Blazing a Trail in a sorry, soggy mess

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Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s Endurance trapped in the ice. Photo: Frank Hurley

The English traveller has a well-earned reputation for complaining and we do so mostly in relation to the weather.  Of course it’s usually our own weather we’re complaining about – the weather in England is usually too cold, or wet, or cloudy, or drizzling, or … very occasionally, too hot!  So forgive me if I do a minor amount in my post today as the weather is a subject for everyone in Sydney at the moment. Every taxi driver has an opinion on when the rain will stop and the cricket will start again. The discount stores are doing a roaring trade in umbrellas. I’m in Sydney; the town of all night entertainment, harbour views,  yachts and sharp men in very good suits… which have alas all disappeared under a swirling and unrelenting grey cloud which is choosing to deposit torrential rain on the city of sunlight for hours and hours (and hours) on end.

We are trying to explain, rather than show to our damp overseas visitors just how gorgeous the harbour can look and how the opalescent tiles of the Opera House really do glow in the sunlight, we promise! It isn’t the same.

As the clouds descend dark and brooding, I feel empathy for those involved in the opening night of the Sydney festival with its normally dazzling Spiegeltents set out in a Hyde Park now awash with rain with much mud underfoot.

As one does on a wet day, we visited a museum:  the Australian Museum to see its Trailblazers exhibition which included a surprising number of women explorers and adventurers including Kay Cottee who was the first woman to sail solo and unassisted around the world – good work Australia Museum.

I really enjoyed seeing again some of the photographs by Frank Hurley of Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s expedition – what an amazing life this wonderful photographer and explorer had!  If you don’t know the story of Shackleton’s heroic expedition to the South pole and how his ship Endurance, named in honour of the the Shackleton family motto, I thoroughly recommend it. Hurley was the expedition’s photographer.  It is for the most part Hurley’s images that have meant we remember so well the amazing story of the South pole expedition. It’s an adventure story full of gallantry, bravery, true leadership and mad ambition that beats all. Hurley’s image of the doomed ship wrapped in an icy embrace (above) which inevitably crushes it to matchsticks leaving the men to make their way home across a frozen wilderness in unbelievably harsh conditions led by ‘The Boss’, Shackleton, is a wonderful representation of the challenges the expedition party faced.

So I can safely say that in the spirit of doing something new and different each day I did that in Sydney if a little unwillingly. We tramped around the city streets attempting cheerfulness as our rain wear proved to be shower proof but not flood proof!  We found some excellent restaurants and introduced our French guests to the joys of Yum Cha, Vietnamese rice noodle Pho (pronounced fur) soup and a steak at the local pub.  We refused to queue to get into Jamie Oliver’s Pitt Street Italian joint as it was just to mad to stand in pouring rain for an hour for pasta. We also refused to queue for 3 hours to get into the Aquarium (how ironic!) which overflowed with soggy visitors mostly with prams, sharing umbrellas and trying to look happy that they were experiencing this rare occasion of Sydney summer weather behaving more like that of London in July while they were on holiday!

After reading about Shackleton, Hurley and Cottee’s enormous efforts, I am reminded I should not revert to my English stereotype of moaning about the weather and should relish every soggy moment and be glad that I can return to my stylish hotel room and not have to battle ‘liquid himalayas’ as one wag described the seas on one of their solo sea voyages. I will rejoice in the rain now as, when I return to my Melbourne garden, I’ll be delighting in every drop that falls. I admit that I do spend rather too much time expectantly analysing cloud formations and carefully checking the rain-dar as it seems never to rain quite enough in Melbourne (although any Sydney-sider will confidently misinform you that it never stops raining in Melbourne!) So I’m doing my best to remember this under the deluge. It is but a minor inconvenience.

In the meantime, I’m getting through plenty of reading, plotting which new craft I’ll learn at craftsy.com, studying for my MBA and making great headway into those other English favourites: a pot of tea and a box of Milk Tray. There’s really nothing like a rainy day in Sydney to help you get your priorities sorted out.

 

Jan 2 Way to start the year with Amy, Pink and Ed Sheeran!

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Today was a gentle ‘at home’ day.  After the rigours of river kayaking on New Year’s Day, I tackled the garden: weeding, sweeping and generally cleaning up the mess left by my bird friends… mostly empty husks from the bird seed I give them.  (Why do the makers put grass seeds in the  wild bird mix? It makes such a mess and yes, makes unwanted grass grow in my flower beds.  Answers please!)

Addressing my goal of ‘do something good and new each day’ was a bit hard as I didn’t really leave the house (if you don’t count the garden). And you can’t count the things I’ve just been thinking about doing.  I’d been baking and cooking over Christmas so I wasn’t game to get the oven going again quite yet and anyway it’s too hot to bake so no new culinary delights would be attempted.

So as my Day 2 task, I decided today would be a day when,while I worked in the garden, I would only listen to artists I don’t usually listen to. So to keep me company I had, amongst others, the incomparable Amy Winehouse, Adele, Pink, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Motorhead, ACDC and Michael Jackson, Maroon 5, Hozier, Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainor, Pharrell Williams… Bon Jovi!

I didn’t edit, just listened to what came up in my YouTube mix… made me listen to and enjoy music by artists I would never have thought I’d be interested in and made me realise I’ve been listening to SO MUCH OF THE SAME OLD MUSIC/STUFF FOR YEARS! Don’t get me wrong, vintage music in all its forms is great… I can never get enough of Nina Simone or Edith Piaf but it’s particularly good to listen to some young women from different genres and eras.  And if I’m not listening to one of them, I would usually listen to a talking book or ABC Radio National! GAD!

Ok on the scale of ‘something new’ it’s a pretty small beginning, I admit. But you have to start somewhere with your resolutions! And maybe it helped me start to break a music habit. Tomorrow I fly to Sydney … that should be a surefire place for ‘new and good’. If you have any listening suggestions for women vocalists and musicians, I’d love to hear from you.

PS: This evening, while walking to the nature reserve near our house, I saw a 40+ yo man on a skateboard (looking both uncomfortable and decidedly embarrassed) and I can only assume he received said skateboard for Xmas. Also two young men were sitting outside on the deck at the (closed) school near the reserve, drinking beer and playing chess.  So perhaps others have taken up the ‘do something good and new each day’ challenge.  Otherwise, there’s been a shift in the universe of which I am only just becoming aware.

PPS: My garden is looking hip and tidy thanks to the accompanying beats! And that’s a good thing!

Everything is awesome! Or, what I learnt from the Lego movie

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A 24 hour plane journey from Melbourne to London and a multitude of movies I would otherwise never watch led me to a memorable hour or so watching the new Lego Movie.  A bit of ‘The Matrix’ meets ‘Family Guy’ I thought and all was good. Then, darn it, something started happening. I started thinking that there were messages hidden in this ingenious cartoon creation that I could learn from.

Perhaps it was jetlag but I was getting intrigued. Was this the subtext that I’m told is always submerged for adults only that is apparently part of every feature-length animated movie these days? You tell me.

So if you don’t know the movie, the evil Businessman is trying to ensure that everything stays perfect for ever and that the world works according to his and only his plans.

Mostly Lego world is doing just that until a humble construction worker stumbles upon a great secret that will change the world. He is the chosen ‘Special’ one (getting the matrix metaphor yet?)

Up to now we see an almost automated world where everyone knows where they should be, what they should be doing and what song they should love the most hence: ‘Everything is awesome!’ Yes this song is very annoying but you can’t help singing along! (Try the video and you’ll see…)

So get on with the learnings you say!

1. Being creative does not mean being random and disorganised

As the ‘special’ becomes known to the underground Lego resistance (yes I said that) he gathers together his band of merry men and women and they try to fight the bad guy in their own individual ways which leads to chaos and almost disaster. Teamwork is the answer – creative teamwork.

2. A charismatic leader is not needed

The Special tries his best to be inspirational but as he’s never been much more than ordinary humble construction worker who has always followed the rules he doesn’t know how to be a leader in fact he doesn’t have any real ideas at all. This does not stop them.

3. We are all special.

The lonely guy Emmet (the Special) discovers that he’s sort of not really the special after all. But it doesn’t matter! He’s special in a way no-one else can be and in a way no-one else expected! Go figure!

4. Following the rules is not always bad

Our little anti-hero Emmet (the Special) encourages his gang to fight the badguys with their own rulebook and use  it in their own way, an unexpected tactic which means that they work together as a team and beat the villains at their own game.  This they do to great success.  But they still manage to use their individual skills and creative expression. One even gets to build a spaceship and he is very excited. But I digress.

5. Trying to make everything perfect (or awesome) is not always very much fun or very helpful.

We want to give people enough guidance to work in effective collaboration to achieve positive results but not so much that all freethinking is stifled and they become robots following orders.

6. Help me clarify my objectives, give me a set of tools and some guidelines and let me at it.

A wise advertising man once said: “Give me the freedom of a tight brief” and he wasn’t discussing his underwear. Clarity of goal and methodology is very useful if we allow for individual skills and ideas and if we accept that ideas we wouldn’t have thought of while different are not necessarily wrong and could even be exactly what we needed at that moment.

7. It’s only work right?

When we take it all too seriously it becomes onerous for everyone and no fun at all. When you think we’ll spend 1/3rd of our lives asleep and 1/3rd (or more) at work (I don’t recommend you do them at the same time) it makes sense to make it interesting, engaging and allow for use of our diverse and unique skills.  I mean in that way, everything may actually be awesome! Yay!

 

Thanks for your interest. I’m writing this from the International Fundraising Congress in Holland where I am meeting and hearing from many hugely inspirational people who have to work with incredibly complex rulebooks and still manage to be creative, highly effective and in some cases, very charming. So far no spaceships, but there is time.

Until next time.

 

 

Does your favourite movie pass the Bechdel test?

(Bechdel_test_origin)(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test)

I heard about the Bechdel Test on ABC radio National the other day and I struggled to think of a single recent film that met the criteria: A film that has two women in it… who talk to each other… about something other than men.

Maybe Thelma & Louise and that was a few years ago and look what happened to them!? (and come to think about it, they talked rather a lot about men (Brad Pitt, rotten husbands…)

What would be on your list that meets the criteria and let’s face it, it’s quite a low benchmark!

Some Swedish movie theatres are basing their film choices on this test… what a great idea! These films might tell women’s stories. Even better idea!

Let me know!

Sunday mornings can be murder

I switched on my television around 10am this Sunday morning to watch something inconsequential while I ate my porridge. What I saw made me reach for my remote control and stop eating my porridge and wondered, not for the first time, what a strange community we have become.

I saw: a man, being viciously, slowly strangled by another man, while a baptist preacher looked on. They were all standing in a river. A communal baptism had been underway and this happy event had been interrupted by the murder. All of the participants of the baptism looked on in shock and horror and had grimaces on their faces that pretty much matched the one on my own at that moment.

The images continued for another 10 or so seconds before I managed to find the remote and switch it off . The final scene was of the murderer showing his police badge to the immobile onlookers. A policeman had committed this murder on a Sunday morning.

It was drama. It wasn’t real. But everyone involved showed the shock of the moment when a man apparently died in front of our eyes. And I don’t mean they gave the impression that a murder had taken place a la Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie. It was fully detailed with every eye bulge on full display. Is this acceptable? Yes I can switch it off, no it’s ‘not real’. But is it acceptable? Or reasonable to switch on to something like that with no warning, no disclaimer … danger, danger… you are about to see something horrible the memory of which will stay with you most of the day.

It seems immoral or perhaps just incredibly sad to be able to watch these terrible incidents early on a Sunday morning or perhaps any morning. If one was to actually commit this type of offence, you’d get 25 years to life if you’re caught. But you can watch someone simulate it. At 10am in the morning and with regular repeats.

I can choose what I watch and don’t watch but that doesn’t stop it being shown for anyone else to watch, and absorb or get upset about or perhaps even worse, to accept it as … normal which it seems it is swiftly becoming.

Perhaps in future, I’ll eat my breakfast outside in the garden with my cats for conversation – they are generally much more entertaining and understand what is required to make your morning turn into the right sort of day.

Live life then blog

It’s commendable that you’re reading this however, is there any risk that you (and I) are letting reality enhancing technology replace reality?
There are some suggestions that members of the Australian Olympics team spent too much of their time pre-competition blogging, skyping and social networking about what they were going to do before they’d done it when perhaps they should have been training or resting.
Are we spending too much time living our lives on-line to the real detriment of our actual lives? If blogs and commentary become all about what we might do or just reflect on what someone else is saying on another on-line space, do we risk thinking that on line is actually better than life?
On an old UK science-fiction/comedy tv show, Red Dwarf, one episode had the characters playing a virtual reality game called just that : Better than life. While they played, they failed to eat, drink or sleep. They logged on to BTL and logged out of reality. Their bodies almost died while they played a better life in their heads. A computer-intervention (ironic!) showed them the exit back to a more mundane but nonetheless real existence and thereby saved their lives.
Are we at risk of this fate? If so, our computers are unlikely the benign type that will ‘wake us up’.
I leave you to ponder the results of our swimmers and other athletes and decide for yourself. I have to go and have lunch with my husband. In the real world.