Thursday, April 20, 2006

Autumn days...

As I look across at the various shades of golden tree tops in the Botanical Gardens, through the rain that is rolling in off the bay, I am a little more sure that Autumn is well and truly happening.

My experience of Autumn, for the past 5 years at least, has been a cold affair. Melbourne is Autumn, is not. Ask any local and you get a different story but as most of you who know me understand, I do not feel the cold as much as most.

I walk to work these days. Pretty impressive huh? It takes me 20 odd minutes to walk briskly across a main road, through pretty East Melbourne, across the Fitzroy Gardens to Spring Street then up the lift to the 30th floor of my building.

I get quite warm walking so I usually shed my jacket well before the gardens. So it always makes me smile to see people wearing heavy coats and a scarf when the temperature is hovering around 20 degrees and I'm warming up. I guess it is all relative. When you live through a few summers where the temperature reaches the high 30's, a 10 or 15 degree drop is going to make you shiver. I hope.

Work is going okay. Picking up more and more responsibility which is keeping me busy and, for the moment, interested. I have the odd momentary crisis of confidence where I find myself wishing I was back at KPMG in Manchester where I was known, loved and respected and not here having to prove my credibility all over again. I know things could be a lot worse but you know me and my insatiable need to feel special!

Our apartment is such a treat! I love the fact that while it is only a one bed apartment, we have a hallway that is almost the size of our old kitchen and, twice as long. I love that I can look out our lounge room window and see the tops of the skyscrapers on the cities skyline.

I love that the sun rises in our kitchen window and sets in our bedroom one. I love that it is brand new and, any dirt I clean from here on in is ours - so it's not that disgusting!

I love that we are tucked away at the back of the complex which means we are away from the main road traffic. But if I am still I can hear the trams rumbling along Victoria Parade in the distance. And if I am up before 7am I can hear the odd magpie warbling away somewhere beyond the concrete.

It is great to be living in Collingwood too which so happens to be my Aussie Rules football team. Carn the Magpies!

The only downside is that our neighbours lounge room wall is the other side of our bedroom wall. All well and good except we suspect their playsation is hooked up to their surround bloody sound system. Again, not a great disaster except that when it rumbles on after 11pm [yes, we've turned into old people overnight] I get a little stressed.

Ian tends to be able to fall asleep regardless but last night I got myself up out of bed, got dressed and went down to the foyer and rang their intercom. Nobody answered however but when I eventually got back to bed the noise had thankfully stopped.

Last Saturday morning, at 6.30am I was rudely awoken by the same God-awful noise. I figured for that hour of the morning the only polite thing to do was bang on the wall, rapidly and loudly. That seemed to do the trick. However if Ian falls asleep before I do, while this would probably stop the noise it would inevitably send Ian crashing into a right state. So I refrain.

I may need to just write a kind and diplomatic note and drop it into their mailbox tonight. The last thing I need is a war with our neighbours through the bedroom wall!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Springtime... and Autumn

Well, I've been in my new job for nearly two weeks now, and our new flat for, ooo, 4 days. So it's time for an update from one of the Hospital Library's strictlyonlyforacademicorworkuse computer. So I'll talk about work first, shall I?

[Beware that some quite technical stuff follows, that may be a little boring for those without a mental health interest!]

So... how's it going? Good, actually. Bloody busy for much of the time, as the ward is, as we sometimes say in the industry, erm... mad. Not a terribly PC term, I know, and not one advocated by most mental health professionals nor used when addressing clients or their carers, but sometimes it's the only adjective that fits. It's the place that's mad, and the patients are ill, OK?

It now takes me just 15 to 30 minutes to get to and from work, once I've negotiated the two exceptionally busy 6-8 lane roads that separate home from the bus stop. Yes, in the city of trams I catch a bus to work. But we don't want the extra expense of a car if we can possibly help it, and my bike doesn't arrive till next week [yes, our stuff will finally be here!]. Plus the fact that it's quite nice to veg on a bus rather than have to think, especially at 6.30 in the morning or 10.30 at night before/after shifts.

For Claud, it's even closer and quicker to work via tram, even at peak hour, and we could probably walk into the CBD [or its fringes, anyway] in 20 minutes or so. This has yet to be tested, but my reknowned penny-pinching [I prefer the terms frugality and cost-effectiveness] means that this estimate will be tested sooner rather than later.

We were talking about my job, weren't we? The staff have been very friendly and supportive, or as much as they can be in the midst of the seat-of-the-pants stuff that has characterised my first few days. The living on the edge of chaos feeling is a familiar one to most nurses, particularly in mental health [the more apposite term psychiatry is used more commonly here, so I'll use this from now on], but it's been extremely busy by any standards.

I've been welcomed, given lots of orientation and a little training, though also thrown in the deep end on occasion too. It's all a bit bewildering, to be honest, as I try to get my head around new systems and practices as well as the new environment and people who speak funny. Yes, there are a few Kiwis here, as well as Aussies, another Brit or 2, a few Irish nurses, and a few strong regional or mixed Australian-European accents.

Moving back into adult work [old people are no longer adults, apparently - as I've previously ranted] has been pretty seamless, although the huge doses of antipsychotic and anxiolytic [sedative or relaxant] meds that are given has been a bit of a wake-up call for me compared with the tiny older age measures. And still the young manic and/or aggressive patients keep on their feet despite what appears to be enough drugs to zonk a small elephant.

The level of verbal abuse that you take in these units [and the erudtion that often accompanies it] is also bit of a surprise, and the language can be more than a little spicy. There's a pretty much zero tolerance approach taken to threats, and whereas in the UK you were pretty much left to your own devices if a patient becomes aggressive [in this hospital at least], security are called to assist.

As a consequence, the incidence of restraint appears much lower, albeit at the expense of reinforcing the oppositional perception of the cruel psych nurse maintaining a institutional and punitive detention service. Not a good thing if you already have a paranoid psychotic patient on your hands. Having said that, many of the primarily young people in the system who have a history of violence are quite used to the way things are done here, and I've seen little in the way of negative impact on clients' mental state thus far.

There's also a much more cautionary, proactive and interventionist approach to any [perceived or actual] threat, with generally higher doses given at an earlier stage than in the UK, although I'm told that the State of Victoria is actually pretty conservative in this respect compared with, say, Western Australia. Nurses seem to have more leeway in using prophylaxis [preventative medication] here, rather than allowing patients to escalate to a more dangerous and distressed state.

It's a thorny issue, of patient choice and their Rights, benefit of the doubt, safety etc., and the care, rights and safety of others. It does seem a little incongruous when you consider that the Right to be cared for least restrictive environment is enshrined in the latest revision of the Mental Health Act here, and not made so explicit in the UK equivalent. I guess there are semantic issues in that "environment" is seen as simply the physical environment rather than the extended interpretation encompassing manner and means of treatment, but I think it could be argued that the broader sense view is equally valid. Not sure if it's been tested by case law here, nor the effect of local or international Human Rights legislation.

It's all so new and unfamiliar that I'm not sure yet what I really think about all this, and I obviously can't go beyond a deliberately vague description of events on a public forum such as this, so I won't be commenting at any point on any specific things I've seen. But I have to say that I've felt safer here generally than on the adult wards I've worked on in the UK, though the severity of illness is pretty similar.

Patients are also allowed leave much earlier and with less restrictions than in the UK, although the use of Community Treatment Orders on discharge means that the terms of ongoing care is potentially more restrictive here. And it's something that has held up the UK's new Mental Health Act, as both MH professionals and service users have united against the proposals, arguing that they are both too restrictive and unworkable in practice. It can be argued than a psych nurse could abuse his/her powers in these circumstances, in effect saying "Do what I say or it's back to hospital for you...". Not exactly the basis for a sound therapeutic relationship...

I now have the unexpected, terrible and onerous task of saying a positive thing about John Howard, anodyne and personality-free Prime Minister of this fair country. He may be politically conservative and pro-free market, but he's announced that he's going to chuck a load of money and resources at the mental health system here. Well done, John! Now I have to go wash my hands.

So, it's looking good overall... I'm happy, and even my closest in-laws have commented that I seem like a different person now that I'm working: more relaxed, chilled and... dare I say it, more Aussie [The horror! The horror!]? The whole thing about contributing to society, of being valued and of value is something that I guess I'm subconsciously in dire need of. Maybe it's my protestant work ethic made flesh*?
[*though I've long since stopped protesting]

The only dark cloud on the horizon is the fact that we really do seem to have hit Autumn now. The trees are turning golden in tiny incremental steps and the wind has a little more bite; and even the perma-tan is fading fast. Yep, it's been less than 20 degrees for about 4 days now, and this looks set to go on till the weekend at least, only high teens. Read and weep, England, read and weep for us.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

We are in like Flynn!

This is not our apartment exactly, but we do look out onto the courtyard and our kitchen is similar. Well, our kitchen is set in a corner, and has no breakfast bar but the cabinets are the same colour. Oh and we do not have a balcony but essentially you get the gist of it...

Last night was our first night together in our new home. We had a bit of a scary start in that there was no power until 6pm. The electricity company sent someone over to connect us but they could not access the building. Apparently, anyone who comes to service any part of our building gets a security fob which gives them access. However the blokey that came last night did not - apparently.

Ian got home at 5.30 and called me to say there was still no power. Cue Claudine's stern phone voice she carefully cultivated over the years while dealing with NTL, United Utilities and Virgin Train staff UK wide. The guy who answered explained the situation. I explained ours, utilising my stern phone voice [i.e. no power so no lights, heat or hot water!!] and he moved up a gear, contacting the local power supplier. They say they will add our job to the 'night shift' crew but do not give us a time they will be there.

Excellent news. Not. So I leave work just before 6pm, explaining all to Ian in a calm, soothing voice while waiting for my tram to arrive. Mid sentence however the intercom at the apartment rings announcing the arrival of the power blokey. Hoorrah! We have lift off!

Lisa and Stephen told us to take what we needed from the pantry before we left. I feel Lisa meant staples i.e. cans of stuff, olive oil etc. However, Ian grabbed a jar of pesto, some pasta, coffee and a cask of wine. I can hear you all laughing from here. I do not need to wonder what Ian would eat if I am not home - you have the menu right there folks.

Anyway, I boil the water and unpack the last of my stuff while Ian wanders downstairs to redeem a voucher for a free bottle of wine that we received when we moved in. The City Vineyard, if you can believe it, is at the bottom of our apartment block. Basically, this establishment sells only boutique Australian wines, all of which you can sample. Yes, you read right. God help us. He was gone ages and when I asked him why he says he got chatting with the owner. God help me.

Ian brought back one of the scrummiest bottles of Sav Blanc [with the exception of Oyster Bay] I have ever tasted, which we polish off over our pasta and pesto. After we had finished the bottle and started on the cask of merlot, Ian confessed, that while chatting to the owner and sampling half the wine stock, he had used 2 expressions in his descriptions.

One of them was one-dimensional. ::raises eyebrow:: Is it me or has he just become the wine snob of the century? In his defence he was quite sheepish as he told me and he even blushed. Still, not enough remorse for me to think twice about telling the tale here!

So folks we are home I feel. It has been a long time coming, but as I look back at the journey over the past 12 months, I realise that in no small part, you have all helped us get here. Which brings me to nicely to ... where the bloody hell are you?! We want dates from you all as to when you will be arriving in Melbourne and how long you intend to stay. So don't just sit there - call a travel agent!

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Berry's have moved!!

Firstly, profuse apologies for the slackness in blogging but we have good reason. We have moved into our own apartment (can you call it your own if you rent? Discuss.) much closer to the city and we are pretty damn excited about it!

Looking for a place to live is a pretty exciting prospect if you are Claudine. If you are Ian however, its slightly more fraught. I had complete faith that we would find what we wanted, where we wanted and that it would all work out. Ian, was not so full of faith so relied on mine which was just as well.

We spent Saturday before last viewing a few places and found one we liked. It was not open for viewing but we drove by anyway to see where it was. We happened upon the owner who was moving out and she kindly let us look around. It was a ground floor flat in a secure block which had been completely renovated.

Ian fell in love with it but I have to confess I was not that enamoured. I mean it was lovely but being on the ground floor while Ian worked late shifts was not comforting. We applied for it on Tuesday but I kept looking.

I had circled an apartment on a busy road not far from the city centre. It looked okay but the main road location put me off slightly but I decided to give it a go. So, on Wednesday lunchtime I hopped on a tram to inspect the apartment. After I got back to the office I applied for it on line. Later that afternoon the estate agent called to speak to my boss to confirm I did in fact work where I said I did. She also informed me that the owner was quite 'keen on us'.

I had a momentary panic for Ian had not seen the apartment and was going entirely on my recommendation. Now I was fraught! So, long story short, we found out on Thursday we got the place, on Friday we collected the keys and took our friend Anna around to see it. Ian loved it by the way and my fraughness dissipated.

My neice, Lucia, turned 1 on Sunday so the family gathered for a loud, chaotic although somewhat comforting afternoon tea (sans Ian sadly who was working a late shift) then all hopped into cars stuffed to the roof with more of my belongings that my parents carted from their place that morning, and we convoyed to the apartment, only a 15 minute drive away from my sister's place.

I'm sure the neighbours thought 15 people were moving in as Dante (4.5yrs), Harrison (1.5yrs) and Lucia (1yr) ran, squealed and tumbled down the corridor to our new home. It was hilarious. My brother Stephen and brother-in-law Steve (yes, that does get confusing) carted boxes, an ironing board, telly and our recent IKEA purchases while Nan, Lisa and I unpacked some of the scariest crockery you have ever seen.

Let me explain. I had left a load of stuff at my parents place when I left for England six years ago. As my sister and I unwrapped glasses, plates and bowls I had to ask myself What were you thinking?! Let's just say I'll enjoy getting rid of that Mexican wine glass and thank the Lord I only ever had one!

So tonight is our first night in our new home. It is a lovely 1 bedroom apartment on the second floor in the original warehouse section of the complex. This means it is set back from the main road, it is solid brick, it is quiet, elevated and light. We have no outside space but we are surrounded by parks, restaurants, cafes and the city is a 4 minute tram ride away. And when we feel fit, a 20 minute walk.

We still need a fridge and a washing machine and we are still waiting for our stuff to arrive which we know has cleared customs, so is not too far away. In time we will be completely set up and at home. It was worth the wait.

We enjoyed living with Stephen, Lisa and Harrison and I was quite teary leaving Hurstbridge this morning. I looked in on Harrison just before I left, who sleeps on his face with his bottom in the air, and whispered good bye.

Although we are only moving half an hour away from them, the wrench I felt surprised me. And it made me realise that I would probably not have been able to say goodbye to my family again had we only come for a holiday this time. My thoughts then turned to all the friends we left behind in England and how hard it was to leave them.

As we sat in our favorite haunt, The Terminus Hotel (which I am sure will become our 'local'), with Anna on Friday night she declared she would love to drag her entire family, and all her friends from England to Melbourne. We all heartily agreed that if they all moved here - they would love it.

So, I am left wondering... if all the people we loved lived in the same city - would the world be a better place?