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.  

Surgery recovery

The days are melding into each other. Some days I sleep, some days I don’t. I have visitors that I have to book in, because doing too much tires me out more than I thought it would.

I’m not doing much reading, my plans for a 100 books this year are up the wahoo by now. I can’t concentrate on the words, or I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over again.

I have churned through TV and movies though; Stranger Things, The Fix, and The Cook and The Chef, Nigella and Rick Stein on SBS on demand.

My periods have been the bane of my life pretty much since they showed up. After a buffet of medications, trial and error (including two mirena implants) on 8 April I had my long-awaited hysterectomy. I was first on the list for Simon’s afternoon surgery, went into theatre about 1:30pm. I can remember crying from a mixture of relief and happiness as I was put under.

After that, time is relative…

Random photos on my phone while I was still groggy, show I got taken to the ward about 5pm. Hubs and Archie came to visit, I was in pain, but while I sat up in bed eating I FaceTimed them to show Arch I was feeling better.

About an hour after that, I barfed my food back up again. It was the single most easiest vomit I’d ever done, I know – TMI, but it was instrumental in pain relief as it meant I got a second bag of tramadol :D I was helped by the nurse on shift overnight, Olivia, who helped me tidy myself up and clean my teeth. My tummy settled and Olivia and another nurse gave me some morphine tablets. I put my audiobook on, earbuds under my pillow and an ear plug in and I got three straight hours of most excellent wafting.

In the morning I was visited by Simon and two of his doctors who showed me the requested photo of my uterus, (huge, chock-full of fibroids) all three inspected my wounds. I staggered to the bathroom, had a shower, sitting down in a chair, but still bliss; my dressings were changed and I was sent home. Less than 24 hours after surgery.

I was sent home so quickly, the physiotherapist missed me completely. The social worker managed a corridor conversation with us to make sure I wasn’t going home on my own, this was interrupted by the pharmacist who took my prescription and told us she’d meet us at the pharmacy. The Mercy oncology department (don’t stress, Simon is a specialist in difficult cases) have decamped to another part of The Austin while plumbing works take place in the Mercy tower; they’re the only department that can be transferred into and out of the Austin. All the preemies, OBGYNs and other specialised lady-bits doctors and departments have been moving up and down the tower floors while the works take place. The ward the oncology department are working from is in the Harold Stokes tower, basically I was on was on the other side of a large hospital. I was as weak as a kitten and my insides felt like they were falling out, there was no way I was going to be able to walk to the car.

Aman, a lovely porter who also refilled my water jug first thing in the morning, took me to the pharmacy in a wheelchair. Hubs got me the hard-drugs from the pharmacist and Aman popped us all in the lift. I managed to get from the lift to the car, then thought ‘Oh shit’. My mouth was dry, I felt dizzy and really quite awful.

We stopped at the 711 around the to get me some water, I swallowed some pain relief and sucked on an anti-nausea pill then Hubs gingerly drove home. For a 20 minute journey, it took hours. Getting out the car my lips were blue and teeth were chattering. Archie took my shoes off, I crawled into bed and stayed there for two days.

Three weeks later, all the work I’d done leading up to the surgery was worth it; I’m walking and recovering well. I am listening to my body, if I do a bit too much it’s counterbalanced out with a nap. I’m not in any pain and already my energy levels are improving. I’ve still got a few weeks off work to carry on resting up and I’ve got an appointment with a trainer at the gym the week after next. I don’t want to go charging back to the gym, I need an all-round, gentle program to get me back to fitness.

The pathology results came back as benign, Simon called me himself to let me know. I really couldn’t have been in safer hands. I’m going to miss hanging out with him every six months.

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.

 

 

I’m on vacation!

Best said in Billy Crystal’s voice.

Last Sunday my brother and sister in law, with our five children, flew from Melbourne’s new(ish) Terminal 4 to Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast in QLD. We settled in to our apartments, a stone’s throw from the beach, unpacked, had a family dinner, a glass of chilled white wine and slept like logs. The next morning, we got up, hit the beach with all the rugrats, played in the surf and built sandcastles. In the afternoon, we went to the pool.

Then we did it again, and again, and again.

I’ve read a book and a half, Middlesex and All The Light We Cannot See, if you were wondering. Not watched much TV, we’ve been too busy outside. I’ve been walking around on the beach with my hair mussed up, in a bikini, not giving a flying foo-wee about what other people think of me. It’s not so much that I’ve suddenly become body-confident; more that this is a holiday I’ve desperately needed, so I truly CBA to worry about what other people think of me. Their expectations of a bikini-body, are just that, theirs.

I’ve unwound completely.

Yes, you did read that right. Me. I’ve relaxed. I’ve been too busy with sandcastles and watching the children in the waves or the pool to worry about my to-do list, my in-tray, or any other put upon me pressures. It’s been lovely. Considering five children of varying ages, we’ve had no major breakdowns or confusion, we’ve been in and out of each other’s apartments, giving each other a break when needed. We’ve only had one trip to emergency too, for a bad sprain.

Hubs flew up on Wednesday, he went fishing with his brother on Friday, there was a party for Pa for his 70th on Saturday, on Sunday I ran / walked 4km (it was 21c and 70% humid *puff*) with my girls. 

It is now Monday, we’re heading towards the end of our break now, with a trip to Australia Zoo on our last day. But I’ve given myself the headspace I needed, I can start breaking out my notebook and pens now.

Hanging with my boy

I love spending time with Peanut; I don’t just mean the day-to-day stuff, where he’s my little Jedi Master, I mean the going out and about stuff. This weekend we had his swimming lesson and gymnastics class as normal, but Hubs was out at the MCG on Friday night at the football with some school friends, then out again on Saturday watching our team draw (very rare in AFL), then had a planning session with his cricket club on Sunday morning.

Friday evening I collected Peanut from nursery, drove to the local shops and we visited a Portuguese chicken restaurant. Getting our dinner to take-away, we sat waiting for it to be prepared. We talked about the people coming out the shops with bags and trolleys, wondered what people were renting from the DVD kiosk, (only ever Spiderman apparently!). He sat on my lap so we could both see the same things, after ten minutes he asked to get down and sat opposite me at the table, playing with the car he’d brought in with him. I travel with coloured pencils and paper in my handbag in case of emergencies, but I didn’t need to get them out, I was so proud of him. He got a bit confused when we walked out with the food, normally we eat in, but when I explained he could have some of the chips in the car for a ‘pic-mic’, he was happy. We ate our dinner, looked through a new Richard Scarry book to much excitement and he was out like a light.

Continue reading “Hanging with my boy”