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.

In Praise of the Entrepreneur

A few days ago, I read an article online about several bright young millennials who were feted for their entrepreneurial spirit, and rightly so for they had done well. I picked up the assumption on the part of the author that she thought that Gen Ys or the Millennials as they are also known, are a go-getter breed of entrepreneur, the likes of which have not been seen before.

Lemonade Stand

There were several reasons flagged for this by those who were interviewed within the article:

  • Millennials are not afraid to question authority;
  • They are flexible and entrepreneurial;
  • They harness new technology in the interest of getting things done easily and efficiently; and
  • They are hungry for success and have the confidence to go out on their own.

It was even said that ‘this special generation benefits from knowing how things were done before mobiles, the cloud and Google.’  (I snorted so hard my tea nearly came out my nose when I read that claim. Most millennials have never known a life without a mobile phone, or Google.) It was also noted on the negative side that Gen Ys can be impatient and too focussed on technology over face-to-face interaction.

It made me review my own businesses start-ups, the first of which was when I was 18.  It was an abysmal failure as I had no idea about marketing, location, pricing, or any of those essential details.  I had learnt a bit by the time that little enterprise folded.  My next businesses were in my twenties and they were more successful.  One, I now realise in hindsight would have probably set me up for life if I had developed it further and hadn’t sold out too soon.  I lacked formal business and financial training however and learnt on the job, often by making mistakes.  I so wish that I’d had a good mentor during those times but I was a female trespassing in traditional male spheres and the welcome mat wasn’t exactly thrown out.

The point is however, that although I am now a baby boomer, in my earlier years when I didn’t have mortgages, and a child to support and educate, I was able to act on my bright ideas.  I never saw them as taking risks, but more rising to the challenge and having a go.  I suspect that this has always been the case, and the Millennials of today are merely following in the footsteps of generations who have gone before.  With the benefit of internet-based technologies though, they are able to harness information and learnings that were not so easily accessible before.  They can contact other people online who are engaged in similar activities and set up mutually supportive networks.  They can even use crowd-funding to finance new ventures.

I have never stopped having the ideas, and have a file full of incipient business plans for the next great scheme that might just be challenging, and a bit of a winner.  An online bookshop did well for a decade, before more cashed up competition prompted its slow demise.   I also didn’t know what I didn’t know about internet marketing. Once more, I’ve learnt a lot.

Now that said child is off my hands and I have a little more financial flexibility, I can again consider the options for casting aside the corporate 9-5 and pursue some of my dreams again. I suspect that I’m not alone and that there are a few more budding seniorpreneurs working on their business start-ups.

What about it all you Gen Xs and Baby Boomers?  Has that entrepreneurial spirit spluttered and died, or are you biding your time for when you can give it a go again?  Are business start-ups the province of the young?

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.

 

Looking to the future

Do you know those feelings before starting a new journey into the unknown?  There is a mixture of excitement and fear.  The excitement focusses on anticipation of the wonderful things you will see, the people you will meet and the experiences that you will have.  The fear focuses on whether you are competent enough, and how will you manage and what if you fall over?

I’m embarking on a new business venture and so am experiencing all of those thoughts and feelings.  The new venture is prompted by several things.  For a start, I am one of those people who is always coming up with new ideas.  When I was younger I just launched into them with the zest and enthusiasm of someone who was really green and didn’t know it.  I had some failures but some successes too and it taught me a lot.  I really wish that I’d had some mentors during those years of exploration and enthusiasm, but that’s another topic.

Secondly, I can see that there is no security of tenure with my current employer and redundancy is likely to come my way by the end of the financial year.  This coincides with my increasing dissatisfaction at a role that is increasingly dumbed down and diminished in content and engagement.  It is  not surprising therefore that my frustration at working in a non-supportive environment has lead to my thoughts of self-employment again.  I also recognise that this is a poor employment market for people past a certain age and if I don’t want to find myself in the clutches of Centrelink, I will need to be resourceful and to develop alternatives that are financially viable.

The third reason is that I can see a new challenge in the future and it excites me.  That doesn’t mean that I am not apprehensive about what I am proposing but the prospect of taking back control over my working life is a greater incentive than the fear is a detraction.  Right now I am in the research phase and working on my business plan and just doing this preliminary work fuels the anticipation.

Although I am not in a position to disclose full details right now, I am keen to develop relationships with other service providers, and specifically those who are not totally embedded in the youth culture.  I would not expect for instance that the copy on my webpage would contain words such as ‘totally awesome’ as my target audience will mostly come from Gen X and Baby Boomer age groups.  I will look for a copy writer who can engage with and not alienate that age group.  Likewise a brand manager, graphic designer and photographer.

Finding a mentor of course would be fantastic but jut as useful will be developing a network of people who are at a similar stage in life and perhaps starting new ventures of their own.  If that sounds like you, give me a shout.Anticipation

 

 

 

Fabulous Friday

With the beginning of this financial year (July 2014) I have dropped back from five to four days in my paid job.  Friday was my day of choice to spend at home, but if there is something crucial that comes up at work, I have indicated that I am prepared to vary the day off.

My colleagues have assumed that this is the first step towards retirement as I am the oldest by far in my section and indeed one of the oldest women in the company.  Work it seems is the domain of the 40-year old.  They are right in that I am desperate to ‘retire’ from this soulless and patronising environment.  I hadn’t appreciated when I was 35-40 that this was as good as it got.  At that age I was at my peak as far as workplace relevance goes and since then the opportunities that have been open to me have decreased, with the general assumption that a younger person will be sharper, more edgy, more hungry, and more deserving.  I suspect it is a little different for men of a similar age – they have a longer use-by date but even they report after a while that they start to be sidelined as well.

This is in fact the first step towards the rest of my life, which is going to be more satisfying, more challenging and more rewarding.  I am working towards self-employment and so am doing some study, am honing my writing skills and repertoire, am using the time for lots of research and am planning future travels.  The diminished income is a bit of a fright but I have done my sums and I know that I can manage.  It also makes the week much more tolerable as well and by Thursday I am positively delighted, knowing that the next day will be all mine.

Today -yay it’s Friday – is part work and part pleasure.  To start with I am setting up a separate blog for my author identity.  I have recently published a novel under the pseudonym of Emily Hussey (more of that in another post) and have been most remiss in not establishing the relevant blog.  Looking around my office, there is a bit of filing and sorting that needs to be done as well.

Then will come the haircut in a new salon that I am trialling and late afternoon I will join a group of friends for afternoon tea that will incorporate champers and chocolate and a discussion on my novel.  This will be at the home of a 95 year old who is a wonderful woman.  She has such a questing mind and is so supportive or my writing and all endeavours really.  If you can get her talking about her life, she has had some fascinating experiences as well, and looking at the paintings and items around her home gives some indication of the journey that she has travelled.  We all appreciate the pleasures of these rare afternoons, very conscious that with Lorna’s age and declining health, there will not be so many of them.

Afternoon tea - plus a few strawberries and chocolate

Afternoon tea – plus a few strawberries and chocolate

When I think of my day, why would I be doing anything else?  What do you do with your Fridays?

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?

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. 

Cruising the Fjords

Our first glimpse of the northern lights was on the evening of 21 January. There had been some introductory glimmers earlier in the evening but as I was getting into bed at around midnight, Dermot banged on my door with a summonse to come quickly. I pulled out-door gear over my night clothes and hurried up on deck. What I soon realised is that where I thought that the lights were vibrant greens and sometimes blue and orange and red, in actual fact what you see is varying intensity of white light against a dark sky. There are teasing hints of rainbow colours that appear at times, but it is only when photographers capture the sky with slow shutter speeds that the colours become visible. I tried to take pictures with my digital camera but it was a total waste off time. All I got was a dark sky. Tonight, the display has been more impressive.

In many ways, our scenic tour of Norway has been in shades of black and white. We caught the train from Oslo to Trondheim, and given that snow covered much of the landscape and that the trees were stripped of leaves and foliage, there was very little ‘colour’ to be seen. What we did see though was truly magical, with rivers of snow and ice, dramatic landscapes and craggy mountains, and of course there were still the frozen waterways, the small neat cottages with their steep roofs and attic windows, and lights shining from the windows by early afternoon.

The further north we have come, the earlier it has become dark. Today in Tronso, darkness fell at around 2:30 pm. The sky was very clear, so if it had been cloudy, no doubt darkness would have fallen even earlier. This morning, when I awoke in my cabin on the cruise ship, we were anchored in the town of Harstadt. I quickly jumped up and on learning that we still had 35 minutes in that port, left the ship to do a quick tour of the closest streets. That was also totally in the dark of course as it was only 7:30 as I made my way down the gang plank. This limited amount of daylight and extended night really plays havoc with my body clock, as it generally feels to be much later than what it really is. I am ready to go to bed quite early.

I will retire quite soon but have just been nibbling on some chunks of Bacla (dried cod) washed down rather too quickly with aquavit and my stomach is a little uncertain. The boat should rock me to sleep, in spite of the ferocious wind that is raging outside. On my last venture on deck to check out the lastest developments with the lights, I was picked up by the wind and slammed against the railings. That, and the cold, sent me inside again.

For something different this afternoon, while we were moored in Tromso I went dog-sledding. Unfortunately, because this has been a mild winter the snow was not as deep as would usually be the case at this time of year. The locals would expect there to be snow of around a metre deep but it was shallow enough for grass to be poking through in places and much of the snow had turned to treacherous ice. A team of 10 husky dogs pulled a sled with two passengers and driven by a musher. A simple ‘Yip! Yip!’ and a release of the hand brake is all that is needed to get the dogs running. They slithered and slipped on the ice though and where the route might normally have been cushioned by powdery snow, it was instead a hard track of ice, with many frozen lumps, bumps and ridges. The sled bounced from side to side, occasionally becoming airborne and then landing with a spine-jarring thump.

The tour guide also reported that last summer had been un-seasonally warm, with temperatures of up to 25 degrees which is incredibly hot for northern Norway. This upset the dogs as they are not comfortable in this sort of warmth, and also upset the locals as they are concerned that it is indicative of global warming and a change in their environment.

The cruise ship has been a fabulous vehicle in which to explore Norway, as most of the development is coastal. It would be nice though to be able to get on and off the boat in different ports, to explore a little and learn more about each location. That may be feasible, but I have not taken the time yet to check it out. There are not so many passengers over the winter period, which means that there is more individual attention from the crew. In the sheltered waters of the fjords, the ship is very stable although the sea can be quite rough in the sections of travel through open waters. Sometimes the sides of the fjords seem so close that you could reach out and touch. As we travel continuously night and day, you soon appreciate the navigational skills of the captain or whoever is actually plotting the course and steering the ship. Tomorrow (Monday) we will be travelling towards the North Cape and past some ‘Wind Power Parks’. Given the wind that I experienced earlier this evening, the turbines should be performing well.

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.