Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Being 15 again - or where's the thermostat?

After spending Christmas in Queensland with my family, I found myself sitting in the backseat of my parents' car with Alfie, the dog, driving back to the farm in NSW. Suddenly I was fifteen again. The radio in the car was intermittent and when it worked, was permanently tuned in to the cricket with heavy dose of static. The only thing worse than cricket on TV is cricket on the radio. The CD player has given up the ghost. This may have been a blessing as the selection was likely to include Slim Dusty live in Wagga Wagga. I put my earphones in and listened to my ipod. I'm enjoying discovering the dark corners of my music collections by setting it to shuffle all songs; although with my eclectic taste in music there can be moments of surprise as I lurch from Miles Davis to Michael Nyman and everything in between. Most startling is the voice recordings of invoices to do for my brother that have made their way onto my ipod the last time I synced. The move from Mozart to "standard horse dental" is quite confusing - especially if it happens when I'm dozing.

Overall the trip was pretty good and I've been enjoying the garden at my parents' home. It is alive with birds and native wildlife.

On the first afternoon I spotted a large koala in one of the trees in the front yard. I marveled at its strength as it was able to rest on two twigs and happily sleep while the branches blew in the breeze. He looked down at me and stretched, giving me a good glimpse of his strong claws. At one point he growled, reminding me that he was a wild animal and not a cute cuddly toy.

At dusk every evening, a tiny rabbit and a family of kangaroos come in to graze on the green lawn. I've discovered that the kangaroos rest under the bushy row of oleanders that shield the house from the road. I'm trying to sneak out and capture them on film, but so far my efforts have resulted in lovely shots of grass with a dark smudge in a far corner as the kangaroo hops away.

Yesterday while Alfie and I were out for our evening stroll, he went one way and I went the other. Suddenly I heard a yelp and Alfie streaked past me. I couldn't see what he was chasing but wasn't concerned because he's slowing in his old age. When he was younger, he'd give everything in pursuit of hares and kangaroos, but now he's back to a more sedate pace and seems to run just for the enjoyment.

White cockatoos are noisy in the trees at any time of day. They chatter amongst themselves, sometimes amiably and at other times they sound like a cranky parent arguing with the children. Whenever I open the door to go out, the noise crescendos and dozens of birds fly overhead, a slight tinge of yellow visible in their white wingspans.

The other challenge I face while with my parents is temperature control. Anything higher than "polar" causes my mother to declare that she's hot. Constant questions about whether the temperature is right for me result in nothing, despite constant responses that I can't speak because I'm busy chipping away at the layer of ice that has formed all over my body. I blink my eyes and ask if she can hear that noise - it's the sound of ice cracking on my eyelashes. The thermostat on the car remains on 18 degrees Celsius. The thermostat in the house remains on 20 degrees Celsius. At one point my teeth were chattering and this too resulted in no further action except silent contemplation. As I was travelling during summer, I didn't think to pack my thermals, but clearly I should have. I'll have to remember for my next visit.

That's all I can manage to write today as I'm not wearing my fingerless gloves while I type. Knitting some is out of the question as my fingers would surely snap off while underway and the resulting trip to the hospital on New Year's Eve is too much to contemplate, especially since I'd be travelling in the car with that layer of ice forming. At least I won't bleed to death. I empathise with the people on the boat stranded in the Antarctic ice at the moment.

I don't understand what happens to mothers and temperature control. When I was younger my mother's sole mission was to ensure that I was warm enough. This quest resulted in me always being required to wear singlet and socks to ensure no loss of body heat. At one stage I defined a singlet as "something you wear when your mother's cold". What happened?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas wishes - with a twist

I'm switching off for Christmas holidays. I'll be spending time with family, heading off to music camp to write my annual song and generally lying around with a book (well, my e-reader actually).

Thank you to you, my readers; you add a very special dimension to divacultura. Knowing you're out there means a lot.

I wish you peace, joy and love - whatever your beliefs.

Or in "Spanish":

For lease navidad!
© divacultura 2013
NB I did not deface this sign, just noticed it in the street and laughed out loud. Now try getting the song out of your head!

Friday, 20 December 2013

A new take on Christmas carols - for the psychiatrically challenged

I received this list from a member of my vocal group. I was eating toast when I read it and am still finding bits of soggy toast in the computer keyboard and stuck to the wall as a result of the guffaw that resulted as I read it. On one hand, it's lazy for me to repost this, but on the other hand, so accurate I'm thinking of including it in briefings for actors working in my mental health simulation program.

Thank you to whoever wrote this list!


Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?

Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Queens Disoriented Are

Amnesia --- I Don't Know if I'll be Home for Christmas

Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

Manic --- Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants and ...

Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Get Me

Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll tell You Why

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ---Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells .

Agoraphobia --- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day But Wouldn't Leave My House

Autistic --- Jingle Bell Rock and Rock and Rock and Rock .

Senile Dementia --- Walking in a Winter Wonderland Miles From My House in My Slippers and Robe

Oppositional Defiant Disorder --- I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus So I Burned Down the House

Social Anxiety Disorder --- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas While I Sit Here and Hyperventilate.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Just don't wish him "Merry Christmas" - neighbourly encounter

As I arrived home last night I encountered my whacko neighbour. I feel slightly bad describing Gottfried like that because I think he likes me.

I saw him walk in the front gate ahead of me and knew that we would meet at his front door. He was just putting the key in his door when I came around and the corner and said hello.

"Oh, it's you, Tanya. Hello Tanya! How are you Tanya?"

Did I mention that one of the things that freaks me out is that he drops my name every three or four words?

"Hello Gottfried."

"Tanya, don't tell me you're getting caught up in this Christmas thing! Tanya!"

I was carrying what looked like several bags, but really one was my handbag, one contained my mail and the other was a huge bag from David Jones which contained a new hat I had bought for the beach.

"Oh I don't know. There's lots to organise!" I said, overly cheerful.

"Well Tanya, I can imagine that you're..."

"No one will know what hit them," I quickly inserted, afraid of what he might say next.

"No Tanya. Nothing will hit anyone. You'll have everything so organised Tanya!"

Oh god, was that a blush I saw rising on his cheeks?

"I don't know about that Gottfried."

I changed the subject.

"I know that you don't celebrate Christmas or New Year, but have a nice time over this period whatever you do." (I'd previously been ungraciously chastised for having the temerity to wish him happy Christmas and new year in previous years.)

"Oh I'll be doing exactly what I usually do Tanya."

"Well enjoy that."

"I will Tanya. Thank you Tanya."

"Ok then..." I maneuvered to get past him and up the stairs to my place.

"I heard you playing the piano the other day Tanya," he added. "It was very nice Tanya. I'd like to hear more Tanya!"

"Thank you Gottfried. I was revisiting some Janis Ian."

"Well whatever it was, it was very nice. You should play more often Tanya."

He looked pleased with himself.

Compared to some of the exchanges we've had in the past, this one was quite pleasant. Since we have locked gates on the front of the property, people don't wander in and park in his vacant car space either. Perhaps this has relieved some ever-pressing stress.

Do you know your neighbours?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A wig is not a hat - rules for modern living.

There are some strange people out and about at the moment. I have two pieces of advice to offer. If heeded, I believe much trouble in the world could be saved.

1. A wig is not a hat.

It seems obvious at first. A wig is not a hat. As far as I know this is a statement of irrefutable fact, yet I have seen at least two people in the last two days - representative of both genders - who are labouring under the misapprehension that the opposite is true. They believe that a wig IS a hat. They must, otherwise, they would not be walking out of the house with that...that...arrangement sitting on their head.

I've looked a few times, maybe I've even stared. I should disclose one assumption that I'm making: that the thing on the head, which is hairy, is a wig. It may not be. It may be an actual hat which some milliner with an outrageous sense of humour, duped this poor woman into purchasing. Perhaps it was heavily discounted and in the bargain bin because to anyone else, it looked like a wig. Or like something scraped off the road with a shovel.

How can I describe the effect of the piece? Well it hangs before the face, like hairy drapes blowing in the wind. The rest of the outfit was very smart - crisp white shirt, houndstooth checked trousers with a black patent pump, but the smear of red lipstick was a little off. It wasn't quite the clown mouth, but one more lap with the Retro Red and the effect would have been more Ronald McDonald than Anna Wintour.

The woman in question engaged a staff member at Flinders Street Station in a conversation about how she had tried to buy chocolate, but the vendor said that its purchase price was 70,000 (what, I didn't quite hear). She went on at length to the man in the orange high-vis vest whom I suspected of not actually listening, until she posed the ultimate question: "How are you supposed to get ahead when that's the price of chocolate?"

I stopped myself from running over to her and answering: "Go into the chocolate business! And get that thing off your head! A wig is NOT a hat! That's how you get ahead!"

Although maybe she was actually asking how you are supposed to get "a head". Perhaps she was unaware that she already had a head, but then the wearing of the wig as if it was a hat would make no sense, as a head is an essential part of such an exercise.

2. A baby's jumpsuit is not a hat.

Again, this seems to be self-evident, but with another hot day forecast in Melbourne, I feel compelled to make this proclamation. On our last hot day, I spied a man wearing an electric blue, baby's jumpsuit on his head. It was very strange. I assume it was some kind of heat combat unit, but am mystified as to how this would work.

3. Leggings are not pants.

Again, I don't understand why there is any confusion about this.

Given all the uncertainty over head coverings, I have turned to the dictionary for the final word.

Dictionary.com says:

Wig:  an artificial covering of hair for all or most of the head, of either synthetic or natural hair, worn  to be stylish or more attractive. [emphasis mine].

Hat: a shaped covering for the head, usually with a crown and brim, especially for wear 

Those last few words in the definition of "wig" should clear it up for ever: "worn to be stylish or more attractive". I know they don't though as most times the wig fails to deliver. I will concede that a hat made of hair could also be a wig if the reason for wearing such a monstrosity was unclear. At this point I feel compelled to disclose that I own a wig. It is bright purple and I sometimes wear it to parties with the intention of being stylish. Mostly I don't wear it because I find it is hot and itchy.

Oh lord! All I can conclude is that if people are staring, chant the mantra "a wig is not a hat" and cover your leggings - they are not pants! Oh, and go into the chocolate business. (Unless "chocolate" is a slang term for whatever the kids are taking these days. In that case do not go into the "chocolate" business as I don't advocate the drug trade as a viable livelihood.)

Do you own a wig? Do you wear a wig? Is a wig a hat?

Monday, 16 December 2013

Playing in the park

I worked yesterday. On a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. I didn't mind a bit. In fact, I had a blast. I'd been engaged to provide some unusual entertainment at a group's Christmas Party.

The brief was to lead a group of people, who are used to speaking in public, in some "impro". Initially my heart raced. To many people watching any form of improvisation, it can seem like a piece of cake. It is - if you practise and train and hone your craft. It's not something that you just walk up and start doing. Whenever we watch skilled experts doing anything, they make it look easy and we often think we can just start at the same level. (This seems to happen with actors more than musicians).

I've learned that good improvisation has rules (which may seem counter-intuitive) and that there's an essential mindset that must be developed. These rules are quite opposite to how much of the world generally operates: "there are no mistakes", "say 'YES'", "don't edit, go with your instinct" and so on. So what to do with a group of novices for two hours at the Christmas party?

Start simple and emphasise fun and the value of letting go and trying stuff.  Before long people were removing - or rearranging - items of clothing, moving wildly to music, creating a barnyard of animals (everything from mosquitos to crocodiles, dogs to pigs and a koala who just hung onto a tree). We created an orchestra where every person was an instrument which had only one sound.

While we were hanging around waiting for everyone to arrive, as they introduced themselves, several people took the opportunity to put caveats on the extent of the participation for the afternoon:  "I don't sing." "I like watching, but don't want to do anything." "I'm not funny." "Just don't make me...[insert specific fear here]." As the afternoon progressed, I noticed that as more fun was had, inhibitions faded away and people threw themselves in. There were some genuinely funny moments as self-consciousness slipped away and people were appreciated for their offers.

There were some children also participating and they provided excellent instruction for the adults. Children don't hesitate to throw their bodies and souls into anything imaginative. At one point we were doing a word at a time story. It was pretty whacky already and then one of the children added a word which was unexpected. An adult "corrected" the child and offered the word that most of the group was probably expecting. Disappointment and fear flitted across her face. I asked her for her word again which she offered and that was the word incorporated as I reminded the group that there are no mistakes and the mantra is "yes". The level of discomfort in the group rose and then ebbed as the story progressed anyway.

I started thinking about how exciting the unexpected can be and wondering why our default is often to steer things to be how we expect them. I suppose it's a fear and a desire to control.

At the end of the afternoon, people were singing Christmas carols with the lyrics taken from the "Chairman's Guide to Meetings and Organisations" and "Real Estate Mistakes". Suddenly any idea that "I don't sing solo" had disappeared and people asked to have a go.

This was the perfect place to finish. For a couple of hours, the people had been able to play freely. Working in the beautiful gardens on a sunny Sunday afternoon, playing with people, was the best place I could have been. I love my work.

When was the last time you played?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Lunch with a stranger

After running some errands in the village, I decided to see if I could get a table for some lunch at the latest cafe/bakery that has opened in Yarraville. There was a baguette with cheddar and housemade dill pickles that had my name on it and a table to go with it! I took a seat, the last one vacant.

As I was pouring my water I overheard a woman who was looking for a quick bite for lunch. She was told there were no tables and as she turned to leave I offered her the other seat at my table. She accepted and the waiter was delighted.

Her name was Nadine and she was an ex-resident who had moved over the other side of the bridge and was really missing life in the village. She was doing some shopping and also coming over to have a full body salt scrub at a local salon.

We talked about sugar when she asked me how I had resisted the peanut butter and jelly on brioche sandwich. We were surrounded by things like salt caramel donuts and chocolate tarts. Thank goodness, I don't eat sugar anymore - I'd be eating those caramel donuts, I'm sure.

We talked about Christmas plans and she mentioned that her job was going to be "very intense" right up until the end of Christmas Eve. Naturally I asked her what she did for work and she said she worked for "Corrections". She told me she had been a case manager for the last four years and that she "absolutely loved it". She'd had 10 years in finance before that and saw the ad in the paper one day when she'd had enough. She told me that she loves her work because she feels she is making some small difference to world.

Just as we were getting into a really interesting conversation about the role of parole and recent tragedies caused by offenders who were on parole, she had finished her lunch and had to leave.

The waiter asked me if I had enjoyed my date and thanked me for being accommodating. I would like to share my table with a stranger more often!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Status games - observations in the wild and closer to home.

One of the things I like to observe is the status of people. It's one of the first things you learn in theatre improvisation and it can be a quick way to create character. When facilitating groups, tuning into status can really help stay on top of a group's dynamics.

Walking across Princes Bridge today, I deliberately played high status. My path was on the left of the pathway and there was no one who was going to move me from my route. I said nothing, but people moved out of my way. I was even walking up behind some people going in the same direction as I was and they moved out of my way; again with no words from me and without seeing me. They could obviously "feel me". If I was playing low status, no one would move. Ever had an "invisible day"? That's low status.

One of the other interesting places to observe status - apart from the zoo -  is in the workplace. Some people are bestowed with status because of their title or job role. Sometimes their personal status might align with the hierarchical status; other times it might be at odds.  Think of the leader who is personally low status. They fail to command respect and won't last long. The person who is lowest in the hierarchy might have high status, however, and it's interesting to observe the dynamics that creates.

I'm thinking about this tonight because I've been watching  the television show "Survivor", which is another great place to observe status games playing out. How do people acquire their status? Do they naturally have high status? Will they be able to keep it? What are the thought processes and behaviours that emerge when someone is aware that their status has shifted?

There's a woman in the office of one of my clients who is dominant in the workplace, but I've had a hard time picking her status. I've decided that she is high status. Her role is middle on one consideration, but on another she wields power. In her mind, she appears as though she is the ruler of the roost. It's classic "head of the typing pool" syndrome.

She and I have had some interesting encounters. In the constructed hierarchy of this particular workplace, I know I have low status. However, I know that I personally carry high status. One of the things that gives me high status is that I don't care about the hierarchy. I just care about doing good work and getting on with people. Sometimes this gets me into trouble. Mostly, it serves me well and I'm consequently well-connected throughout the workplaces in which I move. I've observed that people with a misalignment between their status accorded them by the constructed hierarchy and their personal status, really don't know what to do about people who disregard their high status position.  They often want to lash out, but know they will be let down by their ultimate lack of authority. Or they will turn into bullies.

Another way to think about status is in terms of the "natural leader". Generally my observation is that people whom we perceive as natural leaders, carry high personal status.  Nelson Mandela is a good example - he was born with low status in his country (a black man in a country imposing apartheid) yet rose to be one of the most respected men and leaders in the world. One of the things he had was high personal status.

Recent Australian politicial history is interesting to consider through this lens of status. The last two leaders of the Australian Labor Party (Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd) were both elevated to leader of the party and the country. Before their elevation, I would argue they had high status, but as soon as they were in the position, both lost their status.

Back to the particular woman in the client's workplace...she often stops talking when I enter the room. Recently, I heard my name said just before she stopped talking and responded from a high status position. I told her I heard my name and made strong eye contact with her. She said nothing further, but the person with whom she was speaking, made excuses of denial. Meanwhile, I said nothing (again, a high status move).  In another classic move, this woman "shooshed" me once when I was just talking to someone around the workplace. I looked her in the eye and told that her that I don't respond to "shooshing". She didn't respond.

I think that when relationships are functional, we hardly notice status at all. People just smoothly get on with it. The social satisfaction gained in this functional world will keep everyone humming along, usually until something changes, for example, someone new arrives. It's no wonder that "stranger comes to town" is one of the archetypal stories we've been telling down through the ages.

As a freelancer, I'm often the stranger coming to town, paid to observe and to challenge. To do this, I need to be secure and good willed. Mostly it works.

In the crowds of Christmas shoppers, it can be interesting (and useful) to play high status. Why not try it next time you're trying to go somewhere? Imagine you are the top dog, the big cheese, the king of the jungle and that you are entitled to take whatever path you choose. Carry this thought and make eye contact and watch people move out of your way! Have a go at doing the opposite and see what happens when your status is low.  Further fine tune your observation skills by studying the status people in your workplace hold. See if you can identify what it is that makes a person high or low status.

It can be a real eye-opener.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Violence is never appropriate.

Yesterday I signed a petition. There are so many these days. I'm choosy about what I sign. The link from a friend arrived in my inbox not long after I had seen the story reported on the ABC television news.

In July this year a 15 year old girl tried to fare evade by slipping through an open gate at Flinders Street Station. She was physically assaulted by a gang of Metro Trains authorised officers. A bystander filmed the event on his mobile phone and it was reported that a state Member of Parliament requested the security camera footage under Freedom of Information.

You can read the petition and see the footage here.

I signed the petition and also tweeted the link. Nothing unusual in that. What's interesting is the mudslinging that I have received from one person on Twitter.

The person's profile says they are "right leaning" and that they are "passionate about correcting left bias". Consider their response.  They ask me whether I watched the video and said that the girl took a swipe first. Well, I say that a 15 year old girl is a child and that a group of adult males carry the responsibility to act appropriately and not over-react.

They then ask me to define "appropriate violence". I thought about this only for a moment - no violence is appropriate.

I believe in responsibility and fairness.  People catching public transport have a responsibility to pay the fares. This makes the system fair and sustainable. When people don't fulfill their responsibility, the operators have a responsibility to educate and minimise the amount of fare evasion. Their response in doing this should be fair and proportionate.

The fare evaded could have been anywhere between $1.75 and $5.92, depending on where she had travelled. (I'm assuming she was entitled to a concession.)  When I consider this and then see the physical force used against her, I am shocked. This girl's stupidity could have cost her her life or resulted in serious, permanent injury. Yet, I'm told by my twitter troll that I am the one overreacting!

As a regular and committed public transport user, I don't want people to evade fares. I want them to pay. I want the authorised officers who have the unenviable job of dealing with the fare evading public to take an approach that is mature and educational. Instead, we have a disproportionate and violent response by people who get to wear a uniform and carry the word "authorised" in their titles. The perpetrators in question give all their colleagues a bad name and make their job harder.

Interestingly, the people with the power are the ones who get to exercise it. The girl has reportedly been charged with assault while the Metro Trains' investigation has found that the officer "exercised his functions reasonably".  I have not read or heard anything about the officers who stood by and facilitated their colleague to assault the girl.

I wonder what they think this girl (and her friends and family) will think of the system and the people operating it now? I'm sure that they will be hostile and are likely to be primed to violence at the earliest hint of an encounter with the Authorised Officers. I shudder to think about the Protective Services Officers who are armed.

There's some good information over at Lawstuff about your rights and the role of various uniformed people involved in public transport.

What do you think? Were the actions of the Officers justified? Am I overreacting?

Friday, 6 December 2013

Lawyers & politicians - taking calls on the train to Footscray.

Travelling home last night I was reminded why my heart sank with the recent news that aviation authorities are considering lifting the ban on the use of mobile phones on aircraft.

Just in front of me a bored looking young woman, dressed in a chain store suit, pale blue shirt and adorned with fake pearls, made a call.  She was like, oh-my-god, like, describing how awful her job is? But also how, like, busy she is and she just realised - oh-my-god - they'd be stuffed without her. To add to the charm of this inane public conversation, her voice had a particular quality; it struck right at the heart of my brain - loud, piercing and monotonous. She stared into space and her lips barely moved as she spoke.

She's working at a law firm. Two of the clients are witnesses in the royal commission looking at churches who abused kids and stuff, you know, whatever that things is.  Oh my god. She rolled her eyes and looked at her phone. Thankfully she had fallen victim to the mobile phone black spots on the train line to Footscray and the call had been terminated. We had all been spared. Not for long. Her phone soon rang and the conversation continued.

A whole bunch of documents had been delivered to the law firm and they had just sent them over to the barrister, thinking all the documents were in the order on the index, but then they weren't!

The call cut out again. Another brief reprieve for the rest of us.

This happened 10 more times.  I wouldn't have the patience for that. I'd send a text and tell the other person that I would call when I arrived home and could talk in privacy.

Just before Footscray, a phone rang behind me and a woman answered.
"What? Oh crap! Is that man, whose name I can't mention because I'm on a train, being obstructive? I thought we had the support of the Minister and the Secretary on this! .... Is Lucy there? Well, she's such a B - I - T - C - H!'

I felt like turning around and telling her that we could all spell.

This was the atmosphere in the train carriage for about 15 minutes and it was unbearable. Can you imagine being on a long haul flight for twenty or so hours and being subjected to other people's endless phone conversations?

I'm sure that if you were sitting next to me on a train or a plane and I was engaged in a conversation on my mobile phone, I would come across just as awfully as these two women.

I remember once sitting on a tram and a woman opposite me was issuing directives to someone on the other end of her phone. It was like sitting in a meeting at work and at the end of a long day at work, the last thing I wanted was to feel like I was still there. I didn't say anything verbally, but my body language must have been telling her to shut up! She interrupted her call and asked me if I had a problem. I told her that I did actually and that I probably wasn't the only one.  People around me started to nod, so I continued, telling her that we had all finished work for the day and didn't care to sit in her meeting.

She looked stunned and was about to push back when other people nearby gave me a round of applause!  She hung up and then gave me some body language to let me know she was not happy. The rest of the tram was though!

I've noticed since I updated the software on my iphone, I can send a text with the push of a button if I don't want to or can't answer the phone. Why can't people wait until they have some privacy and can also be considerate of others? Or why can't they be witty, erudite and speak in melodious tones? Perhaps we really do live in a post-privacy world.

What do you think about allowing mobile phones on planes? Do you answer your phone in public and talk at length? Are any subjects off limits?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Stream of consciousness - musings on journeys and problems and Melburnians.

Today I'm grateful that the most obvious to response to this information: "I'm going to get my hair done." isn't, "Which one?"

That sentence was really quite difficult to punctuate. How did I go?

Every time I have been to the hairdresser in 2013 it has rained on my way home. This is definitely a first world problem.

Speaking of first world problems, the other day I was at Flinders Street Station trying to locate my train (you'd think this would be easier than it actually is). I'd been waiting at Platform 8 for a while. This wasn't random, the signs all pointed to the fact that this was the place for the 5:36 pm to Laverton. A train arrived on the platform. The crowd of waiters (not the drinks kind) surged forward under the impression that the train would be the 5:36 pm to Laverton. As we surged, the sign changed its mind and informed us that it was the 5:40 pm to somewhere else, like Frankston or Packenham. We held back. An announcement informed us that the train on platform 8 was indeed the 5:36pm to Laverton. We surged forward and settled into our seats. "Settled" isn't really the right word. We were unsettled, but I don't know how to unsettle. The sign inside the train suggested the train was going to Packenham or Frankston. People dithered. Who to trust? The written word on a sign that has been wrong before or the live announcement from a human. I assume it was a human. Just as I relaxed in preparation for my journey homeward, an faint announcement was heard outside the train which sent a ripple of anger, a shiver of confusion through the commuters on board who had foolishly trusted the announcement last time. This announcement told us that we were on a train going to Frankston or Packenham and that the 5:36pm Laverton train was now arriving on platform 9! Could we trust the announcement? We surged from the train on to the platform and found a small moustached man wearing an orange high-vis vest and asked him the pertinent question: what the hell is going on? He shrugged in response.

The shrug was like an ember on a stream of petrol. Teeth were bared. We just needed to know which train, where, so we could go home.

Off to one side of the group a woman announced:  "First world problems people! First world problems! Some people don't have a home to go to, let alone a train to get there on. These are first world problems."

That didn't even make sense. As she wasn't getting on any train, but just hanging around the platforms passing moral judgement on people responding to chaos and the cosmic joke that is Flinders Street and Metro Trains at peak hour, I wondered where she was trying to go.

Another man tried to argue to logic of how the 5:40pm train had arrived before the 5:36pm train and it should be ours! I wanted to start singing songs from "Les Mis". I refrained. By that I mean I didn't. I don't mean that I sang a chorus.  Another shrug and he would have hijacked the train and taken us all west. We would have heard the people sing!

Once you're on a train in peak hour there's the added problem trying to navigate overcrowding of the aisles when there are lots of seats vacant. They're vacant because people don't move over and fill the seats furthest from the aisles first. They hog the outside seats hoping to have a bank of two or three to themselves.

I ask people nicely if I may have their seat. They look shocked. Then they move over. I always get a seat.

Then I hand them a tissue because they will inevitably be sniffing the entire liquid contents of their head back into their nasal passages. Repeatedly. What is with Melburnians and sniffing on public transport?

This was a diversion from the hairy, smelly man who was engaging himself in detailed conversation this morning on the way into the city. I didn't mind the conversation, but the smell was hard to take in closed quarters.

Then I heard that the baby elephant born at the Melbourne Zoo nearly a year ago died overnight. I never met Sanook but I had watched a documentary about the elephants at the zoo. I felt sad.

The rain fell, providing a sympathetic background of Shakespearean proportions and a mechanism to negate the efforts of my hairdresser.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Man needed! The day I couldn't shut the door.

Yesterday was Melbourne's hottest day since March; around 36 degrees (Celsius). I had sealed my apartment shut when I left in the morning, closing windows, drawing blinds and closing internal doors. It worked. When I walked in the front door it felt several degrees cooler inside than it was outside.

I was doing the customary after work potter. There was mail to read, dinner to plan, washing to bring in. I'd had my sheets on the line and they were dried as stiffly as if they had been meticulously starched. I turned the radio on and heard the presenter ask the audience if the cool change had reached us yet. 

I looked out the window. It "looked" cooler. I opened a door and could feel the temperature had dropped significantly. This was my cue to open everything up again. It was reported on the news later that the temperature had dropped 13 degrees in less than forty minutes! The bricks were holding the heat, but the cool breeze was bliss.

The door from my lounge room to my balcony kept slamming shut as the wind forced it shut. I had some blocks of wood lying around and used one of them to chock the door open. Problem solved.

At about 10pm I decided it was time to go to bed and went to remove the block of wood and lock the door for the night. Neither the block of wood, nor the door would budge. I pulled. I kicked. I shook. I tried to lift. Nothing. My burly Irish neighbour was out on his balcony, smoking, and he asked if I needed help. Very kind of him, but I had no memory of his name. I could tell you the names of his last three predecessors, but his name escaped me. I decided to buy some time and said that I just wanted to get my hammer and see if hitting it (the block of wood, not the door) really hard would work. I found my hammer right away, so there wasn't much time to recall my neighbour's name. 

Out to the balcony I went, armed with my pink-handled hammer. I hit the block of wood. I may as well have whipped it with a piece of dental floss. My trusty neighbour was ready to come and help. He'd even put on a shirt. I succumbed. I'm quite happy to ask for the help I need, but I need to first establish that the help is actually needed. As we met at out front doors, I confessed I had forgotten his name.

"It's Allan!" he replied very cheerfully.

I handed him the hammer. He looked at its pink-handled girlishness with disdain. He hit the block of wood with it. I felt a bit better because the dental floss analogy was still relevant. He returned to his apartment to retrieve a more manly hammer. I was relieved that it wasn't a sledge hammer as I noticed that the door was now at quite an unnatural angle.  

Allan started to really hit that block of wood. I silently apologised to the entire western suburbs for the noise. At one point, I even saw sparks as there was movement in that block of wood. Two more whacks with gusto and the wood split in two, but the bulk of it was still stubbornly wedged and the angle of the door was terrifying. Just as I started to plan the conversation with the real estate agent, the wood moved and the door moved and I was moved! 

I thanked Allan as he showed me the hammer, proud that he'd been able to assist a damsel in distress.

"Next time, use a smaller piece of wood," he said as he left.

Tonight the door is tied open with kitchen twine.

What's in your toolkit? Do you know your neighbour's name/s? What would have happened if the door couldn't be closed securely? (eek!)

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sunday slide show

 1 December is World AIDS Day. There was an enormous sign on the Princess Bridge to remind us

© divacultura 2013
 I went to a fabulous 40th birthday party on Saturday night. It was held at a private club with a rooftop lounge and bar. This is the view looking towards Crown Casino and the Exhibition Centre.
© divacultura 2013

I work in lots of different places and always like to see what the view is like out the windows. Here's the latest in my "view from the office" series.

From the seventh floor at Australian Catholic University looking back towards the city.
The tram is the 112 on Brunswick Street.
© divacultura 2013
Here are a couple of selfies with a difference. I noticed when I was rehearsing with the band at the Paris Cat Jazz Club that the mirrors and lights provided an interesting opportunity. This was taken from behind the bar, facing the mirror and capturing the reflection of the band on stage behind me.

© divacultura 2013
Lastly, the repeating selfie - straight from a French psychodrama...

© divacultura 2013
Have a great week!