A year in the life 2016 #40:


Off again. Early morning flight back to Canberra for the excitement of Senate Estimates.

It is a long day when you get on a plane at 6.15am and don’t get back to your hotel until nearly 9pm.



A year in the life 2016 #35: three cities in one day


My first super early flight of the year. I really hate 6am flights. On the upside, I am so practiced at this now i was in the line for airport security less than a half hour after i got out of bed.


First stop was Sydney to meet the Malaysian Higher Education Minister.


Next it was off to Canberra to spend the afternoon in the office.

And then, back to Adelaide – arriving home 14 and a quarter hours after leaving.


2015 weeks! #11: birthday, planes and jelly things

2015-03-23 06.58.07A surreal sight to begin the week as I fly out of a foggy Canberra morning to Sydney.

2015-03-23 12.19.17We had a day with folk from Vietnam and the Philippines to kick off our big capacity building program – helping to increase capacity in the area of industry engagement in skills development and the development of occupational standards. It was a great day and I’m looking forward to seeing how the project develops.

2015-03-23 14.45.20We got to do it from my favourite meeting room in Sydney.

The early morning meant I needed the help of fizzy caffeinated beverages and chocolate to maintain my focus for the day though.

2015-03-23 17.29.46We had an official dinner, so stayed the night in Sydney – here is the compulsory hotel window view.

I managed to get some exercise in at the pool up on the 15th floor or so. Great view while swimming.

2015-03-23 18.43.53Then one has to be enormously grateful for flattering hotel bathroom lighting at times.

2015-03-24 12.35.42Home again Tuesday, sitting in the back row of the plane. Since switching departments the travel system still hasn’t connected my frequent flier number to my bookings and so I am ending up in all sorts of odd spots on the planes.

2015-03-24 19.47.44Tuesday night scrim night!

Wednesday was my birthday, so James and I went out for breakfast together to the Cupping Room which is handily close to my new building.

2015-03-25 10.52.59The other James in my life, my friend and EA, had lovely birthday flowers for me when I actually got to work.

2015-03-25 11.23.06I also deployed my excellent new notebook that Jasmin had given me.

2015-03-25 11.27.28Zac used his fabulous new jewellery making skills (with much support and labour from Jackie) to produce an excellent birthday gift for me.

For my birthday dinner we went to Red Chilli the Sichuan hot pot restaurant in Civic and ate hot pot. It was a lot of fun.

2015-03-25 19.47.23We followed it up with dessert at Mr Frugii where the boys had a long chat about icecream flavours with the icecream maker.

2015-03-25 22.44.19

George came and sat on me to say happy birthday.

2015-03-26 18.38.25Natasha sent me a wonderful box full of fun things for my birthday.

2015-03-28 10.29.26And my mother sent me Bad Feminist to my delight.

Andrew gave me a new Arkham Horror expansion so we tried that out Thursday night and actually managed to defeat Shug Nigguroth in a straight up battle.

2015-03-27 06.38.07Friday was another dawn flight in the back row – this time to Melbourne for a day at the airport. Federalism keeps the Tullamarine Parkroyal in business I am sure.

2015-03-27 07.45.44It was actually cold enough to be the first #yourtightsatwork day for the year.

2015-03-27 12.31.46 HDRAnd I wore another birthday present – my lovely earrings from Rachel.

Saturday night was Dishonour Rollers Team Bonding night at Terror’s house. There were jelly shots and jelly beans and derby strategy talks and then the night ended with vast amounts of alcohol being drunk in the pool after midnight.

On Sunday morning, Jude, Zac, Zac’s best friend Sienna and I joined Shelby, Jo and Jo’s grandmother for some Mary Poppins action. It was well done and rather fun. I thought they did a particularly fine job with the staging of “Supercalifragilistic”. We had icecreams had half time and enjoyed it all a lot.

Afterwards the kids and I wandered up to the new LSR Manhattan and had after-show treats.

2015-03-29 16.51.43Went to assist at DHR training in the afternoon (and was very relieved that there were enough people there I didn’t need to get on skates). The way everyone worked, you couldn’t tell there had been excessive alcohol consumption the night before.

2015-03-29 18.32.05I was pleased to have a civilised hair of the dog post training though.

2015-03-29 20.37.56And then there was a lot of eating and World Cup final watching to end the week.

Weeks #6: interrupting the week with Thailand

2015-02-16 07.53.11Zachary has moved it up a notch with his choir activities by starting in the Turner Trebles this year, which means he has to be at school on a Monday morning at 8am. An early start to the week.

2015-02-16 08.10.29

I moved in to my new office. Even though I don’t have my own direct window to the outside, I can see Black Mountain Tower from my desk, so it is not too bad at all.

2015-02-16 09.07.04Went out and bought myself some baht for the trip to Thailand.

2015-02-17 19.53.10Tuesday night Jude and Zac and I went for a walk while James and Sebastian went to scrim. We were all disappointed to discover that Mr Frugii is closed by 8pm on Tuesdays, but we did enjoy our walk nonetheless.

2015-02-18 06.15.50Up early and off to Thailand. I was going to talk to Australian development aid people from the South Asian region about skills and skill development, with a couple of meetings of the side.

2015-02-18 08.49.47Got in a visit to the Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney for a spot of breakfast.

2015-02-18 17.13.33Hotel window view – our hotel was somewhat away from the heart of Bangkok.

2015-02-18 18.03.55This is how you recover from a 9 hour flight. Sadly I didn’t get another chance to swim while I was there, but it was certainly refreshing after all the pool time.

2015-02-18 20.27.21Ate at a restaurant just down the street with one of my DFAT colleagues – cheap and good.

2015-02-18 20.31.24In interesting facts I learnt while in Bangkok, Red Bull originated in Thailand as a tonic drunk by taxi drivers to keep them awake and is considered pretty low class (see top of the fridge). When Europeans bought it and licensed if that added the fizzy aspect. I still prefer my caffeinated beverage fizzy.

2015-02-18 20.34.58Night scene outside the 7-11.

2015-02-19 08.25.52I did very much like the hot pinkness of the taxis in Bangkok. It has been more than twenty years since I was last in Bangkok and I remember the absolute traffic gridlock there was then. I was pleasantly surprised by how much better the traffic is now in Bangkok – between the Sky Train and the new road infrastructure it has improved significantly. It was also Chinese New Year which apparently took a number of cars of the road also.

While I was mostly in town to talk to the development folk, I also took the time to have a couple of side meetings. This is the view from the offices of the Thailand Professional Qualifications Institute.

Evidence of Chinese New Year. I celebrated by eating some form of dumpling at pretty much every meal while in Bangkok, including breakfast.

My friend Sarah is currently acting Deputy Head of the Australian Embassy, so after an official work meeting, she and I headed out for dinner at an enormously cool restaurant near the Embassy called the Namsaah Bottling Trust. Excellent food and a brilliant negroni. And lovely to spend some time catching up.

2015-02-19 21.36.10After a wander around the night market I caught the Sky Train home – very convenient and easy.

2015-02-21 13.16.19While away I finished Wolf Hall. As an avid Tudor history fan I really enjoyed it. The writing is terrifically layered and Cromwell is a fascinating character.

2015-02-20 16.45.45Hotel lunch smorgasbords – the bane of portion control. Hey, I deserved dessert after three hours of talking about skills.

Then it was back to the airport and time to fly home.

2015-02-20 18.33.02Goodbye Thailand!

2015-02-21 02.39.54Sunrise from the plane.

2015-02-21 12.42.30Back to regularly scheduled Canberra life – off the plane, shower, pick Sebastian up from cricket, collect the rest of the family from other cricket and lunch at LSR.

2015-02-21 15.45.06Then off with the boys to junior derby training.

2015-02-21 15.12.53In a big week of reading, I also finished Laurinda. Very readable and fascinating to see things from such a different perspective.

2015-02-22 12.45.12Sunday morning rode with Jude and Zac up to Campbell High School where they were spending the day playing chess.

2015-02-22 16.28.26Back at home I helped Sebastian with his Japanese homework which involved photographing Japanese things. Made me very natsukashii – I think we are going to have to find time to visit Tokyo this year.

2015-02-22 13.52.27To end the weekend, Sebastian helped prepare sashimi and other tuna delights. How nice to be home (even if no dumplings for breakfast).

2015-02-22 17.36.21

Weeks! #49: work and play and things in between

2014-12-01 15.58.32Getting back to training meant I knew I would be hungry during the day. For once I actually had the time and foresight to prepare for that eventuality. Don’t be deceived however, most of the time I am not this organised.

2014-12-01 20.04.36As we have become tropical Canberra, the sunsets have become more and more impressive. And their is a lot of excellent cloud action.

2014-12-02 15.23.53There is nothing better than when your EA brings you a cupcake in the middle of the day.

2014-12-02 19.47.17Games night this week, we played some Munchkin which we hadn’t played in ages. Young Andrew beat us all.

2014-12-03 05.25.54Early morning flight to Melbourne – it was so pretty it was almost worth getting up that early. Almost.

2014-12-03 05.35.52But yes, time to get on another plane. Just a day trip this time.

2014-12-03 05.39.04Melbourne was a bit wet and trafficky though.

2014-12-03 08.28.36Zac got an award for being the best chess boy in years 1 and 2! Hooray Zac.

2014-12-03 19.44.48


Thursday was a dark and stormy day. Here’s my office window view.


2014-12-04 17.02.51Didn’t stop the boys wanting to spend some time at the big oval playing French cricket (a small recent obsession).

2014-12-04 18.30.33James was away again Thursday night, so George knew well at whom he had to stare to get fed.

2014-12-04 19.19.06I got up the following morning for a ride. The lake is still as beautiful at that time as ever.

2014-12-05 07.24.03Back at Zac’s cricket in the afternoon.

The clouds were spectacular.

2014-12-05 19.03.25

On Saturday I made it out to Sebastian’s cricket for the first time this season. I didn’t time it well. First, Sebastian got out for 1 (most of the season he has retired in the high 20s or 30s). Here he is looking forlorn post wicket.

2014-12-06 09.20.45Then, after one ball of the opposition’s innings, it began bucketing down and the game was abandoned, so I missed seeing him wicket keep as well.

2014-12-06 10.52.27Oh well, at least skating was indoors.

2014-12-06 14.55.50

I love this art at CIT.

2014-12-06 16.28.00

We also had some table top D&D action while trying to take over a castle.

Sunday morning everyone was up early to watch Australia play at the roller derby world cup. I must admit, I was too tired to get up at 2am to watch Australia win by enormous margins, but the game versus New Zealand was worth being up at 8am on a Sunday. Even George joined us to watch.

2014-12-07 08.28.42And then in the afternoon it was off to our own derby training. I was a bit hot and exhausted after scrim. But happy.

2014-12-07 18.21.18


Weeks! #11: lots of driving and other stuff

2014-03-10 13.31.02There is definitely something to be said for starting the week with a public holiday, friends, food and some lovely wine. We did our best to enjoy Canberra Day this way at Steve and Michelle’s.


We engaged in some post BBQ Arkham Horror also.

2014-03-10 21.17.35


Then it was up early to drive for Wollongong where I had training.

2014-03-11 06.53.42It was a bit foggy near Golbourn.

2014-03-11 07.49.24Of course, one of the great joys of a long car trip by yourself is the ability to play music really loud and sing along at the top of your voice.

2014-03-11 09.33.28I then had a day of training in Wollongong by the beach and got to go for a lovely pre dinner walk. Wollongong has very pretty bits which I really didn’t expect.

We also had dinner at a lovely French restaurant – and here is a novel idea of serving mini lemon meringue pies.

2014-03-11 20.51.32Next morning it was up early again, this time to drive to Sydney for meetings. here is the sunrise from my hotel room window.

2014-03-12 06.51.09I got home that night to find Jude had received his SRC badge at assembly that day.

It has certainly be spectacular sunset clouds season recently in Canberra.

Back at work it was busy and stressful, so utilised a few coping mechanisms.

Jude is still working hard on the viola.

2014-03-13 18.49.08And Sebastian has been making puppets.

2014-03-13 18.49.34More pretty clouds.

2014-03-14 07.10.18On Friday morning I got up early for a ride down to the lake and was well rewarded with my favourite sight – balloons. I even spotted the Skywhale in all her majesty.

2014-03-14 07.19.54 2014-03-14 07.22.44At lunchtime I went and played the only volleyball game for the season I managed with my Branch team. i don’t think we won, and I think I am better at roller derby. But it was fun.

2014-03-14 12.19.58And then it was out of work early and on the road with James.

2014-03-14 14.25.53We were en route to Coffs Harbour for James’ debut derby game but we stopped over night in Newcastle. The harbour front has been nicely transformed there since my last visit.

We had time for hipster breakfast before hitting the road again.

At Coffs we pretty much headed straight to the venue and watched Port Macquarie versus Coffs Coast beofre the boys’ game. That was lots of fun – they struggled a little in the first half, but in the second got their walls together, starting thinking and actually won the half, if not the game.

The next day was the long drive home. Encountered a nasty storm en route.

Finished off the week with more derby – watching the Wizards of Aus playing at the World Cup.

2014-03-16 20.06.32

The week that was…week 37: democracy, school and then…Korea

2013-09-02 12.50.43I started the week voting. At least we only have two Senate positions and I only had to count to 27.

It was then also off to see Zac at his Artist and Writers’ Festival Book Launch. The children took turns at coming and reading us their stories and talking about them. Andrew (who was doing godparent-equivalent duty) and I hears four or five different ones as well as Zac’s,



So much for Monday. Tuesday it was off to Korea.

2013-09-03 06.20.15Sunrise somewhere over Canberra.

2013-09-03 18.57.07 2013-09-03 19.45.05Sunset in Seoul.

I was in Seoul at the invitation of the Human Resource Development Service of Korea to speak at their conference. The conference opened on Wednesday morning.

2013-09-04 09.58.51I did have a chance for a walk in the morning to get my bearings. And to purchase a local fizzy caffeinated beverage.

2013-09-04 08.17.26 2013-09-04 13.56.47I had some pretty great views from my room on the 27th floor at the Hotel Intercontinental COEX.

I attended part of the conference and went to meetings during other bits – the conference was domestically focussed and so most of the sessions were in Korean with no translations. I did spent lunches and dinners talking more in depth about the Australian vocational education system, as well as giving my 80 minute presentation. Korea is introducing a competency-based system, seemingly in an attempt to change the entire relationship between skills, education and employment. It seems like a bold experiment and they are keen to see how a mature competency-based system works in order to be able to apply the lessons we have learned to the transition there. So much of my meal time was spent discussing these things. It is lucky I like to talk about the VET system in Australia. And when you get delicious lunches and dinners, it is not so hard either.

2013-09-05 13.13.15 2013-09-06 12.31.05I had a couple of meetings at the Australian Embassy – here is the view.

2013-09-06 15.10.47I finished my official duties about 3.30pm on the Friday, so had some time for sightseeing. As I had been at the Australian embassy, I took the chance to explore the things of interest in the vicinity.

I liked the idea of this King. He developed the Korean script in the 1400s or so, apparently, in recognition of the fact that his poorer subjects struggled with Chinese lettering and that literacy is important. Forward thinking.

2013-09-06 15.34.25I then went for a long walk around the Gyeongbokgung Palace. This place provoked a lot of thinking about authenticity for me.

2013-09-06 15.36.03

The Palace was originally built in the 1300s and then torn down the Japanese a couple of hundred years later and then rebuilt and then parts of it torn down or moved by the Japanese in the 1800s. There is rebuilding going on even now and apparently the rebuilding of aspects of it has been seen as a matter of national pride. Obviously it is not a functioning palace, but a landmark. It is being rebuilt in much the same design, but in some parts the newness of the materials are obvious. I guess the question is, in terms of historicity, what is authentic? When is it restoration/rebuilding/recreation/imitation. It brings to mind the great cathedrals of Europe which we see as authentic historical buildings with their grey stone. But if we were seeing them as they were at their hey day, they would be painted many colours in their interiors. Does rebuilding deny the history of destruction , or is it just another part of the story?

Anyway, I pondered these things as I wandered the grounds, until my feet got sore (I was wearing work shoes with small heels – but they were not the most inappropriate footwear I spotted) after a couple of hours and I retreated to Starbucks for refueling.

I then got to check out the shops of Insa-Dong (and make a few purchases) before meeting up with our Education Counsellor and his daughter for some bim-bim-bap.

Saturday I had entirely to myself. In the morning I explored the area around the hotel, starting with the Bongeunsa temple which is across the road. Unlike Gyeonbokung Palace, Bongeunsa is a working temple and there was obviously some kind of ceremony (or ceremonies) going on as I visited.

I then walked down to the park area I could see my room. This turned out to be the Seolleung and Jeongneung Tombs housed in a big park. Built from 1494, these are a World Heritage site. It was a lovely park too, heavily forested, with the little houses for the spirits to live in, as well as the tombs themselves.

After lunch I grabbed a cab to the other side of the Han (taxis are remarkably cheap in Seoul) to Bukchon Hanok village. This is a residential area with plenty of people living there, but is a traditional Korean style area with old new and in between houses built in the traditional Korean style. It is also very hilly. There are a range of traditional craft workshops around the area, but, fleeting as my sightseeing time was, I didn’t really have the time to visit them.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering back through parts of Seoul, seeing the old and the new. I even came across a gay marriage rally (I think).

After an evening watching the Australia channel and skyping home while discussing election results, it was up early and off to Manila.

All those hills in Bukchon – my calves were hurting like crazy. Anyway, feeling rather tired, once I got to the hotel it was massage, reading by the pool, swim, dinner in the hotel and early to bed.