Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hello 2017

I drove hundreds of kilometres today so I could swim in the ocean and wash away 2016.

What a year. Some amazing things happened but there was heartache and difficulty as well. I think it was the worst year of my life, which had nothing to do with dead celebrities.

Happy New Year to all of you. May the Universe be eternally kind, giving and forgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Seeing the future

If anyone had told me eight years when I accepted a job offer from a certain politician that my life would be sent into the spin cycle I would never have believed them.

Last night as I sat drinking Moet with one of the most wonderful, beautiful, clever people I know, I thanked the Universe for the good it has delivered (many of those politicians aside and the good ones know who they are).

There have been times in these past few years when I wanted to shut my eyes and wish everything back to normal, but what is normal? Now, normal is two incredibly strong teenagers who are beginning to make their mark in the world, my new career as an artist, wonderful friends and family. The dark days of the bullying and wretched behaviour by co-workers and sometimes by bosses are long gone. Karma will take care of all of that.

My beautiful friend who visited last night lives on the other side of the world and we met by chance in that first politician's office. Our ritual is we drink French Champagne when we get together. On paper we have little in common, but in real life we have a mutual love and respect, despite our incredibly different upbringings and ages. We can tell each other anything and everything. We offer each other good advice, while shrugging our shoulders at the weirdness of some of the life dilemmas that we face.

For all the bullshit I have been through in the past decade, these new people in my life make me realise that the Universe offers up rewards that we least expect.

This year has been one of the hardest of my life and now that I have the space to breathe I am hearing the same from many others. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger is the worst cliche ever, but it is true.

Bring on 2017.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Reflections of a weekend in Melbourne

Stayed around the corner from the Paris end of Collins Street, Melbourne, the past two nights. Our room overlooked the Treasury Gardens. It seems that wherever I go, I must see trees, even on a two-night visit to another city.

Treasury Gardens*

What a blast is Melbourne. It's so civilised with its shops and people and laneways and free trams.

And the food. The food is delicious and the atmosphere of whatever establishment you are eating in makes the whole meal an experience.

Miss B and I had a bit of a treat, because we deserved it. We went to MEL to shop and we shopped until we almost dropped. Not helped by my foot being injured by a tiny sliver of glass a week ago, a remnant from the courtyard table being smashed by a stray golf ball way back in September. I have swept and hosed and vacuumed but still a sliver of glass found its way into my foot. I thought I had removed all of it, but obviously not, from the courtyard and later from my foot.

Did you know that the only cure for the pain of a sore foot after a day and a half of shopping is a champagne in the middle of the afternoon in Myer? There were Miss B and I, on the down escalator when we saw the champagne bar. "Why don't you have a glass Mum and then you might stop complaining?" my shopping companion asked. That and the two painkillers taken earlier in the day took the edge off the pain momentarily. How civilised to refuel mid store and mid shop?

A couple of comments about Melbourne. Why oh why is smoking such a thing? Every five seconds when we were walking along the streets was yet another smoker. I don't particularly care if people smoke or not, but because #CBR is mostly smoke-free everywhere, I hardly ever get the full-blown smoke attack. And so it was that we both noticed the amount of smoking.

This morning we were off to meet Mr C for breakfast. My poor foot could not cope - especially as sleep had been interrupted in the middle of the night with the hotel's emergency system alerting us all to a smoke alarm. We were not to do anything until further instructions were issued. A few minutes later we were told it was a false alarm. Thanks to some stupid guest obviously lighting up inside.

At least the hotel had the grace to give us a late check-out.

So this morning we caught two trams to the other side of the CBD, for free. How civilised for a city to welcome its visitors and citizens alike.

My only other reflection? Why do the "homeless" beggars of Melbourne have such well-fed dogs? Why do they have shifts of begging? That is all.

*Photos by Miss B.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me

I had no plans for my birthday, other than to have no plans. As it happens, I have had one of the nicest birthdays ever. You know the ones. You want to mooch about and soak up the sun.

My second-born and I spend much of our time together and today we did what we do. Went out and people watched and had a lovely time.

In other randomly important news, the US Presidential election is turning electric. Trump is a disaster but I'm not sure why people have only just realised that. One of his Canberra fans is still a fan...

Regrets? They've had a few

My presents? Flowers, chocolate and a drill. So many people want to lend me a drill, but I have wanted my own for years. Now I have one. Sorted.

After Miss B and I arrived home we (I) did a bit of fussing, then I had a birthday drink with my beautiful neighbour, who, if you could write a recipe for a beautiful neighbour, he fulfils by 100. What a gorgeous person, who has supported me through the past year more than I think he even knows.

I'm calling today my New Year's Day. The past 12 months have been traumatic and dramatic and climactic and the cliche of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". I thought I'd had tough years before this one, but nothing compares. However, I am feeling great. I love the support I have received from many and I thank you excessively for the kind birthday wishes. I repay the kindness in spades. All the love xox

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wander through the tulips

Spring in Canberra means blossoms, blooms and Floriade. Every time I've visited this flower fest, a part of me has wondered at the banality of it. Many, many thousands of blooms plonked in Commonwealth Park on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin always looked pretty but a bit out of place. It does attract hundreds of thousands of visitors so it will not be disappearing anytime soon.

Today I realised why I questioned the concept when Miss B and I decided to head out of town to Tulip Top Gardens at Sutton to soak up the sights and smells of the blooms.

We've had some horrible weather in recent weeks but the tulips here were gorgeous. There was a little sign in each garden bed with the name of the tulip variety, there was music piped to speakers strung in trees, there were frogs croaking in the waterway. The beds, unlike those at Floriade, are shaded by blossom trees and large evergreens. It was a real garden instead of one manufactured in a park each year.

There were a few hundred other people.

It was delightful.

A severe storm last night caused some of the flowers to lose their heads, but most stood sentinel. The ground was a bit wet, but everywhere I've been lately has been either under water or soaked. It's so wet but I do remember the drought through most of the 00s where nothing in our garden could be watered other than by hand as we were on Level 5 restrictions. A surprising number of plants survived.

Now that the air is clearing on events of the past few years I realise the things I miss are a big garden and a Hills Hoist. I can see the joy of planting a garden and tending it over many years and then leaving it for someone else to nurture. My little courtyard is a mass of bulbs, lavender, a weeping cherry, Lamb's ear and a few sweet peas. I'm hoping to do a few home improvements in the next little while and one will be to remove the pebble-crete from the courtyard and remove a few other features left by the Dodgy Bros.

Happy Spring. Happy Sun in Libra. Nice to see the sun today.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The (Gol)"F" word

When you live on the edge of a golf course people have two questions:

1) Do you play golf?
2) Does your house get damaged by golf balls

My answer to both is no. I played golf last century when I was in high school. It was quite fun as a non-team sport activity, but I have not had the time or the inclination to play since. I remember attending an event at the Bowraville Golf Club in my capacity as a cadet journalist with the local paper and I locked the keys in my car. I went into the clubhouse and made an announcement and had about 20 volunteers able and willing to break into the car to retrieve said keys.

When I was moving from Murrumbateman into Canberra I was concerned about moving from a village where there was a horse paddock across the road to suburbia. I would stand at the front door of houses for sale and cross them off the list before going inside, because of the aspect. Seeing 20 other houses from the front door was not what I had signed up to do.

By serendipitous events I found my new place and it sits on the edge of a golf course. This is mostly quite fun with the drama of golfers using the "f" word generously to commentate on their lousy ability. By way of position, we do not ever have any golf balls hitting the full-length windows that overlook the course. The golfers tee off from out the front, at right angles to my place. Only a couple of times have I seen a golfer searching for his (always his) ball and it has landed in my garden.

Tonight, having been away overnight, I went outside to call the cat in from her 10-minute wander and wondered why I couldn't see the reflection of the glass table top. I put my hand where the glass should be and realised there had been an incident.

Let there be light and lo and behold, there was a golf ball centimetres from the door and the glass tabletop shattered into thousands of pieces.

As I said to one of my neighbours, the golfer has to be really crap to be so off point.

And there I was an hour-and-a-half earlier looking at the rainbows guiding me home, as I drove along the Hume and Barton highways, thinking of Mystic Medusa's encouragement to look for signs from the full moon eclipse. The rainbow has always been a sign of enlightenment and guidance for me. Then I get home and the illusion is shattered.

Haha. I look forward to whatever is coming next. It can only be better after the five life events of 2016 ... All the love

Monday, September 5, 2016

Seat 8D

Gum blossom, from a special place

I flew home from MEL last night, after driving to MEL yesterday, with a purpose that was fulfilled. A big day out. On Saturday I checked in online and chose to sit in row 10, by myself, then something made me change the booking to sit next to an occupied seat.

And so I found myself sitting next to a man who is going through his fair share of family shit. I'm the biggest instigator of conversations on planes with strangers. If someone paid me to do that every day I would. Qantas? Virgin? He's about 10 years younger than me but has been thrown out of the marital home where his wife still lives with their two children. These are the children both vowed to never have, until 10 years into the marriage and he was given an ultimatum by her: I have decided to have children and if you do not want to be the father move out now.

He chose to be the father, thinking that if that is what she wanted, she would be happy. Fast forward seven years and she has thrown him out to take up with her lesbian lover. There's a whole lot of mess being flung about but he only wants what is best for their children. His wife, however, has not revealed the real reason for the marriage breakup to her Christian parents. So they treat the SIL as a pariah.  He's lost the couple's mutual friends, but regained many of his friends from years ago. How often does this happen?

It gets better. The new lover has taken on a command and control role and is out-advising the lawyers, so it's all descending into a bit of hell for him. But by gosh he is a nice man. Turns out we have a fair bit in common, family wise, and he was able to give me some advice and comfort.

I'm not a fan of the cliche, but I told him that time does heal wounds. It's hard to imagine that when your world has been upended, but now that I am a few years down the track of life-changing-turmoil, I am beginning to see clear air.

We left each other with a handshake. I felt like giving him a hug, but a handshake was good and appropriate.

When I woke very early this morning I wrote down this line: You are so much more than one half of a broken relationship. Of all the things I said to my plane friend, I wish I had said this. But in the hour-and-a-half conversation we had, I know I said things that he will remember and in these tumultuous times ahead, he will take heed.

He has the opportunity to embark on a revitalised career and is tossing up all the pros and cons of that.

I love talking to people about their lives and presenting options for them. I have my own stuff to sort, but I seem to be quite good at helping others sort their stuff. Perhaps that is where I am heading. I'm not sure. I'm a bit lost, truth be told. I have so much experience in media and politics, but no one is interested in that. No one wants to employ me, so I'm employing myself.  I'm loving my art. But I am lost. And astonished that the bullies and the incompetents I have met continue to have jobs. There is some part of the plan that I obviously do not follow. And if one more person tells me that all I need is to get a foot in the door, I will rip their bloody arms off

All the love xx

PS most saddened to hear of the death of Richard Neville. I've always been a big fan.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What does it all mean?

I always react viscerally when someone is rude to me. Today someone was rude to me.

I was taken aback with the first instance but as I was taught years ago "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing". I said nothing. I bit my tongue. There was so much to say, but I bit my tongue.

When the same person was rude to me again, this time in front of others, I bit back. I wasn't rude, but I demanded that this person not be rude to me.

I do not deserve rudeness from anyone. In recent years I have been treated abominably by quite a few people. For my wellbeing I have chosen to remove myself from situations that other people obviously considered normal, but I did not.

Let's not even go back to childhood when I was bullied at school for having a father who was an Anglican minister. I may as well have had four heads and 16 fingers, I was such a strange creature, apparently. And when I went to my daughter's school this past week to help some Year 8s with their magazines, I read stories about bullying and exclusion and people feeling invisible and I told this most amazing Year 8 student who wrote those stories that nothing has changed in 40 years and I told her she would make it because she is strong. And I could see that she believed me and I'm glad she did because I meant it.

Rudeness and bullying are perpetrated by inadequate, insecure people. They want to bring everyone down to their level. I could never fathom the bullies at work and their modus operandi. How, I would rail to the others, could "Person X" wake up in the morning and think this is an acceptable way to treat another human being. Obviously for them it was. A colleague described one of the bullies recently as a "survivor". Cockroaches are survivors, I responded.

Life isn't about winning and losing. The Olympic Games are about winning and losing and how competitors react to race day is mostly an imperfect science. Good luck to those who have spent years training to compete, thank you to the taxpayers of Australia for funding their dreams. The rest of us have to fund our own dreams. But we all have a life to live,

The motto of the Olympics is Citius, Altius, Fortius (from Latin, Faster, Higher, Stronger).

If you want a modern take on this Michelle Obama said the quote of the year when she addressed the Democratic National Convention: "When They Go Low, We Go High."

I find myself repeating that quote every few days.

Last night I had dinner with a friend. A former colleague had died four months into his retirement. This man was a great friend and support for my friend. We sat and talked about a whole lot of stuff and in the end said: What does it all mean?

By "all" we mean the fussing and the bullying and the jockeying for power and the treating people badly and the bullshit and the sadness and the meanness and the goodness and the friendships and the love. All the love. All the everything that makes the human existence. What are we here for?

In the end we are stardust. Returned to the stars. Dead.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Time for a treat

Miss B and I had a treat today. High Tea at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra with my dear cousin Deb to celebrate a birthday.

It was quite lovely to dress in our Sunday best and go and play ladies for a couple of hours. There were lots of other folk around us celebrating their special occasions. There was a woman celebrating her 40th birthday and a big gathering enjoying a baby shower for the yet-to-be-born Sebastian. There were loads of blue gifts and a big card with the baby's name. I've always wondered what you announce when your friends and family already know the baby's sex and name. And what if the baby doesn't suit his name?

We laughed at all the non-mothers in the party in their designer stilettos. The mum-to-be was tottering around on her high heels. The new mums in the party arrived in their flats. There were two babies and two young boys who were beautifully behaved.

I've had a few special occasions at the Hyatt in Canberra. It is such a beautiful hotel and every time I have been there it has been with people who are some of the most special in my life.

We had lots of lovely treats, including the Lime, Chocolate and Ecstasy Slice. I think the Ecstasy was a state of mind, rather than a flavouring.

There were a few Christmas decorations and some Christmas treats. Christmas in December is enough. We do not need another one in July.

I feel a bit disconnected in Canberra. I have some lovely people but not a big tribe. The winter climate is too cold, but the sun showed its face today.

After High Tea we went to a preview of a Persian Carpet auction. The rugs were amazing, so soft, so colourful, so beautiful. Stunning.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hillary makes history

I watched Hillary Clinton make history today. The former first lady, US Senator and US Secretary of State is the Democratic Presidential candidate.

I happen to have time at the moment to watch whatever I want and listen to anything I feel like. So last week I chose to watch the Republican National Convention and this week the Democratic National Convention.

The highlight of last week was Ivanka Trump. What a sincere woman she appears to be. Good on her.

This week the highlight was Michelle Obama until President Barrack Obama gave his speech yesterday. My goodness, has there ever been a better public speaker? Probably, but I'm not sure who that is this week.

Today I watched Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States.

Why does this mean anything to me?

I have grown up in a time where women were treated like second-class citizens. They have been paid less than men, expected to give up their jobs to stay home with children, shouldered the majority of the second shift ... I resigned from a job many years ago because I was expected to do the same work as a man, but at lesser pay, I missed out on a position because of who my male partner was ... but here today was a woman who has had good times and hard times with her husband who now appears to have his support to run for one of the top jobs in the world.

I liked her speech, I believe she will be a better choice for the US than her opponent, and what happens in the US affects immensely what happens in Australia. It will affect my son who has joined our armed forces, so yes, this is personal.

I got a really crap mark on a history essay in high school and the teacher told me not to take it personally. As it was my work that was being judged, how else was I supposed to take except personally, I remonstrated.

Back home in Australia today we had the current PM dash the hopes of a former PM to allow him to nominate for the job as Secretary General of the United Nations. Kevin Rudd would probably never have won the contest but how churlish of the Liberal Prime Minister to not endorse his candidacy. But then Malcolm Turnbull has vetoed many other people in his professional and personal life. Maybe if your mother walks out when you are a child you never get over it and so have to take power over other people. What else would explain his bullying behaviour? Oh maybe membership of the Liberal Party. They are good haters. Turnbull and Rudd have similar sized egos and it is a blight on our society that people like this get to claw their way to the top of the political heap, or any pile of trash.

I actually like that the Royals are in charge. They may not deserve it, but someone has to be top of the tree and if there wasn't this line of inheritance can you imagine the catfighting and wrist-slashing that would be writ large across the national stage as egos competed for power? Well, it is anyway ...

I hope Hillary gets to make more history. She has worked hard and is better qualified than Trump to run the US. It may not be much of a choice, but at least we get to choose. Unlike many, many people around the world who are being bombed and tortured out of existence (including Indigenous children in custody in Australia). May we hang our heads in shame over their treatment.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Got cancer? Will you die? Depends who gets your vote

The announcement today by the Nationals that a re-elected Liberal-National Government will provide half of the total funding required to bring cancer services to the people of Western NSW galls me.

Why the heck are cancer treatment services linked to how people vote? Surely everyone who has cancer deserves to get the best access to vital treatment whether they vote for the winning party or not.

There have been a few other health and treatment related election promises already this campaign by various parties and they all make my blood boil.

Why is the planning for services to Australia's population reduced to a rabble during election campaigns? Surely health and medical professionals, health bureaucracies and myriad other well-informed people know which health facilities are required and where they should be located to meet the needs of the population. Why does funding for these vital services and facilities depend on any particular party winning an election?

Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, s.326(1) and (2) Bribery, "Election campaign declarations of public policy or promises of public action are not regarded as bribery."

Such promises do, however, have a certain stench because the threat is that if you do not vote for the party, the money will be withheld.

According to this media release, the Liberal-National team recognises there are "critical services gaps in cancer care for people in the Western NSW region, particularly for diagnosis and radiotherapy treatment" and patients are "choosing death over treatment for cancer as the physical and emotion [sic] costs of obtaining treatment is such an enormous burden".

Too bad if someone other than the Liberal-National candidate wins. Too bad for the tens of thousands of people who will miss out on treatment and die prematurely. Shocker of a way to go, voting the "wrong" way.

A re-elected Liberal-National Government will provide half of the total funding required to bring cancer services to the people of Western NSW, contributing $25 million towards a new Integrated Cancer Centre.
The new purpose built, specialist cancer treatment facility will be located at the Dubbo Base Hospital and will allow residents in the Western NSW region to access critical cancer care, closer to where they live.
The centre will provide specialist medical and radiation oncology services as well as a PET scanning service.
The approximately $50 million project will address critical service gaps in cancer care for people in the Western NSW region, particularly for diagnosis and radiotherapy treatment.
Announcing the commitment this morning, Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce said the commitment demonstrates the Liberal-National Party’s commitment to the health of rural and regional Australians.
“It’s a basic fact that rural and regional Australians don’t have access to the same range of health services as those living in urban locations. It’s also a fact that rural and remote communities experience higher rates of premature death, mortality and chronic disease.
“This new centre demonstrates our strong commitment to improve the health and life expectancy of people living outside of the major cities.”
Minister for Rural Health and Deputy Leader of the National Party, Senator Fiona Nash said the new centre will mean locals in need of treatment will spend less time travelling and more time closer to home with their families and loved ones.
“Living in rural NSW, I know it’s hard to be away from home for long periods. Doing so while battling cancer is unimaginable.
“It’s hard enough to learn of a cancer diagnosis, but it’s heart breaking when a patient has to leave their home and spend weeks and months away from their family during a traumatic period. This new Cancer Centre will mean more people can receive the best possible treatment, much closer to home. The Coalition Government aims to help build regional communities our children and grandchildren want to either stay in or come back to, and first-class health services are a big part of that.”
Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton welcomed the announcement after a long campaign and thanked the local community for their sustained advocacy.
“This announcement is the culmination of hard work and incredible passion shown by the community. We have been fighting tooth and nail to deliver this critical funding to our community for many years. I am proud that a Liberal-National Government are the ones getting on with the job of delivering vital cancer care services for the people of Western NSW. The people in our region deserve access to specialist healthcare regardless of where we live,” Mr Coulton said.
“The new centre won’t just service locals in Dubbo, it will provide critical care to more than 270,000 people who live across Western NSW who up until now have had to travel far and wide to receive treatment.
“It’s a stark reality that many people are choosing death over treatment for cancer, as the physical and emotion costs of obtaining treatment is such an enormous burden. This new centre will go a long way to easing that burden.
“The statistics also back our case. Between 2006 and 2021 there will be a 43% growth in the number of new cases of cancer in the Western NSW health region. Unless new services are provided, people in dire need will miss out.”

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day 2016

I woke this morning to grey skies and the rain fell all day. It's Mother's Day and the firstborn is not at home. We spoke and he is doing so well.

Miss B made me the most beautiful card and wrote a message that carries wisdom way beyond her years. Some of you may know of the ups and downs of recent months. The difficulty in finding a full-time job, the firstborn leaving home (for a good reason), and most recently, the death of my father-in-law and then on the day of his funeral, the death of my Grandad.

Throw into the mix the former family home being on the market and any one of these life events could be the undoing of a lesser being. But as I keep hearing, I am strong, and you know what? I believe it now.

In coming weeks I may keep a close eye on the election campaign and write some blogs but if any one of those Coalition politicians mentions "jobs and growth" as many times as Matthias Cormann did on Sky News tonight I may not.

If you are going to live in the awful climate of Canberra you may as well work in the big house on the hill. I did, in the Press Gallery, and when that ended, took a job with a senator. I shocked a few folk with that move. I did it as an exercise in employment and life education. I learned so very much about politics and how wonderful some people can be and how horrible others are. I also made some lifelong friends.

With the benefit of hindsight I don't think I would do it again. I liked the processes and procedures of Parliament and felt that I did good work, but the fragile egos of politicians would not last five minutes in a newsroom.

In recent months I've been seeking full-time employment but that has remained elusive. It seems these days how one fits in with the team is more important than any ability or experience. It's like they want clones of themselves. Fantastic, clone away that's not me.

I'm painting and sewing and creating and figuring it all out.

We all do our very best.

All the love.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May days

Sunrise, 2 May 2016, southern NSW

I woke this morning at 3am, annoyed to be awake. After tossing and turning for more than an hour I fell into a deep slumber, waking at 7 feeling completely shattered.

There's a bit going on at the moment. As I've been saying, I'm dealing with five life events at once. It's like five roller coasters in slow motion all moving along a straight line. They are never in synch. One may be hurtling towards the ground as another gains upward momentum. Another will be resting between dips and drops.

If there is one life event that takes priority for me (and this does not discount the seriousness of the rest of them) it's the firstborn joining the armed forces. I'm not saying which one because there's a total media blackout on anything to do with him. In the limited time he's been there he is doing well.

The other life events are the terminal illness of my father-in-law, the old age of my Grandad, the ex family home going on the market and my ongoing underemployment.

All biggies and I'm navigating two teenagers through each of these events, obviously with the help of their father and other family members.

Today should have been the first day of a new job for me. It was offered to me last week and two days later the offer was withdrawn. There was feedback from an anonymous individual that I was not good with deadlines. Let's remember that I have been a journalist since 1981 so I have an idea what the concept and fact of a deadline is.

Let's also think that if an organisation is prepared to accept commentary from someone for whom I have never worked about my ability to plan and execute work, it is an organisation that has values (?) that do not match mine. You know, integrity, honesty, kindness, loyalty, diligent work ethic. Oh, did I mention it's a Christian-based outfit?

The recruiter was as appalled as I was at my treatment. She also gave me some good feedback. My specialist set of skills was not going to fit into any old job advertisement. I have come to realise the same thing over the past few months. There's also the issue, unspoken but prevalent, of ageism. I am offering this as a topic of conversation as I have met many, many people who are underemployed. They are mostly over 50. That's right. As our Prime Minister speaks of agility and start-ups and exciting times, anyone with a few decades of life and work under their belt is discarded. As one of the old-timers at yesterday's funeral said, most start-ups fail within 12 months so it's hardly the basis to firm up the economy. Another person told me he despairs for the Australian economy. He has worked hard throughout his life on public and private projects, in and around government. He has never seen such a lack of vision, understanding or intelligence when it comes to running the country.

Those over 50s are turning to self-employment or insecure casual work. If they are lucky, they have some sort of pension or income stream that they have built up over many years. But not everyone has been able to do so.

If you listen to the current crop of politicians your eyes are probably glazed tight shut and you shake your head at the lack of vision, the total inability to see beyond their next pre-selection. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, people who work for the common good, but they are not the ones scheming and manoeuvring into positions of power.

The father-in-law's terminal illness has been a source of great sadness for all of us and yesterday we gathered to farewell him in a little country church. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful ceremony. Not too "Goddy" and a good mix of a praise and harmony.

To ensure that the firstborn could I attend, Miss B and I travelled on Sunday afternoon to stay with one of our dear friends who lives closer to his base than we do. Yesterday we left early in the morning to collect the firstborn, drive him to the funeral, attend the funeral, attend the wake, then I took him back to where he needed to be and I turned around and drove home, collecting Miss B from the family gathering along the way, 730km in one day. As I turned into my street my Dad, who had also attended the funeral, called to tell me my beautiful Grandad, Alfred Samuel Date, died yesterday afternoon, aged 110 years, five months and three weeks.

The ex-family home is on the market. There is interest. Someone will be buying a home that we loved.

There is so much emotion swirling around all of these events.

I've been walking, walking, walking and painting. I have beautiful friends and family who sustain me both literally and emotionally. I have two entirely beautiful and delightful children who are learning to make their way in the world.

There is a silver lining to all of this. I've learned how to spot the vampires who suck the bone marrow from you and me. I keep garlic close.

All the love.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Celebrate! What?

Some people seem to be in raptures this evening that it is the 20th anniversary of John Howard's election as Prime Minister. Having lived through that fairly closely I'm wondering why they are so enamoured. He was not a great reformer, nor has anyone since been a great or even mildly effective reformer. Look at the current incumbent. He wanted the prize so badly that he took the office off a Prime Minister who took his party to an election win. And what has happened since? Nada. As for Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, what a desperate shame that these two good people got caught up in a power play that saw their party lose. There is something particularly smelly about Australian politics of late. Toe the party line and you will succeed. I have no clue about Joe Bullock but at least he had the balls to believe in something and stand up to his party (no matter how 19th century his beliefs may be). If a few more politicians would do so it would make for a stronger Parliament. Celebrate the victory but stop living in the past. We need politicians for the 21st century and we don't have many.
Would you like me to comment on the Catholic Church?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I believe in Unicorns

I’ve spent the past four months looking for a job. It’s a demoralising, dispiriting venture.

Experience counts for nothing. Especially when you are over 50. This could be just a rant from one individual, except I keep meeting other over 50s, especially women, who are underemployed, unemployed or desperately hanging on to a job to accumulate enough superannuation to retire with the ability to eat and keep a roof over their head.

Ageism exists, age discrimination exists.

Employers are not allowed to discriminate by age but they do by requiring a “recent graduate” or “university degree is mandatory”. Trust me, I’ve been reading the job ads on for four months. I’ve had one interview in four months. I’ve begun calling any employer or recruiter that insists on a university degree. Today I asked a recruiter why their client would insist on a degree over experience. She could not answer my question. I cannot ask them, because they are not identified in the ad.

It is an ad for a communications manager that I could do with my eyes closed, but I do not have a degree because when I finished high school people who wanted to be journalists mostly went and completed a cadetship.

I have worked for The Sydney Morning Herald. I have been an adviser to four Federal politicians. I was the media relations and communications manager for a leading industry group.

Today our Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison gave some bizarre interviews about the Budget where he said he was not going to sell the Australian people a unicorn. Huh?

I have no idea what this means, but at my daughter’s school the logo is the Unicorn which is referenced as a symbol of grace, strength and beauty with its horn reaching towards a star of enlightenment.

The school is named after Alfred Deakin, the second Prime Minister of Australia. It is 6km from Australian Parliament House.

There are students from 67 cultures, including students from the embassy families that make up the Canberra community.

The children at this school are proud of their school and their school community. They have an amazing group of teachers and they are told that they can do anything they want to in their lives. The academic, cultural and sporting traditions of the school are way beyond anything I experienced at a country high school in the 1970s, so I would expect that things have improved. What I didn’t expect all those years ago when I won a cadetship on the Nambucca Guardian News was that the media would be reshaped entirely and so many of my very experienced and talented colleagues would be made redundant by the organisations that had nurtured them and exploited their commitment for decades.

But here we all are. I have been studying art and learning to paint as I have a dream to run an art gallery by the sea in my dotage. A sort of Margaret Olley retirement where I fill my house with interesting stuff and paint it and sell paintings. If I achieve 1/1000th of the recognition she did I will be happy.

For now I read the job ads and despair. I am not a recent graduate of anything except a long-term romance that resulted in two children and two houses and ended.

I’m a single mother of a boy who is about to join the Australian Army and a girl who is in Year 10 and doing the very best she can to make her family and her teachers proud.

I want to work and have been doing some freelance media consultancy and working in a friend’s art gallery for a bit of cash.

Luckily my bank (which bank?) is extremely understanding and has given me a bit of a holiday on mortgage repayments.

I’ve been a worker and a taxpayer all my life but I’m stumped by recent events.  And every other day I meet another Australian who is over 50 and unable to find work. They try to invent their own jobs or start a business or whatever it is they do to keep the wolves from the door.

And our Federal Treasurer is talking about unicorns.

Friday, February 5, 2016

TGIF Rant, for your consideration

Our Government this week has made gender equity in travel a priority for Australian sport. Yes, that's right, it is making it compulsory for men and women athletes to travel in the same class (business) and stay in fancy hotels. This is for the greater good of our nation, because when our sports people win, we all win. We pay for this. Well, taxpayers pay. I don't pay any tax because I've turned into a multinational corporation. I have no income, so I pay no tax. That's how economics works. Radio National has a new program about finance and economics. It is written for two year olds. I know this because I listened to the first episode. I will not be listening to any more.

Never mind the 300 CSIRO scientists whose careers are to end because of a funding cut. Didn't someone a while ago invent the phrase "the clever country". Nope. Not going to happen.

Never mind the poor souls languishing in Nauru and on Manus Island, who dared to escape wars and worse in their homelands and chose the only way they thought possible to achieve a modest life in a new land. At least the Anglican Church stepped up and offered sanctuary to the babies and families who are under threat of being returned to Nauru. It's almost worth returning to regular churchgoing over this alone, now that the kiddy fiddling has been put under the spotlight, although that was mostly perpetrated by the Catholics.

In Sydney, the lock-out laws mean there is no nightlife, which means fewer jobs for thousands of musicians, bar staff, chefs, waiters, taxi drivers. But that's OK. Because the Nanny State has us all tucked up in our beds by 9, so we can rise at 5 and go and work for the man. Well, those who have jobs can. But don't expect to have enough money in retirement because the legislated changes to the Superannuation Guarantee are to be cut. It's irrelevant for the many who have no job, or not enough work anyway. But if you do have a job you have to rise at 5 if you live in Sydney because as one of my friends found this week it takes two hours to drive from Gladesville to Surry Hills, a distance of 12.1 kilometres.

Fun fact: Did you know that the portion of the base salary ($199,040 as of I January 2016 for MPs and Senators) that is not parliamentary allowance for the purposes of the Parliamentary Contribution Superannuation Act 1948 is $41,540?

And then there is TAFE. It's already bleeding, with course fees out of the reach of many of those who are trying to train so they can WORK. Now the Feds want to completely bastardise it. Goodbye.

I met a man this week who said with the change to Malcolm Turnbull as PM it is now possible to travel overseas and not be ashamed to be Australian. How did this happen and how farking sad is that?

Wasn't KRudd the great white hope that was going to save us from John Howard? His bastardry became apparent early on. If you ever want to know what is going on at Parliament House, talk to the security guards. They had tales of being called in at very odd hours to guard the insomniac PM who would think working at 2am was good for the country and good for his mind. Surely the only good thing any PM should be doing at 2am is sleeping, or maybe taking a call from Vladimir Putin, if he happens to phone.

Oh and while I'm at it what about the twat Jamie Briggs who had to drink to cope with the pressures of being a junior minister?

Mate, people drink because they like a drink, not because you are lonely when your job takes you away from home. You did know what you were signing up for when you ran for parliament. God, I feel sorry for his wife. She has four children.

Then there is the National Party. What hope if they are going to have the deputy leader assume the leadership? I'm not sure I have ever heard the current leader mention retirement but if you leak a story to enough journalists it grows legs, especially in the off-season.

At least Chris Bowen is showing he has a spine. There is some hope after all. And I'm quite loving the politicians who call out Fran Kelly when she states their position on something and they have never said any such thing. Go Andrew Robb!

I gallery sat yesterday. For three hours. After the first hour when we swapped some paintings over no one came in. Not one person. No wonder Van Gogh went mad.

I have no idea what to do with myself. Should have been a sports star. Look at the way the old fogies at the Australian Open were treated. They are god-like. Rod Laver is God.

I was brought up in a Christian household where we were taught to be nice to everyone but I see all sorts of bastards doing better than me.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's next?

There have been so many changes in my life in the past few years that I'm feeling as though my head has been in perpetual spinning motion. Sometimes I even feel a bit giddy.

Life presents its challenges to all of us but I would never have envisaged being this age and underemployed and single.

I have many skills and much wisdom. This week I interviewed three really smart men about two complex studies they had conducted. Today I am finishing three paintings to place in my friend Martine's hair salon so the lucky patrons may enjoy the art and maybe buy one to take home with them.

This afternoon I am going to gallery sit in a beautiful space where I have had paintings displayed for seven months. I have sold one. I will take my quilt project with me as I would like to finish this masterpiece I am working on for a friend.

It's back to school this week for Miss B and the two-month countdown is on for Mr C's big adventure. Yesterday I sorted out my finances. In amongst all of this the family home is going up for sale.

When my mother was dying from cancer she used to say she must have killed a Chinaman* in a previous life.

I don't know what I did in a previous life but I've worked hard in this one and I'd like to receive the gifts the Universe has for me. This week, please.

Chinaman, must have killed a phr. a phrase noting bad luck.
[1910 Henry Lawson The Rising of the Court 299 'What have I been up to?' 'Killin' a Chinaman. Go to sleep.']
1930 Vance Palmer The Passage 272 'But my luck's out – I must have run over a Chinaman some time or other.'
1951 Dal Stivens Jimmy Brockett 184 'You're restless, Jimmy,' Nan said, teasing me. 'Have you killed a Chinaman?'
1982 Joe Andersen Winners Can Laugh v. 58 Superstition plays an important part in the life of the racing fraternity. The sighting of an oriental person before, during or after placing a bet is always regarded as a sure sign that fortune will smile on you. (A run of bad luck is usually attributed to the killing of one by the unlucky punter.)
1995 Paul Vautin Turn It Up! 62'You've heard the expression, 'You must have killed a Chinaman,' well I'm so out of luck that I reckon in a past life I must have been a tank driver in Tiananmen Square or something because I must have got dozens of 'em.'
1996 Tracks (Sydney) Jun 81/4 Young American Hank Mills wins the Rip Curl Pro Trials from Chris Davidson and the luckless Nick 'I killed a Chinaman' Wood.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Online dating fail

A week ago my darling daughter suggested I take advantage of a week's free membership of an online dating website.

The real-life Brenda

Even though I have always known online dating and a real life Margot Date would not be a match, I thought, why not?

And so I created a profile and called myself Brenda. If it was good enough for The Spectator and Princess Di to call QE11 Brenda, then it was good enough for me. There are not so many people called Margot in my world ...  maybe I wasn't playing by the spirit of the game, but I had a nagging feeling that this was not going to work out for me anyway ... and anyway it didn't.

The purpose of the site seems to be to make money for the owners. The cheapest offer was to pay $33.95 a month for a minimum of six months, paid in three instalments. As I have not much income at present while trying to build a business, it was easy to stick with my self-imposed non-sign-up-to-direct-debits after the week's free trial (today I had to tell the good folk helping our Paralympian Athletes I couldn't commit to them either).

In the first week I had more than 60 matches. Despite ticking all sorts of boxes I was matched with men who my mother would have called a GI...a geographic impossibility. Really, if someone three states away is awesome that's not going to work so well unless I want a pen-pal. More on that later.

There were a few chaps from my home town and close by. They all sounded great online. That's the thing about being online. You can be whoever you want to be. When you meet face-to-face you cannot hide.

They all love their children (of course they do - who doesn't?), many of them love motorcycling (ditch the wife, regain their freedom on two wheels?) and some even mentioned that they liked to cook. The self-descriptions were interesting. In the set question: What is the first thing people notice about you? One modest chap said he is told often that he looks like George Clooney. Yep, I'm sure he does. After a big night and with a hangover. Really? Whoever looks like a celebrity except that celebrity? I met a man at a conference who told me he was the spitting image of Leonardo DiCaprio. He may as well have said he was a dead ringer for John Smith, because there are more John Smiths in this world than the gorgeous and unmatched Leo.

I've had a pen-pal...a gorgeous man I met a couple of years ago. He had a situation that prevented an ongoing relationship, but we were email pen-pals for six months. Which was all rather flattering but what was the point?

Getting an email notification comes nowhere near shaking a man's hand, looking into his eyes and feeling that zing. So maybe it doesn't happen often, but when it does. Kapow! as our friend Batman would say.

I know of beautiful couples who have met online and I'm beyond happy for them. But this experience reminds me yet again of what my mother used to say to me as we walked around the small town where I grew up: If you could just marry a nice boy from this town your life would be simple, but I know you won't do that.