I won't have the opportunity to mess up my children with my choice of name.

So I tend to name inanimate objects instead.

As some of you are aware, I have a car named Andrew at the moment. I work with an Andrew at the moment. I also have a cousin who is a copper named Andrew and another cousin who lives in Tasmania named Andrew. My Andrew was not named after a middle suburbs politician who never shuts up, nor an undercover member of the drug squad, nor a wearhouseman from Bagdad, Tasmania.

Andrew was named after a long gone ex's wobbly bits. Small but gets you where you need to go.  I think the name suits a 2000 white, five door Toyota Echo really well.

I've named all my previous cars as well. I've had Edna the EJ Holden (Large, lumpy, good at growing things in the boot), Phoebe the Fiesta - named by the car's former owner who is now a well respected doctor - so it's not just me - it might be an Adelaide thing.

And my car before Andrew was Colin. Colin was a 0.65 litre Daihatsu Centro. Colin had small man syndrome. I would have called him Allan, but Allans make the tea - and this car was as weak as maiden's piss - useless. So Colin it was. Strange thing is, the last two Colins I've met have been a drill seargent in the navy and a cauliflower earred Scotsman, both standing around six foot three and built like a brick dunny. Not small men at all.

It's funny how names can stick with you. Talking to Emm today after pump class she asked if I had thought of a name for my proposed new car, hopefully a zippy little Madza 2. "Dennis," I said. Emm then asked why I seemed to name my cars after middle aged accountants with comb overs.

Hmm, interesting point. Rather than Dennis, it could be a Malcolm or a Trevor or a Geoffrey or a Raymond. If I was really scraping the bottom of the barrel I could go down the Donald or Reginald route - then again, my grandfather was a Reg - best leave that for a stroppy ginger cat I may get in the future.

I love names, I really do. I was thrilled to find out that Reindert is a brand of fabric softener in the Netherlands. Why would his mother do that to him? That's just choice, especially as his brothers have two of the commonest names in the Netherlands. Why divert from the norms?

Meeting the Grounded Dutchman was peppered with angst as he has the same name as my long dead father. It took quite a while to get over the associations. I also have many "uncles" with the same name. Men with the Grounded Dutchman's christian name tend to be cricket loving, beer swilling reprobates with a desire for fame. They're also now all aged in their seventies.

I've been out with Marcs, who always seem to have mother issues, Simon's who inevitably love their computers more than me and Matthews, who would be near perfect if only they would wash their hair  occasionally.
Women's names are just as fraught. I've never met a Natalie who wasn't as fake as a three dollar note, a Rebecca who wasn't on antidepressants or  a Tammy who didn't have a boyfriend who was into CB radio and was knocked up by the age of sixteen.

I also have clusters of friends who seem to have names and similar traits. Of my three friends called Verity, all have had marital problems but seem to be able to work miracles in the business world. The Carolyn's I know all tend to whine a lot but their hearts are in the right place. Rosemary's are good in a crisis. Petronella's will undoubtedly smell of patchouli and think they are psychic.

I remember when a friend said she was going to call her son Francis. All I couldn't think was, hmmm, sits at the back of the class, picks his spots and eats glue. Just like the Mileses and Rodneys of this world.

Really, I shouldn't make fun of names. I'm Pandora. Pandy to my family. Pand to most. I get called Alison regularly - I'm told I look like an Alison.

I hated my name growing up. I've grown into it now. Knowing that when Pandora's box was opened and all of the evils of the world flew out all that was left was hope and opportunity. I rather like that.

But I'm also sure there are number of people out there who associate the name with Adrian Mole's first love and bogan troll bracelets.

Each to his own.

Pand (mother of Andrew the echo and Shirley the GPS)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Selling Oneself

My days start a little earlier now. I rise on waking, make a cup of English Breakfast tea with a splash of skinny milk. I shower and wash my hair, after which, there is the normal cleanse, tone and moisturise routine of the facial skin and roll on some organic deodorant. I prefer the organic, non-chemical stuff, which works far better than anti-perspirant - it doesn't stain your clothes and it doesn't stop you sweating - it just stops you smelling. Humans are meant to sweat under their arms after all.

After these ablutions, I dress. With care. New tailored trousers, a clean white, trim fitting t-shirt, over which goes a long tailored black jacket.

In between imbibing my normal breakfast protein shake, fish oil capule and multi vitamin tablet, I consider my face. I'm really blessed. Spending my twenties in England, good genes and being pleasantly plump, I have few wrinkles for my age. Other than a couple of light circles under my eyes, my skin is clear. I now proceed to cover it in beige powder - again, mineral based to allow my skin to breath underneath. Then there's a bit of blusher applied to my cheekbones, a light dusting of shimmering eyeshadow, brown eyeliner (which a queeny make up artist told me years back to use rather than black - it's far less severe for a woman of my age) and a bit of brown/black mascara. I dry my hair straight - a seemingly pointless exercise in this humid weather, but it has to be done. It will be an unruly, frizzy mess by midday.

I am in interview mode. I have two pimps to meet today. I have to give them my A-game.

Before heading to the tram, I clean my teeth, careful to use mouthwash afterward. Just before I leave the flat, I put on my shoes. My running shoes. These are what I wear to work. A pair of one inch kitten heels sit in a bag next to my handbag. I will slip these on just before I meet the pimps. I may as well be comfortable until then. I have a pair of black work flats under my desk which will don my feet at Tin Can, String and Whistle. You could turn up in your pyjamas there and nobody would notice. Fridays I normally wear jeans - like everybody else. Unless you're meeting clients there's little point turning up in a suit.

Just after twelve, I slip out of the office for my scheduled meeting with pimp number one. Her name is Amber. Stripper name. Bet she's blonde, dressed fashionalbly, very thin and with a high pitched voice.

I'm used to dealing with the pimps - or recruitment consultants as they're known to the outside world. People who will sell your skills on to the highest bidder. People who will happily oversell your worth for their own gain.

Yes, I'm cynical, but after the last time I went contracting, going from appointment to appointment, shaking wet fish hands, having my christian name said at least once every sentence, you get to know the drill.
The good pimps are the ones you can have a laugh with. The good ones are genuinely interested in finding you a job that makes you happy. These are the ones who look you straight in the eye, tell you how it is and do call you through the year to see what you're up to. Second pimp of the day is one of these good ones. But more on him later.

Stupidly, I change into the kitten heels before making my way to the pimp's lair, a kilometre away from the office. In the wet and with the paving stones I slipped repeatedly and my right knee started to ache. Never to mind, a bag of peas and some lectric soda later would help to sort it.

Amber was on time. Indeed, she had the wet fish handshake, the simpering smile, the speech impediment that made her use my name in every sentence, and yes, she was slim, blonde and dressed very fashionably. We sit in a barely furnished room, stripped of natural light.

She then starts the questions.

What did I want to do? Had I looked at the company website? Was I able to work in Geelong? What were my strengths? What were my greatest acheivements? When was I available for work... all the normal questions from somebody who I would say has summed me up as one above pond scum in a moment after our intitial meeting. Of course, you have to put on your game face, answer with the same enthusiasm required of anybody else selling themselves.

Of course I will bend over and play dead as you wish.

Actually, it's not quite like that. I answer honestly. No, I'm not prepared to work full time in Geelong - a week here and there, sure. No, I don't want to work a ten hour day - I work to live, not the other way around. Yes, I like variety. I'm better with people than  machines. If I can google it, I can learn it. No, I don't have an MBA or a business degree - I've learned business the hard way, from the back offices and though pushing paper and watching closely. It's got me a long way.

On leaving I offered her my hand. She didn't appear happy to take it.

Pimp number two is a much better experience. Later in the afternoon I make my way down Collins Street once again. Pimp number two is named Tony.

Tony and I have talked regularly over the last three years. I met him just before I got the role with Tin Can, String and Whistle. He's somebody I could see as a drinking buddy or mate. A man with a firm handshake and a genuine smile. He remembers from previous conversations that I run, read tarot and write. He has an idea of my skills. He likes that as somebody in the testing field that there is a trace of personality in me. We have a chat. He tells me that it's probably going to be mid next month before more opportunities come in. I tell him I'm aware of this, but I may as well get the leg work in now. He laughs at my plastic bag containing my trainers. He asks if I changed them in the lobby for the kitten heels. I admit to this. I have to give him my A-game after all. Good attitude, he says.

After bidding Tony farewell, I make my way home, tired, knee aching, rather desiring a beer.

Selling yourself is hard. It's exhausting. You know who you are and what you can do, but you have to go out and wager this into the market. When you're not a salesman, this can be hard on the psyche. You are dressed in clothes you're not used to wearing, uncomfortable shoes, there is a mask of makeup on your face. Your hair, normally thrown up in ponytail or given a cursory brush once a day is groomed within an inch of it's life. All of this is tiring in itself - just more stuff to consider.

I work in IT - jeans or business casual are normal fare unless you're meeting clients - half the time you're scratching around under desks or playing with cables anyway. Makeup isn't insisted upon - geeks don't care what you look like. Sensible shoes are the norm. Code doesn't ask you to roll over and jump through hoops - it just needs to work effiienctly and to spec.

This is why this is all so alien. I do feel like a prostitute. I also know that when I get the new, job, whatever that may be, within a fortnight I will be stripped of the mask of makeup, back in my comfortable business casual clothes and wearing flats around the office. Such is the game.

On arriving home, there is a mad dash to the bathroom where a wet flannel removes the bulk of the makeup. The office wear is thrown in the washing machine and a bag of frozen peas is strapped to my throbbing right knee.

Once again, I know exactly who I am and what I'm about.

It's such a pity that finding work is such a performance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Importance of Being Positive

The most important lesson I have learned in the last ten years, other than beer and Baileys mixed in the same glass should never be imbibed, is the absolute power of being positive.

By rights, me, Pandora Behr, probably should be a negative nancy. I have a session booked with the HR department of Tin Can, String and Whistle tomorrow where I know that they are going to tell me that my position is redundant and that my last day at work is going to be the 22nd of December. I'm overweight. I'm not overly good looking. I'm 42 years old. I don't have a significant other and never have. I only have an ordinary Arts Degree. My knee is playing me up at the moment. I have a personal trainer named Pinochet who makes me ache on a weekly basis. I take in people's cats when when they go on holiday - and I like it as it gives me something to talk to while I'm at home.

Rather sad existence, eh?

My attitude to all this is "F*ck 'em. Life is going to be amazing. Just you watch."

There's a rather wretched book out there called, "The Secret." Many would have heard of it - it's a new age classic allegedly teaching people how to get rich.

The central message of the book is that like attracts like - one of the general laws of physics. Okay, when I heard this statement a few years ago, at the mention of physics, I turned off immediately. See, I'm no good at physics. Just as I'm no good at running, computers, losing weight and getting well paid fullfiling work. Hmm.

Okay, like attracts like. Let's see how this works.

Okay, so one of the things that came out is surround yourself with positive people, some of it will rub off. And you think, yeah, alright, maybe.

Well, I've taken this on as my mantra.

There's been some fairly big occurences happen to me over the last few days. On the grand scale of things they may appear small but they've rocked my world enough to make me feel secure, engaged and hopeful.

First up, a friend asked for a bit of help. She's not in a good way at all - probably as low as a person can go without doing something stupid. She explained her situation, that she needed somebody round on the weekend to keep and eye on her as she was in a bad way. I said I'd be there. It's not that she's part of my inner sanctum, far from it, but I know how dreadful it is when you feel you have nobody to turn to when things truly turn to shit. Being there for her was a given - I'd never want anybody to feel like that - even if it's just being on the end of the phone - she knew somebody was there.

Knowing that the situation could have repercussions on me, I made some plans for the Sunday. A visit out to Blarney to cuddle the babies and Maow Maow. Arrange for Grounded Dutchman to come and receive his birthday reflexology treatment. Things I like doing that make me happy. Positive things to take away any residual angst from the other friend.

It worked - all is on the level. Chance and Lance (Blarney's babies) and the Maow Maow (Blarney's cat) got cuddled within an inch of their lives and Aunty Pandora felt restored. Grounded Dutchman left with his size twelve clodhoppers all shiny and new and with a big relaxed smile on his face and Reflexologist Pandora feels good because she's made somebody feel good.

Maybe there is something in this.

Next small occurence - I ran into an old university friend in the street. I remember Frank for many reasons. He was the obnoxious nice guy at college - Arts Student mocker and computer nerd. Nothing to look at really, often referred to as Fat Frank. Frank had an IQ off the chart and this gritty determination that I always admired from afar. I think Frank lived in one pair of trakkie daks and his college shirt for the full two years of college. At the end of my time at college, Frank started to go out with a friend of mine and I got to see a different side of him - the nice guy I suspected was under the prickly facade there was proven to be so. Since then we've occasionally bumped into each other at the airport over the years. He always stops for a quick chat - and it's always great to run into him.

Running into Frank on Bourke Street the other day I was amazed. He's 40 kilograms lighter and looks absolutely amazing. He looks confident and happy - there's this wonderful inner glow about him - it was a real revelation. He told me what he did to achieve this and what made him do it. "I just got sick of being fat."

Know the feeling. But I almost what a before and after shot of Frank to put up on my fridge - but a photo wont capture his inner glow. If Frank can do it - so can I. Okay, so I may not be able to run at the moment - but that's no excuse not to push weights, swim, walk and monitor the diet carefully. All it takes is consistency and the will. I know this.

The drive is there to once again get on the horse and start losing again after what has been a difficult year. It feels great.

They may seem like inconsequential occurences - looking after somebody - something I seem to do a bit of, and running into a friend on the street - but there seems to have been a paradigm shift within me.

Even job hunting. The word is slowly getting out that I'm leaving Tin Can, String and Whistle. And I have a big smile on my face. Well, of course. New opportunities. New people to meet. New things to learn. The job market is currently good, I have good skills. For the first time in my life I have money in the bank. I'll put in an hour a day job hunting - though I already have two pimp* interviews booked for Thursday. I hope to be working again by February, but that will give me some time to swim and write and de junk my flat. I can also start thinking about replacing Andrew for a new to me Mazda 2 (been told off already for drooling on my computer screen.) And more funds can get put into my housing fund. And maybe a two week break somewhere with a pool mid year. And you never know who you will meet and how they will effect your life - always for the good.

I like this positive attitude thing. Okay, call me Pollyanna, dong me on the head for being bubbly - but I can't go back to believing I'm fat, ugly, crippled and stupid.

Positive, with an attitude of gratitude for all I have - friends, family, abililty and hope.

I really can't ask for anything more. The attitiude's doing me well, thank you very much.


*I use the term pimp as a loose term for recruitment consultants. Like real estate agents and insurance brokers I know they have a point, I just wish that there was some substance to them. They're a necessary, though somewhat pointless evil - and I'm thankful I don't have to deal with them very often. Also, when you find a good one who treats you like a human being, hold onto that person's card - follow them from agency to agency - they're gold.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Today's Dummy Spit

I just lost it with the Grounded Dutchman.

There is a post coming about what is happening with the joys of jetlag, the fun of knowing I have to start looking for a job, my annual Christmas freak out, pondering spending my Saturday night minding a friend in crisis, knowing I have writing work to by Monday.... and endless list of stuff which has let me come back to my last five weeks at Tin Can, String and Whistle with a whimper, rather than a bang.

Instead, I'm choosing to write about what went down with the Grounded Dutchman in the coffee shop just now. It needs to be said. It might work out a bit of my anger, frustration and hurt.

I found him down at the coffee shop, noticing he'd disappeared for a bit. He was lost in thought, an empty coffee mug in front of him, just sitting there.
"Will you talk to me, what is the matter?"

Grounded Dutchman is very good at looking like a wounded puppy. He just looks sad all over. His long limbs just seem to droop. It's a bit pathetic.

Finally, after a few laboured breaths, he talks. "I can't get my point across in meetings. It's frustrating. I can't get out what I need to get out and it's beginning it impact on what I'm doing....". The litany continued about how he was feeling reigned in because he has some trouble with his speech. Then came the final straw.

"I just wish I wasn't a pharking cripple."

Cripple. The one word in the English language which tends to draw the normally mild-mannered Pand into a banshee.

My face flushed, my hackles drawn, I looked straight into his wounded grey eyes.

Slowly, deliberately, ennunciating with effect.


"But I can't get my point across. It's hard."

"Yeah, it's hard. It's not great. But you're not a cripple. You're a man overcoming a brain injury with some limitations around your speech. You walk and move perfectly. Your brain functions well. You can think. You can make jokes even if they are bad, you can dance and sing. Have you any idea how far you've come? When do you give yourself credit for this? So, you have a bit of trouble talking sometimes. So what - learn to do things differently - you can talk - it's just a bit hard sometimes. NEVER define yourself that way. It only gives people licence to discredit you."

I reached over and held his hand. There was a bit of moisture welling in his eyes.

"You're just a man with one limitation - you have trouble getting your point across. Find other ways of doing it."

He exhaled loudly. I grabbed his hand. Tear were streaming down my face by now.

"You are not a cripple. Don't define yourself that way. Don't give people the opportunity to define yourself that way."

He twigged that he'd sparked a nerve.

I went on.

"Nearly forty years ago, a little girl waited at the traffic lights with her mother near the Adelaide Children's Hospital. The little girl was in a red jumper and plaid skirt. Her feet were encased in clumpy shoes. Her legs were bandaged, hiding the rods of the calipers that were slowly straightening her legs. She was about to see the physiotherapist to see if these rods that had been a part of her life for the last were about to come off. These rods were the bane of her life. She hated them with every fibre of her being. A woman passed by with a couple of rowdy children."Look at that little cripple girl over there." she said pointing out the child."

Grounded Dutchman was listening now.

"That little girl was me. I was the crippled girl - and the crippled girl I continued to be. I've been labelled a cripple since I was a child. THERE'S NOTHING EFFING WRONG WITH ME. I used to have knocked knees and tip toes. They're fixed. But in calling myself a cripple it stopped me doing SOOOOOO much. Can't do that - I'm crippled. Running, jumping, just getting out there and living. It stopped me doing shit for thirty years. Can't you see what you're doing to yourself by calling yourself a cripple?"

He nodded.

"Never give them the opportunity to label you. NEVER call yourself that."

I think he got the point. By this time he was holding my hand. I resembled Alice Cooper, mascara streaked down  my face.

"You can work through this. You will work through this. But none of this cripple shit. You're a man with a limitation. It's time to get creative and find some ways to work through it. Here endeth the lecture."

He gave my hand a final squeeze and we went back to the office.

It's amazing how one word can open a wound the size of the Grand Canyon.