Old-School Style

Maybe I watched one too many TV dramas set in the mid-twentieth century while I was at uni, but I always imagined that paid work would take place in an inner-city office filled with filing cabinets, teetering stacks of paper in overflowing in-trays, and minibars on little trolleys. Despite the fact that the characters in these shows never seem to be having the greatest of times, I can’t help but long to participate in their particular brand of mundane glamour.


I should have known that actual workplaces, here in the contemporary (and non-fictional) world would be completely different. To the credit of real-life offices, things are considerably more efficiently organised than they were in my imagination. Paperwork is not really a thing in this day and age, so hard-copy files and physical in-trays are virtually non-existent in most workplaces. Minibar situations, too, appear to out as far as Melbourne office fitout trends go.


I just think that a tiny injection of that old-school vibe could go a long way in terms of making some of these places more fun to work in. Now, I get that work isn’t necessarily supposed to be fun, but is there any reason why it shouldn’t be? As far as I can tell, when it comes to recruiting office designers, Melbourne businesses tend to opt for companies that can reflect their unique brand. As it happens, ‘fun’ is not typically part of that.


From what I understand, there are many companies around now that do see themselves as ‘fun’, and their offices as thrilling environments to work in. Call me old-fashioned (please, do it), but my idea of fun is not lime green sculptural seating and on-tap vitamin water. My idea of fun is role playing a character from a glamorous age gone by. Sure, this might not be about to happen for me any time soon, or even halfway appropriate given that I work for a robotics company.


Perhaps I need to shift my mindset to one of being a character in a fictional future.

Bridesmaid Shade

Who said planning a wedding was stressful? I’m fine… just fine. Seriously – can’t you see how fine I am? Just because there’s steam emanating from my ears and an ominous red glow behind my eyes doesn’t mean I’m turning into a bridezilla. I’m not even the bride, so that can’t be it. Besides, it’s totally normal for the maid of honour to be under a bit of pressure at times like this. 

I mean, the bride gets to sit back and lap up all this attention while I’m spending my every spare minute tracking down some improbable flower arrangement, floating cupcake stand or edible calligraphy ink. That’s not to mention things like making sure the celebrant has a suitable shade of nail polish to wear, or organising marquee hire. Melbourne isn’t a bad city to be doing all this in – it’s pretty well stocked – but even so, it’s not like it’s easy to sort these things. You really have to do some legwork to find what you’re looking for. 

It’s true – I imagined being a bridesmaid as a bit less stressful than this. Still, I think I’m holding it down quite well, and it’s partly because it’s not my own wedding. Marquee hire and setup, Melbourne airport pickups for siblings from the UK, grazing table design and wardrobe coordination for a best friend’s wedding are one thing, but for myself? I’d be an actual monster right about now. Like, I’m definitely not at full throttle. Not even close. 

The thing is, there are three weeks to go, and I can’t stop thinking about everything I still have on my to-do list. It wouldn’t kill the bride to shoulder just a bit of the load, would it? Either that, or she could pay me. Why, by the way, is it assumed that best friends can be put to work for no pay in the case of a wedding? I’d at least like to claim costs from all the taxis I’ve caught while being batted between cake designers, caterers and florists.

Times Like These

Okay… it’s definitely winter now. A mere week ago, I was all like, this isn’t so bad. Sure, it’s chilly and all, but this level of freakish cold that people go on about? They just need to knuckle down and get themselves a half-decent coat. Well, I’m about to eat my hat on all that. It’s as cold as a witch’s earlobe, and I’m feeling it. 

I’m feeling it all the more because my car’s heating system has dodged out on me, just as winter has finally decided to kick in with a vengeance. It’s my own fault for forgetting to book a car air conditioning service. Near Moorabbin, where I normally go to work, there are plenty of places that could probably do it on my lunch break. But I’m doing that project way out in the sticks for the next month, so it’s going to be really hard to get it dealt with now.

To make matters worse, I have to leave at 6 o’clock in the morning, which is basically the middle of the night at this time of year, and it’s frosty as all get out. So, not only am I on the verge of frostbite, but I also can’t see out of the windscreen. The demister is powered by the heater, you see. Today I resorted to wiping the glass down manually with my scarf, which then became too wet to wear. And the windscreen got all smudged. Good times. 

I’m just going to have to look around out here for a local mechanic workshop. Bentleigh might be easy enough to get to on the weekend… but are garages even open on the weekend? Probably not. What’s a guy to do, then? Maybe there’s some kind of portable heater I can rig up in the car, and position under the windscreen to act as a demister.

That’s a thing, right? Otherwise, what are those of us who forget to schedule our car maintenance supposed to do at times like these?

Seasonal Stress

Every year on December 26, I tell myself that I’m going to give myself a break next year – you know, give the whole Christmas thing a miss and disappear to a remote island for a month instead. “There’s heaps of time to arrange that,” I think to myself. “I’ll sort it out in a few months.” Of course, it never happens, and next thing I know December has rolled around and I’m at my wits’ end once more.

Well, this year I’m discarding my supposed festive obligations to family and friends and booking myself in for a last-minute holiday. I could call it a present to myself, but it’s actually just basic stress management. Melbourne might not be the most jitters-inducing city in the world, but it’s no tranquil haven, either – especially at this time of year. I’m over the sleep deprivation, heart palpitations and general state of anxiety instilled by the endless hubbub of traffic, advertising and assorted social demands.

I mean, sure – there are probably some stress management techniques I could apply in my day-to-day life that might keep me from reaching the breaking point of needing to chuck in my plans to go sit on a beach alone. Like, maybe if I occasionally had some time to myself throughout the year, I would feel so overwhelmed by December’s high social load.

The stress in my life could be seen as a good thing, I suppose, since it brings viscerally to my attention the fact that my lifestyle could do with a bit of a touching up. It is certainly motivating me to prioritise what’s actually important to me, namely my health and wellbeing. I don’t really have any choice – if I keep this up, I’m going to end up with high blood pressure or something.


So, having thought that through… what’s the plan? Do I take myself off for a well-deserved break – stress leave from family, friends and acquaintances, so to speak – or do I simply do my best to carve out a bit of time for myself this festive season?

New No More

Disclosure: I don’t understand how people can be into that acrid ‘new car’ smell. If car air freshener manufacturers are to be believed, there are those who like it so much they’ll actually go out of their way to buy products to create it – apparently, they’re big sellers. As for me, it makes me want to retch. That’s why I’m thrilled to say that my car has finally stopped smelling that way.

Unfortunately for my wallet, this coincides with it being time to take my no-longer-so-new car for the first of many annual services. This is the first new car I’ve ever had, so I’m on a mission to hook myself up with the best mechanic Northcote has to offer. It can’t be that hard, can it? A lot of garages these days do servicing and repairs by the manufacturer’s logbook, I’m told, and are just as good as going through a dealership.

Still, there’s always that slight bit of trepidation around mechanics that we all carry around. You know – that fear stemming from that one time we had to get an unexpected transmission service four hours inland from Byron Bay, shattering both our bank account and our self-confidence in our ability to adult.

Trust me, this concern can be overcome – it’s just a matter of reminding yourself that you’ve lived and learned, and you’re no longer driving a van that you bought from your mate’s older brother for $400. You’re not driving across the desert on a whim, entirely unprepared. You might not be driving a new car, or even a reliable one, but at least you’re have an awareness of limits when it comes to your ride’s capabilities. You understand the value of a current roadworthy certificate.

To be truthful, I never even wanted a new car – partly because I hate that smell, and partly because the stakes are higher when it comes to maintaining the thing. I like stuff that’s a little bit beaten up – just enough to not have to cringe for days when you put a scratch in it. Anyway, my car’s officially no longer new… yay!

Tender Loving Car

Cars: so convenient, yet such a pain in the rear end. Honestly, sometimes it’s like having a temperamental child – granted, one that you can leave out in the driveway and only wash when you feel like it. That’s been my experience, anyway, up until now. I’m super grateful to have a car that’s dependable, resilient, and up to the task of everything my lifestyle throws at it.

The poor thing has had a couple of injuries in the past week, though. First, I discovered a big scrape in the paintwork after parking in a narrow street, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t my doing. Then, I somehow managed to clip the left side mirror on a pole, causing the glass to smash. I guess it’s time for a trip to see a mechanic. Ringwood people, tell me who’s good for getting this sorted in a hurry.

That’s the thing about cars. You become reliant on them, and then your whole schedule gets thrown out of whack when you don’t have access to one. Things stop running like clockwork when you’re exposed to the realities of public transport, which I suppose is kind of healthy. It’s not my style to be utterly dependent on a machine to run my life, and it’s good to remember that there are other ways of managing things.

I might as well think about if there’s anything else that needs doing on the car if I’m going to take it in to Ringwood. Automotive services aren’t something I’m great at keeping track of, and it’s possible that I’m due for one right about now. If so, that’d actually be pretty handy – gotta love a bit of efficiency. 

My elderly neighbour did ask me if I could talk to someone about RACV inspections and roadworthy certificates, although I’m not totally sure what he has in mind. I assume he’s looking to sell his ute. But I think looking out for one car child is about all I can deal with right now.

Family Values

There’s no finding the sweet spot when it comes to creating a comfortable environment for the whole family. That may be a hard pill to swallow, but it can’t be denied if you’ve ever attempted to manage the climate control preferences of at least three people at a time. You’d think genetic relationships would make it easier – like, that at least one of the kids would have similar preferences to at least one of the parents. I can confirm that that’s not necessarily the case.

The best solution I’ve arrived at is to continually toggle the thermostat up and down until the next round of complaints. I have to say, adults do some of the worst of the worrying, partly because they’re concerned about the kids getting the chills, overheating or simply being exposed to too many fluctuations in temperature. Then they start getting in a flap about how they haven’t booked their ducted gas heating repairs. Melbourne might be getting cold, but there’s still time before winter – settle down, will you?

Honestly, it’s a luxury to have any form of heating system, let alone ducted heating and cooling. Melbourne is an extremely fortunate place to call home – much safer for your kids than a good many other places in the world. So how about relaxing a little about those tiny imperfections in your home environment?

Besides, here’s the thing: the kids are going to have to get used to fluctuating temperatures, no thanks to our love of climate controlled comfort. You might as well let them get accustomed to it early by letting it be a couple of degrees off that elusive perfect air temp. I’m sorry if that seems a bit dark, and I’m not trying to make you feel bad. It’s not your personal fault, and I know that I’m sure as heck not going to hold back from heating my home over winter. It’s just some food for thought next time you start obsessing about whether your kids are in their optimal growth setting.

Dad’s Day

It’s my dad’s birthday in a week, and I have no idea what to get him. Without fail, I get to the same point each year at a complete loss as to what he’d like. Christmas is generally not a problem because we have a family secret santa, and mum always rigs it so that one of dad’s brothers gets his name out of the hat. And for Fathers’ Day, I just take him out for lunch. On his birthday, though, there are expectations that I’m perpetually unprepared to meet.

It’s not my fault. He’s not clear in communicating what he likes, although he’s always been happy to pontificate at length on what he doesn’t like. He’s always hopping between hobbies, too, swaying like grass in the wind between woodwork, restoring old motors and building ponds.

His current thing is boats, so I should probably just get on with it and buy him something related to that. But he has a habit of expecting would-be gift givers to know as much about his current area of interest as he does, despite the fact that he’s useless at communicating about it. It’s infuriating!

I know what’s going to happen. I’ll spend ages finding a store that sells, say, stainless steel snapper racks. He’ll find something about them that’s not quite right – even if they’re top of the line and selected as per the make of his boat. Then I’ll have to find someone to fix them to his liking, and traipse out to a place that does custom marine welding. Melbourne might not be that hard a place in which to find such a service, but it’s not on my usual circuit, that’s for sure.

If dad just told me straight out what he wanted, I could save myself a lot of fuss and bother, along with my father’s rejection of my gift in its original state.  I guess it’s easiest if I just think of it as me giving him the gift of something to complain about.

The Handbag’s Tale

Personally, I see nothing wrong with a novel from the perspective of a handbag. For as you see, novels can be from the perspective of anything. I wouldn’t expect anyone in this group to have read something with such graceful prose, but Confessions of an Icicle by Natalie Dusky is written entirely from the point of view of an icicle, and we get to read about all the many and interesting things it sees before it melts.

Sorry, spoilers. Anyway, no spoilers for Brown Leather Bag on Tour, my upcoming self-published novel for which cover art has not been finalised, but here’s a minor spoiler: it’s a brown leather bag. A really nice looking leather bag, and based off one that I own. As a matter of fact, I got the idea when I realised that I take my handbag with me everywhere I go, it sees everything I see and maybe even more, so in a sense this handbag is living a life just as full and rich as mine. And what would it say, if it were able to talk? What stories would be told? These are all the questions that inspired me to write my epic.

Of course, coming up with a complication in the tale was difficult, and so was the process of crafting a villain. I decided that my bag probably has a rival in Irene’s black leather bag, because we see each other all the time and work and coffee, and we lay down our handbags next to each other, and I’m creating an interesting contrast between me and Irene’s friendship and the intense rivalry between my brown leather bag and this black leather bag.

I mean…leather slouch bags in general are items that are designed to look good, as fashion statements. Makes sense that they’d have their own strengths and insecurities. And that they’d see these outings as wacky adventures with beginnings, middles and ends. Right?


Lucky Schmuck

Does bad luck always come in sets of three? Please tell me it doesn’t… I’m on two strikes already today, and I really don’t have the wherewithal to deal with anything more.

First, my toaster exploded, which I hadn’t known was a thing. Did you know that that can happen? Well, it can, and I’m here to tell the tale. There’s not a huge amount to said tale, but it was a bit of a stressful start to the day. Then, my car broke down on the motorway, and now here I am waiting for roadside assistance instead of nailing that property deal down on the coast.

What’s the third thing going to be? The client thinks I’m flaky and backs out on the whole meeting? I find out that my engine has conked it? Or perhaps something completely unrelated, like tripping over a stray brick and twisting my ankle?

Whatever. Right now I need to focus on getting hold of a decent car mechanic. Mornington locals, who’s good for this type of thing? I suppose I should wait for the RACV person to point me in the right direction. I just feel like I don’t have that much time to wait around for them to get here.

While I have very limited knowledge of Mornington, car repair workshops included, I do know that my client isn’t going to be stoked about the delay, even though it’s clearly not my fault. I mean, maybe it is – I have put off having an annual car service for a couple of years now. But the client doesn’t need to know that. 

Maybe I need to put a different spin on this. Maybe I’m actually having a bout of good luck. The toaster exploding when and where it did might have been the difference between my house burning down or not, and I got away with barely singed eyebrows. Similar logic could apply to the car breakdown – the outcome could have been a lot worse.