Saturday, December 22

Waiting to board

Garry and I are sitting in the Air New Zealand lounge waiting to board our flight to Rotorua. I'm quite excited about this flight as it's a new international route established just a few months ago. Flying into Rotorua conveniently brings my parent's home within 50 minutes of an international airport. The world gets a little closer every year.

That scrape on my face? It's the after effects of a cooking accident earlier in the week. While zealously tossing items around in a stir fry I managed to flick an searing hot oil smeared onion onto my chin. It hurt like hell and swiftly blistered in dramatic style. Not my finest hour in the kitchen.

• Posted from my iPhone


Thursday, December 20

Lighting up the neighbourhood

Residents in the tower block next door are hard at work creating a new neighbourhood Christmas tradition.  Over the last week or so Garry and I have noticed more and more apartments decorating their balcony with flashing lights. As the number of participants grow, so does the overall effect.  We hope others in the complex will take up the challenge.  We think 18 floors of festive lights dazzling in the night sky would be truly spectacular. Here's hoping others will soon add to the festive experience.


Tuesday, December 18

Time for some Christmas cheer!

It’s hard to believe Christmas will be here a week from today.  The last couple of months have simply flown by.  Despite being officially unemployed there have been few truly idle moments.  In fact, I’m beginning to wonder how I ever fitted in a 50-60 hour working week.  If stop to consider the last few days I’ve found myself meeting headhunters, helping Garry with his company website, hosting Christmas lunch for his family and working on my interim consulting business.

I’m pleased to report that my business is off to a promising start.  Thanks to the presentation I gave at World PR Forum in Melbourne eight quality business leads have already materalized.  If these convert into real billing work I could find myself busy four days out of five during the early months of next year.  The level of interest has been rather surprising which probably indicates how detached I’d become after 15 years sitting inside the same organization.
Unfortunately almost every headhunter says this year has been a shocking year for the recruitment industry.  Despite the OECD’s strongest GDP growth figures, a safe haven currency and declining unemployment figures business sentiment in Australia had fallen to the same level reported during the depth of the GFC.  I continue to be mystified by the perpetual reticence and mild despondency of Australians given the relative strength of its economy.  Negative media spin on every economic subject, coupled with the ongoing trials and tribulations of a minority Federal Government, are progressively taking a toll on the nation’s collective morale.
On a more positive note, as I mentioned, we hosted Garry’s family for an early Christmas lunch on Sunday.  The weather dawned bright and warm.  You already could feel the sun’s intense heat radiating through closed window blinds during breakfast.  Temperatures ultimately peaked in the low 30s, before clouds began gathering for light rain shower late afternoon. 
We assembled our popular banquet table on our main balcony and enjoyed a delighted lunch under the shade cloth.  Garry prepared a spectacular leg of ham, while I dazzled the crowd with my famous cheese board and a couple of Summer salads.  I even put my hand to a delicious trifle for dessert, laced with brandy custard and Bailey’s Irish Cream.  As expected, we ate far too much and shared plenty of laughs.
With one family Christmas behind us, we have one to go.  Garry and I fly to New Zealand on Saturday to join the rest of my family for a final reunion.  Sadly, Christmas this year comes with a poignant mix of celebration and sadness.  Dad’s health continues to decline and the end is clearly approaching.  After much debate and discussion the family moved him to a retirement home last Friday to ensure he receives the best possible care. 

They've reassured us that keeping someone with Dad's challenging health complications at home simply isn't viable anymore. He now needs at least two full-time carers on hand 24 hours a day; each properly trained to nurse an increasingly immobile man. It’s heart-breaking to know this is his final home. 

However, Mum has done a sterling job caring for Dad at home this year. The medical staff are full of praise for her efforts. She has given Dad the very best of care, keeping him safe and in familar surroundings, far longer than anyone thought possible.  Often to the detriment of her own health and well being. I salute her.

Finally, with things so uncertain, Garry and I have cancelled the short road trip we’d planned around the central North Island.  As I reflect on my father's situation the misguided woes of Australian business leaders swiftly pale to insignificant. Life is far too short to be worrying about "what might happen" when our national economy remains the envy of the world.  It's time for some Christmas cheer!
UPDATE:  5:30pm
Just as I was about to put this post to bed, a headhunter called to touch base.  II’s been encouraging to see at least four firms actively connect me with on a regular basis while others warmly respond to every update I share.  They say the job search process is often a waiting game, tempered by irregular bursts of unpredictable activity.

Wednesday, December 5

Flying into Summer

Summer is off to a roaring start in Sydney.  The first official days of Summer were marked by a brief, but searing heat wave.  Temperatures in the city’s Western Suburbs soared to a scorching 39°C, while on the coast, the mercury hovered in the slightly more merciful low 30s. As luck would have it, I’d chosen Friday to schedule a series of business meetings. As a result, it became a feat of true endurance, wandering the CBD’s streets in a suit and tie.

Yesterday I caught up with friends who’ve recently relocated from the USA.  We met for lunch in the International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay.  The harbour looked spectacular.  The Opera House literally sparked in the sunshine, creating the perfect backdrop during lunch.  Days like this remind me why I wanted to be back in Sydney.

Returning to Australia has also seen me clock up a few new experiences.  As I mentioned in my last post, I flew to Melbourne last month for a business engagement. I decided to book my flights with Virgin Australia. This was the first time I’d flown the airline since its launch more than 12 years ago.  My decision was prompted in part by Virgin Australia’s offer last year to match my Qantas frequent flyer status in its own loyalty program.

This let me try out the airline’s lounge, priority check-in and boarding benefits and complimentary luggage allowance.  The verdict?  Check-in was seamless.  The lounge in Sydney was a little lackluster.  Melbourne’s lounge was much better.  However, neither was on par with the Qantas Business Lounge.  However, the real delight was the aircraft I flew. 

I found myself flying south on one of Virgin’s new Boeing 737-800 airplanes.  The Boeing Sky Interior is simply gorgeous; artfully curving panels, backlit by a warm, iridescent glow. The interior is beautifully complimented by translucent bulkheads Virgin’s installed between business class and the rest of the cabin.  The cabin crew was also wonderfully attentive.  Sorry Qantas.  Virgin’s onboard experience won hands down.

I also flew Air New Zealand across the Tasman for the first time in almost a decade.  This was also an eye-opener.  The interior was clean and new, with an impressive seat-back inflight entertainment centre.  I was also impressed that staff knew I was a Gold Status member with Virgin. Best of all, I got to experience the airline’s Lord of the Rings inspired safety video. I’d already seen it on YouTube, but it’s never the same when you're sitting in a plane on the runway.  Air New Zealand is also giving Qantas a run for its money.

Finally, while in transit at Wellington Airport I got to see its latest tribute to the Hobbit trilogy.  The first installment received a world premier red carpet launch in Wellington last week. The airport's retail food court has been transformed into a super-sized underwater diorama.  A giant Golum is depicted plunging his head into the terminal, reaching for a quick marine snack.