Lawn Furniture Fiasco

Do you ever look at your life and go, man, how did I get here? Specifically, how did I get saddled with organising the family reunion for the third year running? I thought I made it clear that I wasn’t doing it again for a good long while after last year’s fiasco – uncle Henry dumping a rented set of lawn furniture in the lake was the final straw. It was me who had to liaise with both park management and the hire company, and that’s not what I signed up for. 

It appears, though, that I’ve been assigned the label of ‘best negotiator in the family’, and therefore awarded the dubious honour of organising the festivities once again. Evidently, I’m not that good at negotiating my own terms with regard to event organising, because I’ve somehow wound up agreeing to this. It’s not like I’m a pushover, so I have to assume that my aunts are more skilled in persuasion than I’ve given them credit for. They should do it. 

Anyway, here I am, trying to decide whether to have the thing at someone’s house, or have another go at arranging wedding marquee and furniture hire. Melbourne is a big enough city that the company we used last time will have forgotten all about the lake incident, right? I’m sure it’s all water under the bridge… there might be hired folding tables at the bottom of the water, but still. 

Maybe they haven’t forgotten. Maybe they’ve blacklisted us with all the marquee hire companies around Melbourne. That’d be just my luck, wouldn’t it? I think it’s important to have a waterproof structure as part of the proceedings, because it’s not like there’s much scope to reschedule the event if the weather’s bad. I mean, there are the cousins flying over from NZ, and the Barrington-Tropleys making the trip from WA. Then, of course, there’s all the local crew to be wrangled, which is much easier said than done. Once we’ve got a date, we’re going to need to stick with it. 

I guess it’s time to pick up the phone and find out where we stand with the marquee people. Again, how did I get here?


Car Says No

Cold mornings and my life simply don’t mix. That might sound unnecessarily definitive, but I’ve come to this conclusion after some fairly rigorous observation. For starters, my body just isn’t designed for the cold. Maybe it’s my Mediterranean ancestry, but I’m essentially a basil plant. Frost is not nourishing to me; my system was not built for it. 

Neither was my car, it would seem. The poor thing is really struggling to get started lately, which is a problem because I need it to get to work. Actually, it kind of is my workplace, since all my gear is rigged up to my custom-designed service body. It’s not like I can just trade this ute in for another one; a lot of thought and energy has gone into making it what it is. 

I guess I could have taken more care to book a pre-winter trip to the car service centre. In the Bentleigh area, it really pays to be able to use your car on demand – the place is kind of built for cars – and in retrospect, I’ve sort of sabotaged myself by skipping out on my annual maintenance. So, yeah. Maybe it is a stretch to say that cold mornings and my life are fundamentally incompatible. If I’d sucked it up and got the service, we’d surely be somewhat less incompatible, at least. 

It’s not just the car not wanting to start. There’s something amiss with the lights, too, which are kind of important on a 6am drive out of Bentleigh. Local auto electrical specialists: recommend yourselves. I really don’t have time to deal with all of this. Then again, I also don’t have time to not deal with it. I have an 8am in Footscray, and want to stop for one of those cayenne hot chocolates from Jimmy’s on the way. It’s the only thing that can get my frozen hands going.

Warm Memories

I remember winters when I was a kid. My folks had this little stand-alone gas heater, which didn’t look like much but had the capacity to warm up the whole open plan living space – especially if you grabbed the dog and got under a blanket with it. Now that I live in a house with a central heating and cooling system, all zoned and everything, I sometimes think fondly of that little box and the simplicity of its one row of flickering gas flames.

Not to wax too poetical – mum has since hinted that it might have been a bit of a fire hazard. Still, it’s funny what you take for granted when you’re a kid, not to mention what you find you look back on with nostalgia as a grown up. If I’m honest, I think a big part of it is the lack of responsibilities – for example, as a kid, I never had to scour my schedule for a spare block of time in which to book a central heating service. Melbourne is starting to get cold now; must prioritise that.

That said, I think I worried more as a kid. Like, I remember getting really confused and bursting into tears once when we were on holiday and I couldn’t work the hotel’s split system heating. Melbourne kids of the 90s, can any of you relate? Technology then was not what it is now – no nicely designed touch screens, just a confusing bundle of remotes, each one a bulky slab of ineffectual buttons. If you were lucky, some of them would even work. More often than not, though, they were all out of batteries.

Ah, memories. Don’t even get me started on paper-based filing systems of my primary school years, or the dependence on my parents’ desktop computer and so-called ‘word-art’ that characterised my early high school career.


The End of Hessian

Not many people know this, but it was the visit of a famous Greek athlete who really brought the handbag trend to Australia. It’s true! And you can read all about it in my debut non-fiction novel Handbags: No Slouch in Australia.

See, for most of history, Australians had carried everything around in sacks that they slug over their backs. That was a common sight a hundred years ago, and it had been since Australia’s founding: everyone walking around with sacks. Men, women, children…all sacks, all the time. Just dump everything in the sack: beauty products, your lunch, a few cats, workman tools, anything. We were far from the society of slouch bag lovers that we were in the modern era.

But everything changed when for the first, and probably the last time, Alice Springs was chosen to host the world games. Suddenly there was an influx of foreign modernity, and one popular race walker made headlines with the black leather bag that she wore to the opening ceremonies. It was actually just supposed to be a convenient method of holding her Greek flag to pull out at the right moment- it was a very large and heavy flag, and she didn’t want it to get dirty or creased on the way out- but the new innovation of televisions in homes allowed everyone to see an athlete open her black leather bag, unfurl the Greek flag and wave it proudly. I’m sure there was a moment when everyone glanced at their hessian sacks, piled up in the corner where they were dropped at the end of each trip outside, and thought…there is a better option.

Truly, great changes were wrought upon Australia from then onwards, and now we have a thriving industry supplying soft leather shoulder bags to all. Old carry methods practically vanished overnight, besides one small town in Western Australia who still celebrates Hessian Day. It’s just one day, though, and sometimes it’s good to remember what came before. Even if it was way worse.


Thwarted Again

Great! Another weekend at the hot springs thwarted by Jim’s ineptitude. I’ve reminded him repeatedly that his car’s due for a service (like it’s my responsibility), and even made a booking for him to get it done, and now I find out that he cancelled it so that he could go and buy cable ties. That’s all well and good, but I put off a number of other things to make room for this trip to the hot springs, and now the designated transport’s not working.

Granted, I’m not a driver myself, which is why I’m relying on Jim’s car to get us there. I should know by now not to rely on him for anything! But we’ve been friends for nearly ten years, so what can you do? I suppose it’s time to organise a car breakdown repair. Mornington will have to wait until another day… never mind that the springs book out two weeks in advance, not to mention the B and Bs.

To be honest, I don’t think Jim is that invested in this trip to Mornington. Car servicing costs and inconveniences aside, I think that’s the real reason he didn’t make sure everything was good to go beforehand. But then why not just say that? I’d rather have a weekend away with a mate who’s keen than one who’s only going because he has nothing better to do.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m projecting a bit. I do kind of wonder if Jim is actually just as forgetful has he appears to be, and that failing to have the car serviced was a genuine oversight. It’s hard for me to see how it could be, given the noises that were coming out of it, but everyone’s different.

I wish that Jim would just acknowledge that I’ve arranged my fortnight around this trip, and it’s a real bummer for it to be for nothing. I would have paid the mechanics bill, even. Maybe if Jim had known that he’d have gone ahead with it. Maybe we could both stand to be better communicators. I’m still peeved at him, though.  

ONLY the Basement

Most company IT departments are in the basement. Makes sense, because it’s where the servers are best kept, and IT people have to be around for the servers…supposedly. In my experience, they mostly just keep themselves going, but it’s a precaution. And it’s cooler underground.

So no, the idea of our department being in the basement doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that we’re not allowed outside the basement. Seriously, we enter around the back, straight into a featureless room that takes us to a lift that goes up and down one floor, and all our work is done remotely. That’s it; we don’t have clearance for the rest of the building.

Meanwhile, it’s been in the news: Lawrence Corp forges legendary partnership with various Bayside electricians! I can hear everyone partying, just one floor above us, but none of us have clearance to join in. Not that we’re qualified electricians or anything, but if it’s something to do with electricity or rewiring, you’d think we’d be the first ones to know. We do a lot of smaller electrical work, and they send down broken equipment for us to fix all the time. If our company is going to be working with electricians in some capacity, it just makes sense to fully-brief the IT guys. But nope…we heard about it in the news. Lawrence Corp, everybody. Don’t ask us anything about it: we just work there.

The only reason I’m still here is the salary, which is leagues better than any other place where I’d be doing the same job, and the name to put on the CV once I leave. Oh hey, maybe I could do my training and qualify as a home electrician. It’s not incredibly far from what I already do, plus commercial electricians, Bayside based or otherwise, seem to have a much better chance of talking with and receiving acclaim from the boss of this company than the people who work here every single day.

I don’t even know what the boss looks like…


Renovation, for Reasons

My wife thinks we need to have all the bathrooms renovated. I’m going to trust her impeccable style sense, but I find the whole thing baffling. Apparently, it’s quite shameful to have guests over and for them to see that nothing has been done to the bathroom since their last visit, somewhat like being photographed at two weddings wearing the same outfit.

Not that we attend many weddings, due to them happening during the day, but I saw that little piece of drama come up on ‘House and Not There’. Australian soap operas are terribly amusing, AND they’re re-run during the night so I can watch them. Andrea was angry at Benjamin for ruining her party, so she made a plan to get back at him.

You know, I forget the exact plot, but it was to do with bathroom design. I think at the end of the episode everyone in the town got some custom bathroom renovations and everything was just fine from then on. Oh, but it was something to do with Andrea seeing Henrietta at Frank’s wedding, and she was wearing the same dress as at Andrea’s wedding, so she thought that Henrietta wasn’t putting in effort and then…something about bathrooms.

I’m becoming a soap opera addict, clearly, but at least I’m learning about Australian culture. To some degree. And apparently, that involves renovating your bathroom every few months, if you earn enough to do anyway. I don’t know…the castle-mansion has quite the number of bathrooms so I don’t think people would notice, plus we don’t get many repeat visitors.

At least we USE the bathrooms, however. As I believe I’ve had cause to mention before, kitchen replacement for us would be less than useless, as we never really use them. I haven’t been IN there all year. Nice to have, I suppose, but we won’t need kitchen design any time soon.

On-Brand Office

It would seem that I’ve been charged with ‘finalising the stylistic features’ our new office space. What does that even mean? Like, there’s just not a lot that can be done. This operation has always had an extremely minimalist vibe, so I’m not sure what stylistic features can I add that aren’t already part of the basic fitout. Apparently, though, we need to ‘brand’ the space, and I’m responsible for that.

Well, there’s the new logo that Helena was on a bout in the meeting – maybe I can do something to feature that. A mural? No, that’s not in keeping with our thing at all. Engraved door knobs? I’m not sure where I’d even begin to get hold of such a thing. I guess there’s always that sort of decorative commercial glass. Melbourne folks, what’s that stuff called? Is it frosted glass, or is that another thing again?

Basically, I’m picturing the new logo frosted onto the glass partitions that are already installed in the space. That means we wouldn’t be replacing the glass, just adding a decorative element to it… I have an inkling that there’s some kind of adhesive film that can do that job, but I’m not sure what it’s called or how to order it.

While I’m at it, I might as well look into what the go is with window tinting for offices. Melbourne gets surprisingly intense on the sun front over summer, and it would be good to be able to block out some of those harsh UV rays. I wonder if there’s a way of doing it that doesn’t make the space too dark, though. I reckon there would have to be in this day and age.


Short of installing a few indoor plants, ideally ones that don’t demand too much in the way of sunlight, I can’t think of too much else. At the end of the day, this space is all about functionality and clean lines – maybe that’s the essence of our ‘brand’. I can work with that.

Coffee and Construction

What’s with people always firing up in-depth conversations with the barista at my favourite coffee joint when I’m behind them in the queue? I seem to observe this even more than usual when I’m in a rush. Find someone else’s ear to chew on, will you? I needed my double espresso five minutes ago!

Take this morning, for example. When I got to the counter, I found a suited-up dude carrying on endlessly about the commercial applications of structural steel. What, for the love of god, has that got to do with purchasing coffee and a Gruyere toastie? Evidently there’s some relationship, because my barista proceeded to chime in with his own thoughts on where to buy steel beams. Melbourne being what it is, I should probably not have been surprised by this – of course the shop has its own custom-designed roasting plant down the road.

Okay, fine. Part of what I love about my barista is that he’ll willingly engage with whatever topic you care to throw at him, no matter how specific. I’ll concede that he’s spent his share of time spit-balling with me about the future of the rag trade. I just wasn’t aware that he’d be as responsive to musings on the construction industry.

Regardless, there’s only so long one can be expected to wait in line hearing recommendations for structural steel fabricators. Melbourne  residents surely have some thoughts around quality steel products. How long is it appropriate to chat with a barista for, especially when there are people queued up behind you waiting for their post-commute caffeine hit? I’m inclined to say 10 seconds, maximum. I don’t care how many metres’ reach that knuckle crane had or what the load-bearing capacity of your new development’s internal columns is.

Yes, alright. I could stand to take this advice myself. I daresay the verbose chap in question would care as much about the comeback of the French seam as I do about the latest developments in building materials. 

Offices in the Future Sure Are Robotic

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Our office DID win a competition, and it’s a great honour to be trialling out ‘the office of the future’. And the new place is even slightly closer to where I live, so I get an extra five minutes in bed!

Still…the future isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This is supposed to be where all the companies that do commercial office design. Sydney based offices are just too expensive at the moment.

We’re greeted at the door by D4, our friendly robot doorman. We show him our cards, make some small talk, and he opens the sliding doors. And already, like…okay, D4 is nice. I like how they gave him a little porter’s hat to make his unblinking robotic eyes seem a bit friendlier, but it just takes so much longer than swiping a card. Then we take the state-of-the-art elevator up to our floor, which is pretty cool. Gets you there in about three seconds.

The office design once you step out is…distinctive. Everything is chrome, basically. T4 the doorman takes your coat and gives you a unique code to access it at the end of the day from the coat cupboard. Then if you want coffee, you just speak to J4, who scans your eye signature and makes your brew just the way you like it…in theory, anyway. The desks are all minimalist designs, and the chairs are this sort of…jelly-like bean-bag style that conform to your body shape. I do like how they have wireless charging stations and compact fridges at every desk, so you can just put your sandwiches in and charge your devices or whatever. And everything in the break room is voice activated, and…

I could go on. But I just think that many of the ‘innovations’ make things take longer. If it were up to me, in charge of a company that carries out things like office fitouts for Sydney, I’d keep things minimalist. Just aim to improve the working experience. All those robots have to be expensive, right…?