Happy mayhems


Took Rigby out for his Christmas morning walk at about 8.30. It was already warm, the sky a perfect blue. Walking down the street it seemed unnaturally quiet. There was no traffic on the street, no sounds of movement or industry. There was not even a breeze.

Down the end of the street there was a woman walking in a straw hat. We walked in her direction, and slowly things emerged. Passing one house I heard the faint strains of Christmas carols. Passing another a family came out the front gate to visit their neighbours, three little girls bounding with excitement. The father seemed to me a typical Australian type with an open, friendly face. “G’day mate,” he said, “merry Christmas”, and I wished him the same.

Passing the woman we exchanged greetings. Still it was quiet. The houses revealed little, but I imagined inside families gathered for this most special of family days, the kids hyper opening their presents while proud parents watched on, all of it a happy mayhem.

Beach road on a Sunday morning is normally chockas with cyclists in long ribbons going to or from the peninsula. It’s difficult to cross sometimes so choked is the road with cyclists and general traffic. There was little traffic today, and though there were cyclists, far fewer than normal. They rode by in clumps of 10 or 12, the diehards, many of them with antlers attached to their helmets or santa hats or some sort of festive decoration.

It was beautiful on the beach. The sky was an azure blue, and the water still. There were a few swimming, and others walking along the sand or the path behind the beach. It seemed so classic. While most of the world today celebrates Christmas in some kind of winter setting in Oz it’s high summer. It’s forecast 36 degrees today after 35 yesterday. The next 3 days are said to be similar. It’s a hedonist’s paradise.

Back home I’m sitting here with a glass of very rummy eggnog, held over from last night. There are even carols playing. I’ve been in touch with the family that counts. I’ll set about fixing my lunch in an hour or two.

Last night I watched It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a movie I probably hadn’t seen for 15 years or more. In recollection it seemed mawkish to me – which undeniably it is; but watching it again I was affected by that very mawkishness. It’s easy to be cynical and cool, but unwise. These are the things I’m learning – never too old.

To all that read this, have a happy and safe day – and I hope Santa treats you well.

All set


I’m sitting here with a G&T, the usual lemon replaced by a couple of slivers of cucumber. Goes best with Hendricks, but goes well regardless. That sets the tone for a planned few days of decadence.

Tonight I’ll fix a batch of egg nog in honour of the season – none of that wretched store-bought stuff. I have some raspberries set aside which I’ll gobble up with some thick cream too.

In the fridge I have a chicken brining in sugar and salt, garlic, a bay leaf and a sprinkling of cumin. That’s my lunch tomorrow, when I’ll roast it with a tomato glaze. It’s not the standard Christmas lunch, but it’ll do me. The remaining fixings will be the same – roast potatoes and pumpkin, some beans just to be green, and even some stuffing because I love it.

I was going to make a pav for dessert, but instead I’ve gone conventional and purchased a high-end Christmas pud. it might be 36 degrees outside, but a pud always goes down well. As a concession to the weather forecast I’ll be making a jug of Pimms cup, ready to go.

Boxing day I’ll be making a big batch of Mojitos to watch the cricket with, and have in mind making a different cocktail each day over my Christmas/New year break.

When the weather allows I’ll be switching between firing the barbie up and light, healthy summer meals, but never fear, that’s just for show. I set myself up to make a lemon meringue cheesecake to satisfy my sweet tooth. That’ll be Tuesday probably.

Of course there’s all sorts of other goodies in the house. Besides the Turkish delight I bought some nougat today, and there’s two different types of chocolate, as well as the obligatory shortbread someone made for me.

I’m looking forward to it. This is my time, and I’m going to stuff it till it squeals.

Vibrant and grateful


In an unusual mood today.

Yesterday I had a big day with work, busy running around sorting things out and sourcing answers and reporting back to the bigwigs here and interstate. There was a fair bit of pressure attached, but I find I really enjoy that. I’m good at problem solving. My mind clicks into gear and I’m automatically charged so that I can do 2,3,4 things at once, sending emails, making calls, running up and down stairs, puzzling out the latest crisis and formulating solutions. I’m all of a piece then, all synchronised, almost without conscious thought, like an athlete taking to the field and doing what he is best at and finding that zone.

The pressure I enjoy. I always think I’m at my very best when under the pump. It feels like a direct challenge, and I’m invigorated by that. Not for a minute do I believe I will fail. I will find a way. Never am I more confident than at those moments, and it shines through.

Today is different. I found a bunch of answers yesterday leading to more complex questions. I’m in the process of resolving them, or least finding a position on them – but the pressure is off. The immediate stuff was resolved by last night. Today I’m looking deeper, but I’m limited now because so many have left for their Christmas break and won’t be back until well into the new year. As for the rest, it’s the last day before Christmas and there is little appetite to start in on something just before the break. That I can understand. So for now I’m surveying and documenting the situation, and sending out queries I know won’t be answered for a while. I feel like I know this stuff now, better than anyone, and it’s for me to coordinate and take to the next level.

All of this is in the background, but overlaid is a kind of sentimentality.

It’s the time of year, happy people and gifts everywhere in glittering paper and festive cheer around the office and in the street buskers and corner trios playing Christmas music with Santa hats on their head. There’s memory and also a sense of goodwill, even good fellowship. I am a part of this and I am happy for my fellow human beings. I wish them happiness and hope, and just thinking that makes me feel better.

Last night I caught up with Donna for our usual pre-Christmas get together, and I think that’s when it really started for me. I left work weary from it and with a throbbing headache, but quietly ebullient. I stalked the busy streets in my suit, the sun shining down and people like me on a mission for a good time. I went to the bank and for the first time in several years actually used my wallet to keep my cash in it. I’ve never carried enough to worry about it in recent times, just stuffing it in my pants pocket. Yet there was a time when if I had less than $200 in my wallet I felt I was short.

So I had a full wallet and early for my catch-up went to have a drink somewhere. I went to one bar after another, every one of them full to the gills. There was a rumbling sense of occasion. Buoyant crowds of drinkers catching up for a last occasion before the big day, full of anticipation and easy favour. The sun shone down brightly and the clean, bright lines illuminated the general mood of relaxed dissipation.

Eventually I found myself at Meyers Place. I had a pot of Little Creatures while others around me scoffed longnecks of Melbourne Bitter.

Eventually Donna showed up and we found ourselves at the rooftop bar of the Sheraton drinking cocktails and sharing gossip. It was easy, and familiar, but I was aware that once upon a time I lived like this all the time and took it for granted. We were both conscious of that, and it made it different, like re-connecting something that had been disconnected too long.

We went for dinner to the restaurant below, East, where we had an excellent Asian meal while the conversation went on, sometimes light-hearted, even frivolous, and sometimes deep and meaningful. It was a lovely night and at the end of it we exchanged gifts and went our separate ways having pledged to look after each other in the coming year.

The train was much less crowded this morning. I went in at my usual early time pondering the events of yesterday and wondering what it would mean today. There was nothing in my email and so I went back downstairs to get a coffee.

It was a little after 8 and I headed back towards the station I had come from 10 minutes before. In the time since a busker had set himself up on the street. At first I didn’t know this. I heard the music, mysteriously coming from I didn’t know where. It was an old Billy Joel song She’s Always a Woman to Me played on electric guitar. It’s a good song, but I’ve never thought much more of it than that – but today it was different. The music was so clean that it seemed pristine. He was an expert player and as I drew nearer the sentiment of the song and purity of the sound affected me. How good is this, I thought. How good life could be. It was all in the simple stuff.

At lunch I went to the market. As a Christmas treat I shouted myself a (very gourmet) sandwich sitting at an upmarket bistro. Across from me at the long table was a girl of about 10 with her grandmother. The girl was dressed up as if for the big trip to the city and seemed full of delight and curiosity. She watched everything, commented on everything, bubbling over with enthusiasm and wonder. Her grandmother indulged her, as grandmother’s do. There seemed something awfully old fashioned in the scene. It was something that happened all over, and through time, this adventure to the big smoke attended to by a loving relative. There’s such innocence in it that as the man I am today I felt moved by it, and happy for them, glad that such things still happen, and could happen. And I recalled dimly a time when I was a just boy doing just the same thing with my grandparents.

The market was hectic, just as expected. I bought my few small items – some vegies, cheese, some coffee beans, and even some Turkish delight – chatting quickly with the harried but cheerful shop assistants. We wished each other a happy Christmas each time and I made my way back towards work.

It’s a great time to be in Oz, the weather great, and hot days ahead. I thought that walking back down Elizabeth street, thinking of all the travellers at this time of year. I hummed under my breath the tune I’d been humming all morning – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – it’s the carol for the day, and the carol that seems most true.

I was full of all this, vibrant and grateful.

So – Merry Christmas all – I hope your hearts are easy and the way forward clear. Look around, and be grateful for all you have.

Hardened


I had my day in court last week. It says a lot about my life that I’m becoming accustomed to the courthouse – though familiarity has not made it more pleasurable.

This time I was in court to contest the ludicrous charge of having my feet up on the train seat. You might remember when I wrote of this back in August, when it happened. A trivial moment in time, but an exorbitant penalty, which is what impelled me to challenge it.

Given I was a few days into a new job the timing was pretty ordinary, but at least in my new role I have some flexibility with my hours. The hearing was set down for 1.30, and so I wandered down ahead of that on a bright, sunny day, subjected myself to the usual security protocols, and found myself in the allocated courtroom – only to find they had conveniently adjourned for lunch.

I waited around for about 20 minutes before the court clerk came in. I gave my name and when she asked how I would plead I answered not guilty. She suggested that I speak to a prosecutor before the hearing began to discuss my options – I was welcome to change my plea at any time.

The prosecutor found me. She was young – a little under 30 – attractive, and very reasonable. I explained the situation and circumstances to her and she agreed the penalty is ridiculous, saying that it is deliberately set so to be a deterrent. I explained how I intended to plea and she informed me that if I did so then the case would be adjourned for a later date with witnesses being called. Alternatively I could plead guilty and have it settled today. Worst case scenario with a guilty plea was the penalty stands; best that I’m let off with a warning. Most likely was something in the middle – a discount on the penalty, or an order to pay a nominated amount to a nominated charity.

It seems counter-intuitive, and somehow wrong, that the easiest option is to plead guilt, even when you dispute it. Upon reflection though that’s what I did.

Fortunately I was the first person called. One thing familiarity has done is ease the nerves. There’s something quietly amusing about being in such a situation. You find yourself observing as if from outside yourself. There is something peculiarly surreal about the situation which doesn’t seem quite real. Who? Me? In court? Get out of here!

Coupled with that is the formality and the rituals associated with the process. I know it intimidates some, and perhaps intended to, but as an observer it feels a little as if it takes itself too seriously. I guess there’s an excuse to think that when it’s some trivial transport violation being heard. I imagine if it were a capital case the solemnity and ritual would seem entirely appropriate.

In any case I pleaded guilty, making it clear all the same that I disputed the listed record of events. The magistrate said his bit and at the end of it I was asked to donate $80.00 to a charity and to stay out of trouble for the next 12 months – effectively a suspended sentence. I could handle that.

It was a huge relief to have it over and settled. I walked back to the office with a skip in my step. Unfortunately further court appearances likely await.

Quotidian


It’s a pretty typical Saturday morning. I slept later than I would during the week then read in bed with a latte on the side table and Rigby lounging by my side. We went down the beach for a run and gambol – Rigby that is, not me, I just watched on. It’s a bright, pleasant day, and a few brave souls out in shorts with the first sight of sunshine. We returned and then I set off to do my modest weekly shopping, the highlight today being a roast chicken I picked up I’ll use for the weekend’s sandwiches. Now I sit at my makeshift desk – the old, heavy wooden dining table – with Rigby sprawled at my feet. He’s never far away, God love him. I’ve been catching up on emails and browsing the net.

In a minute or two I must get up to commence the weekend’s chores. There’s a couple of loads of washing, and some vacuuming to do. If I feel energetic I might even mop the floors, but then I’m rarely that energetic. I’ll make my lunch at some point, the chicken in fresh turkish bread. This afternoon I’ll plant some tomatoes. Later I’ll watch the footy, and for dinner tonight I have a porterhouse defrosting I’ll cook up with a baked potato. In between I hope to do some writing.

I may as well preempt tomorrow too. As today, I’ll sleep later, and as today Rigby and I will go for a walk down by the beach. On Sundays I set myself to have a cooked breakfast. Since I can no longer afford to pay for it I’ve been making it myself. Mostly that’s poached eggs with a range of sides. Sometimes I’ll scramble them, and occasionally I’ll make an omelette or fry them. Tomorrow is a new recipe, scrambled with potato in a kind of hash.

I’ll eat that in front of the TV. Depending on how depressed I am about politics I’ll watch Insiders. Lately it’s so pissed me off that I hardly watch. I almost always watch Offsiders straight after that for a round-up of the weeks sport. I might briefly check-out one of the footy shows, but by now I’m getting restless. The rest of the day will pass doing a range of activities.

I’ll hope to write, but seem always to be delaying it. Once I start I’m fine, but it’s starting which is the hard part – but I always manage. I’ll take some time out for some recreational reading – at the moment I’m reading some William Styron stories I’d not come across before (pound for pound I reckon he’s just about the best pure writer of the last 50 years). I’ll do some cooking. In the winter months that’s generally a casserole to eat through the week, or something in the slow-cooker. Come the warmer months I eat lighter, with meals prepared as I need them.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been sorting through the boxes in the shed. There are a lot of them, and I want to turn them into a few. I’ll do more of that tomorrow. Then Monday I’m off to work again.

Sympatico


Sunday morning, I’ve had my coffee, caught up with the results overnight, and taken Rigby for a walk – this time up to Hampton street, and not to beach going the other way. When I finish up here I’ll continue on my Sunday morning ritual by making the cooked breakfast I can no longer afford to go out and buy. It’ll be poached eggs again – after much trial and error I’ve mastered the process. I’ll cook up some mushrooms with garlic and thyme, and serve all over some toasted Turkish bread.

I feel much more at home here than I ever did in East Bentleigh. I know Hampton. I’ve lived here before, and have friends close by (I had dinner at the Cheese’s last night). For the most part I feel more in tune with the locals here than in East Bentleigh. Upbringing and history moulds you, and I can walk down the street here and feel I’m among people I went to school with or have worked with. I’ve been to their dinner parties, had drinks with them on a Friday night. We know each other, and by and large have matured with similar aspirations, if not expectations.

I’m still settling in. Getting the internet connected finally goes a long way towards making this feel like home. Routines are returning, such as this, sitting before my PC and typing away to an unseen world – and giving more material to those interested. The rest of the day I’ll sort out a bit more of my unpacking – there are still things to do, and a good pair of Sennheiser headphones to find. I’ll cook, as I normally will, for the week ahead – today I’m making Cottage Pie. I’ll work on my book and then late in the day I’ll sit down to watch the footy. Tomorrow will be work again.

Work endures, as do I. It gives me no pleasure, and Monday’s are the hardest of all. I still think of it as being temporary, and strive hard to make it so. The lack of an internet connection has made it difficult to source and apply for jobs, but there have been the usual quiet opportunities that peter out into nothingness. I have applied for a job internally – permitted too finally. The job seems a good fit for me – experience of the industry, which I now have, combined with business analyst experience, which also I have, and presume few others do.

I never get too certain of these things. Nothing is meant to be, and even the perfect fit means fuck all in the weird world of recruitment. If I have a concern it is that I’ll be seen as too senior for the role. Even a standard BA role is below what my CV would suggest, but this is for an Associate BA – second banana. If I get it I’ll have to reign in my instincts.

Nonetheless I should at least be on the short list given a set of skills and experience they can only dream of. And being over-qualified shouldn’t be an issue – god knows I’m overqualified for answering phones. This is much closer to my profile. Applications close Friday.

Otherwise there are the usual struggles, and though occasionally I’m exasperated by them I endure okay thinking, knowing, that one day it will be different. Tight as it is my life has stabilised. I have a platform upon which to build, and talent and ambition to go further. I’m undaunted, which is perhaps the greatest thing to come out of all this. It’s been a shitstorm, but I’m coming through the other side, wounded, but not one whit diminished.

Living in an offline world


It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time there wasn’t an internet. There’s plenty walking around today who have known nothing else but an online and connected world. I’m old enough to remember a time when the internet might have been considered science fiction, and had to find other ways to occupy the time. Weird, huh?

I was a relatively early adopter. I was online from 1997/98 using a very slow dial-up modem which, if I recall right, I had to configure using ASCII. I was online because I was tech savvy and curious and wanted to get eyes and hands on this thing called the world wide web. I’ve been online ever since, just about, and all in.

Over the years my profession moved into related areas, and I took a professional interest in something till then had been a high-end hobby. Since those days it became something much more. We live in a plugged in world, but I was plugged in sooner than most, and deeper. Even in these days of rampant social media (which I also participate in), I’m probably well ahead of the curve in terms of knowledge and use of available online technologies. I live in a connected home.

Well, I used to. I’m typing this while connected to the internet by a pocket wi-fi modem. That means I can do simple things like this (in moderation), can check my email, and do some modest browsing, but I can’t hook up my home to it, streaming movies and movies like I might, or browse using wi-fi sitting on my couch. As yet, I’m still not fixed up to connect to the internet from home.

It was supposed to happen Thursday. You may recall I had to face down work to get time off to meet with the Telstra technician connecting my home with a phone line. Work gave way, but sadly the Telstra techie never arrived. You can imagine how I felt about that.

They were due to arrive sometime between 8 and 12 and wintry, blustery day. At about 11.20 they called to tell me they wouldn’t be coming. They re-scheduled me for another 3 weeks.

A friend has since told me that it’s almost Telstra policy that they never arrive on the first appointment – the same thing happened to him. It’s infuriating that a business like Telstra, which literally makes billions of dollars, has such poor kpi’s that they can’t resource and allocate staff to do fundamental work like connecting telephone infrastructure. It’s not just that they don’t turn up – I shouldn’t have to wait for three weeks in the first place.

Not much I can do about it unfortunately, though I made my displeasure known, and requested a credit for the inconvenience caused. In fact the compensation should account for the extra I have to pay for these premium gigs via pocket wi-fi. In the meantime I’ve got to wait till 21/7 – hopefully – before I can get online again, and life back to normal.

Maybe it’s opportune to stop, smell the roses, and get back to more basic and archaic entertainment, such as reading a book. I read anyway though. I do those things, what I miss are things that add that extra layer of civilisation to my life.

Maybe I should go outside and ride my bike. It’s what I used to do, before there was any internet.