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.

Home with my fantasies


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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