Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31. Day 212. The cat's out of the bag

I am thinking of getting a pet cat. I have always loved cats. If there wasn't the small matter of the allergy to cats I am sure I would already be a crazy cat lady. A person can survive on high doses of antihistamine and Ventolin, right? Or perhaps a bird would suit me. Normally I prefer my birds more free range but I'm sure I can get over that. Or fish. My past experience of fish has involved many ending up doing backstroke and having to be flushed but there must be an online course in Gold Fish For Dummies. They don't make great walking companions either, still. Okay, I'm fooling no-one. I'm a dog lover through and through but Rumple and The Fed as testing my patience at the moment. Silent as assassins, they strike. I lay down to have a nap. They joined me on the bed. I woke up and there they were sandwiching me, one on my chest, one on my back. I would have got up in court and put my hand on a bible and said they'd been with me the whole time. The alibi would have been false. At some point, they slid off the bed, broken into the garage and had a merry time pulling things off the shelf. Just to rub it in, most of their destruction had occurred not in the garage but on the carpet right outside my bedroom door. Of course, there are no witnesses. Someone could have broken into my house and framed the poor innocent dogs but I think they let the cat out of the bag when they returned to the scene of the crime ...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30. Day 211. Scavenger hunt

Crows. It is quite possible there is no more maligned bird.
The creator was not kind to the crow cursing it with one of the least musical calls in the avian world backed with unattractive habits such as eating road kill and pulling the rubbish out of your bins. Even the magpie which is just as likely to try and peck your eye out at certain times of the year seems to get more love than poor old crow. After all Stone the Crows is a popular saying but no-one is threatening to do the same to magpies.
But if life was fair (which of course it isn't) the era of the crow should be upon us.
My evidence is this. The crow is the ultimate scavenger and in the human world this is now a much appreciated trait.
Way back when, the charity shop was a place for society's outcasts. Being seen anywhere near such an establishment would be seen as a sign of failure and desperation. There was a huge stigma involved with settling for a stranger's cast offs. But the world turned. Words such as vintage and retro became trendy and scoring a bargain at an op shop became a badge of honour not the equivalent of a social disease. And on top of that terms such as reduce, reuse and recycle gained popularity (although new and shiny still rule in the throw-away world).
So hang in there Mr Crow. You may be the black sheep of the bird world but I rather like the way you seem to thumb your nose (beak) at convention and get on and do what you have to do.
Also your shiny black coat is most fetching. Call it retro and your stakes will rise.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29. Day 210. You are being watched

Do you ever get the feeling you are being watched? If you don't there's something wrong with you. I am old enough to remember when 1984 was a book set in the future. I remember how outrageous the idea of constant surveillance by the government was. I still recall the teenage me grappling with the idea of what Room 101 would contain and tyring to convince myself that double speak and thought crime was the stuff of fiction. And now everywhere we go there's some security camera watching. Emails arrive from supermarkets offering me specials on products they know I will likely buy in future because my "loyalty" card says I have bought them in the past and every email I write is being captured for future use. The data in my phone allows me to be tracked and often my nearest and dearest do just that logging on to FindMyIPhone to find the phone's owner. But the scary thing about all this, the really scary thing, is that while some of this data collection I have no control over much I give away freely. You do not have to "check in" via your phone when you arrive somewhere. You do not have to tweet your every move. No-one is holding a gun against your head and forcing you to take a customer loyalty card. And like million and millions of others I do. All of this occurred to me as I sat in the audience of 1984 at QPAC this morning. Privacy, just as Orwell predicted, is a thing of the past. Big Brother is watching you and you are freely allowing him to do so.

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28. Day 209. The lightbulb moment

Q: How many of the men in my house does it take to change a lightbulb/replace an empty toilet paper roll/turn on the washing machine?
A: No-one knows because it has never been done before.
Okay, that's not true - but it's not far from the truth. I think, there's a belief that we have fairy who magically does these things with a flick of fairy dust or a wave of a wand or something. Case in point. The pool filter starts beeping in the dead of night. Selective deafness sets it and a game of brinkmanship ensues. I crack first. I always crack first and in fact I am almost certain neither of my males knows how to deal with this problem. Lightbulb moment. Whose fault is that? Can I honestly blame them for not volunteering when they know full well that if they hang off I'll do it and they can stay on the couch? Of course not. Learned helplessness requires both a teacher and a student. This is a monster I have created and nurtured. It might be time to starve it of oxygen.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27. Day 208. A lot to digest

I could see it in their eyes. That slightly dazed look that says either "I have just bitten off more than I can chew" or "Ok, now that's rather a lot to digest". Today was QUT Open Day and that meant I was on duty running presentations for students considering studying journalism (and their parents). That meant fielding question after question about OPs, double degrees, the difference between a BCI and a B Journ, alternative entry possibilities, starting out in a Media and  Communication degree versus a Mass Comm degree if you intend studying journalism. I know the answer to all these questions and more and I attempt to answer them in ways that avoid university slang but there reaches a point when you see the eyes glaze over. It's all a lot to take in especially for anyone new to the university sector. I actually find it very easy to put myself in the shoes of parents at these seminars. In a break between my presentation duties, I took myself off to the Drama, Acting and Technical Production talks in my role of parent to Drama Teen. Here the challenge was to get my head around three different Bachelor of Fine Arts and their OP, versus interview, versus audition entry etc, etc. Fortunately as an insider I felt like I had a bit (ok a great big) head start. Still, by the end of it I felt like I'd had my fill. * Note, this is not a self portrait but a photo I took on the way home. It is, however, scarily like how I felt after many hours of Open Day duty wearing both the parent and the professional hats.

July 26. Day 207. Anyone for seconds?

You might have to be as mad as a hatter to think that everyone should be entitled to 364 unbirthday celebrations. An unbirthday then becomes an everyday occurrence and nothing special to celebrate at all. But twice a year? Well, who could argue with that? For many years, my family has joined with the families of two of my besties for a Christmas in July celebration. For many Christmas in July is an Australian's way to be able to eat "traditional" Christmas food at a time when turning on the oven to roast will cook more than your goose. I've never let the summer heat stop the baking of a turkey with all the trimmings. The way I see it, spreading a little joy of Christmas to the middle of the year can't be a bad thing even though a good many people think that Christmas in July is somewhere sacrilegious and blasphemy. But I love Christmas and a second opportunity to give presents, eat good food and relax and enjoy the company of family and friends is something to be grabbed with both hands.

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25, Day 206. Sun sets on another week

Most people in this part of the planet live their lives according to the Gregorian calendar. It is s fine calendar that serves most people well. I am not one of those people, well not entirely. My life is dominated by another calendar, the QUT Academic Calendar. This document determines when I teach, when friends can expect to hear nothing from me apart from grunts and tweets about how hideous marking is and when I might be found "researching" by the pool. This week, according to that calendar, is Week 1 and that means we are putting the pedal to the metal again for Semester 2. 
To be honest, this is the part of the academic year I enjoy most. Teaching suits me far better than administrivia, despite the whinging about marking. But because it is a busy time I admit that I was rather happy to see the sun setting on this working week.

July 24. Day 205. The school camp

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23. Day 204. Living on the edge

 Sometimes you've got to live on the edge a little, you know put yourself out there, take a few risks. Each of us takes calculated risks every day. Sure you might get hit by a truck if you drive to work but there's a very real possibility you will lose your job if you don't so on balance you decide to take the risk. I'm not here talking about a game of "just says" or "what ifs" and don't get me started in OH&S just that nothing is without some risk it is merely a matter of how far we want to push it. Today was a take a risk, throw caution to the wind kind of day. For some that involved ignoring the signs and the safety barriers and climbing over the rails to enjoy an afternoon glass of champagne on a rock ledge overlooking the city from the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. Some would say that was dangerous and stupid in the extreme. I will leave it to others to judge as I was doing something equally foolhardy in the same area -  I took the dogs for a walk. We stayed to the paths, were appropriately attired, the dogs were on a lead, we kept to the left and obeyed all signs. I had poo bags on board should nature call to the canines. To anyone watching we were a picture of model citizen and canines. But that is ignoring one rather large fact. Last time I took the two dogs for a walk in this area the beagle simple refused to walk back up the steep cliff stairs so I had to carry him, while also trying to control the other fur friend. It was a nightmare to the point I haven't returned. But today  - lured by the prospect of a nice sunset - I decided to see whether The Fed had outgrown his canine stair phobia. Success. We did it and it was a risk worth taking. They are right, sometimes fortune favours the brave.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22. Day 203. Weapons of mass destruction

They look like cute, cuddly canines. They are not. They are fur covered weapons of mass destruction. Individually they are a bit prone to chewing the odd shoe or the like if left lying around. Teamed up, no item of clothing, no item of soft furnishing, plastic container, remote control or goodness knows what else is safe. Socks, jocks, pens, PJs, shoes, bedding, camping equipment and the seat of a couch have fallen victim to their evil ways. Most of the time they are quite content to do nothing. Lying around doing not very much is a skill they have perfected. But I suspect this is simply scheming time. Planning the next raid. It has got to the point that Rumple has had his all areas access pass revoked when not supervised. Now it is not safe to leave the fur friends inside without adult supervision and they have to be locked outside. This is yet to redress the bad behaviour. I could be wrong but perhaps my own behaviour contributes to this. I suspect they know they are not really in dog house given that they still sleep curled up beside me in bed. Tough love is not one of my specialist subjects, clearly.

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21. Day 202. Unflappable

A picture of calm. Not a sign of taking flight, looking spectators in the eye, unflappable. I have a sneaky feeling it was all an act. After all, what bird is going to feel completely calm with two deranged dogs just metres away clearly ready to play fowl. I've heard it all. Mindfulness. Meditation. Breathing. Visualisation. But I am a great believer in a thoroughly under-rated technique for dealing with stressful situations - faking it. This morning was one of those mornings best forgotten. The reasons are not worth revisiting but there were floods of big salty tears involved, mine mostly. But with places to go, people to see and things to do (in particular a lecture room full of students expecting a 10am lecture) the best plan - the only plan - is to act as though you have it all together.  Dress the part, put on the make-up and like the sports brand says "Just Do It". Fake it until you make it. And so often - this morning included - as you go though the motions soon enough its not an act its just what you do. It would have been so easy to pull the doona over my head and take flight but I didn't and by 10am I was back at the control deck with feathers only slightly ruffled. I'll put that down as a win.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20. Day 201.Pouring cold water on it

As a VERY regular visitor to South Bank I thought there were no more surprises but I thought wrong. I suppose with the Regional Flavours festival on this weekend I shouldn't have expected it to be just another weekend but the surprises were outside the confines of the festival in the pool. There another of people were being immersed in a Water Baptism ceremony being conducted by Paddington-based Forever Church. Then Pastor Brad, Pastor Danny and Pastor Sarah had buckets of ice water poured over their heads as part of the ice water challenge to raise funds for cancer research. That, it has to be said, is really taking religion to the people.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19. Day 200. Raising the child


In day's gone by, villages really did raise a child. Not so much any more. We live in nuclear families, in single dwellings behind nice picket fences. Don't worry, I haven't gone all earth mother. I like all the comforts of home and have no hankering for a simpler communal life. But I do like the fact that the village is out there and there are "villagers" (I like to call them friends) I can call on when my skill set just doesn't meet the selection criteria of the job at hand. So the school's leadership camp next week requires the students -in small groups - to supply and erect their own tents. There are two problems with this. We don't own a tent and if we did I would have no idea how to erect it. But I have a friend that does. So while I had a cup of tea on the back deck, my friend Alison arrived tent in hand and instructed Drama Teen on the finer points of setting up and pulling down a tent. This included lying on the folded tent to remove air before trying to squeeze it back into the bag. This, in case you were wondering, was what was happening in the first image. I'm pretty sure there would be YouTube videos on the subject but the hands-on approach from a trusted friend is far more effective and much more fun (at least for the person sipping tea and watching the action).

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18. Day 199. Just Desserts

My parents were extreme meanies. We never had dessert. Ever. There was no such thing as "eat your vegetables or you won't get any ice cream". It was just "eat your vegetables". Full stop. (As it happens, that wasn't the end of it. My younger sister Lisa refused to eat peas and without the incentive of dessert would smuggle peas from the table in her pocket and throw them out her bedroom window. Should an archaeologist ever dig up that area, they may come to the conclusion that there was some ceremonial pea grave yard in that region). But back to the desserts. Truth is, we don't eat desserts in my house either. Well, not often. But I am prepared to make an exception and tonight was such a night and I didn't even eat my peas. Next Saturday is Christmas in July and we are on dessert detail. So tonight I decided a trial was in order (yes, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). I recruited my domestic goddess Christy to cook up a batch of Delia Smith's Little Sticky Toffee Puddings with Pecan Toffee Sauce. And they were awesome. Totally awesome. In a way it was just dessert but it was so much more.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17. Day 198. Like two peas in a pod

Recently a 12-year-old friend of my niece wondered out loud whether my older sister and I were twins. We both found that rather hilarious as there really isn't that much of a family resemblance. Where the gene pool is far closer is between myself and my baby bro Michael. Michael is tall, thin, incredibly fit and works at an elite level as a sports scientist. Right now he is en route to Scotland via China with the Australian Commonwealth Games diving team as the Sport Science Sports Medicine Manager at Diving Australia. Yep, anyone who knows me knows just how alike we are (not). And so it is in our choice of fur friends. My fur baby Rumple is small, furry and particularly needy. Michael's beagle The Fed - who is holidaying with us while his "dad" is travelling - is a short haired hound, big boned and strong as an ox. Despite the lack of resemblance they are just like siblings - at times they are at each other's throats and at other times they are the best of buddies. While a human observer can see the two are clearly not that alike, no-one has remembered to tell The Fed that. He can see no reason why he can't do exactly what Rumple does - and that includes leaping on to the bed and walking across my prone body as a "special" wake-up routine. At least I can be sure he feels like he is part of the family.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16. Day 197. Raindrops keep falling on my head

Other people collect beer coasters, match boxes or spoons. I collect something equally as useless - umbrellas. I have giant golf ones, ones that fold neatly, souvenir ones from places I have visited, ones with spots and ones with stripes. And today one that looks like the colours of the ocean. All very lovely. Now "normal" people will argue that umbrellas are not useless. And in theory they are right. But an umbrella that is in the car your husband took to work, or one in the office when you are not, or at home when you are out is about as functional as a collector's edition matchbox. So another one today because of a heavy shower that started just as I was leaving an appointment in the city. It stopped before I had walked beyond the cover of the building's awning. I am such a drip ....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15. Day 196. Tie a Yellow Ribbon

It was almost certainly coincidental but today when I collected Rumple from his regular grooming he had yellow ribbons in his hair. In a year of grooming, the ribbons have always been red or blue but not today. Today it was yellow. Just across the river, yellow ribbons were being worn and yellow balloons released in memory of Allison Baden-Clay whose husband was today found guilty of her murder. I never knew Allison but like so many today I watched the reports of the verdict with a mixture of great sadness and relief at the success of the justice system. There are no winners in outcomes such as this. Allison's family will certainly not find anything to cheer about. It is unfathomable that someone could take the life of their life's partner. Family is everything. You would do anything for them. How could you do that to your wife and as a flow-on to your young daughters? It is impossible to even start to imagine the pain that family would be feeling tonight. But it is a reminder to cherish those closest to you and to treat those nearest and dearest well (although my neighbour Margaret's decision to give Rumple the food from her mouth quite literally is really taking things far too far)

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14. Day 195. Wash day blues

There are some things my husband will never understand about my behaviour and which I will never be able to adequately explain because I know they make absolutely no sense at all except that they make absolute perfect sense. For example, cleaning up for the cleaner. A girl has to clean up before the cleaner arrives because a) you can't be expected to clean a surface you can't find and b) strangers can't think you live like this just because you do.
And tomorrow Rumple has an appointment at the dog groomers so today I washed and brushed him. After a week at the beach rolling in the sand (and goodness knows what else) and playing in both the creek and the ocean he smelled like a dead fish and felt not unlike sandpaper. In short, he looked like a cross between a stray and something the cat dragged in and nothing like the world's most pampered pooch. Keeping up appearances is totally important in such things - for Rumple, you understand not me. I'm sure Rumple gets this even if my long suffering husband never will.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13. Day 194. I'm on the top of the world

Hiking boots, plenty of water, appropriate clothing and protein in the form of nuts - these are signs of a person well prepared to hike up a mountain at dawn. Staying up late and drinking cocktails in the spa - not so much. Still, I had said I would climb Mount Coolum at dawn and so it would be and the view was totally worth it.
Also this was our last day of holidays and I didn't want to waste a minute of it. So there was the mountain, two trips to the beach with the family to run the dog and in between a big fry up with eggs which 15-year-old Kate had collected straight from the from one of the free range chicken's bums.
For a minute I even considered building a chicken range at home - that was right up until  the incident between Fur Friend Rumple and the chooks. One bird over the fence and one dog in the dog house for bad behaviour convinced me that future free range eggs would probably have to come from the supermarket but the dream was good while it lasted. That may be my last contact with chickens - who I found really quite captivating - but the next beach holiday is booked for September. I can't wait.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12. Day 193. Jumping for joy

“I’ve got a bone to pick with you,” my mother will say jokingly before going on to outline some offspring neglect I have made her endure. What follows will be some outrageous tale of a ridiculous thing one of her friends’ kids did for his or her Mum. “You know Tina’s kids bought her a trip to Antarctica for her birthday,” Mum will bait. “But Mum,” I reply. “You hate the cold. Well, Mum, I have a bone to pick with you. I can’t remember what you bought for me for my 14th birthday but I know it must have been lame because I know what it wasn’t. You did not buy me a tandem sky diving adventure. Tyler’s Mum did because today I saw him land on Coolum beach with all his family waiting on the sand to cheer him on. What a magnificent thing to do to mark turning 14. His Mum told me that she was 40 before she gave sky diving a go and loved it so much she was keen to share the thrill with Tyler when he expressed an interest. He looked totally blown away by the experience. Best. Birthday. Present. Ever. I have tried sky diving twice – the first time I was 24 and the second time 29. Many will say there is no good reason to voluntarily throw yourself out of an aircraft in perfect working order but if you are a thrill seeker there really is nothing to match the rush of the experience. Still, I have never considered inviting my teen to have a go (there are days I might have liked to throw him out of a plane without a parachute, but I digress). But having seen Tyler today I asked Drama Teen what he thought. He was not interested. Instead we decided to land on the beach on foot with my best birthday present ever, the fur friend Rumple. On the beach, we don’t need a chute to soar.

Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11. Day 192. Life's a beach

Do you know what I love about the beach? Everything. It was like I was born to it. As a a child we always had our family holidays at the beach - Mum, Dad, the four kids and normally my grandfather. Truth is my Dad didn't much like the beach - he wasn't much for sun and sand so I can only assume I got that from the other side of the family or it skipped a generation or something. But whether it was his "thing" or not Dad appreciated the family time of beach holidays so we did it every year without fail. And the tradition continues. This is the second of four family beach holidays this year - with my husband, our son, my mum and probably the biggest beach fan of all my fur friend Rumple. I admit, unlike many other families who continue to indulge in water-based activities despite the fact that it is winter, land based activities are more our thing at this time of year. But we spend ours walking along the beach collecting shells, playing ball games and just feeling the sand between our toes. Life is a beach. I love that

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 10. Day 191.Out of my depth

Money does not grow on trees. This my mother made quite clear. I am also totally aware that cotton does come from a plant and yoghurt is an animal product, a stunning level of understanding of primary production if a survey of children can be believed. But having said that I am a city girl through and through and I confess my knowledge of growing and harvesting things is quite tragic. In fact I am quite out of my depth. This house I am staying at has chickens and guests are allowed to collect and keep the eggs should they choose. I know nothing about chickens. I don't know when hens lay, I don' know how many eggs they squeeze out and I am not even sure whether you wash the eggs or not when you bring them in. But I do know that free range, farm fresh eggs do taste better and I am looking forward to eating them. Indeed, I shall be diving in to the first omlette.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July 9. Day 190. A change is as good as a holiday

Let's be clear. 
1. A change is not as good as a holiday and anyone who says it is has only had lame holidays.
2. Technology may have released us from having to spend 9-5 in the office but it has meant the office is with us 24 hours a day at the beep of a smart phone or a click of a mouse.
3. The paperless office is a myth, a total myth.
However, in all this there is power to use this for good as well as evil. This week, I am having a change not a holiday. I just happen to be working from home, not my home, but a home I rented on the Sunshine Coast for the week. Wireless broadband makes that possible and the change of environment is a good thing, sort of like a holiday good thing. I can do all the 9-5 business and walk the dog along the beach in the morning and afternoon. I can take my lunch break at one of the Coolum cafes and collect eggs from the chickens. And I can meet my normal ABC Radio commitments via the phone sitting on the beach watching the sun rise. But that paperless office thing? I have all the comforts at home here expect one thing. There's no printer, something I didn't quite think through when I planned the radio cross in my head. Sitting on a beach at dawn with a laptap on my lap is not only cumbersome but a bit of a wank but if that's what it takes .... that's a change I'm prepared to make.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 8. Day 189. Having a whale of a time

Thrills come in all shapes and sizes. A former me was an adrenalin junkie of the highest order. Parachuting, bungee jumping, white and black water rafting been there, done that bought the T Shirt. But I am older and wiser and I know longer need to throw myself off a bridge into a great canyon or jump out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft to feel high. I am most at peace with the world with my feet much closer to the ground - or more specifically to the sand. Today was one of those days. Two walks to the beach with the dog today - the first I watched the skydivers and the second I was treated to whales frolicking off shore. And the hours in between I spent in the crazy Coolum house. This folks, is what I  now consider having a whale of a time.