why I’m loving the new guy


ladies, please form an orderly queue

ladies, please form an orderly queue

Last week at work our team welcomed our new boss.  There has been much chatter over the last six weeks about what he might be like.  Whether we think he will cope with the job and the swapping of any bits of gossip we have managed to get hold of.  Oh and not forgetting the usual snooping on Linked-in, Facebook and Google thanks to the Internet.

So on Monday he arrived.  A strapping colossus of a man.  A man who takes up space.  The kind of man who has to watch he doesn’t smack his head on the door frame when entering any room.  The kind of man you can’t help but notice.  The kind of man, regardless of whether you are partnered or single, compels you to do a double-take.  So what’s going on here?

Well over the last few years our all girl team has also had two female bosses. Perfectly competent, likable, inclusive.  All of that stuff.  But also in their own ways, quite girly. Women-only offices over time, eventually seem to spiral into gossipy cliques.  In a nutshell, we get sick of each other.  So a great big boy taking his place at the heart of the team has seriously changed the dynamic.

It’s only been a week but I feel like I’m trapped in a harem of women all vying for the attention of the alpha-male.  The docile office junior strode in mid-week sporting a perfect red lipstick pout, a clear departure from her usual neutral tones.  We’ve seen the appearance of high heels and sun-kissed limbs striding about the place. The waft of perfume being re-applied throughout the day is unmistakable.  Even the office matriarch has been seen giggling like a schoolgirl and fluttering her eyelashes in his direction.

I’m just waiting for someone to up the ante by sucking on a lollipop in his presence.


What is it about the arrival of a man in a mostly female team which triggers this change in behaviour? The competition is on.  A study conducted by Jon Maner and James McNulty suggests that women can literally smell the competition from another woman which in turn drives up their testosterone levels.  Beforehand there was no competition as such because we had a female boss.  But the arrival of a gargantuan man has changed all that.  In addition, a study from Professor Townsend from Syracuse University reinforces the notion that women are hardwired to be attracted to powerful men.  We just can’t help ourselves it seems. But what, my friends, are we competing for?   Well influence of course – the currency of office politics.

The obvious ingratiation tactics from the pack in order to place themselves on the radar of the new guy is certainly amusing.  A week long seduction strategy.  Minus the sex of course.  He’s only a man. But he’s a colossus of a man, who for the moment at least, has us all eating out of his hand.

I guess he should and we should, enjoy the honeymoon because as sure as night follows day, it is unlikely to last. The flat shoes will re-appear and the lipstick will return to neutral.  The scales will fall from our eyes, the pedestal be replaced with a step and we will all wake up to ourselves.

And I say hallelujah to that!

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Maccas – the great social leveler


Ahhhhh life on the road.  If it’s Christmas, it’s the annual road-trip to far flung, or not so far flung, family and friends.    The loading up of the family vehicle usually entails games and gadgets for the kids, water obviously – this is Australia.  And snacks, lots and lots of snacks to keep everyone satisfied and contented for the long haul trip.


However, wherever you may be headed, one thing’s for sure, it is very very difficult to bypass a trip to the Golden Arches.  The mecca that is a McDonalds restaurant. Even if you’re not hungry.  And usually especially if you’re not hungry.  It’s just an opportunity to stop and stretch the legs and body and to escape being cooped up like a chicken for around twenty minutes.  The mental equivalent of standing under a long hot shower.  Right?


Well maybe.  What I love about McDonalds is that it is the ultimate social leveller.  I don’t care how many degrees you’ve got, what high-falluting job you have and whether your pile is in Vaucluse or Point Piper.  Chances are at some point on the road-trip you will have no choice but to enter between the hallowed Arches and have a dining experience of a different kind.  This holidays was no exception.


Invariably there is someone who looks as though they’d rather not be there.  Whose body language says it all; elbows and forearms pressed together across their chest with hands locked under their chin.  A look of mild distress on their faces with the voice in their head screaming “I don’t belong here”.


I have been that person and I’m not even a vegetarian.  But the point is, that we do belong here, because McDonalds whole ethos and their story is about putting their customers first and constantly adapting and changing their menus in response to customer demand.  You’d have to be hard-pressed not to find a few things on the menu these days which are pretty yummy.  I have to confess to really enjoying McDonalds coffee.  And their mini mint slices.  And I’m a recent convert to their Crunchy Noodle Crispy Chicken salad.  And how addictive are the fries?  The Group is the ultimate Darwinian survivor evolving to ensure everyone feels they belong.  If you’re normal, there is something on the menu for you.  And if you’re a food fascist or food neurotic or if you have food allergies or intolerances, then rest assured, there is something on the menu for you too.


But just so we’re clear – I’m not from Macca’s PR department.


But each holidays and at least once a month if I’ve had ‘one of those days’ and don’t have the mental energy to cook, off to Maccas I go.  Only now I inwardly chuckle as I survey the throngs of my fellow diners as we shuffle towards the front counter.  Old, young, affluent, not.  Whether we’re dressed in Aarmani or a Big W t-shirt and shorts. When we’re standing in the queue at Maccas with chips trodden into the soles of our shoes and greasy fingermarks on every visible surface, on some level we love the ritual, the familiarity and the unavoidable pleasure of reaching the holy grail.


Maccas: the ultimate social leveler and I say Hallelujah to that!


Make mine an Apple Pie to take away…..

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gorgeous Gayana: enriching Canberra’s community

a labor of love

a labor of love

If you think these flowers are beautiful then you’d be right.  But what’s more beautiful is the story behind them.

Today I met Gayana Wijewickrema, a beautifully cute fifteen year old and her gorgeous sisters at Canberra’s Living Green Festival. Gayana has Downs Syndrome and is the inspiration behind the family’s fledgling flower business GGs Flowers.


flowers 8

Gayana and her mother Geetha design and create floral arrangements with a business focus on providing people with disabilities with employment opportunities. GG’s ethos of ‘flowers with a purpose’ is what distinguishes them from other florists. The business is not driven by profit, rather they are motivated by providing full and meaningful life opportunities for their daughter and for others with a disability.

Downs Syndrome is a genetic chromosomal disorder resulting in babies being born with an extra chromosome, 47 rather than the usual 46.  It is a lifelong condition which means children such as Gayana may have some health and developmental challenges as well as intellectual disabilities.  The extent of those challenges varies from person to person.

flowers 3

Downs Syndrome Australia says that “To be a part of a community you have to be in it”.  It is something most of us never even have to think about.  Sadly people with disabilities are generally under-represented in the workplace and in our communities.

GG’s are challenging the paradigm by putting Gayana at the heart of the family business and her local community.  We are all richer for it.  I hope Canberrans looking for floral arrangements will support the company ethos of ‘flowers with a purpose’ and get behind this local family.  Their prices are reasonable, the service personal and the love and commitment plain to see in every stunning arrangement.   With young Gayana at the heart of every bunch.



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the Australian Hypocrites Party – taking a sledgehammer to democracy

too scary for you?  you should be - I vote

Scared of me? You should be. I vote

This country has learned nothing from its sorry past.

From its treatment and disregard for its first people, Aboriginal Australians to the enshrined racism of the White Australia Policy, the targeting and demonising of particular groups continues.  Now it is the turn of Muslim women.


The Australian Liberal Party says it believes in ‘the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples’. Well clearly that is not the case for Australian Muslim woman. Muslim women waking up in Australia today don’t have the right to sit in the public gallery in Canberra, the heart of our democracy, in clothing of their choosing.  A Liberal government is denying them that freedom.


We learn today that our Liberal government will compel women who wear the burqua in Parliament House to be seated separately from the general public behind glass screening.  Like animals in a zoo. What an utter disgrace.  It’s hard to believe a Liberal government whose central ideology is freedom of the individual, has introduced this appallingly racist, sexist and divisive move.  Why?


I have never seen a burqua worn in this country, only the niqab, chador and hijab.  But even if I had, my question is, so what? Since when, has what a woman chooses to wear, resulted in a democratically elected government, deciding she must be physically segregated because of it?  In this case supposedly on the grounds of national security.  I love the colour pink.  Am I safe in pink or will this government soon making a ruling on that?


I understand the need for comprehensive security measures at Parliament House – no one is arguing with that.  However women coming to Parliament House wearing a head covering or veil, and having lifted the veil and presented their photo ID to security for verification will still be segregated.  What message does that send?


If this is a democracy then the model is broken and Liberal decision-makers are the ones with the sledgehammer.


Muslim Women are such an easy target to package up and sell to a tabloid reading public whipped up by an ever hysterical, ratings driven media.  I feel sorry for our Muslim sisters.  My tutor at university is a Muslim woman who wears a hijab.  She is intelligent, vibrant, funny, very good at her job and absolutely beautiful.  She is the only hope I have of passing Statistics.  And this beautiful women will not be allowed to sit next to me in the public gallery at Parliament House because of an item of clothing.


Women in veils or head coverings are people – wives, mothers, employers, employees, team mates, sisters, workers.  And voters.  And I damn well hope they all vote ‘no’ to the Liberal Party at the next election for taking this country back to the dark ages and for adopting a form of apartheid.  It cannot come soon enough.


The decision made by our government today is shameful and the eyes of the world are watching. What they will see is a country not yet grown up enough to be accepting of cultural differences, not yet willing to accept those differences without judgement, not quite ready to actively practice tolerance.


But of course to endlessly preach it, while talking about secularism and freedom and rights of the individual.


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my all-time favourite speech


Two days before the 1983 election, Neil Kinnock, Leader of the British Labor party gave the speech of his life. Kinnock was squaring up to wrestle power from the Prime Minister and his arch nemesis Margaret Thatcher.

At that time Thatcher was riding high on a wave of nationalism, fresh from victory in the Falklands war with the polls predicting a Conservative victory. The verbal hand grenade lobbed from the podium by Kinnock, painted a bleak and foreboding picture of post-election Britain.


Kinnock’s ‘I warn you’ speech remains one of my all-time favourites because of its prophetic and haunting tone.  The landscape described largely came to pass in the years following the landslide Conservative victory where the richer got richer and the poorer got poorer.

I Warn You

“If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as Prime Minister, I warn you.

I warn you that you will have pain – when healing and relief depend on payment.

I warn you that you will have ignorance – when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.

I warn you that you will have poverty – when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a Government that won’t pay, in an economy that can’t pay.

I warn you that you will be cold – when fuel charges are used as a tax system, that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work – when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.

I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

I warn you that you will be quiet – when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.

I warn you that you will have defence of a sort – with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.

I warn you that you will be home-bound – when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.

I warn you that you will borrow less – when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins, she will be more a Leader than a Prime Minister. That power produces arrogance and when it is toughened by Tebbitry and flattered and fawned upon by spineless sycophants, the boot-licking tabloid Knights of Fleet Street and placement in the Quangos, the arrogance corrupts absolutely.

If Margaret Thatcher wins –

I warn you not to be ordinary.
I warn you not to be young.
I warn you not to fall ill.
I warn you not to get old.”

Taken from Neil Kinnock: Eileen Jones

Kinnock was known for his powerful oratory but despite this final brilliant speech the election was won by the Conservative party.  Thanks in large part to the ‘boot-licking tabloids’ of Fleet Street under Rupert Murdoch’s ownership.

The disgusting headline in The Sun newspaper on the day of the election proved that Kinnock was right about the tabloid press – and they made it absolutely clear to the electorate whose side they were on.

No speech, however good, could ever compete with this:


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the world is full of…

trust me, I'm a shop assistant

trust me, I’m a shop assistant

…people whose presence make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  Not quite in the league of serial-killers but still up there on the ‘scared be very scared list’.

No1 on the list is hearing the footsteps of the approaching shop-assistant when I am halfway through changing, with my trousers around my ankles.  They must have a special timer so that their polite enquiry about how it’s all going on the other side of the curtain, invariably comes when you are standing there in your nanna underpants and a bra that has long lost the will to support your breasts.

Who’s holding the power in that relationship?

The other day in my desperate fury to yank up the trousers I was trying on before the retail assistant reached me, the price label got caught somewhere in my butt cheeks and snapped clean off.   Leaving only the plastic tab attached to the clothing with the pricing information somewhere between my cheeks.  Then I had to ferret around trying to retrieve it.  Too much information?

But back to the trauma from behind the curtain and the inevitable question from the shop assistant ‘How’s it going in there?’

This really means ‘Does it fit or do you need a larger size?’.  Then you have to go through the whole explanation of why you’re not buying it. But before you get to that part, the shop assistant is hovering outside and is waiting for you to emerge and do the twirl.  The whole interaction transports me back to my teenage years, only with my mother hovering outside the curtain.  Or worse still, yanking it back mid-change with an audience of un-suspecting shoppers browsing the racks behind her. Thanks for that mum.


Anyway, having finally retrieved the offending label from between my cheeks, where it had embedded itself, I ended up stuffing it into my pocket, returning the garment to the rack and slinking out the store.

I bet men never have to go through this insanity when they shop for clothes.

I seriously hate shopping.

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female violence – the terror of a girl fight



Last night I intervened in an attempt to break up a fight between two teenage girls.

A browse through an an arts and crafts shop with my husband was punctured by the sound of breaking glass.  I assumed it was an accidental breakage or something had fallen from a shelf. The first sound was followed by more smashing glass, a growing scuffle and the unmistakable sound of punches making contact on bodies.

It’s strange when you hear noises that are out of the context with the environment you are in.  If I’d been in a nightclub district, or at a pub, or in a crowded area maybe the shouting and scuffling would have sounded more in keeping with the landscape.   So it took me a moment to register that a fight had broken out in the shop a couple of aisles across from where I was standing.


“Get off me. Get off me. Get off me” were the first shouts to penetrate the air.  I walked to the end of the aisle and peered around.  I noticed people hurrying toward the exit and that shopping trolleys had been abandoned in the aisles with people backing away from the direction of the noise.  I saw the young shop assistant grab her phone, presumably calling for security.


I asked someone what was going on.  “Two girls are fighting”. “Two girls?” I said.  I had assumed it was a man and woman because of the cacophony of crashing and banging we could hear.  Outside the shop which had a glass frontage, I noticed a number of people staring in.  I started to slowly walk towards the noise because I was alarmed to hear it was two girls in what sounded like a ferocious melee. I got to the aisle and on the floor in front of me were two teenage girls tearing into each other on the floor.


One girl was straddling the other who was pinned to the floor on her back.  Her hands were flying in a cascade of punches to the girl on the floor beneath her. I could hardly believe what I was seeing.  I lurched forward and grabbed the hand of the girl to prevent her from doing any further damage.   It felt like time stood still as I crouched down and started pleading with them to stop because the level of anger and aggression was overwhelming.


The aisle was covered in broken glass with the contents of the shelving scattered around them.  Both girls had cuts to their faces and bodies.  I held onto the first girl’s hands while pleading with them both. Over and over I started to say “please stop, please stop, please stop” like a broken record and “please don’t do this, please don’t do this – whatever’s happened this isn’t worth it. It’s not worth it”.   I hoped that in doing so they would eventually listen and heed .  Perhaps the mantra was to help me too, to try and calm down my own distress at the savagery I had witnessed and in the hope I could de-escalate the situation.

It’s strange how, in such a frightening environment, your brain takes in and makes split second decisions about what is going on.  I did not fear for my own safety although at the same time I was acutely aware of the aggression being directed towards me as I tried to reason with them.  It did occur to me that she might start punching me instead and then what would I do?

At some point in any fight, people have to stop or want to stop because the adrenalin required is exhausting.  Nobody can keep it up for ever.  But they can’t back out, or don’t know how to back down or they don’t want to be the one to fold.  I felt that my presence, however unwelcome, was their only circuit-breaker.  I was begging them to calm down and to help me help them to just stop.


I felt horrified when I realised the girl on the ground had sunk her teeth into the arm of her opponent and was pulling at her skin and stretching it out to a sickening distance.  There was blood dripping from the arm and from the mouth of the girl on the floor. Eventually something must have gotten through and the shouting started to subside and both girls were marginally less aggressive. I remember thinking, how are we all going to get up without the one on the bottom kicking and biting and the one on the top lashing out again.  They both started to accuse one another of being the primary aggressor and insisting to me that “if I let go, she’s going to kick me”.

I was on my own for at least five minutes, begging and wrestling with these girls who couldn’t have been more than fourteen or fifteen.  “sweetheart please, please, it’ll be ok, trust me, trust me”. All I could hear was the sound of my own voice pleading for it to end.


Somehow, we were all on our feet and another older woman and a security guard were beside us.  Finally somebody else had stepped in.  But it wasn’t over.  Then we had to continue to restrain one while keeping the other one away. That was the only time I felt like what I was doing was in some way wrong.  To be pinning someone’s hands down as they pleaded for you to let them go did not feel ok with me.  She was still so angry and the second girl continued to yell and scream inches from my face.  “Please walk away, please walk away”.  Then two more security guards came onto the scene in whose hands the situation belonged.


Apparently the disagreement with the girls started at school.  We know that society has become increasingly violent and physical aggression and fighting between girls is all too common.  You-Tubes of girls fighting are uploaded and disseminated and are treated as a form of entertainment.  It is not entertainment.  It is assault.  Most disturbing of all is how often others just stand around and watch and cheer and take sides.  What is wrong with everybody?  One punch can be a game-changer for life.  We see this all the time.


I understand why people don’t get involved and it’s awful to see people fighting.


However we get the world we deserve when we sit back and do nothing.  The standard we walk past is the standard we accept.  If it was us being assaulted and punched almost senseless, wouldn’t we want somebody to help?  Violence and aggression (whether male or female) should be absolutely and comprehensively condemned.  Always.

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