July 16, 2016

Kitchen Cabinet: For Those Living on The Edge...

We've been told to tighten our belts before. And we all saw the pre-election palava. Admittedly, my election drivel TV viewing highlight, was watching ABC's Kitchen Cabinet, and seeing what our privileged politicians are eating.

Nice seeing their table manners and over the table chit-chat. Some of it frank, some of it the usual political spin ...ad nauseum.

And initially was somewhat impressed with the latest episode, showing our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull showcasing his ability to cook a simple baked tomato pasta sauce ...almost like a real Italian masterchef!! ...without even slopping any of it onto his overtly pristine, white kitchen surfaces. All too white for my liking. Antonio Carluccio ...watch out! 

"Masterchef Malcolm Turnbull" must have a good, well-paid cleaner. As we do. Give me a break.

As someone with Italian genes, and in the know - on how to throw a spaghetti bolognaise together with my eyes shut ...was somewhat impressed with Masterchef Malcolm's cooking utensils and panache at placing those tomatoes so divinely in the baking tray, sprinkling on the cracked pepper, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. All fabulously, spiffingly good. I was practically taking notes !!...just like the usual suspects do on that Masterchef TV series.

And then Malcolm got out his moulin! Have never seen one of these before! Yes, have lead a sheltered life. That's when I thought ...damn you Malcolm. Poor people don't have access to moulins.

So dear reader ...here's where I come in as the poor man's Nigella Lawson. As an Italiana donna, can confirm that one does not need such a highfalutin cooking utensil to make an authentic, magnifico baked pasta sauce with panache.

In fact, one can also go totally carbon neutral in the kitchen ...except for the baking of course - and mash those post-baked tomatoes with an old fashioned thing called a manual hand-operated beater (as illustrated below). Can't find one at Ikea? Go to an op-shop.

Am totally over, cashed-up pollies ...swanning about their kitchens, showing off their moulins and so forth.

Tune in next time, for how to assemble opposition leader, Bill Shorten's pre-election salad rolls (as seen on Kitchen Cabinet.) A meal, much better and more accessible, for the cash-strapped constituent.

July 8, 2016

At the Movies ...

Post election fall-out has driven me to my local DVD man, to take my mind off too many depressing issues. I said: "Please give me a boxed set of anything!!" Same story when I visit my chemist and say, "Please just give me one of everything!"

My nuanced, oh so friendly DVD man, recommended BBC series, The Night Manager. Looked good, had that Doctor House in it. Quite like him. And, as an added extra, DVD man said it starred the new James Bond!

But I told him I don't want a new James Bond. I want the old one. Daniel Craig does it for me in a nutshell. He said, believe me, you will like this one. 

Couldn't they induce him to stay by offering him a few more million or some spare Aston Martins? So arriverderci Daniel Craig, and new forthcoming James Bond is ...Jonathan Pine. Not to be confused with Australian MP Christopher Pyne. 

Not the same. For a start, he is too skinny. Jonathan Pine that is. Looks like he needs a good feed. Fifth disappointment of the week. Would rather watch paint dry.

Ended up taking home Quirke, series about murder and intrigue set in a morgue.That should hit the spot. Nothing like murder, long-hidden secrets, hot-sex (potentially), and post-mortems, to soothe the soul on a wintry afternoon.

July 1, 2016

Work for The Dole & Other Misdemeanours: An Unemployment "Progress Report"

Well what can I say? So much has happened to the barefoot joblessa since my last post. There has of course been my foray into "working for the dole", my decision going forward to get my lips botoxed (I think it's win-win. Why can't JobActive provide vouchers for that?), my discovery of a new fairy godmother (with benefits) at the Job Network agency, my new expertise in subverting domestic plumbing fiascos, and so much more! 

Will back-track in forthcoming posts to give you blow by blow accounts, of most of the above drivel. Particularly regarding my new Job Network Fairy Godmother. Reader you will be amazed.

Meantime, Australian election excitement hovers.

And woo-hoo! ...last night I got a phone call from former Australian Prime Minister, John Winston Howard. Well it could've been worse. Might have been Scott Morrison! Boy do I have some things to say to him. And it does NOT regard the exchange of cooking recipes. Actually would like to get him and Michaelia Cash over to my place one afternoon for a "kitchen cabinet." Then they will learn something.

One thing I should say, is that John Winston Howard does have a fine telephone manner. Was fully convinced it was actually him! ....offering me a solar panel deal. He has a lovely, homely, local church pastor phone diction. And I was about to ask him if he had any job roles going anywhere around the traps ...when I realised it was a virtual John. 

A much more authentic, and convincing telephone election hard-sell, than the other guy that phoned earlier in the week. This one sounded like he'd been drinking too much red cordial with ice? ...or was being held at gun-point to get out his pre-election spiel ...before I put the phone down. Would rather listen to a solar panel vendor. 

So in recent days, the pressing issue of voting is top of mind. In other years, it's been a no-brainer. However, this year with election drivel, and choices as exciting as a gluten-free-vegan menu - I am totally bamboozled. Must remember to eat 40g of dark chocolate before entering poll booth.

And what have I learned in recent days?

Defiitely now know, not to toddle across to the facebook pages of key high profile types, to ask for a vox pop on who I should vote for. Did that a couple of days ago. BAD DECISION. Was lambasted, treated like a random ignorant trollop, and referred to as a "politically illiterate idiot" - by one extreme troll, masquerading as a politically nuanced man (and that was just from a misguided country cousin. Joking). 

Won't do that again. Why do some blokes behave so badly to women via the murky cyberphere that is Facebook? Is it because they are sexually frustrated, have had too many steroidal sprinkles on their Weeties, or what? Glad he resides in another country (and thus won't be bumping into him in Coles any time soon). But if he was a local, would love to seize the day, hunt him down and kidnap his cat (or any other wildlife hangin' about his place), and ask for a sizeable ransom, for the return of said cat (and behaving in such a despicable manner.) 

Clementine Ford, has many sensible ways of treating such prigs, and no doubt her new book "How To fight Like a Girl" is the one to read.

Meantime, as the freelance unemployee of the family, naturally offered to take my mother along to the pre-voting day polling booth, so she could vote early. Last minute hiccup, meant that the job had to be outsourced. Another bad decision ...resulting in mother doing a donkey vote. And now I feel it's all my fault. Ommmm.

Turns out, mother went along to do the early vote, with an alternative, assigned neighbour. But she didn't take her glasses. No problem there. Alas - apparently she discovered the writing on the senate ballot paper was so small, requiring a microscope to decipher, that mother returned home to tell me she had more than likely, as a result - successfully accomplished -  a donkey vote ...for the first time in sixty-six years! 

Sh*t happens. But at least the donkey party will be happy.

As for me, admittedly, I also stuffed up when filling out that bigger than Texas ballot sheet. Saw AA - thought it meant Acoholics Anonymous, and thought ...they'll do. But then noticed AA stood for Australian Shooters Party! Hell no. Big mistake. Must rectify. 

So I wandered over to one of those official matronly AEC employees (plum job) - who labelled me as having made a "spoilt vote" ...and she told me to stand in the "spoilt" queue. All ok ...but I was the only "spoilt person" in the queue. Felt like a total stupid. 

All turned out ok in the end.

But on my way out of the polling booths, my very politically literate dog, was most distressed when discovering they had not even got their barbecues turned on yet, for those democratically served sausages. Thus proving world has gone further mad.

Image: via flickr

June 22, 2016

Wanted: Special Request For Story & Post Submissions from Readers

Friends, Romans and fellow country women and men. I am needing a little time out and therefore some new, fresh content for the website. So please email your stories to: 50shadesofunemployment@gmail.com - or go via the "CONTACTS" tab above.

Every contribution to the blog, gives a new perspective. And makes us all feel less alone.

Thanks for your support,
& Best Wishes
From Tech Support Team.

June 3, 2016

Being told how to suck eggs, est très bon - when done in a French accent [Mutual Obligations Ep.1]

So there I was, attending the compulsory Job Services Australia Goal Setting and Interview training session, like the good compliant vegemite that I am. The duration was one and half days. However due to a scheduled vet check (for me and poodle features) I was exempt from most of day one.

By mid afternoon, with the dog’s issues put to one side (but not mine), I reluctantly go along to attend the job "etiquette" course, prepared to be told the bleeding obvious.  As a long-distance marathon, “mature” job seeker, I consider myself well-versed in the intricacies of: job hunting, resume writing, interview technique, grooming, and how to dress and tie up my shoelaces - in preparation for a job interview.

For what more, could the Job Services Australia agency instruct me on, other than perhaps some subtle ways of nudging potential employers ....to please just l-i-k-e me.

Here, I'm thinking along the lines of Olympic Games bid methods (on a microscale level of course) ...by offering - impossible to refuse incentives - to pernickity human resources gatekeepers, that guarantee getting me shortlisted and making interview success a done deal ...before my next gas bill please?

Of course, here I'm talking - cash bribes, sneaky extortion bids, or Belgian chocolate? And maybe - if I'm lucky enough to score an actual interview - I could knock their cynical little HR socks off, by emulating hospitality heavyweight, Martha Stewart, and presenting jaded interview panelists - up front - with a luscious fruit and cheese platter ...complete with an ice sculpture centrepiece! 

I can see it now. There's me, at the head of the table, and the interviewers seated on either side - with all care tossed aside. Copies of my CV and their boring question sheets - are all but forgotten - having been strewn across the floor, like discarded table napkins ...as they gorge themselves on the stupendous display, that lay before them - of cheeses, mountains of chocolate-coated berries, bananas, sliced papaya and melons. All provided by the appli-CAN'T ...that could! ...ME!


If only it was T-H-A-T simple, to cut through the red-tape and argy bargy of job interviews (at the certain age that I am) and gently influence finicky, time-pressured recruiters, to just give me the damn job! 

Enter Monsieur!

But oh the joy, when our “teacher” walked into the job centre "classroom" and introduced himself as a midlife French national. No kidding. And thank goodness for that. It most certainly changed la couleur of my day. Such a stroke of genius for Centrelink and Job Services Australia  to employ someone so ooh la la! to conduct the "Job Readiness Skills" session. After all, being told how to suck eggs - is so much more palatable - when delivered in a delectably mellifluous French accent.

I was the only attendee who’d recently gone to a job interview (last week). And so – just like in a primary school “show and tell” -  the darling monsieur asked me (mais moi?!) to describe l'expérience to the rest of the class.

Unfortunately though, there wasn’t much to tell ...as the interview panel had kept me waiting like Gandalf in reception, for more than half an hour. This gave me time to re-park my car (so glad about that), question the meaning of life, and consider whether I had enough time to pop out and get an emergency botox, blow-dry, butt lift, liposuction? ...or maybe une manucure Française? Plus complete a last minute - just-in-case - additional Certificate IV in Admin? Online of course!

Exit le stick insect . . .

It was just moments after helping a delivery man through the organization’s front entrance, with his overloaded trolley of boxes - that one of the interviewers finally emerged to farewell the previous candidate. However once I saw the tall, dangerously skinny, stiletto wearing, Megan Gale look-a-like - being ushered out – I knew already, that I didn’t have the job. Tough t*tties for me. Et excusez mon Français!

Moving forward, and undaunted by the circumstances stacked against me, I pitched my skills and “story” to the interview panel ...of just two - careful not to leave thumb imprints, or scratches on their uber polished, boardroom table. Don't we all SO appreciate a shiny high-gloss finish on a dull Melbourne day?

Of course, after they explained to me that the interview was going to be “more of a chat” than anything else, I was doubly sure le stick insect girl from Ipanema had got the role ...So that's why one of the interviewers, spent the entire time - with her eyes firmly glued to her laptop, whilst scrolling through her emails ...or was it eBay that she so keenly had her eyes on? ...or maybe Tinder?

But, they complimented me on my “terrific sense of humour” before earnestly pushing me out the door.



As for monsieur’s oh so ooh la la! job seeking tips. Listed here verbatim:

1. Try to communicate to the interviewer that you are glad to meet them - through your handshake (But I did do the handshake?)

2. Comment on the beautiful surroundings, great atmosphere, or splendid artworks

3. Never say no - or answer in the negative - to any question (Good point monsieur)

4. Be positive about all things and everyone (Even if an ex colleague was a flatulent axe-murderer - or had the potential to be one)

5. Don’t ever interrupt the interviewers - for any reason at all.

6. Take a lesson from well-mannered labradors, by always smiling, and maintaining a congenial empathetic attitude (That’s me! I know I've probably undertaken more remedial dog training sessions than the average French labraspoodle).

7. Instead of a heavy lunch – eat a chocolate bar – as apparently you burn off more fat that way (I love this lifestyle tip. But was that a hint monsieur?)

8. Makeup should look fresh and natural (But of course - I'm over false eyelashes anyway)

9. Don’t wear black - navy is better (But I love black? Can I mix the two monsieur?)

10. Shoes are often one of the first things that employers remember about an interviewee (Another excuse to shoe-shop, ma cherie monsieur

11. Leave nose, tongue and/or lip piercing bling at home (No disputes there monsieur)

12. Finally – when the interviewer says: “And now do you have any questions to ask?” – Only ask 2 questions – any more and you will probably bore them to death.

C’est la vie est bonne journée!


More Mutual Obligations with Monsieur [Mutual Obligations ep. 2]


You Used To Give Me Roses


The Trouble with Interviews

The Hazards of Faking It

Image: By Matthew Blank via flickr

April 26, 2016

In Praise of the Quiet Life

A quiet life sounds like an option that only the defeated would ever be inclined to praise. Our age is overwhelmingly alive to the benefits of active, dynamic, ‘noisy’ ways of living. If someone offered us a bigger salary for a job elsewhere, we’d move. If someone showed us a route to fame, we’d take it. If someone invited us to a party, we’d go. These seem like pure, unambiguous gains. Lauding a quiet life has some of the eccentricity of praising rain.

It’s hard for most of us to contemplate any potential in the idea because the defenders of quiet lives have tended to come from the most implausible sections of the community: slackers, hippies, the work-shy, the fired…; people who seem like they have never had a choice about how to arrange their affairs. A quiet life seems like something imposed upon them by their own ineptitude. It is a pitiable consolation prize.

And yet, when we examine matters closely, busy lives turn out to have certain strikingly high incidental costs that we are nevertheless collectively committed to ignoring. Visible success brings us up against the envy and competitiveness of strangers. We become plausible targets for disappointment and spite; it can seem like it may be our fault that certain others have not succeeded. Winning higher status makes us increasingly sensitive to its loss; we start to note every possible new snub. A slight decrease in sales, attention or adulation can feel like a catastrophe. Our health suffers. We fall prey to scared, paranoid thoughts; we see possible plots everywhere, and we may not be wrong. The threat of vindictive scandal haunts us. Alongside our privileges, we grow impoverished in curious ways. We have very limited control over our time.

We may be able to shut down a factory in India and our every word is listened to with trembling respect within the organisation, but what we absolutely cannot do is admit that we are also extremely tired and just want to spend the afternoon reading on the sofa. We can no longer express our more spontaneous, imaginative, vulnerable sides. Our words are so consequential, we have to be guarded at all times; others are looking to us for guidance and authority. Along the way, we grow strangers to those who love us outside of our wealth and status – while depending ever more on the fickle attention of those for whom we are our achievements alone. Our children see ever less of us. Our spouses grow bitter. We may own the wealth of continents; but it has been ten years at least since we last had the chance to do nothing for a day.


The most famous cultural figure in the history of the West was very interested in the benefits that can attend quiet lives. In Mark 6: 8-9, Jesus tells his disciples ‘to take nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belts – but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.’ Christianity opens up vital space in our imaginations by making a distinction between two kinds of poverty: what it terms voluntary poverty on the one hand and involuntary poverty on the other. We are at this point in history so deeply fixated on the idea that poverty must always be involuntary and therefore the result of lack of talent and indigence, we can’t even imagine that it might be the result of an intelligent and skilled person’s free choice based on a rational evaluation of costs and benefits. It might sincerely be possible for someone to decide not to take the better paid job, not to publish another book, not to seek high office – and to do so not because they had no chance, but because – having surveyed the externalities involved – they chose not to fight for them.

One of the central moments in Christian history came in 1204 when a wealthy young man we know today as St Francis of Assisi willingly renounced his worldly goods, of which he had quite a few (a couple of houses, a farm and a ship at least). He did so not through any external compulsion. He just felt they would interfere with other things he really wanted rather more of: a chance to contemplate Jesus’s teachings, to honour the creator of the earth, to admire the flowers and the trees – and to help the poorest in society. 

He did have other options. St Francis of Assisi renounces worldly goods, painting attributed to Giotto

Chinese culture has also been reverent towards the yinshi (recluse), someone who chooses to leave behind the busy political and commercial world and live more simply, usually up the side of a mountain – in a hut. The tradition begins in the 4th century AD, when a high-ranking government official named Tao Yuanming surrendered his position at court and moved to the countryside to farm the land, make wine, and write. In his poem, ‘On Drinking Wine’, he recounts the riches that poverty have brought him:

Plucking chrysanthemums from the eastern hedge
I gaze into the distance at the southern mountain.
The mountain air is refreshing at sunset
As the flocking birds are returning home.
In such things we find true meaning,
But when I try to explain, I can’t find the words.

                                         Tao Yuanming taking time to smell flowers – by Chen Hongshou (1598-1652)

Portraits of Tao Yuanming became a major theme in Chinese art and literature. His hut near Mount Lushan (‘Hut Mountain’) gave others encouragement to see the advantages of cheaper, simpler dwellings. A number of poets of the Tang dynasty went through periods of seclusion. Bai Juyi (772-846) wrote a poem lovingly describing the hut he’d bought himself on the edge of a forest, listing its plain and natural materials (a thatched roof with ‘stone steps, cassia pillars, and a fence of plaited bamboo’). The poet Du Fu, living in Chengdu in the Sichuan province, wrote a poem titled ‘My Thatched Hut Ruined by the Autumn Wind’. It wasn’t a lament, more a celebration of the freedom that came with living so simply, a storm might blow over your house.

Reconstruction of Du Fu’s hut at Chengdu

There are for many of us, plenty of options to take up certain career paths that carry high prestige with them. We could have something deeply impressive to answer those who ask us what we do. But this does not necessarily mean we must or should follow these possibilities. 

When we come to know the true price some careers exact, we may slowly realise we are not willing to pay for the ensuing envy, fear, deceit and anxiety. Our days are limited on the earth. We may – for the sake of true riches – willingly, and with no loss of dignity, opt to become a little poorer and more obscure.

Taken from The Book of Life -

© The Book of Life