Sailing off into the Sunset…

It’s a glorious Sunday morning here in Darwin. I’ve had a bright and early start to the day. An hour of gardening while it was still nice and cool; the ground was easy to dig after the rain last night. Next task, cleaning the pool filter, two load of washing on the line and all before breakfast. The lawn needs mowing, but that can wait till it’s cooler!

There’s always a bunch of stuff to be done when you have a house and garden. Sometimes I think it would be quite wonderful to just sail off into the sunset.

My friend Toots has done just that! I first met Toots, through the world of breast cancer, when we were introduced by Pat Hancock. Toots was always a staunch supporter of Dragons Abreast, helping out in different ways over the years.

Show Stoppers 2006
Toots  (L front on the end) & her team Show Stoppers – Dragons Abreast NT regatta 2006

 

 

Today, Toots is living a life many dream of – retired and sailing off into the sunset. On Australia Day, this post appeared on her wall:

‘We interrupt this transmission to bring breaking news from aboard ‘Niaete’.. where a clandestine operation of war against terror has been won.

Ratty Bin Liner member of the cell group known as ‘FR’ .. (F&@‪#‎ing Rats) .. not to be mistaken with that other cell known as ‘FC’ (F&@#ing Cockroaches) has been captured.

Ratty Bin Liner caused havoc on board in food lockers completely disrupting life on board as it was known!

After attacking cartons of UHT milk, it was a real threat to the crew that the supply of cafe lattes and cappuccinos may be short, and in the rush of it all, ingredients for ‘elevensies’ were briefly misplaced.

The comment of ‘Praise be that the wine is in glass bottles, not casks!’ was heard uttered a few times.

Ratty Bin Liner was escorted off board with a resounding farewell from all crew of ‘F@$‪#‎k off yah l’il bastard!’ and being Australia Day, sent off on his own sticky glue surf board, of which he seemed quite attached!’

PS. No photos of Bin Liner available as the photographer was at the other end of the boat, far away as possible!

I had a great chuckle, and it made me smile all day. It also confirmed I do not want to live on a yacht! Instead, I’ll follow her adventures from the safety of my house where the exterminator is only a phone call way and stick to harbour cruises!

Michelle

PS – There is also the small problem that I don’t sail!

PPS – Toots kindly gave permission for me to use her post in my blog.

An Interview with a Ghost

My younger self - Kashmir
My younger self – Kashmir c1977

Do you remember wondering what you would like to do during your late teens and early twenties?

When I was making the transition from educational life to working life, I was keenly interested in career options and in hearing about others’ experiences – particularly if they were in a field I was considering.

It’s occurred to me that, within my network alone, there’s probably several hundreds of years’ worth of experience and insights, which the young me would have found informative at that stage in my life.

The idea of sharing with the younger generation appeals to me, so I’ve come up with the “Interview With A (job title)” series. I’d love to know what you think of the concept and if you’re willing to contribute.

Here’s the first instalment

Interview with a Ghost

I:      How did you get into ghost writing?

G:     By accident, or serendipity … I’ve always written, since I was a kid.   In my working life, I was asked to write skits, newsletter pieces, marketing collateral, training material.   Mostly corporate stuff.   About 8 years ago we were managing an international event for the not-for-profit sector and needed a no-cost means of promotion.   So I wrote print media community interest pieces which journos ran under their own by-line.   It worked really well.   The event had participant numbers equivalent to the Winter Olympics.   That was really the start of my ghost writing.

I:      What makes a good ghost writer?

G:     Understanding the target audience and having a good handle on the personality, or entity, you’re ghosting.

I:      How do you achieve that?

G:     I’m from a sales background, which is all about representing your organisation and communicating their product or service in ways that are relevant to the target audience’s interests and motivations.   With ghost writing, you’re putting yourself in another person’s shoes and thinking from their perspective.   We (Dragon Sisters) use a range of tools and research to get to know a client and their audience, to make the content authentic, personalized and engaging.

I:      Who uses ghost writers, and why?

G:     In my field, public figures, professionals and all kinds of businesses and organisations use ghost writers for promotional purposes.   The reason is that they are too busy and or, they don’t know how to write strategic, engaging content themselves.   There’s a surprising number of PR agencies who sub contract to us.   Audience engagement and growth is faster and more effective through social media and on-line platforms than any other professional and business development means.   In marketing terms, strategic content creation is king.

I:      What mediums do you mostly write for?

G:     Blogs, articles, newsletters, marketing collateral including websites and of course, social media – mostly LinkedIn and Facebook.

I:      What can be challenging about your job?

G:     Writers block! It can be a bit of a challenge since all my work is deadline dependant. Weirdly though, I often come up with better stuff working under pressure than when I’m cruising.   Luckily!

I:      What do you least like about your job?

G:     Time zones.   Sometimes I’m racing to beat the clock at 2am because I know my client across the globe will be getting up and getting on line then.

I:      What do you most like about your job?

G:     Great clients!   Many of my clients are over-seas or inter-state so I never get to meet them face-to-face, but ghosting them creates a unique relationship; they trust me with their reputation and that creates quite a bond.   I really like all the clients I work with.

I:      What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?

G:     I wrote a bit of an off-the-wall skit for a national conference when I worked with Vodafone.   I wasn’t told ‘til the 11th hour that I’d be the one to deliver it.   I had to wear a ridiculous get-up and I had the public speaking skills of a sausage.   Thank God there were no iPhones or social media sites back then!

I:      What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?

G:     Appearing on the Bert Newton Show.   (It was a long-running Australian national TV show).   That was a horrible 10 minutes which felt like 10 hours.   I was so nervous I thought I would throw up over the presenter; a very elegant, popular presenter named Moira.   (Moira was very thin – it’s true what they say about the camera adding pounds – and next to her, I looked like a nauseous blimp).

I:      What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out in your field?

G:     Where I started out and where I’ve ended up (so far) are really different places and I’ve taken some circuitous routes, during which I’ve learnt that nothing is ever wasted in terms of building experience and skills.   So my advice would be:   when an opportunity presents itself, even if it’s apparently not on the trajectory towards your immediate goal, make room to accommodate that experience; you never know where it might lead, even much later in life, and there’s no substitute for experience.   If you want to write, a wealth of experience makes for a nice fat memory bank – which is a great resource for any writer to have – and especially for a ghost writer, where you have to relate to a diverse client base and target audience.

Photo of Yvonne Toering
Yvonne Toering 2015

Yvonne Toering is a business development consultant and ghost writer with Dragon Sisters, Australia.

In the air … A travelogue by Special Correspondent for Dragon Sisters Nowette Awle

I’ve decided to add these articles to my personal blog, with permission from our guest blogger, as they are really fun memories of our 2010 trip. I hope you enjoy them. Michelle Hanton

When a Dragon Sister mentioned going on holiday to Venice and a luxury cruise, I thought, ‘Well that’s OK for some. Some of us have a job to hold down, a family to hold together and myriad obstacles to abandoning all responsibility in favour of racking off on some self-indulgent girls-only jolly!!’ However, where there’s a will, there’s a way; and the more I thought about it, the more I thought: “I will!!” Mindful of the fact that it may well be a very long time before I ever make a dash for Dragon Sisterly debauchery on this scale again, I kept a little travelogue of all the happy happenings along the way.

‘Jetting off’ to Europe has a connotation of speed, glamour, pizzazz about it, which in the interests of honesty I have to say is a far cry from reality. The trip from here to there in cattle class is more akin to a slow boat to China but is it ever worth it!!

Oz – Dubai:   A 14 hour flight with Emirates Air manned (bizarrely) by an entirely Spanish cabin crew. I discover early on that my movie gubbins is not working and I finally give up the ghost after being pinged back to the beginning of Benjamin Button for the 3rd time. The steward who promised to check it out vanishes without a trace. Which doesn’t matter since it is obviously a technical problem only fixable by NASA and handsome as this Spaniard is, he seems more at home with the coffee pot than mission control. Speaking of which, the coffee is curiously scarce, being served a la Manuel chez Fawlty Towers in the middle of the meal. The options are (especially if you’re slow with your nose bag) to drink coffee before your main course, cold at end of your meal, or do without. I ask one trolley dolly “will you be back with coffee?” She says “No!!” but smiles prettily before whipping away the precious pot. And, obviously, don’t hold your breath for a refill – because you’ll need an oxygen mask before that happens! Happily, all drinks are free except champers ($8 a glass). Sadly, I choose the white wine which is barely chilled (tepid) and if you want more than one drink you have to go on a “seek and detain” drinks trolley mission. In short, beverage hospitality is not at all forthcoming!! Otherwise, the cabin crew are very nice in an overall charmingly inattentive way!

I have a long chat with a lovely elderly Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) chap most of the flight. We amuse ourselves with quips about the Latin lack of alcohol and whether Basil Fawlty is in fact the captain. Total sleep managed: 2 hours.

Transit c.4 hrs Dubai, United Arab Emirates:   I find I am disappointed in the airport, having heard of it being lavish, luxurious, spacious and everything you’d expect from one of the world’s oil sheik capitals. No doubt it normally is but as luck would have it, a new airport is under construction, consequently the current terminal has us jammed in like so many sardines in transit. The only seating available is in eateries or lined up at the departure gates. Duty free shopping taking up all available space which is quite understandable. So, with nothing better to do, I go shopping. Alcohol is delightfully cheap and smarting from my recent in-flight depredations I purchase 1L each of Gordon’s gin and Bailey’s liqueur for a paltry AUS $46.00. Ah, things are looking up!

Final leg Dubai-Venice 6 hrs.:   The closer I get to Venice the better everything becomes: I find myself seated next to a Brad Pitt lookalike and the movie thingo is working perfectly. I am however too knackered to enjoy either. I really should have slept when in the company of the aged Boer and the defunct movie, then I could have had lovely eye candy and in-flight entertainment for this leg (both featuring Brad Pitt!). How daft am I?! Instead I move to get an extra spare seat, stretch out and manage 2 hours zeds. (Dreaming of Brad punting me down the Grand Canal, singing something soppily romantic in Italian).

Touch down!!   I arrive at Venice airport where I am met by a Dragon Sister. We jump on a bus for the 20 minute ride (which costs E3) to Piazza le Roma, Venice’s bus station. This is the end of the line for all motor vehicles. From here on you have to get about on leg power or on various modes of canal craft. Luggage with wheels and travelling light suddenly become a crucial for the jet-lagged traveller. I’m relieved that Dragon Sisters have factored this in and it is only a 2 minute walk over only one bridge (ponte) to get to our destination, the Sofitel Venezia. This is radically different from the tower block Sofitel Hotels I’m familiar with in Oz. It’s a lot smaller with lots of marble, chandelliers, a curving marble staircase and another-worldly bijoux charm about it. My room is decked out in antique-style decor with an en-suite bathroom and two balconies (admittedly they are the size of airline loos) overlooking the canal and the Papadopolous Gardens and pontes. IMG00402-20090614-0223 IMG00041-20090604-0142Amazingly, all vestiges of fatigue disappear. Having briefly appreciated the merits of my new home, I dump my bags and hare out door to explore.

Ciao Venezia! Here I come!!

GOODBYE ECIJA

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With the Academy Directors

Friday night saw me bidding  a sad farewell to the last group of my lovely students who have been a part of my life since last September. I have to admit I shed a little tear (and so did some of them). My walk home, after handing in the keys to my boss, was filled with mixed feelings. I knew this was the last time that I would be treading the familiar route, one that I had walked four times a day, in all kinds of weather. As I walked I said a mental goodbye to the places I regularly walked past. Sometimes in the freezing cold, other times with sweat pouring down my face.

One of the things I am really going to miss about being there is the lovely long break in the middle of the day for siesta.  My break was usually 3 or 4 hours, depending on the timetable and whilst it was a bit strange at first, and I never used this as a siesta time, I soon developed the habit  of using these times to work on other projects or simply relax with a good book.

I arrived struggling to speak Spanish, and even more, the accent of Andalucia but now I surprise myself with how much I actually understand and am able to communicate. I think I surprised some of my colleagues and students too. Whilst I am by no means fluent I can get by very well. You can read about my early adventures in the Spain tab of my blog, but my most memorable occasion is the gas bottle episode.

I became accustomed to the fact that all the shops close for lunch and on Sundays, including many of those in Seville and Cordoba too. I learnt to organise myself around their opening hours and Sunday was truly a day or rest and recreation.

Whilst I still registered that the church bells peal out every hour, every day of the week, even through the night. I got used to it and it became a familiar part of daily life in a little Spanish town.

I loved sitting in the Salon (the main square that is more correctly named Plaza Espana) especially in the recent months when the daylight lasted until about 10 o’clock, and at the other little bars having a tapa and watching whole families or varying generations all eating together, the children and dogs all playing sociably. I didn’t enjoy the dog poo that I need to keep a sharp eye out for!

It’s been a great learning experience. Learning about the rich culture, both ancient and modern, learning about the people and the local customs. All in all it’s been a wonderful opportunity to learn first hand about life in a small Spanish town away from all the commercialism and tourist hubble-bubble of the larger cities.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Thank you Educalia Ecija and all the fabulous people I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with during my time there.

Michelle

 

Exploring the Albayzin – Granada, Spain

The school year is drawing to a close, at least here in Europe, which means so too is my time here in Spain. I’m making the most of the last few weekends and have been to Granada, Cordoba and Seville this month. Distances are not as vast as at home in Australia, so even though I don’t have a car here, it’s fairly easy to get about from one area to the other. I’m using buses, BlaBla Cars and lovely students who kindly give me lifts if they are headed in the direction I want to go.

Although it’s only a month since my very first visit to Granada, there’s a magic about the place that drew me back once again. My first stop was the cake shop where I indulged myself in not one, but two of the most delicious Arab sweets. It was then down to the serious business of leisurely exploring the Albayzin area, the old Arab quarter. Although I’d visited there before, I didn’t really have enough time for a proper exploration on my first visit.

It’s a very ancient area of the city, also UNESCO world heritage listed, built into the hill on the opposite side of the river to the Alhambra. A series of narrow, steep and winding alleyways offer surprise views and scenes tucked around each b20150430_155323end, including glimpses of the Alhambra in all its glory. There are some areas where cars can squeeze (and it’s definitely a squeeze) along, but for the most part it’s all very, very narrow and you can imagine donkeys being more suited for trekking up and down. I certainly wouldn’t like to have to lug my groceries home from the supermarket, although the idea of a small flat in this area has masses of appeal! I also reckon walking up and down the steep slopes would soon cancel out the sugar ladened cakes I’d be consuming each day if I lived here. Flat shoes are a must and it was with great amusement that I watched a few fashionable young tourists teeter around on their platform shoes.

There is a little bus that you can take up and down, and it’s very cheap (E1.20). We took the bus last time as we were pressed for time. This time my explorations were all on foot, both up and down, round and through the various nooks and crannies, including a visit to the mosque whose gardens are open to the public. The view from here of the Alhambra is pretty spectacular but without the crowds at the Mirador S. Nicholas which is right next door. I also took the big camera this time, so have better shots, but these here are straight from my phone.

My attic room
My attic room where I enjoyed a sound sleep.

By the time I got back to my hotel at around 11pm, my poor little footsies were pretty tired. It was a most welcome relief to slip off my shoes, wiggle my toes and settle back with a glass of bubbly in hand before dragging myself into the shower. The hotel was a converted 16 Century mini palace located right on the Darro. My room, which I’d booked at the last moment, was in what was obviously a converted attic space. I slept like a log!

wpid-20150607_110042.jpg wpid-20150607_105538.jpgSunday morning saw Wayne and myself enjoy a leisurely breakfast before doing some serious haggling for leather bags. Our purchases left us thirsty – shopping is hard work – so we headed  into yet another colourwpid-20150607_125119.jpgful square, for refreshments and watched the local townsfolk go about their regular Sunday businewpid-20150607_124841.jpgss.  In the afternoon we headed back to Ecija which is a total contrast to Granada and certainly a whole lot cheaper in terms of eating out. I guess I’ve been spoilt spending all these months in a little local place where I’ve got used to paying local prices. I reckon I’m going to be in for a rude shock when I am back in Australia again. However, I’m really looking forward to a bowl of laksa!

Michelle

Changing our lives

Have you secretly (or maybe not so secretly) thought you would like to change your life in some way, shape or form? I know lots of people have but feel they can’t do anything for one reason or another. Family, kids, parents, finances, pets and a myriad of other thing are usually cited as the reasons for being unable to change. People depend on you, you can’t afford it and so on the reasons go. Many of the reasons are very valid but there is always something that can done to effect some type of change towards goals and ambitions.

I want you to think for a moment about how we all began life. As a baby we came into the world and faced enormous challenges. We needed to grow up – and if you think about it, growing up is a series of changes that take place with the biggest changes being in our early years. We start with small steps, milk and then onto solid food with the consistency getting firmer as we move through the learning to eat phase.

At the same time we learn to become more in control of our bodies. In the beginning we need our heads to be supported, to be picked up and carried everywhere. Then one day we learn we can roll over. Amazing! We can turn over all by ourselves. We might not be able to turn back, so we get frustrated and cry for help at which point some adult comes along and helps us.

Think about how a child learns to walk, first they crawl, pull themselves up on furniture for support, wobble about fall on their bums occasionally and finally, one day, they just let go and wobble off on shaky legs.

Well it’s the same concept if you want to make changes within your life, one step at a time and gradually the confidence builds and off ynewstartou go!

It may be that your 2015 ambitions are firmly embedded in your mind but you aren’t sure of how to go about making those changes or you might still be thinking about what direction you want to head in. This is where the support of a mentor, life coach, advisor or whatever name you want to give such people can be very helpful. The key is to make sure that whoever you choose is a good fit for what you want to achieve as it is definitely not a case of one size fits all.

How do you know if they’re the right person? Check out their track record and find out whether they just talk the talk or whether they have life experience? Ask questions and if you’re not happy with the answers keep looking.

I am selective about who I choose to work with and my clients always appreciate a 100% confidential environment, although I know some people prefer to work as part of bigger groups where there is less cofidentiality control and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It comes down to personal choices and what works best for each individual. For me a decision is always based on whether I feel I can help someone to achieve their goals and if they feel comfortable to be open with me and most importantly if I will be happy working with them. If not, then I recommend others (often within my network) as after all this is very much all about personalities and ensuring the approropriate fit in order to create the right environment to achieve best outcomes.

If you’d like to explore options on how the team at Dragon Sisters, or myself personally,  may be able to help maximise your potential and achieve your ambitions, be they personal or professional, contact us now and plan to make 2015 the start of effecting positive changes for yourself.

Michelle

PS I’d also love to hear you share any ways you have chosen to effect changes in your life.

December…..first week

I’ve been here two months already, the time has flown past and two weeks today I’ll be boarding a plane in Madrid to head back to Darwin for Christmas where I’ll no doubt swelter and instead of the heaters will be lazing about in the pool to try and keep cool.

I’m very pleased to be able to say that this week I finally managed to become registered on the Spanish health care system. Only two trips to the Health Centre and one to Social Security and my task was accomplished. I’m definitely getting the hang of this local run around system that involves several visits and many photocopies of all paperwork.

I’ve also got a few thousand more words down on paper, enjoyed two social nights of informal conversation groups which was a mix of Spanish and English speakers, met new people and discovered a little cultural centre I had no idea existed before. The chap who runs it, Juan Manuel Luna Fuentes, presented me with copy of his book “Viaje A Nueva Icaria” all in Spanish I might add so on winter nights I guess it’ll be me and my dictionary trying to wade through it. I also learnt all sorts of fascinating stuff about flamenco which will be the subject of another post.

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Cobbled street just after midnight –  lit by the soft glow of the street lights

Temperatures have suddenly dropped to between 4 and 6 degrees each morning and late at night but I still love walking home in the dark as the city takes on another dimension in the glow of the lamp light. Don’t get me wrong, I am always offered a lift but it’s so much better to walk and after a night of chatter I enjoy the solitude. The streets are quieter and it’s as though I’ve stepped back in time as I walk the cobbled streets towards my apartment. It’s perfectly safe to walk at night and it burns the calories too!

The cooler weather means bundling up in more clothes, and I’ve taken to wearing several layers (which gives a Michelin Man appearance at times) although when the sun comes out it is lovely to bask in its warming rays and then I feel hot so need to peel off a layer! In my apartment I have two heaters going in the sitting room so I don’t turn into a popsicle overnight and, as I write this, I recall the days of typing in London wearing fingerless gloves – if it gets much colder I might just have to invest in a pair once again!

This week an ice-rink has appeared in the main square which is officially called Plaza Espana but the locals refer to it as the Salon and the Christmas decorations have been hung across the streets. I’m heading out now to explore the town and see what delights I can find at the market that I saw springing up in the Salon yesterday.

Michelle