Of consequence


For months, maybe over a year, we’ve been trying to organise a golf weekend away. It’s bloody hard work, either because so and so is busy on this date, or, more often, because no-one will make a call or commit to a decision. I’m the decisive one, by nature and inclination, but then I’m also the one without a family commitment, so it’s a lot easier for me.

The other two don’t make it any easier. One is deferential to keep the peace, and other is a procrastinator – both self-declared. (I’m a controller). It makes for a noxious, dysfunctional process, and some acrimony occasionally, but led finally to a round of golf last Saturday at Safety Beach.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t live up to the occasion, but at least was an improvement on Friday when the temperature didn’t get above 15 and it rained all day. Saturday was maybe a degree warmer, and though pretty bleak, the showers were light and intermittent.

Golf was fun. We had a fourth and played Ambrose. For the first dozen holes, I felt like a robot needing a good oil. I was stiff and inflexible. It had been so long that some of the science had gone out of my game, and it took until about the 14th hole to begin visualising my play. I improved a lot on the back nine, but the 19th hole came at the right time.

We stayed in Capel Sound, which is really just a dressed up name for Rosebud. We went to dinner in Dromana and had a few drinks and JV was laying on his bead snoring by 9.30. Lights out for all of us by ten.

Yesterday we went to breakfast at the place I used to frequent during my banishment to Rosebud. We went to Arthurs Seat then, went for a bushwalk, before going down and up in the new cable car. To Red Hill, we went where we checked out a cheesery before ending up at Red Hill Brewery where we had a few beers and a fresh barbecued beef brisket roll, before heading home. It was lots of fun.

In between all this, other things were happening for me. Driving into Rosebud after the golf I recalled all the many years when I was a kid when we would head down the peninsula for a couple of weeks of summer holiday. I’ve been down many times since and not had the same strong sense of nostalgia as I did Saturday. It seemed strange to me that my memories were not of my last time there – my banishment – but of a time long before that. It was almost as if that experience had reset my memories. What I felt so profoundly was that it was so long ago, but felt so vivid. How can that be?

Soon enough though my memories reverted to that period a few years back when I ended up in Rosebud because I had no other place to go. The prevailing feeling was of dread. I endured it when I was there, you have no other option, but it was a stark existence. I stayed in a converted garage with a bathroom attached. Most mornings I would walk Rigby and end up at the same café on Saturday where I would have a coffee and sometimes a meal and a chat with the waitress. After that – nothing. There was nothing to do, no friends to see, no real life to lead. The one bonus from it is that it forced me to begin writing.

I felt it though. I could feel it in my stomach as we drove by. There was an abiding sense of loss. From where I sat I wondered how I had endured such a bleak life for so long. It seemed so empty and negative, so fucking inconsequential. And that’s what I felt looking back, that I lived a life of no consequence and was, by extension, a person of no consequence. How awful it felt remembering that. I gazed out at the passing scenery and wondered – for all the changes since – how much more consequential has my life become?

It wasn’t a negative reflection, simply an objective assessment. What makes a life consequential? It’s the things you do and the relationships you have, I think. As far as I’m concerned the only thing of consequence I’m doing is my writing, and even so the jury is out on that. As for meaningful relationships, there are few.

It was as if by jarring reflection I was forced to consider these values. As I said, it wasn’t judgemental. It was the sort of objective assessment we rarely undertake. When was the last time you thought about your consequence? Odds are you’re a long way ahead of me.

So I had a lot of fun but at the back of my mind was this, and lead to nothing that was new. I may ask new questions, but the answers are generally the same. That basically means situation normal, more work to do.

Advertisements

To Sydney and back


I visited Sydney last week for work. On the way there I was stuck on the tarmac in Melbourne and delayed for 45 minutes, and on the way back a delayed arrival meant we lifted off 55 minutes late. In between, it was all a rush.

I was there to meet with vendors developing the chat bot I’ve been instrumental in creating. They have the technology, but what it says and how it works – as well as some of the software tweaks I’ve requested – make it my baby. Till now it’s been frustrating dealing with them remotely – from Melbourne to Sydney to Bhopal – and it was thought to get us all in the same room would simplify communication and enable some decent brainstorming. That proved to be the case and, despite some hiccups, I left Thursday evening with some good progress.

They took me out for lunch on Wednesday. I went with the owner of the company and had an expensive steak and a bottle of red while we discussed the work we were doing as well as sharing some of our respective backgrounds.

That evening I caught up with my oldest friend. We went to school together for a couple of years at Turramurra High School and have been close ever since despite being vastly different characters.

After I checked into the Hilton and changed my clothes we went downstairs and had a beer at the Marble Bar. We then walked to Circular Quay where we had dinner at a rustic Italian restaurant. It was nice, the food old-fashioned, as was the service. At a table one over an elderly American couple held hands across the table as they ate their Tiramisu. On the upright piano, a woman in her early sixties played gentle tunes the whole night long. I imagined her as a part-time worker somewhere who did this as a second gig for love as much as for money. She wore brushed velvet concentrating on the keys she tinkled for such old tunes like It’s Not For Me To Say.

We had an ice-cream later and then I returned to my hotel.

I lay on my soft bed and read a while but I was very tired and switched the light off a little after ten. I had a sleep full of dreams I couldn’t remember when I woke. It was a good, long sleep but I got up from bed feeling bone tired still. I didn’t have to be in at the office until 9.30 so had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel bistro.

I sat by the window and looked across at the grand sandstone edifice of the Queen Victoria building. In the road below workmen idled by working on the controversial new light rail network, digging up the road and laying tracks. It’s been much delayed and dogged by problems, and as an outsider visiting has had a disastrous impact on the city. I was amazed to see so much disruptive roadwork – it seemed half the CBD was under construction.

I was tired as I worked that day, but it was productive. At the end of the day, I made my way to the airport where I found my flight had already been declared delayed. I bought myself a beer for solace and followed up on some messages. A few minutes later the phone rang from a recruiter I’d replied to. He had a couple of consulting jobs I might be interested in. Was I? There’s a question for the ages, and the answer, despite all my reservations, must be yes.

I can’t say no because it’s a possibility I’m being offered. I need the money too – an extra $50K – and want to get away from my current role. It’s consulting though, which I think I’m over, not that I really think I’m a show of getting either – though, as always, the recruiter was very keen.

I walked in the door of home that night just before 9.30. I was dead tired, and my mood wasn’t helped by a cab driver who’d driven slowly and cautiously all the way home, notwithstanding the one occasion he turned left into the right-hand lane at Marine Parade. I was in bed with the light off 15 minutes after getting home. Getting old. At least I had Rigby there to comfort me.

Just simple


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home with my fantasies


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A winter weekend


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No small things


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for me


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

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

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

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