Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Learning lessons the hard way

When I was a kid I owned a portable cassette player, just like the one pictured above. I loved it. I've always loved listening to music, and even though my taste in music has mellowed over the years, I still love keeping up with all the latest stuff.

I was at a school function a few months ago, throwing myself around the dance floor when an Ariana Grande song came on. I started mouthing the words. Every single one of them. (And there's no way I'd classify myself as an AG fan.) One of the other mums looked at me in amazement. 'How do you know all the words?' I listen to music a lot. (Commuting allows that.)

Back to my youth and my cassette player ... One day I went in search of my cassette player and I couldn't find it anywhere. I knew I'd had it the day before, but it was nowhere to be seen. Eventually I asked Mum if she'd seen it?

'Where did you have it last?' she asked.

I thought about it for a few seconds. 'Outside?'

'Did you check out there?'


'And it wasn't there?'


'Did you leave it outside?' she asked, raising her eyebrows as she did. My mind started ticking over. The day before, I'd been playing my cassette player outside, but I couldn't recall bringing it inside afterwards.

I could suddenly see where Mum was going with this. 'I ... think so,' I answered hesitantly.

Mum shrugged her shoulders. 'Well,' she said, giving me a knowing look, 'that was a silly place to leave it, wasn't it? Maybe someone took it?'

I'd have argued with her, but I knew instantly it was my fault. My bottom lip started to tremble. 'B-but, my Monkees tape was in it.' I loved The Monkees (especially Davy Jones). I'd heard my neighbour's son playing their album just weeks before and when Mum told the neighbour how much I loved the band, her son had kindly made me my very own copy of the album on cassette. I'd been playing it non-stop ever since.

'Well,' my Mum replied, 'that's what happens when you don't look after your things, Jodie.'

I was devastated. Not only had I lost my Monkees cassette, but my cassette player too!

Weeks later (or maybe it was days - it felt like weeks, anyway), I walked in to my bedroom, and there, sitting on my toy box, was my cassette player. I ran out to find Mum in the kitchen.

'Mum!' I yelled. 'Did you find my cassette player?!'

'Yes,' she replied, smiling, her hands covered in flour.

'Where was it?' I asked, excitedly.

'I found it the day you left it outside, and I put it away.'

Wait ... what? 

I was slightly confused. 'You put it away?'

'Yes. I put it away, because I wanted you to learn a very important lesson: you have to look after your things. If I hadn't found it, it might have rained and the cassette player would be ruined. You can't just leave your stuff lying around.'

I don't remember being particularly upset at what my Mum had done. I think I was kind of thankful, and it did serve as a very important lesson for me. It was kind of clever of her. I've (clearly) never forgotten about the time I almost lost my cassette player because I didn't look after it.

On Christmas Day just passed, the kids all received money from their Granny and Aunt and Uncle. There's nothing more that drives me insane than seeing money lying around the house that belongs to my kids. They get it out, look at it then leave it on the kitchen bench. Or by the tv. Or in the rumpus room. Or by the computer in the study. I've told them time and time again about looking after their money. The eldest two seem to have gotten it now, but Youngest Son? Not so much. He once 'lost' $20, so as a one-off, we replaced it (thinking we'd probably picked it up ourselves and kept it by accident). This time though, I warned the boys over and over after they opened their envelopes and cards containing their cash, 'Make sure you put your money away, because it won't be replaced. You're responsible for it.'

Guess what happened? Youngest Son lost fifty dollars. He hunted high and low for it. I hunted high and low for it. As did Mr A. We couldn't find it. Eventually, I turned to Youngest Son, 'Oh well, that's it then. You're officially down fifty bucks!'

Just like when my Mum told me that my cassette player was probably gone for good, Youngest Son didn't react to the news he'd probably never see his money again. I could tell he was sad, but he also knew - knew - he hadn't looked after it, so he couldn't blame anyone other than himself.

Unlike my Mum, I didn't take the money from him to teach him a lesson, but I did find it some weeks later when I was cleaning up his room. He'd hidden it under a box of textas and pencils he keeps on his desk. I called him in to his room to break the good news to him. 'Oh!' he exclaimed, 'I remember putting it there now!'

Still, it was a good lesson for him to learn. Hopefully in future he'll put it away in his drawer as I always suggest he should, even though he never does. *crosses fingers*

I think that's called 'history repeating itself', isn't it?


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Write on Wednesdays Revisited - London Calling

Time to get in some fiction writing practice!

In this first post of the continuation of Kate and Cassie's story, that I started during my participation in the original Write on Wednesdays ('WoW') on my old blog, I now give you Part 11 - London Calling.

(If you want to get the gist of the story so far before you read it, you can find links to the first ten parts here.)

*     *     *     *     *

Part 11

Kate exited the lift as quickly as she could, hurried to her desk and threw her bag underneath it before walking briskly across the floor to Dave’s office. Why he needed to see her so urgently this morning, she wasn’t sure. More than likely it was to do with his upcoming London trip. Traveling stressed him, mostly because he usually left the preparation for his trips to the last minute.

Dave was in plain view to the entire floor through the glass panels of his office. He was talking animatedly on the phone to someone; his muffled words barely audible through the thick glass. Kate noted with dismay he looked upset. This would not work in her favour at all. She checked her watch: barely eight-forty am. Not officially late yet. Dave despised tardiness in his staff. Standing outside his office, the ache in her feet was almost unbearable now. She shifted the weight from one foot to the other, trying to relieve the pain, silently cursing Cassie yet again for talking her in to buying the overpriced shoes. 

As Dave clutched the phone in one hand, he ran his other through his hair, squeezing the mass of black curls on the top of his head before pulling his hand down beside him - his fingers clenched in a tight fist. Kate continued to stand at the door, hesitant to enter or even attempt to attract his attention. As if reading her mind, he suddenly looked up in her direction and frantically motioned for her to come in and sit down. 

He turned his back as she entered, hissing in to the phone. ‘Louise, my trip was booked four weeks ago! You knew it was coming up. Just sort it out, will you?’ He pulled the phone slightly away from his ear as the volume of his wife’s voice escalated. Kate couldn’t make out what Louise was saying, but, she noted, she clearly wasn’t happy about something. ‘I haven’t got time for this!’ Dave shouted over his wife’s voice before slamming the phone down. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and then moved his fingers to his temples and massaged them, eyes closed. 

Kate watched him for a moment. ‘Is everything okay?’ she finally asked tentatively. He opened his eyes and sat down behind his desk slowly. He turned to look out the window for a moment, seemingly staring at the adjoining buildings that surrounded Martin Place. Below, workers were rushing to their offices, clutching takeaway coffees, briefcases and handbags. He turned to Kate and exhaled slowly. 

‘You married, Kate?’ he asked calmly.



Kate squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. ‘Er, no.’

He smiled slightly. ‘Smart girl. My advice to you is to keep it that way.’

Kate allowed a nervous laugh to escape her lips. Dave turned his attention to the window again. 

She could tell he was stressed. Really stressed. He was always like this prior to a work trip and a deal closure, but it also hadn’t escaped anyone’s attention in the office - including her own - that his marriage wasn’t exactly picture perfect these days. In fact, it hadn’t been great for some time now (if ever, according to the office rumours). Dave had quite the reputation as being a rather notorious flirt around the office, mostly with the floor secretaries. According to her work colleagues, he often took the flirting one step further. There was talk of lunch time hotel bookings for secret rendezvous, and a little black book that the other senior staff had laughingly given him at the previous year’s Christmas party as his Kris Kringle gift. Although his obvious indiscretions bothered her, she also considered what many of her colleagues had said: that Dave’s wife was difficult, demanding and even, as one co-worker described it, ‘Mean as shit.’ It didn’t excuse his behaviour, nor justify it, Kate thought, but perhaps it may have explained it. In part at least. 

Still, Dave could be difficult too, something Kate knew only too well having worked with him for as long as she had. Apart from the senior staff (the majority of which were men), most employees at the bank were on edge when he was around. He demanded brilliance from everyone, which, in itself, wasn’t really an issue - it was more the way he went about demanding it that put people off. Subtlety wasn’t really Dave’s strength.   

Recent rumours had it that Dave was currently indulging in an extended office affair with one of the secretaries on the floor. One of the other floor secretaries, Janine - a good friend of Kate's - had disclosed to her during lunch the week before that a few people in the office had been working on a deal late one night a few weeks back and noticed the secretary in question and Dave exit the stationery room, looking rather disheveled. The office had been aflutter about the affair ever since. 

‘Hmmm, he and Nick would probably get along well then,’ Cassie had smirked after Kate confidentially disclosed to her Janine’s news during a dinner at their favourite Thai restaurant on Military Road. ‘They could swap notes, no doubt.’

Kate had frowned disapprovingly. ‘Nick was nothing like Dave, Cass.’ Cassie had rolled her eyes in response. ‘He wasn’t,’ Kate insisted.

‘Well, at least in Dave’s instance no kids are involved, right? The same could not be said for Nick, could it?’

The comment had hit Kate like a punch to her stomach. Kate dropped her fork, causing it to crash loudly on to her plate. Fellow diners glanced curiously their way. Cassie immediately realised she’d gone too far. 

‘Hey, I’m sorry. That was out of line. Even for me!’ she joked. She reached across the table and placed her hand affectionately on Kate’s arm. ‘I’m sorry, hon. Shitty day. Not that that’s any excuse, I know,’ she added, throwing her hands up in mock surrender. ‘Ignore me, okay? What can I say … I’m an asshole.’

Kate managed a laugh then, but even though she and Cassie had gotten on with their dinner without another word about Nick, and the moment seemed albeit forgotten, the comment had played over and over in Kate’s mind on the walk home to her apartment afterwards. Eventually, even though she resisted it, her thoughts turned to the day she’d found out about the baby. 

‘For fuck’s sake, I can’t find anything in this office!’ Dave’s hand hit the desk in frustration causing Kate to jump. ‘Julie!’ he shouted towards his secretary’s desk on the other side of the glass. ‘Julie!’  Dave’s secretary looked up from her desk and Dave motioned her to join them. 

Julie walked swiftly to the door, her long string of bright, red, plastic beads swinging side to side from her neck. ‘What’s up?’ 

‘I can’t find the documentation for Kate you gave me earlier. You put it here somewhere, didn’t you?’ He was frantically moving papers around his desk. 

Julie walked purposefully and calmly to the corner of Dave’s desk and pulled a white, glossy folder from the top of his In Tray and held it out in front of him, giving him a look of exasperation as he snatched it from her hands. ‘Anything else?’ she asked. Dave waved her out of the room.

‘Here,’ he said, throwing the folder on his desk towards Kate. 

‘What’s this?’ she asked, picking the folder up gingerly. 

‘Your travel documents,’ he said brusquely.  

Kate was confused. ‘My … what?’ Her mind was racing. She wasn’t scheduled to head to Melbourne for two more weeks, and she didn’t need any travel documents for a single day fly in-and-out trip.

‘I need you in London for the meeting on Tuesday. I had Julie book you on a flight tomorrow night. I hope you didn’t have any plans this weekend.’ He pulled out the top drawer of his desk and fetched out a small tin of mints, throwing one accurately in to his mouth after retrieving it from the tin. ‘If you did, cancel them.’

Kate was incredulous. It was the first time she’d heard she was needed in London for the deal closure. ‘I - I don’t have any plans,’ she stuttered, trying to wrap her head around the fact she’d be on the other side of the world within days. 

‘Good. Go and see Jono,’ Dave looked through the glass towards her colleague’s desk to see if he was there, ‘when he finally gets in, that is.’ He sighed in frustration. 'He’ll get you up to speed on the details. You’ll need to make sure all the documents are ready to go, so you'll need to liaise with Trish in Legal. You’re bringing the documents with you, okay?’ 

Kate nodded. ‘Sure.’ 

‘Great. When you leave, can you ask Julie to come back in? I need her to make some changes on the presentation for the meeting. It’s shit. Jono has us looking like a bunch of amateurs.’ 

Kate smiled. ‘Of course.’

Back at her desk, she pulled out her phone and texted Cassie. Guess where I’m heading for work this w/end? 

She waited as Cassie typed her response. Why r u working on the w/end loser?

Kate rolled her eyes and let out a laugh. Won’t be working this w/end. Will be busy watching movies and sipping $$$ champagne.

Cassie’s reply was prompt. ??? Is this really Kate or some nut job who has stolen her phone?

Kate sighed. I’m off to London, you idiot! 


Just then, Jonathan appeared in front of her. ‘Hey, Kate.’

Kate jumped in fright, dropping her phone in to her lap. ‘Oh, hi, Jonathan. I didn’t see you come in. Apparently I’m off to London and you’re going to fill me in?’

Jonathan sighed, pushing his glasses back in to place with his middle finger. Is he giving me the bird? Kate wondered. He’d always been quite standoffish with her. Then again, Kate reasoned, he was like that with everyone. 

‘I need a coffee first. I’ll be back in ten.’

‘Oh, I think Dave was keen to go over everything straight … away …’ It was too late. Jonathan was already making his way to the lifts. 

London, Kate thought. She hadn’t been to London since Cassie had lived there in the early nineties. Neither had much money back then, so they hadn’t been to any nice restaurants, seen a West End show or even done all that much sightseeing. Not the places that cost much to get in to, anyway. She wondered if there would be any time to indulge in a little sightseeing this trip? 

Suddenly it dawned on Kate that she hadn’t even asked Dave how long she’d be in London. The white document folder was sitting on her desk where she’d left it. Opening it up she hurriedly scanned the documents. Departure was Saturday, returning …

‘Damn,’ she said out loud. Her return flight was Friday morning; she’d only be on the ground a few days. Still, she figured, she might be able to squeeze in a viewing of the Tower of London, or catch a show. 

Despite the fact this now meant she would be working non-stop today, and probably well in to the night - perhaps even tomorrow just to get everything ready for the trip - she felt a sense of anticipation and excitement. As her dad would say, ‘A change is as good as a holiday.’ Which is exactly what she needed right now. 

*     *     *     *     *

Hmmm ... I wonder what Kate will find in London?


Friday, February 5, 2016

I've still got it

During the last week of the recent school holidays, I took the kids to Westfield because we needed to do all that last minute stuff you have to do before the new school year starts. Like pick up the last few bits of stationery, get haircuts and eat fast food. (Okay, so the 'fast food' part isn't something you are required to do before school starts but ... whatever.)

Anyhoo, as we entered the centre I could hear a bunch of girls screaming. The screaming was slowly building and I could tell they were all tres excited; something big was going on. As we got closer, I could make out a large video screen that appeared to be broadcasting a band on a stage.

'Oh, boys,' I said, slightly excited myself, 'I think there's a performance going on. I wonder who it is?' The boys were all a bit Meh about the whole situation, but I didn't allow this to hinder my interest.

As we got closer I could finally make out the faces of the performers, and I said aloud, 'Oh, it's The Vamps!'

Now, I have to admit I surprised myself at this point. Although I could definitely hum and sing a few of the words to one of their songs, I couldn't tell you the actual name of it (I just Googled it: 'Can We Dance' - well, duh), but I was still pretty impressed with myself that, at the age of 45, I still know a bit of what's going on in the music world, especially for the 'youngsters'.

As I ordered a burger for Middle Son from KFC (nothing but the best for my children), with the music and the screaming pounding all around us, I said loudly to the young female KFC employee behind the register, 'IT'S VERY LOUD IN HERE, ISN'T IT?'

'YEAH, IT IS,' she replied, leaning forward so I could hear her, 'I'M NOT REALLY SURE WHAT'S GOING ON HERE TODAY.'

I must have given her my are-you-SERIOUS? look.

'IT'S A LIVE PERFORMANCE! THE VAMPS ARE PLAYING!' I replied, smiling, thinking she would then be all like, WHAAAAAT? and maybe jump over the counter and push past me to make her way towards the music and the screaming girls so she could join them.

Instead she looked blankly at me, furrowed her brow then shook her head in confusion. 'THE VAMPS!' I repeated, convinced she probably hadn't heard me the first time. (It was really loud in there.)

The girl shook her head again and shrugged her shoulders, still looking confused.

I looked down at her name tag. 'EMILY,' I said, giving her my best mock exasperated look, 'it's THE VAMPS!' Nup, nothing. 'THEY'RE A BAND FROM ENGLAND?' Blank, blank, blankety-blank. 'OH, EMILY,' I replied, laughing, 'YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT, I SHOULDN'T - YOU'RE MUCH YOUNGER THAN ME!'

Emily laughed. Granted, she was probably thinking, Crazy old lady and hoping my son's burger would appear at that very moment so I would get the hell out of there, but I think she appreciated the irony of the situation.

I'm not gonna lie: I walked away feeling quite proud of myself. Yes ... yes, I did. My kids might think I'm so daggy when I dance around the kitchen listening to my music from the nineties, and they're forever telling me how old I am because I'm 'almost fifty' (hardly - not even close. Ahem), but I reckon I'm pretty with it.

Yep. I've still got it, people. ;)