Give me a reason


Because it was a public holiday yesterday, I ended up having a cooked brunch at one of the cafes up the road.

It was hectic and crowded there, and I was lucky to get a table. I watched the comings and goings while I waited for my omelette to arrive, the people coming in searching for a table, the people paying their bill as they left, and the waiters and waitresses weaving their way between them, taking orders and bringing meals and showing people to their table.

I’ve been in similar circumstances hundreds of times. I don’t know how many cooked breakfasts I’ve had in my life, but it’d be in the thousands of dollars worth. It’s always felt a treat, if not a downright and well-earned indulgence. Life was good if I could do such a thing.

I enjoyed it yesterday, but something else crept into my mind as I observed. By chance I looked up and saw my boss from work leave with another man, looking relaxed but professional as if they’d just conducted a meeting. We didn’t speak, and he didn’t see me, but perhaps it was the unexpected sighting of him that shifted my mind into another perspective.

There’s a guy at the cafe I always share a few words with. He’s the sort you often see around beach locales – tanned and relaxed, easy to smile and ready for a laugh. They take life at a different pace; it always seems to me, intent on living it on their terms. Often that’s related to a love of the ocean and the life that goes with it. Often they seem to be surfers – but maybe I’m inventing or imagining the whole trope. In any case, they’re people at peace with the world, and they exude chilled contentment.

I thought a little of the time, years back when I had some money to invest. At the time, I thought a bar or massage shop? I knew bars, so that was the preferred option, but I ended up with a massage shop – which I didn’t know – and that didn’t work out so well. What if, I mused, I had partnered up in a cafe like this instead?

What attracted me was the carefree nature of it. I know it’s far from carefree, especially having survived Covid, but it seemed a simpler equation at that moment. I could feel it, a basic yearning just to turn up in my shorts and a t-shirt and start serving people I could have a laugh and a conversation with. Just a job – a pleasing way to spend some time between doing what I really want to do. Whatever that is.

I know it’s an illusion, and that if I found myself in such a situation, I’d just as likely be yearning for something else. And that it’s just as likely that someone working in a cafe might covet my job. That’s the nature of human beings. However, I can only speak for my own mentality and something of this appeals – at my most jaded I actually dreamt of taking myself off to become a barista.

Instead, I do what I do. It may pay-off for me, but I doubt I’ll ever truly feel satisfied again. The day after learning of what appears a decent promotion, I felt deflated. The brief sugar hit at the news, and all it meant, gave way to another feeling altogether. Unfortunately, it seemed crushingly banal to me. What was the point of it? Money, yes, and I need it, more than I can say – but nothing to nourish me, nothing for the soul, no other value but dollars and cents.

I feel like I’m chained to the machine, but it probably happens to most of us some time. And perhaps that’s just the reality I never saw before because I was caught up in doing and achieving and the sheer competitive sense of it. They were drugs in my system I’ve been weaned off in the years since. Without them…

I’ve written variations on this dozen’s of times, but that’s why I keep posting it – because it remains true. It’s all about being free, I think – free to be yourself, free to follow that thing inside you, free to be big or small or however you want. I know I still have a hunger inside, but I’m coming to believe that this is a thing that life makes compromises of. I understand I do, especially given all I’ve gone through – but I keep coming back to it because I can’t quite come to terms with it. I can’t accept it, not yet.

I’ve been through hard times and lost a lot, but I’m also fortunate in general and more so than many people even now. This is what checks me. I don’t want to be ungrateful or greedy. I don’t want to be accused of hubris. And I sure as fuck don’t want to be whiny. We all have a duty to ourself though, and, for me, it means I want to understand – in the deep of me. That’s why I keep coming back to it. I can’t accept it until I make sense of it. That’s me – I need a reason.

Half of this is probably mid-life crisis sort of stuff. From what I can tell, it goes away eventually or at least eases. I suspect a good part of that is acceptance. I reckon, not that I know, that we accept that what we hoped for professionally and strove towards previously no longer applies, and doesn’t matter. It’s not that we find the satisfaction we lacked, but that it becomes irrelevant.

I hope that’s the case, but it’s a hard one to get my head around. I am, by nature, a committed character – even now. In my case, I think it’s only half the story – the rest being the bitter residue of grief and hard times. And personality – I’ve always been restless, always been daring, and always keen to try different and more. I’m by no means an addictive personality, but I understand how one can crave new highs as the old ones pale. For me, that was travel and living well, women and sex, and work as well. There’s little of that now.

Now I fight the urge to be irresponsible – to do something just to be doing something. The impulse to risk remains strong because I want to know what can be and how far I can go. And, because everything now seems small and unimportant. There’s no heft or scale, no blood in what I do. There’s always been a danger in this urge, and I have the scars to prove it – but I’ve had fun too, and tested myself, and made it interesting.

Not sure if it’s in me to fade away or to accept a smaller take on things – not in my current configuration. But then, if I’m sensible, there’s no real alternative. Yes, give me a reason – but give me passion to, cos I’ve lived without it for too long.

What I’d like


As I took Rigby on his afternoon walk yesterday, I gave thought to my immediate future. In a little over a week, I’m back in the job, and I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. The break from the daily routine seems only to have reinforced some of my misgivings. I still see things pop-up in my thread regularly, some of which I respond to with a directed action or comment. All of it feels tedious and familiar. I’m jaded and weary by the same things again and again and have little appetite for a return to it.

Still, I must, though the other job remains a possibility, as do others. I’m not locked in, and that’s important to remember.

The reality is that I must return somewhere, but if there’s a silver lining, it is that at some point soon my pay should be increased – either the long-promised and overdue pay rise at my current workplace or starting somewhere else. There was some reassurance thinking that, and as I walked along, I calculated what would be an acceptable minimum increase.

I did my sums, factoring in a desire to move from my current home at some point into something bigger and better, the prospect of a proper holiday somewhere, and a need to begin salting some dollars away for the rainy days a’comin’.

I figured that I needed a minimum of an extra $14K on my existing salary. That’s probably a few K more than my alleged pay rise, but the other job is offering approximately $25K extra. An extra $14K would allow me to budget for an extra $100 a week rent, and for the bigger, better home that would allow, and the consequent uplift in quality of life. It leaves enough over to grow in my bank account, especially when you consider my various, sundry debts should be paid off by late next year – that’s about an extra $250 month freed up.

It’s a pittance really, but enough. When I think of the years ahead when I’ll be living in retirement, I’m still well short of what I need, but that’s an incentive to be creative. The important thing is, get it right now, and build upon it. I have to make a start.

That’s the practical side of things mapped out, more or less, and so my mind turned to the less tangible.

Probably for the last week I’ve imagined finding someone I could talk to about such disparate topics as Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the works of Erich Maria Remarque, and the peccadillos of Australian test selection, just as an example. And throw in discussions around food and wine and politics and the state of the world, and pretty well most of the stuff I take time out to write about here.

Sure, I’ve got people I can discuss Test selection with – I did that the other day – or the footy. I’ll have occasional conversations around what’s happening in the world and the state of politics, but generally, they’re fleeting. I don’t think I ever talk about books, and though music is an occasional point of discussion (though not nearly as much as when I was 30 years younger), there’s only one person I know of who would even know who Richter is.

Certainly, there’s no single person I know who can embrace such a diverse range of subjects and converse knowledgeably on them. I was about to say how much I miss it – but I’ve never really had it. The best I’ve ever had it is experiencing quadrants of these conversations with different people. It would be lovely to discover it in someone this year. It would make my heart full.

There are other things I wish and hope for, and things I need to sort out. I don’t have resolutions, but I’m happy to call some of these – the financial – as goals.

Next week will come, and more things after it. I don’t know all that’ll come my way, but there will be possibilities to explore and experience. Now’s not the time to be passive.

Counting the days


A month from today is Christmas. This year, I commence Christmas leave on the 21st and return to work on January 11. I don’t know yet what I’m doing Christmas day, but that’s not unusual.

I have tentative plans to head down the coast to Wye River for a few days after Christmas. I’ll be pitching camp with the Cheeses and associates, and even bought a tent for the occasion. Rigby will be minded by X for that period, and I expect I’ll mellow out completely while I spend my time drinking and eating and laughing and reading and body-surfing and going to the pub, all in the bright coastal sunshine.

I need the break, but it’s close enough now that I can count it down.

I’ve been so busy, but the good news is that two of my projects should be launched within a week, which takes the pressure off. The other one – the big one – I’ve had to pause as UAT failed.

That’s a major annoyance, but not surprising. I feel pretty relaxed about it really because I know I’ve done the right thing in not trying to push it through. I’ve asked the vendor to come up with some satisfactory answers and an assurance I can trust that every contingency is managed. The formal pause allows me to draw some breath as well, and take a break from the headlong rush.

I’m still hoping to get it deployed before Christmas.

And that’s my working life – flat-out, but currently under control. The sun is shining, the bars and restaurants are opening up, and Christmas beckons.

Do it all next year, but worry about it then.

Remain vital


I wonder if I’ve reached the age now where thoughts of the last third of my life become more prevalent? It makes sense that they should as I advance into that stage – but there feels something unsatisfying in it.

Its been a gradual realisation, almost unconscious. There I was yesterday, imagining my life in comfortable retirement, without giving it a second thought. And yesterday morning, on my weekly walk with Cheeseboy, we touched upon the life to come – where we’d live, how we’d live, and the simple pleasures we look forward to as part of that.

It’s not the first time we’ve done that, though both of us are probably a dozen years from retirement. At one point yesterday, we imagined the same scene – a house overlooking the ocean, a sunny day, and the simple pleasure of having a cool drink sitting on a deck overlooking it all.

It seems for quite a while now that I’ve had a settled view of the life to come. If not the house overlooking the sea – I doubt I can afford that – then a comfortable cottage in the bush somewhere. Room to move and an open sky. There would be the sprawling veggie garden I referred to yesterday, which I’d tend to every morning.

I remember as a boy I grew vegetables in our suburban back yard, and the sheer delight of discovering the budding fruit of the young tomato appearing overnight; or the unexpected find of zucchini or a pumpkin hidden in the foliage. The bonus now is that I could turn these things into food for my table.

And that’s the life, as I touched upon yesterday — a life of growing veggies and indulgently cooking. Afternoons reading by the fire or an open window and perhaps engaging in conversation over a glass of wine or a gin and tonic. In between, as I went about my daily business, my music would play, and all of this the pillars of my simple life – good food, nourishing literature, and the music of my life. And writing, which I would set to every day at the appointed time.

By itself, it sounds fine, but to what end? I would need other things — friends of course, and hopefully, someone to love and be loved by, but even so. I would need to travel still, to enlarge my mind and experience – that mustn’t stop. And human interactions.

This, more or less, is how I’ve unconsciously imagined it for years. It seems a good life in many ways. Why complain? Because it seems to me that to live well is not enough, one must live deeply. And to experience that truly, there must be some risk, some danger, some leap of faith and courage involved. To immerse yourself in the merely pleasurable comes at the cost of vitality.

For some time now, my relationship to books and reading has changed from what it was. It is less satisfying, though I read just as much as I ever did and take as much pleasure from it. As I think about, it feels as if books have become entertainment to me, though I’m still provoked and stirred by them.

The difference is that in all the many years I browsed bookstores and collected books up till recently literature was a part of who I was. I read as if I would learn something as if in the pages of the classics I pored over there was enlightenment to be found and meaning for the path I was on. I read as if there were secrets I could unlock that would make sense of what I did and felt, what I yearned and strived for. Literature pumped through me like life’s blood.

What’s different now? I’m older now. Perhaps I’m more cynical; certainly, I’m more bruised. The life I imagined as I read those books has now passed me: I have been and gone, and here I am.

I thought of this again this morning as I added about 20 books to a wishlist, mostly NYRB publications. There was excitement thinking I will likely read them one day. And fascination wondering what I would find. That hasn’t changed. And probably over the next 18 months, I’ll buy each and every one of those books, and others, and more to come, many more, in the years ahead.

But to what point? That’s the critical question. I feel such a dilettante reading for its own sake, as has been true for the last 10 years. There must be more to it. And the difference, ultimately, is that once I could see myself in those books as I if I too could live that life and take on those adventures. I imagined myself loving as the characters did, being swept up in romance and volatile times. That’s how I would live. That’s what I would do.

And I did, for a long time. Books taught me experience, and I went out and found it for myself. I travelled, I loved, I caroused and journeyed, I looked deeply into things and found myself provoked and stimulated. I learned. It was good, and I’m grateful for it, but it’s like all memory, once it’s done you can’t go back. They’re photos in an album.

I went deliberately searching for vivid experience and being unsafe for so long has probably cost me the comforts of a settled domestic life. There are times I miss that, and I regret there are things I missed out on.

Now that I’m coming into the last third, what remains true? Is it that settled and domestic existence I can come at belatedly? Or is some return to the vitality of creating new experiences, over and again?

What we’re talking about here is possibility – the possibility of new and challenging things in your life. It’s been in short supply the last few years as I’ve scrambled to get out of the hole I was in. I want to think that I will feel it again – the sense that anything can change, that there surprises still in store, and mountains to climb.

I’ve come to the stage of my life where I realise that it’s the poignant and the sublime that fill me up. That’s what I searched for in books once upon a time, and then in life. The times I have experienced it have felt almost holy to me as if I was on the cusp of an understanding that always eluded me. It was enough to know it was there, and to feel that – and to quest to find it again.

I don’t want to fade away. To live well is fine, but I need the vitality of life to make it meaningful for me. It’s been a while since I’ve felt that – and I think that accounts for my general state of mind in recent years. I really don’t know if I was ever made to play it safe. Tempting as it is, I want to feel alive – no matter how old I get.

At the extremes


It’s been a rush the last five days, or so. Busy and productive myself, and things happening around me.

On the weekend I sent off book one to an agent for appraisal, etc, and will likely contact another this weekend for the same purpose.

Also on the weekend, I posed a question on Facebook, seeking feedback about an old idea of mine that had returned to the fore. There’s too much to go into here, but basically, it’s an idea that sprung out my experiences when homeless and being hounded by the ATO and various creditors. I needed help of different types, accounting and legal mainly, but didn’t have the resources to engage anyone and there seemed few other options. In the end, I got help from a local community centre but highlighted to me what a huge gap there is for help for the people who need it most. My idea was to create a platform to crowd-source help, drawing upon the collective wisdom and charity of the community.

At one stage I had a partner to develop an App, but he later pulled out for business reasons (he was a software developer). I’ve had an interest in the idea, but it seemed too hard to do. But then, watching the community response to the bushfire crisis, I was inspired to believe there’s a real appetite for support out there. And, by now, I had thought of another way of doing it – a much simpler way.

So I put it out there – wouldn’t it be good? And, what do you think? There was a pretty positive response, so I guess I’m moving onto stage two.

I also went to a bushfire charity event at Bad Shepherd on Saturday night, before ending up drinking cocktails at the Hawker bar.

Then, at work, it’s been full-on again, or still, but generally good. Very productive these days, and encouraged to use my creative side, which is excellent.

On Sunday there was a brief but very fierce supercell storm that hit Melbourne. I listened to the hail on the roof and it sounded like the roof was being hammered.

On Monday another storm developed late in the day and torrential rain fell. My train was stopped at Elsternwick on the way home and we had to wait for busses in the rain to take us the rest of the way. That stopped about a kilometre from where I lived. I walked in the rain with a raincoat on and my umbrella held in front of me like a shield. The rain was heavy and the wind made it near horizontal, which meant I could only protect a part of my body. From the waist down, I was sopping wet.

This is how it is now, everything is at the extremes.

The good fake


My summer break is just about over. On Monday I’m back at work. I’m not looking forward to it, but the break was better than it might have been.

I hoped to go away. Planned to go away. But then unforeseen circumstances prevented it and that was a blow. For the first week of my holidays, I struggled a little. Christmas is a conflicted period for me, on top of which I’ve been wrestling with a few existential challenges.

But in other ways, the break was productive and better than being in the office. Because I didn’t go away, it meant I could do some writing instead and raced through the final edit of my manuscript. Give me another week off I’d have it finished and ready to send it off to the publisher. As it is, I reckon I’ll have it finished by the end of the month.

I was intent on getting some proper rest, body and mind. The first week that seemed a bust. I’m still not sleeping as well as I can, but I’ve had some lazy days and feeling a bit more energetic than I have been. I still figure I’ll need another break sooner than later, and ideally a proper holiday (March?), but I can get by for a while.

Around the house, I did some spring cleaning, digitised a lot of old photos, and pruned my wardrobe. I kept a pretty low profile generally.

I found no real answer to the questions I posed after Christmas, and I suspect there is no real answer. As before, I just have to make the best of it. I guess that’s disappointing in a way. It’d be nice if there was a solution to every problem. An answer to every question. Doesn’t matter how earnest or enquiring you are, life doesn’t always work that way.

What that means is that I go to work and adopt a persona, as I have for so long. Most people probably do in some way, though mine is in place to shield my frailties. The persona isn’t fake, it just isn’t all true. You take some elements of yourself, and you project them while hiding away the parts of yourself more vulnerable. It makes for a warped presentation of yourself, but most people can’t tell the difference.

I’ve wanted to be more authentic than that but found it’s hard to live with the weight of sorrow that entails in my circumstances. I accept that now. I accept all that weighs on me and troubles me, and I’m no longer willing to let them affect me as they have. I don’t want to be a victim. Nor do I want to bite my tongue. In that way, at least, I want to be real.

With that decided I intend on returning to work with my most bold self to the fore. If I have to ‘fake’ it, then let’s go for broke.

On the other foot


Yesterday I experienced something which a lot of women probably have to deal with all time.

I left work early to go to a specialists appointment at Cabrini hospital. The receptionist was an extroverted, middle-aged woman who appeared quite taken with me. My vanity deals with that very well, but the result of it was unwanted attention.

I’m an easy-going, friendly character. If someone speaks to me, then I’ll speak back. I’m happy to engage in conversation as appropriate, and God knows have many times flirted with an alluring someone. To my knowledge I’ve never persisted past the point, it was welcome.

I won’t say it was unwelcome yesterday, I’d have just rathered it didn’t happen. It was pretty innocent, and though it made me a little uncomfortable, there was no sinister intent. As far as she was concerned, she was having some playful fun with someone she obviously found attractive. I played along, mostly from good manners, but I’m in a hospital waiting room and not in the mood to be witty and charming. Basically, I want to be left alone.

Most of it was pretty innocuous. She’d keep talking to me, a suggestive smile on her face. When she wasn’t talking to me, then she’d be in conversation with her offsider, obviously intended to be overheard, and sometimes making comments concerning me.

For example, she asked her offsider if she thought much could be told about a person’s personality by the socks they wear? She gave me a cheeky smile as she said this, her eyes shifting to my daringly striped socks. I gave her a friendly, closed mouth smile, but chose not to contribute to the discussion. There was a lot like that.

When I think about it, it feels sorta strange. I’ve had many conversations like that, but generally only when there’s an understanding already in place. Give and take. While I wanted to keep to myself, responding to her conversation wasn’t really a problem. What felt uncomfortable was being alluded to like that as the third person. That, and the raw, unashamed interest she had in me.

I expect women experience this all the time, and to a much greater order of magnitude than this. I’ve heard this before, but I didn’t really know it. Sounds funny, I felt kind of objectified – who’d ever think I’d have a problem with that?

Monday morning


I had that dread feeling going into work this morning. It was superficial, I knew, but it was indicative of my current state of mind.

I spoke about it with Donna on Friday night. Each year we catch up for dinner to celebrate mum’s birthday. It was delayed this year, but once more, it was a fun night. I had a quiet pint by myself waiting for her at the Meyer’s Place Bar, then we walked around a while looking for somewhere suitable to eat. After a few false starts, we ended up at Tonka. It was a good choice.

We sat on the corner of the bar and grazed through a variety of modern Indian dishes. The place was lush and warm.

We always have candid conversations when we catch up. I have few people to discuss these things with now, and in me, she has someone she can trust and who will understand. We talked about everything, including mum, and also touched upon such prickly topics such as our health, about getting old, and our respective state of mind. At one point, I recited to her the recent mental challenges I’d faced, giving an interpretation of them. She listened without interruption, then told me she knew exactly what I meant because she’d experienced precisely the same.

It’s good to have someone I can talk to about such things. To be fair, I think she’s had a tougher time of it than me. I still reckon many of my issues are situational. They’re more easily triggered than ever before, but once I get them managed – as soon I will with my current challenges – then I fall back into a relative state of stability. Not happy, but not unhappy, either. I think Donna has been generally unhappy for a long time, with spikes in it according to the issues she’s dealing with – and they’ve been a few of them lately.

Friday night though was very pleasant.

To my surprise, I got an invitation to have dinner at the Cheeses Saturday night. It used to be that I’d be over there at least once a month, but it’d fallen away drastically this year, to the point that I wondered what it meant. I might have been over for a barbecue early in the year, but that was it. At a time I needed all the friends I could get, I felt this absence keenly. When I was invited, I couldn’t help but remind Cheeseboy of that a little. I thought you’d never ask, I said.

As ever, it was low-key but easy and good, and I was grateful to get out, though I confided nothing of my concerns.

The rest of the weekend was as normal. I did my shopping, got a haircut, stayed up to watch the Ashes, and I wrote. Then this morning I head off to work, and I know I don’t want to be there. I don’t feel 100% these days, I’ve got a cold, different niggles, just feel a little off in general physically. Nothing a decent holiday wouldn’t restore to me. But then there’s the new job too, and uncertainty around it, and a current lack of structure – things I know will pass, but which I feel keenly in the meantime.

Once I’m sitting at my desk, it’s not so bad. I know it will be fine and I’ll be fine, though I still need that holiday. I can’t though and need to hang on for a few months before I can do anything like that. In the meantime, news on Friday will have an impact on how the future shapes.

A week before I started in this job, one of my advocates, a digital marketing manager, left the business. He was instrumental in me gaining this position. Then his boss, the big boss, a guy I’ve worked closely with in guiding the chatbot, he called us into a meeting room Friday and announced he’d be leaving at the end of the month.

We’ve had our run-ins, but there’s a lot of mutual respect. He wanted me for this job, and I’d hitched myself to him in no small degree. There was the promise of more to come with him around. And now he’s going.

That’s life. My two biggest advocates are either gone or going, but it may also make for an opportunity. Speaking to him late on Friday I got the sense that there may be more to come – that, down the track, our fates might once more intersect.

Remembering my birthday


I woke up this morning and it took me ten minutes to remember it was my birthday. It’s not that I’ve overlooked it. I shared in a birthday celebration Saturday night and there’s been plenty of other reminders along the way. These days though my birthday seems purely a social thing, an excuse to get together and have a drink. The deeper remembrance of what it actually means has passed into history.

I had passing thoughts over the weekend related to that very idea. I recalled a time when my birthday would come along and my mum, ever exuberant, would call me at the first opportunity and sing happy birthday to me. I would raise my eyebrows at it at the time, but it was heart-warming to be reminded I was so loved. I have no kids to wake me with breakfast in bed, and not even a family these days to share a quiet celebratory meal with, either out or a nice home cooked meal by mum. And presents, of course. I don’t even consider presents anymore, though once I would be curious with anticipation of what goodies the day would bring me.*

This is a difference. Birthdays now are single events when once they were part of a continuum that took in years of history and remembrance and family memory.

With all that said, it didn’t take long this morning to be reminded that it was my birthday. I was waiting for the train to arrive when I got my first message. I’ve had about another dozen since wishing me a happy birthday. My offsider, returned from holiday, came in with a bag full of pastries to celebrate; and the women I work with have very kindly cooked up a storm over the weekend for a birthday lunch together today. I’m grateful for that and more touched than I thought I would be. And I’ve just listened to a voicemail in which Donna sings happy birthday to me.

I’m not doing anything tonight but there’s another birthday celebration on Friday night – Donna’s – so it’s a busy and festive time all round.

*To be fair, I got a lovely bottle of Mamre Brook shiraz on Saturday night, and Donna doubtless will have a gift for me. And the combination of cocktails, Mexican food and friends Saturday night was great fun.

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.