Counting the days


A month from today is Christmas. This year, I commence Christmas leave on the 21st and return to work on January 11. I don’t know yet what I’m doing Christmas day, but that’s not unusual.

I have tentative plans to head down the coast to Wye River for a few days after Christmas. I’ll be pitching camp with the Cheeses and associates, and even bought a tent for the occasion. Rigby will be minded by X for that period, and I expect I’ll mellow out completely while I spend my time drinking and eating and laughing and reading and body-surfing and going to the pub, all in the bright coastal sunshine.

I need the break, but it’s close enough now that I can count it down.

I’ve been so busy, but the good news is that two of my projects should be launched within a week, which takes the pressure off. The other one – the big one – I’ve had to pause as UAT failed.

That’s a major annoyance, but not surprising. I feel pretty relaxed about it really because I know I’ve done the right thing in not trying to push it through. I’ve asked the vendor to come up with some satisfactory answers and an assurance I can trust that every contingency is managed. The formal pause allows me to draw some breath as well, and take a break from the headlong rush.

I’m still hoping to get it deployed before Christmas.

And that’s my working life – flat-out, but currently under control. The sun is shining, the bars and restaurants are opening up, and Christmas beckons.

Do it all next year, but worry about it then.

Mask free


For the first time in months, I went outside yesterday without wearing a mask. I’ve heard others comment that it felt as if they went about naked. I didn’t feel that, but it was odd and quite liberating.

The routine of wearing a mask became ingrained quickly. There were missteps along the way – everyone has a story about how they’ve gone out forgetting to wear their mask – but generally, it became habitual before leaving the house – wallet, keys, phone and yes, the mask.

Dogs are very observant beasts and slaves to ritual. It got so that every time I put on my mask, Rigby would get excited because it meant I was going outside. Now that’s changed/

The requirement to wear a mask out in the open was eased at 12.01 am on Sunday night. You have to carry your mask with you and must still wear it when in an enclosed place, or where the crowd makes physical distancing difficult. But walking the dog, I no longer need it, nor walking to the shops.

Things have opened up more generally since the weekend. It’s not back to normal, but you wouldn’t really notice the difference through the course of a typical day. The restrictions are at the margins now, and by degree, rather than front and centre as they were for so long.

I’ll say it again: that we have made it to this point is a testament to the good sense of people of this state and the leadership that held firm to scientific principles.

While the pandemic ravages much of Europe and the states, peaking further each day; and while it re-asserts itself in places where it had become dormant, such as Japan, we in Australia can look forward to a safe and relatively healthy Christmas, touch wood. We have been lucky on many counts, but we have also worked hard – and here, in Victoria, we fought it back.

The war is not won, but there are now several promising vaccines being tested. By the first quarter next year some, at least, should be released for use.

We need to survive till then. I’m confident we can do it in Oz. But in other places, I wonder how many more must die until that salvation comes?

Remain vital


I wonder if I’ve reached the age now where thoughts of the last third of my life become more prevalent? It makes sense that they should as I advance into that stage – but there feels something unsatisfying in it.

Its been a gradual realisation, almost unconscious. There I was yesterday, imagining my life in comfortable retirement, without giving it a second thought. And yesterday morning, on my weekly walk with Cheeseboy, we touched upon the life to come – where we’d live, how we’d live, and the simple pleasures we look forward to as part of that.

It’s not the first time we’ve done that, though both of us are probably a dozen years from retirement. At one point yesterday, we imagined the same scene – a house overlooking the ocean, a sunny day, and the simple pleasure of having a cool drink sitting on a deck overlooking it all.

It seems for quite a while now that I’ve had a settled view of the life to come. If not the house overlooking the sea – I doubt I can afford that – then a comfortable cottage in the bush somewhere. Room to move and an open sky. There would be the sprawling veggie garden I referred to yesterday, which I’d tend to every morning.

I remember as a boy I grew vegetables in our suburban back yard, and the sheer delight of discovering the budding fruit of the young tomato appearing overnight; or the unexpected find of zucchini or a pumpkin hidden in the foliage. The bonus now is that I could turn these things into food for my table.

And that’s the life, as I touched upon yesterday — a life of growing veggies and indulgently cooking. Afternoons reading by the fire or an open window and perhaps engaging in conversation over a glass of wine or a gin and tonic. In between, as I went about my daily business, my music would play, and all of this the pillars of my simple life – good food, nourishing literature, and the music of my life. And writing, which I would set to every day at the appointed time.

By itself, it sounds fine, but to what end? I would need other things — friends of course, and hopefully, someone to love and be loved by, but even so. I would need to travel still, to enlarge my mind and experience – that mustn’t stop. And human interactions.

This, more or less, is how I’ve unconsciously imagined it for years. It seems a good life in many ways. Why complain? Because it seems to me that to live well is not enough, one must live deeply. And to experience that truly, there must be some risk, some danger, some leap of faith and courage involved. To immerse yourself in the merely pleasurable comes at the cost of vitality.

For some time now, my relationship to books and reading has changed from what it was. It is less satisfying, though I read just as much as I ever did and take as much pleasure from it. As I think about, it feels as if books have become entertainment to me, though I’m still provoked and stirred by them.

The difference is that in all the many years I browsed bookstores and collected books up till recently literature was a part of who I was. I read as if I would learn something as if in the pages of the classics I pored over there was enlightenment to be found and meaning for the path I was on. I read as if there were secrets I could unlock that would make sense of what I did and felt, what I yearned and strived for. Literature pumped through me like life’s blood.

What’s different now? I’m older now. Perhaps I’m more cynical; certainly, I’m more bruised. The life I imagined as I read those books has now passed me: I have been and gone, and here I am.

I thought of this again this morning as I added about 20 books to a wishlist, mostly NYRB publications. There was excitement thinking I will likely read them one day. And fascination wondering what I would find. That hasn’t changed. And probably over the next 18 months, I’ll buy each and every one of those books, and others, and more to come, many more, in the years ahead.

But to what point? That’s the critical question. I feel such a dilettante reading for its own sake, as has been true for the last 10 years. There must be more to it. And the difference, ultimately, is that once I could see myself in those books as I if I too could live that life and take on those adventures. I imagined myself loving as the characters did, being swept up in romance and volatile times. That’s how I would live. That’s what I would do.

And I did, for a long time. Books taught me experience, and I went out and found it for myself. I travelled, I loved, I caroused and journeyed, I looked deeply into things and found myself provoked and stimulated. I learned. It was good, and I’m grateful for it, but it’s like all memory, once it’s done you can’t go back. They’re photos in an album.

I went deliberately searching for vivid experience and being unsafe for so long has probably cost me the comforts of a settled domestic life. There are times I miss that, and I regret there are things I missed out on.

Now that I’m coming into the last third, what remains true? Is it that settled and domestic existence I can come at belatedly? Or is some return to the vitality of creating new experiences, over and again?

What we’re talking about here is possibility – the possibility of new and challenging things in your life. It’s been in short supply the last few years as I’ve scrambled to get out of the hole I was in. I want to think that I will feel it again – the sense that anything can change, that there surprises still in store, and mountains to climb.

I’ve come to the stage of my life where I realise that it’s the poignant and the sublime that fill me up. That’s what I searched for in books once upon a time, and then in life. The times I have experienced it have felt almost holy to me as if I was on the cusp of an understanding that always eluded me. It was enough to know it was there, and to feel that – and to quest to find it again.

I don’t want to fade away. To live well is fine, but I need the vitality of life to make it meaningful for me. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that – and I think that accounts for my general state of mind in recent years. I really don’t know if I was ever made to play it safe. Tempting as it is, I want to feel alive – no matter how old I get.

The reverse Samson


Probably the second biggest news over the weekend (maybe the third if you factor in the Wallabies beating the All-Blacks) was my haircut on Saturday morning.

Man, did I need it! Cheeseboy, always blunt, said I looked like a paedo. My hairdresser, at the sight of me, said I looked homeless. And even I had become reluctant to go out in public. My hair had become so thick and unruly – and dry – that there was no styling of it and no chance of controlling it.

I did a bit of market research ahead of my cut about what I should do. The women in my life all said I should try and keep some length and look to have it styled more. The blokes were indifferent.

I checked my hairdresser, and we agreed that he had a fair canvas to work with and that let’s try and retain some length while taking it in at the sides. And that’s what we did, though it’s a bit different to anything I’ve had before.

The result is that I look about 15 years younger and no longer a menace to society. I was starting to feel pretty ugly, but now I’m back to being pretty presentable.

As I left the hairdresser, I could see my shorn locks on the floor. There was a fair amount there – about 7 months worth of growth, leaving a couple of months of it on my scone.

I’ve been wistful in the past about losing so much hair, but I felt liberated by it this time. Donate it to charity, I suggested to them, or perhaps to Advance Hair Studios for some poor, balding chump to make use of.

Me, I’m back!

When the sun’s out…


It feels like a marvellous day today. The sun is out and the sky a brilliant blue. I was out before with Cheeseboy walking our dogs by the beach. We’ve seen every mood of the sea in the last few months, from moody and tempestuous to still and serene. There’s always something to draw you in.

Today the sea had a shimmering stillness to it. It was a darker blue blending into the paler blue of the sky, like a Mondrian painting. Here and there divers dipped and surfaced, and others, on standing boards, paddled the still waters. The sand was golden, and in the distance, the yacht club with yachts at anchor looked splendid. We both stopped at the sight. We could be in the south of France, I said, and Cheeseboy agreed.

Today is a day like hundreds more in memory, perfectly composed end enduring. For some reason, I’m reminded of my childhood mainly, and long, summery days with the sound of mowers humming in the distance and kids playing in the street – though I remember too, days when I was older when I felt as if all of life was ahead of me.

We went for a walk yesterday, as well. Afterwards, I went for lunch at a friends place where we sat in the shade and had a beautiful meal of Kobe barbecued with an Asian dipping sauce, chicken wings, asparagus, corn and home-made flatbread with creme brulee.

Rigby came with me – he’s welcome with this friend, who is a grand cook and a kind soul. The novelty was being out in the car and driving across town to visit someone in their home.

The night before JV joined me for a few glasses of wine and tapas at a wine bar in Hampton street. That was the true novelty. We’d had to book ahead, and to sit down for the first time in months and be waited on was a great pleasure. Tomorrow, we’re talking about going to a pub for a counter-meal and to watch the Melbourne Cup races on the big screen, just for fun.

And Friday I visited Southland for an eye-test. It’d been ages since I’d been to a mall, and I was surprised it wasn’t busier. A few shops were closed, and at others, long queues were waiting to get in because of social distancing restrictions. I avoided those shops.

It feels now as if summer is coming and a new world opening up. Strange to see what’s happening in the northern hemisphere in parallel to this. England is locking down for a month (sure, right), while we’re heading towards the promise of elimination and holidays at the beach. Cases are through the roof in Europe and the US and thousands dying, while we have it under control (touch wood).

We’ve been lucky, no doubt, but we’ve worked hard for our luck. I don’t know what next year holds, but after yesterday – when my friend agreed to look after Rigby after Christmas – I’m looking for a few days down Wye River with the Cheeses before the year is out.

When life is good, it’s really good here. Australia!

Donuts


We got the news yesterday we’ve been waiting for for so long. As of tonight, at midnight, retail re-opens and cafes, bars and restaurants begin to accept customers again. It’s not a full-blown opening, but it’s a big start on the way back.

I think for most Victorians it was an emotional moment. The premier, as he announced it, appeared moved by the occasion. You could understand. For about 110 days straight he’s fronted the media to provide updates, bad and good, and through most of that has been assailed by an obstreperous media and a federal government that has betrayed its constituency and undermined the community effort. This was a relief for all of us, but for him, it must seem a vindication of sorts and a reward for holding the line so steadfastly.

It was like all this time we held our breath, through thick and thin, denying ourselves and staying true to the restrictions, until yesterday we let out a collective breath when the news came through.

This is a great achievement. For two days running now, we’ve had zero new cases. A couple of months back it was over 700 daily, the same rate as other countries. They’ve gone through the roof since with new cases in the multiple tens of thousands daily, and we’ve gone the other way – donuts.

There’s a lot to be thankful for and much reason to be proud. Gratitude to each other is not out of place. But – and here’s the thing – it’s tinged with some bitterness. It seems a common sentiment.

Many individual Australians across the country have offered their support and strength through our journey, but it’s been absent from the federal government and a large swathe of the media. Then there are the ratbags doing the wrong thing and the snipers happy to take potshots along the way while the rest of us do the hard yards.

Until you’ve experienced it, you can’t understand what it feels like when you’re doing your best to get by from one day to the next while others, on the sideline, cast aspersions and seek distraction. And those who use it for political advantage are the very worst. It’s a sense of being undermined and disregarded.

That will linger for a while, and there are some I’ll never trust now. I’ve never felt more Victorian, and I think the community has strengthened having endured this. The cunts can please themselves.

We have a way to go, but it looks like we’re heading back towards a semblance of normality by Christmas.

Conversation and affection


I was watching TV last night when on-screen a conversation about William Blake took place, and immediately I felt a yearning. I want to talk about William Blake. And Goethe too, and Beethoven and Kierkegaard and Kandinsky and Einstein and David Lean and about expressionism and the civil rights movement and forms of government and great moments in history and thought and ever fucking so on.

At that moment, there was a sudden realisation of how everything is so small. It’s hardly a new thought, but it’s fresher now because without the distractions and white noise of so-called normal life what is exposed in lockdown are the skeletal forms of everyday life. And the truth of it is, so much of it is repetitive and mindless ritual, time served until it runs out.

That’s a bleak take on things, and it’s not all that bad, especially not when you plug in the lifestyle elements – the distractions and white noise – that otherwise obscure the bare realities. That’s not all bad stuff, but not a lot of it has substance.

You could argue that I’ve been wrestling with these concepts most of my adult life. I felt it inside, but for much of that time, I was removed from it in a personal sense, because I found the distractions necessary to keep me going. Some remain – reading and good food and provocative cinema. Others have gone by the wayside, the obvious, and possibly most critical, being international travel. Once it fueled, perhaps erroneously, my sense of identity. I would travel every year and go deep – but now I haven’t travelled anywhere for about seven years.

For others, it’s family, and that’s something of true substance and value. I imagine it fills up most of the empty spaces and as for identity, then you assume traditional and well-defined roles as partner and parent. All that is ritual too, but it has meaning.

Then there’s work. For the healthy of us, work is a subset of who we are, rather than a definition of it. It’s rare, however, that work doesn’t play some part in how we see ourselves. Given we spend so much time in the job, it would be surprising if it wasn’t a factor, but it also is one of the great distractors.

This has played on my mind for the last few years, and last night it was the first thing that came to me when I considered how small things have become. It wasn’t always the case. I took a lot from work and career in general, and I worked through that in my mind as I sat on the couch last night.

I like to define and categorise things. I like things to have their place, though I know full well that life is not nearly as neat and tidy as that, and that nonsense and absurdity – as well as chance and caprice – play a big part in how our lives play out. Nonetheless…

I was always very ambitious, very driven. I’ve noted all this before so you can take it as read. I wanted to move forward, if for no other reason that I wanted to test myself and to feel the rush of wind in my hair. That’s not the case anymore.

I sat there and defined it, separating out the strands in terms of ego, which plays a huge part in all of this. It’s the fire that burns in us, but if we don’t ply it with fuel it dies down. This is what has happened to me.

I separated ego into two strands, the structural and the tactical, though they might be better understood as the professional and the personal.

The structural/professional is how you see yourself in relation to others within a work environment. It’s a broader, longer journey. There’s a ladder and you want to climb it. You plot and strive, imagining yourself achieving higher professional goals and attaining ever-greater rewards. It’s competitive in the sense of how driven you are to surpass your professional rivals. It’s about recognition and your place in the world. Sense of self and sheer prestige are wrapped up in this also.

The tactical/personal is more everyday, moment to moment. It’s how you react and respond to challenges and stimuli on a personal level. It’s how ego interplays in your direct relationships with others, strangers, as well as friends and loved ones. How much we are prepared to set aside, and how much we feel the need to assert.

I was always ‘strong’ – if that’s the term – in both of these. Now, it seems, I have little real interest in the structural/professional. It’s no more than habit and knee jerk reaction. I think in my mind that this is what I should be or do, but it’s the residue of former times when it throbbed of its own accord.

I was so directed then, though to be fair, while I was competitive, I never really saw others as my rivals. I always thought I was better. I applied myself to surpassing the job itself. My interest in that now is no more than theoretical – I’ve done it before, I know I can do it again, I feel no need to prove it because, when it comes down to it, I have no real interest in it anymore.

I think the tactical/personal ego is just as strong as ever, and it plays a part in how people see me. I guess much of it becomes your persona. It’s problematic in some ways. I think most people see me as very capable. They believe I’m confident, and I’m certainly more assertive than average. I speak and act with a level of authority, and so the natural assumption is that I’m made for bigger things, and that’s what I want. I wonder, though. In myself, the private me, I have grave doubts about much of this. I’m coming to the point where I think I should just let go.

Without the professional ego raging in me I have no burning desire to achieve outside of the very practical need to set myself up for retirement, if possible. There’s none of me in it anymore and it leaves a big gap.

My sole motivations these days, outside the practical, are to do the best I can because there’s meaning in effort and competence; and, related really, to provide fair value for reward.

That second gives me some leeway because for a long time now they’ve been getting more out of me than I get from them. The solution has always been to match the rewards to effort, but perhaps what’s now more consistent with what I feel is that I reduce my effort to match reward.

I’m not sure if I can dial down so easily. It’s not as if I set my effort to a value – I just give everything I have. By giving everything I have though leaves little left for me. And in a time when I’m conscious of a lack, I probably need to set myself to gain/regain what I don’t have – which means making space for it.

I have a meeting with my manager this afternoon where I intend on following up on the discussions we had weeks ago about my future. If he tells me that yes, here it is, I’ll probably accept it. But if that’s not the case, as I expect, I’m mulling over telling him that I’m going to dial things back. Basically, expect less of me.

Given the mental health challenges of recent times, this might be the most sensible thing I could do: I need to take a break from the job for myself. And, if I can, need to find those things that warm me inside and give meaning to what I do. Conversation and affection are much of it, and a place in the world.

Rough days


Today is a rough day. It’s been coming on for the last few days. It’s what it’s like in these times. A few good days, a few indifferent days, a few bad days.

There probably is something merely cyclical to it, a propensity, or vulnerability after every so long. That’s how it was before. In this case, it’s been hurried on by circumstances.

I’m a very busy man at work. I’ve commented on that before. I feel pretty stretched thin at times, and at times I feel as if things don’t let up then I’ll end up burnt out. I give myself until Christmas when thankfully I have a break.

I’m on a bunch of projects and some of them high profile. I’m doing most of the work because, as I’ve mentioned before, it becomes easier to do it yourself than it is to wait for someone else to do it. There’s one project, particularly which is tricky and complex and there’s pressure from on high to get it on. I have to report up to the board regularly.

I don’t have complete control over the project because the build itself must be done by our vendor partner, who is very unreliable, both in terms of responsiveness and the quality of their work. To be fair, they’re just as stretched thin as we are.

For me, it’s frustrating because I can never get any traction. They’re slow to get things done and then it’s wrong anyway. There’s a great sense of powerlessness when you’re busier than is healthy and yet you must wait for others to respond and do their thing. And all the while the work piles up and the logjam grows.

On Friday it came to a head when we came to test the latest version and found it greatly lacking. I just want this behind me so I can move onto the next thing and have one less thing to worry about. Instead, I must go back to the vendor with the issues documented in detail, including the to-be, and, hopefully, come up with solutions.

At the same time, I have to manage the expectations upstream of me. I don’t want to rush anything into production that isn’t right, but I’m mindful of how much is riding on this. Then there’s the program of work this is holding up. And there’s a question in the back of my mind, why are we spending so much time on this when we seem certain to deploy a replacement application early next year?

To compound all this, I have no cut-out. There’s no-one I can turn to assist in any meaningful way and no-one who has the knowledge to provide another opinion of merit. It’s all on me.

I was exasperated on Friday, and the general fatigue that’s been present for a while closed in on me. I had an uncomfortable experience on Friday night and for most of the weekend felt wasted. It was certainly a physical sense, but also very much a mental thing.

That’s a big part of the problem with working from home these days – you’re always in your workplace. My home was my sanctuary before. I could leave my problems in the office and retreat to the secure environs of my home. Now that there’s never any variation – never any office time, not even any social time out – it feels as if my home has become infected by my work.

I’ve turned up to ‘work’ again today and done all the things I needed to do, including sending an email upstream flagging the problems we have, and potential consequences. I’ve touched base with the vendor, written documentation, sent emails, kept busy.

I’m buggered, though. I can easily see myself needing a break, and I guess it’s lucky there’s a couple of public holidays in the offing. What I really need is a proper break, as in a change of scenery: me, and everyone else.

I’ll pull it all together; I’ll manage a way through – because I always do. Doesn’t feel a healthy way to be, though.

Just as an aside, I mentioned a week or so ago how I felt a disconnect between the man who does the work and the man writing these words. I had a dream the other day. In it, I was with a friend, and we were waiting for someone else to join us. When he didn’t arrive, we went out searching for him. It was midway through the search that I realised that the man we were searching for was me! But here I was! Wasn’t I?

It was a curious dream and a curious feeling. What do they call that? Dis-association?

Hang in there


I get that this lockdown has been pretty tough, and getting tougher every day. And I appreciate that all of us are struggling with it to some extent, but some pretty badly. And I share the impatience of most people. But…

There’s no shortage of talking points around this. We’re bombarded every day by conflicting, hostile narratives and click-bait headlines, most of which make everything feel worse (the media’s reputation has taken a pummeling).

I have genuine sympathy for the premier and the medical professionals behind him who’ve mapped out the course out of this because they’re in an impossible situation. There are so many different opinions even among experts, let alone the self-styled ‘experts’ in the media and online that there’s no right answer for them. No matter what they say or do, there will be someone critical of it. In cases like that, it’s best to stick to your guns and hold the line. That’s what they’ve been doing.

I wish we were coming out of this quicker, and with more certainty, but the intermittent flare-ups along the way worry me. They’re proof of how quickly this thing can get out of control. In the wash-up, it seems very sensible to me that we err on the side of caution. An extra week or two now is better than further months in lockdown if we don’t get it right.

That’s a very sensible, level-headed take on the situation. I understand when others aren’t so level-headed. The media is very unhelpful – really, their motivation seems not to enlighten but to inflame. And many are directly affected by lockdown. If I were the owner of a small business or in hospitality, I’d be chafing too. And then there is common folk just doing it hard.

I read a lot of comments like that on social media. It feels quite foreign to me. I know we live in times when to share is second nature, but there’s so much I read I wouldn’t dream of sharing publicly. I don’t know if that says more about me or others.

It may also seem a strange comment from a man writing on his publicly accessed blog. I’ve been pretty candid here for many years and have made a point of not holding back when it comes to the uncomfortable stuff. My defence is that I write this anonymously, though in this day and age it’s probably not that hard to find out my true identity. More fundamentally, I write this for myself, and it’s a fundamental part of my mental health because by writing I will often lance the boil, and as I lay down these words I find an understanding lacking before. It’s therapy.

I guess the point is, I don’t write for clicks or likes. If you read this or not is a matter of indifference. I’m not rapt up in how you respond or what your reaction is. I’m insulated from that, whereas that seems the very essence of so much social media these days: not just look at me, but see me. And acknowledge it.

I’m sure there have been theses written on the topic, but I suspect the difference is generational. I grew up without any social media, and in a time where computers were new-fangled and the internet unimagined. I was never conditioned to be so transparent with every feeling and event in my life.

I often feel uncomfortable reading the intimate news of strangers. I can understand people being more open on something like Facebook when the audience is hand-picked friends and acquaintances. Still, it’s puzzling on a site like Twitter to read of every raw and intimate detail of a strangers life and mentality. Mostly, I don’t want to know about it.

That stands by way of caveat when I say that I don’t want to act the victim. Terrible things are happening, but I refuse to be cowed by them because this is my life. It will be what you make it to be. I’ll deal with the facts of it, but I won’t pander to the base elements of the situation, nor give in to hysteria or self-pity. I don’t intend for that to sound harsh – these are my decisions.

How others feel, or choose to feel, is their business, and they have my support. I just don’t need to read about every woeful detail of it. I may be wrong, but I think we have a duty to each other to stay strong. And we’ve done that mainly – just a little more, just a little longer.

Replenishing


This pandemic, and lockdown, in particular, has been challenging in many ways. I sense, in Melbourne, that some people are getting close to the end of their tether as the infection rate very stubbornly hovers just above where we want it to be. We yearn for restrictions to ease and freedom to be returned to us, and it’s close enough to be tantalising – but no more than that.

At least we’re not sick. We’ve been lucky in Australia, and even in Melbourne, where it’s been worse than anywhere else. I don’t know if we fully understand that, but it’s a pretty hollow claim when you’re one of those who got sick from this or have a family member who didn’t survive it. We’re not out of those woods yet, but it’s better than it was.

From a purely financial point of view, this pandemic has been devastating to many business owners and workers who’ve had their hours cut, or lost their job altogether. For thousands of people across Australia (and many more around the world), this pandemic represents a cruel twist of fortune.

I’ve been well throughout this. It’s probably the healthiest I’ve been through winter for many years. Psychologically, there are ups and downs, but I figure that’s probably normal and to be accepted. There’s no great joy, and I’m a fair way off my buoyant best, but when so much is closed off to you, then you cop it sweet and be thankful you’re no worse off.

The anomaly, for me, is the financial side of it. Knowing how many are struggling, I’m reluctant to admit than I’m better off now – by a fair margin – than I was going into this.

Most of it is in savings on expenses that I’m not incurring living from home – travel and social costs (coffee, lunch, the occasional night out), not to mention no hair cut for 7 months. I’m spending more on groceries, and my utilities will be higher, but that’s more than offset by the savings. I did a rough calculation and reckoned I’m saving about $500/month, net. Add in a tax return, and I’m in a financial position not known for about 10 years.

It means that I have money in the bank and my credit card is just about paid off. Like pretty well everyone, I’ve done a lot of online shopping through this period. Initially, it was an expense to get myself ready for working from home – another monitor, an office chair, various cabling, a USB port, and so on.

I then gradually moved on to replenishing my home. I never pay full price for anything, and there’ve been good deals throughout. A lot of my stuff was old or worn-out, and so I set about replacing, and sometimes augmenting my goods.

I started with simple things. I bought a few pairs of good jeans to replace the tattered ones I had. I knew they’d get a good work-out. After that, I turfed out my old shoes and got a couple of new pairs to get around in. And I bought some much-needed clothes for the office, not realising that I may not ever get back there.

I bought a new, much better microwave oven to replace the old one I got nearly 20 years ago. The latex mattress I had was near 20 years old too and making me sick. I managed to get a replacement QS mattress for the price of a single, and I’m much more comfortable now.

Since I do so much cooking I’m fussy about my tools and kitchenware, and strategic about what I need to get. I have an idea in my head of what needs to be replaced or updated and bit by bit I did that through this period, adding in some cast-iron, and last week picking up a new steel bin to replace the shonky plastic bin I’ve had for years,

Over the weekend I ordered a new kettle – half price – to replace the broken and scaly kettle I’ve had since about 2007. I’ve bought sundry other things – storage stuff, a new pillow, a wallet that holds my phone, etc.

And so on. Nothing too expensive, outside the mattress, but even that was half-price. I feel a bit more adult now. A little less tawdry. Things wear out or get pretty battered. I guess that goes for me as well. At least there are some things I can replace.

It feels odd. I’m locked at home and have little life, but around me, the bits and pieces are being refreshed and replenished. So it is with most everyone else, too. Home delivery is like a new sport these days and a pretty lame form of entertainment. But it’s something.