A loosening

I dreamt last night that I was offered a redundancy, which I happily accepted. I woke early and contemplated that and other things before wide awake getting out of bed early. I was out the door a little after 7. It was still dark outside, though by the time I had made my short walk to the station there was a glow in the air from an imminent sun. It was quiet, solemn. The car park with the bus station behind the shopping was all lit up by yellow tinted lights against the dark sky, but besides a solitary bus no-one was about. In the air was the aroma of something spicy and sweet being cooked at the bakery.

At that time of morning there’s not quite the crowd at the station. When the train came I quietly found my seat and, as before, listened to my book. The stations go by. The train fills. I’m contained within my headphones though. It’s a very interior world. That time of day encourages a sort of introspection – it’s a rare person who has the energy to be garrulous before 8am. And though the train becomes crowded most others are like me, and there is little conversation.

I listened to the narrative. I looked out the window. Coming into Middle Brighton I witnessed a fiery sunrise spread across the horizon to the east (the right side of the train – I realise now I always sit on the right), reminding me that every day is unique.

I’ve got an existential restlessness. That’s not news for me. It’s not bad either. I always reckon you’ve got to be wide awake to your life otherwise it slips by without you noticing. Everyone’s different, but for me I want to do things. I’m not content to be comfortable, or even secure, which may be a surprise given my recent experiences, but somehow those experiences rather than making me more fearful have instead released me from conventional expectation.

I contemplated this morning letting the rake in me loose. It was a very considered, un-rakish thought process. One might even call it rational, which is my abiding temper. I’m always the most responsible and reliable, generally the smartest, or near enough, and close to the most driven and determined. There dwells inside me another side that has long been repressed, by circumstances I guess, though there has been a deliberate inclination to set it to one side.

I wondered if it were now not time to let the rake in me to return to the surface. There is much joy in that persona, and for so many reasons, and it might serve me well in my relationships – I feel as if I’ve been tethered for so long. It frees the mind in other ways too. It might be a bad thing to be a little less responsible, a bit more unpredictable. It might serve as a kind of mental detox and free me from the spurious obligations of duty. In so doing it may give me, and my life, a little kick-along.

I don’t know. As I said I considered it in purely rational terms and, even so, don’t know if I could just turn it on like that. It is tempting though. I know I need to freshen up. I have become disappointed and disapproving, and none of that does me any good.

A fling, a mental loosening, might be just the thing.

Duffers in control

So Australia got knocked out of the ICC Champions Trophy by England on Saturday night. In a lot of ways we were pretty stiff. Our first two matches were rained out without a result. Our batsmen hardly got a hit and we got just a single point out of each match. That meant we went into the match against England having to win to progress. Normally that’s a scenario Australia excels in. Unlike South Africa say, Oz almost always wins the must-win matches. It brings out the best in us.

This time we went into the match slightly underdone because of the lack of match play, but I was still reasonably confident. Midway through our innings we were looking good before the middle-order collapsed to post a reasonable score, but not nearly as much as it promised to be. As it turned out despite some early wickets England won pretty comfortably, and fair play to them. We’re out (as are, once more, South Africa).

So, the circumstances worked against us, but there was fault elsewhere too. I go on and on about this, but that’s because it’s a constant issue: selection. For the life of me I can’t understand why Moises Henriques was asked to bat at 4, and Chris Lynn was left out of the team. For a start Henriques is not an international standard number 4 batsmen. Secondly, Lynn has prodigious talent at the short forms of the game. We saw it in the Big Bash, and again in the IPL leading into this tournament. He’s ballistic, just about the cleanest and biggest hitter in the world, and is also an exceptional fieldsman. Surely when everything is on the line you pick your most dangerous side?

I was prepare to blame Mark Waugh for this. I loved Waugh as a cricketer, but as a selector he has a big NSW bias. The elevation of Henriques, I thought, had his fingerprints all over it. But no, turns out it was at Steve Smith’s insistence. I reckon the captain should have an input into selection, but not the final say. Smith, the NSW skipper, is naturally biased towards his own team-mate. It was a mistake throughout the tournament and, who knows, might have cost us a spot in the semi’s.

The other, intangible factor, is the current dispute between the players and the board. I’m inclined to the players side on this, but think the best solution is some kind of compromise. It’s been dragging on far too long, and the blame for that is largely the ACBs.

It’s hard to know what impact that had on the team’s performance, but I suspect only marginal. Still, it has been unsettling and, at times, unedifying. What I’ve taken out of it is the belief that the board (as opposed to the administration) is out of touch, arrogant, and not terribly competent. I’m sure that this dispute will finally be resolved, but after that I think there’s a strong argument that the board should be overhauled.

By the way, same goes for the board of the ARU, who are ridiculously and dangerously incompetent. Doesn’t surprise me overmuch. My experience of boards is that they are made up of highly competent professionals mixed with a filler of entitled duffers.

The deflating balloon

Back at work after a long weekend, a fresh coffee at my hand and a short week ahead. I feel kinda mellow. I had a pleasant, but uneventful few days watching a lot of sport, doing a bit of cooking, plus the usual daily shift of writing. The sport was excellent by and large – my team is flying, footy is entertaining, and in a tough year my tipping is great. The only down was the loss by Australia in the Champions Trophy, but I’ll come to that. Cooking was fine too, a hearty Bolognese and some chocolate brownies. As for the writing – well, not thrilled, but you have patches like that. Now back to work.

One of the things I got up to over the weekend was to update my LinkedIn profile. I also did a bit of thinking about my professional future, including the possibility of returning to freelance consulting. That’s my preferred option for so many reasons, but it’s the riskiest, and it’s pretty tough too. As a part of that I sent off an email to the closest thing I have to a consulting mentor, who has a soft spot for my eccentric ways.

Back at work the guy across from me muttered something, then showed his phone to me. It displayed an acknowledgement for a role he had applied for at Telstra. Change is in the air.

I don’t know what will happen to me, and the odds are that I’ll continue on here for a while yet. I don’t feel my customary urgency though, not at the moment anyway. That’s one of the qualities I normally bring to my job. I push things through. I don’t take no for an answer. I make things happen. It’s the reputation I made 15 years ago and I take pride in that, but I don’t feel it now. It’s probably temporary, but it’s significant. I feel as if the air is slowly being let out of the balloon – and it’s not just me. Through carelessness it’s happening about me, others, impatient and disillusioned with the environment have come to the same place I am.

I’m not concerned about that right now. As I say, I feel mellow. It’s a short week and I have things to do that I’ll methodically work through, but I won’t be reaching. I’ve now got my eyes on something beyond all this.

Where does that leave me?

I just had a murmured conversation with the bloke that sits across from me and both of us confirmed we’re keenly looking for another job. I had hopes – which I was sceptical of- that that wouldn’t be necessary. As it turns to, to no-one’s surprise, my scepticism was well founded.

Let’s rewind a little. A little while back I had three potential jobs on the go outside, and the promise of a much better opportunity – not to mention more cash – should I choose to stay. What’s happened since I think is fairly typical of the job market, sad, but true.

First the jobs. I interviewed for the first, but as it was a 3 month contract only I knocked it back. The second job was dead keen to get the interview happening and the job filled pronto, but could never sufficiently organise themselves to arrange it. Quite unexpectedly that dragged on and on with promises repeatedly made and nothing actually happened until, finally, I was told they had changed their mind and decided they didn’t need anyone after all. The third job promised to move a lot quicker – too quick as it turned out. I was told about it on a Thursday night, get ready for an interview. Friday morning I was told the position had been filled. Whatever.

I was frustrated, but it’s a long time since I’ve been surprised. I reckon you tap any jobseeker on the shoulder and they’ll have similar tales. I followed up a week or so later with the woman who put me forward for these roles only to be told she had left the company – and that was that. A brief Indian summer of job prospects that came to nothing.

So that was that, but then there was the lure of a better role in the job I have. A couple of months ago when we had this discussion I was told it was 2-3 weeks away. It was before the board and had to be approved. When I inquired about it yesterday I was told exactly the same thing. You can see why I’m a sceptic.

Somewhere along the line – in the next month – I will get a pay rise. As far as I’m concerned to keep me interested it has to be a minimum of 5 figures. I’m not sure that will be the case.

I have other issues. I’ve lost faith with the business. I’m not alone. The widespread feeling is that it’s an incompetent company. I’m actually working on some interesting things, some of which I’ve never done before and don’t seem to be within my skillset. I like that. I like being stretched. I’m designing a knowledge management framework and process at the moment. I’ve worked in that area before, but it’s interesting. I’ve also just submitted a proposal for a complaints management process. It’s pretty good, I think, and fits in besides the product review process I designed a couple of months ago. This is new to me. I’ve also submitted a business case for the online chat thing I’m managing, and that was very well received. All good on the surface. Look beneath the surface though.

Most of the things I propose will never happen, or will be severely abbreviated. There aren’t resources available, or IT can’t help, or won’t, or I can’t get the right management buy-in. Or maybe I get all that but it’s put off for 3-4 months when things, supposedly, will be quieter.

That’s the story of this place. I have a role specifically about improving processes and implementing efficiencies. A lot of that will be IT related, but if it is then it’s basically a no go – they don’t have anyone to do the work, or else they veto it for their own mysterious reasons (or don’t even look at it). Or else they’re so protective that when you offer to do it yourself they won’t permit you – I’m experienced in SharePoint (more than anyone here), have offered to do all the work required for my KMS and act as admin, but no, that’s their thing – even though they won’t do it.

In basic terms that leaves me with a pile of proposals that never get progressed, and otherwise the little initiatives where I either avoid IT involvement, or don’t require it. Even then I can’t get answers from people. Once more I have a pile of proposals sitting in people’s inbox’, just waiting for someone to give the green light, or at least some constructive feedback. I’m immensely frustrated because my job seems futile. It’s not just me either, others see it too, and ruefully shrug their shoulders.

So the plan is to start looking again. I wonder, however, how well suited I am to this now. I’m outspoken and stubborn and a bit of an iconoclast and I get away with it generally because I have a point, and because I manage to leaven it with humour. I’m an outsider though too. That’s become very clear to me now. I think I always was, but there was a time I might have been absorbed into the system. That time has gone forever now. It’s not my intention, but I feel as if my outsider status has been confirmed this last year. I’m very good at what I do, I can be charming, I speak well and have many of the attributes of someone who’ll go far within the system, except by nature I’m set against it. I don’t want to belong to it, and I can’t go along with it just because it’s easier to do so. In fact there are some (my father chief among them) who claim that I choose to be difficult. I disagree, it’s just that I want things right regardless of the politics, and resist becoming a faceless company man.

If I write an autobiography one day I might entitle it Where does that leave me? It’s a frequent question. Luckily I get away with a lot because I’m competent and reliable, and I guess I can trade on that worst case scenario. I reckon put me in a job where I run the show and I’ll be happy. Past experience supports that notion. It’s dealing with bureaucracies and stupid people that does me in. They’re hard to avoid, unfortunately, and in the short term I guess I just have to deal with it the best I can. I can look, and hopefully luck into the right job.

Ultimately I’m hoping for a wealthy sugar mummy. Ok, not really – I’ve given up on that. Ultimately – really this time – I just want to write. Reckon that time is becoming ripe, but have to get it right first.

Revisiting Brideshead

I’m reading Brideshead Revisited right now, or rather I’m listening to the audiobook version of it narrated by Jeremy Irons. As you would expect, the performance is exceptional. The book itself has left me with mixed feelings.

For the first couple of hours I was fascinated and compelled by both story and the quality of the writing. Like all the best writing it had both depth and authenticity. It seemed a uniquely English story, but of a time that sun has now set upon, and so had a melancholy tone that never fails to draw you in. After the first couple of hours though I began to drift, though I remain engaged.

I’m not sure if this drift relates to the story itself, or if because the initial novelty has worn off. I think likely a combination of both.

There is a great novelty to the story, particularly for an Australian boy. The story is set in an entirely different era, but as a reader you become used to that. What is less normal is the milieu described – the crusty landed gentry with their standards and expectations, not to mention their beliefs. Added to this is the central relationship between Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte. They meet in the gilded halls of Oxford (which is a different world), and develop an intimate friendship at odds with anything I have ever known, and probably foreign to old school Australian psyche – it may be different now.

Nevertheless as I listened on the train to and from work, and walking home, I found a part of my mind fixed on that.

Growing up as an Australian mateship was always a big thing, and part of that was a knockabout intimacy. It drew the line though. Everyone says Australia is a masculine society and I can see that, though I also think it is simplistic. I experienced heartfelt friendship. I was bound to my mates, we became as one in thought and action, but there was always a harder edge, even as a boy. Growing up I remember you would show affection by abusing each other. No-one ever got offended, though later I saw that outsiders to this were confused by it.

What was not there was the soft intimacy as portrayed in this book. We didn’t express ourselves in those ways. Had we encountered the same circumstances we would have reacted to it with a tougher attitude, a bluntness edged with humour. We go about it in round-about ways which may not always be healthy, but which takes a lot of steam out of the situation. Ours is a more robust relationship – or at least it was. I wonder if it still is?

And so I was fascinated to observe the relationship between Charles and Sebastian, and in the background Sebastian’s complex family. In totality it’s an entirely different world to modern Australia – and, I suspect, largely foreign to modern Britain also.

I wished I could have been there. I would have loved to have seen this, and been part of it. Had I been I would have been the brash colonial outsider I expect, a bit like Mottram, uncouth by birth.

This is what happened as the story progressed. It became cloying. The innate snobbery pressed more firmly. The privilege seemed increasingly pointless. And the characters themselves seemed more futile – thought addled, tortured, but never really doing anything about it. Of course, that’s a big part of the story.

An aspect I haven’t touched upon is the Catholicism. I always find this absorbing. That is a different world, but I find it oddly alluring. I’m agnostic, born catholic if my father is anything to go by, but christened as a protestant. I’m virtually an unbeliever without having committed to it. I’m sceptical about religion in general, not so much the reason for it – I understand that – but the administration of it, which so often appears inept, if not corrupt.

Catholic lore and tradition is fascinating though, even if you don’t believe, even when you know so much of it has been rotten. As a religious outsider it seems like a proper religion, invested in mystery and ceremony, as if that is the religion itself. By comparison Protestantism seems mundane, a Clayton’s religion, an idiots guide to easy spirituality, turn up on Sunday.

True Catholicism seems a much more lived experience – at least it was – if the likes of Waugh and Greene are anything to go by. It is a crucial part of your identity, as those writers would describe, as the Flyte’s in this book embodied. They may be extremes, but where then are the great protestant writers?

I have not yet finished this book, and have but a distant recollection of the TV series. I expect as it draws to the end that I will be drawn into it once more. Regardless of my feelings, they are fascinating themes and, no matter how foreign, the characters are compelling.

June 7

It’s just occurred to me that yesterday was B’s birthday, dear and long departed now, the woman I loved and wanted to spend my life with at one point. I wish she was still around, still walked the earth, even if I had nothing to do with her.

I always remember, even if, such as now, I remember after the fact. I always want to remember. She is worth my reflection, and much more. In this case perhaps there has been another prompt.

I had a long dream last night that in large part was about death. The details are scratchy now. I had some kind of terrible, fatal disease we were in a race against time to cure. It was a rare disease that when you get to a certain age the sun eats away at your flesh, like acid. The day approached near and there was a sense of frantic inevitability that became resignation. Even then there was the hope a cure might be found before too much damage was done. The surprise came in that when the day came, and after, nothing happened. There was relief at that, but a tortured confusion as well.

The dream was a result – I think – of news I heard late last night that a girl I had gone to school with had on Tuesday night committed suicide. I had but vague memories of her, but it came as a shock still. She was happily married and had two boys, but had apparently suffered from depression for years.

It’s been a tough few weeks, but this made it more personal. Watching the nightly news I often find tears in my eyes, either depressed by tragedy or uplifted by acts of virtue. Lately there has been more tragedy, though there are always fine people.

Last night I felt tears in my eyes at the news of the two Australian women murdered in the London terror attack. The closer you can identify with victims the more personal it seems. I didn’t know either of the women and they lived in different states to mine, but they are of my culture, they grew up in the same environment as I did, would recognise the same touchstones that perhaps someone from somewhere else could never. If I had met either one in London chances are we might have exchanged a greeting as Aussies. Now what they had is stopped. It’s so unfair, so senseless, not just for them, but their families too, and for all the victims and their families. (It’s a great curiosity that of the 8 people killed in the attacks in a huge city such as London that six of them were foreign).

There was another news item about a man who had campaigned against the Catholic church and the cover-up of child sex offences. His own daughter had been a victim and had later killed herself because of it. This man had been instrumental in taking the fight up to the Catholic diocese, and by all accounts was a much loved man of exceptional character. His was a state funeral, and a worthy one. I felt tears come to my eyes listening to the tributes to him. I was sad at his passing, but grateful that such people exist – and hoping that one day that I might measure up to such an exemplary standard.

In winter, these are the times.


Do you know this desire?

Typically I get on the train some time before 7.30am each morning and find myself a seat for the ride into town. Like everyone with winter come I’m swaddled in warm winter clothing and often a scarf. I have a set of headphones that shut out the world and through which I listen to music, and more often to audiobooks.

The trip into town is a quiet time. I just sit there. I watching the passing stations as we tick them off and cast an eye over the commuters boarding the train. Come Richmond, which is where I get off, the train is generally pretty full.

This morning I sat by the window. At Brighton a woman got on and sat on the seat diagonally opposite me. She was in her mid-20’s with long blonde air and fantastically leggy. She wasn’t beautiful, but was certainly alluring. She sat there and read through what appeared a document from work.

I checked her out and then looked back out the window. I checked her out again. As is almost always the case my mind set to racing.

I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, or if to the same degree, but for me there’s a feeling of unexpected, but very welcome delight whenever I encounter an alluring woman. I’m infused with a sense of wellbeing, and almost always a feeling of positive vibrancy. I’m reminded what a marvellous place this world can be, and feel the urge to a piece of it besides. This sense, which is aesthetic, sensual and sexual, is life affirming.

I’m happy for the most part to feel this passively. It was not the occasion and to be honest I had not the desire to try more, and smarts enough to understand what is beyond my reach. To feel the warmth of this possibility is to believe in higher things. There have been occasions when I have acted though, and they are great memories – sometimes you just have to take that punt.

I wonder if what I feel is normal, or if it is commonly felt as vibrantly as I do, or if as urgently?

There was nothing special about the woman today. I felt no special connection to her. I was grateful for her existence, and admired her in much the same way as I admired those glorious thoroughbreds a few weeks back.