Around the start of March I opted for a new haircut. I prefer to have longer hair because I’ve got good hair and because I think it’s a look more reflective of my spirit. Unfortunately I’ve got a wilful head of hair which meant that some days I might look a million dollars, but there were many more days when I looked untidy and decidedly un-corporate.

I decided to go for a David Beckham type style, which excited my hairdresser no end – he’s been trying to get me to go shorter for yonks. As it happens it’s a style that suits my hair type, and though it was quite novel for me at first it was a lot easier to manage. Most importantly perhaps, it went down a treat with my audience.

I went into work the next week and got all sorts of positive comments. The general consensus was that I’d become quite handsome overnight. That was the sort of positive affirmation I was after and I went home chuffed.

A couple of weeks ago I went back to my hairdresser. Like most gentlemen of my vintage I’ve now got a few grey hairs. They’re not so easy to spot in my hair – I’m blonde – but I found that overall it made my hair a bit duller in aspect. Used to be I had beautiful hair that everyone would comment on. I took it for granted probably, but suddenly I was missing the soft glow my hair once had. On just this one occasion I decided to get some colour in my hair.

I used to do it much more often. At my most fashionable I’d get blonde highlights put through my hair. Nothing too garish, more subtle and stylish than that. I wasn’t looking to make a statement, but rather complement what I already had. Unlike a lot of blokes I had no real qualms about that. I grew up in a household in which my mum was a very strong advocate for appearance and style. Over the years she had a multitude of different hair styles, and had it coloured more often than not – on top of which she was always beautifully dressed. She wanted that for her children too, especially me, and I remember the very first time I got my hair coloured. I must have been about 14, at the Biba hair salon in the complex at Greensborough.

So anyway I turned up to get my hair coloured for the first time in about ten years. All I wanted was to take the grey hairs in my head and make then a subtle blonde. It was a look that people might not notice at a micro level, but would enhance the overall aspect of my hair – less flat, more bright.

I was happy with the outcome, and nobody noticed I had my hair coloured. But then people began to comment on my overall look. Someone said I looked ten years younger. The positive feedback I was receiving before amped up further. Combined with the fact that my enforced diet has made me much fitter I am in large part a transformed man (outwardly; working on the inward). The positive reception has been huge and gratifying, even if I don’t necessarily see what all the fuss is about – I look in the mirror and see a traditionally handsome man, not the rad dude I was before.

These changes have had unintended consequences. In recent times a bunch of trainees have come on board and are working in a room near where I sit. All but one of them is female, and the eldest would be about 27. There are some very girls among them.

I’m always friendly, and of course I’m always running into them. I know most by name now and have often shared a joke and some harmless banter, as is my way. They’re much too young for me to look at except as really nice girls. Some of them see it differently.

One of them has been playfully aggressive with me, even suggestive. Handsome she calls me whenever she sees me. She talks about what a good catch I am as if I might want to prove it to her.

Another – a real knock-out – has a sensual playfulness towards me. She’s really nice, but has that ring of confidence about her, as if she knows the power she has over men. I think she sees me as a challenge, and I suspect her main interest is to draw my attention to her.

The last is a lovely girl who is just plain and simple sweet on me. No ulterior motives, no games, she just thinks I’m a lovely guy and sends all these positive vibes my way. She’s very receptive and wants to work with me.

All this is flattering, and maybe a bit more than that. I’m hoping that I don’t have to actively fend any off. Even if the circumstances were different I don’t think I’d be any more interested. The circumstances are such though that I know what I want and who – I just hope she’s just as impressed with the re-fashioned me as the rest of the world appears to be.


Off the Dead

Yeah, I’ve gone off The Walking Dead. For years I was a devoted viewer. I was drawn to the challenges of surviving in a devastated society. I was fascinated by the ingenuity required to survive another day. It was a tale of fortitude and resourcefulness, interspersed with moments of tragedy and loss. Then it changed a couple of seasons ago. It became more about confrontation than survival. There had always been episodes and story-lines that featured confrontation, and legitimately so, but now it was all about the battle between one faction and another, the threat of zombies largely sidelined, and the logistic struggle to survive altogether missing.

I found it drawn out and tedious, and often overwrought. It felt like a violent soap opera being fought out in some barren, dystopian future, the writing varying between sentimental cloy and laughable ‘tough’ talk.

I’ve lost a lot of interest in recent years, watching out of habit and in the vain hope that this story line might be wrapped up and a new story begun. Throughout I’ve felt often discomfited by what I’ve felt to be a tendency towards the more fascist.

I know there’s a lot of people who feel similarly to me. With the last season just wrapping up I held hopes that it might take a new direction next season, but that seems unlikely. More confrontation was foreshadowed. The writing, which has deteriorated greatly, veered between clichéd contradictions, words undercut by actions. And some of those actions continue to be pretty ugly.

I’ll watch the first episode next season to see where it’s going. In general I’m much more interested in Fear The Walking Dead, but who’s to say it won’t go down a similar path?

Job searching

Searching for a new job is a very frustrating exercise. Not only must you deal with recruiters who, almost universally are a dodgy lot, but there’s the caprice of the job market to deal with too.

I had a call last week from a guy I used to work with here. He was a top operator, a cool bloke, and very down to earth. We got on well and I was saddened when he left, though I understood completely why he did – for much the same reasons I have. So he contacted me to say he had a job opening where he worked I might be interested in. Basically the job was as an IT manager with good money and a car tossed in on top. Would I be interested? I would be.

He sent me a link to the job and it checked out pretty much except for a couple of minor things they were looking for I didn’t have. I thanked him and set myself to submit a application over the weekend. All good.

Except when I sat down to submit my application the job had disappeared, seemingly filled. I sent him a message to let him know. If there’s no job to apply for I can’t apply for it. He had no idea what was going on but asked me to send him a copy of my resume and he would present it upstairs. I’ve done that bow, but no great expectations.

Then there was another job at the CSIRO. I was a good fit for the job and it’s an organisation I’d love to work at. A positive sign was that someone from CSIRO had browsed my profile when the job came up. Once more I sat down to submit my comprehensive application (having completed half of it previously) and I was prevented from doing so because, as the site stated, the job had been filled.

As it stands I have but one outstanding application, that with the ATO, but reckon that might take a while to resolve.

In between times I found myself having a chat to the departmental head at the office cocktail party a couple of weeks ago. We get on well, better than he does with my manager, or any other of the managers. I think that’s because we both come from corporate backgrounds, and recognise it in the other. Most of the managers have either been here from day one and progressed with the company without exposure to anything different, or else have come from smaller, suburban companies. By comparison he and I could compare corporate notes all night. I’m biased, but I reckon it gives us an edge because we’ve been exposed to cultures and practices both demanding and professional. Anyway, we have similar war stories.

He knows I’m not happy here and appears to understand completely. More than that, he seems sympathetic. It’s an indictment on the company here that he can figure I’d be looking elsewhere, yet not be in a position to encourage me to stay. After swapping some stories he basically told me to relax and take my time, look for a job if you have to, but don’t feel under pressure to rush it or keep them abreast. He was curious, but the message he left me with was to take my time and make the right choice. In the meantime, he’ll cover my back.

Interesting, but I appreciate it. It’s taken some of the pressure off. I’m very keen to move on, but I want to do it right – and, if I can, I want to make it right with the girl too.

Funny how she informs my thinking. I reckon moving on might be good for us, but need to get in a position first where we have a connection when I walk out the door. She’s moved on, but we’re in communication daily, and it’s fine. I think she’s in a situation where she’s unwilling to commit, but unable to let go. That’s a situation that will likely be resolved one way or another when I must pick up and leave.

More to it than winning

For one reason or another it’s been a while since I’ve been interested in the Olympics. I became jaded by the almost perpetual reports of corruption and incompetence, each little bit taking the event further away from the purity of its founding principle. With that it became more corporate with every incarnation, which was reflected in the coverage – always heavy on advertising and promotion of sponsors, and in recent years, ridiculously and annoyingly partisan. (Seriously, I reckon most Aussies would much prefer an impartial coverage to the barracking so often provided as commentary).

In theory if I was over the Olympic games, then it’s poor relation the Commonwealth games didn’t factor at all. At least the Olympics could boast the very cream of the crop – what could the Commonwealth games offer?

It’s for that reason I wasn’t excited about the Gold Coast games just ended. It was poorly promoted to start with, and there was no sense of anticipation. I hoped we – Oz – went well, but in the first few nights I preferred to watch my own shows than switch to the coverage. Then something changed.

Australia traditionally does well in swimming, even at Olympic level, and some of that hype transmitted to me. I switched over a day or two in to watch the exploits of our Aussie swimmers, hoping to see them topple the Brits.

The swimming was great, but I kept watching when the second week began and other sports took over. A lot of it was familiar. Though there were exceptions, much of the commentary and coverage was mediocre. The Aussies were blitzing in general. We’ve had our ups and downs in recent years, but throughout my years of watching international sport it’s been pretty standard for Australia to do well. It’s nice, it’s a bonus, but it’s normal pretty much. It was nice this time, but what really got me was something different.

The whole ball tampering crisis in South Africa has reframed the whole notion of Australian sport. We always had an Australian way, but the bottom line is that we expected to win and would exert our every fibre to achieve that. It can be pure, but in recent times it’s taken on an unsavoury edge. All of us feel that, and all of us want something different. Winning isn’t everything.

That’s what captured me. There were many moments in these games that demonstrated exemplary sportsmanship. Across the board there appeared great respect between competitors, and between spectators and competitors. Overall it appeared a very friendly games. Everyone wanted to win, and the Aussie crowds were rowdy in their support for local athletes, but contest over there was appreciation for the effort.

More than many games I feel as if the stories of the competitors and competition were just as important as the results. Perhaps it is the nature of the Commonwealth games that the sense of community comes to the fore. There were world champions competing, and world class competitors sprinkled through the sports, but reality is that many who won medals wouldn’t have made an Olympic final. This is a second tier competition at best, but being that it emphasises the spirit of doing your best and having a go. It’s nice to win, but to be a part of this, to be in fellowship with fellow athletes and to enjoy the experience of a lifetime trying your best – well, that’s the true essence of it.

That was emphasised by the integration of disabled competitors into the program. This was a great success, and universally heartwarming. None of these competitors are objectively the greatest, but what they exemplify is hope and effort and belief. They define themselves by their determination to overcome the variety of physical handicaps they are faced with. Watching them you realise that there’s much more than coming first. The attempt to surpass your limits – to be better – is the ultimate challenge.

I know, that sounds unusually wet for me. I love competing. I love winning. I hate being second. It’s perspective though, too. Winning is a thrill. It’s an irreplaceable moment in time. The broader experience lasts a lifetime I reckon.

There’s no better example of this than Kurt Fearnley, the much loved, universally admired disabled athlete. He’s been a warrior since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, a fierce competitor and a wonderful representative of Australia. He is a man who has overcome the handicap he was born with to become something much more than a man with a disability.

He won his last ever event yesterday, the wheelchair marathon. He spoke after of how when you wear the colours of Australia you have to be fierce, but competition done, to err on the side of kindness.

That, to me, should be the Australian sporting mantra going forward – fierce, but kind. We used to be that way naturally, but maybe the pendulum is now returning to that. It’s a philosophy that puts these games into perspective, and competition in general.

For me there are no better role models in Australian sport than Kurt Fearnley and Mick Fanning, legends both.

Bath books

I love a hot bath. It’s indulgent and sensual and there’s something awfully cosy about it, like a return to amniotic fluid. Yes, baths are a lot of fun in my household.

I don’t every time, but very often I’ll lean back with the hot water up to my throat and read a book. The books I read in the bath are different from the books I read elsewhere. There’s a whole separate category: bath books. They’re books you can dabble in piecemeal, books that stay in the bathroom and close to hand once you settle into the bath. I read a book by Osho in the bath once. I read Jung’s autobiography, and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Right now I’m reading what amounts to journals by Georges Simenon, the author of the famous Maigret books.

This is the perfect book for the bathtub as you can read a few entries and then set it aside for next time. It’s a good read, too. It’s always interesting to get insights from writers, and in this case, being a journal, very candid and personal insights.

He writes well, in a discursive manner, curious about the world about him and about his work, posing questions of it and raising conjectures. He is a man who can’t stop wondering, can’t stop seeking sense or pattern, searching backwards and forwards through time and memory. It feels very familiar to me as my mind seems to run on similar tracks. Delving into a mind like his is a reminder of how fascinating individuality is.

I pity people who don’t read. For many I know it’s a habit they were never properly introduced to, or it became a chore because it was something they must do for school. Others, I guess, never experienced the magic of these alternate realities. I always feel that imagination is lost to them, where in fact a rich imagination is one of the greatest gifts that can be bestowed on someone.

It’s an elementary statement for me when I say I would be a very different person if I didn’t read. In fact, the me that writes this today would not be possible without reading. I am a man that reads, and how lucky is that?

In the absence of strategy

In the news the last few days has been reports about how China wants to build a base in Vanuatu. It’s caused consternation and controversy and the Australian government has spoken out about it for the obvious reason that a base so close to our mainland – and so far from China – poses a potential threat. And it won’t be an isolated incident.

I rolled my eyes when I read the news. I was totally unsurprised, but experienced a sinking feeling. For me it’s another example of the Australian government’s short-sighted incompetence. This situation could never have developed had we not dropped the ball so badly.

Foreign aid and foreign assistance has been steadily dropping for a few years now, particularly to the Pacific islands. This follows on from the decision a few years back to stop radio and television broadcasts into the region and through Asia. Many a time on my travels I’d flick the dial and come across a familiar accent broadcasting familiar news and views. No longer. This was very popular, not just with expats, but with locals too. All this has been ditched, along with the cuts in aid, for economic reasons.

What price a few million dollars of extra expenditure? Well, now we know. Into that vacuum the Chinese with their expansionary policies have rushed. Once upon a time we exported culture and influence, which was the intangible benefit of our investment. Once we stop making that investment our influence has retracted, and the previous beneficiaries now look elsewhere. Enter the Chinese.

It would be nice to say that none of this could be foreseen, but you have to presume there are some very highly paid people in government departments who would have warned about this. God knows there were voices in the media who did that. Unfortunately the government – and I’ll point the finger at Morrison (and Abbott to a large extent) – chose to ignore those warnings.

Now there is a mad scramble to undo the damage but seriously, I don’t know how that can be achieved.

This is what infuriates me so much, the blind short-termism and the total lack of an actual strategy.

Had there been a proper strategy appropriately championed by the minister, and with a PM a bit brighter than Abbott, then Australia would be continuing to influence and embrace the region – China could never have got a foothold.

Unfortunately this sort of thinking – or unthinking – is not uncommon. The government is rife with it, with energy policy being another prime example. It also happens in the corporate world. I fight an uphill battle every day trying to suggest that the initiatives we take on should be a part of a broader strategy. There is a bigger picture we should be adding to.

In my experience in my present job is that it’s all pretty random. To a large degree that’s structural, with no capacity for a guiding principle. It’s also people, a form of ignorance combined with opportunism leading to misdirected effort. The result is that a bit happens here, a bit there, nothing in concert, with wasted and unnecessarily duplicated efforts, and occasionally contradictory elements.

If it’s a bigger picture then some are working on a landscape, others a portrait, and some an abstract. There is no coherence, sense or overarching purpose. That sums up our government pretty well, too.


Off getting my morning coffee, they had Summertime playing in the background sung by Aretha Franklin and Louis Armstrong. It’s a great song and I found myself singing along to it. I felt better after that standing there waiting for my coffee to me made, the languid, sensual tune recalling memories to me of my childhood, when such songs would be played on high rotation, and of my mother, who would often sing around the house in her trained voice. I grew up with her singing the standards as she did the dishes or attending to some other domestic chore. That’s how I absorbed the music and came to love it so much and why often, as she did, I’ll break into song (I know just about all the words by heart).

The song had a restorative effect upon me. I returned to work feeling as if a situation that had become twisted had been normalised. I wished I was somewhere else, but as I hummed the tune to myself I felt nourished. I went about, a sardonic smile on my face and cracking wise left, right and centre as I haven’t for so long. That little episode in the coffee shop had a restorative effect on me.

I needed it. Despite my brave words on Sunday I felt pretty bleak yesterday. There was no belated thank-you, and in fact after quickly checking in she left the floor, a 3 month secondment as a trainer meaning she’ll be here but a fraction of the time.

Initially it all came as a blow to me. I found it hard to concentrate or to take my work seriously. I was upset with her, but I didn’t want to lose her still. I reasoned with myself. It really was pretty trivial, and for someone with skin as thick as mine it was ridiculous to feel so upset. But of course, the snub is symbolic of so much more.

After my coffee this morning I am beginning to wonder if her absence is my opportunity to become myself completely once more. It seems to me that one of the ongoing issues – if that’s the word – is that much of the fun had gone out of her interactions. I would make her laugh every now and then, but mostly our dealings were sober and matter of fact.

For me that was one of the problems. With everyone else on the floor I felt I could be the me people knew, open and witty. I would engage with people around her, make them laugh sometimes or have them call me over.

It was different with her because the first few times I tried that with her after our problem she was non-receptive. She would politely smile, determined not to engage or to show anything. I took my lead from that, and as a result there was a zone about her in which I was perfectly sensible and proper, unlike the occasionally free-wheeling and irascible character I was elsewhere (the character she had been drawn to in the first place).

Now she has gone and the zone goes with her. I don’t have to abide by those restrictions. Looking back I don’t know if I realised how restrictive it was to my natural self. I’m glad to be free of it, and a little angry with myself that I allowed myself to be so constrained. I understand, though.

The bottom line is that I’m freed up, and I want to make the most of it. I need it too. It’s been a busy few months and I’ve made many strides forward, but in hindsight I realise I’ve survived a destructive segment of my life.