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.


Personal development

I’ve back a few days now and one thing I’ve noticed is how long I’m sleeping. Normally through the work week, I average a little under 7.5 hours per night. These last few days I’ve slept for about nine hours a night. The opportunity to sleep in is always welcome, but what this is telling me is that I needed it. No surprise. I’ve felt run-down both physically and mentally the last few months. It felt as if I needed a good rest and the opportunity to re-charge.

When I do wake the routine is not much different from normal. Rigby is fed, I grab a freshly made latte, then back to bed where I’ll read the Age, the NYT times, and various other news sites and magazines on my iPad. I’ll check what’s going happening on Facebook and Twitter and randomly cruise other sites.

As the morning progresses I’ll take Rigby for his walk. There’s no set time for this, but he’s always alert. The final test is now in progress and so I’ll switch that on and have in the background as I attend to different chores – a load of washing, a tidy up, maybe some cooking. Amid all this, I’ve checked my email and attended to anything needing attending to.

Of course, now I’m writing too. I’ve started on the new book, and it’s hard work. Starting is always most difficult, and not just because it’s a blank page. That’s tough, but getting it right is tougher. I don’t expect to get it right first off. I’ve written about 2000 words so far and I reckon 75% of them will be changed before I’m happy – and that’s just the first draft. You’re trying to set the tone and mood. Trying to get the voice right, and capture the character. How you start is how you go on with it, so you need to get it right.

I have a couple of days more of this then I’m back to work. Like many people I made some resolutions and sketched in some aspirational plans over the new year. The resolutions I posted to Facebook, just to put them out there: get a book published, wear more colourful shirts, be less glip/more open. I might add to that: eat more greens (especially broccoli) and less sugar.

The plans are more general. Unless something significant occurs I must change jobs. I’m neither well used or well rewarded. I’m looking towards March for that.

As a general notion, I want to have a better Christmas this year. There are different things I could do towards that, but what I favour is finding that intimate other to share it with. If that’s the case there are other things I must do, or decide upon.

While I was away I spoke to Cheeseboy about the woman at work. He’s well aware of my past experiences, but said I should go for it. It’s funny, I’m the risktaker by nature, and he’s conservative, but he’s urging me to take the chance. I can only believe it’s good advice.

I’ve decided to accept the possibility, even to pursue it, but without hurry. What we experienced is the first flush of attraction and desire. That’s nice, but it doesn’t always survive into real life. Real is what I want. I don’t want to lose the feeling of attraction and desire, but I want something more substantial to reinforce it. I think there is something to work on with this woman, but I’ll let it happen rather than forcing it. If it’s not to be it’s not to be.

Regardless, as I’ve promised, with this woman or another, I intend to be open and honest and vulnerable. Real. That’s the next stage in my personal development.

Unwelcome guests

I had an unwelcome intrusion over the weekend. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…’ goes the classic poem, except in my case unfortunately there was a stirring, and it was a mouse. Or mice.

I take some poetic licence – it actually began a week before Christmas Eve. I reckon it was all the rain we got. My yard tends to inundated and I figure it drove the mice to higher ground. Somewhere they found a way in to the dry of the house – my best guess is through the pipes of the hot water service leading into the laundry. Once they got in the house they found it quite pleasant, and invited their mates. It helped that right there in the laundry was a big 20 kilo bag of dry dog food for them to feast on.

That’s how I figured out I had mice. I’d heard scratches and scurrying noises and had a major suspicion I had guests, but then when I saw the plastic on the bag of unopened dog food chewed through I knew it. Not long after I caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye.

It’s not pleasant knowing that you have vermin lurking in the shadows. I was afraid that once I had one then more would come. I set traps and caught them regularly, but so many that it only increased my apprehension. On one occasion I caught two in the same trap. The noise grew louder and more widespread – it seemed they were in all the walls, and an odour grew stronger.

I found how they were getting in – just a crack really in the base of the laundry basin unit. Presumably there’s a hole in the floor leading outside. I blocked that up with bricks, but I’m uncertain if that’s their only way in.

It was pretty hairy for a while, but it seems to have settled down now. I suspect I’ve most, if not all of the mice that were in the house, and having blocked their egress hopefully that means no more can enter. On top of that I removed the dog food from temptation – it’s now sitting in a plastic container in the bathtub.

My real estate agent is closed to the new year, but I’ll be calling them then to get an exterminator in, and a more permanent solution to stacked bricks.

Worth doing

In an hour or two I’ll be heading home for the weekend, then will be off for the next four days after, returning to work Friday.
I’m not doing anything exciting, and not going anywhere. Instead I hope to finish up the book to the point that I’m happy to send it off into the world for its onward journey.
Besides that I plan to search for a potential business partner for the start-up that’s been mouldering for the last two years. I’m still pretty passionate about it, and I hate the idea of just letting it go. Don’t really like letting anything like that go. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing.
I’m not sure what the best way is, but I know I want someone passionate and altruistic. Obviously big bonus points for relevant skills and experience. Need to trust them too, that’s a biggie.
Otherwise it will be the usual, do a bit of cooking, do a bit of reading, etc. I cracked a tooth the other day, and so a visit to the dentist might be on the cards as well.
In about 20 minutes I’m having a phone interview with a prospect new employer.
As for the existing employer I’ve given them fair warning today that if they haven’t come up with something by the time I return Friday then I’ll be making a formal complaint, but internally and externally.
Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be watching the footy. The finals have started and it’s a great time of year.

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.