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The perpetual student

nurse . writer . geek

‘Melburn’ tourist

It’s not often I get the chance to play  tourist in my own city, so when the opportunity came up this week, I jumped on it! I had taken holiday time for my cousin’s wedding, however, when things didn’t work out, I figured that I could either mope about a lost opportunity or do some sightseeing of my own. I then built on that thought, and decided to introduce you all to my city. Therefore, here’s my online tour of Melbourne. I should first point out, that the title, is one of the ways we pronounce it. Either that or ‘Melb’n’. depending on how lazy we’re feeling. You may have noticed, we shorten everything. It saves time we could be using to drink our coffee… or chai, depending on what suburb you’re in

.20150813_072943 This is the best way to see the city. Public transport with a coffee. It gives you a chance to sit back and read (if you can find a seat for those silly enough to travel in peak hour). I really hate driving in the city. I can handle the hook turns, (an experience on their own), but the dance of the parking towers and the traffic waltz feature heavily in my nightmares. I would much rather have a coffee perched on the luggage rack as the farms turn into skyscrapers.

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The first place you should probably go if you’re new to the city is Federation square. It’s a great place to pick up those maps you know you left on your laptop, and you’ll want to save your phone battery! It also gives you a place to sit down for a minute, and soak in the first impression of the city. The buildings are so different from one another it’s like an architectural timeline. If you’re starting at the front, keep an eye out for the hidden lanes. They hide some amazing street art down there.

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These photos don’t really do them justice, but I wanted to give you a taste of some of the talent we have. Our talent isn’t limited to art though, every street you walk down usually has at least one musician or performer out to impress the crowds, You won’t walk far without some kind of music to put that little skip in your step

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Busking in Bourke st. Mall

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On the topic of music, before we stray too far into alleyways that spit you out blocks away and turned around. If you take a peek down the back of Federation square, you find BIrrurung Marr. A place dedicated to aboriginal diversity. The walk leads you down past some spectacular landmarks on the way to the federation bells.
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Federation bells
Federation bells

These bells are programmed to give you a beautiful composition with the sound of a series of church bells. It’s a little loud when you’re right among them, but in summer with a picnic on the grass beyond? It’s a highlight to the Melbourne soundtrack for me.

I’ve included some of the things I noticed, I won’t go into too much detail on the laneways as they really are an experience in themselves, and everyone who visits will see something different. I will say, that I asked about the second photo, and yes, apparently the warning labels were necessary! The fourth picture is of an animal I’ve taken to calling the Koalaroo. I have to go back in just to buy that!

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No trip to Melbourne is complete without a visit to the Queen Vic Market. A writhing mass of people dodging other shoppers as they peruse home-made goods and cheap knock-offs, fresh food and flowers. It has been described as the heart and soul of Melbourne for a reason. Here again, you’ll be treated to buskers, vying for airwave space with spruikers and families. You can even indulge in a little wine-tasting if you’ve been on your feet all day so far! I should point out that if you tell a local that you went there, they are more than likely to ask what you thought of the donuts. If you reply that you didn’t try them, you run a serious risk of shunning. It’s almost a crime to visit and not try these fluffy clouds of sugar coated bliss.

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Down a bit from the market, you’ll find Melbourn Central. From the outside, it’s an upended ice-cream cone covered with silver. When you get inside though, you can see that under the cone, is the preserved shot tower taking pride of place. If you have a minute, wait for the great big fob watch in front of it to ring in the hour. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I have fond childhood memories of begging mum to wait for it to go off before we moved on. I found something new here this time! There’s a little shop on level three that is the brain-child of a group of young people who are desperately wanting to do something about the homeless problem. While I was in there, I met Rich, (the artist in the middle) Who has been doing these amazing works. The boys at Homie are planning a gallery showing for him, and have asked him to illustrate a children’s book they’re working on following the life of a boy living on the streets. I can’t wait to be able to post a link here for you.20150818_143622

Downstairs from there, is the Max Brenner shop where I almost called it a day. The smells in here are amazing, andFB_IMG_1439865498161 who wouldn’t stay for the dipping plate! Unfortunately, I did eventually run out of chocolate and forced myself to move on.

Before you start thinking that my whole day was spent shopping and chasing sugar and oddities, The whole reason I went was because I found a public lecture that I wanted to attend as it was centered on Dementia. If you’re into more intellectual pursuits, and the bookshelves and hipster nooks aren’t enough for you to sink your teeth into, I highly recommend jumping online and finding one of the many… and I do mean MANY different lectures open for the public to attend.20150813_194054_001 Everything from mental health to history and culture can be found there, and with everything interconnected by public transport it’s so easy to get to. I can understand why we’ve been voted most livable city. Maybe I’ll see you there?

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Missed connections

Never done this style before 🙂

The wall of books took up the back wall of the shop. As small as it was, her whole attention was set on the spines that turned their backs to her. New releases, old classics, books that didn’t deserve their best-seller titles.
“Travesty.” She muttered under her breath. At least she thought it had been.
“Completely!” She glanced sideways, taking in the tall figure. He, like her was focused on the floor to ceiling shelves, eyes skipping over one here, glaring at another there as though it’s very presence was an offence of the highest order.
Her face flushed. Useless in the art of flirting, her mind scrambled to put a coherent string of words together. He spoke first.
“It amazes me how drivel seems to consistently find its way into the hands of the masses.” His voice was soft, but even with the screeches and shouts of the nervous system of the city railway station fighting to drown him out, she didn’t need to strain to hear him. He plucked a book from the shelves, turning it over to read the blurb. If she hadn’t been trying to watch him from the corner of her eye, she would have missed his own glance toward her, and the suble flush that peeked over his collar as their eyes met.
“What would you recommend?” She ventured with a boldness she hopes he couldnt tell was faked. Turning to meet him fully, she sucked in a calming breath. He handed her the book in his hand. She reached out a hand, stupidly proud that it didn’t shake from nerves.
“Is it..” Her eyes widened as they fell on the clock behind him. “Oh no! I’m going to miss my train!” She was surprised at the strong sensation of loss that struck her in that instant. Letting her hair fall forward to hide her disappointment from this total stranger, She bent to gather her bag.
“You know,” he hesitated. “I’ve just finished this one.” He handed her a slightly dog-eared book, procured seemingly from nowhere.
“Really?” She stuttered. “Thank you!”
“A pleasure,” he muttered, meeting her eyes for a moment before glancing away. “Go on, you don’t want to miss your train.”
She manage to splutter out another ‘thank you’ as she ran from the store, handbag knocking a book to the floor as it swung out at her turn. Mortified, she waved a sorry to the harried shop keeper who just waved her off.

She made it to the platform with minutes to spare. As she caught her breath, she took the chance to look at the book still clutched in her hand. The cover gave nothing away, almost plain but for the title. As she turned it over, her fingers caught a scrap of paper peeking from between the pages. Curious, she opened the book, slipping a piece of a torn out notebook from the pages.
‘I’m sorry we didnt have time to talk’
She smiled as she read, absently hearing the train pull up to the platform in front of her.
‘If you want to talk more about books, I know a great coffee shop.’ His number was scrawled at the bottom. She felt people flow around her, a sea of self involved anxiety and impatience. A glance up to the bookshop showed the stranger standing at the door. She could feel his eyes locked onto hers.
“Miss?” Someone tapped her shoulder, a stressed man in a high-vis vest was looking up and down the platform. She was the only one standing there now. “Are you boarding? We need to move.”
“Actually,” she glanced once more at the man who had stepped towards her. “I think I’ll miss this one. ”
 

Subjective data

There’s nothing like a dying patient to put things in perspective. Where I work, we have all kinds of patients. Palliative patients share halls with patients under 50, sometimes younger. As the nurse, It’s quite difficult to change your mindset from one room to another, but if you don’t, you end up speaking down to someone unintentionally. Or shouting at someone who can hear you perfectly well. I think the biggest obstical though, at least for me, was heat. Well not directly I guess….

Let me put it to you this way. It’s 28C outside and you have been running around all shift. You’re hot. No, you’re melting. Now down the hall, you see a patient buzzing, so you go and see what they need. What they ask for, is a blanket. Looking at the patient, you can see they are already wearing pyjamas and are curled under a blanket, as well as sporting a classy throw rug over their knees. On top of that, they are flushed and sweaty. There’s not a chance in hell I’m going to heap another blanket on top of that.

I make my excuses and leave the room, Convinced I am acting in their best interests.

This is where I have to take a step back.

I am not her.

Who am I to decide that someone is too hot to have another blanket? Just because the heat is currently killing me, that doesn’t mean she is having the same issues.

I step back into the room and look again. This time, the flushed face is clearly grimacing. Fingers are clutching at the one blanket covering her shivering form. She isn’t cold, she’s in pain, She’s seeking any form of comfort she can find.

Needless to say, she got her blanket and her medication to settle the pain that plagued her. I found ten minutes in my day to sit with her and give her the comfort she needed.

She slipped away soon after that.

Looking back I like to think I learned from that. My feelings have no bearing on my residents. Now, I don’t go around giving blankets to overheating patients that ask for them. Some of them have no internal guage to tell them enough and will happily ask for blanket after blanket untill they sweat themselves out of the chair. What it has taught me, is to assess every case individually. Different things affect individuals differently. Some pain thresholds are completely different to mine.

If you are just starting out in a nursing proffession, there is a reason they stress the difference between subjective and objective data. My advice would be, take a step back and don’t put yourselves in their shoes. They won’t always fit.

(Footnote: I always assess a patient for pain. I just wanted to use an extreem case to highlight the importance of always looking at the whole picture!)

The professional pan-handler

I know I’m new to the blog scene, but if I’m going to do this crowding thing, I would be remiss to put a plea out to my fellow authors and artisans here.
As many of you no doubt know, I can proudly say I am a published author and a nurse. What I can’t say is I’m married to a movie producer millionaire and therefore have a licence to print money. This self-inflicted penury means my magnificent independent publisher and I are responsible for marketing, funding, promoting, pretty much everything that makes books sell.
Having sold my book as a self published project, I know that conventions are the best way to reach your chosen market. I also know that to consider yourself successful, you need to reach international conventions. This is why I need your help.
I am planning to take my zombie book to the WalkerStalker convention next year. Between buying product, organising travel and accommodation, the funds are likely going to exceed my budget. As an incentice, I am prepared to give a 15% discount to customers who can tell me where they heard about my request. Any little bit will help!

http://www.gofundme.com/w7r78w44

Hope to see you there!

Preppers!!

I cop a lot of flack at home because of my apocalyptic writing. Dad in particular takes great pleasure in questioning my own ‘prepper’ tendencies as over dramatic.
I realised something though,  as he raced around the house getting ready  (he takes longer than mum and I combined). My boyscout dad is a prepper in denial. He doesn’t just stop at a bug out bag either! He has a small black bag that he stocks with things he might possibly need. Extra electronic pen that records notes to the cloud in case his main one dies? Check!
Not a prepper. Right. And Doctor Who only catches my attention now and then.
I questioned him on his bag this morning, before we got into his bluetooth enabled office on wheels -thats right, Mr. Not-a-prepper has a bug out vehicle too-. His response?
“This is not a bug out bag, its an everyday take to work bag.”
So.. an EDC?
Before my fellow preppers start jumping up and down pointing out that the lack of survival blanket, freeze dried food, and magnesium mean it’s not a real survival bag; I’ll point out that dads idea of primal living is having to rely on Macdonalds WiFi. The point here? Before you make fun of any prepper, turn out your handbags and backpacks. I’ll bet you’re a prepper too!

My existential fit

I wasn’t going to write today, I know that I won’t be writing daily so I didn’t want to start with unrealistic goals. Having said that though, I am currently reading Man’s search for meaning (Victor E Frankl) and was inspired to add another page to my blog/diary/thing; this one dedicated to musings and thoughts about nursing. Let me preface this by warning you that my attitude and demeanour is usually directly affected by what I am reading. If I sound snobbish, it is because I am reading the work of a brilliant man. I can assure you, it won’t last.

Dr. Frankl is a psychiatrist, and though I wouldn’t dream of putting my experiences on par with his own in the concentration camps, some of the things he wrote brought my experiences in aged care to mind.

He writes,

“A man who could not see the end of his provisional existence, was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future. […] Therefore the whole structure of his inner life changed”

He is speaking here of his experience in the camp. While I would not go so far as to dishonour my profession by equating it to a camp, I at once thought of the ‘provisional existence’ many of my own residents experience.  Aged care residents (certainly in high care) are put there when they are incapable of living on their own. They become dependent on the of staff to assist them in almost every aspect of life. Is it any wonder then, that when stripped of their independence, told that they cannot bring the possessions that made their house a home. Items that hold so many memories in each chip and scrape. Is it surprising then, that so many become listless and depressed?

This is not new to nurses. We do see it in our patients. Speaking for myself though, because of constant exposure to this, it becomes a part of life, something easy to overlook. I am adding this here because I need to remind myself to step back daily, and see my ‘workplace’ through their eyes. Old eyes that see no purpose in their ‘provisional existence’, and now must call their one tiny room home.

Our time as nurses on the floor may be limited. However, let me encourage not only myself, but those of you interested in pursuing a career in nursing. The patient needs a reason to continue on. Yes they are usually there to see their days out, Our role is to make sure that each of them are able to do it in as much comfort and dignity as we can give them.

Still feeling my way around ‘The Blog’.

For those of you following my daily ‘diary’ page, I don’t know if this alerts you to the new pages or not. Does anyone know how to add tags to separate pages or is that something I can’t do here?

I’ve been asked before why I chose to write about zombies. The honest answer is therapy. How often can you kill that overbearing person that makes your life that little bit harder in your head? I get to do that over and over in new and inventive ways… without the fear of retribution. Before someone starts jumping up and down screaming ‘I knew it was about me!’ all the characters I use have about four different people influencing parts of their character. So no. It’s not just about you. Stop taking it personally. Having said that, I can completely understand GRR Martin’s fascination with taking out key players (Don’t worry, I’m not killing off everyone). It stretches the imagination and skill of a writer to take away the easy ‘hero’ and still be able to deliver a workable product that doesn’t leave fans looking for the nearest exit.

I guess it’s like a writing exercise. When you’re at the gym, you add weights… yeah, I don’t really go to the gym, this is just what Hollywood tells me. When you’re writing, you take away the main protagonist and have to build someone else up to take their place. Something for all you budding authors to think about next time you’re scribbling.

I have something to say about writers block too, but I’ll save that for next time in case I can’t think of what to write. *chuckles to self*

The short story. For OVER fifteens.

When I finished my first book, I still had ideas swimming through my head about what might have happened in other parts of the town. This is one of the thought’s I had that never made it into the book. I didn’t want to condemn it to a life of obscurity in the forgotten files of my computer. So I’m putting it here. It might not be technically appropriate for people under fifteen.

-UNTITLED-

The already hard soil, was baked hot before lunch that morning. The unusual heat wave had the seaside residents out in droves, hitting the shops for the promise of air-conditioned sales. Many more made a bee-line to the beach, eager to secure the best positions before the heat drove the rest out to the cool water.

Sandra had finally managed to coax her family out to the car later then she had hoped. They were sure to hit the crowds headed home after their morning shopping expeditions now.

Weighted down with their beach paraphernalia and a picnic basket, she was quite proud that she had managed to keep the peace as long as she had. Already tempers had begun to fray, and she had made sure to sneak a bottle of wine into the basket as her own beachside reward for dealing with three children under 12 in the scorching heat.

Her husband, Charlie, carried their youngest daughter Mia out of the house. Securing her into the seat, he moved aside just as Steven and Michael barrelled around him to claim their own seats.
Boxing day at the beach had become a family tradition. Even on the cooler days, there was always something to do. It had gotten to the point where she looked forward to this more then the day preceding it. Without the stress of family commitments and presents, they could relax and let the kids run off the sugar overload from Christmas.

The streets were as crowded as she had imagined. Sarah frowned. If they had left when she had wanted to, they would be there by now. Already she could see heavy streams of cars from the direction of Geelong as the townies escaped to the sea. She glanced across to the car beside her, a small smile dancing across her lips as she took in the quiet kids in the back seat. That was an accomplishment to be proud of. Her eyes flicked to the woman in the front seat. The brunet was pale, her eyes wide and locked on the car in front of them. Sandra glanced at the four-wheel drive in front, unable to see anything that would call for that sort of reaction. She looked back at the car, confused. The woman seemed to be driving on reflex, her fingers wrapped tightly around the wheel, her red shirt dripping slowly. Sarah frowned again at the viscous liquid -was that blood?

Sarah’s mouth dropped open and she spun to look at Charlie, she could feel the car slow slightly. He wasn’t looking at her though. His attention was drawn to the side of the road in front of them where she could see three cars had collided. Someone was reaching into the passenger seat, no doubt to help. There were no police or ambulances to be seen, had it just happened? Was it not as bad as it seemed? The driver who had stooped to help the passenger straightened from his position, something in his hand. As the car drew up closer Charlie grabbed her arm.
“Distract the kids.” He hissed “Don’t let them see this.” She gasped as the driver pulled whatever was in his hand up to his mouth.

She turned in her seat and pasted on a thick smile that felt like plaster smothered on her skin, she just prayed it didn’t crack.
“Lets sing a song!” Her voice was high and strained, Michael, her 11 year old looked at her sourly.
“Baa Baa!” Seven-year-old Steven however, was easily distracted by the promise of his favourite song. Michael’s pout deepened but he dutifully sung along, Mia’s tuneless hoots attempting to drown them all out.

Sandra glanced out the window beside her infant daughter as the first car she had seen slowed to a crawl. The woman looked worse now, her head was starting to sink towards her chest, her skin almost yellow through the tinted window. Sandra sung louder as if that would keep her children safe and distracted in their own little world, not outside where it seemed to all be going wrong. Turned in her chair, she could see the driver stoop into the wrecked car again. From this angle, she could see his left arm was missing; the close side of his shirt was drenched in blood. She sucked in a sobbing gasp but kept singing.
“One for the master…”

The car beside them swerved into their lane, barely missing their rear, and running the car behind them off the road completely. Michael turned at the noise.
“Michael! Sing!” Steven insisted. The woman started to thrash in her seat, fighting the restraint of the seat belt to get at the now screaming children in the backseat behind her.
“One for the dame..”

The woman broke free of the belt and she grabbed at the child closest to her, a boy no older then Mia. Sandra let the kids finish the song, she felt sick.
“Charlie, what’s happening?” Her voice was a cracked whisper.
“Sarah! Look! Oh thank God, The authorities are here.” His own voice was less then steady as he pointed out the flashing lights and military style vehicles ahead.

They slowed to a crawl and then stopped as the traffic banked up before them. She could see people standing on top of their cars, some looking scared, some screaming at the blockade.

“Why aren’t they letting us through?”

“Daddy, are we going to see the army men?” Steven leant forward, his head bumping her arm.

“We’ll see mate.” He muttered back.

A man jogged past their car, running toward the blockade, a woman ran behind him clutching at her side, her handbag smacking her car door as they passed. Sandra cracked a window open, the hot blast of air cutting through the air-conditioning. Mia started to whimper.

“Help me please!” The man screamed, reaching back to grab the woman’s arm. “My wife’s been hurt!” Ahead, Sandra could see movement on the top of the trucks. The crowd between the cars had swollen, the fringes reaching as far back as the car in front of them. A young man in fatigues tried to call order to the panicked crowd. Still the man pushed through the crowds, still calling for help.

“Is that a gun?” Sandra asked. The fatigue-clad man had levelled his arm in their direction, still calling for the man to halt as he reached the front lines of the crowd and made no signs of stopping. Suddenly the woman stumbled, her handbag knocking a nearby pedestrian down with her. Sandra lost sight of them in the crowd, only hearing screaming; then the gunshot.

The crowd panicked.

A swarm of people rushed towards them, Sandra put the window up again watching the sea of frightened faces as they swept around them. Sandra could see glimpses of the young woman, lying prone on top of another woman, her face buried in her neck. The man on the truck fired twice, she jerked, and fell still.

Sandra’s door was wrenched open and a large man started grabbing at her belt.

“NO! Out! Get out!” She cried frantically, pushing at him. She could hear Mia screaming behind her. Steven and Michael trying desperately to calm her down.

“You get out bitch.” He snarled yanking at her belt again. Charlie leapt out of the car and ran around the front, wrenching him from the door. The stranger drove a fist into her husband’s face, dropping him to the ground. Sandra yanked the door shut.

“Charlie, get in the car!” She screamed. A few stragglers from the crowd were walking towards them; they had not been left untouched by the violence. All had blood staining their clothes, some more then others. They walked slowly; almost a drunk shamble as they made their way towards them, fingers brushing up against idle cars. A bald man in a gaudy Christmas shirt reached towards      Charlie, pulling him off the thug who had tried to carjack them. He pulled him up towards him and sunk his teeth deep into his neck. The spray of blood coated the window. Sandra shrieked, and threw herself back on the seat, Mia was crying loudly now, Steven’s cries joining hers.

“DAD!” Michael flung his door open and ran around to his father.

“Michael! NO!” Sandra screamed, reaching back to slam the door shut and diving out the door herself just in time to see Michaels belly ripped open by the same thing that had killed Charlie. Sandra ripped him from the clawed fingers, almost blinded by the tears that had started spilling, her son lifeless in her arms. Blinded by grief and shock She didn’t register the bloody fingers that slipped around her jaw until it was too late. She fixed Mia and Steven in her gaze, whispering for them alone.

“…one for the little boy who lives down the lane.”

Random thoughts: Soundtracks.

I’ve been thinking about soundtracks recently. I love soundtracks. They’re a great way to find new music that you might have otherwise missed. At the moment, I’m enjoying the instrumental strains of Hannibal and the Lord of the Rings soundtracks. It seems that when these are playing, I can focus on what I need to do; whether that’s writing, studying, or even just relaxing.

Did you know you can take it with you? I’ve been known to complain a lot about getting music stuck in my head, sometimes however, I don’t mind it. If I can take this music with me, if I can take the feeling of calm that I get from it, I find my day is a lot easier.

It’s harder to stay calm though when the calming music is drowned out by the discord of the ‘real life soundtrack’. I don’t know what surrounds you when you don’t get to choose what fills your ears, but at work our soundtrack is usually a disorganised mess of buzzers, yells, and miscellaneous other noises. Peace can be a little hard to find at times.

Do you have your own mental soundtrack? Do you play your own music in your head to keep you calm, or am I the only one that does that? It’s ok if I am, I really don’t mind being different.

Have you heard the saying “music calms the savage beast”? I find in my experience that it rings true. Not that I rock up at zoos with a speaker ready to go. Or even that the people around me are beast-like (stop looking at me like that, I’m not that bad!). If you know aged care, you know that some people can get quite agitated. I have known a few in my time who fit that description at least. Some of these used to loath showers –truthfully, I can’t say I would have responded any differently at the prospect of a stranger baring me to the cold in the morning-. They had a painful way of expressing it though. They liked to scream. Not the calling out once or twice, but persistently! The first time I sang in one of these less than quiet showers, it was more an attempt to ignore the noise, to try replacing the piercing shriek with my own soundtrack. I was shocked when she stopped! She actually started singing along with me! After that, Que Sera became my shower time soundtrack.
I don’t think I’m the next great singer of our time by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve grown accustomed to the laughs and giggles of the residents when I break out in song, usually followed by their own quavering voice as they join in to the songs they know. I have no problem breaking into random song. Those tunes that imbed themselves in my brain don’t bother me too much anymore. I count myself lucky that I get to sing, not only in my shower, but everyone else’s too!
It’s amazing how much a tune can change someone’s day or mood, even if it’s slightly off key.

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