Birth of the Girls

Apparently, we’ve weeks to go so decide to eat out. Greek in West End, close to the city and on the way to becoming trendy. The venue has an atmosphere created by faux grape vines draped over taverna kitsch, the aroma definitely souvlaki. A pleasant meal with our two boys in tow learning café etiquette. Moussaka with a nice traditional Greek side salad horiatiki featuring the season’s quality plump juicy red tomatoes, succulent green cucumbers, tart red onions, and green-yellow vine ripened bell peppers. No crisp lettuce, nor any other leafy greens or garden vegies found at less Greeky places.

We finish the meal gather up the two boys and head back onto Melbourne Street into the brisk windy cold. Our white Tarago wagon’s not far away thank God and we’re happy to be bundled inside for the drive back home through Yeronga, Sherwood and Graceville. Everyone grumbles and tumbles into a warm bed, it’s been a late night.

Around midnight I’m fast asleep and snoring. Nothing stirs in the stillness save Vivienne who’s feeling more and more uncomfortable by the minute. Arising she heads to the toilet room on the veranda to ease her discomfort. For her it’s an eternity, the pain rising and flooding over her. I slumber on. The pain intensifies coming in dark swelling waves. Vivienne grits her teeth together and rides the swell. Soon though she can bear it no longer.

‘Call the doctor’ she shouts as loud as she can,

‘Call the doctor now!’

Somewhere in my sleep I stir and hear her incessant cry.

I stagger out of the warm darkness of a tropical winter evening. Somewhere in the office area I find the scrawled phone number amongst bills for this and that.

The doctor takes a while to rouse from sleep, longer to become compos mentis. I ramble on chaotically and then his question which I really have no idea how to answer,

‘So how dilated is she?’ he asks.

‘Dilated,’ Hhmm I repaeated, ‘Dilated .. I’ll check’, reckoning this was something I could do.

‘Hang on a tick, I’ll go check’ I repeat automatically.

Back to the next door bedroom I figured the dilation was the width of index, middle and part of ring finger, is that 4 or 5cm., seems the answer doesn’t really matter.

I return to the phone and breathlessly report back, “4 to 5 cm I think”. I think I can see a crown emerging.

There’s a moments silence from the other end, then finally,

“Well I’m not much use to you now,” he says, “I can be there within half an hour.  I’m over in Kenmore. Stay calm.”

By now my panic is building. I rush to the top of the front porch stairs glistening in the soft drizzle and call out to Judy next door to the left and Debbie to the right.

Vivienne moans on the soft bed and clearly the intensity of the rolling contractions is increasing as well as in frequency. I’m helpless, useless to know what to do. Reassurance seems woefully inadequate. The thought of Alenka is there in my mind, still born just over a year earlier. Judy and Debbie arrive almost together, finding soft towels in the cupboards and getting boiling hot water ready. Their presence settles me a little. The moans of the birthing pains though grow louder and louder.

Is all in readiness ? I look furtively around but it’s hard to decide what to do. There’s not really much to be done but wait. Wait for the doctor. Wait for nature to takes its course. Wait for the ambulance. I check again and there’s more dilation, more hairy crown showing.  Judy urges Vivienne on, more pushing  she implores, for though she’s never seen a birth she’s borne two sons and twin girls. It seems so natural. And so minutes tick by. Each minute an eternity to the next. The night has cooled though warm enough. The boys in the bedroom across the hallway slumber on door closed, unconscious to the adult drama unfolding just in the next room. With further urging from Judy, in fact us all, Vivienne lays back into the pillows and bedding piled up for support under her back and thighs.
“Don’t worry the doctor will be here soon” we reassure her, he must be coming soon and it’s not far from Kenmore to Chelmer, especially at this time of the night.
Judy rings the Oxley ambulance, her excitement and fear getting the better of her.
The dispatcher finally gets an address from her and tells her the ambulance is coming. It’s a waiting game.
Of a sudden there’s a primal scream from Vivienne and perfectly presented, head first out comes a child which slides into my waiting hands. Such a tiny baby and so so small, fitting into my cupped palms.  The towels are useful for preserving body heat and wiping away mucus and blood. It’s all a blur and in that moment I realise I don’t see a penis. No penis, all so perfect but no penis. Through my brain images of Alenka flash, such a gorgeous little baby girl, still born over year earlier. Her genetic defect, trisomy thirteen granted her a hair lip and multiple other congenital defects. Had she been born her survival would have been measured in days. And so when Vivienne put on weight quickly in this pregnancy, as she had with Alenka, there was a worry that the same was reoccurring. The chance of lightning striking twice are exceeding low. However, in that instance I wondered how I was going to explain a baby though otherwise healthy without a penis.
I lay the squawking wriggling baby up beside Vivienne’s right side, thankful that I knew to expect twins. With a push and a push another perfectly presented head emerges. It’s quieter and as I grasp it safely, I see it’s blue. The happy thoughts of a moment earlier are dispelled, for me there’s clearly something wrong. Doesn’t blue mean dead? I can’t understand how this could happen, how the hell am I going to explain this?  The baby is quiet, and I worry. Under her arms I hold her up in front of me. By now I have resolved the lack of penis dilemma. These are girls! The baby is held in its amniotic fluid growing sac. As the sac slips off of her head and she takes he first breath bright pink suffuses her skin as her blood oxygenates, from the tip of the crown of her head to the very tips of her toes. she changes colour all the way down.  For those of us privileged to see that first breath of life its never forgotten. All these years later I can still see my daughter’s very first breath taken. We are all crying. For Judy she has just seen her family reproduced in front of her, twin girls to complement two sons.  I pass the second girl to Vivienne; it’s a truly emotional time.
“Anyone in?” we hear through the open wooden lattice at the front door as the doctor arrives. Clad in daggy long shorts and wet leather sandals it’s not the image we last saw of him at his rooms. We usher him into the bedroom where he’s greeted with the new born twins.
“Do you have some, twine, scissors and a large Tupperware?” he says, wresting control of the situation from me.
In the early morning these are not the sort of implements that readily come to mind though Judy is able to find the chicken cutting scissors and twine but not a large Tupperware. I go to the plastics cupboard and reach into the back. Here’s the largest square Tupperware I can find.
‘So which one was born first,’ doc says.
“This one”’ I point to the little bundle of life wrapped in bath towels snuggled and warm tight next to Vivienne.
“Ok” he says. “Tie one knot on the umbilical cord near the baby and another near Mum.
I grab Judy’s twine and do as requested.
“Now for the second one,” he says,” Tie two separate ties close to the baby, and the third at Mum’s end. Ok so far so good.
“So do you want to cut the cord? “he asks me. It’s not something for which I’d prepared myself, and the enormity of the moment absorbs me.
“Ok”, I say “where do I cut.”
“On each of the cords cut so that there is one knot left closer to Mum. The babies will then have one knot for the first born and two knots for the second born.”
In that moment I realised why these guys get paid so much, I guess I’d have worked it out sooner or later, but just now my brain is mush.
I hesitate with the scissors. Life has been passing from their Mum to them all these months. With a snip they’ll be on their own.
Checking to be sure I’ve got the right spot, I cut and the girls are their own little separate people. It’s a while later before we find out they are mirror identical, for now they’re just safe and sound.
As the ambulance guys arrive with a stretcher the doc and I are wrestling into the Tupperware what he says is a good sized healthy looking placenta for testing at the hospital.
The ambos realise they can’t get a stretcher round the tight corners of the internals of the house and go back down to the ambulance for a wheelchair.
With the babies wrapped and in Mum’s arms it’s time to get the boys up, if they weren’t already and see who’s crowded into the house. They’re sleepy but wake up quickly when they get to see and cuddle their just born sisters. It’s a moment of pure joy, to see new sisters so soon after arriving. I’m sure it’ll be the start of lifelong bonding. It started right there.
So with the drizzle still in the air, a rubber ring on the seat for Vivienne, the wheelchair wends its way to the front door and slowly down the wooden stairs. There’s a slight jarring as each downward step is taken, the ambo at the rear keeping this to a minimum. On the second bottom step the high pressure of the thin wheel is sufficient to crack through the ageing timber and drop the wheel chair down the last two steps.
Vivienne lets out a scream, the ambo’s faces a picture of embarrassment, the placenta stays safely in her grasp, Judy and I have the new twins in our care until we take off for the hospital.
Boothville is as it’s always been for all our kids born there, welcoming. Though early dawn the staff have a warm bed ready, a shower and a place to relax. It’s like coming home.
When I do get home later in the morning the ladies have turned the mattress, changed the linen and returned our home to its pre drama state.

 

 

[thanks to LA skillful editing]

 

 

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Write Daily

“Write daily” they say. Who are ‘they’? All I know is that they aren’t me. Feeling the need to write, having the words swirling, seeing the world in word bites can be paralysing. The minutia of daily life, it’s crises and caresses, the boredom of it all conspire to rein me in. No blogging, no chapter writing, nothing, just nothing. Well not nothing, there’s reading the paper, old magazines in the bathroom, crime and prison series on the documentary channel, so many things, so much to do, all tripe.

So why not a para or two about not writing a para or two. For the un afflicted, those who don’t have the need to write, there’s no tension of feeling the need to shape reality in written words. Why not read a few lines about the tension?

For the writing afflicted, there’s a different reality, the possibility that maybe this writer “Gets it” or maybe scribbles away and doesn’t get it, at least not from the reader’s viewpoint.

For the writing afflicted, I offer Strunk and White. A classic, “the Elements of Style”. For the aficionado well known, for the emerging writer a must have, and for the un-afflicted, a quirky little read. Yes it’s on the web, for those who need to try before they buy. Do yourself a favour and look it up, the PDF version, and if like me you struggle in this world of poor language usage, avail yourself of a hard copy and keep it always near. Not sure that my last sentence wouldn’t attract Strunk’s ire.

And for the un-afflicted, why not read of another’s pain, the torment of not achieving something. It’s far from becoming a 6pm hero on the tv news, but at least it’s a way to share vicariously in another’s pain. Trying to imagine what it must be like to agonise and not achieve a self set goal. Surely there are enough folk setting goals for themselves to let those who don’t, revel in the goal surplus? Who’s to be the Bear Grylls of writing? Well certainly not me within this blog limit. But he’s out there somewhere, tempting the afflicted to pen a few words, trust those words to a diary, or password protected file, for posterity. The feeling transforms into a shamed sense of realising there’s much to write and ever diminishing time to do it. Where does that time go? In front of the tv, piffle talking, think of the ways!

Like a wall clock, the word counter marks progress through time. My engineering mind can’t help but ratio the words per minute, and calculate from that the time to goal. So in fact in a brief note on the need to write daily, I’ve come to my personal conclusion that writing fills that inner need to say what’s in my head, as well as I can, and often.

I blog away but can’t connect to my other blogs
Www.didireallyhearthat.wordpress.com
And
Www.folkiknew.wordpress.com
Does anybody out there know how to insert the necessary widgets to achieve this. I would be most grateful!
Your reward would inevitably be to see more of my quirky writing which you might just enjoy!

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Doing the Right Thing

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now………The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense

http://lancearmstrong.com/news-events/lance-armstongs-statement-of-august-23-2012

And so we write, in the end for ourselves. The opinion is none other than our own.

Love or hate Kerr, love or hate Armstrong, they did one thing.

They did the right thing.

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Recovering Writing 1- Insight

Its been a while since my WP writing activity began. It was  provoked by a dating app exchange. Having started years ago on a manuscript, “Die Gum Sarn,” this seemed a way to organise it. Scattered in Word files, WP seemed a way ahead so I started to blog as http://www.biggoldmountain.wordpress.com

I tried, it wasn’t.

I’d been distracted by two new blogs I’d also . opened entitled;

http://www.Didireallyhearthat.wordpress.com

and

http://www.Folkiknew.wordpress.com

the first drew from the rich vein of inanities and profundities I was daily subjected to in the public service, the second, though initially about folk I’d worked with in years of engineering, of late it included more current folk.

Then came post work, it seemed such a release. No more 0545 rising for 0630 bus, a chore made drearer with 0745 sunrises in 4 degree C. Woodwork and garden work filled summer days, but with winter the creeping unease of eventually doing life’s exam took hold.

“Yes” its in WP, I surmised, rueful that anyone might read some or any of it. Then there was the novel written in 30 days? Looking at the blog, fuck they were 8 years old. I read a few chapters. Though interesting to recall the times when they were penned, in truth they were crap. Neverthess I ploughed on and slowly 10 chapters in I could see some fluidity, even pr’haps a story line. Character names drawn from the era, flights of hairbrain eccentricity with characteristic sardonic social comment sprinkled throughout.

I then realised I’d remained constant to my beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Unexamined Life and Podcast Choice.

Aww fuck it I thought. Taking the dog for a walk to clear my head I sometimes listen to podcasts.
This morning I decided to examine my life as per the Socratic dictum. I had used my interpretation of “an unexamined life is not worth living” to go over what I was doing with this listening. It seemed the crime and associated genre podcasts were simply rehashes of old newspaper reports of unresolved crimes of murders, rapes, child abductions, gang warfare and drug addiction other podcasts made from trolling through prosecutions and publicly available police files, the more sensational the better. Characters brought to light from the notes, conversations factionalised from investigator interviews. Suspect or witnesses are given flesh clothing from demeanour observations, locations dramatised from observations of crime scene minutiae.
I’ve been seeing through this for a while, but wondered what the fascination is. With this questioning in mind a recent listening was “Japanese Crime,” Essentially sounds like a Japanese native speaking American guy and gal, the guy reading from a translation of Japanese newspaper of the times jumbled together with speculation from fiction writers of the day about the suspected murder of a glamorous, though promiscuous BOAC trainee airhostess in strange circumstances. The gal chimed in with,
“Wow,””I don’t believe it!” and “but I’m Catholic too,” said with the emphasis on the final “ic”, and something in the podcast which was finally being bent into shape pronounced as, “bendeded.”Cute? Corny? Crap?
So why, with a case so old in Japan make a podcast in 2016 at all? Well, turns out a follow-up by the podcaster’s researchers fifty odd years later than this 1960’s murder with an exonerated suspect, a priest now domiciled in Canada, was …………. fruitless. My thoughts were, “how trite is this reporting, and worse why am I interested?”
But I digress. In examining my examination of Socrates’ dictum I realised that I’d failed the examination.
Socrates pre hemlock smoothie choice was to be exiled or remain silent. His method of examining and questioning was found by the good citizens of Athens to be corrupting their youth. To shush Socrates he was offered this choice. He could remain in Athens sworn to silence, thereby not disseminating his questioning ways, or accept banishment away from Athens, his home.
Socrates saw this binary choice as unacceptable. By today’s standard I’d say very Western. Choices always presented as a dichotomy, say twixt Black and White, Republican or Democrat, perhaps Rowe or Wade. Socrates though saw a third way and sculled the hemlock. Hhmm, um I thought, he wasn’t a hemlock drinker because he hadn’t examined his life, rather he was reacting against the forever restraint of demonstrating his Socratic method of discourse to others. He wasn’t offered the choice of hemlocking himself. For him, the binary option just didn’t exist.
The scales tumbled from my eyes. The lesson is about whether we should be prepared to create a third way for a principle to which we hold or make choices between alternatives presented by others, none of which are acceptable. In my life this has always been a guiding notion.
Having completed the mental gymnastics I thought I’d examine my pod cast library for dog walking listening. I unfollowed crime, mystery or unsolved genre, refilling with science and stuff that I have a genuine interest in; more to do with today’s world or the developments of yesteryear, which have created the world we live in.
Amongst the first of these new podcasts I came across Invisiblia and a podcast on “Fear.”
I thought you might enjoy this
https://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=44414433&refid=asa
I piked outta the Japanese Crime too early to tell you what, who, when, why, and ultimately who cares, happened to the BOAC lass.

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Learnings of a Young Engineer

New to the factory there were things to prove. Someone had remarked that plaster which was ground in an humidified environment would produce superior setting properties than plaster ground at standard atmospheric conditions.
About this I knew nothing.
This seemed a challenge that a newly minted chemical engineer could test out, away from the daily running of a production line and maybe somehow gain an appreciation of working in a factory. Years spent studying theory weren’t gonna teach you half as much a getting your hands dirty n a real live productive project out in a plant. A weekly report to the plant manager was all that was required, the rest up to you.
In the bowels of the Melbourne Plaster Mill, was the Impax hammer mill. Through a series of high speed rotating blades plaster to be ground was feed into the mill from a series of overhead hoppers. The ground plaster output was carried away in the airstream with particles of the required fineness or finer being carried away for production, any coarse material being returned into the mill until sufficiently finely ground. After thinking about how to affect the quality of the processed material with an humidified airstream I concocted a flume on the air intake to the mill. Into the flume I introduced a bank of heaters and water sprays. The aim was to play around with the heat and water settings and achieve varying humidifying atmospheres in which to grind the plaster.
I played around for weeks, climbing and down the various ladders and steps between the bins and cyclones. On the ground floor the heaters and water flows were adjusted to maintain humidity conditions, and finally the mill throughput was adjusted in the grinding circuit. A variable speed rotary valve shaped like a horizontal revolving door, dropped feed into the variable sized aperture of a valve in the bottom of the main feed bin. In typical fashion more locally known as “an arsehole valve.” This valve was made of overlapping rubber quarters which opened like a camera shutter. Ground product was transported in the airflow from the ground floor mill up three floors, the outflow controlled by this mechanism.
One evening I could hear a continuous rattle in the very top of the plant. Though it was clear nothing was being adversely affected the constant rotational rattling became annoying. Doing the last of a series of trials with the mill, everyone in the plaster mill had gone home. However, I wanted to complete this final production trial and seeing it through to its completion.
As I waited for the temperatures in the humidifier to stabilise the constant rattling echoed through the upper levels of the plaster mill. To my mind they were getting louder and louder.
“There must be some welding slag or other metallic contaminant in the upper bins” I reasoned.
As I had a few minutes to wait I decided to climb the grated levels to identify which bin or cyclone was causing the rattles. The metal drumming against the hollow bin wall was easily identified; it was the main feed bin.
I knelt beside it and wondered how I might get the offending metal out. Firstly I opened the bypass leg of the system so the opening of the bin would dump the contents out of the reject system. As I turned off the airflow to the system the rattling grew less and less in intensity and the arsehole valve opened to its widest setting as the power went off. Then I isolated the power to the arsehole valve to keep it open. I was expecting to see a flow of plaster dropping through the opening and down the reject chute. But nothing came.
Mmhh “I thought” must be the metal slag from welding hanging in the bin … shit.”
I stuck my arm up into the aperture, somewhat like a rectal surgeon, thinking that I’d be able to feel the annoying piece of metal and remove it.
But I’d forgotten the rotary valve, slowly turning and forming an airtight seal above the rubber flow valve. As I reached up towards the cyclone my middle finger caught in the rotating quadrants and the tip of my right middle finger was sheared off.
The pain was excruciating. I pulled my arm out of the rubber aperture, bright crimson blood gushing from my severed finger tip. I didn’t look and as I was at the top of the gantries so I stuck my finger stub in my mouth to staunch the bleeding and one handedly staggered down the ladders and stairways to the ground floor. From the darkened plaster mill despatch office I called the Gyprock foreman’s office.
The pale green and blueness of the plaster mill was fading to black and white as I started to black out. When foreman Les Gibson arrived he said,
‘Oi laddie, we need to get you to the first aid room.”
He supported me to the liniment smelling room at the centre of the plant and looked around for some bandages.
“Ach oi! , there’s nought here, we’ll wrap this tea towel around your finger and hand and get ye off to the hospital.”
We wove through the post peak hour traffic the few kilometres to the Sunshine hospital. The triage clerk needed a whole range of details none of which I had. I sat in the emergency waiting room while cardiac arrests, strokes, irths, gunshot wounds, car accidents and more critical emergencies were dealt with. I swooned, the room spun and the straight lines on the lino floor began to wobble. Vivienne arrived with some of the details I didn’t have and by now was in no state to remember.
The totally soaked tea towel attracted the medical staff’s attention. The sight of the raw bone at the tip of my finger in its ragged sheath of dangling flesh was enough to have me whisked in to the surgical ward. With my finger braced and a multitude of anaesthetic needles poked into its base I was told they’d try a graft.
“We’ll take a sliver of skin off of your forearm and stitch it over the top of your finger”.
Seemed ok to me as they sawed away with what for all the world looked like a jigsaw. The first cut wasn’t deep enough and only took the epidermis off.
“Whoops sorry ‘bout that,” the doctor said jauntily, “let’s do that again hey.”
So with a deeper sawing action back and forth a larger swatch right into the dermis was taken. Blood oozed from the wound but the pain was dulled from the local anaesthetic and oral pain relief. The skin patch was applied to the top of my finger then bandaged.
“You’ll need to change the dressing daily and not get it wet,’ the nurse advised as we left six hours after arriving.
The graft never took. The bandage was change daily. The skin graft died and stunk. Eventually the finger healed over and sealed itself. I still have the two scars on my forearm from the unsuccessful grafts as a reminder.
Years later, I’ve reflected what I learnt. One should never stick your hand up an arsehole.

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Air Supply – Fandom failure

The ageing seventies once chic now dated casino conference hall is buzzing with fans, mostly matured into their wrinkling sixties, though some females are younger and there’s more females than males. Most females glammed up in ways their minds tell them suits their age. Some have not listened to that voice or cared to think about it. The males wore mostly in tees and jeans. How many trans, lesbians gays bisexuals queers or intersex my indiscriminate eyes couldn’t tell, but there was definitely a buzz. They’re here to see Air Supply, Russell Hitchcock and Graeme Russell, on a whirlwind return to their homeland.
The conference hall has no incline to the stage, it’s perfectly flat, ballroom dancers and diners need to feel quite horizontal when gorging or waltzing. For the gig goers though, this means being closer to the front in the temporary seating is preferred to get the clearest view. However the neck strain’s excruciating.
No warm up act. The audience had come to be taken right back to their youth or their parent’s youth, maybe even the youth of their grandparents.
“I realize the best part of love
is the thinnest slice
and you don’t care for much
but I’m not letting go
i believe there’s still much to believe in
So lift your eyes if you feel you can
reach for a star and I’ll show you a plan
I’ve figured it out what I needed was someone to show me…………”

Nearly every opening riff is greeted with spontaneous applause. Russell appears, childlike, gnarled, in the way most rock stars of the seventies now look. Is it the drugs, the alcohol, the sex? If it’s any or one of these then Cliff Richard’s clearly the antidote.

 

Young Russell Old Russell………………………………………………………….Young Cliff…..Old Cliff

The voice stretches to capture the well known melodies and where the higher notes are a strain for current vocal limits, the audience is encouraged into a karaoke style sing-a-long. So who can critique the performance when you’re part of it!
“I know just how to whisper
And I know just how to cry
I know just where to find the answers
And I know just how to lie
I know just how to fake it
And I know just how to scheme
I know just when to face the truth
And then I know just when to dream……………”
Through a fantasy wonderland of past romances and memories, the crowd sways, shouts, rocks in the aisles, cries, and blabbers. Lyrics which have been the background themes to tragedies celebrations, intercourse, breakups weddings and first dates roll on. There’s a momentary lull in momentum when tracks off of a more recent unknown album are played to this nostalgic Aussie audience. These are their Aussie hero’s made good in the States where for these fans they’ve remained too long.
The chance of fame transported them to the stadia of the USA. Concerts in auditoria ten times the size of any in Australia were a far cry from suburban Melbourne‘s Festival Hall.
Russell’s stage life got an early start in high school when he and Angelo Angeli had bit roles in “Gift from a Stranger,’ directed by Chris Lofven starring his best friend David Poon and Frank Thring. Perhaps Frank’s appearance was a favour to Chris, or his sister Kirsten who moved in the same acting circles. Frank had starred in Hollywood block busters such as Ben Hur and King of Kings

Russell’s early marriage to Jean someone or other was a mysterious affair. Russell had asked me to drop by from my suburban Ringwood home to his fiancée Jean’s parents’ flat above an office block where they were caretakers in St Kilda Rd down by the west side of the Shrine of Remembrance. The train into the CBD was a red rattler, the connecting number 96 tram not much better but much draftier as they speed down the centre of the city avenues. After dinner we took a cigarette onto the courtyard surrounding the fading seventh floor flat. Above the tree canopy the tram ways electricity wires below spun spider weblike from pole to pole.
“I been unfaithful to Jean,” he blurted out after a while, drawing down deeply on his cigarette.
“Phheeww,” in a low tone of exhalation through pursed lips was all I could manage.
We stood there overlooking the darkening far horizon, wondering what any or all of this meant. I had no idea. Getting married so early, even having a girlfriend was beyond my experience, but here was my high school bestie of just a year or so ago telling me stuff I couldn’t comprehend. Looking back I can imagine now why he had called me to unload this. My guess now is that Jean was pregnant, hence the marriage of the shotgun variety and for this storeman, subsequently to become a singer, a wee bairn was not in the equation, not Jean’s not anyone’s. I was well outside his circle now. I was safe.
We’d not seen each other for a year or so after high school as I went to college and he pursued clerical work and acting. A role in Jesus Christ Superstar was where he met Graeme Russell the other half of the Air Supply duo. And from there it was off to the races.
We must have talked more piffle garnished with more small talk, stubbed out our cigarettes and parted. I went downstairs and caught the 96 tram back to Flinders street. It was the last I was to see of him until tonight.
Being my one somewhat cursory brush with imminent fame I clung on to this memory. That I can recall such a trifling detail after so many years fascinated me.
The years between had been uneventful. I’d once tried to go to a concert at Tweed Heads. My efforts were insignificant and I arrived at the venue a week late. I bought a “Best of “CD and nostalgically played it over the years. Fortuitously I’d made contact and was given two complimentary passes to this concert with a chance to meet after the show.
After multiple well worn encores the crowd dispersed. A line of folk were arranged much like a receiving line for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. They must have been FM ONE “O” something listeners who’d won a quiz, or super fans that had paid for the privilege. As the line inched forward, time passed. The bouncers and flunkies made sure the obligatory selfie was taken and the door shown to the recently touched.
Within moments of greeting we too were gone. Perfunctory politeness, but none of the nostalgia I had brought to the meeting were shared. Forty plus years of waiting to catch up swept away with his need to get a drink. His entourage whisked him away.
We wandered out into the cool car park, realising the cheery “Must catch up sometime, get in touch” were just words.
My brush with fandom and fascination evaporated in the Sandy Bay sea breeze.
At home the once frequently played CD “Air Supply- Greatest Hits” rests silently.
Life has moved on.
If I’d been smarter I’d have known it was already time to move on when I boarded that number 96 tram.

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We have a Problem Bajool.

Did I really hear “we have a problem Bajool!”
Perhaps those words were never said.
In my mind they were.
The vast solar salt ponds of Bajool bordered 18 lonely miles either side of the bumpy sealed one and a half lane country road east to Port Alma, from the junction with the main north/south Bruce Highway.
T’was the middle of nowhere. Bajool was far enough away from civilisation for its 504 residents to host one of the four explosives magazines in Queensland. It was also ideally sheltered in the rain shadow of the Great Dividing Range to allow dry and ideal condition for the manufacture of salt by evaporation from sea water. Three of the extensive salt fields straddling the road were owned Cheetham, a fourth field was a smaller scale family operation right up against the crumbling infrastructure at Port Alma.
For much of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of output each year the simplest quality was maintained, grain size. Control of grain size was sufficient for coarse stock feed, bakers’ salt or use in the tanning process. It was in the output to be used for table or cooking salt that was a problem. Here appearance mattered. All through the pondage dark contaminants of charcoal, mud rocks and ash lurked. Once harvested from the fields any poor mechanical handling by loader drivers added mud and some breakdown of the wooden surrounds of the fields and their weirs. Whilst some of this could be washed out in a wash plant, washing also dissolved the precious product. There was a limit to how much washing could be done especially if the salt had been harvested too early and was very fine or the contaminant had been crushed before detection. It was far better to not crush a single piece of contamination into a hundred parts, then try and remove all those pieces. Each time we did, I’d hear “we have a problem Bajool.”
In fact this was a problem in all salt fields especially the older ones where decaying infrastructure abounded. No amount of sifting through screens worked. Though for the majority of time this was not an issue, when food grade material was required the refinery went onto high alert.
Then it struck me. An optical scanning system could detect any dark particles amongst the white salt, especially if the salt was laid out flat on a white conveyor belt. Converting the optical image into an electrical output could control a series of solenoids connected to air jet nozzles. When the dark particle dropped over the end of the white conveyor for transfer to another conveyor, a delayed blast of air from an associated air nozzle could blow the dark particle out of the salt flow. Whilst it was an easy concept it took us some time to engineer the concept into a pilot plant.
After success in the pilot plant but with further adjustments for the higher speeds in the operating plant the Removal of Dark Specks in Salt was launched successfully.
The echo of “we have a problem Bajool” receded.

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Reflecting on the Fourth of July 2019 – Tasmania

 

The news I’ve read tells me that the fourth of July celebrations in America are being subverted by their president for partisan purposes. The outrage is palpable. But there will be many who will feel and be comforted by the overt display of military might, faux pageantry and stirring words. The words will resonate in those hearts shrinking in fear from a world they no longer understand a world which does kowtow to the sacrifices of their country, a world which does not recognise how great they feel.
But I feel great; it’s my brother’s birthday.
He’s not here to celebrate his birthday with me. I can’t recall when we last did.
For this birthday I’d love to let him know how post work has been going since the start of this year. How I feel serene not having to rise for the bus each six thirty am, but can now watch the bus pass, propped up in bed. The wood work , the flowers, jams from the trees. No longer do I have to hear or imagine the voice of “the man” throughout the day. Jeff would love that, not being a guy who much listened to the man. His rhythm was that of a different drum.
It must have been ages ago when we last celebrated his birthday together, might it have been when he had returned from the Youth With A Mission in the Philippines? He’d gone there after, or was it before, that incident at the National Australia Bank where he had been a teller. Somehow, he got a job there, whether or not it was through Mr Clayton’s influence, the Ringwood branch manager of the NAB, domiciled down Wantirna Rd, I know not. Lewis and his sister whose name escapes me were the children of this elder of the Presbyterian Church down in Adelaide St. Adelaide St no longer exists, wiped off of the landscape by the Eastland shopping centre behemoth. As kids we all went to the Presbyterian Fellowship Association, and as we became young adults those of us not studying sought jobs.
Jeff’s teller job moved him the various branches and eventually into the city. There were few computers then, much of the work was manual and repetitive. Mistakes were frequent, requiring first time mental and computational accuracy or face long periods of time rectifying errors. The hours were punishing.
In the stockbroking end of the city where Jeff worked the high daily volumes of stock trades needed daily completion of financial transactions. The market need to be open promptly the next trading day with all the books balanced. Long hours into the night were needed especially at the financial institutions. In one trade for Potter’s Jeff made a crucial mistake. The stockbroker’s loss was made up for by the bank, or if the truth be known their insurer. Jeff paid with his job.
So according to this narrative Jeff went to Baguio City, in northern Luzon, Philippines’ summer capital. Amongst the mossy plants and orchids he sought to bring Christ to folk there through YAM, a worldwide organisation whose united purpose was to know God and to make Him known. It had started back in 1960, and engaged youth in missions. A counter cultural movement to the drop-in drop out culture of the swinging sixties. Whilst YAM in the 2000’s has expanded its target age for missionaries, the team theme of outreach remains.
After a number of years, or was it less, Jeff came home. Mum and I were away holidaying in New Zealand in a camper van. Jeff had no way to communicate with us, so without a key to get into the house he eased out the slated glass louvers of the dunny window and squeezed himself into the house through the toilet window.
It was quite a shock to find him there when we got home, as it was for Mum to find him deceased in the toilet years on.
We never found out why he had come home, but I don’t think it was because the Philippines had all been brought to Christ. Perhaps he’d run out of money. Perhaps YAM had repatriated him because of abnormal behaviour, unmissionary like if you will. Nevertheless over time we noted changes in his demeanour which at the time we gave no truck, but in retrospect maybe we should’ve.

 

 

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The Office Meeting

The Office Meeting 

What is it about meetings that make my skin crawl?

Attending a long ago medical conference on a topic now forgotten I was minded of how much time is wasted in meetings for no purpose. Colleague Liz sat opposite me on other arm of the inevitable U shaped tables. It’s always a U! Reminds me of an ancient Greek amphitheater, its sides squashed trying to get through a lift door.

We sought to amuse ourselves at these regulated mutterings which passed as the latest learnings on mental health.  A thickened eye brow raised here, a glazed eyeball thrown back there. As time dissolved I fell into reverie wondering about the meetings I’d not been able to avoid in my other job, managing a large building materials manufacturing operation and began toying with the following non exhaustive list of meeting types. As the learned, the much credentialed but boring professor droned on and on, I thought and listened, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I  thought of five meeting types:

Meeting #1 

Although it comes in variants a common example is the regular meeting at which

“Safety must always be the first item on the agenda’.

This is a fine sentiment but whose half life is approximately three meetings. Usually in response to an admonition from on high, safety appears. A reaction to something gleaned from a report on safety, or some young enthusiast’s attempt to make a name.  People expectantly bring their items up. Nothing changes but safety is top of the agenda, literally.

 Meeting #2

This meeting is the child of a boss’s mindless musings coupled with the need to be seen to have employees doing something. Anything will do. And if amoebae like we collect in some room where we can be either be seen through glassed walls to be ‘working’ at a meeting, or locked out of sight with an endless supply of dried out sandwiches, so much the better.

To detect this meeting listen for these words

‘I thought it would be a good idea if I got the team together to throw around … ….’

A dead giveaway! Someone who thought their time was worth more than yours, can’t clearly frame their ideas, but wants to waste your time to do it for them.

Meeting #3

 Similar to type #2 this more aimless meeting takes full flight when no one takes charge and the laundry basket is emptied, picked up and dropped again and again. From this sodden basket parent, wish lists are its children. Vague and poorly thought out, no amount of editing, paraphrasing is allowed to ensure that every tiny crumb or morsel is allowed to fester away in files full of other aimless minutes.

 Meeting #4

A relatively new phenomenon, “where everyone has a say”. It’s most lethal when the invitation list has not been given any thought, having been generated by email groupings. Best if the groupings are out of date because that allows the first fifteen minutes to be filled with recriminations about why so and so hasn’t turned up and do they think they’re too good for us etcetera, etcetera. When everyone has a say no one takes the advice of that well known song lyric,

“You say it best when you say nothing at all.’ 

Meeting #5 

And finally my mind turned to religion. There is a higher authority whose role it is to pontificate. I’ve seen all forms of this, and the ability to pontificate never finds its meeting equal, not even head nodding agreement works! It’s a secular sermon. All are compelled to supplicate before the omniscient leader, or at worst stand in the vestibule to lend an ear to the mutterings, all the better to be able to say that you were there. 

 

And so what did I write so determinedly at that meeting of long ago?

Liz came over

“Oh my God that was so damn boring, did you ever hear anything which made you want to go and pull out your teeth with a pair of pliers for relief? She said, “What on earth were you writing?” 

“How could anyone have been taking note of the drivel being sprouted!”

Liz looked at my pad, back at me, then with tears welling in her chestnut eyes she read. 

“God this is boring, I think I’m going to write about how boring this is over and over. Fuck this is boring it’s the most boring stuff I’ve ever heard. Jesus this is boring so boring boring boring boring… ” And so it went on for three and a half pages.

Try it sometime.

 

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McClelland Sculpture Park ; A Man.

“Turn left there. Not here, just down there, here. These green gates.”
So he turns abruptly after nearly missing the driveway.
It’s coarse gravelled, and to the right the lawn stretches to a tree lined fence, on the left the expansive lawns cascade towards a lake surrounded by contemporary shaped trimmed hedges.
Now he tries to park.
His first attempt at parking demonstrates Queenslandness. He choses for no good reason the wrong side of the median plantation at the entranceway. Turning off the engine he says,

“Well we’re here, ”

She looks tenderly at him replying,

“So why are we parked here?’

He looks forward through the windscreen then back in the rear mirror, and sees his error. They’re not in any known parking spot, but in the middle of the roadway.

The car restarts and with a quick reverse and forward he manages to transform his Queenslandness into his Chineseness, rear left wheel mounted on a sleeper on the other side of the low plantation, though now in a designated parking spot.

Hand in hand they stroll to the gallery, magnificently set with a sweeping panorama to the lake and sculptures set within the treeline and park manicured lawns.
It’s all so unexpected, here in the midst of encroaching suburbia, 40 acres dedicated to an artistic pursuit.
White grey walls with subtle floor to ceiling windows allow eastern and northern sun to warm and light the austere administration block.
The entrance is cool, the welcome in the foyer though is expansive from a clearly motivated attendant. Left and right and straight ahead are described engagingly in a manner which makes each direction as intriguing as the other. They chose the right … its sculpture of metals some stoneware a little timber though none of remark.

Back through the foyer again and turning to their right they enter the main voluminous gallery. A zig to the left, then a half zag to the right brings them face to face with a flaccid penis, connected to a fierce, wild looking seated nude gargantuan man.

He squeezes the breath jointly from them.

Aghast they stand transfixed. Were he standing he’d be 25 foot tall. It’s a man, his manhood magnetises her gaze. He gazes belittled.

Fascinated they circle the seated figure, the chair at least seven feet tall, each hair on his leg the length of a pencil.

But it’s the face that transfixes. Staring ahead and to the right the expression is of incipient anger and pending threat. Somewhere deep inside the viewer a sense of otherness is aroused. Playing to all our senses of the past, shunned and hidden as suggested in the biographical description of the piece, the triumph of organised Christendom over the naïve spirit, Arcadian legends of the European dark woods are evoked . Is this the initial triumph of the east over the west, to be reversed by the crusades, then reset by Islam?
None of this shows in the seated man’s face. It’s a face of mixed threat, fear and unknowableness. They look upwards at his spine, his arms and the pigeon toed inwardness of his feet, arched on the soft fleshy pad of his feet balancing his body on the seat.
The strength of his arms and legs show in the tautness of his pose, muscularity dormant but captured precisely in the folds of his flesh against the wooden seat.

The rest of the visit is dominated by his presence.

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Over Certification

 How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 

I stated counting but got bored, its everywhere. Does it have a name? Insidiously creeping into the fabric of society much like rain into a sneaker. You don’t notice it at first, slowly your sock becomes damp then soggy, slowly underfoot squelching warms the sodden juices, there’s a kind of comfortable compromise you settle into.

It’s only when you get a dose of reality, maybe stepping into a deeper than summer shower puddle that you realise how f**g cold your feet really are. You wake up. Your feet are cold. You’ve gone too far!

My feet are cold, damn cold.

I know what I’ve been ignoring, my feet are in fact wet.

In just the same way I’ve stepped in one too many over certified quagmires. Nurses needing degrees, two even better, a certificate IV to hold the STOP/GO sign at either end of roadworks. Certificate II to look after babies. Parents don’t need to get one, as of yet.

Where did all these courses, curricula, and subsocialities come from? Is that a word ….. subsocialities. Subsocialities? Its the sort of word that could slip into usage, the way all these certifications have slipped into daily life. It kind of looks important so we should take notice.

Mmhh I hear you saying, Bing it, Google it! And I do. S u b s o e c i a l i t i e s and up it comes subspecialties!

Oh my God a typo! Now I wonder why the spell checker is acting vicariously, noting some and ignoring others.

Perhaps the spell checker be certified.

 

 

 

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Last day in That Life

It’s the day before R-day, Retirement Day. I’ve been winding down for several weeks if not months. Passion and skill balanced against contribution had slowly tipped in favour of no longer working for “the man” and caring more for grand kids. I was looking forward to emptying the remainder of the detritus in the drawers into the waste bin, and disposing of once important documents into the security bin. Scanning quickly through paper and folders before scrapping most, I did come across some truly memorable pieces. Chief amongst these was Pseudo-profound Bullshit .These were accompanied by several nicely written articles in the British Medical Journal debunking the orthodoxy of the Root Cause Analysis [RCA] methodology, now beloved by the department.

I twisted in my rotating chair to turn on the PC. No colourful Windows 7 screen came up, rather ominous white writing on a black screen indicating something about boots. I had my usual shoes on but figured this boot reference required me to do something. Mmhh I thought, I’ll turn off and on, that’s a usual remedy.

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But not this time! I stuck a future photo of fishing on the screen and called the IT centre to describe the issue.

“Mmhh” was the reply, “sounds like we need to send a tech, but it could be a few days.”

“A few days,” I echoed, “I retire tomorrow.”

“I’ll see if I can get someone out later this morning then ” she said.

There’s important stuff you need to do on your final days. I had to slip up the road to buy a traditional muslin wrapped plum pudding at the Country Women’s Association shop and two weatherman knives from the boutique knife shop further up the Elizabeth street hill. Wandering back I came across the tech I had dealt with in all my Public Service time, Eddie. He was half way out of the office with my computer under his arm!

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“So where you off to with that “, I asked in mock surprise as he stood back facing Sam

“Well, I doubt this is coming back,” he said, “it’s well and truly fucked.”

This confirmed Sam’s earlier technical opinion “fucked.”

I settled into an afternoon on someone else’s PC but got all tangle up with a different operating system and a lack of motivation.

For the next day my senses were heightened. 47 years work coming to an end. The mall looked particularly lonely though swept.

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Should I Dome I wondered? In fact I was so early Dome was closed. Passed the shops I’d passed carelessly many mornings before, rain, hail or shine. Some shops waiting for a re- lease, today I would get mine. I spied the ceramic pig on the far side of the mall, some halfway down. A great place to rest my brief case. The same brief case my Dad had carried all those years ago on 31 August 1941 in Flinders St. Melbourne, when he’d seen Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in “On the Road to Zanzibar” with Elise, his girlfriend at the time after an egg for breakfast. A man of few words his film review was “Good”. I felt the last day of paid work for me was a good day to give the case an outing. Wearing a suit, memorialising that first day I went to work at CSR in Yarraville, in a suit, no bow tie though.

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There’s no one around. It’s time for holidays and Christmas is in the air. The mall will fill latter fooling cruise ship tourists that Hobart is a thriving city. Joggers in strechies to show off their nether regions are swamped by a training squad sweating their way up the Elizabeth St hill, barked at by a paid trainer. I arrive at the locked front door at 81 Elizabeth St where I swipe my card for the last time. This afternoon all these accoutrements of public service will be gone along with the ID card.

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Two floors up by lift the office is empty, as usual. Emptier cos I have no computer and have to scrabble around to find a spot. My name has gone from listing of folk in this room, along with the invitations I no longer receive. It’s as if I’ve disappeared, though very well dressed. I think I should, so at lunch time the well dressed me should transform into the person I’ll be from today on.

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There’s no point hanging around, the others are off to meetings, I’m not. I delay send an email to team members  to be sent just before their knock off time. Here’s what I said:

Starting at the start of my public service.
One of my selection panel members told other panellists:
“This guy exceeds all the criteria; time will tell how he fits the Public Service”. I ended up working with this guy. A few years later when he retired, he said,
“Turns out he did fit in.”
How well did I fit in? That’s for others to chew on. Maybe they’re still chewing; I never had a Personal Development Appraisal in 7 years!
I’ve said to many folk that I would continue working while balancing my private life with the contribution I could make in my working life. That balance has now changed. From schooldays I’m reminded,
“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
Brutus in “Julius Caesar”- Shakespeare

The flood tide has come and fortune beckons. The waves surge over me.
The waves made up of baby grand kids, the surging swell of travel and a very strong undertow of writing. Writing about my recent past in the Public Service has provided very fertile ground from which to harvest. Wry observations of people, unnecessarily complicated situations and stupidity, often gross. Complaint response writing, over long verbose protocols, and action-less meetings without agendas don’t just cut it, they have strangely lost their allure. The tide has ebbed, it’s dry, arid and unappealing. Let me reflect a moment on my total working career:
From OUTSIDE the Public Service, I learnt to be my own man, speak my opinion fearlessly, judge based on data, but take decisions without all the facts when needed. I’ve several significant problem solving achievements; break through new products and vastly improved processes to point to. Most important though was learning to accept responsibility and think for myself.
From INSIDE the Public Service, I’ve always strived, to be the man my dog already knows I am.
I’ve seen many retire, I follow them gladly.

I press the send button, close down the PC and disappear.

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if I’m allowed to

The room is full of vidioettes, those who await a six digit connection to several remote sites by videoconference. There’s a buzz in the room while the remote is sourced, mute is on. Space for wall flowers at the room’s periphery is tight, for those seeking the outer limits of obscurity. Table hugging job grade climbers seek prime locations at the laminated board table edge. These are prime spots in the “look at me” status stakes. Those surer of their status hover mid distance tween table and wall, knowing their interruptions can always be sustained by a table hugger unmuting the mic for them before they speak.
I nearly slumber. The previous meeting minutes are skimmed, while I shuffle an untidy sheaf of papers which I know don’t contain the minutes. It appears though I’m better prepared than those who’ve chosen to go to the meeting paperless and tablet less. Impressions count. Then the call is made,
“Who’s gonna move the minutes?”
Most of the wall flowers have their tongues firmly stapled to the rooves of their mouths, but a Hobart table edger slips a digit up and says,
“I’ll move ’em!”
“So who’s gonna second them” comes the disembodied voice from Launceston again. Nothing happens, nothing. The video at North West judders, there’s pixilation from Burnie, slightly less than MCH and I look around. It’s quiet in Hobart.
“So who’s going to move them?” is asked again. After a pregnant pause a soft voice from the Launceston theatre is acknowledged as a seconder.
It goes on like this meandering through the action list items for which apparently no-one in any of the rooms is accountable. There are waffly self aggrandising minor updates on where the heck they’re going. At least the meeting form is being followed!
And onto a dissertation on “The Transition,” from the Launceston Revealer. Its long, torturous and rambley, covering old and new ground at the same depth, consistently shallow. It dawns on me that what she’s talking about convolutedly reverts us nearly right back to where we were just over two years ago. That the change was “nothing much to worry about” while ” we continued with business as usual” allowed us to watch as the change sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Ultimately the new brooms were closeted.
The same description is being used by the Launceston Revealer to describe this new change. I find myself wondering why senior people who had the means, leverage or gall, decamped to regions unknown only to re appear as the designers/reviewers of “The Transition”.
From the pit of my tummy something stirs. The lyrics sound the same, the melody vaguely familiar. Though there seems circularity and vague symmetry, some folk in fact did worry and were affected. Though in the first iteration the union got involved causing the process to drag and drag the fact that the implementers were naïve to Taswegian practices and mores, conspired to make the whole experience mind numbingly extended. The tricky mass meetings trying to ‘sell’ the idea were a massive waste of time for such a patently self evident need for change. An amalgamation of disparate sites into a cohesive whole wasn’t exactly rocket science. But then again this is health, nudge nudge, wink, wink, and it must be important hey.
So after a further meandering through the peaks of professional status and troughs of divisions at the 42nd Tasmanian parallel, a Hobartian dares query the Launceston Revealer.
” Will this Transition be subject to a change proposal for union consultation!”
After some more waffling, the Launceston Revealer’s response attempts to bat the issue right out into the long grass.
” Is there anyone down there, some senior manager who can take this query off line and explain this to Hobartian enquirer,” she hopes.
Its a little tense, then tenser, Hobart eyes formerly raised are now floor gazing, as its apparent there are no senior managers present. There’s plenty of wannabe acting managers and the otherwise disengaged, two of whom are already thumbing it on mobiles.
Eventually we hear,
” I’ll take it up with the enquirer,” a Hobartian says. Who it is, isn’t clear.
Sorted, phew, the Launceston Revealer goes on,
“Ok, then I’ll continue about the Transition for the rest of you,” she says, adding ,” if I’m allowed to.”
The muted tone of the slipper sinking in.
Do others hear it? Doubt it. Those who matter to me do.
I jot it down.

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The Asian Mind Game – brief review

by CHIN-NING CHU

 

Should I have enjoyed this? I thought so. Hailed as a must read for Westerner’s doing business in China, Japan Korea. Clearly targeted at the United States, some glowing references are made to the land of its publisher, Australia. As a third generation Chinese Australian perhaps I sought to much?

For insights into politically incorrect ways of thinking its an early masterpiece, though it’s a theme on which it tends to harp. The section relating to recent history it provides useful insights. For this Asian part of the world this is the past three or four hundred years.

The author has a mixed cultural upbringing amongst the lands of which she speaks. This has clearly been an advantage in dissecting the homogeneity of the dominant Asian cultures tackled.

Putting down the book for me was a pleasure. Written in 1988, an update for current times is perhaps overdue  

Poon Jere Chee 2016

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Leaving pivot

The CEO of the organisation of the World wide organisation came  to present me with the Award for best operational performance, worldwide.
His name was Julian, unused to standing on linoleum which was laid canteen in the workers canteen. His shoes were more acquainted with the soft springiness of wool on superior underlay. After speeches lauding the achievements in the past few months he presented me with “the Bosses Baton”. He’d explained that this baton had been a tradition of the organisation after it had originally been found in an antique dealer’s and had been used by the organisation for formal awards. Contained within its perfectly interlocking halves was a scroll of attainment which the Chairman or CEO presented for meritorious performance.

Alongside Julian stood Carl, an operations general manager, and Steve the plant operations foreman. I’d stood in almost the same spot in that canteen some seven months earlier when being considered for the role of plant manager. I’d scanned the sceptical employee faces in whose eyes I read,

“Who the fuck’s this Chinaman?”
Carl was however a little more up market, only just. He wanted to know what I knew about making superphosphate. He’d been in the game more than 30 years at various Australian plants, and was recently retrenched from a New South Wales operation. The role he was now filling was something of a comedown  though the job at least kept him employed.
“Nothing really,” is the essence of what I told him. Though the plant was massive and filthy the basic chemistry and processing was simple. Grind up bird shit, pour on concentrated sulphuric acid, granulate the output. I wondered how hard it could really be.

However, I could appreciate his scepticism at having me foisted on him, the plant’s performance clearly gave those in charge up the line the heebie geebies. The  opportunity to make vast profits from the Chinese closure of exports of superphosphate was going begging. Carl’s view and those he reported to were, um, at variance.
Having determined some technical issues of grinding mill outputs, I’d gone out to visit customers to understand what they really needed and how well we were doing in their eyes.
“Been spreading super for 30 years out here and this is the first time we ever saw anyone from the plant let alone ask how we’re doing” was the response of the largest superphosphate spreading contractor in the western district. I’d found this comment enlightening. He showed me samples from one or the other of stockpiles through his yard, and after caressing each handful assessed each as good or crap. I tried the same unable to tell the difference, though it seemed to do with the particle size distribution. In fact these contractors had been issued with plastic samples for quickly assessing sizing in the field. Such devices were unknown in the plant.
Reporting back on my foray out to our customers to Carl replied.
“Never had to bother seeing these guys, they take what we make, they’re lucky to get anything any way. That’s the first and last time you waste the company’s time on such jaunts.
“Hmmh,” I thought, suitably chastened, “seems like the mistakes made thirty years ago are repeated reliably year on year since then.”

I kept these thoughts to myself.
Two months after Julian’s presentation to me the plant continued to perform well when the HR manager Sam caught me walking down the long corridor to my office early one morning,
“Come on in,” Sam said let me make you a cup of coffee, real coffee! I’ve got something to tell you.”
“Ok” I replied, entering his office and easing into a dark red fabric covered chair beside the occasional table in the corner of the somewhat spartan office.
“Wadda ya reckon, that’s real coffee eh!” he beamed having gone through the whole rigmarole of creating that dark black Turkish coffee on a silver salver half the size than would have been adequate.
“Not bad, not bad at all!” I replied, “We seem to have gotten on top of the plant issues now”
“Um, well that’s sorta what I want to talk to you about.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Yes” he replied. ‘Carl wants to get rid of you.”
I looked at him. Not really surprised but not really expecting the guy who’d spent a lot of his time recruiting me had such a message to deliver.
“Ok,” I said after a moment’s reflection. I’d come with a specific task in mind, plant improvement. The EBA I was negotiating with the local union wasn’t going that well. In fact it was stalled. Holding the company line in negotiations it was clear to me the position was untenable. The delegates had told me directly that Carl was the man. They regarded him as the decision maker, and though I was handling the face to face contacts, they knew that real decisions were all subject to their drinking mate Carl’s veto. Together they’d all drunk their way around the pubs of Geelong together, lubricating the victory of Geelong in the AFL grand final.
“Ok, I’ll leave right now with three month’s salary in lieu of notice.” I continued.
Sam looked at me.
“You sure?” he said.
“Never surer,’ I answered, thinking that such an idea would never be accepted.
Sam looked at me, swigged down half his coffee, rose from his desk and said.
“I’ll see what I can do. Stay here, make yourself another coffee.”
He opened the door, swung left, and went down the corridor to Carl’s office, half way to my office.
I sat there. A year’s pay for nine months work. Nice gig if you can get it I thought. The office seemed to shake a little.
Halfway through a new brew, the door opened slowly and Sam appeared, downcast mouth and eyes. Can’t be good his face seemed to say. Closing the door his face lightened then beamed.
“Ok, ok…. got it!” he said.
“What!’ I nearly shouted, “what!, really .. really?’ I was incredulous. “Really?
“Yep, you can pack you gear and leave now,” he said.
I trusted Sam but not others. Together we calculated what the payout would be and once agreed I said.
“When I see that amount in my CBA bank account, I’m outta here.”
“That’s pushing it,” Sam said, “ we can get it into your account next payday.
“Well I can’t go unless I see the dough. Don’t trust it’ll all arrive. By the way how did you do that anyway.”
Sam opened up “Well, I said to Carl you wanted four month’s pay and he hit the roof!” I guess that was the building shaking  I’d felt.
Sam said Carl had shouted at him “Get that bugger out of here. Give him three month’s pay and out of here right now”
Sam told Carl that he’d see what he could do and had left Carl’s office tail twixt legs.
“Just go down to your office, pack your things and check your bank account in the next half hour. Carl’s onto it right now.”
I tiptoed down the corridor past Carl’s closed office door, and in the time honoured tradition emptied my personal belongings into a cardboard carton, a carton for baked beans of the Heinz 57 varieties if memory serves me well. I fiddled around with the pc, transferred personal stuff to a thumb drive then opened internet banking. Like a PC poker machine jackpot, the bank account was updating with five figure amounts I’ve rarely seen. Could it be true?
I turned the PC off, then back on again. The account balance had now stabilised at a figure several tens of thousand dollars greater than had been there an hour ago.
Cardboard box under my arm, I closed my office door quietly strode up the corridor past Sam’s office for a cheery sayonara and then I was gone.

Once home I showered off the dust of Incitec Pivot.

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Porridge [Scottish]

blueberry bowl breakfast cereal

Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

It’s the morning tea setup out front of the Development Day Conference, a time to mingle and network

“G’day, I’m David, and I can see that you too prefer full milk rather than the skinny or other emasculated slops that imaging themselves as milk.”

“Yes a victory of marketing over facts,” she says somewhat authoritatively ” Golly when I go by the supermarket there’s so many  types of so called milk, A2, full fat, low fat, skim, lactose-free  and more in the cold glass fronted fridge, its’ so damn difficult to find just real milk!”

“My thoughts exactly….if God had meant all these types he’d have built cows differently hey,” I replied with a nod.

I asked how she had found the sessions so far which I’d absorbed with interest.

“Oh bit hard to concentrate for me as I’ve just got back from three weeks in UK which was magnificent.”

“Oh,” I responded sensing that talk of the developments at ACHS were on the back burner for now.

“So how was that for you, where did you go?”

“I went for family reasons down south in Devon, but the weeks we spent in the Orkneys and Shetland were incredible. The geology and scenery were so breathtaking, lonely and wild.”

“Really.” I said, “and so cold up in the Shetlands close to the Arctic Circle.”

“Yes it was amazing. I was born in Tasmania and this was simply at another level! So much variety, the birdlife was stunning and the grandeur of the cliffs awe inspiring.”

I remembered being fascinated by a televisual documentary I’d seen on the geology of Great Britain, its diversity and variety of landscapes. Rocks of almost all geological ages being shown and their representation across the isles from the folding of the earth’s crust. But now wasn’t the time.

” So what else was really worth while seeing in the North of the UK ” I asked.

“Ah the water mill at Golspie Mill, Sutherland Scotland” she said.

“They were milling wheat and oats in the traditional way, labour intensive but so much more healthy, the nutrients are all retained.”

‘There’s nothing like oat porridge with a pinch of salt and stirred till creamy.”

“You use salt in?” she queried, “Down in Devon where I’m from is was sugar. I remember when I was a little girl on school camp how funny we found it when at camp on the lochs of Scotland that the porridge was so salty.”

“But it was just a pinch of salt” I said.

“Yes” she said but how Scottish!

And my mind went back through time. I wondered how I knew to put salt in porridge rather than sugar while cooking. I’d watched my mum cooking porridge over the gas stove and as I get older I long for the same comfort food. She must have learnt the same from her mother all those years ago, who passed the Scottish custom on to her.

I’d been reminded of my heritage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And here’s Ash

Thing’s change in life. We think we know where we’re goin’, then they change.

All my life I’ve been guiding, when not guiding sleeping and hangin ‘ around. Twenty four seven as they say ready at a moments notice to be on call, to be a companion, a friend. Ever reliable and always on guard it’s been a dog ‘s life. I’m not complaining, whinging  or moaning. That ain’t me at all. I’m just a dog.

Walking through the streets of Melbourne I’m bombproof , non-distractable by the delicious smells and raucous noises coming right at me.  I’m on a mission, to get from A to B safely, in spite of the attention or the ignorance of those about. New places are the same as familiar ones, the hazards are my concern. The overhangs, the traffic lights, the steps and the elevators, I’ve seen them all. From down at my level, I can see what might be an issue. I know that if I couldn’t detect  them , he certainly wouldn’t. So I plod along, waiting to hear the command, left, right or follow. It’s natural to me in my harness.

One day a few months ago, a play friend arrived. Just like me when I was young, though golden silky coloured it was great to have a mate. We enjoyed each others company. It was wonderful to have a friend to come home to each night after working all day. We shared the warm house, the ample food and the fluffy, silly cats.

Fletcher was three, I’m ten years old. He had much to learn but I could see he had potential. He fitted in well and we got along. I was glad of the chance to relax on short trips to the supermarket when he was given the chance to strut his stuff. Mistakes! Well he made a few, tripping over steps and walking too darn fast. Well that’s how it goes. Spiritedly straining at the harness, anxious to impress. All the tricks of the trade passed on though. This might be a great outcome, sharing the load so I could rest my paws.

I was spending less time working and more time sleeping, at home. It seemed as though I would be pensioned off to a life of relaxation though in reality I’ve no idea of a future. The present goes on and on.

Through a series of complicated events I end up in Tasmania, colder and happier. All I have to do is be a dog.  I’m loved and grateful. It’s an easy life

 

 

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Decline to passing

Walking a dog is one of life’s pleasures. Wandering along, thoughtless, thought filled memories of my mum ebb in my mind. Is it only the most recent memories that remain, the last few years when I got to see has a mum who depended more and more on me?

It wasn’t always so.

Mum was all those things mothers are to kids. Only in later years I realised the circularity of life’s trajectory, that we return, magically to where we started, dependent. Increasing incapacity of the ageing process gives the opportunity of those who’ve been raised to honour the sacrifice made willingly for a children’s potential.

And so it was, as Mum declined her ability to toilet herself diminished. Though facility careers dutifully assisted at other times, for me it was a privilege to see to her most basic needs in the dunny.

We come full cycle. We wash the nappies of children growing up, with never the intention that it’ll last forever.

Neither did this.

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Cec

Onions, he knew his onions.
Strange phrase, I know it’s meaning who else does?
Grumpy, cantankerous, obdurate, offending were all ways he could be described. Was it the sweat stained canvass floppy sunhat he insisted wearing inside and out covering a balding carcinoma covered scalp, or the knowledge within which was most attractive to me.
I couldn’t tell.
He had as his office a dust laden and paper strewn cubby hole office on the mezzanine floor of the plaster mill, Concord Plaster Mills. Built during the World War, the second one in 1942, its construction echoed its times. Concrete and brick, but mostly concrete of an era when lightening a structure to save effort or materials was unheard of. Or maybe a direct hit with several tonnes of TNT. Solid, like the men who cajoled tons of plaster from its bowels. When it was built metrification was not even contemplated. Mechanical gates and chutes operated by sinewy human muscle power, mostly migrant’s muscle who manned the plant post war.
He lived not far from the plant somewhere in Ryde on land which had not been squeezed by the urban sprawl and on it he grew onions of which he was proud. A strange thing to be proud of I thought but his foremanship at the plaster Mills didn’t define him. It was his onions.
Thinking back now over the forty odd years since past, it’s the onions I recall. Lessons learnt from him about technical aspects of plaster making, brattice plaster, hardwall plaster, mine plaster, pottery plaster and curse of curse plaster for plasterboard manufacture are all forgotten. What of the man do I recall?
Pulling off his boots after a day’s toil in the change room alongside the HR office, he could always be seen there right on knock off time. Though his going home clothes were barely distinguishable from his work clothes his demeanour on exit said one thing, I’m off now to do what’s important. It’s that which remains.
He started earlier than all of us office types. There at the crack of dawn for the change off of night shift he stayed abreast of everything that happened in his Mill. No amount of electrical then electronic monitoring said more about what was happening in Cec’s domain than what he intuitively knew. Being in harmony with the rhythms of production came from continually prowling the plant, listening to the creak of straining equipment understanding the stresses the plant could take. Most of what I learnt from Cec was by observation, his way of being, and his experiences. These were hard won, requiring a closeness of men, awkward for insular Cec and near impossible for a young Chinese lad to develop with a grumpy Anglo man.
But we worked at it, and slowly after various trials and many mistakes a grudging acceptance developed, both ways. Long hours in the Plaster Mill, I learnt the lessons that only experience can teach. It was as though the apprenticeship I’d served under Arthur Collins at Brunswick Plaster Mills at Tinning St Brunswick Victoria continued. Brunswick though had been brown coal briquette fired whereas Concord was oil fired. It was hot and dusty work, very dusty but the days were career young and enthusiasm undampened.
Slowly the years passed and oil gave way to gas, the plant reshaped for the volumes of plaster now required for plasterboard. The proportion of niche plasters requiring art and craftsmanship slid down the production schedule. The need to know more about styling the product diminished till the plaster mill was merely an adjunct to a plasterboard plant.
And with this decline knowing how to craft plasters for customer’s specific needs gave way to producing tonnage, now metrification had arrived, for the plasterboard plant. The care factor diminished, the onions shrivelled and one morning in the change room as he pulled on his boots for a day’s unsatisfying work he died. Vale Cec.

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Australia Day 2018 Tension

Somewhere out there, there’s supposed to be tension. Is there?

Waking late to our National Day I feel nothing but content. To live in a land such as this “girt by sea”, well in Tasmania we too are girt by sea so is Tassie doubly girt?

Its about bar-b-ques, sand and sangas. The haze hangs over the estuary, sea haze drifting skyward. To the west sails lazily tack down river in the sultry breeze. The dog needs washing, ilium’s pulled. Such a display for  Christmas but only  geraniums bloom for Australia Day.

It takes a while to realise that something is amiss.

“Daring,  I think No2 toilet is blocked” I hear in bed from down the hall.

I’m the darling referred to here. I try to work out what it means to ‘think’ a toilet is blocked or not. I lie there wondering the state the toilet room. However, no panic seems to have set in, so no immediate need to disturb my Australia Day musings.

I wonder how I’ll handle the tension, widely reported in the press and radio and tv of the ‘Calls for Action’ and the blah blah blah of the righteous Left, Right, and self entitled. I’m so over it. I resolve to turn off the radio / tv at the very mention of rights / oppression / invasion. Looking around outside I can’t see or feel the tension of Australia Day, just the tension of a potential faeces flooded dunny.

Ambling down to the second toilet [how middle class is that, 2 dunnies], I’m amused to see the swirling waters just at the rim. No odour, no floaties,  no paper, just a slow whirlpool. Was it going clock or anti clockwise I can conjecture from now? Mmhh, maybe something bendy but still. An old steel coat hanger’ll do the trick, but after much prodding and poking wearing those sissy too small kitchen gloves I’m covered I dunny water. After some thought [though no tension] I reckon this is a plunger job. What could be more Aussie than down to Bunning’s on Australia Day, get some dog sangas from the junior water polo barbie and a plunger of diabolical proportions.

Down it goes into the depths sealing the outlet and then rhythmically pumped  back and forth, forcing a satisfying water pulse down the line. Though the level had dropped over the twenty Bunning’s minutes there was still enough left to splash around and up the sides, then into my gloves.

While pumping Anne goes get an auger from Bunnings, how we love to support them,  so that when she returns even further deeper surgery can be inflicted on the throne and S-bend. But it comes up clean, clean nothing on the turny swivelling  tip all, and I’m feeling tension now. Australia Day tension and not a red black and yellow flag in sight. The plumber bill however hovers over me like a cloud. This could take ages and they charge by the 1/4 hour.

Vinegar and baking soda is a remedy of old. How better to ease the tension, read a book while chemistry weaves its magic in the bowel. In they go equal aliquots of both until the fizzing takes away the indigestion like pain. Overnight majik is wrought. A flush and the water sinks to its design level, Australia Day tension is over.

 

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The Temp

A new girl sashay’s [” to walk in an ostentatious yet casual manner, typically with exaggerated movements of the hips and shoulders” ] in,to take up a temporary role as an administration assistant proudly announcing ,
” I have degrees so this will be no bother to me”
She will to us though!
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Eric

Back when I was in sole charge of a large manufacturing plant south of Brisbane I enjoyed relative autonomy. The site was large, 40 acres, with a large plant building at the rear of the site, and up front near the main road an office amenity built into a converted house. 

When the new Group Manager for Queensland moved into the office, there wasn’t much change. I didn’t report to him, they were our site tenants really; we were pleased to accommodate them.   

“I’m Eric and I want to see you up here in my office.” 

Of course I thought I’d love to meet him, having not done so. 

“I want to know why the gardener up here is wasting water hosing down the front entrance of this office with a half in hose. And besides that, there’s lantana growing up through the soffit of the outside veranda.  

“Mmhh” I thought serious matters for a General Manager and a State Operations Manager to discuss. 

I’d heard that Eric was a cost cutter and had already cut the morning and afternoon teas budget for the front office dramatically. Of particular concern to staff was the elimination of chocolate biscuits, plain and no name brands now predominated. 

“Ok, I’ll be right up,” I said. 

As I wandered through the leafy glade to the left of the main entrance roadway I waved to the waiting truck drivers. Sure enough Eric had come out of the office and was berating the gardener Frankie.  Frankie looked perplexed. His English wasn’t that good, good enough though to have served faithfully for thirty years.  He’d retired from working in the plant several years before and his pride and joy in his retirement for the past few years was maintaining the grounds. They looked like a garden. 

“Me I use the tree hose huh” I overheard him saying. “But it not sqwerta  da leafs right away propa,” I caught the twinkle in Frankie’s eye as I mounted the two steps to the entrance. 

Eric stood there, legs spread arms akimbo. The stance of a General Manager, of intellectual greatness and short man stature syndrome.  

” Well what you gotta say about all this waste of water”, he railed at me, not allowing a word in between the drenching flow. 

“I’m appalled you’d allow this much waste of precious costly drinking water on a garden, let alone to clean pathways!” 

I too was appalled; hadn’t Frank been told to use the ½” hose and not the ¾” tree hose to do the pathways. He’d get more pressure for blasting and his squirt would be more impressive. I’m sure this was what he was trying to convey to Eric in his broken English. 

None of this made much sense to Frank really, not I when I thought about it.  

“Well what are you going to do about it?” Eric snarled, in a lowered tone which managed to convey both threat and superiority. 

I wondered. A modern-day dilemma. Sustainability was a few years away as a societal concern but being in the presence of the runner up to University of Queensland Prize Winner helped quiet my fears. I’d heard Eric expound in different fora how Ken, the State Accountant had been the Prize Winner in their graduation year, but that Eric was the General Manager and therefore Ken’s boss. 

“Mmhh”, I thought, so every dog has its day was the learning I’d gleaned from Eric’s gloating over Ken. 

“Perhaps use a 3/8″ and not ¾” hose”, I muttered. 

“That won’t save any water worth saving! Look at the pressure its pouring out at, and you’re an engineer, aren’t you?” 

I thought about that. Perhaps I was and was this the right time to tell him that the reason for such a high pressure was because we were pumping garden water for the site from the adjacent creek. 

“It’s water from Stable Swamp Creek, over there. My guess it’ll be back there within a day or two.” 

I could hear Frank chuckle as I turned and walked away. 

The freshness of the air was just that little clearer from the dew spray on the path. 

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Frursday

Yesterday was Frursday, or is it Thriday? The completion of four days at paid work starting on Monday ending on Frursday. It’s a day in search of a name. Like George’s FESTIVUS in Seinfeld http://www.festivuswb.com. New traditions and descriptions are needed to capture the happiness such days can bring, without having to subscribe to the basic religious underlay. Heightened or lowered false expectations should be celebrated at these festivals. Like Festivus, it should be for everyone. A joyous Frursday to everyone!
Frursday, is a day when the traditional Thursday payday can morph into Friday weekend thinking. But unlike Festivus, an annual celebration of indeterminate date, Frursday is fixed, always celebrated twixt Wednesday and Saturday each week. Some wags even suggest that it’s a 48 hour day, but like the gay marriage debate, I think that’s a bridge too far.
On Frursday there’s a similar traditional wind down for the coming three days of reflection. But why call it a weekend! Monday, Tuesday Wednesday Frursday aren’t a week. They’re really a fourday, a quartet of days. Let’s call them quardays, so that a quarend can follow the quardays.
In Aussie slang Friday is affectionately known as POETS day, Piss Off Early Tommorow’s Saturday, a day of pre -noon noon meetings to allow the easing into the weekend to proceed graciously and unhindered. This gliding off into the weekend is made easier in some places with team wrap ups and coffee filled discussions of weekend plans. Having just proposed the new quardays and quarend, we’ll leave it to others to work out some slang to describe Frursday in relation to the quarend. Early suggestions would be that the word should be ironic, and convey a sense of the easing into a different way of being. POETS day connotes release from the week/work days, a day of disjuncture from the rest of the week. Frusday however is a softer easing. Work through the quardays is more measured and purposeful such that there is no sense of relief that the weekend is coming and the batteries can be recharged. There’s no need, the batteries aren’t drained!
So on with the naming!
Go on give it a go.
You know you wanna!

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Lost means Lost

Lost means lost. As in gone somewhere whose location is unknown. For example cell numbers are lost when the sim on which phone numbers are stored is lost or damaged.

However, I’ve recently been able to inoculate myself from the worst fears and anxiety of loss. I’ve reduced my having recently been self-diagnosed as CPP. CPP sufferers only store the numbers of those who they definitely want to call back. Folk who I may call back sometime later are not stored. If you don’t come up in my cell phone book, you don’t exist.

Ah CPP, sorry it’s an acronym and a diagnosis. This diagnosis is yet to be found in the literature. I am burdened with severe, in fact chronic and acute CPP, Cellular Phone Phobia. The anxiety of the phobia is with me relentlessly, relieved somewhat when I am out of earshot of my own phone. However, I suffer a variety and intensity of negative symptoms. These symptoms become florid when in the presence of uncouth cellular phone usage. The symptoms are outrageous, pompous and lecturing outbursts of indignity much like Tourette’s. However, in Tourette’s the ticing is involuntary, in CPP it is not. CPP sufferers know full well what they are saying, but in their own way seek to change the world. Several cures may have been attempted though not yet clinically proven through double blinded trials. Too few sufferers are so far identified making government or raising crowd funding for research difficult. There is a hidden population of uncelebrated and undiagnosed victims of CPP, who like paedophiles, vegans, priests, old folk, cat haters, sexuals (not to be confused with trans, gays, [ both male, bi and female ], bi, intersex, queer+), claimants to aboriginality and other marginalized groups have not ‘come out’………. yet. Perhaps I’m the first?

However, for CPP victims, recent trials have shown that the severe symptoms of distress from personal cell use are immediately relieved by cell hydrogenation, the cell’s immersion in H2O. Further trials on water temperature, turbidity, stagnancy, salinity, brackishness and opacity are planned. A fruitful way ahead may be indicated from the increasing body of anecdotal evidence accumulating from those who have dropped their cell in the can. The phone is fucked. This action is almost immediate Manufacturers are continuously attempting to slightly reduce the effect of immersion, but not to the extent that cell survival can always be guaranteed post immersion. The critical time length for immersion has not yet been firmly established but may be correlated to several factors such as contents of the can, squeamishness of dropper, depth of bowel, bowel cleanliness and whether or not deodoriser has been in use.

One thing is certain though; pulling the chain will mean lost is lost!

 

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Did you say “electric frangipani”

It was warm in the shade of the frangipani. She lay there and wondered where it all might lead. There’d been the passion of the night before and then the afterglow. Ah! the afterglow, the union of souls enmeshed so sort after and rarely spoken of, as if by speaking of it the chimera lifts.
It had been a tempestuous time. There’d been the awkwardness of the meeting. The tension of values and ideals colliding, though none of that said.
She’d seen him from afar, he’d seen nothing.
It was for them to see the connection but that was a long way off.
In the daily grind of the office the chances of the meeting were in fact remote. The proposals she dealt with were at a much more advanced stage and though there were fewer of them the intensity of the research required was deep. He on the other hand led a freer existence. He could come and go. He did. The office was not a place that held him. It was in fact less than a base. His ideal took him to where he really cared, into the outdoors. He wondered sometimes how this had happened. He had always been a wage slave. Bound by the traditions of the office he worried that he too would become karoshi – overworked to death, the commuting each way, the silence of the journey, the vicarious pleasure of over reading another’s manga, in the stifling heat of the commutor train. He recalled how he’s pleasured himself there once amongst the pressed bodies, against the rump and ultimately the breasts of the foreigner squeezed face to face with him that autumn day.
She had in her country’s slang ‘thunder thighs’, but here in this worse than pig pen closeness she was as they say, a chicken for the plucking. Slowly he lowered his hand from the strap hanger. No need to hang on when the train, though at 130kph, was running as smooth as silk.
His brief case on the floor between his legs allowed his hands free access to wander. With the deftness of his ancestor’s samurai sword, he slipped his left hand towards its target. A light gripping of the underside of her left buttock weighted into his palm, ever so slightly heated.
She’d clearly been running and the unbearable softness caused him to squeeze, yielding to his touch like the first of season Kazaguichi peaches. He held it there, while he allowed her to realise it was him, his gaze averted to the ceiling at a point way, way beyond her gaze.
He knew and he knew she knew it was him.
He could see reflected in the fluoro above him through the electric haze, her disgusted yet understanding look, first at him and then at Mudslide. And so he told himself he could pursue his goal. With magical precision he let his right hand slide towards his left. Commutors to the left and right had no idea consciously what he was up to, but all subconsciously had done in their minds, what he was trying to do. Some were already working out their stratagems to have their way with the gaggle of Aussie girl students accompanying Mudslide and his teacher wife Mirasomething on their end of year Japanese trip.
Coloured as he was there was nothing distinguishable to the foreigners that he was not Japanese, though by speaking he would be given away. He was Chinese and in this culture where the cherry blossom held sway, he was a devotee of the frangipani.
As his hands moved lower he nonchalantly gripped her right buttock too.
She startled a little, but Mudslide for the moment was trying to see the train route on in a diagram on the curved plastic wall of the carriage. Another gasp and he was there, crafting her cheeks apart, and she loved it.
A glance over her right shoulder showed her captivators face in full glow.
He was slightly taller than the other carriagemen, and she could tell he was an expert.
As the train rocked on the curve coming into Siekandodo station he whispered to her.
Mudslide was preoccupied with his zits. She didn’t quite hear what he said, hands moulding yet separating her buttocks.
Again he murmured to her
‘…….twic frang…..’
and she wriggled a little more.
‘Electwic fwangaponii’
was that really what he said?
She confronted him directly.
‘Did you say electric frangipani, sir”
and she knew it was a mistake.
For he let fall her cupped buttocks and looked away, as if the train, their contact and worlds had simply slid apart.

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Philip Island Lady – Tasmania

Walking to the bin I felt the holiday through the stones in my soles. Gingerly I approached the high level dump bin. The task of taking out the rubbish looses urgency, here on holidays. I folded the crumpled, six pack outer over and over. Sauntering slowly, makes me feel on holidays. It’s the undulating unevenness of the ground, the retained warmth of the dirt, the clouds of dust raised as I walk, I could be anywhere.
I choose to be here.
On the slatted wooden decks of the cabins and other tin caravans, the noise of holidays resounds. Sounds which at home would cause annoyance, a sense of interruption are here the sound of families being families. Walls seemingly thinner than paper, tents flapping and billowing in the onshore breeze, all say holiday.
Without my rubber thongs I can feel my sole/soul. I step lightly from foot to foot, its mincingly indirect. The bins become a meeting place.
‘G’day, where ya from?’
It’s an age old question and here everyone is from somewhere else.
‘Well Geelong actually’
‘Shit! that’s a long way to come round’ she squints at me. ‘Did you come by the fairy?’
I think it’s the fairy cause that’s what it sounds like, the first vowel drawn through a sieve.
‘No came round the bay, it’s longer but the ferry costs an arm and a leg, especially when they charge for the passengers too. They don’t miss ya, do they?’
‘Yeah, right,’ she says, ‘We’re from up in the big smoke, Preston, d’ya know it? We come here every year’
And with that she lifted her stretching straining plastic bags over the edge and let them drop into the bin.
A large swarm of flies rose angrily in uninvited disturbance and waited for the air to settle a little before diving back into the darkness of bin’s interior.
‘Yes, matter of fact I lived there from when I was first born. It’s changed a lot I guess by now’
“There’s not much there now of the house in which I first lived. I knew little of it then and recall less now. It’s a place built from the words of my Mum.”
“What d’ya mean”, she cocked her head at an angle before I went on.
“Well it’s preserved in a few grainy photos, of me in a toddler’s woollen bathing suit, and my skin remembers that. The feel of the soft prickling, perhaps even its wetness though I can’t recall its colour”
“What did you think it was?” she asked.
“Well maybe green and it had a duck sewn into its bib front I think, but maybe the duck flew into my mind from the somewhere else?”
I stood there, the dappled sun playing tricks with the light, the sun rising over the cabins promised a hot and lazy beach day.
“So where was it you lived then?’ she went on
“High Street just down from the corner of Bell St, 286 I seem to recall, but then we moved to Clifton Hill.” I replied, my mind wandering to the days of my childhood.
“I’ve been back there several times and the house has gone, demolished I think”
“Oh” she replied, “Yes they widened Bell Street so many times it’s almost a freeway. Me Mum says it was a real community back then” her voice trailing off as her recently deceased Mum came to mind.
“ So did your Mum live around there then?’ I enquired. It seemed ok to continue I thought.
“ Well not far from there, the folk always lived up that way and when the men came back from the war they took up again where they could get a place mostly with friends or relo’s’
I wondered about those times, the hope of the fifties and new beginnings, the baby boom era.
“My Dad worked making radio’s for the army in South Melbourne” I said with some pride. Though I only knew of it by what I’d been told by Dad, he gold plated soldered joints to beat the corrosive jungle heat in filed radio making.
We looked at each other for a brief moment. Something about sharing time and places draws a bond between people. Our separate experiences, our story, come from within. Like cassettes conveniently packaged to be trotted out when appropriate, or worse when not appropriate.
She shifted on her thongs, the sand swishing slightly as she prodded it round.
“So you …. um ..Chinese?” she unsteadily stuttered.
I looked back. The tautness in her wrinkled throat showed the strain she felt at asking that which she couldn’t suppress.
“Yeah born here too” I said “We moved from Preston to live in my grandma’s house at Clifton Hill”
“Oh, ok,’ I replied. In fact for me it was more than ok. Carefree days compared with my current state of life.
‘What was it like there then?’ she asked. Preston being slightly more middle class back then than the deeply working class Clifton Hill.
“Today it’d be called multicultural but we ching chongs along with the wogs and refo’s. Wasn’t the yuppied up place it is now. It was very working class.”
She looked at the kids playing at the tap at the end of the shower block. Ready for the day they had already been up for hours. Now mucking up with camp water they were enjoying the time before the sun dried up their first morning burst of energy.
“Well, best get back and see to brekky, I guess” she said,
‘Nice meeting you” she said as she turned to leave.
“Yes you too” I said, “Maybe we’ll bump into each other again, I’m sure the kids will”
“Yeah, it’s a great place to make new friends, see you later”
I threw my garbage into the bin too; the flies were annoyed again and rose as one into the sunlight in a swirling pack
And she turned towards her tent, walking into the slight breeze rustling her skirt.
The flies though resettled, on the new garbage.

 

 

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OMG! A blog on Superphosphate Production! boring? Read on! Part II

From Pt I ……… The CEO of the organisation came along to present me with the Award for best operational performance worldwide.
His name was Julian and in the linoleum laid canteen he presented me with “the Bosses Baton” Alongside stood Carl, a general manager, and Steve the operations foreman. I’d stood in almost the same spot some seven months earlier when being considered for the role. I’d scanned the sceptical employee faces whose eyes said,
“Who the fuck’s this Chinaman?”
Carl was more up market, just. He simply wanted to know what I knew about making superphospate.
“Nothing really,” is the essence of what I told him. I could see that his idea about why I was being foisted on him and the view of those he reported to were, um, at variance.
As well as the technical issues of grinding mill outputs, I’d gone out to visit customers to understand what they needed and how well we were doing in their eyes.
“Been spreading super for 30 years out here and this is the first time we ever saw anyone from the plant let alone ask how we’re doing” was the response of the largest superphosphate spreading contractor in the western district. I’d found this comment enlightening.
Reporting back on my foray out to our customers to Carl evoked,
“Never had to bother seeing these guys, they take what we make, they’re lucky to get anything any way. That’s the first and last time you waste the company’s time on such jaunts.
“Hmmh,” I though, suitably chastened, seems like the mistakes made thirty years ago are repeated reliably year on year since then.’ I kept these thoughts to myself.
Two months after Julian’s presentation, the HR manager Sam caught me walking down the long corridor to my office early one morning,
“Come on in,” Sam said let me make you a cup of coffee, real coffee! I’ve got something to tell you.”
“Ok” I replied, entering his office and easing into a dark red fabric covered chair beside the occasional table in the corner of the office.
“Wadda ya reckon, that’s real coffee eh!” he beamed having gone through the whole rigmarole of creating that dark black Turkish coffee on a silver salver half the size than would have been adequate.
“Not bad, not bad at all!” I replied, “We seem to have gotten on top of the plant issues now”
“Um, well that’s sorta what I want to talk to you about.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Yes” he replied. ‘Carl wants to get rid of you.”
I looked at him. Not really surprised but not really expecting the guy who’d spent a lot of his time recruiting me had such a message to deliver.
“Ok,” I said after a moment’s reflection. I’d come with a specific task in mind, plant improvement. The EBA I was negotiating with the local union wasn’t going that well. In fact it was stalled. Holding the company line in negotiations it was clear to me the position was untenable. The delegates had told me directly that Carl was the man. They regarded him as the decision maker, and though I was handling the face to face contacts, they knew that real decisions were all subject to their drinking mate Carl’s veto. Together they’d all drunk their way around the pubs of Geelong together, lubricating the victory of Geelong in the AFL grand final.
“Ok, I’ll leave right now with three month’s salary in lieu of notice.” I continued.
Sam looked at me.
“You sure?” he said.
“Never surer,’ I answered, thinking that such an idea would never be accepted.
Sam looked at me, swigged down half his coffee, rose from his desk and said.
“I’ll see what I can do. Stay here, make yourself another coffee.”
He opened the door, swung left, and went down the corridor to Carl’s office, half way to my office.
I sat there. A year’s pay for nine months work. Nice gig if you can get it I thought. The office seemed to shake a little.
Halfway through a new brew, the door opened slowly and Sam appeared, downcast mouth and eyes. Can’t be good his face seemed to say. Closing the door his face lightened then beamed.
“Ok, ok…. got it!” he said.
“What!’ I nearly shouted, “what!, really .. really?’ I was incredulous. “Really?
“Yep, you can pack you gear and leave now,” he said.
I trusted Sam but not others. Together we calculated what the payout would be and once agreed I said.
“When I see that amount in my CBA bank account, I’m outta here.”
“That’s pushing it,” Sam said, “ we can get it into your account next payday.
“Well can’t go unless I see the dough. Don’t trust it’ll all arrive. By the way how did you do that anyway.”
Sam opened up “Well, I said to Carl you wanted four month’s pay and he hit the roof!” I guess that was the building shaking I thought I’d felt.
Sam said Carl had shouted at him “Get that bugger out of here. Give him three month’s pay right now and out of here.”
Sam had replied to Carl that he’d see what he could do and had left Carl’s office tail twixt legs.
“Just go down to your office, pack your things and check your bank account in the next half hour. Carl’s onto it right now.”
I tiptoed down the corridor past Carl’s closed office door, and in the time honoured tradition emptied my personal belongings into a cardboard carton, a backed bean one of the Heinz 57 varieties if memory serves me well. I fiddled around with the pc, transferred personal stuff to a thumb drive then opened the internet. Like a PC poker machine jackpot, the account was updating with five figure amounts I’ve rarely seen. Could it be true?
I turned the PC off, then back on again. The account balance had now stabilised at a figure several yens of thousand dollars greater than had been there an hour ago.
Cardboard box under my arm, I closed my office door, sauntered past Sam’s office for a cheery sayonara and I was gone.

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FRURSDAY – WEEKLY FESTIVUS!

Yesterday was Frursday, or is it Thriday? The completion of four days at paid work starting on Monday ending on Frursday. It’s a day in search of a name. Like George’s FESTIVUS in Seinfeld http://www.festivuswb.com. New traditions and descriptions are needed to capture the happiness such days can bring, without having to subscribe to the basic religious underlay. Heightened or lowered false expectations should be celebrated at these festivals. Like Festivus, it should be for everyone. A joyous Frursday to everyone!

Frursday, is a day when the traditional Thursday payday can morph into Friday weekend thinking. But unlike Festivus, an annual celebration of indeterminate date, Frursday is fixed, always celebrated twixt Wednesday and Saturday each week. Some wags even suggest that it’s a 48 hour day, but like the gay marriage debate, I think that’s a bridge too far.

On Frursday there’s a similar traditional wind down for the coming three days of reflection. But why call it a weekend! Monday, Tuesday Wednesday Frursday aren’t a week. They’re really a fourday, a quartet of days. Let’s call them quardays, so that a quarend can follow the quardays.

In Aussie slang Friday is affectionately known as POETS day, Piss Off Early Tommorow’s Saturday, a day of pre -noon noon meetings to allow the easing into the weekend to proceed graciously and unhindered. This gliding off into the weekend is made easier in some places with team wrap ups and coffee filled discussions of weekend plans. Having just proposed the new quardays and quarend, we’ll leave it to others to work out some slang to describe Frursday in relation to the quarend. Early suggestions would be that the word should be ironic, and convey a sense of the easing into a different way of being.

POETS day connotes release from the week/work days, a day of disjuncture from the rest of the week. Frusday however is a softer easing. Work through the quardays is more measured and purposeful such that there is no sense of relief that the quarend is coming and the batteries can be recharged. There’s no need, the batteries aren’t drained!

An example of such naming might be

LGBTQI – Let’s Glide Back To Quarend Insouciantly.

So on with the naming!

Go on give it a go.
You know you wanna!

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Omg! A blog about Deckle Utilisation. Boring? Read on!

What’s a deckle?
Here’s a definition. “Deckle a device in a papermaking machine for limiting the size of the sheet.”
Papermakers wish to maximise the use of the deckle when making gypsum board liner to maximise their productivity. The gypsum board makers want to limit the amount of linerboard they use.
Gypsum board is a sandwich of processed plaster between two layers of linerboard. A creamy face linerboard and a greyer, cheaper back linerboard. For the three common widths of gypsum board produced, there are six linerboard widths.
When producing gypsum board the wider face linerboard edges are wrapped over into an envelope to which the back linerboard is glued.
All linerboard is made on the same paper making machine. Its width, deckle is fixed. At the end of the paper making machine the deckle is trimmed to the widths to suit the gypsum board maker. The trims are wasted and recycled into the paper making process. Increasing amounts of recycle degrades the quality of the paper being made, so only so much can be recycled. The rest is waste.
It was a conundrum.
The gypsum board maker forever attempting to reduce the widths of face and back linerboard reducing the tonnages they purchased. The paper maker wasting more and more of the deckle width.
What if the paper maker could use the full deckle width?
What if the cut pieces were an exact divisor of the deckle widths?
I calculated that for face liner this would be three pieces and back liner four pieces
Further I calculated that with just two liner widths, a single face width and a single back width, all three common widths of gypsum board, 900mm, 1200mm and 1350mm could be produced!
There would be reduction in the sizes stocked at both producer and manufacturer. With the reduction in waste at the paper maker would only have to make liner for the gypsum board maker twelve times a year and not thirteen, a significant saving in trees and setup costs.
I arranged for the paper maker to make a face liner and back liner at the new special widths. We made a short run of gypsum board. The gypsum board produced had superior performance characteristics especially in its edge formation. The glued overlap of the envelope was further into the back of the sheet increasing strength.
The paper makers were at first intrigued and then enthusiastic. In fact, spread across the whole gypsum board making industry there were multi-million dollar savings to be had.
The paper maker proposed the savings to be made would be shared between the papermakers and gypsum board makers. The paper maker rightly pointed out that a change in paper widths was not protectable by a patent so the innovation might be requested by other gypsum board makers. They were agreeable though to recognizing the innovative nature of the idea.
However, the organisation I worked for was unable to see why the benefits should be shared for the whole industry and the country. They refused to progress the matter.
Of the two pallets of gypsum board made just a small sample remains somewhere in my treasured possessions.

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OMG! A blog on Superphosphate Production! boring? Read on!

The superphosphate plant ran unreliably, only 38% of available time. Its quality of output was poor and highly variable. It stopped and farted without apparent reason due to unexplained blockages. Raw material [calcium phosphate] came from around the world. Vietnam, sub- Saharan Africa, Christmas Island and Nauru. So its quality varied widely. I decided I needed to understand why the plant stopped so frequently and unexpectedly.
Two years of data ended up draping the walls of my office. The data included size of final product granules, temperature variations in the drying process, and amount of sulphuric acid mashed into raw ground material.
The raw calcium phosphate rock was milled in a combination train of six 20 tonne per hour Lopulco Mills, and a large 60 tonne per hour Ball Mill. To maintain the fineness and production rate targets, variable combinations of Lopulco and Ball Mills were used. Depending on which Mills were under repair, the output fineness of the combination was maintained at a fineness of 95% < 200 mesh sieve.
I spent nearly a month combing through the data correlating material combinations, output charts and delays. Which part of the data matched closest to the plant stoppages?
I tracked back into the process, stopping where we were unable to exert control.
The data showed that changes in the combination of mills correlated with subsequent delays, even though the fineness of the output was being maintained.
I realised that the reactivity of sulphuric acid and the phosphate rock was inconsistent. From my time in gypsum board manufacture I recalled that chemical reactivity is a function of particle size surface area and not fineness per se.
Taking samples of phosphate rock ground to the same fineness in the Lopulco Mill and the Ball Mill I had both samples tested at the chemical laboratory, where thirty years earlier I had begun my chemical engineering career.
Shazzam! The Ball Mill sample produced four hundred percent more surface area than an equivalent Lopulco Mill sample. The Ball Mill sample thus had much superior reactivity.
So the changes in mix of Mills dramatically affected the suitability of the ground material fed into the process.
Not long after suggesting operating specifications based on surface area, the plant achieved the best ever recorded daily, weekly and monthly production rates ever achieved.
The CEO of the organisation came along to present me with the Award for best operational performance worldwide.

 

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….we’re homeless and…..

Filling, the bus is half filled and that’ll be it. Those aboard seated singularly, staring vacantly out of windows decidedly clean.

It’s time to leave but the driver can’t. Loitering at the stop and in the stairwell off the bus are two blokes. One wearing an orange tee and rumpled baggy cargo pants closest to the driver. The other grasps the entrances door rail with feet on terra firma whilst his more forward mate says  to the driver,

“…… um  we’re homeless and we got no money but can get some at Rosney and then we’ll be able to pay the fare back here to the city where we’re sleeping.”

There’s a strange logic to this argument I think.

The second of the two has darker hair and has seen the hairdresser less and is all in black, down to his cargo pants. He moves up a step higher edging  orange tee shirt to one side, possibly to let the driver know there are two of them.

“If they’d not said they were homeless, how would anyone have known”, I find myself thinking.

The driver’s caught in a dilemma. It’s time to go and he’s got to decide what to do!

 “We’re homeless and need to get to Rosny so we can get back to the city where we’re sleeping.” Orange tee says again as if repeating this will improve his chance of a charity ride.

The boarded passengers aren’t restless yet. They will be given a few more minutes delay though.

“So you need to get to Rosny mate?” says the driver, looking Orange tee up and down and Black tee down.

With a backward wave of his left hand the driver signals them into the centre aisle at the front of the bus, and then activates the door close with his right.

The bus swings into the Mall. Orange and Black tee grip the vertical chromed rails as the bus lurches through the peak hour traffic. Whilst looking like other Hobartians, the other Hobartians seems to know they’re not. On the right hand arc up onto the Tasman Bridge the centrifugal force causes Orange tee to grab at the strap hanger for steadying. It’s a telling moment. The bus slowly fills with the acrid odour of unwashed armpits and unlaundered clothes. Four seats back the waves sweep over me.

“How far to Rosny” I hear myself thinking.

The driver is oblivious, tied up with negotiating the thickening traffic at the East Derwent interchange.

Those folk who were secretly hoping the driver would let these guys on for free aren’t so sure now. Their tolerance is lower the closer they are to the front of the bus.

I wonder at these non paying passengers plight. How’d they arrive at where they are now? Whilst we see them as a couple, perhaps they are only tied by their circumstances.  How soon could any of us find ourselves in like situation?

I try hard to rationalise these ideas but the air affects my thinking. It’s the air of desperation carried on the odour. They chat about nothing and about everything and there I am trying to listen in while pretending not to.

Rosny bus station is a change of traffic light away before we are hove to at the stop.  The alighting passengers are strangely reticent to adopt their usual push and shove to the exit, until the homeless go. Then I watch the uniformed  school kids, miss representative of the commission home folk in her trackies and too short gym top, a matron from an age past, and several well heeled looking clerks or maybe like me public servants. But unlike Orange tee and his mate who I know are homeless I’ve no idea of what the living arrangements of any of these folk is.

 

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The wedding

Modern affairs, a fashion slowly failing yet gripping by the fingernails to the sentimentality of the iAge. An eclectic gathering of family and friends. No different to be sure from any other like function attended this day. Though different in style and location, fundamentally the same.  So why do we go, to stand uneasily as here, under the translucent plastic sheeting intensifying the sun’s rays in the waning afternoon.

Looking around, what an assortment, not an assortment like Forrest Gump’s chocolate box, They’re more like the comfy white shoes which Forrest remarks to his bus stop bench companion

“I’ll bet you could walk all day in them and not feel a thing.”

Most guests here could do the same I suspect.

Many of the guests are dressed for comfort. For comfort I scan around for jandals, those New Zealand equivalents of Australian thongs. Although I’m sure there’s more than a fair share of the sexy, brief, pantie type thong thronging  around me the jandal is not. Some footwear though is skirmishingly close though.

“Look over there”, says Anne.

I look and see nothing of note.

“What” I say, “What am I looking at?”

The air is heating up. The music/ak filling the space is sentimental, boring and trite. All love and devotion I sense, anthems of some time past twixt the present now and back when I gave up any real interest in music.

“See on the sole of her left shoe,” Anne says.

And there in all its glory is not a squished dog/cat/any animal turd but a price tag! So here’s someone who’s gone to a little more trouble than just turn up. They’ve bought a left shoe to celebrate the nuptials. I squint to see the price but at five metre  distance, I’m well beyond the limits of my aging vision, spectacle enhanced or not. I try sidle closer to see what she paid for this strappy beige left shoe with a mid height heel, but Anne tugs me back.

“Don’t be so stupid.” she softly says under her breath, being aware of how my mind works on occasions like this.

I unsidle, and look about. There’s all manner of  dress. The sheilas seem to have made slightly more effort than the men. In this menagerie the males don’t preen and flaunt as in other parts of the natural world. The sense of occasion and cultural symbolism is reduced to its barest elements. Some vows [what a funi word, vows] some signing like for an extended warranty or centreline declarations then some walking around amongst the throng and its all over. Some words lingered but they were few. Words about public declaration and sumut about sharing.

And we do share, we pay for our own drinks at the local pub, eat pub nibblies till its ok to go. Ok to go is apparently after the cake is cut, though a fair few scamper before hand to catch the game which starts about now. Those not so sporting inclined take the

“Gotta get the kids to bed option”.

We drift off, to wonder what it was all about.

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