On the road again


Surprisingly upbeat today, despite having had to hand over exorbitant wads of cash to pay for my car service. If you recall the engine had blown and the timing belt was cactus also, both requiring replacement, plus sundry other repairs. I had budgeted for quite an ugly figure, but the sundry other repairs added up to more than I imagined. Bottom line is that the invoice was thousands more than I expected, and effectively has wiped me out – in fact I still owe some.

I collected the car this morning and at least I can say it was a lovely, smooth ride on the way home. It would want to be. It’s not as good as new, but the replacement engine has about half the k’s of the old one. What happens next really depends on what happens next with me, but general idea is to drive the car around for about 18 months, then look to trade-in – perhaps for a non-European car.

It feels good to drive again. It feels good to have the option available once more. The cost is just part of life.

It hurt last night when I got the news. It kyboshed a few plans, and the waste of spending so much on getting a car repaired bit deep. You adjust though. Today there’s more of a blasé attitude of fuck it, shit happens. With that is a sense of release. Damage is done and I’m pretty up, singing under my breath and sometimes aloud, Kaiser Chiefs particularly, but some Warren Zevon too. I feel pretty energised actually, go figure.

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Inshallah


I’m in a Friday afternoon state of mind. Been working hard this morning and yesterday with complex, mind-bending stuff, but I’ve sent it off now all done and it’s set off the day. I’m in a wise-cracking mood, inclined to put my feet up and wait for the drinks trolley to come around at 3.30 to have a brew (yes, we have a Friday drinks trolley, just for now). At knock-off I’ll roll downstairs for a happy hour cocktail before heading off just in time for the footy. The weekend, from this perspective, is all cream.

There’s no good reason why I should be in such a light-hearted mood. All the news about the car is bad – the engine is blown – and the bill mounts. The encouraging discussions about possible job opportunities have come to an unsatisfying and disappointing naught. And I continue to be frustrated at work, notwithstanding some temporarily diverting work. And so on.

Truth is I’m in a different space these days. This is only a moment and nothing’s too bad anyway and I reckon sooner or later things will work out more or less as I want them to. I feel good in myself, confident and fit and strong and sharp. And the writing is going well. There’s not much point in worrying about anything.

This generally accepting state of mind extends to most things. There are things I can do, and things I can’t. Things worth worrying about, and other things not. My best option is just to be myself and not vary from it.

That includes the girl, who has begun to warm to me again. It’s still halting and hesitant, but hey, there were weeks we didn’t speak to each other. This week she’s made an effort up to and including contriving a circumstance whereby I was asked to assist her with a project, throwing us together. I admit, it’s made things a lot easier.

I still don’t know what I want from her, but that’s hardly the point. I just want to be square and honest with her, in a situation divested of the baggage and crap the last little while has been full of. I know I like her and I’m happy to like her, but if that means I end up liking her a lot more, or if I don’t, is in the lap of the gods. I’m happy to find out and follow the path where it leads as long as it’s true.

It’s easier like this. I’m true to myself and what I feel. If it marries up to her or if it doesn’t is outside my control, and if it doesn’t then I guess I know my answer. I’ve never been a fatalist – I was much too aggressive and impatient for that – but I’m more than content that led things run their true course, come what may.

For what it’s worth, I think we’ll be friends.

The course of nature


I spent a good part of the weekend wandering around in ever-diminishing circles as I tried – and failed – to make any significant inroads writing the new book. I’ve taken a more measured approach this time. I spent a good 6-7 weeks on the first chapter, knowing that ultimately it will end up very different to the version I settled on. Still, it felt like time well spent because it set the tone for the rest of the book. So the theory went.

In fact as I set about writing chapter two, and with my mind full of ideas, I found that nothing worked – it was all lame or dull or just plain wrong. If I gained anything out of the experience it’s what not to write. As it stands the chapter remains unwritten, and the mystery is ongoing.

No matter, I’ll figure it out. From what I can tell writing is just about torture for even the most acclaimed writers. It’s not meant to be easy. In the meantime I can take comfort from recent feedback, which has all been very positive. It’ll happen.

In line with all that one of the girls at work took me aside last week and said they had heard that I was a writer. She’d been told that I’d written something, and that actually it was really good. She was intrigued and full of questions, and naturally wanted to read something herself.

I was intrigued to. I’ve shared bits and pieces of the book with people at work, but not many and very little. I was curious to know what she’d heard, and from who, but at that time she couldn’t remember.

Later in the week I asked her again, and after some reflection revealed that she had been told about my writing by the girl here I like. Really? I thought. I was further intrigued.

She is not one of the people I’ve shared my writing with. I may have made a passing comment in the past about my writing, but hardly more than that. On top of all that we basically co-exist in a friendly silence at the moment. We haven’t had a decent conversation for weeks, and even random conversations are just about non-existent. It’s a strange situation for sure, but there’s nothing nasty or even uncomfortable about it. We seem both to accept this strange state of affairs, remote but well disposed, aware of the other but feeling no need to engage. On my own part I’m happy to let nature take its course, whichever way that is.

And so anyway it felt odd to me that she had spoken about me to this other girl, and stranger still that she would comment on something I thought she was virtually ignorant of.

I can only surmise that one of the people I have shared some writing with, or spoken to it about, has shared it with her. It felt odd to get the news (and, you know, I knew it would be her even when the other girl couldn’t remember. I felt it in my bones, though it made no sense.), but it was gratifying too. Gratifying that she would take the trouble to talk to another about me even when we don’t communicate at all, and gratifying that she thought positively of the writing too.

The clock ticks, but at some point it will strike midnight.

Going backwards


So I’ve taken the day off to get some chores done. First chore is get my car to a mechanic in Chelsea Heights for a service and a RWC. I’m pessimistic about the prognosis because the car’s been ailing – oil pressure issues, together with the battery running down all the time, and in need of a definite tune. Has to be done though on my road to recovery.

I’m out the door by 8.30 and driving down Beach Road. It’s about a 30k drive, but pretty direct and going against prevailing traffic. I’ve made it most of the way and am in Wells road, 2k from the mechanic, when the speedo goes from 80 kmh and dropping rapidly. It’s as if someone’s thrown out an anchor.

Fortunately I’m in a clear patch of road, so while I’ve still got some momentum I cross from the right lane to the shoulder of the road on the left. The car comes to a stop, basically no power available.

Drat I think , or something similar – if only it had made the extra 2 k’s, but not to be. I call the mechanic and explain the situation and says he’ll come by. Ten minutes later he’s there and gives me the bad news: timing belt. For an Audi that is bad news, though not uncommon. There’s a grand plus right there, but then there’s the risk of a damaged piston too. Oh my lord I think, or something similar.

I call RACV, organise a tow, then get a lift back – the mechanic will deal with the towie. Not the start to the day I wanted.

Later today I’m off to the dentist, and hoping there won’t be any further bad news.

Dialling down the lifestyle


It’s been a busy week, with all sorts of activities and meet-ups.

Last Wednesday night I met with Donna down at Docklands to go paddling a Dragon boat. We did that for a bit over an hour and it was fun, before adjourning to a nearby restaurant with our fellow paddlers for dinner.

I took Friday off to go on a hot air balloon. It’s my birthday this coming Sunday, and this was an early birthday present from the entrepreneur. I was out of bed at 3.30am and at Yering Station by 5.20. We were driven a little way to a nearby paddock where another half a dozen balloons were being prepared for take-off. It was a spectacular sight in the pre-dawn light to watch as these colourful balloons slowly inflated at the end of bright orange shooting flames. Soon enough we were in the air, the ground falling away and the landscape spreading far and wide.

I’d gone hot air ballooning once before, in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, which was spectacular. This was different but, for me, a very serene experience, and a lovely way to start the day.

The rest of the day was very indulgent, checking out a few wineries and sampling about 25 different wines, visiting a cheesemaker and later a chocolatier, finishing off the day with a visit to Four Pillars Gin and to a stone-fruit orchard. In between was lunch at Domaine Chandon, which was great. It was a long day, but much fun, with the added bonus and vibe of being on a schoolday.

The weekend was relatively quiet, but the last couple of days I’ve been to lunch with a couple of friends, and tonight am going to drinks with a friend I made first about 30 years ago – and seen probably twice in the last 15. There’s Cheeseboy’s birthday drinks on Friday, my birthday on Sunday, and the following Friday Donna’s birthday party – dancing on some boat out of the docklands.

It sounds all very enjoyable, but yesterday I got confirmation of something I had suspected.

I can’t recall if I mentioned it before, but a couple of weeks ago I had an ultrasound and some blood tests to check if I had one condition or another. The good news, as I discovered yesterday, is that I was clear of the worst case scenario – haemochromatosis. I’d figured that already, but it was good to have it confirmed.

Instead it was confirmed I had a relatively minor case of Fatty Liver Syndrome, which I had figured also. It’s manageable, and even reversible, but the hard part is that it’s going to impact on my lifestyle.

The way to manage it is with diet. Basically it means that all the things I like to eat I must now keep to a minimum. More pointedly, I can’t really drink a lot.

I don’t know if I drink a lot as is, but I’m certainly capable of it. When I’m not being social I might have 2-3 glasses of wine a week, and maybe a couple of G&T’s. When I’m social – which I’ve been increasingly so lately – I don’t really put a limit on it, though I don’t like losing control.

I’ve now got to re-think the whole thing, but don’t think I can start seriously on it until after the birthday season. For what it’s worth, I feel fine.

To cut or not to cut


About a fortnight ago I set out to document the fall from grace that led to my homelessness. I’d kept tabs on it in real time recording the sundry moments here in this journal, but while that’s a valuable record it’s flawed. It takes time to see the whole picture, and to see the patterns unfurling – and perhaps it takes some post-event wisdom too, looking over your shoulder at what happened and knowing well the hard lessons learnt.

So I wrote, for myself, but also in the back of my mind, to share. I’ve been telling bits and pieces of this tale over the last month, and those select few, earlier than that. There’s no-one in the world I’ve told the whole story to from start to finish. It’s a big story and a long story and it doesn’t make for idle conversation. I even had thought that perhaps I might put my story up on Medium.

So anyway I began writing and re-writing and the experience soured me sometimes, and sometimes it was illuminating. I had to think hard to place things in their proper sequence, and many times I would close my eyes to re-capture the feelings I had then. All throughout I was determined to make it as honest as my memory would allow. That meant plumbing the emotional depths I fell too, as well as – most importantly – taking responsibility for the many missteps along the way, born from pride mainly, and hubris. This was the point of the thing, not just a true rendering of the tale, but an accounting of it.

I’ve not yet finished writing it, but have reached the moment when finally I got the job that meant I might find a home again.

I’ve got many people fascinated by my story, and others intrigued by the bits of pieces they know of it and wanting to know more. As this is a process of opening up I shared it with someone yesterday.

She called me up last night to discuss it with me. She was shocked by what she had read. In a way I was surprised. I don’t really know where to place my travails and privations in the scheme of things. I know it was tough, but I know that people experience tough times daily, and many much tougher than me. I don’t want to glorify my misery. I want it to be true, but I can’t be objective about that truth because I am at the centre of it.

I think what she was shocked at – and which was hardest for me – was how there seemed no end to it, how one thing seemed to come hard on the heels of another. But still, some of that was my fault, and here I am, free of it – there was an end. And there I go qualifying things again.

In any case the crux of the conversation last night is that she wants to help me. She’s a wealthy woman with nothing to spend her money on and she sees me as a wasted talent in my present predicament. Those are her words. She thinks I have much to offer, but need to get from under things.

I don’t disagree much, but of course was reluctant to accept her help. She anticipated that and said, quite sensibly, that there was no shame in accepting the support of friends. I have in fact done this along the way by necessity, but it eats at me today like acid. I know intellectually that she is right, that I should be big enough and humble enough to accept the help I need when it is proffered. As always it is my spirit that rebels, the pride that has done me so wrong, and the fear of being indebted, obliged, of having a part of my independence bought and paid for. I know it seems like nonsense, but it feels true, even right.

I admitted that things remain tough, but they had been a lot tougher and this was like a cakewalk compared to before. We have different scales though. I still have upwards of $20,000 in debt I cannot pay, excluding the ATO. I have a car I can’t drive because I can’t afford to register, insure or service. And, as I revealed to her, I limit myself to one lunch a week. All of that makes her aghast, for me I just shrug my shoulders and look upon as a necessary challenge. It would feel like cheating if at this stage I accepted her help. I’m almost fearful of having it easier when I haven’t worked for it. I’ve strained so hard throughout and wrested myself from the utter pits by force of will and self-belief. To accept an easy out seems to me cheapening it.

Of course, I know, that’s ridiculous. That’s the man I’m trying to overcome. He was the man I had to be, honed for battle, but in relative peace he doesn’t work. He’s grim and defiant and mightily proud and closed off to good things as well as bad. He’s cold and ruthless, mathematical, but that’s not who I am at heart and who I can’t afford to be if I mean to be happy, and he’s the man I’m trying to overcome by exposing my sins, my struggles, my pain.

She’s offering me enough to cover my debts, repay down the track. Other than pride there’s no real reason to refuse. In fact it’s very similar to a plan I tried to hatch about 12 months ago: with money in my hands I could negotiate my debts downwards and free up my cashflow, as well as a good part of my peace of mind. It was a good plan, but the key element was missing: dollars. Now I’m offered the missing dollars with which I could extinguish the debt once and for all, the angry daily calls, and the stunted repayments robbing me of lunch money. I could repay the friends I feel so guilty about, and maybe even I could get the car back on the road.

It’s tempting. Cut the Gordian knot. Yet almost certainly I will refuse her offer.

Getting too old for this


It was a hot day Friday and ideal for a cold beer. At the end of the working day I made my way to the Arbory bar to meet with the sundry Dutchmen collecting to re-unite with another of their number, a legendary wild man now living in Singapore.

The Arbory is always busy, and a hot Friday night in the middle of summer is never going to be quiet. Gradually the group of us coalesced. There were no tables available, so we stood in between with the crowd in constant flow around us. We must have spent a little over two hours there, enough for 4-5 beers each.

We left approaching 8.30. One sensible decided to call it quits at that point, leaving five of us to go on to the Golden Orchid in Chinatown, stopping by the bottleshop on the way.

The Gold Orchid was evidently an old favourite of JK, who is a larger than life character with a heart of gold. He was greeted by the owners with the comment that they had not seen him in so long. We were led to a round table outside where JK ordered for us all: “twenty chicken, twenty beef and twenty pork satays,” he said, “and with extra sauce!”

We’d bought four bottles of wine between us, and a bottle of 25 year old rum. We started on the wine, a mix of Cloudy Bay Sav Blanc and a tasty French pinot. The satays came and were summarily demolished, before another lot appeared. The lazy Susan was dizzy with activity.

We were getting pretty smashed by now, but the conversation was good. One of the guys catches the same train as me in the morning. He’s a tall, conservative looking character, a Lib voter, he looks exactly what you’d expect a well to do Lib supporter to look like. That led to some good natured sparring between us, but also some serious discussion about energy policy, wages growth, and asylum seekers. We’re oil and water but it was an edifying conversation with mutual respect. By this time the wine has gone and we’re drinking the rum like it’s cordial.

Somewhere in the middle of this JK had enough. He’d been at it since Wednesday lunch. He told the story of how the previous night they’d spent $3,500 between the five of them at the Stokehouse. They’d gone to another bar after that, then another, before he got to bed at 5am – classic JK.

I don’t know how long we were at the restaurant, but I certainly know we were the last to leave. I caught the train home with Cheeseboy, sometime post 1am. I can’t remember being so tired. Cheeseboy wanted to kick on for a Turkish coffee at the Urchin bar, but for the first time in my life I said no. I got to bed and slept like a Pharaoh. I felt like a Pharaoh too on Saturday, awoken after thousands of years of dormancy. Very stiff, sore and confused.