Small (and scrounged) arrangements

employment, Floristry, Uncategorized

Having just lost my job, I have to review my approach to flower arrangement. Small arrangements with minimal purchased flowers and plenty of scrounging in my now abundant spare time would seem to be the order of the day.  This is my first experiment.


The vessel is one of those odd party dishes that only come out at Christmas. Never figured out what people use them for.  Nuts perhaps?  I selected this two dollar bargain from the opshop for its length (about 30cm) and shallow depth (about 4cm) and its fluted edges giving greater scope for keeping the material in place.

I bought one bunch of pure white chrysanthemums, because they are so long lasting, and everything else comes from my garden. I planted the pinks last year and they are still going strong.  The sea holly was planted in winter and the white one here has flowered.  I am still waiting for the blue.  The foliage is mostly herbs, springs of rosemary and oregano with its flowers, along the flower buds of the cotoneaster that hangs over the fence from the neighbours.

This is a very pretty pastel arrangement, dictated by the fact that after our odd weather of late there’s almost nothing in flower in my garden, beyond the trusty pinks, at the moment. Actually, there was one bloom on the radicchio that has gone to seed.  It’s the most exquisite blue colour and this year I will try to use it and see if it lasts.

The point is that with the white and green base, it’s infinitely variable. If you wanted zing you could try green chyrssies with orange calendulas, or bold red dahlias with scarlet perlargoniums.

The long slender shape makes it suitable for window sills and, I realise as I sit in front of my computer, it could replace the usual paraphernalia that clutters the desk.  Wouldn’t this little nut dish of flowers be a better sight?



Joy versus need

employment, Uncategorized, value

It’s Wednesday morning, my treasured day off.  I’ve slept till I was ready to wake and now I am lying back in bed, with the Iron Paw, contemplating the day ahead.  There are three scenarios.

One: Allow myself to drift, to respond to impulse and whispers from the multiverse.  Go here.  Try that.  Read.

Two: Clean the house, long overdue.  This would take the whole day, given how messy I am.

Three: Harking back to my last post, do some work.  There’s plenty to be getting on with.

Realistically, all three are needed.  Realistically, all three seem about as likely as politicians behaving nicely.

I had a productive day yesterday at work, nailing down some hard to verify facts.  But it’s not what I want to be doing today.  My academic work life is one of detail, fact and argument.  That’s the game and that’s how it must be played.  Endless criticism, questioning, and scepticism.  I find it exhausting and can never sustain it for more than two full days before I get, well, snappy.

In truth, I feel there is no place for me in this world of relentless productivity.  Do more and more and more!  No!  I value roses, and contemplation, quietness and kindness.  I value creativity and connections and gardens of all kinds. Things that may have absolutely no purpose other than sheer enjoyment.

No impressing.  No performing, no innovating.

Just me, and the Iron Paw, being.



Publishing and the (weight of the) past

employment, PhD, Publishing, Uncategorized

Last week I got a welcome email. It was from a publisher, saying that they would like to take my manuscript, my thesis, to the next stage of assessment.  Part of me was elated.  Part of me was prosaic, reasoning that it was my exalted referee’s name that got me to stage two.  Partly I felt dread.

Dread. Yes.  What’s going on with that?  Doesn’t every author aspire to be published?  Well, yes but…

Let me clarify that this is not fiction writing which I do for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m talking about work.  It’s all about the economics.  My boss returned from an OS jaunt recently with a story of how for one job in my discipline at a UK university they received a thousand applicants.  The only people who made it into ‘being vaguely considered’ pile had two books on their CV, in addition to their PhD.  It really is publish or perish in this game.  Basically I’ll be forever lurching from one insecure contract to the next at the lowest pay scale (which is quite low given how long it takes to get a PhD) unless I can get published.

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so gloomy at the thought of revising my PhD if I had found it anything other than what it was. Doing a PhD is like that proverb of putting a frog in a pot of water and bringing it slowly to the boil.  The cool water of the first year is quite pleasant.  You get to spend an whole year just reading and exploring.  There’s possibly no other institution on the plant that offers this luxury.  At the end of first year, the heat goes on.  By the end, which may be anywhere between three and seven years, you are boiled to a sodden mush.

Let’s not forget either that life on the outside goes on, and can be equally challenging. In my case, multiple deaths, including my own vitality and sense of meaning about anything, including and most especially work.

Reworking my thesis into a book takes me back into that deep gloom. I feel like I’ve only just escaped with my life.  Now that I may (I need to whisper this quietly so I don’t tempt fate) have gotten my mojo back after years of deep depression and grief, now I may have to go back to the that time.  It wont make any difference if it is this publisher or someone else. I am going to have to find a way to face this with creativity and intelligence.  At the moment I can think of nothing that would help me with the process.  I know I’m going to absolutely resent giving up my gardening/sewing/embroidery time on the weekends.  Maybe an end vision might help.

I survived this mind-altering-body-changing-soul-mangling process of a PhD and burying two parents, two grandparents, two friends and my cat, and I still managed to produce this book out of it all. Any you know what?  It’s a good book.  Not publishing it would make going through all that pain worthless.

Introduction to floristry

Embroidery, employment, Floristry
Abstract floral embroidery.

Abstract floral embroidery.

First attempt at a hand tied sheaf.

First attempt at a hand tied sheaf.

My birthday gift.

My birthday gift.

The general awfulness that went with this year’s birthday has fortunately passed.  I hope I don’t have another day like that again.  Thank you hormones…there were a few notable exceptions such as H’s impeccably timed gift.

I have been pursuing my creative endeavours as a bulwark or a counterpoint to the general unsatisfactoriness of my daily life.  Continuing to embroider, and I have started an introduction to floristry class.

Let me say at the outset that floristry is like ballet.  It looks effortless, elegant and exquisite, but there is so much work behind the beauty.  People may baulk at the high cost of flowers, but forget the skill of the florist.  Like many creative artists, florists are poorly paid and work long hours.  On the other hand, I had a quick peek on seek the other day only to find out that a senior florist earns the same amount as I do with a PhD.  Clearly the world is skewiff.

At my class this week my instructor was a little late because she’d been up to Sydney to take her certificate students to the flower markets.  Cymbidiums from New Zealand.  Roses from Kenya.  Australian natives from Israel!  It sounded like everything was imported, so I went digging.

What I found was truly disturbing.  In recent decades large swathes of cut flower production have been set up in South America and Africa to lower costs.  This has been done at the expense of worker health and conditions.  Some of the case studies I read were chilling, and every bit as Dickensian as Manchester’s mills.  Long hours, miserable pay, exposure to toxic chemicals, child labour, summary dismissal.  I don’t see why a woman in Colombia should risk miscarriage or the possibility of birth defects just so we can have red roses for Valentine’s Day.

I don’t know about you but I think this is unacceptable.  The subtitle for this blog is about kindness, gentleness and beauty.  Nothing of what I read about the economics of the flower industry is in accordance with that.  In fact, its a complete affront to everything I hold dear.  No idea currently about how to make a contribution to improving that, except through writing this and continuing to source as many of my flowers as possible from the growers at my local farmers market.  I won’t be able to do that for class.  Next week is poppies.  Poppies, a spring flower at the beginning of winter.

Tortoises and hares

Diabetes, employment, Stress

I was at the bus stop earlier than the rubbish trucks on their weekly rounds, which should give you an idea as to my level of out-of-whackedness.  No one has ever accused me of being a morning person, until now.

It’s clear and cloudless, and in between passing cars, I can hear all the birds. Lovely.  I’d rather be staying here by the side of the road and listening to the birds.  Instead I am on my way to work early to face up to the repercussions of my unexpected resignation yesterday.

i had been quietly weeping at breakfast for the last week, but yesterday, after a broken night (how do new mothers do it????), it became more like a 1 in 100 year flood.  Like a real flood, this left me in need of major reconstruction.

People break at the worst times, and I am no exception.  It’s  14 days to the deadline.  I am not going to be flavour of the month when I show my face today. But am I supposed to sacrifice my health for a poorly planned project? My blood sugars have been consistently above safe and its entirely due to the unrelenting expectations of performance.  They don’t need a human, they need a machine to meet this deadline at the level of quality they want.  Or at the very least a hare.

I’ve always been a tortoise.  I can do sustained intense levels of analytical work at a slower pace.  But this is not a world for tortoises anymore.  Especially not a diabetic tortoise.

So if you happen know of of a nice, slowish pond somewhere in Canberra that’s looking for a new tortoise, drop me line.  I’d love to know.