Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ranty McRanterson

A few days ago I threw down my headset and said aloud to my workmates that I have no idea why I work in customer service any more. Because people just GIVE ME THE SHITS.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, or whether I have just had too many years in this industry, but it seems to me that people are getting ruder. I feel like I’m a complete whinger every day when I say to my collegues how much I hate impoliteness. And I think I have blogged before about my incredulity at the way that business owners speak to other businesses. Not even a skerrick of professionalism sometimes. I’ve heard grown men resort to name-calling when they get upset about something.

Here’s how a typical phone conversation goes at my work these days. It should demonstrate why my “Urge to Kill” meter is constantly rising.

Me: Thank-you for calling X Company Accounts, you’re speaking w-
Them: Yeah you sent me an invoice.
Me: Ok do you have a query about it or are you wanting to p-
Them: Yeah you’ve charged me the wrong amount. I’m not paying this.
Me: May I have you account number pl-
Them: 123456789 (delivered at machine gun rapid pace) and I want this fixed now.
Me: Can you please repeat that numb-
Them: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 (delivered slowly, as if speaking to a child)
Me: Thank you, what I’m going to do is put you through to your account manag-
Them: Ok I’ll wait but it better not be long.
Me: (pause) The person you need to speak to is on the phone at the moment, would you like to hold for them or would you pref-
Them: Yes
Me: So would you like to hold for them or prefer a ret-
Them: Yes I will
Me: So which of those two options do you choose?
Them: What options?
Me: Hold OR a return call.
Them: Hold! Are you deaf?

Can you see how frustrating it is? I literally cannot finish a sentence. I’m CONSTANTLY interrupted and by people who NEVER introduce themselves. I get maybe one call a day where the person gets all three magical introduction points right – “Hello my name is X and I’m calling from Y about Z”.

So now when I’m interrupted on the phone I just keep talking. I finish the sentence I was saying, over the top of the customer if they are waffling on. Call me stubborn or bull-headed or just stupid, but I vainly hope this makes the person realize just how rude they are being.

The other work thing that irks me lately is the stupid names. As in, the stupid names people have and the dumb things they name their businesses. This morning I spoke to a lady named Petal. I made her spell it for me, just in case I was hearing incorrectly (whenever people do actually bother to introduce themselves it sounds like “Yeah this is Krihvoznmrew… “ because they MUMBLE). And I kind of wish I’d kept a list of all the idiotic businesses that we deal with, that have those silly spellings like Nootech or Hi-bryte. But those that amuse/annoy me most are the small concerns that mash the husband and wife’s names together. Like “Denchard Holdings” or “Chervid Racing”.

And some days getting information is like getting blood from a stone. I literally feel like I’m pulling teeth. Some people like to tell a story about all these amazing/strange/horrible things that have happened leading up to the phone call. And then they just trail off uncertainly, waiting for you to do something. I usually end up having to ask them directly exactly what the reason for their call is. And they seem surprised, like I should have known. This is the point where I usually mute the call and scream towards the ceiling  “I’M SORRY MY CRYSTAL BALL IS BROKEN TODAY!”

Ok. Rant over. I gotta get out of this place. If it’s the last thing I ever do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review - Cocaine Blues

Have you heard of Phryne Fisher? If not, I beg you to consider meeting her soon. She’s fabulous. Amazing even.

And even better, there are 18 books in the Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, so once you finish one, you have 17 others to divert your attention.  I just finished reading the first book, “Cocaine Blues”, though I have read many others in this series. I do love that you can read these books out of order and not be lost. Basically all you need to know is that Phryne is a unique individual who has lots of money and amuses herself by being a private detective in 1920s Melbourne.

Yes, it’s an Australia murder mystery series, set in the age of flappers, cloches, gasper cigarettes, gangsters and sleek bobs. There is a wide array of characters, from the unflappable lady companion Dot to the affable Communist cabbies Cecil and Bert. Phryne’s unapologetic sexual appetite also means that she has a succession of lovers, including the reoccurring lovely and exotic Lin Chung.

“Cocaine Blues” takes us back to England, where Phryne is living with her parents and extremely bored. Having done some interesting things in the war and spending a while living in Paris has broadened her education and she is an intelligent, direct and very stylish lady. She is asked by family friends to investigate their daughter who is living in Australia, as they fear from her letters that something is wrong. Taking an ocean liner to the Lucky Country, she arrives in a young Melbourne that is colonial but vibrant. And it’s there that the real adventures begin.

I have several reasons that I love this book and the entire series so much. Firstly, the history of Australia that I studied in school never included this era. This is a city of people who are only just getting used to the use of the telephone and still hire domestic staff to run their great houses. Phryne calls attention to herself not only through her promiscuity but by her decidedly mannish hobbies of driving (she owns a race car, which she drives like she stole it) and flying (having learnt to pilot a Tiger Moth somewhere in her colourful past).  She’s stylish, quick of wit, an amazing judge of character and knows how to talk to anyone in any level of society. I thoroughly enjoy the level of detail that Greenwood puts into these books, whether it be describing the minutiae of domestic life or the vibrant atmosphere of a jazz club.

Is Phryne a bit of a Mary Sue? Probably. Unusal name? Tick. Uniquely beautiful? Tick. Able to handle a gun or knife, or fight off a grown man? Tick. But I forgive her anyway, because she’s just so cool.

I recommend these books to anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery or a love of the 1920s era. And in exciting news, some smart person has picked up the books and written some screenplays, resulting in the ABC1 series “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”, premiering this Friday 24th February at 8.30pm. I know I’ll be watching!

Purchase “CocaineBlues” from Book Depository (affiliate link). Free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No texting and no Twitter make Sarah something something

From Friday last week, to yesterday afternoon, I couldn't use my iPhone. First World Problems, I know.

What I wasn't prepared for was the sense of loss and helplessness that this situation evoked in me! I would continually pick it up, start to text someone and remember. Put phone back down. Pick it up a minute later, open Echofon and try to tweet and then remember.

Due to some barring placed on it by my service provider (a little matter of an overdue bill... but we won't go into that. Suffice to say there was no notice and apparently since it wasn't a full suspension of service I don't deserve any. Not happy.) I could receive incoming calls and texts but not send anything, or access the internet. Do you know how frustrating it is to not reply to a text when you want to? And if I wasn't home I couldn't pick up the home phone (which has also had a fault on it, don't even ask!) and make an old-fashioned landline call to tell people why I couldn't respond!

Telstra couldn't seem to remove the bar, despite me complying with their billing request. So I spent the entire weekend and Monday not texting, tweeting, calling, instagramming, Path-ing, playing Words With Friends or checking into GetGlue. It was strange - I've had my iphone for only a year but it felt like my arm had been cut off. Basically it had been rendered a black brick on which I could only play Freecell.

Finally after 4 phone calls and a complaint logged via the web I rang Telstra yesterday afternoon, said "complaint" into the RVA and miraculously was put through to a person who knew what the hell they were doing. He fixed it within 5 mins, and I could use my phone again. Halle-freaking-lujah!

I spent 30 years of my life without an iPhone, and  4 days without one sent me round the twist. What has become of me?

Are you too reliant on your Smart Phone? Is your life on there? How have you coped/would you cope without it?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Casa de Surely Declutter

Today I was inspired by A Beach Cottage's Declutter Mission and decided to attack my kitchen. I've been really irked lately with all the knick-knacks and general clutter taking up room in my house and so I decided to actually do something about it.

Having read possibly hundreds of blogs about de-cluttering, I knew it was important to do it systematically, and one things at a time. So I got my helper (Other Half, grumbling but present) and we did the cupboards clockwise from the left, working our way around.

Boy, was it a bigger job than I thought! Ended up not even touching the pantry because I just couldn't face it after doing one cupboard and the drawers! I cleaned as I went. How do the inside of cupboard doors get so much crud on them?

My helper disappeared about halfway through but returned later to help me lift out the heavy stacks of crockery. The neighbour dropped by near the end, so I chatted to her whilst doing the last cupboard. Tried to offload a stack of old plastic containers and crap onto her, but she only took the old pie-maker. I told her it's all going to the charity shop tomorrow unless she changes her mind!

Before: This is the bakeware and platters cupboard. Yes that's a crockpot crammed in there.

The Tupperware cupboard. Nightmare.

The "miscellaneous" drawer.

Look! I finally did something that I saw on Pinterest!

Interesting find: a pair of stoneware containers. Absolutely no marks, both pristine condition. The square one could be a butter dish but is slightly too large. 

Lovely Anchor Hosking casserole dish.

Depression glass? Unsure. Nice amber candy dish though.

Jackpot - Pyrex! A lot of this stuff I didn't even know I had because we inherited the house contents from C's parents when they moved out. I've never delved the depths of some of these cupboards despite living here for four years.

This is about half the Tupperware cupboard when I pulled it all out. The other half is on the kitchen bench. C saw it and promptly declared the mess "effing ridiculous".

I'm calling this the Find of the Day: A Wedgewood "Pennine" sugar bowl. Just lovely.

And the finished product - the now-neat Tupperware cupboard. Let's see how long it stays that way, shall we? (Four plastic bags filled with non-Tupperware containers we never use. Ones with lids will be going to Lifeline tomorrow).

The bakeware and platters cupboard. Sorry for the poor quality, just took with my phone, no natural light!

The "miscellaneous" drawer. Now with containers for things.

Also going to charity: A George Foreman grill, no less than 3 quiche dishes and a stack of microwave cookware that I never use. SO CLEANSING.

So today was productive, but exhausting. Join in the fun yourself or search the #bcdeclutter hashtag on Twitter or Instagram to see other's efforts!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book Review - Mud, Sweat & Tears

I used to avoid reading autobiographies and biographies like the plague. I couldn’t see what was so interesting about reading about other people. I think I was in a stage where I wanted to immerse myself in other worlds and firmly kept my library lending in the fiction section.

As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve become more and more interested in the stories of other people’s lives. Not just famous people, but interesting historical figures, business people and everyday folks that have done extraordinary things. Recently I read the autobiography of a man who falls into this last category – Bear Grylls (real name Edward Michael). His latest book is called ‘Mud, Sweat & Tears’.

Now, you could argue that he is famous - even a celebrity - due to the popularity of his TV show ‘Man Vs Wild’ (known as ‘Born Survivor’ in the UK). But before all that, he was just a kid from the Isle of Wight that had something inside him that made him want to do amazing things. Like join the SAS. Or climb Mt Everest.

I put Bear’s latest book (he has written several!) on my Christmas wishlist and my partner thoughtfully got it for me. He knows I’ve been a fan of ‘Man Vs Wild’ for quite a while and even indulges my slight crush on the man himself. What’s not to find attractive? An extremely fit, capable guy who will try anything once…

What I liked about this account of Bear’s early life and experiences prior to becoming a TV star iss that it is written in his own voice. He plainly has not hired a ghost writer to make it more polished, and the writing is simple and blunt. He does have a tendency to write frustratingly short chapters but I suspect that’s more the choice of the editor than the author himself.

The book covers his family history and childhood, his formative years at school, his SAS Selection and his Mt Everest climb. Did you know Bear was the youngest person to reach the summit at 23 years of age? Amazing stuff.

The author also talks about his spiritual life and how he found his faith. He has what he calls a “simple faith” and writes about how it remains at the core of everything he does. I found this interesting as I had heard he was a strong Christian but to hear him describe his relationship with God in his own words made it clear he’s no evangelical.

Throughout, it becomes clear that Bear was always a cheeky guy with a tendency do dangerous things. Whether it was running over the rooftops of Eton while at school or making the decision to attempt Everest’s summit when others turned back, he’s a man who takes risks and not surprisingly, he has nearly died a number of times.

My favourite parts were the chapters on his grueling SAS selection process. What they put those guys through, both physically and mentally, is absolutely astounding. Even with this insider’s perspective, I still don’t know how they do it. Bear describes how he felt on the long marches in the Brecon Beacons so that you feel you’re there stumbling along beside him, exhausted and hungry. But it was breaking his back in a parachute fall in Africa that ended his Army career and changed his path. Recovering from what could have been a paralyzing injury, he had a whole new outlook on life and a new determination to achieve.

Now the star of several TV shows and certainly one of Discovery’s most bankable stars, Bear’s autobiography shows the reader the man behind the survival tips and disgusting bug-eating we know so well. What I didn’t expect to get out of the book was a feeling of inspiration – it really put my own life in perspective and opened my eyes to the amazing things that an ordinary person can do.

A highly recommended read.

Buy ‘Mud, Sweat & Tears’ from Book Depository - free shipping worldwide.
(Yes this is an affiliate link, I get a small commission for the referral).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Piquing My Pinterest - Peonies

I just adore peonies. I think they are superior to roses in some ways - more lush, more spectacular in groups.

So recently in a blah mood I pinned a whole heap to cheer me up. I hope they do the same for you.

Source: via Surely on Pinterest

Source: via Surely on Pinterest

Source: via Surely on Pinterest

Source: via Surely on Pinterest

Linking up with

Tina Gray {dot} Me

Friday, February 10, 2012

Me, myself & I

One of the first things I do when discovering a new blog is read the author’s “about” page. I like to get a sense of who they are, where they are on their life path and the things they enjoy. I realized today I don’t have an about page, and the small profile there on the right seems woefully insufficient to describe me. So I thought I’d just write a post about myself. A good exercise in both self-examination and privacy boundary-testing! So here’s me. In a few hundred words or less.

I am forever mentally repainting my house, acquiring amazing thrifted finds, redecorating to incorporate French Provincial furniture, growing my own vegetables and baking shop-quality cupcakes. I long for an all-white house with a clawfoot bathtub and lemons on the kitchen counter. Until then I have my little brick place in the suburbs and focus on trying to find adequate storage space for the masses of stuff that we seem to hoard.

My upbringing was rural and my parents still live on the farm where I was brought up. I went University of Southern Queensland because Brisbane scared me, and I cannot clearly recall what I did in my four years there. I have a degree in Arts majoring in Anthropology and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Finance. By the end of my uni career it was the anthro and history subjects keeping me from going insane, and the one thing I knew was that I hated finance and the world of commerce with a passion. Ironic that currently I work in Accounts Receivable, no?

I adore traveling.  My favorite city in the world is Paris, which surprised me as I never had any expectations of it and considered it to be over-romanticized. I want to take my mother to Provence one day. My second favorite city is Bangkok, having fallen in love with the chaos and smell on a trip of South East Asia when younger. I want to take my partner there one day.

 I love books of all kinds, movies that make me laugh or think and music that makes me want to dance. I used to spend an hour in the bath every night reading and I frequently don’t hear you if you speak to me if I have my nose in a book. I’m prone to singing to myself, cooking the same recipes over and over for dinner, reading about interior design and organization (but never implementing any ideas) and losing hours to the internet. I love social media!

My main hobby besides the aforementioned internet trawling, eating, reading and small-screen watching is scrapbooking. I also love opshopping and can spend many a happy hour trawling through the racks.

In the future I want simple things that perhaps won’t turn out to be so simple: a baby (or two), renovations, travel with my partner.

I don't have a media kit. Please don't ask me what my UPVs are because I don't know! If you're interested in working with me, drop me an email!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A treasure trove of memories

A crashed computer is a painful thing. Heartbreaking, really. And when there is no hope of data recovery you just tend to cry a litte then put on your Big Girl Pants and carry on.

Back in 2007, my PC died. At the time, I blamed C because he was the one using it at the time, but I suspect the poor old thing just had had enough. He took it to his supposedly genius neighbour to try to fix, but to no avail.

I was inconsolable - though I had backed up photos of two of my big holidays, I hadn't backed up anything else. This was before the days of USBs and external hard drives, everything usually got burnt to 700MB CDs. I had lost all of my pics from my New Zealand Lord of the Rings trip, and all my everyday photos from 2004 up to that point.

Recently, when our current PC died and our new Geek Friend managed to retrieve all the data, C had a brainwave. He had for some strange reason kept my old hard drive, perhaps clinging to the hope that one day he would be able to fix it. Five years later (last week), he took it to Geek Friend and begged her to get him out of the shit with me and back in the good books!

And she did! She managed to extract all the corrupted data, and rescued all my old photos. I cannot tell you how happy this has made me. As a scrapbooker, I have always keenly felt the loss of these memories, and I was so moved when I was able to see them again.

These photos brought back so many memories. Most of all though, I was grateful to get back my NZ photos, and now have the task of deciding what type of project to choose for them! I am wavering between a digital book and a traditional scrapbook album.

I thought I would share some of these photos with you all, as some are truly beautiful, and some historic!

A little background: In December 2003 I was at the height of my Lord of the Rings fangirliness. I flew to New Zealand with two friends for a two-week holiday. We rented a car and drove ourselves around, staying wherever we ended up that night. We visited many LOTR filming locations and ended up in Wellington for the big Return of the King premiere and celebrations. We went to the party and watched the parade the next day. It was just ace.



A "tarn" in the mountains above Queenstown. The Rohan refugee scene from The Two Towers was filmed here.

Coromandel Ranges

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

Somewhere in Marlborough. I think they filmed some Narnia stuff on this beach (many years later of course).

Same Marlborough beach

Te Anau

Tongariro National Park. The Mt Doom scenes were filmed up here.

Wellington, Return of the King weekend. Telecom New Zealand renamed its mobile cell tower in honour of the occasion.

Ian McKellan soaking up the adoration of fans

Elvish warriors

Ah, so many wonderful memories! Watching Peter Jackson's production videos of The Hobbit filming really makes me emotional. New Zealand has a special place in my heart and though I've already been twice, I want to go there again soon.

Have you found anything recently that you thought was lost?


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