The Office

I have many long memories of the workplace. I could tell you about that time when I was 10 years old and it was another Saturday at the IT company where my father worked, and I was so bored I photocopied every page of James and the Giant Peach. And The Witches. I hole-punched all the pages (on the long side) and assembled the novels in a binder.

Or maybe when I was about 14 and I was playing in the carpark of my father's own IT business, and a man approached me and quietly spoke to me for a few minutes. I never felt threatened, and nothing happened, but looking back, I'm glad my father didn't witness the innocuous encounter.

As far back as I can remember into my childhood and adolescence, I spent a lot, A LOT, of time in workplaces. At my father's places of work. As a single parent who didn't want to leave me unsupervised at home, there wasn't really a way around it. Well, there was daycare and after school care, but that still left Saturdays and the years after I was too old for both.

There were adults and almost-adults in these spaces who left some sort of groove in my memory. Shaped my perception of the world, of myself. There was the woman who took me bra shopping – unsuccessfully, but with good intentions, in seeing that I had no mother figures or guidance in any of that sort of developmental area. There were the two technicians who worked for my father for maybe 8 years, who served as surrogate older brothers; one in particular. He shared food with me, took me for rides in his souped up green Hyundai Excel, told me about his girlfriends.

They watched me grow up from an awkward high schooler into a slightly less awkward uni student. Neither of them came to his wake. Apparently there'd been some sort of falling out towards the end that I still don't have any details on.

There was the salesman my father kept on for about a year, who seemed hopeless at selling anything but himself. He drank endless cups of Nescafe and would stand at the entrance staring out at the brothels across the street. At 15, he was my introduction to misogyny, and his excellence in that area has yet to be exceeded. His remarks on T&A, his crude comments about his own girlfriend, embarrassed even the techies.

Living with a family business carried by one person made me frugal. Profitability was quietly celebrated. Downturns hung grey and somber over us both.

I had so much time to myself, most of it lived in front of others, and much of it wasted on Jetpack and Shockwave games. My upbringing was a lesson in overtime, honest practice, and in how to be as undisruptive as possible. I will never, if I can help it, run a small business. And I don't look back on all that time fondly. But I shall carry with me an appreciation of the monotony of sacrifice and hard work.

Mother!

The last time I saw my mother, I was in my mid-teens.

The last time I was supposed to see her, I didn't. Scheduling conflicts and miscommunication meant the meeting didn't happen. If it had, maybe that wouldn't have been 'the last time'. But I doubt it.

Given the age I was, I've been somewhat surprised that I don't have more memories of her. Given though that I was seven when I last spent any real time with her, it's not that surprising.

What I know about her could fill a single A4 page. And not even in that tiny scrawl one uses when they're trying to cram as many notes as they can on their exam “cheat sheet”. And perhaps it's not so much a page of notes as it is a short pro/con list, of her positive attributes or reasons why I should or shouldn't have positive feelings towards her.

Pro: She was a keen baker, would send me home with some of her enthusiastic efforts in the kitchen.

Con: She left my father and I when I was seven.

Pro: I probably inherited her grace and poise. But definitely hers and my father's skinny genes.

Con: Her only contact each year was a birthday card.

Pro: She once made my father very happy.

Con: She spread lies about him to cover for herself when she left.

Pro: She gave birth to me.

Con: Her persistent financial dependency.

Pro: That she hasn't personally tried to contact me.


Her absence and her actions used to leave me feeling a lot more fucked up than I am these days. On the whole, I think it's a giant 'pro' that I grew up under the tutelage of my father rather than her. So I guess I can thank her for that.

Time

How I know I’m “old” is that the younger generation now feels almost foreign to me. I feel awkward, sometimes, talking to people younger than 20. 

It’s like visiting a country that I’ve studied extensively, and whose language I’ve grasped to an intermediate level, through courses. I think that the pictures I’ve seen, the news I’ve read, and the language tapes will be a close facsimile to reality, but I still tread tentatively.

I was once sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. I’ve been through their key milestones. I attended high school, endured high school dynamics, friendships, crushes, exams. And yet the mind of a teenager today, in this social media, gender fluid, more connected age, feels almost incomprehensible. 

There’s a particular confirmation of my sense of this chasm, and one of the times it has expressed itself was in my time with Lachie, for Episode 21. 

Shortly after he let me in to his family home, I met his mother. She was lovely, warm, and supportive of the interview taking place. She didn’t blink when Lachie discussed the two of us using the guest house to record – affording not only suitable acoustics, but privacy. Outside of her supervision.

Yes, he is at an age where he has relative free reign and of course hangs out with people away from home unsupervised. But the moment somehow seemed like she was trusting me to be alone with her child; and at this, I near-burst with gratitude.

This feeling deeply underscores my sense of the divide. That the people society now calls young and I: we’re no longer peers. I am older, and I have particular responsibilities and burdens that the generation below me could probably only understand academically. 

It’s a strange thing to reckon with. 

So yes. You can probably hear some of my awkwardness as I go about my conversation with Lachie. All my interviews are about trying to understand my subjects in some way – their experiences, their values, identity, their history. Here, I was trying to understand what it’s like to be a young person today, and hear one person’s take on their most important relationships. 

Migration story

When we think about migrants, we tend to classify them in one of two ways. Either they're refugees escaping persecution in their home country, or they're economic migrants.

My father didn't fall neatly into either camp.

Yes, I suppose he might've been interested in the opportunities Australia offered for him to spread his wings and provide for his family. He was given a visa on the strength of his skills as a mechanic. But he brought us here because he was concerned about living under communist rule.

We came when I was five years old, in 1991, years ahead of the handover of Hong Kong back to China. I have no memories of the time, of arriving and making a new life in a foreign country. I was not cogniscent in those early years of how hard my father worked to build something from the ground up to ensure we could live comfortably. I only know of the sacrifices – such as my mother, who left, according to him, because he was too busy working to be an attentive husband.

I remember the adjustment I made. Of learning English, while simultaneously being taken to Chinese school on the weekend to retain my mother tongue (didn't work). Of being teased in primary school for being Chinese. The latter would lead to a name change, to something more anglicised – nevermind that this was something of a failure, given the choice of an unusually spelt Russian name over my Chinese name.

My father both relished Western culture and made efforts to better assimilate. He subsisted on a diet of Hollywood action films and thrillers, Robert Ludlum, the ABC 7pm news and 7:30 Report. For years he read The Australian with a dictionary at the ready. Growing up, we ate pizza almost every week and patronised the local shopping centre food court twice a week.

While a regular dining companion of ours was Chinese, my father wasn't part of any kind of Chinese community in Perth. He didn't have many friends, but would come to call an Aussie bloke his best friend (a huge mistake). For as long as I can remember too, I had Asian friends here and there, but shunned being included in entirely Asian friendship groups.

I would never come to date anyone Chinese, nor lust over one. Though I would wind up getting involved with a person or two with a predilection for my racial traits.

When Chinese New Year rolled around, we would eat at his favourite Chinese restaurant. He'd bring home a tin of egg rolls. He forbade me from gifting my first boyfriend a Garfield clock for his birthday, because, Chinese superstition. And the firmness of that mandate surprised the bejesus out of me, because he'd never been so traditional over anything.

There were all these ways in which we were western, in thought, manner, food. And yet his difficulties with the language, hard as he tried, distinguished him as a first generation migrant.

He loved living here. He never looked back. In this more curious, questioning period of my life, there's a lot I want to know about those early years. Yet only he could've provided the answers. So I'll just have to not know – and glean what I can from others' experiences.

Love, Canberra on the Emerging Writers Festival podcast

The wonderful people at the Emerging Writers Festival contacted me last year about submitting some clips for a podcast episode they were working on. The resulting episode, "Creative Audio: Reflections from Australian Producers" features a number of excellent Australian audio producers, and me, discussing a piece of old tape and the lessons we drew from the experience of making it. 

Have a listen if you please! I come in at the 11:33 mark.

Emerging Writers Festival podcast screenshot.JPG

Angel and Michael (Episode Two) on The Project

Angel and Michael from Episode Two - Poly appeared on Channel Ten's The Project tonight to talk about living polyamory! 

The back story involves Love, Canberra - The Project emailed, referencing the episode, and asked to be put in contact with them. Everything happened quite quickly and then BAM - on TV.

Here they are with Michael's girlfriend Maddie. Watch the episode here - A&M&M appear from 34:26.

Article: Cast Away Australian Podcast Awards

On 1 April, I was delighted to attend Australia's first ever podcasting awards: Cast Away.

It was a Moment in Australian podcasting history that I felt needed to be captured - so I put myself up for the challenge.

For the piece, I spoke to Cast Away founder and organiser, Dave Gertler, one of the award judges, Madeline Joannou, and a representative from one of the winning podcasts - Anna Priestland of the Casefile: True Crime Podcast.

Read the full piece on Bello Collective.

Maria and Simon: a love (at first sight) story

Taken on Simon's birthday in 2001. "He had a 1960's karaoke party," Maria says.

From their wedding in July 2002: "In this photo Simon is telling me his vows.

"Simon and I have also been on the stage several times together. I like this one best, from Cinderella December 2009.

"This is one of my favourite pictures of us in July 2015 whilst we were in Hong Kong. We'd just come down Victoria Peak."

With many thanks to Maria Josey for the above photos and descriptions. Listen to her and Simon's story in Episode 13 - At first sight.

OzPod 2016

So. Zacha Rosen and I teamed up to produce a write-up of OzPod 2016 for the Bello Collective. 

In case you don't know Zacha (and you really should), he's an awesome radio producer (at FBi Radio) and writer.

In case the words 'OzPod 2016' conjure no memories or associations for you, it was a (fantastic) one day conference on podcasting organised by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for folks in podcasting and radio. 

Read our summary/insights/review of OzPod 2016 at the Bello Collective.

Seeking stories

According to the ACT Government, the population of Canberra is approaching 400,000. 

On my podcast, I have so far featured ten Canberrans. 

Are you, or someone you know, one of the remaining hundreds of thousands of Canberrans who has a story that you could share with me and Love, Canberra? 

Here are a handful of the stories I'm hoping to explore on the show:

  • An unlikely love story
  • Significant imbalance in a relationship: money, status, looks, intelligence, talent, friends
  • Pick-up artist
  • Found one true love and lost them
  • Break-up
  • Fetish for a particular ethnicity
  • Unusual sexual fetish
  • My partner doesn’t/can’t give me one thing I really need
  • Interracial dating
  • Someone you had a secret crush on and can’t forget
  • Cheated on a partner
  • Addicted to porn
  • Male escort
  • Female escort
  • A long, possibly happy, possibly unhappy, marriage
  • Death
  • An imbalanced friendship
  • An unlikely friendship
  • Having a child changed my relationship with my partner
  • Sex therapist
  • On entering a relationship that felt doomed from the beginning
  • Introverted but wanting connection
  • Canberra’s most boring couple
  • Great love story
  • Wanting someone you can’t have
  • Dating with an STD
  • Keep dating the “same” person
  • Dating on a low income
  • Don’t believe in love

Or maybe there's something else (relating to love, sex, or relationships) that you'd like to talk to me about on the podcast?

Get in touch! I don't bite :)

Hello Bello!

When I told Brittany Jezouit, creator of the Podcast Broadcast, that I had been accepted into AIR Media's summer 2016 Full Spectrum Intensive Storytelling Workshop, she expressed her excitement for me. And then she asked if I wanted to do a write-up about the workshop for a new project of hers. 

That write-up is now up, as is her new project, The Bello Collective, which she founded with Dana Gerber-Margie, behind The Audio Signal - another great newsletter about podcasts that I was also a subscriber to.

I say 'was' because the newsletter is no longer active - same with Podcast Broadcast. The book has closed on them both, with the new chapter being The Bello Collective. 

Read my piece here!

Love, Canberra on Friday Night Lip Service

Friday Night Lip Service is a rad show on the Canberra community radio station 2XXfm that's presented by a group of queer Canberran women. One of their presenters just so happens to be Daria, whom I interviewed in Episode Six - Asexual

Daria was very kind to make mention to Love, Canberra generally and the episode she was on specifically. You can hear all the lovely things she said about the show here (from 45:20).