Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Jobsworths and Steeple

Occasionally, when reading a blog, I come across an unfamiliar word or phrase.  These words may be commonplace in their home country, but practically unheard of in this country.  Two unfamiliar words came to my notice recently.

The first word – jobsworths - appeared in an English blogger’s post.  Even in the context of its use in the post, which I understood was connected with local government employees, I still couldn’t figure it out.  I had no idea and searched with the help of that know-it-all, Google, for a definition.

The jobsworth definition is as follows:
An official who upholds petty rules, even at the expense of humanity or common sense.

Now I can see how this descriptor might fit any number of people employed in local government, both here in this country and in England.  Extending this thought a little further, I can think of at least two people I know, who would qualify as jobsworths. They are quite fixed in their thinking and would stick to the letter of the law, whether it is a local government by-law or any other law.

The second word appeared in a comment box and came from an American: America is a Steeple country.

What?  Is this meant to be read as America being a country of churches with steeples, whose congregations are people who might fit the description of the conservative religious right?

Wrong! Nothing to do with churches at all.

Further investigation reveals STEEPLE is an acronym for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Legal and Ethical.

 It’s an acronym used for business planning to see how well a new business proposal might fit within the acronym framework; a step up from the old SWOT analysis which has been around for quite some time. It looks in more detail at factors which may decide whether a business proposition is worth proceeding with or abandoning or perhaps tweaking certain aspects to make it fit the formula.

I do not know what other countries use as this acronym for business planning; maybe STEEPLE is used internationally, although Americans claim it as their own.

I’ll forget the acronym in less time than it takes to put these words down but I will remember jobsworth, as it represents a type of person; people, and their behaviour, fascinate me.

Church- with Steeple
Bathurst NSW                            Circa: November 2006

Monday, 14 January 2019

Inhaling the pungent smell of the peppercorn tree

On my way into the city, my movie ticket tucked firmly in my purse, I turn the corner into the station street and immediately I’m assailed by the pungent smell of a peppercorn tree. This large, old tree, one of three, sits at the edge of the footpath in front of a small block of flats, its branches hanging down above the heads of passers-by.

The smell of peppercorns often takes me back to my pre-school childhood. Peppercorn trees would be the first trees I could recognise and name. I spent most of my very first years with my city grandparents; no trees on their small inner-suburban block, peppercorns or otherwise.

On the farm with my country grandparents it was different entirely. A child’s world is a small one and the peppercorn tree which stood outside the farmhouse kitchen door seemed enormous.  It provided cool shade in the summer and one branch had a swing roped to it; occasionally I would be pushed in the swing by somebody with a few minutes to spare. The tree also sheltered the meat safe, not exactly a Coolgardie safe, but a close relative where meat, butter and milk were kept in the coolest place possible. No refrigeration in the farmhouse in those days.

Leaving the peppercorn trees and memories of my early childhood behind, I crossed the road to the train station.

No hitches to my movie plans today; although there was a short version of musical chairs in the back row of the cinema when a woman with mobility issues sat where she fancied and everyone else in the row made their own arrangements.

I thought The Children Act was a film well worth seeing and on my rating system; I gave it a score of 8.5.   Emma Thompson was excellent, the dedicated family court judge who became the person forced to acknowledge she had failed to deal with her personal relationships. A very moving film. 

 There was one jarring note at the end of the film when the boy lay dying in the hospice; make-up could surely have made a better choice of that terrible grey pallor which made him look like an actor in a cheap B-grade movie.

I left the cinema, having achieved what I first set out to do a week ago; to mark the occasion I lunched at a nearby French-style charcuterie.

Saturday, 12 January 2019


The real summer weather – with higher temperatures – has arrived at last. Here in Marvellous Melbourne we are in for a week of temperatures of 30+C.

This is the summer climate we live in and there will people who will relish the idea of really hot weather.  I am just not one of them. People living along the coast and around the Bay will feel the benefit of cool breezes off the water. Those living to the north of the city will not benefit from any cooling breezes. No relief on those flat northern plains, now packed with shoulder to shoulder housing and very little greenery to relieve the heat.

Move out of the city and cross The Great Dividing Range and the true meaning of hotter weather kicks in. Northern Victorian temperatures mean business in the summer time, they’re not for the faint-hearted.  In the far north-west corner of the state, across the Murray River from New South Wales and an hour or so by car from the SA border, Mildura has punishing summer days.

As I write this, I recall years ago, when Marble Bar in Western Australia grabbed attention in a small space in a column in the east coast papers for a recorded a temperature of 50C. I was absolutely disbelieving and could not imagine anywhere in Australia could be as hot as Marble Bar. 

The accuracy of that report might be disputed today, what with the overload of information on the internet. 

However, Marble Bar does have official claim to 160 consecutive days of 37.8C (100F) and above, from 31 October 1923 to 7 April 1924, setting a world record.

And how hot was it in Marble Bar yesterday?  A fairly standard 45.3C…

It makes our weather here seem positively mild and balmy by comparison.  

Marble Bar township                                       courtesy unknown photographer