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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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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TED

Ted

Through convoluted paths our lives crossed. It started long ago. Untangling the threads takes time. Is it easier to say,

“It’s complicated”.

I meet angularly attractive Maria when I was a mid teenager. She was a rebellious soul, banished to an austere convent school in Ballarat. Perhaps that was part of the attraction? Maria’s misbehaviours and anti parental surliness gained her admission to the nuns, but were no doubt driven by a smart arse older brother, dux o’the high school and an over achieving younger sister who in her turn became like her brother a chemical engineer.

Jammed between them, Maria wasn’t as bright academically as her two siblings. She needed to stand out.  She was arty, and accentuated this to further differentiate herself, to find a space to stand. But the spotlight never shone on her. It reflected off of her behaviors drawing the attention she sought whilst simultaneously the punishment of her parents. Well to be truthful, her father was the one who meted out discipline, while her mother acquiesced in a blue haze of chain smoking.

High school for her ended when she ran off with Ted, no not the Ted of this story, the other Ted. Ted of Ted’s Camera store in Elizabeth St City.

They created a nest in a fusty old two storey terrace on Punt Rd, at the Brunton Avenue intersection just below Richmond Station. The traffic sounds and smells there are horrendous now, they were then. I risked a visit to see how she was getting on here one night. In the months since I’d seen her she’d grown in womanly knowingness, while I’d kept up my naive concern for her wellbeing. Ted was at least a decade older than Maria, and for what I could tell she was being used. I didn’t see her much after that. There were always phone calls to alert me to the latest of her adventures. It was the time of 10B tax breaks for film making and somehow she inveigled her way into the periphery of the movie making scene. There were tales of this and that party and how there was always going to be the big break. She said she’d bought the rights to the story of a cat burglar who’d terrorised Melbourne’s richest suburbs with his external wall scaling to access high rise apartments. She moved in circles I barely imagined existed, back and forth to the US of A, always with tales of daring do. Whilst it seemed fascinating for me there was always an air of unreality. As she moved from place to place in Melbourne it seemed she was barely aware of her surroundings. It was clear to me by now she had no real paying work yet she always in the lap of luxury. Naivety makes its own reality unencumbered by the facts. Occasionally borrowing from me with repayments made less and less frequently should have been an early warning for me. She told me in the end she was working a few days a week as an escort, allowing times for the movie social life and hubbub. This didn’t worry me, she seemed to be able to hold it all together but I suspected that much of what I was told was a figment of her imagination.

Years later I pieced some of it together. She’s moved to the Central Coast of NSW and she-horned herself and possessions into a tiny downstairs bed sit surrounded  by her few possessions. It seemed a long way from how things were when last we meet. Living off of the government she said she’d run away from some violence in a relationship and was busy now supporting domestic other domestic violence victims. This cause gave her access to authorities who investigated family matters, strangely she’d managed to sleep her way through a fair proportion of the Central Coast police hierarchy, or so she said.

Modelling for artists had become a source of income to supplement the dole, and tax free too, a nice little earner!

She’d meet a guy at the Patonga jetty, and she modelled for him and the classes he taught. It seemed idyllic.

Months later she’d moved in. Into the house he’d built behind the dunes on the Central Coast. It was, as they say, an interesting relationship. There was at least a thirty years age gap. She denied there was sex, though later on she claimed they lived as man and wife. I couldn’t get over the niggling feeling that she was using him, though he seemed besotted. Struck me that never really having had a live-in relationship but spending a lifetime looking after his early widowed mother he was a mummy’s boy.

Maria’s flights of fancy included a handmade self designed eco friendly mud brick shack built from soil of the plot he’d bought in the Dorrigo high country. Granting the in situ cow shed and a few acres beside it to the local indigenes was also part of the preposterous plan. I never found out if the soon to be blessed local land council were made aware of their impending bad fortune. It all seemed pie in the sky, and in time the clouds silver lining turned to a golden crust, the pie was setting. It all came to nought. Ideas soared beyond any reasonable budget, the more tragic when the money being budgeted was not your own. The sale of the property when they moved apart lead to a so called division of assets in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Through her self-represented dogged pursuit of perceived rights, Maria was ultimately declared a vexatious litigant. Ted got most of his money back and set himself up close to Bellingen, in a brick veneer cream brick house which he turned into a gallery.

Memories of his car building and racing days filled his days. Tales of racing Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss at Oran Park kept me enthralled. He painted, travelled the outback in his converted Kombi.

Slowly Maria faded from my memory; Ted had taken her place in the symmetry of life.

 

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The Snap

Far from the solitude of my office others worlds revolve. Folk are going about their important business, never busier than here in public service land. There are all the minutiae to be seen to. Correct template application to appropriate letter phrasing.
With a glance at the clock, not to tell the time, rather to mark the present moment for deduction from a future moment I respond to T’s call,
“Aren’t you coming over to the catch-up with M? We’re getting feedback on last week’s discussion of our ideas on the plans which she discussed with S.”
“Oh “I said with no commitment. I really hoped that maybe they could complete all the mumbo jumbo and let me know where I was gonna sit.
“Do I really need to go?”I continued.
“Well C is coming in from the city”, T replied. Decode, decode, what the heck does that mean? Might be nothing, and then again might be best to be there just in case. It’s always nicest to be at an office party with a pin to pop expectation balloons with your own pin than to see the balloons deflate pathetically over the following weeks
I cleared up what I was doing and followed T’s cigarette aroma across to the cream brick of the
Caruthers Building a minute or so later.
They were all seated already, making the small talk that always precedes such meetings.
“So did you go away at all for the break?” ”No, too busy working”. “Frank’s back was playing up” “ and then there was basketball camp”. “We used to but not this year.”
There was a cacophony of cross talk and irrelevance until the boss gains control.
The meeting droned on.
I was drowning in a sea of concern for us all and the mismanagement we had had to endure. Now another power play, infinitely more calibrated for control of our little group. What was once supported was now anathema. The structure had always been bullshit. Cobbled together from the footnotes of MBA text books and discarded assignments. It looked ok. Then again as high sounding as the words were their applicability to our organisation was irrelevant.
Around the room we went. Ring-a-ring-rosey like. What was each of us up to? Damn I was first! Always have something up your sleeve, and yesterday’s presentation on a similar topic gave me the out. But I introduced it wrong!
“Except for AYDC and RFC most areas are going well. In fact some have shown great progress in the past few weeks, is what I reported to F yesterday.” I said.
I had the excel graph folded into my note book in fact but having learnt that less is more in these situation I chose not to show it.
“Why does F need to know this?” M asked from left field, though she was sitting immediately to my right.
“Um, err, he’s my executive sponsor, I report to him fortnightly, err shouldn’t I?” I gasped.
The conversation moved on to the complexities of medication management and I sank back into a glazed reverie. Then I heard a snap! It was to be sure an elastic snap. It was quite distinct. It brought me back three levels of conscious mindfulness.
I knew my socks were wool knit Explorer blends and the ankle woven bands are overstretched soon to be replaced stretch elastic, so no cause for concern there. The sound was definitely elastic on thigh, an intriguing prospect in a meeting such as this, for ladies and a man.
M in her three and a half inch patent heels was sheer to the waist. A was in a skirt and hose less. T wore sensible slacks and anklet socks, leaving C in the three quarter length swishy skirt with half hose.
Another glance at the clock, 75 minutes!
I admit it, I was wrong! It was the snap of elastic on calf.

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An Office non-Encounter

Several passings of the passer. By my open office door. Head down, steadfast and striding. Her whole frame sloping forward, head past the door opening before the feet appear. Actually thrusting forward to avoid any chance of being swept up or stopped by a “Hiya” or a “Chew the fat” conversation. A non-encounter.

The swish and ruffle of a longish cross cut skirt on thick black nylon stockings catches my ear. Its a sensible sound, the way some sounds are, yet so very hard to achieve; especially when I glance down at my crushed black work trousers.

What a difference our new leader has made! The much vaunted leader came as a breath of fresh air. A fresh voice in the upper levels of management when before the leader’s arrival our team’s voice was muted. The passer supported the new leader because of their deep personal rapport. Three of the rest of the team didn’t know the new leader. But at least the strider did. The new leader would make it easier for agendas to be pushed. and so the leader was a convenient foil to hide behind, behind which secret agendas could be developed.

But slowly, almost imperceptibly the leader began to develop an independent voice. It started by not attending some of the myriad of committee meetings. Committees to review the decisions of some lower task forces. Most of the committee members were also members of the subordinate taskforce. The task forces were separately composed of representatives of lower action groups. Everyone at each level had to be informed. Multiple group emails were cc’d to keep all up to speed. Of course there were also the interminable morning meetings. Even the these dreaded morning meetings had to have minutes taken and action lists written on top of handwritten personal notes.

But over time the leader created a distance between our needs and the leader’s other work. The morning meetings went unattended. We were not the centre of attention.
Slowly our voice was silenced at upper levels. Multiple cancellations of meetings meant that even the investigative work the team did went unacknowledged, and the rot had set. Watercooler chats now became bitch sessions. The leader’s attendance times and location were a source of constant fascination. Why were department’s apparently misinformed after the leader’s visits. Every slight was misinterpreted, each mote in the eye an instant plank.
Slowly the morning meetings dissolved and barely a shred remained of the chatty days. The dropping in to discuss events, problems or advice evaporated.

Striding became the norm. Striding past doors now often closed, or almost closed. A cursory g’day to avoid the accusation of rudeness obligatory.
So hard to say what is learnt from the experience.

Perhaps its that one can only really rely on one’s own effort and not invest emotion in what others might do for you.

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The Rocky Meeting

From way back when I find some writing, sort of tucked away from when I was in Rocky in 2006 I think :

The meeting

 

It’s a short flight. The thought of why this meeting hangs there. I push it back. Is it that I don’t want to be hurt, or is it that with the prospect more or less inevitable, I can’t help wondering whether everything will be ok. I’m realistic enough to realise that this is only my perception; a perception which at this moment is saying to me that even though the clouds beyond the plane’s windows are solid and fluffy, perhaps even silver lined, in reality they are in fact only water vapour, little more substantial than air.

Perceptions, I find them useful as I take in the terminal scene from the tarmac then pass through the unfamiliar inbound gates. I take three deep breaths at the terminal doors, and calmed, I enter. The breaths are wasted, there’s a bleak corridor to follow and then a door into the arrivals hall, a riot of bright shiny stainless steel, coloured glass, mahogany and the tropics.

You call me by mobile; I am for the moment unready for meeting. We had for some time talked of meeting and at the last minute, in the impetuous way in which we both arrange things, have caused this face to face encounter to happen.

I feel momentarily shy.

We’ve pushed fate a little here and underneath, maybe we both suspect we pushed a little too far.

It’s done now though, and it’s really a matter of making an ok thing of it.

A coffee seems a good idea, in fact the only idea. We sit none too awkwardly in a lounge designed to drown out the sorrow of travel, the fear of flying, or the anonymity of a meeting, talking about this and that, that and this and forming an initial impression. Knowing this we feel the significance of these moments amplified. There is, however, no visible sign of that, though as I learn in the not too distant future, I am to find that though invisible, the signs were perplexing.

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2016 #2 TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY

IMGP6483

JOHN LE CARRE

A complex tale, the start of a renowned trilogy, which pits Cold War spy masters MI6’s George Smiley against Moscow Central’s Karla. George is seconded from forced retirement to unmask Moscow’s Centre mole within its ranks. All lower level operatives in spycraft are carried along on a needs to know basis as I was for the first quarter until I was submerged in a twisted plot almost too full of characters. Just before giving up I took the bait and was willingly dragged through the labyrinth le Carre weaves.

Written during the depths of the Cold War before the Berlin Wall fell the atmosphere of the times pervades. In scenes of betrayal the writing is taut and very visual. The unresolved tension of George’s love life with wife Anne threads throughout. Numerous plot byways are taken, all with the temptation of self concluding who is the mole. The moles unmasking is managed cinematically and small details matter here in the reading. It’s exquisitely done

Poon Jere Chee 2016

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2016 #1 THE ASIAN MIND GAME

CHIN-NING CHU

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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 business market, some glowing references however 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 harped on theme. However, the section relating to recent Asian history provides useful insights. For this part of the world this is three or four hundred years.

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

Putting down the book for me was a pleasure.

Written in 1988, an update for current times is overdue  

Poon Jere Chee 2016

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Rare Sand Painting Found!

Socio anthropologists are excited about an archive image of a rare sand picture. The sand art is thought to have mystic Chinese significance. The image is possibly a phoenix rising.

rare sand painting 2

The phoenix head is obscured, possibly removed by later Christian zealots who saw these images as pagan. The strength of the line has anthropologists excited. The soft flow of the lines from the right to left side of the bird mimics the flow of water. Ethno-linguists have noted that Chinese language derived from pictograms, so this phoenix might represent one of the earliest flourishing of Chinese language development in Australia.

Forensic analysis of the site indicates that the image was probably destroyed soon after it was photographed on Sunday, 14 September 2008, at 1:20:24 PM

Speculation on the reason for the vandalisation is rife; however no firm cause has been established.

The Chinese Government has maintained a no comment stance on suggestions that its agents were involved in the image destruction. The image, in the centre of the Victorian goldfields, is most likely to have been the work of southern Chinese Cantonese speakers, and destruction of any historical artifacts supporting a non mandarin speaking history has long been unofficial Peking policy.

rare sand painting

Ffenicks Risin, a local choir group of unemployed environmental and disability workers have also attracted the attention of investigators. This group is known to be enraged at attention being diverted from their media campaign to have their group’s expensive but publicly ridiculed logo recognised at the Hepburn Alternative Fortnight. The discovery of a phoenix rising may have angered more radical factions within Ffenicks Risin.

The site has been scientifically identified through micro geological examination of the granular structure of the sand and rock distribution using techniques first used to remotely identify moon geological strata.

A world wide hunt is now on to find people who were in the vicinity of Daylesford on this day, at a winery some five kilometers west of Daylesford / Hepburn Springs.

Police have some leads. They particularly want to speak to a couple seen at the Spa area. The man had a disabled right leg. He was seen with a woman, believed to be his carer, making the ascent to one of the lower spas with the higher iron content. Day trippers to the spa noted the indifference with which his alleged carer treated him. Originally they put it down to tough love, as he staggered down the slope hanging on for his life to the handrail.

He appeared to be seeking the curative powers of the spas healing elixir and struggled to gain the fountain. When he reached the spout, spewing the waters from the rock face he was forced to lap up the waters, dog like. His right leg jammed out over the dressed stone area, he could but appeal to his carer who’d taken to hiding behind an adjacent rockpile and was cacking herself stupid. He was soaked and spoke with a passing family. Police are anxious to speak to this Macedonian family who called in when the appeal first went out. They refused to leave contact details. Police wish to clarify this key piece of their evidence; was the cripple Chinese?

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Seven Years Ago-January 2016

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, gold plating soldered joints to beat the corrosive jungle heat.

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 coplared with my current state of life.

‘What was it like there then?’ she asked Preston being slightly more middle class back then than deeply working class Clifton Hill was.

“Today it’d be called multicultural but we ching chongs were all regarded as wogs and refo’s. Wasn’t the yuppied up place it is now. 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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Black and Yellow

A rental showing has to be seen to be believed. Unlike showing a Monet, placed before a grateful audience and savoured.

Ten minutes is the allocated time. The candidates gather before the broken cyclone fence. At one time a gate must have swung across the concrete drive but not even the gate posts stand. It’s a balmy morning, there’s the knots of people slumped against whatever presents, a brick wall here, an acacia tree there. They eye each other off, in a way which says

 ‘ This place is a dump I really wouldn’t consider but I’ve gotta be here cause Centrelink  housing said so’

to

‘ I hope I can get this place and finally have somewhere to stay.’

Five minutes past the 1230 opening time she swishes in, parks closer than all the rest to the property, and with chin jutting slightly forward proceeds to the door, keys jangling in her left hand, the key ring emblazoned,  ‘The Edge’.

The throng surges forward. It’s not the appeal of the place that drives them forward, it’s the sense that they might miss out. The whole feeling that maybe I might miss out on something that if they were to give a moment’s thought, they really don’t want.

I’d arrived five minutes before the scheduled time, and scanned the crowd. I realised that had my Vinnie’s  client had attended every open house in the area, and was still no closer to getting accommodation. He was never successful and though he saw many places it was simply part of the process to cover the agent’s agreement to ensure all potential tenants had seen a place to avoid later litigation.

He wasn’t there, hadn’t turned up, and feeling that he might miss out I took a turn around the block. On the last leg of the block I saw him propping his bike against a tee tree in the median strip.

He was as dark as dark could be. Deeper than dark chocolate about 5’4” he carried a large black satchel slung across his left shoulder its weight borne on his right hip. Slightly blood shot eyes looked over the people searching for the Chinaman. Not seeing the Chinaman, he backed away to his bike and stooped to lock it. The combination tumblers spun to open then he closed the clasp. He looked again, down the street and saw the polished red car slide along the curb. It stopped behind the Edge’s car, the engine slowed then stopped.

The Chinaman pushed open the door and immediately spotted him.

Between them the slightest smile, and perhaps a ‘G’day Albert’ responded with ‘Hello how are you’ in a slightly staccato soft voice. It was twenty five percent of his total English words.

‘Have they started already?’

For by now the crowd had engulfed the far left corner of the L shaped block pushing their way into the unit which the Edge’s agent had opened. It was small and had seen better days. Missing bricks from the window sill to the right of the door, a couple missing on the other side. Front to back was not more than six or seven paces and the lounge/dining  three metres wide with a three metre first bed to the right through the timber veneered wall dividing the besser block box in two.

Two people were still outside; Albert walked a step or two behind the Chinaman as they walked across the leaf strewn car pad to bring up the end of the queue.

Miss Edge looked though the people crowded into the lounge and though shorter than all she commanded quiet when she asked,

‘Duggan?’

Michelle at the front of the crowd said she was Duggan, giggling at Michael her new beau from the Pineapple last night. She’d been able to stay upright long enough to walk to the taxi they’d caught to his place last night. Thoughtfully he’d skipped work today to be here with her to fill out her ‘Seeking accommodation’ obligation to Centrelink.

“Foster……… Bailey……………….Malevchenko ………..” all acknowledged their presence. The Bailey kid had to be told to ‘shut the fuck up several times’ by his step Dad’s defacto’s girlfriend’s great aunt’s cousin who had come along to make up the numbers.

Thompson and Ovemwahgabi didn’t turn up, little Miss Edge’s nose did.

She struggled with Ovemwahgabi hoping they’d say who they were, then hoping maybe it was Albert. It wasn’t him, so she was faced with trying her best, something she found quite foreign.

‘ Poon’ she said, ‘David Poon’

and some of the crowd looked around to see who this might be.

I lifted my left hand and flicked my index finger to the ceiling.

‘Yeah that’s me’

‘Ah, ok ‘she said ‘So that guy with you is the refugee?’

Albert shifted his weight. He had no idea it was he who was being spoken about, though the words between Miss Edge and the Chinaman set him thinking.

He’d wanted a place for so long. He longed to see his kids and have them with him. The past months had drifted into a year and still he spoke to his kids sporadically and then only by phone for half an hour a week.

‘Ok’, Miss Edge said, ‘You can all see the condition of the place. Make sure that you get an application form from me before you leave and make sure you’ve got 100 points before you bring it back to the office. This unit’s going to go quick so make sure you don’t miss out.’

Most had stopped listening and moved either to the bathroom/laundry behind the kitchen end of the lounge/dining or the smaller bed two behind bed one. Mutterings about how good or bad the place was could be heard. Tania Foster was appalled and asked twice what the rent was, and each time recoiled at the rip off price. She left quickly.

The others milled around and as they left three men of the Dark Continent entered.

 They slid along the timber veneered wall and around into bed one. Smilingly they engaged Albert in conversation, clearly enjoying the open for inspection. They opened the cupboards and approvingly drew the curtains to and fro.

As Miss Edge kept a watchful eye, she handed out her applications to the Bailey’s and Malevchenko’s. The Bailey man Tom muttered about the cracks in the bathroom then swiped at the kid who’d started to pick at the lifting lounge vinyl floor covering.

‘Oh that’s nothing, Tom’ Miss Edge quickly remarked ‘Write it down on the condition report’

The African’s completed their short circuit of the unit and by this time the rest had all left.

Miss Edge was clearly chaffing.  Propped on her high heels she looked more uncomfortable than she needed to be.

‘So who’s the unit for David’ she said addressing the Chinaman.

‘It’s for Albert’

And with that he caught Albert’s eye and beckoned him to come over.

She looked him up and down; a pained smile creased her lips then she reverted to the Chinaman.

‘How many is it for, I thought you said one person on the phone the other day?’

‘Yeah that’s right, it’s for Albert himself, he’s been looking around here for months and can’t seem to get anywhere’

The Chinaman could feel his pulse rising. He’d never felt the sharpness of discrimination, or so he felt having been born and grown up in Australia.

She went on

‘So who are they?’ querying and gesturing towards bed one where Albert’s three friends were examining a crack in the window.

‘Never seen them before. Guess they’re friends’ he said.

‘We have a lot of trouble with the Sudanese so the landlords aren’t keen to have them rent’

‘But Albert’s not Sudanese’ I answered, ‘He’s from Burundi’

‘Burundi, where’s that? Is that in China?

“’In China? Whaaat the fuck’ I thought; was she kidding me, had I missed something?

She’d looked directly at me as she said this. Right into the almond shaped eyes I’d inherited. Somehow she registered my appearance, skin colour and features before projecting the central African state of Burundi  into the Middle Kingdom.

‘Um no,’ I offered, ‘It’s in the middle of Africa next to Uganda and Rwanda’

It made no difference to her, where it was next to, it clearly wasn’t somewhere she might or want to travel to.

He was black, Sudanese are black so he must be trouble.

‘Can we put in an application for this unit now then’ I said

I passed her the forms we had filled out at the Centre earlier. We’d checked the points and made copies of all the documents.

‘So this is for him is it?’ she said

‘How do you say Ntabahigabose?’

I tried to help but she wasn’t for helping.

‘What’s your contact details, phone number?’

I told her that I had written them on the top of the form, and would like to hear as soon as possible if Albert’s application had been successful.

She moved to the door indicating that the showing was over. Three Burundians eased past her onto the parking pad, Albert and I followed her out. Albert unchained his bike and followed his three friends down the road in a snaking procession. I got into my red Subaru and wondered what had happened.

Eventually after much chasing around, Albert got the unit and his three friends visit.

Someday I might tell him how he was mistaken for Chinese.

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West End to Nowhere.

Its cold on the rank waiting, and colder on the seats adjacent. Neon flashes from the smorgasbord of Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese cafes, beyond the pavement gutter. It overflows with the contents of bins spilt from a weekends revelry. The taxis wait. Computors beep messages to the world and no one. Desultorily I watch the scene on the street. The activity of couples groups and singles looking for a meal. They pass, but remaining on the council bench, close up to the side of the cab they remain. A stroller, without child, a cardiganed man in trackies lounges back and bounces the stroller’s occupant on his knee. Other scruffy kids chase each other, oblivious to their noise and the cold. Two women scold each other and then the man. It’s an argument which is voiceless to the cabbie, cocooned with music and warmth.

The window is rapped, and then again.

‘You take a fare mate?’

It’s one of the women. She seems older than younger but gives nothing away about the kids in tow, or not.

The back door is opened and the kids scramble over each other to the seats. slamming the door she’s beside me.

‘Woodridge ‘ she says.

Woodridge I think, Oh damn and nearly say it.

The stroller sits alone on the pavement, I get out to load the stroller in, and see the kids messing with seat belts. Four kids, three belts and the little ones in the centre belly up on the seat.

‘Ok guys, lets get into the belts properly, ok?’

After strapping them in, I reach my door ready to drive.

Woodridge? A good fare but fuck but why there!!!

Starting the engine it’s time to roll the window down, and Mr Trackies shouts

‘Where’re yah going ya fuck’n slut’

No answer.

Then the pounding on the door starts

‘Where’re yah going ya fuck’n  slut!’

Whack..  whack… whack.. on the window.

I lean out the driver’s door.

 ‘Hey, that’s enough!!!’  Leaving out the “my good man” just in time

‘She’s not going nowhere’, Mr Trackies shouts…. and I hope.

She pushes the door open suddenly, into his groin and he falls back away rolling onto the pavement.

As soon as he’s clear, I open the rear right door and unbuckle the kids, but make them get out kerbside, then the stroller out of the boot.

It’s all there back where it started on the foot path, the kids, the papers, the mess, the swearing.

We’ve gone from West End to nowhere.

Oh dear.

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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, much credentialed but boring professor droned on and on, I thought and listened, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

 

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 the sodden baskets wish lists are one of 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 cos 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 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 kneel before the 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?”

She was amazed, and continued,

“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 etc etc”

Try it sometime.

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