Copy and Paste

The greatest public humiliation I experienced was at the hands of an ex-wife and her then boyfriend. But that didn’t prepare me for my greatest workplace humiliation (also known as the copy and paste incident).

It occurred during a meeting. I was presenting the changes I had made to an intranet to a group of people. At that time I was working with two subject matter experts and sundry members of that group, taking content from Microsoft Word and re-presenting it to a Wiki.

I had made it clear in my interactions with this group that they provide the content and I reformat, restructure and resequence it for the intranet. And I had also ensured there was a process of approval. Each and every email was suffixed with the intranet link and a postscript, to the effect of if you wish to make any changes, please contact me. Which was universally ignored by this particular group of people.

During that meeting, one of the participants complained that I had changed her content. My response was mild. The content was in Word, it was being moved to an intranet, inevitably it would be changed as writing for the web was…

Until I was interrupted by the manager of the group. She in no uncertain terms directed me to copy and paste. She asked me if I understood her directive and carry this out. The pause that followed was a lifetime. I thought to myself, “That’s the end of me.” And it was.

Not the Naughty List

“Get back to work,” a fat voice bellowed.

Sherry Wintersleigh yawned, stretched her arms wider and opened her eyes.

“What, what, what,” she began.

“He’s always like this,” whispered a passing elf.

“But Christmas is…,” Sherry said. The shadow standing over her shook his finger at her.

“You heard what I said,” bellowed Santa. “On your feet.”

“Finished,” whispered Sherry as she stood. Santa scowled down at her.

“Well, ho, ho, ho,” he replied. “To the mailroom. Now.”

“But, but…” said Sherry as she uncurled her arms and rubbed her eyes.

But by then Santa had gone.

“Better hurry,” said another passing elf.

So many passages, so many corridors, so many wrong turns, Sherry said to herself, as she wandered, only occasionally lost now through the North Pole.  

Until finally she found it. Mail Room. She tried the door handle. It turned and clicked but didn’t open. She looked up. There was a handwritten sign that said, Press for entry.

She pushed the door bell.

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,” the door chorused.

Christmas is so over for you now, she thought.

She opened the door, pushed aside a Santa sack which and stepped inside.

“Glad you could make it,” said a friendly voice.

“Alabaster,” she said. She couldn’t see him for the room was filled, floor to ceiling with Santa sacks. She pushed another sack aside to see better. It fell to the floor with a gentle bump.

A wizened grey elf was crouched over a trestle table. His face flickered. Santa’s administrator. She heard scratching and leaned forward to see. He was writing.

The candle next to him sizzled. Sherry jumped.

“What, what, what,” Sherry began.

“Sit down, and I’ll tell you,” Alabaster said.  

Sherry crept forward, bumping into and stepping over sacks, pulled out a folding chair and sat opposite.

“All these letters,” he gestured around him.

The mail was late this Christmas, Sherry thought to herself.

“Are from children who,” he paused.

Sherry leaned forward.

“Don’t believe in Santa anymore,” he finished.

Sherry looked down at her hands. Oh no, she thought. Not the Naughty List.

Alabaster looked up and smiled.

“No, not the naughty list at all. An opportunity instead.”

He held up a letter.

“We write back to them. We tell them the truth.”

Sherry gasped. The Naughty List was now starting to look like the best job at the North Pole.

“What, what, what do we tell them?” Sherry whispered.

“That the person who gave them the present works for us. And yes sometimes they get gift-giving wrong. But only you can make it right. By giving love and joy and peace until next Christmas day.”

Sherry stood up, clapped her hands and shouted for joy.

Alabaster pushed a pile of letters, a pen and pad towards her.

Sherry began writing.

The Last Child

“He’s never done anything like this before.”

“What?” Alex mouthed. 

Caroline held up one hand.

Principal, her husband heard her in his head.

“Thank you for telling us,” she continued,”we’ll take care of it.”

Take care of what? You’re not telling me everything, he thought at her. 

She pressed the red icon. She looked up as she put the phone down.

“It had to happen, I suppose,” she sighed,”I knew it would.”

“They’ve found out, haven’t they?”

“We need to talk to Tommy.”

“They can’t possibly know. How could they? Even if they did find out, what would they do? Exorcise him? Burn him at the stake. That went out with…”

Caroline interrupted, “The Middle Ages…Except for the Salem Witch trials.”

“I keep forgetting that you’re a historian. That is until you start bringing up the past.”

She scowled then frowned and held up both hands in supplication.

“If we don’t do something, he’ll be expelled.”Alex said.

“He was provoked,” he continued.

“I know. The other boy was in the wrong. They both were,” his wife answered his next thought.

“Tommy called them out.”

“He stopped a fight. Which was great but then he told both boys off. Told them what they they were thinking. They didn’t like that apparently. They both turned on him. The principal thinks Tommy’s made it all up. That he’s a troublemaker,” she concluded.

Alex shrugged and spread his hands. “First Josie, then Cynthia, and now Tommy. We’re raising a family of misfits.”

Caroline whirled on him, “After what you told me, not even being there, you know better than to say that, Alex.”

He nodded slowly, “Yes I’ve the gift but not in your strength. Nor in theirs.” He sighed. He knew what she would say.

“This Power we have…”

“It’s a beautiful and terrible thing, and should be therefore treated with great caution,” Alex replied. “I know. I remember being told when it was revealed to me.”

Caroline felt a hand tug at her skirt then her blouse.

“Not now…” she began. She looked down.

“Oh Tommy, it’s you. We were just talking about you.”

Two green eyes nodded. “I know,” the small voice said.



“Why is it that I can hear people?”

Caroline squatted and took both of his hands in hers. 

“We all can hear people,” Alex interposed.

Not now, not now, let me sort this, she thought at him.

“I hear people…before they talk. Before they do things…I can hear them in my head,” Tommy continued in his choir boy voice.

She sighed.“We didn’t think that would happen until you grew up.”

His eyes nodded again. He squeezed her hands. 

“This Power…is a beautiful and terrible thing. We must be careful. We will help you use it wisely. We can use it for good things or to do bad things,” his mother finished.

“I know,” he whispered.

“So what’s it going to be, eh?” His father joked.

Tommy met his father’s look eye-to-eye. Alex broke his gaze.

“Good, Daddy” he said. “Cynthia and Josie told me.”

Freed Speech

They talk about free speech.

That free speech that silences all of another.
That free speech that suffocates second thought.
That free speech that only allows one voice and one voice alone to be heard. Free speech that interrupts, name calls, demeans, labels, isolates and threatens violence. Publicly, privately, hourly, daily, always weakly. Isn’t free speech that that draws out the voice of another? Isn’t free speech a listening begun in quiet silence that speaks only to draw out another’s voice? 

Why Adults Should Read to Their Children (Upside Down)

Steps for reading to children:

  1. Place book on your lap facing child.
  2. Read book while tracing out each word.

Which of course means the child learns to read for him or herself. Which leads them on the first steps towards an education. 

The disadvantage is that the adult has to learn to read upside down. 

This is no real inconvenience. For an adult who can to read upside down can’t easily be deceived by contracts, documents, etc, etc shoved across a desk…

But there’s another advantage…exclusively for system administrators….although something like this has to happen to you…

“Andrew, can you help the vendor’s system engineers check all the serial numbers on all of our hardware?”

Sorting dust spores was more fun. Inward groan but I complied. Besides I was the most recent hire and spending several hours following a man with a printout couldn’t be that bad. Could it? 

It was right up to the moment we saw three workstations on a table backing onto an internal window. There’s only one solution to this, isn’t there?

“Andrew, can you shut these boxes down, unplug them, turn them around so we can read the serial numbers from the back?”

Okay, except…I can see the serial numbers of each box reflected in the window behind them..I start reading the serial numbers backwards. They started checking their records. Easy. Tick that one off.

Of course there are other applications….

Australia Day

As a country we couldn’t even agree on the width of railways.

As a country we can’t even agree on a national day. Or respect those who disagree.

Every Australia Day is the same: somebody’s yelling at the immigrants, yelling at the Aboriginals, yelling at all and those who don’t think like you.

Every Australia Day underlines how much we’ve progressed in 230 years. Methinks not much at all.

Every Australia Day someone wants to change the date. Every Australia Day there’s the same social media pile-on.

Every Australia Day no one learns from the previous year, or the one before that.

Australia Day is divisive. Rather than yelling at those who disagree why not ask how can we work together to create a better day?

Otherwise this post will be repeated next year!

Writing Lessons

Last week I learnt a few things about writing. 


I’m probably tired of talking about the novel.

It’s set in the present but with a backstory from the past.

My major problem is that the backstory is quite intrusive, so intrusive in fact that it cannot be told in flashbacks without spoiling the present day story.

Which left me stuck.

Then I bought a copy of Natasha Lester’s The Paris Seamstress : a novel with a dual narrative : set both in World War 2 and the present day.

I’ve read her previous novels and thought perhaps…

It did. All I needed to see was the table of contents.

Ironically, I already have an outline of the present story and another for the past one. Saturday’s task was focussed on the past narrative which solved some (not all) of my throny priblems in the present day narrative.

Now I have to write it. .


But this wasn’t a week for the aspiring novelist. There was nectar for the striving poet too.

On Thursday 1st November I attended A touch of Poetry with Michelle Cahill.

It was her, an audience and an hour and nothing else. In truth, I could not think of anything more fearful. And I’m a trainer. But it was spell-binding.

Michelle Cahill is an Indian Australian poet, blogger and author who has published several books of poetry.

She talked about her background, her poetry and her struggles.

She briefly dwelt on the difficulties of publishing poetry. I haven’t encountered her struggles (yet?).

More telling for me, Michelle Cahill spoke about not being understood as an author by those closed to you although she didn’t go into details. But that was something I’ve encountered, the reactions ranging from indifference to outright opposition.

She also read her poetry. Lots. Now when a poet reads another poet it’s easier.

When you read your own, it’s nerve wracking. The difficulty occurs when one reads poems that are precious to you and you alone. The ones that touch you deeply. Now that’s difficult as Michelle Cahill gracefully showed.

But what really landed for me was her words on the sheer imperfection that is writing poetry. Michelle Cahill said she took up to six months to write a single poem. That was some comfort to me :a poet with so many scraps scattered all over the place. Maybe they’re all works in progress. Maybe things aren’t so bad after all!