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.

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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.

Entirely me


I left home today when it was still dark, heading for work. It had rained overnight, and though cool, it wasn’t cold. At that time of morning – just on 7 – it’s quiet and sleepy still, with most of the world yet to properly rouse. Walking the suburban streets there’s a sense of agreeable aloneness.

It was early for me because these days I’m sleeping so well. I’ve slept well most of my life, and for most of my life took it for granted. Then in the last 18 months I found my sleep deteriorating. From never waking up through the night I became someone whose sleep became disturbed, waking up two or three times or more a night. I suppose for many people it represents a normal sleep, but for me it was foreign. This disturbed sleep coincided with a blocked sinus I experienced nightly. In recent months that’s improved some after acupuncture, and still more again with a new nasal spray that has cleared me up very well. From a sleep quality averaging about 72% it’s now up about 88%. I feel better for it all round. With my sleep more efficient it becomes easier to get up early (though I’ve been sleeping longer on average).

In any case I rocked up to my local station this morning as the sky slowly brightened and the sleeping homes gradually woke. As I do every morning I found myself a window seat on the right hand side of the train with my headphones on listening to an audiobook. As the stations were ticked off the train slowly filled. It’s quiet generally, most people at that time of day happy to ease into the maelstrom, and still very much in their own world. About me the seats fill. For the most part I take no notice unless there’s someone interesting. Otherwise, like everyone else, I’m happy to peer out the window waiting for the moment I must exit the train and head to work.

When the train pulls into the city the sun has properly risen, but the light is opaque, and a few heavy drops of rain randomly fall. I like this time of day. There’s not the bustle in the streets that 20 minutes later will be in full force. There are a few, like me, early to work in a mix of business formal and Friday casual. There seem to be a lot of backpackers wondering around with backpacks laden. There’s probably no more than usual, it’s just that they more visible – less diluted – in the smaller crowds. They poke around uncertainly, looking for somewhere to sit down for an early breakfast or coffee.

I clack-clack down the laneways and arcades I take to get to work. I’ve got my heavy redwing boots on and a thick p-jacket with the collar turned up. I feel free. I look about and absorb so much and so much of it I know from my own experience, and what I don’t adds to me. It’s one of those occasions when I feel most especially me, and what a privilege it seems.

Climbing into the lift in the building a girl working on my floor smiles at me and wishes me a good morning. We speak lightly, gently joking, both of us anticipating a long weekend and glad its Friday.

Then I’m at my desk, PC on, my good mornings said to the sparse crowd there, and today out again for an early coffee, flirting with the French girl from La Rochelle.

Free and about


I took the day off yesterday to go to the doctor. I have a doctor about 5 minutes’ walk from where I live, and I’ve been visiting him when I have an ailment. He’s a pleasant enough character, though entirely without charisma. He’s tall and spindly and with a hawkish nose that puts one in mind of a minor Dickens character. I dare say he’s competent, but he’s also inclined to diffidence which – in my book – is for certain something you don’t want in a doctor. A doctor should possess authority, preferably of the type borne from experience and learning – they know what they’re doing and are not shy of making a call. This doctor is tentative, inclined to seek my feedback on his cautious diagnoses. I go to a doctor because they are an expert in a field that I’m not – I want them to give an opinion and propose a treatment. I may have the right to veto, but I don’t need a vote.

And so yesterday I visited my old doctor in Camberwell. Given that’s a 50 minute drive from where I live then it just about rules out half the day, and given half a day I may well as well take the full eight hours.

And so I rocked up to see my old doctor at 10am yesterday.

It’s important you trust your doctor, and I trust her all the way. Experience has been that she is thorough and diligent and conscientious. She’ll follow up, and has the confidence to either propose a treatment or refer me to a specialist. She’ll make an educated guess, but if she can’t be sure she’ll do what she can to either confirm or rebut it. On top of that she’s very cute.

She’s got kids and was married, but no longer seemingly. From day one we had a good rapport and as time went on it became a mutual, though unspoken attraction. We’d digress into other conversations and laugh together. She’d gently compliment me on something or other, and I’d do the same to her. It was very easy and at one time it felt as if it might go beyond the surgery. Without saying anything directly she’d made it clear her marriage was over. It was around grand final day and we spoke about the big day and the associated celebrations. I remember she mentioned how she had to take the kids out for a kick but didn’t really know how to go about it. That was my cue to say something, but I didn’t yet feel it my place.

I hadn’t seen her for about 18 months before yesterday, maybe longer. We commented on that catching up. She’s still attractive, though her hair is now different, and the ring on her finger is gone.

She did her stuff professionally, sent me for some tests, and then I was on my way.

I wandered around Camberwell a little just for nostalgia’s sake, then hopped in the car again to head home. Driving across town was surprisingly enjoyable. It’s nice to be mobile again, nice to be doing familiar things and going familiar ways. When you’re without a car of your own your personal geography alters. It’s limited to the basic radial pattern of the public transport network. Getting on the road literally jumps the tracks. You can go anyway you want. You can act on a whim. Your view of the world is refreshed and enlivened.

Back home I pottered around attending to domestic tasks and other things I had set myself to get done – primary among them was getting my MCC membership entirely renewed. That required getting the arrears paid. Luckily I got my compo payment yesterday morning and yesterday was the cut-off point for my membership. A day late and I lose it forever. Fortunately I got in just under the wire, which means for the first time in about 5 years I can walk into the MCG as a member. Might do it tomorrow. It’s another step closer towards normality.

Later I had a long overdue massage, then took Rigby for a check-up at the vet – he’s in very good health.

It was a nice day. I felt free and very much myself.

The lover, the diplomat and the warrior


These days mostly my weekends are pretty standard affairs, and often I’m fine with that. I don’t need to be on the go all the time painting the town red, as once I did, and besides, I’m committed every weekend to doing a certain amount of writing, and I need a certain amount of space and time set aside to do that.

This weekend just gone I managed to do my scheduled creative writing (and fine it was, too), while managing to get out and about and having a fine old time of it.

It’s funny, our Friday night had been organised a week or so ago, but come the evening I’d have been happy stopping at home and having a quiet night of it. I felt weary and lazy. Just goes to show. Not only was it a grand ol’ night, I fired up as well.

We went to a new tapas bar in Hampton street, JV, Cheeseboy and me. I was first there. It was a chilly night and the restaurant was lit up brightly and full of people. It was a welcoming environment, loud with conversation and the lingering aroma of wood smoke. I was approached by the waitress who enquired if we had a booking. We didn’t. She was sceptical until the owner, a Frenchman, stepped in. I knew him from another bar he used to have, an industrious, passionate guy full of Gallic enthusiasm. He smiled at me and hooked finger at me, leading towards the back and a long communal table at which there were people sitting at either end. He winked at me. “The boss,” he said, ushering his wife and her friend from one end of the table to make room for us. And that’s where we sat all night, the last to leave.

I had a cocktail and then Cheeseboy arrived in a fine old mood, then 20 minutes later JV who had a cocktail too, before we set about the menu. We ate well through the night, and drank well too consuming a few good bottles of good Spanish rioja between us, plus a glass of PX compliments of the owner. The conversation was often raucous, occasionally puerile (in the best way), and sometimes profound. Bate in the mood he was suffered from a case of playful tourettes, which just happened to kick-in whenever the waitress walked by, purely coincidental. That, of course, led to much hilarity.

Towards the end of the night the conversation returned to JV’s experiences with the forum. After some to and fro we had categorised each other in broad terms – Cheeseboy was the self-proclaimed Lover, JV the Diplomat, and I was the Warrior.

For some reason the focus had shifted to me, perhaps because of the extremities of my recent experience – certainly I’m the outlier when matched with a couple of suburban husband and fathers. It returned to the winning formula concept, and JV was keen to consider what mine had been.

Setting aside ‘warrior’ mentality, and even the self-belief that Donna had espoused in me, JV was eager to back to a time before anything extreme had happened, when I was much like them. He postulated that I got ahead thanks to a cosmopolitan sophistication – someone who could speak confidently on a range of subjects and who embodied a way of life in which food and literature and travel and politics where beacons.

I was surprised. I could recognise myself in his description, but did it amount to a ‘winning formula’? I thought not. I considered for a moment, casting my mind back to those halcyon times. I was dependable I said. You could trust me to take on anything and do it well. I inspired trust. I was very capable and willing and determined and ultimately confident enough to have a go at anything, and it was that mentality that drove me forward. As I said it it seemed true. And I wondered, did it remain true?

The next day I caught up with an old friend visiting from Mullumbimby. He was staying at his mum’s in Safety Beach. If not for my car we would have missed each other, but with some reluctance I set out for the drive down to the peninsula (65km). Aside from some car issues, and a wrong address, it was fine. Caught up for a beer with him at his mums before we ended up at the Dromana pub where we caught up on all the news.

I was home by 7.30, just I time to see the Bombers take on GWS, and beat them.

All round, a good weekend.