Finding my feet

I have been in Melbourne for two months now and am gradually getting to know my new environment. It has not been without challenges – the apartment for one. My landlady still hasn’t cleared out all her possessions from the bedrooms and so I am still sleeping in the living room. I have graduated from the floor to a proper bed though and have also bought a chest of drawers in which to accommodate some clothes. It is rather cramped but I liken it to living in a caravan.

The upside is that I have a small balcony and have acquired a table and two chairs, plus lots of garden pots and troughs. I have planted a few vegetables, herbs and flowers and that area is my little sanctuary for maintaining sanity. It is also my vantage point for checking out the world.

When I awake, (which is early courtesy of the Melbourne trams) I poke my head out of the balcony door to inspect the weather, and see what surprises the view might present me with. One morning, there was a passenger balloon in the sky and another morning the huge red lights that mark the entrance to Little Bourke St and Chinatown were a  flaming contrast to the dim morning light.

img_0622Ballo0n on the horizon

My garden is doing brilliantly – I love the fact that there are no slugs, snails or green caterpillars to contend with. The cumquat tree that I mentioned in my last post now is covered in flowers so I am hopeful that it might actually bear fruit. I learnt that a few years ago, a pigeon made a nest two years in a row in the base of a large pot plant. Sadly, the resident cat ate the babies that hatched but I am hoping that a pigeon might come back again and for the record, I do not have a cat living with me.

Some of the street art in the alley ways is interesting.  I try to remember to take my camera with me. It’s a journey of exploration.

Street  art in Liverpool St

img_0670-reduced

I’ll post more street art as I find it.

 

 

A Time of Transition

Although it is some time since I have posted to this site, it’s for good reason.  My current employer recently decided that my role, and that of several colleagues should be made redundant.  Fortunately I saw the writing on the wall some time before the axe fell, and even then it was with a bit of notice so I have had time to start planning the next phase of my career.  It’s not even Plan B.  It’s a positive diversion to the next adventure in my working life.

This period of employment for a Utility company has just spanned seven years and I am grateful for that period of financial stability.  It came at a time when I desperately needed it and of course I have learnt a lot along the way. I now know a lot more about power generation than I did seven years ago. Increasingly though, my tolerance for  corporate bureaucracy is decreasing and so the rising operational restrictions and containment of my working day are becoming more difficult to tolerate.  I’m jumping back into self-employment.  Woo Hoo.

I won’t pretend that I don’t have moments of scaring myself silly, because I do.  Here I am launcscared childhing into a new business which will have to start generating income relatively quickly.  That won’t be the same as I am currently receiving but it still needs to provide some income.  I face a precarious retirements in coming years if I don’t make a success of this.

What I’ve been doing is planning, and learning, and thinking, and studying, and talking to anyone who would listen and brainstorming and planning again.  I have come up with my business concept, which is fluid at this stage in recognition of the fact that it will evolve during the early days.  You have no idea how difficult it is these days to come up with a name that is relevant, that feels right, that is registerable and has available .com and .com.au domain names.  I reviewed and tested over a hundred options.

Then came the logo.  I knew more definitively what I didn’t want but was hazy on what I did want.  I commissioned several people via Fiverr to come up with a design, and they each produced cookie-cutter type designs that did not resonate at all. There was one that had elements that I liked and so I took it and developed it a bit further and then got a local graphic designer to add the finishing touches. That process took quite a few weeks as well.

I have completed my business plan, and incorporated within that my 90-day plan to keep me on track.  I am now working on my website which I hope to have in a launch-able state by 1 August.  This timing is influenced a bit by the fact that my current paid employment terminates on 31 July.  I’ll be making a transition from one to the other.  I still have to design and create the reference material that I need to support the business but that’s on August’s To Do list.

August will be very busy because I am also attending the annual conference of the Romance Writers of Australia, to be held in Melbourne.  Although my first novel was published, that publisher went out of business and rights reverted to me.  I will take the opportunity to pitch the novel to other publishers at the conference.  I have also been working on the second novel, which is a sequel to the first. A chance remark about conflict between characters made me think of an additional thread that would run through the first novel and carry over in the second, not only tying them more strongly together but strengthening the plot line of the first.  I have a bit of work to do therefore in modifying ‘The Red Heart’ before the pitch. Attending the conference is a huge expense, but it is also my treat to myself after all the stress and angst that has been taking place at work for many months now. I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll post further details of the new business when I’m ready to launch.  Hopefully I’ll also be able to report that a new publisher has taken up my book.  If that doesn’t happen, I will consider self-publishing.

What do you want to be?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  How many times were you asked that as a child?  If you were anything like me, you really had no idea of what the options were, let alone what you wanted to do, beyond be successful and happy in your choice.  I had no idea when I would be ‘grown up’ and with the passage of time, that milestone seemed to keep moving into the distance ahead of me, much the same as a mirage.

Journey

I was also flummoxed by too many ideas.  I toyed with being an actor, a journalist, a psychologist, working in advertising, and perhaps being a social worker.  I definitely knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher, or a nurse (conventional female choices at that time) and although interested in sciences, this was not a field in which I excelled academically.  Actually, my academic achievements were not terribly high in any area by the time that I finished high school and I had totally lost confidence in myself and my abilities, as had done my parents.

There are a range of career advisers available today that didn’t exist at that time.  However, the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES for those who remember) did have an adviser for school leavers and my mother sent me off to undertake their testing and interview process.  From memory, I don’t think that I was handed a career in a box, or given any real practical suggestions.  What stunned me though was the interviewer saying that “I don’t know why you are thinking of social work.  Your results indicate that you don’t like people.”

I was both astonished and demoralised by this assertion and although I thought that she must be wrong, was pushed off balance.  What followed was a period of drifting in and out of courses that I took because I didn’t know what else to do, dropping out, travelling a bit, odd jobs here and there and finally falling into the property industry.  Along the way, I have acquired a few degrees and qualifications, worked in real estate sales, had my own agency, sold and built houses, have been a research analyst and a property adviser for various corporations and government departments.  It just sort of happened.  There have also been some business start-ups in that time, and a lot of lessons learnt.

All along though, I said to myself, I wonder what I will be when I grow up?  I’m a few decades along from when I first posed this question, and I’m still not totally sure when the grown up thing happens, but I have learnt a few things along the way.  Besides acquiring a range of business skills and experiences, (how I wish I’d had those business smarts when younger) I also know that being older doesn’t mean that decisions are any easier.  I also know that circumstances change at any age, whether by choice or factors outside of your control, and know that decisions on what to do next can still be over-whelming.

Friends and family all have different opinions and usually none of their suggestions really light your fire.  It can be easier not to consult them and just to agonise on the options on your own.  At least then you only have your own conflicted voice to listen to and not half a dozen others.

Some of my own experiences in this area Decisionshave led me to pursue training in coaching, focussing on those key transitional times in our lives. It complements work that I have exploring with Life Choices – how to make the decisions that are right for us. I wish that I’d had help like this earlier in life. Stay tuned for further detail that I would love to share with you on my journey of decision-making discovery.

A key area of interest is helping people to make decisions at transitional times in their lives.  It might be having to change career direction or having to re-invent yourself or it may be at other major transitional changes.  The biggies are birth, marriage, children, , divorce, death but there are other variations that are just as important when we are grappling with our decisions.

I’m also really interested in learning how others manage their decision making processes.  If you have time, leave a response and share it with us all.

 

The Journey

My son has returned home.  He got a big hug rather than a fatted calf and it was good to have him with me again, however briefly that might be.

When he left aged 18 to seek work and fortune interstate, it was a wrenching moment, but one that I knew he had to make.  Think ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, or ‘The Journey’ by John Marsden or all those classic stories relating to The Journey that you may have read.  It is a time when a young person leaves the safety and security of home to seek the learning and experience that life outside of the home has to offer them.  There is the call to adventure, entering the labyrinth, fighting the demons, achieving, reaching an understanding, etc. as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Journey

Young Donald had reached a crossroads in his life.  He had realised that his relationship with Daisy was destructive and based on the web of lies that she continually spun.  (Donald and Daisy are discussed in earlier posts.)  He was played for the sucker.  He had dropped out of school and had no prospects, beyond the casual pub job that he had.  He was bored at home and I was forever on his back about helping around the house and just doing something.

I was fed up with the piles of dirty dishes around the house and other things just dumped anywhere and had made the decision at work that day that when I got home, we would have a serious talk.  Either he needed to leave home, or he needed to start paying board.  He got in first.  He said that he had been thinking and perhaps he would go to Perth and look for work.  I was both stunned and relieved.

Perth was not such a big deal in that my sister lives in that city and his donor father is also there, although Donald and his father hardly knew each other.  They certainly did not have a father/son relationship.  Still it was far away and it meant that Donald was going to have to find accommodation, a job, and to make a new life for himself.

While away, he did labouring work, did some TAFE study in the mining sector and got a job at the remote Woodie Woodie mine site in the Pilbara region.  He had to work with characters who Donald described as racist, sexist and homophobic.  (I was relieved that he recognised these people for what they were.  It meant that I had done something right.)  He found himself somewhere to live and made new friends.  Those were the social skills.

On the practical side, he learnt self-resilience, how to budget on minimal income, how to shop economically, and how to keep himself healthy with wise food choices.  He can drive a 4-Wheel Drive and change a spark plug.  He has a range of technical skills that surprise me.  He also has a new confidence in himself that I welcome.

OK – there are not total miracles here.  There are still dirty plates hibernating in his room but not as many and he is better at washing up and domestic chores and cooking dinner for us both too.  Importantly, it was a teenager who left and it is a young man who has come back.  It is so good to have him home again.  I didn’t realise how much I had missed that kiss goodnight before he went to bed or he went out with his friends.  It’s great to have someone with whom I can discuss issues and share decisions.  At some stage, Donald will move on and make his own life elsewhere, but for now I like the feeling of company and understanding.

I realised when he left that this was a move that he needed to make but it is only now that I have understood that it was a version of the epic Journey.  Thinking back, it is very similar to a journey of self-discovery that I made decades before, and that was important to my self-learning as well.  It is a pity that all young people are not able to make this trip of discovery though many of them do.

Did you make a journey?  What changes did it make for you?

Fiscal Responsibility

All my life I have been sensible with money.  I’ve had to be.  Some of the early life and study choices that I made meant that I had to live at times on a very meagre salary.  With frugal living patterns, I managed to buy my first house at 22, and that of course meant that my income was even more tightly controlled.  There was little or no disposable income and so the overseas holidays, concerts and discretionary expenditure that my friends indulged in were beyond my means.  Getting a private pilot’s licence also gobbled up a lot of money in my early twenties.

It’s taken a long time, but finally I have a reasonable salary.  My son is semi-independent and and I can see my life taking new directions.  I have been making plans for all the travel that I would like to do now.  Just as this happens though, my company hits a rocky period and we know that there are redundancies coming up.  We just don’t know who.  Should I be one of those who draws the short straw, I will be in a precarious situation.  At my age and in the current abysmal employment market, my chances of getting a comparable job again are slim.  Even prospects of any job are slim.  Sadly, I don’t have the financial resources with which to take an early retirement.  Interesting times ahead.

The challenge for me now is maintaining an enforced frugality in the face of uncertainly.  On the one hand, it is not difficult in that I have the skills developed over a lifetime.   On the other, I really want to lash out on the bucket list.  I would love to commission myself a new nose, I lust after a pink Argyle diamond and most of all I want to travel.  I would like to do a Motor home trip around Tasmania, and then to do the same for New Zealand.  That is for starters.  I would also of course like the luxury of the time to write – being able to finance my literary aspirations.  At the moment, I don’t dare do any of it as I have no idea how long my resources may have to last.  If I lose my job, I may have the time to write but I will probably be too busy scrabbling for employment to be able to relax into it.

After an initial panic, I will repeat my mantra to myself.  The sun will come up tomorrow; I will have food to eat, clothes to wear and somewhere to live.  Anything else is a bonus.  I have lived through tough times before and no doubt will again.  It would be nice sometimes though if there were not so many potholes on the journey through life.  Oh, and sometimes I am not so good on the frugality.  Today I took delivery of my Canon 650D SLR Camera.  I am so looking forward to learning how to use it and of course intend to use it to illustrate some of my writings.  It looks to be a brilliant camera.

On the Brink

2013 promises to be a defining year for me – to some degree anyway.  This is the year that I turn 60.  I have only just adjusted – sort of – to the description of middle-aged being applied to me.  OK, I don’t exactly feel ‘young’ any more but middle-aged sounds staid and matronly and it is a term that I have been happy to ignore in relation to myself.

Embarking on my seventh decade though is both confronting and scary.  It is also a time for acknowledging realities:

  • I am not going to be Prime Minister of Australia.  This was a teenage ambition but I never did have the required degree of focus and intellectual retention.  Probably the main person who takes me seriously is myself.
  • I am not going to meet my Knight in Shining Armour (KISA).  If it hasn’t happened by now, then it is unlikely to do so and I remain one of life’s unclaimed treasures.  Sadly, his armour is probably all rusted up anyway.
  • I am not going to be rich, or even just comfortably wealthy.  This is assuming of course that richness is measured in monetary terms.  I am certainly rich in other aspects of my life.
  • The attractiveness that was evident in younger years (never great and never conventional) is fading fast as my waistline thickens, my hair thins and there are jowls framing my numerous chins.
  • I am becoming invisible and a person whose opinion is of diminishing importance.  (Being patronised by someone whose nappy you changed is a bit irritating.)
  • Suddenly it is considered not appropriate to shop for clothes in boutiques that I have patronised for years – OK decades.  Apparently some clothes are the prerogative of the young and I should now be confining myself to elasticised waists and florals.

Still, I am sure I can cope with all of that.  In my usual style, I’ll just ignore it and go on behaving, dressing and dreaming as I always have.

This looming birthday is just one of the issues that I am confronting in 2013, but the others can wait for a later blog. 

On Death and Dying

In recent weeks the topic of death and dying has been much on my mind.  Not because my own demise is imminent, but because my father died a few weeks ago, and I walked by his side during his final weeks.  I sat with him during that last morning of desperate struggle as he fought to retain the ability to breathe over the asbestos driven fluid that filled his lungs and slowly drowned him.  He was conscious until the last ten minutes or so and his dying was not in any way easy.  It was dreadful for him and was confronting and distressing for me.

To not be able to alleviate the suffering of another person is something truly distressing.   I should acknowledge at this point that my father had recently celebrated his 97th birthday and realistically he did not have a lot of time left with us.  He was relatively fit, aside from that disease and still had a current driver’s licence but his failing hearing and eyesight heralded the degeneration of life quality for him.  I am not meaning to in any way sound as though I am dictating the useful end of another person’s life when I say ‘It was time’ but in reality it was and I knew that as I sat with him that last morning.

Added to previous bereavements, my family is now halved with this recent death.  Understandably my own mortality is something that occupies my thoughts.  I have witnessed suffering, anger, grieving, indignities and depression in each of those deaths, though my mother’s cancer was rapid and saved her some of the prolonged physical distress.  I have also witnessed the loss of control over one’s life and the double edged sword on not only having to rely on others to a significant degree, but the impact on those who are relied upon.  Although not specifically relevant for me in this case, in many circumstances  the caring role impacts on the carer’s family life, social life, working patterns and even finances.  Is it surprising therefore that there can also be distress and resentment on the part of the carer at having their life subpoenaed in this fashion?

To be confronted with death at a time before you are either ready or accepting is a pain that I have not personally experienced.  I have seen how soul-destroyingly hard that is for the person who is facing that end when there is still so much they wish to do, or family that they do not wish to leave.  The unfairness of it all is indescribable.   Having said that, I do not wish to linger beyond my ability to exert self-control.  I hope that I will have the inner knowledge and resources to face that prospect and to make the most of the time that is left, and to plan the manner of my departure.  I don’t wish my life to be prolonged beyond what is reasonable or comfortable, simply because medical technology is able to delay the date of my death, nor do I want to be an imposition on my nearest and dearest. 

I fully appreciate that not everyone will feel this way about their personal circumstances but the quality of life is very important to me.  When I feel that can no longer be maintained at a reasonable level, I will take steps to control my circumstances.  Thinking about this now is important, as leaving it until the situation is dire may mean that control is no longer within my grasp.

Dying is not something that we do well in our society – we are scared and removed from it and are not able to talk about or plan for our own demise.   I support the concept of voluntary euthanasia.  Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, a medical ethicist who is currently confronting his own terminal illness made an interesting comment.  

Rather than help to die, the cause of dignity would be more greatly helped if more was done to help people live more fully with the dying process.

I rarely agree with him but in this instance, I do endorse the second part of this statement – that we should help people live more fully with the dying process.  From what I have observed, death is skirted around, referred to in euphemisms, and the dying person is not encouraged to acknowledge their dying and what it means to them and their family.  That is to the detriment of all involved.

Tim Dunlop, writing for The Drum on the ABC website (11 April 2013) says that ‘Future generations won’t go quietly into that good night’.  I sincerely hope that they don’t.

Ripples on my Pond

This has been a long time coming but the stars are aligned for a change in my life;  changes in work patterns, changes in work place and changes in where and how I live.  None of this will happen overnight, but I am putting in place the processes that I need to take in order to effect these changes.

So what has precipitated it all now?  A cluster of things, not necessarily huge individually but when considered in total add up to the fact that I should stop whinging and moaning to myself about issues I don’t like and take action.

I’ll just give a brief summary of some of the catalysts:

  • Physical.  My weight is increasing alarmingly, my body is stiffening and my hair is falling out.  This last factor is particularly distressing as new hair is not growing.  I am developing female pattern baldness.  I consulted a dermatologist yesterday about treatment options and one of the first questions that he asked was ‘Has there been much stress in your life lately?’  Sure has.  A combination of stress and genetics is prompting my more visible sections of scalp.  It is unlikely that I will stimulate more hair growth but hopefully I can stop it falling out.  I have been warned that it will get worse before it starts to get better.  I want more time to exercise and to de-stress.

 

  • My job is on a path to nowhere.  It pays well for what I do, but I feel sidelined and marginalised and have reached a point where my self-belief is being eroded.  I work for a micro-manager and that is very stressful.  The senior person in my section withholds information and meaningful work.  A couple of times in recent months, I have been told that I am a ‘good girl’ on completing a task.  I am the oldest person in the team and at approaching 60 am no longer a girl.  As a survival tactic, I withdraw to a degree at work and don’t ‘engage’.  I know that this is to my detriment in my manager’s assessment of my abilities.  Having held quite senior roles and responsibilities before however, being fed menial tasks only (or those that are incredibly problematic ) is very demoralising. I don’t want to work in this environment any more.

 

  • I recently applied for a newly created role.    At the company’s insistence, I had my interview the morning after returning from an overseas flight and so was very jet-lagged but even so felt that I had acquitted myself well.  I have not been advised of the outcome, but am reasonably sure that a young man has been given the job instead.  I have an appointment for an interview de-brief next week.  Applying for this role, one for which I feel that I am very suited, was one way of taking a lateral step out of my current situation, even though it was still working with the same team.  If I am right in my belief that I have not been successful, then it will be a strong message to me that there is a limited future for me within the company, except in my current tightly controlled and frustrating position.  Time to open my parachute and make the jump.

 

  • Last year I explored the opportunities for a more flexible working environment, such as a nine-day fortnight.  I was quite prepared to work longer on those nine days to make up the time, but this was not acceptable to my manager and in fact he sees this discussion as an indication that my focus is not totally on the company.  The company pays lip-service to the concept of a flexible workplace but as I have seen, some can take advantage of this and some can’t.  I want more work-life balance.

 

  • I feel that my creative and entrepreneurial spirit is being stifled.  This is not fun, and I have a reasonable belief that there is more to life than this.  I can’t sit at that pokey little desk much longer.  Most of the time I am dreaming of what I would rather be doing.  I want to put the drive and enthusiasm back into my day.

 

  • My father is in his late nineties.  His health is deteriorating and I would like to spend more time with him.  Time with my Dad is short.

 

  • My house is quite large.  I love the amenity that I created when I built it but I am a slave to the house and garden.  A large gum tree in an adjoining back yard is sucking all moisture out of the soil and is causing significant movement in one corner of the house that will have ongoing ramifications, especially for my hip pocket.  I am continually having to clean gutters and sweep up leaves and bark around the entire house.  I can’t cope with all the maintenance issues on my own, either from a time or financial perspective.  (‘What?’  I hear you say.  ‘Doesn’t’ young Donald help?’  SNORTI want my time back for me.

 

Probably my recent trip to Norway chasing the Northern Lights stirred things up but they didn’t really need much stirring.  There was an appropriate quotation that I read yesterday:

At any given moment you have the power to say that this is not how the story is going to end.

Working in a dead end job for turkeys, being miserable and being a slave to a pile of bricks and mortar is not how this story is going to end.  I am going to sell the house before the structural issues become critical.  I will rent while I look around for another property, probably a development site.  I will take my time but will design a house that suits my needs into the future.  It will be functional and sustainable but will also have spiritual corners.  The lessons that I learnt from building this house will be applied to the next house.  It will be an exciting exercise.

I have some things to do first though.  I am building a front fence and have a development application before Council at the moment.  Once that is completed, I will work on the front garden and landscaping and get that into shape.  There will also be some repainting, oiling the deck and timbers and a few things like that.  Not sure if I will sell via auction or via private treaty but will probably sell it myself.  I have sold my previous properties myself.

The other issue to address is that of gainful employment, and this one is trickier.  I would like to generate a comparable income, but more flexibly and possibly through self-employment or through doing contract work.

The role that I applied for was as Community Engagement Manager and I could pursue work in this area, either as a contractor or for another organisation.  It is work that I have been doing without the title.

There are a host of other ideas that are percolating, ranging from being a private investigator, freelance writer, increasing my celebrancy activities and pursuing an option as a training provider.  Or a combination of various options.   Many years ago, I supplied and built modular housing under contract and I loved this job.  Perhaps I can do that again.  Whatever I do, it will be something with self-respect.

I will leave at a time of my choosing, and will use the interval to undertake research and test the options.  I shall chart this journey as it happens.

Searching for the Lights

Strictly speaking I should be drinking Aquavit, but instead I am sipping duty free Southern Comfort as I wait for the sky to light up. I am on the MV Kong Harald, sailing up the coast of Norway between the island villages of Lofotr and Svolvaer. I am on this cruise in search of the Northern Lights, as well as visiting the Arctic Circle and learning more of this part of the world.

On the port side, there is a soft glow, a halo lifting above the horizon that is the beginning of a northern light. It is so soft that at this time, it would not be easily picked up by a camera, and the colour is a lighter shade of grey, rather than the vibrant greens and blues of all the postcards in the ship’s gift shop. My cabin is on the right side of the ship, so I can peep out of my window from time to time to see if the colour is deepening and progressing. We will be docking shortly in Svolvaer though, and I think that until we leave the lights of the town behind, we will not be able to see anything dramatic.

In order to venture outside on deck, particularly the upper deck, I need to pull on an extra pair of trousers, my fleecy-lined boots, padded coat, gloves, scarf and furry hat. Up on the top deck, I added a balaclava as well. It is the wind that is the real killer. A public announcement has just advised that there is a Viking Museum adjacent to the dock in Svolvaer and it will be open at this time of night (9:00 pm) so I might sneak ashore briefly to have a look. Perhaps I will locate some forebears, as I am sure that some early ancestors came from this part of the world.

No such luck. We wandered around the town and only found a war museum, covering the years of the second world war. It was Vikings that I was after, not modern war memorabilia. I am now back on board, waiting for the ship to finish loading and to depart. This particular shipping line runs a continuous service from Bergen to Kirkenes and back again. Many of the passengers are tourists like myself, but others are Norwegian travellers, moving between towns and villages. Most of the Norwegian settlement is on the coast and at this time of year, road travel is very dicey. To travel by sea therefore is very practical.

The glow of northern lights has now disappeared. Hopefully, it will appear again tomorrow night when we are further north. At 11:00 pm I will go up to the top deck for some sort of ceremony that the captain is putting on, with a special supper of fish cakes provided. There was an announcement about this, but sometimes the accent of the woman who is in charge of communication is a little difficult to interpret.

Just after 8:00 this morning, we crossed the Arctic Circle, and so after breakfast we had a baptism ceremony with King Neptune. This involved having a ladle of cold water and chunks of ice poured down the back of your neck (inside your clothing) after which you received a certificate and a tot of mulled wine. This was up on the top deck with a howling wind, but everyone lined up for the ‘baptism’. It was only a momentary shock, but the dampness persisted for some time. I applied the hair dryer to nether regions and knickers after a while to hasten the drying process.

Arriving in Oslo was such a treat. A snow storm started a bit before my aircraft touchdown, with visibility out of the plane windows very limited. By the time I had caught the train into the city and checked into my central hotel, the snow was thick on the ground. I caught up with Dermot and Catherine here, and the three of us rugged up and went tromping through the snow, taking photos as we went. We were all a bit agog at the beggars sitting in the snow, with a candle in a cup placed in front of them. I was also surprised at the number of men, who were not wearing hats, even those who were bald. The cityscape was magical though and we were intrigued with the novelty of it all.

I have just come back from the top deck. I still don’t fully understand what it was all about but think that appeasing the Fjord Trolls had something to do with it. The hot fish cakes were wonderful and the hot mugs of tea served with a dash of rum provided their own heat as well.

Thank God it’s Friday

Just as well it was a short week this week (holiday Monday) as I had an attack of the blahs and the week dragged.  Probably adjusting to the earlier rising with Daylight Saving contributed to the feeling, plus ongoing altercations with young Donald.  He insists that he is still going to school, that he will not get a job and that I cannot make him do otherwise.  Just quietly, he is probably right, but if his intention is to go to school, then he actually has to do that.  I have told him that I am not intervening on his behalf with the school.  It is up to him to do so if he wants to try to talk his way back in.

Normally I ride my bicycle to work, or if the weather is inclement then I ride Jeffrey, my motor scooter.  Very occasionally I take the car, but this means that I must remember to keep shifting it through the day as there is a two-hour limit on car parks.  Thursday morning, I decided to drive as I was feeling tired and lethargic and also the weather was drizzly.  I was running rather late, so when I rushed outside to actually leave, I was not impressed to discover that the car was not in the driveway.  Nor was Donald in the house.  He had slipped out after I had gone to sleep and driven to Daisy’s house.  Needless to say I blew my top and left a very hostile message on his mobile phone.  At times like this I am beside myself with fury.  It’s that casual assumption that he can just take the car whenever he likes that upsets me.  I was also cross with myself that I had left the keys out where he could take them.  I shouldn’t have to hide them though.

The nice surprise for the week was receiving an email from a woman who I last saw thirty years ago.  We both met, some years before that when we both worked in a bar in Alice Springs.  K was only a couple of years older than me, but by comparison I was very innocent and naive.  She was the most overtly sexual woman I had ever met.  She wore skimpy skirts and low-cut tops, and her long hair, parted on the side seductively grazed those pouting lips.  As the male customers walked into our restaurant each evening, she would look them over critically and assess which were worth pursuing that evening.  Whichever man she chose, she usually got.  He didn’t have a chance.

K half terrified me and half fascinated me.  For some reason she took a shine to me and took me under her wing.  We were chalk and cheese but became good friends anyway.  We had many hilarious nights in the restaurant, and of course after work we would hit the town, living it up until the early hours and exhaustion hit.  I recall skinny dipping in the motel swimming pool at midnight, wearing sunglasses and our knickers on our heads as a disguise.  We probably kept half the guests awake with our raucous laughter and rude jokes.

She took me to my first bush race meeting, giving me more of a run-down on the men that were there than on the horses on the track.  It was their form that she was more concerned with anyway, though of course we did have a bet on the horses as well.  I recall when one famous Australian rock star, well known for his musical roles as well, hit town for a concert.  K took one look at the statuesque figure and said, ‘Duckie, I’m going to have him!’ and she did.  I gather it was a night to remember, for she said to me the next morning, ‘Boy, he wasn’t hiding behind the door when they were handed out!’  By her reports, he was very well endowed.  I think of that every time I see him on TV.

Although she had grown up in Alice, there came a time when she wanted a change, and she decided to move to Townsville.  I visited her a few times and still enjoyed her company although the relationship that she had at that time had brought about an element of more sedate behaviour.  Well, of a sort.

Something intriguing happened on one of those visits.  K and her sister had recently lost their father and were consulting a medium for some belated consultation with their parent.  There were unresolved issues from memory and they wanted to make contact with him.  This was taking place at the sister’s house, after which K and I were going out on the town.  At the appointed time, I drove over to the sister’s house to pick up K.  As I approached the back door, I could hear the conversation happening inside and deduced that the consultation was still in progress.  I didn’t knock, not wanting to create a disturbance but quietly opened the door, crept inside and sat down.

The man was talking in a focused fashion with his eyes closed to aid concentration or to better hear the voices I assume.  Suddenly, he stopped talking and went quiet.  He shifted in his seat and then started talking again.  He said that a young lady has just entered the room, and there is someone here who wishes to speak to her.  He described a young man who had died a short time previously and gave details of the death and my reactions to the news.  The description fitted a friend of mine, and he gave accurate detail of the circumstances and the impact on myself and the fact that I had sent a silent prayer to this friend.  I was told that the friend had received this prayer and wished to thank me.  Nobody in that room knew of my friend’s death, and I had never told K about it.  To say that I was rendered speechless at this encounter would be an understatement.  I wished later that I had thought to ask some questions, the answers to which only my friend and I would know the answers but was not quick enough.

K is now married and living a retired and settled life.  She had a young son (as a single mother) when I first knew her and now she has a granddaughter a little older than my son.  She always had a passion for animals and it seems that she still has a menagerie, with a focus on birds and parrots now – intelligent birds that are as demanding as little children.

I was delighted that she made contact with me.  I had often wondered what had become of her, but as she had married and changed her name, had no way of contacting her.  We shared news and photographs and promised to keep in touch.  She says that she has put on a bit more weight than she used to carry, but then haven’t we all?  In my mind’s eye though, I will still see the vamp that challenged and scared the pants off me when I first met her.  Can’t wait to catch up with her again.