Why My Job-Search is Like Hunting for Bison in the Sahara Desert

By Susan Roberts

I’m trying to get a job, in case anyone hadn’t noticed. Yes, a real grown up job like normal people have. I know I should probably be looking for a job right now instead of typing this, but to be honest, this is a lot more productive. Maybe we don’t get a lot of people viewing this blog but whatever the number, I think its hands-down way more than the number of people who have read my resume in the last four months since I’ve been allowed to seek employment and been on the search for a job.

Image result for minimum wage job

Almost every day I scan all the usual sites, looking for that special niche job that requires someone of my quirky talents, OCD work habits and key skills. I was quite picky at first, but in recent months I’ve dropped the bar so low you couldn’t trip over it even if you dragged your feet. In fact, I’ve lowered the filtering criteria to the point where the only requirements I ask is that it’s in Melbourne and that it pays some kind of a salary.

Minimum wage would be good. Fantastic, in fact. All I have to do is mentally convert that back into South African rands and I’d be rolling in the good stuff, but no luck so far. I’ve started volunteering at a local Op Shop and I’m really enjoying it. In fact I love everything about it except for the small fact that I don’t actually earn anything.

I’m not averse to working for nothing, of course, but it doesn’t pay any bills or give me the means to move out of my sister’s house and set up my own place, which I’d really like to do because part of me feels… well, to be honest I feel a bit embarrassed to be living like a useless teenager in someone’s house when I know I could be doing that special something that makes me independent.

Of course, I’ve worked without payment for years with my writing. Some would say I’ve done that for years with most of my theatre jobs too, especially back in the early days before anyone dreamed up (let alone wrote down) any basic conditions of employment for theatre workers in South Africa. It wasn’t unusual then to work around the clock for four days on end, just to get a show set up and open for business. Those were the days when we were young and foolish enough and didn’t lack for energy. Sadly, at my age that last bit is no longer the case either.

Why the title about the bison in the Sahara, you may ask? Well, in between browsing for likely jobs and writing the first draft of my new novel, I find all sorts of interesting snippets on the internet. Did you know that once upon a time the whole area now occupied by the Sahara desert used to be lush jungle? No, I didn’t know either until I read it somewhere online. Of course, I don’t think that area ever had bison running wild across it though – bison seem to have been native only to northern America, not northern Africa. (There’s also a species called European bison, but they weren’t native to Africa either.)

Bison, even if they ever roamed North Africa, certainly never did it while there was a jungle there, or during its current desert condition, because they graze the plains and disturb the soil which gives rise to new plants.

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Anyway, I digress. Not unusual in my current state of joblessness, I assure you.

I really don’t want to point out the obvious parallel with dinosaurs here – me being possibly too old to find a job in my sphere of interest and all that – but the mismatch does bear thinking about. Maybe some great job is just around the corner and I’ll be able to do that as well as write novels that everyone will rush to buy and then I’ll have to give up working to keep up with the demand and…

Maybe I should try writing fantasy instead of romance. Looking for the impossible might be easier than looking for the perfect match, don’t you think?


The Root of all Good

by Penny M

Forgive me for this, but due to my hectic schedule, I sought to resurrect a Christmas message from the archives.  Given the world events in play at the moment, I think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, ‘president’ Zuma, Julius and all the others who might hijack Santa and upstage Rudolf could benefit from a few grounding thoughts. I wouldn’t change a word except to say that there is a reason for the season and the author of my minutes is the giver of all good gifts and the best gift is the root of all good. Happy sowing, everyone.

P.S. For 2011, read 2016 and for 2012, read 2017.

The best gift

english bulldogs dressed up as santa and rudolph

I must have festivitis.

It’s a seasonal virus – let’s be frank, everything these days is viral.  I feel like I went to bed in 2011 and woke to discover that 2012 was a dream and my resolution is still written on rice paper left over from decorating last year’s Christmas cake.  I still haven’t sent the cards, done any shopping or even admitted to myself another year will run out before I get over it.

“Tis the season to be jolly tra la la la la la la la la la!”

I won’t bore you with my light-hearted poem about jingling tills and Santas on every corner.  The subject matter pales against the follies of so-called leaders using pothole repair funds to splurge on new wives or appease old ones.  While sensible people e-file, cough up for the TV licence and plan one-gift parties, others run up credit limits, buy whatever they want and jet away with no intention of returning to pay for their tickets.

Where is the joy in giving to the ‘haves’ when the ‘have-nots’ can’t give at all?  It doesn’t seem fair that I should have to dip into my retirement savings to give to the not-so-greedy needy when a major part of my income fills the traditional stockings that lie at the end of the beds of reason (and Santa didn’t put them there).

Don’t get me wrong, I love giving.  There’s something eternally fulfilling about clothing a needy child or warming a belly with hope.  The epitome of sadness is a pavement full of empty hats.

But there is cheer here somewhere.  I discovered a secret.  Somebody once said, ‘The best things in life are free.’  I’m inclined to agree.  Money, whether given or received, can turn the humblest of hearts.  It can lie, make or break.  Wealth is a matter of opinion.   True treasure grows in the poorest places; without small change, it makes the richest difference.  Pure love is not for sale, yet each of us has the capacity to give it.  It’s on everybody’s wish list.  There is nothing more precious than knowing you are loved; that someone chooses to give you their undivided attention for a second.  If you are fortunate enough to have received this gift, it can never be stolen or taxed.

Festive occasions are laced with hypocrisy for those who suffer hugs for hand-outs.  Genuine goodies are not reserved for special days.  No need for wraps and trimmings.  It’s simple.  Live for the moment and love every minute.  It’s the best gift.

Now where’s that rice paper …?



Where have all the whales gone?

By Jacqueline Dowling

In 2014 I wrote the following piece in response to Penny leaving out a pom pom in The Little Drummer Boy.

This year, things have changed – a bit. The Christmas decs popped up all over our local retail stores, thankfully sans carols and groaning Crosby, at the moment. October 15th. So, when I enter the hallowed (by xmas trees) precincts, I turn right, away from the toys and toys and toys and get down to cabbages and grapes (or similar). Much more satisfying nutritionally. . .

So what’s changed? The whales have gone elsewhere, that’s what. We haven’t seen one close in this year. The boat cruises tell us that they’re far out because of warmer water – maybe, or perhaps they’re lying on a slab out east. I hope not. There was a timewhen we counted twenty five really close in, leaping, playing, mating. This year – uh uh. Nix, nada.

This is what I wrote, and I hope I’ll be able to write in a more positive frame of mind next season. I miss hearing them blow in the still of the night, and their mighty leaps out at sea.

Image result for hermanus whales images

The day was hot, no white Christmas in sight. Red nosed reindeer and jingling bells wilted in the heat.

Glitzy trees flashed their signals – Come and Spend spend spend. Only nine hundred and sixty shopping hours left ’til Christmas.

And then I heard it, very faintly through the hubbub and clatter of trolleys, the cadences easy and gentle. ‘….And he smiled at me – pa – rup -a -pom -pom…‘ suddenly my hectic materialistic world, for a moment stood still.

I left the noise, the bling and frenetic Come and buy buy buy of the stores and went down to the cliffs. To the sea. To the birds and whales.

The rocks were warm, the sea just a summer whisper of clear aquamarine. Sapphire pools filled with tiny darting fish and huge waving sea-anemones where flocks of oyster catchers strutted their scarlet way, their high pitched wheeeee carried on the southerly breeze. Across the bay Southern Right whales spouted and lolled, glossy black; lazy in the swells. I was quite alone, blissfully detached . But still the haunting lyrics of The Little Drummer Boy stayed with me, like a carousel going around and around – and around.

A shadow moved into the pool at my feet, silently slipping through the kelp. A large shadow, followed by a much smaller one. It was a whale cow with her newly born calf. She came to rest within metres of my rock, nudged the little body towards her and suckled it. I watched, awed by the love between these two gentle creatures, by their grace and utter trust.

This African nativity- no shepherds, no kings or wise men. Just a timeless and beautiful reminder, suspended, for a moment in the crystalline waters, of a humble birth, so long ago: and what it has come to mean to us.

Then, in one swift movement, the mother thrust her calf to the surface and blew.

Twin spouts of warm oily mist drifted towards me as she raised her head, opened her massive baleen jaws – and smiled.

Image result for hermanus whales images

Until next season – when I so hope this will ring true again…