Tag Archives: Melbourne

A day of firsts

6 Oct

Well, it’s been a time of firsts for me lately, and last Friday was a particularly ‘adventurous’ day.

My day started out well, it was actually a beautiful day, the first after the most terrifying electric storms had hit Melbourne in the the previous couple of days. I usually love storms but I have never heard anything like it….it was quite funny actually, there I was calming Little B down (as with most dogs, she hates storms), patting and speaking quietly to her, as we sat on the porch watching the lightening (I always have had romantic notions of storm watching from a porch and here was my chance) when all of a sudden there was a giant crack, and lightening struck the house at the bottom of our garden!! I could have won a sprint race with the speed at which I raced inside cursing all sorts of unmentionables. Myself and Little B spent the rest of the afternoon in bed 😉

Anyways, now it was so beautiful that I decided to take Little B out for a long walk at the local creek just near our home. Enjoying ourselves and the weather, it was amazing to see what the storms had done to the level and ferocity of the water: what was usually a placid slow meandering stream was now a torrential (mini) river.

Anyways, just near the end of our walk I spotted a small duckling swimming in a slightly calmer bend of the stream, and of course, my first reaction was ‘oh how cute!!’. But then I noticed that she (for the purposes of the story, the duckling will be a she…I don’t know why) was on her own, no family in sight, not a good sign for such a young thing 😦 She had obviously been separated from them in the extreme weather.

Now, though I am a qualified wildlife rescuer by virtue of taking a course, I had never actually completed a rescue on my own before but the thought of just leaving the little duckling to her own devices, when the odds really are not that great at all, just didn’t sit well with me. My first thought was, if I could locate her family first, then I could try and somehow maneuver them together, but I quickly saw that she was in fact hemmed into a part of the stream that was bordered at two ends by rapids caused by the new influx of water. So, I thought the best thing I could do would be first locate the family, then capture the duckling and return her to her family (the myth that ducklings that have come into contact with humans will not be taken back my their parents is actually false), and if her family could not be located, I would take her to the wildlife sanctuary where I volunteer where they are actually currently are raising another duckling (the only survivor of a hit and run on a local highway 😦 )

I didn’t want to leave her but I was completely unprepared for a rescue and, as much as love her, I didn’t think Little B would be too much help being that she is a natural born hunter (it is the only thing we disagree on 😉 ). So I took her home and made a plan. The first thing I was going to need was a net so I did a quick internet search and found that we actually have an anglers store in a neighbouring suburb which would be perfect. I got all the other things I would need from around the house: a lined box with air-holes, some bread (for coaxing purposes) and my wellie (see gum) boots then headed off the anglers store, my first first of the day.

Having never fished a day in my life since making my own fishing rod as a youngster on a caravaning holiday and surprising myself and those around me when I actually caught one ( I was horrified!),needless to say, I am no fishing expert but they were very helpful in the store though the look on the guy’s face was priceless when I mentioned that I was going to use the net for duckling rescue and not prawn catching (prawn nets are the best for rescue of ducklings and such like as the net is very fine, meaning that no harm can come to legs and wings during the process).

Then the creek. Firstly, I walked up and down the area for some time searching for the duckling’s family but unfortunately, it was to no avail 😦 However, I was glad to see that the duckling was still safe and sound so I spent some time quietly throwing her bits of bread trying to gain a little trust and set everything up ready for when I caught her so that she would be settled quickly and the least amount of distress caused.

For my first attempt at the rescue I tried to net her from the banks, but I knew this was going to be a long shot, so the next step was to get into the water, my second first of the day (wading in the local ‘fresh’ water creek), and hope it wasn’t TOO deep. Well, at first it wasn’t…just up to my thighs, far too deep for my wellies to be of much use except for protecting me against whatever lay at the bottom the of the incredibly muddy water (which made them well worth it, I thought!) but manageable, however, as I followed her (trying to be as quiet and unthreatening as possible and keeping the net down low so as not to frighten her too much), the water got deeper and deeper (and colder and colder, my gasps were uncomfortably reminiscent of the scene from Titanic when Kate Winslet first enters the water on her way to rescue Leo)  but I had come this far so I kept on until I had a great opportunity and she was within my reach…..and then I sank…and that, friends, was my third first of the day….SWIMMING in the local creek! I swear the duckling was laughing at me, in fact she didn’t even swim away, she just got onto a mid-stream rock, gave herself a cleansing shake and sat down to watch me splutter away.

However, I was determined to keep this duckling safe and so this same process went on for over two hours (one of the main things they teach you about rescue is patience!!) until I was truly exhausted. At the point when I could barely wade through the water, I had to give up! I had tried my best to do the right thing and had only come close to rescuing the duckling about 3 times. In my mind, if she could happily escape me with such poise, hopefully she would be alright on her own, at least until the flood waters died down and her family was able to get to her.

I was just getting out of the water when an older gentleman across on the other bank (many people had passed by during my rescue attempt but not a one had offered to help) called out to me. At first my thought was that he was offering to help, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was angry at me and yelling his head off!! Fearing a misunderstanding, I let him know that I was not fishing and the reason for my net…however that just made him more mad and let me know in no uncertain terms I was wrong to be doing what I was. I even let him know that I was a trained rescuer, however that didn’t seem to help, he seemed under the impression that I was trying to steal wildlife for my own personal gain, though what that gain was seemed to be a little unclear…..

So there I was standing by the creek, soaked to the bone in muddy storm water (more on that later), holding a prawn catching net, wellie boots brimming and many many twigs in my hair, having failed at my rescue attempt AND getting yelled at.

I am sorry to say that at that point I lost my temper a little and had a bit of a yell back…something along the lines of “I am trying to save a life not catch dinner”…..and as a person who avoids conflict like the plague, it was a very uncomfortable moment. Once I had calmed down, I explained the statistics of the survival of a duckling out on her own and that seemed to quieten him up and he huffed his way off. And, of course, that was the point when the skies opened and it literally poured down. In my single-mindedness, I had not noticed the skies gradually darkening!

That was a bad moment for me. I felt truly defeated, misunderstood, and all those bad things and I just stood there in the rain crying. I felt every time in my life when I tried to do the right thing but been completely misunderstood by those around come crashing down around me. Totally melodramatic, I know, but I have to admit to feeling very low at that point.

Of course, a couple of hours later, after an extremely hot shower, and some hot soup, I felt better. I had tried to do the right thing, and though it hadn’t worked out, and though people around me couldn’t understand or agree with with what I tried to do, I knew that I couldn’t have just ignored the duckling on her own and had taken the course of action that I felt most appropriate at the time.

In my contemplation, I realised it’s much like my decision to go back to university at this stage of my life. People may not understand why I’ve made this decision and may even be fairly vocal in their opposition (that is not to say that I don’t have support, I also have plenty of that too), but as long as I feel like I am doing the right thing  (and I don’t mean only for me but also for my nearest and dearest) then it IS the right thing.

Note: I have been very sick and laid up in bed for most of this week. Turns out that during the storms, raw sewage has been released into Melbourne’s creeks and rivers to “reduce pressure and prevent sewage backing up through household drains”. Lovely. Swimming in sewage turns out to be the fourth first I experienced last Friday. Thankfully, I have recovered and am feeling much better!

I still stand by my decision to try and rescue that duckling! Maybe I am just a little bit crazy………….. ;D

Fact No 11: In light of this post……Ducks’ feet have no nerves or blood vessels. This means ducks never feel the cold, even if they swim in icy cold water.


Making the Application :D

8 Aug

So, I have made the decision to return to study 😀

Since coming to this conclusion, I’ve been spending lots of time researching, finding out all my options, what courses are available and how to make my dream of studying again a reality.

I guess I should let you know at this point that I have only been in Melbourne for 8 years and I’m originally from Scotland, therefore all my previous study was done over there, and I have very little knowledge about how the Australian tertiary schooling system works. So, as you can imagine, that has my first point of call!

There are plenty of great universities here in my local Australian state of Victoria, so it was a case of finding out which ones had the best courses, most suited to what I want to do.  Here in Victoria, most applications for all tertiary courses need to be done through a central admission centre (VTAC) and they allow up to 12 applications per year. The way it works is that they go through your preferences directly with the universities on your behalf until one of them acccepted (hopefully!).

I have found 9 suitable under-graduate degrees (from various universities) ranging from Environmental Science (Wildlife & Conservation Biology) to straight Science. My last three preferences are TAFE (Technical and Further Education institutions) courses which are shorter courses that will provide an entry into further university study should I fail to get accepted into any of my 9 under-grad preferences this time around. I don’t like to think of not getting in this time around, not when I am so anxious to get going, but I believe I must cover all my bases, as I have defintely learned in the past few years that nothing should ever be taken for granted!

As I’m sure many of you are aware, it’s a little more complicated applying as a mature-aged student than applying as a school leaver. Here in Australia, school leavers receive one score when they graduate (the ATAR) which is their key to university study. For me, what counts is an undergraduate degree that I completed almost 10 years ago (in a completely different field) and to be honest, the first time round, I wasn’t the best of students, preferring the many Edinburgh student bars on offer as opposed to the to the student library! Luckily, as a mature-aged applicant, there were other options available to me in lieu of having the ATAR as well as having prior tertiary qualifications.

I could submit a personal information sheet, which is pretty much like a personal essay where you can state your reasons for returning to study, committment etc. This part was easy, as brimming over with excitement as I am at the moment. It also is a chance to talk about what you have done to show your passion for your chosen area of study but more on this later 😀

The other option is to sit the local STATs (Special Tertiary Admissions Tests), a series of tests designed to assess a range of competencies considered important for success in tertiary study, covering writing, numeracy and analytic skills. Luckily, when I had flirted with the idea of studying last year, I had actually sat these tests, and I have to say that I was pretty happy when I found out that my results are valid for use for up to 5 years after sitting, so no more scary entrance exams for me this year 😉

So, courses found and requirements discovered,  I then went to VTAC, and when all applications opened on the 1st August, I lodged all my 12 choices through their Special Entry Access Scheme (this scheme covers applying as a mature-aged student) 😀 😀 😀

I am SO excited, nervous, scared and a whole number of other adjectives but I have to now call in all my skills in the art of patience (of which I do not have many) as I am in for a long wait. Not including early admissions, the first round offers don’t come out until Jan 16th!!!

5 months feels like an age at this point, but I just have to buckle down and get on with it. And there are plenty of related things I can be doing with my time between now and then….but that’s for a different post ;D

Fact No 2: Echidnas and Platypus are the only living mammals that lay eggs instead of live young! (Both species found here in Australia.)

And just because……Echidna babies are called puggles!

For more information, please see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echidnas and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus

NB: I feel I must apologise for this detail laden post, but I felt that if anyone is reading who may be considering starting on the same journey, these descriptions could help in some small way!

How do you start a journey? By taking the first step…

4 Aug

Ok, so I know it’s been a while since my first (and last post)! Not to worry, that just means that I have a lot more to fill you in on in regards to my quest for finding my “purpose”. It’s been a very busy few (alright, so more than a few) months!

When I last left you, I was disenchanted with my current career, was working in sales, and looking to make a change, at the ripe old age of 30 🙂

And look for this change I did.

I spent a lot of time thinking about where my passions truly lay, and realised there were 3 main contenders: wildlife, musical theatre and books. Now, musical theatre is a big part of my life, I try to perform in an amateur production at least once a year, and love working with a number of different amateur theatre companies in Melbourne. However, would I want to do this as a career? Not so much. Amateur shows last for about 4 months, including rehearsals and performances. It’s exciting, challenging and very fulfilling, but there can be some down-sides. The hours are late, there is a LOT of bitchiness, and the thought of doing the same show night after night for years on end, just doesn’t appeal. Also, and I’m being completely honest here, whilst I’m not without a bit of talent, the competitive nature and just sheer amount of people out there who are just way more talented than me, would see me perhaps, if I was VERY lucky, land the occasional  chorus part. This all translates to a lifetime of serving tea and coffee waiting for the next opportunity….Not much of positive life change (for me at least!)

Then I came to Wildlife. And not just wildlife….under this heading also falls nature, environment sustainability and natural science. I am the eternal  tom-boy, and would prefer a life, dressed in overalls and gum boots, saving the planet, to anything else. So right there should have been my answer. Well, unfortunately it was not as straight forward as that. I did a LOT of research and what it all boiled down to was that if I wanted to forge a career of substance in this industry, I would definitely need to study as my original degree was an MA Hons in Philosophy (yes, get the laughs out 😉 ) and therefore of NO use to me in the field. *Actually probably a side note here should be that at 17, when I was asked to choose my preferences for university, I had no idea how important that decision was in determining my future. (I’m pretty sure most people are the same).* My reasons for choosing philosophy, while valid in some ways, were not grounded in real-life direction, and whilst I had the best four years living it up at University, my degree has only really been of use in getting interviews (ie that I have a degree from a great university) and in the most basic of job requirements (ie time-management, autonomy, etc).  Now, the idea of going back to study actually really appealed to me, as I believe this time around it would be a whole different story, and as a mature-aged student, I would get a lot more out of studying a second time around. The other extremely appealing thing about taking this new direction was that it would be fulfilling my other desire, which is to truly make a difference in the world, rather than just make it more money, which is what I feel, at heart, that I’ve been doing for the past few years. However, as always with any such decision, there were the cons to consider, the most obvious being the financial side. My partner (who, for the purposes of this blog, shall be named Bob 🙂 ) was actually just finishing up his own studies and about to forge his career path (yes, for anyone doing the maths, there is an age difference 😉 ), so money wasn’t hugely plentiful, though after having lived on one and a half salaries for 3 years, we thought we could probably do it. Bob was extremely supportive and understanding, he being one of the lucky few that has always know what it is he wanted to do *another side note, Bob’s motivation , and love for his chosen career path, was one of the key reasons for my career re-evaluation. That kind of passion is highly motivating, and wonderful to be around*
But still, I worried about taking the time to study (I would be looking at 3 years minimum if I wanted to do it thoroughly, and at this stage, I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly). At 30, having family becomes a consideration, and although we are no-where near ready for that part of our lives, as a woman, it does weigh on the mind.

So, after much thought, my mind turned to books. I love books!! I read about 5 a week, 2 at a time and love discussing them at any available opportunity. Now at this stage, I should mention that for quite a few years, I actually worked in the publishing industry, in the sales & marketing fields for one particular company. For the most part, I had actually really enjoyed my time working with that company and only left in the end because, as fun as publishing was, the money was not, and when a relationship of mine broke up I needed to earn quite a bit more money in order to manage financially and I wasn’t going to get it by staying in publishing. However, now in a stable relationship and looking to make a change, publishing didn’t seem like a bad option. I could find work (hopefully), become more fulfilled, and we could FINALLY be that glorious of things, the couple who have double income but no kids yet (DINKYS!!!).
So I decided, that all in all, the best choice would be to try and find a job back in the publishing world, but in the mean-time do some study from home, allowing me to fulfil some of my new-found passion for learning, and my love for all things wild, and then perhaps, a few years down the track, once we were in a more solid position with family etc, then I could return to University to study full-time.
So I jumped on SEEK, applied for the limited amount of publishing jobs available, noting that, in the past couple of years, there had been no great rise in salaries in this particular industry. * Note:  I should also mention here that my foray out of publishing had been in the FMCG industry, where money is readily available should you work in the sales side of things, which I did. Returning to publishing, I had no desire to continue in sales, therefore, I was looking more into marketing roles where I had less experience. This meant that I would have to come in a little further down the ladder. (I know this is not strictly true but my confidence was not at an all-time high at this point and so I was probably under-selling myself)*

At the same time, I started looking into Distance Learning and enrolled in a suitable course in Vertebrate Zoology which was extremely exciting and motivating for me.
I was extremely lucky and succeeded in securing a position with a leading publishing house after only a couple of months of job hunting. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was back in publishing, not working in sales, me and Bob were DINKYS  and I was studying another true passion. This was obviously the right choice and things were all going to work out perfectly…………………………………..

Now, obviously this is not the end of the story….but I’ve already posted a novel and don’t want to bore (if I haven’t already :D) so it’s bye from me for now!!

If you are even remotely interested, tune in for the next instalment of: ” Finding my purpose, one women’s struggle to matter” (Catchy don’t you think ;D)