Is Marrickville really the most unhappy suburb?

I ride down the street with Fin on the seat in the back and an old Nonna on her verandah says hello to us and calls out “what a beautiful boy!”

We get a coffee in the morning and have a nice chat with Steve and Nicki in the cafe.

I meet up with five or so other Mums and their kids in the park and everyone is smiling in the sunshine.

I slow down on the bike as I see a guy pull out of his drive-way but he stops, reverses, and let’s us pass with a smile and a wave.

And this all occurs in Marrickville today just in the past few hours.

Last night ABC aired a programme called making Australia Happy. I was cheekily watching the finals of Junior Master Chef! Earlier this year Matt and I had been filmed sitting outside a cafe for this programme. We signed a waiver, and the woman explained what the show was about and how the footage would be used. I remember being suprised that Marrickville was one of the unhappiest suburbs, but quickly forgot about the show and that maybe we’d be on TV.

A few people have got in contact with us in the last day or so to say that yes, we are in it for a very brief moment at the beginning. Check it out here if you like – we are in it at around the three or four minute mark. They are talking about despite the growing afflunece of the area (cut to us – me playing with iphone and the three of us generally living it up in a cafe – oh happy affluent days!) it is significantly less happy than the rest of the country.

We all talked about this at our meet up in the park and were all a little bit perplexed. We were happy, the people around us are happy – so who are the people dragging our average down?

I will watch the episode on iView and see the story unfold over the coming weeks. While I understand the show is bigger than Marrickville’s unhappiness, and looks instead at how people can achieve happiness by going about things / looking at them in a different way – the Marrickville aspect is bugging me.

Our only hope is that unhappiness may make people weary of the place and keep our real estate prices down! Marrickville is not the new Paddington people. We are too busy being miserable.

The is quite a bit of unhappiness expressed on the Screaming Bridge




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Influential Ellen

Resigning has meant a lot of reflecting. Best project? Best hotel stayed in? Best group ever? Best post-work drinking session? Funniest office moment? Lots of “top ten” lists have been created in my mind over the last seven days.

The one “best” lists I have been doing a lot is the people I have worked with. The best people I have worked with share some common characteristics. They have been eccentric, brilliant, creative, difficult, curious, insightful, passionate, unreasonable, pains-in-the-arse.

But who has had the most influence on my career? For that we need to go way back to 1999, where I quit my job as a surveycraft programmer at Colmar Brunton not sure about what I wanted to do and Ellen Baron said “Hey, why don’t you try out Qual? I need some help with project management. You ca do that part time while you work out what you want to do.”

In about two weeks I was bustling down Illawarra Road with a video camera filming a lady shop for food, and then back to her house in Petersham to film her cooking some Vietnamese dishes (which we got to eat!). I could not believe that people got paid to do this.  Ellen kept asking me things like “what did you notice about so-and-so”, and “How do you think this impacts the client question”.  She’d listen to what I said, encourage me to think more about an issue, and then let me get out and film more people. More people shopping and cooking for us. Teling us their stories. Introducing us to their families. Sitting down and eating with them. I used to go home and cook the dishes the ladies taught me. Then I edited the footage into a movie for the client. It was stuff I did at uni thinking I’d never be  able to get a chance to do in the “real world”. Yes – you could get paid to do ethnography. It was a revelation!

Then we analysed what we had seen. We drew diagrams, we talked, we threw ideas away. Ellen pulled everything together and we presented it to the client. They loved it. Everyone was excited about what they had seen. It is still my favourite project I have ever worked on.

Ellen left Colmar Brunton and went to The Leading Edge. I left Colmar Brunton and took a year off to try something else out and see if research was what I wanted to keep doing.  When I was thinking about getting back into research Ellen said “come and talk to them at TLE – it’s a good place to work.”

So that’s ten years ago. During that time Ellen continued to have a big influence on what I was doing. She had (and I’m sure still has) the wonderful ability to hear you trying to articulate an idea – then hand you a book to read, and say “have a look at this; there may be something in there for you.” So you went away and read the book, and had the “tah-dah!” moment. She’d let you find the answer yourself – knowing full well what it was, but not spoon feeding or telling you the way to go. Just suggesting, nudging, hinting. It made a lot of us great researchers. We picked up a lot. We began to flex our own muscles, so she’d challenge us with bigger issues, bigger roles, bigger stakes. But she’d aways be there to help; and again, not by taking over and telling you the answer, but by working with you, and giving you the spit and polish on a project to make it sing. I was really sad when she left TLE (in 2008?) but excited for her as she set up her own company, Ruby Cha Cha.

I am indebted to Ellen for a few things. The first is making research fun. Fun for researchers but also the participants of research, so we all got a lot of joy out of it. She is a huge consumer advocate – fighting their case in boardrooms all about the place. She taught us all that their stores were the centre of being successful, and if we could convey their issues and needs then we’d done a great job.

The second is being in my corner more times than I could count. I was a stubborn little shit at the start of my career. Difficult, feisty and more often than not a pain-in-the-ass. And if things were ever going a bit awry it was Ellen who would tell me to pull my head in and encourage me to keep going.

Ellen – you got me into a career that has been infinitely interesting, challenging and most of all fun. Thanks for your patience and brilliance!

Who would you say your greatest mentor or supporter is? How have they impacted your life or career?

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Big change ahead

Tomorrow is my last day at The Leading Edge; a place I have worked at for ten years. I’ve decided that I want to stay at home looking after my boy.

Ten years is a long time.  Close to one in every four days of my life has been spent there.

There has been some amazing payouts for that time. The main one for me is the travel. It can be a bitch some of the time, but I will not lie. The travelling was the best part of the job – not just a plane ride to the other side of the world, but sometimes just a cab ride to the other side of the city. You never knew what or who would be there waiting. It’s one of the best aspects of qualitative research – it gets you away from a desk and into places you’d normally not get a chance to venture.

First the travel was local. Then you find your feet and your confidence and then it’s up to Singapore. And before you know it you are sitting in a small flat in Nizhny Novgorod talking to a factory worker about Bony M, the Petshop boys and choosing wallpaper.

Yes, there have  been times at TLE where I have had to sit back and savour the moment. That “hang-on-I-am-sitting-in-the-global-head-office-of-a-bloody-big-brand-about-to-kick-off-a-meeting” feeling. I also get it when you are travelling and you get a weekend off to explore a city. Relaxing on a bench at Central Park watching eccentric dog owners parade past, catching a bus downtown in LA and chatting with the locals, having a nice meal with a client by the canal in Copenhagen, wolfing down caviar at GUM in Red Square, staring out at frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago, having a martini at Chateau Marmont (hello Ellen!). All of these experiences and places and people. None of them would have happened without working for this company.

Those little things kept me going. Hard work, lots of long hours, tough projects. All of that really was OK because I got to do all the other fun stuff too.

And the fun stuff wasn’t limited to the glamour of the global project. It was also the local stuff – the hilarity of the focus group were everyone is on a roll, cracking jokes, coming up with suggestions, telling you about their lives, helping you get to an answer. Being cooked lovely home meals and sharing them with a family; hearing their stories, some of them amazing and moving stories about coming to this country. (I think this should be mandatory for any politician – I think policy around immigration and community would improve tenfold).

And then there has been the opportunity to work with some very sharp minds. Some VERY sharp minds. This was also a big reason for my ten year tenure. I don’t think a smarter, more creative bunch of people exist out there.

So why leave? Well, the answer is Fin. He’s growing so fast. He is laughing and walking, and he is telling us stories. He’s one already and I’m the happiest when I’m with him. In a very short time no doubt he’ll not want to spend as much time with me as he does now – so I want to take advantage if every minute I can.

It seems like the perfect reason and time to depart.


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Frocking Cold

Sorry about my lack of posts – I’ve had a cold and at night when I normally do my updates, I have been grovelling on the couch, blowing my nose and coughing like I have a two pack a day habit.

So, today is Thursday and here is an update on where I am at;


MY GOD – YOU ARE ALL AMAZING!  I have well exceeded my target of $500, so the OCRF will get over a grand thanks to all of you! I am gobsmacked at how generous everyone has been, although not amazed at how wonderful you all are as I knew that already. THANK YOU SO MUCH XX

And if you are reading and still want to donate, please do! The more the merrier and it is going to fund a much needed early screening kit to help women detect Ovarian Cancer earlier. And it’s early detection that gives people a better chance at beating cancer.


Monday was a pretty blerg day in Sydney, and I was really starting to feel the effects of my cold. A dress I did not want to wear, but a dress is what I wore. It was a Gorman kind of day with a Gorman chambray dress, Gorman navy trench and my trusty Camper boots. Obligatory umbrella!

Tuesday I was at home, but spent most of this on the couch or shuffling around the neighbourhood out in the sunshine with Fin. Outfit so boring (my day off uniform of a striped t-shirt and a denim skirt), and me so uninspired, I forgot to even take a photo.

Wednesday. Oh Wednesday. Why I went into the office I don’t know. Maybe because I was delirious. But the walk from Circular Quay to Millers Point was great – sunshine and warmth and a bloody big liner at the overseas passenger terminal. I also had a tops lunch with my friend Paco at Fratelli Fresh. Sardines on toast. OH MY GOD. So good! Also got quite a lot of work done amazingly although at some points it felt like my head was about to blow up – literally. I have a bit of washing to do, so the outfit was a bit grab-bag. Gorman tulip skirt, Kate Sylvester t-shirt, Witchery tuxedo jacket and again – Camper boots as there was the expectation of rain. I didn’t care about setting up my little tripod in Circular Quay. It’s amazing how when you are sick your care factor goes to zero.

Nothing to post about what I am wearing today yet. It’s a day off so it’s another denim skirt and t-shirt day. Fin and I are off to the movies to see The Social Network, which may or may not confirm that a) Alan Sorkin is one of my fave scriptwriters and b) I really do loathe facebook.

Three more days of frock wearing. I wistfully hope I am able to wear a dress I bought last month from Laurence Pasquier. It’s pale mint. It’s long. It has a ruffle. It will be the jewel in the crown of Frocktober for me (and get me out of a denim skirt and t-shirt!) Fingers crossed as Saturday is looking good!

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It was an amazing morning in Sydney today, followed by a pretty spectacular storm in the afternoon.  The frock I am wearing is by Rodeo Show, and under I’ve chucked on a Bassike black t-shirt (I dunno, the older I get the less I like to bare the shoulders…)

I have some pretty great news and that is some people have sponsored me! My lovely husband has given $100 to the cause, and his lovely friend Alison gave $50! That’s $150, which means $300 for the OCRF! There are about seven more frock days to go in Frocktober, so hoping that you’ll be able to sponsor me too. Little or big, all donations are awesome! How to sponsor me? Read on here and if you donate any money via direct deposit or paypal let me know so I know how much I have to match!

Thanks again MM and Alison!


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So frocking tired…

Coming down with a cold, and having a total of six hours sleep in two days meant Friday was a long and tough day. But it was such a nice day outsdie – sunshine, warmth and a gentle breeze. Circular Quay was lovely! It was also breast cancer pink ribbon day, so bought an enamel ribbon at the station and headed off to work.

I look a bit hesitant in the picture as I felt a bit of a tool setting up my iPhone gorillapod on Argyl Street – people were setting up the markets and having a bit of a stare.  I am not hesitant about the outfit. Had to see a client so wnated to look a bit smart – and was pretty happy. Top: Karen Walker Runway black and blue blouse – can’t see as I have on a Laurence Pasquier jacket, but it has nice flouncy elbow length sleeves. Gorman organic cotton chambray tulip skirt. Wore a pair of denim low wedges by Built by Wendy. I love these shoes, but they lacerate my big toes. They hurt a bit getting to the office and when I took them off to put on a bandaid my toes were bleeding. Still painful (especially as my son decided today to grab my feet and bite down on my big toe, right in the same spot as my shoes cut me).   M by MJ bag.

All good! I got home Friday night, MM cooked a lovely dinner, and I flaked out. Bliss!

Frocktober is all about raising money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation. Remember to donate! Find out how to here.  If you do sponsor me any way other than give me the cash, make sure you let me know how much (I don’t know how much if you use paypal or do a direct deposit) as I will match every dollar I raise up to $500.

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Can you recommend…?

I am trialling some on-line qual software at work at the moment and it’s pretty good. Keen though to get any recommendations from people who are using any good stuff themselves at the moment.  I’d like it to have a lot of flexibility –

  • be able to use for  simple bulletin-board style discussions right up to more complex, longer-term research communities
  • have multi-media capabilities – people can upload images and movies
  • have mobile capabilities (either via an app, or MMS capability) / be able to use for digital ethnography
  • simple and intuitive back-end interface so researchers can get on with researching and not worry about complex set-up (easy to load up sample / easy to down load reports / set up segment groups etc)

The solution I am trialling appears to be ticking all the boxes so far (can you guess who it is?), but keen to see if I am missing out on anything else out there.

Let me know if you have any tips!

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