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.