Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Home Again

Blogs, Dogs and Cobwebs

Hello. *coughs* Is anybody there? *fading echoes*.

Phew ... it's musty in here. Let me open up a few windows. *sound of windows squeaking open*

That's better ...

In our previous blog we did suggest that it would probably be 'a while' before we wrote another one. However vaguely you care to quantify the term 'a while', I'm sure you'd agree that the time between our last blog and this one constitutes at least one of them. Maybe a couple.

Anyway, we are home. The pets have been liberated at great expense after a lengthy stay in quarantine, and we have our own, rented house in the north-west of Sydney. Oh, and we're both back at work.

Now veteran travellers, the dog and cat settled quickly into our new home. Both have learned to use the pet flap that's punched into one of the back doors (we have two back doors, the outcome of some stalled renovations) so we can never be sure if neither, both or just one of them is inside. The pet flap is enormous, created we are told to allow the coming and going of a 'German Shepherd'. We assume this means that it was once the means of ingress and egress for a large canine, but it's equally plausible, such is its size, that it was used by a European gentleman who tended sheep in our backyard. Indeed, so large is the flap that it sports latches on either side of its base, allowing it to be locked and so preventing the entry of individuals of any ethnicity or vocation.

Whilst in quarantine, Mitzi lost 1kg, about 20% of her body-weight, through, we suspect, a combination of daily walks, fretting and controlled diet. In contrast, Astra gained 300g, largely the result of her eating heartily, fretting not a bit, and sleeping most of every day on her heated pad. No real surprises there ...

For the two months and a bit after our return, we stayed with Debbie's parents, in the front room of their house. Also in residence - in the room across the hall from ours - were Debbie's brother and his wife. Debbie's parents must have felt as if they'd slipped quietly into some sort of time trap, whisking them back over a decade to the last time their house was full of people. Anyway, we've all moved out now, and all's well with the space-time continuum.

So long has it been since we last blogged that Debbie is now in her second role back at work. In the first she was working with a well-known chocolate manufacturer who, despite being happy with the quality of her work, never once offered to make available free samples of their produce. (I guess I can't be too critical of this - after all, I did work for a bank for over 15 years and I never secured any free samples of their 'product' either.)

Debs' current role is deja vu all over again. She's working on documents that describe roles and procedures that have changed little in the ten years or so since she actually performed the roles and carried out the procedures. Weird.

I've moved into consultancy. That makes me a consultant, marketer and ex-banker, trained in economics and statistics. Now all I need is a stint in real estate, used cars and perhaps politics to ensure my 'social pariah' status into the forseeable future.

One of my clients (aka, until recently, the only one) is based in Wollongong, and this has necessitated weekly visits each lasting 2 to 3 days over the past few months. Wollongong's an interesting city. It's a blend of Newcastle and Blacktown - sort of a western Sydney city but with a harbour - and its residents are fiercely loyal and often openly anti-Sydney.

Recently I spent a Thursday and Friday with the client, and Debs joined me in Wollongong for the weekend. We spent a lazy Saturday morning wandering the streets, shops and malls in and around Wollonging CBD, stopped for lunch at a seafood cafe near Wollongong Beach that was recommended to us by friends, then dawdled back to our hotel, visiting yet more shops on the way. A distinctly civilised way to spend a day.

Sunday we drove to Shell Harbour (sometimes spelt Shellharbour for no apparent reason), a coastal township about 30 minutes out of Wollongong, where we witnessed possibly the most aggressive seagulls in existence. One particularly vociferous and bullying posse had ringed a couple of guys eating their fish and chips at a picnic table by the water. A few of the more adventurous gulls had gone as far as to leap onto the table, the better, I guess, to make their demands at eye-level. I commented to Debs that all the scene needed was a gull with a loud hailer and a police cap imploring "We have you surrounded. Put your hands on your head and step slowly away from the chips ..."

On the way home we stopped at the Nan Tien Buddhist Temple in Berkeley. It is, simply, an amazing place. As you'll discover on the website, it has won various lighting, architecture, gardening and tourism awards. Indeed, so popular is it amongst the locals that a number of the bus routes stop inside the Temple grounds. Not surprisingly, it's also very popular with Asian tour groups, as Debs and I discovered when a couple of busloads disgorged themselves while we were there.

Away from the crowds and inside the temples where even the tourists are respectfully quiet there is a palpable tranquility about the place that's somehow different from the sense that you get when you're inside the great churches and cathedrals. It's welcoming and not at all oppressive. It's very human.

There were three blogworthy incidents at the Temple. The first was the realisation that the garbage bins throughout were ex-McDonald's (presumably thoroughly cleansed of any meat-like residue - although that's probably not too great a risk now I think about it). I don't know exactly why that strikes me as odd, but it does.

The second was the sight of a monk, we think female, shaven-headed and clad in a dark-brown robe vaguely reminiscent of a potato sack, standing at the back of an otherwise silent temple redolent with incense and presided over by three enormous statues of Buddha ... with mobile phone clutched to her right ear. Only if she were on the phone to her broker (we weren't near enough to hear) could this image have been any more utterly incongruous.

The last 'incident' took place in the Temple's bookshop. Debs and I had been there for, I'd estimate, about 20 minutes, by which time we'd selected three items to purchase - a fairly respectable purchases to time-in-store ratio, I'd have thought. Apparently though we had been observed by a store assistant who thought otherwise. No doubt practising her 'awareness' skills and being fully 'in-the-moment', she felt it her duty to scurry out from behind the counter to pluck from the shelves and place into my hands an additional book. Incredible, I thought, I'm experiencing the older-than-Buddha sales technique of 'cross-selling' in a bookshop in a Buddhist temple. I perused the proferred book, feigning interest, and waited until she had retreated to her position behind the counter before returning the extra book to the shelves, out of her sight. Bad karma, no doubt.

Anyway, I've enjoyed the work that I've been doing in the 'Gong. There's been tremendous variety : marketing, brand work, data analysis and management, balance sheet management, arrears management and collections, even some merger and acquisition work. In many ways it's really been the perfect first client for me. Next, I'm hoping to do some work in travel as well as continuing with marketing and information management.

Please check back again soon. We will be posting news more regularly again. We promise.

Originally posted by TC

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