Monday, 29 September 2014

It's all about the conversation

What is it about car trips that enable good conversation?

Today's conversation was as much about the relationship with the person as it was about being in a car; we have excellent conversations where ever we are.

Last week's conversation was revealing for both parties. Is it the lack of eye contact?

I've also written whole songs while driving alone. Thank goodness for recording apps on my iPhone! I've heard tell that driving engages the left brain. While the left brain is busy, the right brain is free to play. I've certainly found this to be true.

I like being the passenger when I'm confident in the driver. Today I was so relaxed I took out my knitting. I was on a knitting deadline and needed to finish the second sock of a pair by the end of tomorrow. It was the car trip or it was never going to happen. At one moment my mind wandered and I had a flash of death by knitting needles if there was an accident.  Was this the catastrophic thinking about which mental health professionals speak? I choose to think it was a little flight of fancy taken by my right brain.

Back to conversation in cars...I recall many occasions when I've bonded with someone or made deep discoveries or found myself on a journey of revelation when on a road trip.

In my world we could abolish interrogation techniques and instead embark on a road trip with a high value prisoner.  All would soon be revealed without the need for inhumane actions (unless you count the carbon output).

Is there a PhD in this? Alternative questioning techniques? I worry that the world isn't ready after discovering all the bins at Flinders Street Station have been removed because of "security". We'd better brace ourselves for the trains to become even more of a garbage tip.

The conversation isn't as good on the trains. Maybe it's the impact of being observed.

I'll continue that conversation over dinner in Wangaratta.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

This uncertain world

The world feels so unsure right now.
On television, politicians defend laws that deprive us of liberty in the name of terrorism.
On television, the same politicians ignore the global threat that climate change poses to the whole world.
On television, the suffering caused by Ebola in Africa seems distant and apart from us.
On television, we are reassured that the Royal Melbourne Hospital is trained and ready for Ebola.
Going through security for domestic flights, the security seems no more onerous than usual; sometimes they wish to unfurl my umbrella.
Most of the time they are happy to leave it furled in the bottom of my bag.
They are polite.
Except for the man at a small regional airport who said he would need to rearrange my bag because it was a "complete mess".
I looked at him and blinked, not daring, where the air is tense with unrealised threat, to tell him to pull his head in.
Until recently this airport had no security; one just walked across the tarmac to board the waiting plane.
I wanted to go home, not to a white room with a chair, a table, greying linoleum, no windows and no lawyer.
The radio broadcasts reports of attacks, arrests and mysterious packages.
I am transported back to that place where mysterious packages and powders were easily spied.
I arrive home to discover the front security gate has been torn from its hinges.
What uprising took place while I was gone?
Walking around the neighbourhood while the AFL grand final is being played across town at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the streets were deserted.
I crossed the road easily, for there were no cars.
Periodically, synchronised roars would arise from separate houses, punctuating the play.
I hope the crowd is safe, not vulnerable.

I'm rereading "Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut. In chapter four, Billy Pilgrim is in a train car, being held prisoner by the German army:

"When food came in, the human beings were quiet and trusting and beautiful. They shared."

If only life was like that.
Calm sanctuary in a mad world.
© 2014 divacultura
During the week I visited one of the psychiatric hospitals for which I work. The gardens are beautiful and I've already decided to book in if I should fall apart. This was my view as I ate my lunch.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Auction-packed weekend continues - menswear for sale.

It was an auction packed weekend. After visiting the cattle sales in Tamworth on Friday, I went to a clearing sale for a local menswear store, Blowes. A bit over a year ago, the local newspaper reported that the company had gone into voluntary administration. Now it was time for the clearing sale.

The process was much the same as the cattle sale, except that any price seemed to be acceptable and the range of items being sold was extensive.  Everything from packs of shirts, underpants, hats and shoes to cash registers, shop cabinets and a range of mannequins was available to be had.  Buyers registered and were given a number to keep track of who had bought what. One experienced sale-goer had tucked his number into his hat band. "Number 30" was visible where ever he went. While I was there, I didn't notice him buy anything, but he certainly looked like a rival for whatever took your fancy.

The dry humour of the auctioneer made the experience an entertainment, even if you weren't in the market for menswear or shop fittings.

"Lot 27 - a straw hat, size very small - for a very small good for you sir! Do I hear $20?"

A man called Marty got a hard time whenever small sized shirts were being sold: "You'll have to pass that one up Marty!"

"Next lot - 10 green ties." The auctioneer paused as he searched for the sales pitch. "Good for a team! How about a fancy dress party? Do I hear $20?"

"Next lot - 10 blue ties!" He shook his head and just asked for a bid.

"Next lot - 10 pairs of briefs! (What size are they?) Assorted sizes! (pause) Outfit the whole family!" I heard him chuckle under his breath that it was the first time he'd auctioned underpants.

Bargains were being snapped up. Everything was being sold. Occasionally the bidding went down and someone would snare a bargain; other times it was a fierce and exciting contest. Eye contact with the auctioneer and his assistant was everything. The more experienced buyers could be detected by the subtlety of their bidding - the merest suggestion of a head movement and the bid was theirs. The greener waved their numbers in the air and they had the bid. I was standing amongst a group of seasoned bidders and was terrified of buying something I didn't want and couldn't transport back to Melbourne. Knowing my luck, an itchy nose would result in the purchase of  23 boxes of wooden coathangers ( a bargain at $5); a stray hair would lead to being saddled with a collection of unidentifiable "sundry goods" (daylight robbery at $5), a passing fly and I'd be the proud owner of 5 pairs of cufflinks!

I noticed a few people buying the packs of assorted sizes and lots of things like "10 black wallets" and wondered if they had their own store. Perhaps they were stocking up for Christmas. Others were trying on hats and boots and sizing up shirts, clearly stocking up their own wardrobe.

We left after about an hour and while it seemed that a mountain of goods had been sold, it was only a tiny proportion of everything that was on offer. I would have been happy to buy the three drawer filing cabinet that I spied at the back of the shop, but the logistics of excess baggage on a flight back to Melbourne were too much to contemplate.

All eyes on a bargain at Blowes.
© 2014 divacultura

Friday, 19 September 2014

The sights, sounds and smells of a cattle sale

On approach to the Tamworth Regional Livestock Exchange, two things struck me: the noise and the smell. Perhaps the volume is similar to the other kind of stock exchange but the sounds and the smells are probably quite different. Here the smell is the earthy smell of animal sweat, manure and dirt.

Anyone got a spare hat?
Copyright 2014 divacultura
Going to a cattle sale was a new experience and I was pleased to have the opportunity. It immediately proved a good decision that I had swapped my new silver casual shoes for a pair of my brother's boots. They were a size too big but I would have been even more obviously alien in the crowd in my ridiculously urban shoes. With my hair in a pony tail, a cap on my head and clad in a pair of jeans, I was receiving some enquiring looks. I certainly looked nothing like the rest of the people there. For one, they were male. I'm not. I was wearing the wrong kind of hat. My eyes didn't have the right appraising glint as I surveyed the pens of cattle.

I was careful not to fall into a pen; it was a special female sale today and I didn't want to find out how much I would fetch.

Auctioneers busy at their work.
Copyright 2014 divacultura
The cattle are contained in rows and rows of pens with concreted alley ways in between for the buyers, sellers, agents and other people. Tags of various colours tell the story of how old they are or whether the cows might be in calf. The auctioneers walk on a gangway elevated above the pens. They stop at each pen and say a bit about the animals in the pen that's about to be sold. The auctioneer is flanked by several men in big hats who identify the bidders in the crowd. A woman is nearby carrying a big stick that she holds over the pen being auctioned. I learned that this is a scanner which takes the details of the national livestock identification tags in the ears of the cattle. This enables each animal to be traced from its birth and is important for ensuring the safety of meat.

There are several auctioneers. They wear the uniform of jeans, pale blue collared shirt and very big, light coloured hat. They are amplified by a Madonna-style microphone and portable speaker which they either wear on their belt or is carried by another person. Some of them aren't amplified at all. They talk quickly as they explain what's for sale and then they accelerate as they search for the first bid. Their diaphragms work hard to ensure they have enough breath. Eyes are watchful, ears pricked and somehow, above all the noise of the people and the livestock, purchase after purchase is made and the crowd moves to the next pen. It's exciting to see all these people at their work.

Just looking at the crowd, it's hard to see who might be a buyer looking for the lowest price they can get and who might be a seller hoping their animals will sell for enough to make some money, or at least, not make a loss. I think I see a glimpse of disappointment in the eyes of one rural man.

As I'm standing with my brother, asking all my questions so I can understand what's happening, a woman comes over and asks if she can take our photograph. She's doing publicity for the sales and we will feature in the sale highlights. I didn't expect to make the social pages of the local cattle sale, but there's a first time for everything. My brother is pleased because it will further raise his profile as a local veterinarian.

As we leave, the noise and smells recede. I look at my dusty feet, pleased that I'm not in my silver shoes. We go to the Sushi Train for lunch and I feel as if I've returned to more familiar territory. As I eat some beef, I wonder where it came from.

Here's what it sounds like:

Awaiting their fate
Copyright 2014 divacultura

Through the rails
Copyright 2014 divacultura

More hat than kid.
Copyright 2014 divacultura