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Welcome!

This little corner of cyberspace came about after I went on a rather lovely holiday, and had the time and inclination to write about my adventures and share them via social media–which reminded me that I actually like to write.

This is essentially a personal blog, but will have a regional/South Coast (NSW) focus, because that’s where I live and work. I may sometimes link to my two existing academic blogs, Shapeshifters in Popular Culture and Autism Spectrum Disorders in Higher Education, both of which have been hanging in a kind of frozen stasis not  unlike Agent Scully in those pod things (yes, there will be lots of geeky pop culture references), because I’ve been focused on my day job, and writing in order to publish, not perish.

And on that note, opinions are my own.

Going Under for the Third Time?

Things are most decidedly not great in my head at the moment.

There’s a lot going on. It is only ten days to the Relay for Life, a major local fundraising event for the Cancer Council with which I’ve been involved for sixteen years. You can read more about our family’s experience with cancer here. (This account was penned by my daughter last year). In addition to my own diagnosis in 2004, I helped when my Grandpa and Nanna were in end of life stages from a brain tumour and melanoma, respectively. So while it is a great cause and I’m very proud to be involved, Relay season does bring complex emotions in addition to the extra volunteer workload.

This year, we won’t be relaying at the Showground as we usually do. Instead, we’ll be relaying in COVID-safe team bubbles. My workplace is hopping on board and Relaying next Tuesday, March 16. We’ll count our cumulative steps and collect donations and generally have a bit of a laugh together. If you’re interested, you can donate to the cause here. Overall, Nowra is aiming to raise $100K for cancer research, support and advocacy at this one event. personally, I’m hoping we smash that goal. $137K and change would see our cumulative fundrasising tally since the event’s inception pass the $3 million mark, and I don’t want to wait until 2022 to see that milestone reached!

On the official Relay day of March 20, Cafe on Campus is hosting a VIP morning tea for cancer survivors and carers. You have to register for that one, though, so get in quick if you’d like to come along. The RSVP date has been extended to today, March 10.

In addition to all this excitement and colour, our book is entering the final phases. There are about three chapters left to come back or go through final edits, and then I will spend at least one whole day on collating and checking and going through the long-avoided tasks like checking Bibliographies.

Down, but not out

As usual, it’s proven a bigger task than anticipated and my limbic system is not happy about it. And because it’s Realy season, I’m acutely aware of any “coping” strategies that are potentially carcinogenic, like drowning my sorrows. And sleep increasingly becomes a problem when stress comes out to play.

All of which is not placing me in the best position for the usual trials and tribulations of the beginning of session! And at the moment, we seem to be having lots of early starts and late finishes, so by the time I get home I’m barely capable of speaking to my poor husband.

He, however, has been an absolute trooper. He’s made me laugh with his stories about the antics of naughty teenagers at school, and this week he even surprised me with flowers and chocolates for International Women’s Day.

Quite the precedent he’s set, there.

Think I’ll keep him, at least. The rest of the stuff on my plate is probably long overdue for review.

WordPress Wednesday Rolls Around Again …

I’m exhausted, and the academic year hasn’t even started yet.

It’s about to, though. It’s Orientation Day at UOW-Shoalhaven. There is currently a queue of students waiting outside my door to have their photos taken and their student cards printed. It’s an exciting time for commencing students. And a time of great uncertainty in the Higher Ed sector, as we enter the second year of COVID-impact. We’re all trying not to dwell on that.

The welcome banners are out

So: positives. Last week I traveled to the campuses in Bega and Batemans Bay. It was my first trip in a year. All international and most domestic travel was cancelled for most of last year. and I struggled with being “benched.” It felt very “normal” to be down there again. I was able to talk with our staff face-to-face, which is a dynamic we all need sometimes. But in the evenings, I was all peopled out, and ordered room service and watched the tennis. I’m out of practice at this being social thing.

Corrigans Cove in Batemans Bay
COVID-safe option or not, Room Service will never not feel decadent.

For my night in Bega I even managed to crack open The Book and do some work on it. This was a case of multitasking, however, since I didn’t want to miss the tennis. Ash Barty crashed out of the women’s quarter finals while we were welcoming the students today, so I might be watching a lot less tennis over the next three or four days than I had thought.

The book is progressing nicely. More than half the chapters have been vetted and formatted and when printed out, it kind of looks like a book. I’m currently wrestling with things like Bibliographies and Notes on Contributors and all the other little bits and pieces it’s easy to forget but which take less dedicated blocks of time than trying to pen, say, an Introduction. Which may or may not be taking ten times longer than I anticipated. But I digress.

Game on, indeed.

Slightly Late Summer of Tennis

It’s a standing joke in my household that Summer is the best time of the year – not because of the weather, but because it’s when Mum is happiest. There are a couple of factors at work here: Christmas and tennis. Oh, and time off with the family, I guess.

My husband finds my delight at watching tennis to be particularly endearing, because he is mad for all sports and I am not. I’m usually the one in the background commentating on the stupidity of the commentators’ comments. Imagine the voice of Blackboard from Mr Squiggle coming out of someone who looks a bit like Mrs Doubtfire these days, and that’s pretty much the mise en scene for most of his sport-watching. Poor thing.

But I actually pay attention to the tennis.

This year, of course, the tennis was delayed and then there was a great deal of unpleasantness, especially in social media, about the international players. I was completely baffled by this, because the main arguments being put forward didn’t hold up to any kind of scrutiny whatsoever. Things I read included “they’re taking the places of Aussies who can’t come home” (they weren’t–they weren’t part of any quota, but were an additional negotiated number of chartered flights and in additional hotels, paid for by Tennis Australia. If anything, as Victorian Premier Dan Andrews pointed out at one stage, having the additional hotels set up and staff trained might allow a loosening of the quota by increasing overall capacity); “I hope they aren’t coming to Sydney” (that was pretty easy to Google, and literally all of the warm-up tournaments except the Adelaide exhibition were moved to Melbourne–and announced–months ago); “they should be tested before they come” (they were –and again on arrival–that’s how our system picked up the new positives. Because it was quite literally working as it should).

But my favourite was a gentleman on social media who decided to get into a stoush with me. His position was, that to make things “fair,” everyone should be quarantined and banned from training.

I pointed out that his suggested solution wouldn’t actually be fair, on a number of counts. First of all, points are accumulated across an entire year, not just a tournament, so people like Ash Barty who chose not to travel earlier in the year but who now have a home advantage and absolutely no need to quarantine, would be unfairly disadvantaged by being forced to quarantine for no apparent reason (on top of already missing two other majors). I can’t imagine how this person would react if he were told he had to self-isolate in hotel quarantine because someone in his company who worked at a different office did, and the company wanted to be “fair.”

On that note, can you imagine telling the likes of Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic that they needed to self-isolate in Adelaide because people on a flight to Melbourne did? I would pay good money to be a fly on the wall for those conversations.

Speaking of Djokovic, he copped a beating in the media for his “entitlement” and “list of demands” to Tennis Australia’s Craig Tiley.

Dude is the Union rep. Taking a list of players’ concerns to their employer. Like many unions reps do, but generally without making the front page.

But to finish the story of the internet troll, I also politely pointed out that elite sportspeople require training and match fitness to avoid injury, so trying to put everyone in a position where they can’t train to be at their best actually isn’t all that “fair” because it puts the overall tournament at risk. Put simply, you need two players per singles match. If you have, say, twice as many athletes pulling out as you usually do, you quickly run the risk of not having two players in each match and therefore eventually being unable to complete all rounds of the tournament. Especially since the number of international players who are here and able to compete is both finite and smaller than usual. There aren’t twenty “journeyman” players hanging around and hoping for a Wild Card or a Lucky Losers’ place. They aren’t even in the country.

He told me that was exactly why he said they should all be banned from training. To increase the number of injuries and the number of forfeited matches is, in his mind, the best, fairest and indeed only course of action.

He then very helpfully told me what I had said, using caps lock, which was odd, because I in fact knew exactly what I had carefully explained. And even if I’d been unsure, I could have just scrolled up, and there it was in black and white! And then he told me I was making an argument that was “academic,” which I gather he thought was an insult. As an actual academic who has coached hundreds if not thousands of students in academic writing, I kind of assume that means my argument was cogent and well-structured.

At that point I stopped replying, but he continued to argue against no one in particular.

Anyway, the Great Tennis Quarantine of 2021 is now over and as of last Friday night, tennis is being played again and most trolls have presumably gone back to offering armchair commentary on other things. Friday night was great. Unfortunately the entire Australian summer of tennis being effectively a whole month late means that this pesky enterprise of holding down a job–and a job that also involves lots of business dinners at this time of year–is interfering with my ability to park myself in front of the telly day and night.

Next week the Open starts and it coincides with my first campus travel in a year. My travels down the coast–which involve every working parent’s dream of staying alone in a motel room–often mean that I get lots of writing done in the evenings. It will be interesting to see the ultimate balance between writing and tennis-watching this time.

Given that I’m back to putting in long Saturdays on writing projects, however, I’m going to try to be OK with whatever that balance works out to be.

A different sort of celebration …

Our graduation celebrations were cancelled this year, but the regional campuses decided to still offer an opportunity to have graduation photos taken. UOW-Shoalhaven’s had to be postponed because of the announcement of local COVID sites, but Batemans Bay, Bega, and Southern Highlands had their very busy (but very fun!) photo shoots last week.

I headed up to Moss Vale on Monday to help out and to be a warm prop in the photos with certificates. And since graduating during a global pandemic is a once in a century experience, we took a leaf out of the 2020-COVID-safe-Santa-photos book and decided to offer graduates some photos that commemorate this very strange historical moment. In addition to traditional and family portraits, we swapped the traditional handshake photo for an elbow bump, and then took things a step further with UOW-branded commemorative masks, using tongs to keep 1.5 metres apart while handing over the certificate.

It was a lot of work to safely (ie while masked) assist with gowning of each graduate, keep the groups suitably separated, and to be able to offer personalised nibbles plates for each family group. But the smiles from the students suggest that it was all very much worth it.

We also took the opportunity to take some staff photos, and the leafy campus and grand architecture of the building make for a rather lovely backdrop. I’m really happy with how these shots turned out. Our photographer for the day, Carl, is a proud UOW-Southern Highlands alumnus and now a teacher, who gave up a day during his school holidays to come and capture these snaps for us.

More proud UOW alumni. With our admin assistant, Erin and campus manager, Stephen, in front of the Murcutt-designed building.

2020-The Extended Remix

Happy New Year! I know we were all hoping for a magical reboot come midnight New Year’s Eve, but thus far I have to say that with new COVID surges (and strains) and recent political events in the United States, 2021 feels kinda 2020 2.0. I don’t think I’ve been this disappointed since that time Vegemite tried to change Vegemite.

2021 in a jar

Now, I know I’m not American so I don’t get a horse in this race, but I have an American daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, so I’ve been there are lot and I care a lot. Also, Washington is the one of my favourite places in the world. I supposed Tokyo was the first city I really fell in love with, when I was there on exchange, but Washington was the first one where I didn’t have connections or reasons for being there but just went because I thought it might be interesting, and then fell head over heels in love with it and rang my husband to announce that I wanted to live there. I even signed up to a website that sends alerts about Washington-based academic jobs. I dragged my daughter and her very bored then-partner all around the Georgetown campus, just so we could walk around it and see it. I marvelled over the architecture of the Capitol and the White House, got lost in the Newseum, grinned like an idiot when we stumbled across the J Edgar Hoover building, and teared up at the Lincoln Memorial. I loved it so much when my son and I visited in September 2016, that I insisted on going back with my daughter in November 2017.

So I was devastated by the news footage coming out of that city last week.

I don’t want to dwell on this, for the sake of the remnants of my sanity, but I had hoped that 2021 would see a return to normality and the possibility of once again travelling “up over.” It’s looking quite unlikely at the moment.

In the meantime, we appear to have a front row seat to a couple of events that are likely to make it into our grandchildren’s history books.

I blinked and now it’s December …

In some ways, not much has changed since I last blogged. My oven, for example, is still dodgy.

In other ways, lots has changed. A manager of one of the campuses I oversee has retired, under the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme offered by the Uni as a response to the fiscal emergency we’re facing as a result of COVID. Others have also left, and there are further redundancies coming early next year. And my boss is leaving to take up options outside of academia. So the sense of impending mass and ugly change hangs heavy around the place, and off-colour jokes about The Hunger Games abound.

On the home front, we’ve got the Christmas lights up with only minimal mutterings about other family members and weight-pulling.

At work, had a bit of a red letter day on Monday when my PhD student submitted her thesis.

As for the book project: well, I’m behind, but the contributors’ chapters are filtering through, so that’s nice motivation and a bit exciting to see the stack of papers grow steadily more book-like.

Gratuitous sexy vampire shot

In the current maelstrom, celebrating these sorts of wins is difficult. But I think maybe that partaking in Christmas traditions and trying to be suitably “festive” is one of the few things we can do to avoid succumbing to the 2020 malaise more fully.

At least, I hope so.

Sleep Deprivation as a way of life …

Once upon a time, I used to like to work some little mildly amusing lines into my 100-word academic bios. These said things like, “and is a mother to two kids, two cats and a couple of very traumatised fish” or “Kimberley holds the view that sleep deprivation isn’t a form of torture, it’s way of life.” I figured that in all likelihood, no one ever read these things, but if someone commented, I’d know they had.

No one ever commented.

Eventually (and quite ironically, in the latter example), I became too tired to even bother attempting humour.

I mention this as I crawl out the other side of a seventeen day marking operation. SEVENTEEN. That’s not counting the Sunday they helpfully told us we could do more “if we chose.”

What we’re talking about here is rearranging my Day Job so that I knock off at 4, then marking onscreen from 4pm-9pm, plus all day Saturdays. Three of ’em. In a row. That’s over a thousand responses to the same question, and you’d better believe that my ability to string together a sentence right about now is badly compromised.

But there is no rest for the wicked. Tomorrow we’re interviewing for a replacement manager, as the farewell festivities for the outgoing one pick up pace. Thanks to COVID, large gatherings aren’t allowed, so there are lots of small sub-farewells. One of them is at my house, which needs to be guest ready by tomorrow night, and kinda isn’t, what with the work hours noted above. But it should be a relaxing night, and my family are voluntarily absenting themselves (well, to be fair; one was never going to be there, another volunteered, so when it got to the third, I just told him he wasn’t welcome!) and then over the next few days the same understanding family are reconvening to start celebrating the Festival of the Husband.

This year is a milestone year, so the Spousal Unit will get a fuss made of him with some beach time and dinners out the weekend before, and then lots of special home-cooked meals the weekend after (which is what he actually asked for; Miss 21 and I do like to show our love via food!), plus a special dinner out on the mid-week actual day. And we’ll use the everyone-home-for–weekend-after-Dad’s-birthday opportunity to set up our annual Christmas display.

Shhhhh.

So I told Mr 19 that while I know he has work shifts that weekend, I expect Full Elf Mode in between.

Quick as a whip, he retorted: “Fifty per cent. Take it or leave it.”

Full Elf Mode in Action

I did try to negotiate, but he wasn’t having it. I’m not overly worried. Judging by these photos, I reckon he’ll be able to find more Christmas spirit than he currently anticipates. He’s got 37 days.

It’s not like he has a lot of choice, living in our house.

Big world news, and small local annoyances

I’m enormously distracted today by the US election. As I begin to write this, polls have closed in Indiana and Kentucky, another half dozen or so close in a few minutes, and some bellwether seats close half an hour later, with massive numbers in an hour or so.

Closer to home, I’m trying to manage some of the repairs and little jobs that are hangovers from the great make-hay-while-the-pandemic’s-on strategy of 2020, but I’m now (a) back in the office and (b) HSC marking nights and weekends, meaning I’m out of the house at least 13 hours per day and not therefore not around to deal with tradies, or even to let them in.

And, as it turns out, occasionally we still find people who just don’t want to work. Living in a regional area after almost thirty years of a booming economy in Australia means that there can be a distinct lack of competition in certain areas and some people have never known hard times, which can cause some really odd attempts at customer service. In the two decades we’ve been living in our current area I have to say we’ve seen marked improvements in customer service, and for the most part it’s now as good as you’d get anywhere, but occasionally we get a throwback. My personal favourite was when I contacted Shoalhaven Pest Control because I had pests (rats) in my roof. My roof is in the Shoalhaven. The reply I got via email was very honest: “I just don’t want this job.”

Last week, it was Kevin. Kevin, to quote my husband, is “just a prick.”

The seal on our oven is about as complete as the one in this picture. It’s hanging off at the top, and it’s hanging off at the bottom, and the oven takes a long time to heat up and doesn’t retain heat, which I’m pretty sure is not coincidental.

Kevin, who hasn’t looked at the current state of the seal, reckons it’s coincidental.

Once upon a time, I was away for work and Tony rang me in a panic because the handle had fallen off the oven. I pointed out I couldn’t fix it from miles away, and suggested he ring the local oven repair guy, who was advertising his services on a big green sign hanging off the pool company fence. So Tony went for a drive to the pool company, got the number off the fence, rang the guy, and he came and put the handle back on.

Neither of them apparently noticed the dodgy seal, which admittedly wasn’t as bad then as it is now, but let’s just say there was a reason I’d paid attention to the big green sign in the first place.

So I googled the company when I was home on leave a bit over a week ago, and up popped the Yellow Pages site with a mobile number and a “press to send an email” button. I rang the number. No answer. I left a message. I rang another three times in the space of a week, but no answer. I sent a message via the big “send an email” button, too. I persisted because (a) I need the oven fixed, (b) he’d been out to our place before when the oven door handle fell off and (c) the only reason I contacted Shoalhaven Pest Control that time was because our regular guy wasn’t answering his phone, but he did answer when I rang the next week. There’s no way to out an out of office reply on a mobile, I guess, and so I thought it was worth persisting, just in case he had been away, but was now back.

On the fourth try, he answered.

He didn’t identify himself or anything, but he answered. I only know that Kevin is a Kevin because of his reviews on the Yellow Pages site. Which we’ll get to.

So I began, telling him I had been looking for someone to fix an oven seal.

Kevin: “So you’ve been looking and not found anyone?”

I said, “yes.”

Now, I was definitive because I thought I knew the answer. But the whole conversation was like sitting a test for which I hadn’t studied, because apparently every answer I gave was wrong according to Kevin’s answer sheet.

Kevin had a follow-up: “who’ve you tried?” Which honestly, seemed a bit weird if I was calling him, but hey. Again, I answered truthfully.

“Actually,” I said, “I’ve called this number four times, and sent an email.”

Well, that set him off. “WHY would you keep calling?” he demanded. “Why would you call four times?”

Me: “Because I want my oven fixed.”

He persisted, “why would you call four times if you got no answer?”

I tried to explain that his was the only business that came up when I googled, and that he’d been out before. So he changed tack: “Did you leave a message?”

Me: “the first time, I did, yes.”

So then he asked when I’d called. I said the first call was last Friday. He seemed surprised I had answers to these questions, which were asked in an interrogatory tone. I had the impression he thought I was lying throughout the entire conversation.

So then he asked the name of our suburb and I told him: Bangalee.

He demanded verification that he’d been out there before. Asked me if how I could be sure it was him.

I said, “Well, if it was you that had the big green sign on the pool company fence, then you came and worked on this oven previously.”

He conceded that that was him, but then asked in a kind of sarcastic-aggressive tone, “And did I fix it?”

Me, deadpan: “Well, yes.” I mean seriously, Dude: if you hadn’t, I really wouldn’t call you four times. Or even once.

I asked, where do we go from here, but he was distracted by another trigger word he suddenly recalled: email.

“I never got an email,” he declared.

“Oh, ” I said. “Ok. Well, I pressed the button on the Yellow Pages site. I have it open in front of me.”

“Yellow Pages” was apparently a big trigger. He started yelling, “That’s false advertising! That’s false advertising! I’m not listed with Yellow Pages!” This confused the hell out of me, because I had his Yellow Pages listing open on my screen at the time. I tried to tell him that I had it open and it was his business name and the number I was currently calling him on, but he kept yelling about false advertising and not being registered. Which was doubly puzzling, because there was no advertising involved. At all. Yellow Pages, like White Pages, is, after all, just a list of numbers.

“False advertising”

Nevertheless, I tried to redirect him, asking, “well, where do we go from here?”

But like a dog chained to his own vomit, he kept going back to the Yellow Pages and the no messages and the non-existent email. Seven times he told me he’d never had a message from Bangalee. I counted. And I did try to ignore the stupidity of this assertion, I really did, but in the end I couldn’t help but point out the obvious.

“You know, when I left the message, I left my name, not my suburb. Did that not occur to you?”

He asked, “Why are you being like this, so, so — you’re just not getting it. I’m not with the Yellow Pages.”

Me: “You’re the one wanting to talk about the Yellow Pages. I’m not sure how that’s pertinent to me actually getting my oven fixed.”

Kevin: “Huh? What does that mean? Why are you being like this? So- so-?” He didn’t have a word for the “this.” But I did.

Me: “You don’t think you’ve been at all abrasive in this conversation?”

Him: “WELL I’M NOT IN THE YELLOW PAGES! IT’S FALSE ADVERTISING! OH, AND NOW I’VE MISSED MY TURN-OFF!”

Unsure how that was my problem, exactly, I took another very deep breath. “If you can’t do the job and you know someone else who can, I’d be really happy to take that recommendation.”

He asked again, “why are you being like this?”

By this stage, I’m looking for the hidden camera because I appear to have slipped into a Monty Python sketch.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jeff Gilbert/Shutterstock (10437343k) Guiness world record attempt for the largest gathering of people dressed as gumbys. The event formed the start of the offical 50th anniversary celebrations of Monty Python which took place at the Roundhouse theatre Gumbys Monty Python Event, Roundhouse Theatre, Camden Town, London, UK – 05 Oct 2019

Another deep breath: “You seem to be making out that you not getting my messages is somehow all my fault. And I really just want to know how to move forward and organise to get you to look at the oven.”

So then he decides to go for broke in the blaming me stakes: “You must be having a bad day or something.”

Me: “Well, I wasn’t before this conversation.”

(Which was 100% true, by the way. I’d just signed another book contract that morning. It’d been a relatively cruisey day at work.)

Kevin: “Look, I’m at another job now. You’ll have to email me the details.”

Me: “I can’t email you. I don’t have your email address. All I have is the big button on the Yellow Pages site, and you’ve been very clear that it doesn’t work.”

Kevin: “I’M NOT WITH YELLOW PAGES! WHY CAN’T YOU GET THIS? JUST EMAIL ME.”

Me: “I don’t have your email address.”

Him: Look, I’m at another job. Just email me.

Um, Kevin? It’s not me who’s “not getting it,” Honey.

At this point, I hung up on him and rang my husband, since he’d managed to speak enough Kevin-ese to successfully book a job previously.

“Maybe it’s because I don’t have a penis?” I suggested. “Maybe he’s a misogynist?”

Tony rang me back about half an hour later. “He’s not coming,” he said. “I thought I had him, but then he announced it’s Friday afternoon, and it’s probably not the seals, it’s probably the switch, and we should ring the manufacturer.”

Right. I’m sure the manufacturer will want to deal with “the switch” on our nine year old oven, and be convinced that the non-sealing seals are absolutely irrelevant to a problem with sealing in heat.

Me: “So not a misogynist; just a misanthrope?”

Husband: “I think he’s just a prick. Sometimes he wants the work and so he’s nice; other times he doesn’t, so he acts like this.”

I said, actually, that’s pretty much what the reviews on the Yellow Pages said. Later, I wondered if the reviews were the “false advertising” he was getting so damn upset about. Maybe I should just pop a link to this on the Yellow Pages reviews section?

In the meantime, if anyone has any recommendations on someone-other-than-Kevin who can replace an oven seal, I’m still very happy to receive them. But please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me to teach myself via YouTube. Between my day job and night-marking (and all-day Saturday marking), I’m more than OK with not learning any new skills for the next few weeks.

Plus, there’s election coverage to watch.

Done!

The Painting is finished! (Well, almost. I have a couple of touch-ups to do, but only a few minutes’ work at best).

This has been quite the pandemic project. Obviously from the size of Jamie and Robert in the photos, you can see that the kitchen reno was done some time ago. The painting in the flaky bedroom began at Easter. Since then, I’ve done almost every wall and ceiling in the place (the only exceptions being the bits Jamie did when she came home).

The ensuite reno did involve some paid tradies, but otherwise it’s been done by the Colewomen.

Now, onto my big plans for the garden …

Over It: the HSC, Higher Ed reforms, and Home Renovations

This made me laugh when I checked social media this morning:

EIGHT years on … and … still painting …

… and then I got out of bed and painted a ceiling before I showered, had breakfast, and started my workday!

Here it is: the LAST room in progress. And it needs to progress fast, because my husband is currently sleeping in my daughter’s bed, my clothes are all around me, one child has announced he’s coming home today and the other one says she’s home tomorrow. So if this doesn’t get done in the next day and a half, we are looking at a long weekend (yay!) with more people than beds (boo!).

I don’t think that would make me very popular, somehow.

My Facebook memories tell me that I have been using these September school holidays to work on stuff around the home for a very long time. More than one home, in fact. This is the third one. Nine years ago, I was mid-meltdown over the delayed kitchen. This is what it looked like one day after it was meant to be finished:

Most definitely not finished.

Bizarrely, if your look where the fridge is meant to be, they’d capped off the taps and outlet from the old sink, but left the washing machine taps where they were. So Jody and I somehow managed to lift the washing machine back inside and hook it up for a little while.

Because every kitchen needs a washing machine.

It looks a lot better now. I’ve been meaning to get an “After” photo, but the kitchen is not currently tidy enough for that and I’m, you know, painting ceilings and walls before and after work, so most things around here are only getting untidier!

Focusing on renovations has been a helpful distraction because the higher education sector has been having a tough time of it. At our institution, we are all now on reduced pay, and waiting to hear which of our colleagues have been granted an early retirement package. As if that didn’t bring enough uncertainty into attempts at future planning, we’re waiting to hear the fate of the higher education reforms package, which seems likely to go back to the Senate in early November. All of this sees me dragging my feet and prioritising things like painting and blogging over finalising the agenda for our planning day, which is next week.

Overnight we learned that one of the two cross bench Senators who will ultimately decide the fate of the package has pointed out the inequity baked into it and decided not to support it. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and peace when I read the news–most un-2020 of me. Of course, there is still one undecided vote, and so the legislation may still be passed. I’ve listened to all the arguments for and against, but at the end of the day, I keep thinking of the current Year 12. Not the ones in the news for off-colour scavenger hunts (they are over-privileged drongos, pure and simple, and I refuse to give them cyber-column inches) but the bulk of the 70 000 or so of them who started their Senior year in a smoke-hazed apocalyptic landscape, who’ve spent much of their final year largely out of the classroom because of a pandemic, and who now have to sit their exams and try to get into Uni as though it were any other year. Mind you, they are also potentially facing tougher competition for entry: with high youth unemployment, the first recession in a generation, and a practical inability to take a gap year when travel is off the table and casual employment is hard to come by, we are seeing in early admissions and application data what we always see in recessions: that our young people are turning to the relative safe haven of higher education to up-skill and ride out the worst of the unemployment rises.

Year 12 who, at this point, don’t know whether their degrees are going to cost them what they thought they would when they applied, or some new amount decided by legislation between the times of application and enrollment. Their exams start in a fortnight. By the time the Senate decides what their degrees will cost next year, I’ll be marking the papers that generate their ability to matriculate.

And no matter how you cut it, that seems to me to be profoundly unfair.