concentrate… concentrate… I’ve got to concentrate… concentrate… concentrate…

I started crying at work today, then found I couldn’t stop.

It’s a funny thing, when the seal gets broken, all hell breaks loose. I do know where it came from, but holy moly the force of it took me by surprise.

BossLady was mortified she’d upset me. The girls in the office were great; one took me out to get birthday cake for our early afternoon tea; another brought chocolate knowing I wouldn’t be able to eat the cake; another offered me some aromatherapy oils.

My packing is progressing. I added a bikini to the pile over the weekend, much to Hubs surprise. But if there is a chance of sun; it being the UK summer, that chance is small, but if there is a chance. I’m sitting out in it doing SFA.

I ordered two new pairs of jeans yesterday. I often wear black jeans to work and ironing them yesterday morning, I realised they were getting a bit tatty. I also ordered a matching pair in Indigo, which for some reason, I’m inordinately excited about.

Other than that, we’re quiet. I washed my make-up brushes over the weekend, caught up on washing and need to get some groceries tonight. I’d have gone last night, but some eejit decided to go round a roundabout too quick and topple his truck over; which was full of logs, so not exactly light weight. I joined the back of the queue and inched along. It took me over an hour to get home last night.

Poor Archie is in the middle of a growth spurt, we’ve dropped his medication down to 1 tablet a day over the holidays, only down from 1.5 (the .5 at lunch), but he’s eating us out of house and home. This morning he was complaining of a sore back and legs, but they had an off-site trip to a big indoor playground he’d been looking forward to with his holiday program. By the time he got himself going and outside his breakfast, he was feeling better in himself, and decided he’d go and make a decision about what he played on when he got there. I told the educators to call me if he wasn’t coping this afternoon and I’d come and get him. But either way, we’re having an early night tonight.

Thanks for spending my lunch break with me.

It’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.

Goodness me. My post yesterday blew up a bit – I’ve had a few messages to check in on me. Honestly, I am fine. I process things better when I write, so you’re gonna get this journey, warts and all because if I write about it, then I won’t stew on it. In turn, if my waffling helps someone else, then I have done my bit to leave the world a better place.

We have a date for the funeral, 23 July. I’m booking flights this week to land at Heathrow and spend the week with Ian, heading back home to land over the weekend so I can keep a OBGYN pants off appointment on Monday 30 July.

Ladies, the things we do.

I can’t change that appointment, I’ll be waiting for ages to get in again – it’s my second review after surgery to check my stitches.

I’ve also had to pull out the 10km run I was doing (Run Melbourne) with Kath as I’m either going to be mid-air coming into land, or on the way home from the airport.

Today BossLady took me for lunch, we both had a list of things to talk about, but instead we just went for lunch and chatted. It was nice to get out the office and other than my interview, it was the longest time we’d been able to spend together on our own.

As an aside, I’ve not been there a month and my mailbox is full. To say I had a sense of humour failure about that would be an understatement. Not least because, whatever they’ve done (aside from giving us microscopic mailboxes) when you archive something – you can’t search for it in Outlook again. I’ve got some training and a meeting tomorrow, but in the afternoon I’m going to have a chat to IT to work out WTF.

I dialled into Book Club last night, in bed with a cup of tea. It’s all glamour. It was good chatting to everyone, although not the same as being face-to-face. When it was time for me to leave home I thought ‘Well, I could drive there ok, but when it’s time to go home – I’ll be too tired’.

Poor Hubs, last night I asked him to pass me my splint (like a custom mouth guard so I don’t clench my jaw overnight), he was watching the end of the Grand Prix, so I popped my eye mask on, ear plug in – again glamour puss. The next thing I remember is him shaking me awake to say goodbye as he headed off to get the bus and train to work.

I think the Valerian worked!

I don’t know what to say

This is the bit I hate. When people do the head tilt and say ‘I’m sorry.’ Both of us feeling inadequate because we have no language for grief any more.

In a way, I’m glad I’ve changed jobs. I now sit in an office with ten people, instead of over a hundred. I don’t think I could cope with lots of people coming up and doing the head tilt at me.

I’ve been in constant contact with Ian, messaging each other about shit. Inanities, funeral plans, what, where, when, cats. I said to him today I was worried about upsetting him, he told me off – “Not going to happen” as he reminded me, “We lived under the same roof for goodness knows how long and never had a cross word.”

We had a giggle last night about the amount of selfies Erika took. Literally every where she went, she took a selfie. No shame, no fuss, no bother. “This is me in outer Mongolia. This is me with an ice cream. This is me with everyone. This is me!” We laughed at the montage of photos that could scroll through for hours without repeating itself.

I’ve got her last selfie saved in my phone, she knew she was heading into hospital so got all her hair cut off. She looks calm, adorable with a pixie crop, stoic almost.

I miss her giggle.

BossLady was very sweet last night and said, ‘Don’t rush in tomorrow’. So when L messaged me and said ‘Want to meet up?’ I jumped at the chance to say ‘Yes, let’s have a coffee’. Best laid plans were foiled when we found the coffee machine had gone phut, but we coped and went to the other cafe.

I am so blessed, I had so many hugs from friends this morning. Our house, Archie’s school and where I used to work are within 50m of each other, meeting L and A for coffee meant a steady stream of colleagues coming for their morning cup of Joe fix; and a steady stream of hugs for me. I didn’t put my make-up on, there was no point, I knew I’d cry.

After a good natter with my girls, I drove to work listening to Tim Ferriss talk to Amanda Palmer. I listened to his interview with Neil Gaiman yesterday. Amanda and Neil are two of my favourite humans, they are so of themselves, by which I mean – they are Amanda Fucking Palmer and Neil Gaiman. Amanda talked about how Patreon (of which I am one) gives her the freedom to do WTF she wants to do with her art; including making the most intimate, hair-raisingly good album I’ve heard in, well, ever There Will Be No Intermission. I can’t tell you how good it is, you just need to listen and wallow in it. She is talking with Tim Ferriss and telling him how much of a relief it is to be able to do this album, and not have to go to Steve and say “I’ve made an album, it’s got songs on it about miscarriage, abortion and death. By the way, the first track is 11 minutes long” (I’m paraphrasing), but with this funding model, she can do what she wants knowing that thousands of people around the world can support her. Each month, we contribute money to enable AFP (and others on the same platform) to create their art, whatever which way, knowing that we won’t always like it, understand it, but that we want to hear what she says. And, (Brucie Bonus) as we’re cheering her on through our monthly funding, if you can’t afford to pay $$ for her album, on BandCamp, she can release the album for $1. Because the Patreon community have already paid for the recording studio, mixing etc. It’s a safety net that gives artists flexibility and autonomy like never before. Which is why the record companies are getting worried…

I digress, have you watched Good Omens yet? have you seen that a fundamentalist Christian group have petitioned Netflix to not make any more? Never mind that Amazon made it? If you’ve not watched it, please do. Apart from anything else, it looks amazing, the colour scheme of the characters, the texture of their clothes – sublime. It also has a fabulous combination of the original BBC radio adaptation actors with a stellar cast, as in Josie Lawrence and Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Derek Jacobi – the list is endless. Michael Sheen as Azriaphale might be my latest crush. Might be. He’s totally adorable as the old fuss-bucket. David Tennant as Crowley camping it up is delicious.

It’s faithful to the book, raw, and as Neil was show runner, that it’s not been tweaked to ramp up the suspense to eleventy-stupid is great. I don’t know about you, I do like a bit of tension, but stringing it out over episodes while you finish off other storylines – yawn. I loved it. I love that the book is also galloping up the charts again too.

Picture Credit

My leaving speech

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For those of you who don’t know me and are just here for the food, welcome! I’ve been here at Council for a while, almost exactly six years. Not as long as some of you; but to others I’m like the Oracle of Delphi. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll know someone who will. 

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As you all know, I am guaranteed to cry, so let’s just accept that now and I’ll muddle through this as best I can. If all else fails, I’ll do an interpretative dance.

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This is going to be hard for me to do, because as some of you know, working at Nillumbik nearly broke me and my marriage to Dan. So here are some memes to make you laugh through this bit.

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Working as an EA or PA, your life is dependent on the symbiotic relationship you have with your Manager.

Three weeks after I started working here, I met with CC and Mr T, lately of this parish, to ask WTF had I done? I’d left a job I loved, with colleagues I loved to work closer to home and was working for someone who did literally nothing and also had no idea how to mange anyone. When I asked ‘How are you today?’ his answer would govern my whole day.

Somehow, I muddled through, joining committees and starting up AdminChat, offering help across the organisation where I could so I had stuff to do to fill my days. My mental health and in turn marriage began to suffer. Several people along the way helped hold me up, not least J – whose opinion of me i valued over everybody’s else on the Management team, and still do. When R left, J was asked to step into the role; at our first meeting, he said ‘I’ve never had a PA before, what do I do?’

J’s life is compartmentalised into work and home; he’s cautious about letting life spill between the two. J is also not the most loquacious of people, so we worked our way out of how to work together through Doctor Who (I’ve met two of them) and working through issues logically and systematically as that is how our brains work.

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Officially I’ve lived in Greensborough for longer than I’ve lived anywhere else since I left home twenty five years ago, I’ve moved house over twenty times.

When you look at my CV, it can look like a shemozzle too, because I’ve done there, been that, living in a seaside town, being a chamber maid is a rite of passage; I’ve been a bar maid, worked in a warehouse; I’ve even done silver service, although not successfully. I’ve worked in retail, including a book shop (so – no I didn’t take home much money); memorably opening at midnight for the release of the Order of the Phoenix which may or may not have caused a sense of humour failure when I was still in the shop 18 solid hours later. At that same bookshop in Winchester, played it cool and chatted to Colin Firth about Rohinton Mistry’s books. I may or may not have photocopied his EFTPOS receipt for his signature. 

 

I worked for the Civil Service in the UK over three different training camps. Spending the longest time at Army Training Regiment, Winchester one of their basic training camps. I looked after A-Squadron; supporting a Major, Captain and two Warrant Officers in the office, and six other Captains with their staff as they trained the recruits. Across the camp, every two weeks, a new intake started for the twelve-week course, a sausage factory of people turning into lean, green, fighting machines.

[There is a point to all of this, I promise].

I sat in a little office with D, the payroll clerk for the unit, the two of us surrounded by paper, listening to Radio 2 all day. Recruits would arrive, followed by greats sheafs of paperwork. They’d either stay and create more paperwork that would continue to follow them through their careers: or leave and I’d have to generate and process their discharge paperwork, closing their files. This was also where I watched my signature get smaller and smaller as I signed my name hundreds of times a day.

D was painfully shy; he wouldn’t even blow his nose in front of me – he’d always excuse himself to the bathroom first. Can you imagine him being in a room with me for eight hours a dayThe poor boy.

Watching Pass-Out parades of recruits every other Friday was both joyous and heart-wrenching at the same time. It was a whole festival to celebrate the hard work they’d done, with the recruits doing various displays to show off their fitness, skills and confidence to family and friends. Just after 12pm, family and friends would sit down in bleachers, staff would appear from all over the camp, leaning over the back wall of the seating, listening to the excited murmurs underneath us. A full marching band would put on a display, assemble at the back of the square, then the Sergeant Major would shout, “By the riiiiight! Quick, March!” The drums would start and the recruits who’d changed into their second dress, all polished boots and brass buttons, would march on to the parade square.

I’ve worked here for longer than I’ve worked for anywhere else. The job I had the longest before now was at the Sovereign Centre; everything I learnt about team work stems from working in that busy leisure centre. 

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Staff training sessions were a hot mess of hangovers, running scenarios with casualties all over the building, most of us in hysterics and us practicing CPR until your arms were on fire and knees your have given way. I learnt more about customer service and tact and diplomacy by rebooking over a thousand children into swimming lessons, navigating the endless expectations of their parents and the children’s diary commitments, until (unbelievably obnoxious serial complainant residents) arrived in my inbox.

But I’ve been on poolside and fished people out. Knowing that if you have to go in for a rescue, your colleagues would have your back to clear the pool. 

I’ve done CPR and broken ribs to keep someone going long enough for an ambulance to get to them. 

I’ve taught ladies to swim, who thought they’d be the ones looking after handbags for the rest of their lives. 

People I worked with at the Sovereign Centre came to our wedding, I still email and message D and other people I worked with at the ATR. Also at our wedding were a couple who gave me a spare room rent free for a few months when my first marriage ended. I spoke with Furriner on her first day back at work after burying her father, I walked into the lunch room and unknowingly, I told her she looked like she needed a hug, so I gave her a hug. I reciprocated the love and care my best friend W gave to me in entrusting her two children to me after we met on poolside over twenty years ago, and made her Archie’s god-mother. His god-father is Hubs’ best friend, who joined the Australian Army on the same day as Dan, again over twenty years ago.

Here we come to the point of all this.

I share these memories of my life with you, because people you meet at work shape your lives in hundreds of ways, day in, day out. I lived in Winchester, working at Waterstones and the ATR for just a couple of years; can you imagine what I’m going to be able to tell people about working at Council for six years? What we’ve done, built, created, the people we’ve helped along the way?

At my interview, I said I wanted to work for Council because I firmly believe we provide services, opportunity, art, facilities for people who want to access them, but don’t have the money to. But I’m done with residents complaining because they think moving a car park would ruin the aesthetic of a playground; or residents complaining because we take time out to celebrate IDAHOBIT, health initiatives, prevention of violence and that is before we get to the Not In My Backyard NIMBYish attitude of people who want to subdivide their land to make money, but don’t want their new neighbours to build on it.

But, I still believe that and I’m proud to have worked here. But now I’m prouder of the friends I’ve made that will be with me for life.  

Be like Christine

Yesterday, the world lost a kind, gentle soul who spent her whole life looking after others. Chris held her family together with love, and then shared her love with countless others through a lifetime of teaching, before it reached our little family to boot. Hanno’s mum was my heroine, for so many reasons, but mostly for the love she sprinkled through the world so freely.

We’d meet at Hanno’s house for races, or his plays, in between swapping texts and the odd game of Words With Friends, (that she wiped the floor with me in). Occasionally we’d call, but mostly to organise food; nevertheless, when we were together, we picked up where we left off. Fitting into the banter and laughter of familial insults of longstanding relationships. Archie has grown up with her in his life as someone who talked with him, not to him.

From the devilled egg standoffs with her daughter in law, to the roast dinners; from the chicken salads, to the breakfast rolls; from coffees to copious amounts of wine, our relationship revolved around food. Us ‘ladies what lunch’ drove to Rutherglen for some downtime away from the boys and endless football codes. We sampled wines, had lunch, went to the chocolatier, Rosie (my cousin) and I chatting in the front seat on the way home, Chris snoozing in the back.

We sat in a Laundromat drying bedding and towels in companionable silence, getting coffees on a cold, wet day, again getting out the house from the football! Walked round Farmer’s markets and brought fresh veggies, cooing over the soil still damp on the carrots, exclaiming at the crispness of the greens. I loved cooking for her, because it meant she sat down and didn’t do anything. From when she woke up to when she went to bed, unless she was sitting down to have a cuppa; she was on the go. Looking after Keith, cleaning the kitchen worktops, sorting laundry, if it needed doing and you didn’t stop her, Chris did it.

We cheered Hanno on from the back of the hall at his first play, slowly being allowed closer to the front of the hall through the years as his confidence grew. Archie telling me loudly to ‘Be quiet Mama!’ when I got the giggles.

The time we spent with Chris and Keith was filled with laughter, food, joy, food, love and more food. From my first trip over in 2007 where Chris had changed the bed in the spare room for Hubs and I, smoothing the sheets over with love. Folding the towels like a hotel, she made sure we were welcome. Never knowingly under-catered, we always had more food than we knew what to do with, Hanno’s house had elastic sides with people crashing on couches, in beds and cousins joining for breakfast after sleeping in a caravan on site just down the road.

Archie and I visited a few weeks ago, taking some flowers he had chosen for her. We only stayed long enough for Archie to eat his lunch, and a quick catch-up and a hug. He’s missing her already, trying to explain it all to an almost seven year old is hard work. While Archie knows that she’s gone, Chris will never be forgotten. Forty years of teaching, almost fifty years of marriage, two proud sons, four indomitable grandchildren, family, friends. All of us who knew Chris are better people because of her.

Be like Christine, pay your love forward. Greet the world with open arms and an open heart.

 

 

It’s the little things

Sometime life knocks you sideways, you get a phone call and your world caves in, shattered by a few words.

Other times, out of the blue you’ll hear from someone who’s never really far from your thoughts, but you don’t see very often. Their few words leave you walking on air. Whizzing about the house this morning, my phone beeped and I got a message from a girl I worked with in London. My opposite PA number in the office, we valiantly battled deadlines, paper-shuffled with the best of them and I was so upset to be leaving her – I couldn’t speak at my farewell, I just went straight to the ugly cry. (I have a feeling I am going to cry writing this as well, yup I am).

I last saw her when I was pregnant with Peanut, we spent a lovely day with her and her now husband in the Yarra Valley, I paid for her to get up close and personal with a koala, we had a splendid lunch, visited wineries and finished the day with an ice cream in St Kilda. It still ranks as one of my best days in Australia, not because of what we did, which was lovely, but also because of who we were with. The piece of my heart which holds that memory so dearly is activated often when I’m having a rough time, it was simply a glorious day.

How do you tell someone you love them?

  • Straight out – I love you.
  • Obliquely – I think about you often.

Every time I drive down into the Yarra Valley, I can still hear the intake of breath they both gave at the stunning scenery. Every time I walk past the koala enclosure at Healesville Sanctuary, (which is often) the joy on her face is repeated in my minds eye.

Every time I see Bank on TV I think about our lightening fast shopping trips at lunch time. I see pictures of their baby girl and think about the weekend I spent in their house, one of the last sacred few before I left the UK. We sat in their garden and talked and talked and talked. She paid for me to have a massage, helped me dye my hair, I had breakfast with her mum who gave me a hug I still wear with pride.

The memories of this lady are long and deep. I love that we dip in and out of each other’s lives on social media, that someone invented something that means I can see her, her family. So I don’t feel so sodding far away from someone I love dearly and am so blessed to have met.

I read something this week, (I’m paraphrasing): When people keep trying to be in your life, they’re the ones to keep. I collectively refer to my close friends as ‘My Coven’, not only because I cackle a lot when I’m with anyone I care about, but also because most definitions will say ‘A collection of individuals with shared interests’. I do collect people around me easily, but the ones I hang on to also persist with me because they see something in me that I don’t always see in myself.

B, my darling girl, you made me cry this morning and I’m a blubbering mess at my keyboard at lunchtime typing this now. But those words you sent me today? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tell someone you’ve not talked to in a while how much they mean to you, I’ve been wrapped in a pink bubble of joy all day.

The weekend away: dragons, Uncle Fester and vamps – oh my

Hanno, Hubs’ best friend, is an “Am Dram”. His local society this year put on Haunted Halloween, being in a small country town with no theatre, the play is performed in the community hall. The ticket price also includes a meal, with the show coming after the main course and desserts in the interval. Every year since he started appearing on stage, we’ve travelled up to see him to offer our support and cheer him on, except one year as Peanut was only six weeks old, we understandably gave that play a miss. The following two years I had to miss the play as Peanut decided to pick that weekend to be ill. This year, Hubs was on point to be the parent-who-stayed-at-home-in-case-of-emergencies.

When we were encouraged to come in fancy dress it being a Halloween themed play and all, I twirled my moustache and started sourcing costumes for us. Finding a few toddler sized outfits on a couple of websites, Peanut said he’d like to be a dragon. From there I asked Hubs who he wanted to go as. After thinking for a nano-second he said Uncle Fester, reasoning that shaving his goatee off, wearing a shroud and covering his head in face paint was probably the easiest costume. And it was. Now to mine.

Apparently being female, I need to either get boobs out, or legs, ideally both. Searching for a costume for me proved problematical insofar that I didn’t want ‘sexy’ as an option in the description. August is also the middle of winter here and where we were staying was likely to be freezing cold: I would need some coverage. I spent a night on the computer, eventually buying all three costumes from the one shop online, including a pair of boots with 5” heels. The box of goodies arrived two days later at work, opened up to all sorts of ooohs and ahhs, mostly at the dragon costume. Taking it home, Peanut liked it, but didn’t want to put it on. The next morning, all went quiet in the house (with a toddler, that’s never a good sign), I found him with the dragon costume out its packet. He’d got the shoe covers on and was trying to get his legs in the main body of the costume. When I asked if he wanted my help, he changed his mind about putting it on.

Packing on Thursday night to make sure I had everything I needed for my outfit, I put mine on. Peanut was intrigued at me playing ‘dress-ups’,  saying I looked like a princess. I asked if he wanted his dragon costume on – it was a success, it took half an hour for both of us to persuade him to take it off for his bath. Continue reading “The weekend away: dragons, Uncle Fester and vamps – oh my”