Why do people suddenly stop blogging?

I always thought it odd when I’d come across a lapsed blog that had seemed full of enthusiasm, and to which the writer had posted regularly (even daily), until, one day…nothing.
No announcement or explanation, no slowly dwindling posts, just one day it was all on, and then the blogger never posted again. You look at the date of the last post, and it’s two years ago.
Or, you’re used to reading the blog every week, and one day you realise you no longer  see notifications about new posts.
Sometimes, this is for the awful reason that the blogger dies: this has happened three times with blogs I follow.
But ruling out the exceptions where the person has suddenly become ill or died, it’s a mystery.
And I have to say, I’m now one of the culprits. I realised today that I am just two weeks shy of it being a year since my last post.
Granted, my regularity of posting had dwindled over the previous year or so: pressure of working seven days a week and so on. But since late June last year, I’ve had a job where I have most weekends free. So why haven’t I been blogging? It couldn’t be blogger’s block—writing is something I’ve done almost my entire life.
I guess it’s that thing where it’s easy to get out of the habit of doing something. I’d started to see writing the blog as work, thus something of a chore, when actually, it should be an enjoyable diversion in one’s leisure time.
My neglected blog has been on my mind lately, and more so today when I paid the annual fee for the domain name carondann.com. Hopefully, I still have some readers left!
While I’ve been away, I’ve been painting pictures. Here’s my latest one, which depicts a beach at Hancock Park, near my birthplace in Dunedin, New Zealand, that I visited a couple of years ago.
©Caron Eastgate Dann, 2017

We need to talk about the work fridge…

If you work in an office, school or any sort of institution where there are many staff members, you will know what I mean when I say with dread, “the work fridge”.

That hive of half-bottles of sour milk, lunches from last week forgotten when a last-minute invitation to eat out came along, plastic containers of mouldy left-overs put there by an employee who left three months ago…ugh!

I try to use the work fridge as little as possible. But yesterday, I had cause to store a sandwich there. 
I noticed a patch of spilt milk on one of the shelves. What did I do? Nothing. I probably should have, but I rarely use the tea- and coffee-making facilities, so decided to ignore it. 
But today, same bat-place, same bat-time, I had cause to open that fridge again. Da-dooooowwww! Same patch of spilt milk from yesterday. OK, it had to be me who cleaned it, but I wondered why no one else, including those who use the fridge three or four times every day, had considered wiping up that spilt milk.  


Now, about 50 people use this staff kitchen regularly, most of them opening the fridge to get milk for their tea or coffee. On the bench is a notice, “Clean up after yourself”. And the bench itself is pretty clean, though someone used and discarded a teaspoon in the sink this morning (like, rinse it and put it in the rack already, it takes 3 seconds!).
I guess technically, no one actually spilt the milk. It probably came out itself through a lid not on tightly enough.
Or am I being too picky? People do call me a hygiene freak, after all.
But I wonder what their fridges at home look like inside.

Should you stand up for a pregnant woman in the train or bus?

I shouldn’t have to ask that question — it should go without saying that you would do so. But, sadly, I do have to ask it.

This is because twice this week I have seen instances where people appeared reluctant to stand for obviously pregnant women.
This morning, a woman got on the train and, after a few moments, I stood up for her, and she gratefully sat down, thanking me and giving me a lovely smile.
I say “after a few moments” because I was surrounded by young men and women, most of them 20 or perhaps even 30 years younger than me. I admit, I’d thought one of them would stand (is that wrong?). However, they remained in place, even in the seats opposite with notices that say the seats must be vacated if elderly, pregnant or disabled people need them.


 When I got up, none of the young men or women made a counter offer. They settled further into their seats, one making eye contact but quickly looking away.
A 35-ish man standing opposite me was shaking his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe that out of that whole group, you were the one who had to stand up,” he said. “Manners! Modern society, eh?” He said it loud enough for others to hear; they just sat there. Now, I’m not elderly or infirm or anything, but I do think that very young people should stand up before middle-aged people. There used to be a rule, too, that if you were on a student ticket, you were obliged to give up your seat to an adult. What annoyed me most was that more than one of us should have been prepared to give up his or her seat.
As I said, this was not the only incident this week (I catch a lot of public transport!). A few days ago, I got on to a crowded bus with no spare seats. After me, a woman got on who was pregnant. She stood for a while: no one got up for her, including people in seats right next to her.
Finally, a young woman standing on the other side of me courageoulsy tapped one of them on the shoulder and said, “I think you should stand up for her”, indicating the pregnant woman. The seated girl was genuinely surprised, and leapt up immediately. “Oh! I didn’t even notice,” she said.
I wondered if this was indicative of what had happened in both incidents. That people weren’t being rude, ill-mannered, or insensitive. They just didn’t notice.
Are we so embroiled in our personal worlds of music played via headphones or ear buds, texting, social media and even reading, or a combination of those things, that we fail to notice when fellow humans need our assistance?
It seems we need to get over ourselves, look around, and notice what’s happening in the world.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,100 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Old School Tie

Remember how much you hated your school uniform? The uniform at St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland, New Zealand, at which I spent about half my schooling, was Black Watch tartan, with hats and gloves required whenever we left school grounds (though hats could be removed after 6pm).

My old school tie, slightly the worse for wear now, with some of my favourite books from childhood, saved (luckily) for decades by my mother.

My old school tie, slightly the worse for wear now, with some of my favourite books from childhood, saved (luckily) for decades by my mother.

In summer, we had a tartan pleated skirt and a sailor-top with the tie built in, but with a lowish neck at the front that would sometimes be embarrassing. In winter, we had itchy woollen gym frocks, belted at the waist, with white shirts and a man-style tie. There were cardigans, blazers and green felt hats in winter, and white straw boaters in summer that would turn yellow in the sun.

I hated wearing long socks, because we were supposed to wear elastic garters to hold them up, but I found garters unbearably annoying, so my socks constantly fell down and I was always being told off for it.
We had dreadful sports gear: black rompers like something out of 19th-century England for younger girls, and an equally bad all-in-one black watch tartan romper suit for older girls. Both had puffy legs with elastic at mid-thigh level. We felt and looked ridiculous in them, and we had to do long distance running in the streets in these outfits, too. Young men and boys would laugh at us as we passed by.
Learning to knot our ties was a rite of passage, but I cursed the silly things every day. I’d always end up with one short end and one long.
I had forgotten all about my school tie until, recently, my mother returned it to me, having kept it all these years. I’m so glad she did. The hated thing is now reinvented in my mind as nostalgic memorabilia of happy school years with my best friend, Yvette—who is still my dear friend today.
These memories have come flooding back to me because we recently moved house  and we are next to a big school with extensive grounds like the one I went to. Their winter uniforms, even these several decades later, are similar in format, though different in colour and material. They have much better sports gear, though.
The other day, I happened to be walking home from the train as school was coming out. Students were milling round, some being picked up by mothers or fathers, some by grandparents. “So what did you do today?” “Mum, I have to tell you about Chrissie–“; “I need the money for the excursion, Mum, there’s a note about it in my bag…” “Dad, can we go to the park?” “No, no homework at all’; “So much homework.”
In the midst of all this, with cars drawing up to pick up kids and others pulling away, full of tired but still exuberant students, a white mini-bus pulled up to the curb. A mother waiting by the curb clapped her hands together in joy as the doors opened. “Hello, sweetheart!” she called. Her son jumped off into her welcoming arms. There must be a school for kids with special needs around here too, I realised. “Did you have a good day?” she said as she took his bag and bundled him toward the car.
I went to quite a few schools, in three countries, but it is always St Cuthbert’s College that stands out most in my mind. It was like Hogwarts in some ways, though they didn’t teach us to do magic, unfortunately. Our ‘headmistress’, as they were called then, Miss Holland, wore to morning assembly her academic gown, a fearsome black number that billowed round her sensible figure and reminded us that there would be no nonsense here.
One morning, I was in a particularly joyful mood, and I leapt up the stairs two at a time. Standing at the top of the stairs, was Miss Holland in her black gown, looking like thunder. “Go back down those stairs immediately and come up one at a time like a lady!” she exclaimed.
Miss Holland was dour and fearsome when I was at school. But about six years later, when I was a journalist, I met her and another teacher at a function. Miss Holland was friendly, smiling and personable. “Do call me Joan,” she said over a glass of wine. “Oh I couldn’t,” I replied, and she laughed delightfully. “We’re ever so proud of all our girls in their exciting careers,” she said, or something similar. Miss Holland, who held her position from 1969-1989, lived in a house within the school grounds, and had never married, so we had all naturally assumed that the school was her entire life, and perhaps it was. But I realised that day that she was actually a person, not just an intimidating school principal.

Beauty, when you least expect it

Picture © Caron Eastgate Dann 2014

Picture © Caron Eastgate Dann 2014

I had a very long working day yesterday. I left the house before 7am, and didn’t return until nearly 12 hours later. My day involved more than 100km of travel, hosting a field trip, and teaching classes. It rained all day.

As luck would have it when I was coming home after such a big day, transport across the city was affected by a fire at a major station, the weather and various other problems. Everything was running late, some trains had been cancelled, so my train was dreadfully overcrowded. To top it all off, in the crowded airless carriage in which I was travelling, the young woman standing beside me fainted, and we had to assist her and notify the driver (she was OK after a kind soul gave up his seat, and others gave her water and some candy).

When I got home, I was dead-dog tired. As I looked out the sliding doors into the courtyard and contemplated another early morning tomorrow, I felt exhausted just thinking about it. It was pitch black and still raining, and the world seemed a bit bleak to me.

Then the lamp-light in the courtyard caught the flash of something red. Something very red, like a child’s toy or a ball. I kept seeing this flash as I walked past the doors. I had to see what it was.

It was half-hidden under the basil and mint in our herb garden, and it turned out to be not something man-made, but a most beautiful autumn leaf dropped and blown in from our neighbour’s Japanese maple tree.

The red in this leaf was so astounding, I had to photograph it. The way the picture came out, it looks like it is floating in a pond, but it’s actually just sitting against the dappled glass of our outdoor table.

Today, as I went about my work, I kept thinking of that leaf, of the beauty that shone at me out of the night. I looked at the picture again on my phone as I rode the (uneventful) train home from work.

When I got home, my little red leaf had turned a more ruddy shade, as I knew it would. Tomorrow, it will be almost brown. But somehow, I still feel warmed by its vibrant red heyday, yesterday, and I know things aren’t so bad after all.

Job insecurity as the new job security

My friend, Kenny, over at Consider the Sauce, writes about the insecurity of current work life. It’s something close to my heart.

consider the sauce


Today I went to work … for the simple reason I had a job to go to.

I will do the same on Monday and Tuesday.

And, hopefully, presumably, next Friday, too.

Given the ongoing ructions in the media in general and the newspaper lark in particular, this is not a situation I take for granted – even in a good week.

And this has not been a good week. (But perhaps it hasn’t been ruinously bad one either … read on, dear reader, read on …)

Once again, my colleagues and I have been tossed around by the winds of change.

In this case, it was announced on Thursday that the western suburbs affairs of the MMP group, for which I work, are to be merged with the western suburbs affairs of the Star group, which lives on the other side of the Ring Road from our Airport West…

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Valentine’s Day: why a tomato beats a red heart

People who know me well will tell you I don’t like being told what to do; I’ll decide what I do and, as I say, “YOU don’t tell me”.

So, naturally, I don’t like these days in which we are all told en masse that we WILL and HAVE TO celebrate something by spending up big, and that if we don’t, it shows we don’t care.

Today is Valentine’s Day in Australia, when we are all supposed to be romantic. There’s something creepy about being told by commercial enterprises that this is the day we will do something romantic with our partner: like a nasty voyeur watching through a peephole, or a dastardly puppeteer surveying her handiwork.

I’m NOT going to be shamed into buying roses, chocolate hearts or a $9 card.

I might, however, make my beloved a special dinner: so instead of shopping for a card with a big red heart, I’ll more likely be buying a big red tomato today! I like that better.

My preferred Valentine's Day symbol.  Picture: Caron Eastgate Dann 2014

My preferred Valentine’s Day symbol.
Picture: Caron Eastgate Dann 2014

I’m not averse to receiving a dozen red roses, and my husband has often had them delivered to me on special occasions, such as our wedding anniversary. But they are outrageously expensive, and—truthfully—on Valentine’s Day, I’d rather have the money!

The Valentine’s Day supporters would say that makes me unromantic, but why? Because I don’t want to join the party with everyone else? Well I say, two’s company and anything more is just a crowd.
In addition, I don’t like the way a commercialised enterprise makes a significant proportion of the population feel sad, inadequate or lonely.

A good friend remarked to me today that although he appreciated exactly what commercial rubbish Valentine’s Day was, because reminders of it were everywhere you looked, it still had the power to make people feel sad if they were single but would prefer not to be.
I come from New Zealand, though I now live in Australia. Growing up, I can’t remember ever celebrating Valentine’s Day there. I knew about it, because I lived in the US for a few years when I was aged 10-12, and it was big even then, in the 1970s.
Back then, the done thing was to give a Valentine’s Day card to every student in your class, which I did in the first year. Only trouble was, I inadvertently missed out one girl: Erin was her name. She was a nice girl, though quiet, and I always felt bad that I’d forgotten her. I hope she isn’t now writing a post somewhere about how she was forever traumatised because at school she was the only person left out of Caron’s Valentine’s Day card delivery. Sorry, Erin!

Over the last few years particularly, the pressure to celebrate days such as Valentine’s has become much greater than it used to be. Weeks, and sometimes even months before the day, shops are full of reminders. You feel like a heel if you don’t participate. Now don’t get me started on the commercialisation of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and Easter…

The top 10 things cool guys do on the trains of Japan

From the odd but always hilarious RocketNews24 blog comes a report of train behaviour in Japan. I wish the coolest thing to do in Australia was to give up your seat to someone who needed it. I constantly see young, able people slouching in seats while old people stand. The seated people often give their bag its own seat, too, and look disgruntled when asked to move it.