Posted in Life sparks, Sydney sparks

Some Lockdown Reflections

So it feels like we are finally coming close to the end of our strict lockdown in Sydney. It has been an interesting time. I think everyone has been bitten by the lockdown in different ways, often feeling as though they can’t complain about how rubbish it has been for them because of how rubbish it has also been (in different ways) for everyone else.

Those who live by themselves have likely never felt as isolated as they have in these past months. But check that complaint if you can work from home, live near the beach, and don’t have to home school anyone.

There are the families who have been spending way too much time together as their homes have become offices, schools and (in the case of some areas of our city) almost prisons for months. An impossible juggle. But pipe down if you can work from home, are surrounded by people you love, and have a new respect for real teachers.

Our elders have been disconnected from life (often without the technological capability that has helped most of us stay connected). With no access to family, friends and community, missing out on marking important milestones like funerals and weddings. But shush if you are generally in good health, have been vaccinated and have a comfortable home.

And that’s not even talking about our friends in Melbourne, or people stuck overseas, or people unable to get to family overseas. Or frontline workers or essential workers. Or people who can’t work. Or students starting school or finishing school. Or people starting jobs or finishing jobs. Or folks with mental and physical health challenges trying to cope with this added weight on their shoulders. Or new parents or people who have lost loved ones.

Lockdown has bitten everyone. In different ways and at different times, sure, but we have all been bitten and it freakin hurt. Of course, we don’t yet know what the impact will be – what will bounce back, and what has been permanently changed.

I hope we will keep our appreciation for our neighbourhoods and being part of our communities. I hope we will continue to check in and stay connected with our colleagues, friends and family – even if it’s just by sending a text to show you’re thinking of them, or sharing something funny or interesting that we’ve seen. (If you care, I think it is really important to show it.) I hope we will continue to find ways to help the vulnerable in our community who are faced with risks on so many different fronts, all the time. I hope employers will find a way to balance the return to a (incredibly important) workplace community with the flexibility and personal gains that we have created during lockdowns.

And if you’re reading this and you’ve survived a lockdown, give yourself a pat on the head. By making it through, you have shown resilience and strength and courage in the face of a time that we could never have imagined. And that is something to be celebrated – soon (likely with more distancing and hand washing, which is not a bad thing). WELL DONE, YOU.

Posted in Life sparks, Sparks Book Club, WWWhat?

Three things I like a lot right now

Oh, hello. I just wanted to tell you about three things that I am liking a lot right now. In case you might like them too. A book, an app, and a podcast – they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great.

Firstly, the book. It’s Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance – I’d heard good things, and when the Independent is quoted on the cover: “a great insight into Trump and Brexit”, then I really couldn’t resist. I guess it’s a great insight into that, like a window into a different world. 


I have always known that I couldn’t go on one of those tv talent shows – sure, mostly because I can’t sing and/or dance, but also because I don’t have a particularly interesting back story to my life. Family, friends, education, health, opportunity – this book made me realise that what I consider “normal”, or maybe even “boring”, must sound like fairyland to so many people. And this J.D.Vance kid was born in the 1980s, so it’s not as if it’s a story of how life used to be in ye olden days. It’s interesting and well-written – easy to read on a rainy weekend – and I like that it asks more questions than it answers. Definitely got me thinking.

The app is Lumosity, a “brain training” app that I bought a family subscription to for Christmas. When you google, “apps to prevent dementia”, it always gets a run, and although my parents are (a) reading this, and (b) currently in possession of all of their marbles, I figure it never hurts to give these things a try. We are a competitive people, so the fact that this tracks your performance and compares you to your age group (with an impressive global sample size) is appealing. Some of the games are also quite addictive (looking at you, Train of Thought) and you feel like king/queen of the world when you beat your previous score or get to the next level. 

I think they recently got busted for deceptive / misleading advertising (allegedly over-stating the scientifically proven benefits for dementia / aging etc. But I think as long as we’re enjoying it as a fun challenge, and not expecting miraculous results, then that is all good.

The podcast was discovered by my lovely sister-in-law, Rocky, who shares my interest in slightly quirky books, people, things in general. It’s called Missing Richard Simmons, based on the fact that colourful character Richard Simmons disappeared from public life a few years ago and seemingly flicked the switch on his former life – no contact with his former staff, friends and associates. For someone who was so gregarious and seemed to thrive on his relationships with people, this dramatic disappearance has stumped lots of people. Hence the podcast – the guy is a former friend of Richard and is determined to find make contact. The colourful characters that he meets along the way make this podcast so great – I am sure I have been caught shaking my head or giggling as I listen to it on the way to work. 


It’s become a very popular podcast (we’re up to episode 3, with a new episode released each week) – even if you don’t love Richard Simmons (you monster!) then there are surely enough bizarro people and stories in this podcast to keep it interesting.

And they are three things that I like a lot right now. Hope you like them too!

Posted in Life sparks, Movie Sparks

Sweet as, bro

One of the joys of not working at the moment is time to do things. All sorts of things, really. Like on Monday, when it was a nice sunny day in Melbourne and I got to walk to the beach and sit on a bench and read a magazine. Sure, I was wearing four layers and had my hoodie on, because Melbourne winter. But it’s so nice to have the time to do stuff like that.

Elwood

Yesterday I had a meeting in the city, and then dinner with some lovely work friends, and I had a few hours to fill in between the two. I wandered around a bit, which wasn’t super fun in the rain, so thought I’d go and see a movie. As you might imagine, there aren’t that many people at the cinema mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. Let’s just say the average age of folks there was 60ish.

What were my old mates and I seeing? A New Zealand film, recommended by my mum and dad, called Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Hunt for the what now? I know, it is a strange title alright, but it is actually a lovely heartwarming film featuring Sam Neill (as his regular character of Cranky Old Man) and a rotund little Kiwi chappie. It was pretty funny and a little bit sad and had some truly stunning images of NZ in all its natural beauty.

As I am committed to research for this blog (and I have the time to google nonsense), I just discovered that apparently the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, which is a pretty big deal. And after it opened in NZ in March, it’s become the highest grossing locally-produced film OF ALL TIME. Which is also a pretty big deal.

It’s not going to win any Oscars, I don’t think. But I thought it was a great movie – especially if you’re having a crappy time or need some lighthearted entertainment, this film could be just the thing. Cool accents, beautiful scenery, and a lovely, feelgood story. And I can’t get the “Ricky Baker” song out of my head now (it’s in the trailer, below). Sweet as, bro.

Posted in Life sparks, WWWhat?

Square One

On Saturday, I was reading an article in the Good Weekend magazine on Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies coach who has gone to the dark side and is now coaching England (see you and your team of losers on the 18th in Melbourne, Eddie). Anyway, the author of the article, Peter Wilson, included an interesting fact that I wanted to share with you here. Just in case any of you are geeks like me, and find this sort of stuff kinda cool…


So, now you know. (Apologies if you already did, and I am the only person alive who had no clue. Awks.) Thanks to Fairfax for still printing newspapers and for still employing journalists (not enough, but that’s another story for another day) to help us learn new stuff.

Posted in Life sparks, Sparks at work

Hello again

So, it’s been a while. I just checked and the last post that I made was on 3 September last year, when I was in Washington DC. I really hope no one was waiting on this blog to give travel tips for an imminent US holiday, or as proof of life, or as inspiration for being. Although if you were, then I’m sorry, and I do hope that you found other sources of support.

Hope you’ve been well. I’m all good, thanks. I am a bit (ok, a lot) of a fair weather friend to this blog, only really making the time to write when I feel like I have a lot of spare time. Which, when you’re in the thick of work and family and life, with all of the things that take up time on evenings and weekends, doesn’t happen that often. Usually when I’m on holidays (see 3 September post from Washington DC here). Or when I’m not working as much, as is the case now.

I’ve just finished up in the rollercoaster-ride of a job that I’d been in for the past couple of years. NB, I wasn’t actually working on a roller coaster, although I do note that the ride at Luna Park in Melbourne does have an attendant standing or sitting in the middle of the carts on each ride, so don’t rule that out as a potential career option.

Image from lunapark.com.au
FYI, the person in the middle of this gaggle is the Attendant standing up on The Great Scenic Railway ride at Luna Park in St Kilda. I don’t know what they ever get called on to do during the ride, but it’s a real job. [image from lunapark.com.au]
I’m also moved and am now technically living between two cities (Sydney and Melbourne), which has been lots of fun. I have been very lucky to have finally moved to Melbourne – a city that I have loved for a very long time, even looking for graduate roles down here back in the 90’s. I’ve spent a bit of time down here with a number of jobs, but when the opportunity came up to move earlier this year, I took it. And then a month or so later, I resigned. That sounds bad, but please don’t think that I tricked my employer into paying for my relocation (they didn’t), or that I found another gig shortly after moving (I didn’t).

It was just a case of bad timing – the work rollercoaster had been on the up and up for what felt like such a long time, and I was in the front cart waving and laughing and screaming and enjoying the whole amazing experience. Best ride EVER. Then the rapid and steep descent started around January and that left me grimacing and holding onto the bars too tight and the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t go away, and so I decided to get off the ride before it put me off amusement parks for life.

silly-serpent-hero1
Not such a silly idea. [image from lunapark.com.au]
Sure, I guess most sensible people wouldn’t get off the rollercoaster until they’d found their next ride – the Silly Serpent (see above) maybe, or the exotic sounding Arabian Merry. Instead, I am going to hang out for a while and see what ride to go on next. I feel as though I’ll know the right one when I see it, and hope that I’m tall enough to get on. In the meantime, I’ll read some books and walk around and do some people-watching while I wait. And hopefully get back to this blog, sharing my particular brand of nonsense with you. Maybe while snacking on the carnival foods that the Luna Park website offers (“Fairy-floss, pop-corn, snow-cones and hot-dogs”). All of the hyphenated goodness.