Saturday 12 November 2016

Topsy-Turvy Terrible Trump

Topsy turvy!
Everything is upsy daysy
Topsy turvy!
Everyone is acting crazy
Dross is gold and and weeds are a bouquet
That's the way on topsy turvy day...... *

                                                  * from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

9/11, 11/9, the world has gone topsy-turvy, Terrible Trump is taking the White House and millions of munchkins are wondering when a massive storm might bring a house of impeachment (or wave of civil rebellion) down on his ooh-too-orange-too-unnatural-scary-head so that the rest of the world can come out from hiding and resume more logical, joyful and humane activities.

But the Dorothy who might have saved us isn’t allowed in the White House because she is a woman.  A woman perceived by the disenfranchised munchkins and a bunch of sexist oompa-loompahs to be too elite to rule.  It makes no sense. But when mercenary media and the FBI conspire in myriad ways to make a heroine look bad, it’s only in Hollywood that she comes out on top; or perhaps in New York.

Don’t believe me? Well – like or dislike our Dorothy – imagine a male replica of this same candidate on the campaign trail and tell me (in these same circumstances) that would not have led to the White House? Many an ‘ism’ is fuelled by resentment. It doesn’t have to be on the surface to be a real contributor. But the red heartland has too many strange lights in their eyes, bullets in their guns, blocks in their brain, and kinks in their kindness to see what’s really at stake.  

Not all the American munchkins have distorted vision of course, near as many despise Terrible Trump as idolise him. But, wish as we might, we find ourselves not on the road to Oz or clicking our heels to return to Kansas, but falling down the Rabbit Hole to a Mad Tea Party most of the world don’t want to attend – unless of course you’re a Mexican munchkin in which case you can’t come in because there’s a big wall keeping you securely in your third-world- who-gives-a-shit-about-anyone-but-ourselves-place.

At the new party there are characters much scarier than the Cheshire Cat... there’s a couple of self-crowned, cocky, foreign ferrets called Fuckwit Farrage and Bastard Boris. There’s Pukey Putin and Terrible Trump, assorted apparatchiks and wicked wannabes, all clapping their hands in glee, wielding Ursula-like tentacles to snatch and grab, reject or wound at whim. This is a party without conscience or compassion, it’s all ego and greed, the terrifying, I-really-do-feel-sick-and-sad, beyond the Twilight Zone, OTHER PLACE .

Yes, the other place we read about in 1984, Animal Farm and Schindler’s List... where ‘the other’ becomes a religion, and the Big Fat Male Pink (aka white) Pig Rules. And it isn’t a dream or a story, it’s real. 

On the upside, in this brave new world we should all be able to go for jobs we have no idea how to do.  I want to be a Nero Surgeon at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Why not, hey?  Perhaps you’d like to be an astronaut? It doesn’t matter if you get vertigo, claustrophobia and fail the sight test, qualifications no longer apply.

In this brave new world the outlaws rob the banks, tie up the sheriff, assault your women, put your children in camps, then get a ticket-tape parade through the main streets of the 1st world to celebrate.

There’s no income-tax. No public-services. No NATO or United Nations or international goodwill.  

In this brave new world no matter what you’ve done (or failed to do) you can get the most powerful job in the land. This White Man’s Club (strangely supported by some women and others who misunderstand what’s going on) is not a step back in time to the vast and glorious Commonwealth, nor is it a Middle Ages Crusade - though it may feel like it - IT IS THE FUTURE!

Or, as has been said, BACK TO THE FUTURE!

But BEWARE, there’s no special car waiting to magically take us all away to safety as lightning hits the clock tower. There’s just an ugly finger hovering over a red button, with keys to The Situation Room, and those fingers belong to a sociopath who stoked the fires of selfishness, racism, sexism, homophobia, in many cases ignorance and poverty, to believe the Wicked Witch was their economic saviour. 

It makes no matter that even his aides thought him too irresponsible to do his own Tweets. In this brave new world recklessness doesn’t stop you from scoring the top job.  And more ironic: this particular Witch has been a multiple bankrupt and tax-avoider, proving the greed and irresponsibility which led to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008/2009 from which so many voters are still suffering, is far from gone and probably stuck in a sinister loop of circular-reasoning where Terrible Trump has no more idea how to improve his brand of fabulously unfettered Capitalism than thousands of others on The Hill.

Nevertheless in the topsy-turvy world of Terrible Trump, a character Doc Holiday might well call “the Anti-Christ”, is given the keys to our earthly kingdom.  And we are powerless to do anything about it.  (Or are we?!  See Michael Moore’s FB page @mmflint)  But we can’t lick our wounds by saying “oh those silly Yanks”, because only five months ago roughly half of the citizens of the UK gave America the quintessentially xenophobic example of Brexit to feed their isolationist nationalism. 

It seems many nations are caught in a BACK TO THE FUTURE psychosis of one sort or another.  Unless of course you’re lucky enough to be Canadian, God Bless them!

So just for the record: don’t ask me to be moderate in my outrage or concern, or in my judgement or sadness, because the oompa-loompahs who have got us into this mess have not been moderate in their intolerance or bigotry. And that fact remains however you attempt to explain or justify their choice. 

Make no mistake: this was not an election about left or right, Democrat or Republican.  This was not a debate about preferences or even needs.  This was an election about morality - a time in history where our very humanity was at stake.  And anyone who voted for Trump (or UKIP or Brexit) bear a heavy responsibility.

So you can call me arrogant, de-friend me, criticise or ignore me.  I am not afraid of free speech or the normal push and pull of democracy; even if I doubt its efficacy when campaigns are filled with lies and hatred, voting is not compulsory, people lack education or are given too many examples of egoism-gone-mad to see the wood for the trees.  But this election was different – it was crucial - and I make no apology for being devastated or seeing the outcome as grossly immoral. 

Germany and Japan carry their collective conscience with great elegance and compassion, for the writing on the wall they failed to see in the 1930s. They campaign in their daily lives and in their parliaments for rigorous inclusion and munchkin-on-munchkin respect. Bigotry and drums of war are not tolerated.  These countries now stand up proudly for peace and human dignity. And that is why they now take their place as true leaders of the world.

You’ve missed a key moment America. You have blindly but willingly walked into a war of your own making – a war on compassion, tolerance and respect.  So how are you going to wind back the clock and be sure the next Tea Party is less Mad and more Moderate, less Heartless and more Humane? 

Because if you think the economic spoils of victory will be better shared or distributed this evil way, the Terrible Trump way... then you have no-one to blame for finding yourselves on the dark side.

Meanwhile the rest of us munchkins can only pray we find our own Willy Wonka in the merky waters of political leadership, our own transcendent Dorothy, so that you don’t drag us into that ugly abyss.

Oompa, Loompa, doom-pa-dee-da,

If you’re not greedy, you will go far

You will live in happiness too

Like the Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do.

Highly recommended:

#ProtestTrump (in your city)   Don't be silenced!

Monday 1 August 2016


Beginnings are important but it’s how a story ends that really counts. 
I’ve just had three glorious weeks holiday in Italy. I reconnected with friends, made new friends, spent quality time with family, read novels, swam in the ocean, drank wine, danced, sang, travelled from Rome to Tuscany to Sicily, and indulged in every form of cultural and culinary tourism. 
When I first landed in Rome I was tired and depressed, bruised by the disappointing EU Referendum result and suffering existential angst (to borrow from Simon Hattenstone @TheGuardian). At first I kept up with all the news, but after a few days I knew that to relax and rejuvenate I was going to have to stop reading.  I did, and was better for the escape.
Nevertheless every person I met or spoke to engaged me in conversation about the referendum result. With only one exception, every person was shocked and anxious about the development, fearing for what it might mean for Europe, now and in the future, for international relations, security and prosperity in general. Some laughed at Britain’s naivety and selfishness, not holding back when they said it would make the once great nation a small shadow of itself. Others cried or shook their heads in disbelief. What has happened to the British character they wondered? I felt their pain acutely.
Repeatedly these conversations moved from the public and political to the personal.  Friends and strangers wanted to know what Brexit meant for me. Yet I could only express something of the discombobulation I felt. I could only ponder the impact on my sense of identity.
[See my post immediately after the Referendum at]
Since the EU Referendum questions about identity keep coming up. 
They say a swathe of people who voted out were troubled by concerns about identity. They say they felt their national sovereignty was compromised by EU membership, and that open borders and immigration threatened their sense of ‘Englishness’ or ‘Welshness’ as well as their economic opportunity. Whatever ‘Britishness’ is for them, it means something quite different in London and other cosmopolitan centres. But such was the myth and propaganda. While I empathise with feelings of disenfranchisement, there are many reasons why their vote to leave amounts to a misplaced protest vote. That however is not my focus here. What I find ironic (and sad) is that if a crisis of identity and visibility were the reasons for their choice, they have not actually advanced their cause an iota. They have done nothing to redistribute wealth or enhance sovereignty or democracy. They may only think they have - for a limited period before the reality of Brexit (and its domino effect) takes hold.        
I wonder too what Brexit means for the people like me whose identity is built from an amalgam of cultural experiences and loyalties... whose inner multi-culturalism has been formed by existence in an open society which depends for its flourishing on freedom of movement... and whose modern, global self-image, character and history is very much cross-border? 
There are so many people like me!  There are many who have ancestors and DNA from countries other than the one they are living in. But more than that, there are millions of people whose identity has been shaped by different colours and customs, by the arts and by travel, who have deeply embraced new cultures and places in order to survive and thrive in the world, in order to be true to the complexities which make them unique.   
How can we be asked to choose one loyalty over another?  How can we be asked to think, to live, to work, to create, to love, to move within a randomly redrawn boundary of such narrower proportions?  What a cost it will be to suppress our spirit and nature to the new agenda – the change few predicted? 
I am, it must be said, furious about the lies and manipulation of the Leave Campaign.  I am disgusted by the lack of planning, lack of a blue-print for a post-Brexit economy, and the shallowness of their reflection upon the real meaning and consequences of their pseudo-nationalistic lobbying.  I am appalled by the loss of integrity in our politicians, the ruthlessness of their egos, and the degeneration of the media and public life to what feels like an all-time-low.  And I will support every possible project to limit the damage they have done and hold them accountable. 
But I also want and need a new conversation. I don’t want to let myself run away from Britain in despair.
I need to reach out to all the people like me who – beyond politics – feel the need to do something positive and constructive in the face of daunting negativity and right-wing nationalism. In the spirit of Jo Cox (who we simply must remember) I have to believe that once the lies and referendum rhetoric have been uncovered as false and irresponsible, that millions of people in Britain - even those who voted Leave - will reflect long enough to see that there must surely be more which unites us than divides us; from each other, and from our European neighbours and allies. 
If you too feel your identity is cross-border and richly multi-cultural, please lift your voice and resist the manipulative silence of xenophobia, the insidious resentment of racism, and do all in your power to resist your family, workplace and community becoming isolationist, defensive or irrationally suspicious.  Please stop listening to politicians or media who would have us frame the world with ‘us’ and ‘them’, scape-goating ‘the other’ for all that isn’t right in our lives.  Rather be all the more determined to celebrate the richness of diversity and culture which exists in Britain; the Britain that will never be great again unless we do something quite drastic now about the conversations we are having publicly and privately. Because, just like Germany in the 1930s, if we do nothing it could be too late. 
You cannot resist a torrent once it is pouring downhill.  We can only avoid blood on our hands if we recognise the warnings from history and turn the tide now. These are dark times - the large number of hate and terrorist crimes across the world in the last month, concerning and repugnant – and, whatever your view of Brexit, we need to shake ourselves out of despondency or flippancy. We need to take seriously the social, moral and cultural challenges we face, as well as the political. Our humanity and our future depend upon it. This is something we can influence before the next General Election. We can change the conversation so a new spirit informs the political landscape and obliges our representatives to behave with more integrity and conviction, more humanity and intellectual nuance.
Please raise your voice. In conversations and social media share #identity+ and tell your story about the cross-border loyalties which shape your identity... which exist independently of a political party, a vote or campaign.   
Julie Elizabeth Mullins:
Ø I am more than any temporarily elected minister or government tells me I am.
Ø I can define my own cultural boundaries and identify with many clans, communities, institutions, religions and nation states. 
Ø I am filled with experiences and values that are Australian - black and white – because that’s where I was brought up and educated.
Ø I am British born with Celtic ancestors, red hair and freckles.
Ø My first passport was European and I feel European.
Ø I cannot part with my love and loyalty for Italy, Ireland, England or Australia, nor my need for deep connection to them.
Ø That complex jigsaw is me.
Ø I am multi-cultural.
Ø I am a citizen of the world.
In the week between the referendum and my return to Italy (where I lived happily for several years) an incident occurred which touched me deeply. I was in a sports shop in London looking for some assistance. The young man who might have served me was talking to a couple of friends in a language I didn’t recognise. When finally I got his attention he was a little resentful of being interrupted and responded a little abruptly. When he brought me the shoes from the storeroom and I requested some socks he said “no, we don’t have them” and turned away.  A little surprised I said in reflection more than challenge, “oh that’s strange, in Australia they always give you socks to try on with new shoes”.  He replied “then go back to Australia to buy your shoes”.
I erupted.  Every frustration I’d been feeling that week - with colleagues who failed to recognise something monumental had happened and that I couldn’t ‘get over it’ in a heartbeat, and with friends who I hadn’t realised were so differently positioned – bubbled to the surface. I demanded to see the manager. He shook his head and moved toward the storeroom. I insisted: “Get me the manager or this is going to escalate”.  He ran into the storeroom and closed the door behind him. Another young man tried to follow. I stopped him: “If you do not get me the manager and you follow your mate into that room to avoid a customer that is requesting your help, you are also going to be in big trouble. Get me the manager – now!”  
Reluctantly he used his walkie-talkie, where I heard the manager ask “what does she want?”  I saved him the trouble and spoke into it: “if you come here I will tell you what I want face-to-face”.  The salesman backed away.  The only two other people, Islamic ladies covered with a burka, looked on nervously.  I was, it must be said, in full red-headed flight. 
When the manager arrived I prefaced my explanation with: “You better listen carefully Sir, because this will not end here if I do not get a sincere apology. I am very upset about the hatred and racism that is brimming beneath the surface of this country all of a sudden. And I will not accept this rudeness.”  I told him the story. He drew in his breath, paused for a moment, then apologised unreservedly and said he’d speak to the young man concerned. I breathed out. The two ladies nodded in shy (but surprised) agreement. I closed my eyes for a moment, then went back to my shoes.
When the young man returned, suddenly appearing more lanky and vulnerable, he stood beside me and quietly said “I’m sorry Madam I was rude, I apologise”.  “Thank you”, I replied, “I appreciate that very much.  We can leave it there then. Now, please, I’d like to buy these shoes if you’d kindly show me to the check-out”. He seemed taken-aback, not quite knowing how to proceed. 
As we moved slowly toward the til he added: “Madam, I am sorry I was rude, I really am.  I have had a bad day” and the tone of his voice had changed to one of sincerity and humility.  “It’s ok” I replied quickly and thankfully. “That’s finished now. I’m sorry too. I have been very upset this week about the EU Referendum result and sensitive about any attack which seems racially motivated.” He nodded with implicit understanding. “And by the way” I said as an after-thought, “you are very welcome in this country”.  Then the young man hugged me. He stopped between the shelves and embraced me gently but firmly, in what I could only feel was a sign of friendship and relief.   
It was a brief physical moment but a powerful emotional message. We were on the same side again. We were both human, vulnerable and in need of comfort, both wanting to feel welcome in the land we’d chosen to make our home.
As I left the counter the lad was smiling at me, telling his friends what had happened. I still didn’t identify the language. The manager opened the big front doors to let me out, the last customer of the day. He apologised again and said he’d talk to the boy about it. “No” I said, and I reached out to touch his hand. “You’ve said enough, thank you. He understands. And we’re good now. So let us end it here. I do not want him to get into more trouble. This story has had a happy ending, and that is what counts. We’ve all learned something. And after such a difficult week, it means a lot to me it could end this way. Thank you. Thank you very much.”  Then he nodded in recognition. The young man walked forward. We each waved and smiled as the big doors locked behind me – divided not by a wall of fear and resentment but a pane of reinforced glass.        
Walking across the pavement to greet a girlfriend for dinner I couldn’t help feeling just a little bit taller, a little less isolated, and a little bit more intimately connected with humanity.       
We all have stories. We all have hopes. Let’s share them. Let’s change the conversation.

Saturday 18 June 2016


I have seriously neglected my blogs in the last year.  It’s strange how you can totally rely upon, love or need something for an extended period, and then suddenly not have sufficient time or attention for it.  Blogs are a gym workout for writers. They keep us fit, focused and fast.  There’s no time for the finesse of a published article or book, nor is there an editor and multiple drafts, but they are a good discipline and satisfying.  So why did I stop? 

Upon reflection, I realise blogs were the scaffolding for my development as a writer.  They gave me form in an industry which is otherwise unstructured, and I imagine that’s what a regular magazine or newspaper column does for writers; albeit with bigger readership.  It’s not that I don’t still need shaping – artists never stop growing in their craft – but other projects have taken precedence and, rather annoyingly, twenty-four hours in a day is often too short!

A year ago next month I published a book, To Kiss Or Not To Kiss, and I was happy not just because I think the design and narrative came together in a finished product I could be proud of, but because it was the culmination of many years of writing exercises, projects and books which hadn’t made it out into the world. And though my ‘other job’ has kept me busy since, commanding most of my available time and energy, I guess there was also a sense that after being alone in a room for a long time (solitude essential for writing) I needed to rejoin the working population and stretch the other side of my brain. I needed to socialise and put £ in the bank.  And I’m grateful for all professional opportunities – paid and unpaid, creative and corporate.  The challenge is to find the right balance.

That’s what got me thinking about scaffolding.  We rely on it to achieve something else.  It’s a necessary step in construction, in the process of creating something new or different.  But there comes a time when it has to be removed – when the new creation has to be set free, stand on its own two feet.  I was sitting on a hill in the middle of Tuscany once, when a children’s bookseller from Perth was giving me advice about a manuscript I’d asked her to review.  Her feedback was positive, but the upshot was that she felt I’d taken too many pages to prepare the reader... to walk them through the back-story (I paraphrase).  As she talked the truth dawned on me, and I blurted out “I’ve left in the scaffolding!”  “What?” she asked, somewhat surprised.  “I can see it. Yes.  I’ve left in elements of the process that I needed to create the story.  I’m showing the reader the workings.  I have to remove the scaffolding.”   She was delighted with this summary as hadn’t thought of it that way herself.  I went on to explain that actors know well that the process we go through in the rehearsal room has to develop and evolve before we reach the theatre.  We have to change gear. The audience doesn’t want to see why we’ve chosen this or that trait for our character, they simply want the character to live and breathe.  Theatre isn’t an intellectual exercise (though it can be intellectually stimulating).  It is a dynamic, live construct, and it isn’t believable if the actors are living in their heads. Excitement and drama happens in the moment.  I learnt a lot from that conversation about writing, and future drafts of those stories were better. 

Scaffolding then is a stage, a temporary need.  Perhaps parenting is like that too.  Also teaching.  Adults provide a safe haven, with established boundaries, within which a new and very individual person grows and, Please God, thrives.  Then one day they fly the nest.  They come back of course, likely to need you as a regular touchstone, but they are out there in the world, free and ultimately responsible for their own destiny.

I think sometimes we also get into love affairs for transitional reasons.  There’s something we want, consciously or otherwise, to help us get from A to B, and we reach for the support we need at the time.  It is right and normal that we do so, providing of course we’re also honest and respectful.  Something doesn’t have to last forever to be immensely valuable.  

Perhaps we find friends for the same reasons – for fun and spontaneous identification with another human being – but we never know how long they will or won’t be in our life.  It’s organic, uplifting and comforting to make new friends, it makes the world seem smaller and kinder, and that’s a scaffolding I could never give up.  Friends lift you higher than you could ever climb alone and they pick you up when you hit the earth with a thud.  Think for just a moment about your dearest friends, or the new friends who make you laugh or smile, and watch how your heart swells. Friends are surely the very best of life.  (And I count in that, family who are friends and good companions.)

Putting the arts aside for a moment - a business which intrinsically demands vulnerability - what happens in life when the scaffolding falls or gets pulled away before we’re ready for it? Do things get seriously wobbly?  Scary?  Does it test our inner strength? 

Yes.  It does.  But can it also be exciting?  Liberating? Can it open up horizons that we might not otherwise have contemplated?  Yes.  Of course.

Retirement can be a joy to as many as it is difficult.  Separation, after a reasonable gap of time, can be empowering – a rebirth of sorts.  Even unemployment, if you’ve managed to save money or get a payout, can be an opportunity like no other to consider what you really want to do with your life.

The point about scaffolding is that it can be viewed either way.  It can be positive or negative. Perhaps, as with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it is possible for us to consciously acknowledge fear or discombobulation then let it slide by.  (Yes that is a word, communicative whether or not it’s yet in the dictionary.)  Or as meditation leaders counsel, nod to whatever’s distracting you, then let it go.  Don’t fight or deny it.  Because the point is that wobbly, unfocused, or scary feelings don’t have to confine or define us.  They are just a part of the process of living and moving forward. And in our bravest moments we acknowledge fear and do the thing anyway.

So today, consciously, I’ve returned to the scaffolding of my writing practice.  (I think that could be practice or practise.)  It doesn’t matter who reads this blog.  I just needed to write it.  In a way I can’t explain, simply know that it is authentic, I feel another creative chapter approaching... a period without scaffolding... so perhaps I’ve been not so much ‘off the boil’ but ‘quietly simmering’ while I tasted some of the other things life has to offer and solving some other problems. And actually, that’s exactly the kind of variety and challenge I need and desire.  And that’s just as well, because I don’t know any other way to live.

Ah, I feel better now.            

Saturday 6 February 2016

A Scowl To A Kiss

How a day can change.

I woke up at 5am one morning recently with a lot on my mind. There was nothing to be done but to get up and jog. Before leaving I checked my email and 20+ emails flooded in with pictures and problems on the house I’m trying (and failing) to renovate and re-let from the other side of the world. It’s been a pain for months and I spent 80% of my Christmas holiday trouble-shooting, scrubbing and organising tradesmen. But here I am again, seemingly mired in issues and hold-ups. This not only frustrates the project manager in me, and the live-events manager who delivers on commitments despite the difficulty of a deadline, but I am bleeding money with no end in sight.    

Meanwhile I am trying to stay focused on a project at work, with the pressure over the last couple of days mounting. I am covering for my boss while she is away too and don’t want to stuff it up. I have analysis to finish and powerpoint slides to prepare for an important meeting and want to get into the office early.

But hell, the time-difference to Australia is difficult with these kinds of things.  The mental disparity is jarring. And twenty-plus troublesome emails at 5am is too much. I really have to jog; jog fast. 

The exercise helps. The Thames is lovely in the pre-dawn, though I nearly slip over a few times on the damp and dark pavements. By 6.15am I am home and showered. Then I chance upon a Facebook message I do not need to see. It pertains to an ex who I do not want to be thinking about. And despite best efforts it gets under my skin. In fact it makes me hopping mad. As he is doing exactly the opposite of a thing I’ve asked him to do. And he’s doing it publicly, either because he intends to cheese me off or because he doesn’t care.  

Negative energy is not the way I normally start the day, but I feel it sucking me in. Murphy’s Law, how these things happen when you’re already feeling sensitive.

In five minutes I swing from the desire to ring him up to tell him what a selfish bastard he is.... to never wanting to see, hear or speak his name again. Oh that’s right, I no longer have his number. I hid it in such a good hiding place I’ve forgotten where. That was a good move. So there’s only bloody Facebook. Don’t you just hate FB sometimes. So I throw my iPad back in a drawer where it’s stayed ever since.  At least I’ve had the sense not to load FB on my phone. That way I can ignore it for extended intervals without effort. I’m firmly of the belief that if people really want to communicate they phone, text, or email (and even those I don’t have on my mobile). So I now need to get that rubbish completely out of my mind. It’s a bad use of my energy and exactly why I’m not waiting around for him anymore.

After rapidly answering messages about my Aussie house issues, I get to the office later than planned and feeling as tired as if I’ve already done a day’s work. I get stuck into the list of things I need to accomplish before 13.30pm.  It’s tight but if I stay focused I should just manage it. Then all sorts of other things come at me – dozens and dozens of enquiries I can’t possibly process in the timeframe of the current project. Colleagues appear at my desk too, various things all urgent in their own way, but none of them directly related to the work I’ve been tasked to deliver that day or by the end of the week. And unlike the damn people who should be looking after my house – the worst being the Body Corporate who after months of lobbying still haven’t fixed a roof leak – if I say I’m going to do something I bloody well do it. Somehow I have to hold back these other requests for attention and stay focused on priorities. Still I feel the pressure mounting. I care about doing a good job. But I’m not coping as well as I usually do.

There’s a moment of relief when I pop downstairs to get some data from colleagues and they notice I’m flagging.  “Anyone would think you have a lot on”, they tease.  “Agh” I reply, “it’s all very well being Speedy Julie... but this week I’m trying to be Speedy Julie and Speedy Debbie and my brain is about to explode”.  (Speedy Debbie is the affectionate name I give one of my bosses, both of them called Debbie and both tremendous women, professionally and personally.)  The image of my head exploding like a manic episode from The Young Ones brings a smile to my face. If I can just get this latest data into the slides in time for the 13.30 meeting, I can ask for guidance about the stuff threatening to derail me.  

I do get the meeting slides together. Just. I grab my lunch and head into the meeting room with piles of print outs. Various managers assemble and my other lovely boss, Quiet Debbie, takes the lead. This gives me a chance to eat. Oh yes. That’s better. Sugar reaches my needy veins. Like a pot-plant starved of water inwardly I start to revive. By the time it’s my turn to talk to a few points, I can structure my thoughts. Then something lovely happens. 

I honestly tell the group, including the Programme Director, that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by what's landed in my in-box and ask for guidance re how to juggle the unexpected with the week’s agreed deadlines. As I say it, I feel the urge to cry. Nothing bad is going on. I’m just tired (a bit PMT) and can’t absorb anymore. For a change I’m not being Super Woman and ploughing on regardless of the effort to output ratio, I am genuinely asking for help. And I get it. They let me immediately off the hook. Individually and collectively they each give me a strategy for responding and an excuse if anyone complains. They are sympathetic. And seem to genuinely appreciate the work I’m doing – which I didn’t know I wanted to hear, but find myself feeling happy about it. They make jokes too, about the chaos we are collectively swimming through, and the discussion takes a few enjoyable turns as people look for suitable metaphors. It’s a good meeting. We get through the agenda, sharing wisdom, jokes and fears. I feel privileged, especially as a contractor, to have been allowed to make a contribution; to be so welcomed by the core planning team.

Phew.  Back at my desk I breathe. I get back on track with core tasks. And I’m grateful to be surrounded by such a terrific bunch of people.            

The rest of the day is comparatively quiet.  I’m approaching the challenges again with the positive energy which is my default – providing I protect and nourish it.

At the end of the day there is only Quiet Debbie, the Programme Director and myself left in the office. Something has just landed on his desk which is disappointing and they are discussing the pros and cons and ways they might respond. Instantly I recognise how much pressure this lovely man is under all the time – and will be until he/we deliver this massive change programme. How he keeps his cool a lot of the time is as mysterious as it is admirable. The programme is so lucky to have his calm and approachable influence. When he looks over the desk and says “it’s been a bad day”, I feel for him.  It is a moment of quiet sharing, and not the kind of thing you usually hear from him.  “It really has been a tough day” he continues, “one difficult meeting after another since 5am”.  Wow, I am not the only one - an important reminder when we forget that others too might be struggling. Then he smiles at me and says “except your meeting Julie, you make me laugh. I enjoyed your meeting”.  And suddenly I am moved and joyful. Quiet Debbie smiles too.  “What a lovely thing to say” I reply, “well, you took the pressure off me today when I needed it and I am very grateful, thank you”.  Our lunch meeting had been a little oasis, a refresher, in more ways than one.     

By then I’m putting on make-up and perfume so they guess I have a date. Well, I’ve already told Quiet Debbie ‘cause I’m rather looking forward to it. “Have a good time” they call out as I skip down the steps. I arrive in the meeting place first and order a beer. It’s good to have a few minutes to process such a full and varied day, and to get ready for what I think (but can’t be sure yet) is a first date.  We’ve only met once, had a couple of beers together and exchanged a couple of emails. That was a few weeks ago on the other side of the world and he’s just flown in to London. So I’m open and curious as to what this ‘date’ might or might not be. But of course I’ve dressed in something better than regular work gear and feeling a small flutter of expectation. 

Suddenly he’s beside my table and greets me with a warm hug.  In two minutes we are deep in conversation.  Hours pass between drinks, dinner, more drinks, until we are sitting back in the first venue beside an open fire and talking about when we might next see each other. It seems our new acquaintance is of mutual interest.  It is now 1am and the evening has flown. As a first date it is definitely a success. Comfortable. Engaging. Great conversation. Shared interests. Just enough flirtation to keep it interesting. And a lot of fun.    
It’s one of those evenings where it doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter what’s next. There’s no need to worry about anything. It’s just really nice.

So when we walk to a place where we can both catch a taxi, the goodnight kisses are a bonus. Mmmm.  The Sweet Kiss. Perfectly pitched. Perfectly appropriate to follow the evening we’ve shared. Perfectly given and received. Perfectly sweet. With no downside.

As he puts me in the taxi with another stolen kiss he says “don’t write about me”. This makes us both laugh.  Ah, To Kiss Or Not To Kiss.  I told you I always err on the yes side of that question!

Wow, how a day can change.  Good night and sweet dreams J

p.s. If you’ve read my book To Kiss Or Not To Kiss and haven’t already left me a review on Amazon, please do. You’ll find Author Central pages in the US, Aust and the UK.  Cheers.


Friday 15 January 2016

The Light

Nothing compares.

Nothing better: than diving into the light.

Lift your feet from the soft ground and drive your head through the cool and bubbling wake. The sensation is complete at any time, on any day, but today is special. The waves are breaking rhythmically. There is a pattern to their arrival. A music of calm and activity, like notes and rests, verse and chorus; the ocean subduing your senses, lulling you to believe it might be tamed.   

Lift your feet from the ground, jump and break the water, your eyes closed, then open. How can the sensation be so embracing, yet gentle; strong, yet soothing? It is a visceral reminder of the surreal properties of water, of the unique comfort of salt and sea. But today I am surprised. Opening my eyes underwater is not as I expect. The light is mesmerizing.  An expected turbulence of froth and bubble does not obstruct my view. Instead, rays of light pierce from sky to sand. The water is a bright conductor, light shining brighter than I’ve ever seen it. I cannot look away. I forget to breathe.  The rays above, before, and around me, are distinct; as you see them after rain sometimes when an audacious sun forces its way through cloud determined to reach land, to warm the earth which has been washed clean by unrelenting storms. This light also emanates a united glow. I am, literally, if not originally, bathed in light. I am a mermaid; a sailor and survivor in ancient water.

The water is still because I have timed my dive perfectly to miss the rush overhead. The depth is a mere two metres, from shallow ocean floor to surface, to the source of this celestial light. Is it the light of life? Does the same light call us to death, softening the move between worlds we do not understand? I know anyway that this kind of light is far from mundane. It is not to be captured... only to be pursued... or waited for. It is something to trust in.      

My skin tingles. My senses leap. Forced to breathe, I quickly dive again. The same magic awaits me.  Every individual beam of light is discernible, so too are spots of sand floating through the water like glitter or confetti heralding a celebration. The water is a blue so soft it merges with the golden light, sea and sun as one. Until this moment I had always thought an early Autumn blue the purest of colours, the closest thing to heaven. Now I feel a veil has been raised and I’ve seen and understood a deeper truth, a combination of elements I could never control or prescribe, and therefore all the more intoxicating. I am transfixed. I am in love with this morning, in awe of sunlight on, through, within and seemingly born of water. My skin is cool but my eyes and heart are afire. I am alive in ways I was not just seconds before. I am renewed. And I know it is a gift. I know it is a sensory experience, a discovery, I will fail to describe but inevitably I must try. And I thank God with every cell of my being, the cells which now feel one with the Universe, charged by a force beyond, by the miracle and wonder of Nature.

This was my last swim in the Australian ocean, before boarding a plane to fly to the other side of the world, a place buried deep in a different season as the globe turns inexorably from one day, one month, one year to the next. I’m in a new year and soon I’ll land in a new life – or an old life, rebooted. But with me I’m taking this memory of sea and light, a sense of fresh beginnings and an awe that can only conjure love and good spirits, when only moments before I had felt afraid of the leaving, of again saying goodbye.

I know I’m taking that light with me. And that’s all that matters.



It's nice to finally be back with my blog.  Happy near year everyone!