Out of the past


Lying in bed this morning before 7, I saw a flash of light coming from the living room. It took me a moment to realise it was my iPad lighting up as it received a notification.

I got up about 20 minutes later and, checking my phone, found I’d received a Facebook friend request. I didn’t recognise the name at first, and I thought it was probably one of those random invitations you’ll receive every so often. Then it dawned on me that the person had the same name as someone I knew back at high school, thirty years ago. I clicked on the profile and studied it for evidence.

It didn’t give away much. The only school listed on his profile was not the private school we shared – but then I remembered that he left after about year 9. The school he listed was in much as the same area. There were no photos of his younger self, but I thought I could recognise the boy I knew in the smiling face on the screen.

I remembered him as a big kid with a mop of blonde hair. In his photos, he was burly and had the same open face, though probably looking a few years older than me (I can pass for 40). In all the years since I’ve barely thought of him, but in some strange way I recently had a random recollection of a moment we shared together – sitting on a bus heading to ice skating in Ringwood, ELO and the Sweet playing on the radio, and him showing me the yachting magazine he was looking at. He was into sailing.

I didn’t immediately accept his invitation. I thought about it first. All this time and I wondered what we’d have to say, and if it was still relevant that we know each other. And it set off a train of thought, much as trivial incidents like this often do.

I imagined having a conversation with him and explaining my life in the time since we last saw each other. I could tell him of adventures and the things I’d strived to achieve and there was plenty of colour and movement, but I felt at that moment that I came up short. I could see that he was married with children and I struggled in my mind to explain why I wasn’t as well.

I got myself ready for work with this thought in the back of my mind. I showered and put my suit on and prepared myself for another day in the office wondering, as I have many times before, what it’s all about? To all of this, there are no clearly defined answers. There may not be answers at all. We each go our own way, in while there’s often intent there is also much that is fluke and chance. With almost every choice we make, there’s an opportunity cost. Sometimes it only becomes evident long after the fact.

Before I walked out the door, I accepted his invitation. I was curious, naturally, and I have a general attitude that it’s better to do something than nothing. But courtesy played a big part, also – it would be churlish to refuse the invitation. I think I knew from the start I would click accept, but it didn’t take long for me to think twice about it.

It became clear that in the years since we knew each other that we’d diverged in other ways besides our families. We’d both been good private schoolboys, and though I was rebellious, I think it sat better with me than it did him. I didn’t like being told what to do and think, and chafed against the structure and regulation – yet I was also a curious child who enjoyed learning, and was sporadically good at it.

I don’t think he was as curious, nor as generally interested as I was (nor as rebellious). I think he had his eyes on other things for which a private school education was unnecessary. He was always more knockabout and, I suspect the technical school he ended up attending was a much better fit for him.

Most of the differences between us seemed unimportant except in the sense that we might not have much to share in common besides memories. What cruelled me though was to see some of the things he’d posted and shared in his news feed, up to and including from the notorious Fraser Anning.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m liberal and progressive. I believe in a fair go for everyone. I don’t discriminate by any measure. It’s not that I’m a great bleeding heart, it just seems to me stupid and unnecessary. I tend to think bigotry reveals much more about the bigot than the victim of it.

I tend to be disparaging of those who have such a mindset, which I see as weak. It frustrates me no end the simple-minded mentality that leads people into unconsidered thought and action – much easier to be handed an opinion than form one of your own. Most of those ‘opinions’ are broad and unsophisticated, the product of insecurity and fear.

It’s an infection that has spread throughout the community and which is fanned by corrupt governments worldwide who have no interest in ethics or truth. It’s all about power, and by any means. In the era of fake news and viral social media and a sloppy, often uncritical media, the bulwark against ignorance is knowledge and education, integrity and critical thinking (a skillset much in decline).

Reading his comments, it’s easy to see in him one of the quiet Australians Morrison lauds. And in his eyes, I’m probably an elite, but certainly an inner-city, latte-sipping leftie. Such is the world we live in.

It pained me to read much of what he posted – in the end, I snoozed him – but I didn’t want to judge him by that. We fall into traps of stereotyping people. We tar them with a broad brush. Certainly, I do.

I’m aware of it, but the shorthand is simpler when you generalise. It’s easier too when the stereotypes are others, not your own. It’s more complicated when faced with someone you know.

I haven’t seen this guy since we were both about 14. I don’t know him, clearly. And clearly, life has taken us in different directions. I looked at the smiling face in the profile, though. I remembered the generous, kindly kid he was. And though I disagree with what I see, I must acknowledge an inconvenient truth I’m fully aware of – that many of those I profess to despise are actually warm-hearted, otherwise decent people. It’s the paradox that’s hard to resolve when you view only along pure, ideological lines.

There’s little nuance in social media, and I shouldn’t judge too soon, if at all. I don’t want to be one of those people, particularly when I profess the desire to give everyone a fair go.

I don’t know what happens now. Perhaps I’ll tentatively reach out to him. Perhaps he’ll reach out to me.

At the newsagents


I was early for an appointment this morning to get my hair cut and killed some time by popping into the local newsagent.

I used to love newsagents. I could spend a half-hour browsing very easily. It’s the magazines that draw me. I remember being a kid and away at some seaside village over the summer holidays and I’d pedal up to the local shops for a bit of diversion. I’d end up at the newsagents where I’d check out the magazines and might walk out with a cheap paperback as well.

I’d buy a magazine occasionally, though it was constrained by how much pocket money I had. I’d get the latest edition of Inside Footy in the winter months, or maybe it’s cricket equivalent come the summer. Or else I’d buy one of the automotive magazines, which were always popular with teenage boys.

That’d be a random purchase, depending on the cover or if inside there was something on the latest Porsche or some extravagant sportscar I’d dream about owning once I got out of school. Generally, it’d be Wheels I bought, though sometimes Motor magazine. I don’t reckon I’ve bought either one of them since I left school.

Back in those days, and for many years to come, newsagents were treasure troves of magazines and information. There was something on every subject and from every corner of the earth. For a literate, curious young man I was, I couldn’t get enough. McGills, a newsagent in Elizabeth Street, was probably the pinnacle of that for many years and a Melbourne institution. It closed a few years back.

All grown and with money in my pocket I’d buy a magazine or two every week. I’d subscribe to a few, generally overseas publications – Esquire for a while, the Atlantic for a bit, and Rolling Stone for years.

I’d buy all sorts of magazines – Men’s Health, GQ, Outside, The New Yorker occasionally, cooking magazines of every stripe regularly, The Bulletin while it was still around and The Monthly more recently, as well as various PC and technology magazines, and even something like Commentary occasionally – a conservative magazine I’d read for contrast, and for some of their writers, like Robert Kagan (whose dad is a writer worth reading).

If there was something that interested me I’d pick up a copy of Harpers or Wired or Fast Company or Travel + Leisure, and so on. The point being, there was a shitload of choice and I was fully immersed in it. There was delight opening up the letterbox to find a new magazine nestling there, or settling down on the couch with a cup of coffee to spend an hour or two to read intelligent, well-written articles of interest.

Here’s the thing: I felt a part of it. You have your own personal culture, and this was unmistakably a part of mine. I liked being informed, but then I felt informed, too. I walked about with information in my head gleaned from the glossy magazines on my coffee table. It was important to me because I was a part of this world, and these were the things that made this world tick. I felt relevant.

McGills has been closed for over five years now. I still read magazines, but a fraction of what I did before. Like everyone else, I get much of my information from the internet – though often from the same sources as before. I’ll read an Atlantic article online rather than in print, or something from Mother Jones, or Esquire, or The New Yorker, though not nearly as much. And I’ll gather information from a multitude of other sources, many more so than before – and it’s possible I’m better informed now than I ever was before (though mindful of the fake news).

It’s different, though. Do others feel that? It feels more…disposable. I read, and then I click on another screen. Because raw information has become so saturated, the value of it has diminished, not to mention the quality.

I don’t get a sense of being inside the information as I had before, though maybe that’s the times, and where I am in my life. I’m probably better informed than 95% of people, but I don’t feel it – and it doesn’t feel like it matters, either. It’s like collecting stamps, nice but irrelevant. It’s not a part of my culture anymore because information these days is like white noise, everywhere and unfiltered. And none of it feels special anymore, or exclusive.

I spent 7-8 minutes in the newsagent today, and it was enough. The selection these days is much less than it was before, but it was an exercise in trivial nostalgia. Newsagents aren’t what they were, but nor are the times. Still, I nearly bought a magazine – the latest edition of Dish. But I didn’t.

Sexual fragments


So, more memories, and these of a very particular nature. I can safely say these are incidents I hadn’t thought of for years or even remembered. Why they come to me now, joined, as it seems, and given they are all to do with sex, is a curious question I have no answer to.

I don’t normally write about these things. That is, I don’t usually make reference to or describe the occasions when I have sex. At most, there might be a subtle allusion, but I can’t remember a time I ever wrote in detail about these things. There are several reasons for that.

I don’t think it’s quite fair to write about sex with another person when they’re not part of the conversation. It’s a bit tacky and has a bit too much of the kind of locker room talk I hate. I’ve heard many a boast over the years – who hasn’t? – and the best thing I can say of it is the rare occasions when it’s related with wit. I can’t think of anyone much who I’ve respected who’s ever told such a tale.

The other very good reason is that so often after the fact it feels banal, even depressing. There’ve been occasions I’ve regretted sex afterwards, though not often. It’s made me uneasy sometimes, and sometimes it’s made me question the nature of desire that has us flinging ourselves at each other – or coming to a more convenient arrangement. These stories reflect that.

There was a woman, years ago, would have been in her early thirties and living around Newport. I can’t remember how we met, but I can recall one night I went to visit her at home. There was a small get together in progress, and when everyone else left, I stayed.

We had sex and slept, and had sex again upon waking. She had a cute little boy, and I remember talking to him over breakfast.

About two weeks later, she calls me on a weeknight. I’m home after a day of work and weary and, I remember, planning to have a hot bath. She asks me to come over. She wants to have sex. As I hesitate, she becomes more desperate until she’s virtually begging me to come. It’s a hard conversation, and I feel guilty as I tell her I can’t. I never see or hear from her again after that.

On another occasion, I get talking to a woman at a bar. She’s there with friends, I’m with my friends. There’s nothing special going on, but I give her my phone number.

In the week after I get a call from her with an unusual request. She wants to have sex. That’s fine, but this is purely clinical. She’s not a virgin, but she’s naïve about sex and wants to do it again to feel it. I agree – what red-blooded male is going to refuse that?

She comes by the next night. I can’t even remember if we had a drink first, or a conversation. I supposed we must have. What I remember is her lying on the end of my bed as I removed her clothes from her, until she lies there naked. We fuck. That’s the idea. I feel disconnected from it, though. It’s my body, but I’m not in it.

I reflect on it afterwards and I realise I can’t have sex so coldly. That’s one reason I’m so against fuck buddies – I don’t want to have sex by schedule or appointment. I want it spontaneous and natural. I want it to spring from inside me – if not my heart then at least my gonads. I don’t want it thrust upon me (so to speak).

I never see or hear from her again, either.

There’s another incident I remember, much of the same type. I knew but had forgotten how promiscuous I had been once. I had a lot of sex, and most of it came easily, and I was pretty direct, which worked for me at the time. I had a way with words then and an attitude which made it seem a simple thing to do. I had a very unpretentious view of sex, which has survived to this day, pretty much along the lines that if it feels good, do it. And why not? Consenting adults, and all that.

Why I remember these things now is anyone’s guess.

Comes and goes


The memories keep coming, slipping by the triggers that otherwise keep me in the moment. They come when my guard is down, when things are done and I’m relaxing into the night – sitting watching the TV, or as I lay in bed reading.

Last night two disparate memories returned, one from when I was a child, and the other when I was a grown man travelling the world.

From the time I was a baby until I was about 12-13 my grandparents on either side would mind me, and later my sister, through school holidays and other random occasions. When I was a baby, my mum would leave me with her mother – Nanny, as I would call her – while she went to work. I have no memory of that, though a strong bond developed between me and Nanny. Years later, mum would often tell the story of how I would cry having to leave nanny when mum collected me every night.

We were always close, right up to the day she prematurely died. I was about 16 then, and though I’d held it together through her illness and even at the news of her death, I bawled at the sight of her lying in her coffin at her funeral. It wasn’t her, I thought. It looked like someone different, someone hollowed out without even memory of life in her features. I made a vow on that day that I would never choose to look upon the dead features of a loved one again. It broke me at the time though, until I was wracked with sobs I couldn’t control. I loved her so much, and she, me – I was her favourite, she would tell me, don’t tell anyone.

I recall now how mum disapproved of my tears, though I don’t understand why. Did she think it innapropriate? There was a man there, the husband of one of mum’s best friends. He was always pleasant, very handsome – a runner who’d competed at Stawell – but he’d always had a veneer of the superficial. On that day, though – and I’ve never forgotten – he came up to comfort me. I don’t remember what he said, but he allowed me my grief, and for that I was grateful. From that day forward, I had a soft spot for him, and great respect for those who seek to comfort others in moments of sadness. I’ve tried to be that man, myself.

That was not the memory, though it’s not unusual that one memory triggers others.

The memory was well before that when Nanny and Gramps lived in Reservoir in a small house built in the rear yard of her sister’s home, Auntie Elsie and Uncle Bill. I used to love going over there. Nanny would make pancakes and chips. Gramps would tell me about the war (he was a sapper and fought in New Guinea and Borneo), and we’d share his Parade magazines. On the wall – very seventies – was a print of a galleon under full sail, blue-tinted and dramatic. And Nanny was always great fun to be around.

What I remembered is banal in a way – but sometimes it’s the banal that is most affecting because it is the most commonplace. Nanny used to listen to a program on the radio called the Gong Show. It was a talent quiz and performers would be rated by how many gongs they got. I remember so well how she would avidly listen to this in the mornings before the day had properly started (and in the night, too?). I recall there seemed few talented performers, and it was depressing all round – and not only because I could sense the small hopes of mediocre wannabes being crushed. The whole thing felt deathly to me in some way – this was the radio of another time it felt, a sepia-ed past that seemed small in my childish mind. And it felt like old people’s radio, for people who’s life was nearly past, and I didn’t want to think that.

That memory came to me last night watching the cricket. An hour or so later, in bed, there came to me the distinct memory of an evening spent in Hanoi. This must have been 2006. I was there for business, and would fly onto Bangkok and Delhi. The night before the Hanoi office had taken me out for dinner to some lively restaurant where the food was great, and on the way back I clung to the back of a moped taking me to my hotel.

This memory is the night after and left to my own devices. I wander into the heart of Hanoi, which is situated around a lake. It was lively again, and bright, and I wandered up streets and down laneways. I was looking for somewhere to eat and couldn’t settle on anything. It feels like I wandered for hours – and it was quite some time – but now I can’t recall where I ended up eating. I remember people about and the mopeds scooting by and scooters and lanterns and great trees and the light reflecting off the lake seen in glimpses. It was balmy and I remember the chatter of the locals as they went about their nightly routines. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at a store and bought a silk tie – mauve, and something for mum. And that was it, a night in a foreign city, the tall, white guy wandering around and no-one sparing him a second look.

Why am I remembering these things? Memories come and go. They return randomly. This feels different, somehow. As if I’m allowed to remember, as if it is a reminder wrapped up in the gift of memory: you did this, this is yours, savour it. But then there’s a twist: you were there, but you’ll never get back there again.

The memory of Hanoi triggered another, a snapshot really, years later in Shanghai, and I’m in a bar on the 60th floor or something of one of the dazzling skyscrapers there overlooking the Bund. It’s a great view, and with me are two Shanghai women having a drink with me.

I remember because these things are true


I’m going through a patch at the moment when fragmentary memories come to mind seemingly without reason. They come as a surprise and, surprised, I dwell on them as if a novelty. Some of these things have not been in my mind since when they occurred. Years later, I get a different perspective on them.

One such memory was of me when I was a teenager and regularly clashing with my father. I don’t think we were ever close. The closest we ever got was when we’d go to the footy together year after year, but that was more companionship and a shared passion than true affection. My father isn’t the warmest character by nature and could be described as an alpha personality.

As a teenager, I sensed his need to dominate, and by nature, I rebelled against it. I say by nature, but I wonder if instead, it was something that developed in the abrasive interactions between us. Though we weren’t close, I admired him. He’d achieved a lot, was a mover and shaker, and was by far the most forceful personality in our ecosystem of family and friends. I respected his achievements, but it was the strength of his will that drew me. My father certainly wasn’t the most liked, but that wasn’t a consideration for me (my mother was the most liked, and so counter-balanced the equation). In my juvenile way, I liked that he was the man every one stopped for.

I might have liked it, but it didn’t mean I wanted to stop for him – or even heed him. I got it in my head that I would respect me more if I stood up for myself as an individual, and so I was an active resister. That was a naïve, idealistic belief – I’ve learned since that powerful people want nothing more than to be obeyed.

I look back, and I can admit I was probably a pain in the arse. I don’t know that I was ever really hostile, or even rude, but I was one of those annoying children who would ask why? And if the answer was unsatisfactory, or – more often – not forthcoming, then I wouldn’t cooperate.

That’s a stage a lot of kids go through. In my case, there was an element of wrong-headedness about it, but I can’t say I regret it much now. It was who I was.

Dad took another view. It infuriated him that I might defy him. I can hardly remember the things we argued about, but I remember how we would yell at each other and how, on occasion, it would lead to physical violence.

My mum always maintained my father treated me terribly. I never took that view. By and large, I believed that if I copped anything, then it was mostly because I provoked it, and fair play. I have the same attitude today. If you poke the bear, then you can’t complain if he gives you a swipe in return.

I suspect I’ve probably forgotten a lot, but I reckon too that mum exaggerated, and her recollection was likely coloured by how their relationship ended. We certainly came to blows, and by that, he struck me. He was the bigger man, my father, and I accepted it went with the territory – these were very different times – but I can understand now how someone in authority, the bigger man, should not act in such a way.

Most of my memories of our clashes are vague, but I remember one such when I was about 16, and we were living in Sydney. I can’t remember what we argued about, but I know it was a Sunday. One thing led to another, and he struck me with a clenched fist. The next day I went to school with a black eye and claimed I’d been hit by a cricket ball. Pretty classic.

Within a year, it all changed. One day we clashed again, and this time I was the bigger man. I cocked a fist at him, and I remember everything going still. This was back in Melbourne, in the living room of our house in Lower Plenty. He looked at me with steely eyes and said something along the lines that “the day my son raises a fist to me is the day he’s dead to me”.

For the next 3 months, he ghosted me. We lived in the same house, and he wouldn’t even look at me, let alone say anything – I know this is a time that wounded mum.

In the end, she left him, and that was part of the reason why. Not surprisingly, I went with her while my sister stayed with my dad – who now had started talking to me again. Years later, I came to understand that he had severe hang-ups about me, while – then at least – I was just a kid acting, more or less, like a painful kid.

I can date my unwillingness, or inability, to submit back to that time. The question is whether I was born that way or made it.

The other memory is much happier, more innocent, even inconsequential.

It’s years later. I’m out in the world about 23 or 24 and feeling at the peak of my physical powers. I decided to learn how to tap dance.

I used to admire dancers like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. They made it look so much fun, and the movies they made doing it so joyous. I thought, I want a piece of that, and I began lessons in a dance studio in Chapel Street.

In the end, I only attended 3-4 classes, though I learned enough to do some basic tap steps and moves, some of which I still use.

What I remember is that of the class of 7-8, there was only one other male besides the instructor, and he was just about the opposite of me – a slim, slender, retiring type. I was so full of male juice that I could barely comprehend someone like that. I wanted nothing more than to cut a swathe through life, and one had to be bold and fearless to do so. It was another type of naivety.

I felt so commanding. I was strong and fit, and I moved well. I remember, I wore a charcoal grey tank-top to class, a favourite by Saba that showed off my build. I was tall and lean, but my bare shoulders were balls of muscle, and my biceps as big as melons. As we skipped across the floor, I could feel vitality flow through me, like electricity.

As you can probably gather, I was pretty cocky. In my defence, I was also smart and sensitive off-screen, but it was hard to contain the abundance I felt. It didn’t help being in a class full of fit and attractive women. I was in my prime and knew it.

That’s a memory that hadn’t come to mind in all the years since, until Wednesday night. It happened though. I was there.

The last time in 1987


The Boxing Day test match against New Zealand has just concluded with a resounding victory to Australia. Throughout the game, there was a lot of commentary about how New Zealand hadn’t played a Test in Melbourne since 1987. That was a famous match, and all the talk reminded me that I was there.

Actually, I was only there for the last hour or two. I may have attended a day earlier in the match – I don’t remember, but what I do remember is getting off work early in the city and walking down to the MCG on the last day to catch the exciting conclusion.

It’s a famous match because New Zealand was heading for what appeared a certain victory when the last two Australian batsmen came to the crease – Mike Whitney and Craig McDermott. They were up against Richard Hadlee at the peak of his powers. He took ten wickets in this match, and a whole pile more through the series – and I still reckon he’s one of the best five quick bowlers I’ve ever seen (Dennis Lillee and Wasim Akram head that list).

I was working at NAB at the time and probably following the match in the office. This was a tough era to be an Australian cricket fan, probably our lowest ever ebb. A bunch of champions had retired, a rebel tour to South Africa decimated our cricketing depth, and the very reluctant captain in Allan Border had taken over from a tearful Kim Hughes. At best, the team was competitive, though it was building (and it did win the World Cup in a shock result).

I got down to the ‘G with the team about eight down and staring down the barrel. The doors had been flung open, and the crowd had swelled with people like me dropping in on the way home from the office.

I think I was by myself – funny the things you forget, and the things you remember. I do recall how gripping a contest it was when the ninth wicket fell, and it looked odds on that the Kiwis would win.

The game went on, though. In my memory, it was about 30 minutes of steadfast defence. With every ball, you held your breath. Each ball survived meant you could breathe again. There was a big appeal at one stage, LBW against McDermott. Had there been DRS those days he might have ended up out. The umpire ruled not out though, and the game went on.

Finally, it came to the last over, Richard Hadlee bowling to Mike Whitney. Again and again, Hadlee probed, again and again, Whitney defended. With every ball survived the crowd would clap. Then came the last bowl – and Whitney prodded the ball back down the pitch, and raised his arms.

It’s a famous moment; a famous image. I remember the feeling, as if we’d won. We don’t normally like to celebrate draws, it’s un-Australian, but this time it felt pretty ripe because the team had managed it against the odds.

For me, in the crowd, it was a great day to finish a working day.

Sadly, a few years later, I rocked up after work on a similar occasion against England and watched as the much unheralded Dean Headley swept through an Australian side searching for victory. I reckon I saw the last four wickets fall, and the loss that resulted. That was a much different feeling – though it was a much different side. By then we were top of the heap. We lost that match but won that series, and most series after for the next 15 years.

This year, 30 years on, we flogged ’em.

Another scorching day


When I was a kid, I used to love the hot weather. The hotter, the better. You’re pretty carefree as a kid, and I took the baking summer days as an excuse to hop in the pool and splash around. In a funny way, I was pretty patriotic about it, too. I loved it that we had it hotter than most places on earth, and believed it made us more rugged and hardy as a people. When you’re that age, you have a pretty immature grasp of the world, and it comes to you simply – which is much of the charm of being a kid. I guess they call that innocence.

When I cast my mind back, I can recall many a hot day, the sky a pure blue and the sun blazing down. Every year for ages we’d go down the peninsula for our summer holidays straight after Christmas. For the most part, we stayed in Blairgowrie, which remains a great spot today. Hot days then were an excuse to go to the beach, and mostly the surf beach at Gunnamatta. I was a good swimmer and would go out beyond the breakers and look back towards the beach as the swell would gently lift me before crashing down upon it. I’d swim in then, body-surfing the last bit of it, and it was a thrill.

Back home we’d play street cricket or go on long bike rides, or else hop in the pool. We had the only pool in the street, and the neighbour’s kids would often join us for hours of shenanigans. It was an above ground pool, four feet deep, and I can remember dad putting it up bare-chested in the summer heat. In my small way, I helped – wielding a shovel as dad excavated the ground before levelling out the surface, and then holding things in place as dad put the pool up.

My last memory of those hot days are the meals mum would prepare. Often it was salmon patties with salad. I hated salmon patties. More often, it was a straight, seventies style, salad. There’d be a hard-boiled egg, grated carrot and (Kraft) cheddar cheese, a slice or two of tinned beetroot, maybe some potato salad, a selection of cold cuts, and the tomato, white onion, cucumber combo steeped in vinegar. How many people remember that?

It’s many years on now, and my perspective on hot days has switched around completely. I dread them.

We’re looking at another 43-degree day today, which is a total waste of time. Unless you’ve got a pool or are at the beach, there’s nothing to do, and it’s probably even too hot for that. Instead, you’re confined indoors, the air-con going steadily and the blinds and curtains drawn shut to keep the heat out. It’s gloomy and artificial.

I’ve been out, and for the rest of the day, I expect to take it very easy. I reckon I’ll end up pretty bored, but I’ll probably do a bit of reading and, if I can rouse myself, maybe some writing.

Quite aside from being unpleasantly hot, in recent years the heat has brought with it angst and existential pangs. The simple days of my summer youth now seem very innocent. Times have changed.

On days like today, when it is windy as well as hot, I fear what else it may bring. The bushfires are ongoing in NSW, another has sprung up in WA, there’s the risk of the SA fires re-igniting, and here, in Victoria, an area the size of a small US state has received evacuation orders because of fire. I fear for and pity the fire services once more called out to deal with these catastrophes, and I hardly bear to think of all the wildlife that will perish.

There’s no such thing as just another hot Summer’s day, anymore. Each day is loaded with portent. Summer has become an existential test. Where this is all heading I don’t know, but I’m not optimistic, and often I find myself wondering “what have we done?”.

And with that comes blazing anger, pointless and impotent. The leaders we elected to act on our behalf have betrayed that trust. It’s not the first time that’s happened, but this has disastrous consequences: our very future rides on the decisions made by these people. But leadership is either absent, inept or inherently corrupt – or a combination of all three, as we experience it here in Oz. I can’t overstate my contempt for these people. One day, I hope, they are held to account for they’ve done – and didn’t do. That may be small satisfaction as chances are, come that day it’ll be too late to do anything about it.