All posts by lpenn45

A Day at the Races


There’s hardly a person to be seen in uptown Coffs Harbour as it is the 7th August and it’s Coffs Golden Cup Race Day!

I, together with my daughter have decided to join the crowd at the local races to do what everyone else does, bet on horses. But there is one big problem, I have no idea about how to bet on horses, nor does my daughter.

On entry into the racing club, I spotted a local business colleague, so I approached him. “Steve, how are you, can you spare me a minute?” With a surprised look, he responded, “Yes”.

“Steve like everyone else here today we want to enjoy ourselves and bet on some races, but I have no idea how to read the racing guide, can you give me a quick lesson?” He took hold of the racing guide clutched lovingly in my hand and begins to explain in what I would describe as a true punter style, which went in one ear and directly out the other. All I could comprehend was how much money the various horses had won and thought “hey this could be fun”.

The colleague standing with Steve at the time looked at my astounded facial expression and said: “if all fails just pick the horse that has the best-coloured silk shirt on the jockey”. Now that is my type of betting, simple but fun.

I hurriedly went back to the corporate ten to join my daughter, colleagues, and clients, where I proceeded to explain what I had learned about betting.

It appeared that my ability to demonstrate what I had learned was not sufficient for my daughter, but she too caught on about how much money the various horses had won. So she became our official runner to the TAB to do the betting.

Her strategy proved to be highly successful, as we won or came second in every race. She learned very quickly the importance of betting ‘win and place’ after the first race, where she had put the bet on a ‘win’ only and it came second. If we had bet ‘win and place’ our take home precedes would have amounted to some real money for the day.

You certainly couldn’t put a price on the day as overall we had the best time ever, jumping about grabbing one another when we could see our horse nearing the finishing line. We must have looked like two women off their faces, but hey we were enjoying ourselves.

A few days later I ran into Steve and he asked, “How did you go to the races?” To which I replied “we had a blast, we won $’s in every race” he replied; “great, you must have come out with heaps of money!” “Well not really as we only bet $1 to win and place”. He didn’t’ have to respond to the look on his face said it all.

However, for us, it was the best day ever!

We will be back next year and this time we will go the full hog and bet at least $2 each way!

What My Favourite Teacher Taught Me

Back in 2005, I was asked to contribute an inspirational story about one of my favourite school teachers for a collection of inspirational stories selected by my colleague and friend Robyn Henderson’s book ‘What My Favourite Teacher Taught Me’.

Read on…

Mrs. Bell, my math’s teacher, is the lady who taught me that understanding mathematics is critical to acquiring knowledge and having the ability to analyse information.

At the time, back in the late 1950s at Arncliffe Girl’s High, this was far removed from what I was interested in. But for some reason, her words stuck in my mind and have surfaced over and over during my entire life. What I learned from her has actually contributed to where I am today.

Back in the 1950s, I tended to challenge life and teachers. I can clearly remember Mrs. Bell speaking to me in rather loud tones when I was questioning her knowledge of math’s or disrupting the class by talking about the boys at Tempe Boys’ High School. Even knowing she was, without a doubt, one of the best teachers I had ever encountered, I constantly tested per patients. I was a high achiever and even if I didn’t take in all the lessons I could deliver excellent results at exam time, achieving top grades for three consecutive years. Mrs. Bell persisted with me, this ‘challenging natured’ person, whilst managing to assist the girls who found math’s impossible.

My working life commenced when I took a position in the exciting world of advertising as an accountant using the (then) latest technology in bookkeeping machines – Remington Addo X 8000. This was demanding in itself, being able to program the required ledger you wanted to work on when programming was still in its infancy.

This led me into the computer industry, initially as an accountant and then taking on the new role of Reseller Manager, whilst maintaining the financial control of the organisation.

For ten years my career has moved into developing business by improving internal communication strategies, being client focused, researching new growth market opportunities and strengthening business processes for the commercial training arm of TAFE NSW, TAFE PLUS.

When I think about my career I now realise that the words of Mrs. Bell have rung true for me. ‘Learning and understanding math’s is one of the most important fundamentals of acquiring knowledge and having the ability to analyse information.’ This has actually contributed to where I am today. Thanks, Mrs. Bell.

Bottle of Galliano Eased the Problem

It was the early eighties and I was working as an Accountant for a Computer Bureau. Our main clients were the Police and Broadway Credit Unions; we handled their payrolls.

It was during one of these payroll runs when things went haywire with a system crash, leaving no alternative than to panic! Geoff, Computer Bureau Manager panicked! It is not much fun having to advise the Police their pays will be delayed.

I remembered having a Christmas gift sent to me from a client with a note “In times of emergency make a coffee with a dash of the enclosed Galliano to ease the problem”.

With a smile on my face, I dropped into Geoff’s office and gave him the replenishing Galliano coffee and left.

About five minutes later, the intercom ran, it was a most grateful Geoff asking for another special coffee.

The trouble was explaining about ‘the special coffee’ to Fred, Managing Director who had decided to drop into my office right on receiving Geoff’s call.

Fred said; “What are you up to Lorraine?”

“I am just trying to sort out a payroll problem by making Geoff a coffee”.

Geoff rang again saying; “waiting for the special coffee, can I have another?” “Sure Geoff, in a minute I am talking to Fred”. Geoff replied “Don’t give him one, they are our secret”

“OK Lorraine you are up to something, what is it?”

I opened my desk draw exposing the Galliano and said; “coffee Fred?” He responded with “Yes please!”

It’s Only a Rabbit

1986 was such an exciting time when I decided to take my daughters aged 17 and 13 on a short break from Sydney to Bathurst as being an ideal location to view Halley’s Comet come from Earth.

Excitement abounded in our venture, one daughter had all her camera equipment complete with a tripod and the other just wanted to have fun.

I decided about 3am in the morning would be the perfect time to view the Comet, so I woke the girls and off we drove to find a good viewing location. We ended up somewhere out of town in the farming area.

Both daughters jumped out of the car, one setting up her camera equipment and the other one wanting to go to the bathroom. “Just over there dear,” I said with angst.

The environment was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, then all of a sudden we heard a thudding sound which scared the hell out of us. I said: “quickly get back into the car”. My youngest had not quite finished her bathroom duties and had her pants half down whilst my eldest tried to gather her camera equipment and thrust it into the car with the tripod’s legs hanging out the window. Come on the car get into gear and out of here!

To our surprise out of the bushes came the biggest rabbit we have ever seen. “Oh mum it’s only a rabbit coming to see the comet too, can I finish going to the bathroom?”

Holiday Imagination

Taking a holiday can be fun, relaxing and in my case full of imagination. During a holiday to the Gold Coast with my husband and daughter, who at the time needed a holiday due to her workload?

Our accommodation was a high-rise apartment built very close to other apartments, so close you felt you could almost reach out and touch the other buildings.

The closeness didn’t bother my husband or myself, but my daughter could not walk onto the balcony and look at the magnificent views, which showcased the entire area including the mountains and ocean views.

On the first morning, I was enjoying a cup of tea on the balcony and said to my husband “you know if one of these buildings fell over it would cause a domino effect, as the buildings are so close”.

On hearing this my daughter just about freaked out, thinking that our building could be the first.

I beckoned her to come onto the balcony to look at the superb views. You could see she wanted to, but the height was causing her some anxiety. “Come on dear I am here the building is well built and safe”. My daughter responded with “But Mum you said there could be a domino effect”. “Oh that is just my imagination, forget what I said and enjoy the views”.

She finally walked half way onto the balcony, stopped, stretched and leaned over touching the railing; she took a mini second look and hurriedly went back inside.

Sad about the Cat

It was a wet and miserable day in Coffs Harbour the rain is unyielding.

I felt so sorry for a sales lady who visited our home to give us a quote for installing new blinds. The preparation for quoting was the easy part, the difficulty was getting my then husband to agree on a chosen style, colour and of course price.

My parting comments to the sales lady were; “shame that you have to go out again into the rain and not being able to stay indoors and read a good book”.

She replied; “oh well at least today is shaping up much better than yesterday,” I asked why? “Well whilst visiting a client yesterday to do a measurement for blinds, her cat was playing relentlessly with the strings of her blinds and scratching the couch”

The owner said: “Not sure about actually going ahead with the blinds because of the cat being so destructive to the lounge and that I should really buy a lounge first before the blinds”

My sales lady replied with: “I guess you could wait until the cat dies then you can buy both the lounge and the blinds”

The sales lady then said; “you are not going to believe this, the owner of the cat phoned first thing this morning advising that after I left her house the cat got out and committed suicide by being run over by a passing car”

She then looked around and asked, “Do you have a cat?”

Drink Water Before a Live Interview

Imagine the shock horror feeling I experienced recently whilst being interviewed live on the radio when all of a sudden my throat just froze due to lack of fluids combined with having to cope with a very nervous radio interviewer, as this was her first live interview.

The interviewer, wanting to ensure her first live interview was a success just about drove me to drink, but not water!

Weeks before the actual day of the interview I was starting to feel the torturous effects of her constant phone calls. She started to become a nuisance by her going over and over the proposed questions, were they sufficient, are the questions being repeated etc.

I said to her “just relax and let the questions flow, I will answer them to the best of my ability after all this is a great opportunity to promote the writers’ group”. Myself being the President of the writer’s group I wanted a good outcome too!

My biggest mistake on the morning of the interview, I didn’t make sure my throat was lubricated with any water before the interview. And the interviewer was so nervous she raced through the questions, instead of it being a 30-minute relaxed type of interview, she managed to ask all the questions and my comments were all over and done within 12 minutes.

Listening to the interview now on my iPhone’s recorder, I can hear how much my voice was under pressure due to lack of water.

Lesson learned, drink water before a live interview.

Your choice to stay angry

You can choose to stay angry, upset and sad, or you can choose to get on with life by facing what has hurt you and be content.

How many of us can do this effectively?

Most people dwell on what makes them unhappy without letting go of it and getting on with their existence.

Dwelling on situations can sometimes make the hurt much greater than it really was, but if you can manage to talk about it with the person/s who has hurt you, then both parties will achieve satisfaction.

If you cannot accomplish discussion, for the sake of your happiness give consideration to, was it really that hurtful anyway!

Sydney Transport


On one of my trips to Sydney for a business related educational event, the flight leaving my hometown of Coffs Harbour was delayed 15 minutes due to Mascot Airport having flight allocation issues.

This wasn’t a problem as I had caught the earlier flight due to the possibility of delays.

On arrival at Sydney Domestic Terminal, I took the train into the city. What an experience this was in an overcrowded train with everyone immersed in their iPods, iPhones, computers, papers, and books. Not a friendly face anywhere to be seen.

I managed to see a vacant seat upstairs in the train, but it was in the middle of a three-seater chair. So I asked the lady who was the nearest to the aisle; “excuse me can I get past you?” She didn’t even look up from her book and said; “you could find another seat”. Welcome to Sydney’s commuters’!

Her huffing and puffing about the annoyance of someone sitting next to her didn’t deter me.

After leaving the train it was a bus trip downtown, another unwelcoming situation the buses are cashless and you need a prepaid ticket! What a wonderful customer friendly town;

Thankfully my educational event was worthwhile, the return flight was on time and a friendly husband was waiting for me at Coffs Harbour Airport.

New Generation of Technology Users

Had returned from a weekend, well actually one evening, of babysitting my grandsons’ ages 11 and 8, in Newcastle, Australia.

During my visit, it was wonderful to see how my grandsons are using all forms of technology, iPads, iPhones and Smart TV with Wii games of course in a way that most adults my age and even much younger feel intimidated by, but not my grandsons.

The eldest grandson Damien said; “Nanma you would be surprised at all the technology available for us to learn now”, how true!

During my stay, I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing a video that Damien had written, videoed and directed whilst attending an Apple Store Kids Video Workshop in Charlestown Shopping Centre. I know this sounds biased, but he was without a doubt the best video shown on the day, amazing creativity.

Interesting as the school system said a few years ago that he was ADHD, yes right! Thank goodness my daughter did not take the medical advice to medicate him.

It was pleasing to see that technology is being used as a tool for learning new, and creative ways of opening up their minds to creativity, something that is stifled by the education system.