Saturday, December 31, 2011

The junior in the jargon

Every so often I have a bit of a google around, looking up the junior's various conditions singly or in various combinations. It's because some of the things are quite rare, and one of them is very newly recognised as a thing, so I kind of like to hear if anyone has some new thinking about any of it. Because of Reasons he has had tests sent to Paris, been treated in Barcelona and has doctors in Canberra and Sydney.  This tends to make it difficult to just have a yarn to the doctor any old time I have a question.

So a while ago I was doing my googling and I found an abstract from a conference in Portugal that sounded pretty darn exciting, because it sounded like someone else had exactly the same situation that junior had, and some pretty darn smart doctors were thinking about it.  And then I realised, of course, that it was my junior that they were talking about and not some other kid at all.  And that they didn't know anything much either, but wanted to tell all the other doctors all about it.

No one else would recognise him, except us and his very own doctors, but it's a very peculiar thing to have such particular and precise and accurate information rocketing around the world, and yet information that is so utterly unlike the junior's actual life.

I was very disappointed that it wasn't someone else.  I desperately wanted us to be not the only ones in this particular situation.  Which is a terrible thing to think, really, when you think about it even a tiny bit. Which I have since, but didn't so much when I first felt that thud of disappointment and oddness when I recognised the junior in the medical jargon. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

Well, we're back. 

I can tell you that after a short absence, and upon returning, I really like my house. Even if it is direly in need of a de-clutter.  I can also tell you that while it is a Very Fine Thing to spend Christmas with family and friends, it is an Even Finer Thing to be in a house of one's own.  However, it would be most convenient if our home were a three-hour drive or so from our loved ones in Brisbane rather than a two-hour plane ride. It confirms my idea that NSW should be dragged out to sea, leaving the ACT where it is, then Queensland and Victoria should be squoodged up together so that Canberra ends up sort of a bit squished in the middle.  That way we would be neatly positioned a less than one day drive from most of our friends-and-relations.

The Christmas highlight was getting together with friends with kids older and younger than the junior and just letting them get on with it in Queens Park in Ipswich.  Apart from minor cuts and bruises (playground related, rather than interpersonal violence related, I hasten to add), all the children seemed to have a day of old-fashioned climbing on things, getting wet and shouting.  The only downside was the oldest child, who has crossed that line into adolescence, clearly felt just as uncomfortable with the children as she felt with the grown-ups and did not really have much of a good time at all.

The thing I really miss about Brisbane is that feeling of being totally at ease with people, because you've known them such a long time that you've forgotten what they've forgiven you for.  With new people, you never know what you might do wrong to them, because it hasn't happened yet.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Dear computer game people

I would like a new computer game.  If you make me a computer game that is the sort of computer game I like, I will pay you real cash money. 

I don't like shooting people very much and I don't like strategy war games.  I like strategy and puzzle games that are not boring and patronising.  I don't care if the pictures are amazing particularly.  I like to build cities and organise stuff.  I like trading and developing skills.  I don't get to enjoy sound tracks much because someone else is always trying to do homework or go to sleep or write their PhD or is playing a noisier game, so don't go to too much trouble there.

Please make me an interesting, complicated game that goes on for a while. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Failing to think things through

So which person with a creative writng degree thought it would be a good idea to deliver a presentation on human rights treaties to a room full of international lawyers?

I mean, really.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Human rights - a quite serious post with no flippancy for a change

Some of you might be interested to hear that the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 passed Parliament today. It was introduced into the House of Representatives in September 2010.

If you read Hansard, you will see that the Opposition tried to move amendments so that 'human rights' was defined as rights in the Constitution and common law rights.  I would interpret this myself as trying to make sure that certain sorts of humans could protect their property rights, rather than an interest in human rights as universal and indivisible and as found in international human rights covenants that Australia has signed up to, but that is my personal view only and one not shared by, say, George Brandis.

If you read Hansard you will also find some fairly vitriolic personal attacks, but I guess that's to be expected.

Anyway, the new legislation (once it receives Royal Assent) means that any new bills or legislative instruments introduced into Parliament must be accompanied by a statement of compatibility, which tells Parliament (and the world at large because they will be publicly available documents) if a bill is consistent with the human rights obligations under 7 key human rights treaties. Or not. The Bill also establishes a new parliamentary committee to look at bills and the statements and to have a good think about it all.

I understand that the Opposition also tried to make an amendment to remove the requirement for statements of compatibility, but perhaps I am wrong about that. 

I am looking forward to seeing what the statements are like, and what the new committee says about them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I realise that I have nothing to blog about because stuff is just happening without much need of comment or analysis from me.  Knockonwoodetc.

I read my way through the Booker shortlist for the first time. Back in the day when I was a bookseller (and when the husband who was a bookseller but is no longer a bookseller was still a bookseller), I just used to read a lot of new releases and generally I would have read most of the shortlisted books that looked vaguely interesting to me anyway.  And in recent years I have not paid much attention because I am always tired because I am a Career Lady now. So this year I read them all and I liked them all pretty much and I reckon the winner was probably the best book to win the prize and all, but I really enjoyed Jamrach's Menagerie and The Sisters Brothers most of all. Which may tell us one or two things, which includes that I have form for liking stories with 'menagerie' in the title, and also I seem to like chatty first-person books set in the 19th century with quite a lot of violence, provided it's violence that is excused one way or another by the narrator. Because I really adjectivally much like A True History of the Kelly Gang as well.

No doubt it exposes a terrible character flaw.  I never think of myself as a person who enjoys violence in any form, but there it is, there it is.

The Junior has been re-reading Garth Nix books and the Ranger's Apprentice series.  He doesn't seem to feel the need for any new books by authors he hasn't read before at the moment.  I am not quite sure what to think about this. On the one hand I think it's pretty bad to exclusively comfort read, but on the other hand I think he's already read more books than some people read in their entire lifetimes, so perhaps he deserves time to digest it all a bit.

The husband is doing marking, which is a completely different kind of reading and may result in violence, but less in a textual way and more in a storming about exasperatedly kind of way.

In worse news, when I was reading some words at work I read a word I wish I'd never read which was 'reablement'.  I thought they meant rehabilitation, but when you google it, it turns out to be a real word, or at least a frequently used one.  I guess I need to reable my brain to think a bit more flexibly or some such, but I found it very ugly indeed, although representing a most desirable principle, of course. It's no worse than rehabilitation really I suppose, but it's not what I'm used to, you see.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Evidence of the Presidents

I will continue to believe in the existence of the President of the USA, because even though I have not seen him, I believe I have seen evidence. Today, driving between Garran and Civic we saw lots of police people standing along the road, and a police car parked in the middle of the road. Many other cars were waiting with the engines turned off, but no one was tooting or making rude gestures.  Surely this is evidence of the President's existence. No one else could cause delays without causing ill feeling as well. Surely.

Also, there were many noisy planes flying above the Parliamentary Regions. And they did claim that it was to prevent air strikes.

No public servants were allowed into Parliament House today.  I didn't see that with my own eyes, though, so I'm not sure if I can use it as evidence for my belief.  I was advised by email. I didn't mind, I had no ill feeling.  Like most other days of my life I didn't have any need to go to Parliament House.

Ah well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The experiment with the bronzer left us with a son and a bathroom basin the colour of a slightly overcooked fashion designer.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Should or could or must

Things that must be done today
Food and grocery shopping
Washing of clothes and dishes
Water the herbs and the lemon tree
Put out the rubbish

Things that should be done today
Baking of chocolate biscuits to say thank you to all the coworkers for sponsoring Junior in the walkathon

Things that could be done today
Trimming the rosemary, the mysterious hedgey plant and the other mysterious creepy plant
Thinking about Diana Wynne Jones
Moving the old desk out of the study

Things that have been done today
Shopping at Fyshwick markets and the supermarket
Clothes and dishes cleaned
Plants both watered and trimmed (hands with pleasantly resiny feeling after snipping off lots of rosemary)
Rubbish is out
Had a nice nap

Must be time to read and/or eat.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I wish I was young and in black and white like Bob Dylan in 1963.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Zealand

So, it turns out to be quite hard to write about New Zealand, because it is pretty much exactly as nice and interesting as people are always telling you it is going to be. We only went to the South Island for Reasons, so apologies to not looking up people who I would like to look up who all live in the North Island. You know who you are. Anyways, the family is determined to return to New Zealand shortly (given the niceness and all, it would be foolish not to), so we can see all the bits that are not between Christchurch and Invercargill.

Expected things about New Zealand
  • It is indeed very green, especially to a jaded Australian eye from old wide brown land, etc.
  • There are indeed a lot of sheep (in fact, so many that this nearly makes it into the list of unexpected things about New Zealand, because there are really lots and lots, although Roger at the Bed and Breakfast in Oamaru tells me that there are a lot less sheep than there used to be).
  • You can eat a lot of delicious stuff including ice cream, lamb, venison, squid, salmon and oysters.

Unexpected things about New Zealand
  • There's not a lot of traffic south of Dunedin.
  • Regional towns act like small cities instead of horrifying outposts of boredom and Mad-Max-ish driving.
  • If you drive for a couple of hours the geography looks really, really different to the place you left (alluvial plains, snow capped mountains, rolling green hills, rugged coast, valleys).
  • Nearly everywhere looks very tidy (even the sheep are clean). I realise this may be only to the uneducated, Australian eye. Although I did see a hedge made of gum trees. I don't think it has ever occurred to an Australian that you can tidy up gum trees.

Highlights of our New Zealand experience
  • The $1.50 ice creams at the Rob Roy Dairy in Dunedin. This may explains why many University of Otago students looked both happy and perhaps slightly chubbier than some other university students I have known. Or it might have been their puffy jackets -hard to tell. Anyway, for $1.50 you get a gigantic scoop of delicious creamy goodness, and when you are amazed at how cheap it is, the person serving behind the counter will laugh at you. May have a big queue.
  • Botanic gardens and parks. We closely inspected the ones in Christchurch, Invercargill and Queenstown, but I must say that there are many more that deserve a visit. We got there just in time to really enjoy the daffodils. And I may also add that bulbs and annuals and flowering bushes really make sense in New Zealand gardens - they don't have that look of grimly holding their leaves to their stems until the rains come that many non-native plants (and really a lot of natives too) have here. Poor old drought-ridden Australia. It makes me sad how we misuse you so.
  • Bookshops, art galleries and museums. It seemed like every town we stayed in had all three, or more than one of each. My favourite was the public art gallery in Dunedin, which arranges the work in its permanent collection by a method other than sequentially, which led to some interesting conversations. Also, top merch.
  • Lake Wakatipu at Queenstown. It's huge and blue and so clear that when you go to the top of the Skyline thingy on the hill behind Queenstown, you can still see through the water. Also, you can catch the TSS Earnslaw across the lake, and be amused by a man about some sheep. The husband (who enjoys a good holiday) and I had some discussion about whether or not enjoying this made us Old Codgers, but we decided that we would have probably enjoyed it any time and at any age. I think we were pretending to be in a turn-of-the-century novel. Well, I know I was, I shouldn't speak for others.
  • Pretty much everything else.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Responsiblity and being self-deprecating and being kind of over it.

The thing is, when I decided I could actually become a public servant I decided that I would shed all of that Gen X Douglas Coupland* knee-jerk irony stuff and become born-again sincere. And you know, it's kind of been good. It's been good actually trying hard at stuff instead of trying to look like you're not trying hard at stuff. It's been good paying people sincere compliments and and trying to take Jane Bennet approach to life instead of the Mr Bennet approach to life. But eventually I've even started to annoy myself, and I'm a bit tired of wearing that costume.

It might be the whole asylum seeker thing. What's the point of doing your best for people who clearly don't want your best?**I mean, really?

And then I was thinking about all the people I'm responsible to and for, and that maybe having a decent work-life balance is all about actually thinking about that for a change, instead of letting other people push a person into certain positions, and that Jane Bennet did end up ripped off by Lydia all the time and I bet even she eventually found herself feeling a tiny bit irritated.

So I think my responsibilities are first of all to the junior, because he had no choice in the matter of whether he got to be here or not, and I did, and I chose to be responsible for him.

Next is probably to myself, but I'm very bad at this, so I tend to avoid the question by reading genre fiction and wishing I was better at craft and eating chocolate.

I think the husband should come next, because he is the only person on the planet I've stood up and made promises to about how we will treat each other for the rest of our lives. I am unsure if it would make a difference if those promises were private or unspoken, which probably could do with a bit more scrutiny.

Next is probably BDE, or work generally, because if I don'd do a good job of that, the food and place to live and buying books at Canty's part of my life will become much more difficult and I like very much that they are not difficult at the moment. Perhaps that is after all only part of my responsibility to myself.

But I did also make promises to the BDE about things I would and would not do. I try very hard to keep those promises but that whole 'speaking to people respectfully' thing can be difficult on days of stress and fury. I try not to have too many days when every sentence is silently apended with, 'you idiot', inside my mind, but by golly it can be tough.

So my thinking on responsibility has only got that far, and after that comes 'everyone and everything else', which is a pretty broad category including the dolphins, that lizard that lives in Majura where the kangaroos graze, bus drivers who look grumpy, the person running late for the bus, local business owners, booksellers and publishers and people who don't know where to put apostrophes. And obviously friends-and-relations, but their lives are their business (much like the husband and the junior) so I don't really intend to tell you a lot about that here.

So, I wonder, who and what are you responsible for? And are the servants taking advantage terribly of your good nature?

*I had to go and look on the shelf to see of it was spelled Coupland or Copeland, but then I realised I could google it. You know, our built-in bookshelves are right next to my little computer table. I can see you David Mitchell, I can see you Kerry Greenwood, I can see you Evelyn Waugh, I can see you Peter Temple. I won't admit to seeing quite a lot of you, just like Ms Roxane never, ever saw anyone called my name in the magic mirror. I hate you Romper Room.

**I hasten to add that my work has utterly nothing whatsoever to do with asylum seeker policy, and I can say, consistently with the BDE's social networking policy, that my views on the asylum seeker debate are most emphatically, sincerely and heartily not the views of the Government, but only my own, personal views as a person. Personally.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cleanliness is next to expensiveness, disclosure is not next to closure

I have very clean teeth.

I forgot to take photos at the ball, so you will all just have to believe that I looked as beautiful as Grace Kelly, except maybe a bit more beautiful.

My endorse of the day is that Gandel Hall at the National Gallery of Australia is a damn fine spot to hold a ball in, if you are in the mood. But, as Mrs Jennings might say, the dance floor was a sad crush.

Oh, and I have to tell you (since you all know that I am a public servant) that all of the opinions in this blog are only my own, poor personal opinions, and not the opinions of the Best Department Evah or the Government-at-large. Apparently blogging does not entitle me to represent myself as representing everyone else in the country. Who knew?

Reading this policy today about the use of social media by those-who-have-sold-their-souls-to-the-government-for-filthy-lucre made me think that it might actually only be the Second-or-Third-Best-Department-Actually. There it is. I guess the honeymoon is over. Although, reflecting on my diet over the past three years, I think I have sold my soul for filthy sucre, not filthy lucre, and maybe dropping the honey will have health benefits anyway.

I feel fairly confident the government more generally does not have a policy position on my teeth, and if they did I feel confident that dental care would be covered under Medicare.

Anyway, no cavities, which is more than I deserve.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In which more week happens

Kid got sick and then got better again. Husband still sick. Hot water service broke (but nice man from Rheem came and fixed it all up very quickly indeed and for a lot less than a new hot water serivce, plus free advice on energy saving options).

Co-worker turns out to have a broken hand, due to the accursed netball end-of-the-finger injury. She might miss the ball (exclamation marks unto infinity), not the netball, the dancing one. She has been out of work all week, and had to have her job interview for her very own job with a broken hand. I feel like we should be given some kind of degree of difficulty points.

The doctor has given me powerful steroids for my horrible allergies. Apparently they may cause mood changes, lack of appetite and inappropriate euphoria. No evidence yet, unless laughing more than ususal at Bargain Hunt counts as inappropriate euphoria. The kid says that I am not acting any stranger than usual, and I certainly ate plenty of splodge for dinner.

In my defence, Bargain Hunt was pretty funny tonight, and the guy was not even wearing his pink trousers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The week ahead

Involves a head cold, a job interview (pretty much for mine own job which I do love), a haircut, a ball, a dentist appointment, a learning journey in which we observe that the junior has learned to do things such as paint and write, several bus trips, a few car trips, some dry cleaning and maybe a bit of hemming.

I would prefer that the head cold and the job interview were at different ends of the week, alas.

My mum is today having an openly sustainable house, to show off the aquaponics and the vegies. My brother is doubtless feeling pleased at the puissance of the Blues. My son is watching the telly and my husband is reading Judge Dredd.

I'm about to go and nap again, and examine the probability of ingesting more cold and flu tablets.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


One of the things about the public service is left overs to be eaten after meetings. When I was but a lowly temp in various Queensland public service agencies, the leftovers tended to be open sandwiches or a luxurious range of cakies. On a bad day it would be muffins or chocolate biscuits.

In the Commonwealth, if you get anything at all, you get an Arnotts assortment, meagrely served out at one biscuit per person, with everyone desperately diving for the scotch finger and dreading the milk arrowroot.

In one section I worked in, various policy officers used to bake at home and bring in treats especially for meetings with State and Territory public servants, because we all felt embarrassed at the disparity between what they offered us, and what we offered them (which was a glass of water and an invisible plate of nothing). Until someone got worried about food hygiene, and about the ethics of causing food poisoning in people who had to fly from Canberra to Perth.

I have heard that they serve mini sausage rolls in Western Australia, but I think it's a myth.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One door

A while ago in government-land there was discussion of this one door idea, where if someone walked into a government office or rang up a government telephone or emailed a government computer, the person who talked to them would help them find the service or information they needed, rather than saying, 'aaaw, that's the Department of Sod Off's responsibility, I couldn't possibly help you'.

First things first, it kind of came as a shock to me that many government employees weren't very interested in applying this concept. Although as a person with a rich and nuanced relationship with Centrelink, you'd think I would know better*. Some people really resent being made to look outside their tunnel, it seems.

Second, you realise after a bit that government is damnably complicated and it's not so much that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing but that the left hands are all off together playing Twister with an octopus, while the right hands are trying to make margaritas out of sunshine and pith helmets, while being given advice by someone who thinks there is no credible evidence as to the existence of cocktails of any kind.

Thirdly, lots of us don't really deal with the public very much and get used to dealing with people who are already very well informed about the problems they are trying to deal with and how government works, so it's actually a bit of a shock when someone rings up asking for help.

I like the idea of one door. I hate abandoning people who need help. I try hard to find the right person or information they need. But sometimes it's actually bloody impossible and sometimes there is no help available, for one reason or another.


*Also recognising the many wonderful and helpful people from Centrelink who helped solve the problems and idiocies caused by the hideous and unhelpful people from Centrelink and various hideous and unhelpful government policies of the day. Policies du jour. I would rather soup, thanks.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Father's Day

Yes - presents, coffee, bacon, Mr Bean, Canty's, Yarralumla nursery, reading, sleeping, roast dinner.

No - politics, vacuuming, paperwork.

Friday, September 2, 2011

More Cinderalla stuff

So, it turns out what this person wears to a ball is a fabulous 1960s cocktail frock with matching evening coat, in white, pale gold and silver. It's gorgeous, and it's for grown-ups!

Miraculously, it also fits like it was made for me and is incredibly flattering as well.

The ball is in two weeks, so I'll try to remember to post photos.

Off to do make up research. This is fun.


Right now I am reading The Rose Grower by Michelle de Kretser, and simulateneously A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

I have to say I would not be doing a far, far better thing myself, probably.

One was a hard cover and the other was an emergency read on my phone. The happy thing about my new phone is that you can easily download books on it and then if you haven't got a book on the bus, you can read one of the books on the phone (provided it is also on the bus). It has rather made me more keen for an e-reader of some kind.

I nearly wrote my honours thesis on e-readers, but then I got pregnant and somehow I changed my mind. Lucky, I'm sure my conclusions would now be embarrassingly out of date (although possibly hilariously so).

Everywhere I go I end up in the kid's section. Which is odd, because I don't think of myself as a particularly kid friendly person. My honours thesis ended up being on Australian children's books that explicitly dealt with cross-cultural relationships. I forgot to put that into the introduction, though, so the thesis probably could have been a bit clearer and a bit less like 'here's some interesting books I read once' for the first couple of pages.

This week it has been tough being apolitical at work, and many of my sentences have had a silent addendum of 'you idiots'. Some of the people I have worked with from the Outside have been a little less helpful than might be hoped, and have taken on a slightly threatening tone, even though as far as I can tell we were doing exactly what they wanted us to do. Odd, odd, odd. I would recommend the following if you are wanting something from the Government:
1. Ask nicely and explain exactly what you want.
2. Explain exactly what you want again.
3. If you get exactly what you want, don't start swearing.
4. If you don't get exactly what you want, ask nicely why not.
5. If you can do something to address the concerns of 'why not' do so nicely and clearly.
6. see 3 and 4
7. If you still don't get exactly what you want, remember that you might be asking the Government for something in the future, and weigh up whether swearing is a good idea or not. It might be your preferred next step, but have a good reason for it other than 'bollocks, I'm fed up'.
8. If the individual representing the Government swears back at you, make a complaint.
9. If you are pretty sure the individual representing the Government has been using their high-level negotiating skills on your behalf, find someone else to swear at, especially if you have now got exactly what you want.
10. A bit of flattery never goes a-stray.

And what with the reporting of this High Court decision I could just spit. Dear journalists, if you don't understand legal stuff, you can ask a lawyer. There are about a million billion of them in Australia and they, as far as I can tell, really like explaining things to people. Lots. Some of them write for newspapers, so you can probably find their phone numbers pretty easily.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What are public servants for?

James Whelan from the Centre for Policy Development has just written a report on the public sector, called The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report.

Larvatus Prodeo has a post about it. Several hours after posting, there's one comment. Which rather makes me think people are considerably less fired up about the role of the public service than they are about a wide, wide range of other issues.

Here are some reasons why this might be the case.
  • Public servants are often the ones doing the work that we loathe the government for doing. It's hard to care about people you think are acting wrongly.
  • We take all the good things the public service do for granted because we are utterly used to them being provided with a minimum of fuss (unless we are poor in which case see the point above and imagine dealing with Centrelink on a bad day).
  • Stereotypes about public servants say that we are overpaid, lazy bludgers ripping off the taxpayer*, so it's hard to care about us as people, or acknowledge the work we do.
Larvatus Prodeo asks the question, what are public servants for? I'm looking forward to thinking about that more, but I'm afraid I'm not so clear on the answer. I fear I know quite a bit about what I do, but much less about why and what overall I should be achieving.

I also saw, today, an art work from 2003 that talked about four different models of disability. I know I don't want the public service to be 'for' the administrative model, for people with disability or for anyone else for that matter.

*Incidentally, I love how there is only one taxpayer in some of these discussions. She must be righteously pissed off, I reckon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Worring and suchlike

Travel insurance is a very good thing, because it means that there are less things to worry about, except you can add worrying about the travel insurance itself if you are a very thorough worrier.

Worrying about work gets into your sleep, until you are dreaming about what the Remuneration Tribunal might do. Which is hardly worth worrying about even when awake, because they just do what they do. Do do do dooby dooby doo.

That wasn't me, by the way, that was my work mate, who is not such a worrier generally.

Other things you can worry about: illness, assignments, money, if the mould can be scraped safely off the jam, global inequalities, missing the bus, whether worrying gives you grey hairs or only wrinkles, warts. Warts are not caused by worrying. There is no such thing as worry warts, whatever people might say.

Global warming is a good worry option, because it introduces a wide range of second-order worries, including worrying about how so many people ended up being idiots. Or maybe that's more of a wondering than a worrying.

You can worry at knitting, but only if you are a small dog in an English story for children. You can worry about time travel, but it never seems to come to much, so maybe worrying works as a prophylactic after all.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cinderella moments

So, Best-Department-Evah is having a ball this year. They tried to organise one last year, but everyone was a bit 'meh' what with the extended caretaker period and not knowing if we'd have jobs and all.

This year everyone is very keen, and in a moment of uncharacteristically wild girliness I have purchased a ticket. I'll be sitting with a group of people from my grad year (2008). They are quite a bit with the younger-and-thinner than I am, of course, and many of them have been to balls quite recently, I believe.

Last time I went to a ball was in 1989 and it was my final year of high school. My dress was made by my mum, and was a Mariana Hardwick knockoff, burgundy shot silk kind of jobby. Shawl shoulders and long, black gloves. Those of you who were around in the late 1980s will be able to visualise, I am sure. The puffiness in the skirt region was down to stiffened black tulle, and my mum boned the bodice for all she was worth, and I could still breathe so you can see what a genius she was. It didn't really look like this, but it didn't exactly look unlike that either (especially to the untutored, not growing up in the 1980s sort of eye). It was like a slight pretension to good taste version of that.

Now, as I understand it, fashion has moved on a bit in the formal frock stakes, and also I am not seventeen any more. My other experience of formal evening wear was from 'doing my deb' in 1988.* This dress was also spectacular and most foofy with a skirt of five layers of tulle and a stretch satin bodice, so I looked like a cross between a ballet dancer and Madonna on a modest day. This too, I belive, would not be an appropriate option. Although if I wasn't three times wider now than I was then, I might be tempted to give the bodice a red hot go.

Also, I have since forgotten how to dance, although back in the day I could do the Pride of Erin and the tangoette like nobody's business.

So, what does a person of almost-forty wear to a ball? A person no longer has access to genius, dress-making relatives and a person's wardrobe is filled with suits of black and grey.**

On the upside, no pumpkins will be harmed.

*Why yes, we did have a bicentenary theme, thanks for asking. The table decorations were yellow and green and included bunches of helium ballons. Bewdiful.

**How a person became the sort of person to have a wardrobe full of suits of black and grey is another story. Suffice to say, it surprises me every single morning. I used to have a wardrobe (or more accurately a clothes rack and a messy pile on the floor) full of 1960s cocktail dresses and a selection of Useful A-line Skirts - suitable for every occasion. I would like to wear a 1960s cocktail dress to the Ball, but I no longer have Twiggy sized hips, so I set my frocks free for others to find and love.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good news

My broccoli is starting to broccle. Take that old frost.

I am off to Brisbane and other regions of south east Queensland for a few days with the junior. They have less frost up there.

In two days I have seen the former PM and the former Chief Minister, but in different places. One of them is very thin.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Recommending a book I haven't read yet myself.

Peter Salmon's new book (and first book for that matter) is called The Coffee Story.

He is someone I have known for a very long time, or at least knew very well for a very long time some time ago, and I remember him talking about writing a book about coffee and thinking about it for very long time.

I will read it when I stop panicking about Executive Power and the writing of 7,500 word essays. If you are in a panic-free zone you could probably read it now, if you felt like it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In which I have nothing to say because I have so much to say

You may have noticed, by not visiting, that I have not had much to say of any consequence of late. There are several reasons. One is that I am tired from working a more grown up sort of job. One is that the Noodle has expressed a wish that I not blog about him very much any more, and I try to respect that.

One is that many of the things I care about overlap with my work, and I am never sure what the Commonwealth owns and what I own with the information and the thinking so it seems I should err on the side of silence. This is a good thing because it means I am doing a job that I really like and care about, but gosh it's an odd feeling not knowing who owns stuff that is inside my own head.

Another one is that I am not reading the way I used to. Something inside my mind just doesn't do it right now. No doubt it is because my brain is busy with a bunch of other stuff, but it is messing with my sense of who I am and what I am for.

So all this adds up to me not being sure if I need to blog at all right now, because writing for people to read isn't really happening. So if I don't come back for a bit, thanks for all the interest and comments and general making the world a bit more intering-ness over the past few years because the thing that I miss is the sense of being in a conversation with other people that can roam and ramble and still make some kind of sense. And somehow I still feel a bit lonely for that, even though I am talk talk talking all the day long.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ms Broccoli, meet Ms Frost, MsFrost, Ms Broccoli

Frost, I know that Broccoli has never done you any harm. So please leave Broccoli alone from now on, eh? I am starting to think that you are a bully.

It's probably too late for poor old Mr Lettuce.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Grown up

In the past year I have obtained a driver's licence, a house and a proper job.

Coco, Coco never meant it to be this way, as Sandra Berndhardt once said.

On the upside, I still can't manage to tell when to use 'license' or 'licence', so that's something I suppose.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Autumn leaves

Also, if you go behind the West Block in the Parliamentary Triangle* you will find a most satisfactory build up of autumn leaves at the bottom of a small hillock.

Dust-free and private. Actually, probably only private on weekends, but if you don't mind showing off your autumn leaf crunching action to a bunch of desk-bound public servants you could go tomorrow.

Are there public servants in the West Block? Maybe it's the ghosts of public servants from 1927. They would be more used to looking at sheep and British royalty, I guess.

*Don't believe Wikipedia, though. If we called it the ParTri we would be well and truly Looked At. Someone is being a bit TriHard to my thinking.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Say yes to climate action

Have been an active citizen by attending the climate change rally here in Canberra. It feels a little odd rallying in front of Parliament House, when the politicians are presumably home for the weekend, but there it is. Symbolism and all that.

As to the number of people, there were Lots. Organisers estimated 10,000. John Hewson spoke sensible words, wondering why the topic was politicised when it was clear that something had to be done and nearly everyone wants something done.

I heard a rumour that two people turned up to protest against a carbon tax, with a sign saying that the next tax would be a tax on breathing.

There weren't many funny signs at all, but plenty of dogs. It was very cold and I wished I had brought a nice thermos of tea.

Everyone was encouraged to write to their local member, to the Prime Minister and to the Leader of the Opposition. Rude comments about the Leader of the Opposition were very infrequent, presumably on the basis that he gets quite enough attention anyway thank you very much and that his opinion on climate change is only worth ignoring.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chatter chatter chatter

Does anyone else's child or more junior acquaintances go through days (and days and days) where they just dont' stop talking and everything they say is either about Dr Who or about something completely random and there are no segues?

A brief sample:
Are there more naughts in naughts and crosses?
Fozzy Bear tells really bad jokes, remember the one where the telephone spurts smoke out at him and Animal pours water on the phone?
I am not being slow, I'm getting ready, really.
And then, when they landed on that planet, the daleks were already there....
MUM INTERJECTS - Are we talking about Dr Who now, which one?
The one from Series 3, you know.
MUM REPLIES - No, I don't remember Series 3 because it was made before I was born.
Oh, well, the daleks were already there and the Dr had to destroy them all, but Daleks can always come back, like in the one where Donna Noble got the Dr's brain but then she couldn't handle it and *looks in another direction*
I still have three timtams left, you don't have any timtams left.
And then Jackson shouted at me about my technology project and all he was doing was painting stuff and WE HADN'T EVEN FINISHED BUILDING THE WALLS YET.
(Odd snorty noise somewhere between a laugh and a death rattle).
Blah blah blah blah.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dr Who

So, the kid is too scared to actually watch the present series of Dr Who but is besotted with Dr Who. Thanks to the glories of the internet, he can now read the plot summaries of every episode, watch trailers, read the Wikepedia entries on all the Dr Whos ever made and so on ad infinitum. He is a very well informed Dr Who scholar, but really has not seen very many episodes of Dr Who. Even the non-scary ones set off the dalek nightmares, alas.

Also, Dr Who inspires some pretty amazing home made merchandise.

In other news, the husband is building us built-in bookshelves so we can isolate the paperbacks.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Off to Mexico and changing my name to Trotsky

Hoping next week I am a better public servant, student, parent and all round human being.

I would just like to mention to the world-at-large that human rights are for humans. All of them.

I would just like to mention to myself that humans who don't respect other people's human rights, still have human rights. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New job

For the first time ever, I think, I have been told off for not expressing my opinion strongly enough.

Week of deadline horror.

What am I talking about again?





Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rage and silence

Part of the reason I am not blogging so much at the moment is because I am filled with rage at all kinds of things and I could easily become a little indiscriminate about it all.

Suffice to say my poor colleagues are not receiving quite as much consideration and are starting to look a little glassy eyed.

I will say that I don't think children should be in detention, it's not the decision of the mother to let her two-year-old visit her Dad that caused the kid to be dead, if we had better accommodation for homeless families they might not be living in tents and I think it's wrong to show the dead bodies of people killed in wars and not just for political reasons but because no one should be treated like that whoever they are, and whatever they've said or done.

Also, there is no statutory requirement that little girls wear only pink bathers, good people of Canberra. You can choose another colour.

*Incoherent screaming*

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daleks, curse them

So the kid has developed a full blown Dr Who fandom. Which is all good and proper for a young feller. However, he has also developed three-times-a-night nightmares about Daleks.

Tonight I had to threaten to boot said Daleks on the bottom before he could get to sleep.

It's that kind of violence-is-the-answer thinking that leads to Daleks, you know. I feel like I am on the slippery slope. I bet Davros told his kid that he'd boot his nightmares up the bottom.

Curse that Russell T Davies and that other guy who isn't Russell T Davies.

My mum used to tell me to think of something nice when I had nightmares. So I'd think about Christmas. But then, in my imagination, behind the presents, the silhouette of the vampire would rise*. So it didn't help me sleep, but it did ruin Christmas.

*For reasons I cannot clearly explain the Christmas vampire always arose behind a white, Japanese paper screen. Very eighties**. We never owned a white, Japanese paper screen, or any other kind of screen for that matter. I saw a lot of vampire movies, but there was a never a white, Japanese paper screen in any of them as far as I remember. It was the vampire floating outside the window in Salem's Lot that bothered me***. Mum told me that vampires didn't know the way to our house after we moved. That worked much better. Also, I made the cat sleep on my bed, because that cat was scarier than anything that lived or breathed (or unlived and unbreathed for that matter).

** But not very christmassy, actually, for that matter.

*** I did have one Dr Who nightmare, but it was so scary I couldn't talk about it. My brother had a nightmare about the stomach machine. He has a much, much better imagination than me.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wee, wee, wee

There's a place near Canberra called Wee Jasper. Now we've been there.

Because of where my mind goes, I have to tell you two things. First, yes, it is very small. Second, it has a composting toilet.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Items available within walking distance of new house:
  • three bus routes
  • one adventure playground
  • one petrol station with emergency rations (such as chocolate, chips, bathroom items, white fluffy bread)
  • a church
  • two schools
  • a large and as yet unexplored hill.
Actually, I think the last one is only within walking distance if you are in the mood for quite a long walk and have packed some sandwiches and ginger beer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Quite useful, apparently.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Grumpy land

After a week of monumental effort and patience, today we all hit the wall big time and have been very grouchy and growly and cross.

Hope tomorrow is better, and that I unpack more kitchen equipment.

Today the husband built inserts for the built-in wardrobes. Amazing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Not posting, moving.

Will return after we pack stuff, shift stuff, unpack stuff, decide where stuff is going to go.

Any support for green carpet out there? People think it will date. I'm not convinced that's a bad thing, in a kind of heritage architecture way.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


So, if you don't have children you don't have empathy or love, and if you have ever voted Green you are un-Australian and do not love your family.

What a week.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

In which the angry acorn lady realises that a life of quiet desperation does not have to mean a passive life

Yesterday an angry woman was talking on her telephone. As she spoke, she searched the ground.

She stared, she grimaced, she ground her teeth. She squinted up her eyes and screwed up her nose.

The heel of her high-heeled shoes, poised. And crunch on the acorn.

Stare, squint, poise, crunch. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones

I can't tell you really how sad I am that Diana Wynne Jones has died. While I know it's her books that have been such a big part of my life, I can't help feeling that she has been part of my life too.

Neil Gaiman, who clearly was dearly loved and loving friend of DWJ, has written here.

The Guardian's obituary
is here.

And this comment from Robin McKinley, that this is not the same world without DWJ in it. That describes exactly how I have been feeling.

I feel that something of Sophie's or Cat's future is gone. I feel like something of my past has gone.

Mostly I feel like the world has not stopped enough to notice this terrible thing that has happened.

And I'm so grateful that someone wrote books that were so perfectly what I wanted from a book, so many times and in so many ways.

Edited 29 March to add a link to Farah Mendlesohn's words, including a comment that 'Diana had not just grown fans, she had grown writers.'

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dinner conversation

Last night we went out to dinner with a bunch of friends. The kid ate crunchy noodles with broccoli and beef and hummed 'Girlfriend in a Coma'.

Friends discussed random items such as nappy services, human rights, mandatory detention, real estate, cooking and the drums the drums.

People are quite odd, really.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On being flexible

So this week I am pioneering flexible working hours. The other week at an International Women's Day event, a union representative said that hardly any women in the Commonwealth Public Service are accessing flexible working hours. Quite a few are working part-time, and people use their flextime (oh blessed flextime) on an adhoc basis, but very few to none are using formal flexible working hours.

This told me two things. One, people who are working formal flexible arrangements do not fill in union surveys*. Two, I like a challenge, me.

From this week I will be working four slightly longer days, and one short day on Friday so I can drop the kid off at school and then pick him up again. It took a bit to screw my courage to the sticking place, but no one has blinked an eyelid about it. We'll wait and see what happens when there is an urgent deadline I suppose, but I've always thought that urgent deadlines on a Friday afternoon is a sign of poor management, actually.

This afternoon we went to the bakery for the traditional Friday afternoon bakery treat, and then we played Pandemic. Today was the first time we beat the epidemics, which are very thrilled with. See, shorter working hours save the world!

*Because I know there are a few people with flexible arrangments at work.

A nice letter to the people who think that paying public servants is a waste of tax payers' money

Dear tax payers who would rather their money was not spent on paying public servants, because you think it is a waste of your money,

Which of these things would you like to give up today?

Well maintained roads
A health system that is available if you have an emergency
An air safety system
The defence forces
The police forces
Public toilets
Public gardens
Clean air
Clean water
Access to drinking water in your taps
A system that takes your smelly pooh and wee away from your house
Children's television
Classical music
Food that is safe to eat
Medicine that you can afford to buy
A system that protects your children from being exploited for their cheap labour
Public transport
Road safety
Australian Standards
Research that might save your life
Family tax benefits
The age pension
Benefits for veterans
Quarantine which keeps things like rabies out of the country

I could go on, but I'm sure you get my point.

Lots of love

A Public Servant (who also pays taxes, actually)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Physics is the jazz of science

You have to watch your mouth.

Weird things can come out of it.

Friday, March 18, 2011


At the swimming pool today, some kid called my kid a loser.

My kid is in a beginner swimming class, despite being 9, because he has missed out on a lot of swimming-class chances through being sick or recovering from being sick. Getting cold is a real problem for him, and it's harder than you think to find very warm swimming pools.

I think the other kid called my kid a loser because he was in that class.

My kid was pretty calm about it. Generally he thought it reflected badly on the other kid, not on him. My kid said sometimes other kids at school have called him a loser, but he doesn't mind because no one likes those other kids. None of his friends or people whose opinions he cares about would say such a thing, he said.

I wasn't calm about it. My first impulse was to go and push the other kid over. My kid said it's lucky I'm not the kind of person who actually does things like that.

He's very sensible. I remain outraged.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Little Blog of Calm

I've decided to change the focus of my blog from wild rants to *deep breath* caaaaaaaaaaalm.

So you can all think about beautiful rainforests and rain drops on kittens and eylashes made out of string.

Or you could go and have a nice swig of Drambuie, which is what I am going to do shortly.

Ponting's day soured further, according to SBS

No one is reporting on the relative sourness or sweetness of my day, even though I write for Australia just like Ricky Ponting throws tanties bats for Australia.

Sour things:

Being impressed by that new ad about getting fit and losing weight and instead of just saying (in a 1930s cricket kind of tone) 'Oh well done, chaps' I yelled out a fake siren noise 'woot woot woot, look outside, someone in the public service had time to think, mustn't be working hard enough, give them some more busy work'. Even though today I spent the whole day (except for one very productive and short meeting) doing research and thinking without being bothered once. Sourness rating - 4 out of 5 non-Meyer lemons.

Sweet things:

Well, literally, lots and lots of cake. I spilt the cherry tart on the floor, but didn't spill any of the three-layer vanilla and cream sponge cake. The sponge cake made me think of Mrs Jackson (my grandma's next door neighbour). Mrs Jackson made a killer sponge cake, which I rarely got to taste because the only time it ever entered Grandma's house was on the occasion of Grandma's birthday, and she was not going to share, not on your nelly. I snaffled some once, by promising I wouldn't tell anyone else that I'd had some.

Mrs Jackson also had a few ABBA records and a record player with a microphone and a seemingly endless tolerance of a six year old dancing and singing along to Dancing Queen. She also liked my outfit of a nylon lace petticoat over the top of a red skivvy. I blame this approval for pretty much every outfit I wore between 1986 and 1994.

Things neither sweet nor sour:

The husband has packed 32 boxes of books to date. I have chucked out various random bits and pieces. I have been planning a Slightly Old Fashioned Buffet Supper followed by Parlour Games for a house warming.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sticky beaks

So why does the bank need to know our marital status anyway?

So why does the bank, having demanded we tell them our marital status, get it wrong and write 'de facto' in our contract, despite us ticking 'married' in the box in the application?

And where is the 'registered civil partnership' box, if they are really concerned with our status as registered with the government or not?

Is there really no one at the bank who is married but has a different surname to their partner?

And despite us always putting my name first on the forms, as the main breadwinner, why is my name always always below the husband's name on the versions that come back?

And apparently no one has read Anne of Green Gables, because they cannot spell a person's name right.


So yesterday I was working myself up into this big blog rant about value for money and risk and spending so much money on risk and assessing value for money that there's less money to actually do the stuff the government wants to do and how that's really frustrating for public servants because regardless of what you might think public servants take spending tax payers' money very seriously indeed because we are also tax payers and we would really rather spend money sensibly on helping people and why don't they ask more sensible questions about spending money at Senate Estimates hearings and still thinking accountability is really important because there are some bad people and some incompetent people out there and I was feeling very frustrated about it all. And then I stopped and took a breath. And then we solved the problem*. Hurrah.

*when I say 'we solved the problem' I don't mean I have forever solved the many and diverse problems of spending government money, let alone some of the things I would like to see improved about Estimates hearings, I just mean we solved our very small problem about spending a small-ish bit of money on something quite sensible, actually. [Edited on Friday 18 March.] Oh no, we didn't.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day

A person is feeling a bit disenchanted with late-capitalist individualism, actually. Apparently feminism is over because some women can afford $150 bras *insert squeal here*.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Excitment plus fear = something something

Turns out we will shortly own part of a house which we will shortly live in. In 30 years or so, apparently, we'll own the whole house. The bank will let us stay in the house until then, which is nice of them, isn't it?

So all that cash we'll be paying out is not called 'rent' any more, they tell me.

We've run out of domestic sparkling wine.

So, thank you St George, thank you ACT Government's generous stamp duty concessions, thank you dead cousin Billy, thank you ball boys.

Especially thank you to all of you who are about to volunteer to turn up unannounced at our house and pack our books for us. Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

*crickets chirping*

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting older and getting fatter

So I've put on quite a lot of weight over the past few years. Polite friends and acquaintances always make smooshy 'mmm, aaaah, oh I wouldn't say so' kind of noises whenever the topic comes up. But it is a fact, I am now about 10 kilograms heavier than I was 10 years ago, give or take a bit. It's just extra stuff I carry about with me.

It's funny that it keeps coming up with these polite friends and acquaintances. Conversations about weight seem to happen often - it's amazing how many times a new woman acquaintance will basically introduce herself by telling us all about her various food, weight and body issues. I do it too, I know. I don't think it's such a good idea, really, but it seems to be part of ordinary life.

So we talk about our bodies; post pregnancy, after starting postgraduate study, after being in the public service for a few years, back when we were young, after an unhappy love affair. We talk and talk and talk about it. We emphasise our bad points and wax nostalgic about ones we imagine were good back in the day.

Some people talk about their exercise regimes. One woman runs home from work, one cycles and swims every day, one runs up various mountains around Canberra. I know all about it. I know all about which treats people cannot say no to. I know all about the social value of walking to the coffee shop for a morning caffeine and sugar hit with the work crew. I know all about the work events that centre on cake or sausage rolls.

But I'm getting a bit tired of it all, actually.

You know what my body did once? It grew a baby. How ace is that? You know what else it does every single day? It lets me smell and taste and see and read and think and work and listen to birds and look at all the people around me and notice things. Thank you, body, I love you very very much. I will try and make it easier for you to do all those ace things by remembering to take good care of you, just like I take good care of other things I love.

Friday, February 25, 2011


So the box that the husband sent from Vietnam arrived with the coffee in it. Joy.

The people from Buon Ma Thuot must be kind of buzzy, I guess. But happy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jeannie Baker at the National Gallery Australia

Ooh, ooh, ooh*, I said, that looks interesting:

Mirror: intercultural understanding for parents and educators
National Gallery of Australia
Thursday 3 March 5.30 pm
Jeannie Baker, author and illustrator of childrens stories, discusses Mirror, her recently published childrens book about the parallel lives of children living in different cultures. Inspired by childrens exhibition Connections.

*I really did, in a quite squealy sort of tone.

Oh listen, it's the Prime Minister

Julia sounding very Prime Ministerial on Radio National, huzzah. She is telling us nice things about what it is to be Australian (adaptable, resilient, not selfish) and that a carbon tax will certainly have price impacts because that is the whole damn point - to make polluting more expensive and to make not-polluting less expensive. It's not, as they say, rocket science.

Unless you actually have a very polluty rocket, but I understand that rockets are quite expensive regardless.

No news on a pullulating tax, which is good news for my pumpkin plant.

Oh, look, it's Cleopatra

If denial rises any higher we're going to need Anna Bligh round here, I fear.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oh I don't know

Stuff happened, and then some other stuff happened. Traffic.

Angry at woman at the service station.

Ice cream. Lentil salad. Not in that order.


Compliment on cupcakes.

Blood out to the Red Cross. Crackers and cheese in from the Red Cross.

Fainty man.

Leftover salt and vinegar chips. Give em away give em away give em away now.

Multiculturalism, yes, racism, no.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Townhouse and debts.

So it seems we may have bought a townhouse, good bank willing and the creek don't rise.

Actually, it's a building society, not a bank, we are waiting judgement from. Is a funny old thing, telling a building society everything about your financial history. Also, I think instead of first home buyer grants, the government should just wipe your HECS debt, should you happen to have acquired one over a 20 year period.

And I would just like to say that 'indexation' over the period of my various HECS debts adds up to $5569 (including minus $3.00 in 1998 during a period of negative inflation). That's a graduate certificate or half a masters degree right there. Effectively in my earning career I have so far not quite managed to pay off the indexation. This seems somewhat wrong-ish to me.

I don't think our townhouse will be the same as Mr Darcy's townhouse.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Having a career through training courses

In the comments down there, a person named Anonymous said she was being sent on a training course to learn how to have a career. I, too, will be attending such a course in some few weeks. After that I expect you all to address me as 'sir' and to compliment me on my suit.

You can see I have some prejudices about constructing a career. I hope the course I am attending is not one of those de-programming kinds of jobbies where I am beaten with hosepipe and not allowed to go to the toilet while having my eyelids propped open with matchsticks.*

I have attended very much training in my last three years as a public servant. My public service anniversary was, in fact, 4 February 2011. The first two weeks were entirely training, if you can believe such a thing. Important bits I remember are how fire sprinklers work, that we should have our chairs at a comfortable level, how to make a tower out of spaghetti and straws and that some of my new colleagues were so competitive that they would rather everyone in the group lose if they couldn't as individuals win. I am still processing that last bit, but thinking about it sometimes makes me cry still. I suspect they also taught us about filing, writing letters to members of the public and where the ATM was. That knowledge has all become so entrenched that I can't really imagine not knowing it, so I can't really remember learning it.

Other training courses I have attended at work include:
  • team building (and finding out what colour my personality is)
  • managing up
  • negotation skills (finding out what letter my personality is)
  • innovative thinking (finding out it doesn't matter what colour your personality is, provided you have six thinking hats of different colours)
My personal favourite trainig of all time is 'Public Service Accountabilities'. In this fabulous course (and I am not being sarcastic) you learn about what it is that makes public servants so noble and useful in the world, and how not to waste the money of the glorious taxpayer. I avoid wasting the taxpayer's money, and avoid traffic at the same time, but taking the train to the airport in Sydney. My next money saving attitude is to avoid going to Sydney in the firstplace, but sometimes that approach fails.

However, despite the smart-arsy tone up there, I do love going to training. One of the things I really, really miss about university is sitting around in a room with a bunch of more-or-less interesting and pleasant companions and just learning stuff. Apparently it turns out that I don't so much mind what stuff I'm learning. Although I can tell you, I won't be writing an essay on team building any time this side of NEVER EVER.

I could propose saving taxpayer money by doing less training, but generally each course does give one or two dashed handy hints or bits of information. And it also stops me from losing my mind and becoming very inefficient, ineffective and uneconomical.**

Anyway, I have no sensible way to wrap up this little diversion. The End.

*You can see which kinds of novels and movies I get my ideas from can't you?

**Recently the procurement guidelines were altered from telling us that spending had to be 'efficient, effective and ethical' to efficient, effective, ethical and economical'. This seems to be rather uneconomical and duplicatey to me, I must say.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I don't think I've ever had a career, as such, except for that kind of one where you are rushing down a hill out of control. That would pretty much describe lots of my life, with periods of finding myself in some kind of ledge or trench and stuck for a while in between the lurches. There's a Judy Horacek cartoon about being stuck in a rut that two friends used to say described me very well (I think they were my friends) but now I can say with dignity that I have been stuck in quite a lot of different ruts, actually, thank you very much.

At the moment, though, I am not stuck in a rut at work but am quite doing something I think is useful and important with people I like and that I am quite good at.

My new boss, who is one of my old bosses (twice in different jobs) thinks I need a career (you know, the kind of one where you have an orderly and planned progression to ever more high-paying and responsible jobs).

Have any of you had careers, of one kind or another?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In which I learn the present temperature in Brasilia and Juneau

The kid is having fun by looking up the names of cities he can remember, and finding out the temperature. We are enjoying the very hot and the very cold but the moderate is boring us. Most unlike real life.

I have also learned that there is a place called Livingstone in Scotland, and more than a handful of places called Livingstone in the United States of America. Many of them are experiencing the aftermath of that big snowstorm they had over there.

Apparently the cool change has arrived in Sydney, Australia.

The Internet. It educates and delights and occasionally drives wild with bored horror at the amazing level of detail available to those who can wreak the detail-evil (ie any child under fourteen).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Commonwealth public servant

Dear everybody

When I say I am a Commonwealth public servant it does not mean I work for the Australian Tax Office. Apart from anything else I can't count or add up.

I like to think that I write for Australia.

lots of love


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my

So this week it is a cyclone. Mum and her partner live in Cairns. She said earlier today that she has been saying goodbye to all her books, just in case the roof comes off.

At least we didn't send the junior up there for a post-flood, second attempt Queensland holiday I suppose. It must be nice for him to miss a disaster.

Thinking of other friends and family and family members of friends and friends of family members up north.

Not to speak of the iced-in Americans. What a strange few weeks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

By the time we hit St Vincents, I mean Canberra Hospital

Old junior has had to go back into hospital for a few days. This time he stayed in Canberra. It is much easier being in hospital in your home town, or at least it is easier on your parents.

He has now been in hospitals in Barcelona, Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney. There are many letters in the alphabet yet to go, but I am hoping we complete none of them.

I am supposed to be having a little rest before I go back to the hospital for the night shift. But it is too hot to rest and I have eaten too much chocolate to feel rest-needy even though I am quite, quite tired. The husband has done the past two night shifts on the creaky folding bed in the ward. I am tired because last night I went to watch Paul Kelly's L-S show at the Canberra Theatre. Night Three is a mixed bag, he said and he was right.

The kid and I were supposed to go together but this whole hospital event put a stop to that. It was very kind of the husband to insist on me going.

Hopefully the kid will be discharged some time tomorrow. His numbers are going in the right directions, and he is feeling pretty much fine apart from the irritations of blood tests and drips and so on and so forth. I think he is missing the specialists in Sydney, though. No one here is quite as funny as them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Australia Day

Read the Honours Lists. I like lists. No one I know won a public service medal this year. Sandra Sully won an award though, for services to foreign affairs reporting and rural reporting. Jacqui Weaver was nominated for an Oscar. The Oscar award choosing process seems a bit more transparent than the Australia Day Honours choosing process.

At the supermarket this morning there was a sign exhorting the check out people to wear Australian colours, either yellow and green or the flag colours of blue, white and red. My check out person was wearing a white t-shirt with 'PEACE' written in blue, with a deconstructed US flag underneath. I liked her style.

A man pulled into the car park in a station wagon, opened the boot, pulled out a shopping trolley and trundled it over to the trolley parking bit. He was embarrassed, and volunteered the information that the trolley had been at his son's house for five years. I wondered if returning it was patriotism. My mind sprang to milk crates and missing street signs, and I wondered if the man was going to be driving all over the territory returning things today.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Carting a book around wherever you may go

I find that if I don't have a book in my bag I start to feel little twitchy, incomplete, lost and as if I am not quite myself but vulnerable to colonisation.

As long time readers will know, I do a lot of reading on the bus. But presently I am carpooling with a friend-and-colleague who has recently moved into the neighbourhood. Lots of advantages, including sleeping in or doing some yoga in the mornings, nice conversation, driving in the T2 lane, not seeing every house in the suburb before I get home and so on. No disadvantages at all, really.

However, there is no need for me to bring my book. I don't often get a chance to read at lunch time (although I appreciate it when I do). People seem to like to talk to each other at lunch time in my work. Or I go for a nice walk in the sunshine or something.

So my bag is bookless.

It's only been in recent years that I have stopped carrying around three books in my bag. One that I am presently reading, one that I think I will probably read next and one in case that one is not to present taste. Heavy. I stopped because it was incompatible with carting around baby and toddler stuff and not ending up with floor-length arms.

But I was wondering about you all - do you have a book in your bag all the time? Do you have one right now? What is it? Do you sometimes or always have more than one? How do you cope if your day no longer includes random reading moments? Am I acting like a nine year old instead of a thirty-nine year old and should I just get over it?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Transport and communication

In the olden days transport and communication were put together into one government department, because they would build the telegraph and the road or railway together in long, long lines across the country, and the infrastructure went together.

In the present day the phones are down in Gailes and the roads are still blocked between Gailes and the airport, and my son is in Gailes and frankly I think it was time he was home.

Excess water is bad for transport and communication, but that's not why they used to be in one department, actually. It is always nice to catch a train so you can visit someone and say hello, though.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


It seems that most of our Brisbane and Ipswich friends and relations have houses above flood levels. Mark that up to codger-power, and tales of the 1974 floods.

The kid has been staying with his Nana in Gailes, but latest reports say the water lapped the house but didn't come in. Now I am glad she doesn't live closer to the train line.

I guess he'll get home when the roads are passable again. Lucky Nana always has an amply stocked pantry.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I am baking cake

Well, not right this second, but soon.

Given that I am never quite sure if cooking is relaxing or stressful, it is probably a good thing that the family is interstate. Not intestate, though. Legal minds can tell us if you can be intestate while you are alive or if you have to be dead.

It will be a chocolate cake. It will contain nuts. It will not contain raspberries because I am a chicken.

This post is a nightmare for the literal minded.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happiness of the day

A new co-worker who seems to fulfil all the dreams of the team and fill all the gaps of knowledge and general failures of the other team members. Who is also funny.

Outlaws who send chocolate and pictures of nieces.

A weekend away to dream of.