Becoming a beautiful butterfly


About a dozen years ago I lived through one of the most intense phases of my life. ‘Intense’ is relative, and when I look back in general there seem regular patches of intensely lived experience, though of different kinds. It’s surprising to recall how much has been crammed into the years, a lot of it nonsense, though necessary nonsense, and a lot of it very real.

Back a dozen years ago I experienced something that was new and unexpected to me. I had recently returned from an unhappy stint living in Brisbane, and took up a job in Melbourne. I expected to basically take up where I left off. I’d always been a confident, enterprising type with strong convictions, and a willingness to take things on. On the back of that my career had progressed well. Returning from Brisbane I felt a bit betwixt and between, but assumed all would be back to normal shortly.

The job I took on was perhaps indicative of my state of mind – fun and interesting, but not a great career step, and not nearly as well paid as my previous roles. It’s as if I wanted to sit back and take the temperature.

That year turned out to be tumultuous and intense and very different, and I was very different. I didn’t snap back to normal. Instead I went about my work without my usual conviction. I felt untethered from the reality I had created for myself, and left me feeling very uncomfortable. It led to self-doubt and second guessing, things I hated on principle but had no control over. I felt as if this must be clear to the whole world, but apparently the façade held more or less, and many of my behaviours were unaffected.

To complicate things further I fell in love, the details I won’t go into here. She was bright and alluring and challenged me in all the best ways. She, at least, could see beyond the façade. In the way of these things our relationship became fraught and impossibly complicated, and ended badly. Before it did though we would have long conversations about me. She would complain that I was ‘too cool for school’, a flaw I had not recognised until then. It was symptomatic of something deeper, which she also recognised and hoped that I would rectify. It became a bit of a quest, and we would joke that I was “becoming a beautiful butterfly.”

If only that was the case.

History says that the whole situation imploded before I achieved metamorphosis. We split acrimoniously, I quit and took a new job, and somehow magically reclaimed my mojo. I returned to the man I was before, certain and direct. There was huge relief for me because it was familiar: I knew this man. I went on to become a high performer again (I had dropped off), and achieved a bunch of things I’m proud of now. Now though I wonder if that was my missed opportunity – how would things be different now had I become that butterfly and shed some of my masculine, competitive ways? What if I allowed myself to be sensitive and authentic to the world, rather than hide behind the glib, ‘cool’ persona?

I remembered all this as I headed home from work. I felt something near to distress at what had happened earlier in the day.

It’s funny how the world works. We like to see patterns, meanings behind things, but sometimes I think it’s true. The world has a way of leading you to truth, if only we recognise it.

I was sitting on my couch watching TV and idly browsing Facebook on my iPad. I came across one article that interested me, then two. I read them feeling a connection to myself, as if there was something in these brief articles I could learn from if I was smart enough.

The first was a piece by an international cricket coach who specialises in mental preparation. He shared his thoughts on what he had learned along the way, about how people were motivated, about what moved them. He made reference to an Australian international cricketer whose public persona was competitive and sometimes angry, but in his close dealings with him described him instead as being a very empathic, genuine, sensitive and caring character, unafraid to show his vulnerable side to his teammates.

The second piece was by a woman describing a platonic relationship twenty years before with a man she really loved, but ultimately turned from because she could not reconcile what that love meant (later she realised she was gay). It was a sad but very true piece about love and regret and it left me wondering why we act roles when happiness lies in being authentic. Of course, that’s a lesson that holds more true of me than most.

I felt enlightened. I felt as if a depth had ended up inside me. I was both frail and tender, but I was glad of the feeling. At the same time another truth dawned on me.

I complain of being described as a womaniser, but who am I kidding? I like to think I’m a decent, respectful man, and I think that’s true more often than not. But shoot, how can I possibly deny such a charge when the women I’ve known number in the hundreds? And, let’s admit it, you like the chase, you crave the conquest. What does that make you? And if you were really honest with yourself there’s a part of you chuffed to be considered cool, even a ladies man. Time to own it.

I’m back at work today and feel the same. It reminds some of all those years ago, but more pointed. I’ve set myself to be a more open man and this is my chance to nail it. It feels an interesting and scary journey I’ve embarked on. I pray this time I go through with it and actually become that beautiful butterfly, a dozen years too late.

As for the girl. I think damage was done by the loose comments yesterday. There’s no point me being angry or upset by that, and I’m not in a position to explain. It is what it is. Right now I’ll look to sort myself out and trust in time she will see that, and respond.

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Not a ladies’ man


It seems an old conversation, a theme that keeps recurring: why is it so many people assume that I’m a ladies man?

It happened again today. I’m back at work and I stop by the desk of one of my friends and ask how her Christmas and New Year was. She then asked how my break was. Before I could answer the dude behind her swivels in his chair and with a big smile says “he was busy dating all the girls.”

I thought, WTF? He’s a cool dude, but I don’t really know him that well, so his comments came as a total surprise. Before Christmas some of the girls got hold of an old photo of me and went on about how handsome I was. When he saw it he said something like “you must have pulled a lot of chicks back then”. I’m only guessing that’s where this comment has stemmed from. The problem is he said it right in front of the girl I like and I figure she won’t much like the idea of me being a ladies man, besides which, actually, I’m not.

There’s something always deflating in episodes like this. They’re surprisingly regular, so there must be something to it. I dislike it because it’s a misrepresentation, and because it presumes me to be more shallow than I am, and because there’s a taint of profiling in such easy assumptions.

I asked Donna why this happens to me so much. She came back straight at me: because you have a swagger. Because you’re cocky and confident and comfortable with women. Because you have the demeanour of a man who reckons he can charm his way to anything.

I can only take her at her word – she probably knows me better than anyone. I was a little surprised though. A few years back I would have accepted it a lot easily. Once upon a time I sat very easily within my skin. Since then I feel a lot more frail, so it’s a great surprise that I still give off that vibe. Is it a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. What’s not so good is how others interpret it.

So I was annoyed and actually felt downhearted afterwards. And I was deadly concerned about what she would think. I’m an authentic dude I think, and I want her to think it too. I want to be absolutely square.

I thought about it when I went to lunch. Of course I did. It occurred to me that this concern actually aligns with my desire to be less glib. That’s a reason I want to be less glib (though I do it so well). Glib sits well with the notion of the ladies’ man. It’s easy to believe that someone so slippery and ready with the one liners is like that on a personal basis. That’s not what I want.

I can’t change my nature, and I don’t want to. I’m happy to be confident, as much as it is. I’m glad I can be charming and witty. And being comfortable with women is no bad thing. If that’s all there is though I’m apt to be misinterpreted, and because I’ve been so guarded so often that’s all acquaintances see of me. And so they draw conclusions.

I’m upset by this, but it affirms my intention to be more open and vulnerable. It gives context and balance. It makes me authentic.

I’m trusting that no significant harm has been done with the girl I like, but she’s gone home since and I can’t tell. Otherwise, I’ve taken the plunge and opened up to someone I trust this morning and told him about my homeless/unemployed interlude. He was fine with it, and in fact confessed how he lived with his parents for two years after his divorce. I felt good letting it go. It’s not such a big deal, which is how it should be.

Family lost and found…


It’s the day before Christmas, and most of my Christmas rushing is completed. On Friday I caught with Donna up for our usual pre-Christmas cocktail and dinner, and as always it was good. Yesterday I met up with my two nephews and niece in the city. We checked out the gingerbread exhibition at the Town Hall and then had lunch.

I’ve just come back from my final grocery shopping. Predictably it was pretty hectic in the supermarket, but reasonably civilised. In a minute I’ll begin my own Christmas celebration – a butterflied chicken I’ve had brining overnight will be cooked up on the barbie, with all the usual trimmings. Just me and Rigby, but that’s fine, I’ll be out and circulating tomorrow.

I’ve had my own small  Christmas miracle this morning. I went to check online and found I had a friend request. I’ve been getting a few lately as a bunch of people from work have cottoned onto me. I expected it to be more of the same. Instead, it was a face I didn’t recognise, and though I knew the name – the surname was mine – I didn’t know the person. As always I ummed and aahed, but accepted in the end out of curiosity – maybe he’s a distant really?

I went to message him to inquire, but he got in ahead of me. Before I knew he was claiming to be my cousin.

My first reaction was scepticism. My surname is uncommon, but it’s not unknown. I thought he had probably mistaken me for some other branch. Then it dawned on me: he was right.

I have to go back a bit now and to a pretty sad tale.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told the story of my dad’s family. He had an older sister and younger brother, both of whom died badly of cancer 15-20 years ago. They were all quite different. My aunt adored us, a hard-drinking, hard-smoking spinster who loved books and thinking. My uncle was a gentle, lovely man who hero-worshipped my dad and wanted to be just like him. He was disappointed in that. My father was, and probably still is, highly intelligent and driven. There’s a lot of things I could say and have. Suffice it that he was confident to the point of arrogance, and lacked the ease of my mother. He was strong, and my uncle when it came down to it, was frail in all the wrong ways.

My uncle married twice, the second time around he had three children he adored. He married to be a father – he loved kids, and not from love, and eventually, he parted ways with his wife and children. They ended up in Brisbane, he in the Sunshine Coast, which is where he died. None of his kids attended the funeral.

The eldest was a boy, blonde haired and playful. In my memory he was a bit of a sook, always running to an indulgent mother. Later I heard about the traps that he had a photographic memory – he had memorised the Brisbane street directory, was inclined to the left and was likely gay. The last time I saw him was before the turn of the century, and the last I think I heard of him was 2003 when my aunt died. This is the cousin who contacted me.

I was as astounded as I ever get, but also unexpectedly pleased. I felt a mild guilt that I had not remembered him, that I forgotten him so well that he was not a part of my consciousness. That was my bad, but clearly, it was different for him. We chatted for a bit. He told me he had just graduated from uni (Politics and International Relations), that he had a flair for languages, and he was thinking of working for the fair work commission. I could tell from his profile that he was a good Labor supporter, and discovered in our chat that we have the same footy team. His mum was crook, but both his sisters well, including one who had completed a masters of journalism.

I wanted to ask him what made him seek to friend me? What was the motivation? Was I just one of those names that pop up suggestively, or did he choose to reach out for other reasons?

Afterwards, I felt sad at all the lost years and all he had been deprived. I remember when his father died wondering how his kids would feel grown up never having had the opportunity to say goodbye. He, they, grew up completely separately from us, like a completely different family. That was by choice – his mum was a strange, bitter woman who wanted nothing to do with any of us as if we were poison. Now he’s grown up and can make that choice for himself.

For me, it feels strange to find I have another family closely tied by blood that I knew nothing of really.

We said we’d keep in contact, and I hope that’s true. I want to do right by him, even that means just being here.

 

Wise words


I always think that hot weather in Melbourne has a different nature to hot weather in other parts of the world. A classically hot day in Melbourne is a heavy thing. It sits upon the landscape pressing it down. When you’re a part of that landscape you feel it keenly. It has a sharp and incessant quality. Shadows are clearly defined, and the sun is as painted in the corner of the sky, ever shining, ever beaming like a heat ray. It seems inescapable and static. The only difference is when the north wind blows, which is wicked and hot; and those moments of relief when the weather finally breaks.

I experienced the hot Melbourne weather standing at the bus stop in Frankston yesterday waiting to be picked up. I watched the comings and goings: the buses stopping and starting up again, the locals passing by or entering into the station concourse, some with their shirts off, and others waiting, like I, to be collected. I was the odd man out, not just in the heat, but in Frankston in general, dressed in a suit and with a silk tie with scarlet flowers on it.

I was picked up by a friend and we drove the short distance to the chapel where the funeral of my friend’s father was about to commence. On the way we chatted, catching up on old news. It was cool in the car with the air-con going full blast. Driving down the beach road we looked out over the beach and the distant escarpment at Mt Martha, both of us commenting on how idyllic it was. It’s like a painted scene, I said, the colours rich and deep, the sea blue, the sand a rich beige, and the trees atop the escarpment a dusty green. Later it reminded me of something Rupert Bunny might have painted, a timeless, eternal landscape where ladies might once have promenaded with parasols in their hands, while today yachts scud across the water and boys in board shorts cavort.

The chapel was full. Later I was told they had double the crowd expected. The overflow spilled into another room where the service could be watched by video link. We stood at the back of the room overlooking the seated heads. It was an elegant scene, different from the sterile chapels I’ve attended in the past. It was an old house with high ceilings. A modern chandelier dangled brass orbs. A row of windows let in the light from outside. Across the road and through the trees was the beach.

As funerals go it was a good funeral. I had my own memories of my mate’s dad, a kind and considerate man with a spark of wit. He had always seemed so robust. In my memory I saw as a kind of Harry Andrews type, salt of the earth, though with a bit more levity. Whatever my thoughts of him were it was clear he was held in great esteem by very many. My opinion of him seemed validated by the crowd: he was a man of quality.

I listened as the celebrant gave the conventional eulogy, before one by one his sons got up to share their memories. This was incredibly moving. It was clear he was a much loved father. The memories shared were vivid, sometimes funny, and often poignant. Their grief was articulated in different voices, and at times it threatened to overcome them.

It’s funny, I felt glad to be there to witness. It was real and true. It was sad that he was gone, but wonderful he had existed. I felt a kind of pride at being part of the human race he had been part of. But then I couldn’t help but feel envy too. I listened to the stories of these grieving sons and wondered what I could say on behalf of my own father. I had nothing to compare, not even the smallest thing. Once more I felt a sense of being deprived. How might it have been had I a father like that? I wished I could feel so deeply, could love so much – and yet, timely as it was, when I contacted my father by SMS the other day to tell him I had to record him as a next of kin I didn’t even receive an acknowledgement. That bus has long departed.

We ended up at the Dava hotel next door. You relax. It’s a different vibe, the tie is loosened. It’s an open bar and you share a cold beer with people you haven’t seen for years. The stories flow, memories are recalled. I had forgotten some, but remembering them again they seemed just like yesterday. How does time fly? Was that really twenty years ago? There seems something strange and wonderful about it. You look around. One of your friends is unchanged. You yourself are little different. But others are older, greyer, bigger. Men now, not boys, but when did that happen?

Here we are in a funeral though. If that was behind us, then ahead was this. I stood in the chapel thinking that I will be here again sometime, and one of my friends I share a beer with today might be in the casket – and one day it will be me. But that’s in the future, now is remembrance.

It’s the nature of funerals that while it is a sad occasion we celebrate by remembering. The connections that have dissolved or disconnected by time and distance in that brief period become real again. Moments are shared and recalled, laughter blossoms, stories are told.

I caught up with my mates younger brother, a lovely, knockabout bloke (they’re all lovely, a great family). He had struggled in giving his eulogy. When I shook his hand after the service he was still grief stricken. Now, at the reception, we shook hands again and with a smile said “as soon as I saw you H I had to laugh, you remember…” and off he went recalling a moment I had forgotten altogether (from my mates wedding) that I remembered again and laughed with him. Fancy that, we thought.

I threaded through the crowd, catching up with the eldest son, and then my mates mum, while being introduced to others. Outside the sun blazed down. The sea could be seen from the upstairs bar where we stood. As it had in the chapel the air-con struggled.

At the end I felt enlarged inside. I had awareness. Life was bigger than I remembered and it ends with death. It had boundaries, but the boundaries gave it meaning. I had commented to one of the sons he must be proud at the turn out and the testament it was for his father. He told me his father lived by the precept in 7 Habits of Effective Men – live like you want be remembered at your funeral. Yes, I thought, wise words – but what would people remember of me?

Age irrelevant


Earlier this week there was a lively speculation about my age. One woman thought I might be 36, which took me by great surprise. When she conferred with one of the more sober members of the team he gave me the once over and suggested mid to late thirties. I’ve always looked more youthful than my age, and have excellent skin, but I was flabbergasted nonetheless. What about my beard? I asked. I grew a beard about eight weeks ago and most of it is grey and, I think, makes me look a good 4-5 years older. Nup, I was told, they factored that in.

The discussion went on with every Tom, Dick and Harry having a crack at it, as if I was somehow the human equivalent of the guess how many jellybeans in the jar competition. The highest number nominated was 45, which was an outlier. Otherwise the average range was in the late thirties.

At first I was chuffed. Then I was worried. In my ever active imagination I suddenly understood what a false impression I might be giving people. I’m always flirting, and in good faith, ignorant to now that the receptive woman facing me might be under the impression I was good fifteen years younger than my true age. You might think that’s a good thing being so well preserved, etc, except come the moment when I have to ‘fess up to the truth. That could be a deal breaker – but then, I probably am overthinking it.

It’s a cliché, but age is just a number, and a state of mind. Many a time I’ve sat on the train and looked at my fellow commuters. You wonder sometimes where they’ve come from, what their story is. Sometimes you see someone worn down by life and showing. Their eyes are flat, they move sluggishly. You know they’re younger than they look, but the truth is they’re older than their years.

When I was younger I had an entirely different perspective on age. Fifty seemed an eternity away, and someone that age obviously quite old. I wondered sometimes what it was like, and occasionally felt a little sad. Then one day I hit fifty myself and nothing much was different, just as it hadn’t been different much in the preceding thirty years. My body might have aged – though clearly not as much as it might have – but for all intents and purposes my mentality was little different to when I was heading out into the wide world.

Maybe I’m more mature now, certainly I’m more worldly, and maybe even a little wise in places, but who I am is pretty much the same, as are my attitudes and appetites. If I’ve changed at all it is only in degree, the fundamental me remains.

As it happens this was brought home to pretty keenly this morning on the way to work. Being Friday I had a bit more of a skip to my step. It’s Melbourne Cup day Tuesday, plus I’ve taken Monday off, and so I walk out the door tonight with a four day break. I was well disposed.

I caught my usual train and took the usual route from Flinders street through the arcades and laneways to work. On the way I stopped off a little café in the middle one such arcade. I indulge myself Fridays – you need an occasional indulgence – and so I ordered the special: a coffee and pastry for $6.50. I watched as they prepared my order, a young Italian Australian and a young Asian Australian. They were bright and energetic. About us people buzzed around on their way to work, while others stopped as I had to order something. Ciao, we exchanged, as I took my order and departed.

It was one of those mornings when I had had a greater sensual awareness of the whole world about me. Your senses seem keener, and everything seemed fresh again. There’s a feeling of youthfulness because everything appears new again. I’ve experienced this hundreds, maybe thousands of days in my life, all the way through. It seems a connecting thread, from who I was before to who I am now. Everything felt new, but it was so familiar also.

When you feel things so rawly your sensations feel a slow sizzle, and for someone like me, a world of possibility yawns open. I confess I feel that most particularly when it comes to women. I walked through those arcades and laneways and felt something like I first did when I was just a teenager. There’s been a lifetime of experience in between, but the simple sense of it is no different – which I’m grateful for. My eyes went to every woman that came my way. For every one of them I felt infinite possibilities. I was receptive, open, a sponge soaking up every sensual variable, alert to every prospect. There is raw desire as part of that, but it is more sophisticated too.

What a world this is, I think. How lucky am I? I am appreciative that I can experience this, glad that I have the fortunate capacity to feel the full depth of it. I feel that strong sensual tug, like a tide that has awoken in me, but it is tempered by knowledge. As much as I want to feel and experience, I want to understand. I want to conquer their bodies, but I want to look in their eyes too and see the endless worlds they inhabit; want to lean in with my eyes closed and breathe deep of their scent. There’s a feeling like art, an appreciation of simple things that generally you disregard – the line of things, the sense of a cohesive whole, the very mystery of being and creation. You want to share that, and in sharing it, celebrate it.

It’s something beyond the number of years you’ve been on earth. It’s something outside your physical self. It’s the spark of something individual and unique, a spirit that has always been and rouses so often.

I guess I’ll feel that way till the day comes when the spirit remains willing, but the body can no longer follow.

Feeling my age


It’s been a unhealthy year for lots of Victorians. The flu season has been just about the worst ever, with over a hundred now having died from it. There have been lot of coughing, sniffling workers, and a lot of sick days. Looking about me there’s no-one who sits in my vicinity who hasn’t suffered, and just about everyone among my friends too.

By comparison I’ve been pretty good, which is a surprise as I start from a back-mark because of my chest. I had one day feeling pretty crook, and a few days otherwise significantly less than 100%, but nothing debilitating, touch wood. I’ve soldiered on pretty well, and in theory the worst should be behind us.

All that sounds good, except that for the last month I’ve been feeling generally unhealthy. Sometimes you feel bursting with health and energy. Most of the time you feel a level of health which is unremarkable because it tracks the middle ground. There are times when you’ll pick up an infection or virus and your health will dip before, having mended, you return to an unremarkable level. And there are times when there is no particular ailment but you feel generally off. That’s been me. Not bad enough to see a doc or take time off or indeed do anything much different, but sufficiently poor that energy comes hard and the little bits and pieces add up to a feeling of being run down.

It’s got to the point that I figure I need to do something about it. In reality there is little I can do – perhaps eat more healthily, exercise more, sleep better. I’ve made an effort to eat more sensibly and I’ve upped my exercise regime. Sleep is not really an issue – I always sleep well, though perhaps I could sleep longer.

I’ve started to think about it more too because some of the niggles are distinct things I know won’t go away, and potentially could become worse unless I do something about it. I reckon I’ve had a very low-level cold for the last 6 months. I don’t notice it most of the time, except for when I get to bed and my sinus feel half blocked. Sometimes it flares up – as it has now – into sniffles, or I will start coughing again, which I have been lately. In fact there have been times lately when I’ve felt slightly short of breath because of congestion in my chest.

Then there’s my foot. The DVT I had means I’m meant to be on permanent medication (which mostly I can’t afford to buy). It means that each day my left calf will swell, and with that my foot. It’s got to the point that it’s become painful, and potentially causing other issues.

The problem is my left shoe is not big enough for my foot when it swells. My little toe and left edge of my foot is calloused from rubbing up against the size of the shoe. By the end of the day my foot feels tightly bound, and come the evening – even with shoes off – my foot aches, the sole feels as made of small, delicate bones, and occasionally I’ll suffer from shooting pains.

I think the solution is that I need new shoes, and probably custom made shoes to account for the difference in size between my feet. Of course, I can’t afford that.

And when I get up in the morning both feet feel tender, and my Achilles foreshortened.

Some of this is just getting older. I have my situations, but I’m still relatively fit. I regularly exercise and average about 9,000 steps a day. I’m lucky enough to still look years younger than my age. It all catches up on you though, and I reckon there are some things I just have to get used to. There are some things I can do something about though.

Comes a time in your life when you realise that you can’t play as fast and loose with your health as you did before. That time is now for me, and I have to commit to repairing and looking after myself more earnestly, as much as I can.

Family relations


I caught up with my younger nephew for lunch last week. I’d seen him a couple of months before when we went to the footy together, and in the time between he seems to have grown more. He’s 16 and about 6’3”, with the frame of someone who will grow a few more inches yet and fill out into a powerful physique. Right now he is very lean, as I was his age, and in fact everyone says he looks like me, though I don’t see it completely. He’s a lovely, gentle, sensitive kid, but he’s also had issues with his self-confidence.

We’ve always been close. I love his sensitivity, which is a greatly under-appreciated quality. I guess I appreciate having someone to care about too, and want to guide and support him as much as I can.

I’m an important person for him, I think. His father died a few years ago, but even before that he was absent, living in England. There are no male figures in his life but me, and at times it’s been hard for him without someone to lean on. He basks in my affection, and draws strength from it. I am family, but remote and disaffected from his mother, and it would be simple for me to fade away – not that I ever would. That I choose to remain in contact and speak intimately with him is a form of reassurance, proof that I see something in him worthy of love.

We had a pizza each in the Emporium, my shout, while I asked him questions about school and what he wants to do next, his friends and potential love interests. He was quite open with me, I think because these are conversations he can’t – or won’t – have with anyone else. I skirted any questions relating to his mother or grandfather, not really interested in any case, while in reply he asked questions of me about work, and what I wanted to be when I was growing up. Afterwards we went for a walk.

It felt strange in a way. He will grow into an impressive looking man, and even now he’s well ahead of the curve – Donna says she sees my nephews much as she did William and Harry growing up (my other nephew is tall and good looking also, though less so, and has done some casual modelling). He is taller than me now, though I’m still much the bigger, and beside him grizzled, and even wise. I feel older about him, and remember that the years are ticking. I realise how it must be as a parent and the feeling of passing things on. There’s no sense of loss in that, rather extending something which you already possess.

That night, or the night after, I dreamt of his mother. It’s been a year since I’ve spoken to my sister, and haven’t missed her at all. We always had a difficult relationship, and after we broke I acknowledged that I had never liked her. It was her doing – she took offence at an honest answer I gave to a question from her. She said she wanted an honest answer, but really what she wanted was an answer that confirmed what she hoped for. I had done that in the months before, but when I failed to on this occasion she took offence. She sent a bunch of very nasty SMS to me, and that was that. I haven’t missed dealing with her difficult personality.

I hadn’t dreamt of her once either, which was significant. I missed the kids, but she was out of sight and out of mind. Meeting with my nephew brought her back to me, though the dream was innocuous.

Then yesterday I returned home from work to find an interesting envelope in my letter box. Mail has become relatively rare these days, and personal mail almost non-existent. The envelope was coloured and across the front of it in fancy ink and script was my name and address. I opened it inside the house and found in it an invitation my aunties 70th birthday in December.

I’ll go, and I’ll be happy to go, and look forward in particular to see my cousins. But it also means that I’ll encounter my sister. I suppose it had to happen sometime, but really I would have been happy to put it off permanently. I’ll be civil and polite, I’ll happily break bread with her, but no more than that. There are family things I have been excluded from, and I’ve had to make separate arrangements in its stead. I’m not someone who holds grudges, but nor am I someone who will sweep things under the carpet. Even if my sister knows she has done wrong there is zero possibility of her apologising, or even admitting to it – my sister is one of those people who have never been wrong. Under those circumstances I am unwilling to return to a phony and convenient family arrangement.

It should be an interesting night, but I’ll have Donna there to lend support.