Just simple


I was invited to the Rising Sun Hotel on Sunday to catch up with some friends. I accepted, mainly from a sense of duty. I’d rather be home on a Sunday evening, and I set myself to write through the afternoon. They were people I was overdue to meet up with though, so I agreed.
As it turned out I managed to produce some meaningful stuff before I headed out at about 3. I got there a little after 20 minutes later and walked in to a crowded bar with a three piece band playing the corner. It was loud and festive. The band was excellent and played a good selection of music, and I joined my friends at a long table.

For the next three hours or so I shared a bottle of red with the husband in between chatting about the footy and the state of our polity, as well as a recent trip he made to study in Oxford. Between us we would often look away from the band to the screen in the corner showing the big match between the Demons and GWS. Often I would find myself singing along to the tunes or keeping time to them, recalling times before when the songs were fresh and new and the performers themselves – names back in the eighties – were contemporary.

I felt near enough the youngest there. It was a crowd of 50-60-70 year olds, locals mainly I figured, come down for their regular Sunday afternoon fix. As the afternoon went on the small open space in front of the band filled with dancers, mostly women, well-preserved, energetic and joyous. I watched, imagining the journey that had brought them to this place. Later in the afternoon more husbands and fathers joined in, clumsier in their movements, less attuned and more structured.

I veered between a subtle melancholy and a pleasant reverie as I looked on. On the one hand I feared becoming as they were. It seemed to me, unfairly perhaps, that life had become less urgent and in its stead was something more narrowly defined and easily managed. It may be when I get to that stage of my life I feel the same, but this far out it spooked me. Fun as it was, and even though I seek to live smaller, I never want to lose that striving edge. I don’t ever want to be complacent, though I understand it very well. I don’t judge them, but I don’t want to wind down, no matter how pleasant.

But then on the other hand I found myself smiling at their joie de vivre, the sheer sensual pleasure they took from joining with friends and dancing. I admired it and felt warmed by it. My perspective was overturned. Here they are making the most of life and enjoying it – what can be wrong with that? Besides, haven’t I done just this a thousand times before? It seemed ridiculous to me then that I should ascribe a deeper meaning to something so simple, but it says a lot about me.

I was there nearly four hours and drove home afterwards in the failing light. It seemed so long since I had done this that I took pleasure from being on the open road and free to drive in any direction. As it turned out I only drove home, though I did contemplate stopping on the way back to pick up dinner.

That was Sunday, and in a way this is why I write – nothing is simple to me.

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Home with my fantasies


I’ve done well this winter. There’ve been sick people all around me and a lot of sick days taken but other than a day off I’ve not been crook enough at any stage to justify a day home sick. Until today.

In all honesty I’m not terrible, but it’s uncomfortable to do anything, and plus the more I rest the sooner I’ll get over it. I’ve got a classic cold, all blocked up, body aching, can’t keep warm. It started coming on yesterday when the back of my neck and across the shoulder blades began to ache. I had sniffles. Later I got the coldness, which seems to come from the inside out. I got up to go to work this morning but without any conviction. I felt a bit wonky so back to bed I went thinking, I’ll just rest up for a bit.

I went out before to get some groceries. It’s a nice sunny morning. Coming back I started to feel hazy. I’ll spend the rest of the day doing nothing.

It’s not a great day to be away, and I took that into consideration. I’m still busy and today I was expecting something important to come through. On top of that, the applications closed yesterday for the job I’ve pitched for and there’s a possibility I might have heard something today. It can wait.

One thing I might do is lay back and reflect on certain things. I’m someone who benefits from deep contemplation. By ‘benefit’ I mean it feels good to consider these things but it’s rare that anything tangible actually comes of it.

Anyway, I’ll be thinking about women today, one of my abiding fixations. In general terms, I’ve stepped back from everything right now. There were some interchanges with some girls from work a little while back, but that’s not something I want to get into. I’ve kept it friendly since, and no more than that.

I was in a meeting last week sitting next to a woman I’ve spoken about before, attractive, elegant and fun, and we always connect. She put her hand on my leg under the table at one point and I don’t know if it was done unthinkingly, but much as I like her I’m interested in her like that. Work plays a big part in everything and I’ll only waive those reservations for someone I’m certain of.

Someone new started last week and for a brief period I was bewitched by the gap in her teeth. That can happen. She seems a lot of fun and I moved into flirtation mode without thinking and she responded, but I’ve pulled back now. It’s a dangerous game these days and besides, half the time I do these things out of habit. I’m a compulsive flirter, which probably explains why I have better relations with women than I do men.

Then we circle back to A. I’m putting no effort into her now, and haven’t for a while. Occasionally we intersect and the conversation veers between polite and flirtatious, either one or the other. In either case, I don’t place much stock in it. It’s got to a curious stage where I’ll tease her sometimes, daring her to respond. I don’t think she realises it, but I’m half taking the piss. It’s like I’m on the outside looking in, bemused by the situation, waiting for her to figure it out but letting it go until then, and if.

I’m cool with the situation, but now and then lately an image flashes into my mind of the delighted smile she gave me when I surprised her on the station platform. I wish we could be friends but I’m not as invested in it as I was before.

There, that’s much of the thinking I might do – except when I’m rugged up warmly in bed I might allow my mind to slide down a particularly alluring possibility or two, just for the fun and fantasy of it. You’re allowed to do that when you’re sick.

A winter weekend


Friday night was the annual wine tasting event down at Docklands, and as I have for the last ten years odd went along with JV.
It was as these events go, pretty standard. We sampled the wine, nibbled on cheese, and speculated on what we would purchase. Last year JV was wiped out by 9pm. This year he paced himself better, though come the end of the night he was ready to tumble into a warm bed.

For whatever reason I’m a much better drinker than JV, and indeed most people, as good as the very best. By that I mean I’m relatively immune from the effects of alcohol. That’s not to say I don’t get pissed, but it takes me a lot longer, and at a blood alcohol level that leaves many people tottering I’m as steady as a die. There are people who claim to have never seen me drunk. They’re wrong, but it’s an easy mistake to make.

I was in a good mood, which made me flirtatious. There weren’t a lot to flirt with and, other than with the wine director, those energies were directed into the fascinating conversations I had with the winemakers about their craft. You go from one wine to the next and one is as simple as the day, and the next full of complexity and mystery. It’s an act of alchemy which with my scientific bent I’m endlessly curious about. Why is it so? How does it work? What’s the secret? Is it the soil? What’s the difference between picking early and later? And so on. I reckon I’d love to be a winemaker for the fascination alone.

Afterwards we went to a Turkish restaurant nearby wgere we had the usual combination of grilled meats and break, hearty stuff every bit of it. It was a bit after ten by the time I got home, just after the final siren of the footy.

I stayed up to watch the replay and hit the sack some time after midnight and slept like a log.

It was a wintry weekend best spent indoors with rain and hail and piercing winds and even snow in parts. I didn’t even get to walk Rigby, and had the heater cranked to eleven.

The brief period I made it out early Saturday morning it was sunny and blue skied. I shared a Danish and coffee with Cheeseboy and did my shopping. It had started to spit with rain by the time I got home and thereafter it was the classic weekend, reading and cooking and writing and watching the footy and thinking about women. Can’t complain.

No small things


I went to the footy at the MCG with Cheeseboy on Saturday afternoon. We had a fine day sitting high up in the members stand watching an exciting game, and adjourning to the nearest bar for a quick pint before the game and at half time. The only downside was the result.

We caught the train back afterwards with it full of folk like us in their footy regalia returning home as we were. There were as usual a lot of families, generally fathers with their sons, though occasionally a complete family out for a day at the footy. It’s good to see and very familiar to me. I’ve been on trains like that a thousand times before and looked upon happy, smiling kids cavorting in the colours of their favourite football team. As a kid I don’t recall ever catching the train with my dad to the footy – we always drove – but later as a teenager I would be travelling solo among them.

Sitting behind us was an old man who opined on the game we had just attended. Like me he was an Essendon supporter. I didn’t set eyes on him, and presume he was old – somewhere north of 70 – by his voice and manner. Every so often I would listen in, finding little to disagree with. I imagined him a tall, spare, dignified man on the edge of austere. It was in his voice, which was assured and intelligent. I liked him. I respected him. In my imagination he had a lifetime behind him of barracking for the same club as me. He had paid his dues and along the way learned a thing or two about the game. As I got off the train at Hampton I thought, that’s me in 20 odd years.

Walking onto the platform at Hampton I felt a moment of unexpected emotion. That doesn’t happen to me much. I’m sensitive, but it leads more often to reflection, even contemplation. As you know, I think things out. Saturday I didn’t have time for that. Ahead of me was a trail of people having got out of the train ahead of us. It was a well-known scene. I cast eyes upon them then I felt a brief but intense mistiness. As I followed Cheeseboy it cleared and I began to wonder at it. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I had hit another long delayed milestone that day.

I used to go to the footy 18 games out of 22, and for near on 35 years, from when I was just a kid. By the time I encountered my difficulties I’d slowed some, but still probably managed 10 games a year, most of them at the MCG – my MCC membership was one of my most cherished possessions. Once my difficulties hit it slowed more. I couldn’t afford to go as much and my MCC membership lapsed, plus I was living a pretty unsettled life. I probably went to 2-3 games a year.

Now things have improved I’m not going to any more games really. A lot of it is that I still don’t have the spare cash, but much of it is now habit. I watch every game, but it’s from the comfort of my home.

In May this year I finally got my MCC membership reinstated after nearly 5 years dormancy. And this is the milestone, which I was oblivious of until I stepped onto the platform at Hampton railway station. Saturday was the first time in 5 years that I’d attended the footy as a MCC member. Watching the footy from the salubrious surrounds of the members was not the point – the point was that I had regained something I had lost, and thought lost permanently at different times. The milestone was that I had reclaimed one more small thing along the way to reclaiming something of the life I had lost and hope to regain.

It was one of those days Saturday. Getting off the train – all happening then – Cheeseboy invited me to have dinner with the family at a nearby restaurant. I visit them at home regularly, but am wary of intruding too much upon their time or hospitality. Not unusually I made my excuses at first, claiming I couldn’t afford it. Don’t worry, he said, we’ll shout you. Still feeling a little tender I agreed.

I sat with them and had dinner and what this means to me is hard to explain. I’m close to them and they have been great friends to me over a long period of time. I’m very grateful to them. These days it means much more because I don’t really have a family of my own. I’m familiar with the forms of family life because for many years I was well and truly immersed in it – family lunches, birthday celebrations, mothers day, barbecues, Christmas, and so on, my life was full of such occasions. As you do, I took it for granted. Then, with the death of my mother, all of that ended. If there was any doubt then the rupture with my sister terminated all bit the most random contact. Effectively I have been cold turkey on all forms of family contact for about 6 years.

I’m a resilient dude. It is what it is, I accept it. I don’t mope or feel sorry for myself. Still, sometimes I miss it, and certainly on the key dates. The Cheeses aren’t my family but I can feel something of that by proxy simply by sharing in some of their occasions. They’re very good like that, especially Mrs Cheese. I sit their feel it and remember and it’s very pleasant just to be amid it.

It was like that on Saturday night, which was really a low-key event. I felt humbled by it. Yesterday I sent them a message thanking them for sharing their life with me. It’s no small thing.

Time for me


Very busy lately and struggling to get away from my desk because if I don’t do it no-one else can and just because of that I took Wednesday off as a mental health day. Right up to the moment I sent the message to the office Wednesday morning I doubted that I would actually do it. I feel like I’m cheating when I take a sickie, which I am. As well, my mind nagged me with the things that had to be done but fuck it, I don’t work as a brain surgeon and no matter what I think there’s nothing that couldn’t wait. And so I just rolled over in bed and had another snooze.
There’s value in days like Wednesday. Sometimes you just need time to get back in touch with yourself. You come back better for it, and if you don’t do it you run the risk of winding down. I’m as fit as a Mallee bull these days, both mind and body, but that’s not to say that the mental edges might not begin to fray unless I took some time for myself.

It was a delightful day. I lay in bed for a while reading with Rigby snuggled up against me and a latte on the table beside me.

Later I wandered up the road in the winter sunshine. Had a coffee and a slice, bought some groceries, and picked up my dry-cleaning. Back at home I read a little more, did my tax, browsed the internet, and basically chilled out.

As the afternoon went on I flicked Netflix on and watched as I did some cooking – a beef, mushroom, caramelised onion and ale pie first, then a pumpkin coconut curry. I had myself a hot bath then had dinner of the pie while I watched the news. The rest of the night was similarly mellow. Come work yesterday I was in a different frame of mind, which continues as we speak.

My second coming


What an interesting week it has been, though in subtle ways. This time last week I was unhappy at having my plans thwarted. Today I feel refreshed.

What has happened? Little that’s material. I was knocked back from one job, but had another suggested to me, and another couple at work mooted to me. Nothing is ever definite until it is, but at least there appears a promising trend.

After my disappointment, I bounced back quickly, as always I do. I’d be interested to place myself of today against the man I was ten years ago and make a comparison. In many ways, I would be pretty much the same, but much has happened in that time, and there are differences. I’m tempted to think most of them are positive.

I was always a strong man, but that strength has been proved by experience in the years since. In so doing it has transmogrified into something more authentic. It’s the difference between muscles wrought in a gym and those that come from hard labour. The whole experience has belatedly made me more open and accepting. I am more mindful.

I’m just as smart as I ever was, which came as a relief. I feared being out of the game for so long that my reflexes may have failed me, but I’m it and a bit more besides. In general, I’m less diplomatic than I used to be, though still capable of charm. As I’ve explained, my experiences have left me with impatient with the insincere and insubstantial. Life’s too short. I remain very effective.

One odd difference is that I seem to have hit a late prime. A friend a few weeks back said I was looking better than I had for a long time. I think much of that comes down to a state of mind. When you’re weighed down by the struggle to effectively survive it impacts on appearance and demeanour, and a revision in attitude since has probably helped.

At the same time, I am looking good. I’m fitter than I was ten years ago, and most days I walk out the front door, better looking too. I come from a good-looking family and so the importance of appearance, if not a sense of vanity, was imbued in me from an early age. I still recall quite vividly my mum telling me that I would grow up to be a man with the good looks of someone like William Holden. As recently as a few weeks ago I was emphatically reminded that I look just like Colin Firth – not something I agree with. But still.

(A peculiarity – like Benjamin Button, I seem to be ageing in reverse. I’ve always looked youthful for my age, but it seems now that as my ageing has slowed still more than my contemporaries are going by me more quickly. I have no wrinkles at all, and though I have grey hairs they make my hair sandy. I was always worried that one day I would wake up and find it had all finally caught up to me. I was afraid that this youthful advantage would be denied to me and the opportunities it gave me lost. Bitter day that would be! I no longer think that. As long as I stay healthy and fit I’ll always be youthful).

On top of all this came the realisation a couple of weeks ago as I sorted through my books that there was still a lot of life ahead of me, much to look forward too and be excited by. That’s an attitude I want to embrace, and having brought it to the forefront of my mind I find it infusing me with expectation. It’s helped by positive signs on the work front, as well as with my writing.

I’ve come through tough times and survived. I’m reframing this time of my life as a late flowering, a renaissance, and it’s amazing how that shift in perspective changes things.

One thing that hasn’t changed yet is my relationship status. It’s shocking to think but for basically the last 6 years I wouldn’t allow myself the possibility of a serious relationship. I wanted to get things right first. I needed to stabilise. The time is now right and fits well with this state of mind.

Nothing is more complex than relationships. I’ve documented the situation with A., which is ongoing. I’ve given up trying to work that out, except to acknowledge that she likes and respects me but there is something that keeps her from me. That’s up to her to figure out now. I hope she does.

In the meantime, some episodes on Friday night brought to light other possibilities.

I’m very wary of being the cute older guy that younger women want to have a fling with. I’m not against a fling, but my priorities are more serious. All that is doubled when the women at question are from work.

There was a function in the office on Friday night I helped to organise. A. was there for a while and very typically was aloof for part of it before reaching out to mitigate it. Strange that the lightness and flirtiness of her emails no longer translate into the flesh. As I said, she has to come to terms with that.

There was another girl there I’ve become friendly with in recent months. The first time I set eyes on her I felt a visceral attraction to her, but it was purely physical. In recent times we’ve overlapped and got to know each other well. She’s smart and fun and very attractive and has a lovely smile and likes me. It’s at the stage where it might quickly become something more if we choose it – a drink, some flirtation, then…

On Friday there was both drinking and flirtation, but other people too. I enjoyed it, but at the back of my mind was two things: A.; and the knowledge that I’m a much older colleague of hers. She’d be about 28-30, too young for a serious long-term (A. is 35).

I knew about this woman, but another emerged on the night. Perhaps it was the alcohol that did it, but a woman I’d merely nodded to in the past or exchanged conventional greetings with was quite aggressively flirtatious with me. I enjoyed it. I always enjoy flirtation and aggressive flirtation is my favourite kind.

She’s not as attractive as the other, but has a raw sexuality which is alluring. In basic terms, I’d love to fuck her and think it would be a great fuck too, but I almost certainly won’t. She’s about the same age, less pretty, more assertive, and probably wants no more than a fuck if her behaviour Friday is any guide.

I’m gratified by the attention and glad for the possibilities, but doubt there is anything I can really do with either of these women, for the reasons I said above. It might be different if I didn’t work with them, but even then, I want a keeper.

My gut-feel is something probably will happen with the pretty one, but in any case, the trends are positive. Renaissance it is.

Soaking it up


The week before last I don’t think I lifted an alcoholic drink to my lips. I don’t mind the odd solo tipple but I’m pretty much a social drinker, and very accomplished at it I am, too.

Last week I reckon I had about a half share in about a dozen bottles of wine, and had a few beers on top of that.

I blame Cheeseboy, though it actually JV started it. Last Sunday week he came around to watch the footy and we went through a couple of bottles of red. On Monday Cheeseboy turned up unexpectedly and we shared three bottles. On Tuesday I went to his place and we had another bottle of red. On Wednesday JV came over to watch the State of Origin and another two bottles. Thursday was a night off, thankfully, but I was into it again on Friday.

I had a quick beer after work then headed back home to Hampton. I caught up with Cheeseboy at a local tapas bar where I had a beer, a couple of glasses of albarino, then half a bottle of a French red.

Saturday night Cheeseboy came over for dinner. We had a couple of glasses of German beer, a bottle of red between us, when JV came over and we went through another couple bottles of red plus a bottle of Chateau Tanunda sticky.

Yesterday – nothing! That’s the plan today also, though I have a sneaky idea that I’ll get a call from Cheeseboy late in the day. Tomorrow night I’m seeing Donna, so doubtless more wine, if not cocktails as well.

I have to say it’s not a healthy lifestyle. I reckon I’ve stacked on a couple of kilos, which is sad as I was looking good. Should be easy to shift off if I’m good and I promise, I’ll be good.