Friday, 30 November 2012

My favourite things this week

1. The electrician who called to let me know he was running 10 minutes late!  Miraculous and very courteous.  He was lovely and helpful when he got here too.

2. Car trips with a fellow actor to get to a job on the other side of town.  Even though it was a very early start, two days in a row, we enjoy each other's company and it wasn't much of a hardship.  We spent the time revising our roles, talking about stuff and being silly.

3. A visit and dinner with a very good friend.  Life had kept us apart for about a year which is just too long.  I really value my relationships and this one is important to me.

4. The vegetable curry I made accompanied by my new favourite food product, Rice Plus.  I love rice and made the switch to brown or basmati a while a go, but this take rice to a whole new level.  It's delicious and full of goodness and I can't imagine going back to plain old rice again.  (I have no association with the product - I'm just a very happy consumer.)

5. Giving things to my readers!  There's still time to be in the running. TO WIN a double pass to see "2 Days in New York" comment on this post, telling us where you'd like to spend two days and why.  Entries close  Friday, 30 November.  Winners will be announced on the blog.  Don't forget to check back and see if you've won - you'll need to provide your mailing address details.

Passes are valid during the season in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and the ACT.

Good luck!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

How hot was today? Pretty hot.

Today was so hot, even the flies stayed in the shade.

Today was so hot, even my eyeballs felt hot.

Today was so hot, I had to wear full corporate clothing (including stockings).  The first thing I did when I arrived home was to take all my clothes off.

Today was so hot, driving around in a car was very appealing.  The air-conditioning was turned up to "high".

Today was so hot, people commented that being on a train was the best place to be today.  The air-conditioning was icy cold.  

Today was so hot, I went to the movies to see something I wasn't terribly interested in.  It turned out I didn't enjoy it all.  The air-conditioning was the best part.  (I saw "Titanic" when it first came out because it was a really hot day in Brisbane and I wanted the longest possible film to make sure I maximised air-conditioning bang for my buck.  It turned out to be a good choice because there was a lot of ice to look at.)

Today was so hot, my bed felt like it was on fire.

Today was so hot, I didn't mind that I had no hot water.  A cold shower was just fine.

Today was so hot, I just dunked a tea bag right in my water bottle and I had tea.  No need for a kettle.

Today was so hot.  39.6 degress Celsius at 6:11pm.  

Tonight is so hot, I'll have to have my fourth shower of the day and cuddle an ice block.

Tonight is so hot, I wish I had a garden I could sleep in, or a teleporter to take me to Iceland for the night, or an air-conditioner that didn't burn brown coal to use it.  

Tonight is so hot, I wish I had a walk in refrigerator that I could sleep in.

Tonight is so hot. 

Tonight is

Tonight hot. so hot.

Twenty-seven degrees Celsius at 11:20pm.  

It could be hotter.

How do you stay cool?

TO WIN a double pass to see "2 Days in New York" comment on this post, telling us where you'd like to spend two days and why.  Entries close next Friday, 30 November.  Winners will be announced on the blog.  Don't forget to check back and see if you've won - you'll need to provide your mailing address details.

Passes are valid during the season in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and the ACT.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Travelling musician brings joy to travellers (+giveaway)

I stepped into a train carriage travelling into the city the other day and saw a group of high school children sitting in a group an intensely talking amongst themselves.  I took a seat nearby.  Soon music started to fill the air.  Usually when this happens, I move.  It's generally someone listening to an ipod with the volume set far too loudly so that the sound bleeds through their earphones; or it's someone listening to music without even the courtesy of using headphones.

This was different though.  It was good music and it was being played live.  There was someone playing the guitar, who was very, very good.  There was an air of quiet appreciation from the people sitting with him as his artistry gave pleasure.  I didn't recognise the music but did recognise a musician with rhythm who communicates through his instrument.  He finished one piece and then started something familiar.  His fans clicked their fingers crisply at regular intervals.  He was playing the theme from the "Pink Panther".  I've never heard it played on the guitar before and he made me wonder why I had never had the pleasure.

We pulled into North Melbourne Station and I turned around to see him and acknowledge him.  He had only one friend left sitting with him and he was playing with intention and joy.  He looked up as I turned around.  Our eyes met and we acknowledged each other - I was acknowledging the gift of his music and he acknowledged the gift of my appreciation.

He finished the piece and I applauded.  Others on the train looked up and smiled, but didn't join me in applause.

This young man was a pleasure to hear.  I may never hear him play again.  I don't know his name, but I'm sure I would recognise his playing if I heard him again.  I really hope I do hear his music again.

On another note, here is the sugar laden afternoon tea that I resisted when working with a client today.  In the fourth week of sugar-free life, I am very pleased to say that I wasn't even tempted!  I was, however, very hungry and will take an alternative snack with me tomorrow.

TO WIN a double pass to see "2 Days in New York" comment on this post, telling us where you'd like to spend two days and why.  Entries close next Friday, 30 November.  Winners will be announced on the blog.  Don't forget to check back and see if you've won - you'll need to provide your mailing address details.

Passes are valid during the season in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and the ACT.

Good luck!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Computer says "no"

Is there anything more frustrating or terrifying than a computer problem when you don't have in house IT support?

As a freelancer, I rely on my computer to bring in work, bill clients and generally do stuff that makes my business and life work.  When something goes wrong, it's not as simple as "just calling IT".

I'm pretty good at searching and finding answers, but sometimes you do everything that everyone says and it still doesn't work.

My printer has been tetchy ever since I bought it.  It finally got to the point where the computer keeps telling me that I have no printer.  I've uninstalled, installed, unplugged, turned off, updated and done everything else along those lines.  Occasionally there have been moments of sunshine when normal transmission resumes, but I think I've used up my wishes.

I called Fuji Xerox for help today and discovered that the printer spooler in Windows 7 isn't working. A quick search shows that I am not alone.  There seem to be as many solutions suggested as there are people with the problem and so far, I've hit a brick wall.  I reach the end of the instructions and get "Error 1053".  Until today, I had never heard of a printer spooler.  It sounds mechanical and I picture a monkey winding a handle to thread paper through the machine.

Microsoft says they'll charge me to fix the problem and that I should contact the manufacturer of the computer (Sony).  I went into Sony today and they did a general clean up, but it hasn't fixed this problem.

I'm over it.  It's so hard to find trustworthy support just by searching online.  I realised that my personal contacts and recommendations in the tech support area are thin on the ground, so I must do something about that.  I'm better when there's a problem with my car - at least you can see something.

If anyone can point me in the right direction that would be marvellous!  What do you do when something goes wrong with your computer?

TO WIN a double pass to see "2 Days in New York" comment on this post, telling us where you'd like to spend two days and why.  Entries close next Friday, 30 November.  Winners will be announced on the blog.  Don't forget to check back and see if you've won - you'll need to provide your mailing address details.

Passes are valid during the season in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and the ACT.

Good luck!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

White Ribbon Day - the bruises don't always show

Today, 25 November, is White Ribbon Day in Australia.

White Ribbon is a campaign led by men against male violence perpetrated against women.  As I write, the counter on the website shows that almost 64, 000 men have pledged an oath "never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women".  I know that I know some of them.

I am fortunate in my life to be surrounded by good men;  ones who take this oath for granted in the way that they live their lives.

I have felt unsafe in the company of a man once in my life.  It was at work, late one Friday afternoon when there was no one else around.  I had experienced bullying at the hands of this man before and this particular afternoon he entered my office in a red-faced rage, standing over me and shouting in my face.  He didn't lay a hand on me, but I was not confident that he wouldn't.  I found my voice, stepped out of my office into the corridor and told him to "back off" in a tone that said I wasn't in the mood to argue.  I think the tone of my voice triggered something and he stopped long enough for me to tell him I wasn't going to have anything to do with him when he was like this.

He left.  I was a frightened mess.  I called one of the senior men in the organisation and told him what had happened.  He helped me take charge of the next steps.

At the hands of men I've experienced sexual harassment, poorly judged "jokes", emotional cruelty and bullying. These experiences have all been in a workplace context.  I've also experienced bullying and emotional cruelty delivered by women.  When I needed support to address these issues there have been wonderful people, both men and women, who understood that what had occurred was wrong and were prepared to go public and be vocal in their support.

I've had men take on other men to right a wrong on my behalf, when the man who had done the wrong thing wasn't prepared to listen to me.  It was a shame that my message about acceptable behaviour had to be delivered by other men in order to be taken seriously, but I was pleased that the message was delivered.

Violence against women can take many forms.  The scars and bruises aren't always visible.  I don't think violence should ever be tolerated and I try to live my life according to this principle.

I feel personally very lucky, never to have suffered physical violence at the hands of a man and to have many wonderful men in my life whom I know would stay true to the White Ribbon oath if the situation required it - even if they had never heard of White Ribbon and the pledge.

The White Ribbon movement is a powerful and important symbol. Make your pledge today and honour the women in your life.

TO WIN a double pass to see "2 Days in New York" comment on this post, telling us where you'd like to spend two days and why.  Entries close next Friday, 30 November.  Winners will be announced on the blog.  Don't forget to check back and see if you've won - you'll need to provide your mailing address details.

Passes are valid during the season in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and the ACT.

Good luck!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Music, food and laughter cancel out train trauma

For the first time in a while, I woke up hours before the alarm.  The sun was coming in my window and I felt well rested.  I had time to lie in bed and think.  Read.  Consider the day ahead.  I was hours ahead of schedule.  I had an all day vocal group rehearsal today and had to make the salad I was taking for lunch (sugar free, of course) and be ready to catch the train at 9:38am.

I proceeded at a leisurely pace and was ready to enjoy the walk to the train station.  I arrived with about five minutes to spare.  There seemed to be more people there than usual for that time on a Saturday morning, but I figured everyone had woken up to the glorious day in the same way I had.  All of us were running ahead of schedule, except for the trains.

The automated timetable announcement proclaimed at about 9:35 that the 9:18am train would be departing in about six minutes.  The one I was there to catch, the 9:38am - was about 17 minutes away.  Oh well, I'd catch an earlier train and leave later than I anticipated.  Only Metro trains could make that happen.

A few minutes passed and a manual announcement was made, advising that due to something-or-other, all trains had been suspended until further notice.  When you're at an unstaffed station, this is the most frustrating kind of announcement.  No details are given about alternative services and there is no one to ask.

Luckily I hadn't been waiting for that long, so I was still within the window to be able to touch off my myki and not be billed for a trip I wasn't going to take. I made my way back home and started my car.

It's so annoying to be forced onto the road when you're committed to public transport and try not to clog up the streets with one person car trips that could otherwise be taken on public transport.  And on the weekends, the price of travel is capped at $3.30 for the day, so it really is better than taking the car.  At least I have a car and could easily take alternative transport to get to my rehearsal.  In Melbourne's western suburbs, if the trains go down, there aren't a lot of other options.

While I missed my reading time, I did enjoy the airconditioning and radio discussion about the colour of a kitten's fur being a big factor in determining whether it will have a home or have to be destroyed. (Black cats aren't really agents of Satan you know.)

We had a great rehearsal and one of those wonderful shared lunches where people generously provide food and it all works together to be a bountiful and delicious meal, made better by good company and the sharing of music.

One of my fellow singers confided in me that she had misread my recent blog post about my discovery of the television show "Survivor".  When I wrote that I'm "hooked" on the show, she read it as "booked".  She suddenly saw me in a whole new light.  We both thought this was very funny.  I concluded that I'd be able to play a great social game, but would be a waste of time in the physical challenges.  I'd have to make everyone love me enough not to care.

I drove home and spent the rest of the afternoon at the piano.  A great way to spend Saturday.

TO WIN a double passto see "2 Days in New York" comment on this post, telling us where you'd like to spend two days and why.  Entries close next Friday, 30 November.  Winners will be announced on the blog.  Don't forget to check back and see if you've won - you'll need to provide your mailing address details.

Passes are valid during the season in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and the ACT.

Good luck!

Friday, 23 November 2012

2 Days in New York - giveaway

Image courtesy Hopscotch Films
My friends at Hopscotch Films continue their wonderful streak of generosity by sharing the love with readers of divacultura.  They've given me three double passes to share with readers to see "2 Days in New York".  I really enjoyed the 2007 film "2 Days in Paris" .

Check out the trailer here.

Here's some more info from Hopscotch about the film:

"Julie Delpy strikes back - as writer, director and actor - with a 'sequel' to her much-loved success '2 Days in Paris', a film that redifined the words 'romantic' and 'comedy'.  Picking up a few years down the line, neurotic Marion (Delpy) has broken up with boyfriend Jack and now lives with a new love and child in the Big apple,  Marion's new beau is Mingus (Chris Rock), a radio host and journalist, and they live cozily in a New York apartment.  But their life is upended by a two-day visit from Marion's French family: her jolly father, her oversexed sister and her sister's outrageous boyfriend.  The French trio hilariously have no boundaries or filters...and no person is left unscathed.  The different cultural backgrounds make for an explosive mix, and a deliciously witty romp of a film."

TO WIN a double pass comment on this post, telling us where you'd like to spend two days and why.  Entries close next Friday, 30 November.  Winners will be announced on the blog.  Don't forget to check back and see if you've won - you'll need to provide your mailing address details.

Passes are valid during the season in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and the ACT.

Good luck!

Survivor - leadership study on a Saturday afternoon.

I'm hooked on the television show, "Survivor".  It's the 25th series, but I've never watched it before.  Now that I've discovered the show, I'm not sure how I've been oblivious.

This season is set in the Philippines and life is hard.  The setting is beautiful, but the rain is consistent, the food is basic and the challenges are physically tough.

I happened to turn on the television last Saturday afternoon and the first episode of the season was on, followed immediately by the second episode.  I quickly became absorbed.  It was great study for the leadership and team work that I am currently facilitating with some clients.

I watched as people who clearly wanted to be leaders, pretended that they didn't want to take on that role.  They then turned into the worst kind of autocrat, bossing around their fellow tribe members and barking orders with the expectation of no consultation.  It was interesting to watch the reactions of the people being bossed.  They disengaged and started to plot the demise of their resident dictator.  It was clear from their comments that they felt disrespected and undervalued.

Equally interesting was seeing people who carry leadership with them just by the way they are in the group.  They don't assert authority but they win respect by engaging with the people around them, being diligent in their work and contributing positively to the welfare of the group.  They become seen as leaders by the group.  This is what I call informal leadership - there's no formal designation, but a person can still be the leader.

I was recently working with a group of people who are seen by the business as being in leadership positions.  Interestingly, the people themselves did not see themselves as being in leadership positions, or as having any leadership responsibility.  They were leading projects and agendas rather than a specific team of people.  They didn't accept the idea of informal leadership and railed against the idea of being leaders at all.

Ironically, one of them raised "Survivor" as a leadership example.  They talked about the scheming and political aspect where people are often lying to each other because ultimately "Survivor" is a game which requires players to work with their fellow tribe members to build a world, while plotting and scheming to be the last person standing.   They used this idea of selfishness to justify their views that openness and honesty are not requirements of leadership.

I despaired.  The ultimate end of this argument is that they see their workplace as being a brutal, winner takes all environment.  I have no doubt that many places are like this, but I know that's not the current reality at this place.

Anyway, I'm keen to see more of "Survivor" and what happens when the numbers reduce even further.  One tribe has already been decimated with the remaining two players, Malcolm (swoon) and Denise being merged into the other two tribes.  Joining an already established group can be tricky and it's been interesting to see the delicate dance as people check each other out, trying to determine whether they are a friend or a threat and determining allegiance.

I think this is what's so addictive.  We are all doing this kind of thing everyday.  Watching a group of people in a pressured environment is fascinating.  I can't believe I have missed twenty four years of this study!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Christmas windows - how do they happen?

As I walked out of the building after 6pm today where I'd been working with a corporate client, a team of about twelve people, dressed in yellow high visibility vests, were putting up the Christmas tree.

There they were, a strangely mismatched family.  There was one woman amongst eleven men and she was busy unpacking the boxes.  The men were busily unfurling the branches and leaves of the Christmas tree itself.  The frame for the tree was standing ready and it was very large.  I wondered how long it would take to erect the tree, let alone to decorate it.

Two older men were standing up and deep in conversation as they fiddled and twiddled their sprigs of spruce.  Another young man, sat to one side, grimly intent on his task.  There was something incongruous about the men at this task, but I can't quite work out what it was.  It made me smile.

I remember putting together my brother's Christmas tree last year.  It was very large, but it took quite a bit of time.  Not reading the instructions or having an understanding of the basic shape of a pine tree  made the task more difficult.  It may have taken me about an hour.  I can't imagine when the task will be finished for these workers.  The tree was probably going to be five times larger (at least) and there would probably be hundreds of pieces to put in place.

I wonder whether these people like their work.  They may be staff of the organisation, but they looked more like a team of people who go around doing window displays and it just happens to be Christmas displays at this time of year.  I wonder if they enjoy their work.  Do they take pleasure in this seasonal tradition?

I imagine them returning to a home bare of any decoration.  Certainly there would be nothing requiring assembly at their place.  I wonder what they gather around on Christmas morning at their place.

Personally I enjoy the colour and cheer Christmas decorations bring, but I don't often decorate my own home.  I don't like the waste and consumption that often goes with cheap, quick decorations.  I'd rather have one, very special, treasured ornament that is displayed each year and carefully laid away until the following year.

Gone are the days of spraying "Santa snow" on the windows of the house.  It's summer here, so that makes no sense at all!  But I do love to put some Christmas music on the stereo to sing along to.  I know it's inconsistent, but imitating Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" croon, makes me feel silly and Christmassy.

What's your approach to Christmas decorations?  Do you have a tree?  Real or plastic?  How about lights?  Do you drain the eastern seaboard of electricity when you flick the Christmas switch or perhaps you light a candle with a thought of someone special?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Monday, 19 November 2012

My reading list

The pile never seems to get smaller!  I'm actually quite content with that - I know I will never run out.

My book group met yesterday to discuss "The Secret Scripture" by Sebastian Barry.  It was given to me as a birthday gift last year by a friend who adored it.  She and I generally like each others' choices, so I knew it would be a winner when I recommended it to my book group.

If you haven't read this book, put it on your "must read" list.  Roseanne Clear is one hundred years old and living in an asylum in Ireland when she starts to write down her life story.  Dr Grene is the resident psychiatrist faced with the demolition of the asylum and the need to decide where the patients should go.  He is trying to discover Roseanne's story, in particular, the circumstances of her committal.  Through these two characters we are exposed to the twists and complications of twentieth century Irish history.  Again, I am left wondering about the role of love in the Catholic church.

I'm revisiting the beginnings of New Journalism with a collection of essays from Gay Talese.  His book, "Thy Neighbour's Wife" was on the reading list for the New Journalism subject I took at university.  I read all the others, but somehow missed this one.  One of his most famous essays gives the title to the collection I've borrowed from the library, "Frank Sinatra has a cold".  It's marvellous.  The first essay in the collection is called Vogueland and was written in 1961 about Vogue magazine.  He is a wonderful writer and I'm enjoying these shorter pieces.

The next selection for the book group was featured recently on the Tuesday Night Book Club on ABC television.  I didn't see the program, but the woman who served me at the bookstore told me they have sold three hundred copies since the show aired.  The book is "Crossing to Safety" by Wallace Stegner, with an introduction by Jane Smiley (one of my favourite authors).  Apparently he's one of the most important American authors of the late twentieth century.  It's incredible that I've never heard of Wallace Stegner as the last fifty years of the twentieth century American literature is where I focus a lot of my reading, starting with subjects at university.  Very happy to discover him now.  The book looks terrific.

Hilary Mantel's second Man Booker Prize winner is "Bring up the Bodies" which my book group will read over the summer break, as is our custom with the Booker Prize winner.  It's (mostly) an enjoyable tradition.  Some of us are feeling less than happy at the prospect of this one.

On the non-fiction pile are:

"How Music Works" by David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame)
"Flourish" by Martin Seligman
"Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer
"I'm Ok - you're Ok" by Thomas A Harris
"As One - individual action, collective power" by Mehrdad Baghai and James Quigley

Lastly is "The Sweet Poison Quit Plan" by David Gillespie.  It's become my go to guide, rather than a book I'm reading from beginning to end.

That should keep me occupied for a while.  What are you reading?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Quitting sugar - two weeks down

It's now two weeks since I had my last serve of sugar.  At the recommendation of my doctor I am following the eight week program devised by Sarah Wilson.  I'm also reading David Gillespie's book, The Sweet Poison Quit Plan, which has lots of useful information about how to interpret food labels and understand what's what.

I have a sweet tooth and some bad habits have crept in - like the standard piece of white chocolate with my evening cup of tea.  I also am often fed by the clients I work with.  Generally the lunches include a selection of salads and sandwiches, so that's easy enough.  It's the morning and afternoon tea plates that are challenging - plates of fruit and plates of cakes and biscuits.  Fruit juice is standard and soft drinks are sometimes offered.  (During the detox phase, there's no fruit allowed and fruit juice is off the menu completely.)

During the week after a long day, I walked towards the train station.  It was after 6pm and I was feeling tired, hungry and generally strange.  I knew that I was feeling the symptoms of withdrawal.  My path home was flanked by all kinds of temptations and perhaps I would have stopped to have a smoothie from a juice bar.  I now shudder to think what I was actually ingesting.

I made it home without succumbing and made dinner as soon as I arrived.  It was healthy and satisfying.

Yesterday was another day of feeling flat with a dull headache and a sense of cotton wool wrapped around my head.  My skin is breaking out at the moment too - this could be down to the liquorice, fennel and spearmint tea I now have after meals to satisfy my craving to finish my meal with something sweet on my palate.

Trips to the supermarket take a lot longer now.  I've always spent most of my time in the fruit and vegetable section, but there's always the need to visit other aisles.  I'm now aware of the danger lurking in the breakfast cereal section.  Sauces are another danger zone.  I now no longer visit the confectionery aisle or the biscuit section.  The health food section was fascinating.  Even amongst the packages proclaiming "gluten free", "low fat", "suitable for people intolerant to lactose" sugar lurks.

I'm one quarter of my way through withdrawal.  Six weeks to go and so far, so good.  I'm very pleased that I've never taken sugar in my tea or coffee.  I'm also pleased at my decision to go cold turkey.  If I was to wean myself off sugar, I don't think I'd ever make it.  Rather than thinking of it as deprivation, I'm gathering knowledge and embracing the idea that sugar is poison in the quantities found in the modern diet - I'm not depriving myself, I'm boosting my health.

I've found some great organic sesame crackers which are sugar free and can be kept easily in my handbag for afternoon and morning tea.  And the avocados are sensational at the moment!  Great time of year to be doing this.

Have you quit sugar?  I'd love to hear your stories.

Train driver of the year

As the train approached North Melbourne station, the public address system crackled to life.  My heart sank.  This would surely mean a delay.

A friendly, blokey voice cheerfully greeted us: "Good morning passengers!  Isn't it a glorious day out there?  A bit of a shame if you have to go inside to work, but I'll get you there."

We looked up, eyes met and there were smiles and a few chuckles. Others noticed the ripple and removed their ear phones.  There was no bad news about delays.

He continued, as though in conversation with all of us.

"Hey, you know how they are talking about all the cuts to the defence force budgets?  Well I read that in response, the navy has started to subsidise their own operations.  You wouldn't believe it, but they're growing oranges!  I know!  I couldn't believe it either.  Seems a bit strange, but I did read it on the sticker.  It was stuck to the orange I was eating.  Said it was naval. So there you go, you learn something every day.  It's an amazing world."

Laughter rippled around the carriage.  We settled back to our books and phones and music.

The speaker crackled to life again.

"I've heard reports about trouble with points around North Melbourne station this morning.  Some of you might have heard about them too.  So before I left Williamstown I rang up to check how things were going.  They said that it's been fixed, but here we are sneaking in to North Melbourne because I'm getting signals to slow down.  So we'll see how we go.  Hopefully there won't be too much of a delay.  And to that fella in the first carriage, I haven't forgotten about you."

I was travelling in the front carriage and there was a man in a wheelchair.  He was nodding and smiling in response. He was clearly "that fella" who would need assistance to disembark.

We pulled into North Melbourne station about a minute later.  The man in the wheelchair was greeted by the train driver.  He looked exactly as I imagined him - greying hair, big smile, humorous outlook and what seemed to be love of his job and love of other people.

I enjoyed the interaction immensely.  I hope to be taken to town or taken home by this man again.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The killing of the horses

Last night I cried my eyes out.  There was a story on the ABC's 7:30 about the fate of "failed" race horses in Australia.  (The link takes you to the story - be warned it contains graphic footage of horse slaughter.)

Just moments after the end of the Spring Racing Carnival, thoroughbred racehorses who are deemed not suited to life as a racehorse are sold and often end up at the knackery.  This is euphemistically called "wastage".

Animals Australia has detailed information about what goes on in the Australian horse racing industry on their website.  They say about 15,000 thoroughbred foals are bred each year and about the same number of standard bred foals.

As I started to write this post this morning, I took a call from my brother who is a veterinarian specialising in equine care.  He hadn't seen the report so I told him about it.  As I was describing what I had seen, I was again overwhelmed with sadness.  There's something about horses with their liquid chocolate eyes that gets to me.

He himself has rescued some horses from the doggers, but says that not all the horses can easily be rescued as they are not easily managed and retrained.  He's worked in the US where they have a "no slaughter rule" which has led to other problems.

He talked me about a man he knows who owns a horse abattoir.  He buys horses and sorts through the ones that can be retrained.  As last night's report explains some of the horses are not right in the head and nothing can really be done with them.  The consensus seems to be it is better for everyone if these horses are euthanased.  Even with all this "wastage" the horse abattoir can not keep up with demand for the horse meat, largely for the pet food industry.

Then I started to think about the fact that many animal lovers own pets like dogs and cats.  They require meat in their diets and commercial pet foods contain horse meat - probably made from these failed racehorses.  There is a demand for these products too.  There are other options for pet food, but given how difficult it is to convince people not to buy animal products that are factory farmed, to eat themselves, I have little faith about the possibility of quelling demand for manufactured pet foods.  Even without the demand for pet food, I doubt the slaughter of horses would stop.

So many of these kinds of issues have twists and turns which makes it difficult to take an ideologically pure position.  At the very least, I think it's important that we all understand more about the welfare of the animals we use in pursuits like horse racing.  I don't understand why the killing - if it has to happen at all - is so heartless.  Last night's footage showed two horses in a blood soaked killing pen.  The first horse was shot in the head while the other horse looked on.  When the shot horse fell to the ground, smashing its head against the rails of the pen, the other horse backed away in what looked like fear.

I will acknowledge that I am aroused to tears when confronting scenes of animal suffering.  The horse racing scene in Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" is one of my favourite passages in literature.  He brings the race to life in such an exciting and realistic way.  And then the horse that Vronsky is riding falls and has to be put down.  She is shot on the race track.  I cried reading this passage (even as I write this, I have tears in my eyes.)

Maybe I'm just a sook, but I feel that surely we can do better than this.  Surely this is a poor reflection on us as human beings.  It seems like such a waste.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

On the trains in Melbourne

There are a lot of uniformed personnel on and around Melbourne's trains at the moment.  On the trains themselves, none of them are conductors, or people whose sole focus is to assist the travelling public.  Around stations there are many people who have this focus.  Here's what I've noticed this week.

Yesterday I was travelling to the city just before noon.  At Footscray station three Authorised Officers boarded the carriage in which I was travelling.  They each carried a hand held myki reader and their purpose was to check that every traveller had a valid ticket.  I haven't had a lot to do with Authorised Officers, but I have read some bad reports so I watched with interest as they went about their work.

The two men and one woman looked smart in their uniforms and had an air of congeniality about them as they interacted within themselves.  I heard that the passenger behind me was very politely asked for his myki.  The ticket was checked and they moved on to me.  This time I was acknowledged with a friendly greeting and a polite request for my myki.  As it showed my ticket as valid I was thanked and wished a good day.  The interaction was quick, polite and pleasant.  I wondered what would happen if - when - they encountered a fare evader.

As an afterthought to our conversation I mentioned that one of the myki readers at Seddon station was faulty and gave details.  They made a note and thanked me for the information.  That saved me a phone call.  (My station is an unstaffed station, so unless members of the community take responsibility for reporting equipment failures, problems can be left unaddressed for a long time.)

Further forward in the carriage, one of the two men was in a longer discussion with a male and female passenger who appeared to be travelling together.  I couldn't hear what was being said, but the body language suggested that there was a problem.  The level of engagement still looked polite and friendly from a distance.  It was my stop, so I wasn't able to observe this conversation for very long.

If every Authorised Officer goes about their work as this trio did, then they are excellent ambassadors for their organisation.  (I'm not actually sure for whom they work.)  With this kind of outlook the Authorised Officers are in a great position to educate the travelling public, rather than taking a punitive approach which focusses on "catching people".

From the train I went to the tram stop.  Two aqua clad myki mates were talking to each other.  As soon as passengers arrived at the tram stop, they approached each person at the stop to see if they had any questions about myki.  Again, I was impressed with their friendly demeanour and proactive approach to engage with the travelling public, rather than waiting to be approached.

At the end of the day I was back at Flinders Street Station for my journey home.  One of the signs in the pedestrian subway entrance (under Elizabeth Street) was impossible to read because of a combination of poorly placed lighting and a screen malfunction. The sign contained departure information for four lines, so was pretty important.  There was one person staffing the gates so I asked him if anyone had given him feedback about the sign.  He said no and walked towards me.  I pointed out the problem and he thanked me for letting him know.  He said that he never looks at the sign and that it was impossible to read.  He walked back to his post and made a note.  Again, he was proactive and interested in helping the travelling public.

I will admit that I was expecting a shrug of the shoulders and a "promise" to do something without any intention.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It will be interesting to see what action is taken in response to this feedback.

By contrast, as I walked across the main concourse at Flinders Street station this evening on my way home, I followed five Protective Services Officers.  They were an intimidating pack with their sunglasses (reflective?) and police-like outfits.  They were all men and their body language radiated authority.  They were going to the same platform as me and when I saw them looking around with purpose, I suddenly felt nervous.


A story from Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink" sprang to mind.  He talks about police behaviour.  In one police district in the US police brutality and police shootings occurred more often when police worked in pairs or bigger groups.  They switched to police working solo and saw a drop in these kinds of incidents.  The decrease was attributed to less instinctive, "blink of an eye" decision-making when police worked alone.  In this situation they were more likely to be cautious, wait for backup and not act in a way that escalated encounters.  (This is a very short summary, so read the book for the whole picture.)  Observing this group of Protective Services Officers brought this story to life at that moment.

I think it is good to send a message about safety on public transport, especially the trains and especially outside peak times.  As a committed, frequent and female public transport user, it is very important to me to be confident that I can travel safely.  I wonder if these intimidating men, presented as pseudo-police is really the way to achieve this?

So despite a crawl into the city this morning and a message yesterday telling me the service I had planned my day around "will not run", overall, I'm feeling a little more positive about the attitude of our public transport operators towards me, the travelling public.

How do you feel about public transport?  Do you use it?  Why?  Why not?

Monday, 12 November 2012

And the winners are....

Congratulations to Mousicles, John B. Cahill and Merryn!  You've each won a double pass to see "Bachelorette".

Please send me an email with your mailing address and I'll post your passes to you.

Thanks for sharing such great stories too.

You can read their responses to talk about the person they've known longest and where they met over here.

Keep reading for more chances to win!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Open Day at the Abbotsford Convent - includes Sunday slideshow

Full bike racks at the Abbotsford Convent Open Day
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Today my vocal group, Living Out Loud, sang at the Abbotsford Convent's Open Day.  The day was a great example of what happens when a heritage precinct like the Convent is put to good use and opens its doors to the community.  The Convent has many artists in residence and today is an opportunity to meet them, see their work and sometimes participate.  With venues like the "Bishop's Parlour", "Mother Superior's Chamber" every corner turned is a revelation steeped in history and religion.

Convent Courtyard
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We sang in the Convent Courtyard just after 1pm.  The courtyard is home to a big old shady tree, perfect to cluster under on a sunny day like today.  Some people were lounging in the sun and the shade, others were milling and others were purposefully striding towards their next activity.  The crowd was appreciative and we sang well in the relaxed environment.  This is one of my favourite kinds of gigs - relaxed and enjoyable.

Today's performance space
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A glimpse of Juliet
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As we finished, Complete Works Theatre made great use of the space during their Pop Up Theatre performance.  The balcony scene was performed with great gusto and humour, Juliet perched high up on the balcony and Romeo down in the courtyard amongst the audience.  The performers were marvellous and brought the scene and characters well and truly to life.

Drum circle
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After singing, I walked through the grounds on my way home.   Pretty soon I was heading in the direction of an African drum circle.  A handsome man from Guinea was leading the circle with charm and exuberance.  From the outside, it sounded a bit like a rabble and his sharp slaps cut across the muddy sounds.  The circle stopped and some people stood up to leave.  I quickly found a seat, slipped my rings off and took up the djembe that was waiting for me.  There were lots of children paying close attention to the rhythm of the slap and bass.  One tiny little boy perched on a chair and started to immediately hit the drum in time.  His face was red and shiny with sweat and sunscreen under his blue terry towelling hat.  His eyes never left the leader and he picked up the rhythms quickly.

The enjoyment amongst the circle was infectious.  Strangers were smiling at each other.  Parents looked at their children in wonder as they imitated complex patterns and followed instructions, their attention never wavering.

We finished our round and I wandered off towards the smell of a barbecue and the sounds of samba, past some market stalls, stopping off at a garden tap to refill my water bottle.

Abbotsford Convent angles
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Courtyard corner
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Rosina Dormitory building, Abbotsford Convent
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I had caught a taxi from the city to avoid the stress of trying to park and now needed to find a way home. (The taxi driver had no idea where I was going and asked me to direct him.  I reckon there should be a discount if you have to navigate for the taxi driver.)  I walked towards Victoria Street in Richmond.  The street I was on was a mixture of old factories and warehouses, older homes and apartment blocks, as well as funky new buildings.  Big plane trees cast their dappled shade making the walk even more enjoyable.  The peace was broken as I approached Victoria Street.  A Vietnamese music shop was blaring out some kind of Asian pop, smashing the magic bubble I'd been in all afternoon.

I watched the passing multicultural parade as I waited for the 109 tram.  Five tall African girls arrived, carrying numerous plastic bags of shopping and dragging a small boy along.  I assume he was the little brother.  He looked happy enough.  I marvelled at the shape of the girls - looooooong thin legs, compact torsos, long willowy arms, plump backsides, long necks and beautiful faces with their white teeth and eyes flashing when they smiled.

If you're in Melbourne, you don't have to wait for next year's open day to enjoy a day out.  There are regular markets and the cafes and bakery are great to visit.  There's lots of information on their website.  The Good Hustle at the Shadow Electric Bar is on my list, not only for the music lineup, but also for the "meterage" of ping pong tables!

How did you spend your Sunday?  Got any tales to tell?

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Vibe or Vile?

Hotels are interesting places.  I started and finished my stay at the Vibe in Sydney with an argument.  I find the attitudes towards guests vary wildly - some are delighted to have guests, others are contemptuous and seem to do everything possible to ensure you don't come back.  Ever.  The attitudes don't seem to bear any relationship to the number of stars or the price of a room.

On arrival at the hotel, I discovered they wished to "hold" or "pre-authorise" $200 on my credit card and take a copy of my driver's licence.  The $200 would not be available again on my credit card until "at least" 24 hours after checking out.  This last part is blamed on the banks.

I stay in a lot of hotels and understand the need for personal details and some kind of security.  As a matter of principle, I will not allow money to be held on my credit card if it is more than $1.  I'd prefer to leave a cash security deposit which can be refunded instantly.

After some wrangling I managed to negotiate $25 to held on my credit card and $175 to be paid via EFTPOS.  When it was done, the man who was serving me (the duty manager) "accidentally" put the transaction through as a purchase on the credit card.  He then refunded it and put it through again as a pre-authorisation.  The interesting thing about this is that they all come up as a debit on the credit card and therefore $50 had been debited to the credit card.   I had negotiated for $25 out of the credit card because that was the amount of available credit on the card.  The manager's mistake put me over the credit limit.  Thanks very much. It has taken three days for the reversal to come through on the actual card.

On enquiring about breakfast later in the evening I was asked if I'd like to book for the buffet.  I asked if that was necessary and was informed that breakfast without a booking costs $29, but with a booking it costs $20.  Lucky I checked.

I was upgraded to a junior suite and it is great to have extra  other than the bed.  That's an appreciated gesture, but doesn't remove my concerns about the hotel's credit card policy.

The most interesting and bizarre aspect of the conversation I had with the duty manager was his statement that the credit card policy is designed to keep me safe!  When I asked him to explain this he muttered something about being a "CBD hotel" with people coming an doing.  He was very displeased when I used the term "better class of guest".

Checking out was a very complex and fraught experience.  Firstly there were extra breakfasts and dinners and items from the mini bar which I had not incurred.  Then they tried to subtract the $25 credit card charge from the cash deposit I had left!  (They reduced the cash deposit from $175 to $150 on the bill before deducting all the phantom charges.)

It pays to check the bill in detail before you pay.  I've noticed that hotels often ask for payment and then you get a receipt.  After a few bad experiences I now ask to see a printed bill which I check before I pay.  It means they have to print two pieces of paper, but I don't think it's reasonable to ask for payment without providing details.

I think it's quite revealing that the staff at the hotel were put in a position where they were apologising for the hotel's credit card policy and agreeing that it is onerous and unfair.  The cutest part of all is that the bill will automatically be paid with the credit card provided on check in.  That attracts a 1.5% surcharge regardless of the card used.

Once settled I asked for the copy of my driver's licence to be returned to me and left as quickly as I could.


To win one of three in-season double passes to "Bachelorette": leave a comment at the end of this blog telling us where you met your oldest friend.  Entries close Saturday 10 November 2012.  Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on the blog and contacted individually.

Good luck!

* Passes are valid even with a "no free tickets" listing at participating Australian cinemas.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Vignettes - moments of the day

Today I ate lunch in Degraves Street, feeling like I was somewhere in Europe.  Apart from the large number of French tourists who seem to be in town, there was a man playing the piano accordion outside the art shop.  Women were wearing espadrilles on their feet.  Men were being led around by tiny white dogs.


Waiting for a tram on Toorak Road outside South Yarra Station, I watched the four wheel drives spill their high-heeled, well heeled women onto the footpath.  A growing crowd waited for the tram.  Three sharp bangs rang out.  Gunshots? I looked up from my book and wondered whether I should call someone.  Who? No one else flinched.  Bystander Syndrome got us.


Waiting for (another tram) in Toorak Village, I was standing in front of a shop window.  A woman walked directly towards me and nudged me out of the way to see the contents of the shop window.  Her head seemed too big for her body.  Her hair was freshly set to "huge" and her mascara wandered down her cheeks.  The cardigan she wore poked out at the angle of her bones.  She was one of those rich Toorak women whose lips look too youthful for the rest of her.  She looked like she could barely stand up right.


On day two of the "I Quit Sugar" program, I've turned into Homer Simpson and am dreaming of donuts.  I don't eat donuts, but suddenly they are looming large in my mind.  I was ready to have a headache.  I was ready to be cranky.  I don't have either of these symptoms except to emulate Homer.   I suppose I can file that under "C" or cravings.


An envelope inside my post office box was from an unexpected address.  I opened the envelope and found a birthday card from a client, full of wonderful thoughts and comments about me and my work.  What a lovely gesture!  A great and consistent reflection of the mindset of this particular client.  Nice touch.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Back from the country

I've been away for a few days, taking advantage of today being a public holiday in Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup.  Here's what I wrote on 3 November:

I'm sitting at a big old wooden table in a room with a fire place, flowers on the table and rugs on the floorboards.  I'm at a country house and all the other guests are out at a wedding.  This is excellent!

I lost my way on the journey here.  The information on the maps on my iphone was accurate to a point and then it didn't seem to match what I was seeing out the window.  Instead of following my instinct, I followed the technology and went in a very big, albeit very scenic, circle.  Sometimes I think country roads and signs are designed to make sure you never find your way unless you're really determined - they stop the country turning into the city.

I met up with a friend from college in Kyneton on the way through.  We worked out that it's probably 20 years since we last saw each other, yet when I saw her walking down the street I knew it was her. It was as if no time at all had passed.  There was a lot to share and rediscover, including news from other mutual friends.

After university we went out separate ways and she moved interstate.  At that stage we wrote to each other regularly.  (It was the '90's.)  We shared the details of our lives in long letters, first handwritten and then typed on a computer.  Paradoxically, with the advent of email we lost touch, but found each other again through facebook.

We sat in the park talking while her eight year old son played nearby in the playground.  It was so lovely and we imagined our next meeting taking place in another twenty years:  I took out my mimed walking frame and instead of running towards each other with arms open, we creaked slowly, probably to the 4:30pm dinner sitting at the local RSL.

It will be sooner rather than later that we see each other again.  After all she was the person who taught me the word "aspic" when I was stuck on a clue in a crossword.  I think of her whenever I hear the word "aspic".  Doesn't really do her justice - she's nothing like savoury jelly.

After we said goodbye I drove out to the country house.  I found a note from the owners, Steve and Sue saying to call on arrival.  The problem was that I had no reception on my mobile phone.  It was a nice afternoon so I found a spot in the garden and read my book for about an hour, hoping that someone would turn up.  No one did.

I decided to drive back into town in the hope that I could find a phone box or spot with mobile phone reception.  I found what seemed to be the last phone box in town and scrounged sixty cents in coins - the minimum required being 50 cents.  The number was switched off or out of range and I had no more coins.  I headed back to a French delicatessen where the owner kindly allowed me to call from his phone.  (I gave him a gratitude card as I left - I don't know what I would have done without being able to use his phone.)

I drove back to the house and Steve let me in, showed me my room and the herb garden and how to work the fire.
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Michael Nyman piano music is playing and the fire is down to glowing coals.  It's been a memorable day.

4 November

Waking up in a house full of friendly strangers is something I haven't done for ages.  I did it this morning.  I've never networked in my bathrobe before but that was the situation so I embraced the opportunity.

We sat out in the wild garden eating freshly laid eggs, laced with herbs from the garden, bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms.  The wit and conversation flowed until the other guests left.
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I then spent the day poking along the streets of Kyneton.  Within minutes I had bought a jar of locally made chilli jam.  A little while later a gorgeous French grey linen dress had been added to my wardrobe.

Pizza Verde in Piper Street served up a hot salami pizza with provolone cheese and a side of green beans in olive oil, lemon and parmesan cheese for lunch.

A spot of reading and a delicious dinner of fresh salad greens, avocado and roast chicken was the perfect way to finish a leisurely day.


To win one of three in-season double passes to see "Bachelorette": leave a comment at the end of this blog post telling us where you met your oldest friend.  Entries close Saturday 10 November 2012.  Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on the blog and contacted individually.

Good luck!

* Passes are valid even with a "no free tickets" listing at participating Australian cinemas.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

I've got the public transport ticketing blues.

Yesterday I lost my myki card.  I'd been travelling around all morning, flitting from one appointment to the next and when I boarded the tram at the end of the day I could not find the card.  I got on the tram anyway, thinking that the card was probably buried somewhere in the dark corners of my handbag.  For the duration of the journey I rummaged but disembarked without any sign of the card.

Due to my participation on the myki customer experience panel, I have acquired a small pile of myki cards.  I have participated in various activities where I've had to purchase a card - from a machine, online, from the call centre, from a station...I didn't particularly want to fork out $11 on a new card + the fare just to get home.

I lined up at the ticket window at Flinders Street Station only to discover the only tickets that are now available is myki.  No paper tickets are available any more.  I found myself face to face with the biggest problem with myki - the lack of a short term, one off ticket option.  The man at the ticket window said that a paper metcard can still be purchased from a machine on board a tram as long as I have coins.  I had coins, so decided to board a tram to Southern Cross station.  I could buy a ticket on the way and then catch a train from there.  After 29 December this won't be an option and there is still no sign of a short term ticketing option.

I started to feed my money into the ticket machine.  The money was sluggish going through the slot and I couldn't hear it dropping into the machine.  The display also was not showing the $4 I had fed in.  I pressed the cancel button in the hope my money would come back, but it didn't.  The machine shut down and I was left with no ticket, no coins and no options.

The tram driver said there was nothing he could do and handed me a leaflet with a phone number to call.  He advised me to record the serial number of the tram and the ticket machine.  I left the tram.

The myki discovery centre at Southern Cross Station was open, so I went in and caught the eye of one of the aqua clad "myki mates".  A woman greeted me with a friendly smile, took me straight to the telephone so I could report my myki lost.  Luckily I had registered it, so a block could be placed on the card and the unused balance on the card refunded.  The blocking was done in the blink of an eye and with $20 on the card I was very pleased that I had registered it.  The balance will be put on another card which I will receive in the mail.  To have the balance transferred to one of the cards I already have, I would have to fill in the refund/replacement card form which would then have to be posted in.  I decided not to bother.

I was given a replacement myki at no charge and was able to top it up with $5 to get me home.  Phew.  While the replacement process is still a bit clunky, the customer service aspect was excellent.  I do wonder why so many forms and postage is required for processes attached to a "smart" card.  Why can't I speak to someone on the phone and then be handed a replacement card with the balance from my other card on it while I'm at the discovery centre?  The back office processes could be completed without needing anything further from me and be much more efficient.

While dreaming of greater efficiency and truly customer-centric approaches from government agencies, I came face to face with the Metcard system when I called to report the faulty machine and organise to get my money back.  I can now see why myki has some of the design "features" it has - they have been lifted directly from Metcard.  Here's what happens when a machine has malfunctioned.

I called and provided the serial number of the ticket machine and the tram number.  They would get a technician to check the machine.  Simple.

To get my money back, I had to fill in a form.  I was sitting in front of my computer while I was on the phone, and was directed to a website.  I was to type the words "metcard refund application" into the search box.  The first option from the list was the one I was to select.  I received an error message advising that the website no longer existed.  The customer service officer emailed me a form.  The form can not be lodged electronically.  It can't even be filled out on the computer and then printed.  It must be printed, filled in by hand and then posted in.  My printer driver is not working so I can't print anything at the moment.  Another copy of the form is being mailed to me.

Once I fill out the form and send it in, I will receive a cheque for my refunded amount.  Sound familiar?  This is the process they used to go through for a myki refund. 

I asked whether I could provide the number for a myki card and have the balance topped up onto that card, rather than requiring a bank cheque to be purchased for $10.  No, there is no possible way that can be done.  I'm actually pretty sure it is possible.  The process just isn't set up that way. I think the system was designed to deter people from getting small amounts of money back when a machine malfunctions - another clue that the customer is a long way from the centre of their universe.

The other thing I discovered is that the $9.80 administration fee for gaining a refund does not apply when a machine has malfunctioned, but it will apply to people surrendering their metcards and switching to myki!  I suppose that will cover the cost of the refund to me, but people with metcards, need to get cracking and use them all up before the end of the year.


To win one of three in-season double passes to see "Bachelorette": leave a comment at the end of this blog post telling us where you met your oldest friend.  Entries close Saturday 10 November 2012.  Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on the blog and contacted individually.

Good luck!

* Passes are valid even with a "no free tickets" listing at participating Australian cinemas.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Win film passes - 3 to give away.

Image courtesy Hopscotch Films

My friends at Hopscotch Films have generously provided three double passes to the film "Bachelorette" for divacultura readers.*

"Bachelorette" was an official selection in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and stars Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan and Rebel Wilson.

From Hopscotch Films: 

A group of best friends since high school reunite in Manhattan for the wedding of their pal Becky (Wilson), who they cruelly nickname Pig Face. There's the competitive, Princeton-grad ice-queen Regan (Dunst), who begrudgingly accepts her role as maid of honour despite her horror that her less-attractive friend is getting married before her; cynical wild-child Gena (Caplan), who's determined to confront her high school ex who broke her heart; and the ditzy Katie (Fisher), who is all bubbly exterior until you scratch the surface. 
The single ladies are determined to put their bitterness aside and have an awesomely hedonistic bachelorette party. Armed with razor-sharp insults, a free spirit for fun and a pack of groomsmen, these modern femmes (or mean girls!) embark on one very long and emotional night of misadventure. Bachelorette is the debut feature by writer/director Leslye Headland and is a sassy, funny and sometimes romantic ride that never forgets to celebrate the complexities of female friendship.

You can watch the trailer here.

To win one of three in-season double passes: leave a comment at the end of this blog telling us where you met your oldest friend.  Entries close Saturday 10 November 2012.  Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on the blog and contacted individually.

Good luck!

* Passes are valid even with a "no free tickets" listing at participating Australian cinemas.