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Finding Ida: Week 7: Blogging for survival.

She is looking for an answer.

Picking up her teacup she artfully swirls the last of the leaves. And waits. When they settle she will know. If it will be blue skies or grey. If fate is drawing near. If tomorrow is something to fear. Either way, she will know.

Today I’m ignited. On a genetic trajectory. Born in the tea leaves and burned in the unforgiving Australian outback. Like the trains that once ran regularly to the outposts, to the folks who were determined to imprint an alternative story on the Australian landscape, the route is no longer serviced. No one in my family has tread this path for 60 years.

I’m a wary explorer.

Armchair anthropologist at best. Taking the richness of the mythology and stuffing into my cushions. So I can sit more comfortably while I ingest. While I make it mine. While I read a chapter and dog ear a page. You know. To come back to later. When I’m up to it. Maybe skipping the end completely. Absolutely.

Skipping the ending, it never happened.  Another book I didn’t finish. A historical re authoring maybe. An alternative version of her life. The version where the future me is a thought that keeps her from the darkness. The version she didn’t read in the tea leaves.

They said she was a dancer. I didn’t inherit that skill. They said she was born for the stage. Or that one either. They said she loved to wear costumes. That would be a negative on all counts.

Today I have my trusty guide. My Muse. Three generations on and I’m staring into the face of another myth maker. Long legged and theatrical, drawing out the story with her probing curiosity. Unafraid of the unchartered territory ahead. And purposefully guiding the way with her handy GPS oracle.

We make good time. Only 6 or 7 hours until we have arrived. At the middle of nowhere, at the heart of everywhere and near the end of the unfinished book. We have handwritten instructions. In archaic Victorian cursive. They are specific. Buried between the Catholics and the Anglicans but not with the paupers or the Aborigines. No head stone. Just a number.

Ida is a number.

Is that the number of the days she has lain alone between the Catholics and the Anglicans? Or the number of drops of rain that have fallen on the red gravel that covers her? Or is it the number of steps that led her to her dusty death? Or the number of times her name has passed between the lips of those who remember her? Partially, sadly, incompletely.  It’s just a number.

We wonder aloud. We ask questions of the earth that holds her. We find her number incomprehensible. And we ask her to answer. To claw back the time between us and add body to the bones. To finish what was started. To make the mythology corporeal.

Here lies Ida Lavinia Craig. Not lost. Still looking for an answer.


The Very Australian Women’s Leadership heist

What was that guy’s name? The great train robber who hid somewhere in South America for years on end and had the whole world on alert for sightings of him? Ah yes, Ronald Biggs. Well I have found his contemporary counterpart. Jonathan Littlest*. The difference is that Jonathan Littlest doesn’t think he has anything to hide. Actually quite the opposite. Jonathan Littlest has stuff to tell us. More importantly Jonathan Littlest has stuff to tell us women.

We read the smoozy flyer, the testimonials, and the quotes from inspirational women. Yes we wanted to be part of that; we want some respite from the often thankless, challenging and relentless work of managing our human service agencies. We want it so bad that we will pay $2000 from our tiny training budgets to get it. Hooray, two days professional development with other women. What could go wrong?

Well just about everything.

Firstly we walked up to the wrong registration booth. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I look like a complete social misfit. I wear clothes. I brush my hair. Mostly. Anyway the woman at the desk lifted her somnolent eyes heavenward and let out an audible sigh and said ‘this is for tax accountants, are you in the right place?’ Well! Doesn’t matter that I wasn’t in the right place. How rude. I could have worked for the Australian Tax Office for all she knew.

I was a bit surprised when I did find the right place. For the whopping big registration fee I was expecting the Palace of Versailles. But no.  A grey windowless room with no heat and jugs of ice water. Maybe it’s thematic. Making us feel right at home. In the gulag.

To complete the scene, every single woman had come dressed in black. Did I miss the bit on the invite that said prison garb required? These women already know stuff mate, they know not to stand out in a workplace in case some tosser like you notices them and decides to give them a few tips about how to get ahead in a man’s world. Thanks for the heads up though. We all know which organisation has a neon sign flashing above it that reads ‘only fuckwits need apply’.

So Jonathan treated a room full of leaders to his homily on good parenting. Well his good parenting. On what he wanted written on his tombstone and on cutting edge research from 2007. And if we weren’t that au fait with how to do research we could ‘Google’ it. Goodie. His tip for championing women in the workplace? Get men talking to men. Better still!

The Jonathons of the world come from a privileged place. Self assured enough to walk into a room of women, insult them and expect a round of applause. And yes Jonathan, the personal is political. So that special place in hell that Madeline Albright said was reserved for women who didn’t help other women? There is room for one man. One Little one.

*Name changed to protect the women who work with him.

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