Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Event Queen...

I organised an event last week. Well, I organised it well in advance of last week so it is more appropriate to say that the event I organised was held last week.

It was the first social gathering of all 6 teams in our business unit. I think I have mentioned before that there is a lot of change taking place across the board here so things are quite unsettled. So my mandate for this event was to make it as informal and low key as possible. No presentations, no pep talks, no long-winded speeches from the leadership. Just an afternoon of food and drink and mingling.

Given this is Australia and, if you believe the hype, we are a nation of great drinkers, you would think that people would look forward to an afternoon off work where their employer pays for the food and the grog. Wrong. Well, maybe somewhere out there this is true but in the current institution I am working for - all very corporate and conservative - the drinking culture is not encouraged.

This just seems mad to me for I am sure it was not like this when I left Australia almost 7 years ago. Either that or just I spent far too long working in the UK whiling away many afternoons and/or evenings drinking alcohol paid for by my employer!

So imagine my dismay and consternation (Can someone let me know exactly what that word means please. One of these days I'm going to use a word I've heard just cause it sounds impressive and get it horribly wrong) when I was informed at the outset that the focus of the event was not to have a drink but to socialise in an informal ambiance where alcohol is available though consuming too much of it is perhaps not the done thing. Coming from KPMG in the UK I felt like someone had turned my head inside out.

So I endeavoured to find a venue where the focus would not just be what we would consume. Not too difficult here in Melbourne. The short list included the Aquarium, the Museum, an art gallery space and the Observation Deck on the Rialto. Given my love of heights (and that I'd spent the last 5 years working on the 4th floor of a building in Manchester where, the view, as it was, was obscured by an opaque film of muck that could not be cleaned because the firm were in dispute with the window cleaning firm and could not contract another firm in while it was going on) the Observation Deck was my preferred candidate.

I digress. I sent out the invitation to 300 odd staff members and the acceptances started rolling in. In my experience of events and numbers for catering (gleaned entirely from my mate Annie the Queen of Events)) is that you probably lose a third of your RSVPs on the night. So, 220 responded in the affirmative and I catered for 130 which I know is less than 2 thirds but I was told this lot are notorious in not turning up for events.

So, at 3pm I am standing at the registration table with my colleague and 2 rolls of sticky lables and a marker pen each. Annie, I know at this stage would be utterly dismayed with me for, apart from the slipshod name badge arrangement, I had no MASTER LIST!!! Still, I devised a way of keeping track of numbers - we counted the empty sticky label backing. Ingenious ha?

Imagine my alarm when during the course of counting our rolls of empty labels we discovered the numbers had crept up to 150. A short while later they reached 170. The final count at 4pm was 195!

My boss congratulated me, everyone around me declared the venue inspired however I spent the next hour trying to make food for 130 stretch to feed 195. There must have been a run on oysters at the market that day cause I've never seen so many in one place. My boss kept mumbling that half the people there would be off work the next day as it did seem slightly dodgy that all we seemed to be getting were oysters.

Anyway, despite the fact that food was a bit thin on the ground - personally I blame the group of people who sussed out where the kitchen was and practically mauled each food waiter as they emerged, tray laden - the event was a rage. It was one of those gorgeous clear autumn days and as the sun set over the city and the mood mellowed, I silently raised my glass to my friends over the seas who, at moments like that, I miss terribly. Cheers folks.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mad geese and English men ...

I may have been slightly wrong about the weather in Melbourne.

There Anna - I said it.

It does get cold here in Melbourne. However, as my husband rightly pointed out below I do not seem to feel the cold like others do. So I have not been spouting false propaganda. I'm just slightly misguided. Sometimes.

I dropped off the hire car we had over the weekend this morning wearing only a suit jacket. It was a little chilly but under a clear blue sky and facing a sun that still actually warms, it hardly seemed that bad.

We hired a car so we could drive Miss Jenny around. On Saturday we went to a lovely country town about 100 kms north west of Melbourne called Daylesford. We had a fabby lunch at the Farmers Arms, which we calculated cost us the equivalent of £45 for 3 lovely meals, 2 glasses of amazing pinor nior, a bottle of local ale and coffee. That's £45 for the 3 of us folks, not per head... We were all pretty impressed.

After lunch we mooched around the town centre, wandering in and out of the lovely shops trying hard not to buy for the sake of buying. We missed the sunset over the lake (a running theme with the Berri's - missing sunset : cue Ian & Claud rushing around Oia on Santorini in a vain attempt to catch what is reported as being, the most spectacular sunset on earth, and missing it).

What all but made up for it however was watching a gaggle of mad geese terrorise a small family who, unwisely produced a loaf of bread, possibly with the expectation of letting their young children merrily hand feed them. Realising all too late that this particular gaggle were feral and hungry, they beat a hasty retreat onto the nearest picnic table dragging their hysterical children behind them.

God I laughed. You think that's mean? Ian stood by and took photos - which we will, of course, post in due course.

Friday, May 26, 2006

So what you been doing then?

OK, well...

I've settled into my new home, my new job, and my new city. Sort of. All three have been not without their trials and tribulations, but I'm getting there, I reckon.

We're settled into our grrrrroovy apartment in Collingwood, just a spit from the city and the funky [and slightly seedy] Smith and Brunswick Streets. We have some furniture, a base to live our lives from, and we do feel like we have a home now. Currently, we also have a waif and stray blown in from the UK living in our lounge - our good friend Jenny, who lived here for a couple of years a while back. Treats the place like a hotel, she does. And she's very welcome to, of course.

The job is really, really busy; really, really stressful at times. But I've learned a lot already, and I seem to be fitting in OK. It's just different from what I'm used to - "Adult" [sic] Psych Nursing is a different sort of nursing to older age mental health, that's for sure. I'd always been kind of dismissive of the people who said that older age is a speciality that is hugely different to "normal" mental health nursing. But I have to concede that they're right - or at the very least that they're two different specilaities, requiring specific skills, processes and a particular kind of mindset to cope with the stresses.

The biggest difference in my current job is the huge co-morbidity of drug use, something that is rarely found amongst the over-65s, but oh-so-prevalent in huge swathes of the younger population here in Melbourne. The anti-social tendencies that this can engender, and the utter madness [and I don't use that term lightly or irreverently] I've seen has been a real eye-opener, horrific in its intensity and destruction. It's not that it wasn't present back in Blighty, but simply that I was a student when I last seriously encountered it, whereas I'm now responsible for the care of these people.

Now, I know that some of my audience here may have inhaled at some point or another and may be a little blasé, but if you'd been susceptible to one of the major mental illnesses this may well have seriously messed up your lives by now [yeah, I know, here I am, Mr Liberal-pot-calling-kettle-black (pun intended), reborn as anti-drugs puritan - who'd have forseen that one?].

Each drug has both its effect and horrible side effect, whether it be cannabis, speed [amphetamnines], Ice [AKA crystal meth], heroin or cocaine... all have differing but often devastating effects on the mental and physical health of so many of my new client group.

Anyway, I'm off at a tangent already, so I'll shut up about this, lest you see me as some new James Anderton-type intolerant scumbag. Which takes my thoughts back to my beloved Manchester... sigh. Funny how even the darkest memories can make me wistful for my home town...

They've given me a load of responsibility at work already - I discovered on my third night shift that I was in charge of the ward... khaki trousers time, especially when we had a medical emergency the very same night [we all survived, patient included].

And last week, my first back on days, guess what? My first [and again, unexpected] daytime in-charge shift. And it was THE busiest and most chaotic day anyone can remember. Which, I hasten to add, was not due to my mismanagement, but a series of coincidences including four admissions, 3 discharges, 2 violent patients, a full ward with a queue of potential clients waiting in the Emergency Dept etc. etc.

Lots of my colleagues are graduates, in their first few months of psych work [you train as a general nurse here, then do a grad year in a specialty], so I'm a senior nurse [with my share of "senior moments", to boot] and a lot expected of me. It's been pretty tough, but I seem to be doing OK. I have my regular bouts of low self-esteem / major crises of self-doubt and self-loathing, but Claud, bless her, does her best to pick me up, pamper me, and talk me back down from my tree. What would I do without her?

On the positive side... it only takes 15-20 minutes to get to work each day, I pass over the Yarra River and cop a magnificent view of the city, down past the MCG [dreaming of Ashes Glory next summer], the clock on the silo [and yes, it sometimes says eleven degrees - don't worry if you don't get the reference - it's a Paul Kelly song beloved of Claud and I].

And... talking of which, anyone who seriously wants tickets for the Ashes next January/February should contact us as soon as poss - tickets are on sale on 1st June!

And the city? I do love this city. I will effuse about it further on subsequent blogs, no doubt, but it's good to be here, even as winter rapidly approaches. And I can confirm that it does get cold here, despite C's previous protestations to the contrary. She's finally sussed that she doesn't feel the cold like us normal cold-blooded reptiles do [must be the marsupial gene]. But it's not proper cold... after 20-odd years of driving, I discovered the best windscreen ice-scraper just as we left the UK, and find there is no use for it here unless we head to the mountains of the Victorian Alps.

Going out plenty, now I'm awake in normal hours. The food here is fantastic and eating out is pretty cheap, though somehow I seem to have mislaid around a stone, despite this [if anyone has any information about its whereabouts, all information will be treated confidentially].

Went to Soulmama veggie restaurant for a scrummy meal and top night-time view of the bay last night, followed by seeing one of my favourite bands for the first time [it was also Claud's first time, so we popped our cherries together... aaaaah!]. The band is Melbourne's very own Something for Kate, at the seminal Prince of Wales in St Kilda, along with friends from the UK Anna & Kev. They were, of course, fantastic. As were the band. Boom Boom.

More soon...

Apologies... and then he plods on regardless, sleep-deprived and self-pitying

Yep, an apology from me too. I've been slack, I've not updated for an absolute age, and you've all no doubt forgotten about me, if you hadn't already.

And I deserve anonymity, of course [commences Opus Dei-like self-flaggelation, then stops abruptly]. But even with an audience of none, I'll continue to spew out my irrelevant nonsense, such is my arrogance and conceit. And mmm, it tastes so good.

Actually, I've just spent a hellish month [that feels like several months] on nights, which has been absolutely dreadful to be truthful, and I've suffered what appears to have been a cross between jetlag, SAD, depression and a dementia, where I've barely been able to communicate other than in the wee hours of the morning. Been sleeping, what? 3 or 4, 5 if I'm lucky, hours a night [day]. Claud reckons I've been absent even when I've been physically present, and is happy to have her husband back now the nightmare [daymare] is over.

And it's good to be back. I'd forgotten how desperate lack of daylight and lack of sleep can be. There's a certain irony in the fact that a large part of my role as a psych night nurse is to ensure that the patients in my care get a good nights sleep, for the sake of their mental health. I have the option of giving them substantial quantities of benzodiazapines to ease their sleeplessness, but have no such [legal] option myself.

And man, it's made me so bloody homesick again too. I guess the yearning for a normal life, whatever that may be, sends my thoughts to my homeland, my previous life, and the people. The friends I left behind, the life I left behind. Emails would be nice, people; phone calls too, now we have a land line and broadband access [didn't realise how much I relied on T'internet till I didn't have it].

So that's my apology and my justification. Not a lot of remorse evident so far [get that fine tooth comb out please], I admit, but I am sorry I've been so slack... can we draw a line under it and just start again? Please? Good. Another ramble will follow shortly...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Still here...!

It has been almost a month since I last wrote. Sheesh. Where did a month go? I remember the days i had time to at least open internet explorer at work. These days? Nuh.

The major thing for me at the moment is work. I'm in a temporary role covering an EXTREMELY busy position working for an even busier bloke. I feel, in some ways, like I am in a holding pattern which at times is fine, especially since the pay rise a couple of weeks ago, but at times is incredibly frustrating and, if I'm honest, a little scary.

I have been looking outside the bank for another position. It seems I'm either too late at finding the role or I am not successful. I am not as bothered by the rejections as I thought I would be. You know me, I don't like losing. I guess somewhere deep down I still carry around that innate sense that everything will come out in the wash. I know that I will find a job I like that will be right for me. I just want it to happen now.

If I set aside the work chunk of my life there is, thankfully, a whole lot more left! The list of things that bring joy to date are thus;

Nephews & Niece
Extended family
Enrolling in 'Learn to Row' classes in July*
A sense of feeling at 'home' in our home
Eating out loads
The beach
The blue sky in the middle of May
The Fitzroy Gardens I walk through each day
The prospect of folks visiting from the UK
Getting the internet at home
Getting a landline at home
Getting a washing machine
Renewing friendships
Making new friends...
Catching up with work mates from Manchester who have been seconded to Sydney & Melbourne

We had a hectic Saturday just gone as it was Dante & Lucia's "Five / One" party. Dante turned 5 and Lucia turned 1 and, given Lucia can't talk right now Dante decided the theme. It was, of course, a Thunderbird party and as my reputation for baking preceeded me to Melbourne, he commissioned me to make a Thunderbird 2 [T2] cake. Lord help me.

Had it been T1 cake I would have had it easy. No fancy wings or rounded nose. But no, Dante's tastes run into green space craft with tail fins and rounded thingies along the ship which entailed extra pieces of cake. Now I'm not great at details, but thank the heavens Ian is. I basically baked the cake but Ian cut it to the right dimensions, I iced it and again Ian smoothed it down, added the scroll work and even helped me with the extra large marshmellows we used a clouds. It looked fabulous!

Given it was a kids party, and that Dante helped me bake the cake and he is obsessed with colour, we added green to the cake batter. A lovely irridescent green it was. It stained the kids fingers and mouths and it was even reported back the next day the even as it left one child's body the colour remained a vivid green...

I'll post pictures of the party and cake here soon.

* My desk overlooks the Yarra River and the 7 boat sheds that sit along its banks. Each day I see people out on the water, gliding along gracefully. It looks so peaceful from up here. I offhandedly asked a colleague how one gets involved in rowing down there and, as things in life go, she replied that she rows on the Yarra and that she would send me joining instructions. So for 2 weekends in July, an hour and a half each day, I'll be learning to row on the river. And I'm so excited!