Restoration


Except to pick up the newspaper from the driveway, I didn’t walk out the front door yesterday. It was a quiet, indulgent day, and exactly what I needed. I put the heating on and lay on the couch and watched TV.

It blew outside, and sometimes it rained and throughout it was cool. There comes a time every year when the seasons change. That’s usually around Easter, but Easter is later this year, and the change has come regardless, I think. There’ll still be warm days, just as there were chilly days before, but the balance has tilted the other way. I don’t mind. It’s fine to be cooped up inside when it’s wintry without.

It did have a cosy feel yesterday. I watched an old footy match and most of a couple of movies before, mid-afternoon, I got into bed, fully clothed. I read for a while with an eclectic soundtrack streaming in the background. I grew tired and set my book aside. I closed my eyes and to the sounds of the Four Seasons, as vibrantly re-composed by Max Richter, I fell into a nap.

All of this was just what I needed. I was so weary, but with it, I felt a little off, as sometimes you will when you’re so tired. Out of sorts, I guess, my physic uncalibrated. My strength replenished itself as the day went on. By late afternoon I felt notably better than I did on waking up. Today, much restored, I am better again.

I finished the day watching a rerun of Se7en and later in bed reading again, before plunging into sleep.

I plan to take it quietly again today, but I’ve already been out to give Rigby the walk he missed out on yesterday. The wind is high in the trees. It reminds of the way surf sounds. The sky is low with clouds, and there’s no-one about.

I want to consolidate the gains I made yesterday, but I also plan to be a little more active today. I’ll cook a moussaka later. I need to bottle the tomato sauce I made. I’ll clear out my study a little more and, if I can manage it by myself, will move the filing cabinet to the garage and bring in my bike. I have a kit to turn it into a stationary bike, handy in times like these. And I expect the delivery of a new office chair later.

There’s work again tomorrow, but I hope and think the peak has passed for me. I sense around me in the meetings I have and what I read on social media that people are working, but mixing it with other things. I think that’s natural, but while I’ve set myself tasks every day, I complete them in my own time pretty much. I’ve been diligent, and have been working 9 hour days through this. Maybe I can begin to ease back. Once BAU returns, it’ll be a lot simpler – and Easter, not that it means much, is less than a week away.

In control


It’s just after 5pm, and I’ve knocked off after what feels like another busy, but productive, day working from home.

As it has been the last few, it’s a pretty day. The sky is blue, the temperature mild. Streets are quiet too, but then that’s the new normal.

It’s too early to say if I’ve formed a new set of routines, but it feels quite comfortable and seamless. Much of the routine is set for me. Every morning I have scheduled team meetings at 9.30 and 10.15 via Teams to catch-up on what’s going on. Today there was a much broader online catch-up at 10.30 for the whole department. I was on mute throughout as I didn’t need or want to say anything. It came as a distraction to me, and as I listened, I continued to work.

What becomes clear in times like these are the different ways people operate. It’s been said that extroverts will struggle in this current environment, and I can hear it in the too enthusiastic contributions to these meetings. I get nothing out of that. In fact, to be honest, I find it mildly irritating. There’s a lot of frivolity and mucking up, much more so than normal. These are abnormal times though, so it’s permitted and I turn a blind ear to it.

There was a clamour at the end of the meeting to make it a weekly thing. If today is anything to go by, there’s not much meat on the bone, but it’s not about that. It’s about contact and connection, and probably a lot of things I wrote about yesterday. The everyday routines are slipping away, and in times like this – for many – a meeting such as this is like clinging to a bit of wreckage in the sea after the ship has sunk beneath them.

I’m self-motivated, self-directed, self-sufficient. I draw from the inside, not externally, which paints me as a typical introvert. I prefer to be independent and do my own thing. Working from home presents no great challenge to me as I don’t need to be led or told (and prefer not to be). It works well for me now, and probably will continue to, but it’s something I need to be wary of.

My instinctive reaction today was typical. I get nothing out of what seems to be an artificial frisson, but then I’m the man who’ll do go it alone even against the best advice. I don’t like being needful or dependent or entangled, but it’s meant that when I should have asked for help in the past, I never did. That was a mistake, and something I need to be better at in general.

Today I got plenty of exercise, and perhaps I have those routines in place. This morning I went for a walk up to and behind the shopping centre, and to Hampton station. I climbed the stairs of the overpass and returned the way I came, just to make it a bit more strenuous. This afternoon I took Rigby for a walk in the sunshine. As it stands, I’ve completed a bit over 7,000 steps today.

I’ve also made a big pot of tomato sauce, and dinner is in the oven. Tomorrow I plan to make myself an omelette for breakfast before my first meeting. I feel in control.

 

Day two


Now that I’m working from home for God knows how long I’m facing the same challenges as thousands of others having to suddenly adapt to it.

I’ve done it before, and once FT when I had my own business, so not a huge stretch – though all the stuff around it is very different.

I’ve often found it much more productive working from home. There are not the distractions or interruptions of the office. You won’t waste time going up and down in the office (I race between floors), nor the general pointlessness of meetings. You work to your own natural rhythm. I generally start early-ish, then might drift off to have a shower or breakfast. Often times, I find myself to caught up in work that I look up and find hours have gone by. I’m always having lunch late. And sometimes I’ll work in the evening also, dipping in and out.

I’ve got my home office sorted after taking delivery of another monitor yesterday. I’ve got a Surface Pro, which is nice and portable, but not ideal for heavy-duty working – I’ve got it hooked up to two monitors in the office. Here I’ve got the one.

I think it’s important to create a routine in situations like this and to make an effort to remain active. I wake at the same time as I would if I was going to work. Instead of showering and getting dressed I make myself a coffee and check the important email from overnight, and respond as needed – I’m working if an offshore team. I’ll head back to bed for about an hour then catching up on news and social media, and maybe a chapter of the book I’m reading (currently, James: Varieties of Religious Experience).

I have online meetings first thing, but after that, I make an effort to go up the road to get a take-away coffee, while I still can. I’ve set myself goals in terms of activity, and won’t walk out the front door until I’ve had at least a thousand paces under my belt. I’ve got a bunch of exercise rituals I’ll tick off through the day, and I’ve committed to a minimum of 6,000 paces daily – at work, it’s nearer to 10,000, and around 13,000 more recently.

Here there are no stairs to climb, no place to roam come lunch, nobody to see – I’m not allowed. I go for my morning walk, and I walk Rigby in the afternoon or evening.

I plan to take a break around 4pm to do some cooking – a rice pudding, today. Tomorrow I’m making zucchini and feta fritters. For dinner tonight I’m having a homemade pizza. I also have a bunch of ironing to do around 5.30.

I’ll do a bit of work after that, have my dinner, and maybe I’ll have a hot tub after that. I was severely fatigued up to this morning, but some good rest has had a restorative effect. I still fancy in a bathful of radox tonight.

I’m umming and ahhing over my appearance. I dress casually through the day, naturally. But the haircut I had booked for Saturday has been cancelled, and it might be a while until I get my next one. I might go long then.

I’ve carried a beard since Christmas, but I thought I might shave it off in lockdown, which sounds counter-intuitive. It’s a close-cut beard that makes me look rugged – very much like a Viking. It also makes me look about ten years older because it’s predominantly grey, with pale sandy blonde bits. I like the beard, but I like seeming younger, too.

This is day two. I reckon there’s probably another month of this at least, and possibly much more. Whatever I do now will evolve into something more, as will the situation itself. I have a job now, am busy, but as the situation deteriorates – as we all know it will – what will come?

The old cliche, one day at a time.

Coming together


Monday afternoon on the Australia day holiday I caught up with Cheeseboy and off we went to a Bushfires Support event at a bar in Black Rock. It was going off in Black Rock. It was a bright, sunny day, and the clientele had spilled out onto the pavement. The windows had been flung open at the venue, and a live band playing songs from the seventies and eighties had the buoyant crowd bopping. It was very festive.

There was a distinct demographic present. More than 50% of the crowd would’ve been over 60, well to do and friendly. I looked about and rubbed shoulders with them, occasionally stopping to have a short conversation, and I could see my mum there, and my stepfather.

Mum would’ve been in her element. It was her sort of music, and she was never shy of having a dance. Such a friendly, social person would have quickly engaged with others around her and Fred, my stepfather would have been right at her side.

I bumped into an acquaintance there, then friends of Cheeseboy happened by. A woman was going around selling raffle tickets for charity, as well as a ticket to an old fashioned wheel. She insisted we buy our share of tickets then demanded that I spin the wheel – she’d cottoned onto me, while another, more matronly type, took a shining to Cheeseboy.

None of us won anything, but we were happy to sip on our pints of Pale Ale and join in the vibe. It was one of those occasions when you were proud to be an Aussie. Everyone was working for free. Half the profits from the beer went to charity. The prizes had been donated. Even the sausage sizzle went to a good cause.

This is what I remember. For all the fervour around Australia Day, most Australians are very decent, generous people. Maybe it’s a bit more skewed one way than the other down my way, but the spirit of community and pulling together was very strong. All of it was very Australian – bright and optimistic, a smile, a laugh, a clap on the back. Very open.

This is what I remembered. This is the best of Australia, just as the community response towards the disaster has been the best of us.

We can act on the things that need to get done, but let’s not forget the basics in the meantime – with few exceptions, we’re a friendly lot happy to embrace others as a rule, and to put in the hard yards for each other when we must.

At the extremes


It’s been a rush the last five days, or so. Busy and productive myself, and things happening around me.

On the weekend I sent off book one to an agent for appraisal, etc, and will likely contact another this weekend for the same purpose.

Also on the weekend, I posed a question on Facebook, seeking feedback about an old idea of mine that had returned to the fore. There’s too much to go into here, but basically, it’s an idea that sprung out my experiences when homeless and being hounded by the ATO and various creditors. I needed help of different types, accounting and legal mainly, but didn’t have the resources to engage anyone and there seemed few other options. In the end, I got help from a local community centre but highlighted to me what a huge gap there is for help for the people who need it most. My idea was to create a platform to crowd-source help, drawing upon the collective wisdom and charity of the community.

At one stage I had a partner to develop an App, but he later pulled out for business reasons (he was a software developer). I’ve had an interest in the idea, but it seemed too hard to do. But then, watching the community response to the bushfire crisis, I was inspired to believe there’s a real appetite for support out there. And, by now, I had thought of another way of doing it – a much simpler way.

So I put it out there – wouldn’t it be good? And, what do you think? There was a pretty positive response, so I guess I’m moving onto stage two.

I also went to a bushfire charity event at Bad Shepherd on Saturday night, before ending up drinking cocktails at the Hawker bar.

Then, at work, it’s been full-on again, or still, but generally good. Very productive these days, and encouraged to use my creative side, which is excellent.

On Sunday there was a brief but very fierce supercell storm that hit Melbourne. I listened to the hail on the roof and it sounded like the roof was being hammered.

On Monday another storm developed late in the day and torrential rain fell. My train was stopped at Elsternwick on the way home and we had to wait for busses in the rain to take us the rest of the way. That stopped about a kilometre from where I lived. I walked in the rain with a raincoat on and my umbrella held in front of me like a shield. The rain was heavy and the wind made it near horizontal, which meant I could only protect a part of my body. From the waist down, I was sopping wet.

This is how it is now, everything is at the extremes.

Hazy days and little things


It’s a smoky, hazy morning again today, the horizons closed in and everything appearing as if through gauze. There in the sky was the moon, full and round, slightly tinted but with a glow as if a hole had been punched through the haze. All of it is odd, otherworldly, as if we have landed on a foreign planet.

I’m surprised the poor air hasn’t affected me more adversely. I’m someone prone to a chest infection without obvious cause. I have a permanent supply of antibiotics on hand to manage the cough when it rears up. It hasn’t reared up, though.

I’m thankful at that as well as surprised. There are many others not nearly so lucky, and there’ve even been deaths reported. We might get rain on Thursday, but until then we’re stuck with it.

I had a friend tell me yesterday that he’d been filled with an anger of ‘unknown origin’. I knew the feeling, and my explanation for it is the sense of helplessness in the face of one awful thing after another. It’s a form of frustration, and I don’t think it’s uncommon these days.

I’m out of sorts myself right now, though it’s different to what he describes. I feel deflated. These days it’s not uncommon, though I’ve been better in recent times. It takes so little to set it off. Yesterday it was the smallest incident, a little unpleasantness. Actually, not even that. A disappointment. But then it’s enough to let all the air out of me. Characteristically, I lose interest in things about me. I don’t want to engage.

That was yesterday, and I feel it still today. It will fade, or some counter-balancing thing will happen to bring me back to normal.

There’s no real reason to feel this way. I finished my book on Sunday, and I’m not searching for an agent and publisher to get it published. To be fair, there is an anti-climactic sense when you’ve wrapped it all up. You think, is that it? And – always – you think of all the ways it can be better (even if nothing definite comes to mind).

Then yesterday I caught up with two of my staff from when I had the massage shop. Jeep was visiting from Thailand, where she’d recently returned. With her was Pat. Both were great stalwarts when I had the shop and very decent people. I’m always very happy to see them.

Jeep bought me lunch, as she insists every time. She’s a person of great loyalty and proprietary. She’s in contact with me every month or so seeking help with her CV or a job application or dealing with a government department and, once, to assist in getting money out of someone who owed it to her. She’s very grateful, and so she buys me lunch when she can, and even called me her best friend yesterday – though not in the conventional sense.

For my part, I’m happy to support her – and any of them – in any way I can. It was a tough time, but they were titans. I owe them a lot.

It was lovely seeing them. We had a lot of laughs, and Jeep has made me promise to look her up if I get to Bangkok. I think we’re friends for life.

There is much to grateful for, if only you remember.

The good fake


My summer break is just about over. On Monday I’m back at work. I’m not looking forward to it, but the break was better than it might have been.

I hoped to go away. Planned to go away. But then unforeseen circumstances prevented it and that was a blow. For the first week of my holidays, I struggled a little. Christmas is a conflicted period for me, on top of which I’ve been wrestling with a few existential challenges.

But in other ways, the break was productive and better than being in the office. Because I didn’t go away, it meant I could do some writing instead and raced through the final edit of my manuscript. Give me another week off I’d have it finished and ready to send it off to the publisher. As it is, I reckon I’ll have it finished by the end of the month.

I was intent on getting some proper rest, body and mind. The first week that seemed a bust. I’m still not sleeping as well as I can, but I’ve had some lazy days and feeling a bit more energetic than I have been. I still figure I’ll need another break sooner than later, and ideally a proper holiday (March?), but I can get by for a while.

Around the house, I did some spring cleaning, digitised a lot of old photos, and pruned my wardrobe. I kept a pretty low profile generally.

I found no real answer to the questions I posed after Christmas, and I suspect there is no real answer. As before, I just have to make the best of it. I guess that’s disappointing in a way. It’d be nice if there was a solution to every problem. An answer to every question. Doesn’t matter how earnest or enquiring you are, life doesn’t always work that way.

What that means is that I go to work and adopt a persona, as I have for so long. Most people probably do in some way, though mine is in place to shield my frailties. The persona isn’t fake, it just isn’t all true. You take some elements of yourself, and you project them while hiding away the parts of yourself more vulnerable. It makes for a warped presentation of yourself, but most people can’t tell the difference.

I’ve wanted to be more authentic than that but found it’s hard to live with the weight of sorrow that entails in my circumstances. I accept that now. I accept all that weighs on me and troubles me, and I’m no longer willing to let them affect me as they have. I don’t want to be a victim. Nor do I want to bite my tongue. In that way, at least, I want to be real.

With that decided I intend on returning to work with my most bold self to the fore. If I have to ‘fake’ it, then let’s go for broke.