Mary – A Bunch, Another, then Another

How did it happen? I’m stretching to know. The fragments of a relationship in shattered pieces, picked up and reassembled, only to find the missing part is the one which made everything watertight. Without this piece all meaning flowed away.

I simply can’t remember. Perhaps a stroll through where I was will evoke the past, allow floating tendrils of memory to again enthral me. There was the gentile middle classedness of it all. The deep red cut brick of the one flight up, six pack apartments, spaciously garden set behind a grey green shrub lined garden, slightly unkempt. Pleasant voices floating through open windows while cooking dinner, but here no one dared to stop and eavesdrop. It wasn’t done. For listening pleasure the conversation was muted scudding below the dull drone of the backdrop television sound. The mottled shadows of the branch overhang, the glistening droplets on the just sprayed foliage, and the aroma of the decaying leaf litter.  I’m starting to be there, that place, those moments that time.

And yet frankly I wasn’t there. I lived sixty miles away in industrial Geelong, a town, declining as its car maker, wool spinners, and educational institutions watched vainly. Their jobs went to cheaper countries somewhere but here. My house was in a tiny little dead end called Cogens Place, on the margin of the Geelong CBD, a once grimy workers area, fearing oncoming gentrification, well placed twixt the beachfront and parklands. I loved that little place, one and quarter bedrooms with sloping back veranda covering laundry and enclosing the other outside dunny. Yes, so old yet sporting two dunnies, how chic I felt. I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough, when shown by the real estate agent. I’d spent two nights in the car after being turfed out of the local motel, They’d over booked me for a regatta weekend when I had arrived from Queensland … but that as they say is another story. In fact ‘if memory serves me correctly'[My tribute to The Iron Chef] I also spent some nights living at bay side Port Arlington, which now comes to mind. The place however deserves its own zinger.

I’m unclear how we got here, internet most likely. I can recall  a vegan café on second thoughts a restaurant, on the wharf at St Kilda, seafood at Mordialloc, doesn’t that name conjure more than the place really, Moor-dee-al-oc.

And over time we feel for one another. She had married well, very well, nineteen years earlier. In those days they were unable to have a kid in a petri dish or baked elsewhere. They adopted a Korean girl. Perhaps this lead to their greater sexual dysfunction over time, which I gleaned from deeper and deeper conversation.

She and the lass lived together in this redbrick idyll, the father elsewhere, financially well supportive though divorced many years earlier. The girl had matured beautifully into a gorgeous svelte gymnast. We enjoyed weekends together when I made the Friday night drive up the northbound highway, away from industrial grim.  The birthday parties in somewhat up market surrounds. I felt slightly out of place. A Cirque de Soleil performance in the centre of the city.

We listened to CD’s and cooked fusion dishes. And at the back of the collection Leon Cohen. My Lord Leon Cohen. That gravel mourning dirge of meaningless tripe. It was played over and over. I enjoyed it then as now, muted.

Times change, and an argument to 4am one Sunday evening capped off  the relationship. It was time to leave, time to wish our time together goodbye. Looking back I can’t remember the argument details, but I do recall that we hacked over the same ground over and over from 10pm.

So I wondered less and less over the next week. I settled into the routine of work trying to find reasons for the factory’s poor performance, analysing reams of figures to glean some meaning from data. Each night leaving the office with yet another conjecture and arriving the morning after, sometimes with a new possibility.

I was closing in on a solution one morning when there was a knock on my partially open office door.

“Yes, what is it?” I mumbled without turning around from my flickering screen.

“These are for you, I think” said Karl, as he proceeded to set down the large bunch of flowers on my table. He maintained a snide knowing look as he slipped back out into the corridor. The flowers were from Mary, a large scented bunch, with a card, Surely Karl had read the note. How to respond? Well certainly not to Karl.

A week later another bunch, arrived delivered down the long corridor to my office by the receptionist I never knew we had. These flowers were the prickly long lasting type made of Australian natives. It was time to strike back, I plonked them fair square in the centre of the wooden conference table dominating my office. Of course I placed them on a place mat to save the varnish, but dominate the room they did. They lasted longer than the first week’s scented floral tribute. For something like three weeks, enough time for the next delivery to arrive. A smaller bouquet, more posey like I felt, more like a going away present. It soon decayed and ended up in the bin after a few days.

After this there were no more. No flowers no colour no calls.



I came to this town pursuing a job. A state head office job, up in the clouds, but how was I to know. My first taste of the Public Service.  A place where if the staff was halved the productivity would double.  The world of this template, that form, this way of addressing the public, that way of avoiding the issue. It was grouse. I loved learning it all, being just one page ahead of the game, trusting gut and instinct to patch over where daylight shone through holes in my self-belief. Phwee, there were some close calls. Minutes produced moments before a meeting.

When applying for the role I’d no idea what was expected. Thirty years in private industry was no preparation. The phone interview set the scene. Sitting in the lush greenness of Coffs Harbour, I can still recall the fax cluttering twenty minutes before the telephone conference with the scenarios which flummoxed me. They, each of the interview panel would ask one of the set pre-sent questions. I would provide my verbal version of my prepared answer. Hhmm.

I knew none of the panel. The questions were just the starter and I guess the panellists formed an opinion based on the style of answers. Much later on I found out Q thought my answers were great, I knew my stuff, and I’d challenge the culture but that I’d have some challenges fitting in with public service mindset.

For the first two years I ground away writing minutes at meetings of the incomprehensible with folk I barely knew and who was who. Working in the office of the Chief Poo Bah meant our office had a certain status and the policies we worked on were state wide. Did this matter to me? Not really. I carried out the will of the high level committee I worked for and sought the information requested never really understanding just how much pain such requests inflicted on the regions. One of these regions was Q’s where he worked as a quality and safety consultant. Whilst in the same field we were often at odds. I listened carefully to his arguments and vast knowledge of cases which he’d accumulated from dealing with the incidents and complaints from all over the state. We looked at the analyses and recommendations. However, it was in an analysis we jointly performed which showed me where his passion for a role shone through. Q’s database skills and memory of events put the client at the centre of each analysis. His frustration was clear as the recommendations piled up unactioned.

The time came as inevitably for us to be restructures. The edifice of a head office was dissolved and I was moved out to the regions, in fact Q’s region and luckily into his department. I got to see firsthand the strength of his ability which I’d come into conflict sometimes over the past two years. Slowly I took on some of his functions. A process of osmosis, a process of argument and resolving ethical dilemmas. My understanding of a life dedicated to serving others grew and whenever there was a concern in my mind, I found it best to step back and learn how the issue might be otherwise handled. Something for me to learn after a lifetime of always having an answer or at least appearing to have one.

Q took on a leader role, unpaid in job grade yet paid the inevitable price. Unsupported from above he became grist in the mill of management indecision. It was a wearing time. No training, personality mismatched, a role far removed from his people abilities and analytical strengths. He crumpled. I watched as he slowly slid under. Chronic ill health was the result. In desperation he took a role at lower pay away from his intellectual love to re hone his practice with oldies. And he loved it, slowly slipping into a role he felt he might enjoy but grew to love. It’s been powerful to see his transformation, to see someone I once feared, then admired then became friends with. As for me I’m doing his role, the role I was originally opposed to. That’s life.


There’s a time in life when all you want to do is make amd become friends. It’s important, a mark of being popular, of growing up and differentiating from parents and families. They are rarely counted, though on Facesomething its a means of gauging one’s popularity apparently
Then there’s a time in life for stabilising friends and deepening friendships, for reflecting with one another on the vales and dales tranversed, sometimes together, often separately. The mortar of these friendships can be through children, hobbies, politics anyone of a range of shared interests
And then there’s defriending, realising friends who are no longer there.This is not the opposite of friending on Facesomething, ie unfriending,  Its the grown up process of refining whom amongst our past acquaintances or colleagues, who we wish to stay in touch. Its a discernment, an equality of interests which truly holds a relationship together.

I prefer the communication with another, and not splurge gushing’s to all, which seems the current friending phase. Unfriending in this context becomes the result of some slight, threat or embarrassment. However, unfriending is harder to achieve if your friend count goes down. All the more reason to race out and get a few more ‘friends’ to fill the void!

And so its been a process this weekend of defriending. Each time I set myself to this task I wonder at the passing of time. What will remain? What always remains are the same few. The periphery has fallen away. When an email has changed without advice its a sure sign that contact is lost. Its rarely an address, sometimes a phone number. I’m learning to be less sentimental about the process, assessing whether our best interest is served in re-stoking the cool embers of friendships past.

Defriending is recommended! The sense of who you are writing to/for is enhanced when focus  is maintained on those who appreciate what you write.

Dr Google

“It’s Epiploic appendagitis” the patient said.

“At my age, hereditary background, abuse I’ve suffered, my socio-economic status, discrimination suffered and ethnic background, it’s no wonder” she moaned.

To add value she wove a somewhat related story, through the prism of increasing middle age paranoia. The doctor waited patiently as she rambled on, the doctor waiting to provide her the best advice possible when the consultation eventually got under way. “Well, what’s wrong,” the doctor said, “tell me, what your symptoms are?” The patient straightened, “Well, why would that matter, I know what it is, I’ve been doing some research on Google.”

“I see that it’s called Epiploic appendagitis and I think that…” was all she got out before her doctor gave her the best advice possible. ‘You haven’t been on Google have you?” the doctor intoned, “Really?”

The client lady suddenly felt smaller, much smaller. This wasn’t her illness either. She could feel her body shrinking! What had she said that offended her GP so much? Was it that as a middle aged woman she had done some research? Or maybe she had used Google and her doctor was a Binger or worse a Linux user? The potential patient was gob smacked, who wouldn’t be, she had broken the sanctity of the consulting room, that sanctity which grants the client the opportunity to pay and the doctor to pontificate.

“Mmhh, mmhh” the doctor rocked back, trying to disguise the rising contempt she felt for the potentially knowledgeable patient.

One thing that was certain was the patient knew everything google had to say about Epiploic appendagitis. In fact had the doctor cared to listen she may have learnt more than she cared to know about the disease.

“Then you hardly need me then do you?” the doctor queried.

The would be patient felt herself growing again.

“So tell me what I need to prescribe and you can leave.”

“But there is no cure, doctor,” she said, “That’s why I’m here.”

That’s where their eyes and minds met. The doctor’s lack of knowledge and the patient’s realisation that there was more to life than Googling.

The patient realised it was the questioning technique of the doctor’s method which might solve her problem of Epiploic appendagitis if in fact it was that.


Did I, really hear that? – Lift Your Game!

I look forlornly at my blog title, and wonder,” Did I really hear that?”  From the look of my blog activity seems I haven’t heard anything much these days. Am I deaf?

No doubt there’s been an excess of ear wax, but if this is the issue there’d still be things overheard, muffled and perhaps entertainingly misunderstood, just the grist for a blog. But then my hearing has been commented on as remarkably acute. I can hear when tea is served or whether the dog is lying on his mat or not. Perhaps someone or something has cut my antenna down an inch or two, reducing selectiveness for hearing? I check. The antenna is still there, a little scalier than when I last checked, its flexibility still intact.

I realise the lack of blogging is a combination. A combination of an isolated monasterial working environment together with a lack of through traffic past my office. I loved the days of the overheard. The inane snippets of nothing, nothing passing as conversation. There were classics; the opportunity to receive the gracious gift of overhearing has been thwarted. Guess I’ll soon be reduced to catching the bus.

All that might be ‘did I really hear that’ fodder nowadays is the gossip of the office. Gossip which bores me to the core. Valueless trivia usually plied for some personal and power agenda. Discretion prevents me from indulging in its disclosure. It’s past passé.

Perhaps I should look elsewhere. Recently I’m planning a trip to Japan. For my Japanese potential couch surfing hosts I’ve tried them out on The Festivus season.

the meaning of Festivus

That annual celebration was introduced to the world in a Seinfeld episode in 1997 as a way to resist the commercialism of western Christmas. However, Festivus has a much longer history. Daniel O’Keefe’s family celebrated early versions of the tradition as early as 1966. His genius has brought celebration to prominence, well done Dan!  [Festivus at Wiki ]

Many couch surfing hosts make a song and dance about how important the 25 December to 6 January period is for them for family reunion. They seem to focus on the family like we did in our Aussie past. Nowadays, we Aussies have a more self centred or stranger directed celebration. Not so in Nihon, where Shintoism, Buddhism, Animism are the faiths of choice. Perhaps somewhere here I’ll find more wellsprings for “Did I Really Here That”. We’ll see.

I hear the sounds of the butter beans tumbling from their can into a sieve for draining prior sautéing for a healthy bean salad. But then how do I know that. Were they butter beans, were they drained and sautéed? I sense the dreariness of my monastic work existence has reduced ‘hearing’ to this!

I need to re-hone my skills.