Banging heads

The kerfuffle between David Warner and Quentin de Kock in South Africa reminds me of a story when I was just a kid. It’s basically been alleged that de Kock said some pretty unsavoury things about Warner’s wife, to which he reacted. The story I’m about to relate is different to that, but the outcomes where not dissimilar.

When I was growing up mum and dad were regular entertainers, with something on most weekends either at our house, or at one of our friends. There were about 3-4 families who would get together regularly, with others added to it as desired.

For us kids it was great. We knew the families well and were good friends with the kids of them. While the parents cavorted and carried on we did much the same at the end of the house. I was the eldest of us all, but the next two eldest were girls, and both attractive. It’s hard to say how long it went on for in retrospect, but I reckon over the space of about 5-6 years there would have been dozens of get togethers, sometimes formal, but often informal.

In the style of the day they were pretty loose affairs with lots of drinking, a bit of flirting, and a lot of entertaining comment. Looking back I remember the loud voices and the laughter, and on the stereo (or quadraphonic, as we had) Barry White and Neil Diamond were on high rotation. At some point we kids would be tucked away in bed while they partied on, and if it was at another house I still remember being carried to and from the car by my dad, and into the house and bed, full of sleep, but fondly enjoying the feeling of being sheltered in my father’s arms.

Anyway, it was on one of these occasions at our house that we kids heard a sudden, violent uproar. It was a few hours in and suddenly the night seemed to have turned nasty. There were raised voices of men outbidding each other, and the hushed, indistinct tones of the women trying to calm them down. Our ears pricked. We listened, trying to follow the mystery with our ears. A few more voices and the front door slammed shut, after which a low murmur reached us.

It turns out that the husband or boyfriend of one of mum’s new friends – freshly invited to the occasion – had turned to dad and, indicating mum, said “what’s a cunt like you married to a woman like that?”

In other circumstances, or coming from someone different, it might have been considered a joke in poor case. It wasn’t a joke though. My father was a hard man, and clearly this newcomer had not taken to him – I have vague memories of him as being a more bohemian type, counter to my father’s ruthless corporate edge. Not known for his sense of humour, dad reacted, but most of the reaction came from another of his friends who objected to this insult and bailed up the newcomer. Harsh words were exchanged, and there may even have been some minor physical contact.

The women were shocked. Mum, who this guy had obviously taken a shine to (many did), was aghast something so ugly could erupt. From what I was told the wife or girlfriend of the man was terribly embarrassed by her man’s outburst, but was comforted by the other women. In the end they were ushered out and, if I remember right, were never seen at another of our functions again.

There was another, happier occasion, were the men – including my dad – flung their undies on the roof of a friend’s house and raced naked in the inground. The women were disgusted, but as kids we thought it hilarious.

But that’s another story…


Better yes, than no?

I’m on my Facebook account yesterday and randomly I click on the Followers link as I see the number has increased. I scroll down, noting that they’re either people I don’t know, or people who have submitted friend requests I haven’t approved. All, that is, except one.

I give a start as I read the name of my stepsister, someone I haven’t been in contact with since about a month after my mum’s death.

We used to be very close. I was easily much closer to her than I was to my own sister, and she was a favourite of mum to. She was the daughter of the man mum married, and I met her first when she was 17, a very attractive girl still carrying some puppy fat. In the early days she had a bit of a crush on me, which is almost clichéd – the son of the woman your dad is in love with, older, more worldly, a little bit dashing, and giving you the time of day. To be clear I was very fond of her too, but our relationship shifted from borderline inappropriate to fond and affectionate, which is how it remained up until the day mum died.

It changed after that. It’s ancient history now, but when mum’s will was promulgated all bets were off. Any bond between us was set aside in favour for the family ties – she had an older step-brother she’d never been close to, but now found it convenient to ally herself with. Things turned nasty and at some point she unfriended me. The whole thing still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

About two years ago there was an attempted contact by her via Facebook messenger. It was post-midnight, and after she’d had a few wines I’d figured, and I didn’t get it until the next day. I pondered it for a while. I was torn, angry still, but with a residue of affection remaining. In the end I did respond, but not till a few weeks later, enquiring if she was okay. She never answered.

That’s where it remained until yesterday. I don’t know how long she has been following me, but probably not more than 6 months. I note that she is still friends with a cousin of mine on Facebook, which means she has probably had access to my newsfeed.

I felt very strange on seeing her name. I clicked on it and was taken to her profile. The first thing I noticed is that she’s reverted to her maiden name. Her marriage had always been fraught, and it would be no surprise to hear that they had split. There were photos of her children, now nearly grown up, and pictures of her too, just as I remember her – a handsome, engaging woman.

I was curious, but I also felt stalked. I was surprised it was so easy. And though I’d felt initial surprise on seeing her name, on reflection the surprise lessened. I’m sure she reflects on that time with regret and sorrow, and may even feel remorse at some of the more extreme things done. I’m sure she feels just as affectionate for me – I did nothing wrong except abide by mum’s wishes. And, as the bond was deep, it becomes unsurprising that her thoughts might return to me, years later, her life moved on, and her husband gone.

The question is, what do I do about it?

It’s funny, I was explaining the circumstances of what happened back then to someone about a month ago? She suggested that perhaps it was time to patch it up. I heard, but didn’t think it was time – or perhaps I felt embarrassed by the notion, my pride sticking, thinking that it was not for me to do the patching.

One thing I’ll say about myself is that I can’t bear a grudge. Passion runs hot sometimes and I’d happily kneecap someone who does me wrong, but give it time and it seems pointless. That ability to move on and keep moving on is one of the things that allowed me to survive my travails. Now, faced with this situation, I have to ask myself do I still want to stick to a point five years old?

In my heart, I think not. I was greatly disappointed in her at the time, and saw something in her ruthless and calculating I didn’t like. It was a very unsavoury episode. But we had more than twenty years of being as close as a brother and sister can be. We were sympatico throughout, chemically connected.

I think it was stronger on her side than mine – I think had it been allowed she’d have chosen to take up with me. Even when married, it felt as if we had an easier, more natural relationship than she did with her husband.

People get stuck on things as if they’re written in stone. It’s very common. I’ve never wanted to be so inflexible, and never understood it because it was foreign to me. I suspect ultimately I will send her a message. I think it’s probably the right thing. And given I’ve set myself the task of being more open and receptive then this is a good test of that, and aligns with those principles. Better yes than no, almost always.

Live true

I got a call about 8.30 yesterday morning from JV. He’s a man who likes his sleep, so I was surprised. He was in the car and on the way to his Landmark thing, which is why he was calling.

He told me about this a few weeks ago. He was a reluctant attendee, browbeaten by his wife and his brother and law to go along. He anticipated an intense weekend of little consequence.

We were having a beer at the time, and by inclination I was tempted to agree with him. Even now I’m an old school character who would prefer to deal with his problems personally. I know it’s an archaic attitude and pretty silly, and so I’m always ready to accept other points of view. They’re just not mine.

When it came to Landmark I imagined an intense, cultish bunch of enthusiasts indulging in groupthink and an innocuous brand of brainwashing – and I say that as someone who attended sessions many years ago, when it was called the Forum.

It’s funny what you remember. It’s 30 years ago for me, and by and large the impression is general, with a few memorable moments lodged in my mind.

Like JV I was a reluctant attendee. I was there because my relatively new girlfriend was gung-ho to try it. I was in love and tagged along to an information session, where I allowed myself to be persuaded to hand over my shekels and attend.

Of course by the time the course finally came around she and I had split. It made for an interesting weekend as studiously we avoided each other. Still, at one point she was one of the people waving their hand and asked to share her story. I was sufficiently roused by what she said that suddenly I felt the need to share too – though what I would share I didn’t know. Thankfully I wasn’t called upon.

That’s one of my memories of the weekend, the frequent strange and often disturbing life experiences people had to share. I was amazed to think that so many had experienced such tribulation in their life. It left me with an abiding consideration, that there are mysteries in all of us, and everyone has a story.

I felt like a minnow in comparison. I felt as if my story was of a relatively well-adjusted young man, but I was probably wrong. Certainly though, I’d not had my family killed in a murder suicide, I’d not had my kids die in a car accident, I’d not even been harassed and mistreated as a child.

There was one story particularly that lodged in my memory, but for all the wrong reasons. Amid the stories of tragedy and woe there was one young guy who stood up when called upon. He was olive skinned with dark curly hair and sensuous lips – I can still picture him. He related to us how as a teenager in Tel Aviv, where he came from, he would sneak into the zoo and – there’s no other way to put it – commit acts of bestiality with the animals there.

There had been many confronting stories told on that day, but this one was somehow different, and you could feel it in the room. I know I looked upon him with fascinated wonder. It’s not something you could imagine; and certainly not something you could imagine someone owning up to.

There were a lot of converts that weekend, and a lot that seemed to benefit from it. I wasn’t really one of them. By disposition I’m a non-joiner. For whatever reason I’d rather walk the other way, or at least be out of step, and it has ever been so. I don’t get carried away, and my first response to pretty well everything is rational. There’s a bunch of checkpoints things need to get through before I’ll even think about getting excited. My Achilles heel is perhaps when I tip over into infatuation, if not love, when nothing is rational any more.

And so back then I watched on like a scientist, rather than really getting involved. Sometimes it dragged for me, but at other times it was fascinating. I understood the point of it and didn’t disagree, but the fervour with which it was greeted with was entirely foreign to me. I did learn some things, but mostly by watching other people.

One of the observations I made that was stuck with me since was the hierarchy of personalities. We were separated into groups at one point for exercises. There were ten of us, and what I came to understand is that if you take ten random people there will be one person who will try to assume leadership, another – the born lackey – who will support him, seven who are happy to go with the flow and take instruction, because it’s easier. And there will be one who questions, one who rebels, one who suggests other ways but makes no demands of others (“who made you boss Ted?”). That was me of course, in my now customary role, unconcerned if anyone bothered to follow me or not, but determined to go my own way. I learned that this person becomes very quickly unpopular with the self-proclaimed leader and his lackey, who see him as a trouble maker; and that often – because he makes no demands – the undecided seven begin to drift to him.

That was my experience 30 years ago, but I knew as soon as I heard JV’s voice that his experience was different. There was a lift in his voice, a little extra animation. He’s a lovely guy JV, but he’s a retiring type, even a little passive. Back in the day when he used to hang with me and Whisky he’d be often caught in the middle as we went at each other hammer and tongs. He’s managed a respectable career – he’s a smart dude – but the one thing he would benefit from is a bit more energy, a bit more intent. Though he’s in a senior role, he is one who has gone with the flow.

Just hearing a little extra life in his voice was enough to tell me that something was different. Against expectations he had found himself roused by the message of the day, so much so that he had rung his father the night before and for the first time thanked him for everything he had done for him. It was something he had wanted to do for years, but never committed to. The call was a great success, liberating for JV and heart-warming for his father.

Landmark is something that JV can benefit from because potentially it brings him outside of himself, after all these years. I don’t want to use such a term, but okay, it’s his chance to self-actualise.

He asked if it was something I would be interested in doing. I can’t afford it, but anyway the answer was no. I told him though that I had embarked on my own mini project since the beginning of the year. My memory of the Forum is that attempts to bring out the dark stories and memories that dictate our outlook and behaviour. It’s about bringing those things to the surface and authentically owning them. Ultimately, it’s about shedding the convenient narrative that makes life easier – though less authentic – to live.

That’s basically what I hope to achieve, I told him, and explained how I had set out to share my story as the year went on. I am, however, gratified to think that what I have set myself to do seems validated by experience. The aim is to live true.

Seasonal emotions

Today is the last day of work before Christmas – three sleeps to go.

I’m permeated by a strange mix of emotion. I’m looking forward to the break, and have a generally positive perspective on this time of year. I love the festivities, the good cheer, the general uprise in hope. There’s something about witnessing the anticipation and joy of others, particularly children, that is uplifting. I find myself with a cock-eyed smile often, and even sometimes feel a bit misty.

Christmas by itself hasn’t much relevance to me on a personal level, but that’s not something that troubles me. I’ve accepted this is the case, and in any case a lot of it is my choice – and I’m pretty confident things will change sooner rather than later. Things will be better, and that’s enough.

The last few days though I’ve felt this distant, but persistent sorrow. It’s a strange feeling taken with everything else. It pulls me up a little short. I can’t quite commit to being happy because there is a decent part of me that is sad.

It’s this time of year, and what I feel is repeated all over the world by millions of people. Christmas can be a hard time. Fortunately I don’t feel that. What I feel is what I remember – what I have lost, which is a very human. At this time of year I remember mum.

It’s not just that Christmas is traditionally a time for family. Mum was one of those people who took to Christmas like a kid. She was always the most enthusiastic of all of us. She was a Christmas specialist.

She was exuberant and often over the top. Even to the most cynical – as I was occasionally, almost professionally – her antics were infectious. There was an innocence to her joy, unaffected and untainted by years of life. This was her time, and by being close to her it became our time too.

That’s what I remember, and that’s what I miss. It seems so sad not to have that in my life anymore. If I’m purely selfish, I miss having someone like her to excite me to laughter and joy and affectionate remembrance. And of course it’s very evident that everything fell apart once she was gone. There’s no-one else like her, and probably never will be again. And that’s what I feel, a sorrow I can’t shake even as I go about things brightly. It is what it is.

Other pathways

Dreams are one thing, but what triggers the random recollection of long ago, long forgotten events? Why do things come back to us when they do? What’s the connection between today and that far distant moment we now recall? It’s an endlessly fascinating question for me. We harbour mysteries we understand nothing of.

I had one such occasion last week. It bears repeating here not only because of its unlikely providence, but because it is a story worth telling in itself, and an apt counter-balance to much else I recall to these pages.

It was Thursday night and I went to bed late. It was past midnight and as I lay there a memory from more than 30 years before popped into my mind. I was bemused that should recall such a thing, and curious too. It was not something I had thought of for many years. Why do I remember it now?

I was just a kid not long after school. I’d had a job as a computer operator changing tapes and loading JCL cards on an old IBM 360. That job ended when I moved briefly to Sydney. When I returned I was lost and became unemployed.

From this distance the chronology now seems uncertain, and even the year appears vague. Somehow, I remember, I ended up living with my grandmother in her townhouse in Kalimna street, Essendon. On Thursday nights I would walk the short distance to Windy Hill and watch my team train, rain, hail and shine.

I don’t know now how long I was there, or how it came about. In memory it was an easy, but thoughtless existence. My grandmother adored me, and I have one particular memory in winter of sitting by the fireplace with a cup of tea my grandmother has made and reading a biography of Peter the Great. Back then, that was enough for me.

I was unemployed though. I hate to admit it now, but I was happy to live like that day to day. I don’t know if I ever thought much about the future. I just lived.

At some stage I did the Victorian public service test and, as I always did, blitzed it. Not long after I was offered a job at the Department of Housing and Construction in their Bourke Street offices. I started there in a pretty lowly job, but it was easy, the people were nice, and if I recall correctly, there was a daily tea cart. There was a complication though.

As a condition of my employment I had to provide them with a copy of my school results. I’d bombed at school and didn’t have the credentials they needed. I ummed and aahed, I delayed as much as possible, but it slowly came to a head. I have to leave I thought, and when push came to shove handed in my resignation. They accepted it with regret.

A day or so later I was called into a meeting with my supervisor and manager. They were lovely men. They said they’d received a call from my dad explaining to them my circumstances. I was terribly embarrassed and when they asked denied it was the case. I understood why my father had made the call, but wished he hadn’t. They reassured me. It was okay, if that was the reason then they could sweep it under the carpet and I could stay on. Too proud to accept that I said it was nothing to do with it – and that was that.

I left about a week later. I’d done a good job while I was there and I remember the manager telling saying how he would miss my smiling face – I was always smiling, it seemed. Then they took me to the pub for farewell drinks. I remember them fondly now.

This is what I remembered post-midnight on Thursday. Thirty years later I felt a kind of regret, an wonder too. How might things have been different had I swallowed my pride and accepted their offer? As for dad, I now felt grateful for his futile intervention. We had a combative relationship even then, but 30 years on I recognised the love that had prompted him to pick up the phone. I wish I had have acknowledged it then.

I don’t remember what happened after that, but ultimately it turned out fine. I got a job at some stage after and began a slow rise that became quicker the further I got into it. Much else happened to. But what might have happened had I stayed there when I had the chance? I wish I had, If only because it was the right thing to do. Looking back now there are things I did – or didn’t do – which I’m not proud of. I peddle the myth to myself that I reformed after the disappointment of my school exams, but the truth is that it was years before I properly knuckled down and became the man I am today. It’s worth remembering that.


Bolder times

I’ve been chatting with a colleague about the good old days when life was a bit more free-wheeling that it is now. It started off talking about the footy. Our formative years of AFL were pretty much the eighties, which was a wild and woolly and utterly great decade of football. It was an era of great games, larger than life characters, and bruising football. We were both wistful about how AFL footy has become sanitised since then. It’s still a great game – probably better than ever – but an awful lot of the rough and tumble has been legislated out of the contest. For someone who grew up watching robust footy, and playing it too, it’s a bit sad, but very much a sign of the times.

So too are expectations of us. There’s a corporate party on this Friday night at one of the city bars. I’ll go along for an hour or two of free drinks and nibbles, then be home in time for the footy (ironically). Ahead of the party Friday a corporate missive has been sent out to all and sundry reminding us of the standards expected of us, and basically telling us to pull our heads in and behave. Now I understand that, but once more I can recall a time when it was different.

In the mid-eighties I worked at a bank in IO. It was a competitive environment of younger folk with no-one much more than about 27, and with just about an even split of men and women. We worked hard, as was the culture, and played hard too, which was the culture also. Some of the stories from back then would make your eyes pop, but gee, it was fun living.

Anyway, one year we had a mid-year Christmas party on the 30th June at the Banks Rowing Club on the Yarra. It was a great venue and everyone keenly anticipated the event.

Leading into it many of us nominated a CPT – a Christmas Party Target. I don’t know how that started but I for one happily joined in. For my CPT I chose one of the currency dealers, an enigmatic and attractive woman with long, curly blonde hair and other attributes that led her to be known – in my mind at least – as ‘big tits’.

I’d had the hots for her for a while and, unbeknownst to me, she knew it. I was an intern learning the business, as most of us were. I’d got friendly with one of the old hands showing us the ropes and confided to him that I quite fancied that girl with…well, you know. As it turns out they were very good friends and somewhere along the line he told her. I’d probably have been mortified had I known, but it worked out well – turns out that going into the event I was her CPT.

It should have been a lay down misere then. I wanted her, she wanted me, and in a lubricious atmosphere with an abundance of alcohol to urge us along we should have sealed the deal pretty quickly. As they say though, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. So it was that night, and for a very good reason.

I never got to see those fabled breasts up close and personal. I sort of wish I had, but the reason I didn’t was pretty good.

The night proceeded pretty much as had been promised. Lots of drink, excellent food – up to and including lobster (the bank didn’t stint) – much carousing and a few shenanigans. I swear that come midnight that quite a few of the bushes by the banks of the river rustled as CPT’s bonded.

In the meantime, I hooked up with someone different. It was with a girl I’d met and connected with and liked some weeks before. Turns out she had a thing for me, thought I had presence, loved how I walked, and other things she later told me in exuberant detail. I liked her too, and perhaps it was because I liked her I didn’t nominate her as my CPT. Big tits was fun, and probably a lot of fun, and I was probably the same for her. Mogesh – the girl I found – had found a place in a different part of me.

I can be a bold character, and that was certainly true then. I can be crazy flirtatious and funny and charming – less so these days, though it’s coming back. The women who drew that out of me were generally the women I felt a more primal attraction to. The women I really liked, liked deep inside of me, drew from me a different set of behaviours. There might be some wit, but I’m more serious. I’m incredibly sensitive then, and tingle with tenderness. I become a more compact character, not the provocative charmer, but someone much quieter and sincere. That was the person drawn to Mogesh, and he didn’t do CPT’s.

In any case from early on that evening I found myself with her. I don’t think I ever asked, but I’m pretty certain that’s how she planned it. We spent the night there together and afterwards went back to her flat in East St Kilda. I spent the night holding her in her ¾ sized bed and refraining from sex. By morning I had a bad case of blue balls she was finally happy to relieve me of.

I spent the weekend with her and it was one of the most special weekends of my life. We spent most of it in bed making love. We shared a bath, went out for dinner, came back. I remember at the end of the weekend waiting to catch a tram back wondering what had just happened.

There was a bold character inside me, but within him was this romantic soul. It felt the truth of me and I was suddenly grateful that I had found someone with whom I could be that person. I fell in love with Mogesh: she was the first. At one stage we planned to get married. That encounter changed my life forever.

I would be bold again then and in the years since, but all the while searching for the woman I could share my more sincere self with.

Times have changed. I lived through that time when there were fewer boundaries drawn, and when expression was a natural thing. I’m still here, I know what it was like and a large part of that era is lodged in me. Now the expectations have shifted. We have become more consciously civilised, boundaries are firmly drawn and reinforced, and expectations of behaviour, conduct, even belief, are clearly stated.

I understand. Much of that is for the theoretical good, but there must be room for individuality and dissent. I look back upon those brilliantly coloured characters, not all of them politically correct, and think, what a time it was to be alive.


Not fade away

I’ve got a heavy cold right now that makes me feel as if my head might pop at any moment. My nose is blocked, and I can feel the pressure behind my eyes and in my ears. I took the day off yesterday because I was sneezing all over the place, and because I had a new oven being installed. I spent the day quietly on the couch or in bed and in between working at the novel. Being crook is a nuisance, but I’m back at work today.

At the end of the night yesterday I was lying on the couch contemplating bed when instead I clicked on a movie to watch I’d recorded last week. Travelling North seems to me one of those forgotten movies. A zillion movies get made every year across the world and some will be remembered for decades to come, for the right reasons, or wrong, and most will fade into the past. A few, for reasons I can’t understand, get lost in the past. Travelling North is a worthy movie, but one of those lost movies. Who here has ever heard of it, let alone seen it?

It’s an Australian movie starring Leo McKern and Julia Blake and based on a David Williamson play. It has a solid cast and is well made and is clever. It’s not a movie that should be forgotten, which is one reason I recorded it. It came at me as a novelty. Oh yes, I thought, I remember that movie. I wonder how it plays now.

I probably wouldn’t have cared, except that I saw this movie at the cinema when it came out. I remember it very well. I went with a mate to see it at the Roseville Cinema in Sydney. For dinner before we went to a Black Stump restaurant. In retrospect it seems an unusual movie for us to have elected to watch, but we both enjoyed its modest pleasures. That was a while ago, I knew, but when I saw it was from 1987 I felt a mild flutter of wonder. I knew it was from about then, but I realised that was 30 fucking years ago. 30 years! How does that happen?

Back then when I saw it first the actual storyline would have had no direct relevance for me. It’s the story of a couple of retirement age driving up from Melbourne to a new home in the north of Queensland. They go from the hustle and bustle of the city to a laid-back lifestyle in a tropical setting. It’s a well-worn trail, with thousands of retirees making the trek from the southern states to the tropical climes to warm their bones with their working life done. I was not much more than a kid then and all of that was many years distant, if at all – and I doubt it ever crossed my mind.

That time is 30 years closer now. I’m still a way off and very much doubt that I would go north – it might be pretty, but I’d miss the conversation and the culture. Regardless, there will come a time in the next 20 years when I will need to consider what I’ll do. If not travelling north, then what?

Who can say? A lot can happen in 20 years, and I hope it does. I’ve changed in the 30 years since I saw the film. Back then everything was ahead of me. Right now a lot of it is behind me. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve lived an interesting life, and occasionally a big life. My desire is for that to continue, though it’s harder now. I still want to feel that vibrant urgency, still want to be relevant – I don’t think I can live without that.

That’s my problem with retirement. I accept that I’ve a harsh perspective on it, but that’s because I’ve observed it so much. I’ve watched retired husbands – long careers behind them, but past – trail after their wives in the supermarket. Just recently there’s been a bunch of press on retirement and aged care homes, and none of it good. But I’ve also listened in as retired couples have lauded the facilities and activities of their retirement villages. They make it sound like landlocked cruise ships with lawn bowls and cards and group activities, and so on. Perhaps that’s as it should be – but it’s not for me, and I can’t imagine a time when it will be.

If you ask me I’ll tell you I want to stay independent to the end. I want my own home and space, want to make my own decisions and live life as I choose too. The Leo McKern character in the movie is a retired civil engineer and ex-communist. He’s done things and has become a curmudgeonly old man. Well, excuse me, I think that’s exactly as it should be. Live on your terms, and fuck convention.

There will be plenty who object to my suppositions and to each his own. What it feels like to me is that to settle into a retirement home of any sort is to accept the fact of eventual death and to wait for it in comfort. I don’t accept it, and I won’t wait for it.

For me, right now, it’s simple. I’m happy to live simply. Have my home, a vegie garden, a dog, and hopefully a partner to share it with. That’s to start with. But you need more than that if you are not to become one of those lost husbands dogging their spouses heels in the supermarket because they have nothing better to do. You need something for yourself.

I know this because I have always needed that. I’ve been strident because I wanted to feel life and engage with it. It has become my nature and it won’t change just because I might retire one day. You need to do, or at least attempt to do. All your life you have contributed to society, if only modestly – why should that change now? So okay you tell me, because you’ve retired, because those days are gone, because now it’s time to rest and enjoy. Enjoy what though? The ethereal pleasures of playing bridge and going to the theatre?

I believe that you must put in as much – if not more – than what you take out. A life living as a valued member of the community builds that balance up, from which you withdraw as necessary. At retirement the deposits cease unless you make an effort otherwise. You begin to draw from that account and what fun it is to start with – but then it pales, doesn’t it? For the active mind I’m sure, it would. To take without putting back becomes a superficial existence. What meaning acquired over lifetime of rich experience evaporates in the artificial sunshine of retirement.

I want to keep putting in until the day I die. For me it means in that little house with the vegie garden I must do something more. For me that will be writing, but probably something else to. And if I could I would live like that starting tomorrow.

I can’t disengage. I can’t put things at arm’s length. This is what you have to remember. When you die you don’t come back. This is it. Why waste it? Why become irrelevant? Live all the way through I reckon.