Monday, 31 March 2014

Power dynamics and patient feedback

This morning I was working with one of the health sciences schools at a Melbourne university. I happened to be working with the same student I had a couple of weeks ago when my character was one day post-operative. I remembered the student, but I think he became confused as he wondered whether he was supposed to remember me (even though I was playing the same character). Sometimes what happens within a simulation takes on a life of its own.

The student who was working with me was professionally polite, but a little cold and formal. He needed to relax a little to build better rapport with my character who was gung-ho and very motivated to get on with her rehabilitation. In the feedback afterwards, I gave him a quick refresher on rapport building and he looked like he'd heard it all before.

The main thing I talked to him about though, was quite personal and is an example of why feedback from simulated patients is so powerful. The student had a cold and was sniffling and fighting nasal congestion throughout our consultation. On several occasions he apologised for his cold, which I noted as a sign that he was aware of what I might be noticing. Great. What wasn't so great was when he wiped his nose with his hand and then moved in to touch me as part of my treatment. I considered saying something during the consultation, but it didn't really fit with my character, so I suffered through the hand-to-nose-to-knee sequence several times, silently giving thanks that he wasn't my dentist.

When I gave the feedback he looked shocked and was very apologetic. He told me he wasn't aware that he'd been doing that. I know that hand hygiene receives heavy attention throughout health education and continues into the workplace, so I was surprised to see this behaviour. I suppose it highlights why there are signs everywhere with instructions about how to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser properly. (Don't forget to do the back of the hands too!)

I know that it would be rare for a real patient to tell their allied health professional to wash their hands after they wiped their nose. This is because of the power dynamics and powerful protocols in play, as we align to playing our designated roles.

How's your hand hygiene? Would you stop someone from treating you if they had wiped their nose just before touching you? 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Things I noticed this week

A city craft and fabric shop is in the midst of a closing down sale with all merchandise selling at half price. I went to stock up on knitting yarn.

While there, I spied a man who looked about fifty with a long roll of bright blue satin fabric under his arm and a steely look in his eye.

A young girl screamed with delight as she saw some horrendous, brightly coloured acrylic yarn, "OMG! OMG! OMG! Look mama!" Mama looked, but was having trouble meeting her daughter's level of enthusiasm.

While shopping, I asked another woman if she knew what was happening to the store - were they closing all together, or moving to another city location? The woman told me they were closing all together.

"Well that's a shame," I said, "but it's better for my bank balance!"

"You're such an optimist!" another woman told me. "I was feeling sad that the store is closing, but you've managed to find the up side."

"You're right - I am an optimist."

As I stood in the queue waiting to pay for my haul, a woman discussed her financial woes, loudly, on her mobile phone. She was going to talk to Centrelink about getting a loan as an advance on her welfare payment. That would come to about $1500 but by the time she paid everyone back the money she already owed them, there would only be $80 left. After she paid for the fabric she was buying in the sale, she'd only have, like, $20 left! She could not discuss further because she was about to be called up to pay for her purchase. I held my tongue.


I've started to take my car to be cleaned at a nearby place that has a dozen young men working on the cars and a cafe for the car owners to sip on a latte and watch the work like members of the privileged class. I am always greeted promptly and enthusiastically and the coffee is excellent.

Today, when I arrived, one of the staff stormed past me, closely followed by the man in charge. The man in charge was intercepted by the man who had greeted me, and asked to make a recommendation on what the best service for my car would be today. He stopped, smiled, gave me and my car his full attention, recommended a wash and polish and then continued in pursuit of the other man.

As I walked up the stairs into the cafe, I heard a raised voice and saw the man who had stormed off, waving his arms and yelling at the man in charge. Something about just wanting to go off and have a smoke. The man in charge very calmly asked him not to raise his voice. The other man continued to wave his arms and yell. He was asked again, firmly and politely not to raise his voice. I turned and looked. The man in charge apologised and suggested I continue into the cafe to wait for my car. I did.

Sitting behind the glass window, I soon noticed the loud man arrive back on the scene and start work again. He looked willing. I wondered what was going on, but soon forgot that as I settled in to read the Sunday paper and my novel over a delicious cafe latte. Forty minutes flew by and soon the man in charge came and told me my car was ready - with a huge smile and a sense of pride.

I really like these guys. They seem to take real pleasure in their work and service and even if I pay quite a bit for it, I'm willing because the whole experience is so smooth and pleasant.


Signs in workplace kitchens and rest rooms always fascinate me with their earnest futility.

This week in the women's toilets of one of the places where I was working I saw this sign:
"If you are brushing your teeth, please don't leave food particles in the sink. Thank you."

My mind boggled as I wondered what had led to that note. Perhaps someone had vomited. Imagine being unwell at work and followed closely by the workplace prefect, ever ready with a printed sign to tape to the mirror.

In the same rest room, behind the closed door of one of the stalls was this sign: "The state of these toilets has been leaving a lot to be desired. Please leave them neat and tidy and make sure you flush."

Everything looked perfectly okay when I was there. Maybe the sign was working, or there was some neat freak with too much time on their hands writing anonymous signs and posting them in the bathroom. I bet that if I visited the kitchen, there would be signs there too. Alas, I didn't get to see.

How are things with you?

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The compulsion of the mobile phone - is that email really so important?

When I facilitate groups, I've noticed that the way I set up expectations about the use of personal devices like mobile phones, ipads, laptops has changed significantly. If I don't have an explicit conversation about boundaries and respect, then participants would be checking emails, facebook and tweeting throughout their learning sessions.

When I'm working with leaders, I talk about the messages they send to their team if they are consistently responsive to emails and phone messages. I ask whether they have faith in the team they have around them to carry on in their absence. Generally they nod and smile and tell me they have complete faith in their team. A few moments later, they'll be surreptitiously reading email under the desk.

Reading email on the phone under the desk is the same as picking your nose when you're driving the car: everyone can see what you're doing!

Why is it that the information and communication on our phones has apparently become more compelling than the interactions occurring beside us?

After setting up and gaining explicit agreement about phones being put away and only checked during breaks so that focus is intense, participants engaged and fellow students respected, usually people adhere to that agreement.  Sometimes, however, they don't. I know that this really gets under my skin and I need to make a choice about how I respond.

I'm now clear that when I've set boundaries, the group looks to me to help them hold those boundaries in place. If behaviour that is outside what the group has established occurs and is left unchecked by the leader (me) then very soon resentment will breed and the agreement will crumble.

Sometimes when I speak directly to someone about the boundaries and how they're outside them, they look to me to tell them what they should do. I don't. I remind them of where they are and what they've agreed and tell them that they need to make a choice that takes account of their commitment and respect for the group as well as their own needs. Mostly, they put the phone away and meet the needs of the group and their commitment to it.

And then at the end of the day, someone will shake my hand and say goodbye with the ipod already plugged in. Talk about feeling dismissed!

How do you manage the compulsion of the mobile phone?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Move over - where do you sit on public transport?

Lately I've been thinking about where people sit when they're on public transport, including how people interact with each other.

Increasingly I notice people sit on the empty seat nearest the aisle, even where the other two seats further from the aisle are empty. I then notice many other people standing, even when there are seats available. Other people do ask to access a seat. Often the response from people already seated is to remain where they are, forcing others to step over them to reach a seat.

I find it bizarre. I regularly request people to move over so I can sit. Mostly people respond by moving over and leaving the vacant seat more accessible for all of us. Once when someone didn't move and required me to crawl over their lap, I asked them where they were getting off the train. This enabled me to establish they were getting off after me and it just made sense for them to move over. They moved begrudgingly.

If you don't want to sit next to other people, either don't catch public transport, or don't take a seat.

This afternoon I had a different problem. I was seated and had a couple of bags on the floor behind my legs. A man sat opposite me and splayed his legs out, kicking me and my bags. I asked him to give me a moment, so I could rearrange things and it was as if I had not spoken. How weird! There we are, knees virtually pressed together and he can't hear me? Can't see me? Maybe if he acknowledges my existence in that moment of pressed together confinement, it will become overwhelmingly intimate and confronting. Better to not believe I even exist.

The other thing that drives me mad is people pressing me from behind as I stand aside to let passengers off the train, before I try and board. It's as if they think the train will leave before the one hundred people on the platform board. The same thing happens when trying to disembark during peak hour - people push from behind to get you out of the way. Then they press you up the escalators and press you through the turnstiles to exit the station.

Everyone needs to get on and off the train. We all need to travel together, so why not be courteous and considerate of each other as human beings? It's not difficult and you may even be rewarded by a smile and a thank you!

Where's your preferred travel spot on public transport? What's your strategy for securing a seat?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Discoveries - music sub-genres!

And we're back. Life has been overwhelmingly busy for the last couple of weeks and I haven't had the brain space to write. I've missed the discipline and noticed that I wasn't being as observant in the world either. Thanks to readers who have expressed grief at the lack of regular posts from divacultura. It's nice to be missed!

Yesterday I did something that I used to do all the time, but haven't done for ages. I went into a music shop and I bought a CD! I mainly buy my music online, but will buy CDs direct from artists when I attend a gig.

I'd just had lunch with a friend and we decided to have a post lunch wander. A nearby music shop, specialising in classical, jazz and soundtracks beckoned. Fatally, I plugged into the listening post and was seduced by long-buried Cuban dance music, West African desert music and something else that defies classification but is about birds. It was gorgeous. We even engaged in passionate and animated conversation with the staff member who knew about music and appreciated the conversation.

Having had a taste, we crossed one city block and went to a second hand vinyl and CD shop. The shop was located at the end of a narrow, grungy staircase and we were immediately in the middle of the Heavy Metal section. I decided to browse. This is one genre of music that holds no appeal for me. I just don't know how one accesses it to the point of appreciation. Obviously there is a way as many people embrace the form, but I just don't know what it is. Prior to yesterday, I was aware that there are a couple of sub-genres, for example, Death Metal and Thrash Metal. This section included others: Tech, Grindcore and Black. Most of the album covers were black or a variation on black. I might have been wearing a black jacket, but I felt like I couldn't have looked more incongruent if I had been wearing a cream cable knit jumper to a goth fest.

As I browsed, it struck me how difficult it must be to come up with a band name in the Metal area. Examples I noticed included: Trepanning (yes, that's usually a word that refers to drilling into the skull), Horrendous Injuries, Napalm Death, Cannibal Corpse. There are detailed descriptions of the various genres available on Wikipedia. It's actually fascinating and the drummers are incredible as they generally play very, very fast.

I moved to the next section and discovered a genre called "Krautrock". I'd never heard of this and it seems the genre was obscure to others as there was a helpful sign with information.  Krautrock was popular in the 1960's and 1970's and is a "mix of anglo-american post-psychedelic jamming and moody progressive rock". It originated in Germany, in case that wasn't obvious. It was also about challenging formulas, like the three chord patterns that dominate rock and pop music. I have no idea what it sounds like.

Over in the punk section, I was unsurprised to find albums with titles ranging from the prosaic "Shit gets smashed" to the more political, "Social Unrest". Right next door I discovered another genre: Stoner Doom. Sounds cheery. My online exploration has revealed that "doom" is a genre of its own and that there are the following subgenres: traditional, epic, stoner, sludge, funeral, drone, death and black.

There were many delightful curiosities: only 9 albums in the 20th Century section, but 10 items in the Spokenword and Poetry section. Nearby, I resisted purchasing my very own copy of the Chipmunks sing the Beatles. My friend resisted buying a record (yes, an LP) of French poems read in French. Neither of us has the space to store physical copies of joke recordings.

Aimless wandering and browsing in company is a great thing to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I remember doing this in bookstores too. Now I do it online at home by myself. Tweeting about a discovery or exclaiming over an album title just isn't fulfilling.

What musical discoveries have you made lately?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Cuban jazz gets feet tapping

Last night I had the great pleasure of hearing Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca play with his band at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Woooo-eeee! It was amazing.The only thing that would have made it more amazing would have been the space to get up and dance! Within the constraints of my chair, I was dancing anyway. The band was interesting - double bass/bass guitar, drum kit, a second percussionist with congas, djembes and various other things to hit and rattle (he also sang vocals occasionally) and kora, an African stringed gourd instrument. There was also clever use of recorded sounds and vocal tracks. They were a tight ensemble.

I was selling CDs afterwards (my friend is the tour promoter) and we sold every one in a flash. The album is the Grammy nominated "Yo".  I was so pumped after the show, it was hard to sleep.

Roberto is playing The Basement in Sydney tonight. Even if jazz isn't your thing, if you like music at all, this is a band to see and hear, they are an incredible ensemble.

Roberto Fonseca and me after the show.
© 2014 divacultura

Monday, 10 March 2014

Cultural intake - what I've been seeing and hearing lately

I've had a cultural kind of weekend.

Friday night, I went to the Melbourne Recital Centre to hear the Balanescu Quartet play. Well, it was quartet plus occasional drum kit and looped recorded sound. Visual interest was added with film, including projections on the back of the music stands. Perfect! This was always redundant space and it's great to see it used for something other than advertising!

Anytime I hear music played in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall it is magical. The sound is incredible, no matter what is being played.

On my daily walk past the Malthouse Theatre, and on my way to the Balanescu Quartet, I stopped in at the box office and bought a ticket to see Simon Stone's production, "The Government Inpsector".  It was to be a production of "The Philadelphia Story", but rights were refused and this production cleverly turns this rejection into an opportunity. I needed to see it out of curiosity, if nothing else.

I had the best seat in the house (centre front) and laughed myself sick for the duration. It was a matinee though and I wondered how the "language" would go down with the audience. I walked out still laughing, but noticed the rest of the audience seemed quiet, reserved and then I overhead one woman say to another, "Well, it takes all types of people doesn't it?" The I noticed she had been sitting beside me. Was she talking about me or the play?

It's delightfully creative and refreshing. Who needs to see another production of "The Philadelphia Story" anyway? The Age has a review here.

Yesterday, it was off to the movies to see "Her", the film that won the Oscar for best original screenplay and has one of my favourite actors, Joaquin Phoenix. It's an interesting premise and I would suggest, is actually a science fiction film. It's set sometime in the not too distant future where technology is familiar but can do just a little more than what mine does for me right now. Phoenix plays Theodore, a man separated from his wife and living alone with only virtual reality "people", the receptionist at work and a woman who lives in the same building for company. He purchases the new OS1, a "smart" virtual assistant, customised with a female voice (played by Scarlett Johannson) and falls in love with her. There's a suggestion that she also falls for him.

Cut 30 minutes out and it would have been fantastic.

Oh, and get the two women sitting next me, chatting away as thought they were alone in their loungeroom, to SHUT UP!

Tomorrow night I'm off to see Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca at the Melbourne Recital Centre. I'll be selling CDs too, so if you're there, come and say hello.

What have been doing lately?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Retrospection - today from dusk to dawn

At about 5:30 this evening I walked into a store and said hello to the woman behind the counter. I asked her how she was. She said she was fine and then smiled and told me that I was the first person to genuinely connect with her all day. That would have been a long day.

Before that, I was on a tram. The tram was very crowded. As I sat, travelling along, my phone rang. Just as I answered it, the tram driver asked everyone to stand back from the doors. That tram was like a sardine can. There was no stepping back from anywhere. There was a woman right in front of the doors with a baby in one of those old-fashioned prams that take up an entire city block. She wasn't stepping back from any doors. That tram must have had the only PA system that was working - if by working you mean announcements were louder than a thrash metal concert. In the space of a ten minute tram journey, the driver made about five announcements. The person who had rung me offered to throttle the driver.

Before that, a colleague asked me to look at a bowl of something in the fridge. It was a white bowl and covered in plastic wrap. The contents looked like tomato sauce, but lumpy. I felt sick and walked away. It looked like offal.

Before that, I was sitting at my desk. The desk is one of many I occupy on a regular basis. I don't have an exclusive desk. I "hot desk". Colleagues in the office recognise me by the sound of my wheels on the carpet as I move in for the day.

Before that, the N'Espresso machine in the tea room spluttered out the last bit of milk. I didn't know where the "fresh milk cannisters" were kept and there was no one to ask, so I decided I would have a macchiato.

Before that I awoke to find no milk in the house so had breakfast on the run. I'd ordered what I call a breakfast tortilla - a tortilla with bacon and eggs wrapped inside. The girl who handed it to me told me what it was to confirm the order with these words: "ingri blekky lap". I had no idea what she had said. The first time was because I didn't hear her. After the sixth request for her to repeat herself, I understood she was handing me an English Brekky Wrap. Thank GOD. If she hadn't told me what it was, I could have been eating anything for breakfast.

It's been a long day, but looks better when considered backwards.

How was your day?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

What is your superannuation paying for - a Kafkaesque tale of bureaucratic madness.

Superannuation is not at the top of my sexy topics list, but lately I've been educating myself. Maybe the advertising is sinking in and I have been researching different funds so I can streamline and consolidate. One of the things at the top of my list has been to sort out the superannuation I receive when I work as a casual employee at various universities.

What I've discovered is a bureaucratic, wasteful process - a discovery made only after I uncovered the fact that I even had an account with Uni Super.

Every time I earn more than $450 in a month, the university is obliged to pay 9.5% contribution to "my" superannuation fund. The rest of the country can choose their fund (a great initiative to allow people to consolidate their retirement savings), but the university's enterprise agreement has made the choice for everyone and sets UniSuper as the default account for all employees. That might be a fair and reasonable response, even an efficient one, for the bulk of people working in universities and serve the union agenda of supporting industry superannuation funds, but for me, a very casual casual who reaches the superannuation threshold once or twice a year, it's unfair.

My only option to address this is to fill in a paper form, that has to go in the post, requesting closure of the account and a rollover of all money in the account to another fund of my choice. Next time the employer makes a contribution, a new account will be opened for me. I will then have to fill in the same paper form, put it in the post, and request the closure of the account and rollover to my other fund.

The other thing that happens is the premium for the "optional" insurance for "death and total permanent disablement" is automatically deducted from my account. To have the premium stopped, I have to fill in a different three page paper form and put it in the post. I failed my first attempt and the form has been returned to me with the parts I handled incorrectly highlighted for me to complete and put in the post. I had to phone to find out what I should say on the form. It's full of jargon and requires knowledge about one's arrangements that I do not have, because I didn't make the arrangements.

I recently got around to filling in the form to close the account and rollover to my preferred fund but today I discovered that I have an account again - and the insurance premium is being deducted. Here is the ludicrous sequence of events:

  • my account was closed on 26 February
  • an employer contribution of $61.92 was made on 27 February
  • contribution processed and account opened today, 4 March 2014.
  • "optional" insurance is being paid for from my money.
Since 2010 when an account was first established for me a total of $727.34 has been contributed. From that, $274.20 has been paid out of my account for "optional" insurance that I don't want, didn't ask for and don't use. I pay for this insurance in another superannuation fund. Almost 40% of my meagre earnings have been given away without my permission. I'm happy to give money away, but I'd rather give it to a homeless person or a charity or an artist, not an insurance company. 

On 26 February the balance available to rollover was $284.20; a mere 39% of my money is left for me. 

I've been advised that it is not possible to have a default on any future accounts I have opened without my permission to not take out this "optional" insurance - the paper form is required every time; OR, I should be able to make the selection on the application form.

Application form? What application form? I don't believe I've ever completed an application form and will make a request to the privacy officer (by writing a letter and putting it in the post) requesting to see my records. That should be interesting.

So I went and looked at the application form. It gives me the opportunity to decide if I want to provide my tax file number, to select my beneficiaries, to NOT take up insurance and to choose my investment mix. Someone somewhere has made all these choices for me without any communication about what has happened or what it means. On reading the university's FAQ page about superannuation, I've discovered that I can also elect to reduce my employer contribution from 9.5% to 0% (and other amounts in between). Well this is good news! Surely I can just make this election and take the 9.5% out myself and pay it to my preferred fund? Well probably, but I'm sure there's some hideous tax implication that will erode my meagre earnings even further. Funny that no one has mentioned this as an option.

As it stands, whenever I am paid enough for the employer to make a superannuation contribution, an account will be opened and the insurance premiums will be calculated daily and deducted monthly from the moment the account is opened. I will only discover that superannuation has been paid when I receive a pay slip. Oh, wait, I haven't received a payslip for a few years. To get a payslip, I have to log into a system. The password expires every three months. I work there once every six months. This is not front of my mind. Anyway, by the time I discover I have a new superannuation account, money is already being deducted to pay for "optional" insurance. I will fill in TWO forms and put them in the post - one to cease the insurance and one to close the account and rollover the balance. Rinse and repeat. Indefinitely.

Is this sounding repetitive? Well it is. I wonder how happy members of the funds would be to know about this wasteful administration? I wonder how happy the insurance company (whose name I don't even know) is to receive lots of tiny amounts from unsuspecting and poorly informed superannuation members? 

On top of all of that, casual employees receive only 9.5% employer contribution, while others receive 17%! I just discovered that when I stumbled across this campaign. Despite being on the payroll (albeit as a casual) I have not had the opportunity to vote on the enterprise agreement which came into effect last year and expires in June 2017. It would seem this campaign is a little late. 

As discussed on a previous post, joining the union is not an option because I'd have to join four different ones to cover me in all my employment settings. Who can afford that? 

This is an example of casual employees not being considered in arrangements at all.  Yet we are essential to many programs in the universities. By all means, maintain the default fund arrangements for people other than casuals and provide the option for casual employees to nominate either UniSuper, or a different fund of our choosing. I'm flabbergasted that an enterprise agreement can override federal legislation about superannuation choice, given the impact it has, undermining the legislation.

I'm lodging a formal complaint, through the internal mechanism first, and will be contacting the university's superannuation officer tomorrow. I can write an email or do it over the phone, as well as write a letter and put it in the post.

Customer service doesn't seem to exist as a concept. I wonder if it will kick in as I move through the complaint process?

How informed are you about your superannuation? Do you have insurance you don't need or want? 

Monday, 3 March 2014

What does the label say?

The other day I was drinking a 300ml bottle of sparkling mineral water. I'm a bit of a food label reader and since I've given up sugar, sparking mineral water makes a pleasant alternative to the juices and soft drinks which are usually on offer. The other dimension to my label reading lately is looking for where things are made and the origin of ingredients.

I noticed that the label said the ingredients were "Australian natural sparkling mineral water". When I turned the bottle around, the label said that this product was made from "local and imported ingredients". That was quite confusing. Some people suggested that it might be referring to the bottle or the label on the bottle. It seemed possible, but unlikely.

I decided to call Coca-Cola Amatil's consumer information line. I was presented with the usual raft of options to choose using the numbers on my keypad. I chose to speak to a consumer experience executive. I just wanted to see what they were like. In the meantime I noted that the web address included the words "live positively" and once there, the site explained their commitment to fighting obesity. As they sell sugar laden drinks.

Darren was initially confused about what I was asking and then realised that he had no answer. Refreshingly, he admitted this and said he would find out and call me back. Before we ended the call he gave me a reference number that was too long for me to write down anywhere. I didn't tell him that.

He called me back the next day with the news that there is an error on the label. I told him I was glad I'd called to bring to their attention the labelling problem. "Oh no, we've known about this for a while," came his reply.

That was the most interesting part of the conversation. I wondered about the organisation's commitment to truth in labelling and disclosure generally. I was surprised that one of the most brand aware organisations in the world was so lax about something like this. I'll be reading the labels very closely and seeing how long it takes to notice a change.

How quickly do you act to fix known problems? What message are small errors sending to your customers about your business?

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sunday Slide Show

It's been a while since I posted a Sunday Slide Show, so here you go. All taken on my iphone.

In the shadow of the windmill, there is no moisture.
© 2014 divacultura

Yarnbomb in Swanston Street
© 2014 divacultura

View from the 53rd floor of the Rialto Tower - looking west.
See the Westgate Bridge just in front of the horizon? And the train in the foreground?
© 2014 divacultura

Looking west again, but more to the north than the last shot.
Here is the Bolte Bridge.
© 2014 divacultura

I love the way the bike shadows look like tulips in pots.
© divacultura 2014

6000 mobile phones weigh 1 tonne. That's a lot of landfill.
Art meets activism.
© 2014 divacultura 

Lunch table yesterday in Yarraville.
© 2014 divacultura

What have you been taking photos of lately?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

I love him - a ten year old's perspective.

When I saw my niece Heidi last, she asked if I could make her a koala. I like to say yes if possible, so I did and thought I'd just figure it out later.

Today is her tenth birthday and I finished this fellow and popped him in the post during the week. He started out as a series of nondescript grey shapes, then a series of grey balls. As I assembled him, attached his eyes, ears and nose, he gained a personality. I felt vaguely worried as I sealed him in the darkness of the post bag and then put him in the letterbox!

Introducing Mr Chub, the koala
© 2014 divacultura

She texted me last night to say hello and let me know that she had learnt how to do a fishtail braid on hair. And that she was watching the Smurfs and that it was her birthday tomorrow. Today she gave the Smurfs five stars.

When we first spoke this morning, she was yet to receive my parcel. I asked her about how her day was going. She told me about her gifts, including a saddle blanket. I asked her to tell me about it and she told me it was red and navy blue with her name and her logo on it, as though it was perfectly normal for a ten year old girl to have a logo. I haven't even sorted out the logo for my business yet! I asked her what my logo should say and she replied without hesitation "Tanya's Knitting Service". 

The child is Nostradamus. About half and hour later Heidi called me again to tell me she had received her parcel. She expressed her feelings: "I love him!" 

This was such a relief. Clearly I will have risen in the Favourite Aunty Stakes. I'm still scarred from when my nephew pointed at my sister-in-law identifying her as his favourite aunty.

"Do you think it's a he?" I asked her.

"Yes, I do," she replied solemnly.

"I like his nose." 

"He's eaten a lot of eucalyptus leaves!" she laughed.

"Why do you say that?"

"He's so fat!"

"Well I had to make sure he didn't starve to death on the way up to live with you Heidi. Is he okay? Is he still alive?"

"Yes. His eyes are as big as Sofia's." Sofia is Heidi's younger sister.

"I know! He's definitely an Edlington."

She laughed and I asked if she had a name for him yet. She hadn't yet and promised to send me a message when she had come up with his name.

A few hours later, I was informed that his name is "Chub". He'd better not lose weight now that he's survived the epic journey.

I'm off to work out how to make a kangaroo for her sister.