nightclubs for seniors

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When we were kids my mother always used to take us to the library. The weekend staple. If it was Saturday morning, it was a trip to the library. Even though we both liked books, after a while the library was quite boring. But I suppose for parents, getting the kids close to works of great literature brings our little prodigies one step closer to greatness. Or at least that’s the hope. Plus you had to shut up and read quietly. Remember those days?

Fast forward a couple of decades and now it is me taking my parents to the library. ‘Come on Dad, let’s go to the library’. Libraries are still fantastic places and seriously under-rated. On any Sunday morning just before opening time, there is a conga line of oldies, all queued up waiting for the doors to open. It’s like a nightclub for seniors, or day-club to be accurate. All day club for some of them – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But good luck getting your hands on a Sunday paper at the library on a Sunday. It’s akin to watching a plague of locusts swarming through the joint stripping it of every kind of print media available. Take a stick because you’ll have to beat them off if you’re really determined to get to a paper first.

What will they do when there are no Sunday dailies?

The other thing about the library of course, is that it’s warm. In a Canberra winter when we need to save on our power bills, the library is the obvious place to keep warm at the government’s expense. It is a public service after all.

Libraries could make a fortune if they started branching out and having cafes and hairdressing on the side and don’t forget chiropody services. I predict they’d do a roaring trade in blue rinses and coffee and cake specials. I’m surprised no one has thought of it before.

But back to my parents. The roles have been reversed and now it’s me who is taking them to the library. If you want your parents to pick up good habits – you have to set the example.

Ahem – my work here is done.

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the Segway – the only way to travel #CBR

Woo hoo – I just had my first fabulous glide around on a Segway and I am hooked – where can I get one?!

As Segways are illegal on public land in Australia, the only company who can offer this unique experience on public land, thanks to the ACT Government, is right here in Canberra. Seg Glide Ride offer the public 15, 30 or 60 minute tours around beautiful Lake Burley Griffin and the Parliamentary Triangle area. I must say it is a fabulous way to see the most beautiful part of our city. If you can stand up, you can take part in this activity!

I was slightly concerned beforehand that I might feel unbalanced but it really could not be easier. Users stand on a platform and steer the Segway by shifting their weight from their right foot to their left along with the handlebars to turn. I felt completely safe and in control after a very short period of time. Stand straight up and lean slightly forward to speed up and lean slightly back to slow down. There are pads underneath your feet which respond to the shifts in weight but really no need to over-think it – everyone seemed to take to it like a duck to water. People in their eighties have jumped on the Segway and taken a ride and we are never too old to find our inner-child.

The tour operators show participants a short five minute video, followed by a brief training session, going up, down and practicing turning to the left, right and stopping. And then we are off – the top speed of the Segways is 12km per/hr and that feels quite fast enough to me! It is such a blast and at $39 for half an hour or $59 for an hour, it is money well spent on a unique experience. We got to experience the best of our city up close and personal, the National Art Gallery, Old Parliament House, around beautiful Lake Burley Griffin, Commonwealth Bridge, The Carillion. Everything looks twice as gorgeous from the Segway and for me I felt like I was ten years old again – just brilliant fun.

Where Canberra leads, the rest of the nation follows. A Sunday Segway ride followed by brekkie down by the lake – what could be more perfect?

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still trying to find the g-spot? try Canberra

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“I know what you want” he says to me and we both know exactly what he’s talking about.

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon.  The husband and I are collapsed in a heap on the lounge going nowhere fast, which sometimes is the only way to recover from the morning’s shenanigans.  A morning run, brekkie at our new favourite cafe followed by some hard yakka in the garden has left us feeling pretty darned pooped.

There’s only one thing for it.  A trip to the G-spot.  The G-spot my friends being Goodberry’s.  Goodberry’s Frozen Custard – whatever life’s ailments, whatever your woes, whatever stupid diet you promised yourself you would stick to.  A lovely slushy, sloppy, super-sweet, finger-lickin’ yummy ‘frozen custard’ (ice-cream to you and me) is the only way to go. When we originally bought our house, I had no idea this place was only five minutes away.  Now is that good or bad?  You decide.  What I do know is that it must be Karma – I deserve this!

And yes, yes, oh yes – the new GFC (Goodberry’s Frozen Custard) hits the spot every time.  Call me boring but I just can’t go past the Cookies ‘n’ Cream, although the Mega Mocha comes a close second when I am need of a mega-pick-me-up. Goodberry’s kind of reminds me of being a teenager because is is staffed by youngsters (listen to me, how old do I sound) and it always has Video Hits (or whatever it’s called these days) playing in the background.  Takes me right back to my days hanging out at the Wimpy Bar making a milkshake last about 3 hours.

It has a kind of retro feel with booth-style seating but the focus is not on the decor but on the ooozing pleasure of a plethora of ice-cream choices, topping choices, Sundae choices, nut choices.  So many choices and best of all they don’t have any preservatives, stabilizers or artificial ingredients.  And I only just found that out – would it be naughty of me to call it a super-food?  It certainly tastes super amazing.

So fine dining is lovely of course.  But sometimes the simple things in the life are the best.  And the most satisfying on a wet Saturday afternoon.

You havn’t been to Canberra until you’ve been to Goodberry’s.  Naughty but nice….

Go on – I dare you.

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how to spot a manipulator

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Like a dog pissing on a lamp-post, she marked out her territory from day one.

There is a woman in my office who could charm the birds out of the trees.  Or in plain English, who is a manipulative so and so. I can’t believe it’s taken this long to see it.  And to see how we have all been played.  Presumably that is why I am writing a blog at three in the morning.

This person, let’s call her Jan is something of the office matriarch.  She joined our team on a fixed-term contract to work on a specific project.  We paid through the nose to get her.  In fact, the salary we ended up paying was a very early indicator of how she operated.  We paid well above the market rate and she’s been leading us around by the nose ever since.  One nil to her before she had even set foot in the place.

Her persona (whether real or exaggerated I couldn’t really say) is one of a relentlessly charming, saccharine-sweet individual.  Who oozes amiability and seems to be on an endless campaign to flatter and woo – almost like a seduction.  It’s very difficult to say ‘no’ to an individual who is charming the pants off me, you, everybody.  That is her strategy.   It works brilliantly.  She always gets what she wants.  This is how she manipulates.  People feel unable to say no and if you do say no then she makes you feel guilty or bad about yourself.

And despite the fact that she is an older, very average-looking woman, men are putty in her hands. She simpers and chortles like a pubescent school-girl and has them eating out of her hand.  They are powerless in the face of it.  She can get from them, whatever she wants, even when they try to resist.  They end up doing the opposite of what they intended but exactly what she intended.  The giggling and flirting on the phone to men of all ages in order to get them to do what she wants have been nauseating to witness.  She is not charismatic, but she is a highly skilled manipulator.  I’ve only come across one similar person in my professional career and she operated in a very similar manner.

‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ is the maxim by which she lives and breathes. I know I was categorised as foe rather than friend early on and that obviously made me a target for the overbearing charm-offensive.   And so it started.  The invitations to lunch and coffee to get me on-side.  The girlish cajoling and requests. The seeking of my opinion, the gushing thank yous for fairly innocuous tasks.  To some degree it worked because it was simpler to cooperate with her then to keep resisting.  So I too became trapped in her web.

On her first day in the job, she asked me to set up a meeting for the team and had prepared notes and her vision of what we should all be doing.  Super-confident.  Like a dog pissing on a lamp-post, she marked out her territory from day one.  An alpha-male psyche in grandma’s clothing.

And it has dawned on me recently that she is always fishing for information.  She likes to know what is going on and who is having what meetings and where people are all the time.  She gets to the office at 7am.  I have often wondered if it is so she can snoop on everyone and poke around in their in-trays.  I would think so.  Knowledge is power and power is what it’s all about for this individual so she can maintain the upper-hand.

I feel like Rapunzel who has woken up from a 100 year sleep.  Now I understand what she’s been doing, I can start putting up road-blocks and putting in place a few strategies of my own.

What about you?  Any good tips you could chuck my way?

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All female workplaces – nirvana or nightmare?

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And that my friends is a question I have wrestled with more than once in my professional career.  It’s the ultimate love-hate relationship.

And this is why. Hands up if you’ve ever had a conversation about the merits of a top loader vs a front-loading washing machine.  Or what about whether Napisan or bleach is the answer to getting that white shirt really white again.  Asleep yet?  And let’s not forget the obligatory poo conversations for an assortment of little people.  

I think you get my drift.  I find myself joining in these conversations but in my head I’m thinking ‘beam me up Scotty’.

And if it’s January everyone is on the obligatory diet due to the imagined weight packed on over the holidays.   Heaven help you if you have the audacity to bring in biscuits or eat a donut at your desk during this sacred month as I did a few weeks back. 

I thought everyone would be a bit more relaxed because it was February.  Diets never work right, so I figured everyone would have fallen hard off the wagon by then. But no – I was chastised by the office matriarch for the sin of temptation.  I am woman – I will make you fat.  That it was my life’s work to ruin her chance of thinness.

In an all male office they probably just slap each other on the back and say ‘enjoying that you fat bastard’ as everyone piles in for a second helping.  Now that is the kind of office I could live with. One where I could relax and have a biscuit with my cuppa without any comment or justification from either party.

Right so now that I’ve got that off one my chest I will say one thing for all female offices and for women employees in general.  In my experience I have found them to be harder-working, more productive, more focused, more competent, better communicators and they make better managers.  No question.

Most of the women in my office have young or school-age children.  I don’t have any kids myself but over the years I have concluded that far from being unreliable employees (as some employers tend to think); women with kids who also work are often exemplary employees.  They are fantastic multi-taskers, are highly productive and generally have their nose to the grindstone all day.  And the stereotype of all female offices being bitchy and competitive could not be further from the truth.  This is my experience.

And believe me there have been times in my life when it feels like I’ve had to cover for a conga-line of women going off on maternity leave, one after the other.  Their duties picked up by others often for no additional $$.  I can’t lie, at times I’ve resented it.  But despite that, over the years I have seen how hard they work when they return, how thrilled they are to be back in the workplace and how hard they work to prove they are worth it.  I’ve employed women returning who’ve had a long time away from the workplace to raise their children.  And in some instances have recommended them over other candidates because I can see they just want to be given an opportunity again.  In short these women have earned my respect.  So putting the poo conversations to one side – all female work places can be fantastic.

But for overall balance, mixed gender offices are definitely more fun.  I generally like to have a scattering of boys around the place.  And even a few men.

So all-girl offices, what do you reckon – nightmare or nivana?  What’s your experience.

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a long way from Bondi

“I predict that, in the future, people won’t fight wars over religion.  They’ll fight wars over water”

That observation was made by a farmer whose property I visited as part of a backpacking tour in 1997, almost 20 years ago.   The property was located in the dustbowl of mid-New South Wales.  I was fresh off the boat along with 20 or so other European visitors with the Oz Experience tour.   We spent an enjoyable two days on the cattle farm being bumped around on the back of a ute, castrating cows (for some) and exploring the farm which was approximately the size of France.

The Farmer told us that it had not rained on their property for four years.  Four years with no water. With most of us coming from Europe where water shortages were unheard of – it was an eye-opener to the harsh reality of the Australian climate and life in the bush.  No one was aware that years with no rain was common in remote Australia.  The farmer and his family had been on a permanent economic and emotional rollercoaster to survive.  They had sold off cattle, taken out huge loans to tide them over, hoping the next year would be better.  Sons and daughters had left for the city, seeing a future of permanent struggle they they just could  not face.  Somehow or other they had managed to hang on.  One option offered a glimmer of hope and a small income stream – tourism.  And that’s why we were there.  An opportunity to see a part of the real Australia.   A long way from Bondi.

 

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The farmer told us they had managed to finally step off this conveyor belt of misery quite by chance.  The story went that someone had whispered in the town drunk’s ear that they thought there could be natural gas on their property.  Before they knew it, the family had global conglomerates knocking on their door, asking for permission to drill a few holes to look for gas.  Men in suits with dollar bills in their eyes.  They drilled numerous holes before finally giving up on ever finding gas.  Four of the holes they drilled however, yielded water.   Nature’s lifeblood hundreds of feet beneath their farm pulled the family back from the brink of ruin.

The farmer told his coach of dumbstruck backpackers that based on his experience, landlocked countries in the future would not be fighting wars based on religious differences but over water.  The cost of not having access to water is a price none of us can afford to pay when regular drought rips apart all hope in farming communities.

Here we are almost twenty years later and this issue of drought comes up again and again in this wide brown land.  Farmers are killing themselves because they cannot survive without rainwater, cannot earn a living, cannot support their families, cannot pay their bills and cannot hold onto their mental health.  Drought is a frequent and recurring event in this country.  An unwelcome but persistent visitor.

What are we doing about it?

I was encouraged to read about the present government’s National Drought Program Reform. The program will assist farming communities to pro-actively plan for drought and put in place risk minimisation strategies.  It is a multi-pronged approach with mutual obligation components built in to develop resilience and enhance long-term sustainability.  The Program moves away from the ‘Exceptional Circumstance’ policy (triggered at the point of crisis) and places emphasis on preparing and planning for severe and prolonged climactic events.

It feels like it has been a long time coming.  The reality is that successive governments’ policies have failed farming communities.  And the evidence speaks for itself when every few years the question of a bailout package is raised as we have heard this week. A circuit breaker to help desperate agriculturists when they are just about at the end of the rope.  Metaphorically and literally.  Until the next time.  But this is never going to solve the problem.  We have to do better.

 

Perhaps the package of measures of the present government will lay the goundwork so that farmers do not keep finding themselves repeatedly in the same situation.  They too must bear some of the responsibility to create a better future for themselves.  I hope these measures help.

This government and this opposition need to work together to ensure this strategy is maintained and is not watered down, abolished or become victim to political point-scoring further down the track.  Enough talking, more doing otherwise there will be no primary producers left in this country.

Too many lives have already been lost.

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On SPC – I’m with Tony

I can’t say there have been too many instances in which I have agreed with Tony Abbott.  However the government’s decision, not bail out fruit manufacturer SPC Ardmona, in my mind, is absolutely the right one.

 

It is not the government’s role to prop up ailing businesses.  It is business owners’ responsibility to manage their businesses efficiently and to make a profit.  If they are unable to do that then they need to take a long hard look at what the problems are and have a strategy to correct them.  If they can’t they shouldn’t be in business.  By asking the government for a bail-out (loan, investment, grant, whatever you wish to call it) they are outsourcing their responsibilities as business owners and are attempting to place the problem in the government’s in-tray.  Abbott was right to say no

 

Given the parent company is a global colossus with deep pockets and a healthy balance sheet, why should Australian taxpayers prop them up?  Quite rightly, they should use the profits they have elsewhere in the group, to finance the on-going operation of SPC Ardmona.  It will be interesting to see now, whether having been knocked back,  Coco-Cola Amatil will cough up the necessary funds to support their own people.  If they can access $90m then another $25 shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

 

In case they hadn’t noticed, this country is up to its ears in debt.  Whilst I supported many of the former Labor government’s policy initiatives, they came at a cost.  The present government will have to work hard to pull this country out of debt – it would be unwise to add another twenty five million dollars to the national debt when it is already costing thousands of dollars in interest and will take years to get back into the black.

 

The ‘entitlements mentality’ that Joe Hokey spoke of while in opposition, applies as much to business owners as it does to employees.  But it is generally employees who have the accusation leveled at them.  This time it’s the business owners who have to wear it.

 

Abbott described the decision not to throw SPC a lifeline as “an important marker” and sends a clear message to industry about the government’s view on each party’s role and responsibilities.   Having said that, it does remain the government’s role to manage the economy, create policy settings to support Australian businesses and jobs and to have a clear strategy to get us from A to B.  Whether Abbott and his band of merry men have that, remains to be seen.

 People are just not used to hearing the word ‘no’.  On this one, I’m with Abbott.

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