Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Superannuation - what's your name again?

I've made some progress on my superannuation campaign! I've also been stuck in another bureaucratic loop.

The good news is that I've received a refund of insurance premiums and fees. It's a small amount of money but an important acknowledgement that other people were spending my money in a way I had not authorised and that is of no benefit to me.

In the meantime, the Australian Tax Office is investigating whether I've been denied choice of superannuation fund under the requirements of the superannuation choice legislation. I suspect I know what the answer will be, but it's all part of amassing evidence to then mount an argument and perhaps broaden the campaign.

My local members of parliament will soon be hearing from me.

Today I received a letter from the UniSuper Fund thanking me for my request to change my membership details. They then went on to note my new name and new address.  I've had the same name since birth and the same mailing address for fourteen years, so I was a little concerned. I rang the fund and was advised that the university HR department had changed my details.

"Change them back please," I said.

"We can't do that over the phone," came the reply from Alice.

"Why not?"

"Only the university HR department can change those details. You need to speak to them."

"Am I the owner of the account?" I asked.


"If there was money in the account, would that money belong to me?"


"Why can someone who is not me change my name and address?"


"You'll need to speak to HR. I can't do anything."

Maybe I'm feeling a bit sensitive after having to convince another employer on the weekend about what my name is. There was no folder with my name on it. Several people pointed me to the folder with the right first name, but the wrong surname.

"Oh, you're not Tanya Frew?"

"No I'm not."

"Are you sure?"

I have no patience for conversations like that.

I refuse to be sent back into the bureaucratic haze of buck passing between the employer and the superannuation fund. I insisted that the details be fixed. Alice just called back and told me the problem had been rectified. It's amazing what becomes possible when you persist, sound like you know what you're talking about and sound like you mean it.

I'll be calling the university HR department tomorrow to remove any authority for them to make changes to my account. I'll also be asking for details of the authority that they had to make the changes in the first place. That should be interesting.

In the course of the call, I've discovered that my account has been reopened, but no money has been paid in. It is set up without insurance attached, so that tells me that someone, somewhere is listening.

I'm a supporter of compulsory superannuation, but won't accept this distortion of the system.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

To borrow a phrase - I can't stand the rain

It's raining in Melbourne. It's been raining solidly for the last couple of days. Apparentlly we've received our monthly rainfall in a couple of days. I forget which month. It's a bit wearing, travelling around, hauling umbrellas, avoiding others' umbrellas, being constantly damp, managing frizzy hair, but it's been lovely to see the grass green again.

I've been persisting with my daily walk. The trains and trams are so stuffy and humid that it's actually nicer to be out in the air, even if you are a bit damp and your hair has turned into a fuzz ball. In one spot where I walk there is a glorious stand of eucalyptus trees. I pause to take in the scent. I also notice the bubbles forming on the puddles and feel sorry for the people trapped in their cars, lined up and going no where.

I've been puzzled by the people I've seen hunched over, as if they are making themselves so small, they would fit between the raindrops. In one hand they clutch an umbrella. Why don't they open it and take shelter?

Umbrellas are particularly hazardous when boarding and alighting from trains and trams. I was nearly stabbed to death by a small Asian woman who suddenly changed direction while we waited to touch off our mykis on the way out of the station. I stood very still and she looked terrified.

All the floors are slippery and I walk like a 90 year-old woman everywhere I see a smooth service. Since my fall last year, I'm acutely aware of how a simple fall can cause serious injury. I'm constantly surprised by how many walking surfaces are completely unsuited to wet weather and rushing crowds of people.

This morning's commute was chaotic. Power failures further down the line meant cancellations and delays. As the train pulled into the station 15 minutes late, the windows were dark with crowds inside and fogged with all their breathing. I insinuated myself into an inadequate space, having already let one train pass. I held onto an overhead railing at an angle just wrong enough to make me feel discombobulated when I finally arrived at my destination.

Coming home a woman asked whether station announcements are made on the train.

"Sometimes," I told her. "If you're lucky, they might even be accurate."

She looked at me like I was some kind of zealot.

Soon the voice of Metro trains announced that the next station was Seddon. It wasn't. It was South Kensington. Only two stops out. The woman looked at me with mistrust when I told her where to get off. The train, I mean. I shrugged. She could trust me - a stranger on a train - or she could trust the disembodied, malfunctioning woman with the voice. Or she could look out the window and see the name of the station.

It's nice to arrive home to a dry place; although I'm slightly nervous that the unattended hole in the ceiling will soon prove to be catastrophic.

As I settle in to watch Survivor tonight, I'm reminded to be glad that I'm not camping on a beach, even if I was in the running to win a million dollars. Or in north Queensland waiting for the cyclone to arrive.

How do you feel about rain?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

In concert - Bernadette Peters

I spent last night with Broadway star Bernadette Peters in concert. I saw her a few years ago at the Sydney Opera House and remember being a little disappointed. I put it down to the dodgy acoustics. When she came out and started with "Let me Entertain You" from the musical Gypsy, I wondered if it wasn't the hall that was the problem last time.

Before the show I struck up a conversation with a woman whose table I was sharing while I had a cup of coffee. She didn't really know who Bernadette Peters is and had won her ticket on the radio. I told her that she's 67 years old as the woman looked at her program. The woman told me that she hadn't looked as good as Bernadette when she was 25! I considered her now and believed this to be true.

Ms Peters looked fantastic wearing a spaghetti-strapped, soft lilac gown with just the right amount of sparkle and a split in the front of the skirt coupled with satin heels. She shimmied around the stage and wasn't always on the microphone.

Hamming it up during one of the best versions of "Fever" I've ever heard, the diva slinked her way up the stairs to lie on a black velvet pillow and strike a shapely drape on top of the piano, she sang the song with lust and wit accompanied by double bass and drums. Yes! This was great performance.

Charming conversation interspersed the evening. "Joanna" from Sweeney Todd started with a cracked note, but improved from there. I started to get a bit twitchy and then I realised what the problem was. Bernadette Peters is much more an actress who sings, than a singer who acts. She is at her best when there's an emotional or comic element to the song. Listening to her sing is not enough and will be a disappointing experience. If you can absorb yourself in the emotion of the performance, then the experience is sublime. Losing my Mind from Stephen Sondeheim's Follies was extraordinarily emotional and like watching someone have a break down driven by the grief of a broken relationship.

The show ended with the big Sondheim song, Being Alive from Company, full of hope (and a fluffed lyric or two).

For encore, Peter Allen's song "I Honestly Love You" left me with tears overflowing. She then shared "Kramer's Song" a song she wrote as part of a children's book written for an animal shelter charity. Kramer is her dog and it was lovely.

I'd love to see Bernadette Peters in a show, rather than just in concert. It must be incredible.

Were you there at Her Majesty's Theatre last night? Have you seen Bernadette Peters? What did you think?

Monday, 7 April 2014

You must want this - because we're telling you you do!

On my way home this evening I walked past the H & M store which opened in Melbourne's old GPO building in Bourke Street on Saturday. Until this week, I had never heard of H & M. Apparently they are a Swedish clothing retailer and we're supposed to be beside ourselves with excitement.

By the middle of last week, builders were putting the final touches to the building and installing red carpets, velvet ropes, spotlights and marquees. There was also a huge digital clock counting down the very seconds until our deprivation would be ended and Melbourne would have the only H & M store in Australia. I watched as two young women shooed the fifty-year old male security guard behind a pillar so they could take photographs of the front entry (before the store opened). A whippet thin, spray tanned PR blond standing nearby smirked as she tried to operate her phone with her stupidly long fake fingernails.

Since the opening on Saturday, people have been queuing for hours to gain entry. To a shop. That's right, people have been lining up for hours so they can go into a shop. If it was World War II and we were in Leningrad, then this might be appropriate if the shop was a bakery or supermarket, but it isn't. Presumably all of the merchandise inside the shop is only a click away from the comfort of bed if your ipad is handy. Amongst all the groaning about the demise of bricks and mortar retailers, the hype seems ridiculous.

On Saturday there was a DJ inside Flinders Street Station. That was nice, but it didn't inspire me to go and stand in a line for hours. Banners at Southern Cross Station told me that the moment I'd been waiting for had arrived!

I wonder what it's like inside and whether there are crowds of people and the restriction of numbers is just to keep the queue in place, with the double effect of scarcity and desirability sending the message that everyone needs to be there.

A quick look at their website suggests that it's Swedish Target or Big W. I suppose that's handy, but it's not enough for me to stand in a line for hours. I would have trouble doing this for the Leningrad Bakery, I'm certainly not doing it now.

The last time I queued was Expo 88 in Brisbane. The whole city learned how to queue for hours at Expo. It was so well-organised and there was passing entertainment, that you didn't mind. You knew that it was only going to be there for 6 months, so there was a now or never aspect to it. Word got out very quickly about what was worth queuing for and logically, the places that were worth the wait always had a wait. I haven't heard that H & M is a pop up shop and will be gone soon. I can just wait until the day I can just walk in the door. I expect to be as underwhelmed as I was when Zara opened at the other end of the mall.

I wonder how long the velvet ropes and security guards will last? Have you been to H & M? What's it like? What are you willing to queue for?

Friday, 4 April 2014

What I'm saying "thank you" for this week.

This morning I woke up at 5am, forty-five minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I'm grateful because it gave me time to wash my hair and still be at work on time. I felt better about myself today.

Thank you.

A participant in the program I have been facilitating this week, bowled up to me at the end of the two days, looked in my eyes, smiled and told me that I had really inspired him.

Thank you.

Another participant told me that he had realised that he has been badly behaved at work. He also told me that his behaviour had been bad for 40 years and no one had ever told him. He told me that he now knows he needs to change. He told me he needs help because he doesn't know how to make the change. I felt privileged to be the person he confided in. I had thought he would be difficult to deal with, but I had really enjoyed his participation. I told him so.

Thank you.

I was to meet a friend who is visiting Melbourne this evening. He received an invitation relevant to the conference he's here attending and had to change our plans. We're meeting tomorrow for lunch. I'll be much fresher and awake! (I'm very tired this evening.) I now get a bonus early night and still get to see my friend.

Thank you.

Listening to the story of a boy who fled Afghanistan at the age of 14 after his father was murdered and spent a year in immigration detention on Christmas Island, I thought about what I was doing when I was fourteen. I was at school. I was starring in the school musical. I was playing music. I was reading novels. I was hanging out with friends and writing letters to my pen pals. I don't think I would have been able travel alone to the other side of the planet and start a new life. This boy is now vice captain at his school and is relishing the opportunity he has to sit exams.

Thank you.

Lastly, I'm grateful for Survivor. Last night was sensational viewing in the Beauty, Brawn and Brains season. The show gave me a point of connection with one of the less engaged participants at today's workshop. I also had a fabulous debrief on the phone afterwards with one of my friends. (For the record, Cass did her dash last night and LJ is very nice to have around.)

Thank you.

And lastly, always, thank you for the music. This week I've been listening to Max Richter's The Four Seasons Recomposed and The Fray's album "Helios".

What are you saying "thank you" for this week?