Ain’t Nothin’ like the Real Thing

What do you think of when you see this?

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Or this?

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You’d be forgiven if you think to yourself, this guy’s simply doing his delivery run. And he might very well be, too.  But this truck was parked,  engine off, locked, driver absent.

The thing that strikes me, is that this significantly branded truck – and this is one of the world’s most globally recognised colour/logo combinations – not only obstructed two lanes of passing traffic and blocked in some poor shopper’s car, but that he taken up no less than three – yes, 3 – designated disabled parking bays. And obscured the entry to the disabled/elderly access ramp.

So what? He’s busy, right? He’ll only be a minute?

It’s no excuse, but hey – we’re used to seeing that all the time with delivery runs, aren’t we?  And we’re OK with that. We’re Aussies. She’ll be right, mate.

We shouldn’t be.

The Coca-Cola work rights policy says:

“The Company…. has along-standing … intolerance of discrimination. We are dedicated to … workplaces that are free from discrimination … on the basis of race, sex, color, national or social origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, political opinion or any other status protected by applicable law…”*
Their catch phrase? Live Positively.

When a Coke truck – or any delivery truck – parks over a disabled bay, it’s not only disrespectful, it’s unlawful.

I posted these images to Coca-Cola Amatil when I took them, several weeks back. They haven’t responded to me… yet. I’d love to hear what they think. I’d love to hear what you think, too.

Is this OK?

*Read in full, here

A Pause in the Blackness

It is still.

It is dark.

It is so very still that the air feels oppressive.  As I get out of bed I notice that my partner does not move. So deep in slumber is he, he could be dead. Unmoving, barely breathing. Only the heat from his body tells me otherwise.

What woke me?

I blink, trying to refocus, encouraging some – any – light from outside into my pupils.

Something heavy is on my legs. The cat.  She, too, is barely moving.

The silence and stillness is eerie.

I raise and walk to the kitchen. I trail my fingertips along the wall as I step, to make sure I do not stumble.

The glow from the intercom illuminates the kitchen, and in the soft neon blueness I see my way to the tap. My favourite blue tumbler is on the sink, waiting.

Greedily, I gulp. So thirsty.

My eyes stray outside the open french doors to the yard.

Barely anything is visible. Still nothing moves. There are no leaves to rustle, no bats to call, no night birds chuffing.

It’s like everything has stopped. Outside my rooms, nothing exists.

Blackness, darkness, stillness, nothing.

I look over to the hound. He too, sleeps the slumber of the almost dead. The tiny rise and fall of his massive black furry chest the only sign his heart beats still.

Too quiet. Too, too quiet. The clock is not ticking – why? The hands tell me it stopped at 2.51. The face tells me nothing.

I drink again, and as I move the glass to the tap to rinse, I hear a soft chink. I run my finger over the lip. I feel the sliver as it enters my finger. Damn. I have chipped it. My favourite glass.

Sucking the blood from my fingers, I pad my way back to my room.

My bedpartner has not moved. The cat has not moved. The clock has not moved. Only I, only I have moved.

I climb back into bed and look around the blackness. It still feels close, cloying, oppressive.

I slide my feet under the cat, pull up the covers and drift back to sleep.

*

The sound of birds awakens me, a sunshine plays on my arms as it sneaks through the window. The smell of hot tea wafts from the kitchen. The cat, performing her daily ablutions, blinks at me from her spot on the sunny windowsill.

As I walk out to the kitchen, I see the bed partner and the hound out by the pool, playing with palm fronds. The door is closed, locked, the key hangs by the window.

My favourite blue tumbler is in the cupboard behind the glass door. Dry, away, home. Perfect.

Out of the corner of my eye  I see the clock – the small hand sweeps a circle, tocking loudly.

I didn’t stop, it tells me.  You did.

Atrial Fibrilation

My name’s Shirley – you may know me as Rhu – and I have Atrial Fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation (also called AF or a-fib) an abnormal rhythm of the heart. It presents as the fast and chaotic beating of the atrial chambers, causing an irregular heartbeat.

In a-fib, part of the heart (the upper chamber, called the atria) does not work correctly because of abnormal electrical activity. This means that blood is not forcefully moved out of these chambers. The blood that remains in the atria becomes “sluggish” or static, which allows blood clots to form raising the risk of stroke. Atrial fibrillation can be intermittent and stop on its own (paroxysmal), continue for several days and require treatment (persistent), or be present all the time (permanent).

The exact cause of AF is not known.

Some people have no symptoms at all while others have a variety of symptoms.

Mild symptoms include:

  • Unpleasant palpitations or irregularity of the heart beat
  • Mild chest discomfort (sensation of tightness) or pain
  • A sense of the heart racing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Mild shortness of breath and fatigue that limit the ability to exercise

More severe symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath with exertion
  • Fainting, or near fainting, due to a reduction in blood flow to the brain
  • Confusion, due to a reduction in blood supply to the brain
  • Chest discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss, inability to recall simple events, words and phrases (including names of objects, people’s names, names of places)

People with AF have an increased risk of stroke as a result of blood clots that can form in the heart. A stroke can occur if a blood clot forms in the left atrium because of sluggish blood flow and a piece of the clot (called an embolus) breaks off. The embolus enters the blood circulation and can block a small blood vessel. If this happens in the brain, a stroke can occur. The embolus may also travel to the eye, kidneys, spine, or important arteries of the arms or legs.

*

AF has had a huge impact on my life, especially in the last 18 months.

For me, nothing is more upsetting than those first moments when I realise and recognise the bang-bang-bang  – like wheel rolling very, very fast,  that starts in my chest and vibrates through my whole body.

Sleep is really elusive for me once I am in AF. Usually, I just try to relax and stay calm. An episode can last from a few hours, to a few days, non stop. My longest episode has been 3 weeks of continuous AF. It nearly sent me to the funny farm. When it goes away, it just stops – like someone turning off a tap. The feeling that comes with this is the best feeling in the world. It'[s like my whole body just feels light and relaxed and normal sinus rhythm prevails once more.

There is no medical evidence of what can trigger and AF episode.

Some people say theirs is set off by  physical overexertion. Others say caffeine, alcohol, and ice-cold drinks can trigger an event. Less common triggers are simple illnesses, such as having a cold, or a viral infection, dehydration, coughing and burping, certain over the counter drugs, laughing.

My personal triggers are alcohol, especially wine, which  really upsets me as I am such a wine lover. Pork can set me off. So can emotional or work-related stress. Lying on my the left side once an episode starts magnifies it. I’ve met people who are set off by a heavy meal, caffeine, MSG, aspartame, and chocolate.

More and more, I have had to turn down or skip out social engagements. I worry that people think I am rude. But honestly – when I am in AF I am no good to anybody. You simply don’t want me around.

You want to know why I don’t drink sometimes? This is why.

You want to know why I may pull out of your Tupperware party? This is why.

not to mention that driving in AF is not a good idea.

This year, I will be having surgery.  Hopefully this will fix my broken heart.

This post is to help you, as my friends, understand what I am dealing with and why I am having surgery. It’s no big deal, I’ll be in and out before you know it.  I’ll let you know when it happens.

Then you can send me wine. And chocolate.

I have a lot of lost time to make up.

Just Keep Swimming…

Around four years ago, I experienced something that planted a seed. It was a difficult year – a year of challenge, a year of trauma, a year of difficulty. On both personal and professional levels, I was faced with prohibitive people, loss of a family member, and a formidable management hierarchy that governed my classroom decisions for the whole school year. It was toward the end of that year that I knew, something was going to have to change – at some point, at some time, in some way.

It was also at the end of that year that, in tradition of a parent committee, the teachers were presented with a small token to  ‘show their appreciation‘  of the collaborative year. In this instance it was a simple glass bowl.

It was plain bowl, no adornments. Shallow lipped. Wide around the middle. Not very useful to hold anything, unless it was, possibly, a fish.

Given my opinion of that year, and the fact that I didn’t have a fish, I shoved that bowl to the back of the cupboard and forgot about it.

*

Fast forward to the end of 2011, and I suddenly find myself the unexpected owner of a purple Siamese fighting fish.  Since I know he cannot live in his little box forever, I hunt around for something to put him into. Aha! The ugly and somewhat hostile glass bowl lurks behind the pretty glass jugs.  And so, ‘Foosh’ has a home.

*

Today, Monday January 21, was the date our QLD teachers returned to work.  After 18 months of deep thought and much soul-searching, I am not amongst them. I am on the receiving end of 12 months leave of absence. My time to ponder big decisions, re-evaluate personal and professional goals, deal with a health issue as well as a pressing family matter. I aim to emerge from the year wiser, healthier, and from necessity – proficient on managing a family on half the usual income.

There was much angst in making this decision.

Much.

This morning, at breakfast with a lovely friend, I disclosed that today, while my colleagues returned to empty classrooms and faced the prospect of a fresh new school year, I was facing the prospect of a fresh new nothing – for the first time in my adult life I had a clear, blank slate. I am mildly terrified, I tell her. And at the back of this is a huge, nagging doubt.  Have I done the wrong thing?

A sign“, I say. “I just need a sign“.

*

After breakfast, I indulge in a little gourmet grocery shopping.  Better to do this now, my pennies will soon be coveted.  I wander an antique market.  I delight in a late lunch, a  latte, and linger, simply people watching, I look for a sign or an omen, an indication that I have indeed made the right choice. Everything will be, indeed, all right.

Nothing is forthcoming.  Time to head home.

*

As I turn the key in my back door, I am greeted with sound of water.

Drip, drip, drip.

A puddle pools below my breakfast bar. Following the source of sound, I see Foosh, swimming frantically in just a few centimeters of water. His home, the ugly, hostile, tokenistic glass bowl is beyond cracked.

A clean, perfectly even break, efficiently meandering from one lip of the bowl all the way through to the other, two sides held together by the presence of the wet weighty pebbles that line the base. The slow seepage grants freedom to the trapped water – retaining just enough to preserve the life of  a Foosh -who, as it turns out – doesn’t need the ugly cracked always-remind-me-of-crappy-school-year bowl anyway.

Adaptable, he continues to thrive in change, his life-sustaining water now captured in a different kind of vessel.

There’s a lot to be learned from a fish.

BBQ for the Homeless – Musgrave Park QLD

“Sometimes, we forget how good we got it“.

She carried a pillow, a bag of bed linen and was proudly wearing her new shoes. She had a bag of clothes tucked under her arm and she was chatting to me while we waited for a fresh lot of Wagyu beef to finish sizzling on the grill.

A successful day’s shopping followed by a ladies lunch?
Hardly.

She was hauling the fruits of her labour at the BBQ for the homeless  and I was volunteering food service.

She told me it was her first cooked meal for 4 weeks.

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When Jerome from Dalton Hospitality got word that Grant Richards – known as ‘Grant the polite guy‘ – was organising yet another event to aid those who need a hand up, he was quick to jump on the volunteer wagon.

And as word spread, many Brisbane foodies got behind Jerome to pitch in and help.

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For those meeting Grant for the first time, he looks like your average, cheery well dressed person. He is energetic. He’s slightly frenetic. He is constantly on the move. Like so many, Grant has a story. His, however,  includes bad luck, homelessness and his ability to completely turn life around on itself.

Grant worked hard in charge of a kitchen in a restaurant. He had a wife, a daughter a home and responsibilities. In a blink of eye his life changed. Floor boards on an old stair way gave way. He spent nine months in and out of hospital, constantly in intense pain. As months passed, he lost his job, his marriage and his family. Homeless, jobless, he gave up on all he cared about and lived on the streets. At his lowest ebb, he says, he simply stopped caring.

Grant is now remarried (to his former wife), runs his owns business and spends an amazing amount of hours working to help and offer a ‘hand up’ to those who have fallen on hard times.

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But today wasn’t about Grant.

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It was about this guy, who used to teach magic tricks to his children.

He doesn’t know where they are now.

It was about the tall, thin man who came and asked for onions, 3 beef patties, 2 sausages and some carrot on his plate. Each time he would point to the desired pieces of food and where he wanted them to be.  Nothing was allowed to touch. And when I say ‘each time’ – it’s because he had this same meal no less than 7 times over 4 hours.

By the end of the day we were old mates.

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And this girl, who called me Aunty, in respect. This was her first ever new dress. She could not stop skipping (and eating cherries!)

There was the guy from New Zealand, who was flown over here by our Mining system on the promise of a job. Within 3 weeks the QLD mining industry had financial issues and made huge job cuts. He can’t afford to get home, has no job and is not eligible for Centrelink payments. He came along to see if he could help out.

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And these guys, who gathered fresh clothing, shoes and toiletries to get them through another few weeks. And around 1000 others who came and went during the day via arranged transport systems so they could visit the food bank, collect  some clothes and items, have a medical check before being transported back to their suburb.

Yeah, it was about them.

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And even this guy, who spread some Christmas cheer through the day despite the sweltering 33+C   heat.

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As the sun set over Musgrave Park, I think he spread a little bit of cheer over us as well.

Between us, our group feed over 1500 people at this event.

If you want to help – contact me directly, or contact ‘Grant the polite guy‘. For more photos, pop over the facebook page album here.

Full list of donators:

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