Choosing a Diary……what’s the secret?


“Buy diary” it said on my to-do list.  Such a simple-sounding task, right?


My local stationery store dedicated one side of a long aisle to the mysterious process of diary-selection.  As I arrived to tackle this task, there was already one other young woman looking confused and tired in her quest for the perfect day planner.

“It’s a bit confusing, isn’t it?” I joked with the young woman.  She smiled broadly and started to laugh about it, “Oh my goodness yes.  How can you choose from so many?”

We exchanged anecdotes about how we would make our decisions, and then went about trying to choose a diary.

Naturally, all the colours I liked were only available in diaries that were too heavy, too big, too expensive, too something.

I was looking for a small, week-to-a-view diary, with a colourful cover, that weighed just a few hundred grams. Again – easy right?


More people arrived in the aisle – all looking for the perfect diary.  Men, woman, young, old, conservative, creative – which one would they choose, and how long would it take for them to choose it?

I felt that we could have created a “diary-buyer support group” right there and then.   We’d sit in a circle of chairs, sipping on water or green tea, looking worn out and hopeless, saying things like, “last year I thought I’d bought the perfect diary, but it turned out to be all wrong.  Too big, the font was too small….”

Or, “I thought a week-to-a-view would be enough, but I ended up scribbling all over the whole page just for one day.  So, in the end I just gave up and started scribbling on blank pages and pasting them in.”

Or, “You know, I feel like such a failure, because I bought a “day to a page” diary and then at the end of the year, so many of those pages were just blank.  I felt like I’d just had such a non-event of a year.”

Or, “I chose black for the colour, but it just kept disappearing into my handbag, and whenever I needed to refer to it, I’d spend ages digging around looking for it, looking so unprofessional and ultimately giving up and scribbling on my hand.”

Or, “The edges of the plastic cover were so sharp, I cut myself so many times, I ended up with blood on the pages, it was revolting looking back on all that dried blood on the paper.”

So, ultimately, I found my “perfect diary” – it was orange, week-to-a-view, spiral inside, but smooth covered, and less than $15.  I felt like such a champion!   I was leaving the diary aisle – in under 30 minutes!  I walked out, leaving four other people still staring at the selection of diaries, fingering the books, feeling the covers, comparing the prices.

I was out of there.

But, then when I got home, I realised – THERE WAS NO RIBBON.   I had failed in my quest for the ‘perfect’ diary.  Now I had to find a ribbon in the drawer – you know, the second kitchen drawer where all the “good stuff” is kept – and make my own.  I knew there was a reason I kept that piece of ribbon……

So, I’ve jotted some things in my diary, dutifully christening it and making 2017 “real” and active.

Now all I have to do is work out a way to use a paper diary in conjunction with an electronic phone diary.

Has anyone  mastered that yet?

I kidded myself last year that I would go big-time into the paper diary world but, really, who was I kidding.  There were too many blank pages as evidence that my experiment had failed.

So, this year I’ve downsized to a much smaller version and I hope that I can make it work.

I kind of like the ritual of diary-buying at the beginning of the year, and judging by the folk in the aisle with me, there are still a few of us who like it too.

I open my new shiny orange diary, full of hope and ideas for 2017 and I wish you all the best for your new year.

Don’t forget….if you want to make it happen, PUT IT IN YOUR DIARY.


Got a Minute to Lose?


As I left my mechanic’s workshop at 8.15am having dropped off my car for a service, I walked calmly across the driveway of the adjacent service station, wondering what I’d do next – sit at the local coffee shop and wait, or hike back up the hill to my house nearby.   Suddenly, I felt a swish of air behind me.

Turning  to see the source, a small silver hatchback whizzed impatiently by.  When I asked him, “what’s up with you?”, the grey-bearded middle-aged looked highly agitated and flipped me the bird out the window.

Clearly, the driver was offended at me for not walking faster and for impeding his hurried exit from the petrol station.  Very clearly, he had no respect for women and was yet another in a long line of male bullies encountered by me in the past few years, both in business and personal life.

I listened yesterday to Madonna’s acceptance speech as she was voted Billboard’s Woman of the Year for 2016.  It really was an emotional but extremely well-written and rehearsed outpouring of the hard yards so many women in the music industry have had to plough in order to reach and stay at the top of their game.   Bullying is rife in society – towards children, women and those perceived to have a lesser worth.

So, Mr Silver Hatchback felt it necessary to bully and insult me with his driving and his gesturing.  Off he raced to his job, leaving behind a person left wondering why his aggression levels were so high at 8.15am.  Mondayitis at its worst.

I crossed the road and sat at a café and read Sunday’s paper for an hour or so, made a telephone call to a lonely friend, and then made a business call as I walked up my hilly street.  I was determined to make today a day where I made time to ponder.  Not anything in particular.  Just ponder.

It seems pondering is not allowed or encouraged in this society.  I was sort of pondering as I walked across the petrol station driveway and look where that got me?   I guess I should have been marching purposefully towards my next goal.

But what do we miss in our non-ponderous march to the finish line?

I guess the Christmas season adds to people’s already chronic state of agitation in our modern, busy and overworked lives.  A trip to your local shopping centre will more than confirm that something bad happens to people’s brains around this time.  Add to this, the stultifying heat and humidity in our sub-tropical home of Brisbane, and you do find some fine examples of “going troppo”.

Last night I watched again the very funny 2004 movie Christmas with the Kranks  and my all-time favourite scene is when Jamie-Lee Curtis’ character, Mrs Krank, dives desperately for the very last tin of ham in the supermarket, competing for this ‘prize’ with another desperate shopper.  She fails spectacularly in her attempt, but eventually manages to secure another ham by begging another shopper to sell her their’s at an inflated price.  Sadly, in the car park she drops the ham and it rolls away onto the road where it is hideously splattered under the wheels of a lorry.  This is sometimes how we feel when we have spent a long time chasing something, all to see it come to nothing, or worse, end up in disaster or woe.

So, is the chase worth it?   Should we walk and ponder, rather than march and lurch and dive towards the object or outcome of our desire?

My resolution for 2017 is more pondering, less agitation.  I shall try each morning to read the newspaper, or catch up on weekend newspapers, rather than diving headlong into a full schedule of chores and “must-dos” in the life of a freelancer. For, as Kathleen Noonan points out in yesterday’s Sunday Mail, “reading offers you a space that is utterly yours”.

I am going to claim some  “utterly mine” space in 2017.  Heck, I might even play my grand piano for a half hour each day and brush up on those scales and favourite bits of Mozart and Beethoven.

How many of your favourite things have fallen by the wayside as you march towards your life goals?   Do you have any “utterly yours” space in your days?

Too many of us go through our days as if we have “no time to lose” whereas we have in fact lost the ability to use our precious time to nurture ourselves, which in turn makes us a better nurturer of others – our spouses, our children, our ageing parents, our colleagues, our gardens, our pets, and even strangers.

Make a point in 2016 to “amble” instead of walking briskly, stare out the bus window and “ponder” instead of reading your emails or picking the next tune on your ipod.  In fact, how about taking out the earbuds and actually talking to someone on the bus?  Talk about the weather, give someone a compliment about their shoes or dress or hair – a bit like the good old days.

The first step to detaching from your digital devices is to re-learn how to do “nothing”.  It’s harder than you’d imagine, but well worth the effort.

The good old days may have meant a lot of elbow grease washing clothes and scrubbing floors – but it did also allow for a bit of a yarn across the back fence, or down at the shop……  There was a bit more time to lose.

And that’s the time we need to find back.


Conversations – are we losing touch with our real world?


As I took the bus to the city last week, I saw three groups of elderly women chatting happily to each other.  Even though I was standing in the crowded bus, I was amused by them – smiling, laughing, regaling and just doing what comes naturally to women and, more specifically, people over the age of 50.

It was such a refreshing sight, amidst a sea of heads either looking down at their smartphones or staring blankly ahead with pods in their ears, lost in their own private musical world, oblivious to those around them.

There is usually one person reading a book, the good old-fashioned way.

Conversation as an art is still relevant today.  Successful business dealings require it, social events demand it, and life is a lot more interesting when the skill is engaged.

The bus ladies didn’t grow up tethered to any devices, other than perhaps the washing machine or stove, and viewed interaction with others as something to look forward to.  A natter across the fence, an exchange of pleasantries with the grocer, a cuppa after church, an animated conversation about the cut of meat best suited to that night’s menu – these are all mostly things of the past with domination of supermarkets and the decline of religious worship.

I saw how their eyes sparkled, these grey-haired elders – their genuine enjoyment of the moment and how central to their being was the art of conversation.  What would they make of the rest of the bus passengers, sitting silently or busily texting their conversations?

That brings us to the art of thumb-conversation.  Texting.  Messaging. I’m a bit old-school and text with my index finger – racing across the virtual keyboard much to the amusement of the younger generations.  It’s a dead giveaway of one’s age, no matter how young one might appear.  But, it struck me that the younger generations are still very busily engaged in conversation, in fact even more so, than their parents’ generation.   In fact, they are almost constantly in conversation, for better or for worse.

I’m also guilty of spending way too much time on social media and engaging in texting when I could call. But somehow, it’s become the norm. The desire “not to disturb” someone by actually calling and speaking to them.

When did speaking to someone become “disturbing” them?  And how much is too much texting?

Does this busy preoccupation with constant interaction leave any room for one’s own thoughts and feelings?    As much as putting one’s “two-bob’s worth” forward in a real conversation was sometimes a bit annoying, is the digital conversational world creating more angst in its participants because of the abundance of input from all directions?  All done so quietly…. But there in print, for you to read, re-read and, so often, misinterpret or be misinterpreted.

These ladies could speak to each other and make pretty clear what their viewpoint was, leaving no doubt at all.  The digital cohort, on the other hand, runs the gauntlet of constant misinterpretation, being held to ransom for a throwaway line, and the ultimate punishment, having their words shared in a public forum in order to mock, shame or embarrass.

I recall how happy I felt being watching those talking women……I saw humans doing what they do best.  Interacting face to face, sharing stories and passing the time with genial exchanges – a remnant of a slower time when engaging others in discussion was a real part of one’s day.

I believe that those little earphones are actually a blocking device to stop anyone talking to you.  Sitting next to an ear-phoned person one is not likely to ask them, “what do you think of the new development down on the corner of our street?”, and even if you got through, the reply would likely be, “oh, I haven’t noticed,” as their gaze returns to their MP3 playlist.

There’s another problem.  Does anyone actually look at their surroundings anymore?  I mean, REALLY look?  When not busy texting or scrolling through their music collection, is there time to notice the new trees that were planted on the median strip, the artwork in the public space, the shop that’s closed down, the old lady struggling to get off the bus, the person with tears in their eyes, the child about to step perilously close to the 3 lane roadway, the glorious sun reflected off the river, the spring blossoms peeking out from sleepy tree branches, the aroma of the rose garden in the dilapidated front yard of an ageing house, the birds pecking at the crumbs in the Maccas carpark, the lonely man desperately in need of a conversation, the great orb spider hanging in its spectacular dew-sprinkled web?

These and other things are what keeps me wanting to put down my smartphone when I’m out.  It doesn’t always work as I, too, have a busy life and want to utilize my time as best as I can.  But the feeling I get when I put it away and take the time to look around me at the people and things that make up this world, with all its imperfections, is still worth the effort.

These days I have to escape on camping trips to places with no phone connection in order to have real “digital detox” as they say.  Why is it we cannot simply switch the darned things off?

Next time you’re out, take a look around.  Who is sitting beside you?  If they are over 70 years of age, they will probably have a story to tell you that’s more interesting than any digital conversation you’re likely to have that day.