The big call

Look, I said I wasn’t going to speak after the election until it was done and dusted, but here I am and I want to make bold prediction: Labor will bolt it in.

I’m not one for sweeping pronouncements like that. I lot of that is superstition: if you say it, you risk it. Here I am being the outrider though. Most pundits are predicting a close contest but a Shorten victory. The polls are still tight, though it’s years since the Coalition have been in front. Me, I think Labor have had it won for a while and will end up with a good majority.

Part of my confidence is the sheer vibe. I talk to people and just about all of them are dismissive of a government they’ve become cynical of. Just about all of them consider it sloppy and incompetent. I have acquaintances who have voted Liberal most of their life now firmly intending to vote for Labor. My only caveat is that I probably move in a circle while not atypical, is probably more discerning.

Reading the paper yesterday I see that 2.2 million people have already voted – including me – and I reckon a good portion of those will be for Labor. Much of the damage has already been done. The LNP good have a stellar last week – which seems unlikely – and it would likely be insufficient.

Regarding the polls I think there’s a factor no commentators have accounted for. Thousands of young voters registered to vote for the SSM plebiscite. They’re still on the books and we know the great majority of them favour the left side of politics. I don’t know that they’ve been factored into the polling. A lot of them are still living at home and so their voice is not being counted. I think they’ll be a big part of the count on Saturday.

Given there are so many tight seats, and the government has such a slim margin, it’ll take basically fuck all for them to lose. I’ll be interested to see what happens in Queensland, and NSW will be particularly fascinating watching if the Nationals vote holds up, but Victoria is the big state in this election. That’s my state and I reckon it’ll go hard against the government. This is where they’ll lose it.

One of the really interesting developments in this campaign is the rise of the independents. Once upon a time they could be largely defined as fringe to kooky. These days the independent candidates – many of them disaffected Liberals – are almost all candidates of great quality. They’ve been given a high profile and I expect them to pick up a bunch of seats, mostly at the expense of the Libs.

Once upon a time I had a jaded view of independents as I thought they got in the way of good government. I have the opposite view these days. The cross-bench are an able bunch and are a good check on incumbents. Good policies should get through, or are modified on the way through. Bad policies don’t get that far. That’s a generalisation, but these days I see much more good in the cross-bench than bad. Now it’s set to expand I see them as a sensible bloc who represent no-one but the Australian people. They’re a fact of life now, here to stay.


High maintenance

It was a pretty standard Saturday morning for me. Caught up for a mate for coffee and Danish, walked up the road to do my weekly grocery shopping, returned home to unpack it while I had some playlist going loud in the background. That done I wander into my study and tap on the keyboard to check out what’s news. No emails of note, no messages, but hello, on Facebook I find an ominous post.

It’s by my cousin, of course. He starts in by saying what a toxic life he’s had. Then he says had he not been denied the inheritance from his grandparents that went to his cousins instead he might have had a chance (was he talking about us, I wondered, or the other side of the family? We got nothing.) He concludes by stating that he’ll be ending his life later in the day.

As I read this my heart falls. There’s every chance this is a cry for help. And, though I don’t know him that well, it seems consistent with his attention seeking self-pity. But I can’t presume that and I know I can’t just sit there and do nothing.

I contact a friend to get an opinion. At the same time I report his post to Facebook. We agree I have to do something, but I’m not sure how you go about it. If I say the wrong thing it could aggravate the situation so after I get off the phone I call Lifeline. I explain the situation to them and they guide me through the process.

While I’m talking to them I tap out a message to him. I tell him I’ve seen his post. I ask him (redundantly, but you have to say something) if he’s alright. His response is immediate “Fuck off”, he writes.

I half expect that and ignore it. I continue. I understand you’re in a bad way, I write, but I’m here to listen if you need it.

Once more his response is immediate, and the tone has changed. He asks where I live.

I know I don’t want him coming to my place. I don’t want him to know where I live for fear that he’ll never leave. But these are desperate times.

I tell him my suburb, but also tell him that I can come to him. And, as I’ve been advised, I give him the number for Lifeline.

There’s no response to that and in fact it’s hours until he reads it. I admit, I feel some relief. I barely know him, and what I know of him I don’t like. But I can’t ignore him. I wonder if I’m being unfair. I may dislike him, but isn’t that unreasonable – like being annoyed by a one legged man because he limps?

In the meantime I call my father – the man I haven’t seen or heard from for over two years. My call goes to voicemail. Half an hour later he responds with a message. He greets me, then says he’s well aware of my cousin’s (his nephew’s) behaviour as he is always threatening to kill himself.

Somehow I am relieved by this, but unsurprised. Then I get angry. It’s the worst kind of emotional blackmail. I want nothing to do with him. When the dust settles, I resolve, I’ll block him.

In the meantime others have posted responses on his Facebook page exhorting him to think again. One person has even ‘liked’ the post.

There’s nothing more from him on Saturday, but on Sunday come a flurry of posts. Everything is different. Now he appears bright and positive. He announces plans. Then he starts uploading family photos going right back to his great-grandparents. His posts are eloquent – he’s clearly educated and intelligent – but they come in such a rush that I snooze him on my timeline.

I’m glad things are better. His behaviour seems to confirm theories on his mental state. I’m sour on him still. Good for you, I think, but leave me alone.

Today he contacted me again. He was friendly. I responded in kind. I suspect he was looking for information on a friend of mine that he remembers from when he was a boy, the guy with the red Trans Am. He’s not hard to track down – he’s a Facebook friend of mine, after all. And I anticipate that my friend now will be inundated with communications as the latest addition to his retinue. I’m sure this has been the pattern throughout. He consumes people until they’re exhausted with him before moving onto the next on the list. He uses them for the attention they can give him.

Maybe I’m being cynical. I can’t turn my back on him, not yet – but what I am is no more than the sympathetic bystander. I feel no stronger bond with him than with the people I work with, and less so than with many of my colleagues.

Early hours

I had an early breakfast before work today so was out of bed by 6.30. It was dark still outside as I readied myself for work.

The sun had not risen yet when I walked out the front door. There was a stillness to the air that was only deepened by the occasional random raindrop falling from the sky. For the first time in months we’d had decent rain overnight. I’d lain in bed listening in surprise to the rain rushing down. Before 7am the roads were still slick with it and, judging by the occasional puddle, the rain must have been substantial.

Normally I take a shortcut to Hampton station, heading down laneways and cutting through carparks. I had more time available today and so I walked up to Hampton street where I was certain of having cover should the rain some again.

The street was stirring as the day slowly lightened. A shoe store blazed with light advertising its goods, still hours away from opening. Farther along the newsagent was taking deliveries and preparing for the day. Good morning, he said to me as I passed him by. At the green grocer they were laying out the kerbside stands they would fill with produce. The butcher was getting ready too, and the bakery was already trading.

There are few people around at this time of morning except for those who have a living to make. It’s a separate world to what I live in, mostly overlooked and taken for granted. I’d rather stay in bed than get out of it, but I enjoy these sojourns and the insights they provide me. I feel aware of the world about me and, by extension, aware of myself. It lends perspective to the routines we unthinkingly follow day by day. The air is fresh too, and there’s a sense of awakening. The newness of the day is not yet rubbed off, and for a change you can enjoy it.

At the station the yellow lights reflected off the rain dark platforms. In either direction train tracks stretched straight and long. City bound the platform was sparsely populated by commuters silently waiting. Then the train comes and each of us shuffle onboard and find a seat, not a word spoken.

At my desk now feeling full after a big breakfast with a friendly colleague. I’d happily nap now but ahead of me is a full day before the journey home.

Summer/autumn, autumn/winter

For the first time since the year began – and probably since about October last year – I pulled on my pair of Red Wing boots this morning, thus signifying winter. When I walked out the door it was 11 degrees outside and, besides my boots, I wore a woollen jumper and a padded jacket.

I’m a believer in global warming and climate change in general. You’d have to have rocks in your heads these days not to, though naturally many with gravel for brains deny it. All the same, it seems to me winter pretty well comes the same time every year.

This is not true winter, of course. Autumn is a season of transition, from bright summer to austere winter. In my memory, almost all of March is what I’d describe as summer/autumn, which has been the same this year – warm, bright days more often than not. Then, about the last weekend of March – often coinciding with Easter, and with the end of daylight saving – the weather will turn, it will become autumn/winter.

The days become cooler. The clouds crowd in. We’ve had no rain practically all year, but this morning it was steady for a few hours, and will come again soon.

We’ll still get the odd warm day and throwback to summer, days in the mid or even high twenties, but they’ll be past too in a months time.

I don’t mind too much. It’s been a bloody hot summer, plus I love my Red Wings, and prefer winter fashion to summer. And – I reckon – I write better in this weather. I’ll enjoy the cosiness for it over the next few months but reckon, come August, I’ll have had my full of it. Just as well we have seasons.

On leaving

It’s a week until my leave commences. I’m in the home stretch and come this time next week couldn’t give a hoot what happens within these four walls – I’ve already told them that I won’t be responding to phone calls or emails. I’m sure I’ll still get them, but they really need to get their act into gear. Fat chance.

I’ve been in contact with the vendor we work with and sent him my CV. Because I’m straight up I mentioned to the head of digital that I’ll be on the look-out. Even though we’re both incumbents here he’s understanding and supportive. He’s offered to be a referee, as has the digital marketing manager. He’s also offered to put me in touch with some of his contacts.

In the meantime I’ve been speaking with one of the HR reps. He’s speaking to some of his contacts for me also. He’s sympathetic because his experience here has been almost identical to mine. His complaints mirror mine, as they do many others – there’re many looking to move on. It’s all about a lack of professionalism, the cliquey nature of business here, the poor management and unaccountable incompetence, the lack of any bold or decisive leadership. On top of that is the very nature of so many here. What we have in common is that we’ve come from competitive corporate environments where you just do the job. As one here said, this place is full of snowflakes.

Having said all this I have to temper my expectations. Nothing happens quickly and while I hope to return to work in a months’ time with something organised, that’s not a definite. All of ANZ, Telstra and NAB have let go of thousands in the last six months and many of them are still on the market.

Something came up in my meeting with the head of digital next week. He urged me to take time for myself and freshen up and I told him a story.

I’d attended an offsite presentation on Wednesday morning about workflow management. As it turned out I was the attendee, and so I had the various presenters all to myself. What was meant to be a presentation turned into a technical conversation. I felt enlivened by it. It was good to engage at a higher level with some smart people, and to converse equally on subjects complex and interesting. I felt myself again and afterwards I realised how far I’d strayed from that – something once that was an everyday occurrence.

I explained that to him and he understood completely. The truth is I often feel grim in this office, to the point that I can feel it in my mouth. It’s time to leave when it gets like that, he said.

Changing my job and earning more won’t solve all my problems, but it would be a mighty help.

I realise that while my work is respected here, it isn’t really valued. So often I get no response, or a response of indifference. I have experience and qualifications no-one is interested in. All of this goes to state of mind. If I were to summarise much of what has dragged on me these last few years it’s the sense of always being the supplicant – so different to how it was before. No-one hears me as they did before, and circumstances are that I rely on the help of others to get by. I feel as if I go about cap in hand, though I ask for nothing.

I wondered on the weekend if this was intended as some lesson for me. For a man once so proud and independent nothing can be worse than having that independence undermined and pride tarnished by irrelevance. If it is, it’s a lesson I don’t want to learn. Here I draw the line. I’m more humble than I’ve ever been, but I have to stand for something. I have nothing now but who I am and I can’t give that up.

Seven years ago tomorrow

Tomorrow will be the 7th anniversary of my mum’s death. It might have slipped my mind altogether had someone not reminded me yesterday, but I’m glad to remember.

It’s a time still vivid in my life. I remember taking the call at about 6am. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still came as a shock. There was nothing I could do at that time of day – it was a Saturday also – but I couldn’t go back to sleep. I remember it hit me about five minutes later, the whole enormity of it – my mum is gone from my life forever. Suddenly, for the first time in your life, you inhabit a world in which she no longer exists.

Eventually made myself coffee and, as soon as a civilised hour approached, began making calls. I called family and friends and all those who loved mum. Much as with me, there was no surprise but much sadness, though there were some who expressed relief that her suffering was over. I was very focused throughout this. I slipped into a professional persona. It was hard at times standing there listening to the grief at the other end of the phone, but I remained composed.

I called the funeral director then, and at some time – probably days later, began the ring around for other matters related to her funeral to come such as catering and cleaning and flowers and so on. Around lunchtime the funeral director arrived to confirm details.

I don’t remember the afternoon at all. It seemed a very quiet day. Still and silent, like you hear a clock ticking.

In the evening Donna came round to support me – no sign of my sister throughout this – and we went to dinner at a local Thai restaurant. I remember then feeling utterly drained and quite lost. I was glad to have someone there with me.

A few days later was the funeral. I remember, I split my pants not long before the ceremony and there was no time to do anything but staple up the split and hope no-one noticed. It was fine at the church, though I recall choking up as people came up to me before the ceremony outside to express their sympathy. The ceremony began and a few of us spoke up for mum, my stepsister, my niece, and I gave a eulogy recalling mum as she was. It was all fine until the minister mum had asked to speak for her instead rabbited on about god. We sat there listening becoming quietly angry at what seemed a betrayal. It was done though, and later I thanked him and gave him a bottle of some unusual fortified spirit he liked I’d had to hunt down.

The wake was at mum’s home next door to the church. It was my home at the time also. There was big crowd there – mum was much loved, and I was gratified that a number of my friends had made the effort to attend in support of me.

I remember for the first hour or so circulating through the crowd as mum would have once, making sure I touched base with as many people as possible and checking that everything was going well. I think someone – I can’t remember who – told me to take a break and time for myself after that, and I did that gratefully. I sat with my friends. We talked and laughed and remembered. We drank the beer and wine, and later we ordered in pizzas. Later, I think, I began to feel it, like something that has been held back because there were things to do. It was a quiet thing, a settling in me, something private. So that was that.

That’s how I remember that day.

2019 footy preview

The 2019 AFL footy season kicks off tonight after much anticipation. We’ve had practice matches and JLT since February, but that’s pretend football and does nothing but pique the appetite for the authentic and rip-roaring real thing. There’s a number of notable rule changes this year which may have a profound effect on the game. They were trialled through the pre-season and looked good, but most teams will have held back revealing their tactics until the season proper begins, particularly in regards to kick-ins. It could make for some exciting footy this year, and will suit some teams more than others.

Last year I gave a preview of the season and I’ve been asked to do so again. I think I know who the top teams will be, but every season there is a surprise. I expect there will be this year too, though I haven’t forecast it. My smoky is Brisbane for what it’s worth. They’re coming together nicely and have a good squad of talented players. I don’t think they’ll make the finals this year, but will present a real danger. In years to come I’m certain they’ll be a contender.

So who have I picked for the finals?

The popular pick right now is Richmond, deemed to be the best team over the last two years but who were eliminated last year in the prelim in what was a surprise result.

It’s hard to look past Richmond. They’re a proven lineup and they’ve added Tom Lynch to the run on team. If they had one weakness previously it was that they had but the one reliable tall up forward in Jack Riewoldt. Lynch takes a lot of the pressure off and is a serious player in his own right. I think they’ll be top 4, but I’m not as bullish as some. They’ve had an excellent run with injuries the last couple of years, and they have less depth this year than previously. And I wonder whether they might have been worked out a little bit, though the new rules muddy that. Certainly I reckon Martin will be a great beneficiary either in midfield or up forward.

My pick is Melbourne. They were patchy last year, but when they were good they were very good, and were impressive in the finals. Their one great weakness was the lack of a big defender, but the recruitment of May is a big win, and the loss of Hogan is well covered up forward. They’re close to the complete team, their only minor deficiency is the lack of outside pace. I think quick teams will be suited by the rule changes, but they move the ball quickly so likely offset. I think some of the constraints of the new rules may also benefit Melbourne by reining in some of Goodwin’s preferred tactics, which I don’t think have always benefiited the team. I think he’s a excellent coach otherwise, and I’m tipping Melbourne for the grand final.

Adelaide could be the other grand finalist, though I’m not sold yet. They have the talent and, on their day, can be irresistible. Last year was poor, but then they had a shitload of important players injured. The jury is out for me, but I’m wary.

Last year’s grand finalists will be thereabouts. The winners, WCE, will have a stronger team going into the season with the return of Gaff and Shepherd, and Naitanui further down the track. I don’t think they’re the best team in the comp, but they’re canny and professional and I think they’ll be thereabouts.

It might be my innate anti-Collingwood bias, but I think they over-achieved last year. There’s a part of me that thinks they won’t be so prominent this year, but then they have good players either returning or being added to the squad. And sometimes teams just click, and what was over-achievement last year becomes the new norm. Jamie Elliott will be great addition, assuming he stays fit, and I’m a fan of Beams – though given their midfield depth believe the benefit will be only incremental. They’d have been better of recruiting a tall forward IMO. I rank them somewhere in the 4-6 range.

My team is somewhere about there, Essendon. We’re close to being the complete team also with no obvious weaknesses. There’s pace aplenty, a lot of flair, and attacking half-back line and a dangerous forward line. Add to that Dylan Shiel and the Bombers are a contender. We go into the season without Hooker and Daniher but, both very good players. We can cover Daniher – he was absent most of last season – but Hooker leaves a bigger hole. He’s important to structure and a fine player to boot. There might be a slow start to the season, but the team will be flying at some point.

I think the premiership team will be one of those. GWS are always about, but they’ve lost good players, including important structural players. Not a fan of their coach either. They’ll make a run at some point, but will fade. Geelong are perennial finalists but I was prepared to write them off – they’re an aging team. They’ve recruited well though, and I think Ratogolea will be important for them.

I’m tipping Sydney and Hawthorn to both miss the finals, but North Melbourne could be thereabouts. Port Adelaide are rebuilding, but have recruited well and, other than the Lions, the rest are nowhere. GCS to win the wooden spoon – no surprises there – and Carlton to improve before fading as the season goes on, winning 4-6 games.

Let’s see how I go – like I said, something will jump up, and all predictions are contingent on variables such as injuries.

Can’t wait.