Weekend away


“Would you like the creamy pesto pasta or the ham, coleslaw and potato salad?”

They both sounded good to me. Any meal which doesn’t involve planning, shopping or cooking on my part is always a winner. But forced to choose I selected the ham salad. Delicious.

More on food

The flight attendants continued down the aisle, handing out boxed meals and cold drinks to weary passengers on an evening flight to Brisbane. For me, it was the last in a series of Melbourne meals that began with prawn linguini in a tomato and chilli sauce at a Lygon Street trattoria, and ended with a Reuben sandwich in a courtyard garden tucked away on Nicholson.

In between there were Bircher muesli breakfasts with poached pears and raw nuts, laneway coffees, gin and blue cheese in the hotel lounge and a raucous family feast of oysters, beetroot salad, succulent chicken and an exquisite German Riesling.


The Husband celebrates his 50th birthday in a few days and this weekend away kicked off the festivities. The Athlete will be doing a lot of travelling for competitions soon, so we flew south rather than bring her home.

As regular visitors, we don’t feel compelled to see or do anything in particular in Melbourne. It’s enough just to wander through the city and the northern fringes, eating, drinking and enjoying the Victorian-era townhouses and Art Deco high rises.

I bought clothes, squeezing my expanded bottom into some locally designed and made jeans. And The Champion and Ballerina added to their already impressive cosmetics collection.

But The Husband was this weekend’s real winner. We bought him a watch – a hand-made, limited edition investment timepiece; the pinnacle in a lifetime of watch collecting. He’s a bit overwhelmed. And very, very happy. We planned to buy a watch but the final choice was an unexpected step up. It’s a big purchase but a small reward for all the Sundays he’s dedicated to work over his 25-year career.

No one deserves to realise a dream more than him.

Business class

In front of me in the business line to board our homeward flight stood a woman wearing tiny denim shorts over black tights. Toned abdominals winked at me through gaps in her loose singlet top. Boxing gloves dangled from the purple backpack at her feet. Her bicep flexed as she lifted her phone to dictate a message – to her assistant? – and I listened in awe to her conversation and corporate musings.

“I’m off to the US soon to work with their Paralympic team… Socials have been excellent lately. Great engagement. But we need more. Maybe some video? I can do it tomorrow morning.”

She talked about partnerships and collaborations but questioned someone’s qualifications.

“Find out what their bottom line is. Do they expect to be paid? Or are they happy with some exposure?”

And there it was.

From a few snippets of overheard dictation I pegged the boxer as smart, successful and business-savvy. She works hard, I decided, using a ten-minute delay at the airport on a Sunday evening to dictate a memo. And she’s happy to explore “partnerships” and “collaborations”, particularly if that means she can capitalise on someone else’s talent without paying them.

Sensitive issue

Those magic words made me bristle, my eyes narrowing and lips pursing as the boxer picked up her bag and pushed forward with the surging airport crowd.

Of course, I shouldn’t jump to judgment based on eavesdropping and envy (I wish I had the boxer’s toned physique and an assistant to receive my memos). But I instinctively flinch when I hear “work for exposure”, now the common currency for creative workers desperate to find a place in the economy.

I haven’t earned a bean for months, still trapped in a volunteer vortex. It’s my own fault of course. I say yes to every request (to work for free), because I’m committed to the cause and enjoy being on the team. And every story and photograph and match report and social media post builds my skills, which is important. And I think (I hope) my contribution makes a difference, which is also important.

But the unpaid demands of the team have left no time to develop my own product and look for work. I’m growing resentful, and that’s not good. Drawing and observing boundaries between work and volunteering is crucial for a freelancer and something I need to work on.

Perhaps I need to be more like the boxer, abdominals included. I bet she never works for free.

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Angela Bensted Bw 1x1
Angela Bensted is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.
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