Monday, 11 May 2015

The autumn leaves

I love Melbourne in autumn.

The colours in the gardens and parks look glorious against the back drop of the grey skies.

The streets and paths are piled high with drifts of fallen leaves. It seems impossible that anymore could fall, but there are still more to come.
Drift leaves
© 2015 divacultura

The old Greek men in the neighbourhood spend their Saturday mornings with their plastic rakes and garden bins gathering the leaves together.

"Doing the council's work," one of them says to me as I pass.

On a windy day, the task is sisyphean.

The punt on whether the sheets will dry on the clothesline, often pays off, despite a sky that suggests otherwise.

I find a big pile of leaves irresistible when I'm out walking.

I hope the wind has blown them into a pile as I swish and swoosh through them.

Autumn colour
© 2015 divacultura

Green, yellow and brown
© 2015 divacultura

Saturday, 9 May 2015

How important is my call, really?

There is no greater tool to distort the passing of time, than to be placed on hold by a call centre. The music is too tinny to be upbeat and even though the voice over is smiley and warm, it leads to thoughts of homicide. I made the tempting mistake of thinking I could make a "quick" call. As the minutes passed, it became an operatic melodrama.

I did the tracking on the website first. I expected to see something more recent than a visit to a western Sydney suburb three days ago. Was my package still there? Was it somewhere else? The website couldn't tell me.

I rang the number. To get to speak to someone, I first had to go through the same tracking process on the phone. I ended up in the same place, but this time, when I reached the end, I was able to say the word "consultant" so I could be placed on hold.

Well I was on hold for 20 minutes. That tinny music blared, only to be interrupted by overly cheerful announcements telling me I could get the answer from the website! I was at work and filed emails while I waited. That was the most useful part of the experience.

After 20 minutes a woman answered. I told her the story. She told me my parcel was in that western Sydney suburb. I asked her what it was still doing there. She suddenly noticed that it arrived there three days ago. She said it was probably on a truck and might still be delivered. I could tell she was faking. I asked her how she knew it was on a truck. She confessed that she didn't know; she was hoping. I pressed the point. She sighed. She asked me to confirm my business account details. I asked her what she meant. She told me the name of the workplace I was in. (The phones are jolly clever these days! We're all being watched, apparently.) She sighed, saying that she would need to put my personal details in. I provided them. This yielded nothing. She told me I was in the wrong section. I told her I said the word "consultant" when asked and here I was. She sighed again. She would have to put me through to another section. She couldn't do anything. I reminded her how long I had been on hold and that I wasn't really looking forward to another age of tinny music and falsely optimistic announcements from the voice over girl.

She was gone. I was on hold. The minutes ticked by. Slower than if I had been doing something enjoyable. My email in box was looking really good. I was scared I would run out of emails to file. It's amazing how much filing you can do in 30 minutes.

Neil said hello. I said hello. Another man said hello.

The line was crossed. The other man had been on hold for ages. Neil was confused. I was running out of emails to file. Neil concluded that we had a crossed line. He sensibly declared that he could only talk to one of us at a time. My details were the ones he had on the computer screen in front of him. YES! He would need to transfer Jamal.

With Jamal banished, Neil asked me how he could help. I was about to answer, but another man chimed in. I soon learned that his name was Eric. Neil explained that we had a crossed line and again demonstrated how clever he was. Eric disappeared. We started again. This time Brittany was also in the conversation. I started to laugh maniacally.

Neil concluded that this was a problem and said that we would both have to hang up. I was now 45 minutes into the phone call and hadn't resolved the issue. I wasn't giving up without a fight. I told Neil that someone would need to call me back. He promised they would; then said if they didn't I'd need to call back. I said it was unacceptable that there might be a possibility I would have to call back. I commented on how patient and good humoured I'd been so far.

Forty-five minutes later, my phone had not rung.

I called again. I went through the tracking process on the phone. I said "consultant". I went on hold.

By the time the call was answered by a person, I had run my errands in town, bought groceries and was on the train home, barrelling towards the inner west black spot where all phone calls drop out. North Melbourne is apparently in the wilderness of Melbourne.

I explained the black spot problem to Sue and asked if she would call me back if the call dropped out. She told me that wasn't possible. I got off the train. I stood on the platform as Sue clicked away on her keyboard and sighed and gave me no new information. Sue told me she really didn't know where the parcel was. She told me I couldn't complain until three business days after the EDD. That's the estimated delivery date. The EDD was the very day that I was filing my emails, having brief encounters with men called Neil and Jamal and Eric.

I asked how I make a complaint.

Sue told me I just needed to call. There was no hint of irony either.

This morning I woke up to an email from the recipient of the parcel to say it had arrived. I could have just asked, but had not wanted to spoil the surprise.

Happy Mother's Day Mum! Thanks for being my proofreader (after publication).

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Life sentence imposed on families.

With the execution of Australian citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Indonesian government has imposed a life sentence on people who are innocent of any crime.

The families of these men, and the other six people murdered with them, have not been convicted of any crime, yet they have been sentenced to grief for the rest of their lives.

What right does any government have to do that? How are these murders okay? And they are murders. There was deliberate intention to kill.

I had hoped that someone, somehow, would have have managed to get the pictures so the world could not hide from the barbarous reality of what has been done. It seems unlikely as all precautions were taken by authorities to stop this happening. If there's nothing wrong with the actions taken, why hide?

If there are Indonesian citizens being held awaiting execution anywhere in the world, the certainty of their deaths was cemented last night.

I wonder why effort was put into rehabilitation if it was all to end like this.

I also wonder about the Constitutional Court appeal due to be held on 12 May. Whatever the outcome, it is surely tainted.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Human Rights - it's personal

Sally Warhaft, Julian Burnside and Tom Porteous
in conversation at The Wheeler Centre.
When I booked tickets to this evening's Fifth Estate event at the Wheeler Centre to hear Julian Burnside, barrister and refugee advocate, and Tom Porteous from Human Rights Watch discuss human rights, none of us knew that later tonight two Australian citizens would probably be executed. I say probably, because while there is breath in their bodies, there is hope.

It seems cruelly apt to be thinking and talking about human rights when state sanctioned murder is about to occur.

As I listened to chair, Sally Warhaft, share her private grief about what is likely to happen, I really felt the truth that human rights is personal and it's individual and it is important for every human being.

Last weekend, I called the police after hearing a woman nearby screaming for her life. She's human and has rights and I can't stand by and hear her being threatened without taking some kind of action.

At the same time, the so-called leader of the free world presides over a country that still has the death penalty. Julian Burnside spoke about the fact that the debate in the US is currently more about the method of execution, rather than the existence of it. He said some of the countries that manufacture the chemicals required for execution by lethal injection are refusing to supply it. Tom Porteous said that in his home state of Maryland (which includes the city of Baltimore) consideration is being given to bringing back firing squads and gas because of the difficulties faced in carrying out lethal injections. (Read more.)

How can Indonesia take criticism of its actions seriously, while this is going on in the US? Or while Australia runs concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island?

I was struck by Tom Porteous' statement about "judicial fallibility" coupled with the "irreversibility of the death sentence". What a terrible cocktail.

Twitter and Facebook show a wide range of views, including those that suggest people should get what's coming to them if they break the law. Here's my response:

The session will be available as a podcast tomorrow if you'd like to listen.

I'm off to light a candle and hope for some goodness and sense in the world.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Gaggles of girls and group dynamics

The door opened and four people spilled into the pizza shop. The televisions weren't on as usual, so the restaurant part of the shop was quieter than usual. A burly man wearing the high-visibility shirt and sturdy boots which denotes "blue collar" followed in the tumble of girls and curls who spilled in before him. Their prissy and fussy starkly contrasted with the utilitarian functionality of the man.

He asked the girls where they wanted to sit. They noisily chose a booth and proceeded to pile onto the banquette, opposite their father who looked as if he was attending a job interview. Quickly the girls were silenced by the compelling content of their electronic device. He studied the menu. All interaction between the opposite sides ceased. The middle girl would occasionally elbow the older and the younger to stop them crowding her as their hypnosis deepened.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"Where's mum?" they asked.

"She'll be here soon," he replied.

Is this a Friday night handover of children between divorced parents? I wondered.

"What do you want?"

"PIZZA!" they screamed.

Well, it's a pizza shop, so that's a pretty good pick.

I continued to wonder at the contrast between the man and his progeny. All these girls - so many of them! - with their giggles and glances and things - so many of them! - must be mysterious to such a man. How does he come to know and understand his daughters? Already they seem to wield power of the man.

A feeling of confused wonder surfaced. I'd had it before. I remember sitting on a train when a group of young women dressed for a night on the town all boarded the carriage together. The sounds, sights and smells were overwhelming. As a pack, they were intimidating. They had so many shoes and bags and nails; so much hair and earrings. They jangled and tinkled when they moved, providing the soundtrack to their overly loud voices and awful, false, self-conscious tittering. The wall of their perfume made them an impenetrable group.

I look at the father and think about how lonely it can be when you're on the outside of a group - even if it's one that you don't want to be part of.

I'm doing some professional development next week as I embark on an Advanced Diploma of Group Dynamics. See you afterwards.