A surprising diversity of women and performance

The ceiling and internal walls are painted black. The beams across the roof space are black. The pipes and cables, ducts and vents are all black. It is a coarse black, like a paint mixed with sand, light deadening black. One lateral wall is raw bluestone. Rough and light absorbing, dense cubed blue black cut rock chunks, mortared one on top of the other. But there is a small ray of light on the opposite side. A backlit bar of low yellow light filtering temptingly through glamorous bottles of spirits. They look inviting, sophisticated, sitting there on their top shelf, surrounded by sparkling, glistening, gleamingly clean glasses. It is a combination that speaks to many in the crowd. Pick me up, pour me out. Lift a glass, drink me down. Feel my calming warmth, my warming confidence. Dull your inhibitions, sharpen your connectivity, drink me toward carelessness, toward the fun side, toward letting yourself go.

There’s also a bit of a haze in the air. It’s incense. Maybe this is an atmospheric substitute for the cigarette and dope smoke of the good old days.

There is a lot of noise in here too. If a band isn’t playing, the mixing desk fills the room with sound. The bass is a palpable presence. I can’t find the melody. People are milling and chilling, hanging and slow dancing, like it is all some sort of discordant pagan ritual.

A new band is setting up. A pity for them that the previous band seems to have taken their crowd with them. Or else they have all gone out for a bit of smokey fresh air. I have no idea what is coming next. Just as I had no idea what went before. They were a group of young women playing synth rock in heavily modified bathing suits derived from the glam era. Their costumes were fashionalised using hi vis silvery satin in the form of a quilted one piece on the singer, as opposed to a high rise buttock displaying deep bikini brief, with a collared halter above and thigh high boots below, and including an elegant fascinator on the very top and across the face of the keyboard violinist. The latter appeared a bit like a layer cake of semi revealing fashion statements with plenty of skin in between. Theses two made their male drummer and relatively conservative female guitarist look tame.

They ran a concurrent fashion show en masse on the dance floor. Ten or so young women broadcast their fashion credentials to the audience with great enthusiasm. Designers were celebrated from the stage. It was an interesting combination of performance and presentation.

And now, the crowd is seriously thinning. It seems my $10 at the door is going to buy me quite an intimate next performance. The new band arcs up. Three young men of indifferent attitude. Except that they all have white plastic chains around their necks. The bass player looks a bit like Hagan. I take a second look. However, I hear his name is actually Matt Hayes. So, I conclude Hagan hasn’t been out band moonlighting after all. But it does take me back to more good old days, those of The High Suburban.

Oh, now this is getting interesting, three women have emerged from the taffeta, satin, chintz and chenille vulval gateway at the side of the stage. An Asian ethnic in customised white Buddhist(?) robes, a Caucasian ethnic in an over size t shirt and with a fringed veil across her eyes, an African ethnic in a Nigerian(?) style of shiny evening dress and shoulder strapped top that drops hanging panels of fabric vertically over her thighs. The African girl presents her peroxide crew cut capped face to the audience. She performs a musically accompanied monologue, then leaves the stage.

The music continues as she is followed by a procession of inter ethnic beauties who repeat the pattern of emerging from the vulval fabric gateway to perform individual dance solos on stage right. Their duration is of a few moments each, before stepping down into the crowd to continue some attractively sensual moves as writhing nymphs, each presenting diverse designer fashion statements to the room. The unexpected nature of the collective performance and sound is rather exotic.

The music is a sort of techno electro pop blend I guess. The Asian principal, Japanese I think, pumps a keyboard synthesiser and cuts on the violin. It turns out the veiled white with blonde curls is lead vocalist. She rocks and rolls while sliding and dialling up effects that expand the auditory spectrum. The backing keyboard player drapes his shoulder length dark hair across his face with every forward dip to the rhythm and then flicks it back again. His pale, lightly whiskered face against a black backdrop and above a black t shirt, bobs along in the background like the legendary bouncing ball of the good old days of cinema sing alongs. I can’t see the drummer, he is so low and set back on the stage, but they keep him working hard. Hold it, there he is. His head appears in a gap between the frontline surrounded by projected radiating laser light centred on his scone and pulsing outwards to infinity and beyond. At this point in time it is fair to say he is putting on a dazzling display. There is definitely a lot of energy on the stage.

The show continues as an interesting mix. There is clearly an acknowledgement of a dual discipline camaraderie going on here. I sense it is personal for most of the crowd. There is the enjoyable quality of hopeful up and comers, as yet inexperienced, tending toward the amateur end of the professional scale, but showing how hope can keep you inspired and endeavour can keep you switched on and up for the up and up, if you have the perseverance.

The fashion statements are slowly subsumed by a modestly thickening crowd. I mean it is hardly dense, but I don’t mean it detracts from the atmosphere. On my count, there are around sixty silhouetted gyrating shapes up front of me. I can’t say dancing because the rhythm is largely inconsistent, but there is certainly a lot of sound happening and plenty of episodic rhythmic grabs to hold on too. It is nice to see nearly everyone is on the dance floor instead of hunkered down in even darker corners or blankly tapping their toes in stage remote seats. I think the band and the audience are getting a mutually pleasurable buzz from their collective effort at novelty and vigour. It is great to see so many young women with so many different backgrounds going for it. It is hope that keeps me warm (with thanks to Mel C).

The Elle Shimada Band will be back at The Evelyn in Brunswick St next Wednesday. I do not know if the whole fashion thing happens again, but I hope it does for the next crowd as well.

A not so bold political statement

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It is Australia Day. For the first time, I attended an Australia Day event. I have never supported the notions of nationalism and jingoism that the day implies.

I thought I might attend this year for the simple reason I plan to do more roving reporting for Tableland Talk. I want to attend more community events because I believe sharing and supporting each other is the pinnacle of human endeavour. I also want to acknowledge achievements recognised by the community. But still, I kept changing my mind. I wasn’t going, then I was, then I wasn’t, then I went.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Australia is a great place to live, with many great people. However, although I feel we are fortunate to be here in the land of Oz, I don’t believe for a minute Australians are any better than other members of humanity. We too are subject to human nature. We have the potential to be as good as and as bad as anyone else.

To my mind, a principal strength has been our adoption of other ethnicities and cultures – over time. The shameful treatment of the indigenous community being the glaring exception. Otherwise, I love the diversity and multiculturalism that is largely celebrated here. This should be the real reason to enjoy a national day, not the arbitrary “Australian values” espoused by desperate Conservative politicians.

Our un-revered Prime Minister Scott Morrison tipped me over the line. He provided me with a mode of protest. I wanted to make a statement as a rebuttal of Morrison’s anti-democratic announcement that he would “protect our national day from people trying to skirt the rules or playing politics”. How would he achieve this? By threatening elected local governments considering changing the day of their citizenship ceremonies and insisting attendees adopt a dress code imposed by the Department of Home Affairs.

Australian values or un-Australian, you be the judge. I for one chose to attend the local Australia Day gathering dressed in thongs, shorts and a T shirt. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone recognised my bold political statement.

A change of plan

A bit of a rethink needed this morning. I have been in the habit of alternating time on the bike with a bit of a run – most days. The bike activity varies between the resistance trainer, on the quieter bitumen, dirt tracks or in the bush every now and then. It is something I intend to keep up as is (despite the magpie season). However, the running has presented some serious problems.

The first running problem appeared to be a product of distance and age. As I regularly got further past the 6km mark, my intermittent left hip malalignment became increasingly troublesome. I started having to stop to line up the ball and socket more often. Also, the hip was becoming sore between times, which was new. Hmmm. It was looking like time to reconsider my approach.

Then there was the dog. Running along Spring Crrek Rd one day, there was suddenly a rush of snapping teeth and aggressive growling and barking behind me. A charging border collie had come out of nowhere. I must have passed it in the scrub.

He got under my legs and knocked me to the ground. I landed hard on the bitumen, scoring myself some scrapes and nasty bruises. Luckily he hadn’t got a grip at this stage, but he was coming at me while I was on the ground. Fortunately, he chose to come at my legs again. I was able to kick him in the neck. It must have hurt because he backed off, snarling with his hackles way up.

I was seriously frightened and badly shaken. I had landed square on my hip and wondered if it was broken. Lying there without any mechanical form of defence I was sure those teeth were going to find a mark.

I tentaively stood up to test my weight bearing. It was OK, so I steadily backed away. After a couple of lunges and as I got further down the road the dog started to stand back, more ready to let me go. At this point, I decided this sort of running wasn’t for me.

However, confining yourself exclusively to one form of exercise gets to be a demotivating drag. I will be forever grateful to swimming, which restored me from the severe back injury scrap heap many years ago, when I suffered extruded discs at work. In health, I would choose swimming if I didn’t find it so boring. So, what to do? I tried quigong, but it was to slow for me. Yoga never felt right either.

Then, in the context of all the new research demonstrating the benefits of short bursts of high intensity exercise, I thought running a couple of km along the creek might be good. It was. Beautiful, doable, no hip soreness. But yesteday ….

As has happened several times before, Mary and I were walking along, aware to watch for snakes. As usual, we let our minds and eyes wander upward toward koala and bird spotting. Once again we only became alert to a snake when it was underfoot. Here it is, a medium sized copperhead. Easily mistaken for a red bellied black or a dark coloured brown, you can tell it is a copperhead by the pale triangular scales along the lips.

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So, for the warmer months at least, I think a change of plan is necessary. I see enough snakes to realise that I am genuinely running the risk of a snake strike along the creek. That won’t stop me walking there, but I think running heightens the risk.

Instead, today I ran through town, down to the derelict Armstong St Bridge (see photo in previous post) and back.  Even surfaces, a modest rise, a gravel footpath through town, a low traffic dead end blacktop, scenic rolling hills with the pretty golf course on one side and the solitary water tower on the other, a gorgeous riparian bush zone to look over at the terminus. Not a bad change of plan.

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A Problem in Shepparton

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Diary of a Retiree: Day 294

An interesting day not so long ago, a problematic day, a day spent in Shepparton. In response to a letter from Subaru Australia, urgently urging replacement of our Subaru Forrester’s high risk air bag, I booked the car in for this to be done. A service and attention to a couple of other issues were due as well. I was advised all could be taken care of if they had the car for the day. I got up at 6am to have the car there around 8am.

To follow, 8+ hours in Shepparton without a car looked like a bit of a challenge. I planned to walk most of the day: to the river for half a day of birdwatching, back to town for lunch, to the gallery, around the CBD, to the museum, to the library and back to Subaru on the outskirts of town.

On arrival at Subaru Shepparton, the first item on my list went awry. I was told that in fact, they didn’t have any replacement air bags. Yes, really! I guess it all seems quite simple to them. I just take a day out to go there again when it suits them. My needs, as the customer, appeared to be largely irrelevant to the process. I expressed my disappointment. I stated that if I been told this when I booked in I would not have come until there were replacement air bags available.

I have since had an apology from Shepparton Subaru. It was explained to me that Subaru Australia and the dealerships are out of synch on this process. I was reassured the Forrester’s air bag had previously been replaced with a like model that would not have time to dangerously deteriorate before they contacted me to say they had a permanent replacement. Despite this reassurance, I am still finding the sequence of events hard to understand. I am also unclear how I could be told the air bag replacement could be done in the first place if they did not actually have any in stock.

I find this sort of attitude toward customers increasingly prevalent. It seems to be becoming the status quo for corporate customer (non) service delivery. Customers are expected to pay for the pleasure of servicing the vendor with their business. The transaction then occurs at the convenience of the vendor. Or, even worse, customers are expected to complete unpaid work for the vendor before the vendor will consider doing business with them at all. For example, not so long ago I had to do all the work to prove to Telstra that it was possible for them to provide an internet connection.

There wasn’t any point in going home. Some work could be done. I left the car. I headed toward the river. It took nearly an hour from the Subaru dealer’s address. It was not exactly a pleasant walk. The dominant features of Shepparton’s entry roadside built environments are the garish, tilt up concrete facades of every ubiquitous franchise found on every arterial approach to every modest and bigger metropolis and suburb in the country. The worst form of urban homogeneity. Also, there was serious noise. The traffic in Shepparton is surprisingly heavy. Between the many traffic lights, trucks alternately growled down the gears toward braking or puffed clouds of diesel fumes into the air as they pushed their way back up to speed. Cars ducked and weaved amongst them. This happened all the way, smack through the centre of town!

As I approached the CBD, many places of business were empty. The tell tales of long term dormancy were myriad. Dust sat heavily on the floors inside. Last autumn’s leaves remained piled into corners and sparsely littered wide empty spaces once filled with display cases, goods for sale and cashier desks. Piles of unopened letters and bills clogged letterboxes or doorway slots and layered themselves untidily on the floors immediately inside each entrance. Shabby, yellowing reminders of an inability to pay, and most likely, an inability to extract payment by such routine means. Grimy windows contrasted with a series of vividly desperate “For Lease” signs stuck to the glass. A few stores even looked like the owners just had enough, went past coping, upped and walked out one day, never to return. Their left-over stock mouldering in grubby backgrounds, awaiting rediscovery by the next occupants. Ancient artefacts of a dim, dark past. That is of course, if there are any next occupants.

I speculated and I felt a touch of sadness for the travails of failed small businesses. The early optimism, the sobering doubts, the dawning of harsh realities, the stress, the final decision to quit, the diversity of costs. I wondered, “Where they are now?” I walked on.

I had water, food, camera in hand, time to kill ….. and the anticipatory hope of discovery. A natural bush environment, rich in river red gums, acacias and native grasses. A majestic river, sliding along lazily between deep, foliage rich embankments. A beautifully clear mid-winter day of warm sunlight and blue skies. A great day for walking.

What did I find? Well, not much really. There were the usual suspects, the wood ducks, the galahs, the wattle birds and a few wrens, but the river wasn’t exactly teeming with the birdlife I expected. In fact, the opposite was true. As I wandered back into town after some 4 hours of walking, I asked myself, “There was food, there was water, there was a seemingly healthy natural environment but, where were all the birds?”

This worried me. It reminded me of the same disturbing feeling I had in Europe a few years ago. I was excited about the prospect of seeing new species, but I didn’t know the bird population there had begun to collapse. We saw precious few birds. The idea that this may be happening here is terrifying. However, more and more, tarmac, buildings,  broad acre mega farms (monoculture deserts) and use of food chain destroying pesticides are more the norm than not here these days as well. It would be naïve to think we will escape similar consequences.

As for the other activities for the day, well, I had myself some passable vegetarian fried rice for lunch. The gallery was quite interesting, but I found myself surprised by how small it was. Consequently, it didn’t take too long travel through. There were some expressive works of felted text and symbolic messages by Raquel Ormella in the featured exhibition “I hope you get this”. I did Raquel, artistic, challenging and interesting.

Some of the aboriginal pieces took my fancy as well. There was one of particular interest depicting the Murray as a joyful hunting and play ground and then the future impacts as the water sport loving crowd crashed the party.

I walked the commercial districts, but was unable to unearth many redeeming features. What looked like the original CBD is now economically dominated by the usual monster supermarket / Kmart (or was it Target?) flatland complex down the road. Surrounding a large flatland central car park, these brazen intruders are well beyond consolidating a commercial beachhead. It felt more like an internal island state!

I walked the residential surrounds. Sure, there were some nice looking historic, come stately homes. However, somewhere back in time the Shepparton municipal guardians made the same mistake so many of their kind have, they let the developers have their say and their way. Consequently, neighbourhood character of a sort that might be appreciated during the pleasure of a long exploratory walk in a country town, was not to be found.

I took a restful break for a half hour or so in the well trafficked library, reading from the well-stocked magazine rack, before heading back to where it all started – the peripherally located Shepparton Subaru. To avoid the noise of the main roads, I mapped a route of minor roads. It was quieter, but otherwise seriously uninspiring. I found myself amongst a mix of untidy or plain houses with bland gardens that gave way to untidy light industry. The people occupying these spaces appeared to think glycophopsphate was the best gardening invention of all time. Already parched landscapes had been further denuded of growth both inside fences and along “nature strips”. You could clearly see the withered remnants of plants and residualspray dyes along the way. This sad observation did not improve my impression of the place at all!

This was my day in Shepparton. The day I didn’t get an air bag replacement

Diary of a Retiree: Day 273

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Fitness

While walking along the Goulburn River a couple of days ago, I realised I was getting a bit short of breath going up hills. I haven’t been doing much strenuous exercise in recent months and I think it is telling. So, I got on the bike for a 10k tester to see where I was at. I need to get the cardiovascular system pumping again! The legs felt heavy and I was puffing away on inclines that have never bothered me before. My conclusion is that walking is a wonderful form of exercise for keeping you active, the joints mobile and getting some fresh air into your lungs, but you most certainly need to get the heart rate up on a regular basis as well.

Getting back on the bike mid-winter around here is something of a challenge though. Even on this sunny afternoon, the chill factor on the downhill cruise was quite uncomfortable across my chest. I will need to pick my times and use the resistance trainer in between. Still, these are good options and I think I am in the right frame of mind for regular cycling again.

I also started a Quigong class a couple of months ago. This is an ancient form of Chinese martial art practiced in a fluid, slow motion, somewhat like Tai Chi. It is excellent for coordination, balance, mind / muscle control and range of motion. I am yet to remember the 64 sequential movements necessary to take myself to the most basic level of fluidity, but that will come in time.

Company

There have been quite a few visitors lately. The most recent, a lovely visit from Lyn, an old school friend. This weekend brother Keir and nephew Caleb are arriving for some riding and bushwalking. It has been wonderful to see so many friends and family make the effort to come here. We really value and appreciate their stays. Interestingly, I don’t always know the people that come. Recently we had a visit from Mitch (who used to work for Mary) and his wife Jacqui. In their mid 20s, I had only briefly met them at their engagement party a while ago.  What a delight to have such vital, intelligent, young visitors in the mix. They were great company and I really hope to see them again.

I love it when we have people of all ages come. Mary’s Melbourne book group is a case in point. 10 of them, half in their late 20s / early 30s, half in their 60s, are a highly entertaining bunch. I am lucky to be able to sit in when they meet at our place. Their birthday book club lunch meeting celebrating Darren’s 30th and Mary’s 60th was a real hoot. There was lots of laughter, perceptive book talk and conversations all over the place. I was sorry to see them go.

It is also great to see people arrive with their baggage and begin to leave some cares behind as they settle into the groove of just being here, no pressure to do anything, time to talk and walk, to look around, become part of the landscape and change down a cog, to begin to match the pace of the place. At least, this is the way I see it and I hope this is the way they find it to be.

 

Sean

Where Have I been?

Diary of a Retiree: Day 247

181 days since my last diary specific entry.

Where have I been?

I have had this question a few times. Maybe it is time to answer it. I have been in a headspace called preoccupied. A week or two ago, I had a realisation. I realised that I may have finally arrived somewhere else. Where? Well, I think I arrived at some sort of understanding or reconciliation with the fact that I no longer need to be preoccupied with the concept of working under the instruction of others. It has taken eight months.

Admittedly, particularly in the last five years or so, I enjoyed a significant degree of autonomy in my work – a very fortunate and often rewarding circumstance. On the other hand, I found plenty of reasons to be dissatisfied, especially when I felt outcomes could have been better. Instead of settling systems into place, I have seen widespread and rapid change with poorly considered impacts on work groups become the norm. The recurring, patronising platitudes and executive level incompetence I have seen offered up in approaches to radical change management have been gob smacking. I have felt stymied by management incumbents and structures that do little other than promote power plays, churn and corporate memory loss. I have seen stabilising, value adding loyalty between employees and employers evaporate.

I have worked with some brilliant people. I miss and take my hat off to so many of my ICU and HITH nursing colleagues for their enormous depth of experience, their vast reservoir of knowledge, their diverse skill sets, their advanced professionalism, their teamwork and individual initiative, their collegiality and their highly-developed sense of empathy and compassion. How blessed to work with such people! I have been Supervisor, ANUM and Educator working with some outstanding Nurse Unit Mangers and fellow Educators. Very sadly, after 36 years of working in healthcare I can’t make the same observations about the medical profession. I have worked with some good medicos, but as a generalisation, I would have to say self-serving and arrogant are still the words that come to mind. The medical culture is toxic to efficient and cooperative healthcare institutions.

So, where have I been? Coming to terms with the haunting of my working past. Lifting the weight of working to protect colleagues and patients from harm at the hands of my employers.

The frustration is fading. I am beginning to look ahead, toward the possibilities of the future. The new question is, where am I going? It feels like an optimistic one.

 

What you see

Koala at Smith's BridgeIt isn’t the best shot of one of the local koalas, but it is the only one we saw on this evenings walk along Bridge to Bridge. There will be better shots to come. If you take your time, the wildlife exposure up here is something really special.

We stopped at the Seven Creeks site of the Goulburn Valley Water Treatment Plant akong the way. I will be meeting GV Water reps there in a couple of weeks to show them the state of the area. Hopefully, I can recruit them to the clean up cause in cooperation with our Strathbogie Tableland Landcare Group. I have a vision for extending the Landcare managed Bridge to Bridge bushwalk into a celebrated 12 – 15km experience that encircles the town. So far, various agencies have been supportive and collaboration with GV Water at this site would be grand!