More fun

I had a dream last night that I was young, and I had a gang of friends who were cool but who were also all into science. I was smart and resourceful, funny and determined. There was a girl I liked I wanted to get the attention of, so I contrived situations where we would encounter each other that would show me to advantage. She was elusive, though, the type that appreciates her own worth and wants you to work to get her. I was up for the challenge, and the dream was all about that, like a fun TV show from the seventies or eighties, with a bit of a Ferris Bueller vibe.

The whole vibe was fun and over the top – episodic adventures and a laugh track. The character I was, you just knew I’d eventually win out. The rest of it was about books and music – I was into that, and so was my desire. And my hip friends had that geeky touch that made them interesting. In one scene, they’re watching an old Barbra Streisand movie set in an earlier era. Throughout, they’re busily searching a college equivalent of Google looking up historical and cultural references – which is the sort of thing I do.

Afterwards, I realised that’s the very thing I miss most: fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt it. And, it seemed, in its absence, I had sold myself short. The Bueller character was in me, and maybe it’d been me in an earlier incarnation, but in recent times I’ve been bogged down in the here and now.

It’s not as if times are particularly fun these days. Covid, and repeated lockdowns, tends to take the edge off anything whimsical. The inability to travel doesn’t help, on top of which we live in an era of dreadful governments and politics, and I find it hard not to be wound up by injustice and corruption. Then there’s work.

The answer, it seems, is to let go of some of those things. I’ll always be politically and culturally engaged, but I can take it less personally. I can’t do much about Covid, but it will end. Then there’s work, and that’s something I can act on.

Work has been a problem for a while, and in the last few days – since my scare – it’s just seemed wrong, though I couldn’t explain why. Then it became clear: there’s no fun in it. And how can there be when you feel undervalued and exploited? Even the work I do, which I do competently, isn’t the sort of work I like best. I like to create and build, but all I’m doing is managing. I take an intellectual approach to problem-solving, which is out of step with the prevailing orthodoxy – just do it. The result is half-arsed results that drive me crazy.

After wondering all this time, I decided that all I need to do is find something that fits my definition of fun – challenging, creative, expansive, engaging. It’s not as easy as all that, but at least I have a sense of what’s gone wrong. That’s something to aim for because I’m not going to get it in my current workplace.

It might sound a funny thing, but I think I need to believe in myself as that person. Be bold again, be adventurous, don’t set limits and, as I always did before, bite off more than I can chew. I lost a lot of that going through the dire years of struggle, and ever since (though many still think me just as strident and confident as ever). I’ve become a lot more serious and solemn when I want to be light-hearted and charming again.

Get healthy. Get fit and beautiful. Don’t get bogged down in the negatives, go out and find some positives. Have fun. That’s the goal from here on in.

A few days on…

Relatively speaking, I’m feeling better now. I still woke up with a headache this morning, I have a touch of nausea (from the meds, I think), and my head still feels bent out of shape, but the level of discomfort is around the 6-7 mark, whereas it was 8-9 earlier in the week. I can function okay with this, but I now wonder why I even tried to work earlier in the week. It seems insane.

I’m working now. There’s a bit to catch up on, and there was a bit of a clamour for my expertise in my absence, which I think quite telling. Yesterday, the big project I’ve been hanging for finally got approved. It’s a big deal, and it justifies any increase in salary on the table. And, I couldn’t care less.

Illness has a way of simplifying things, particularly when you’ve had a scare as I did. When you’ve got a screaming headache, everything else in the world ceases to exist. The pain is everything. It overwhelms you, and nothing else matters.

Even when the pain passes, you’re left wondering what’s really relevant? In this case, I also had the momentary belief that I had cancer. Even when you learn it’s not true, it echoes through you. I’m still processing all that, and there’s a fair way to go before it lands. Right now, it calls into question much of the activities that seem to constitute normal life.

I’ve never had much of a filter when it comes to work – or other things, either. I see little point in saying anything other than what I think, and if I’ve moderated it in the past, then it’s by saying nothing rather than something untrue. Returning to work and dealing with issues, I’m much inclined to slash through the Gordian knot but saying what everyone else is thinking or should be thinking. I’ve already put my alternate view on one issue.

Looking forward, I still have a bit of a journey to get my health right. I’m totally dedicated to that. When you’re crook, the old adage about having nothing if you haven’t got your health rings very true. I don’t want to live this way, and I want to do everything I can to maximise my health.

I don’t know that there is much I could have done to stop the sinus issues, but there’s also my health surrounding that. I’m back to the Endo next Friday, and I’ll go down on my knees asking what I can do to help myself. From now, my health comes first.

For the first time in my life this week, I felt like a sick person. Like everyone else, I’ve suffered from bugs and infections and occasionally more serious stuff, but I’ve never felt more than unwell – a passing inconvenience, a disturbance to the norm, rather than a condition of mind and body.

When I felt so wretched earlier in the week, I felt as if I had become a sick person, on the way, as such, to become one of the people I spoke of earlier in the week – the chronically ill. That was an awful thought. It felt a state of mind foreign to me, as otherwise, I’m still robust physically and active mentally. It’s just that the condition felt insidious, and I had images of it eating at me from inside.

I feel more sanguine now, but the answer to what I really want remains unknown. I’ll play the game before me and expect it will become clearer.

Live another day

Been a roller-coaster week, this week. One of those weeks I wish mum was still around.

Everything happened very quickly on Monday and then into Tuesday. At about 4pm, I got a call from my doctor saying the results from the CT scan had come in, and we had to move quickly. There was some troubling commentary around my sinus blockage, with words such as ‘malignant’ and ‘erosion’ in use. Most concerning were the scans, which showed what should have been an empty cavity full of – something. On the one side of my face was a white patch, on the other – the right – a dark patch.

I asked the doctor if this was something to be concerned about? Definitely, was his swift answer. Later, he told me that the real concern was that the dark patch was cancerous cells.

Arrangements were made quickly for me to attend the Eye and Ear hospital. I was at the docs by 5pm to pick up a referral. He told me to pack a bag for my visit the next day, as he expected that they would choose to operate on me straight away. My head was spinning at this stage, but I got myself organised, visiting the chemists first, then ringing the Cheeses to see if they would mind Rigby in my absence.

I made a few calls in the evening but was quite calm. I wanted a resolution. I didn’t look forward to surgery, but I wanted the pain to end. Funnily enough, I felt worse speaking to others and hearing the obvious concern in their voice. It was not helped either when I did a google search on some of the things referred to in the analysis. Ultimately, I figured, it doesn’t pay to read too much into these things.

That night was interesting. I’m an imaginative type with a stoical temperament. I can’t help but wonder at all sorts of scenarios, which I endeavour to rationalise and ultimately accept.

Naturally, I considered the possibility of cancer and the worst consequences of that. I wondered at the nature of the surgery until I realised there was no future in that. I had a mild concern at being operated on given my issues with blood clots but figured they’d manage the risk. I wondered when I’d get out of the hospital, or even if I would! Everything was going so quickly that I couldn’t keep up. I slept poorly.

It was a wild morning. I showered and dressed and grabbed the bag I’d packed the night before. I’d intended catching a train, but it was raining, and I thought fuck it and got an Uber.

I sat quietly in the back seat, looking at the passing scenery and wondering what was about to happen. The weather was gloomy and mirrored my state of mind. It was early, and as the dawn began to creep, the clouds were moist and misty in a dirty sky, and every light shone brightly in the wet.

I was admitted as an Outpatient, and an ER doctor checked me out. He asked a few questions, examined me. Then he said something which afterwards if I’d misheard or misinterpreted. He said something about my GP having obviously foreshadowed the possibilities. He said the C-word, and it seemed that he indicated that I must be prepared for that more likely than not, that would be the case. Then he left to confer with a specialist.

I didn’t react when he said that. I don’t think I shifted a muscle for the next 10 minutes. So, that was it, I thought – because naturally, something that might be likely suddenly felt like a definite. More than anything, I felt numb. So, it’s not just other people, I thought. I’m the one. And I wondered what it meant and what would happen. I was curious about the sort of cancer and the treatment available, and from a practical sense, wondered how I would get by. It seemed imperative that I get the promised pay rise. I can call on my superannuation insurance for 75% of my wage, so the more, the better. Finally, not surprisingly, I reflected on my life. It wasn’t pretty.

Finally, he returned, and with him was an ENT specialist who exuded confidence and spoke at a million miles an hour. Just about the first thing, she said to me was that she didn’t think it was cancer. I didn’t react to that either, but something subsided in me.

They took me to another examination room where a third doctor stuck a camera up my nose. All the while, the specialist explains that she thinks it’s probably viral – a papilloma or Epstein-Barr. I’d done nothing wrong, just one of those unfortunate circumstances. Most likely, there would be polyps, but though it was possible, the odds were that they wouldn’t be cancerous.

In parallel, there was a commentary on what the camera was showing on the big screen, none of which I could see. Everything seemed to confirm her thoughts – no surprises. There was a lot of pus related to an infection. It also explains some of the electric pain I’ve been feeling through my teeth.

At the end of it, surgery was postponed, partly because my blood clotting required planning. I was given a referral to see a specialist, and the plan was that surgery would take place within a month – under a general anaesthetic, an overnight stay. After picking up a bunch of new medication, I left.

I haven’t yet come to terms with the cancer scare. By that, I mean I don’t know yet what I make of it or how it changes anything. In a funny way, it feels like a near-death experience, though as an occasional writer of fiction, I’m wary of the ironic twist.

Otherwise, I’ve felt bloody awful. After the anaesthetic wore off, I could feel every poke and prod of the camera inside my head. I felt like the inside of my skull was bruised on top of the usual headaches and a sense of being zonked out most of the time by the meds. There’s been a blurred, almost psychedelic sense of time and experience.

None of this has been helped by the wild weather. I’ve felt pretty isolated, and the whole experience on Monday and Tuesday made me feel very alone. I crave some human contact, but we’re still in lockdown.

Today, I feel a bit better. I expect the symptoms will further ease as the bruises fade, and the meds kick in. I can’t wait. You wouldn’t want to live like this.

What I need

I told them at work on Friday that I’m taking sick leave until the head pains are gone. I ignore these things too much from an outdated sense of responsibility and an unwillingness to appear less than mortal. They owe me, so it was an easier call on this occasion, but I had no other option, really. Either I’m in pain, or I’m feeling a bit dopey with painkillers, and it’s hard to concentration or pretend interest when all you want to do is lie down and make it all go away.

I had a bad night anyway. I won’t go into all the hypochondriac details, except to say the pain has hit a peak – and is a bit different, too. I was awake at 2am taking Neurofen and trying to go back to sleep. I have my own theories on what’s going on, but I’ll wait for the docs report.

I took the opportunity this morning to go out and get the blood tests the Endo prescribed for me – I’m due to see her again next week. I went to Brighton for it. As I approached the pathologist, an elderly woman with her husband was coming the other way. The man pushed a trolley on which a tank of something – oxygen perhaps – connected via looping pipes to a facemask. Just the sight of something like that is an instant downer. I pity the poor man and hope desperately I never experience the same fate. As I have before, I hoped my time stops before anything like that is necessary.

In the pathologist’s office, the only other patient waiting was a chatty older woman. She, too, was wearing something permanently affixed, carrying it in a pouch sound around her neck. After she went in, a man entered, gasping for breath. His breath never settled while I was there. It was like he just ran a marathon.

Nothing is guaranteed to depress me more than such hardcore evidence of illness and misery. I refute it for myself, and unconsciously every time I visit such a place, I make sure that I seem healthy and normal, no matter how I feel. That’s why you’ll always see me cracking one-liners, as I did once more today, as if to suggest my presence there was nothing more than an aberration.

In all honesty, I’m weary of the ailments that have bedevilled me over the last 12 months, but then I see really sick people and know things could be a lot worse. I don’t feel well, but I get around fine and retain a sense of self and project an image of casual capability. I don’t inspire one iota of pity, nor do I ever want it.

Things have been better certainly – there’s more cracked up in this world that I’m currently willing to admit here – but I reckon there’ll ultimately be a reasonable and low-key explanation for my current travails.

In the meantime, it’s perhaps no bad thing that I’m taking some time away from work. So far, there’s been a lot of sleep, but if I can get my head clear too, then the benefits go beyond that. That’s what I need.

Pending diagnosis

So, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how I was having pains in my jaw and mouth and thought it was because I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. Before that, I thought it was sinus related. I’ve had a long-term sinus complaint and, more recently, had superficial symptoms of it.

Not long after I wrote that, I switched my mind back and decided it was a sinus issue – just a bad case of sinusitis. I figured that because the symptoms had further evolved. I felt tightness and sensitivity under my right eye next to the nose, where the sinus canal is. On top of that, I experienced some temporary relief by simply sucking on a butter menthol.

I’ve since changed my mind again and don’t think it is either of those, mostly because that while the superficial signs of a sinus issue – the blockage and runny nose – have passed, while the pain has got worse. And because the symptoms have further evolved.

It’s pretty odd. I’ve never experienced this before. Initially, the pain was in my mouth and gums and extending into my cheek and jaw. I actually went to the dentist at one stage to get his diagnosis, which was sinus.

Since then, I’ve experienced pain in different parts of my face and head, in seemingly random order.

Most of what I feel is on the right side of my face. I still feel occasional gum pain, and it’s spread to my bottom teeth at the front. I get the pressure pain across the bridge of my nose and under my eye, but I also occasionally will feel pain at the corner of my right jaw, behind my eyes, across my forehead, my right ear, and the back of my head.

I guess you could describe it as a headachey sort of pain, except that it also seems to resonate through the bones of my face and right into the roots of my teeth, which feel sensitive. The pain is rarely extreme, though it’s certainly uncomfortable. It’s more of a dull, heavy, persistent pain.

It’s a bit of a mystery, and as a mystery, a bit of a concern. Concerning also is the shifting, spreading nature of it. A couple of days last week, it wasn’t so bad, but it’s got worse since then, to the point that it will disturb my sleep occasionally. That didn’t happen before.

More than the pain, what concerns me is the discomfort it induces, which is as much psychological as it is physical. It just feels wrong and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

At times I feel as if my head and jaw are out of whack, and my teeth not set properly. There’s an uncomfortable sensation of being crooked. Sometimes, the right side of my head feels swollen, though it isn’t, and my mouth is tender – as if I’ve had some dental treatment and the anaesthetic is wearing off – a sensitive awareness. I feel this most of the time.

I’m on painkillers to manage the pain, though I’m wary of taking too many and so will wear a little pain early in the day to minimise them. Still, I’m taking four to six a day, and sometimes eight. It’s strange to think that over the last 10 years, I’ve probably averaged taking no more than a couple of painkillers a year, no more than that. It was rare I got headaches or anything like that. I’ve now taken dozens in the last few weeks.

I went to the doctor, obviously, though it was a Telehealth consultation in lockdown. I knew what I wanted – I wanted tests to be done, mostly to rule out things, though I’m also desperate to know what’s causing this and how it can be treated. Not knowing is hard.

I can’t help myself, I’m always trying to figure things out. If it’s not me grinding my teeth, and if it’s not sinusitis, it seemed to me that it could be nerve or neurological. When I spoke to the doctor, he mentioned the possibility of a clot. Whatever – something pressing upon the nerves in my face.

I’m going to have a brain MRI next week. I wish it was sooner, but they can’t fit me in until then. Until then I have to endure it.

Time for my first painkillers of the day.

Looking out the window

I have a friend, Cheeseboy, who returned to Melbourne a bit over a week ago and has been in hotel quarantine since.

We’re in contact regularly. He’s by himself in a small room he can’t leave, so, naturally, he gets a bit restless with it.

I remember I was out somewhere when he returned. The call came through on my mobile phone on a Thursday night, and though I had expected his return, it came as a surprise to see his name flash up on screen. He was on the bus taking him from the airport to his hotel. I could hear the creaks and groans of the bus in the background, the air breaks as they came on, the change of gear as it accelerated. It felt kind of surreal, but it also reminded me of much much more innocuous times when I’ve been on an airport bus – often, heading for unpredicted adventure.

We had a zoom chat for a couple of hours last Saturday, then connected again later to watch the A-League soccer – him in his hotel room, me at home (I had to pause my broadcast to sync). It’s pretty odd.

Since, we’ve caught up a few more times, including an hour or so last night, as well as exchanging messages throughout the week.

As you would expect, his is a quiet life. Pretty dull and uneventful actually, which is want in your hotel quarantine, I expect. He gets his meals delivered at regular intervals (5pm for dinner!), heralded by a knock on the door. He was to wait a bit then to collect it from his hotel doorstep. He hardly sees anyone, and his only personal contact is for his regular covid tests. He’s got a window that looks out over the Westgate freeway, and sometimes he’ll describe the traffic.

He has his laptop and so has returned to work remotely – as everyone else is. He’s hired an exercise bike to get some exercise and does laps of the room every day until he’s done 5,000 paces. The room is pleasant, the food not bad – though all in paper bags – and he has access to the internet and pay-TV. He orders in a real coffee occasionally and bought a bottle of wine last week. He thinks he might swap out the standard breakfast of cereal for bacon and eggs on Sunday. For a cost. He’s out next Friday, by which time hopefully all of us are out of lockdown.

He feels pretty safe, though bored and itching to get out and see his family again. I’m keen to see him too as he’s one of my best mates and I’ve missed our Saturday morning walks, as has Rigby. When we catch up next – perhaps next Saturday – he’ll have a lot to tell me, and though the routine will be familiar, so much will have changed since we last walked together – about six weeks ago.

These are definitely strange times. I imagine a time somewhere in the future when covid is a memory and we all feel safe to move around and travel and live what we used to call a normal life. I’m hoping such a time will come – I expect it will, though not the same, and in the background will be the lurking threat. But still – something different to now. How will I feel then? How will I look back upon this time?

I remember sometimes my travels to exotic places, so vivid at the time and full of experience. I cherish those memories, and there are parts of it that remain vivid to me. But still, even the vivid bits sometimes feel foreign. I was there, I did these things, I felt them, and though they were rich in memory they become one dimensional. My memory is of the feeling, but the feeling itself is lost.

Will it be like that for this pandemic? Will I look back upon it with a sense of lived experience, or will it appear to me as a strange and unlikely event? Will I feel it still? Or will it just be words? And how will it leave me? What will I have learnt from it? Will I be different in the end? When it finishes – when I get out and about and live freely – what will I feel? Relief? Liberation? Anger? Enlightened? Will I step-change into a different state of mind?

All such speculation is premature. We’re not out of it and won’t be for a while yet – and maybe we never will really. Maybe this is just the first in what will be a succession of battles with evolving biology (not to mention climate change, etc). What is the point in even wondering? Because to wonder is to hope, and to hope is to be human. And because, at some point, we must begin to conceive of what comes next.

I can’t wait. I need for there to be more, and I think that’s the same for millions.

Venturing outside

There’s every excuse to stay indoors at the moment, and not just because the weather is cooling. We’re back in lockdown, which means a range of restrictions, including wearing a mask any time you step out the front door. I hate that and tend to think it’s a bit of overkill when all you’re doing is walking the dog, but I go along with it. It’s easier to stay indoors, and for a fleeting moment this morning, I even considered staying in bed the whole day. Why the hell not?

I got up, though, and followed the usual routine, right up to the moment when I decided on impulse to take Rigby for a morning walk despite all reasons why not to.

We have our routines, and he knows them. Every dog does. Come mid-afternoon, he’ll come nuzzling at me as if to say, come on, dad, it’s time for my walk! It’s the same with meal times, of course, and there are a dozen other triggers that will set him off. Nonetheless, he’s thrilled to add to the routine, and so when I said the magic word ‘walk’, his ears peaked, and eyes drilled into me enquiringly. Did you just say walk? Really? Are we going for a walk? Tell me we are. Tell me, tell me! Yes, yes? Come on, dad! Oh yes, yippee, we’re going on a walk!

By this point the gentle enquiry has become whirling, impatient joy which always gives me pleasure too.

Off we went. It was about 9.45. The streets were quiet. No surprise that, but still a little eerie. I made up to the main drag, and the traffic was sparse. Normally, there’s a regular stream of vehicles going by. This morning, the street was clear for hundreds of metres into the distance, and passing vehicles were sparse. No school today makes a difference.

I walked by the cafe I’ll often visit for a coffee and sometimes breakfast. There was no-one at the outdoor benches, and inside, chairs were stacked on the tables. One or two people were inside getting a takeaway coffee.

I’m not overly perturbed by having to lockdown. It’s an inconvenience on a personal level, but no more than that. It’s a lot harder for those businesses who have to shut up shop and the people unable to work.

Now that we know more, it’s hard not to be mighty pissed off at the infected cases who chose to do nothing at all for 6 and 10 days. They were crook, showed symptoms, but carried on with their life, infecting others. Too late, they got tested,

It makes a huge difference. The Indian strain is highly infectious, and because they didn’t come forward, it was allowed to run unchecked through the population. The cost of it is a 7-day lockdown and a growing number of people infected.

The good news is that only four new cases were reported overnight. With luck, we may contain this. It’s a huge job for the contact tracers. They’ve identified 10,000 primary and secondary contacts and growing, as well as over 150 hotspots. It’s a huge piece of work, and mostly they cop shit for it.

In the meantime, take it easy. With luck, we’ll be out of it soon.

Here we go again

I went to sleep late last night and woke early this morning. It was still dark when I made my first coffee, and for a few moments, I considered taking an early walk with Rigby down the beach before anyone woke up. But then, the light sprinkle of rain falling dissuaded me from that, and back to bed, I went.

Much of the conversation online and in the news I listened to was about the Covid outbreak in Victoria and whether we’d go back into lockdown. Most thought it was likely, as did I. When the news came through of another 12 infections recorded overnight, it seemed a sure thing – though no announcement has been made yet.

By then, I was sitting down for breakfast. I’m scheduled to catch up with my manager for breakfast tomorrow, but that seems unlikely now, as do other things. I’m hoping it’s just a short lockdown, but I thought it wise to get out and smell the roses while I still could.

It’s a chilly morning. There was a thick band of low, white cloud suffused with the morning sun. Quite striking, really. A stiff breeze blew. I posted a letter and then moved onto a nearby cafe by the railway station. I checked in under the watchful eye of the waitress, then sat down for eggs and coffee.

The prospect of a lockdown – which has just been confirmed for 7 days – is unfortunate and unwelcome but probably necessary. I know many will take this hard after the lockdown last year.

I’m more philosophical about it. I recognise its necessity, though it shits me. I’m weary of these things, as is everyone else. But, get it done, do it right, and I’ll deal with it.

In some ways, we’re quite unlucky. This infection originated in Adelaide – a quarantining traveller, on his last day in quarantine, opened his door at the same time as an infected traveller did, and bingo! Show’s how fucking deadly this thing is.

He travelled back to his hometown, Melbourne, unaware that he was infected. A few days later, he presented as ill. This was about two weeks ago. At the time, it looked like we might have dodged a bullet. The contact tracers followed up, people self-isolated, and It seemed contained. Then it pops up about 10 days after.

Most likely, from what I gather, it was passed onto someone during a train trip into the city. No one checks into trains, so it was hit and miss picking up who might have been in his vicinity.

It’s the virulent, highly infectious Indian strain, and unfortunately, those who’ve been reported as infected were active in the period before being diagnosed. Two went to footy matches – a combined crowd of about 60K. Another had a night on the town in bars and on the dance floor. Lots of opportunities to pass it on, and virtually impossible to trace every contact. So here we are.

It could have been avoided, though, as people been at pains to point out. If we had proper quarantine facilities, as we’ve been crying out for, it would never have been passed from one to another. And if the vaccination rollout had performed as forecast, it’s much less likely it will have caught on within the community. As it is, it’s basically June, and we’re still short of the four million vaccinations the government promised would be delivered by the end of March.

Belatedly and somewhat ironically, this latest crisis has led to a rush on getting vaccinated. So that’s what it takes. Several of those infected were entitled to vaccination but held off – and now they’re sick. It will be too late for others.

Let’s see where we’re at in 7 days time – hopefully, preparing to be released from lockdown.

Emotional scurvy

It rained yesterday afternoon, and the sky was dim and dark long before night fell. The evening was standard for me. I had some dinner and flicked through the TV stations before settling down to watch a couple of episodes of Mare of Easttown.

It was only just on 10 when I finished watching, and I thought I’d go to bed and spend an extra hour reading. I was due for a new book, and there was nothing in my bookbag, so I went into my study to survey my bookcase. I had it in mind to return to an old favourite for a change.

I looked through the shelves, assessing options. You want a book to suit your mood. Sometimes that’s serious fiction; sometimes it’s something more escapist. I plucked one book from the shelves and considered it a moment before recalling I’d recently caught a glimpse of the (poor) movie made of it in the seventies. I put it back, leaving until the memory faded.

The books on these shelves are my very favourite books. To look at it is to be reminded of times past when you first discovered them – even to recall the occasion when you bought them. You remember the many times you would spend hours in the cloistered environs of a good bookshop, gathering books to buy. There are stories about the stories.

Abruptly, I felt a sense of fury. Standing before all that richness, they appeared to me so many lost moments and promise unfulfilled.

I would read, back then, as if I was an explorer searching for and discovering new wisdom – new to me. I felt enriched by the experience, as if with every book I read, something was being added to me. It seemed a noble thing and, naively it seems, I thought it must mean something. Would it make me a better man? Perhaps not, but it should make me a more rounded one – or so I thought.

All those fantastic hours engaged with a book felt lost to me. They were gone, of the past, and no longer relevant, as was the ethos that led me on. I read more than ever now, but without that glow of enlightenment. And what came of it? Nothing, it seems, not even anyone I can share it with or hand it down to, as I inherited my grandfather’s books.

I went to bed and read a book I found under the bedside table. Throughout, I had this lingering sense of discord. Not dissimilar to the other night, I wondered what the point of living was? You consume to live, whether it be food and beverages, fancy furniture or car, and programs like Mare of Easttown – but where was the higher purpose? Does such exist, or is it just a fantasy?

The funny thing is that as all this goes through my mind, there’s a motif that recurs to me repeatedly. It’s the sense of disconnect I feel between the public and private me. I see myself with others, and I’m always in control, not just of myself, but often the discourse generally. I’m smooth and easy, as if from habit, a strong, resilient, seemingly confident character, turning the conversation whichever way. It’s the person people have come to know and expect of me, and perhaps even admire, but so often these days, it comes to me as something strange.

That control comes easy to me. I don’t need to think about it. I know the tropes and the behaviours are instinctive. It’s not false, but nor is it absolutely true. Why I wondered, does it return to me so gratingly all the time? Is it that I want to relinquish control? But then, I knew, I would try to take it back. Was it exhausting being that way? No, not really. So what? And I thought, it’s because underneath all that there’s a vulnerable human being, but no matter how I ache to do so, I can’t seem to express it.

I’m at a disconnect with myself, and I realised as I lay there I’d become bored with myself – and wouldn’t I be? Nothing is happening.

I don’t believe there’s a meaning to life. If you’re happy to live a safe and happy life, then good for you. It’s not my thing though, never has been. As always, in these moments, I find myself drawn to the edge. It’s what I miss, and the absence of it has been exacerbated by Covid because there’s been nothing to fill the void.

What I need is to live more rawly. I would do that before when I travelled the world, which was a necessary antidote to domestic life. That sense of discovery, and the unpredictability of it, was like a tonic to me. Of course, none of that is possible presently.

And women. There’s a lot to unpack there, but in former times, when I read books for what I could learn from them, women were so much a part of my life. Not one. Sure, I miss the flirtation and all that, as I’ve said before, and the spontaneous and unlikely encounters. Right now, what I miss now is peering into another’s eyes and seeing possibility there. That, and more primitive, life-affirming moments – the teasing sense of anticipation, the first kiss, the amorous fumblings and the snap of elastic on a pair of panties, the moment that you know that yes, I’m here, this is happening, isn’t this good and soon following the absolute surrender to the moment.

Options are limited, but I need the things I do to have some value – to feel as if they’re a part of the journey. Because of Covid, or perhaps not, it feels as if that journey has paused, or I’ve been waylaid. I need to get back to simple experience – not life as observed on a TV screen, but life felt and experienced in the raw. Without it, I feel as if I’m experiencing a kind of emotional scurvy.


I woke up this morning, got up and dressed, and walked up the road to get my first jab of Astra Zeneca.

It feels like a significant occasion, like graduating, or something like that. Having endured nearly 18 months of Covid, including an extended lockdown, to finally have a vaccination administered feels notable.

I may have it wrong, and there’s still much conjecture over the quality of the vaccine, but I feel as if I’ve come in from the wild and dangerous cold. Before today, anything might happen to me. From today, I should be safe.

It’s great timing, as it turns out. Melbourne had enjoyed 86 days without a community transmission of Covid. That ended yesterday. Today, more cases are presenting. From tonight, we return to a form of restrictions, which includes wearing a mask indoors. We’ve also been advised by work not to come into the office.

I hope this (hopefully) little outbreak will motivate more Victorians to go out and get their jab. We need it. We’re a long, long way from herd immunity, but the more people who get vaccinated, the less likely the chains of infection will spread. And, with winter coming, you’d have to be crazy not to get it – but, as we know, the world is full of crazies these days.

The government has bollocksed up up the vaccination rollout, as anyone with a working intelligence knows. Still, if they’re smart and given the slow uptake of vaccinations, they should now open it up to anyone who wants one without the current age restrictions.

For the record, and the Doubting Thomases out there, I’ve not experienced any side effects from my dose. And I went ahead and got it, despite having experienced a blood clot a dozen years ago. I wanted to get it for myself, but I also feel a civic duty – it’s the right thing to do, and I’m happy to stand up and be counted.