licensed to drive

driving 1

I wish I could say that the chaos at school the day before students returned was organised chaos, but that would have been delusional. It was just out of control chaos. Bone gripping exhausting chaos.

By the end of the day, I found myself sitting at the traffic lights unaware of anything until someone honked their car horn at me. I am not sure if I pulled up at a green light, or just failed to see the red turn to green, but I might still be sitting there if the man in the ute hadn’t beeped.

Then he barked at me like a dog! I thought, how dare he! Is he calling me a dog? Or worse still a bitch? Through the brain fog I slowly realised that he wasn’t barking at me, his dog was!

He gave me a wide berth at the next lights and then our paths separated. Thanks to traffic works, I spent most of the usually 45 minute freeway trip home doing less than 20km, rather than the usual 100km. Long day…

Yay, teaching.

Saturday night craft

This week’s project for Petite Fille’s Village, is a mushroom house. No pattern, so I can’t blame anyone for bad instructions! I sent a photo to Daughter2 and she said something along the line “Wow, you are fantastic at needle felting” and I replied something along the line “Obviously shows that the craft is for the most craft challenged” . That aside, I am really enjoying the elements of creativity, the relaxation of it all, and the fact that I am crafting something for my grand daughter.

Felted Mushroom HOUSE JAN 2014

I need to craft a base so that it doesn’t have to lean against something. I thought of maybe making something like a grassy knoll by using lavender inside a small bag and needle felting over, so that it is weighted, flexible and the lavender may help to keep insects out during storage, as it will really be a couple of years before everything is completed and the set is given to Petite Fille to play with. It would go straight to her mouth right now!

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and I guess I should write something about that.

Today is Australia Day. On Friday night, someone graffitied Captain Cook’s cottage that has been so painstakingly taken apart and transported from its original Yorkshire site in England to the city of Melbourne.  Saturday morning I woke to read a text message from a colleague that referred to Muslims. It linked Australia Day, Muslims, naked Australian women and beer drinking Australian males in a manner that was racist towards Muslims, but also, and perhaps this did not occur to my colleague, beautifully illustrated the “ugly” Australian image that so brings on more than just my cultural cringe.

Cooks' Cottage graffitied

I am not sure what either action means ultimately, but at the very least it shows that there is a lot of anger out there. Australia Day seems to bring that out in our hordes.

Australia Day when I was a child was largely ignored, except for a few communities where, if they had access to a beach, or a creek bank would dress up in replica British uniforms and before 1967 when we started thinking that hey, the indigenous actually do have some rights,  force some unlucky local indigenous to play startled and welcoming conscripts to the British Empire as Governor Phillip claimed the east coast of Australia for King and Country.

For a while after that, during the seventies and the division caused by the Vietnam War, I think we tried to forget Australia Day, except for the holiday part. Don’t ever try to part an Australian from their right to a public holiday. Not if you don’t want your kangaroo tied down, mate!

Then we wrestled the America’s Cup (yachting) from the Americans and somehow there was a gradual revival in the big day.

Every year, we are reminded by actions such as the graffiti that many indigenous people call our national day, a day of mourning, or for mourning. Who could blame them? The wide open country is yours, your culture is flourishing, your civilisation quite sophisticated, and along sails a flotilla of boats stacked with smelly, criminals, the great unwanted of the British elites, and illiterate soldiers to take away your world as you know it.  Disfranchised is the new black.

A couple of years ago, there were race riots, but not between white and indigenous, but with some of our more recently arrived immigrants, the newly disfranchised.  The news showed bare chested Aussie males wearing rubber thongs on tanned feet, Australian flags draped over their shoulders having a stoush with various ethnic groups on a city beach.  Add alcohol as it always is, and violence erupted.

What I remember most is feeling intensely ashamed of who and what, we as a nation are. We brand ourselves as multicultural, one of the “best experiments” in multicultural; as if we could return to “before” if the lab results weren’t favourable .  Or better still, develop one multicoloured pill and accept each other in the morning.

So, this Australia Day, as I wait to watch the evening news to see how it unfolded. I can only hope that this year the ugly Australian will not dominate. This year, I hope that we can progress in accepting each other, tolerating each other, learning about each other, and being a true multicultural nation. Though with Indonesia lining war ships up along their sovereign ocean borders to fend off those refugee boats that we Australians voted to turn back to Indonesia, where they also do not belong, I doubt that much will change.

And my colleague’s email? I would have hoped that they knew me well enough to know that I wouldn’t find that so humorous. Obviously, they don’t, or they didn’t read the hate and the harm in the context.  My action has been to ignore it. No LOLs.  It is a response that ever since has left me feeling less like the good guy. Does my not saying something actually seem like a form of acceptance, or agreement? But then again, if I say something, I could harm a very important work relationship. It is like that story that goes something like, “they came for the village next to mine, and I did nothing, they came for my neighbour and I did nothing, and then they came for me…” Where do I draw my line – for me or the other guy?

Am I nothing but an ugly, or at the very least, a weak, Australian as well?

life long learning


The annual refresher courses on CPR/First Aide, Fire Safety and Workplace Health and Safety are always exhausting, often boring, especially in the case of fire safety. Is this an electrical fire and does that mean an extinguisher with the yellow band? Or as it is in the IT server room should I use the carbon monoxide extinguisher and pray that I am fast enough to sprint through the door before the oxygen is sucked out of the entire room? Either way, don’t rely on me!

This was the fifth time I have undertaken these courses. Every second year is a full first aide refresher, this year only the CPR, but even that took over two and a half hours, what with pumping on the dummy chest and using epi pens. I am happy to announce that this year my dummy survived.

Maybe it was my powers of visualization that assisted me in saving its life, as I named it Minerva after my assistant and the knowledge of the extra work load I would have to fulfill in the incident of her death and lasting demise, may have spurred me on with an adrenalin rush that saw me pump hard on the damn rubber chest. I positively bounced up and down! I even got the chest to rise when I blew the two breaths into the rubber face, though the knowledge that I had just attached that rubber face to the dummy only moments before, like some forensic doctor finishing an autopsy and trying to remember where all the bits went before the family got their viewing, was a little off putting.

Even so, Minerva sighed and said that she wouldn’t rely on me to stop the white light at the end of the tunnel for her. I took some consolation in the fact that she allowed me to bleed to death after resuscitation.

The CPR course was delivered by a woman, mid fifties, with fashionably tussled greying hair and a figure that her white fitted shirt and black fitted pants showed to heart breaking perfection.  She was well practiced and smart enough to pause for the adolescent type giggling and sniggering by the back row male teachers when she delivered her most memorable lines. “CPR? Go in hard, fast and deep!” That one rippled through the room as even the slowest unpacked the double entendre and the snorts grew to guffaws. Well, at least Go in hard, fast and deep! will have created memory connections for most of the males., and maybe a few of the females even.

firemen salt and pepper shakers

A retired fireman on the other hand, delivered the fire safety. The type of guy who never made it out of his home suburb, but still managed to gain a good job and some position in his world. Well past sixty, he looked and acted as though he could be found most afternoons propping up the bar at the local pub, beer glass in hand, telling the bar staff, or any of those unaware of his routine, about the various fires he had witnessed and the stupidity of the average human.

He delivered the course last year, and the year before that. The only thing that had changed was now he had a carrier  for his monitor that was used to show a mind numbing video on the markings and uses of the various extinguishers. The carrier, or holder looked as though someone had taken a small pine book case and hacked out a space between the middle shelves for the monitor and to hold it in place. wedges of  styrofoam had been pushed on either side between monitor and book case. It was not a thing of beauty, but its function could not be ignored.

His jokes were the same as last year, and the year before that; as were his stories, even when we went outside to allow those who wanted to play fireman to shoot an extinguisher at a small fire in a drum.  I declined, as my duty of care will go as far as screaming at the students to follow me out of the door, and to be damn quick about it if they wanted to see my retreating back.

Apparently, my deficiencies aside, I was judged “competent” in the areas required and can now be trusted with your children.  If I were you, I would probably ask for a second opinion.

Things left unwritten

diary 1

At the end of last year I know I purchased a new, 2014 diary for work.  Day to a page, small enough to fit into a large handbag, but large enough for To Do lists, notes on students and summaries of meetings.

I thought I left it on my desk in my locked office on the last day of school 2013, but I returned this week and can not find it. I can’t find the notebook I thought I purchased as its companion either.

Does this mean I have lost control of the year already?


“You may want to keep a commonplace book which is a notebook where you can copy parts of books you think are in code, or take notes on a series of events you may have observed that are suspicious, unfortunate, or very dull. Keep your commonplace book in a safe place, such as underneath your bed, or at a nearby dairy.”

Lemony Snicket, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

People in glass houses

The thing is with professional navel gazing is that while we might all agree that standards need to be raised, and professional practice enhanced, no one actually thinks they are the one that needs to lift their game.

Smug and secure in our little arrogant cocoon of self confidence and delusion, we all assume that it is the other guys who really need to lift their standard and enhance their professional practice, as we are just perfect.



You talking’ to me?

The end of a long, hot, first day back at work, Minerva and I walked through the school gates and stood for a moment chatting in the driveway. We moved to cross the street to our cars and had only taken about 10 steps when we heard a crack and a crunch, and two branches fell from the tree high above, to land exactly where we had just been standing!


I suggested to Minerva that we quickly pick up a corner of the branches and climb under, with visions of emulating the wicked witch of Oz’s feet sticking out from under the house, so that we could claim compensation, but we thought that maybe The Big Whatever was trying to tell us something and not to tempt fate.

Maybe The Big Whatever needs to know that there are other forms of communication these days other than burning bushes and falling tree branches – like twitter and email for a start!

the temerity of the little person

look at me

Attending a meeting at “Head Office” is always an interesting experience, a little like walking through the neighbor’s house as they go about their daily life.  I always expect plush carpet and sophisticated offices, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the formality of being buzzed in through security doors. Are they afraid some burnt out, over worked and under paid teacher will come to reap their vengeance upon them?

There was a general sigh of relaxation as the HQ presenter was unable to connect the over head projector to her laptop, but she had the fail safe position of blaming the IT guys. “Why did they have to change us from something that worked, to this?” she lamented.

I replied for the group, “Because it is progress!” The first bonding laugh and we were a team.

Half way through the scheduled three hour meeting we halted and a coffee break was suggested. A crocodile line of those suffering caffeine withdrawal followed a HQ leader down a corridor, through an open plan office filled with individuals who stopped their work and stared at the aliens walking in their midst (I could just hear them thinking, “Who are they? They are not HO regulars.”). Then out a fire door, down a flight of stairs to the next floor, to parade past more quizzical expressions. I think they were living, breathing humans but some appeared so pallid, almost anemic that a pinch may have been needed to really confirm their condition; while others who had been caught in mid-step, darted like small creatures of prey to the protection of their desks and computer screens.

My tolerance level had been surpassed, so I smiled and announced to the interned that “We are on a coffee hunt!” but they merely blinked, stunned by being spoken to, and more frighteningly, addressed by someone not from HQ.  The temerity of those regionals! (I really wanted to say, “No, we don’t have two heads!)

It was instant coffee.

On the return trip, I ignored them. I am sure that they were all furiously typing memos about “regionals” cavorting within their inner sanctum, requesting the checking of locks on all security doors, but I knew we had secreted a chocolate cake in the meeting room and we weren’t going to share!  The temerity of those regionals!

another day, another lunch

gossip Photo by William Klein, 1960.

The problem with arriving early at a restaurant is trying to appear calm, collected and unperturbed sitting alone, while all your social insecurities war within.

Luckily, the restaurant in which I was waiting was cocooned within a small gift store, and so I made a mental list of the items displayed about me beside the names of the people for whom I thought they would make the perfect gift. Surprising how many times my name went against the trinket, or accessory!

The waitress asked if I wanted more than water as I waited, and I said, no thank you, and instantly regretted my decision, so I followed her back to the counter and asked for a chardonnay.  It was 41C outside and a cold drink was called for!

I only had time for a sip or two, before my companion arrived; a colleague who yesterday was offered a teaching position in The Village.  I raised my glass in congratulations and we set to gossiping. Three hours later, in which the waitress had befriended us as well, we were still reminiscing and gossiping, but reality finally struck and we both knew we really ought to go home.  We hugged and promised to wave as we passed each other on the highway during school term, as we will be going in opposite directions each day!

Tomorrow is a school day, so teachers can no longer wine and dine – we will just whine! Or maybe wine and whine?