The jab

Been a busy week, though nothing special has happened. Just constant work and things to deal with. Next week will be busier, though for different reasons – it’s my birthday, but also Cheeseboy’s and Donna not long after. Few things scheduled already. And work.

The expected good news is that come Saturday, we’ll be back to what they call Covid normal conditions. Got to do all the sensible things still, but with an easing of some restrictions, including wearing masks. It’s not definite yet, but I’d put my money on it. I look forward to it.

This week, the vaccination program finally commenced in Australia, though in a small way. It’s a relief that it’s happening at last. Frontline workers and the elderly are being vaccinated first, as it should be, and some political leaders. It’ll take a while until it gets any real momentum and begins to make a real difference, but we can look forward to a time in the next few months when we can feel a bit safer about our health.

I fall into the 2A vaccination category. I think that means, roughly, that I’ll be due for my jab in May – though I’m tipping June is more likely given the pace of the roll-out. I can wait until then and have no qualms about taking it. Anti-vaxxers, in general, sort of confuse me as I think the case for vaccines generally is so obvious. Or, put another way, scientific.

That’s been one of the features throughout the pandemic – the battle between science and paranoia, leadership and populism, rationality and stupidity, not to mention the difference between the majority of us who have a sense of community – that is, look out for and sacrifice for each other – and those purely selfish.

I was surprised on Friday to find that JV, an intelligent, educated, thoroughly decent human being, was a sceptic about the vaccine and was considering opting out on the basis that he would be safe regardless once herd immunity was achieved.

He doesn’t doubt the efficacy of the vaccine, but he’s worried about the side effects. You can vaguely understand that, but of course, there are over 200 million people who have taken the vaccine now dating back to December. On top of that, the delay in getting the vaccine released here was because it was being tested before being approved for use by the TGA. They’re the medical professionals and scientists I choose to trust – though I guess JV will be vindicated if every vaccinated person turns into a zombie in six months.

I think it’s selfish to let everyone else carry the risk – minimal as it is. It’s a part of my make-up that I take my responsibility as a citizen, and member of the community, seriously. The effectiveness of this is directly correlated to how much of the community is vaccinated. It can be virtually eradicated here if we all pull together – but that’s weakened with every person who chooses to opt-out.

I’ve felt safe throughout the pandemic. I’m confident that I would remain safe regardless, but that’s not the point. And a practical level, I feel sure that vaccination certificates or passports will come into play at some point, and fair enough. I think JV will have to deal with that.

The working day

Whether in lockdown or not, my working day at home doesn’t change much.

I start at about 8.30. As I would if I was in the office, I check out my emails and messages to start with, replying and following-up as needs be. That eases me into the day, though there’s every possibility that I’ll be contacted through Teams at any point.

When I’ve done that, generally I’ll check out the status of any service desk tickets outstanding, and the new one’s coming in. That’s less of a focus these days, but I’m still responsible for making sure any digital-related tickets raised by the business get looked after.

The guys are pretty good, and I rarely need to get involved. Generally, they’ll pick up the tickets as they come in and handle them. Mostly, I’m just checking that everything is up to date and the priorities are being looked after. Occasionally I’ll post a question to one of the guys, or ask someone to look at something. Sometimes, I’ll have to forward a ticket to someone else or go back to the caller seeking clarification or giving instructions.

Then there are meetings, which are every day and occasionally all the time. Every day, there’s a stand-up at 10.15 where disparate members from different teams tune in and give updates on what’s going on. I won’t say I hate these meetings, but I find them a waste of time mostly. It’s rare the activities of others have any effect on what I’m doing, and for me, I’m letting people know what’s going on from good manners.

Not that my manners are exemplary. Occasionally, I’ll skip this meeting. Other times, though I seem to be one of the central figures in these stand-ups, I’ll opt to listen in without contributing anything. That’s because so often what I say today will be the same as what I said yesterday, and very similar to what I say tomorrow. Mostly I do contribute, however, though rarely with great detail – that would only confuse them as I’m left field for most. Often I’ll throw in some wit, just to prove I’m not a drone.

Today, I had an earlier meeting at 9.30. This is a weekly meeting with one of the app developers checking in on what’s happening and reviewing current issues.

At 10.30 today I made a cup of tea, as I do most mornings, then I caught up with my immediate manager updating him in detail on the POC project that’s kicking off. I’m pretty candid with him, and he knows there’s a chance I’ll be heading off. We discussed contingencies and back-ups. Almost certainly the POC would be canned or postponed, which would be a big thing for the business.

I checked in with a few others after that by Teams, following up on random issues and updates.

As I do most mornings, I then left to walk up to the local shops. Today it was simple. I went to the supermarket and bought a few groceries, then headed back. Yesterday I stopped off for a flat white on the way back. Today I didn’t bother.

Back at home, I put the TV on in the background and tuned into the daily Covid press conference. I don’t do that much these days – I don’t have the stomach for the journo’s – this was just a change. I glanced at it occasionally and might stop for a moment, but it’s in a separate room from my desk. After a few minutes, I put it on mute and made a call to the vendor I work with.

I spoke to him for about 15 minutes discussing minor issues and getting updates. After catching up with a few little things, I killed some time knowing there was a steering committee meeting at 12.30. I updated the notes for that, only to get an update at 12.20 that the meeting was being put-off until tomorrow.

Today, I decided I would have dinner for lunch – that is, the main meal at lunchtime and something lighter for dinner. I reheated last nights cumin beef with rice and sat down to eat that. The tennis was on the TV, muted. I sat there listening to an audiobook, which I continued to listen to after I finished eating. Audiobooks are a big part of my daily routine, just to break it up a bit.

Back at my desk, I interacted with a few more on Teams, checked emails, etc. Yesterday I had back-to-back meetings about this time, first, with the other vendor conducting the POC. Then another meeting – a stand-up – with the team, which we have every second day. I’m much more involved in this because it’s our stuff. That went for about 30 mins.

Today, I have no more meetings, which is unusual, and a blessing as well, but it’s only the case because another of the POC meetings – workshops really – was cancelled. There’s another meeting I’ve opted not to attend because it barely relates to me and I don’t think I can contribute anything. And it’s 2 hours, which is way too long for an online meeting.

I sat down before and read a couple of chapters of a new book after making myself a coffee. Sometime in the next hour, I’ll give Rigby his daily walk. After 4, I’ll mix a drink – half the time these days, it’s non-alcoholic. By this time I’m wrapping up loose ends and hoping nothing big pops up. I’ll ask questions and answer others. I’ll check in to make sure everything is on track. I’ll begin to plan the next day, though I generally know the meetings I’ll be attending.

Often, I would get dinner started between 4.30 and 5, backwards and forwards from my desk. That won’t happen today. Generally, I’ll finish up at about 5.15, though often I’ll go back and respond to late emails or queries. I’m connected by phone as well, so I always know what’s going on. As I prepare dinner, I’ll listen to my audiobook through my Sonos until dinner is served, and the evening stretches out in front of me.

Last drinks

A couple of hours ago I got an SMS from Cheeseboy asking if I wanted to catch up for a drink tonight. Sure, I said, of course. About five minutes later the news came through that Victoria would be going back into lockdown from midnight tonight.

It was not unexpected. The rumours were swirling this morning that lockdown was imminent. A few cases have escaped hotel quarantine in the last week, and because they’re of the more dangerous UK variant, it’s something that needs to be stopped. The result is a five-day lockdown, which is hopefully sufficient, but probably necessary.

I have to say I’m weary of it all, though the lockdown doesn’t worry me too much. Five days is manageable, and we’ve done it all before. The hardest part will be wearing a mask outdoors again. I weary of the cycle, of it never going away completely and more so, sick of the inevitable narrative and general idiocy that follows it.

I would guess that most Victorians accept this. We’re well seasoned by now and fearful of the virus getting out and about again. We’ll do what we have to do and be grateful when it does the trick.

Not everyone feels the same, and generally, they’re the loudest. I can barely stomach it. Much of it is just plain stupid and ill-informed. Some of it is bigoted and extreme. Some just like to grizzle, and quite a few have a sense of entitlement that disgusts me.

I’ve learned not to argue because sense makes no difference to someone with notions set in stone and others either unwilling or incapable of an intelligent assessment. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally rap someone on the nose, but it’s no more than futile sport.

It means that I’ll probably avoid the more populist news services and, if I’m smart, much of social media. It’s hard enough dealing with covid itself and the danger it represents, as well as lockdown, without having to deal with the level of malevolent stupid out there.

On a more concrete level, I’m bloody annoyed that while most of the world is well along with vaccinating their population, not one Australian as yet has got the jab. The reality is that as long as we keep bringing in infected people that it will keep getting out here and there, no matter how diligent we are and how tight our protocols. This virus is hard to kill and keeps mutating, making it more difficult to contain – especially in hotels not designed for that purpose. We can minimise, but we can’t prevent, not without a vaccine.

All it takes to start with is for quarantine workers to be vaccinated to greatly reduce the chances of the virus being spread to the public. We could have been doing that a month ago had the government been on top of it. As it is, it’s now out, and we’re still a week or two from the first person being vaccinated. Even then, the roll-out will be much slower than it should be.

Realistically, we’re many months away from being safe, though maybe we can begin to mitigate the spread sooner. For me, I can’t expect to get the jab until May, and I’m in one of the higher priority groupings. In the meantime, we can only hope the virus doesn’t jump the shark and become something different again.

Tonight, I’ll go out for a wine with Cheeseboy. Tomorrow I’ll walk with him, with mask back on.

Belting it out

It’s a beautiful bright morning today. The sort of day that makes you feel good about the world and optimistic about the future.

I’ve been up the road and had a flat white at the cafe after a spot of grocery shopping. Last week, we had a session about work-life balance and managing distractions and looking after yourself, and one of the things I took out of it was to get out more and indulge a little. I was easily convinced.

I’m taking work more easily in general. I had a chat with my manager yesterday about managing priorities and tasks, among other things. He’s agreed to take on some challenging activities – either from a lack of time or access, or sheer energy. Right now I’m fine with doing the work, but I have no patience for the peripheral stuff – the endless and unnecessary meetings, the incessant politics, and so on. At the best of times, I was pretty direct, and it’s not the best of times now. He’ll be my buffer.

The so-called work/life balance got a shot in the arm last Friday night. JV had organised for us to attend a free concert by one of the local councils in its entertainment centre’s covered car park. There were food trucks there – pizza, Mexican, ice-cream, as well as a bar, as well as other activities. It’d been a warm day, but a change had come through, bringing storms earlier, and then a fierce, cool wind that rattled through the venue.

I had no great expectations. The headline act was Brian Mannix, who I remember the mid-eighties countdown days. He had a band, the Uncanny X-Men, and a couple of minor hits, but he was known more for his personality. He was a lively performer, but I’d heard nothing of him since then.

The band he was playing with was more contemporary. I actually have a couple of Androids songs on my iTunes and reckon Whole Lotta Love is a very catchy tune.

As it turned out, they were great, particularly the Androids, who are a very tight unit.

Throughout the performance, original songs were interspersed with covers, and the covers were crackers. The Androids are an old-fashioned guitar band who like to rock it up, and so the covers were of the same type. There was AC/DC, Billy Idol, some Twisted Sister, the Angels, and so on, all impeccably performed.

The crowd was mostly older. I probably could have picked up a 60-year-old if I was keen, but I’m not ready for that. They came in family groups and groups of friends. There were younger people there too, and people in the middle like us, but there were many grey heads, a lot of different shapes and sizes, and a lot of different backgrounds. To watch them get into it was great.

Probably most of the music was around their vintage, as it was mine. You absorb this stuff when you’re young, and you never lose it. And when it comes around again, you come to life.

The crowd was very lively. They sang along with gusto. When the AC/DC covers were played (Highway to Hell, TNT), they raised their fists sun tribute, belting it out. They knew every word of Rebel Yell, and when the Angels classic Am I Ever Going To See Your Face Again was played it was hilarious to listen – and join in – the traditional but unofficial response “No way, get fucked, fuck-off.”

Oh, the memories!

It was stirring all-round. I don’t reckon I’ve had as much fun for many a month. And it was the first live performance of anything I’d seen for ages. Recommended.

Give me a reason

Because it was a public holiday yesterday, I ended up having a cooked brunch at one of the cafes up the road.

It was hectic and crowded there, and I was lucky to get a table. I watched the comings and goings while I waited for my omelette to arrive, the people coming in searching for a table, the people paying their bill as they left, and the waiters and waitresses weaving their way between them, taking orders and bringing meals and showing people to their table.

I’ve been in similar circumstances hundreds of times. I don’t know how many cooked breakfasts I’ve had in my life, but it’d be in the thousands of dollars worth. It’s always felt a treat, if not a downright and well-earned indulgence. Life was good if I could do such a thing.

I enjoyed it yesterday, but something else crept into my mind as I observed. By chance I looked up and saw my boss from work leave with another man, looking relaxed but professional as if they’d just conducted a meeting. We didn’t speak, and he didn’t see me, but perhaps it was the unexpected sighting of him that shifted my mind into another perspective.

There’s a guy at the cafe I always share a few words with. He’s the sort you often see around beach locales – tanned and relaxed, easy to smile and ready for a laugh. They take life at a different pace; it always seems to me, intent on living it on their terms. Often that’s related to a love of the ocean and the life that goes with it. Often they seem to be surfers – but maybe I’m inventing or imagining the whole trope. In any case, they’re people at peace with the world, and they exude chilled contentment.

I thought a little of the time, years back when I had some money to invest. At the time, I thought a bar or massage shop? I knew bars, so that was the preferred option, but I ended up with a massage shop – which I didn’t know – and that didn’t work out so well. What if, I mused, I had partnered up in a cafe like this instead?

What attracted me was the carefree nature of it. I know it’s far from carefree, especially having survived Covid, but it seemed a simpler equation at that moment. I could feel it, a basic yearning just to turn up in my shorts and a t-shirt and start serving people I could have a laugh and a conversation with. Just a job – a pleasing way to spend some time between doing what I really want to do. Whatever that is.

I know it’s an illusion, and that if I found myself in such a situation, I’d just as likely be yearning for something else. And that it’s just as likely that someone working in a cafe might covet my job. That’s the nature of human beings. However, I can only speak for my own mentality and something of this appeals – at my most jaded I actually dreamt of taking myself off to become a barista.

Instead, I do what I do. It may pay-off for me, but I doubt I’ll ever truly feel satisfied again. The day after learning of what appears a decent promotion, I felt deflated. The brief sugar hit at the news, and all it meant, gave way to another feeling altogether. Unfortunately, it seemed crushingly banal to me. What was the point of it? Money, yes, and I need it, more than I can say – but nothing to nourish me, nothing for the soul, no other value but dollars and cents.

I feel like I’m chained to the machine, but it probably happens to most of us some time. And perhaps that’s just the reality I never saw before because I was caught up in doing and achieving and the sheer competitive sense of it. They were drugs in my system I’ve been weaned off in the years since. Without them…

I’ve written variations on this dozen’s of times, but that’s why I keep posting it – because it remains true. It’s all about being free, I think – free to be yourself, free to follow that thing inside you, free to be big or small or however you want. I know I still have a hunger inside, but I’m coming to believe that this is a thing that life makes compromises of. I understand I do, especially given all I’ve gone through – but I keep coming back to it because I can’t quite come to terms with it. I can’t accept it, not yet.

I’ve been through hard times and lost a lot, but I’m also fortunate in general and more so than many people even now. This is what checks me. I don’t want to be ungrateful or greedy. I don’t want to be accused of hubris. And I sure as fuck don’t want to be whiny. We all have a duty to ourself though, and, for me, it means I want to understand – in the deep of me. That’s why I keep coming back to it. I can’t accept it until I make sense of it. That’s me – I need a reason.

Half of this is probably mid-life crisis sort of stuff. From what I can tell, it goes away eventually or at least eases. I suspect a good part of that is acceptance. I reckon, not that I know, that we accept that what we hoped for professionally and strove towards previously no longer applies, and doesn’t matter. It’s not that we find the satisfaction we lacked, but that it becomes irrelevant.

I hope that’s the case, but it’s a hard one to get my head around. I am, by nature, a committed character – even now. In my case, I think it’s only half the story – the rest being the bitter residue of grief and hard times. And personality – I’ve always been restless, always been daring, and always keen to try different and more. I’m by no means an addictive personality, but I understand how one can crave new highs as the old ones pale. For me, that was travel and living well, women and sex, and work as well. There’s little of that now.

Now I fight the urge to be irresponsible – to do something just to be doing something. The impulse to risk remains strong because I want to know what can be and how far I can go. And, because everything now seems small and unimportant. There’s no heft or scale, no blood in what I do. There’s always been a danger in this urge, and I have the scars to prove it – but I’ve had fun too, and tested myself, and made it interesting.

Not sure if it’s in me to fade away or to accept a smaller take on things – not in my current configuration. But then, if I’m sensible, there’s no real alternative. Yes, give me a reason – but give me passion to, cos I’ve lived without it for too long.

In step

I feel very well used this morning, and it’s the result of a couple of days living the right way.

I was in the office on Friday and afterwards caught up with JV for drinks – first to Cabinet, overlooking Swanston Street, then Union Electric, then 1806.

It was a lovely evening and well suited to have a cold drink under the open sky, which is what we did at the first two bars – not so much the last. We had intended to head home but thought to stop for one last cocktail. I thought of 1806, which probably has the best cocktails in town, but which is dark and enclosed – much better suited to late on wintry nights with a romantic companion.

The last time I’d been there was on such an occasion. It would have been 1am in the middle of winter when I went there with a woman I’d just had dinner with. She was a yoga teacher, and we’d had a great night. I liked her – she was attractive and smart, and a vulnerability to her that me tender. I remember that night we had dinner at Il Solito Posto, and how I looked in her eyes at a certain point and clasped her hands and told her things about herself, she had no idea I could know. I didn’t, except by reading her, but I was right, and it brought her closer to me.

We went out a few times, but this was just as I became homeless, and a lot was going on for me. I had limited dollars, and though I had peered deep into her soul, was unwilling to reveal mine. I was ashamed and embarrassed and never revealed to her my circumstances. I regret that now and understand how it might make me seem mysterious – at the very least. I was not ready for it – but that night at 1806 was a highlight, showing her the Melbourne I knew.

This time I got a message from another friend while I was there wanting to catch up. I was keen to head home, but I’d not seen this friend since well before lockdown. We ended up spending another hour there, and I was in one of those moods that come rare these days – the engaging, witty raconteur.

Yesterday morning I went on my weekly walk with Cheeseboy and our dogs. He told he was working in the garden in the afternoon, and I offered my help if he needed it. Sure enough, at about 2.30, he called asking if I was willing to come over?

I’d been sitting at this very computer and reading this very blog. I’d been prompted to check things out and found myself reading of my travels in 2004 when this blog begins. It was fun recalling it all and living it again.

It was a warm day, and I lathered up in sunscreen and helped Cheeseboy clear the trunks of cut back bushes and remove weeds. It wasn’t arduous work, except that the sun had a bite to it and the repetitive nature of bending soon had my back playing up. I didn’t mind too much, though I had to take a break occasionally and lay stretched out on the bare boards of the back deck.

We had a cold beer at the end of it at about 5.30, and then I headed home, covered in dirt. There’s something satisfying in basic hard work. You may ache afterwards, but it feels like you have done something virtuous, and yesterday I felt as if I was adding some karmic credits to my account.

I was sore and burning from the sun and ran a lukewarm radox bath when I got home. The dusty soil had adhered to the sweat and the sunscreen so that I was coated in grime. Taking my shoes and socks off, I found the dirt had even got between my toes. I soaked for about 15 minutes between scrubbing myself clean. Then I dressed in well pressed, clean clothes, which is exactly what I needed.

I was due to go out for dinner, though I had little appetite or energy. It was better once I was properly dressed. The fabric felt crisp against my skin, and I was careful to look the part – I wanted to dress up, just a little. I put on a pair of pale Prussian blue summer weight cotton pants I hadn’t worn since last summer and a mauve shirt with suede boots. It looked good, and with the glow of the sun on my skin, I looked like a healthy buccaneer.

We had a G&T at a bar before going onto a steak restaurant – part of a chain, but reliably good. The meal was fine, we flirted with the waitress and shared a bottle of red. Out in the ‘burbs, it was a different crowd from the night before. There were many couples from young to middle age, the women in dresses and the men in shorts with short-sleeved shirts. There was a table of rowdy yobs too, probably a cricket club or something out for the night. The restaurant seemed full of men either yobs or short, or a combination of both. We were the outliers – both of us well-groomed and over six foot, and probably both of us a bit older.

We discussed the Top 100, which was released yesterday. Back in the nineties, I would buy these CDs. I’d listen to Triple J waking up and each year would tune into the countdown. Not anymore. I doubt I know more than 10 of this years top 100, and what I know is different from what others now know, and in that, I’m out of step.

About half an hour later, I was driving home through dark streets. I flicked through radio stations searching for music I wanted to listen to – some David Bowie, then an old song from the eighties I immediately remembered was sung by a guy called Climie Fisher, then, as I drew close, some Pink Floyd. Perfect.

Coffee needed

Yesterday was awful. I was grumpy as all hell having to start work again. I actually felt bitter at the thought of returning to the same work and the same issues. I was cynical at the culture and workplace and didn’t want anything to do with it.

Today is much better. It’s always hard returning to work after a break, but I’d never experienced such a violent reaction to it as I did yesterday. Today, the hard edges have been smoothed over. It feels more familiar, and my muscle-memory is returning. I’ll survive.

There has, at least, been some progress with my role, though, as always, I remain sceptical until it happens.

Apparently the request for my pay rise has been escalated further to get a resolution. And, apparently, I should get a call sometime today from the boss outlining an enhanced role for me. He’s already called once, but I couldn’t talk.

Right now, I’ve set it to one side. I’m very keen for it to happen – for something to happen – but the immediate priority is to get over this bump.

To ease the transition, I’ve just placed my bi-monthly order of coffee beans. I get in two 250g packages of beans, each from a different roaster, and trial them over the next couple of months with my morning flat white. Everyone has different coffee tastes, and I like a stronger, richer coffee – more chocolate than citrus generally, though I’ll drink most.

This coffee routine is quite revealing of personality, I think. I know many people who find their brand and stick to it. Me, I like trying new things. I’ll make a note of my favourites and will return to them, but otherwise I’ll keep trying other combos out of curiosity.

In Australia, and particularly Melbourne, the coffee scene is huge and there are heaps of really good artisan coffee roasters out there. I know that many will think it typical Melbourne snobbishness, but I reckon the art of blending and roasting coffee is right up there with the culinary arts. Just I am with the food scene, the more I explore the better I like it.

And it’s great fun. Now that it’s summer, I make a pitcher of cold-brewed coffee every few days and drink as an iced coffee. Hot and cold coffee, all good.

Could be that was my problem yesterday – insufficient coffee to get me started.

What I’d like

As I took Rigby on his afternoon walk yesterday, I gave thought to my immediate future. In a little over a week, I’m back in the job, and I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. The break from the daily routine seems only to have reinforced some of my misgivings. I still see things pop-up in my thread regularly, some of which I respond to with a directed action or comment. All of it feels tedious and familiar. I’m jaded and weary by the same things again and again and have little appetite for a return to it.

Still, I must, though the other job remains a possibility, as do others. I’m not locked in, and that’s important to remember.

The reality is that I must return somewhere, but if there’s a silver lining, it is that at some point soon my pay should be increased – either the long-promised and overdue pay rise at my current workplace or starting somewhere else. There was some reassurance thinking that, and as I walked along, I calculated what would be an acceptable minimum increase.

I did my sums, factoring in a desire to move from my current home at some point into something bigger and better, the prospect of a proper holiday somewhere, and a need to begin salting some dollars away for the rainy days a’comin’.

I figured that I needed a minimum of an extra $14K on my existing salary. That’s probably a few K more than my alleged pay rise, but the other job is offering approximately $25K extra. An extra $14K would allow me to budget for an extra $100 a week rent, and for the bigger, better home that would allow, and the consequent uplift in quality of life. It leaves enough over to grow in my bank account, especially when you consider my various, sundry debts should be paid off by late next year – that’s about an extra $250 month freed up.

It’s a pittance really, but enough. When I think of the years ahead when I’ll be living in retirement, I’m still well short of what I need, but that’s an incentive to be creative. The important thing is, get it right now, and build upon it. I have to make a start.

That’s the practical side of things mapped out, more or less, and so my mind turned to the less tangible.

Probably for the last week I’ve imagined finding someone I could talk to about such disparate topics as Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the works of Erich Maria Remarque, and the peccadillos of Australian test selection, just as an example. And throw in discussions around food and wine and politics and the state of the world, and pretty well most of the stuff I take time out to write about here.

Sure, I’ve got people I can discuss Test selection with – I did that the other day – or the footy. I’ll have occasional conversations around what’s happening in the world and the state of politics, but generally, they’re fleeting. I don’t think I ever talk about books, and though music is an occasional point of discussion (though not nearly as much as when I was 30 years younger), there’s only one person I know of who would even know who Richter is.

Certainly, there’s no single person I know who can embrace such a diverse range of subjects and converse knowledgeably on them. I was about to say how much I miss it – but I’ve never really had it. The best I’ve ever had it is experiencing quadrants of these conversations with different people. It would be lovely to discover it in someone this year. It would make my heart full.

There are other things I wish and hope for, and things I need to sort out. I don’t have resolutions, but I’m happy to call some of these – the financial – as goals.

Next week will come, and more things after it. I don’t know all that’ll come my way, but there will be possibilities to explore and experience. Now’s not the time to be passive.

New year, but…

I guess the news here is that Covid is back in Victoria. Not a great surprise, even after 61 days being free from it. It came from Sydney, where the outbreak has been awfully mismanaged – though unmanaged might be a better descriptor. It was almost inevitable, especially at this time of year, that the virus would make it’s way over the border and infect us once again.

There’s a lot of cranky Victorians today. Most of their anger is directed at Gladys, who has failed to mandate mask-wearing in Sydney as the outbreak continued to spread. Her communication has been unclear and wishy-washy, and often at odds with itself. Watching from this side of the border, Melburnians have been wringing their hands and exhorting them to make mask-wearing compulsory, and tighten restrictions – even lockdown. (They haven’t because of brand management, I suspect, and because Gladys is too weak to stand up to the PM – I feel sure that NSW is following his directives.)

Too late for that now, though had the NSW government acted with more certitude sooner I suspect this would all be over by now. As it is, it’s out in the community and spreading across the nation. Borders are closing again, naturally, and restrictions tightening.

So far, there are eight reported cases of community infection in Victoria. The source is a returned traveller from Sydney, and it caught hold in a Thai restaurant only a few kilometres from where I live – and about eighty metres from where I had dinner last night, in Black Rock.

All this had an impact on New Years eve plans. I wasn’t planning a big one anyway, but after the news yesterday there was no way I was going to attend a crowded bar or pub, as was the plan for later in the night. As it was, we had a good dinner, returned to someones home for a drink, and I left a little after 11 – I was in bed with the light off at 11.35. So much for the new year.

I’m hardly upset by that. I don’t feel obliged to celebrate just because of the date. Today will be an easy day.

It’s common to reflect at the start of a new year, and there’s more to reflect on now than most years. I have no resolutions but for general intentions. My biggest priority is to get myself healthy, physically and mentally.

Physically, it’s a worry. There are two issues. Firstly, sleep. I used to an Olympic standard sleeper, but it’s gone way off over the last 6-9 months. I hoped this break would help, but it hasn’t. I stay longer in bed, but I sleep no better, and oftentimes, my sleep is diabolical. It leaves me weary all the time and generally lethargic. I don’t know what to do.

More concerning is my digestion or metabolism or whatever it is. I reported a while back at how bloated I was feeling – well, nothing has improved. If anything, it’s got worse. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling, as most of you will know. It’s got so bad that every time I eat it ratchets up as if I’ve just consumed a big three course meal.

Imagine that – the feeling you have after a big Christmas dinner perhaps, unbuttoning your pants to ease the strain and finding a good seat to vegetate in undisturbed while your meal is digested. That’s okay, you’ve earned that, and it’s only a few days a year you get to feel it – except, for me, I feel it every time I eat now. It’s as if my stomach has reduced to the size of a walnut and everything fills me up.

I churn and brew. It makes sleep even more difficult, and everything else problematic. Basically, it means that I’m eating less – averaging one meal a day, with perhaps nibbles in between. It mitigates the frequency but doesn’t fix the problem. And, perversely, I’ve ballooned.

I’ve wondered if it was particular foods that did it, but there seems no pattern. I stuck to proteins, and had the problem, then went off them, and it continued. It might seem frivolous, but it takes the edge off every activity I do. I’m short of energy and the will to do anything much. Altogether, I feel worn down.

I’ll get on top of it, but I’m just not sure how. I made some poached eggs for breakfast, and my intention now is to fast until tomorrow. It’s a shot in the dark, but my doctor is away, so it’s all I’ve got right now.

In the meantime, it’s 2021. I’ll make other plans, whenever…

Just thinking aloud

Yesterday, we visited the Morningtn Peninsula wineries. It was a lovely day.

The weather was ideal for it – clear blue skies and warm enough to wear short sleeves, but not warm enough to get hot. It was by way of a day trip as none of us – JV and Donna and me – are having a holiday away this year. And the wineries are always good value.

It’s a little know fact that whenever I imagine myself shifting out of the city – which is more and more often – it’s down to this part of the world, particularly Red Hill. It’s always seemed ideal too – distant enough from the city to make a difference, but close enough for a commute; there are good food and coffee, not to mention great wine; and it’s a particularly beautiful part of the world – rolling hills thick with tall gums and gullies with picturesque ponds nestling in them, interspersed vineyards and vines climbing slopes, and orchards of cherries and strawberries and other fruits. Through all this, the road winds mysteriously.

It seemed a lot of Melbourne had the same idea as us. I think we were first up and about, but soon thick crowds were dogging our footsteps. We started at Hickinbotham, where I bought a couple of bottles of Tempranillo (served delightfully chilled, as I’ve never tasted it before). It was a rustic landscape. A couple of dogs greeted us happily as we walked up, and the tasting was in what appeared a converted barn, with a restaurant at the front of it.

From there we went to Polperro. This is the vineyard where the Cheeses married 15 years ago (almost to the day). It was called something different then, but I remember the day very well. We sat out on the lawn yesterday with a platter of cheese and a glass of wine each, looking out over the vines and a shallow valley with a pond in it. It was charming, and the moment near perfect. I sat, I reckon, just about where I stood 15 years as best man the day of the wedding.

We were about an hour there and then, against the others protest, stopped at Paringa Estate. They make one of the best Pinot’s in Australia, and I wanted to sample it again. Their other wine is similarly exceptional, and I walked out with a bottle pinot noir and JV with a Viognier.

Lunch was well overdue, and everywhere we’d visited had been booked out, and when we got to Montalto were told they had no capacity for 90 minutes. We went next door to Tuck’s, and had a meal of deep fried chicken with a cider, overlooking all the green. Then home.

I wanted to size things up while I was down there. Everything is on the table currently, and a big one is a possibility of relocating. With work from home, it’s become much more feasible to live out of town. I spoke to others about it. We live like this maybe five days a year. It would be different living here, I said, but still, the average daily satisfaction than it is living the burbs. And, living in all that tranquillity, visits back to the city would take on a different, more exciting, character.

I think both could see my point. If we free ourselves up from old habits and routines, old ways of thinking, then what becomes possible?

All I can say now is that it was one of the best days of recent times for me, and I felt privileged to have access to such serene beauty. We really are fortunate.