September 16, 2016

The Ploughman's & The Plebiscite...





This week in Australia, the populace is encountering, all the argy bargy of whether to go the way of the same-sex marriage plebiscite, or not. Just spelling the damn word has been an issue for me. And if it wasn't for Labour MP Tania Pliberseck, I may never have got my tongue around the syllables. And spell-check isn't helping. I digress.

The Plebiscite and the Ploughman

And on that topic... at the last count and just this morning I have received in my newsfeed, a delightful selfie of Opposition leader Bill Shorten with the darling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau...who we all know can do no wrong. And he even wears brown shoes!...and those tired of my drivel can always read the brown shoe backstory here.. 

Alas, earlier tuned into our 24 hour news, and was delighted to see opposition Labour leader, Bill Shorten succinctly put in his 50 cents worth to the masses about what he thinks of the plebiscite bill. An issue that ABC news reported recently as becoming the proverbial political hot potato. And an expensive one at that, costing about $160 million. You can buy many a potato at that price (meantime welfare budget cuts have gone through while everyone was sleeping)... must make mental note to self about potatoes...going forward. Watch this space for recipes where the potato is the jewel in the crown (in my kitchen anyway).

Bread

So returning to the theme of cookery for those on the breadline, here's hoping I am not boring too many people with more recipes where bread is the key factor. But since our government leaders are the only ones eating cake, and won't share it with us.... even the crumbs (or fake icing) - cannot hold myself back from adding this one, since I have fond memories of devouring many a Ploughman's Lunch, back in the day, in the Queen's own country.

I discovered them when travelling through country England, particularly across the Lakes District.  Just the words Ploughman's Lunch, conjures up images of lazy lunches, sitting outside with friends, in a beer garden of an old English country pub (when not raining). Nothing like an English pub. And along with the Ploughman's Lunch, there's something so comforting about English pub interiors... I know it's the combination of plush earthy velvet furnishings, some locally acquired mounted brick-a-brack, here and there, and all the little lamps about the place. And not a gaming machine - or the sound of one - in sight. In fact I think you may have to cross a geographic border for that.

The Ploughman's, is one of the most famous of pub lunches - so simple and yet so satisfying, especially if taken with a pint of real ale or cider!

History

The specific term "ploughman's lunch" is believed to date no further back than the 1950s, when the Cheese Bureau (a marketing body affiliated to the J. Walter Thompson ad agency) began promoting the meal in pubs as a way to increase the sales of cheese, which had recently ceased to be rationed. Its popularity increased as the Milk Marketing Board promoted the meal nationally throughout the 1960s.

Going back further however, throughout the centuries, agricultural workers of England, would take their lunch out to the fields with them; this usually consisted of bread and cheese with ale or cider - a perfect combination. It's easy to prepare and should consist of at least the following: crusty bread and butter; a selection of English cheeses; pickled onions; chutney and pickles. This also makes excellent picnic food, and is easy to pack and transport. So it's one way of eating out, without breaking the budget.




Ingredients ideas list

  • crusty bread - such as pane di casa loaf, pasta dura, large crusty bread rolls or a baguette
  • 8 ounces mature farmhouse cheddar cheese or Stilton or Cambembert is great.  In fact, just grab any cheese that's easy to get your hands on. Readers may know I love Bonconcini... tastes like it's made from the milk of the gods.
  • Mayonnaise
  • Boiled eggs & avocado (optional)
  • Slices of ham or prosciutto - or both. And some nice hot salami could go down well.
  • Or any meat left-overs you may have about the house. Turkey would be perfect.
  • Include a jar of pickled onions, relish, or any kind of tasty chutney... to dollop onto the cold meats and cheeses. 
  • Plus cranberry sauce which is particularly nice to have with the turkey, ham & cheeses
  • Marinated olives would be a good addition, along with fresh basil leaves, and marinated capsicum if you happen to have any of those on hand. Another continental addition would be marinated eggplant. Yumm.
  • Olive oil to drizzle

So the idea of the Ploughman's lunch is to serve the above items casually on a platter. Throw formality out the door. People can choose items they wish to assemble - with selected breads, chutneys, relishes and so forth. 

Most important, serve with a nice beer, ale, apple juice, or cider.

Ideal to serve outside in the fresh air, with the dog at your feet, and ideally beautiful green, lush, bucolic surroundings. However, if a leafy pasture is out of reach... just throw the lot on the kitchen table, or a large coffee table, or ottoman - and dig in.













Useful links

Explained: Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite (ABC News.com)

Top 10: Lake District Best Pubs and Inns

Why Australian Marriage Equality Org. Opposes Same Sex Plebiscite

20 better things to spend $160 million than the marriage equality plebiscite







September 14, 2016

Pesto and Egg Baguette Sandwich






One of my favorite lunches while living in Paris was the simple baguette sandwich that any corner bakery carried. Actually, the living in Paris bit is absolute rubbish...but it got you in didn't it?  Was only in fact there, long enough to visit and be enthralled by everything at the George's Pompidou Centre, check out my doppelganger - Mona Lisa in the Louvre... Plus recall seeing one or two impressionist exhibitions. To be honest, do recall camping somewhere outside Paris. And the rest is a delicious blur.

So really, to be honest, have done most of my recent baguette eating in local Parisianesque cafe's... Down Under. And do have one of these places in mind in Malvern (Melbourne suburb), where the baguettes and fillings were out of this world and didn't require a two week stay in the Paris capital. More convenient. And avoids hassle of going through customs, learning French nouns and so forth. You just have to dodge the trams though and avoid getting a parking ticket. This particular eatery did something with their baguette filling that I could never nail. Whether it's some secret mayonnaise recipe, or a special oil, I do not know. A mystery.

That said, was re-introduced - more recently - to baguettes in Melbourne during Job Readiness classes, conducted by a tres magnifique French National Job Skills-Readiness Tutor.  Ooh la la! I digress.




via flickr



Making One's Own Baguette Sandwich

Unlike overstuffed American sandwiches, these usually only have butter and thin layers of ham and cheese. The baguette holding it all together is the key here — it has to be fresh, with a crispy outside and fluffy interior. Here's my latest favourite version; it can be eaten for either breakfast, dinner or lunch! Perfect for the plein air picnic.

This baguette sandwich is a fun little twist on egg salad. I slather on a creamy spread made of equal parts mayonnaise and basil pesto, then shingle hard-boiled egg slices right on top. If you haven't quite mastered boiling eggs, now's the time to practice so you get firm whites and perfectly cooked yolks.

The beauty of hard-boiled eggs is that they're portable and packed full of filling protein, and can be made up to a few days ahead. If you bring the cooked eggs and mayo-pesto mixture to work with you - or take along in a picnic basket - all you have to do is pick up a fresh baguette en route and you're all set! This sandwich also makes for a breakfast that's worth waking up to. 


Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients

1 (6-inch) piece of French baguette
1 tablespoon pesto - link to easy recipe here
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 hard-boiled large egg

Sea salt & cracked pepper - sprinkle


Method

Using a serrated knife, split the baguette in half lengthwise. Toast the baguette if desired (recommended if the baguette isn't fresh).

Mix the pesto and mayonnaise together in a small bowl and spread onto both cut sides of the baguette. Slice the egg crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces, then lay the slices on the bottom half of the baguette, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and salt.using.

Top with the other half of the baguette and serve. 

For gardening enthusiasts who'd like to explore the self-sufficient good life and grow their own tomatoes and basil... click here for the lowdown.

Alternatives

Of course, there are many other fillings. An all time favourite... to this day is an Italian inspired baguette filling of sliced bocconcini cheese, sliced tomato, fresh basil leaves - drizzled over with a good extra virgin olive oil. Yes definitely my baguette of choice. In fact the one thing I would want on a desert island, along with James Bond, is a supply of bocconcini cheese, some pesto plants, tomatoes and bread.



via flickr




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Photo via flickr

September 12, 2016

French Toast: Another Eggy Recipe...




French toast, also known as eggy bread, German toast, gypsy toast, poor knights (of Windsor), or Spanish toast - is a dish made of bread soaked in beaten eggs and then pan fried.

Fun Fact

And Wikipedia tells me, that there's a band called French Toast, originating from Washington DC, USA.


Back Story

The earliest known historical reference to French Toast is in the Apicius, a collection of Latin recipes dating to the 4th or 5th century; the recipe mentions soaking in milk, but not egg, and gives it no special name, just aliter dulcia "another sweet dish".

The dish was widely known in medieval Europe. For example, where it was often served with game birds and meats. 

The usual French name is pain perdu "lost bread", as it is a way to reclaim stale or otherwise "lost" bread. Making it très bon for doleful living. It may also be called pain doré "golden bread". The term pain perdu was formerly used metaphorically to mean sunk costs.

There are fifteenth-century English recipes for pain perdu.


Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 8 thick slices of 2-day-old bread (better if slightly stale)
  • Butter (can substitute with vegetable oil)
  • Maple syrup

Optional
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
  • Fresh berries
  • Other stewed fruits: apple, pear...perhaps even banana.
  • Dust with icing sugar, or sweetner alternative

Method

1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Stir in the orange zest. Whisk the mixture until well blended and pour into a shallow bowl, wide enough to place a slice of the bread you will be using.

2.  Melt some butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place each slice of bread into the milk egg mixture, allowing the bread to soak in some of it. Shake off the excess, and place the bread slices onto the hot skillet.

3.  Fry the French toast until browned on one side, then flip and brown the other side.
4.  Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, and if available, fresh berries (or other fruits).
5.  Some may like to top with cream. Mmmm.


via flickr




  • Of course, a simple version can be made without the fruit.
  • For a standard non-sweet version, served solo or with a salad, bacon etc., follow the above recipe, omitting cinnamon, maple syrup, and so forth. 










Image via flickr

September 2, 2016

Austerity Gardening Tips [With Patty O’Door]





If you're on the dole and struggling to feed yourself or add a bit of fresh flavour to a meal, then being able to grow some herbs or veggies is a great way to save a few pennies.

I’m fortunate because I’m living in a house with plenty of space for a garden. Sometimes though, chucking stuff straight into the soil doesn’t work, and I have better success with pots. Except when growing tomatoes.

The best way I’ve found for growing tomatoes (and I prefer the cherry ones), is by placing an over ripe cherry tomato straight into the soil, in no time at all you’ll have seedlings. Last season I didn’t even bother to stake them, I just let them sprawl over the ground and I called them ‘wild tomatoes’. You do have a bit of a problem with crawling insects getting to some of them, but the rain was the worst for me, the plants sucked up all the water and the tomatoes split or went spongy.

I always get way too many seedlings. And rather than getting rid of them, I wanted to share them about the neighbourhood. But I needed to find a way to get cheap seedling pots and I didn’t want to spend any money. So I did some research and found a great idea that uses something that we all have in the home, and you recycle at the same time. Cardboard toilet roll inserts, yes I know, who would’ve thought!

I’ve read that you can transfer the seedlings straight into the ground as the cardboard breaks down naturally in the soil, and it also protects the roots from insects etc. I had no trouble getting the seeds to grow in the cardboard pots. They’re fun to make too.

So here’s how you make them.

You take a cardboard toilet roll and you make four creases. Just flatten it until you get two creases and then push it out and flatten it again on the other side until you have four creases. You next take a pair of scissors and make very small cuts into the creases.

These are going to be tabs that you will fold over each other, much like the bottom of a cardboard box. You don’t want your cuts to be too big, as you won’t be able to overlap the flaps. It usually takes a couple of goes to get this right, especially the folding, I keep forgetting which overlaps which. But don’t worry! when you work it out it’s easy and it’s quite therapeutic. You’ll need a plastic container with sides high enough for the all the little cardboard pots to stand in. Once you’ve finished just fill them up with soil, place a seed in each one and water.

You’ll have seedlings in no time.


















September 1, 2016

J.K. Rowling: I'll Have What You're Having [By Claire Bell]





Who is the most charismatic person you know?  Chances are it’s a celebrity  because we associate charisma with the rich and famous – those stellar creatures with shiny hair who live charmed lives in splendid mansions with fluffy dogs. They captivate us with their beauty, melt us with their charm and illuminate a room with the glitz of a supernova.

Charismatic people have a remarkable ability to make us feel fabulous.  In conversation with them we feel valued and listened to and find ourselves the most interesting person in the world – at least for as long as they’re talking with us.

People who’ve met J K Rowling say she’s charismatic. Surely such sparkle is innate, you say, conferred at conception by a charisma gene or the largesse of a capricious god. More likely, her appeal is a skillful blend of body language and a healthy internal world that, according to charisma coach Olivia Fox Cabane, we can all develop.

Charisma is more science than magic, it seems, and JK left all the wizardry to Hogwarts.

Olivia Cabane narrows charisma down to three core elements:
  • Power:  Our ability to influence the world and help others
  • Warmth: Our degree of care, concern and goodwill towards others, and
  • Presence: Are we really listening?  People know instantly if we’ve drifted off by the tiniest delay in our response time.

Cabane emphasizes the need for these core elements to be supported by a healthy mental state whereby we effectively manage our thoughts and emotions. Her wonderful book The Charisma Myth outlines how to develop a healthy internal world.  You may like to check it out.

In the meantime, here are a few of her instant charisma boosts:
  • Pause for two full seconds before you speak.  This gives your reply gravitas and shows you’re taking in what the other person says.
  • Focus on your breath while someone speaks – you will stay focused and they will instantly sense your engagement.
  • No fidgeting while someone is speaking with you – an instant charisma fail.
  • Reduce  how quickly and how often you nod

I’ve been experimenting with these charisma boosts and there’s been a shift. At first, it felt awkward and stilted, especially waiting a little before responding. However, pausing for a full two seconds –  strange at first –  allows a more considered response and permits space between their words and mine. Also, my carnival clown nodding is less frequent and slower.  This simple body language change has added more focus to my interactions – literally – as all that head nodding encourages a subtle physical discomfort as well as causing the other person’s face to bob up and down in my line of vision.  Returning to my breath while listening to people speak has also been useful as it brings my mind right back to the person before me.

Working on your own charisma is revealing and fun as well as adding to your inspirational and persuasive capacity. Additionally, it will leave you a better person – you will listen more effectively, find people more interesting and increase your capacity to contribute fearlessly to the world.

Try experimenting with Cabane’s instant charisma boosts for a few days and see what happens.

I’m having what you’re having, JK.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR










Claire Bell  is a yoga teacher and writer.
You can find Claire's book "Stone Age Secrets For Mind And Body" at Amazon.com

For information about Claire Bell's Yoga classes, go to her website at http://clairesgentleyoga.com/

Other articles by Claire, can be found at Midlifexpress.com

This article originally appears on Midlifexpress.com




August 26, 2016

Keeping Up Appearances: Austerity Chic




Australia's Federal government treasurer, Scott Morrison's unsurprising current rhetoric, about the "tax-haves" and "tax-nots" has made me quite jittery ...when added to other domestic matters.

So naturally have consulted one or two "gurus", and they and the universe are telling me, "I must get thee to a nunnery." Well convent actually - for a retreat. Which is all great. But there is a waiting list for the recommended one... that apparently takes in "people like me" at a special discounted rate! Which excites me. However, this convent (like many I presume), doesn't take dogs. And I have a dog. Subsequently, the dog is not excited about the convent idea.

Plus regarding said convent, I just know - however wonderful it all sounds - that after 24 hours they will - regardless - throw me out. Yes, like Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music...they will no doubt be glad to see the back of me, when they catch me:

1) Singing in the abbey (as if auditioning on The Voice),
2) Being messy,
3) Sneaking into the kitchen at night like Nigella Lawson (looking for mousse),
4) Droning on like Woody Allen's Cate Blanchett character, in Blue Jasmine, 
5) Wanting to go home to ensure the dog hasn't caught an Uber back to the RSPCA,
6) Wanting to re-arrange convent furniture, 
7) And (like Maria Von Trapp), re-styling everyone's outfits from the curtains. As you do.

In fact now that I think about it, convent life could ultimately end up being worse than having afternoon tea at Mrs Bucket's house in that BBC TV series. Or to be more precise, worse than Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events series - and more diabolical than the series of unfortunate events that got me there, and to writing this blog in the first place!




Plus dear reader, what does one wear to a convent?

I do quite like the convent idea... But. Yes there's always a BUT. Really, to be honest, my abode is already practically a convent. You see it's hard enough, to get even a date these days... let alone a job Scott Morrison! You should try it on Newstart...and the rest. 

Although the other day, did get inundated with "Facebook Friend" requests. Actually, that's an understatement. It was bombardment. Relentless. Most from men. Some topless. I know?... Topless male profile shots. What's that about? Didn't "friend" them. Became quite choosy. Then I could take no more! And ditched them all. Bet that doesn't go on in the convent. Or maybe it does? So perhaps the convent's the place?

Jobs?

And don't talk to me Michaelia Cashed-Up, about the absolutely fabulous Job Network (aka JobActive) resources. Now there, I might find a date. Or at least someone on deck to do my hair (semi-up-do-style, plus smokey-eye make-up!)...so I found recently. But sadly, not a job.

Yes... was somewhat impressed by the plateau of skills of one particularly outstanding Job Network agency staff member. They need more like him in the business. I digress.

Ok, will tell. His name was Vidal... and he's clearly more your Vidal Sassoon kind of guy, than say, Vidal Castro.

Every Job Network "client" needs Vidal as their job seeking go-to person... In contrast to some of the others I've encountered. Except for Monsieur, of course. Now he was more than outstanding. Alas he has moved on to other pastures. And I haven't seen him since that day in the lift.

Housekeeping

But am happy to do what the universe wants. So moving forward, should I go with the flow of the convent idea... I still need to get my own convent-abode in order, before I pack my overnight bag.

In other words, I think I need my own Captain Von Trapp, Stubing, or one of those footmen or ladies helper people - from Downton Abbey... to sort through things, before I head for the hills with The Sound of Music theme song ringing in my ears.

Actually, I don't have a guitar, but do have a Zither and the sheet music for playing Edelweiss. So that should practically put my foot halfway through the convent door (with a further discount). Must start practicing. In fact, already know Amazing Grace, which I think makes me a definite shoe-in. So glad now that I didn't pawn the Zither the other day, in order to buy some protein from the Coles next door. Such is life.

Guidance and motivation

Now for home styling inspiration, I am keen to toddle along to Esther Stewart's current (Heide Museum) exhibition aptly titled,  "How to Decorate a Dump" .

Closes 11 September 2016. And free entry. Great! Free entertainment. Have book marked on next week's go-to-list. Oh wait!.. says it's free for members. Will go anyway, as I think I need to get out more.

In How to Decorate a Dump, Stewart apparently presents a colourful, three-dimensional diorama, that continues her enquiry into the aesthetics and ethos of DIY home improvements.

Doleful living backstory

Interestingly, the exhibition's title is borrowed from a 1983 book written by New York decorator Philip Almeida.

Stewart’s interest in 1970s and 1980s DIY home-renovation manuals, stems from a fascination with what she calls ‘the utopian idea of domesticity’, the desire to create a personalised haven, even when resources are limited and reality falls short of our dreams. Making it the perfect place to visit for those whose only option is uber-austerity-domestic chic.

Such concerns are present in the titles of paintings like the doleful I Was Hoping for More (2016), or the more upbeat, Tacky Can Be Chic (2016). The latter a catch-phrase borrowed from Almeida’s manual.

Idealised models for living; embodied in floor-plans, flat-pack kit or display homes, even dolls houses, pop-up books and theatre sets - also provide source material for Stewart’s work.

Drawing on these ideas and uniting her sculptural and painting practices, How to Decorate a Dump astutely explores decorative vocabularies and the nostalgic fetishising of olden-day styles. As witnessed by what's hot in op-shops, and selling like freshly steamed dim-sims on e-Bay. In fact, on that topic, cannot believe what I saw for sale as a work of art - the other day. This piece described as "exquisitely hand-made" was no different to the stuff I once concocted in my Year 10 sewing class. I digress with more drivel once again.

Returning to the convent

And back at my "ranch" - in case things get out of hand, and the convent people come to take me away - I am now naturally in the middle of tidying up the palace. What! Did I say palace? I mean "place". So moving forward dear reader, I am now in full-beast, clean-up mode, with the philosophical thought and intent being: "Tidy house, tidy mind" (positives? Could lead to gainful employment).

Ulterior motive, however, is to find my mobile phone. Yes, in recent days have lost my phone! And, "What fresh hell is that!?" Said Dorothy Parker (long before the invention of the mobile phone). To be honest, the phone was only $19. Bargain. But I miss it...for various reasons. But won't go into detail.

Poetry amidst chaos

Dorothy Parker also wrote this poem, which I came across this morning as I sifted through the junk and household squalor of one of Morrison's "tax-not" unemployed people. Title quite appropriate really, plus it serves as a good guide regarding: what NOT to put on the resume when forwarding one's endless applications... 




And yes dear reader, as a bookist (aka librarian), somewhere on my shelves, I naturally happen to have the Parker biography, titled: "You Might As Well Live" - being the last line of the above poem (if you weren't paying attention).

Or perhaps the book is in the garage?...with my mobile phone? (Regardless, a great read).

And I need that very book, because it contains another apt quote of hers on how she arranged her massive home library. Which, in my big clean up to find my phone and prepare for the convent, now involves finding that book. Since it contained Parker's unique, no-nonsense book storage "classification system"...which I say beats the Library Of Congress system any day.

Yes, I am coming out of the closet, as a librarian who cannot even find a book in her own house. Disgusting. No wonder I can't get a job.

Alas will, from memory - paraphrase Dorothy's cataloguing system. Distinctly recall Parker stating that she, "Tried Dewey but found that too complicated. Tried colour ...Then alphabetizing by title. And found that also a waste of time...So came to conclusion that the best arrangement was organising books in two distinct categories, with the first being: Crap, and second - everything else in between."

And so it went... books that were "crap" were shelved on one side of her home library, and "everything else" - was shelved on the other side.

One day I will find the book... re-read and get exact quote.

And that's my household tip for the day.

And so ends my doleful living, austerity chic missive.

Mobile phone remains lost in space though.








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August 24, 2016

Incarceration Is The New Black: The Gang's All Here! [By Guest writer, Monica]




Well we're all here, except for the "head on the desk" girl. I've discovered that there is an earlier group in the day, and she may well be in that group. We've also got one of the participants from that group in our later group today.

Given we are all here, I suspect that the role-plays about job interviews are going to happen today. A couple of people scuttle in late and are promptly berated for that, even though they are coming by public transport - and it's likely that buses, trains etc were full, and or didn't stop or, our incarceree's couldn't find a place on the transport.

But first I want to talk about politics and poverty.

Last week there was a photo - circulating in the media - of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, handing out $5.00 to a homeless man . In one hand the Prime Minister had a $5.00 dollar note, in the other hand, was a wad of cash.

There was a bit of a firestorm on social media sites with messages that ranged from..."leave the man alone”....to: ”It's his money he can do what he likes.”

And then there were those that pointed out the PM's stinginess, given he had so much money tucked away with the other hand. The Prime Minster defended his actions saying he felt sorry for the guy.

The more complex, and really the most important issued, is that giving $5.00 to a man will feed him only for one meal. Give him well funded access to services, that help him get his life back on track, and he will be able to feed himself for the rest of his life.

The facts the Prime Minister is not sorry about - are that his government has cut funding to a range of homeless support groups and other social services - which this homeless person needs, in order to improve his situation. His government has also created one of the most punitive welfare policies this country has seen in decades: forcing people off payments, and creating the very situation that this person finds themselves in.

Five dollars just doesn't cut it.

The first order of business for the government when it resumes, is to remove $4.00 a week from all new welfare recipients, the unemployed, and other pensioners alike.

It's claimed that the 'carbon tax energy supplement' is no longer needed because the carbon tax has been removed. However, the much touted argument by the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, that energy prices would fall, hasn't happened. In fact it's the opposite.

Others say the real reason for the cut is to help pay for the NDIS. Taking $4.00 away from people who really desperately need it and giving $4.00 dollars to people who earn $80,000 or more, and don't really desperately need it, is indefensible. It also contradicts the Minister for Social Services argument that welfare needs to be sustainable for future generations.

So I sit and wonder what's in store for us in the group in our forth week. The program facilitator leaves the room. And as she's scurrying away to get supplies, says we are going to play a game. I mutter something under my breath that rhymes with 'cheeses', to which one participant overhears and repeats what I said ...and laughs.

The facilitator enters the room and takes her seat handing out pieces of paper and pens and pencils. We are asked a series of questions about each participant in the group, most of whom we don't know very well. Questions like: Who likes chocolate? Who likes pets? Name each of the participants? And so on and so forth. 

We then have a group discussion about each of these questions, and who got them right.

We're then asked to score our answers but nobody had been writing down points, because we weren't asked too.

Apparently our scores are supposed to reveal great insights into our listening skills. If we're never given the opportunity to get to know our participants, not even introductions or name tags how the hell are we suppose to answer those questions?

I half expect to be asked what star sign we each are ...and what that reveals about our barriers to employment. We're next asked to draw: a cube, a circle, and place a dot inside it. Plus a cylinder. 

These again are supposed to reveal our listening skills and attention to detail. We are next asked to draw a picture. And we are then quickly asked to hand the drawing to the person next to us, and add to the picture. The only thing any of this reveals is a waste of our time and energy. And a waste of the large sums of tax payer money going to these organisations. Not to mention revealing that the young man sitting next to me, is becoming more irritable by the moment ...and I half expect him to blow a head gasket.

After irritating most of the participants for at least an hour, the next task was for us, is to do role plays for interviews. This would be ok, if it was actually about a role play for an interview. But what it was about was trying to negotiate with a bank employer in giving you a stool in which to sit on if you were employed. It was pointless and irrelevant. 

Mr Double Masters in the group, then went on a monologue about how he has employed people in positions where they have to stand. He talked about most of the customer service roles in supermarket chains providing the check out chicks with carpet on which to stand on account of their varicose veins. How lovely and caring of him. On and on he went about running his own business and blah! Blah! Blah! ...until our case manager said, “Enough about you.”

The best was saved for last. We were going to learn about 'work place culture'. I remember in my first or second session, I answered a question about work place culture, and was promptly told that I could be seen to be not politically correct.

Unfortunately what the case manager had confused this with was 'cross cultural differences in the work place' - which is something different again. And that was what this part of the session was about. After some rather interesting and useful information on different cultural customs, we were asked to watch a video on the computer.

After asking for pass words to access the computer, we were given a long lengthy internet address to type into the search engines location. Nobody was having any success and really the best way to do it was bring up the search engine and type in youtube and then crosscultural into the youtube location. 

Someone managed to find the video, only because it was left in the search history from a previous participant, in a previous group. And if we got half a minute into it, our computer would frustratingly go into timed out mode, and would go onto the next video in the session ...which was totally irrelevant.

End of session thank the lord and cheeses.