Checking my crystal ball


In recent years ahead of the AFL season I’ve peered into my crystal ball and given my prognosis on the season ahead. Now that we’re on the cusp of the Grand Final it’s worthwhile to check how I went.

First up I have to admit to getting a few things very wrong. For a start I tipped Melbourne to be premiers and they ended up finishing second last. It was a disastrous year for them, but in my defence, that’s a tip I think every single commentator got wrong. I think it was an aberrant result, and all Melbourne supporters will be hoping that I’m right.

I also tipped Adelaide to finish high up, and this one I’m kicking myself about because I made this prediction despite my better judgement. I’m not usually one who’s swayed by popular opinion, but on this occasion I fell into line even though my gut feel was that they might struggle. In the end all sorts of internal issues sabotaged any chance of success.

I also tipped Geelong to slip. This was popular conjecture also, but I was right on board with this. Geelong were an aging team that seemingly had been found out. This was true. What I didn’t anticipate was that they would reinvent themselves. For the first half of the year it was a stellar coaching performance and they were the best team in it. After the bye they reverted to type – no amount of coaching tricks could paper over the gaps. They finished top of the ladder when I tipped they’d finish out of the finals – but they’re out of it now and no-one is surprised. For what it’s worth, I reckon they’ll struggle next year too – they’re not getting any younger, and I expect they’ll lose Ablett, Taylor and Kelly in the off season.

Now for the good stuff. I’m very happy to take credit for Brisbane, which I tipped would be the big improver and smoky for the 8 – they finished top 4. I predicted the Bulldogs would improve and the Swans would miss out.

Now the only game ahead of us is the big one, the Grand Final. Richmond take on GWS. Most people think Richmond will win while hoping GWS will get up.

GWS are an interesting case. They found the one thing they’ve lacked in recent years when striving for a flag – their mojo. Their win on the weekend was outstanding (and beautiful to see all those little Collingwood hearts broken for another year). I give them a chance as they’ve met every challenge so far and will have belief. They’ve done it against the odds, which has worked in their favour – the suspension of Greene was a disgrace, but I thought it might steal them for the big match. And it did, the old us against the world trope works.

This week they’ll have the crowd against them, though the neutrals will probably be onside. They’ll go into the game much strengthened on paper where Richmond are likely to be weakened.

Richmond deserve to be favourites but GWS will give a good account of themselves. It reminds me a little of 2017 when Richmond when in as underdog against Adelaide and took it away. Now GWS go in as underdog, but with decent momentum and nothing to lose.

One thing’s for sure – I’ll be barracking for them. They’re less offensive than Richmond and I don’t think I could bear another year of cocky Richmond supporters. And I hope they do it for Sheedy. He’s one of ours, but they had a lend of him. Good enough for me.

Advertisements

Outside the schema


The world has a funny way of squaring things up. Even as I wrote my post yesterday I wondered if I was being completely fair. It was true enough, but there was a touch of hubris to it. But then, within a couple of hours, that hubris was repaid when I got a message from a colleague advising that he had feelings for me. That’s right, he – a him.

Being a devout heterosexual I barely account for the possibility of homosexual interest in me. It doesn’t fit in my schema because I can’t really conceive of, let alone imagine it. That’s despite receiving occasional, but regular, come ons from men through the years. I reckon I’ve been propositioned maybe half a dozen times – maybe more – ranging from the forthright to the affectionate to the purely physical: an unexpected caress or pinch. Some, in hindsight, are quite amusing because of my innocent naivety. At the same time I remember one particularly vivid invitation when I was informed that I’ve never experienced a true blow-job until it’s been performed by another man.

Yesterday I was completely blindsided. It came from a work acquaintance I had pegged as being socially awkward but well meaning, and very likely a virgin. I’d never thought twice about his sexual preferences. Even less could I have imagined that he might be drawn to me.

I was flummoxed at first, but quickly gathered myself. Ok, I said. I was conscious that he had put himself in a delicate position. Part of me wondered why he had bothered to tell me – surely he knew that I was interested only in women? But then I thought again. Life is neither as linear or as straight-forward as that. I’m sure he does know, but this is an expression of self – the truth, if you like, his truth. And so I suggested we catch up for coffee. That hasn’t happened yet.

Incompatibilities


Just before I woke this morning I had a pleasant dream featuring an alluring woman. Though the dream was in an entirely different context, I realised as I woke that the woman in my dream was someone I used to work with. I wasn’t surprised altogether. We hadn’t been particularly close, though we flirted a few times. What she had was an earthy sexuality. Dark and vivacious, she was womanly in all the best ways. She’s one of those people you just know would be into sex.

It was a pleasant enough dream but it quickly fades. I’ve had a million saucy dreams over the course of my life. It’s nice to reflect, then you get back to the real thing.

On this occasion though, it made me think of the woman I have coffee with.

I’m none the wiser yet as to what she sees in me, though it might simply be down to my impressive good looks and charming manner. It’s not something I’ll normally dwell on, except that she seems an exception. I know the women I go for. I know the women who go for me. And while she might share some attributes with those women, she most definitely doesn’t others.

I enjoy having coffee with her and our conversations, but I’m not greatly drawn to her. It’s not that she’s unattractive – she’d be considered a reasonably attractive woman. It’s rather that she seems to entirely lack those elements that had me dreaming of some forgotten ex-workmate. There’s no sex vibe. To be clear, I don’t mean anything particularly raunchy by that, I just mean that frisson that emerges even just between acquaintances occasionally. It’s an indefinable thing, and generally with anyone you get to know it’s there in some degree, even if only occasionally. With her it feels absent.

I had to wonder if it might equally be me, except the feedback I get and general experience I have is that it’s quite strong in me. I’m one of those men that women know likes them. I like sex. I’m always being considered a ladies man without lifting a finger to substantiate it. My appetites are undiminished and I reckon you can always sense that vibe. And if I doubted it then the friend I had drinks with the other week confirmed that just about word for word.

This is the thing, really. The women who like me generally sync to that, among other things. I think it’s a basic element of compatibility: you get each other on a chemical level. There’s much more to it than that, but I think that’s pretty central. I’m also a strong character, smart and confident, and that’s a type too. I’ve got a hard edge that’s hard to miss, even if I’m essentially kind and decent. The point is, I think this lady appreciates my intelligence and seemingly is fascinated by the life I’ve led, but I’d have thought those other parts of me would be more foreign to her. I mean, I can be brutal without even thinking about it, whereas she appears a softy. (I loved a softy once, and admired her sensitivity and grace, but we also had a mighty vibe between us. She had IT.)

If my life attests to anything it’s that I don’t really have much idea about women, and maybe that’s the lesson from this: desire doesn’t follow a formula. Or it may be there is no desire and I’ve got it completely wrong. It’s not something I’ve thought about in this way until now. I’m not sure what I think. I know what I feel – not much.

I’m intrigued enough to go on. I wonder if I’ll happen across a secret that’ll make everything clear?

Being old school


I got into work this morning and found that a heater had been left on overnight. It happens most nights. Muttering under my breath about it I switched it off, as I do most mornings. My team lead noticed my muttering and asked the question and I explained how I have to turn it off every morning and what a waste of energy and money it is and don’t people turn off after themselves anymore? He smiled at my affable grouching and related how his grandfather would mutter similar imprecations, and how he’d been brought up to think much the same. He’s about my age, and at that moment we were a couple of self-deprecating grumpy old men.

A few minutes later after I’ve logged in and doing all that first stuff – checking emails, messages from overnight, system issues, etc – he speaks up again. He’s reviewing some data fixes we’ve proposed for which I’ve done the documentation and he tells me he doesn’t have to change a thing, just cut and paste what I’ve written. It’s a compliment of sorts and I tell him, well, I like to be thorough. And he replies that he’s the same and we both agree wistfully that we’re old school and unspoken in that is the thought: haven’t things changed.

I wonder sometimes if my experience makes me a bit of a dinosaur in some ways, but the reality is that it stands me in good stead. It means I have an answer often when others don’t because I’ve done my homework and because I like to understand things. I have a creative mindset and realistic enough to know that shortcuts are necessary sometimes and that just doing it is occasionally the best option. And I enjoy that because I like to do. But, I come from a process driven background. There are ways to do things. There are structures to adhere to. I’m nowhere near as anal about it as some, but the irony is that when once I might have been considered on the looser end of that scale now times have changed such that I’m one of the more rigorous. And I haven’t moved an inch.

There are trends and fashions in everything, including business practice. The trend right now mirrors agile, even outside of IT and projects. It’s become a way of doing things across the board – a quick moving, lightly touching, low documentation way of doing things. I have nothing against Agile per se and think it’s just right for certain projects but – and I always say this – horses for courses. One size doesn’t fit all. Properly speaking, you should define the problem first and identify the right solution for it rather, as it often appears the case now, having a cookie cutter solution and attempting to fit the problem to it.

I guess this is an attitude that makes me old school at least. I’ve walked into an environment where nothing has been documented because no-one considered that anything you build will also need to be maintained. Knowledge is held in people’s heads or in scattered emails and user stories. There is no coherent understanding, let alone a baseline. If you put everyone in the same room and extracted what they know you might piece something together, like a jigsaw, or more likely a version of Frankenstein.

Trends come and go, and I expect this will moderate, as trends do, but I also think it mirrors the times, just as I mirror my times. I was brought up such a way that now makes me old school – turning off lights when I leave the room, closing doors after I open them, doing what I’ll say I’ll do, and doing things in a rational, methodical and thorough way.

Not my scene


On Tuesday night I caught up for a drink with a friend I hadn’t seen since late last year. She was at a bar at Southgate, Left Bank, with her husband, and I was there by 5 o’clock.

After about three beers, I was thinking about heading home. It was only meant to be a catch-up, and I had to get home to feed the dog. Then someone brought back another beer for me, then another after that and then my friend said, we’re going next door for dinner.

She’d been on the phone to her brother, who is a multi-millionaire business owner, and who just happened to be at a restaurant nearby having dinner. Come along, he’d told her.

At this stage, I tried backing out again. Gotta go home, I said, have a great night. But then she demanded I join them and her husband, a lovely guy, said I may as well join them. You might find it interesting he told me. Besides, it was a free dinner. So I joined them.

We found my friend’s brother in a private room with his friends and hangers-on. Apparently, he has a standing booking and turns up 3-4 nights a week for dinner. Hence the private room.

I looked about. As I already knew, it wasn’t my scene. There was a group of about six sitting around a round table, a married couple from the business and a few gay friends of the host. Bar one, they were pleasant. The host himself I’d met him a few times before and always found him a charmless character. He’s gay, short and plump with a nearly bald head and small eyes. He’s one of those people who don’t seem to say much but looks out on his entourage, occasionally speaking in a closed-mouth sort of way.

I had a glass of wine and thought twice about ordering a steak, uncomfortable to accept the generosity of someone I hardly knew. I joined in the conversation, but mostly I observed. In my imagination, I considered how 3-4 times a week the host holds court like this, watching on as others enjoy the fruits of his hospitality. It sat poorly with me all round. I’m old school in a lot of ways, but, you know, I’m not above accepting the occasional freebie if someone really insists. Sometimes it’s not worth making such a fuss about. Next time, you think. But to turn up night after night knowing that your meal – and your company – was being paid for is a different thing.

I get how people like free things. And a free meal in a nice restaurant is a treat. But to do it, again and again, makes it seem cynical. Worse, though – for me – would be the sense of being owned. Rented, at least. And I think that’s likely a part of the appeal for the host. He knows their price, and he can easily afford it. He watches them eating from his trough and takes pleasure from it. It’s just money after all, and he has plenty of that. In exchange, he has power.

And yep, I may be being unfair and judgemental here, and just plain wrong. Maybe it’s not the same people all the time. Maybe they’re generous in return in their own way. Or maybe they’re just happy knowing it gives the pleasure host to entertain them – it’s made round to go round, as my grandmother used to say. It’s all perspective. To each their own. It’s not for me, though.

Despite this going through my head, I ended up ordering a steak. I wasn’t going to starve myself on principle, and I intended to pay for it.

In the end, I ate it but never got to pay for it. As I was finishing my meal, a fierce argument broke out. “Come on, mate,” my friend’s husband said, pulling me from my chair, “I’ve seen this before”.

We took our wine and left the room, sitting out in the restaurant proper. I knew it was a volatile family, and my friend herself was subject to fierce emotions. We drank our wine while it was explained to me that once these family conflicts start, they couldn’t be stopped. Best to get out of the way.

Long story short, we were soon gone. I had only the opportunity for a quick goodbye as I grabbed my coat and bag, ushered away from the fractured atmosphere. Then I was walking to the station.

The night only compounded itself from then. No trains were running on my line, and the three Ubers I ordered one after another never arrived. In the end, I got a taxi home for twice the price, and long after I should have been.

I’m ok


It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and I’m sitting here listening to the latest Tool album. Pretty good. I’ve had my coffee out with Cheeseboy. More Saturday’s than not we catch up for a coffee and a pastry at the French cafe up the road, sitting outdoors rain, hail or shine and sharing our tales of the week just past. Afterwards, I walk down the street a bit, towards the station, and do my weekly grocery shopping. Sometimes after I’ll stop again for a flat white at the little cafe nearby where I watch people come and go collecting their takeaway coffee in yoga pants and gym clothes while the old ladies at the next table cackle happily over what a good life they have. I didn’t do that today, though.

I’m a little off today, and it could be as simple as an unexpectedly bad night for Australian sport that’s done it. It doesn’t take much these days.

It was RUOK day the other day, and no-one asked me, or ever has. I think I give off the vibe of being very self-sufficient so no-one ever bothers. Had someone asked I’d have told them, could be better – now there’s a typical Aussie understatement – but also that there’s nothing to be worried about. I bend a fair bit these days, but I’ve no doubt there’s a lot of tensile strength in that flexibility. I’m not as brittle as many are, and what I feel is mainly subject to circumstances.

It’s a timely conversation, for, during the week, there was the death of a high profile ex-sportsman who had suffered from his mental health demons. How often do you hear it, they had everything to live for? I’ve come to realise that it’s an irrelevant sentiment, for those who genuinely suffer chronic depression, the state of their life has little to do with it. It’s a disease that eats from the inside out, undermining self-belief and corroding the sense of self. No amount of riches or fame or even acclamation can prevent it.

In this case, the man who died was much loved by those who knew him well, and by many who knew him only by his persona – self-deprecating, fun, generous, loyal, the life of the party. He had a good career – it seemed – and a loving family. And still…

I sometimes wonder if we live in an era when depression has reached epidemic proportions, or if it only seems that way because we are much more open about it? Thankfully, much of the stigma of poor mental health has been eroded by education and by high profile role models admitting they have suffered, or suffer, from it. It hasn’t been normalised entirely, but it’s not nearly as hush-hush as it used to be, and generally accepted as another ailment.

I suspect, all the same, that it is a particularly modern ailment. We know more about it, but I think more people suffer from it now also. I could come up with a million theories as to why now it is such a thing, but I don’t have the patience for it – and I think I’ve probably gone over it many times before.

I’m different because while I can be intense and introspective, as I have been my whole life, I’m also bold and willing. The person I am is that I’ve experienced great moments and done things I’ll never forget, but when it hasn’t worked out suffered setbacks that impact directly on my life. The rugged part of me means that I come through, and surprisingly well sometimes – but so many battles have left me weary, and probably damaged in ways I don’t understand. I think the damage can be mended and will be with time, but for now – as I thought walking back from the shops – I’m getting my life in order, but something in me is unshipped.

I haven’t written much about the new job. I will in time, suffice to say, it’s going well. That’s been a net gain, and I’m better than I was a couple of months ago. One of my ex-workmates commented the other day about how much happier I seem now. That’s because I have purpose and permission to be myself. I work for a man who is decent and respectful and modest – a good man. He knows what he’s good at and what he’s not so good at. He recognises in me things I can do that he can’t and rather than being threatened by it, is excited. He encourages me to do my thing, and he’ll help clear the way. He gets the best out of me and at the same time, he benefits. For me, this is proper management, and just about the opposite of what I had to put up with before.

Being yourself makes for a much healthier mind, and the extra dollars will provide some peace of mind to go with it. I’m thankful and optimistic, but I’m still subject to overcast conditions. It’s a bit like Melbourne weather, unpredictable and capricious. The sun never blazes bright these days, but it’s out most days, and the stormy moments are held within. No-one knows. All they see then is a steely demeanour they mistake for something else. I’m happy about that.

One last thing. I’m innately competitive, and this helps me a little, for it means I always fight back and, most importantly, see this as a challenge to overcome, a battle one day I’ll strain to win. It becomes personal, but I’m sure it’s a battle I’ll win.

Without prejudice


When I first watched Succession, I found myself studying the character of Logan Roy wondering why he reminded me of my father. One was a tyrannical, irascible, media mogul, and the other was just my dad. Of course, my dad could be tyrannical at times, and if he was never a media mogul, he was a bit of a mover and shaker in his day. And perhaps that was some of it – that sense of authority, in voice and body and general attitude. Someone who commanded attention because they expected it.

There were other cues. Logan Roy is a cunt; I’m pretty sure my dad would’ve been described the same at some point, though not nearly in the same league. Still and all, I can recall specific modes of my father when he would mix contempt with disdain. He was not above ridicule. That was not his persona per se – in general terms, I think my dad was a reasonable human being – but he could stoop to such behaviour. The sort of behaviour that Logan Roy delights in.

Watching Succession was an interesting experience for me because there seemed a lot I could understand, and not just because of my dad. I’ve never really moved in such elevated circles, though I’ve rubbed shoulders with wealth. My family would’ve been upper-middle-class, as I was pretty much, but enough was going around to be familiar with the good life and to catch a glimpse every so often of those who had both wealth and power.

All of this now is of interest because I had lunch yesterday with my dad for the second time in ages.

Dad is different these days. He’s an older, more frail, version of the man I remember. His health was better yesterday than the time before. I remember him as a hard-driving character whose passion was his work. He was reluctant to give it away, and it was only poor health that forced him to in the end, past his 70th birthday.

He’s now retired, and the impetus that was so evident in him has wound down. He tells me he’s happy, has a good life, and that he avoids situations and people who might confound that. It seems to be the case looking at him, and I’m happy that he’s come to this point. It’s odd at the same time because it feels foreign to what he was. What I remember of him, anyway. He has nothing in common with Logan Roy now.

He asked me about my new job and listened intently as I explained it to him. He was always interested, but always ready to cast judgement also. Yesterday he had a smile on his face as I told him. He nodded his head, seemed to agree with comments I made. Yesterday he accepted it for what it was and was happy for me.

I’m happy for him. It must be a lot lighter load to take on the world without prejudice. I’d like to try it myself sometime.