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Saying something at the Pig

Tuesday November 29th, 2016 in The Pig, Work | No Comments »

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Diary 30 November 2000

Today while working quite efficiently in my own quiet way on the Tiromat Brian told me that my bacon flipping technique went against company training. “What is the point,” he said to me “Of training you if you only do it your own way?” I actually found my way easier but I can see I am now marked out as a dangerous dissident.

I remember this day very clearly. The big boss Brian came over to me while I was working on the Tiromat and showed me how to load the bacon in the ‘correct way’. This was unusual as the bosses didn’t usually put gloves on and pick up bacon. I tried Brian’s correct way, decided it wasn’t as good as my way. Brian was incandescent and I couldn’t understand why. (In retrospect, Brian was just trying to prevent me getting RSI.)

I didn’t realise the impact of this incident on my reputation in the bacon room until weeks later.

It was through my nearly friend Damian that I gained some insight into what was going on. Damian and I had been to school together and we had lots of mutual friends. He’d been working in the bacon room for two years, so he was very experienced and knowledgeable. He was very nice to me. At lunch times and smoko we gossiped about school people and Damian spoke a lot about which of my friends he’d had a crush on (almost all of them!) He told me details of his breakups and who he found attractive. This kind of chat helped pass the time and I was grateful for it.

One day after I’d been at the factory for about a week, Damian and I found ourselves working on the Multivac together. The Multivac was one of the few genuinely fast-paced packing machines in the bacon room. I wasn’t usually allowed on the Multivac because I was too slow, but on this day Damian and I were covering the lunch shift. We were working at the packing end of the machine, boxing up the packets.

I found the Multivac intense and needed all my concentration but Damian kept up a steady interrogation. He asked me how many boyfriends I’d had, and then how many guys I’d kissed, and then how many people I’d slept with. I told him I didn’t want to say. I tried to change the topic back to which of my friends he thought were hot (I knew it was almost all of them!) But he was having none of it.

I didn’t want to answer Damian’s questions because I hadn’t had any boyfriends and I was ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me. When people made jokes about sex I laughed but I feared that someone would call me out and say ‘Why are you laughing? You don’t really understand’.

Damian would not stop asking me questions, and it was definitely affecting my work performance on the Multivac so eventually I said, ‘If you don’t shut-up, I’m going to report you for sexual harassment’. At that moment Damian started swearing and rapidly pulling packets out of the Multivac. The machine had backed up because I hadn’t been clearing the packets fast enough.

Damian spent the rest of the lunch shift in a stormy silence, trying to fix the Multivac. After that, he stopped speaking to me. A week later he broke his silence when I asked him what was wrong. In a furious voice he told me he was not happy about being threatened with a report of sexual harassment. He was looking after his reputation by not speaking to me. He told me that he had been so nice to me, sticking up for me when other people in the bacon room were ‘saying things about me’. He wanted to tell me what they were saying but I told him not to. I was terrified of knowing. I assumed it was something like,’Penny’s an ugly, stuck up bitch who is bad at bacon’.

I hadn’t really been planning to report Damian for sexual harassment, I just wanted him to shut-up. If I was going to report someone for harassment at the Pig, there were more worthy candidates.

Women outnumbered men in the bacon room by about three to one. Rather than giving women more control it seemed to elevate the status of the few men who were working there. Some of them were very nice. Some of them were very gropey. Unfortunately, there was an overlap between those two groups.

Kev was a jolly fatherly figure who had worked in the bacon room for twenty years and knew everything. He called me Pen, and I didn’t mind. He never yelled at me. He explained bacon carefully and didn’t get cross when I made mistakes. Unfortunately, most of the time when he was speaking to me he stood behind me with his hands on my waist.

When Kev touched me I had a strong instinct to kick. But I didn’t. I also never said anything to him, or complained to anyone else.

Why? Because I knew I was unpopular and that my co-workers had been ‘saying things’ about me. Kev, on the other hand, was well-liked and respected. I saw him do the same thing to other women in the bacon room and no-one else complained. I didn’t want to be the one to make a fuss and I feared what the reaction would be. I imagined people saying, ‘He was just trying to be nice, nobody wants to touch you’. I imagined them saying worse things.

So I just put up with it and fumed to myself. Kev wasn’t the only one, and some of the men were worse. One example from my diary: ‘Camran touched me inappropriately. If he tries that again I will say something to him.’ I was always planning to say something. Next time, and definitely to someone unpopular like Camran, not to Kev.

In my last week at the Pig Damian started talking to me again. I don’t know why he thawed, but I’d started poking my tongue out at him every time he gave me an icy stare and I think that helped.

We worked together on a slicing machine and had a good chance to talk. After chatting for awhile about one of Damian’s messy breakups he confessed he’d been planning to ask me out that fateful day on the Multivac when it all went terribly wrong. That’s why he was so very offended when I said I’d report him for sexual harassment, it had felt like a particularly harsh a rejection. Apparently he’d nearly broken his hand when he tried to fix the Multivac, because I’d been working too slow, which is why he’d started swearing.

I was immensely flattered and felt terrible for the misunderstanding. I apologised for any offence caused. I apologised for being crap on the Multivac. He forgave me, bless his heart. (Of course, Damian did sexually harass me. Continuing to ask personal questions after someone has asked you to stop is pretty clear cut. Also, I didn’t make him put his hand inside the working machine to pull out the backed up packets. That was his own stupid decision.)

During this open and frank conversation, which was held in between feeding huge slabs of bacon into the slicer, I was finally brave enough to ask Damian what he’d meant when he said ‘people are saying things about you’. It turned out that my co-workers had been shocked and outraged after I told the big boss Brian I didn’t care for his bacon flipping technique. It had nothing to do with me being ugly, only a little bit about me being stuck-up, and they weren’t even saying I was bad at bacon!

Years later I told a manager in a workplace that I’d prefer if he didn’t refer to us as ‘girls’. He never did it again, and it seemed so simple, but it actually isn’t. Even tackling a slightly sexist comment in a very supportive public service work environment was difficult for me. I don’t know what would have happened had I complained at the Pig, but I am virtually certain it would have been very unpleasant for me. We’ll never know what people would have said.

Next time at the Pig: Professionalism and why I was always getting shouted at

Learning at the Pig

Tuesday November 22nd, 2016 in The Pig, Work | No Comments »

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Diary 23 November 2000

Today was induction day at the bacon factory…I still feel I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do. Quite nervous.

I pulled into the bacon factory car park on my first day filled dread and sick with nerves and anticipation, but that was pretty normal for me.

The first thing I heard when I opened my car door was the squealing of pigs. Pigs who knew they were going to die. I didn’t pause to examine the horror of this because I was running late for my first shift in the bacon room and was panicking like I was the one about to be killed and chopped into little pieces.

I changed in the ladies locker truck, washed my hands, put on a hairnet then walked into the bacon room. It was a vast shed housing complicated interconnected silver machines and conveyor belts. The workers looked like identical oompaloompas in white coats and overalls, green boots and blue hairnets. Silver ventilation tubes crossed the high ceiling and the lights were fluorescent. The room felt like a fridge and smelled damp and meaty. In short, it was exactly like a factory on the news except there was no visiting politician in an orange safety vest wandering around patronising people.

I wished I had a job doing filing in an office. But I was wearing gumboots for a reason, and that reason was splatter.

The first task I was assigned to was picking up bacon and putting it back down again on Slicer 2.

I’d always assumed that factory work would be extremely fast paced and busy, that the work would be monotonous but require manual skill and dexterity. I had neither of those attributes so was quite worried. In fact, the pace on Slicer 2 was manageable and I spent a lot of time staring at the conveyor belt, waiting for more bacon to appear.

Unfortunately, the relatively gentle pace did not mean I was competent.

I learn well by reading a textbook and then doing practise questions with answers in the back of the book. For hands-on activities like assembling a tent or making an icing piping bag I need to practise myself and have a manual or YouTube instructional video to refer to. I do not learn well just by observing other people complete the task. I need specific and comprehensive directions. In every practical job I’ve ever had the people training me have found me frustratingly slow on the uptake.

Picking up bacon and putting it back down again may sound easy but there were numerous things I needed to learn, many of which I didn’t.

How and when to clean bacon

I easily mastered the first part. Bacon is easily cleaned. If a piece of bacon is dropped on the floor, all you need do is dunk it in some special soapy water. It will emerge from this baptism cleansed and safe to eat. However, I never really mastered when we should do this. Sometimes we dip-cleaned all the bacon that fell on the floor, sometimes we chucked it in the scraps bin. Why? Dunno.

There are many different baconish things

The name ‘the bacon room’ suggests a monotony of product but in fact, we worked with many types of bacon and baconesque food items. Some of them were recycled bacon born of former bacon rashers that were squashed and remodeled into kind-of bacon shapes. I quickly realised that the quality of the bacon is inversely proportional to how fancy its name is.

What can be wrong with bacon

As we weighed the bacon we had to keep an eye out for substandard bits and discard them. Some bacon had weird line marks. I was told these marks were made when the meat was injected with a salt solution. Another problem to watch for was dark patches in the meat; these were bruises. Horrifyingly, one day when we found lots of meat with dark patches my co-worker remarked, ‘The boys have been mucking around on the kill-line again’. I have no idea if this was true.

Don’t worry though bacon eaters, you shouldn’t see these substandard bacon rashers as they were pulped, remolded into the shape of a dick and balls and marketed as Country Style Ranch Rashers or something.

How to whisper the packing machines

The plastic in the packing machines often got tangled up, or the machines didn’t seal packets properly. Most of my co-workers were able to tinker with the machines and get them working again. I never understood what they were doing. On a few occasions I tried to learn how to replace a roll of packing but I never mastered it, primarily because I was too slow and someone would always take over because I was wasting time.

Never stand around doing nothing

I was told not to let the bosses see me doing nothing. When in doubt, make a box, I was told. So when my assigned machine was on the fritz and I was sensibly staying out of the way while someone else fixed it, I made huge piles of boxes with nothing to put in them so that no-one would feel bad about paying me $11 an hour to be idle.

Safe meat storage

The bacon factory took food safety very seriously. As was pointed out at my induction, a food poisoning scandal could shut down the factory and ruin the town, people’s lives and possibly a galaxy far away. But even so, on the factory floor the rules seemed nebulous to me, although that could be because I am a slow learner. I did write in my diary that the week before the safety inspection we suddenly started ‘practising’ following a set of rules I had never heard of before that involved constantly taking trolleys back to the chiller and wrapping everything in lots of plastic. I longed for a piece of paper with some Standard Operating Procedures. I’m sure they existed.

What to do next

To my last day in the bacon room I spent some portion of the day hovering uncertainly, hoping someone would kindly tell me what to do. Each day I was assigned to a different machine, with a different team of people, working on a different product. This provided much needed novelty value but it also meant that I never really understood what was going on.

In short, the bacon room was not a good environment for me to showcase my skills or implement my preferred learning style. In the two months I worked there I did not reach a level of competence I was satisfied with.

However, not knowing what to do with the bacon (although I worked out pretty quickly that picking it up and putting it back down again was almost always involved) was the least of my problems. What was my real issue? Hint: They’ve got two legs and you go to jail if you eat one.

Next time at the Pig: Sexual harassment

Before The Pig

Tuesday November 15th, 2016 in School, The Pig, University, Work | No Comments »

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Diary 10 November 2000

Rainy Day. Went to uni to get HPL exam. Crap mark. Apparently my essay suffered because I don’t understand deconstruction.

I started work at the bacon factory at the end of my first year at uni. The year hadn’t gone super well possibly because I had made a ridiculous course choice.

I was pleasantly shocked by my VCE results at the end of Year 12 and, realising I could do any course I wanted, I changed my preferences to a course I had never wanted to do. That’s how I ended up doing a law degree with no intention of ever being a lawyer.

I grew up in the country and moved to Melbourne for university, as did almost all of my friends. First-year law at Melbourne University was dominated by private school students who all seemed to know each other. They were friendly enough, but I felt out of place and insecure. Sometimes, they were patronising. One guy asked me where I went to school. When I told him he said, ‘You’ve done well to get here’. That condescending remark filled me with politely suppressed rage.

In retrospect I felt separate from my classmates primarily because I was a judgmental snob too. I believed that I was accepted into the course on merit, as opposed to the spoon-fed elite private school kids. (In reality I was actually as privileged as they were, it just wasn’t as obvious.) My secret sense of superiority was very fragile and was not enough to provide useful confidence, particularly since it became obvious that some of my fellow law students simply were a lot smarter than me. There was one girl in my first year History and Philosophy of Law class who was dazzlingly intelligent. No-one else in the class could keep up with her arguments, except our lecturer who would take notes.

Even so, I got the work done. I learned how to use the law library, I completed chemistry pracs, handed in essays and passed exams but I was not shining. I went from being a great school student to being a mediocre university one.

And I wasn’t compensated with an exciting social life either.

I took a long time to make good friends in Melbourne. Everyone told me to ‘join a club’ at uni but I had no hobbies and I was too scared to join a club that was openly about drinking. I thought long and longingly back to Year 12 when I’d worked together in a team of students united in our goal to get good marks and go to university. Now I was at university, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever have that feeling again.

Meanwhile, my school friends who had moved to Melbourne were successfully getting a life and making new friends. I felt left out and like I wasn’t coping as well as everyone else. So in some ways I was happy to escape Melbourne after my first-year exams were over, to return home for some soothingly mindless factory work. But would I fit in any better at the Pig? Spoiler: No.

Next time at the Pig: How to clean bacon (it’s easy!) and other things I didn’t learn

The Pig – Introduction

Thursday November 10th, 2016 in Comedy, Politics, The Pig, Work | No Comments »

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In the summer after my first year at university I worked in a bacon factory in my home town. In the section called the Bacon Room. I saw a lot of bacon. Let me give you some advice about eating bacon. Don’t.

It was quite common for uni students from my home town to come back from Melbourne over the summer holidays to work in the bacon factory. It was a good way to earn money but also save money by staying with your parents and eating all their food. Despite these practical advantages I wasn’t very keen. I applied for the job out of guilt and desperation. I’d had no luck getting a job in Melbourne and I had to have a job over the uni summer holidays. Not so much for financial reasons, but for pride. All my friends had summer jobs, it would have been totally weird to spend three months doing nothing.

My application was successful (possibly due to nepotism as I had two uncles who worked there) and sick with anticipation and nerves, I started working in the bacon factory at the end of November 2000. It was a hard job. Getting up at 4.30 every morning. Performing mind-numbingly tedious work for ten hours a day. Dealing with people who seemed to hate me and shouted a lot.

At the end of my factory stint my sister convinced me to enter Raw Comedy with a stand-up routine about the bacon factory. I got through to the National Final. Suddenly, it was all worth it. That was the true value of working in a bacon factory! To mock!

Years later, reading through my bacon factory diary (presumably on a train) it struck me that there was a an actual story arc to my time there. Characters were introduced, tensions built and then resolved. It was almost as if there was a point to it. That hardly ever happens in real life, and has certainly never happened in any other diary I’ve kept. Usually my diaries are like: meet someone, crush, crush, crush, rejected, pine, pine, pine, pine. And then I never mention them again.

Excited by the real life narrative neatness I thought I’d found in my bacon factory diary I tried to milk the experience in a different medium and wrote a manuscript of a novel based on my time in the factory. It didn’t work. It turns out that real life is too messy and apparently I’m an unengaging character who seems a bit immature.

I can’t quite give up on it though, and recently it’s been on my mind again. The themes I was trying to explore in my novel have played out in the recent democratic shenanigans across the world. Work, class, gender, racism, sexism and sexual harassment. The bacon factory had it all!

We’re coming up to the 16 year anniversary of my time as a factory worker, which is very exciting as 16 is a square square number. So, I aim to write once a week, exploring my experiences 16 years ago when I picked up bacon and put it back down again for two months.

Names will be changed. Pigs were definitely harmed. You are very welcome.

Neighbox

Wednesday October 26th, 2016 in Television | No Comments »

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Brace yourselves. There’s a lot of information in this next sentence.

My friend Vaya, who hosts the comedy recap podcast Neighbuzz, told me I should enter a competition to win tickets to a preview screening of Fox FM presenter Fifi Box’s first episode on Neighbours at the Jam Factory on Chapel Street. I thought it was a very good idea for people involved in the Neighbuzz podcast to go along and spread the word, so I agreed.

It was simple to enter, the instructions were to answer the question ‘Why do you love Neighbours?’ I wrote 500 words on Neighbours as an imaginary community that also facilitates bonding and a shared language in social relationships. Then I realised the word limit was 25 and edited my thoughts and feelings to the point of fatuousness.

Luckily, the saying ‘You have to be in it to win it’ has never been more relevant but inadequate. It was a case of ‘If you’re in it, you’ll win it’. If someone had written ‘I love Neighbours because the pictures move’ they still would have won, and actually that is more profound than the 25 words I eventually submitted.

I got the call to say I had won and was also able to bring a friend! I found a friend, apologised profusely and she agreed to come! Also attending was everyone else associated with the podcast Neighbuzz because unbelievably we ALL won!

We arrived for the big night and waited in line. At the front of the queue Fifi Box’s radio co-hosts, Dave and Fev I think we’re supposed to call them, were posing for photos with attendees. I began to look around for things I could hide under and decided I would simply shriek if they tried their nonsense with me. They didn’t.

I arrived in the cinema untouched by human radio breakfast presenters. Excitingly, there were goody bags on our seats. These contained Neighbours merch including notebooks, mugs, key-rings and usb sticks. I was pleased but there was a choc-top shaped hole in my heart. Even though the invitation mentioned canapes and cocktails but not cinema snacks, I had hoped. On the other hand, I was wearing white, so I was philosophical and tried to move on.

Dave and Fev introduced the proceedings and spoke for a bit pretending that they hadn’t been pretending on radio that Fifi is ill-qualified to be a soapie star, and then perhaps pretending that they’ve changed their minds and it is actually a really good idea. Then they introduced the Neighbours stars who had come to the screening, including Ex-Father Doe, Aaron Down the Mines and Izzy the Best Bitch Ever. They have names in real life, but they’re not my real friends so I haven’t bothered to look them up.

Then the episode began. Everyone looked much bigger than usual, because it was on a cinema screen, which is bigger than my laptop. Fifi Box was good. She had a lot of work to do in her first episode, reuniting with her daughter XanCan, facing a barrage of criticism from Sheila and then acting super-dodgy on her mobile. You couldn’t tell that she hadn’t acted before and I think we’ll be seeing more of her on the tele.

After the episode Fifi fielded questions from the audience. Vaya asked a question and got in a plug for her podcast Neighbuzz, so I felt my work for the evening was done.

On the way out some people who I don’t know and am not associated with stole all the spare goody bags and we moved on to the cocktail (house wines and beer only actually) reception.

More Neighbours stars had turned up including XanCan and Sheila. When I’m in a room with someone famous I am so impressed that I bend over backwards so as not to seem impressed and can verge on being rude. In order not to embarrass the podcast I decided I was not the best person to schmooze the room and I stayed near the goody bags drinking sparkling white.

The canapes were quite good. Someone mentioned duck colons as I bit into a duck spring roll but I’ve moved on. I quite liked the prawns in a long twisty cone and there was nice pizza and mini vegetarian pies. I did not spill anything on my white outfit, making me wonder again if a choc-top could have been a valuable addition to the evening. Actually, I don’t wonder, I know I would have deftly eaten it leaning forwards and it would have been great.

So that’s my story of how I ended up at the Jam Factory on Chapel Street watching a preview screening of Neighbours with Fox FM’s Fifi, Dave and Fev. Next week I’m going to continue to explore different cultures of the world by visiting some Albanian nuns in a cave.

PS. I’m suddenly worried that this sounds really ungrateful. It was actually really fun and nice. Thank you for having me.

Podcasts

Sunday October 2nd, 2016 in Audio books, Comedy, Parenting, Podcasts | No Comments »

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The rise in the popularity of podcasts has been an absolute boon for me. I have listened to audio books since a tot, but podcasts have added an embarrassment of riches to my audio options.

Here are the podcasts that I regularly listen to and what they bring to my life.

1. My absolute favourite podcast dares not speak its name on this blog. However it is extremely popular so if you google “My Dad Wrote a” all will be revelled. I have become evangelical about this podcast and regularly and annoyingly proselytise to friends about why they should listen if they want to have happy and fulfilled lives.

2. Chat 10 Looks 3

Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales put their dazzling friendship on display while chatting about politics, films, books, art and cooking. They jam recording in around midwinter balls, television appearances and apparently cooking more biscuits than seems feasible. Crabb and Sales’ all-round competence in their hectic lives and brilliant careers is almost annoying, but they have enough self-depreciation and awareness to stop my smugdar from raising the alert and making my arms throw things. They also recommend a lot of good stuff and have a list of links to follow up on.

3. Neighbuzz

Bit of disclosure – I am sometimes on this podcast but far more often I am just listening and laughing. Hosted by my good friend, Vaya Pashos, Neighbuzz brought me back into the Neighbours fold after years in the wilderness. Before Neighbuzz was invented I hadn’t watched Neighbours since Karl and Susan were having marriage troubles! (Sorry, that doesn’t really pin the timeframe down.) I enjoy listening to Neighbuzz even when I don’t watch the show because it’s funny.

4. Bodgy Creek Football Club Podcast

Damian Callinan performs all the roles on this very clever and very funny podcast. The only problem for me is that you do actually have to listen to it. I often consume podcasts while pretty actively involved in housework and letting my children develop independence by unsuccessfully trying to ignore them. Bodgy Creek does not work for that. You can’t appreciate it properly while having a conversation about making playdough, which we don’t need to do because we made playdough last week and it is in the fridge and we’re not making any more. So Bodgy Creek is a treat podcast for me when I have time to concentrate.

5. American election

I have been checking out some podcasts about the US election, however, often I become just too terrified by the whole thing and disengage. Then I go back to my number one podcast at the top of this list. You should listen to it. Really, you should. It will make you happy even if the world as we know it is going to end. We have a rogue comma. Just try and forget about it.

PS: Obviously, I don’t listen to the first podcast mentioned in front of the children either.

Eeyore

Monday August 29th, 2016 in Audio books | No Comments »

Eyore

(Illustration by EH Shepherd and shows Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin and Eyore walking in a row.)

Eeyore used to be my role model. Fun times.

When I was little my family owned an audio recording of The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, which we often listened to on long car trips. This particular recording read by Norman Shelley also included the piano music to all the hums composed by H. Fraser-Simon.

My aunt gave us the recording and also played the songs on the piano for us. Her delight in them was infectious and I loved the stories.

Then one day, when I was a teenager I listened to the audio book again. That’s when I realised that The House at Pooh Corner is hilarious. Up until then I had taken the stories relatively literally. I thought Eeyore just needed to cheer up, worried for Tigger when he was starving hungry or stuck in a tree and assumed that Owl really was very clever. As a fourteen year old I suddenly realised that the stories were operating on a whole other level and on that level A.A. Milne was taking the piss.

In particular, I was very attracted to Eeyore’s dark sarcasm.

I felt like I was surrounded by falsely cheerful people who did not understand the true meaningless of existence. They were like Winnie the Pooh with their heads in the honey pot mumbling complete nonsense, whereas Eeyore might be gloomy, but at least he was coming up with some good lines.

I started to tell people that Eeyore was my role model. This was usually met by a laugh or eye-rolling depending on how fed up people were with my sullen and grumpy behaviour. In wanting to be like Eeyore I had failed to realise that yes, he was occasionally funny, and he did bring some welcome cynicism to the Hundred Acre Wood, but he was largely a pain in the arse.

I felt an affinity with Eeyore because he was gloomy but I aspired to be like him because he was funny. In the end I was one and not the other, and not the good way around.

I now know that Eeyore is not a good example to follow but I still think of him often. Every time someone asks me what I’m doing when it’s obvious what I’m doing I think, ‘Leaping from branch to branch of an oak tree.’

And every time I think I should do something, and actually wish I would do it, but also know it goes against my very nature (like dancing while sober, or speaking confidently in a second-language) I think, ‘We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.’ It’s very comforting. Cheers Eeyore.

Effort

Tuesday August 16th, 2016 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Titanic

(The cake before Kate Winslet’s face fell off. Gluten-free iceberg not pictured.)

There are some things that I think I don’t really care about, but having put a lot of effort into them I find that I actually do care about them.

In Year 10 I gave up doing Physics and swapped to Cake Decorating. The reasons behind this are depressing and is enough to say that they relate to sexism and painful shyness.

I did not do very well in Year 10 Cake Decorating, but I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me if my cakes got Bs and Cs as long I didn’t have to sit in a class full of boys mortified because I was too timid to ask to share a textbook with anyone.

Cake Decorating sounds like it should have been easy, but I had no knack for it. And the semester’s studies didn’t build my cake decorating skills much. The only thing I can still remember is that you can rehabilitate melted chocolate that’s ‘gone funny’ (you see, I don’t even remember the technical term) by adding cream.

I’m not good at cake decorating and I don’t care. And yet, on the weekend I made a Titanic cake with a gluten-free iceberg. And once I started I found that I did care about it. I’d been cavalier about the whole enterprise until about 10pm on Saturday night as I started to fear people might say ‘That’s nice. What’s it supposed to be?’ when I revealed the cake.

If only I’d tried harder in Year 10 Cake Decorating, I thought. I would have known not to make a chocolate cake and put white icing over it. Maybe if I’d paid attention the funnels wouldn’t all be different sizes and the deck on a weird slope. Perhaps if I’d applied myself harder to my studies Kate Winslet’s face wouldn’t have fallen off.

Then at the party everyone said it was great. The cake was wonky, but recognisable.  Words like ‘hero’ and ‘amazing’ were thrown around and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I begin to think they were appropriate.

I still wish I’d stuck with Physics though. (I should acknowledge that my partner decorated the Titanic cake with me but I was solely responsible for the gluten-free iceberg. He is a physicist but that didn’t seem to help him much.)

(TLDR: I made a Titanic cake with a gluten-free iceberg and am pretty much looking for any excuse to go on about it.)

Titanic and iceberg

The Spirit of Continuous Improvement

Tuesday August 9th, 2016 in Knowledge, Office, Reading | No Comments »

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Apparently a lot of people make New Years Resolutions. I am scornful of this. Don’t they know this doesn’t work? I think. What’s so magical about 1 January? I scoff. They won’t last a week. I snicker.

However, I think August is the perfect to time to report on key projects and assess progress against KPIs all as part of reaffirming commitment to the spirit of continuous improvement.

It is in this spirit that I am reflecting on my progress this year.

1. Reading

Have you read all of Dickens? I imagine myself saying every time someone is doing something I don’t approve of and consider a waste of time. Like watching television shows that I don’t watch or playing golf.  To be fair, I have not read all of Dickens either and I often watch Neighbours and sew cloth napkins. Actually, let’s not read all of Dickens. I won’t judge if you don’t.

2. Flexibility

Earlier in the year I decided I would not watch Neighbours unless I was doing my stretch and strength exercises at the same time. The goal was to be able to touch my toes and not feel my brain. It hasn’t worked. I still can’t touch my toes and my brain thinks all kinds of nonsense and some of it hurts. The good news is that Karl and Susan’s marriage seems solid at the moment. This proves that anything’s possible so I will keep chipping away at it.

3. Milk

I feel terribly guilty about milk. Those poor cows.

But cheese! And flat whites! (I don’t like soy milk, it tastes like beans. And the first time I had an almond milk coffee I couldn’t believe they were allowed to charge money for it because it tasted like sick.) I have cut back on dairy but I haven’t cut it out. It’s yet another example of my self-serving and inconsistent ethical framework.

Leaving aside whether half-measures are evil, there are definitely still some low hanging yoghurts that I could pick off my dairy consumption tree. I’m going to start having oat milk on my cereal. After all, oats and oat milk are old friends.

This still leaves a fair bit of dairy in my life, however, mothers don’t mind giving up their babies to slaughter if it’s contributing to the production of Camembert.

4. Clicking

A few years ago a friend of mine said that she never reads trash mags. Not even at the hairdresser’s? I said. No, never. She did not know who the Kardashians are.

Inspired, I also stopped reading trash mags. I stared resolutely at the pot plants in waiting rooms and took out a novel. I waited for the knowledge to leave or at least stop flooding in. But it didn’t. I still found out that the Duchess of Cambridge never has bare legs in public.

It is the internet’s fault. Particularly, the naughty Age website. I go to the site planning to read about new crop rotation techniques and political affairs but I actually click on swimsuit articles and famous faces (particularly if they look funny). So, I am resolved to find a truly worthy news site and only visit that when I’m not reading Proust.

You’re welcome to snicker, she won’t last a week, any time you want.

Party

Sunday July 24th, 2016 in Parenting | No Comments »

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I borrowed a book from the library called ‘Naturally Fun Parties for kids’. It is about, ‘Creating handmade, earth-friendly celebrations for all seasons and occasions’.

It’s no surprise that I found this book to be ridiculous. However, I was slightly surprised that it is actually less politically correct than I would like.

So I’ve fixed some of their kids party themes to make them more appropriate.

Natural Spa Party

I don’t really care if the grapefruit sugar scrub is made from natural, organic ingredients; 8-year-olds should have something better to do than lounge around being ‘pampered’. This is the kind of thing adults resort to when we’ve realised that life is not one long adventure, we’re never going to the Olympics, and we’d rather lie down and try to forget.

So my suggestion is to have a Factual Spa Party where the children learn about the geological causes of natural hot springs in a classroom setting with a test at the end. Actually, that is just going to school rather than a party, but I still think it would be more fun for kids.

Gratitude Party

The idea here is to ‘spend the afternoon honouring a friend’s birthday and engaging in a gratitude treasure hunt’. The birthday girl/boy makes a list of things they are grateful to and hide treasures representing each of these things.

It’s all a bit smug.

Instead, I suggest holding a Guilt Hunt. The lucky birthday girl/boy makes a list of things they feel guilty about and you hide detritus representing their angst for the other children to find and be disappointed in. For example, climate change could be represented by a decapitated polar bear toy. Crop Failure could be represented by a chewed banana lolly with no food value. Your divorce could be represented by two dead sticks.

Wild Girls Tepee Party

This is a great idea for a party theme if you want to engage in cultural appropriation while reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Assuming that you don’t want to do that, I suggest holding a Dress Up as Your Parents Party. Games to play include Small Talk, Cracking the Shits and Pretending You Haven’t, and Alternating Between Sweet and Savoury Foods Until You Feel Sick.

Yes. I should write a book about this.