Quittin Your Job

Hungerford Field Day

Hungerford Field Day

On the weekend, my friend Andrew mentioned he wasn’t really very happy at work, and hadn’t been for quite some time. Still I was surprised to read in his blog that today he quit his job, without another one to go to. It’s a brave move in many ways, but Andrew is very employable and I’m sure he’ll be fine. Fellow blogger, Tom did something similar a few months ago, determined to forge a career in a new more interesting industry than the one in which he worked.

Twenty years ago I did something similar. After university I got a full-time job working at a supermarket chain. It was never really my “dream job” but it paid the bills. And for a while I thought it may have been the basis of my future career. Although I never really got the hang of the electronic ordering system, I really understood shoppers. I knew, for example, that when you’re selling hot crossed buns over the PA system, you don’t just say they’re on sale and leave it at that. Instead, you describe how they taste covered in butter and how happy your family or neighbours would feel if you invited them over for morning tea with a fine cuppa and some Easter Buns. Our store at Sunnybank recorded the highest sales of hot crossed buns in Queensland that year.

But after about eight months I quit Coles and joined the ranks of the unemployed. I’d reached the point where going to work was unbearable. Although I really liked the people I worked with and I liked some aspects of the job, I felt absolutely no satisfaction or sense of fulfillment in what I was doing on a daily basis. And I didn’t really like my boss, usually the most common reason why people leave their jobs. He was one of those bosses with “something to prove” which, eventually brought him undone. One too many resignations from his store, and after state management intervention, he too was gone. I think it was my resignation that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I told my colleagues a white lie, that I had something to go to, when in fact I had nothing. It was better, I thought, to take some time out to follow that dream, as Elvis once sang, than remain in a job where I was really unhappy. Such is the luxury of not having dependants.

During my period of unemployment, trying to find something that would give me some sense of meaning, I became quite dissilusioned and quite depressed. The CES (Commonwealth Employment Service), in those days, didn’t offer a lot in the way of creative, interesting occupations. One day, however, I saw a job advertised at a radio station in Western NSW. I applied for the job, travelled to Bourke, was interviewed and was offered the job.

They had received Federal Government funding for an Outback Drug Awareness Project. With no experience in community education programs, I hit the road running, talking to locals about the many ways in which we could use radio to reduce the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse in remote communities. A year later, the project won a national award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Association.

Twenty years ago, this week. I was heading off to Hungerford on the NSW/Queensland border to report on the annual “Hungerford Field Day”. Although a lot of my friends from Brisbane thought I’d gone mad, relocating to a small town on the edge of the outback, to me it was pure bliss. I got to meet a broad range of interesting and colourful characters, to experience the great outdoors, and to get paid for it. Sometimes you gotta listen to your heart and not your head.

Twenty Four Hours

Charlotte Perelli

Charlotte Perelli

It’s Saturday night and I’m half-watching “ABBA – The Movie” on SBS TV. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, and it’s not the first time it’s been on television. It’s the first time, however, it’s been shown on SBS and I can’t decide if their decision to show it relates to the current Eurovision season or the imminent release of “Mamma Mia” the movie. There were three ads in the last commercial break alone.

I watched the Eurovision semi-final tonight and thought some of the songs were okay. I was devastated that Ireland’s entry, Dustin The Turkey failed to make it through, as I thought it was genuinely funny. I loved the line in the song about how they were sorry for Riverdance. I also think it would be great to think there’s room in Eurovision for a bit of self-parody. Obviously not, as the song was booed. I’m a bit of a fan of Charlotte Perrelli from Sweden (of course), though she looks really weird these days. Too much plastic surgery or botox if you ask me.

Aside from Charlotte, my favourite tonight was the entry from Croata. It’s got everything. It opens with a well-dressed old bloke dressed entirely in white. He’s ranting about something. From there, a middle-aged bloke wearing black takes over, singing a cabaret-style tune to a piano accordian accompaniment. After a while the old bloke begins wandering around the stage. A little bit “Azheimers” if you know what I mean. Then, in a scene that reminded me of that bloke who plays beer bottles outside Paddy’s Market on the weekend, a woman emerges playing bottles filled with red liquid. Bizarre. You just know Croatia doesn’t want to win for the second successive year!

I had another Eurovision moment today at a matinee performance at the Theatre Royal by the Soweto Gospel Choir. In keeping with the themes of peace and universality in their show, the final song (before the obligatory encores) was “World In Union”. As the first strains of the song emerged I whispered, “This is very Eurovision, isn’t it?” in Andrew’s ear. I really love this song, based around the Gustav Holst’s Planet Suite, and in particular “I Vow To Thee My Country”. Unfortunately, however, I can’t mentally separate the song from the Rugby Union World Cup.

The premise for the show was “spiritual songs”, with the word “spiritual” interpreted in its broadest sense. They sang everything from reggae to pop (including a hip-hop dance) centred around the traditional gospel. About the only song that didn’t work for me was their version “Amazing Grace”. What should be a simple, heartfelt lyric took on an “American diva” quality with some overblown vocal gymnastics. To anyone attempting this song, just remember it’s about the “amazing grace” not the “amazing me”. That said, the rest of the audience LOVED it.

Aside from these minor criticisms, it was a really great show. Like, really great. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to see the show. And afterwards, the performers held buckets collecting money to help people living with AIDS in Africa.

The only other thing I’ve done in the last 24 hours is have dinner and drinks with a mate of mine, who shall remain nameless at the moment. That’s only because it was a particularly trashy night, and she and I have our reputations to maintain. It all stated off with drink at the Clock, followed by dinner at Bills. And then of course, she said to me “Feel like a nightcap?”.

That’s where it all went wrong. A few more wines and a few more beers and we somehow found ourselves upstairs at “The Gaslight” chatting to teenage lesbians and being shown how to play an Italian card game by two young men. The best thing about getting older is that you know when it’s time to call it quits, and thank goodness we did.

Brian McFadden at The Basement in Sydney

Bill Henson and Brian McFadden

Brian McFadden at The Basement in Sydney

Brian McFadden at The Basement in Sydney

I’d arranged to meet The Other Andrew at Edgecliff Station, ahead of going to the Roslyn Oxley Gallery to see the latest Bill Henson exhibition. At the momenmt, Henson is probably Australia’s greatest art-photographer, though he invites controversy as his work often includes photographs of adolescent nudes.

I’d been to the retrospective of his work at the Art Gallery of NSW, and I’d been to an exhibition of his work at Roslyn Oxley a couple of years ago. Even then, there was a considerable debate about whether or not his work crossed the line between art and pornography. Chatting with a former colleague with a strong interest in fine art yesterday, she told me she had seen the work and thought this time around he had crossed the line.

With the cancellation of the exhibition opening, Andrew and I settled on dinner at Una’s.

From there I wandered off to meet Graeme at the Paragon Hotel.

When I received the invitation a couple of weeks ago, to see Brian McFadden play at “The Basement” I immediately said yes. Although not really all that aware of his work, I knew he was Delta Goodrem’s fiance, and I’d actually met him a couple of years earlier. Well, not so much met, as gave him a glass of water when his former band, “Westlife” came into my workplace.

He had two support acts: a fairly forgettable female singer-songwriter whose name I can’t recall and can’t be bothered looking up and the former television personality, Axel Whitehead. I don’t think I’d ever seen him on television, and only really heard about when he gave everyone a peak at “Little Axel” on the MTV Music Awards (or something like that) a couple of years ago, immediately ending his televsion career. Amusingly, Brian made a reference to that event when he was on stage, which makes me think Axel will have to work hard over many years to overcome that incident.

I was surprised at how good Axel Whitehead was. He has good, 1980s-style pop/rocky catchy songs, a fairly reasonable voice, and a good stage presence (though he could do with a few dance lessons).

I was also really surprised at how good Brian McFadden was, for very similar reasons. Totally impressed.

And of course, Delta was there too. She arrived part of the way through Axel’s performance, instantly providing an off-stage distraction. Standing just a few feet away from us, she chatted with people she knew and happily signed autographs for fans. One fan, in particular, got her to sign some CDs and had photographs taken with her.

There was nothing odd about that until, minutes later, when Brian McFadden was on stage, that same fan decided to interupt the show with a similar request for autographs and photographs. Brian was incredibly good natured about the incident, though you could see the look of fear in his eyes, as he looked towards security guards for assistance.

Later in the night, I noticed the same fan also had an autograph and photograph taken with the television showbiz reporter, James Tobin. And I thought ABBA fans were odd.

Meanwhile, over the in corner, minutes before midnight and Brian and Delta were having an after-show snogging session. They’d performed a duet together and, from the way there were relating to each other, you could see they were clearly very much in love. I was also impressed with the way in which Brian acknowledged the support he had received in Australia. Graeme explained to me he had gone through a very messy divorce in Ireland and was pretty much persona non-grata there.

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Parkham Street

Parkham Street, Surry Hills is a topical little street if ever there was one. I received a tip-off yesterday the City of Sydney were being asked/told by the State Government to remove all of the trees in the street to allow it to be used as a thoroughfare for World Youth Day.

When I turned up for the “photo opportunity” at 2.30 today (along with a photographer from the Sydney Morning Herald and a journalist and a photographer from Central) it quickly became clear it was not as bad as that. According to Marcelle Hoff, the City of Sydney Councillor who attended, most of the trees will remain.

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Nonetheless, those residents who attended say they remain concerned about the lack of information so far available. They also say they’re concerned about losing their small park near the Buddhist Centre on the corner of South Dowling Street. The park needs to be cleared (except for one tree), so the pilgrims attending World Youth Day can walk over the nearby footbridge across the Eastern Distributor.

Anyway, enough of the politics. I think it’s a nice little street. It’s got a nice little school, a little Buddhist Centre, and (at the moment), a nice little park at the top of the street.