I am at that difficult moment in a writers’ life when a manuscript is ready for publication. I have researched suitable publishers, made note of their precise requirements, and will now write my biography, a synopsis of the story and attempt to convince them that I have more than one book in me.

Every time I think I have come to the end of a writing process, new challenges present themselves. Writing a book requires a different skillset to editing or writing a synopsis. I’m learning on the fly. There are no guarantees that my hard work will pay off or that the manuscript will find a home beyond my desk drawer. Yet I am driven to keep trying. I have even started on my next project which is my first attempt at writing a novel.

At work, colleagues talk about television shows or movies they have seen. They spend their time gardening on weekends, or talk about BBQs they have attended. I smile and nod but have nothing to contribute. While they relax or socialise, I sit at my desk and write – often late into the night. They can’t understand why I would choose to keep working after a day at the office where I also work on a computer. On the other hand, I can’t understand why people wouldn’t want to use their time to create rather than simply consume. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy movies or that I don’t lose myself in books. Of course, I do. However, I also need to produce something tangible to feel fulfilled.

I have talented friends who can paint or draw, and I marvel at their abilities. My daughter is a gifted musician, and my cousin a consummate stonemason. As for me, I have none of these skills. But I am passionate about language and words have always been my salvation.

A lifetime of accumulation

With each passing year I realise that I have accumulated more than I will ever be able to use. I have champagne glasses, plates, and platters galore, sheets, towels and tablecloths that have never seen the light of day. Many of these items have been given to me by generous friends who have looked for a perfect present and no doubt spent a pretty penny in the process. I am always grateful for their kind thoughts.

I have kept sentimental items which remind me of special places or times, and they make me smile when I notice them on a shelf as I walk by. These would be particularly difficult to part with and I am glad to keep them with me.

The more practical things I would happily give away, if only I had somewhere to take them. I have donated many items to Vinnies and the Salvos but they are now overflowing with donated goods. Even country towns recently ravaged by floods are asking people to stop sending donations. They have filled every hall available and are now facing the issue of trying to move the excess on.

One of the saddest things I have recently seen is footage of markets in Africa where women attempt to recycle clothes offloaded by wealthy countries. They call them ‘Dead White Man’s Clothes’ and try to sell the merchandise for a pittance. It seems nobody wants what we discard and all we have done is to shift the problem elsewhere.

I remember in my twenties we were thankful for every bit of donated furniture, crockery, and glassware. We weren’t choosy. We repurposed most items and it was a long time before we considered buying anything new. New things were expensive. There were no two-dollar shops, mass market imports hadn’t flooded the market yet and we had to make do. In many ways, I feel we were better at recycling simply because we had to be. I would have been ever so thankful for the things I am now trying pass on. And if I hadn’t wanted them, I would have known dozens of people who did.

So here I am with boxes of brick-a-brac I’d love to give away. But in an era of plenty, it is more difficult to give away than it ever was to accumulate.


© Copyright Pierlite 2023

Whoever dreamt up open plan offices clearly had never worked in one. Add hot-desking to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. ‘Our employees are our greatest asset,’ is the catch cry of many a workplace but it feels like ‘your call is important to us’ while placed on hold.

I work in an ostensibly beautifully designed office that must have cost the NSW government a pretty penny. It has state of the art kitchens on every floor, artwork in the hallway, real plants in every area, large television screens in the eating area and little nooks to for intimate conversations. It also has adjustable desks, expensive chairs, and some small bookable offices where people can go to have meetings or private conversations, if they aren’t already booked. On the surface, it is perfect.

Right now, many people are still working from home so that only a fraction of the desks are utilised. Our designated area is close to another NSW department which is quite separate to us. Most of their work is conducted on the telephone or Zoom calls, while most of our work tends to be either quiet computer work or online meetings. Both groups deal with sensitive and confidential information but due to the configuration of the desks, we can’t help but hear things that we really shouldn’t. It doesn’t help that one of the men ‘from the other side’ has a booming voice that travels several hundred metres. Furthermore, brevity is not a concept with which he is acquainted.

I have had to get used to wearing noise cancelling headphones (my own) to be able to get any work done at all. Sometimes even they aren’t enough, and I find myself downloading the sound of ocean waves to drown out the voices around me.

Then there’s the issue of hot-desking. It is meant to be ‘flexible’ or ‘agile’, but it ignores that we are creatures of habit who like to have our own spot. Hot-desking certainly hasn’t stopped booming-voice-man’s conversation reaching my ears. He, like most others, tends to sit at his favourite desk. This isn’t an issue at present as we have more desks than people in the office. The working from home phenomenon has meant that many people have chosen not to return as they find it more comfortable to be in their own surroundings. Let’s face it, at home you can sit at your own desk and have as many of your favourite items around you as you like. A bit like in the old days when you could have a photo on a desk, maybe some nick-nacks, and most importantly, the files you were working on. The computer was affixed to the table and at the end of the day you could walk away knowing full well that everything would be found where it had been left.

Now, however, I have to carry my laptop and my work mobile, store keyboard and mouse in a tiny locker with any papers I may need (remember the dream of the paperless office ?) and leave the desk pristine when I clock off. It takes a good 5-10 minutes to set up each morning and the same to pack up in the evening.

All the desks look sterile. There are no photos or personal belongings anywhere and it feels more like an assembly line than an office. The message is clear. We are all expendable. When I leave, no trace of my presence is left behind.

%d bloggers like this: