24 March 2018

The only guide you'll ever need to the Reserve Bank of Australia Museum

Some people mark the end of their treatment for cancer by going to Disneyland or swimming with dolphins. I celebrated the end of my treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome by visiting the Reserve Bank of Australia museum. Don't hate me cause you ain't me.

You may not even have known there was a museum at the Reserve Bank of Australia HQ, which is on Martin Place in the Sydney CBD, bucking the trend of Australian government entities being based in Canberra. I didn't know there was a museum there, until I happened to be walking past after completing treatment at the Sydney Hand Hospital and saw the small sign proclaiming the existence of a museum. I decided to go in and take a look. I figured somebody should.



I neglected to take a camera to capture my experience in the full, rich detail it deserved, so photos are from the Reserve Bank Museum website. It was less busy when I visited. Considerably less busy. In fact I was the only person there, and the nice but not overly friendly lady behind the desk look slightly startled to see me (although people often look slightly startled to see me, once including John Cleese. But that's another story). She walked me in, explained the layout and exhibits, and told me there was a university group visiting from Sweden I think it was? and I was welcome to join there tour if I wanted, but I'm sure none of you will need smelling salts to learn that I decided I'd have a look around for myself.


The museum is dedicated not to the economic history of Australia in general, with all its panics, crashes and housing bubbles, but to the history of Australian currency manufacture, a very specific and odd focus, considering Australian money is printed elsewhere - at Cragieburn in Victoria, for those of you playing at home - and one that may well be rendered completely redundant by technology in a few years. They do not give out free samples, although I'm sure every Dad whose ever visited asks.

Image showing a £20 note

For history buffs or those who like to reminisce fondly about old money, the museum is interesting enough in a low grade sort of way, with chronologically organised displays ranging from a brief and unsatisfactory paragraph about the barter system in traditional Aboriginal society; through rum currency; shillings and pence, the introduction to decimal currency (Menzies wanted to call the Australian monetary unit the Royal, I learn with very little surprise) and on to the bragging rights to our world leading polymer currency. I never did find the Swedes, but I did run into a class of bored and unhappy 12 year olds being lectured by a museum guide about the introduction of polymer currency, with the new $5 featuring a portrait of the Queen "...of course this was in 1992, when she was considerably younger". "Well, we've all lost some bounce since then", I chimed in helpfully, but receiving only blank looks, I decided it was time to call a halt to my brief new career as assistant docent, and moved on.

I was pretty much done with the museum after about fifteen minutes, but didn't want to leave quite so soon. When I visit these niche museums, I'm always worried that if I leave too soon, I'll hurt the staff's feelings. You walk past the guides on your way out, and feel you've let them down somehow. "I'm sorry, you've got a great little museum here, but it's just not what I'm looking for right now." But I was hungry and tired, and decided I was going to have to make a break for it. Luckily on my way out the nice guide lady was busy with actual Reserve bank staff, so I was able to leave without upsetting anyone, unless they read this guide, and I'd like to think I'm actually encouraging people to check it out for themselves.

The Reserve Bank of Australia Museum is located at 65 Martin Place, Sydney, and is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays and NSW bank holidays. The author traveled on an Opal and has this weird itch on the back of her knee.

20 March 2018

Cruising



It's coming up to autumn in my corner of the world, and my friend Ridge* and I have been discussing going on a cruise. I know - I know! - I can't afford it. But I've been through kind of a shite time, what with all the custody stuff, and maybe if I save real hard... I know cruises aren't everyone's idea of fun - someone on Twitter described them as going on holiday at a Westfield mall - but I like the all inclusive aspect; you just get on the ship and switch off your brain for six days. My brain is always whirring to dark and uncomfortable places; it needs a rest. And above all, at less than $100 a day if you get a good deal, covering travel, food, accommodation, activities and sightseeing, they're cheap.

Anyway, it's fun to day dream, although slightly unsettling. Once you've been searching for cruises, the logarithms dreamed up by the boffins of the internet keep showing you stories about cruises, nearly all of them bad

Cruises have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. A ship was forced to return to Sydney last month after a brawl broke out after a toilet queue (I bet it was rice on the buffet. Everyone assumes it's the seafood, but did you know rice is actually the leading cause of food poisoning in Australia? See, read this blog, you learn something). That same week, another ship  returned to dock early and nine passengers removed after claims of repeated brawls and trouble allegedly started in a fight over a thong (the kind that goes on your foot, not your butt).

If you die on a cruise, you want a bunch of other people to die too. If you die with other people, then you're part of a tragedy. The Prime Minister will make a statement, flags with be lowered, you'll get your name on a memorial plaque. If you die on your own, then you'll forever be just the idiot who fell off a ship.


But genuinely terrible things can happen on cruises, and with issues over jurisdiction, justice can be hard to come by. There's an organisation called International Cruise Victims who are not, as one might first assume, a bunch of Baby Boomers complaining about the wine service, but the victims, families and friends of crimes on cruise ships - murders, sexual assault, disappearances. I spent some time reading around on the site; many of the stories are truly horrific.

And you'd think any or all of this would put me off, but no. I want to go on the damn cruise. 

So there's the question of what kind of cruise to go on. Ridge and I want to avoid: families with small children; schoolies; the  elderly; Baby Boomers; bucks and hens tours...that doesn't actually leave very many people we would actually want to be stuck out at sea with for eight days. We discussed going on a gay cruise, but a gay cruise is not without its issues; whilst Studs n Suds night may be fun at night, it's not so much fun when it's ten am and you just want a cup of tea and you have to step over two guys fucking in the corridor.

Food, wine and comedy cruises sound like fun, but they only go out to sea for a few days and back again. We want to actually go somewhere, even if its just for a bit of wading and buying a t shirt that seems fun on Mai Tai island and looks ridiculous in Sydney Central Station. And a bit of sun would do me good. How does an Irish person end up with Vitamin D deficiency in Australia, cause I did (my iron stores are too high, though, if anyone's running a bit short). This is all right in the inner west, where every natural skin colour is considered all right, but is very odd when I go to the parts of Sydney where white people don't like brown people even though they spend all their spare time trying to get as brown as possible.

David Foster Wallace compared the cruise experience to being in the womb; a tranquil, pampered nothingness. I think my first time around was marred by osmotic resentment, so I'm keen to have another go. Who wouldn't want to be born again? Yep, a cruise is just what I need. I'm ready to float on warm, tranquil waters and emerge red, screaming and covered in goo, counting myself lucky to have survived. 

* He picked his own pseudonym. So don't blame me. 

03 March 2018

The Best Church in the Whole Wide World

I need a new church. As I've mentioned, I moved house recently. My old church wasn't perfect and I certainly didn't agree with them on many doctrinal issues, but they were a sedate enough bunch and served my spiritual needs adequately. In inner Sydney moving 5km might as well be moving to a different state though, and it would now be a pain in the arse to get to Sunday services in time on public transport, so I've been looking for a new church.

My quest for a new church could be summed up pretty well in this comic from Berkely Mews:


But I'm going to prattle on about it for another few hundred words regardless. Evidently, churches have decided a big reason people don't go to church anymore is not feeling welcome when they get there. And what churches have decided to do, pretty much all of them, is to assign parishoners to stand at the door of the church in the manner of greeters at Walmart and welcome newcomers, except it would be like if the Walmart greeters then followed you around the store. Be a first time attendee at most reasonably sized protestant churches these days and there will be someone at the door wanting to know who you are, where you're from, if you're from the area, do you go to church normally and which one, what do you do...there's no chance of slipping past them and quietly taking a seat waiting for the service to begin either, as they'll insist on sitting next to you and, very likely, introducing you to people on the way. Now, I'm sure some people really appreciate this welcome to a new setting. But if you're shy, awkward or going through a hard time - in other words, people who may well be seeking spiritual comfort - it is a nightmare. 

Feeling a bit low, I went to the evening service - which, given it was advertised as a "fun, informal community!", was probably my first mistake - at a local, mainline protestant church. There was the usual "HI HOW ARE YOU WHAT BRINGS YOU HERE?!?!" when I walked in, but nothing too bad. The service was pretty okay; I liked the music, the guy playing the guitar could really sing. But then there was after. Oh god. I wasn't allowed to leave. Every bloody person there had to be introduced to me. Beverages were shoved in my hand. I only just avoided being forced into table tennis. But worst of all was the incredibly nosy person who wouldn't leave me alone, asking question after personal question, seeing my reticence as a sign to go in harder. In desperation I even mentioned that the social thing is a little off putting for introverts in a new church and she's like "well, we won't leave you all by yourself!"

At length I managed to leave, feeling a little upset, even a touch violated. When I left, the pastor noticed, and started off a chorus of about 30 people yelling "BYE NICOLA! - this was awful. I felt obliged to acknowledge it though, so I turned around and stood there grinning awkwardly.

All this made me consider going back to the Catholic Church. Oh, I still disagree with them about... Well most stuff actually. But the Catholic Church is a lot like McDonald's. You walk in, no one cares who you are, you do your little ritual (whether it's the Eucharist or ordering a big Mac), you walk out. No awkward chit chat, and no matter where you go in the world you know what you're going to get. No one wants to know where you've come from, your faith background, if you're new to the area or if you want to be introduced to everyone. In fact, chatting at all in a Catholic church is forbidden, particularly in the Irish Catholic tradition I was raised in. In a Catholic Church in Ireland, the closest you might talk to someone is if, say you saw your brother across the pews for the first time in a year after he'd been missing in a war zone, you might just nod your head slightly to acknowledge each other. Even that might earn you a reproachful "Ah-HEM" if there's a particularly diligent nun nearby.

In the end, I couldn't quite go Catholic but I think I've found the right church for me. They follow all the beautiful and complicated liturgical traditions I love, without the bit about the Pope; but the best bit is no one talks to you. There's a brief thank you to the person who hands you the hymnal, but that's it. The only discordant note was when I went to use the washroom; as I emerged, I saw one of the priests pulling up skirts of his voluminous robes, to save time before using the facilities himself. But that's okay. Frankly, I'd rather he defecated in my hand than go through the bestest church in the whole wide world again.

FWIW Going to church occasionally doesn't change anything my feminist and democratic socialist beliefs (and if I'm challenged about issues such as a woman's right to choose, I just like to say "I'd like to concentrate on getting the Christianity in Acts 2 right first before we worry about things that aren't even in the Bible"). Yes, the Abrahamic religions are inherently patriarchal and some would say sexist. But there's massively sexist dirtbags in atheism as well.  I'm feeling like the problem might be letting dickhead men run things unchallenged, not religion or the lack of it. 

01 March 2018

Moving

Posts have been a bit scarce lately because - I don't even want to know how many times I've posted this in the fourteen years since I started blogging - I've been moving house. Again. What can I tell you. Luckily, with so many moves under my belt, I've got the whole thing down to a fine art: starting two weeks ahead of moving day, I pack one beautifully organised box full of books, clearly label it "BOOKS", stick it in the corner of my lounge room and do nothing else until the day before the move.  

I hoped that maybe this time, though, things could be different. Looking online for boxes, a major retailer's website promises me that I can  "Take the stress out of moving with Officeworks handy moving guide". Excellent; who doesn't need to destress when they're moving house. So I read the guide, which seems mostly to consist of suggestions to purchase Officeworks products. However, they are a big smart corporation and I am just a people, maybe they know something I don't; and anyway the fact I'm moving all the fucking time clearly indicates I'm in no way qualified to make decisions regarding my own life. Anyway, I head to Officeworks.
Officeworks has gone down the Walmart path of having a greeter at the front of the store, which is kinda weird. I mean, it's okay if you're walking in with a spring in your step, and can respond to their "Hi, how are you today?" with a cheery "I'm excellent! Thank you. I'm so looking forward to purchasing binder files.". But if you're like every other person who's ever gone to Officeworks and you're just trying to get the materials for the class project on food groups then get out as fast as you can because it's late and your child only told you at bed time the thing is due tomorrow morning and you know you'll be up until 1am doing the damn assignment for them even though half of you wants to strangle the little shit darling child, well, the perky welcome seems only to poke fun at your gloom. 

In between all the packing, you've got to find removalists, unless you've got friends willing to help you move, and I don't. Pretty much every removalist firm also promises to take the stress out of moving. Look, if everyone could just get together and designate one of you to stress out of moving, because it's not happening at the moment with everyone fighting over the job.

Moving day arrives, much too soon. Removalists have ridiculous start times. I'm not at my best in the morning, partly cause of medication I'm on and partly cause I'm a lazy bludging lefty that's everything that's wrong with this country. Can we kick off around ten, I ask when I make the booking. No can do; the morning slots are 6am (6am!) and 8 am. I pick the latter. At any time of day, it's not great having strangers in my house, touching my things. I know that these are technically my employees, and I shouldn't feel guilty for needing to sit down in front of them and not lifting boxes myself - that's a big reason why I needed to hire movers in the first place. Nevertheless, it feels weird sitting down in front of guys lugging my stuff, and I make sure to sit on a hard surface on an angle of at least 20 degrees to the perpendicular, whilst adopting the facial expression I normally assume on thinking about Sydney property developers, to let them know that whilst I am reclining, I am not taking any enjoyment from the experience and am not just sitting around like a pampered princess whilst others work for me.

Not that the removalists didn't hesitate to let me know their feeling that I was Marie Antoinetting the move. My new flat is up several flight of stairs, which was explained when making the booking, but I was still treated to a litany of complaints about every last one of them, as well as the company they move for, the heat, and that Donald Trump is just trying to do his best. (I can't help but feel they'd find the stairs easier to manage if they'd given up on the chain smoking, which they did, lavishly and with gusto, whilst handling my soft furnishings). They even complained to me, on their seventh or eighth trip down to the truck for more cartons, that I have too many books, and I'd have flung them off the balcony if there weren't a bunch more cartons to go. Saturate my nearly new pillow top mattress with disgusting Marlboro smoke? I'll smile politely and let it go. Disparage my books? You are not getting a tip.  

Finally, my stuff was in my new house, the movers left, and I had the opportunity to really take stock and organise my possessions in a way to bring me comfort and happiness and help me live my best life, so of course I set up the TV, got put the kettle, and shoved everything else in a corner where it can stay for the next several months.

There was a minor issue with my power supply, and I had to ring the power company. On the third ring, without my pressing anything, the IVR said "please hold while your call is being transferred". Corporations are getting in early with transferring calls these days; they do it pre-emptively to everyone.  When I was transferred through to the right department, the hold voice said "Moving house is stressful. And while we can't carry the boxes for you, we can at least ensure the power is on the day you move in." Finally some honesty, not another corporate entity promising all but to assemble your bed then give you the best sex of your life on top of it. Now that would be moving.