Pont Neuf, Paris

My springtime in Paris

I’ve been meaning to write about Paris for months. However, I should warn you, it will be difficult for me to write about the most romantic city in the world without sounding effusive.

Paris was as wonderful as I imagined – and then some. Everything the French do, they do beautifully. The architecture, the art galleries, the art itself. It wasn’t until I visited Paris that I realised my favourite painters are French – I’ve always loved Monet and Degas. The art galleries in Paris are truly works of art.

The colours are soft in Paris, with beige stone buildings complementing the deep green of the Seine. Everything is lovely – except the subway. The Metropolitan signs are so garish and dated you can’t imagine how they can exist in modern Paris.

And the food is spectacular. The fruit is fresh, unlike our transported variety, the sweet strawberries and juicy pears were heavenly. There were gorgeous delicatessen lining the streets behind my apartment, where I would stop after a day of sightseeing and pick up my evening meal. Baguette, cheese and fruit followed by a delicious sweet cake. I wrote French words in my notebook so I could speak with the shopkeepers. The French are most gracious when you at least attempt to speak their language.

I rented an apartment through Air B&B across the road from Pont Neuf  (the oldest bridge in Paris but ironically called ‘new bridge’) and it was wonderful. I felt like a Parisian local stepping out of my apartment every morning. I’d eat breakfast in the morning and then head out for the day. I was suddenly a morning person in Paris, which ordinarily I am not. However, it should be noted, Parisians are not morning people and the only shops open before 10am serve coffee and pastries.

The Louvre was a short walk away, past a couple of lovely cafés, a row of tacky souvenir shops and you were there. I visited the Louvre three times during my five days in Paris – once to see the Mona Lisa and then simply to wander and lose myself in the history, the beauty and the art. It really is a treasure for the world.

My top tip if you are visiting Paris is to get a Paris Museum Pass – it was 69 Euros for six days and worth every cent. The pass gives you free access to all the galleries and museums via an express entrance (the rooftop of Notre Dame was the only exception). The queues for tourist attractions in Europe are unbelievable – I was there in April, before peak season, and would have spent the better part of each day queuing without the pass.

I spent four days walking everywhere, absorbing Paris with a big grin on my face to finally be there – along the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe,  Jardin du Luxembourg, Montmartre and the islands. I ended up visiting the Eiffel Tower three times, catching a boat home one evening to watch the city of lights come to life.

The islands, Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Citie, are lovely and the best place to buy scarves. French women wear scarves like no other. Shopping in Paris is expensive but the quality is beautiful. Galeries Lafayette is worth visiting simply for the architecture, if not the shopping.

And then on the fifth day there was Versailles. The gardens in Paris are exquisite, but Versailles is truly remarkable. Perfectly majestic, complete with piped classical music playing across the manicured hedges, blooming flowers and sculptured fountains. Riding around the magnificent water gardens on a bicycle on a perfect spring day is a memory I will always treasure.

Paris is now my favourite city in the whole world. But then again, I still have so much more of Europe to see.


hop display in Collins Street

My new role – and why I love it

I was recently promoted from PR Executive to Social Media Manager. I’m absolutely loving my new role. But it’s also been a surprisingly steep learning curve. Why?

Well, it turns out there’s a big difference between using social media as part of your broader PR strategy and being completely immersed in it eight hours a day, five days a week. And at night. And on weekends. Social media never sleeps – it is truly a 24/7 job.

I’ve been in the role now for about six weeks. I’m learning how to take time out and switch off – without actually switching off. It’s Friday night (and my iPhone’s quiet) so I thought I’d share my experiences and insights so far.

Social media is turning me into a data hound

I am not naturally a numbers person. I’m a writer and the fact that I am not strong in mathematics has never mattered before. That old PR chestnut, how do you effectively measure reputation, has always saved me from having to dive deeply into data.

But social media requires it. The platforms and tools on offer provide comprehensive data that can be measured, analysed and used to maximise engagement. So I am learning to think in numbers. My new mantra: You can do maths. And you will do maths.

Social media uses all my professional skills

This is the aspect I am most enjoying. When creating content I feel like a journalist again. You need to be a news hound and create content that is fresh, compelling and relevant. As curator of our social media channels, I feel like an editor sourcing news and information from the full range of sources across the organisation.

My PR background gives me a focus on relationships and reputation, both of which are at the heart of social media. Even my 10 years experience in the hospitality industry (prior to moving into PR) serves me well in regards to the customer service aspect of social.

I’ve discovered good customer service basics – always be polite, respond in a timely manner and be as helpful as possible – work equally well in the social space.

Social media allows me to be more creative than ever

You have to think creatively in social. I’ve always loved photography but now I’m getting the opportunity to really explore that passion. I’ve become obsessed with Instagram. Images are so popular on the social web so I’m always on the lookout now for photo opportunities and interesting shots.

I can have fun with social content rather than being corporate. After years of writing media releases, reports and speeches, which now seem rather stiff and dull, social content is just so much fun.

Social media is making me think faster

I think faster. I talk faster. I probably even walk faster! The social web moves at rocket speed and when you’re immersed in that world, everything else in life seems to have suddenly slowed down. Except weekends – strangely, they still end very quickly. One negative I’ve noticed is that I find myself interrupting in conversations more than ever, and talking way too much, which I really need to watch.

Social media is making me more organised

I used to have an impromptu approach to social media. But having an editorial calendar and scheduling content means I’m now planning more than ever. Hootsuite is my new best friend. I used to think scheduling tweets wasn’t very authentic but now I see it differently. Scheduling content tweets in the morning and having conversations in real-time throughout the day seems to provide a workable balance. The editorial calendar for Facebook is booked up for the month ahead.

But there is always flexibility and content gets tweaked and moved around. It’s dynamic and fluid and ever-changing – just like the social web itself.

Do you work in social media? What do you love about it?


Richmond Bridge, Tasmania

Changing times

I recently had a conversation with a communications professional that completely surprised me. It went something like this…

Me: I’m experimenting with Pinterest at the moment.

Response: What’s Pinterest?

Me: [A little shocked … okay, what about Facebook …] 

Me: Facebook could be used as our primary communication channel for students because 100 per cent of them are there, but they may not check their email.

Response: Really? I’m not on Facebook, I never really got into it.

Me: [almost falls off chair… speechless … WHAT?!]

This conversation made me realise that professional communicators are at very different stages of embracing digital media, whether it’s online, new or social media. It made me reflect on my 15 year professional journey, from traditional print journalist to ever-evolving PR strategist.

When I had my first article published in 1996 the internet had only existed for seven years (Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web in 1989). I used to deliver my features to the editor of Nova Magazine on a floppy disc. Did I not have email? Actually I don’t remember, but that’s how I submitted my work. In person. Face-to-face. Hand delivered.

Back then public relations was basically about writing press releases and trying to get journalists to run your story. If you got your story in the first three pages of the daily newspaper, you would probably get radio and maybe TV if you had an interesting idea for visual footage. So, that was your goal.

How things have changed!

Then: 24 hour news cycle
Now: 140 character news cycle
Then: Daily newspapers set the news agenda
Now: News breaks on Twitter first
Then: Journalists held the publishing power
Now: Anyone with access to the internet can publish
Then: Social media didn’t exist
Now: If you’re not on social media, you don’t exist

My number one tip to anyone starting out in PR is to make a commitment to ongoing professional development. Keep learning. Keep changing. Keep growing. Otherwise, you really will be left behind.

What’s the one tip you would give to PR graduates starting out? 


Bon voyage

In three weeks I will board a plane to Germany. During my time in Europe I will stay in Amsterdam, lunch in Brussels, visit London and explore Paris. This trip is a dream come true for me. I hope to post a blog about each country – probably not while I’m travelling, but in the months ahead.

So, fasten your seat belt and prepare to travel vicariously. I haven’t been overseas in more than 10 years and I’m turning 40 this year, so I’m beyond excited to be traveling again.

I have many wonderful memories of traveling in Australia – sharing a lagoon with a large green turtle while diving on the Great Barrier Reef and swimming in crystal clear pools high on a ridge in Kakadu National Park, just to name two.

But to celebrate my next adventure, here’s my reverse bucket list – my top 10 unforgettable international travel moments to-date.

1. Watching sunrise over the Ganges in Varanasi, India’s oldest city, with dolphins diving around the boat and pilgrims descending on the water’s edge to begin their ritual morning dips.

2. Walking past an Indian slum during monsoon and seeing a mother and daughter coming out of their poles-and-plastic home, with a puddle for a carpet and mud for a couch, with grins on their faces, laughing together.

3. Snuggling up under a rug cross-legged at dawn in Dharamsala, surrounded by a sea of Tibetan monks chanting mantras to honour Buddha’s birthday.

4. Sitting in the open doorway of an Indian train, with the wind blowing in my face and camels galloping in the distance, crossing the deserts of Rajasthan.

5. Huddling in a sleeping bag around an open fire with a Nepalese family, drinking hot chai, with a blizzard raging outside and Mount Everest in the distance.

6. Stepping out of my lake-side cabin, in the early heat of the tropical morning, to dive into the cool, pristine waters of Lake Toba in Sumatra.

7. Being on a bus on the second highest motor-able road in the world and climbing a peak to reach the Tibetan Plateau, with the rugged mountains rising abruptly behind us and the vast desert stretching out before us.

8. Singing on a hill-top on Gili Trawangon, with young Indonesian men playing Bob Marley riffs on their guitars, with Gili Air and Gili Meno forming stepping stones in an expanse of turquoise sea to the lush coastline of Lombok.

9. Dancing in a sari at my future husband’s brother’s wedding, in the remote village of a Himalayan hill tribe, surrounded by the picturesque snow-covered mountains of Nepal, seemingly so close you could reach out and touch them.

10. Meeting the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala and being awe-struck by the presence of this physically tiny man with a beaming smile and an immense glow, as if lit up from the inside.

What are your favourite travelling memories?


Summer and son

What’s parenting got to do with it?

It’s quite strange when your son reaches an age where he is not only taller than you are – but is also smarter than you are. And probably always will be. Being an average Generation X mother to an exceptionally bright Generation Z is quite the eye opener.

I’ll break it down for you.

I stopped being able to help my 15-year-old son with his maths homework years ago. Embarrassingly, I think he was in about grade seven at the time. I’ll admit I am somewhat mathematically challenged. But in my defence, he was doing an accelerated program. He asked me if I could help him solve one of the problems. Well, sadly, it was numerical gobbledegook to me. So I had to admit I was literally unable to help him with his homework. Oh, the shame.

At 15 I was discovering boys, alcohol and the joys of spending school hours at the beach. I was all about brand names, thinness and doing what everyone else was doing. I was a study in teenage angst and rebellion. Rebellion against my mother, mind you, not society.

At the same age my son gets consistently glowing school reports, excellent grades and knows what career path he wants to pursue. If I had received even one high school report that read like his, my mother would have wept tears of joy.

My son simply likes what he likes, thank you very much. The universe, black holes, physics, time travel and artificial intelligence are subjects that pique his interest. He’s not interested in wearing the right clothes by the right designers. While I battle a chronic Zara addiction, he seems immune to marketing. I don’t know what happened. Sometimes I think they sent me home with the wrong baby. Wasn’t I supposed to end up with a brat?

It’s made me realise that parenting may have little to do with how kids turn out. I’ll confess I’m now inclined to agree with Judith Rich Harris who, in her 1998 book The Nurture Assumption, argues that parents have little or no influence over the long-term development of their children’s personalities. Obviously her book went down with child psychologists about as well as a new mum turning up at playgroup with two litres of Coke for the toddlers to share.

But, honestly, I’ve never been much of role model mum. I was single for 10 years. He’s been through a divorce. We lived in low socio-economic suburbs most of his life. I can’t cook. I’m not much of a homemaker. I get distracted easily. I have a quick temper. I have been a career-focussed, studying, working, busy parent most of his life. And I’ve had my fair share of personal challenges and difficulties along the way.

But my son doesn’t seem to have suffered because of it. In fact, he’s one of the most grounded, lovely and well adjusted people I know. He’s always had a quiet confidence and self assurance. He has a great sense of humour. And I certainly didn’t teach him that. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been plagued with insecurity, self doubt and seriousness most of my life.

Maybe it’s the difference between girls and boys. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe it’s just that we’re all born with our own nature. Your family may affect the choices and experiences you have – but ultimately you are who you are.

People always congratulate me for raising such a delightful young man. But I’ll happily give my son all the credit for that.

This post was originally published by Mamamia.  Publisher and author @MiaFreedman is the same age as me, but I have always admired her stellar career with star-struck awe. She is one of my idols.  I am a regular @mamamia reader, so I decided to set a goal of having a guest post published on the site.

I wrote Meeting Ita and submitted it to managing editor @lanahirschowitz. I thought it was perfect. But Lana quickly replied saying that, while she loved the post, it wasn’t quite right for Mamamia readers. I was shocked – I thought I knew what her readers liked. So I asked Lana for some honest feedback. She was incredibly kind and helpful, giving me excellent advice and encouraging me to keep submitting. I felt humbled, but more determined than ever.

My second attempt was published on Mamamia on 13 January 2012. This guest post is about parenting – not writing – but I wanted to share it here. Being a writer means having pieces you love rejected but we need to pick up our pens, be true to ourselves, and keep going. Set your goal, work hard, and don’t give up. Here’s the link to the original post on Mamamia: How much say do we have over who we become


London calling

I went to Europe with my mum and her best friend when I was three years old. I have five memories of that trip: the entrance to one room in the Tower of London, the house where we stayed in London, a street in Italy, a roadside in Germany and the grey of Buckingham Palace.

They are like very short films – snapshots of strange moments in time.

And now, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I am finally going back to Europe. I have wanted to go since I was a teenager. After I left home at 17 I was a traveler. I’ve lived in Byron Bay, Sydney, far north Queensland, India, Fremantle, Darwin and now Melbourne. I’ve been to Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. But I didn’t make it to Europe. My one-way ticket to London via Delhi in 1995 became a return flight to Australia to get married.

And with the birth of my son in 1996, my traveling abruptly ended and my career journey began. I have spent the past 15 years studying and working to build a successful career in communications and provide my son with the best education I could. But high quality education comes at a price and I haven’t needed a passport for more than a decade. With my son now in Year 11, the time to dust off my backpack is coming soon. In fact, out of the blue, it has just arrived.

I am attending the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam on April 11 and 12. The speakers are brilliant – Carla Buzasi, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK, and Stephanie L. Schierholz, NASA’s social media manager,  just to name two.

I wouldn’t know about this conference if not for social media. It is being organised by @PRDaily, based in the US, and has reached me in Melbourne through twitter. This is no surprise. Such is the  power of digital PR. I follow @MarkRaganCEO and not only does he tweet great content, he also took the time to comment in my blog. My registration is evidence that interaction is indeed the key to consumer engagement through social media.

It is also no surprise that my dream trip to Europe has come through my career. Maybe it is reward for all the hard work I have undertaken in the past and continue to undertake every day. I am incredibly grateful to have a manager who values my work and is prepared to invest in me. And I’m taking a little of my own time to visit London and Paris… again.  Bon voyage! 


Nine ideas for inspiring writing

Mum and I are both authors – she writes fiction and I write non-fiction.

In deciding what to contribute for a guest post, I asked mum what subject she would find most useful. She answered that her greatest challenge was coming up with new ideas.

I can certainly relate. I often struggle with generating ideas for my blog. In today’s world, where we self-publish online in blogs and social media, producing fresh content on a regular basis can be quite challenging.

So, mum gave me the idea of writing about… well, ideas and how to get them. Here’s nine to start the conversation, I’d love to hear your ideas too.

Ask your audience.

It may be helpful to ask your target audience – for me, that’s other writers – what they would like to read. If an audience member suggests a subject (like my mum did) other readers will probably relate too.

Tell the story again.

American journalist Barbara Grizzuti Harrison said: “There are no original ideas. There are only original people.” Even if a subject has been covered a thousand times, you have a unique voice and perspective. As a writer, your voice is your greatest asset. So, be yourself, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Start tweeting.

If you’re a writer, you have to be on twitter. Twitter is like Disneyland for us. There are so many wonderful people and so much great content, it’s a virtual treasure chest of ideas.

Share a secret.

In her autobiography, Australian publishing icon Ita Buttrose disclosed she was once so angry with a former boss that she wrote his name on a piece of paper and stuck pins in it. This confession not only surprises the reader but shows Ita’s humanity. Readers empathise with human frailty. The truth is very powerful.

Think like a journalist.

If you generally write opinion in your blog – and most of us do – get inspired by journalism. You could produce a feature about a local event or interview a person relevant to your readers and write a Q&A piece.

Explore a new genre or medium.

Writers are artists, we use words like a sculptor uses clay. Experimenting with a different genre or medium can be fun and produce some interesting content too. If you usually write non-fiction, why not try fiction? How about photography or producing a video? You may even discover a hidden talent or passion.

Voice your views.

Share your thoughts about news and current affairs. Even if everyone is talking about the Royal Wedding, for example, you bring a distinctive voice to the conversation.

Find inspiration in the everyday.

French author Anais Nin said: “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.” A poem on a fridge, a conversation with a friend, a sentence in a book – all have inspired ideas for my blog.

Don’t Google it.

The first thing writers tend to do is research. But if you Google your idea, you’ll find it has already been written about. So, just write from the heart. Even if the idea is unoriginal, you are an original person. Your writing will be original if you write first and Google later.

This post was originally written for American publishing house Our Little Books. Our Little Books is dedicated to producing educational, inspirational and fun little books with a big message. You can follow @ourlittlebooks on twitter or like Our Little Books on Facebook. Here is the orginal post: Nine ideas for original writing


Six lessons in the school of hard knocks

English was one subject I truly loved at school. As a teenager, I would have three novels on the go at any given time. I enjoyed writing anything and everything – from letters to poetry, from short stories to scripts.

But by the end of year 12 I still had no idea what career I wanted to pursue. The women on both sides of my family were nurses. Even Florence Nightingale was in our family tree, my late grandmother told me.  In fact, my mother was the only one who wasn’t a nurse.

So, when I finished school I started a nursing degree. It was a Bachelor of Science. But I quickly realised I wasn’t particularly interested in science and the sight of needles made me squeamish. Nursing clearly wasn’t for me and I dropped out in first semester.

Lesson 1: Follow your heart – don’t settle for what everyone else is doing.

I traveled around Australia for the next few years working in hospitality. It was fun, but I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.  All I knew was that I was curious and full of questions.

I was 22 when I decided to travel to India and Nepal to ‘find myself’. And I did. By a lake on the roof of the world, I decided to become a writer. I wanted to inspire others by sharing the extraordinary stories of ordinary people.

Writing is such a broad profession – I had to narrow it down. What was the real job? I decided what I wanted to do was called ‘journalism’. So when I got back to Australia I wrote my first feature about an area high on the Tibetan plateau in India called Ladakh. My article was published in Nova Magazine. I was on my way.

Lesson 2: Your unique voice and perspective is your greatest asset. The truth is powerful.

I decided to go to university and study journalism. My mother has always been supportive of my choices, but I suspect the rest of my family considered it a bit of a joke. I don’t think anyone imagined I’d actually finish the degree.

I applied to go to university and was accepted. This was wonderful – except that between having my first article published and attending my first lecture I’d had a baby and was now getting a divorce. It was a challenging time to say the least.  But I was determined to pursue my dream and started full-time studies in 1998.

However, I soon learned the job prospects were fairly grim. Only eight per cent of you will work as journalists, my lecturer told a room of bright young hopefuls. We all looked around wondering who that would be. The vast majority of students were about five years younger than me and weren’t single mothers. How could I compete?

I needed a back-up plan. So I decided to do both journalism and public relations. Employment in PR was growing fast, rather than shrinking, so I figured I could go between the two.

Lesson 3: Be creative. Think about how you can use your passion and skills in other areas.

I persevered for seven years of part-time study. My son was eight years old when I graduated in 2005 – with grades that placed me within the top five per cent of Murdoch University students.

Lesson 4: Those who believe they are less likely to succeed may overcompensate by working harder and can achieve surprising results.

Our lecturers encouraged us to move to small country towns to break into journalism. So I moved to Darwin the day after my graduation ceremony.

It took eight months of constant phone calls, emails and visits to the Northern Territory News to get a job interview. The job I got was as an advertising features journalist. Working 9am to 5pm, no weekend shifts. Ok, so it wasn’t reporting in the newsroom, but it was working for a metropolitan daily newspaper. And it fitted well with parenting. I worked there for the next two-and-a-half years.  So, as it turns out, I was in that eight per cent.

Lesson 5: Your dream job may not look like you imagined, but it will be just right for you.

From there, I moved into public relations for Tourism NT and then into marketing, writing online content for Charles Darwin University. I did a stint in radio with ABC Darwin. I worked as the freelance senior writer for Darwin Life Magazine. Darwin was a fantastic experience but definitely the school of hard knocks for me. I made some huge mistakes and had some big falls, but I learned so much along the way.

Lesson 6: There will be people who continue to believe in you, even when you doubt yourself.

When I moved to Melbourne in 2011, I had a job to come to. I’m working as a public relations executive with Swinburne University of Technology and it’s another fantastic learning experience.

The reason why I have a successful career today is not because I’m especially talented – it’s because I’ve persevered. I’ve never given up. I may not have my name up in lights, I’ve never won a Walkley award and I still have dreams to achieve. But I have built a solid and fulfilling career as a writer. And to me, that is success. I had a dream and I chased it. And I made it. After 15 years, I’m still compelled to write. I still love it. It’s what I do and it’s all I can imagine ever doing.

This was my first guest post and was originally published on Dream, Build, Inspire, Lead. I know the publisher AJ Kulatunga (follow @BLKMGK01 or @ICT_GURU on twitter) from my time in Darwin and he asked me to share my story with his readers. Here’s the orignal post: Six lessons from the school of hard knocks


You are worth a rest

I am on my first real holiday in years. A holiday where the beach is the only destination on the itinerary. A holiday where reading is for pleasure only (I’m thoroughly enjoying Ita Buttrose’s autobiography A Passionate Life). A holiday where afternoon naps are perfectly acceptable and, yes, I have actually taken one.

We’re visiting my hometown of Margaret River. The region is a wonderful part of the world, but has been terribly affected by recent bush fires. My son is with me but he is 15 now, so I no longer have to spend my entire holiday creating appropriate children’s entertainment.

So, I’ve lazed around at the beach every day. I’ve caught up with old school friends. I’ve splurged on two blissful full body massages and received a divine facial. We head back to Melbourne in a few days and I’m ready for another year of work. I feel inspired again.

I love my work, my career gives me tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment. But I’m not good at work-life balance. I’m not good at switching off. I’m not good at making time for down-time. I’m always go, go, go. Setting goals. Achieving stuff. This year has been busy, successful and satisfying. But by the end of 2011, I felt utterly exhausted. My tolerance for other people was low. My creative fire was barely a flicker. I simply needed a rest.

And after two weeks of beach therapy, I feel relaxed, refreshed and recharged. I’m looking forward to going back to work, rather than dreading it. Rest is so important. I am determined to remember this simple fact. Why is it so easy for us to forget the importance of taking rest?

We are staying at my mum’s house and she has a wonderful cartoon by Michael Leunig stuck to her fridge. I couldn’t find the cartoon online but I did find the text – it is below for you to enjoy. I hope you are taking the time to rest this Christmas and best wishes for 2012.

The Curly-Pyjama Letters by Michael Leunig    

(From Mr. Curly to Vasco Pyjama)

Dear Vasco, in response to your question, “What is worth doing and what is worth having?” I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause you must rest Vasco – otherwise you will become RESTLESS!
I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged ongoing state of fatigue to which our world seems to be rapidly adopting is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our CONSCIENCE and must be heeded or else we will not survive.
When you are tired you must HAVE that feeling and you must act upon it sensibly – you MUST rest like the trees and animals do. Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity—cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly—so cruel and meaningless—so utterly graceless—and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this. And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied—they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy.
So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat—learn to curl up and rest—feel your noble tiredness—learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow. I repeat: it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.
Yours sleepily, Mr. Curly xxx


For the love of technology

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.” Steve Jobs, Wall Street Journal, 1993

I’ve been thinking recently about the late Steve Jobs and his contributions to the world. Following his sad passing on October 5, much has been written on the subject of his legacy. So, I’d like to add my voice to the conversation.

I was born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s. The threat of nuclear war was very real to me during my childhood. It seemed all it would take is one press of a button and we would all be gone. At school, we read classics like 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Well, it was 1984 now and that brave new world was on its way.

It was a time before Microsoft, before the Internet, before mobile phones. We had the most basic computers in high school. Black screens with green text that you could program with simple commands. Enter ‘cat’ = show ‘meow’, or something to that effect.

For me, the 80s were all about – forgetting Madonna for a moment – the ‘greed is good’ ideology, the birth of the yuppie, and scientists mentioning climate change (or global warming as it was called then) for the very first time. I moved to Sydney in 1992 to work for Greenpeace and try to save the planet from capitalism. Technology seemed like a very scary thing. Like something I didn’t want. One day robots would take over the world. And ultimately us with them.

So, fast forward to 2011 and it is surprising to find that I can’t live without technology. I am excited to see where we take technology into the future. And robots? Love them.

What I believe Jobs contributed to my generation was to move the masses from a place of fearing technology to embracing it. And not just embracing it, but adoring it. It was a revolutionary shift. For me, Jobs changed technology from something sinister and evil into something I wanted. Very much. Like right now, if not sooner. And keep it coming, please.

When my service provider offered me the first iPhone in 2008, I initially said no thanks. The sales representative sounded shocked. So I rang my Generation Z son to check I’d made the right decision. “Do I want to upgrade to an iPhone?” I asked him. “Um yes, of course you do, is this a trick question?” he asked.

So I upgraded. And through this sweet little gadget, Jobs made me fall in love with technology. Now, I had used technology before in my work, of course, but I never loved Microsoft Office. I used it because I had to. But through the iPhone, I started to appreciate technology’s power, its beauty and its potential. The online world, especially social media, was suddenly much more fun.

As a writer, with a print background, I entered cyberspace with trepidation. But now I live in it. We can self publish and that’s amazing. We can interact and connect with our readers like never before. I can sit in a train and read a blog post by a writer on the other side of the world. I can edit my blog, share my posts and respond to your comments on my iPad. On the move and anywhere I choose. And it’s really only just begun.