Thursday, 30 January 2014

Clever marketing - another hat tale

I mentioned yesterday that I decided to succumb to the lure of the wildwest and buy a cowgirl hat when I was recently at the Tamworth Country Music Festival. It is irresistible, but also practical when you're walking down Peel Street in the blazing sun listening to buskers or acts performing on one of the many stages.

On the Friday before the Australia Day long weekend I met a friend for lunch in town and noticed a growing crowd and queue right near the post office.  I thought that there must have been someone very important and/or famous doing something remarkable, so walked around the corner to see why people were lining up. There was no country music star or even minor local politician or newsreader. People were queuing to get a hat!

The hat was nothing special, but had the right shape and the wide brim. Importantly it also carried the sponsor's logo on the hat band and could be had for a $2 donation to the McGrath Foundation. It struck me as a creative approach to marketing and fundraising all by giving the people what they want/need. Walking around the streets were heads promoting sponsor Toyota, people were protected from the sun and a charity had made some money and planted their name in the minds of people. Additionally, the hats were only available at certain times, so the notion of scarcity was created and the crowd and queues grew, drawing further attention to the various organisations. Brilliant!

Having made my discovery, I stepped back from the line. I was promptly asked by a couple passing by "who is there?"

I explained the people were queuing for a hat.

"A hat?!"

"Yes a hat," I explained the relationship to the McGrath Foundation.

"That's incredible!" exclaimed the man. "I never thought I'd see a queue like that for a hat! Must be a good sort of a hat!"

"Well see for yourself. There goes one now," I pointed.

And lastly, here are some more of my recent photographs taken while on holiday.

The ever-present Alfie - just hanging around.
© divacultura 2014

A magnificent pair of eucalypts stand against the brilliant cerulean sky.
© divacultura 2014

Afternoon by the dry creek bed.
© divacultura 2014

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

City return - time for the photos.

I love Melbourne, but having over a month away has been a tonic. It's as if the dust that had settled on everything has been blown away and there's a new light on everything. I'm feeling reinvigorated and ambitious for the year ahead.

© divacultura 2014
My time away was spent outside Toowoomba in Queensland, in country NSW, Tamworth and Lennox Head. Some of the time was spent hanging out with various family members, some of it was spent at Summersong music camp and some of it overlapped with the Tamworth Country Music Festival. When I've attended a gig there before I couldn't see for the hats, so this year I wore one too!

On my flight home yesterday, I was reading a physical book called Difficult Men. It's about television covering both the characters (Tony Soprano) and the creators (David Chase). It is absorbing reading and I barely noticed anyone else around me. After we'd landed and everyone was standing quietly in the aisle waiting to deplane, the bloke who had been sitting next to me said in a booming voice: "That book you're reading...Do you have one? Do you want one? Did you get rid of one?"

I laughed and responded: "Well, this morning I finished a book about psychopaths*, so draw your own conclusions!"

That hit the mark. I'd never thought about the potential for stand-up comedy in this context. I'd also forgotten about the privacy afforded by reading e-books.

While away, I took some photos that I really like and will share them from time to time. Hope you like them.

© divacultura 2014

This little wallaby is a regular visitor.
© divacultura 2014

In the shadow of the windmill.
© divacultura 2014

* The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson - another absorbing read.

Friday, 24 January 2014


It's been a week since I returned from my annual visit to Summersong music camp. As usual, that week has really refuelled and refreshed my creative drive. Living in a creative community for a week with nothing to do but soak up music, laughter, ideas and the company of kindred spirits is a fantastic opportunity that I cherish. Re-entry to the world can be an odd ride. I stayed in Lennox Head on the night camp finished and wrote this while I was waiting for my meal to arrive.

The shock of re-entry into the world hits me. I knew that after a whole week of being nurtured in a loving bubble of creativity there would be a jolt at this moment. Having experienced it so often before I know that ordinary activities like talking to strangers, making menu choices and counting money will be harder than usual. It took me an age to choose a drink; then to decide on food to accompany it. I read the menu thoroughly, forensically and eventually decided. It has been more than a week since my brain had to read and process another person's written words without a musical accompaniment. Apart from lyrics to songs I'm singing, the only words I've read this week have been words I've written - they week have been mine. Even when receiving a friend's new work, I hear it, rather than read it. I wonder at this gift.

At a nearby table a family sits - standard model: mum, dad, girl, boy. The boy looks to be about six years old and sleeps in his chair; legs dangle, relaxed, hands lie limply by his side. On the table before him sits a black rubber spider the size of his forearm. His sister is more animated but it is the boy, sweet in sleep, who draws my attention. He wears the ensemble of a small boy these days: blue checked shorts, cream and white striped t-shirt. His thongs lie discarded under the table.

A ham and pineapple pizza is delivered for him and still he sleeps. The pizza is removed from the table and returned in a box when the boy fails to stir. The black rubber spider guards the contents as it sits upon the box.

It is the very old and the very young who are allowed to sleep in public. The vulnerability of this simple act is humbling. I recall the man I saw in a shopping centre in Tamworth before camp. He was literally asleep on his feet. My father commented that he looked like a horse. I am tired and would love to join this sweet sleeping boy (easily could) but I fear I'd be charged with vagrancy, looked upon as weird. Or robbed.

Do you sleep in public?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Rural health care - or the mysterious tale of the spider bite

Last week I experienced what it's like to go to a GP in a rural town. A large red swelling had appeared on my right leg On New Year's Day. It was hot and had a hard centre. It was painful to walk and seemed to be growing larger by the hour. I tried a few remedies over the course of the day but when I awoke the next day to a bigger, redder, angrier swelling, I decided that I needed to see a doctor.

Firstly, I discovered that one must call in the morning to make an appointment for that day. It is not possible to book ahead. Therefore, making an appointment is like trying to win a competition on a radio station - you just have to keep hitting redial until you succeed in getting through. By the time we spoke to one of the receptionists, only late afternoon appointments were available. In the time taken to give my first name, the slot we thought we were booking for had been snapped up and I was in to see a different doctor at 3:45pm.

I arrived a few minutes early to complete paperwork. It was very hot, so I asked the receptionist where I could refill my water bottle.

She looked at me, puzzled.

"Where can I refill my water bottle?" I repeated.

"We don't do that here," came her mean reply.

"Wow. Really?" was the best that I could do.

I took a seat in the expansive waiting room. I took in the meagre pile of sticky magazines, children's toys spread all over the floor, the blaring television and the miserable looking people and imagined the difference a supply of cool water would make.

Before long a very large man came and sat right beside me. There were so many seats and available places to sit, but he sat right beside me and proceeded to sneeze and cough. I moved. I didn't want to leave the doctor sicker than when I went in!

I  was called in to see the doctor only ten minutes after my appointed time. He took me through and immediately took a past medical history. He didn't say hello and he didn't introduce himself. He asked a lot of questions about my past medical history that had nothing to do with my current problem. It was probably about ten minutes before he stopped typing on the computer, turned to face me and asked what my problem was today! I was appalled. (I know that all my work teaching doctors about empathy and communication probably makes me a tough audience, but really, this was sub-standard.)

I showed him my leg. The expression on his face changed (shock? distaste? fascination?) and he donned some gloves. He pressed and touched and then declared that I had been bitten by a spider. He asked me if I wanted some antibiotics to treat the secondary infection that had resulted and suggested that I take some antihistamines. I reminded him that I take antihistamines daily.

Seconds later I was out the door with a prescription for an antibiotic in my hand and a bill for $70.

By contrast, when I collected my prescription from the pharmacy, the pharmacist wanted to confirm that the tablets were for a skin infection. I showed her the bite. She nodded vigourously and said that she'd seen about five others just like this.

I've been sleeping with an icepack to take the heat out and the antibiotics have reduced the swelling and the red ring of poison. I now have a hard, dark, sore lump on my leg.

It's unlikely to be a Red Back Spider that bit me (I'd be really sick). The consensus is that it's probably a White Tail spider that feasted on me. Avoid this if you can!

Have you ever been bitten by a spider? What's the worst thing you've ever been bitten by? Did you bite it back?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Is it over already? Reflections on 2013.

Happy New Year!

As is customary, I've been doing a stock take of my activities and projects during 2013. It's interesting to think about individual projects as a body of work as the big picture can be quite impressive.

On the knitting front I completed:

20.5 pairs of socks. (The second part of the 21st pair will come off the needles in the next couple of days.)
6 scarves - three were commissions from friends
4 hats - including a fireman's hat for my five year old nephew
1 jingle ball - for my three year old niece
1 teddy bear - also for my three year old niece.

Apart from the completed items,  I also have a semi-circular shawl on the needles and a short-sleeved winter cardigan partially completed. It stalled because I don't understand what to do next. I must find out.

My crocheting yielded a chunky bathmat made from recycled tee-shirts and LOTS of granny squares. It's hard to know how many I made in 2013, but I know that I started on 16 July 2012 and finished my 146th (and last) square on 4 August 2013. I plan to stitch these together to make a 12 x 12 big blanket.

In between all that handwork, I also reached my reading goal of 25 books. It was touch and go for a while as I wrestled with a couple of long and difficult books (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates in particular), but I got my mojo back, stopped being distracted by games on my iphone and just scraped in. (Pictures are from my page - sorry about the weird formatting...)

I was interested to notice that there are six non-fiction titles amongst all those novels. I also see I started and finished the year with the same author - Janet Evanovich - for some very light reading. The book group I started just after I moved to Melbourne in 2001 is still going strong. Books we read this year were:

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - Winner of the Man-Booker Prize for 2012. We read the winner every year. I've just started last year's winner, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

Madness: a memoir by Kate Richards was one of my suggestions for the group and I was pleased with the result. The book is incredible and the discussion that resulted was stimulating and satisfying. I've lent the book to several other friends since.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is a commercial success, but was less than loved by our group.

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham was funny, gothic and poignant all at once. Very enjoyable.

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany was well-received, but covered similar ground to The Dressmaker. I loved the author's first book, Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick was a surprise package in its intrigue.

Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker left little impression and I finished it out of duty.

Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley was one of my recommendations when I discovered that one of my favourite authors was not well-known in the group. It's not one of my favourites, but I did enjoy it. There's a marvellous passage late in the book in which Smiley describes the relief of tension amongst a group at the end of a high stakes conversation. It's genius and worth the slog for writing like this.

I'm setting my target again at 25 books for 2014. I'd rather reach the target and feel satisfied, than feel pressure because I didn't make it. And despite all this reading, the collection on my e-reader continues to grow!

I also sang in two jazz gigs at the Paris Cat jazz club, participated in the myki customer experience panel, survived surgery, consolidated my business and co-authored a chapter in a book which is to be published. And of course, consolidated divacultura as a happy part of my life (I hope it's a happy part of yours too!)

Sorting out my spare room remains on the list of things to sort out in 2014, but first I need to finish that pair of socks. My commitments for 2014 are still under construction.

Happy New Year! How was your 2013? How's 2014 shaping up?