Two thirds

Pie

I left work almost to the very day when I had lived equal time on two different continents. The first half was spent growing up in different parts of Australia, while the second half has been spent getting married, raising a family and working in England. Is this my half-time, or do I have another third still to come?

I can look back at my early life with nostalgia, regrets, fond memories and laughter. The second seems to have been more of a grind, due perhaps to the efforts of raising a family and “doing time in the big city”. I didn’t enjoy work – not in the sense that I hated every minute of it and I had great colleagues and fun times, but the sense of purposefulness was missing. I really couldn’t see the point of it and the repetitiveness became a grind.

It was remarkable to realise that my life changed radically at exactly the same amount of time from when the first had occurred, and it was a moment of serendipity for me. Personally I don’t have great ambitions nor aims for what happens next; perhaps it will be the the third season of my life, the autumn before the winter or perhaps it will be a new era of discovery.

Whatever comes, it will examine it with interest.

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Making dirt

My brother in law created dirt.

The environment where they live is composed of a type of gravel that looks like large ball bearings, orange brown in colour.  Something in the soil –  iron? –  makes ferrous oxide and you end up with clay overlay with round hard stones that can be broken if you have a big hammer.  Nothing much grows as the topsoil layer is quite poor, but gum trees have colonised the biom and rule supreme.    Humus consists of eucalyptus leaves which have the property of killing things due to their essential oils.  Whilst they give a shade of sorts and cover the hills with an attractive foliage any undergrowth in the form of bushes and mixed trees are discouraged.

One timed I visited and they showed me where they’d planned a section of garden and encouraged the growth by watering and covering with compost.  All types of compost had been used including kitchen scraps, worm manure, chicken manure and other biodegradable materials.  The local wildlife loved it as it held a rich tapestry of bacteria and mixed materials, so over the years a fine black soil had developed with lots of worms and plant growth including lush vegetables.

Now I previously lived on this same soil and had tried all ways to get things to grow, including commercial fertilizers and creation of garden beds using mechanical diggers.  Nothing much flourished and it was all heartbreaking hard work even getting flowers to grow.   They’d succeed by similarly hard work but also the knowledge that good stuff breeds good stuff, and that given enough time and patience that anything can be brought forth.

The lesson I learned was that even on the hardest soil, lots of loving care produces something.

Work, and other diseases

I heard a quote yesterday from some famous gruffer – they’d claimed to “never have done a day’s work in their lives: it was all fun” or words to that effect.  Good for them. I’d love to be able to re-engineer my life’s history and in retrospect say ‘it was all fun’, but the painful truth is that I doubt that’s the whole truth.  While optimism or pessimism affect your view of the daily struggle (and I suspect, affect it more than you realize at the time) most work is daily.  Today, for example, is my admin day. I’ll attend a variety of phone conference calls, attempt to do some one to one calls with other people, and try to sort out the confusing morass which is the fun of the urgent and important overriding the necessary.  Should I focus on the internal certification scheme of which I am an important part, or should I respond to the pushy sales manager who demands time?  Is attending my division’s networking events critical (I’ve long since given up thinking I can socialise my way upwards) or should I load the database which has lists of all the calls I’ve made.  Which one determines my final rating is important; equally I’m too tired to play the endless charade which keeps me ‘relevant’.  I thought this was a job?  No, it’s a parade of some sort.

Going up north

And there is a saying in England about ‘going up north’. Generally it has connotations of a grim environment, however having come up here from down south I find it a very friendly place. The actual hotel I’m in is quite amazing having been converted from an old dock-side building with a modern restoration.  It has lovely vaulted ceilings with a large modern room and magnificent outlook.
The city also is quite clean and seems very efficient.  I guess Liverpool didn’t always have this reputation and although I’m no historian could understand that it probably had a dark side in the past.  I’m quite impressed however and really looking forward to walking around and meeting my customer here in the city.  I wonder why there is such resistance to the reuse of old buildings since they don’t always have to be torn down but I think careful selection and favourable treatment can insure a good mix of old and new. It isn’t always the case and both modern brutalism is as crass as Victorian decrepitude because  sometimes older sites are left because of some vague sentimentality, but I think given sufficient investment and thought, and cities be regenerated in a meaningful way.
Let’s not hindered progress simply because it is progress but rather thoughtfully create better environments for all.

Seasons

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The seasons in England do funny things to you.

Take spring, for example – we’d never seen so much house cleaning and general busy-ness until we moved here.  Spring takes on a whole new category when you’ve been cooped up inside a little box with closed windows and the back garden looks like it is more suited to ducks – the worm holes in the lawn forming little mounds of dirt and going anywhere near the shed results in lots of clods of dirt sticking to your shoes.  Some years I noticed that I hadn’t opened the back sliding patio doors and so the next year taped them shut to reduce draughts!  We get quite used to living cheek-to-jowl and find ourselves prowling the shopping centres for lighted entertainment during the darker months.

So the explosion which is springtime is truely a release of sorts.  Everyone is clipping, cutting, shaking or just dressing differently.  Houses are opened again and aired while the birds and animals take on a whole different attitude to activity and get into quite a buzz.  Too often we foreigners waited until it was warm – which comes around June or July here – and had all too short a summer as a result.  Nowdays we get going in March or earlier and tolerate working outside with jackets and gloves so as not to miss out on the longer days!

A flip side is that winter often finds me getting depressed.  I’ve found a recent innovation is a Philips ‘blue lamp’ which has an array of strong blue LEDs is really good to help get over this; I use it regularly most mornings by beaming it into my face while working.  Sounds strange, works well.  There’s a lot of science facts and figures behind it but other than the fact that the blue light is almost azure in colour but closer to a maya or cyan it is quite pretty and adds a needed spot of brilliance to my day.

19 years

We had a pretty rough anniversary yesterday; although there were cards, presents and dinner there was also tears and broken hearts.  I guess sometimes my own emotional turmoil bleeds over into that of my family’s and I forget they truly matter.  Yeah, that’s an apology of sorts – as hard as us men find those to give.

Overnight I couldn’t sleep and spent time browsing my Kindle, ending up in the Amazon Kindle store looking at magazines and one had the tag line ‘10 (Not-So-Shocking) Truths About Husbands‘ – it happened to be in Brides magazine and espoused a typical column-filler which if it had been written by a man about women would sound awfully misogynistic.  But what caught my eye was one comment further down which I’ve reproduced in full here.

I’d like to offer some comments on my husband that prove the tired stereotypes are often far from true. My husband does most of the cooking. And he’s good at it too. He cleans the bathrooms and washes the dishes. He does laundry. He takes out the trash every week. Without fail. I never have to say word or even worry about it. He’s got all sorts of renovation projects going on around the house. Some get done quick; others don’t. Don’t complain about it, women. The fact that he wants to fix up the house you share means he thinks of it as your home. No man invests in a short-term rental. He often makes me coffee in the mornings. When we sleep, he often holds my hand. And if I wake up and try to pull my hand away while he’s still sleeping he grips it tighter and won’t let me go. All this on top of the fact my husband is Australian…he left behind his family, job, home, and vintage car to come to America and make a home with me. And there isn’t a day that it doesn’t cross my mind, all he gave up. If your fiance or hubby has done any of these things for you, has sacrificed for you in any way–say a heartfelt thank you. Don’t wait. They’re one of the good ones. 🙂
Posted 8/25/2011 2:05:45pm by Perskaya01
… and that’s what rested my mind and put me to gentle sleep.  Sweet dreams.

Musings on education systems

My son and I have been travelling around this part of England looking at colleges.

Now: some worlds of explanation.  Neither my wife nor I were born or raised in the UK, so we experienced schooling which was 30 years old and 3,000 miles different – or thereabouts.  Education in the UK appears to be – as most things British – a strange mixture of haphazard happen-stance, clever design, and politics.  From a distance the Scots system (no, they’re not English…) appears slightly more rational – by which I mean straightforward – but no doubt there are mums and dads north of the border gnashing their teeth at the local elementary (or kindergarten, reception, nursery, primary) school and gazing with longing at the system in use down here.

There are four main levels of schooling in the local system: primary, secondary, college, and university.  Actually I lie.

There are seven types of school if you count all the stages such as nursery, infants, junior, secondary, six form (with lower sixth and upper sixth making the first and second years) or college, and then university.  No wonder students emerge from all this schooling with a wonderfully complex view of the world.  Parents, of course, never emerge.  Most are last seen selling kidneys to pay for the endless fees once free schooling ends.  I shouldn’t complain: most schooling world-wide isn’t free and having a government pay for excellent teaching until my child is 18 is, well, ridiculous.

 

How to say hello

For a long time I’ve struggled to understand how to make conversations work on the telephone with my British colleagues.  At first I was a little taken aback by their seeming abruptness and speed with which they ‘got down to business’ (now there’s an idiom which doesn’t translate well!).  So I tried to ape this and simply stated my name, then asked them the questions.  Most took it well however some seemed taken aback (another idiom).  Finally I’ve noticed that they ask each other very briefly ‘how are you’ (another idiom) then almost in the same breath state the reason for the call.  I’ve now started following suit – when I remember – and conversations are flowing better now.  Then, of course, I spoke to my south African relatives and the whole rigmarole started again…