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The Virus Chronicles – Looking for Work

The Virus Chronicles – Looking for Work

After 14 Days in quarantine, it’s time to find a job.

April 1st, 2020

My quarantine period ends next week and I need to get a job. Before I left for my overseas holiday in March, my temp agency said they would have plenty of work in April. But it’s April 1st today and they haven’t returned my calls or emails.

No matter. There’s plenty of call center work around. I used to work in call centers many years ago and I swore I would never do it again but I might have to. I gave up on them years ago when all the work dried up and went overseas. The work all went offshore but now it’s back on shore again and they need new people.

And so, with some reluctance, I update my resume and fill out the online application form. Apart from being an insidious form of soul destroying mental torture, call centres are rife with germs. People sit at close quarters, sharing the same recycled air and often using each other’s headsets and keyboards. If one person gets sick, then everyone around them goes down. Maybe these days the call centers practice social distancing, or maybe it’s set up so that people can work from home. But then they wouldn’t be call centers.

I went for a job a few weeks ago. One I really wanted but didn’t think I’d get. My husband’s work was looking for a Bid Specialist, someone to help write business tenders. I read the job description but didn’t think it was for me, I didn’t have the right experience. But my husband spoke with the manager of the department and told her about the writing I do in my spare time. He told her that I had written a novel, short stories and that I keep a regular blog.

“Oh, yeah,” said the manager, “she’s a writer.”

Just like that. As someone who has never earned money or prizes for my work, I struggle with identifying myself as a writer. I feel like a fraud. But that casual acknowledgment meant the world to me, I could have kissed her.

So on the strength of the creative writing I do in my spare time, she wanted to see me. We met for coffee and a casual chat. The meeting went well and she encouraged me to apply for the role. I applied but didn’t get it. I didn’t think I would, it went to someone with bid writing experience. Naturally.

And so I’m back to the drawing board. Looking for the same familiar roles that have kept me going in circles my entire working life. Like the woman in the cartoon who forgot to have a baby, I forgot to have a career. I always thought there would be more time.

My husband has stuck a red notice from the electricity company on the fridge and has mentioned that he is the only one earning an income. I feel guilty for putting all that pressure on him, it’s not fair. He’s got a job for now in the essential industry of telecommunications but who knows what could happen.

They say on the news that landlords will not be allowed to evict tenants and that utilities can’t cut off supply. I’ve heard that you can access your super and that Centrelink are offering extra payments. But I wouldn’t like to put any of that to the test. I don’t trust governments and I don’t want to burn through what little super I have.

And so instead of writing stories I need to start writing job applications. Instead of finessing my website I need to update my Linkedin profile. Instead of enjoying video chats with other writers I need to get on the phone to prospective employers.

I saw a man on the news last night who had lost his job and only had thirty dollars to his name. He was waiting in the line at Centrelink and hoped his landlord would cut him some slack for the few weeks it would take for his benefits to come through.

I don’t think Centrelink understood that this man can’t wait that long.

So I better get a job soon.

You can’t rely on the government.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 0 comments
The Virus Chronicles – Working Bee

The Virus Chronicles – Working Bee

Week One of Quarantine – March 29th, 2020

Will the COVID-19 lockdown bring welcome changes on the domestic front?

Today is Saturday and I have declared it a Working Bee. The floors need to be vacuumed and mopped, the garden needs to be weeded and the avalanche of laundry needs to be sorted. With four adults in the house all day, there is no excuse for the place not to look like a showpiece.

I have spent all week writing, which has been bliss. I have been putting in a full eight hour day at the times I would usually been going to work. Old habits die hard.

Being in quarantine, we are not allowed outside the house, so I have not been going for my usual evening walks. I can’t say I’ve missed it. I’m tired after all the walking we did on our holiday in Japan. My husband showed me the graph on his phone. Last week while we were away, we averaged around 8000 steps per day, this week you could barely see the little red bars on the screen. That curve sure flattened out quickly.

So it’s time for some exercise and it’s time to get the place looking ship shape. “Do we have to do it now?” my husband asks, “we’ve got all day, why rush?”

Why indeed. Why not spend the morning relaxing, eating a slow breakfast in front of the TV, catching up on social media and doing a bit of writing? After all, mornings are the best time to write. Your mind is clear and rested and the dopamines are flowing. That’s why they have Morning Pages.

And so I leave the dishwasher half unpacked and sit down at my computer. I have been a bit worried about my chair and the workstation I sit at. A cheap desk shoved into the spare room and an old office chair I bought when my former workplace was upgrading. It’s hardly ideal in ergonomic terms. If I’m going to be spending so much time here, this could be a problem. I heard about a writer who developed severe back pain from sitting at her desk all day. But she was older than me and had pre-existing health problems. Besides, I don’t have a job and can’t afford it. And even if I did have the cash, the furniture shops are all closed anyway.

I will have to make do. I will have to make sure I get away from my desk sometimes. I will have to keep up some standards at home. I can’t let everything slide into chaos, which it will do if I’m not careful. I’m the only female in the house and so it falls to me. I know people won’t like me saying that but it’s true. Studies have proven it.

A comedian once said that men are just bears with furniture. They don’t care if the dishes are piling up in the sink and the ironing basket is overflowing. They don’t care if the floors haven’t seen a mop in two weeks and the outdoor table is covered with dust –it’s outdoors! Men are pragmatic. They iron as they go. They’ll wait till there isn’t a clean dish in the house before they turn on the dishwasher.

But women are different. We like order and control. We like to plan ahead to circumvent discomfort and disorder down the track. We keep the pantry stocked, the bills paid and the toilets clean. Domestic disorder sets our teeth on edge. The world isn’t right when the house is a mess. It’s like all that’s bad in the outside world is creeping in and we can’t let that happen. We need to protect our own private space, our sanctuary and our fortress. At least we can control that much.

I refuse to be one of those women who harps on about trivial chores, the weeds in the garden I asked to be removed three weeks ago, the clothes dropped on the floor, the food left uncovered. I say it once and then I walk away.

But my dignified silence comes at a price. If it bothers you so much, then do it yourself, says the little voice in my head. Why should anyone else do it if it doesn’t bother them? What right do I have to impose my standards on them, as long as we are all well and healthy and the house is not falling down?

The men in my house would be most indignant at my suggestion that we are not all pulling our weight. After all, I have been spending all my days writing and haven’t even cooked a meal all week. My elder son and my husband have taken over the cooking and even the washing up. My younger son will run to the shops anytime we need anything. One of them cut the lawn last week, a task I have never done and don’t intend to.

I can feel a creeping sense of ennui regarding just about anything except writing. Maybe because I know this time is limited, that this impromptu writing retreat isn’t going to last forever.

Sooner or later, it will come to an end and I will return to the necessary business of being a responsible adult.

In the meantime, why waste this opportunity on my ironing basket?

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 0 comments
The Virus Chronicles: The Red Dress

The Virus Chronicles: The Red Dress

The red dress at the back of my wardrobe provided some much needed writing inspiration

Working on an old story I started months ago, I was writing a scene where one of my characters was wearing a red dress. I tried to picture the character in my mind, done up for a fancy dinner at an upmarket Docklands restaurant, and then I remembered the red dress in the back of my wardrobe.

Thinking it might help me get a bit of sensory detail, I got it out and hung it on the hook behind the door of the spare room, the place where I do all my writing.  I had bought the dress a couple of years ago from a catalog. I used to work in the call center of the catalogue company many years ago and continue my association as a customer. I am familiar with all their clothing lines and can tell if something is going to fit me or not, just by looking at the picture and reading the description.

The red dress would be just the thing to attend the cocktail party we go to for Motorclassica in October each year. My sister in law and her partner, who is a mechanic by trade, enter a car every year on behalf of their clients. They drive the cars down from Adelaide to Melbourne in a special trailer. These cars are not meant to be driven on the road like ordinary cars, these cars are strictly for show.

I have enjoyed hosting a succession of these pedigree motors at my home, and the excitement it causes as the neighbors gather round to stare. One year, it was a beautiful old Hudson, with lustrous caramel duco and a golden handle at the front to crank it up. Another year, it was a cute little rally car, stripped down to a roll cage and netting, its gaudy paint job attracting spectators at the supermarket. And then, there was the Corvette. The most glamourous of all. Long and sleek, it was the clear sky blue of a perfect summer day.

I am not a motoring buff by any means, but every year, I love to go to this event.  I wander around the Carlton Exhibition Buildings, whose elegant, art deco decor is the perfect backdrop to showcase this event. I don’t bother with the modern cars outside in the glaring sun, I stay indoors with the vintage cars.

Mesmerised, I wander through the crowded aisles, agog at the elegance and beauty all around me. There are boxy Vauxhalls with wide running boards, regal Rolls Royces with walnut dashboards and folding tray tables, but my favourite, created in the year of my birth, is the midnight blue Maserati with the creamy interior. They are more than just cars; they are relics of a time gone by, they are works of art.

When I see the dress in the catalogue, I fall in love with the floaty skirt and the flattering, cross over bodice. And of course, it’s red, my favourite color. I must have it to wear to the cocktail party.

We had attended the cocktail party previous year, and there had been a live jazz quartet with a double bass, champagne and cocktails carried on silver trays and delightful hors d’oeuvres, including miniature burgers, sushi served in folded origami and airy macaroons that dissolved on your tongue.

I bought the dress to wear that year but the cocktail party was booked out and we couldn’t get tickets. Never mind. I could wear it to the Christmas party for my husband’s work. But my husband changed jobs and partners weren’t invited to the end of year festivities. The following year, events worked against me again and there was no cocktail party and no formal Christmas event to attend.

And so the dress remained in the wardrobe. Until today when I need it for my story.

As I hang the dress on the hook, I see that the tag is still on it. I think about posting the photo in Instagram “Writing Inspiration”, will be the caption. But times are getting tough and I might need to sell it, and I will have a lot better chance if the tag’s still there. But who’s going to buy a red cocktail dress in a time like this?

I cut off the tags and post the dress on social media. Though I must admit, it looks a bit sad hanging there on the hanger with no one to fill it out.

And then I remember, there was a story on the news this morning about people getting dressed up on Fridays. It’s a reversal of Casual Friday, the office tradition where workers exchange their business attire for more casual gear.

 It was a funny story, featuring women taking out the bins and doing the vacuuming in evening dresses. Even the kids joined in, getting done up in their Sunday best. Now that everyone’s working from home, by the end of the week they’re fed up with trackies and PJs and want a bit of glam. Hence, all the #Formal Friday posts. It’s a thing, as they say

So maybe I have an excuse to wear the red dress after all. I’ll see you next week at #Formal Friday.

#amwriting #writingcommunity #writersinquarantine #writerslife #formalfriday

Red Dress

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 6 comments
The Upside of Quarantine: How COVID-19 is Making me a Better Writer

The Upside of Quarantine: How COVID-19 is Making me a Better Writer

Having the time to write is an absolute gift for a working writer.

The dishes are done. The washing’s on the line. The homemade soup is simmering on the stove and it’s only 8.13am.

Usually by now, I would be in peak hour traffic. The dishes would be scattered on the kitchen bench, the washing would still be in the machine and homemade soup not even a thought in my mind.

But things are different now. I am quarantined because of COVID-19 and I have nothing but time.

Things have snowballed since last week, when my husband and I returned early from our ill fated trip. We set off for Japan at the time when things were iffy but more or less OK and were called home early with a dire DFAT warning.

We are required to spend fourteen days at home in isolation.

Disappointed but relieved to be back home, I am going to make the most of my time. As a writer with a full time office job, time is an absolute gift.

They say that it’s possible to write and hold down a full time job and many people do but having time and energy to devote to writing makes such a difference. I know I have achieved things in the last week that I could never have done if I had been working.

I have participated in online events during the day, like the live video critique I attended yesterday. I’ve submitted the first chapter of my novel to be critiqued by the group so it’s my turn next week. I joined in a Twitter event I usually miss and was able to follow it as it was happening and take my time to linger over the responses. I check in regularly with a Facebook writers group I’m in, where we support and encourage each. I joined a fun video catch up with some writer friends.

I’m having a go at writing short stories. Short stories are not my thing but I have a couple in the works so I’ll see how I go. I am beta reading an exciting new novel for a critique partner, one that will put me in the right frame of mind for my second novel.

Finally, I am working with my critique group on the final round of edits to my first novel. With a full time job, this project is usually the only thing I have the time and energy to do.

I know there’s a lot going on at the moment and I’ve probably got my head in the sand. But having our heads in the sand is probably the best thing to do if it means we are keeping away from other people.

Before I left for Japan, I resigned from my job and signed up with a temp agency. There is always plenty of temp work in my industry but I don’t know how I’ll go now that everything’s changed.

In the meantime, I choose to live one day at a time. I’m enjoying spending time with my family, writing and engaging with other writers.

I’m in forced quarantine for another week and there’s nothing I can do about it. This gives me the excuse not to make decisions, not to go to work, not to face the outside world.

I know I’m in a state of suspended disbelief and that reality is probably going to hit like a freight train.

But for now, I’m on holiday and I’m going to enjoy every minute.

#amwriting #writerslilfe #writingcommunity #writersinquarantine #6amAusWriters

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 7 comments
Writer In Motion Blog Project – Draft 2

Writer In Motion Blog Project – Draft 2

This year, I am participating in the Writer In Motion Blog Project. Starting with a rough first draft based on the picture below, writers edit and refine their stories during the month of November. Below is my second draft entitled A Day on the Water. 

Writer In Motion Promt

Writer In Motion

Draft 2 – A Day on the Water

Holding on tightly to the spindly wooden mast, Amanda held the fluorescent torch as high as she dared to reach. Straining on her tip toes, she scanned far into the distance but there was no sign of a rescue craft.

With the still blue waters of Sydney Harbor far behind them, it would be only a few short hours until the light would be fading. Humming to herself to block out the shouting from below deck, Amanda closed her eyes for a moment and imagined a dazzling white rescue boat powering towards them.

But when she opened her eyes again, nothing was there. Nothing but endless blue water, the color of midnight, and the thickening storm clouds that joined it in the distance.

An icy chill whipped around Amanda and her blouse billowed out like a fluttering black sail. It had not been the best choice of attire, but then, she was not expecting this to happen today.

A gull swooped down from the sky, squawking in unison with Stella’s piercing shrieks. “I don’t believe this! I don’t fucking believe this is happening!”

“Calm down, Stella,” Amanda’s dad tried uselessly to console her, “everything’s going to be alright. The rescue is on the way.”

“Don’t touch me!” Amanda imagined her step Mum’s manicured little hands pushing her Dad away. “Don’t you dare fucking touch me! This is all your fault! It was your fucking idea! We’re all going to die and it’s because of you!”

At this, Amanda’s step-sisters joined in, their cries piercing Amanda’s heart. “Are we going to die, Mummy? Are the sharks going to eat us?”

Amanda’s Dad emerged from below deck, as he struggled up the ladder carrying a bright yellow life vest. His face was heavy and line with worry.

He squinted his eyes, peering up at Amanda. “You better come down from there.” He held up the life vest. “And put this on.”

Bristling with irritation, Amanda shrugged him off. “I’m alright.” At twenty-three years old, she resented being spoken to like a child.

“Come on, come downstairs now. The weather’s coming in, you’re not safe up there.”

“It’s better than being down there.” She jerked her head in the direction of the cabin. “I’m not coming down till she stops carrying on.”

Ted gave an exasperated sigh. “Don’t be like that, she’s upset, that’s all. I’ve radioed for help, everything will be alright.”

“It better be!” Amanda jumped down from the mast, agile as a cat from years of gymnastics.

“That’s my girl!” Ted tousled her dark, windblown hair.

As he helped Amanda into her life jacket, electric yellow lightening split open the darkening sky and thunder roared all round them. Diagonal spears of rain pelted down as Ted and Amanda hurried into the cabin.

Bedraggled, they brushed the rainwater off themselves under Stella’s venomous glare. “Good to see you’re looking after Number One Daughter, leaving me to cope on my own.” She indicated the two children, whose sobbing faces were burrowing into her breast.  

Amanda’s fists turned into balls but as she opened her mouth to speak Ted cut in. “Stella, this isn’t doing anyone any good. Yelling and screaming is only upsetting the children. I’ve been on the radio and help is on the way. We just have to sit tight.”

As Ted walked towards Stella and the girls, another shock of lightening flashed through the high cabin windows. The yacht lurched from side to side, nearly knocking Ted and Amanda off their feet.

Racing into the control room, Ted picked up the radio. The static crackled as he yelled into the receiver. “This is the Eliza Jane, do you read me? Repeat, this is the Eliza Jane.”

The static crackled for a moment and then it went dead. Ted banged the receiver on the bench to try and make it work.

“Shit!” He yelled. “Shit, shit shit!”

The little girls started screaming and their mother pushed them away. She ran into the control room, pummeling Ted on the back. “Do something, you idiot! Why can’t you do something?”

Rushing over to the pale little girls, Amanda wrapped her strong, dark arms around them. In the chaos, she could not help but notice the contrast between her and her sisters; they were plump and translucently pale whereas she was willowy and swarthy.

Dad couldn’t have chosen a more different woman from her mum. If her step mum and her mum had ever stood side by side, it would have been like looking at night and day. And at the thought of her Mum, tears stung in the back of Amanda’s eyes.

Sobbing loudly, the little girls clung to Amanda. “Calm down,” she soothed, “everything’s going to be all right. We’re just having some rough weather, it will all be over soon. Sit tight until the rescue boat arrives and in the meantime, how about a song?”

She wiped the children’s faces with her bare hand, then rubbed their snot and tears off on her blouse. Taking a deep breath, she forced a smile on her face and started a rousing rendition of “Ten Green Bottles”, hoping the counting would distract them. She sung as loud as she could, trying to block out the sound of Stella and her father arguing.

A deafening thud came from the side of the boat, knocking Amanda and the girls to the floor. With her heart thumping, Amanda looked up to see the water pressing in on the windows of the cabin.

Maddison screamed and pointed her chubby little finger at the cabin door. “Look! The water’s coming in!”

And sure enough, water was pouring through the slats of the wooden door.

Amanda got to her feet. “Alright, kids, stand up and let’s make sure we’ve got our life jackets on properly.  You remember what you learned in swimming lessons? Keep calm, and just float on top of the water.”

 

Welcome to Writer In Motion!

 

Posted by naomilisashippen in Writer in Motion Blog Project, 0 comments
Writer In Motion Blog Project

Writer In Motion Blog Project

This year, I am participating in the Writer In Motion Blog Project. Starting with a rough first draft based on the picture below, writers edit and refine their stories during the month of November.  Below is my first draft entitled “A Day on the Water.”

Draft 1 – A Day on the Water

Writer In Motion Promt

Writer In Motion

Draft 1 – A Day on the Water

The storm clouds are coming but she holds on tight. One hand on the spindly wooden mast the other reaching out as high as she can so that her torch can be seen in the distance. She stands on her tip toes and cranes her body as far as she dares; there?s still some time left, still some light left. She makes the most of it before the darkness and the rain.

The wind picks up and billows her blouse like a fluttering black sail. Hopefully, they will see it in the distance. Hopefully, it will contrast with the cobolt blue of the sky and fluffy white clouds. But then, white would have been better; white is the color of sails and it was chosen for a reason. White is for visibility and black is for camouflage.

Maybe she should have worn white today, but then, she didn?t expect that this was going to happen.

Down below decks Stella is screaming her accusations, running around, pulling her hair out.
“I don?t believe this!” She is yelling. “I don’t fucking believe this is happening!”
Ted is trying to calm her down, he puts his arms around her but she pushes him away.

“Don?t touch me!” She yells. “Don?t you dare fucking touch me! This is all your fault! It was your fucking idea! We?re all going to die and it?s because of you!”
The children start their howling and waves lap the side of the yacht.

The still blue waters of Sydney Harbour are long gone and now they are on the open sea.

Not daring to look down on the murky depths below, Amanda focuses on the patches of bright blue sky because your thoughts manifest in reality. Isn?t that right? You become what you believe and your future is limited only by your dreams.

And so Amanda held her torch high and visualized a rescue boat coming over the horizon. She hummed to herself to block out the screaming below.
Ted’s heavy footsteps got closer and he came and stood under the mast. Looking down from above, the bald patches he tried to hide were glaringly obvious and his face was heavy with worry.

“You right up there?” He asked Amanda.

“All good,” she said, “sounds like they’re all freaking out down there.”

Ted shook his head, “I’ve radioed for help, that’s all I can do. There’ll be someone along soon.”
He held a bright yellow life jacket up. “Here, you better put this on, just in case.”
He reached as far as he could but it wasn’t far enough. Amanda had to come down to get it.

“Thanks,” she said, putting it on, “I should have thought of that earlier.”

Out of nowhere the wind picked up and rain pelted down in hard diagonal spears. The dark waves picked up, buffeting the yacht and it lurched from side to side. Stella and the children were screaming as Ted and Amanda hurried below decks.

Stella looked at them accusingly as they entered the cabin. ?Where the Hell have you been! Leaving me to cope on my own.? She indicated the two children, whose sobbing faces were burrowing into her breast. ?You’re supposed to be looking after them!? She shot Amanda a menancing look. “That’s what I?m paying you for!”

“Sorry,” said Amanda, “I was up on the mast with the torch, I thought it might attract attention.”

Stella scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Fucking useless! I don?t know what I ever hired you for.”

The color rose in Amanda?s cheeks. She didn?t sign up for this. She was meant to be accompanying the family on their annual boating holiday, looking after the kids so the parents could relax. It was meant to be a nice, cruisey assignment, not being lost on the open sea.

Amanda’s fists turned into balls and as she opened her mouth to speak Ted cut in.

“Stella, this isn?t doing anyone any good. Yelling and screaming is only upsetting the children. I?ve been on the radio and help is on the way. We just have to sit tight.”

A crash of lightening sounded all around them, flashing through the high cabin windows like someone turning on and off the light switch. The yacht lurched from side to side, jostling Amanda and the children on their seat and almost knocking Amanda and Ted off their feet.

Ted raced to the pilot?s room and picked up the radio. The static crackled from the radio as he yelled into the receiver.

“This is the Eliza Jane, do you read me. Repeat, this is the Eliza Jane.”

The static crackled for a moment and then it went dead. Ted banged the receiver on the bench to try and make it work.
“Shit!” He yelled. “Shit, shit shit!”

The children started screaming. “Are we going to die, Mummy? Are we going to die? Are there sharks in the water? Are they going to eat us?”

Stella pushed the children away and ran into the pilot room with Ted. In a frenzy, she started pummeling her fists on his back, screaming obscenities and blaming him for the whole thing.

Amanda rushed toward the children and put her arms around them.

“Calm down,” she soothed, “everything’s going to be all right. We?re just having some rough weather, it will all be over soon. Sit tight until the rescue boat arrives and in the meantime, how about a song?”

She wiped the children?s faces with her bare hand, then rubbed their snot and tears off on her blouse. Taking a deep breath and forcing a smile on her face she launched into her best rendition of their favourite song.

Just then, a big wave hit the side of the yacht, pushing the cabin to a 45 degree angle. Amanda and the children tipped forward and when she looked up, she could see the swelling sea water pushing in on the windows of the cab and seeping in from around the seals.

Timothy screamed and pointed to the cabin door. “Look! The waters coming in!”

Amanda turned in shock to the sound of the running water and was horrified at the water pouring in through the concertina slats of the wooden door.
“Alright, kids.” She said, “stand up and let’s make sure we’ve got our life jackets on properly.  You remember what you learned in swimming lessons? Keep calm, and just float on top of the water.”

#WriterInMotion

https://writerinmotion.com/blog

Posted by naomilisashippen in Writer in Motion Blog Project, 0 comments