McClelland Sculpture Park ; A Man.

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

“Well we’re here, ”

She looks tenderly at him replying,

“So why are we parked here?’

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

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

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

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

He squeezes the breath jointly from them.

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

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

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

The rest of the visit is dominated by his presence.


Over Certification

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

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

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

My feet are cold, damn cold.

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps the spell checker be certified.




Last day in That Life

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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