Thursday, 14 February 2019

Valentine's Day post

Valentine's Day has rolled around again.  Usually this would be the cue for bitterness on the part of someone in my shoes, even after this lapse of years.  Messing around with my phone last night, however, I found something that brought a new insight.

The Ex was much more successful than me towards the end of our time together.  She'd always earned more (about 1.5 times my pay for much of our marriage).  She was good at her work where I was barely adequate (and after I got into a comparably paid job, my inadequacies became ever more glaring).  Looking back, I'm not sure it was much of an issue for me; at the least, I only remember feeling bad about it when my nose was rubbed in it.  The article I found last night, however, gave me a perspective I hadn't really had before: hers.  To quote New York magazine -
For women, the shift in economic power gives them new choices, not least among them the ability to reappraise their partner. And husbands, for their part, may find to their chagrin that being financially dependent isn’t exactly a turn-on. According to psychologists (and divorce lawyers) who see couples struggling with such changes, many relationships follow the same pattern. First, the wife starts to lose respect for her husband, then he begins to feel emasculated, and then sex dwindles to a full stop.

Anna, a public-relations executive, saw her relationship with her Web-designer husband collapse as she became more and more successful and he floundered. In the last year of their marriage, she earned $270,000 while he brought in $16,000.

“He never spent money that wasn’t his in an extravagant way,” she says while taking therapeutic sips of a Sea Breeze at Tribeca Grill on a recent evening. “But by not helping, he was freeloading.” ...

While they may have been able to avoid the truth while she was off at work during the day, it came back to haunt them at night. “Sexuality is based on respect and admiration and desire,” says Anna. “If you’ve lost respect for somebody, it’s very hard to have it work. And our relationship initially had been very sexual, at the expense of other things.

“Sex was not a problem for him,” she goes on. “It was a problem for me. When someone seems like a child, it’s not that attractive. In the end, it felt like I had three children.”

“The minute it becomes parental, it becomes asexual”
I like to think I've always kept confidences, but I'll breach them here sufficiently to say that this passage could almost have been verbatim.  I find it somehow comforting to know that, from its inception, my only serious relationship carried the seeds of its failure.  Whether I'd been a good man, husband and father or a bad one, it would always have gone the way it did.  Certainly I was the best lawyer I knew how to be: indeed, I always thought that the time and energy I gave to my work was one of the reasons our home life was so awful at the end.  And despite being a much more effective lawyer now, I still would be out-earned by her, and professionally outmatched.  I would be OK with this, because the work I do matters, and because I'm mostly putting my skills at the service of people who need them, and that is enough for me in a way it could never have been for her.

My current circumstances would not be everyone's cup of tea.  I can understand that.  I live in rentals.  I have no deep ties to anywhere much.  And yes, there'll be no cards coming my way on this or any other Valentine's Day.  And I'm good with that.  No: I'm better than good.

I'm where I'm supposed to be.

Image from here

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Birthday thoughts

And here it is: the 12th anniversary of my 29th birthday!  It's been a surprising day (two days).

Longtime readers may remember that my last few birthday posts have been quite grim.  Last year I was stoked to have my 40th birthday ignored.  The year before that I was a ball of loathing and depression.  The entries for 2013 and 2012 were clearly written in a haze of red wine and antidepressants.  Anyway, I was expecting to gloom my way through this birthday too, until yesterday when N., who manages the front desk, asked me what sort of cake the firm should order.  It's the custom for the firm to buy a cake to share from the Cheesecake Shop.Declining it was actually an option, and I'd expected myself to do so.  And when I was asked, it struck me that this would be appallingly churlish.  After all, everyone at the firm has made me welcome.  The boss and his wife could not have been friendlier.  To reject an offer of hospitality would have been positively unpleasant on my part.

In case you were wondering what I went with! (Image from here)

Besides which, I didn't want to.  For the first time in a long, long, long time I feel good about myself and my life.  I have a job which I enjoy, even on the more challenging days and where I get to work on interesting files  with a great team.  As I look at the twenty-somethings I work with, I can understand why P (a very talented lawyer I know who is in his late sixties) so enjoys working with trainees and early-career solicitors.  Their energy is infectious, and it feels pretty good to be able to help them put a lawyerly edge on their skills.  Outside of work, things are going well with SES.  I seems to be well liked within the unit and to have a useful contribution to make.

And away from work?  I live in one room of a rooming house.  To be honest, that's enough for me.  My wants are fairly simple and the way I live also allows me to have a lot of the solitude that I want and need.  It mightn't be everybody's preferred way to live, but it's mine and I like it.  I have enough time to run and keep fit, to do the things I like, and can keep to myself when I wish to.

There are a few bugs of course.  I do still have the not-really-welcome feeling of drifting in life and being frightened that one day I'll wake up and be old.  And unemployment is a fear that never really leaves you once you've been out of work for a long time.  But overall I have much to be grateful for.

It seems the universe felt the same way, since yesterday it gave me a bumper harvest of things that I enjoy.  I know that last sentence will make the rest of this sound appallingly aren't-I-a-good-guy, but it's really not meant to.  Anyway, yesterday kicked off with a blood bank appointment at 0715.  Plasma, as usual, with a muffin and sausage roll for breakfast afterwards.  What's not to like?

Donating Plasma - City Blood Bank
The day itself was about what you'd expect: a couple of clients and trying to assemble a brief and court book in an upcoming matter.  About 1400 I was asked if I could travel to a rural SES unit that had been to a rather nasty accident to provide peer support that evening.  I was happy to do so and scurried home after work to drive up there, a bit over an hour away.  These were people I know well and so being able to lend a hand was a good feeling.  My pager kept buzzing all through the session, however, because a heavy rain dump was smashing my own unit's area.

Requests for assistance were still coming in when I got back to town about 2230 and so I asked the UDO if he needed another pair of hands.  As it turned out, that was enough to allow a relief crew to be formed so the one then in the field could be recalled  and sent home, with us sent out in its place.  The callouts all related to water entering people's houses, rather than room damage itself.  In each case there was at least something we could do to improve the situation.

We were finally clear by about 0200 and I gratefully collapsed into bed at 0315.

Three different aspects of doing what I love in one day?  That's a pretty good way to lead into a new year of my life.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Making the weekend happen

One of the best things I've ever learned to do with my weekends was to plan them.  Every weekend when I know I'll be free (or at any rate, not doing farm work), my last job of a Friday evening is to print off a planner for the weekend that shows half-hour elements.  Some things are givens: FaceTime with Grace and Rachel and a good long run, so they go in first.  Then a look at the weather tells me whether I'm mainly going to be indoors or outdoors at weekend, so I plan things to match.

About this point I also start looking for a Mass to go to.  I must confess I'm kind of a church-slut.  I tend to pick a Mass depending on whether my weekend better suits a vigil Mass on Saturday or a Sunday morning or evening service.  Herein one of the few perks of not having children at a Church school in your area: there's no obligation to attend the same service each week.

After this point I start putting the other "living" things in - groceries, sleep, laundry and the like.  This perhaps sounds mechanical and I suppose you're right.  Regardless, since I've been doing this I never find myself cursing wasted time on Sunday evening.

This particular weekend was a case in point.  Saturday kicked off with a long run along the Capital City Trail eastbound.  This time I actually found the trail, which was a change.  It's not well signposted, and if you don't twig that it goes under Rushall Railway Station you'll lose it entirely.  I discovered that it seems to merge with the Merri Creek and Yarra Trails.  This was perfectly fine with me: at any rate I found myself running on sealed tracks a long way from the roads in beautiful scenery.  I've seldom enjoyed 15 kilometres more, and it would have been better if I hadn't pulled a calf muscle that put me in a world of hurt on every hill climb.

Bridge on Capital City Trail
My next item of the weekend was the beach, this being a 30C+ weekend.  I made some sandwiches and got the tram down to St Kilda.  Just as I was eating them I got a text message from Grace on The Ex's phone to tell me that they had a long wait ahead of them to eat at Outback Steakhouse in Metairie.  I love that to them, Daddy is just a message away.  It's a strange way to be a father, I guess, but at least I get to be a father.

Beach day at St Kilda was about what one would expect.  That is, a lot of lying in the sunshine, regularly going to cool off in the water, and in between times reading Albert Camus' L'Etranger and Watkin Tench's account of the early days of the colony at Sydney (published as 1788).  To my mind, the best bit of L'Etranger is the passage where Meursault describes the weekend just after his mother's funeral.  Perhaps nothing fits so perfectly with the essay "Summer in Algiers".

Beach day ended with a pint of Four Pines pale ale at the Village Belle Hotel.  It was still light so I went to the Coles and bought myself some rolls and some silverside and had a kind of picnic dinner by the beach which I much enjoyed.  I caught the tram back to my digs and decided to head up to the laundromat and get my laundry done and also catch up on some SES paperwork I'd been feeling guilty about (productive or what?).  Once back at the casa I started folding laundry and flicked the TV on.  Lo and behold, a guilty pleasure movie was on (Yes, Resident Evil...) so I stayed awake to watch and do the ironing.

Sunday rolled in humid and I had just enough time to get to Mass at St Margaret Mary.  The service started at 9am and was (praise heaven) done 'straight' without fanfare and with a priest who drew his homily from the day's readings.  Surprisingly many priests ignore them and go off onto a tangent, which is a tendency they can't all do well, or at any rate well enough for the education of the parish.

It was touch and go whether the girls would be able to Facetime this afternoon, so I filled in the time writing them a letter and doing some reading.  When it looked like they were (sensibly!) getting an early night, I headed down to South Melbourne for a swim.  Once again, I laid on the sunscreen and read a book in the sun in between swimming in the warm water.  I wonder why I didn't do more of this when I was younger?

South Melbourne Beach

Regardless, by 6pm the wind was getting up and the clouds had come in and I called it a day.  I stopped for a pint of India Pale Ale at the Beach Hotel where I bumped into an old friend, AB, who lives down there.  Good to see people doing well!  I still had space in my calorie count for another pint of beer so I stopped at the Quarry Hotel for another IPA because what the hell.  I live alone and I'm single.  Who's to condemn me?

I don't know what the stigma is with drinking alone.  A person who can drink solo knows nobody will call a cab for them or dump them on their doorstep (except perhaps the police).  It's a peaceful, self-sufficient and satisfying thing to do.

I walked home from the pub.  Dinner was rolls, meat, wine and an episode of Big Bang Theory (and now blogging).  On balance, I've never felt more contented

J'ai pensé que ... somme toute, il n'y avait rien de changé.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

I don't do reunions

Recently the ten-year photo challenge swept my social media.  I had it pop up in another part of my life the other day.  The experience was ... illuminating.

I have a fairly dismissive view of  my high school, with its snobberies and vanity and bottomless self-congratulation.  I have an even more scornful attitude to its ex-students' association, which seems to consist of people who peaked in high school and can't move on at all..  Nevertheless, it was a bit of a shock to get a message out of the blue from a person who was my friend in high school with a dinner invitation:

I think the last time I saw this fellow (or indeed, any of that group of sometime friends) was in 2007 or 2008, after I was married but before the girls were born, when my wife and I went to dinner with them.  Nevertheless, I was stunned by the physiological reaction that kicked in for me.  My stomach felt terribly tense and I could not keep still.  My head suddenly felt like ants were crawling around in my skull.  I don't understand why I reacted this way.

I suppose it was inevitable that I would refuse the invitation.  These are people to whom I've not spoken in over a decade.  And so much has changed for me - so much has changed me - that I would be basically a stranger to them and vice versa.  Divorce ... loss of children ... moving to the country and back to the city ... near-ruin financially ... a couple of fatal accidents ...  No sir, I'm not the man I used to be.  I thought about replying with an excuse.  I could have claimed to be running a trial in Warrnambool that week.  And then I thought be buggered to that.  I'm not going to pretend to be what I no longer am.
Zaphod banged the console in fury, oblivious to the dumbfolded looks he was attracting.  "The old me is dead!" he raved, "Killed himself! The dead shouldn't hang about trying to interfere with the living!"
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at

This was the reply I sent -

I'm not going to lie: I feel proud of myself over this.  I know what I am, with warts and scar tissue and armour-plating and all.  I know what sorts of relationships - friendly and otherwise - I will find rewarding.  And I have not compromised for the sake of some sort of bollocks about school days being the best days of your life.
Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back, and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,
Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along
The past can stay right where it is.  I'm doing just fine without it.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

A killing. Facta non verba

I haven't had time to do more than glance at the news today.  Perhaps that's just as well, because I know it'll annoy me.

Yesterday a young women was found fatally injured and sexually assaulted in Bundoora.  As crimes go, it resembles the murders of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon and more than a few others.  The Homicide Squad has been doing its usual highly capable work, and the Facebook pages of news outlets have their usual combination of condolences and calls for the death penalty.

By tomorrow the editorial and op-ed pages of the Age and the Herald-Sun and any number of segments on radio and TV will fill up with the usual headlines about a war on women and toxic masculinity and the roots of male rage.  No doubt the Gillette ad will get a guernsey.  I expect the incels will also rate a mention. And as always, it will all be talk, and intellectualism, and abstractions, and big ideas.  By way of example -

Last night, I took part in the evidence search conducted by Victoria Police.  This crime occurred in my SES Unit's area and so we were called upon to provide scene protection as well as extra bodies and eyes.  Clearly I shouldn't talk about what we did, and so I won't.  What resonated for me was that that literally nobody at the scene was talking in abstractions, or showing their own cleverness, or signalling their wokeness.  Each person was following instructions and doing their own greater or lesser part in helping the authorities investigate the crime and uphold the law.

Image Credit: Herald-Sun newspaper

The key word here is doing.  Doing seems remarkably unattractive to people who most love talking.  It's hard, for instance, to imagine many members of the commentariat slogging through brushwood in overalls and heavy boots looking for anything out of place.  It's not in the least sexy or heroic.  You can't take a break to go and get a good coffee and browse Twitter and attempt to "subvert the dominant paradigm" (as a student slogan in my University days wordily put it).  And a suspicious attitude to following the directions of the person in charge may seriously affect the entire project.
I think one can concede good will to the commentariat and the other virtue-signallers.  No doubt they believe that their hearts are in the right place and that their words are a valuable and worthwhile service.  But I don't think one should concede that what they do makes a difference.

Image Credit: The Age newspaper
Do you want to make the world a better place?  Find some overalls and a good pair of boots.  Come and get your hands dirty.  Facta non Verba

Friday, 4 January 2019

Cool Change

And finally, we get some relief from the heat.  Yesterday was a fiercely hot day: 45C in much of the north of the State.  Every time you went outside, the sun hit you with a real sting.  Everything seemed to be trying to avoid the fire of the day: birds were clustering in the shadow cast by the house and the pump room was full of flies.  The cool change came a bit later than expected.  It was cooler when I went to bed but that seemed to be mainly because the sun had gone down.  It cooled off overnight, and right now it's a balmy 21C before it begins to climb again tomorrow.

Oldest Sister Economist and I spent most of yesterday in town so that she could get some shopping done before heading back to Indonesia.  It was good to catch up an we certainly had a great lunch at the Australia Hotel.  Shepparton is a good place, but I'm still glad I left for Melbourne.  I'd exhausted the range of experiences I could have here.

I'm feeling remarkably peaceful about the year ahead, and so far I'm doing well with taking care about what I put in my head.  I've got three very dfficult cases coming up, but what of it?  I like a challenge.  My only concern is that this job won't last forever.  Unemployment still scares the bejeezus out of me and probably will forever.  While the future does not wholly exist for me, I would like to have at least a plan.

I need to enter a few races.  The plan to do a few over the break was overtaken by work with cattle, but there's still ample summer and autumn left, thank heaven.

No more for now.  I'll try and write something a bit more coherent later on.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

What am I putting in my head?

The start of 2019 finds me in a reflective mood.  I've been up here on the farm for my summer break through a particularly protracted run of hot days.  Camus spoke of a situation like this as a time to take the measure of one's riches (Summer in Algiers).  On balance, I think this is a dangerous thing.  Taking the measure of what one has inevitably leads to pondering what one does not have, and this is the root of dissatisfaction.

Some of you will know that I've been pondering a lack of friends lately.  An oddish thing that I've realised is that there are a couple of people in my current circle I could become close friends with.  I've deliberately held back on moving things in that direction.  This has actually surprised me a little.  I can't say I decided (not) to do it, so much as rationalised a visceral reaction.  I don't know why that is, except that people seem to spend much of their time trying to hurt and damage each other or to secure emotional ascendancy over each other.  I don't have it in me to turn my life into a psychological game of Risk.  This is an odd thing.  Google comes up with multiple suggestions for people who are mateless over summer, but they tend to involve making friends.  By contrast, being without a significant other over summer is viewed as a broadly positive option.  Does anyone else think that being a loner or a hermit needs to be offered as a positive life choice a bit more?

Image result for facebook friend purge

The other lack that I've detected in my life that I can remedy is much easier to address.  There's a persistent lack of peace of mind that I tend to put down to my (over)use of social media.  This may itself be a reflection of the preceding paragraph, but that's another matter.  Anyway, on my to-do list is a purge of my Facebook for "friends" I never interact with or scarcely know, and also of pages that tend to be a waste of time.  Even more serious is a purge of Twitter: the number of people I need to mute is quite long.  At any rate, the criteria I feel I need to apply are -
  • Is it illuminating?
  • It it uplifting?
  • Is it ennobling?
  • Is it funny?
If the answer to all of these is "no" then it's probably not adding anything of value to my life.

Looking over this post, I think the lesson is that I need to be as canny about what I put into my brain as I amd about what goes into my body.