Belting it out


It’s a beautiful bright morning today. The sort of day that makes you feel good about the world and optimistic about the future.

I’ve been up the road and had a flat white at the cafe after a spot of grocery shopping. Last week, we had a session about work-life balance and managing distractions and looking after yourself, and one of the things I took out of it was to get out more and indulge a little. I was easily convinced.

I’m taking work more easily in general. I had a chat with my manager yesterday about managing priorities and tasks, among other things. He’s agreed to take on some challenging activities – either from a lack of time or access, or sheer energy. Right now I’m fine with doing the work, but I have no patience for the peripheral stuff – the endless and unnecessary meetings, the incessant politics, and so on. At the best of times, I was pretty direct, and it’s not the best of times now. He’ll be my buffer.

The so-called work/life balance got a shot in the arm last Friday night. JV had organised for us to attend a free concert by one of the local councils in its entertainment centre’s covered car park. There were food trucks there – pizza, Mexican, ice-cream, as well as a bar, as well as other activities. It’d been a warm day, but a change had come through, bringing storms earlier, and then a fierce, cool wind that rattled through the venue.

I had no great expectations. The headline act was Brian Mannix, who I remember the mid-eighties countdown days. He had a band, the Uncanny X-Men, and a couple of minor hits, but he was known more for his personality. He was a lively performer, but I’d heard nothing of him since then.

The band he was playing with was more contemporary. I actually have a couple of Androids songs on my iTunes and reckon Whole Lotta Love is a very catchy tune.

As it turned out, they were great, particularly the Androids, who are a very tight unit.

Throughout the performance, original songs were interspersed with covers, and the covers were crackers. The Androids are an old-fashioned guitar band who like to rock it up, and so the covers were of the same type. There was AC/DC, Billy Idol, some Twisted Sister, the Angels, and so on, all impeccably performed.

The crowd was mostly older. I probably could have picked up a 60-year-old if I was keen, but I’m not ready for that. They came in family groups and groups of friends. There were younger people there too, and people in the middle like us, but there were many grey heads, a lot of different shapes and sizes, and a lot of different backgrounds. To watch them get into it was great.

Probably most of the music was around their vintage, as it was mine. You absorb this stuff when you’re young, and you never lose it. And when it comes around again, you come to life.

The crowd was very lively. They sang along with gusto. When the AC/DC covers were played (Highway to Hell, TNT), they raised their fists sun tribute, belting it out. They knew every word of Rebel Yell, and when the Angels classic Am I Ever Going To See Your Face Again was played it was hilarious to listen – and join in – the traditional but unofficial response “No way, get fucked, fuck-off.”

Oh, the memories!

It was stirring all-round. I don’t reckon I’ve had as much fun for many a month. And it was the first live performance of anything I’d seen for ages. Recommended.

In step


I feel very well used this morning, and it’s the result of a couple of days living the right way.

I was in the office on Friday and afterwards caught up with JV for drinks – first to Cabinet, overlooking Swanston Street, then Union Electric, then 1806.

It was a lovely evening and well suited to have a cold drink under the open sky, which is what we did at the first two bars – not so much the last. We had intended to head home but thought to stop for one last cocktail. I thought of 1806, which probably has the best cocktails in town, but which is dark and enclosed – much better suited to late on wintry nights with a romantic companion.

The last time I’d been there was on such an occasion. It would have been 1am in the middle of winter when I went there with a woman I’d just had dinner with. She was a yoga teacher, and we’d had a great night. I liked her – she was attractive and smart, and a vulnerability to her that me tender. I remember that night we had dinner at Il Solito Posto, and how I looked in her eyes at a certain point and clasped her hands and told her things about herself, she had no idea I could know. I didn’t, except by reading her, but I was right, and it brought her closer to me.

We went out a few times, but this was just as I became homeless, and a lot was going on for me. I had limited dollars, and though I had peered deep into her soul, was unwilling to reveal mine. I was ashamed and embarrassed and never revealed to her my circumstances. I regret that now and understand how it might make me seem mysterious – at the very least. I was not ready for it – but that night at 1806 was a highlight, showing her the Melbourne I knew.

This time I got a message from another friend while I was there wanting to catch up. I was keen to head home, but I’d not seen this friend since well before lockdown. We ended up spending another hour there, and I was in one of those moods that come rare these days – the engaging, witty raconteur.

Yesterday morning I went on my weekly walk with Cheeseboy and our dogs. He told he was working in the garden in the afternoon, and I offered my help if he needed it. Sure enough, at about 2.30, he called asking if I was willing to come over?

I’d been sitting at this very computer and reading this very blog. I’d been prompted to check things out and found myself reading of my travels in 2004 when this blog begins. It was fun recalling it all and living it again.

It was a warm day, and I lathered up in sunscreen and helped Cheeseboy clear the trunks of cut back bushes and remove weeds. It wasn’t arduous work, except that the sun had a bite to it and the repetitive nature of bending soon had my back playing up. I didn’t mind too much, though I had to take a break occasionally and lay stretched out on the bare boards of the back deck.

We had a cold beer at the end of it at about 5.30, and then I headed home, covered in dirt. There’s something satisfying in basic hard work. You may ache afterwards, but it feels like you have done something virtuous, and yesterday I felt as if I was adding some karmic credits to my account.

I was sore and burning from the sun and ran a lukewarm radox bath when I got home. The dusty soil had adhered to the sweat and the sunscreen so that I was coated in grime. Taking my shoes and socks off, I found the dirt had even got between my toes. I soaked for about 15 minutes between scrubbing myself clean. Then I dressed in well pressed, clean clothes, which is exactly what I needed.

I was due to go out for dinner, though I had little appetite or energy. It was better once I was properly dressed. The fabric felt crisp against my skin, and I was careful to look the part – I wanted to dress up, just a little. I put on a pair of pale Prussian blue summer weight cotton pants I hadn’t worn since last summer and a mauve shirt with suede boots. It looked good, and with the glow of the sun on my skin, I looked like a healthy buccaneer.

We had a G&T at a bar before going onto a steak restaurant – part of a chain, but reliably good. The meal was fine, we flirted with the waitress and shared a bottle of red. Out in the ‘burbs, it was a different crowd from the night before. There were many couples from young to middle age, the women in dresses and the men in shorts with short-sleeved shirts. There was a table of rowdy yobs too, probably a cricket club or something out for the night. The restaurant seemed full of men either yobs or short, or a combination of both. We were the outliers – both of us well-groomed and over six foot, and probably both of us a bit older.

We discussed the Top 100, which was released yesterday. Back in the nineties, I would buy these CDs. I’d listen to Triple J waking up and each year would tune into the countdown. Not anymore. I doubt I know more than 10 of this years top 100, and what I know is different from what others now know, and in that, I’m out of step.

About half an hour later, I was driving home through dark streets. I flicked through radio stations searching for music I wanted to listen to – some David Bowie, then an old song from the eighties I immediately remembered was sung by a guy called Climie Fisher, then, as I drew close, some Pink Floyd. Perfect.

Just thinking aloud


Yesterday, we visited the Morningtn Peninsula wineries. It was a lovely day.

The weather was ideal for it – clear blue skies and warm enough to wear short sleeves, but not warm enough to get hot. It was by way of a day trip as none of us – JV and Donna and me – are having a holiday away this year. And the wineries are always good value.

It’s a little know fact that whenever I imagine myself shifting out of the city – which is more and more often – it’s down to this part of the world, particularly Red Hill. It’s always seemed ideal too – distant enough from the city to make a difference, but close enough for a commute; there are good food and coffee, not to mention great wine; and it’s a particularly beautiful part of the world – rolling hills thick with tall gums and gullies with picturesque ponds nestling in them, interspersed vineyards and vines climbing slopes, and orchards of cherries and strawberries and other fruits. Through all this, the road winds mysteriously.

It seemed a lot of Melbourne had the same idea as us. I think we were first up and about, but soon thick crowds were dogging our footsteps. We started at Hickinbotham, where I bought a couple of bottles of Tempranillo (served delightfully chilled, as I’ve never tasted it before). It was a rustic landscape. A couple of dogs greeted us happily as we walked up, and the tasting was in what appeared a converted barn, with a restaurant at the front of it.

From there we went to Polperro. This is the vineyard where the Cheeses married 15 years ago (almost to the day). It was called something different then, but I remember the day very well. We sat out on the lawn yesterday with a platter of cheese and a glass of wine each, looking out over the vines and a shallow valley with a pond in it. It was charming, and the moment near perfect. I sat, I reckon, just about where I stood 15 years as best man the day of the wedding.

We were about an hour there and then, against the others protest, stopped at Paringa Estate. They make one of the best Pinot’s in Australia, and I wanted to sample it again. Their other wine is similarly exceptional, and I walked out with a bottle pinot noir and JV with a Viognier.

Lunch was well overdue, and everywhere we’d visited had been booked out, and when we got to Montalto were told they had no capacity for 90 minutes. We went next door to Tuck’s, and had a meal of deep fried chicken with a cider, overlooking all the green. Then home.

I wanted to size things up while I was down there. Everything is on the table currently, and a big one is a possibility of relocating. With work from home, it’s become much more feasible to live out of town. I spoke to others about it. We live like this maybe five days a year. It would be different living here, I said, but still, the average daily satisfaction than it is living the burbs. And, living in all that tranquillity, visits back to the city would take on a different, more exciting, character.

I think both could see my point. If we free ourselves up from old habits and routines, old ways of thinking, then what becomes possible?

All I can say now is that it was one of the best days of recent times for me, and I felt privileged to have access to such serene beauty. We really are fortunate.

Out in the world


Up to yesterday, I hadn’t been outside the suburb since March. I hadn’t caught the train since then and certainly hadn’t sat down for a drink of any type at a venue. That changed last evening when I hopped on a train and travelled to Richmond to catch up at the Corner Hotel with a work colleague.

Restrictions are easing, and though it’s no simple thing going out for a drink, at least there are options now. This came about because the colleague – theoretically the team manager – was starting to feel antsy stuck at home with his family and wanted to get out. We agreed to meet somewhere in between we could both get to by train. Richmond was the obvious solution, and so I booked a table Thursday for last night.

Unlike in days past when you’d just rock up and snaffle a beer even if only standing room, there’re a few conditions these days. As there are restrictions on the number of patrons you’re required to book first. Then you’re restricted to two hours maximum, and if you’re having a drink you must also have something to eat. Then, when you turn up, they must take down your details just in case there’s an outbreak of COVID-19 and they have to trace you.

The last time I was at the Corner Hotel was towards the end of last year. We got there at about midnight and the place was heaving with people. It was very different yesterday. Our slot yesterday was between 5pm and 7pm. The pub was sparsely populated. Though it was early for dinner we ordered a meal with our pint. We had a second pint and then it was over.

It was good to get out. I’m fond of my manager. He’s a Malaysian-Chinese who’s been living here about 30 years. He’s no more than 5’3″, but stocky, with a shaven head and a ready smile. There’s a twinkle in his eyes often, and smile lines at the corner of them. For some reason, he always reminds me of Yoda. He’s a very decent and generous human being – one of the good ones.

It seems strange to get so excited over a very tame couple of hours at the pub, but it’s better than doing nothing, which has been the default setting these last few months. It’s strange how time so readily expands and contracts according to circumstances. Many times I’ve been out on a big night and wondered where all the hours have gone. Last night the time passed in a leisurely fashion, and though it was still early when I headed home, it felt sufficient for what it was. The train was mostly empty, and on the way home I stopped by the supermarket to grab the block of chocolate I suddenly needed.

More to come.

Coming together


Monday afternoon on the Australia day holiday I caught up with Cheeseboy and off we went to a Bushfires Support event at a bar in Black Rock. It was going off in Black Rock. It was a bright, sunny day, and the clientele had spilled out onto the pavement. The windows had been flung open at the venue, and a live band playing songs from the seventies and eighties had the buoyant crowd bopping. It was very festive.

There was a distinct demographic present. More than 50% of the crowd would’ve been over 60, well to do and friendly. I looked about and rubbed shoulders with them, occasionally stopping to have a short conversation, and I could see my mum there, and my stepfather.

Mum would’ve been in her element. It was her sort of music, and she was never shy of having a dance. Such a friendly, social person would have quickly engaged with others around her and Fred, my stepfather would have been right at her side.

I bumped into an acquaintance there, then friends of Cheeseboy happened by. A woman was going around selling raffle tickets for charity, as well as a ticket to an old fashioned wheel. She insisted we buy our share of tickets then demanded that I spin the wheel – she’d cottoned onto me, while another, more matronly type, took a shining to Cheeseboy.

None of us won anything, but we were happy to sip on our pints of Pale Ale and join in the vibe. It was one of those occasions when you were proud to be an Aussie. Everyone was working for free. Half the profits from the beer went to charity. The prizes had been donated. Even the sausage sizzle went to a good cause.

This is what I remember. For all the fervour around Australia Day, most Australians are very decent, generous people. Maybe it’s a bit more skewed one way than the other down my way, but the spirit of community and pulling together was very strong. All of it was very Australian – bright and optimistic, a smile, a laugh, a clap on the back. Very open.

This is what I remembered. This is the best of Australia, just as the community response towards the disaster has been the best of us.

We can act on the things that need to get done, but let’s not forget the basics in the meantime – with few exceptions, we’re a friendly lot happy to embrace others as a rule, and to put in the hard yards for each other when we must.

Not my scene


On Tuesday night I caught up for a drink with a friend I hadn’t seen since late last year. She was at a bar at Southgate, Left Bank, with her husband, and I was there by 5 o’clock.

After about three beers, I was thinking about heading home. It was only meant to be a catch-up, and I had to get home to feed the dog. Then someone brought back another beer for me, then another after that and then my friend said, we’re going next door for dinner.

She’d been on the phone to her brother, who is a multi-millionaire business owner, and who just happened to be at a restaurant nearby having dinner. Come along, he’d told her.

At this stage, I tried backing out again. Gotta go home, I said, have a great night. But then she demanded I join them and her husband, a lovely guy, said I may as well join them. You might find it interesting he told me. Besides, it was a free dinner. So I joined them.

We found my friend’s brother in a private room with his friends and hangers-on. Apparently, he has a standing booking and turns up 3-4 nights a week for dinner. Hence the private room.

I looked about. As I already knew, it wasn’t my scene. There was a group of about six sitting around a round table, a married couple from the business and a few gay friends of the host. Bar one, they were pleasant. The host himself I’d met him a few times before and always found him a charmless character. He’s gay, short and plump with a nearly bald head and small eyes. He’s one of those people who don’t seem to say much but looks out on his entourage, occasionally speaking in a closed-mouth sort of way.

I had a glass of wine and thought twice about ordering a steak, uncomfortable to accept the generosity of someone I hardly knew. I joined in the conversation, but mostly I observed. In my imagination, I considered how 3-4 times a week the host holds court like this, watching on as others enjoy the fruits of his hospitality. It sat poorly with me all round. I’m old school in a lot of ways, but, you know, I’m not above accepting the occasional freebie if someone really insists. Sometimes it’s not worth making such a fuss about. Next time, you think. But to turn up night after night knowing that your meal – and your company – was being paid for is a different thing.

I get how people like free things. And a free meal in a nice restaurant is a treat. But to do it, again and again, makes it seem cynical. Worse, though – for me – would be the sense of being owned. Rented, at least. And I think that’s likely a part of the appeal for the host. He knows their price, and he can easily afford it. He watches them eating from his trough and takes pleasure from it. It’s just money after all, and he has plenty of that. In exchange, he has power.

And yep, I may be being unfair and judgemental here, and just plain wrong. Maybe it’s not the same people all the time. Maybe they’re generous in return in their own way. Or maybe they’re just happy knowing it gives the pleasure host to entertain them – it’s made round to go round, as my grandmother used to say. It’s all perspective. To each their own. It’s not for me, though.

Despite this going through my head, I ended up ordering a steak. I wasn’t going to starve myself on principle, and I intended to pay for it.

In the end, I ate it but never got to pay for it. As I was finishing my meal, a fierce argument broke out. “Come on, mate,” my friend’s husband said, pulling me from my chair, “I’ve seen this before”.

We took our wine and left the room, sitting out in the restaurant proper. I knew it was a volatile family, and my friend herself was subject to fierce emotions. We drank our wine while it was explained to me that once these family conflicts start, they couldn’t be stopped. Best to get out of the way.

Long story short, we were soon gone. I had only the opportunity for a quick goodbye as I grabbed my coat and bag, ushered away from the fractured atmosphere. Then I was walking to the station.

The night only compounded itself from then. No trains were running on my line, and the three Ubers I ordered one after another never arrived. In the end, I got a taxi home for twice the price, and long after I should have been.

Trust and affection


I went out for a drink last night with one of the women here. Spring only sprung a couple of days ago, but it’s started well. It was a balmy evening for this time of year and we sat atop the Rooftop Bar above Cookie and shared a few pints looking out over the city skyline.

The woman I went out with refers to me as her ‘boss’ to anyone who asks, though I only supervised her for a brief period. She’s a lovely, bubbly personality, good hearted and generous natured. She has a loud voice and a laugh that belies her small stature. She’s a fond character who tells me she ‘loves’ me, and that she’s ‘proud’ of me, and so on. Much of our relationship is me teasing her or her teasing me.

Last night’s drinks have been on the cards for a few weeks, but was hurriedly brought on by a strange rivalry with one of our co-workers. To hear her describe it it seems she and this other guy got to talking about me over lunch. Somehow it escalated into a competition between them as to who I liked more, who liked me more, and who had the earlier friendship. I had to ask her twice, but that appears to be the true story. Last night she took the opportunity to send triumphant messages to her rival, though I told him I was open to bribery.

Among the things discussed last night she told me that knowledge that I’d once been homeless was now reasonably general. I didn’t mind so much, but I was surprised. She was quick to tell me that it was nothing to be ashamed of and that everyone thought it was admirable how I had survived and recovered. That’s why she was proud of me.

I had lunch with the other woman yesterday, and we have a coffee date tomorrow. I didn’t have plan to have lunch with her, I saw her sitting downstairs and said hello and she asked me to join her. She told me a bit more of her story, advising she’s very careful who she shares it with. The obvious question then was why she was sharing it with me? I guess there might be an obvious answer to that, too, but still – she hardly knows me, she likes me for whatever reason, and what is the basis for her trust? Unless it’s a speculative gesture – I’ll trust you, this is who I am, how will you react, and what will you tell me? Not much, as it turns out, but only because the time wasn’t right and she had to go back to work.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it


Just after 9am yesterday I caught up with Cheeseboy for a coffee (or two) and a pastry at a French cafe we catch up at every few weeks. It had been raining, and there was still a light drizzle when I left home. It was cold and the sky grey. Normally the outdoor tables are full, but yesterday when I got there everyone was inside warm and dry.

After a couple of minutes, Cheeseboy arrived with his dog, Bailey, and after ordering, we sat outside. The tables were arranged along the curb, and the chairs nearest the road were wet with rain, while those on the shop side had been sheltered under the overhanging eaves and had remained dry. As there was no-one else about, we sat at adjoining tables on the dry seats.

Within twenty minutes one of the other tables was taken by lycra-clad cyclists, who are everywhere early every weekend morning. In another five minutes, a larger group of people turned up wanting to sit outside. There wasn’t room for them all in the current configuration, and one of them turned to Cheeseboy and asked: “Are you guys together?”

Cheeseboy feigned outrage at that. “That’s a bit personal, isn’t it? I don’t even know you and your asking if we’re together!”

He went on in the same vein while the questioner appeared flummoxed. I began to laugh, and some of the man’s friends started to smile. I chipped in with a “we’re just good friends” line, and Cheeseboy was continuing. “What if I got offended by that? I don’t mind, but it’s none of your business.”

By now the questioner had the inkling that we were having a lend of him, but still came out with a plaintive “I just want somewhere to sit.”

Eventually, of course, Cheeseboy gave up his seat and came to sit with me, but this is a fine example of Cheeseboy’s playfulness. It’s one of the things that make him such fun company. He’s had a charmed life, and it shows, and I think he knows it. Yesterday we were just a couple of middle-aged Hampton dudes sharing a coffee and taking the piss as if we had not a problem in the world.

Free days


I woke this morning after a good nights sleep with the rain falling in a gentle, steady hush. That was a couple of hours ago, and it’s rained for most of that time since. Today is a free day, a public holiday with nothing I must do or anything I must be. Together it made for an easy peace of mind as went about my holiday rituals – coffee in bed with a book and an iPad, the dog close by, nestled into the curve of my body as I sat up on my side, or leaning against my back behind me.

As always Rigby is alert to everything even with his eyes closed. He knows the routines and the little tells he reacts to immediately – the picking up of my glasses from the bedside table, the snap shut of a book when I have finished reading, the book being replaced on the pile beside the bed – and he is up immediately, standing on the bedclothes with his head turned to me, before leaping down to the floor and turning my way expectantly. It’s the dregs of the coffee he’s after, the dregs he drinks every time cleaning out the coffee mug, just as he has for many years since. Both of us are creatures of familiar routine.

It feels fine to be free of obligation, and I wish there were more days like this. Though there is nothing I must do, I know what I will do. I’ll read a little, write for a while, and towards late afternoon I will cook. With the food in the oven or on the stove top slowly cooking I’ll fire up a hot bath and laze there reading my bath book while Rigby attends me bath side, licking the soap from my skin as he’s so inclined. I’ll wash my hair and shave my face in anticipation of the working week. For a few moments I’ll reflect on this and that: some of my best thinking comes in the bath.

Then it will get dark. I’ll eat my dinner with the TV on and by then I’ll be resigned to the fact that I must work tomorrow. Depending on how the day has been – particularly, how the writing has gone – I’ll feel either satisfied or searching for more. In either case, my mind may be busy with thoughts and conjectures. I’ll wonder at things, at words and probably at life itself, then possibly the latest footy scores. With work ahead, I’ll be aware of the things I intend to do. I start refreshed, as I do every week, as if this week I can change things, that the frustrations I’m victim of will clear, as if all I need do is keep going, persist, stay true and strong. Bending to the situation is not a consideration, and never has been. I’ll succeed on my terms, or fail, but it’s not obstinacy that informs that but irrepressible optimism.

Yesterday was a different day. We had arranged to drive down Red Hill way and attend the annual Winter Wine thingy. We’ve done this before, though for many years. I caught a train with JV to Frankston were we were picked by Donna on the way through, a couple of her friends with her. We spent the afternoon going from one winery to the next, though fewer than I hoped for. Navigation let us down once or twice, and a late, extended lunch at T’Gallant meant that by the time we left most of the openings had closed. I missed out on Manton’s Creek and Aringa Estate and one or two others I wanted to attend, but never mind.

I got home near 8pm last night, glad to be home and with Rigby again.

Another year older, nearly


It’s my birthday in a bit over a week and because of people coming and going and not being about I’m having an extended, though fragmentary, celebration of it.

Yesterday it started with a spirit tasting event at Cumulus, Inc with a couple of old friends. It was a beautiful, perfect day and spirits even before we touched one were pretty buoyant. We spent a few hours circulating in the crowd tasting this and that and chatting with the people behind these small brands and quietly getting intoxicated on the small sips of gin and whisky and rum afforded to us. It was all good. In the end, we topped it off with a cocktail and proceeded to our next stop.

We tried the rooftop at the Imperial but it was crowded and so ended up sitting at a table on Spring street drinking beer after beer and getting some bar snacks to help soak up a portion of it. The premiere of the new Harry Potter stage production was happening just up the road from us and we watched as a steady stream of people went by in either direction either coming from it or going to it. Some were dressed up like wizards or what not, and costumes that made no sense to me but would all the world to a Harry Potter aficionado.

Among the crowd were celebrities invited along to give the event a touch of glam, each one proclaimed by C as they wandered by, or sat at the restaurant nearby us. It was a stellar day for celebrity spotting, though no real A-listers unless you include the state premier.

We had all met working together at Shell more than twenty years ago, just down the road on the corner. We’ve been friends ever since, though in more recent times C has drifted away some – Cheeseboy still see each other every month, and often much more often. Still, it represented a reunion of sorts with many memories recalled and, as the beer settled in, deep and meaningful moments explored.

Somewhere along the line, the conversation turned to me. I’ve had a prickly relationship with C occasionally, though mostly on his side. He’s a man who imagines slights occasionally and in general, seems to often find my confidence – or whatever it is – as a challenge to him. Yesterday was free of that, perhaps because there was no audience, but he quizzed me once more.

We got talking about my writing and where that’s heading. I told him it was going well, but he was disappointed that I hadn’t written about my ‘experience’. Every time he sees me he commends me for having survived such a tough time. He emphasised yesterday what a compelling story that was if only I wrote about it – how, in his words, an intelligent, successful, private school boy ends up homeless and in despair, and recovers from it.

It’s a narrative to him, though his fascination seems genuine, as if he can’t really understand how such a thing can be – though he’s seen it with others. I think I represent some sort of mysterious cautionary tale. Of course, it’s not so simple for me having lived it.

I told him I would write the story one day, but only when I was ready for it. That wasn’t good enough for him. He leaned forward with insistence and it felt as if he was accusing of avoiding the subject, or skyving with it. I tried to explain. I’m too close to it still. Part of that it needs to properly ripen, when things are different, when there’s enough space between me and it that I can see it properly and not be affected by it. For now, it’s still a depressing thing and will remain so I reckon until I reach the next level – whenever that may be.

The discussion zinged hither and yon until someone at the end of the table felt the need to intervene with a comment, basically telling them to lay off me. We all smiled at that. It wasn’t serious, but in the conversation, I’d come clean. I’ve not been happy for eight or nine years I told them. I referred to how they go home to a family and comfort and security and all I have is a dog I love and small comfort and little security. I was complaining, I was just saying. I said your family is like a battery that replenishes you, except you don’t know it. You know it when you don’t have it anymore.

All of this is familiar to me, so it made no difference saying it. It was new to them though and it surprised them I think.

At one stage C had leaned forward when he was proclaiming my story and said I was smarter than he and Cheeseboy combined and that was the story – how does something like this happen to someone like me? I tried to explain but at the back of my mind, I wondered why he thought I was so smart. What makes me smart?

It’s something I wonder about sometimes in general, like I do other things. It’s curious because I know I’m primo intelligent but it just is for me and I don’t understand it because I can’t see or understand or even conceive of being any different. It feels so common that even if I am smarter than everyone else I don’t feel any different. And so I get surprised when people say such things or act in such a way and I wonder, what do they see? How is this thing manifested? (I know at work I’m perceived as some kind of brainiac, even by those who dislike me.)

I sometimes wonder if people get taken in by the behaviours they take as markers of intelligence, but which aren’t in themselves anything more than quirks of personality. That’s not to say I doubt it – I don’t. I only really know it when I get things that others don’t, mostly to my surprise, and the speed of understanding things and the connections I make that are mysteries to others. I think maybe that’s why I write.

By now it is late afternoon and there’s an aroma wafting our way of what appears to be Tandoori chicken and eventually, we adjourn around the corner to an Indian restaurant where Cheeseboy and I have dinner sitting at a table outdoors, and C finally departs for another function, long after he planned.

It was a good, full day, carefree and fun and nostalgic. I guess that’s what birthdays should be.

I’m sharing a dinner with Cheeseboy next week – his birthday is the day before mine – and one other. Donna might attend that too. The week after it’s a night out with JV, who is otherwise away.