Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Round the traps - smelling like a car, crazy crowds, wishful thinking and travels

In between study, pursuit of work, reading for leisure and knitting up a storm (sometimes for charity), I haven't had the headspace to write. I think I've been very busy thinking which doesn't leave much space to observe. I've also been feeling a bit angry and frustrated at some of the things I I had a fabulous, relaxed break over the long weekend and started noticing things again.

Today I saw a poster in the window of a discount chemist advertising the new fragrance from Mercedes Benz. I imagine it smells like, well, a car! Why would I want to smell like a car? I can't imagine that there will ever be a fragrance called "Clapped out Corolla". 

I found this sentence on the internet as part of a description of the fragrance: This contrasted composition confers authenticity and is at the heart of the fragrances story olfactory signature and original yet universal character. They might make good cars, but they don't write very good.

It's been a cold start to winter in Melbourne. Last Thursday was particularly cold - biting wind, horizontal rain, no sign of reprieve. Running errands in the city, I saw the ultimate sign of wishful thinking: outdoor tables topped with a pineapple. No one was sitting there and I can't imagine they would order anything other than a hot chocolate. Those poor pineapples!

After lunch and a wander with a friend on Sunday we found ourselves arriving back to the city right when the big football crowds were making their way to Etihad Stadium. At each stop more and more people squeezed in and even thought I was seated, I had a couple of bottoms resting on my shoulder. We arrived at the Bourke Street mall stop and lots of people tried to make a move to disembark, but people were already trying to get on. No one could do anything, so I called out to let everyone know that we were trying to get off. I got one of those looks you get when you speak in a lift with people you don't know. Nothing happened. I made the request more transparent, suggesting that the best way to get out of the way and let people off, was to get off themselves, let us off and then get back on. Still nothing. I managed to ooze my way to the steps where there were three people standing the steps. I asked them to move so we could get off and they said there was no need. Actually their exact words were, "Come on! Are you right?" I had to press myself against them as I went down the stairs.

My conclusion was that they couldn't possibly be Melbournians. Could they? Melbournians are excellent at being in a crowd and very civil and practical in a squeeze. At least we used to be.

News from my mother tells me that my requirements when travelling have been severely lacking. Usually I'm happy if the lighting in the bathroom does not make me look as though I'm aged 153; even better if I can convince myself that I look 25 and the towels are generously sized. My mother informed me today of accommodation she has booked for my father, advising that it has a heated indoor swimming pool and a small herd of fallow deer. I'm listing that as a permanent demand whenever I travel now. It's almost enough to let my mother be my booking agent, but I think she has her hands full being my editor.

How are you travelling?

Monday, 11 May 2015

The autumn leaves

I love Melbourne in autumn.

The colours in the gardens and parks look glorious against the back drop of the grey skies.

The streets and paths are piled high with drifts of fallen leaves. It seems impossible that anymore could fall, but there are still more to come.
Drift leaves
© 2015 divacultura

The old Greek men in the neighbourhood spend their Saturday mornings with their plastic rakes and garden bins gathering the leaves together.

"Doing the council's work," one of them says to me as I pass.

On a windy day, the task is sisyphean.

The punt on whether the sheets will dry on the clothesline, often pays off, despite a sky that suggests otherwise.

I find a big pile of leaves irresistible when I'm out walking.

I hope the wind has blown them into a pile as I swish and swoosh through them.

Autumn colour
© 2015 divacultura

Green, yellow and brown
© 2015 divacultura

Saturday, 9 May 2015

How important is my call, really?

There is no greater tool to distort the passing of time, than to be placed on hold by a call centre. The music is too tinny to be upbeat and even though the voice over is smiley and warm, it leads to thoughts of homicide. I made the tempting mistake of thinking I could make a "quick" call. As the minutes passed, it became an operatic melodrama.

I did the tracking on the website first. I expected to see something more recent than a visit to a western Sydney suburb three days ago. Was my package still there? Was it somewhere else? The website couldn't tell me.

I rang the number. To get to speak to someone, I first had to go through the same tracking process on the phone. I ended up in the same place, but this time, when I reached the end, I was able to say the word "consultant" so I could be placed on hold.

Well I was on hold for 20 minutes. That tinny music blared, only to be interrupted by overly cheerful announcements telling me I could get the answer from the website! I was at work and filed emails while I waited. That was the most useful part of the experience.

After 20 minutes a woman answered. I told her the story. She told me my parcel was in that western Sydney suburb. I asked her what it was still doing there. She suddenly noticed that it arrived there three days ago. She said it was probably on a truck and might still be delivered. I could tell she was faking. I asked her how she knew it was on a truck. She confessed that she didn't know; she was hoping. I pressed the point. She sighed. She asked me to confirm my business account details. I asked her what she meant. She told me the name of the workplace I was in. (The phones are jolly clever these days! We're all being watched, apparently.) She sighed, saying that she would need to put my personal details in. I provided them. This yielded nothing. She told me I was in the wrong section. I told her I said the word "consultant" when asked and here I was. She sighed again. She would have to put me through to another section. She couldn't do anything. I reminded her how long I had been on hold and that I wasn't really looking forward to another age of tinny music and falsely optimistic announcements from the voice over girl.

She was gone. I was on hold. The minutes ticked by. Slower than if I had been doing something enjoyable. My email in box was looking really good. I was scared I would run out of emails to file. It's amazing how much filing you can do in 30 minutes.

Neil said hello. I said hello. Another man said hello.

The line was crossed. The other man had been on hold for ages. Neil was confused. I was running out of emails to file. Neil concluded that we had a crossed line. He sensibly declared that he could only talk to one of us at a time. My details were the ones he had on the computer screen in front of him. YES! He would need to transfer Jamal.

With Jamal banished, Neil asked me how he could help. I was about to answer, but another man chimed in. I soon learned that his name was Eric. Neil explained that we had a crossed line and again demonstrated how clever he was. Eric disappeared. We started again. This time Brittany was also in the conversation. I started to laugh maniacally.

Neil concluded that this was a problem and said that we would both have to hang up. I was now 45 minutes into the phone call and hadn't resolved the issue. I wasn't giving up without a fight. I told Neil that someone would need to call me back. He promised they would; then said if they didn't I'd need to call back. I said it was unacceptable that there might be a possibility I would have to call back. I commented on how patient and good humoured I'd been so far.

Forty-five minutes later, my phone had not rung.

I called again. I went through the tracking process on the phone. I said "consultant". I went on hold.

By the time the call was answered by a person, I had run my errands in town, bought groceries and was on the train home, barrelling towards the inner west black spot where all phone calls drop out. North Melbourne is apparently in the wilderness of Melbourne.

I explained the black spot problem to Sue and asked if she would call me back if the call dropped out. She told me that wasn't possible. I got off the train. I stood on the platform as Sue clicked away on her keyboard and sighed and gave me no new information. Sue told me she really didn't know where the parcel was. She told me I couldn't complain until three business days after the EDD. That's the estimated delivery date. The EDD was the very day that I was filing my emails, having brief encounters with men called Neil and Jamal and Eric.

I asked how I make a complaint.

Sue told me I just needed to call. There was no hint of irony either.

This morning I woke up to an email from the recipient of the parcel to say it had arrived. I could have just asked, but had not wanted to spoil the surprise.

Happy Mother's Day Mum! Thanks for being my proofreader (after publication).

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Life sentence imposed on families.

With the execution of Australian citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Indonesian government has imposed a life sentence on people who are innocent of any crime.

The families of these men, and the other six people murdered with them, have not been convicted of any crime, yet they have been sentenced to grief for the rest of their lives.

What right does any government have to do that? How are these murders okay? And they are murders. There was deliberate intention to kill.

I had hoped that someone, somehow, would have have managed to get the pictures so the world could not hide from the barbarous reality of what has been done. It seems unlikely as all precautions were taken by authorities to stop this happening. If there's nothing wrong with the actions taken, why hide?

If there are Indonesian citizens being held awaiting execution anywhere in the world, the certainty of their deaths was cemented last night.

I wonder why effort was put into rehabilitation if it was all to end like this.

I also wonder about the Constitutional Court appeal due to be held on 12 May. Whatever the outcome, it is surely tainted.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Human Rights - it's personal

Sally Warhaft, Julian Burnside and Tom Porteous
in conversation at The Wheeler Centre.
When I booked tickets to this evening's Fifth Estate event at the Wheeler Centre to hear Julian Burnside, barrister and refugee advocate, and Tom Porteous from Human Rights Watch discuss human rights, none of us knew that later tonight two Australian citizens would probably be executed. I say probably, because while there is breath in their bodies, there is hope.

It seems cruelly apt to be thinking and talking about human rights when state sanctioned murder is about to occur.

As I listened to chair, Sally Warhaft, share her private grief about what is likely to happen, I really felt the truth that human rights is personal and it's individual and it is important for every human being.

Last weekend, I called the police after hearing a woman nearby screaming for her life. She's human and has rights and I can't stand by and hear her being threatened without taking some kind of action.

At the same time, the so-called leader of the free world presides over a country that still has the death penalty. Julian Burnside spoke about the fact that the debate in the US is currently more about the method of execution, rather than the existence of it. He said some of the countries that manufacture the chemicals required for execution by lethal injection are refusing to supply it. Tom Porteous said that in his home state of Maryland (which includes the city of Baltimore) consideration is being given to bringing back firing squads and gas because of the difficulties faced in carrying out lethal injections. (Read more.)

How can Indonesia take criticism of its actions seriously, while this is going on in the US? Or while Australia runs concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island?

I was struck by Tom Porteous' statement about "judicial fallibility" coupled with the "irreversibility of the death sentence". What a terrible cocktail.

Twitter and Facebook show a wide range of views, including those that suggest people should get what's coming to them if they break the law. Here's my response:

The session will be available as a podcast tomorrow if you'd like to listen.

I'm off to light a candle and hope for some goodness and sense in the world.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Gaggles of girls and group dynamics

The door opened and four people spilled into the pizza shop. The televisions weren't on as usual, so the restaurant part of the shop was quieter than usual. A burly man wearing the high-visibility shirt and sturdy boots which denotes "blue collar" followed in the tumble of girls and curls who spilled in before him. Their prissy and fussy starkly contrasted with the utilitarian functionality of the man.

He asked the girls where they wanted to sit. They noisily chose a booth and proceeded to pile onto the banquette, opposite their father who looked as if he was attending a job interview. Quickly the girls were silenced by the compelling content of their electronic device. He studied the menu. All interaction between the opposite sides ceased. The middle girl would occasionally elbow the older and the younger to stop them crowding her as their hypnosis deepened.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"Where's mum?" they asked.

"She'll be here soon," he replied.

Is this a Friday night handover of children between divorced parents? I wondered.

"What do you want?"

"PIZZA!" they screamed.

Well, it's a pizza shop, so that's a pretty good pick.

I continued to wonder at the contrast between the man and his progeny. All these girls - so many of them! - with their giggles and glances and things - so many of them! - must be mysterious to such a man. How does he come to know and understand his daughters? Already they seem to wield power of the man.

A feeling of confused wonder surfaced. I'd had it before. I remember sitting on a train when a group of young women dressed for a night on the town all boarded the carriage together. The sounds, sights and smells were overwhelming. As a pack, they were intimidating. They had so many shoes and bags and nails; so much hair and earrings. They jangled and tinkled when they moved, providing the soundtrack to their overly loud voices and awful, false, self-conscious tittering. The wall of their perfume made them an impenetrable group.

I look at the father and think about how lonely it can be when you're on the outside of a group - even if it's one that you don't want to be part of.

I'm doing some professional development next week as I embark on an Advanced Diploma of Group Dynamics. See you afterwards.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Boys on their bikes

Two boys on bikes fly around the corner, following the sound of their own voices. They are about twelve or thirteen years old. The first boy is graceful and elegant, almost like the bike is part of him. As he comes around the corner, his hands are stretched out at his sides, like aeroplane wings, and he looks so loose and free. The second boy is everything the first boy is not. He's awkward and wobbly. He takes his hands off the handlebars for a second and the bike's frame shudders and shakes from side to side.

"How do you take your hands off without the handlebars wobbling?" he calls to the first boy.

"Balance," is the only response and not very helpful for a boy who struggles just to ride the bike.

"Yeah, I know! But when I take my hands of the handlebars, they wobble. Yours don't. How come?"



It was a futile conversation. The first boy has it naturally and it seemed miraculous that the second boy was able to ride the bike at all.

It was nice to see a couple of kids out and about on their bikes in the neighbourhood. I suddenly realised it's a rare sight these days. I remember riding my bike all over town when I was their age. We'd ride to and from school and be away for hours at a time on the weekends. Only once, did I go quite a long way and underestimate how long it would take me to get home. In the days before mobile phones, my parents must have worried about me. I did get there in the end.

I hope the second boy is really good at something that the expert bike rider isn't. That would only be fair.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Paying tax - why?

I received my tax assessment today. Before you stop reading - tax is hardly the most thrilling subject - I want to talk about what else was in the envelope.

There's a tax receipt which explains where my tax dollars were spent. It shows how much and what it was spent on. I think this is an excellent way to educate about the value of paying tax, but for some reason it feels like a cynical exercise.

The first thing I noted was that the level of Australian Government gross debt has increased from $257 billion to $320 billion. That increase has happened under PM Abbott and Treasurer Hockey who used to talk about a "debt and deficit emergency" but now they say there isn't one.

Unsurprisingly, welfare is the biggest proportion and payments to unemployed people is the smallest share (apart from "other").

Health is second highest, then the list gets interesting. Defence received more of my tax dollars than education ($5 more to be precise). I'd like to know more about health spending - for example how much of it goes on subsidising private health insurance for people with money compared to mental health services.

Recreation and culture gets the smallest amount. Luckily I prop them up by paying to go to art galleries, concerts, plays and other cultural activities.

Any mention of the environment is screamingly absent and I can only hope that some of the money going to "fuel and energy" is for development of renewable energy.

There's more information on the website. I love their commitment to plainspeaking:

Understanding tax

Australians pay tax so the government can provide services to the community.
Good to know.
Immigration is the category that upsets me because I know that I have no choice but to financially contribute to the immigration detention centres where innocent people are kept in concentration camps.
I wonder what would happen if tax payers could direct where our share of taxes was spent? I know that it wouldn't necessarily be practical, but it would be interesting to ask people. My decisions would be very different from those of the current government, but I don't resent paying tax.
Thanks to the Australian Government for the information!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Man about town - who's his haberdasher?

In the bookstore, downstairs off Collins Street, I was in the science fiction area, looking for a book recommended by my friend J. We'd had lunch and wandered around a little section of Fitzroy, enjoying conversation and the glorious autumn weather. A vision in hot pink spandex and matching sneakers excused himself. I looked up. The sound of the voice did not fit the expectations set by my peripheral vision. I was expecting a woman and saw a man. He was resplendent, with plumage in his hair to rival any bird during the mating season. His eyebrows were strong black diagonal lines. I figured he had been at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo which had been on at the Melbourne showgrounds until I saw him on the train this evening.

Tonight he was wearing a tight red mini dress with a purple faux fur jacket. Again, he was topped with spectacular plumage - red and purple feathers, sprinkled with jewels, covered his entire head. I noticed the eyebrows again.

As I made my way to the exit, he looked directly at me. We nodded at each other. Weirdly, it felt like we were recognising something kindred.

I took the plunge. "You look amazing," I said.

His face lit up. "So do you!"

This felt like high praise from someone who clearly spends A LOT of time on his appearance. I also work hard to maintain my artist's identity when I'm working in that capacity with corporate clients. I must have succeeded today.

"Same hair!" I laughed, referring to our matching red.

"Twins!" he responded with the appropriate amount of irony.

He held the door open for me and we both went out in the night. I found myself wondering where he'd spent his days and then decided he'd probably been earning a living, just like most of us travelling home at 6pm.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Crazy markdowns! Graves going cheap!

The Melbourne Cemetery has a banner hanging on the fence advertising new graves available. Low prices! Prestige positions!

I suppose in a world where everything is competing in a marketplace, it was only a matter of time. 

As I drove past, several questions sprang to mind. 

Where did they get the space?
Who moved out?
Did they go voluntarily?
Do they have an annual stock take?
Could I buy a plot and rent it out to take advantage of negative gearing?

What does "prime position" mean in the real estate of the after life?

Later I walked into the post office to collect my mail. A woman was sitting on the customer side of the counter on an office chair. She was resting her head on the counter and the staff were looking concerned. While I waited to collect a parcel, the woman complained that she couldn't breathe and urgently asked someone to undo her bra. I obliged and asked the staff to call an ambulance. She protested one minute -  "No ambulance!" - and then said she couldn't breathe. 

The manager looked uncertain. I nodded to say "keep going, get the ambulance". I imagined the headlines if she died in the post office and no one called an ambulance. 

"My partner is coming. He will be here soon. I don't need an ambulance, " the woman kept repeating. 

A man standing behind me in the queue protested, saying that we shouldn't call an ambulance if she didn't want one. I questioned whether someone who was having difficulty breathing and therefore had no oxygen to the brain was in the best position to make life and death decisions.

A man wearing a leopard onesie then arrived. He was her partner. It wasn't exactly the cavalry, but I felt relieved of responsibility.

I wonder if the woman knew about the sale at the cemetry?

Monday, 16 March 2015

Can you hear body language?

Clients frequently challenge the idea that body language makes a difference in telephone communication. It's easy to resolve their challenge. Having worked briefly in a contact centre, I remember the floor being filled with people sending non-verbal signals during every phone call; even though the non-verbals were invisible to the person on the other end of the telephone.

My favourite example to illustrate the point, is to talk about my voice over work. When I record, I'm in a booth by myself. I don't just stand there. I embody the words and convey the message with my whole being. Only my voice will be used, so what I look like is irrelevant. But I do know that if I just stood still my voice would sound different. 

My brother said something to me the other day which was the perfect example. He was talking about a pretty tricky phone conversation and at one point he told me he could "hear the other person raising their eyebrows". This phrase gave me a very clear picture about what was happening in the phone call, even if I didn't have all the details about what was being said. My brother couldn't really hear the other person's eyebrows being raised - I can't imagine anyone having eyebrows that noisy - but he could hear their tone of voice. It's highly likely that the person to whom my brother was speaking was actually raising their eyebrows and this is what influenced their tone of voice.

Next time you're speaking on the telephone, check in with the picture you have in your mind. Most of the time, we "see" this picture unconsciously as part of our interpretation of the message we are receiving. 

You might even go a step further and try this out with a friend or colleague: ask them to adopt different postures (eg slump, stand up straight, smile, frown, check their Facebook page) and then speak. See if you can describe their body language. I've noticed that people are usually pretty good at deciphering the visual channel of face to face communication, even when it's invisible.

What are you conveying when you speak on the telephone? Check your body language. You'll be sending a message loud and clear; just make sure it's the one you intend to send.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Singing beside the seaside - Airey's Inlet Music Festival

Because of interstate travel this week, I missed my vocal group's rehearsal. It was our last in preparation for two performances at the Airey's Inlet Open Mic Music Festival, taking place this weekend.

I'd been diligently recording all our rehearsals so that I could listen and go over my parts in my own time. I don't usually do this, because I have a piano and just rehearse that way, but I'm not usually booked into the hotel suite that comes equipped with a piano, so did it this way instead.

On the four hour flights to and from Perth I spent the time listening and rehearsing. I thought I was doing it in my head, until the man sitting next to me said nothing, but conveyed, with a look that said, "What the hell are you doing? Please stop bouncing around in your seat!" (This man also failed to respond to the humour being offered with the coffee by one of the flight attendants.)

Vocal Group rehearsal - the devices come out.
© 2015 divacultura
A beautiful day dawned. I stood out in the sunshine waiting for my lift to arrive with my music, doing some last minute reviews. As we snuck around the back of a cafe, right on the highway, to warm up, the passing traffic gave us some strange looks. A lone cyclist looked as though he was about to ride right off the road.

One of the songs we sang is "Waiting on an Angel" by Ben Harper. When rehearsing and thinking about this song I attached it to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australian men awaiting execution in Indonesia. It was all I could do to get through without tears taking over.

If you can get to Airey's Inlet tomorrow, it's worth visiting. There are nine music venues, ranging from marquees in car parks to corners of cafes and gallery spaces. The festival culminates in a performance by a "mystery guest" whose identity is a closely guarded secret.

I was so pleased to be a part of Mood Swing's performance today. Our happy, relaxed vibe created a beautiful exchange with the audience. Singing with and for other people is such a special gift.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

What's your mindset?

"Mindset" is a recurring theme in my work these days. Whether I'm working with leaders, a team or individual coaching clients I've noticed so many of the questions and uncertainties stem from mindset; get that straight and good things can happen.

Coaching someone about career transition the other day, I asked them about what the point of a job interview is. "To trap me with hard questions," came their answer. I've had someone else describe job interviews as a necessary evil. "No one likes going to the dentist, but you have to do it."

These two responses say nothing about what happens at job interviews and everything about the mindset of the person I was coaching. Take the first response about using questions as traps. This response attributes motive to the interview panel (to trap me, to show me up, to make a fool of me etc). There's also a sense that the questions will be difficult or test knowledge that you don't have. Neither of these two things is necessarily true. Employers don't use the time of many people in the interview process just to torture outsiders! Employers with a vacancy to fill, have a problem to solve; they need someone to do the job. By inviting you for an interview, they're saying "we think you could be the very person who can solve our problem and fill the job".

But what about those hard questions you'll be asked? I've been a contestant on a few game shows and I love trivia quizzes. I'm often asked about how I came to know the answers to such hard questions. "No question is hard if you know the answer." Unlike most game shows, you know the main topic of the questions you'll be asked at an interview: YOU! The key to dealing with questions at an interview is to prepare. Think about the role and the organisation and think of relevant examples from your life (at work or other settings if relevant).

Imagine if my clients adjusted their mindset. Imagine what it would be like to go into an interview thinking: "I'm so pleased this company thinks I might be the person for this role. I think I am and it's great to have the opportunity to talk to them and show them I am exactly the person they're looking for. While I don't know exactly what they're going to ask me, I'm a subject matter expert about the main subject (me) and I've prepared by thinking of some examples. I'm confident that this will be a great conversation."

Suddenly, an interview is something to look forward to, rather than an ordeal.

So what? Whatever your mindset, it will show up. Whether you're in a job interview, talking to your teenager or negotiating an extension of time to pay your electricity bill, your mindset will be evident.

The other day I had to call a government department. I was on hold for 30 minutes before someone took my call. I really needed to talk to them, so was just eager that that happen while I was available to talk. I put my earpiece in and went about my business while I was on hold, so that was okay. When my call was answered I expressed relief and said I was really pleased my call had been answered. The response of the woman on the phone was to say, in a very clipped, harsh tone, "Yes, well it is a very busy time of year." I instantly felt put off. She didn't sound like she was having a very good day. I don't know what was in her mind, but she was displaying her mindset:"Oh great, another caller who has to talk about how long they've been on hold instead of just getting to the point. Doesn't she know we're busy!"

If her mindset had been about customer service and helping, she might have said something like, "Oh sorry you've had such a long wait, but I'm here now. How can I help you?" Right there, the mindset changes everything.

I won't go into all the details of the call here, but it was harder than it needed to be. My needs weren't being fulfilled and she told me that she could put me through the process but there was no point because she wouldn't be changing her mind. It's pretty clear what her mindset was likely to be.

I find that mindset is often closely aligned to purpose. Clarity about why you're doing something, or why someone is asking you something, helps resolve anxiety about motivation and just get on with it.

So, next time you're wondering how to approach something, especially if it's feeling difficult or scary, forget about the "thing" and get your mindset straight first.

What do you think? What's your mindset?

Monday, 2 March 2015

50 Shades of loneliness

February always flies by! It seems it only started a week ago and now it's over.

Over the weekend a woman I didn't know excitedly shared the news that she had just been to the movies: all by herself. I was chatting to a friend in a shop and this woman came in and started talking. She seemed to be well into her sixties and very excited at the realisation that it was possible to do things alone and enjoy the experience.

She was so excited and appeared in good humour so I asked her if the film she saw was "Fifty Shades of Grey".  It seemed possible, given she was dressed from head to toe in several shades of grey.

"Oh no! I wouldn't go and see THAT! I'd go home all thingy!" she proclaimed.

We all knew what "thingy" meant in this context. I imagined her husband observing her upon arrival at home and asking what the bloody hell was wrong with her.

"What did you go and see?"

"The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," she beamed. "It was really good. Really enjoyable. Funny, but there were things that made you think about things, you know?"

We all nodded sagely.

I confirmed my suspicion that Richard Gere is a feature in the film.

Her enthusiasm went up a notch.

"Oh yes. I tell you what, there's a man that makes my toes curl."

It seemed that more than one of the current crop of films could send a girl home feeling thingy.

"But you know, I got sick of waiting for my girlfriends to be ready before I could go out and do anything. I'm glad I just went and now I know I can go to the movies on my own."

Underneath the bravado, there seemed to be some social isolation. She walked out of the shop smiling and laughing and so did we.

I can't stop noticing my toes.

(According to IMDB, Richard Gere's middle name is "Tiffany".)

Monday, 16 February 2015

Tuning into your inner coach

In November 2011, I wrote this post about the voices in my head. I'd been thinking about the critic who often shows up just when I really need the supportive voice of my coach. I went back to this post after a coaching experience I had last week.

Just last week I was working with a client who had a very loud critic screaming in her head. In fact, her critic was so loud, the critic's voice often came out of her own mouth. This client could not sit comfortably in silence and the critic would happily fill the space with negativity.

The client could not hear her coach at all. I think her coach had gone to sleep because the fight was just too hard.  She was also skeptical about the impact of the critic's voice.

Once I stopped the critic from speaking out loud through my client, I noticed the critic speaking non-verbally - the client would pull faces, roll her eyes, shrug her shoulders and fidget instead. The critic was still sending a very clear message.

I asked if I could try something. I asked her to write down three of the most prominent phrases that she could hear her critic saying and give me the paper. I then asked her to complete the speaking task she was working on while I sat beside her and repeated the critic's phrases in her ear.

The impact was profound: my client could barely speak and certainly could not complete the simple task with any level of competence.

On reflection, my client agreed that it was very hard to think.

I asked her to write down three phrases that would help her if she heard a coach say them to her.

This time, I asked her to complete the speaking task while I said the coach's phrases in her other ear.

Remarkably, she not only completed the task, but had more energy, focus and confidence as she completed the task.

It became clear to me that the concept of the coach and critic voices was too abstract for this client to grasp. (She probably had the critic rubbishing the idea while I explained it!) By giving actual voice to the coach and critic, this client was able to understand the impact her critical voice was having on her. It also gave her the tools to breathe life back into her coach's voice.

These moments are life changing for the client, and profound for me as the coach as I see their potential for success and confidence grow. It's always good to check in and see which station your voices are switched to. I choose "coach" every time!

What are you tuned to at the moment? How have you silenced your critic?

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Postcards from the city

Today's city is Sydney. If I was to send postcards today, here's what I would write on them. Maybe I should just tweet, but thought I'd write my thoughts in one place today.


Why is the toilet paper's placement in relation to the toilet only functional for members of Cirque du Soleil?


Gee whiz, the shower caps are shrinking! Or maybe my hair is getting bigger.


I wish I knew how those unmarked mixer taps in the shower worked. All I know, is that one direction is boiled chicken and the other is goosebumps. It's always too late when I work it out.


Walking through the park back to the hotel today, everyone was lying around and kissing each other. Not the homeless people though. They weren't kissing each other.


There's a messaging function on the television in my hotel room. I'm scared the TV will start messaging me. Hang on...it says "massaging". What...?


I pull the curtains back and gaze through the filthy windows. I am on the sixth floor. Over the road, five storeys up, a small Asian man is tethered to an unseen point inside the building. He is wearing tennis shoes and carrying a window. He hunches forward as he passes a column which leaves him with mere inches of space on the awning. He clutches the window. It is taller and wider than he is. I wait for him to fall. He doesn't. 


At a busy intersection, my chances of hailing a cab should be good. After ten minutes I reassess. After fifteen minutes I start seeing things. I open the rear passenger door after I've seen the driver nod and the car stops. A startled Japanese woman squeals and recoils at the dangerous beast breaking into her cab. The light was red.


An empty cab arrives. The driver is displeased. He complains. About traffic. About driving a taxi. About the weather. About me. About turning right. I insist. He complains when I pay him. Poor man. He no longer knows what is good.


After walking through the park, I took these pictures of important Latin American men:

© 2015 divacultura

© 2015 divacultura

© 2015 divacultura

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Stuff is getting smarter and people are getting dumber

Just say you got into a taxi. What's the first thing you're going to say, after "hello" if you're feeling friendly? It's going to be the name of the destination. Surely taxi drivers are aware of this?

After a bumpy flight, the transit through the terminal to the baggage carousel, out to the cab rank, on my big yellow square marked with the number "12" and into a taxi done in under 10 minutes, I thought the vibe would continue.

"Hello. I need to go to the Such and Such hotel on George Street please."

"Where do you want to go please?"

Good grief! Is it any wonder they've made Smart Televisions that take dictation and then send a transcript to ASIO. What I wouldn't give for one of them to be driving my taxi right now, I thought! I'd put my own bag in the boot too.

"The Such and Such hotel on George Street please."


"It's in Haymarket. Hang on, I'll get the street number for you."

"Could you give me the street number please?"

After a sigh that blew the windscreen out, I told him.

"Oh. It's in the Haymarket!"


I called my friend JC (no, not the Messiah). It was essential I do this to preserve the well-being of the driver. Our conversations are exactly like Crabb and Sales on their podcast, except no one else is listening to us. We've been friends since before music theatre summer school and can't understand why we're not stars of breakfast radio or variety television. Anyway, I was so entertained by our conversation about writing, satire, reality TV and Twitter, that I forgot to notice where the driver was going. After the extended instructions I'd given and his epiphanic confirmation at the end, I was confident we'd get there.

Something JC said bored me for a moment and I looked out the window. I was coming from the other side of town. Then I looked at the taxi metre.

"Um, the hotel is over there! Not over here!"

"Oh, you want to go to the Such and Such hotel?" he asked as if I had never mentioned where I wanted to go.

I paid the grossly inflated fare and walked to the hotel.

The carpet was the first thing that hit me when I opened the door to my room. It's like one of those 3D pictures that you stare at for ages and then either see something or faint from dizziness. The carpet is having the latter effect.

I went straight for the airconditioner and was suddenly nervous. It has a PLASMA screen and three pages of instructions on how to use it. I'm sure it doubles as surveillance - that's not a screen, it's a two-way mirror. It might be a smart airconditioner, but it's still too hot in here and it's one of those rooms that is hermetically sealed.

Meanwhile, everything is so minimally designed, I can't find the bed. Or the mini bar.

Can you see the hidden picture?
© 2014 divacultura

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Human rights, death sentencing, freedom of the press - it's all linked.

I am unequivocally opposed to capital punishment. I don't care what the crime is or what the situation is. State sanctioned murder diminishes the humanity of us all.

The two Australian men currently on death row in Indonesia, part of the so-called Bali Nine, will apparently be murdered before the end of the month. The state will take a series of steps which amount to premeditation and will result in Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran being shot by a firing squad.

I also believe that crime is bad and criminals should be punished. They should also be rehabilitated. In the event that their sentence will see them re-entering society, I want them to have the best chance to have options other than crime for their survival outside prison.

I want to be assured that inmates are treated as human beings while they are imprisoned. Poor treatment, institutionalisation and dehumanisation does not help criminals develop empathy for their victims or reduce the risk of recidivism.

This is my moral philosophy and I'm happy to declare it.

Last night's episode of 4 Corners took us inside the campaign to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. It struck me that these two men are getting on with their lives and are valuable members of their community within the prison. It's clear that they view their own actions of almost ten years ago as wrong and mistaken and that they are reformed. Their families and wider community outside prison have rallied around and would hold them accountable for future behaviour.

We saw inside Kerobokan Prison last night. We heard that even the head of the prison had pleaded for mercy on behalf of the two men. They're not asking to be released, just to be allowed to live.

I started to think about the Australian Government's representations and what support they may be offering to these men and their families. I wondered about the credibility of a Government arguing against the death penalty when they are running concentration camps, where they incarcerate innocent asylum seekers indefinitely.

Then it struck me that we have seen more of the "notorious" Kerobokan Prison than we have of our own immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. As critical as we can be of a country that carries out the death penalty, Indonesia seems to at least be committed to the concept of freedom of speech and the role of the media as the fourth estate.

I don't understand how the Abbott Government seems to have no central moral philosophy. On one hand they can advocate for a free press in the case of the unjust imprisonment in Egypt of journalist Peter Greste. At the same time, they can be denying the media access to immigration detention centres. UN investigators aren't likely to gain access either. This is all happening against a backdrop of the royal commission investigating institutional abuse where the themes of transparency and independent advocacy to ensure accountability are being shouted daily. They can plead for mercy from the imposition of the death penalty, yet can rob all hope from asylum seekers and leave them in ignorant despair. The stealing of hope is also a kind of death sentence.

It's all so complicated, yet it's also really clear. We either advocate for human rights and all the mechanisms that ensure they are upheld, or we don't. It's not something we can pick and choose about.

I really hope that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran are spared. They seem like they have turned into excellent young men and learned from the stupid, serious mistakes of youth.


What do you think?

Monday, 9 February 2015

Tangles and angles - 50 shades of white

Today was one of those days where I spent the day in bed. I had a shower, got dressed and left the house with no nod towards hair and makeup. When I arrived at work I stripped and donned the gown of no dignity. (Luckily I had a clean out of my underwear drawer yesterday and can vouch for the decency of all my undies.) At the mention of a set of nasal prongs, a sling and a strap on IV, people start to give me funny looks. No, I wasn't filming the sequel to "50 Shades of Grey". I was working as a simulated patient for physiotherapy students today.

I love working with students who are still relatively inexperienced in their profession. It's so interesting to see the problems they encounter and be in a position to give really useful, practical feedback.

It was all about tangles and angles today. My left arm was in a sling after a (simulated) shoulder reconstruction. My right arm had the IV line for my PCA (patient controlled anaesthesia). That was simulated too. No drugs were flowing. Suddenly, a simple action like sitting on the side of the bed becomes a manoeuvre requiring a project manager and a crane booking. Adding to the drama is a very short gown, an educator sitting at the foot of the bed, and sheets that slip and slide and stick to the gown of no dignity. 

"Just swing yourself over and sit on the side of the bed." I hear the instruction and know that even with a simulated post-operative site, I'm not going to ":just swing" myself anywhere. They give detailed instructions about bending my knees, pushing down with my heels and using my right hand to lift and shift towards the edge of the bed. Bending the knees involves giving the educator full view of my nether regions. Lifting and shifting involves all the bed clothes shifting with me. The hospital gown seems intent on moving in the opposite direction to me and soon I am marooned on the very edge of the bed, gasping for air as my windpipe is almost severed by the demon hospital gown. (Who called them "gowns"? They are the least gown like garment I can think of. When I think of a gown, I'm thinking Christian Dior and red carpets, not this white apron masquerading as a functional garment.)

Compounding this is the fact that I'm wearing a sling. I'm then offered another "gown" to cover my back because "we're" going to try walking. They're very focused on the walking, even though it's my shoulder that's had the operation. Obviously, my briefing left out the information that I work as a circus acrobat where I'm regularly walking on my hands. The second gown is tied on the back "like a Superman cape", but of course, is as much like a Superman cape as the first gown is red carpet worthy.

There's a realisation that I've gone one way and my IV and nasal prongs are coming from the other side of the bed. They're also attached to me. We go through a further set of complex movements to reduce the risk that I will be mistaken for a chicken trussed and ready for the oven.

The students were terrific today. They're still at the stage where their thinking processes are slow and deliberate and nothing is really instinctive. I was often left in an unsustainable position while they discussed what needed to happen next.

The one thing I can't simulate is blood pressure and oxygen saturation - it's actually mine they're measuring. My sats were a bit low today - probably because I was holding my breath as I was precariously balanced on the edge of the bed. On the other hand, my blood pressure was a bit higher than usual - again probably because I was being choked by the hospital gown.

© 2015 divacultura

Angles and tangles seems like an apt description of life as a physiotherapy student.

What did you do today?

Thursday, 5 February 2015

My workplace bully met me today.

Today I encountered a woman who had bullied me at work. I did something I would not have imagined a few years ago. I said hello to her.

The first thing I noticed was that my heart didn't race and I didn't feel like I was having a panic attack. I would experience these things whenever I had to deal with her at work, so this was significant. I was feeling secure and successful and I was looking fabulous. (I'd had a free afternoon after finishing work with a client, so I'd walked into a hair salon and had my hair blow waved.)

It felt wonderful to stand in front of her and deliver the message that I had survived and thrived, in spite of her best efforts to pull me to pieces. 

When talking about my best and worst leaders in leadership development, this woman is the person who springs to mind as the example of my worst leader. I led a team in the area she oversaw. The team was geographically dispersed and she regularly convened telephone conferences, preceded by an overload of detailed email requests. 

I specifically remember one incident when my team was confused by an email request she had sent. They asked me for guidance. I didn't know what it meant either, so agreed to raise it during the telephone conference. 

She discussed all the items on her agenda and then asked if anyone had anything else to discuss. I posed the question about what her email meant on behalf of the team. She responded by asking me if I had read the email and then stated that she assumed that I could in fact read. 

I have never felt so small. I couldn't speak. I felt as though I was being attacked. My team gaped at me. None of us spoke up. I think we were paralysed with fear. The telephone conference ended, none of us knew what she was asking of us and I spent my time avoiding my boss as much as possible. 

Not only did this woman give me my "worst leader" example, but she also gave me a character to develop. Over the last two days, I've been playing a senior doctor who is a bully and who spends her time belittling and humiliating her registrar. I often pose the question about reading capability when I'm playing this role.

During today's encounter, I noticed that this woman did not use my name once, yet I greeted her by using both her first name and surname. She asked me what I was doing now and I was very happy to speak about my success. She didn't congratulate me. She terminated the conversation very quickly. I wonder if she felt nervous meeting me again. Perhaps she has reflected on her behaviour and treatment of me and now regrets it. Whether she regrets it or not, I'm so pleased I took the chance to display my survival and success. Today, I took her power away.

Have you ever met your bully again? How did you feel? What did the bully do?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Whose job are you doing?

One of the things I like about working as an actor is that everyone has a defined role - actors and crew. This is true of most creative ventures. Everyone has a defined role and generally the team allows everyone to perform their defined role without interference. The Director doesn't try to do the work of the actors, the actors don't interfere with the lighting rig, the stage manager doesn't take over from the producer.

It's a great example to consider for teams in other settings who may struggle with a leader who likes to "get their hands dirty" or the control freak who tells other people what to do. Working in these settings also provides a great lesson trust: trust that everyone else will do their job effectively.

This week I've been working on a project with a mix of actors and nurses. The nurses are "playing the role" of nurses. I've noticed that they are mistrustful that others are doing their jobs. I'm used to waiting where I'm told by whoever is in charge of the production and then moving when they tell me to. One of the nurses was consistently telling me where I was supposed to be. I later noticed that she was also perpetually worried about where people were and who was in charge of one of the sound effects. The sound effect had malfunctioned a couple of times during the day. My response is to make sure I know what my alternative queue is if the sound effect fails. This particular nurse's response was to round people up and question what was happening with the sound effect as we were walking out to start the scene. Upon suggestion that she just needed to focus on her job, she became very tense and responded that she just needed to be sure that there was someone doing it and that they would do their job properly.

I found this fascinating. While she was focusing on other roles, it meant that she wasn't paying attention to her own.

This kind of behaviour could be a cancer in a team and, as with many behaviours, it's often created by the leader. I've noticed that when a leader has been promoted from their area of technical expertise into their leadership role they often drift back to the comfort zone of their expertise. This is often described to me as a virtue - they're prepared to "muck in" with their team and work alongside them. There's nothing wrong with that if it's a conscious choice and the consequences of this choice are understood.

My next question is usually "When you're "mucking in" who's doing your job?"

Leadership is a role within a team or organisation. If the leader is busy on operational matters, then they aren't leading. This choice, like every choice a leader makes, creates behaviour within the team. Is it useful behaviour or is it unhelpful?

Back on set with the nurse I suggested that she relax and just focus on her assigned role and let everyone else do the same. She looked at me like I was crazy.

Do you trust others to do their job? Are you focused on your job or are you worried about everyone else?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Telephone talk - childrens' perspectives

Just as I was getting ready to go out on Saturday night, my phone rang. It was the 4 year old niece and 6 year old nephew ringing. They were calling to let me know they had finally decided what to buy with a gift card I had given them for Christmas. (I had run out of time and inspiration, especially when added to the need to post everything.)

When I answered the phone, a boy's voice said, "It's your nephew speaking."

The formality was endearing.

A second after I said hello, Mr Nephew launched into a detailed description of Ninjas. They were in book form, they were in Lego form. He had read the book. He had built the Lego. However, it was noted very specifically that the Ninjas in video form had flaming swords. Mr Nephew was very firm on the point that the Lego Ninja's sword was only yellow in colour and that there was no fire involved.

I said I was very pleased to hear he had been able to choose something he liked with the money I had given.

"Yes," he said. "It cost around $100, but not quite."

I choked on my drink. I had given him $25. I heard my sister in the background say that it hadn't cost that much at all.

Mr Nephew corrected himself and said it cost less than $100. I predict a big future as a used car salesman or negotiator.

Suddenly I was speaking to my niece. (The same one I wrote about here.) She rattled something off about what she had bought. I thought Peppa Pig was mentioned, but it was impossible to tell. She was in a very chatty mood and her consonants had fallen by the wayside. (While checking how to spell Peppa Pig, I discovered that Peppa Pig has her (?) own website!)

When I could get a word in, I asked how she had been spending her day.

There was a big sigh.

"Working." The voice was world weary.

"Working? Where have you been working?"

Again, the world-weary tone: "Around the house."

I pictured child slavery along the lines of Oliver Twist. What had she been doing? Cleaning the oven?

"What about tomorrow then? What are you doing tomorrow?" I asked.

"I'm going to a party." This statement was again accompanied by a very put-upon-sigh and sounded like the word "party" had changed meaning to refer to hard labour building a railway in the desert.

Upon enquiring about who was hosting this joyous occasion, my niece advised it was Emily. I could hear her eyes rolling as she told me.

"Do you like Emily?" I asked.

"She hides and then after she's been hiding she treads on my toes. She's always hiding. I'm giving her a packet of jewellery and I'm getting a packet as well," she declared.

Ah the days of innocence - when jewellery came in packets!

Upon further enquiry I discovered that Emily and my niece are in fact best friends!

After this encounter, I was talking to a friend and her youngest son started to talk in the background. My friend explained to whom she was speaking and asked her son if he would like to say hello. Soon I heard "hello". I responded with "hello" and then there was deathly silence. After a little while, I said, "Bye bye!". He echoed me happily and handed the phone back to his mother.

I do love these conversations. Sometimes the hardest thing is not to burst out laughing. These children have the best element of the comic "straight man" - they're naive about the fact that they're hilarious.

Friday, 30 January 2015

I love coming back to work!

During the last week of my holiday I was regularly asked when I was returning to work. I have a very full dance card for the next few weeks and would respond that I was going straight back into work.

The usual response was along the lines of "oh you poor thing" or "oh that will be hard" or "oh well" and accompanied by copious eye rolls. I also noticed my social media feed was filled with articles about how to beat the return to work blues.

When I'd let the person know that I was actually quite happy to get back into work they would look at me like I was crazy and then ask me what it is that I do.

Rather than respond with details of the tasks, I would talk about the how I feel about my work. My work is interesting, stimulating, juicy, important, challenging, good, fulfilling, creative, diverse and the people with whom I do it are wonderful. They're smart, committed, inspiring and good fun to be with. Why would I be sad to return to that?

The inevitable next question was about how do you get to do THAT?

Well, I made it myself. I'm so thrilled that now I'm in a position to largely choose the people around me and how I spend my time. If I take something on and it doesn't feel happy then I either work to change it or walk away.

I'm noticing that as my business approaches its fifth birthday I have some solid collaborations which are good for me and attractive to people who want to engage us. Even in the most serious environment, laughter and fun is appealing and people generally want to be around it.

Not everyone is in a position to start their own business, but everyone is able to choose their attitude and how they engage with the people around them. Let's face it, people who are pleasant to be around are attractive and spread goodwill.

Are you fun to be around? What's your attitude? 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Moral guardian riding the rails in Melbourne

After a month of holidays spent playing music, reading, knitting, playing Scrabble, playing with the dog and hanging out with family in the country, the return to city life yesterday was interesting.

My first stop was the hairdresser. This was well-planned after swimming and sunshine; I needed to get my city hair back!

The first challenge of the day was unexpected - I had to put on proper shoes! I have essentially been barefoot for a month. I took off the first pair I chose because they felt too restrictive and settled for a more worn pair. I hope I get back into the swing of things soon because I have a large selection of shoes.

I was relieved to discover I still had money on my myki and was able to catch a train without dealing with the machine. When I spent a weekend in Sydney during my break I noticed how clean their trains are compared to ours in Melbourne. I don't understand why our trains are so filthy. Most seats look like someone had a terrible accident and the floors are sticky. I wonder how Sydney keeps their trains so clean?

Travelling home in the afternoon was interesting. I'd had coffee with a friend and travelled just before the peak at about 3:45pm. There were plenty of seats and people were spread out. A few people were standing, absorbed in their phones and the carriage was pretty quiet. I was sitting in a single seat reserved for people with special needs. I was carrying a lot of bags after collecting all my mail which had been on hold for a month and I had space to put them without taking up another seat. I was ready to move if someone needed the seat. 

As we approached Yarraville station, a thin woman with a face permanently set to cranky disappointment stood up and hissed at a woman sitting nearby in the middle of three seats: "You didn't pay for three seats you know!" Her eyes were seething with anger and she had the self-satisfied look of a Guardian of Modern Morality.

I spontaneously guffawed. It just came out of me. I was gobsmacked at her exercise of perceived power. 

She turned on me.

"And you're not disabled are you?" she snapped, referring to my choice of seat. 

She stood near the door waiting for the train to stop. The woman who hadn't paid for enough seats and was quietly playing with her phone was looking bewildered. I laughed and shrugged. The Guardian didn't turn around as I called to her to make sure she touched off and paid for her trip.

Her face was well set, cranky disappointment was not new for her. How sad for her.

There is something to be said for "live and let live".

How would you respond?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Afternoon chats with my niece

I took a very important phone call today. It was my four year old niece calling. She needed to fill me in on her day. She was watching her older brother (aged 6) paint a pirate ship. Clearly, there was a limit to her powers of concentration and she decided to call her Aunty instead.

The last time we spoke on the phone, I noticed that my facilitator's habit of asking good open questions led nowhere when it came to engaging in conversation with a four year old. My engaging, excellent questions were met with discombobulated silence. In a few short weeks, I can hear how her language skills and comprehension have advanced. Or maybe she was just in a chatty mood.

"Did you have a nice Christmas?"she asked me and followed up with an open question for me: "What did you get for Christmas?" I told her about a few things and she latched onto the perfume set which had come from her whole family. 

"I got some perfume too!" she exclaimed.

"Wow! That's great. You must smell very nice. What sort of perfume did you get?" I enquired.

"It's special kids' perfume. It's stuff I can put on myself!" 

I was struggling to imagine what this might be and saw fleeting iamges of her dousing herself and the house with some sickening aroma.

"What does it smell like?" I asked?

"It smells like mashed potato and carrots! It's lovely!"

I held my laughter wondering what this perfume could possibly be. Then I pictured the advertising campaign. There'd be a handsome man, sniffing the ear of a woman. He'd be in raptures as he inhaled the smells of mashed vegetables. The woman would morph into his mother...It was time to change the subject, but she beat me to it by telling me that she and her brother had collected all the cards they needed to complete a special book of animals and now they could hear all the sounds the animals make. The cards that Grandma had sent had helped them complete their collection. It was a significant achievement.

"Do you know what I saw in the garden today?" I asked.

"No." That's where a closed question will get you.

"It was a hare."


"Do you know what a hare is?"

"A kind of a rabbit?"

"Yes. Sort of. It's a big rabbit and its ears stand straight up."

"What was he doing?"

"Just sitting in the garden eating some grass and looking at me."

"Did you pick him up?"

"No! He was too big. I thought he was a small wallaby when I first saw him."

"Was he a wallaby-rabbit?"

"No! He was a hare, but he looked like a wallaby - that's how big he was."

"How big?"

"As big as a small wallaby."


Then came this gorgeous question: "Was he bigger than something small?"

I thought about the answer for a while.

"Yes. He was bigger than something small."
"Okay. Bye!"

She's off to find out what sound a hare makes. I'll look forward to our next conversation.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The meaning of a four letter word

The conversations out here start differently. Variations on "Ja-ged-any-rain"?"and "How-much-ranger-get?" take the place of the pedestrian, "how ya going?" or for a new acquaintance, "what do you do?"

When I answer the phone in my parents home, I am obliged first to answer these questions before any further business can be transacted. I don't always know the significance of the numbers, but I can look out the window and see the green carpet.

I noticed in town, the amount of rainfall is the single topic discussed. Jungian collective consciousness puts a spring in the step of those lucky to be the recipients of rain, while others' shoulders droop, betraying the fact that they are still waiting.

The air outside is steamy and the plains are hazy, heavy with moisture. The luxury can not be described. I walk out in the garden, working hard to make my way across the verdant lawn, watching for snakes - it's only a couple of days since one met Dad on the lawnmower. Roses show off in various garden beds and the crickets and frogs sing their noisy, cheerful chorus at any time of day. I look up at the trees where the koalas usually live, but none are about. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a brown creature with tall ears sitting very still. First I think it's a hare, but then it seems too big and I think it could be a small brown wallaby. I look again and realise it's a hare, gorging on the heavenly green. Its only moving parts are the jaws. It looks at me. I stay still and it continues the feast. Alfie, the Jack Russell, shows his age by showing no interest in a chase. Around another corner, brilliant red, green and blue parrots take flight as Alfie approaches.

A magpie gargles, singing the song that I love. It's the sound of morning in the Australian bush.

Mr Lincoln roses from the garden, fresh today.
© 2015 divacultura

Manchurian Pears
© 2015 divacultura

Beyond the fence post
© 2015 divacultura

Study in contrasts. I never tire of this majestic tree.
© 2015 divacultura

My favourite dead tree finally keeled over. I will miss it's Tim Burtonesque addition
to the landscape. It still makes an interesting study.
© 2015 divacultura