Titirangi Storyteller

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Archive for the ‘work’ Category

Sometimes it’s just black & white

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01/11/2014 at 9:48 pm

Heaven or Hell

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I took this photo at the end of September. I was out on a shoot taking photos of Auckland for a conference. Gorgeous day, full of energy, the sword of Damocles dangling over my head re whether or not I would have a job come 1st of November and the restructure of my workplace. I had a pretty good idea which way it was going to go as I had not received any job offers, despite having applied for a dozen jobs. Still, as long as nothing was declared… there seemed a sense of – not hope – but possibility. And to be honest, I was not sure I wanted to work there anymore. Something about not being actively WANTED is dispiriting.

I’d just sat down to shoot some construction workers when my mobile rang – the big boss’s assistant asking me to come into her office that afternoon. Ugh. Just Ugh. Of course I agreed.

I decided to make my way back uptown and go find a friend beforehand – I needed a little love and support.

Hotel California started playing in my brain as I climbed these stairs. They seemed to go on and on and where was I going? Heaven or Hell? Somewhere in between? Six months down the road – I’ve bought a business, but I’m still settling into my life. I haven’t stopped climbing, it just doesn’t feel so hard.

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28/04/2011 at 9:34 pm

The Turd Sandwich

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“Life is a long turd and every day you have to take a bite.  But you can’t feel so sorry for yourself you piss on people – at least not the people who love you.”

turd sandwich

credits to South Park for this image - I couldn't quite get my head around making my own.

A quote from Mifune, Danish director Søren Kragh-Jacobsen’s  1999 contribution to the Dogme 95 School – a rather good film actually, not fully appreciated for the number of levels in which it operated. This quote is uttered by a prostitute who’s been keeping her bratty younger brother in a posh boarding school – and he’s been wagging. She is beyond disbelief at his disregard for her sacrifice on his behalf. She’s been eating a lot of shit sandwiches.

Long after I’d more or less forgotten the film (and Dogme 95 – is it still in existence?) that line stuck with me. Certainly in this context it is true – but I realised it pretty much applied, if not to life in general, at least not my life in general, there are times, or have been times when it was absolutely true.

doilyWhen you’re young and starting out, you need to convince people to give you jobs, mortgages, let your children into their school – and everyone you try to convince gives you a little or sometimes not so little shit sandwich to eat. At first, well, you refuse – and rightly so. A shit sandwich, regardless of the paper doily on the serving plate is still a shit sandwich. But if you want the job, or the house or that elusive status symbol – you hold your nose and take a bite. Usually one is enough – and you can say ‘thank you, that was lovely,’ sign the papers and move on. You get used to it after a while – you need so many things…

But then, somewhere along the way, you might discover you don’t really want something that bad – you’re just not in the mood for a shit sandwich. Usually by the end of your forties your done with them. Oh sure, someone will offer you one every so often, but you politely decline and if it should somehow end up in front of you – well, you’ll just send it back. You are done with that.

thanks to the Japanese for tidying this image up for me...

thanks to the Japanese for tidying this image up for me...

Then boom! One day, when you least expect it – there it is, sitting on your desk, waiting for you. A big shit sandwich. All the toppings. It sure looks like someone’s gone to a bit of effort to come up with this. But why? Hmmm…

You KNOW there’s no way in hell you’re gonna eat that thing. Nope, ain’t gonna happen. You’ve got to send it back – that’s all there is to it.

Except… you don’t really know where it came from. Or why. Or…

You’re not going to eat it.

But where do you send it back to?

(Remembering not to go and piss on the people who love you in the meantime.)

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06/07/2010 at 7:19 am

Invention & Reinvention

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16 and already faking it like a pro!

Back in my youth I recall being told by my elders to ‘just be yourself.’ Interviews, auditions, performances – pretty much anything where you were tied up in knots and didn’t know what to do, the guidance was to be yourself. (Walking into the lunchroom every day and figuring out where to sit was definitely a performance situation.)

My self was a quivering bowl of jelly, tongue-tied and terrified someone would see me being a fool. The only thing to do was NOT be myself. Work up my courage and plan who I would be. Back then it was usually some pretty, popular girl in school (who in retrospect undoubtedly had the same issues – but socially awkward teens always feel so alone.) I would invent some cool as ice, clever person I could be for half an hour or so – and pray I didn’t get caught. Sort of like multiple personalities, expect they were on purpose – and if I wasn’t exactly in control – there was no doubt who was in charge.


As I got older that didn’t change much. I was operating on a case by case emergency NOT being myself response to job interviews, motherhood, employee, volunteer, boss, businesswoman… it wasn’t until I was well into my thirties before I could breathe normally and perform all the roles I was expected to master. And if something came up that rattled me a bit, it was easy to slip into a more comfortable personae to cope and then slip back out.

Then something odd happened… all those me’s I’d invented over the years sorted of melted into one new super-me. I went from a wallflower with nothing to say to a storytelling, wisecracking cymbidium. I suppose developmental psychologists call it reaching adulthood – but to me, it seemed a miraculous transformation. And it was very very cool. I hadn’t ever considered the possibility that being me was someone I would want to be.


Fast-forward to the present. I’ve done a lot of dreaming in the last two years – ain’t gonna stop – but it’s time for hard change. Changing jobs was big. For the first time in nearly fifteen years, I am not writing a monthly column – possibly even bigger. I’ve moaned about the paucity of time so long, and I’ve reclaimed about 60 hours a month. That’s 60 hours of quality time – not Monday morning at 5.30, or Sunday night at 11.22. I’ve been meaning to write and illustrate some more children’s books. A book on gangster movies would be fun. Yes, I know I should spend more time on fitness. And nurturing my friendships… But, if I’m not careful, it will be all used up – and I’ll be back to moaning…

Good time: time to conquer a new world, take on a new demon, discover an unknown talent. It’s time to reinvent. It will undoubtedly call for a new hat – though I’m hoping the helicopter proves unnecessary!

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16/05/2010 at 12:36 am

If Kali were a tree

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I’ve recently developed a fascination for Kali – the Hindu goddess of…  hmmm… Just what is she the goddess of? Depends who you talk to as there seems a bit of confusion, even among Hindus. She runs the gamut from annihilator to earth-mother.

One man I work with turned a bit pale when he spied a small brass statuette a couple of centimetres tall blue-tacked to the top of my monitor. According to him, a goddess of destruction had no place in a government building and especially not in a Transport Department. We work with serious machinery doing dangerous work.

I suppose he has a point, but I was thinking more of the transition our local governments are going through, turning seven mini empires into one SuperCity. (With Auckland’s massive 1.4 million residents the victims of this inevitable evolution.) While I am optimistic that after five or ten years the outcome will be positive, at present it is rife with to-ing and fro-ing, rumours, whispers, half communications and unclear statements. For example, it’s hard to imagine we really needed to change the access cards to all the buildings NOW because they are no longer supported by the manufacturer. Looks to me like someone has decided the organisation has to be prepared for massive redundancies, and there may not be time or opportunity for niceties such as turning in passes. I could be wrong. It’s happened before. But that’s how it seems to me. I’m not a conspiracy theorist – but that doesn’t mean they’re not conspiring… It would be great to point a finger at one or two culprits – but even the culprits are in the same leaky, rocking boat.

Enter Kali – we need a goddess to take hold of this chaos and supervise it, keep the whole thing manageable – even as it remains as dangerous as ever. It then begs the question as to who will be her Shiva? The new SuperMayor? Or SuperCEO? Or if she is a force of Eternity, then perhaps we will have to wait for Father Time to settle her.

In the meantime, I think this tree may be Kali’s arboreal incarnation – dancing wildly, vicious – and if those green streaks were red – the whole thing would be damned bloody.

I keep a little Ganesha on my desk. Just in case.

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18/02/2010 at 10:58 pm

Spring has sprung a crossroads…

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One of the things I’ve never quite adjusted to living down under is having the seasons arrive three weeks earlier than the solstice or equinox generally associated with them. It wouldn’t be so bad if we actually lost three weeks of miserable cold and rain, which is the Auckland winter. But it runs on at least until the first of November and occasionally refuses to depart until the beginning of January, which is already the second month of summer. It can be silly down here. I don’t mind. Except that today was wintry.

But in the spirit of spring and new growth and earth worms busying themselves etc, I’ve begun to feel a bit restless. Ideas are earthworms, working their way to the surface. Pardon the poetic licence (and general indecency) but I suppose this means I should be plowing the furrows of my garden – blah, well, you know…

So here’s a photo of the winter.

Crossroads traffic jam

Crossroads traffic jam

This is taken from the bus series I did throughout August (in future referred to as the 2009 Bus Photos) and while it’s not a very good photo technically – not sharp enough, the car is chopped off, the bus is blocking the interesting bit of the train – it rather nicely conveys a melange of unappealing choices, with the crane in the background reminding you that no matter what you choose, there is a roadblock up ahead. You have no control over how long they’ll make you wait. But someday there’ll be a nice new something there to travel on…

This photo captures my position – waiting around with unappealing choices is kind of where I am, and reflects my attitude toward this past winter. I work in transport, so it’s not surprising I would find my metaphors there. It’s been the winter of our discontent.

Auckland is merging from 4 small cities, plus two rural districts into one SuperCity of over 1 million people. Yes, New York may have 16 million, Chongqing 32 million – but Auckland is the SuperCity. (Somewhere I there I’ve already commented on the silliness of this place… Just because I love it does not mean it’s not surreal.)

The politics around creating a SuperCity and their effect on the staff are simply deranged. I’ve watched leaders turn into bullies, good people behave badly, loyal staff quit (without a job to go to), folks of questionable ability move into roles they can’t hope to fill adequately, mysterious resignations and the gossip mill churning at speeds previously unrecorded in the annals of contemporary corporate culture. Everything’s splattered with gossip juice.


I realise it’s making me tired. Tired of hearing it, pondering it, participating in it, working in and stepping around it. Tired of farewells and rumours of farewells to come. Tired of hearing friends slog through a stagnated job market looking to escape.

And suddenly finding I’m thinking of escaping myself! That’s one hell of an earthworm – I am famous for loving my job… and yet… it’s seems like a mighty one rumbling up – and he’s got friends. Time to look at this garden… Nothing glaringly wrong with it, but it’s tired, needs a refresh, a rethink, new blood.

I just gotta get me out of these miserable crossroads! If it ain’t fun – it ain’t worth doing, that’s all there is to it.

Feets don't fail me now!

Feets don’t fail me now!

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01/09/2009 at 11:03 pm

Queen Elizabeth Square, downtown Auckland

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200709QESq37I was last in Queen Elizabeth Square last summer, around Christmastime. It was buzzing and beautiful, with giant ornaments, reminiscent of Jeff Koons installations, placed here and there. Near the waterfront with the ferry docks and cargo ships nearby, a real hub of activity a spot in Auckland a visitor shouldn’t miss.

My newly formed photography club went on our first outing today – what I’ve dubbed a ‘speed field trip.’ Leave your desk at one, dash down to QEII Square and photograph whatever you can see from the square – and back at your desk at two. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from my office, walking at a decent clip. We arrived, and the charming square from 6-7 months ago, was now chokka with construction – everything was in chaos. But a brief is a brief is a brief… so we started photographing.

Of course as soon as the pigeons saw the camera, they were all over me – and I had a parade of poseurs. Seriously –


200709QESq04They were trying to outdo each other, fluffing their colours, cocking and strutting – when along came a white babe with all the right stuff. And she was making moves, showing off all her angles, moves and generally kicking up quite a fuss. I could tell the others were not impressed with her antics – but actually when it came down to it – they were all streetwalkers, looking to see what they could scrounge up.

200709QESq06 200709QESq07200709QESq08

The square is not that large, yet right next to t200709QESq23he contruction is a water feature – it’s sort of lost its sparkle amidst the barriers and metal fencing, so I rather like this view. It’s decorated with some lovely Maori carvings, but they are best viewed some other time.

I found the bicycle rack rather charming – at least, I think it is a bicycle rack. I think the woman approaching is also uncertain.


The best place to look was up. Looking up, it’s so easy to be clever.

A clever crop

200709QESq10An urban Kauri tree

My favourites though is this reflection off a glass building. Maybe a little cheesy, but I love it when the clouds come to the party.


And then of course, the mandatory shot of the waterfront. I am especially fond of these red gates. The port is right in the middle of downtown, part of the heart of the city, which is one of the things I love about Auckland.


So Queen Elizabeth Square didn’t really blow me away in the dead of winter. Still, I’m sure when I come back in a few months, it won’t be the same.

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20/07/2009 at 10:50 pm

Back to Dreaming

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Oslo - 84 gull2009 has been the year of dreaming. I wrote about it early on and updated a couple of times. It probably started with the book, The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly, which I commented on back in January in a post called New Year’s Dreams. At the time, and even now, I’m not hawking it as the greatest thing since sliced bread – yet, it got me thinking about dreams. I dutifully made a list of 100 dreams of my own. That was surprisingly easy compared to some folks who’ve also done it. I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer.

But a funny thing has happened this year with these dreams… they’ve evolved. Sort of like I opened a can of worms only it’s not worms but a million silken strands waiting to be woven into precious fabric. And once I have the fabric – I can do anything I desire with it because there is the magic of dreams embedded in the fibres.

Oslo - 79 gullWhat does that mean? Well, I just started getting ideas about things I could do and then doing them. And I discovered how willing other people are to share a dream.

Even five years ago, the idea of being on a social committee filled me with horror. Planning a group event brought on a minimum of three sick days. But I am fortunate enough to work in a place where staff are really encouraged to pursue their dreams. And somehow, without planning it, I formed a social committee of my own and together (because it definitely isn’t all my doing) we’ve been pulling off event after event. Yet,  I work for a large organisation with over 2000 staff, so the stuff I’ve been organising for my little group of 90 is small potatoes.

One of the problems of an organisation this size is the silo mentality, where people identify with and are protective of their group, and other groups or divisions are ‘other.’ And ‘other’ is never a good thing. But how do you reach that many people? You couldn’t have events that large – and even if you tried, you’d still get folks clustering in their own silos. You need to mix them up in small groups, so they get a chance to talk to each other – but it has to be about something other than work because work already divides them!

Oslo - 47 gullsSo I got the idea of forming clubs. Things people are interested in outside of work. I’m in the midst of piloting six of them, which again, couldn’t possibly happen without the buy-in, belief, participation and hard work of a lot of other people. And they’re working. I should be blogging this! It’s an incredible thing to watch, and even more incredible that it was just an idea that I had that I decided to try out.

Surprise, surprise – I’m co-facilitating the photography club. Had our second meeting today – people are excited. Our next meeting is a speed field-trip, dashing down to the Auckland waterfront at lunchtime, shooting for half an hour – and then getting back together and seeing what we all come up with. I’m excited!

Oslo - 78 gullsI expect half the clubs will survive and the other half, well, maybe not. It’s not about 100% success, it’s about succeeding where you can, where it fits, where it works.

And keeping on dreaming and just doing what you dream of, making it happen, being the change. It’s scary and wonderful and one of the best things I’ve ever done. And while it’s bloody hard work, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

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09/07/2009 at 10:32 pm

Posted in communication, dreams, time, work

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Hell is other people

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I’ve got to stop waxing philosophical – last week Camus and I were butting heads and this week I find myself tortured by Sartre. I don’t fancy myself conversant on either but apparently they are fascinated by me.

I prefer my personal philosophy – “The One True Way.” However, despite its catchy title and obvious superiority to all that came before, I can’t get anyone to buy into it – not even my spouse, who insists on arguing its fine points. Sigh – I have resigned myself to the reality that “The One True Way” is too good for lesser mortals. But its time will come! And then I will take over the world!!!

But I digress…hell

Simplifying Sartre to the point where he’s going to thump me – there’s consciousness, our awareness of our Self: and then there’s the Other, beings or object that are not self. Because of the nature of things (Sartre now damns me to hell for eternity…) Self needs Other to prove its own existence. Therein lies the problem.

Now let’s shift to my office. It’s an ordinary office with the usual mix of mostly ordinary and a smattering of extraordinary people. We manage the usual mix of projects and tasks, relying on each other to produce various bits and pieces – resulting in the desired outcome. That’s a lot of Selfs and Others inter-relating, proving our own existence, validating our actions, motives, methods, etc. Basically, we work together well because we know each other, who’s good at what, who can be depended on for this and who for that. Of course there are minor conflicts, issues and glitches that must be worked out from time to time,  but generally, it’s all very ordinary.

Enter the Consultant, brought in to deliver a one-off project. Consultant brings their self – a new Other.  My Self is, in turn, a new Other for them. Consultant communicates their needs. I listen to consultant and satisfied I have heard them, provide Resource (another Other.) Soon there is trouble. Resource is not providing Consultant with what they need. Consultant is not happy. I listen to consultant again, and once more satisfied I understand their needs, update Resource and leave.

Repeat this cycle half a dozen times. Consultant, Resource and Self are all unhappy. Emails fly! Project is in jeopardy! Communication break down! Resource goes home so their self can have a more positive experience with another Other. Self is left with slightly enraged Other and experiences mild rage at Other in return.

At this point what you really want is an all out cat-fight, just to let off steam, just to prove how right you are and how unreasonable they are. Except of course Other’s self is in exactly the same position. And everyone knows cat-fights are stupid unless you’re being videotaped in a bikini and in a large vat of mud. And getting mud on is so much easier than getting it off.

hell2Upon reflection, perhaps when Other was communicating their needs, attempting to do so clearly and succinctly to the best of their ability, what Self heard was something very different, despite listening intently and carefully. Self gave Other what Self believes to be the correct resources for what Other described. But what if Other needs a different resource, but is unable to describe it because this is a new type of project and Other does not possess the jargon to describe their true needs? Uh oh. Self must admit some culpability for not accurately assessing Other’s true needs. Self hates that! Self prefers to be 100% right 100% of the time, despite repeated evidence to the contrary. The project must not fail because Self and Other can’t reflect off each other.

Everything will be fine – the problems are not insurmountable and everyone really does want to work together. It’s a molehill, not a mountain. The project will be delivered to spec and on time now that the true needs have been identified. But I bow my head to Sartre and grumble, “Hell is other people!”

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21/02/2009 at 3:35 pm

Blogging is a saintly exercise

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I’m a month into this blogging thing, and have discovered it’s one of the most fun, creative things one can get up to on the computer. And even when I’m off

Read my blog! It's great! It's funny! It's topical! It's ful of useful information and handy hints! Read it! Read it! Please! Please! Please!!!

Read my blog! It's great! It's funny! It's topical! It's ful of useful information and handy hints! Read it! Read it! Here - I'll give you some candy...

the computer, I’m thinking what I’m going to post next, wondering who is reading what I’m writing – and what do they think?

Then there’s promoting your blog – face it, your friends and family, who may well love your blog and check in regularly, well, they are a pretty small group. 20-30 hits a day. And yet, you know there are blogs out there getting millions of hits every day. How do you get a slice of them?

Adding an RSS feed to my Facebook page was a good idea. Linking from other people’s blogs. I tried doing some posts on mailing lists – but it really felt like I was spamming, even if it was selective – but that just felt icky, so I gave that up quick. But the numbers did go up from all of these things. Google hits were going up. Then one day I had a huge jump – somehow a site called Alpha Inventions had send a couple hundred hits my way. I followed them up. It’s a blog-reader – or blog scroller, that pops up a new blog every 4-5 seconds. If it’s something that interests you, you can click on it and read it. If not, you just wait for the next one to pop up. And… you can plug your URL in and your site goes into the viewing queue – the catch is you are bumping some  else out of the queue and you will eventually get bumped. But I’m getting more hits – which is great. I just hope they turn into regular readers.

Blogging forces you to write something new and interesting every day. The oldest rule of writing there is – writers write. If you ain’t writing – you ain’t a writer. Somehow blogging is making me feel downright saintly, unlike my regular columns which are jobs, albeit ones I love. I’m feeling so saintly, that novel is calling louder and louder. No… I don’t think I’m going to set it in the Blogosphere.

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01/02/2009 at 3:07 pm

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