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
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


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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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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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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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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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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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’


‘ 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,


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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The Kurogane Holly’s Friend

The stark sparseness and rubble of the former Imperial Army at Hiroshima squat below a reconstructed seventeenth century fortress. A peaceful garden of crunchy sand gravel paths and shady labelled trees.

I stop to read about the Kurogane Holly and Eucalyptus. The gnarled form of the eucalypt stops me. I could be back home in Australia. Swaying from side to side I capture a number of scenarios which transport me into the Aussie bush. But it’s the sign transfixes me. A-bombed tree Eucalypt 740 m from the hypocenter


This eucalypt must have been a sapling when its surrounds were vaporised. The Imperial Army Headquarters reduced to a dusty foundation rubble. But the tree is still here, somehow. Year after year it’s bathed in the seasonal warmth, shedding some leaves in an autumn flush and suffering  winters cool chill wind as I am now.

I stooped and selected from amongst the brown grey leaf fall, several slender leaves, the more dehydrated the better. They slide into my jeans pockets alongside the pocket warmer which I could feel against my thigh. It was my piece of the history, a connection to the destruction of that day. A connection to the Hiroshima rail station edging stones I’d made graphite rubbings on, housed at our local MONA gallery.

I realised that coming across the border into Australia was an issue with vegetable material. I knew it the moment I pocketed the leaf. But I was determined. The story had gelled in my mind before any wires were crossed. An Aussie returning home with a gum leaf or two at the bottom of his dirty back pack? Who’s not to assume that it wasn’t in the pack before it was taken overseas? I was confident this was plausible.

Over the next few Japanese weeks I practised my lines for the interrogation I was sure I would receive at the bio security control. None of the nervous twitching and amusing televisual contortion we see in the airport security programs. Practise makes perfect.

The final packing before leaving Japan was nervous. Where to put these leaves? Not the usual souvenir maybe a memento.

“Oh, I see some plant matter here, look like gum leaves. Can’t have cleaned your pack to well before you went hey. Where did you say you been?

“Japan, mate went to see my son play for Australia in Tokyo!”I replied.

“How’d they go?”He asked.

“Pretty well, I think they’ll qualify for the semis” I said.

“Ok mate pack it all up, you’re right” he said.

I reckon we don’t think there are many of us who think there are gum trees anywhere but Australia. But then again without crossing our wires at the border, a bit of Hiroshima would not be on my wall.


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Watershed, what’s that?
When we arrive it’s the end of a disaster. A welcome relief. Is that a watershed?
Was it the completion of a journey? How then did it start?

Behaviour stalks us, our behaviour stalks each of us.
What’s wrong with a room full of kid’s unwrapped toys collected in anticipation of a baby’s joyous coming?

What’s wrong with cross dressing, isn’t that Boy George’s monika, that boy ofKarma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chameleon fame?

Why take medication you don’t think you don’t need, isn’t that irrational?

It’s a long steady decline, the descent into full blown mental illness.

It’s a journey no one makes willingly.

“You need to come down here and see what he’s doing, stuffing cakes in his pockets at church morning teas,” they said concernedly.

He says that he “Needs to take something away to eat later.”

“He says he needs to take his shoes and socks off, then he throws them out the church upper storey windows. He says his feet are too hot,” come the more urgent pleas.

“You need to come down and sort this,” I am told, “You must!”

I come, not once but week after week after week. I make the flight from Sydney not understanding any of it. It’s a maelstrom, conflicting views, pressure to act, beyond the rational world of chemical engineering.

Commitment, isn’t that what men fear, commitment?

I know I do, commitment of your only brother to an asylum, it’s a commitment that takes, well commitment. When the facts stack up to being the only way out, I act. Arrange the legal papers with a family doctor friend, the ambulance,  and the police hidden away round the block from the family home.

Scared shitless, I provoke a fight with him. He stands on the back of the lounge room sofa screaming at me of my privilege and his disadvantage. Why should he take medication that I wouldn’t myself? From the remnants of his sanity my frustration mixes fulling impotence and anger. Is it more to justify to myself my actions.

On schedule the ambulance arrive. They try to explain why they’re there, I’m. Hoping they’ve done this before. It’s clear they haven’t. The ambo’s are unable to rationally argue that someone who doesn’t want to go with them, should. Somehow this seems fair enough to me, but leaves a quandary. Mum can’t process what is happening. Jeff’s clearly in need of help but is this help?

The ambos leave. I trudge up the hill and around the corner to where the police are hiding. Clearly they’d rather be elsewhere,  go see the hiding police who would clearly rather be elsewhere, but with a legally enforceable document in my hand, theirs are tied. It has to be served. Their time is up.

When they knock on the door they try to reason with him. All his life Jeff has respected the police. He is polite and restrained. He engages with them in a futile debate. With the order than can use reasonable force, which in the end is handcuffs, my God fearing and law abiding brother is frogmarched to the back of the ambulance and sat on stretcher to the right side of the back of the ambulance. Does insanity ameliorate the embarrassment?

“Would you like to come too?” the ambo’s ask, “It’ll be easier to sign him in. The coppers will follow us all the way there.”

I clamber past my stunned brother, and sit on the fabric stretcher in the middle of the ambulance, next to him. He’s upset, is that the word? Upset, an understatement.

The swinging doors are closed on us.

The convoy of two cars leaves, we thread the bitumen C class roads around the semi rural  fringes of the city, up hill, down dale. The roller coaster of the ride, cushioned by the soft ambulance suspension. Down a long long hill, gravity coasts us, to gain the crest of the next hill the ambulance is accelerates in the trough of the valley.

The doors fly open, my brother rocks then rolls towards the open flapping doors.

Instinctively I reach and grab, catch his collar, grimy from weeks of not washing, his glasses skew on his face as he twists to look at me.

I see the fear in his face.

I am glad he can’t read my mind.

Forty years later I still recall those watershed words of my dark inner self.

Tears well whenever I recall my disgrace. 

I think “All I need to do is let go, and it’s all over”

I don’t and my life has changed. Forever.


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Learning About Change – Doing Drugs

Monday mornings can be a drag. Time to put away the weekend’s freedom and get back into the excitement or boredom of whatever work brings.

Lying there, he was not able to sense whether he’d been dreaming or not. Light flooded the bedroom, filtered only by the horizontal slats of the Venetian blinds. There it was again. The mobile rattled on the polished wooden floor where he’d put it the night before, no tone but definitely ringing. He picked it up. It stopped. Thirty seconds later, the buzz tone of a message.

“See you at north Rockhampton depot, 8:15, Mike”

An unexpected message, Mike was based in Melbourne, so being here was slightly strange. Perhaps he’d come over the weekend and stayed at his mate Andrew’s place, up on the highest  ridge in Rockhampton where the well heeled resided.

“Well, postpones the drive out to the site 80 kilometres south anyway” I thought, loads of time for breakfast.

Soon enough it was time to go. 

The yard at north Rocky was a dusty grain handling terminal, part rail, part road. The bitumen extended only far enough onto the site to serve the few offices under the silos to the left. On the other side a miss-mash of  demountable offices. In these cabins Cheetham the salt company held some space. A town base when one was needed.

“G’day Mike, surprise to see you here so bright and early. Did you come up over the weekend?”

“Yes, stayed last night at Andrew’s, flew in yesterday afternoon,” he replied.

The white sheet clad demountables were sparsely furnished, and we were seated on either side of a laminated lunch table, no frills.

“Yes, I needed to talk with you before the work day,” he intoned.

It kinda sounded serious but I let the feeling pass.

Andrew was seated to his left, with a somewhat furtive look, avoiding any direct eye contact.

“I’ve come up to look into some matters at the plant today before I head back to Melbourne this afternoon. There’s been some accusations made about you, which will mean you won’t be going down to Bajool today.”

I was stunned!l

No work today?

“I need to go to the works and speak to people there,” he repeated.

“What about,” I interjected, “what’s this all about.”

Mike prevaricated. I’d seen him in action before and as urbane as he was there was a decidedly slimy streak about him.

I’d realised this when I came to Rockhampton for the job initial interview, and had asked how long the role had been vacant. There was no direct reply really, vague hand waves that the dilapidated plant was being managed by a guy named Henry, and that there’d be a three week handover. It was consoling then as the plant was way in the sticks and renowned for its interesting IR climate. After I had accepted the role and within a week of being there Mike had paid a visit. On the 80 km drive back to the airport I’d said to him,

“If I’d known it was this bad, I’d never have taken this. By the way where’s Henry now. He was here two days and I haven’t seen him since. He said he wasn’t returning cos he’s got his money.”

“Is that right?” I queried.

Mike replied,”Well I think you’re better off without him here, you’ll pick it up ok,” a sly grin creasing his lips. Henry apparently was the manager I was supposed to take over from and had been in the salt game for more than 30 years. Perhaps naively I thought I might learn a trick or two from him. I never heard from Henry again, although the accounts office continued to pickup the remnants of his abuse of the Amex card for months later. 

Mike said, “You should go home now, I’ll call you this afternoon”

I shook my head to clear it. “Go home,” echoed once or twice, then faded in my ears.

Had I heard him right,”go home?”

“We don’t want you in the plant today while we investigate these issues, so it’s best you go home. I’ll call you when we ‘re done, should be this afternoon.”

Looking back I figure there was more to the eighty minute conversation than my feint recollection, but that was its essence.

I left. A cruel blow to one’s dignity. Not knowing why you’d been sent off, the questions swirled yet my persistent questioning revealed nothing from Mike or to a lesser extent Andrew. 

Leaving the office and crossing the gravelled yard beyond which my car was parked I could sense the slowness of my pace. My feet barely lifted one foot ahead of the other. There was really no where to go but back to my rented house. I knew no one there, had made no friends in the two years I’d been in Rockhampton, I might as well have been on Mars.

A day became a week. A week of depressing solitude. I determined only I could find a way out. 

A road trip south, skirting the inland wild rivers ultimately found me at my longest friend’s home in Central New South Wales. We took stock of my situation, and he thoughtfully advised that moving on was the best option. I decided to do that.

The report commissioned by the company related how I had rolled around on the tarmac in front of the offices at Bajool on the weekend before the Board was to visit. How I had taken little green and blue pills in my office during office hours, and that I was not well liked by the employees. A farrago of untruths, somehow cobbled together from interviews with sometime colleagues. As a change manager I accepted that I was not well liked by some employees, especially those the company required to be retrenched after thirty years service. Soon enough it was three months later. I had not worked in that time though paid. 

Graeme, the manufacturing manager I had recruited from New Zealand, placed my few personal possessions in a soggy cardboard box, delivered them to my rented seventies chamfer board house one afternoon, and I was gone.

In the months following, Andrew, Mike, Graeme, Roger the operations manger in South Australia, the operations manager in Victoria, Bill the CEO were all gone. All victims of the winds of change which swept through Cheetham after the ex Australian Wheat Board executive takeover of key roles in a once great company. 


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Easter 2015, it’s nearly over thank God!

“Christ is Risen”

“He is risen indeed”

This traditional greeting on Easter morn, clashes with the Easter egg hunt, the iPhone and hot cross buns. Mixed traditions and meanings lost to many, save for the holidays they allow. Am I saddened, do I care?

Traditions passed on through generations are a replication of the things that matter to you, they form the basis of what makes you who you are.

Somehow the greeting “Christ is Risen” resonates in my mind but it’s an echo of a time barely remembered. It’s part of the tradition I recall immediately. Was it said outside the Presbyterian Church at Adelaide Street, Ringwood, or the tiny Chinese Church in Melbourne  on the corner of Heffernan Lane and Little Bourke Street? I can’t tell now. My memory fails me or is that a failure? Is it a failure if it never happened?

Little Bourke seems more relevant. Closer in my childhood to the migrants we schooled with who came from a Greek Orthodox tradition. Theirs was a clear understanding of the resurrection greeting for Easter Sunday. The response,

“He is risen indeed,” affirms the joint belief in the resurrection. 

For me it was a welcome addition to the sacred times for which these days are celebrated.

Now hot cross buns sold are from Boxing Day, chocolate hot cross buns without the cross, double fruit hot cross buns. Oh are there gluten free too? With Easter Sunday out of the way we might imagine Christmas tinsel should already be on display.

So why hunt for eggs? Typically chocolate eggs, part of the three thousand tonnes of chocolate consumed at Easter, a chocolatiers delight. We should also bless the colourful tin foil manufacturers who bring that metallic chewiness to melted chocolate only tasted at Easter time. Who is this Easter bunny? Easter bilby. How many more animals or causes can get on the band wagon. Is it so hard to recall why we have these traditions rather than rush to  replace them with something of less longevity, less meaning but more short term marketable.

I’m rushing back to think of 2014 enthusiasm for tipping a bucket of ice cold water over your head. Why the fuck did we do it, allow it, promote it? Does anyone do it now? Or do it annually, or biannually, or plans to do it in a decade? We can shave our heads, grow a mo, all in the name of something or other, rather than just give to a quietly to a cause, or better give our time selflessly. 

It’s really quite remarkable how in a generation we have seen the rise of iEaster, the relentless pursuit of chocolate eggs.


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 Learning from Change – How to make Great Super

The quality of the product and the performance of the plant varied significantly. The process was relatively simple. Sulphuric acid was mixed with phosphate forming a fuming mash. The mash was cured and then prilled. Prilling is the process of creating small ball bearing sized balls by spraying the mash with water and tumbling in a hot air. The little balls are then dried and hardened in a large rotary oven. And that’s it. Superphosphate.

The plant ran atrociously. 40% was its typical uptime. For each 7 day week  it averaged 2.8 days actually running. The plant though generally mechanically sound, stopped mechanically mainly due to blockages. Build ups would occur at choke points and block the ageing equipment or spillages leaking from the process would foul the drive mechanisms. It was a nightmare.

There was always something going wrong as well as mechanical failures. Out of specification product was a growing concern. Not knowing anything about the use of superphosphate I thought I better find out. Why not go out and see some customers and see what they wanted from the product. 

So I arranged a field visit to two of the largest farmers and contract spreaders of superphosphate in Victoria’s rich Western Districts wheat belt. These guys know their super having spread the stuff all over their own paddocks and over those to whom they contracted for over twenty years. I rode in their tractors and watched as the drivers made sure that the GPS laser guided sprayer didn’t create any over or under lap in the 120m wide spread from the spraying machine. The super had cost them heaps. When I asked them how they knew good super from bad they proudly showed me a portable particle size distribution sieve which by sorting a sample showed four different size portions in the proportions they needed. getting the size right is important. All the same size they will be flung the same distance. A distribution of varying sizes is needed to deliver the same weight of superphosphate on an area basis.

“We got these nifty sieves from your marketing folk” the spreading contractor told me. A wiry guy, he had the air of a bloke who knew his onions.

“You’re stuff has been shit recently, just cos the price is sky high you big companies think we’ll use any old crap you produce. The Chinese stuff we used to get was much better quality, but they played right into your hands by sticking their prices up with an increased tax,” the  farmer chimed in.

I knew that the Chinese had imposed export tariff on their product to ensure the local product was used internally and forcing their producers to sell inside China and protect their increasing internal production capacity. The world wide effect was to raise prices and Western producers were reaping the benefit of the worldwide shortage with astronomical prices. Our share price went through the roof. This was the right time to be increasing quality so that when inevitably the price fell we had a selling differentiation point which would protect us.

It was starting to make sense. I thought about it on the long road trip back to Geelong. I felt I had learnt something about super manufacture more than just trying to make it quick.

A day later I went to debrief Karl about my findings and insights.

“So where have you been,” he asked”

“Out to see some customers to see what they want from the product” I replied. Seemed like an obvious thing to do to me.

I mentioned the nifty little sieves then added,

“I’m going to get the marketing guys to send me 50 of these for our guys in the plant, so they can use them on their rounds.”

“So what else did you find?” Was all he said, adding, “We don’t need those toys in the plant, when we have proper sieve sets.”

“Well the feedback is that our super is highly variable in quality and size. In fact the two contractors I spoke to took me from one storage bunker to the next and told me what was ok and what was shit just by picking it up. It seemed mostly to do with the grain size to them, and me too. They said they only took it cos there was nothing else but it’s going to give problems for them to get an even throw when they disperse it over the fields.”

“So what else” he snorted clearly getting annoyed from what he was hearing.

The contractors had told me that in all their years in the game they’d never seen anyone from production out in the field to understand their issues.

“Well it seemed pretty clear to me that their issues were real and that I could do something to solve their problem,” I answered, not realising how naively he regarded this comment.

He soon let me know though. 

“Well I’ve been in the game thirty plus years and don’t need to be told by contractors how to make good super. I know how to make super. That’s the first and last time you’ll need to go out there. Concentrate on doing your job instead of swanning around out there wasting money. There’s nothing else for us to discuss.” 

It was clear the debrief was over and from here I can trace my decline at Pivot, with one remarkable upswing which ruined Karl’s parade.

Over the next few months I immersed myself in data from all parts of the process looking for the link explaining both the plant blockages and the product variability. The walls of my shabby 60’s office were festooned with print outs and data sets while I sat searching for something. The kinda something which is so obvious when you find it, you wonder why it took so long to find at all.

I worked late over weeks, chasing one lead then another. Nothing seemed to tie all the variables together. Different shipments from different countries, Vietnam, the Sahel, China and Nauru of different moisture, fineness and friability and slightly different chemical compositions. While the input quality varied the plant throughput was kept constant at 60 tonne per hour (tph). The rate was maintained by a train of six Lopulco roller mills, several of which could together maintain 30 tph   which when added to the 30tph output of the Ball Mill made the goal. If the Ball Mill failed all six Lopulco roller mills could maintain the needed rate. 

Slowly the data gave up its information. There was no doubt that major plant stoppages for blocking occurred subsequent to changes in the combination of mills. Thank God I had experience in running both types of mills. While the fineness being ground out of the roller and ball mills could be maintained at the required rate the actual material ground was of a different surface area, though of the same fineness. In fact the surface area of ball mill product was four times higher than the equivalent weight and fineness of Lopulco mill product. Chemical reactivity depends on surface area product. The higher surface area the faster the reaction. So for the same surface area the ball mill could be run faster at a coarser grind? We were in fact running the ball mill slower than needed!

Karl was never convinced. He knew nothing of surface area. He harped on and on about the fineness. I took ground samples from each mill  samples up to the old plaster mill I worked in at Yarraville where I started my chemical engineering career. I wangled some tests from the lab. Good old Frank Coloca did the testing for me. We were still mates, not having seen each other for more than  thirty years.

I set out to have the plant run the differently. We ran the ball mill faster decreasing the fineness but because the surface area was maintained at the same level as the Lupulco mill product it maintained consistent properties for making  superphosphate. The higher rates boosted production and significantly reduced blockages.   

Funnily enough the best ever daily, weekly and monthly outputs resulted. The plant was awarded the Boss’s Baton, for the best plant performance worldwide. The corporation CEO came from the USA and presented me the Baton in the canteen where less than six months earlier a skeptical crowd watched me as the potentially new production manager at their Christmas party.

Karl was not was not well pleased at the Award function, grumpily shaking my hand whilst gritting his teeth. I can trace my demise from that point.

So what did I learn. 

Chase quality improvement as near to the start of a process as you can get.

Query received wisdom, the stuff made of one years mistakes repeated over and over. 

Don’t  be afraid to step outside your area of narrow expertise. 

God gave us variation, our job is to decide how much of it we can tolerate.


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Learning About Change – Doing Drugs

Monday mornings can be a drag. Time to put away the weekend’s freedom and get back into the excitement or boredom of whatever work brings.
Lying there, he was not able to sense whether he’d been dreaming or not. Light flooded the bedroom, filtered only by the horizontal slats of the Venetian blinds, and there it was again. The mobile rattled on the floor where he’d put it the night before, no tone but definitely ringing. He picked it up. It stopped. Thirty seconds later, the buzz tone of a message.
“See you at north Rockhampton depot, 8:15, Mike”
An unexpected message, Mike was based in Melbourne, so being here was slightly strange, but perhaps he’d come over the weekend and stayed at his mate Andrew’s place, up on the ridge where the well heeled resided.
“Well, postpones the drive out to the site 80 kilometres south anyway” I thought, loads of time for breakfast.
Soon enough it was time to go.
The yard at north Rocky was a grain handling terminal, part rail, part road. The bitumen extended only far enough onto the site to serve the few offices under the silos to the left. On the other side a miss-mash of demountable offices. In these cabins Cheetham the salt was holed up.whenever there was a need for a town base these offices were available, though shared with grain folk.
“G’day Mike, surprise to see you here so bright and early. Did you come up over the weekend?”
“Yes, stayed last night at Andrew’s, flew in yesterday afternoon,” he replied.
The white sheet clad demountables were sparsely furnished, and we were seated on either side of a laminated lunch table, no frills.
“Yes, I needed to talk with you before the work day,” he intoned.
It kinda sounded serious but I let the feeling pass.
Andrew was seated to his left, with a somewhat furtive look, avoiding any direct eye contact.
“I’ve come up to look into some matters at the plant today before I head back to Melbourne this afternoon. There’s been some accusations made about you, which will mean you won’t be going down to Bajool today.”
I was stunned!l
No work today?
“I need to go to the works and speak to people there,” he repeated.
“What about,” I interjected, “what’s this all about.”
Mike prevaricated. I’d seen him in action before and as urbane as he was there was a decidedly slimy streak about him.
I’d realised this when I came to Rockhampton for the job initial interview, and had asked how long the role had been vacant. There was no direct reply really, vague hand waves that the dilapidated plant was being managed by a guy named Henry, and that there’d be a three week handover. It was consoling then as the plant was way in the sticks and renowned for its interesting IR climate. After I had accepted the role and within a week of being there Mike had paid a visit. On the 80 km drive back to the airport I’d said to him,
“If I’d known it was this bad, I’d never have taken this. By the way where’s Henry now. He was here two days and I haven’t seen him since. He said he wasn’t returning cos he’s got his money.”
“Is that right?” I queried.
Mike replied,”Well I think you’re better off without him here, you’ll pick it up ok,” a sly grin creasing his lips. Henry apparently was the manager I was supposed to take over from and had been in the salt game for more than 30 years. Perhaps naively I thought I might learn a trick or two from him. I never heard from Henry again, although the accounts office continued to pickup the remnants of his abuse of the Amex card for months later.
Mike said, “You should go home now, I’ll call you this afternoon”
I shook my head to clear it. “Go home,” echoed once or twice, then faded in my ears.
Had I heard him right,”go home?”
“We don’t want you in the plant today while we investigate these issues, so it’s best you go home. I’ll call you when we ‘re done, should be this afternoon.”
Looking back I figure there was more to the eighty minute conversation than my feint recollection, but that was its essence.
I left. A cruel blow to one’s dignity. Not knowing why you’d been sent off, the questions swirled yet my persistent questioning revealed nothing from Mike or to a lesser extent Andrew.
Leaving the office and crossing the gravelled yard beyond which my car was parked I could sense the slowness of my pace. My feet barely lifted one foot ahead of the other. There was really no where to go but back to my rented house. I knew no one there, had made no friends in the two years I’d been in Rockhampton, I might as well have been on Mars.
A day became a week. A week of depressing solitude. I determined only I could find a way out.
A road trip south, skirting the inland wild rivers ultimately found me at my longest friend’s home in Central New South Wales. We took stock of my situation, and he thoughtfully advised that moving on was the best option. I decided to do that.
The report commissioned by the company related how I had rolled around on the tarmac in front of the offices at Bajool on the weekend before the Board was to visit. How I had taken little green and blue pills in my office during office hours, and that I was not well liked by the employees. A farrago of untruths, somehow cobbled together from interviews with sometime colleagues. As a change manager I accepted that I was not well liked by some employees, especially those the company required to be retrenched after thirty years service. It was now three months later. I had not worked in that time though paid.
Graeme, the manufacturing manager I had recruited from New Zealand, stuck my few personal possessions in a cardboard box, delivered them to my rented house one afternoon, and I was gone.
In the months following, Andrew, Mike, Graeme, Roger the operations manger in South Australia, the operations manager in Victoria, Bill the CEO were all gone. All victims of the winds of change which swept through Cheetham post the AWB executive takeover of key roles in a once great company.

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Change Management

It was a role I took on in some desperation. No regular work for a year or so, I had managed to be interviewed for the role as production manager at the superphosphate plant in Geelong, when working in Brisbane as a quality manager for a truck seat assembler.

Several interviews, medical and then one or two HR interviews too many saw me at Melbourne airport for yet another encounter with the HR guru of the Southern Region, Sam. He was avuncular, a knock about sort of guy who said a lot by what was not said in response to some of my penetrating queries.

We proceeded to the plant, a pleasant drive to the south west of Melbourne. As the skyline of the city subsided into the parched bare plains of Werribee and then Avalon my heart jumped a little when on the forward horizon loomed the cracking towers and flares of the Shell refinery. A mix of trepidation, excitement and unresolved anxiety about how this might go. I dared not mention my previous experiences at the salt company headquartered just beyond those towers. By now that experience had receded into my fading past. Then along the back road on the foreshore skirting Geelong College, nursery for the kids of the rich and famous, and those who would be.

The regional manager, Karl, was too busy to see me, so chief engineer Dave, a soon to be colleague conducted me around the plant. The plant was filthy. In thirty years, I’d never been in a dirtier place. The cleaning bill for the plant was three million dollars a years so Dave said. It was a disgrace.

When we fronted Karl in his sixties style office the air was frosty. The temperature outside was cool too.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, though it was clear this wasn’t his real style. This style was ill fitting, baggy on his expression just like the suit hanging over his stocky frame.

He had done his homework on me, had read the reports sent through from HR, but still and all I’d been imposed on him. Truth is, his decision to accept me into ‘his’ plant was probably ultimately influenced by his brother, being an ex colleague and friend, from my time in a combined management team some years previous.

In the end it came down to this.

“So what do you think of it” he said.

There’s times in life when perhaps the those first impressions, the ones which are usually correct are better left unsaid

I replied. “Well, it’s not the cleanest plant I’ve been in; in fact it’s probably the dirtiest.”

He rocked back in the office chair, eying me up. Dave who sat alongside me was coiled in anticipation of Karl’s response.

“Well”, Karl said, “ it’s your responsibility now. I’ll be interested to hear your plans for improvement”.

So that was it. Change management programs come in all shapes and sizes. The plant ran 24/7, but the time actually producing was 40 or so percent. Of seven days it was working barely three. The operators thought it was a joke, and after a few weeks of coming into control rooms to see boots up on control panels and sensing the generalised air of ‘who cares’, I was bound to say to the operator team one day,

“When I’m in the plant I expect that the equipment will be treated with respect, leakages reported and cleaned up as they occur and reports of out of specification product reported immediately”

It all came as a rude shock that perhaps they were accountable for something. Daily things grumbled along and in these projects you never know if or how you’re making waves.

A few weeks late I was prowling the plant for possible issues and seeking out the nooks and crannies where improvement might be started, I needed a toilet and found one deep in the plant.

As I sat there I looked up at the slatted door.

And there on the door scrawled into the paint was my answer

“Poon’s a cunt” It said.

I felt relieved! Progress at last, such an affirmation.

I did what I felt that affirmation deserved. I took a pic.

Back to the office and by the magic of Bluetooth transferred the pic to my PC to be my proudest memento.

As as a screen saver

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Learning About Change

“Change is inevitable”, “change is constant”‘ modern management mantras.
So much piffle I say!
Let’s go back in time to when I faced the steel clad behemoth of the superphosphate works. A large filthy industrial plant on the shores of Corio Bay, Geelong. In a precinct with the vast Shell oil refinery and Cheetham Salt’s head office this was a medium industry heartland.
Being on a change project, in an industry in which I had no experience was a daunting task. I’d been in such a situation before but here the stakes were high.
The plant ran 24/7, as super phosphate was a much needed product. Huge shiny semitrailers and B-doubles would queue in sinuous snakes outside the gates for days to collect their allocation. The vast, cavernous receiving sheds could hold upwards of 100,000 tonnes of product, though they were rarely full, their a frame sides contrasted to the more vertical sheds storing raw rock for crushing. From all parts of the world, phosphate arrived. The Slalel ( sub saharan Africa ),Vietnam, and Christmas Island, and was transferred to the plant from the arriving ships through an array of gunmetal rusting overhead conveyors. It was a paradise of mechanical wonder, and in its bowels could be sensed the closing phases of Australia’s manufacturing age.
I had arrived in the place a month or two earlier. It was an in auspicious start. Conducted around the plant by the lanky chief engineer, we had toured the dust laden plant and it’s archaic machinery. The overall impression was of decay and neglect. Together we arrived in Karl’s office. Karl the general manager operations for the southern region. The lanky chief engineer and I as the new operations manager were to report to him, and improve the efficiency of the seventy year old plant.
The plant was a mess. Running for forty percent of the time, it was mainly down, not up. The operators were a sullen mob. Long used to doing not much very much for quite a lot they had gotten well used to squeezing the lemon dry. The industrial lemon. An enterprise bargain was being negotiated, though my first encounter with the assembled unions start with them asking,
“So where’s the man?”
“Well, I’m here to start, so what’s the starting point of your log?” I said.
“Where’s Karl then?” They shot back immediately, “he’s the man.”
Quickly it dawned on me that they saw me as the boy sent to do a man’s job, and that Karl was the real power in the equation.
“Well, I’m here to start the talks so you deal with me,” I responded.
They were unimpressed, and their surliness said it all. Karl was in charge and they knew it. He drank with them, got pissed with them. I found this out a little later by accident, when it became clear that my attempts at introducing some change in the plant fell on deaf ears. A story of the previous year’s premiership celebrations for Geelong’s grand final win were legendary in the factory. A pub crawl through the drinking holes of the city had Karl reported as being supported by two senior staff but goaded on by the operators. It wasn’t a good omen.
“Ok, then,” I said, having been several times into the degraded room, jokingly called the control room. Of the seven operators supposed to be manning a shift in various parts of the plant, all too frequently all could be found in this location, dirty boots up on the sloping control panel, whilst their owner’s lulled back in swivel back office chairs.
“In plant’s I run respect gets shown to the equipment, and when I’m here I expect the boots off of the desks, and operators at their posts. So get out there now.”
I guess this came a surprise to them. Karl used to come on the plant occasionally, so discipline had lapsed. My frequent visits, and at any time of the day or evening via any route caused a murmur of sullen protest. The boots off of the equipment and my standing and pondering why certain out of the away equipment was run the way, caused concern. No one had really queried why years of running the plant the same old way. I did.
There was waste everywhere. Blockages were sucked out by contracted operators. No ownership of the plant was apparent in the demeanour of the operators. Pride in work was a thing not even of their past. No wonder the plant functioned as it did.
I walked the plant from back to front, over and over, peering into nocks and crannies where few had been for ages. Up to the top of rusting elevators and across grimy conveyor belt gantries where the rollers were built up with the accretion of weeks of moist spillages. The frayed rubber conveyors tracked poorly and ultimately jammed. Elevator boots overfilled and broke chains, crashing four stories of buckets into a jumbled mess at the base. Days would be taken to re rig the lot. It was done in all sorts of weather, by contractors who were making a motza. Trying to get the operators, many of whom were qualify fitters to assist the contractors was as they said ” Not their job.”
It was clear this needed to change. At the rates of output in the uptime worked, financially the plant was uneconomic. Changing the processing method of the giant mills crushing the phosphate was a major change. And changing the measurement of particle size distribution brought things to a head.
I wandered round the plant on a cold morning, the stiff breeze of the stormy bay cut through the rusted galvanised iron cladding. Needing to use the toilet I found a stall in the amenities closest to the plant gates. Freshly painted they had a slightly a brighter air than the dusty grey surrounds.
Seated there my eyes raised to the back of the door. The cross member of the door had been scripted.
I looked, I knew it was all worth it.
How does one know when you are making headway?
And there it was.
“Poon is a cunt.”
I snapped a pic, and through Bluetooth magic my PC has a new screen saver.

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Armbands, wrist bands, hmm who cares?
They come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most famous or infamous were those seen on the arms of Nazi party members. Often to signify rank, they were an essential part of the paraphernalia.

Wrist bands now carry iSomethings everywhere, with reflective safety taping, iridescent colours, they can even be bought just to show you care. Cancer supporters, breast cancer survivors and tree hugging, the band has its day or maybe two, then gets left on the dresser. Finally they lose their potency and find their way to the bin.

Not so the hospital wrist band. A primary means of identification, the attachment of one signifies a citizens rite of passage to being a patient.
“Go here.”
“You should be up in 7B.”
“No your haematology results aren’t here yet.”
“It will be a long time before you see a doctor.”
All these directions, or your status can be determined by your hospital wristband, maybe just by it’s colour. It’s the bar coding of the hospital processing system, a support to make sure you don’t have the wrong leg cut off, or proctology when you came in for brain surgery.

The band protects. It sets you apart from the lanyard wearers with dangling photo ID. The safety lanyard apparently avoids the chance of the staff member being strangled. A quick check on the net shows this to be a low low chance of happening. However, there’s an alleged case of a wheel chair patient tumbling out of their conveyance and being garrotted when entangled on her joystick.

But the band, it’s a different kettle of fish. You can’t get into a hospital without getting one, you aren’t out till it’s off. All a matter of “duty of care” I hear.

So why is it that with all the palaver to get it on, there’s so little care to take it off. Patients on discharge don’t have them ceremoniously detached, to signify their return to citizen status. Can they take it off themselves? When should they take it off? Does security look askance at them as they try to exit with it on? Could they be an escapee, a treatment short of a cure?

Perhaps completion of the discharge process should be signified with a formal cutting of the band, post treatment by hospital staff?

A shearing of the umbilicus!

In the care continuum, it’s the small things that matter!

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Culturally aware is what I’ve become! Whenever I’m in doubt about a new phenomenon I consult Dr Google for a cultural reference. And here’s an example of furoshiki, the Japanese Art of wrapping Recently I’ve observed the western phobia for certain parts of nature. For millennia some natural functions have been exercised in the open. Think of breathing, laughing, perhaps kicking a ball, shitting. We see the phobia illustrated when out walking, perhaps with the dog. Elegant little parcels, biodegradable, adorning the sidewalk edges or under the rows and hedges of the common pathway. Sometimes further afield in the shrubbery, but always in a direct arc capable of being reached by a single throw. It was not always so. The need to be seen to be doing the right thing is valuable part of these parcels. Picking up dog shit is not one of society’s most pleasant pursuits. A whole caste of folk on the subcontinent have as their lot in life to clean the cesspits of the rich. Its necessary but spurned occupation. However, in western culture we have raised the awareness of the act of picking up shit from the act itself to social value of being seen to be doing it. The bending down and care shown in scooping up, is one of modern life’s moment’s of recognition. It shows responsibility and care for the environment. Then the carefree swinging of the weighted bag after pickup whilst walking confers a sense of social responsibly for all to see. Who can’t admire someone who has clearly done the right thing and bent and scooped. There is a limit though. When no observer is present and when observation ceases the furoshiki bundle can be dropped and / or flung. Like the conundrum of proving your existence when you can’t be seen, we are caught in the dilemma of not being responsible unless we are seen. As soon as observation by others ceases, depositing fusoshiki can be enjoyed. Deposit sites found have been at the stout tree base, under a an overhanging blossoming shrub, centrally on a galvanised pumping station outlet or on top of the green bin receptacle lid into which refuse is to be placed. These are some of the displays I’ve seen. Clear statements that nude dog shit is no longer acceptable in polite society, and should be displayed once wrapped. To date the science is not yet in as to whether any dolphins have actually been strangled by the bag handles of furoshiki-dog flung into the ebbing estuary, or are forced to wear such an odious badge round their necks until death. Its then, I suspect that this modern tide will turn.image

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Over at Did I Really Hear That

Over there I write about the time passed between when a photograph of a graduation is a photograph of a graduation celebration and the moment when a photograph of a graduation is a father’s opportunity to become a wannabe pedophile in his kids eyes.
The morphing of the time space continuum  when distance is measured in light years  has a parallel. The parallel is when time is measured in the change in social attitudes. It’s worth examining.

Dashing round the supermarket, a child is heard yelping. Could be it’s lost, though maybe it’s abandoned. The screeching is ear piercing, above the Muzak, drowning out the price checks on dog food and the “security to zone 14″, a zone whose time has come as the latest hot bed of security concern. No rushing security can be seen, more likely a warning to the buyers that ” we are watching.”

The chocolate doughnut has run it’s icing onto the kid’s thumb and forefingers, snot dribbles down it’s left cheek. Tears of a sort fill it’s eyes and drip to the vinyl floor each time the eyes close to bawl. Anne sees none of this in the next aisle but hears the apparent pain. Shoving her trolley forcefully ahead of her, she rounds the aisle end to see the tyke on the floor distressed. With her free hand she scopes the child up onto her hip, as she has done so often with her own saying,

“It’s ok sweetie have you lost your mummy. Don’t worry we’ll soon find her.” The chocolate icing is more liquid than solid by now and traces finger painting steaks right across Anne’s left bosom.

“Don’t worry honey mummy will come soon enough” and Anne’s red hair is delicately tipped with recent snot, though just the ends as in a very good hairdresser’s technique. Nothing stops the whining as they traipse slowly around dry biscuits and into sauces and Asian goods.

“What the fuck you doing with my brat, put her down or I’ll call the cops” bellows down the aisle and probably through half the store.

“That’s where you are you little shit, I told you you’d get lost,” she booms at the kid through her serrated front teeth. She takes a cursory glance at Anne and being twice Anne’s size continues,

“Lay off of my brat if ya know what’s good fer ya!”Anne does know what’s good for her, but contemplates the the correct usage of the term “off of” from such a gutter snipe. Strange how in ignorance  correct terminology can come to the fore when least expected.

She puts the kid back down and saying softly,

“Now you go on to your mummy now, it’s all ok”. But the kid knows in the way only a three year old does that things won’t be ok, never were and never will.

“So you leave my fuckin’ kid alone or I’ll have ya up as a kiddie fiddler!

On her way home Anne’s badge of courage, the chocolate streaks on her pristine work uniform raise eyebrows at work, though little sympathy from the mainly gen Y colleagues. It gets her thinking

“What’s changed since I was a kid and when did a mother’s instinct get to be sublimated to a parent’s rights.

And so it’s not about what’s changed it’s about when. That variable time frame. For gutter mouth it’s always been so. Fixed and immutable. Her right to assert her “rights”.

For others it’s more nuanced. Could the change be over the course of  a year or maybe two. Then again a decade might have passed. But somehow it seems wrong and it’s only when she thinks back to her parting shot/shrug to gutter mouth that she feels her age,

“I hope you care for her better than you were”







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Oh to be Freshly Pressed !

I saw in Freshly Pressed, about OMG, a learned blog, then chanced upon a tale of stories written in six words.
Which blogger would not be touched, I hear you ask! The chance to be free of this dreaded compulsion to blog in six words. It certainly touched a chord with me. My eight ball potted, after being snookered for so so long.
Trolling the Freshly Pressed catalogue, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed at the variety of subjects bloggers range over. Bee-like we hover with our mouse over a headline wondering whether to alight and scoop from the story bud some nectar for our writing journey. It’s distracting but a necessary part of the dream, the dream to write better, maybe even well.
Is the distinction of being Freshly Pressed the aim? Perhaps, it’s certainly seductive. Read what others do, tag well, know why you are writing.
But I find myself a distracted bee, ADHD I flit, as if the Nose of a perfumery has uncorked a vast array of writing scents amongst the titles, to distract blogger bees from their personal search for the single blog, the scent containing the nectar essence of blogging.
“Hhmm, and what might that essence be?” I found myself wondering.
Could it be a distillation of recognition, the sweat of finding topics to devour and regurgitate as blog honey? Or the venom of the sting for readers, which provokes and amuses or is it simply the antidote to boredom?
I found myself, turning the compost of my mind over and over, trying to add even further cute phrases to add to the nectar formula.
Whatever that nectar is it’s darn mighty powerful! The search fills minutes, hours, days searching for the the event, interaction, thoughts, observation that might just be blog-worthy.
I swarm on. The OMG blog was where I started. Eventually its a treatise on the descent of western culture away from Christian values. I demure. Seems more likely to me that OMG fits the category of “Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should”. There’s a plethora of these, but more in later blogs.
A titillating further example is the disappearance of “Please”. I refer to the loss of “please” after “Excuse me.” I wonder where it’s gone? I suspect it’s gone because folk could abandoned it, and cock a snoot at those who might timorously remind them of the full phrase,
“Excuse me, please”
Perhaps I should start a Facebook page in support of the forgotten “Please”

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Free Range or Caged Chooks

Recently, I’ve been challenged to write on the advantages of Free Range Chickens. You know the type. Advertised as fluffing around in a sylvan idyll, light filling the air and yellow daisies in abundance. Not a barn in sight. All peace and tranquility. A day without end. Ah, the free range chook. Strikes me that there’s something missing here! What of the night, the dreaded night. An anthropomorphic analogue will put us in the mood.
We humans eschew the night. As darkness falls we turn on the lights. We congregate in small places, bars and cafes to enjoy each others company. We rage and rock. And when it’s time to sleep we curl up in spaces free of the cold night air, and if lucky snuggle.
But what of a free ranging chicken facing the night? Left to the night there is no light, simply sheer terror facing the wilds alone. For the wild marsupials, foxes, domestic dogs and cats gone feral, it’s Colonel Sanders Time. Our Free Range Chicken shivers against the cold, sleet and rain, tramps through the slosh to find a perch. And roosting there contemplates the advantages of free ranging. The chook finds this a challenge. With a brain the size of a pea, existentially projecting itself into the wider, free range world, comes at a cost. Having spent it’s whole day banging it’s head against the ground then throwing up clouds of dust behind it like a rally car in the Paris to Dakar rally in the Saharan sand dunes section, a free ranging chook can only think of peace, and not,
“Where the p#%k is my next feed coming from” Chook simply wants some warmth, light, peace and quiet with friends.
Mankind has made many stumbles along the way. But domestication and animal care is not a stumble.
To save the free range chook the trauma of the night, the roosting house and safety of a barn, were invented. Yes! Invented for the well being and safety of the free ranging chook. With immunisation, running water and selected foods the outside, bedraggled free rangers can only look through into the safe enclosure where well feed and cared for cousins reside, derogatorily termed “Caged”.
So much emotional energy invested in defence of free ranging, or freeing the caged. I’ve even been prevailed upon to attest the superior taste of free range eggs o’er those from their more cloistered cousins. In PC terms there is only one answer, isn’t there. Free range tastes best.
I take heart though, in the end they’re all chicken nuggets!

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The Punch


Rocky ground, rocky soil, rocky water. There is nothing here for me or my kids or my wife.
Devastation in the cities and across the land. Land of my father, his father and his father before him. A land stripped bare of the cedars. All gone to furniture, and ships, leaving bare rocky land. Looking about the scene of nothingness, no sense of a future, but an endless nothingness stretching into the unknown.
He opened the letters, from far away, which he had done so many times before. Retrieved from the pockets of his threadbare trousers, they were first folded in a different land. The grime of his hands traced his many refolds, each a reinforcement of resolve. He squinted against the sun and read.
“There is much opportunity here, it is the future. Come brother, come!”
So often he had taken these letters from his pockets daring to read them in the solitude of the land.
Hard times and harder to follow.
And so heavy hearted he decided as he knew he must, to leave. The family would respect his decision. A matter of honour. Much depended on this. Bombed cities, poor schooling prospects no future, so he became an immigrant always a foreigner in a new land. It didnt worry him. His lack of language did, but his hands were hard. The shock of the shovel and the pick on stony ground had strengthened his grasp.
He was a gentle giant. No malice, no attitude.
In his mind he knew what must be done.
Make a new life in a new land irrespective of the cost..
Working at labouring jobs he maintained his dignity and his family thrived. Schooling and the chance which this over green land provided, eased his homesickness. Honest toil sweat and no tears.
The production line had little need of his strength. He learnt by rote what he needed. To get on kept he to himself but was recognised as having a steely determination. It was there in his eyes. Deep dark pools of a past he never spoke of. He applied and was selected to take on one of the key operator role in the plaster mill. A labyrinth of machines and noise. Vast kettles of steaming plaster, the hiss of pneumatics controlled from a single panel.
Slowly he gained the knowledge.
“Mansour, good to see you it’s your night shift again.”
He made no passing conversation his focus on the plant was total. He needed to make the targets. Keep the panels within limits. Tend the plant in the way he tended his fields.
Mansour developed the pride so long past from that which his fellow workers had long ago eschewed. Keeping the plant in limits was a delicate balance between feel and chemistry. He moved through the plant as if in a forest. Touching here and there sensing the rhytmn of the shift and rarely asking for advice. A man in control.
At smoke he came back to the operator room and set his aluminium panikan in the stove. He’d take a break as the kettles discharged their load into the hot pits and wait till the results of lab tests showed that transfer to the silos could take place.
He sat back in the swivel chair and took in the scene. The monster lights high in the ceiling sixty feet above cast the glow familiar on a partially lit secondary road. The plant hummed. The Lopulco mill whirred separating then grinding to dust the incoming gypsum. He knew everything was alright.
He pushed back in his chair thinking about where he was not quite thanking his luck that he was here. His eyes scanned the controllers he knew where each indicator should be and they were his eyes caught the clock and the thirty minutes waiting the lab results were barely five minutes gone. Time for dinner.
He rose to the oven, crossed the room and opened the door downwards.
“Where’s the phone,” he heard from the door, “Where the fuck have you put it,?”
The portable phone which he carried was at his belt. Carried by an operator in a sole operator operation it was a necessity for safety to be with him at all times. A life line for accidents.
He turned.
His visitor stood at the door blazing attitude.
” Where’s the fucking phone wog,”
Mans our slowly turned to look at him. A slight twenty something year old he’d come from the plasterboard side of the plant and should not have been there.
“Mista David, the phone for if something got wrong in da faktory, not for people use.”
“Ya think I give a fuck. Now gimme the fuckin’ phone I gotta call sum one,
No mista David this not emergency you go see mista Les if you need phone,sorry.”
“Look you wog cunt I need the phone. If me dad wos here I cud use it all fuckin’ night.”
Mansour looked at him. The lad was half his size and about his son’s age.
“I eat my food now, you go.”
And he said this in a way which he felt should be the end of it.
“What is that shit you eat anyway it stinks the whole place out. My dad can’t stand it either and we have to leave the place to air whenever you’ve been on.”
Mansour wondered quickly what he meant. It was clear that coming over here and bludging away a shift was how things were when his dad Greg was on the night shift.
” When your father here he let you use phone?” Mansour asked.
“Course he fuckin’ does. You think the bloody bosses know?,
Mansour sensed that the lack of respect being shown was deeply ingrained. Nothing he could do about that.
“I not want trouble with you. You want the phone you go see mister Les. Ask him. This phone not for you.”
They stood apart but the distance was shrinking.
“I want the phone now ya fuckin’ goat eating wog,”
By now the distance was face to face. The older man towered over the younger who was not intimidated.
He lunged at the phone hanging from Mansour’s belt dislodged it tumbling to the floor. He’d grabbed Mansour by the shirt and with the other hand pinched him square in the chest.
“You fuckin’ muslim cunt give me the fuckin’ phone.”
Mansour backed away taking a defensive distance.
The younger man reached to the phone, punching out with his free hand to keep the older away. Several blows landed and rebounded but the older man didn’t feel them.
Muslim cunt had enraged him.
In the multicultural land he was born in such would never have been said.
David raised himself and swiped at Mansour’s face as the Muslim insult was worming it’s way into his brain.
“You disrespectful and I tell your father when I see him.”
“Who cares what he thinks he’ll be on my side anyway” and he tried to land a punch to the older mans right cheek.
Mansour raised his left arm defensively catching his opponents head and rocking him backwards.
“You punched me you cunt. That hurt. Wait till I let them.”
Who they were was not apparent but as he backed out the door he added.
“I’ll tell Les you fuckin’ punched me. Then you’ll see wog cunt.”
Mansour sat to wonder what had happened.
This was serious and in his best words wrote in the log.
“Fight with Dave Randell at 0130. Nothing hurt”
At seven he handed the plant to the day shift operator and found his way home.

At seven the next morning I read the log.
The manager’s dilemma.
I knew I should have never employed the son of an employee in the same plant to avoid the problem now fairly on my plate, in fact it was a lesson I didn’t learn well enough here. But thats a tale to tell later about Ivor and his son in Brisbane. A tale for the future.
So what to do. The rules are clear but extenuation of circumstances might provide an out.
I call Mansour’s home phone about lunch time, after allowing him time to sleep. I ask
“What happened mate. What fight? You ok?”
He is wordless, then words trickle then cascade out.
“Missa David, I so sorry, but he cumma to the control room and he fight with me, he swear, bad language at me, make bad bad words, and for me very shameful”
I can’t believe what I am hearing, this man who has the disposition of a gentle giant, diligent and one of our best workers.
“Mansour, can you come in early tonight, I need to speak to you”
“Sure, Sure Missa David, I come in and see you, it’s very bad, I not want trouble, you know me not bad man, is there trouble for me?”
I sense there is trouble but dare not say, it’s the tension between job and friendship, uncertain I say, “Not sure, but come in and we talk.”
“Ok, ok ” he says, ” I be there five o’clock, I come your office.”
“See you then” I reply though not convincing myself.
Greg Randle the combatant’s father has already been to see me. He’s full of bile and anti wog sentiment.
” He hit David last night, he’s lucky I haven’t seen him or I would have decked him” he had told me when I had made the rounds of the plant mid morning.
The story was around the plant, dividing the workforce along Anglo and others. The resentment towards the harder working migrants was never far below the surface. The little schemes and bludging scams were inapplicable to those who wanted to do a days work and get paid for it. Others seemed to want to attend and get paid or worse paid penalties for doing normal work.
” That wog hit David for no reason, when he went round there to use the phone for an emergency.”
When I asked what the emergency was, he couldn’t quiet make the connection, there seemed always something to be something else to which the focus shifted.
I knew that this was something that needed to be squashed pronto. I called David’s home after calling Mansour. A surly sheila wanted to know who wanted to speak to her boyfriend, “He’s fucking sleeping if ya must know, he might ring ya back if I tell him”.
Apparently he woke pretty quick when she told him it was his boss, calling back almost immediately.
“I bet that cunt lied bout what happened last night”
More of the same, then more again.
This was a conversation going now where and I told him so. As he said he wouldn’t be coming in early I told him
“Ok, I’ll see you tonight at start of night shift “
He sneered as he didn’t think I’d bother.
11 pm came quickly enough, the conversation was tense.
“So tell me what happened then David,” I asked in front of Les, his foreman.
“I had an emergency, couldn’t get into the fore-man’s office to use the phone so I went to the plaster mill”
I heard him out, though not convinced.
“And then what happened?” I enquired.
“Well the fucking wog wouldn’t let me use the phone, me dad always does!”
His enraged sense of entitlement bristled. I could see that there was no room for compromise and this little bag of tricks needed to be disappeared from the site for the good of all.
The situation was deciding itself. There’s a tide of decision making when the strongest berm no longer stands against the onslaught of the battering sea. The dye had been set all those months ago when the young runt had been allowed to pierce the wall of employment standards, that no relatives should be appointed because of their familial connections. It had all seemed so easy. The plant was short of unskilled folk for labouring work at the end of the production line manually loading pallets of gypsum board. Rather than take the trouble to seek out the best person for the role Greg had recommended that his unemployed son be put on as a trial. Some trial it turned out to be. A trial not of Dave but the trial of ten thousand cuts, expertly administered by Dave, his dad and a compliant union on a company hoping for the best but reaping the worst.
So there it was, two people fighting, punches admittedly thrown by both. Dismissal the only option for both.
For years after I’d see Mansour in his corner store, just down the road from where I lived in Five Dock. He never understood why he was sacked as well.
Dave was never heard of again.
Never again were family relations employed in operations I controlled.

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A Letter of Hope

What do you do when you read something that stops you, makes you think on the purpose of life? Well for me its to share that moment here, a letter sent to me for review by my son, and so without further comment here it is :


Thanks to Teresa Packwood for helping facilitate my visit to Arusha, Tanzania to meet my sponsor child Imani. I have attached a few pics (2 more pics to follow in a separate email as they are quite large) and notes about my trip below.


I have been sponsoring Imani Molusari Yohana for about 6 years and had always hoped to have the chance to meet him one day. That day was Thursday 23rd February 2012!


In the weeks and days leading up to meeting Imani I experienced a raft of emotions. Anticipation. Nervousness, would he like me? Would he accept me? Apprehension. I sort of knew what to expect living condition wise – though how would I cope? How would I feel? My overwhelming feeling though was of great excitement.


Jane from World Vision picked me up from my accommodation and I immediately felt at ease. We chatted and naturally spoke about where I had travelled from, via where, and what my next stop would be….“Are you just going home after this? Yes”. I couldn’t help but think my airfare to “just get me home” equated to the average Tanzanian yearly salary or thereabouts. The vast majority of people in the area was unlikely to holiday too far from their village let alone outside their home country.


After a short and at times very bumpy ride we arrived at World Vision (WV) HQ. Here I learnt heaps about the nitty gritty of exactly how WV run the Arusha Development Program. It was comforting gaining an understanding of how wisely and efficiently sponsors’ money was being used to construct wells, train teachers, develop vocational training programs and provide farming plots.


From there it was a short drive to a traditional lunch. All the while I was treated like royalty, they insisted I sit in the front seat whilst everyone else crammed in the back. Then the big moment. We arrived at Imani’s school and parked on the oval. Hundreds of faces popped out of the classroom windows and doors….gawking! I later found out that I was the 1st sponsor to ever visit the school. Imani came out of class immediately. Smiling, excitedly we approached each other, his head slightly bowed, a tradition I had not encountered before. I touched Imani’s head as is customary and there we were, 6 years of letter writing and now side by side.


I met Imani’s School Principal, much revered by students and society, somewhat different to some western cultures where education more of a core to kids than a privilege. We toured the school grounds and saw huts/ houses and the toilet blocks WV helped build. As we walked I noticed Imani stealing glances at me, though he would avert his gaze whenever I looked back. Shyness, respect, I’m not sure? What had I done for him to view me on such a pedestal? I felt undeserving, such a small sacrifice, relative to my life, meant so much to him.


Upon learning I planned on giving Imani a few small gifts including a mini football (with an Aussie Flag imprinted on it of course!), the Principal allowed all of Imani’s Grade 5 classmates (all boys) out of class to come and play on the oval. I tried to teach them Aussie Rules….without much success. Though it mattered little. Absolute madness on the oval! Kids running everywhere, shouting, laughing, falling over each other as they tussled for the ball. Hard, but fair – the Tanzanian way is the same as the Aussie way after all. We also played some Frisbee before I gave Imani a rubber ‘blow up’ beach ball. Embarrassingly it wasn’t a blow up one, though more of a soccer ball and needed a pump. Resigned, I began to apologise….but before I even got half a sentence out someone had whipped out a pen, pulled it apart, nicked the top off, jabbed it into the valve and started blowing up the ball! I was amazed. It took a while but it worked a treat – what resourcefulness from an 11 year old. Such a stark reminder of that ‘make do with what we have’ kind of attitude that is all too often lost.


After we were footballed out, I visited Imani’s house and met his family. His Mum, 3 brothers and sister were at home. His Dad at work and 4th brother at school. My eyes wandered as we shared stories. Again the resourcefulness, layers of newspaper as insulation. I met the cow afforded to the family by WV, learnt about their daily routines including walking for a couple of miles each morning to fetch water for the day. As the time drew near for me to depart I noticed a tear in the eye of Imani’s Mum. I understood her. So little to me, meant so much to them.


My final stop was visiting another (all girls) school that WV helped build. On the way we drove past the farming plots setup by WV for those least fortunate. As the rains had come recently they were “green”….though to you or I, they were more brown, arid and dusty, than ‘green’. Children as young as 3 years old, farming, running errands, carrying water. Though all the time smiling and waving as we passed through. Many people could not imagine living like that; they know no different. Two enduring images of the girls school remain with me, one quite sombre and the other uplifting. They were on the Principal’s noticeboard. One table had every child listed by name and grade with 2 columns adjacent –“Mum” and “Dad”. Some had no parents, many a Mum or Dad, though no-one with both. The other graph showed the enrolment numbers and percentage completion rate – both were steadily climbing.


That is the message I left with, one of hope.




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Her Second Request

Working as a volunteer crisis worker, strange tales oft happen across your path.

So it was that Margurita’s second request. It was to do with her car. It had been damaged in an accident. The details were jumbled and sketchy, so Margarita’s request of me was imprecise, but about insurance.  Clement, the Swahli interpreter, helped me decipher the story, and here it is!

When ‘someone’ drove her car to the Plaza with her permission on Sunday he [cos a someone would be a male…wouldn’t it??] backed the car into a wall at the motel.
She said the car was still driveable. This precipitated her true request. She needed a person to drive her car from the motel to her new house, the house which I had spent all that day setting up, the Centrelink pays, the rent, the utilities etc… but that’s another story.

Margarita had tried to get on to numerous community friends none of whom could assist to relocate/drive the vehicle. But she ultimately got on to Golam. Golam is otherwise known as ‘someone’ [ at this point the reader may gasp and sotto voce repeat ‘Oh my God’!!!!!]. Praising the Lord for small blessings, Golam was unavailable.

Margarita then advised me that the car was undriveable and secondly that when she had gone to her newly acquired unit there was no power.

I thought this could become really complex so why not go to the motel and on the way get some electrical jumper leads.  At least we could get jump start the car and get it out of the motel. The motel owners could then relet the room.

We approached the motel, a late sixties, early seventies monstrosity with brick units and carports down one side, a long drive down the other. Her vehicle was parked in front of the unit she had been staying in for several weeks. She has been there courtesy of the government unable until now to source any form of rental accommodation. The rear end  of the car looking like it had been stationary when hit by a big Mac truck at about 60 kph. It was as they say ‘severely damaged’.

I went to the motel manager to find out some more details and end Magurita’s occupancy there. The motel manager was extremely pissed off. She seemed to contain her rage and any danger she might have threatened me with was kept behind the door of her locked office fly screen door. She spat her words at me through the mesh. Thank god for that mesh, cos the wire screen filtered most of it. Spittle clung to it across several of the mesh holes, and as gravity took hold it trickled downward. I watched fascinated

The motel owner related that last night, very late, her slumbers were broken by a tremendous crash, which when she investigated she found to have been caused by someone driving into the parking spot in front of Margarita’s unit. By reversing and then going forward at speed, braking, then reversing back at speed though not braking, he finally had his progress impeded by the substantial block retaining wall along the driveway. He repeated this minuet until the car could take no more. Ms Spittle made hand gestures at 10 and 2 o’clock making the 10 rock up and down between 8 and 12 and the 2 simultaneously and synchronously rocking between 12 and 4.  She made some comments about how someone didn’t seem to be able to do anything like turn. This confirmed her belief that all African people don’t know how to drive.

“They only know how to drive in a straight line,” she insisted and raised her eyes like headlights between her arms, flailing like a kid driving a dodgem at a fairground. By now after several previously unsuccessful attempts, the mudguards were now imbedded in the tyres, the boot reduced to half its length and no taillights shone through the shards of broken brake indicator and backing light covers. Someone was tumbled from the car. Someone? Pissed as a fart, drunk as a judge, stoned, under the weather, sloshed, wasted, he was drunk, very. Ms Spittle called the police but said she didn’t have someones licence or address but had the car rego,That would be used to fine the owner for the towing fee to move the vehicle. She said someone was a frequent caller over the past few weeks.

I scurried away to my car and told Margurita her car was a write off, and that without insurance she should consider seeking restitution for the damages from Golam [fat chance I thought]

The advice I got was not to report the matter to the police, to ensure Margurita’s version of events was on the record and that she was not responsible for the damage to the car or the motel property, and importantly to record Golam’s role in the debacle. Problem solved huh. Was there more a volunteer worker could do? Well maybe.

What about the lack of power at her new residence.

I could see there was no power in the unit and that all the switches were properly set at the unit switch board.

With the help of the man in unit 4 whose tee shirt bore the message not to screw with pitbulls, we unscrewed the hasp on the locked main power board and flicked switches up and down till they all looked the same in all the units.

I checked with Country Energy to advise a supply interruption and they called back to say it would be an hour or so as there were no other calls in the  area.

I decided to SMS home.

sms reads: Still stuck here. No country no energy. Getting dark sea clouds rolling in. Street lights on

I called Country Energy again at about 1920 and at 1928. Aaron told me there were more urgent faults at Corindi Beach and we would have a further wait.


sms reads: Good to hear the crew is up Corindi beach so just hang on in there mate we will get to you some time

By now it was dark, and we were hungry, so I went up to Maccas and got Margurita and I a good feed of 4 McDouble’s and 2 Double cheeseburgers.

sms reads: I bought the mcafrican lady a suite of fried patties between sesame seed buns plus gherkin. We liked them full and fat

An hour later at 2017 I called Country Energy to be told that

“Didn’t I know they had prioritised work on and that heaps of people were without power and that they’d get around to us sometime tonight.”

More waiting!

Well I thought what’s Margurita going to eat in the morning and it’s a bit glum without light so I went up and got some candles, Monte Carlos and scotch fingers at Woolies before it closed.

On return we lit the candles, one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom, which gave a nice atmosphere, very restful. Best of all we could then see our way into the dunny!

Margurita got some kip on a thin checked blanket on the floor of the unit while I waited in the street.

sms reads: Poor lady she has gone to sleep on the floor on a rug in the flickering warming glow of the pillar candle (scentless) while i keep watch for the energy men.


 sms reads: She is fast asleep. Mild here by the sea. The light from yon windows beams shafts slightly illuminating the gloom

Then at 2108 a vehicle turns up with its search light on scanning the letterboxes for the numbers. I think its the energy men but a passenger gets out of a taxi. He stands on the kerb and scans around. I see his face lit by the face of his mobile phone as he makes a call. Margurita’s phone rings from inside! He prattles in dialect a little, and then walks past me without acknowledgment and down the right side drive of the unit block.

Together they settle in, while I wait outside until 2145 when the men turn up. Feel kinda like a pimp guarding a whorehouse, scanning up and down the street hopefully.

sms reads: Now a taxi arrives. He gets out and makes a call. Her phone rings making me superfluous. D’oh!

When the van, and then an enormous truck pull up, I guess these are energy men. They tong everything, tong this, tong that before deciding its a fault between the main board and the internal board so there ain’t nothing they can do. I leave a note for Margurita to take round the corner to the agent first thing in the morning. The note urgently requests an electrician to attend.

sms reads: My guess is the candles were a good choice tho rose or lilac scented might have celebrated more carnally her first night in new home

sms reads: Heading home. Margurita and paramour to sup on the monte carlo and scotch fingers she and i were to enjoy 


sms reads: Maybe but more likely the distillation of the dew of success and tears of failures

By 2155 I am homeward bound.

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The Washup

The end of a holiday is a time to reflect. Of all the times and experiences, what sticks.

Coming home from Europe after five weeks there will be the usual awesome sights seen and places ticked off the checklist of life’s clipboard. But what were the unique moments which make this trip, in fact, any trip personal and memorable. So here it is. What made this trip memorable. Some observations of life and environment.

1 Fences [ the lack thereof ]      Whisked through the fertile landscape, furrowed for the approaching spring, the view from the speeding train’s window is unfamiliar. Certainly the bare trees in copses on hill brows or clustered in streamlets present nature differently.

It takes a while, then it seeps into my consciousness. Its the lack of fences. Fences, which in my mind, have always delineated one’s proerty from the others. The paddocks here have mere pathways between. We’re told later that of course folk know whats their’s and what’s not.

2 Paying for dunnies.      We used the expression to ‘spend a penny’ when going to the dunny, in the past. A penny was the coinage dropped into the cubicle slot so that the latch might be turned. No payment for the use of urinals. The penny wasn’t clearly related to the use, cleaning or odour of the facility. With inflation the penny has become the Euro. At roughly one hundred times its penny value the dunny coinage has become one of the monetary system’s inflationary giants. Can’t think of a place in Oz where one would nowadays pay for the privilige. Can’t imagine a public place in Europe where one wouldn’t.

3 Queueing.    To organise Europeans into queues was, in the past, akin to herding cats. The milling throng has been placated by the delicatessen tag. Used widely in Oz to buy sliced cold cuts, stuffed kalamata olives, greek feta and so on, the tear off ticket has become ubiquitous. Where a length wise queue can form,  rather than along the width of a counter, the airline fabric multiple directional queue organiser has been deployed. On occassions insufficient organisers are deployed such as in the two hour plus long queues endured to see the Eiffel Tower, Michelangelo’s unfinished slaves, the Sistine Chapel, the Colesseum and the Uffizi Gallery.  The result is the snake which weaves around the block or under the Eiffel Tower, through the colonades at St Peter’s Basilica, or where those about to die milled fearfully in the colesseums dreaded arches. The great things about queues is youcan see the next two hours of your life stretching away in front of you. Best of all, you can decide to join or not.

4 Christmas Markets    Seen one seen them all. Much vaunted as such a traditional Europen thing, maybe travelling so quickly through as many countries jaded my reflection. Arent there just so many baubles and traditional stuff anyone person can buy.  The tree decorations, the leather goods  and all amount to bric a brac really. Thank god the food was inexpensive.

I giess there’ll be more when the whle trip is reflected in me.


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Why You Shouldn’t Be “Politically Correct”

Queer Guess Code

It has become commonplace to hear the term “politically correct” tossed around in all sorts of circles.  The way I see it, non-PC statements are only a problem because they are indicative of a deeper problem in the way people think. But staying politically correct does not solve this or any problem.  In fact, by eliminating discussion and acknowledgment, we have created a bigger problem.

Political correctness

Enforcing political correctness is censorship. If we believe certain racist, sexist, and otherwise insensitive or discriminatory ideas and behaviors are bad, it makes sense that we want to stop them.  But by forcing people to use specific terminology or avoid certain conversation topics, we are going about it all wrong. Staying “politically correct” is not medicine for the problems that exist—it’s a band-aid to cover up the wounds.

In addition, its goals are all wrong. Political correctness doesn’t teach people to be mindful of problems…

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