As I feel

I’ve made a point in recent months of acting as I feel. If I’m positive about something I’ll show it. If I like you, you’ll know it. If I disagree with something I won’t bother to hide it (nor will I make a big deal of it in general). It’s all about being authentic and in the moment, and one of the benefits of it is that it doesn’t play into narratives and negates play-acting. I still have my secrets, I still retain my essential privacy, but I’m sufficiently transparent to leave no-one in any doubt about it.

This philosophy has been pretty well tested in dealing with A, at work. We’ve gone backwards and forwards. There’ll be times when I’m sitting on the edge of her desk and we’re talking easily and she’s beaming. Half an hour later the shutters are down again. Spontaneous interaction works better than structured, probably because she is taken by surprise. Sometimes you would think we hardly know each other, or never exchanged a fond word, but as if to mitigate against that an email will pop up from her more playful and girlish.

I’ve felt for a long time that fundamentally she likes me, but is wary of getting close to me. Perhaps that’s because of what happened over Christmas. Maybe she has something in her past that influences her behaviour. Or – and for some reason, I am beginning to believe this – she is inexperienced at these things and conflicted (I know she’s single and sensitive about it). Or maybe I’ve just got it all wrong and she just humours me occasionally.

Whatever, I’ve responded consistently throughout much as I’ve described. Fundamentally I like her, and that doesn’t go away. Sometimes I’m more sweet on her, and at other times frustrated. I’ve not lost patience, but when I don’t feel it, or when I’ve had enough for the moment, I back off a little. There’s nothing contrived in this, I’m still friendly when I see her, I just don’t try anything or go out of my way.

Things are – in general – a lot better than they were a couple of months ago, but this cycle keeps repeating. Last week I had run out of patience and had no real desire to interact with her. I was at the stage that if she walked in the room I’d be happier walking out because I don’t want to face that conflict. That didn’t happen, but it sums up my state of mind. She picks up on such things and the routine is that she will make an effort then. I’m a little cynical of that now because I know how it turns out. Last week I wondered if finally, this was it, I’d run out of patience. So be it if so, true to my feelings.

In the meantime, I’ve continued my normal life and, as I’ve reported previously, been feeling a lot better about it. I interact with a lot of people, some I like, some I don’t, some who are men, and some women. It doesn’t mean much more often than not, but I like to flirt if I’ve got a willing flirtee. There’s one woman I’ve probably flirted with since day one, but probably more so in recent times because I’ve had a lot more to with her.

She’s a smart, attractive, stylish woman. I remember when I first met her I thought I’d like to get to know her better. Still, there’s been no meaning in my flirtation, just a bit of fun. Then last week something happened that gave me an inkling that she was getting into it more than I thought. I know at least she likes me, how much I’m not sure.

Just the possibility of something cast me back into my own thoughts. She is quite different from A. She’s the sort of woman I think a lot of my friends could imagine me with, and perhaps I would have expected myself 10-15 years ago. She would fit in well. As I thought of her my mind gravitated to A.

How is A different? They’re both attractive women, though K is an overtly stylish, fashionable woman. They’re both very smart. That means a lot to me. I suspect that A might be more interesting – and by that, I mean more generally curious, with more stories to tell. She’s a great reader too, which counts for a lot too. Still, these are superficialities. There is an intangible – there always is. In this case, I wondered if that intangible was legitimate, or if it was, in fact, a bias.

I have a thing where I try to feel the future. Now that doesn’t always work so often times I’ll just immerse myself in possibilities and see how I feel. This morning I had just about the perfect conditions to do this.

I woke reluctantly at 7 with Rigby’s tummy growling. I got up and fed him and let him out and then went back to bed. For the next hour, I drifted between a pleasantly fuzzy half sleep and something deeper. In my vague mind, I tried to focus myself on K, but there wasn’t enough there. It’s much richer with A because I know her better and we have a history. What a dreamt about where the simple things that no longer happen. Once, I remember, she was sitting in the next partition to me at work. We talk all day without any of the self-consciousness that now infects the conversation. She told me about a book she was reading. It’s crap, she told me, but she can’t help reading it (there’s a metaphor for our relationship…).

The point is I felt fond and affectionate and protective of her. I felt as if we were intertwined, as perhaps we are. It was a very pleasant hour.

There are very clear signs I can read in that, but I just don’t know how true they are. I have a habit of hoping for too long. I was halfway to letting it go as being too hard. But then you know you like her. And you think you know her in some intrinsic way – that’s the intangible. You recognise something you can’t put words to, but it’s true. I think both of us feel that.

Where that leaves me I’m unsure. I guess in the end my aim was true – be as I feel, and let’s see where my feelings lead.


It’s not about me

Last night about 10,000 people gathered in a silent vigil at Princes Park. They were there because last week Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered there in the small hours of the night. Last week hers was a name few knew; today hers is a name renowned across the country, with vigils in Sydney and Canberra simultaneously.

The death of Eurydice has outraged and caught the imagination as sometimes shocking events like this do. She was a young comedian walking home after a gig. By all accounts she was a lovely, quirky individual. She was set upon in the dark in the middle of a vacant oval where she was raped, no doubt crying out for help and mercy, unheard, and died there, alone, the victim of a male persecutor.

It’s a terrible story and no wonder it has resonated, but it has echoed much louder than that because what happened to her happens to other women too with a terrible regularity, here, across the country and throughout the world, and for as long as anyone can remember. The vigil last night was for Eurydice, and it was also for every one of those victims. Enough is enough.

It has sparked much comment and commentary, with good reason. Much of it addresses the reality that the perpetrators of these acts are always men. For all it’s controversial. For women they’re sick of walking the streets feeling threatened and unsafe. For many men they refuse to be lumped in with the evil predators guilty of these heinous acts, or be associated with the toxic masculinity that so often leads to it. And for some of us we must sorrowfully accept that even if we might not be guilty ourselves we are a part of a male culture that makes it possible.

Little of this is terribly new, what’s new perhaps is the defiant rejection that this can be allowed to go on. This is why people gather, to show solidarity and to demand action.

Once upon a time I think I was probably one of those men who would refuse to be tarred with the same brush. I would never do that, could never do it, why should I then be reviled as someone who might? I’m still someone incapable of such things, but I understand how little that means to a woman who has endured sexism and harassment daily, who lives with the threat of even worse. They don’t know me; I am one of the group that oppress and threaten them. Like racism, like so many isms, this can only ever be truly judged from the perspective of the oppressed and disadvantaged.

It’s a very sad state of affairs but, as I said, not terribly new. I recalled the other day a time about 25 years ago when I would often walk the streets long after dark. I had a lot going on inside and to simply walk in the dark by myself was a way to get my thoughts in order and soothe my busy mind. Occasionally I would come across someone else on the streets, and sometimes they were women.

I had an instinctive understanding of the situation – late at night, no-one else about, and a big, brooding bloke stalking the streets. For a woman it was potentially a dangerous combination, and though I didn’t like it I would cross the road or go another way to avoid her and ease her mind. I felt shabby doing it, and almost angry. It was like an admission of guilt I didn’t deserve – yet I did it anyway, knowing it was the right thing to do.

This is where we are today. I tweeted a reply to something the other day and it has been shared and commented on since. I wrote as a male, admitting that as such I represented a potential threat. I’m not that man I said, but – and this is the critical aspect many men overlook – it isn’t about me. Or any individual man. It’s about what we have come to represent as a collective and, more particularly, it’s about the fear that we have come to engender in so many women.

It seems petty to get my knickers in a twist about what some are saying about men. Some of it is pretty general, even offensive, but I get the gist of it. For too long we have got away with it and been allowed to get away with it. The perpetrators might get locked up, but the conditions that allow for such perpetrators to emerge go unchecked, and so it goes on. It is a cultural issue that all of us must take responsibility for, but particularly men. As long as we continue to deny and defend, as long as we condone by our silence and inaction, the responsibility for those very few who commit these crimes will be borne by all of us.

Why, as a woman, would you think any different? We must be respectful of the legitimate fear held by women. Those who gathered overnight are right: enough is enough, we must do something. As a man I think the best I can do is accept and admit to this, to call out those who transgress, and be a role model for all.

Assuming the best

So as I was asked I submitted a PD for the new role I was proposing for myself to the department head on Thursday. They had an offsite on Friday and I didn’t expect any immediate feedback, and in my mind thought if and when I got a response it would likely be some abbreviated version of what I was suggesting.

On Friday I popped upstairs to catch up with one of the guys in the digital team about something we’ve been working on together. He wasn’t there but his boss, the Digital Marketing manager, was.

“How you going, big fella?” he said to me. I responded in kind and we chatted for a couple of minutes before he suggested we adjourn to a meeting room for a private chat. He gathered up some papers and led the way.

In the meeting room he told me that a re-structure had been agreed to, very hush-hush, no-one knew anything about it yet, not even my boss, don’t say a word. He then proceeded to explain to me, spreading out an org chart for me to see.

In the re-structure the current digital team is split out into two, but augmented by a couple of new roles, one responsible for the Sales department, and the other Ops. These roles would be situated within the digital team and be responsible for the digital/social media and selected IT requirements of those departments, and reporting into them still. Salaries would be covered by the originating department.

Looking at it I thought how amazingly opportune – which doubtless isn’t coincidental. The other thing I thought is that I should be a shoo-in for the Ops role assuming it goes ahead – essentially it’s what I’m doing now, there are no other candidates internally, and I’m the man who has just proposed a role virtually identical to this. If not me, then who?

On the face of it, very encouraging, however I can’t believe it until it happens. I assume the re-structure will go ahead, but can’t be certain. I assume the head of Ops will agree to the arrangement, but can’t be certain. I assume he’ll nominate me for that role, and I’m almost certain. And assuming all of that transpires, I assume I’ll be paid a digital marketing salary, but of that I’m full of doubt. Should happen, but my fear is that they’ll find another way to stiff me.

All of this I have to wait and see on. Clearly I’m the man the Digital Marketing manager wants otherwise he wouldn’t have taken me into his confidence, but it’s not his decision. One way or another I should know soon-ish. When I asked the time frame for this I was told by the end of the month.

You know how it is, I don’t want to count my chickens or get too hopeful, but this time I assume it might actually happen.

Watching the Socceroos

I’ve written absolutely zero about the World Cup in the lead up to it though, as always, I am a keen spectator. I think I probably watched every qualifying match the Socceroos played, as well as a random sampling of other games. Regardless I followed the results closely.

Coming into the World Cup had that native Aussie optimism that says we’re always a chance because we always have a red hot go. That’s a notion that gets pooh-poohed by the soccer snobs who subscribe to the view that craft and artistry count for more, but I’m confident enough to believe that we have enough craft to get by – our edge is our mentality. It won’t win us the cup, but it’s sufficient to cause the odd upset and progress beyond what most other pundits predict. Tough as it will be, I still think the Socceroos will progress to the next stage.

Our first match was on Saturday night. I joined Cheeseboy and his son (who is quite a player himself) at their place where over a bottle of wine we watched the game against France. The French are one of the big picks to win the whole shebang and have stars all over the park. I think I read they’re valued collectively at about $1.8 billion, whereas the Socceroos squad are valued at less than $180 million. Never a great respecter of reputations that meant fuck-all to most Aussies – the game isn’t played on paper.

As it turned out it was a compelling match. As expected France came on strong early, but Australia resisted. The thinking was the longer the French went without scoring the more pressure they would feel. At half-time the score was 0-0, with the Socceroos having asserted themselves more in the back half of the period.

Come the second half they looked the better team at times, but fell behind to a controversial, and probably incorrect, VAR penalty ruling. The French would have heaved a sigh of relief, but within minutes the scores were level again thanks to a penalty of our own.

Watching it there was the belief that Australia could pinch a win, but then a Paul Pogba shot took a deflection, hit the top bar, and bounced just inside the goal before out of it. We were down 2-1, with both goals decided by technology, and both with centimetres in it.

That was the final score. I know I’m biased, but we were pretty stiff. The penalty given was probably incorrect, and the legitimate goal was a matter of good fortune. We played determined, disciplined football, much as you expect from an Aussie team. As we always say, we were brave.

It was quite a contrast to the French team, who have style and talent and quality to burn, but play more as individuals, and indulge I what are – to Australian acts – shameful acts of staging. I was disgusted, as was the Dutch Cheeseboy, how even the slightest touch (and sometimes not even that) would result in a French player falling to the ground in alleged agony and the gullible ref whistling them a free kick. It’s pretty cheap, and borderline cheating.

France is a team I wouldn’t mind winning it in general, probably because I remember Zidane, one of my favourite players. I might re-think that now. Playing honest is an Australian virtue, and they didn’t do that.

Despite the loss the Socceroos can take a lot out of the game. They played well without winning, but the goal difference will work in our favour should France fire up against the other teams. We’re certainly capable of winning against both Denmark and Peru, in what will be very different games. The Danes were lucky winners against Peru, who I see as the real danger.

On to next Thursday when we take on Denmark. Will be watching.

Drifting to and fro

I was in a so-so mood heading into work this morning, but tending towards the glum side, though for no good reason. I was in a little before eight, and felt an immediate lift as soon as I opened my email.

An announcement had come through overnight advising that A, who had been acting in her training role, had been made permanent because – as it was made clear in the email – she is a star. I know all this, and it surprised me not one bit, but I felt a wave of happiness for her. I know how hard she works, how committed and capable she is, and this seem the most just of just rewards. And I fondly imagined her gratification at this and it gave me pleasure. (What does that mean?)

I hadn’t intended contacting her today. We’re going through another of those familiar phases when we’re out of step with each other and I had opted to step away from the dance for a bit. Sometimes I wonder if she’s just as full of doubt as I am which is why she acts as she does, perhaps mirroring me, as I mirror her. That I cannot see, affection blinds you. I wonder sometimes if it is a figment of my hopeful imagination, but then she’ll get all girly, she’ll sign the whiteboard behind my desk with her name and a smiley face, she’ll beam at me. I don’t know, and when I don’t know I drift off.

So I had decided it was time to drift off for a while, particularly with other things happening. But then reading the email this morning I knew I had to respond to it, if only as a courtesy. So I sent her an email lauding her and telling her to lap it up because she’d earned. And she responded with a friendly but nondescript email, all of one line and a smiley face.

Oh well, I’ll be pleased for her regardless.

Independent spirits

On a cold, wintry day last week I headed out for lunch with a friend at Hawkr. I went by it at first, conditioned to go to the market when I head off in that direction. I backtracked and soon enough was enjoying a very nice lunch.

Nothing remarkable in this at all, except in the overcast, cool surrounds of that Melbourne winter’s day my mind was unaccountably cast back about 30 years to a time and place very different.

It’s fascinating to wonder what triggers such unlikely memories. Here I was in the middle of winter in Melbourne and my memory was of a summer’s day in Sydney. Specifically I recalled a time when I trained to become a cocktail bar-tender. I must have been about 21 at the time. There were a bunch of us in the class, maybe about eight, and I was one of the eldest there.

This was in the heart of King’s Cross, and I can remember still the name of the course – Alex Beaumont something, something, but not the name of the instructor.

I was living with my aunt at the time in Watson’s Bay, and as it turned out the instructor lived in Watson’s Bay also. He was one of those very cool characters who you imagined had lived an interesting, if not exotic life. He was in his mid-forties I guess, fit and with a handsome, well lived in face with – in retrospect – a Humphrey Bogart vibe. He was a professional cocktail bartender who had plied his trade all over the world and doubtless had a great time doing it. He was a level-headed character studious in teaching us the tricks of his trade. I remember him telling off a couple in the class who were goofing off, and in spite of the difference in our age he seemed to connect with me. Perhaps I seemed the closest in spirit to him.

One night after the class had ended we went back to his place together. I was flattered to be asked. I remember he lived further along towards South Head, past Doyles, in one of the cute cottages that overlooked the beach. He had a wife or girlfriend who wasn’t there, but who he had spoken of often. She seemed his long-time partner in crime, a fellow traveller close in spirit. He called her always by a nickname, Flea, or something like that.

Though she wasn’t there I felt her spirit. I was young and adventurous and my imagination was vivid and I was curious about such a woman thinking that she was probably the sort I would like to know. But then he was of a type I would happily emulate as well, the free-spirited individual who lived for experience.

We sat on his leafy patio in the sunshine sipping on gin and tonics while he told me his stories (now forgotten), and I attempted to shape into words my expectations of the world ahead of me.

And that was it, that was the memory that came to me that day, and has every day since. Why is that?

Lot of water under the bridge since and much I might have hoped for that day will have come to pass. I’m a long way on from that young man, though he is still recognisably within me. I wonder if the appeal of the independent spirit has come to resonate in me and trigger this memory – it’s always been there, sometimes nearer, sometimes more distant, but never absent.

Writing life

I’m back at work after a long weekend and slow to rouse. It feels like this is something regular until I realise it only becomes a thing when I feel it, the rest of the time, and four days out of five, I don’t notice it because I’m at work and straight into it. I can skive, but overall I’m pretty diligent.

The weekend itself was pleasant without being anything out of the ordinary. It was a standard weekend with a combination of the usual activities: I caught up with a friend Saturday night and another dropped by Sunday. I did my shopping, I cooked, I read, watched some footy, and I put in my usual shift writing.

I didn’t get as much writing as I would have liked perhaps, but I’m moving in the desired direction. I think this will be a good book if I can get it close to how I envisage it, and better probably than the book I just finished. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I have improved as a writer over the last 18 months. That comes down to sheer discipline and repetition, and having to wrestle with the complexities of the novel. I hope the improvement continues, though I expect it will slow at some point. For now I’ll take it, confident now that I have the goods to be an above average writer at least – though I’m aiming for more than that.

I’ve parked the novel I’ve written. I flirted with the idea of taking it to a publisher, but held off. I have people reading it who give it great feedback, but my aspirations are higher than that. I figure if I leave it for six months, until a point when it’s out of my head, before going back to it with fresh eyes and improved skill, then I can probably polish it an extra 20%. I can wait – it’s about the art (he said pretentiously).

In the meantime I have this other novel to work on, and two more in my mind to move onto afterwards, plus a screenplay (and sundry stories). And there’s a grant to apply for.

A friend sent me a link a couple of weeks ago for a new venture for aspiring novelists. There’s ten slots up for grabs, each of which come with $15,000 of prizemoney and a writing mentor. The money would be very handy, but it’s the mentor that excites me.

In my book the hard thing about writing is getting an alternative, critical perspective on the work. I can have friends and acquaintances read my stuff, and though their feedback is positive and useful in its way, it’s neither professional or particularly incisive. I’m confident that with properly professional feedback that I can repair or enhance my work with their guidance. I think I have a good eye, and a good nose for that matter, but it’s impossible when you’re immersed in a piece to see it properly. You know it too well. It’s all trees to you.

I’ll be submitting my application in the next couple of weeks, with my completed novel being the work I submit as part of that. By the time they announce the successful applicants I’ll have just about finished the first draft of the current book and will be good to return to the earlier one. I have to be successful of course, but there’s no point worrying about that. I’ll do my bit, the rest is with the gods.