You can tell a lot about a woman …

.. from her handbag. That was the advertising slogan of the very popular Australian brand Glomesh in the 1970s, when they brought on board a swag of popular women of the era such as Jackie Weaver, Renee Geyer and Jenny Kee. Each iconic woman’s advertisement featured a photo of her Glomesh bag, freshly tipped open with its contents artfully spilled to reveal aspects of the owner’s personality. The ads certainly reached me, an impressionable teen in the midst of feminine/feminist awakenings, with the full-page ads in women’s magazines like Cleo and Women’s Weekly.

And I soon became an employed young woman, and could afford a handbag. And I bought a Glomesh (in addition to the one given as a 21st birthday present, as you did in those days), but I soon also discovered Oroton, another Australian brand that, coincidentally, had included mesh bags as part of its staple. And lovely Oroton bags have been my guilty pleasure since, even though I suffered a 30-year ownership gap between the 1980s and 2010s, when purchases were overlooked for practicalities of survival and raising children.

IMG_1355But recently I seriously re-entered the handbag stakes, and have enjoyed owning my second Oroton tote, which can hold a serious load.

And this has brought on the oft-repeated question asked by many men, including Mr JB, to many women:

“What the hell have you got in there??”

Well, in the spirit of solving an entirely unnecessary mystery regarding the practicality or otherwise of women’s personal possessions, here are the contents of my Oroton so you too can tell a lot about me – and probably every other woman, ever. This is yesterday as it came out of the car after a three-day road trip to regional WA for my mother’s wedding (yay!):


Of course, it needs an inventory because I suspect there are some translations of a cultural, age and gender-specific nature required. Here we go, roughly left to right:

  • Self-help book helpfully offered by friend, as yet unread, but I’m sure will be helpful in due course.
  • Work iPad.
  • Top returned by mother’s friend at last minute in shopping bag, after I left it at her house, and I couldn’t get into suitcase already in the car.
  • Lovely notebook, a gift from former colleague, titled ‘Bloggers I met and liked’ (of course it was empty when given; boom boom), used for jotting ideas and other things that need to be remembered.
  • Aids to Gynaecological Nursing: A complete textbook for the nurse (1949), an impulse buy from the secondhand shop visited while exiting the regional town.
  • How to make money on ebay (2010) – see above (and specifically for Brownie).
  • Pair of leggings, in case I found time to slip into something more comfortable sometime during the journey home.
  • Wallet, contents of which remained thankfully enclosed for this exercise.
  • Cheap clutch, brought as a hopeful antidote to a fuller handbag for the wedding (not realised), and whose job was to contain mainly jewellery, perfume, tissues and ear plugs.
  • Clear nail polish, for those days I give a shit about my nails looking noice.
  • iPad charge cord; should be in the car, and will be tomorrow.
  • iPhone earphones.
  • Blondie and Brownie’s bowties from the wedding of the year.
  • Assorted jewellery from clutch (above) including world necklace, subject of much admiration and deservedly so.
  • Tag from sock three-pack, accidentally shop-lifted in my enviro bag from Target last week, so I can take it back and own up to my illegal activity.
  • iPhone in Otter case – what would I do without the glass protective case and rubber casing!? Well, I’d be replacing my phone glass for one. Repeatedly.
  • Medicinal zip-lock bag which, apart from antihistamine tablets, consists entirely of various combinations of ibuprofen, paracetamol and codeine as back-up to combat headaches and/or neck/back pain. Handy.
  • Extra glasses cleaning cloth, rescued from clapped out key ring pouch.
  • A few assorted sanitary products because old habits die hard, even though I am an empty vessel, surgically speaking.
  • Hotel ’emergency kit’ comprising nail emery board and cotton wipe.
  • Sunglasses case (containing actual sunglasses).
  • Work magnetic name tag, because I never know when I might need it.
  • Second and third glasses cases, containing actual glasses. I think.
  • Pawpaw ointment, which is basically just petroleum jelly. I checked once. About 10mg per small 25g tube, pretty ineffectual. But it feels nice.
  • Two perfumes, because – well, just because. Scents suit feelings and places and occasions and you just never know.
  • Ear plugs aplenty, and a random spare button in mini zip-lock bag.
  • Nail file. Indispensable must-have.
  • Assorted Band-aids
  • Fast food scented wet wipes. Hoard with gusto.
  • Sachet of sugar – probably an accident waiting to happen, so will remove to the kitchen cupboard.
  • Bigger zip-lock bag of goodies containing assorted paper clips, safety pins, bobby pins, spare mini-emery board, AAA battery for those moments you need one (like a laser pointer for presentations).
  • Car keys. Simple. Including video shop tag, and grocery shop points tag (really).
  • Pink lady apple, still waiting to be eaten after four days and holding up well.
  • Spare fast food serviettes. Hoard with gusto.
  • Missing chubby lipstick from make-up bag – hooray!
  • Spare pens. Indispensable must-haves. Writing happens everywhere.
  • Trusty USB, the only one that hasn’t resulted in a ‘This disk is write-protected’ message in five years. I love this USB.
  • Work promotional item torch – shines Open Day 2015 when you press the button a-la the Batman sign in the sky of Gotham City at night. In a crisis of darkness, I will also be able to advertise my workplace; excellent.
  • Dental floss; no explanation required. Nonetheless, as my friend Kellygirl the dental hygienist used to say, “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” Wise words.
  • Another ’emergency kit,’ this time silver threads and golden needles, or something vaguely similar.
  • ‘Quick drying pre-moistened wipes’ lens cleaner. I have three pairs of glasses, don’t you know.
  • Another cloth lens cleaner, courtesy my GP’s practice. Three pairs of glasses get smudgy. A lot.
  • ‘Well-used’ (aka filthy) make-up bag, originally a promotional item from my preferred make-up brand. Be thankful I’ve spared the individual contents of this as well, most of which haven’t been used since 2011, with the exception of the lip liner, occasional lipstick, concealer for a particularly aggressive blemish, mascara annually (just exhausted 2016’s allocation), and of course the hitherto mentioned absent chubby stick.
  • Comb; teeth not too close, not too wide – just perfect for curly hair.
  • Not one but two tubes of indispensable moisturising cream. $2.95 per tube, all I’ve used for 35 years, give or take. Don’t know how the extra one snuck in, probably from the bathroom bag. I’ve got them lying around everywhere.
  • Little tissue packs. I never seem to be organised enough to have just one packet open and on the go, there’s always two, or three, in various stages of emptying. But just as well, because TISSUES ARE ESSENTIAL, if not for me, for Mr JB or Blondie who never have any on their person when they gets a hayfever attack. Ever. Grr.
  • Spare unused tissues, man-size, from Mr JB’s car. You never know. See above. They’re clean, really.
  • Two hair cloths – red and white. But the colours aren’t important. Getting the bloody hair off my sweaty neck when it matters is what’s important.
  • Video shop rental special docket, now expired, because TOMORROW ONLY! was a week ago.
  • Heel shields, although the jury is out on whether they’re worth the effort. I just feel I should have some as back-up.
  • Unwashed plastic fork from last week’s lunch, wrapped in serviette (that’s why you hoard them) and forgot to stick in the dishwasher to reuse next week.

What’s missing? A water bottle, another indispensable item for Straya. And of course it fits. Everything fits. Stuff ALWAYS fits. That’s what makes a great handbag. And a great brand. And a slightly hoarder-oriented woman.

Haiku for Australian of the Year, David Morrison

Australian Of The Year
David Morrison!

I was moved by, “The
standard you walk past is the
standard your accept.”

And now the rest of
Australia hears your voice!
You little bew-tee!

Radio that melts your ice cream

What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received from your professional training? It doesn’t matter what work you do, but at some stage have you ever had a manager tell you something, or read something in a manual (heaven forbid) that’s actually come back to you down the track and made you think, “ahh, that’s what they meant.”

When I first began working with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the early 2000s I was fortunate to be part of some rare nationwide training with a visiting US radio guru.  Radio was new to me so I took it all in, and one of the things I remember her saying was, “interested is interesting.”

In other words, during an interview, if you’re interested in the topic of your guest, you will make your interview more interesting for the listener. And being interested is more than just being interested; it also depends on your research, preparation and listening skills, among other things. That bit of advice has always stayed with me – and not just in radio. I’ve found it applies equally to study, and conversations in general.

Equally memorable is a line that an ABC manager told me in the early days – maybe originally from the guru, maybe one of his own originals – that good radio “keeps you in the car when you’ve pulled into the driveway after shopping and you’re prepared to let your tub of ice cream melt so you can hear the end of the story or interview.”

I’ve had that experience three times in the last year, twice recently, and all on ABC Radio National programs.  They were figurative melts – no real ice cream was harmed during the listening of these programs – but twice I drove around the block a few times and took a detour to prolong pulling into the driveway, and once I sat in the car park at uni bawling a little longer than usually acceptable when students sit bawling in their cars for whatever reason.

These are the three stories:

A Prairie Home Companion – 8 Jan 2011 – ‘The News from Lake Wobegon’.

I’m a late convert to Garrison Keillor’s whimsical program which has been on air, on and off, since 1974 and was made visual through the late great Robert Altman’s swan song movie of the same name. In it, I believe Meryl and Lily are great – you might remember their Oscars set piece the year it was released – but I haven’t seen the movie, and being an Altman fan that’s a bit disgraceful really, but I digress…

APHC is a live radio show recorded weekly from the Fitzgerald Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and it contains a mix of music, comedy, drama, and guests – all tied together by the urbane and lilting voice of Keillor as host and writer. He’s an acquired taste, to be sure, but once your appetite is whet, you just want to consume more.

A regular segment of the program is the ‘News from Lake Wobegon’, where Keillor updates us on the goings on of the residents of his fictional town, loosely based on the locations and people of his American Midwest upbringing. One of the regular characters is the Lutheran Pastor Liz, and in this episode so much of her character is revealed so beautifully and compassionately.  Boy, can he write – and deliver. Enjoy. [Let the music finish; about 93:45]

This American Life – broadcast on 13 Feb 2011 – ‘Valentine’s Day 98’

It’s no accident that the two programs above occupy/ied the 7pm slot on a Sunday night on RN, which is the time I’ve been driving home from weekend shifts at the ABC.  There’s a nice little ‘circle of life’ about that, isn’t there.  Anyway, Garrison got bumped from his slot by This American Life on 30 January this year so I’ve had no choice but to jump from APHC to TAL, and so far I ain’t complaining.

My first exposure to the delights of this weekly program produced by Chicago Public Radio was the day before Valentine’s Day. Being only the third scheduled TAL broadcast on RN, the programmers, in their wisdom, went back to 1998 for a love-themed program. But not with the usual stories of true love or love across the miles, but rather:

Stories about couples that all take place decades after that moment their eyes first meet.

Having been married nearly 16 years and well and truly living whatever love is in the second decade of marriage, this angle appealed to me. I was, after all, a captive audience in the car for my hour’s drive home. Well. These stories – all three of them – had me gripped.  And it proves ‘interested is interesting’ at its best. The amount of preparation and production to make these so powerful cannot be underestimated – and, of course, the talent and passion of the story tellers. Enjoy.

360 documentaries – May 2010 / Jan 2011 – ‘Lonely Funeral’

I can’t explain this any better than the blurb from the 360 Documentaries site; that this is simply a story about an unlikely friendship between two men who make such a difference to the dignity of the recent (unidentified) departed.  The comments posted by listeners echo my thoughts on this wondrous half hour of radio. Litres and litres of ice cream would have melted if they’d been in the boot; instead, this was the uni one.  Enjoy.

I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar experiences.

Happy New Year from the fridge

I’m sure we’ve all been in a workplace where, no matter how committed you and your colleagues might be, the contents of the office fridge just seem to get away from us, one way or another.

At my workplace I cleaned out our fridge six months ago because I was looking to pinch some butter to rescue a stale scone. To my surprise, I ended up finding four out-of-date butter tubs, and a whole lot more, and sent an email to colleagues warning them of the rather minimalist appearance facing them the following Monday morning after my clean out.

With the end of the year upon us, it seemed only right to give the fridge another once-over to see what improvements, if any, had resulted in corporate food hygiene. This is my resulting email, as we say goodbye to 2008 and welcome a healthy, nutritious and Best Before 2009:

Greetings on New Year’s Eve.

Well, I thought it was that time of year again, but I’ve just discovered that my last ‘fridge email’ was only sent in June – not a whole year ago at all! Needless to say, I’m even MORE impressed with the contents of this afternoon’s clean out, so here’s my report:

Oranges. Orange juice is all well and good, but preferably from a bottle and not what’s leaked from the putrefied contents at the bottom of a plastic bag.

Yoghurt. If whoever bought the diet and lite brands of yoghurt applies this theory to their other food, then they must have lost lots of weight … because they haven’t eaten any of them. ‘Best Befores’ included 31 Oct 08, 20 Dec 08, 26 Sep 08, 22 June 08 and … 20 June 08! That was only two weeks after my last clean out!

Butter. Readers of the last email may remember that there were four tubs of butter disposed of. I must have been particularly magnanimous in June, because there’s still one wedged into the corner by a block of ice with an expiry date of 22 Apr 08 … but I couldn’t budge it. In a rather surprising coincidence, there was also one tub with an expiry date of 28 Feb 08 … and another one with 28 Feb 09! Spooky! (The Feb 08 tub was chucked). Don’t fear, there is also a tub not due to expire until June next year, so plenty of butter still to share.

Hummus. The ‘Heavenly Organic’ Hummus was certainly that – long expired, in another world, and full of nutrient goodness – Best Before 8 Sep 08.

Salad stuff. This is complex.
Capsicum – not meant to be eaten soup style. Usually it’s firm and crunchy, not in liquid form.
‘Caris’s Broccoli Salad’ – not much broccoli left, calling it ‘salad’ was a bit of a stretch – Best Before 2 December.
Mung beans – two lots of – and I think the idea is you eat them before they sprout, die, go brown and then slide into a mouldy sludge.
Salad dressing – Paul Newman didn’t just cark it this year, so did a range of his salad dressings: Caesar Best Before Nov 08, plus a French Dressing from Sep 08.

Cheese. There was an almost healthy looking bag of grated cheese with an expiry date of 28 Dec 08. Now, food and nutrition experts and their lawyers could argue for hours on whether it may have lasted another week or two for a toasted sandwich without any botulism outbreak, but the 28th was my birthday, so I threw it out for a birthday present. Stiff cheese.

Miscellaneous. No list is complete without some miscellaneous items, and it just proves I can spell. Whipped cream – where was I? I don’t remember that? Best Before 28 Sep 08. Ham – with a Best Before of 16 Dec 08, this was never going to make it to Christmas, and certainly shouldn’t have made new year!

So was there anything actually in-date? Yes: Tahini and Marmite live to see another year, although Marmite is a yeast product so that’s questionable to begin with. Also butter as noted.

However, the following items are on notice and will need to be removed and/or eaten/thrown away/disposed of at a hazardous waste facility:

Nippy’s iced coffee in the door. I could have sworn it was there six months ago, and I think I left it there because Best Before is 03/05/20___[print has gone]. I’ve given it the benefit of the doubt once, but it’s on borrowed time.

Corn Relish. Yet another mystery. These don’t have Best Before dates. I know that because there was another one in June that I threw out. Maybe there were always two and I just missed it. Whatever.

Goulburn fruit salad. This stuff already looks like the limp version of its firm, fresh and fruity brothers and sisters, but this is looking limper than it should and I don’t think any injection is going to fix it. I may be wrong.

FINALLY – there are four plastic containers, two of which are rather nice ones, which contain long-gone leftovers. I can’t think of any other way to describe them. It would be such a shame to throw the containers out, or for their owners to lose them by someone else commandeering them for herself seeing she lost a perfectly good Tupperware container once just because she didn’t remove it before Fran cleaned the fridge and it really pissed her off – sorry, where was I? Anyway, if they’re your containers, please remove.

My suggestion for the next clean-out is to ‘harvest’ the contents, take them over to Product Development, do a bit of judicious experimentation and ‘voila’ a new organic fertiliser is born.

Happy New Year!

Now, move along, some of us have work to do.

When is a tea towel just a tea towel?

Last week I attended the Public Relations Institute of Australia National Conference in Fremantle, Western Australia. As my manager not only suggested it but paid for it, plus I live locally, it seemed like a good idea and there were some great speakers, keynote and otherwise.

During the two days of the conference I was brought up to speed on the ethics of photojournalism in the 8 years since leaving univeristy, was left teary-eyed watching a three-minute DVD of the Sorry speech and celebration in February (then wide-eyed as the DIA head of comms explained she had 10 days to pull this extraordinary national event together), plus I tried to come to grips with whether I really need to give a shit about how Gen Y does business, and I watched women who should know better fawn all over former Blair spin doctor and HG Nelson lookalike Alistair Campbell.

However, the most memorable moment of the conference came for all the wrong reasons.

In a presentation to 400 of his peers, one of the high profile speakers talked of a trip to Beijing before the Olympics where, among other things, he had to assess the terrorism threat. His assessment was that terrorism was not going to be an issue; after all, “we didn’t see any tea towels while we were there.”

Just in case the Director, Media and Communications for the Australian Olympic Committee is reading this, THIS is a tea towel.

[Updated 24 April 2017 to fix broken tea towel link.]

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