A Problem in Shepparton

takata

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

Australian Crawl – Sirocco (S2 Reviews)

sirocco

EMI Records 1981 Vinyl

The cover outside:

Six very clean cut young men grace the gatefold black and white cover. They are generously spread across front and rear panels. The nice thing about this is you have to open the cover fully to appreciate the photograph. It is a grand image, on a truly large scale, in a way only an LP cover can deliver. They look so comfortable with each other. A relaxed confidence and bonhomie smiles out from the sleeve. They are a pretty handsome looking crew as well. Only front man James Reyne stands apart, challenging the cameraman with a look of veiled menace. Somebody in this band has to represent the rock ethos.

The cover inside:

Black and white once again features across the interior. Six portraits from the same shoot as the front hang across the centre top of the display, only this time it is Simon Binks doing the meaningful look into the camera. The potrait shots are placed across a greyscale muted sun, shining down onto the yacht Sirocco (it does look like the actual yacht). The yacht is sailing a calm sea. White on black gives the lyrics definition. They wrap themselves around the sides and base, parting just enough in the middle to encourage our eyes to track reflected sunlight up to the silhouetted boat.

 

Side 2: Track by track

Trusting you (Bill McDonough, Guy McDonough)

This song immediately sets a frantic, choppy pace with Reyne’s similarly choppy vocals requiring a familiar (to the previously initiated) bit of concentration if you want to catch all the lyrics. The sentiment revolves around a relationship from which trust has fled. But it doesn’t appear to be a romantic relationship. Maybe it was with management.

 

Errol (James Reyne, Guy McDonough)

Errol is based on a genuinely infectious pop bass run that gets straight into your head. This was a big hit for the band and I have fond memories of belting it out at dances and parties along with the rest of the off your face masses (wistful sigh). It is an expert paraphrasing of the great Errol Flynn’s bio. A song that not only makes you want to dance, but also know more.

 

Can I be sure (Simon Binks)

I think you could describe this as a bit of a lyrically sophisticated, musical plodder, of the dah de dah bass line variety. In a fairly analytical way, the lyric once again is questioning trust. My guess is that being in a highly successful band meant coming across all sorts of fakers and people so image conscious you would never be quite sure who was real. It is a worthy piece of reflection.

 

Easy on your own (Kerry Armstrong, Brad Robinson, Simon Binks)

The ringing guitar solos and a cute reggae break are features here. James’ voice invites you in by challenging your capacity to understand what he is singing, so you tend to concentrate on what is going on. This is not a bad thing. Actress Kerry Armstrong was partner to Brad Robinson, so writing lyrics about how much easier to be on your own was a surprise to me. Maybe the song is saying it is tough being partner to someone often on the road – and this could have referred to either of them.

 

Love boys (Bill McDonough)

Something a bit musically heavier. This song would have gone down well live. It is topically a pretty heavy song as well. I mean the characters are tattooed, bent, bash their women and heading for prison. I don’t know who the Love Boys were (are?), but they sure sound nasty. I only ever went to King’s Cross a few times. I am glad we never met.

 

Resort girls (Guy McDonough)

Here’s one that pricks up your ears as initially the lead guitar follows the vocal nicely and closely. However, it also has an air of desperation from the get go as women, young and older, head for resorts looking for love and finding something less.

 

Summary

This second Aussie Crawl album was a huge hit for the band. Sitting at the top of the charts for 6 weeks and only bested by John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” for the year, it remains a keeper. Side 2 is no slacker, hosting one of the three single releases, “Errol”. The lyrics hold much more interest than your average pop/rock album. For this feature in particular, I rate it highly. Full of memories and just as fresh to hear again today. I still enjoy it.

Diary of a Retiree: Day 281

 

Diary of a Retiree: Day 273

Mt Wombat Road

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!