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.

Monday, 31 December 2018

New Years Eve 2018: Good news is a rope and a muddy dog

And so New Years Eve 2018 has hit.  I'm at the kitchen table on a borrowed computer typing this post at 11pm.  I have a nice chilled white wine at my elbow though, and that's good enough for me.
I should have some deep insightful post to share, but everyone has them.  Everyone also seems to have a list of great things they'll achieve.  My final observation for 2018 is (on its face) a little macabre but also perhaps the best of recent times.
I imagine most of you (I'm assuming I have actual readers) know I have a history with depression.  The recent years of unstable (often demoralising) employment and still more frequent unemployment have taken a psychological toll too.  At some point I took to keeping under my bed a rope tied in a noose.  During that miserable job in Mooroopna I started carrying it in the boot of my car.  I wasn't actively planning to do myself a mischief.  I just found it reassuring (for want of a better adjective) to know that I could make the bad feelings stop if I really wanted to.
Yes, it's a noose.
Now, this is usually where people leap in with a variant of "are you OK" or "you should talk to someone".  I am not a fan of doing that, at least where it concerns myself.  To me, this feels like too heavy a cross to ask someone to bear on my behalf.  It doesn't help that one of the greatest of exponents of RUOK Day I know is also a relentless virtue-signaller.  Besides, I haven't felt like that since I got my life back on track, so it's kind of academic.
Which brings me to today.  Oldest Sister Economist has her dog with her on this visit.  She's been loving having the whole farm to roam around on, and she even enjoys paddling in the dam (the dog, that is).  Well, today she was roaming a bit too independently and then, when she was coming back, decided to go for a paddle where she got stuck in the muddy bottom of the dam.
Dog, bogged
The dog was cajoled to make the effort to un-bog herself, but it was decided that a little time being tied up might be a good thing.  And what seemed to be the best piece of rope for the purpose?  The one in the boot of my car.  It was with no regret at all that I broke the hangman's knot and untwisted the rope.  What knots took their place?  Good, simple workmanlike ones.  Ones I used in my general rescue training.  Ones that (as part of a broader operation) can be used to save lives and alleviate suffering.

To secure the rope to a post in the garden, a reef knot (right over left, then under; left over right, then under) -

Reef knot
And to secure the dog, a bowline (form a loop in the rope, then "out of the hole, around the tree, back down the hole and away goes he") -

Bowline with Solomon Islands dog
This year has been the most incredible roller coaster.  And this seems to me the best conceivable way to finish it.  To break the nodum informis leti and convert it to a simple tool to keep man's best friend safe?  That looks pretty good to me.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Boxing Week review: love and other catastrophes.

Regular readers will remember that I can't remarry and that a decent whack of my energies in 2018 went into making peace with that reality.  It shouldn't have been a problem of course.  There was an incident at the start of the year that purged me of carnal desire for quite a long time -

Considering things over the long view, I find there are four particular advantages to the way I live

1.  You appreciate happy families more

There are three family bloggers (should I say mommy-bloggers?) I regularly read -

Allie at Living My Full Life
Amy at A Desert Girl
Nikki at From My Life to Our Life

I always wanted a family: a wife 2.6 kids, a white picket fence and a basset hound.  That, clearly, will never happen now.  I find it makes me happy to know that someone else does have it.

2.  The friendzone is just fine

I've never been good at making friends, and most of those that I have made tend to be women.  Instagram gives a good idea of the numbers -

A post shared by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on
As a result, that side of my life basically resides in a permanent friendzone.  And I think this is a pretty good thing.  Why should a man object to having friends of any sort?

3.  It alarms the right sort of people

In a booze-fuelled and slightly surreal moment this year, a certain fellow enthusiastically claimed that a mutual acquaintance wanted to go to bed with me.  With the candour that alcohol brings, I replied that it would never happen and I explained why.  His genuine bewilderment - indeed, near horror - left me feeling remarkably powerful. 

4.  It obliterates the future

This one is a silver lining.  Once you know that you'll never have an orthodox family and will probably die alone, the future stops existing and you stop being overly worried about it.  Time, or at least your life-time, becomes essentially a very long "now".  You want to enter a race in Sydney?  Can you afford it?  Then do it!  Feel like a beer on a Sunday afternoon?  Nobody cares when you get home from the pub.  Want to put long hours into becoming the best lawyer you can be?  There's work for the asking.

Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac (from here)
It doesn't matter a curse what you do.  Put that Deadhead sticker on your Cadillac.


I've never felt more positive about what the future might hold!

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Boxing Week review: ups and downs

Christmas has passed, and now I enter one of the best stages of summer: the span of days between Boxing Day and New Years where you can evaluate your life and your year and consider what comes next.

This year has been positively heavenly for me, with new friends and a fantastic job and a chance to make my own life again.  I'm in an SES Unit that I like serving with.  The only restraint on my fitness activities is the number of hours in the day. 

A diary is the gift you give yourself.  What does mine tell me?  In my diary entry for 3 January 2018 is this passage -
In the afternoon I was already stressed thinking about SES.  Then driving to the Blood Bank about 4pm I saw a 'pylon' sign outside O'Brien's Glass and this made me think about work.  I found my chest getting tight and my heart felt like it was beating very heavily.  Lying in the chair at the Blood Bank I felt like my whole ribcage was visibly shaking.  The nurse assessed my heart rate at 67 bpm and blood pressure at 134/82.
The other great asset of a diary is reading it knowing what you didn't know at the time of writing.  On 22 January 2018 - the day before I was fired from Goulburn Valley Signmakers - I wrote about being sent to Melbourne to work with Nathan Sali, one of the bosses -
First job was to remove signs at KFC Wallan (easy).  Called by Claudio while driving.  After discussion they sent me on to Dandenong in Sali's ute with tandem trailer to get stock while Sali did job at Ravenhill.  Noted that Claudio said "he'll crash your ute for sure" (referring to me).  Naturally I drove very carefully and strapped load down very very carefully.  Was late because of this.  Sali annoyed.
The next day I was fired.  Diary notes that on that day I was sent on errands to get cigarettes and coffees for the bosses, to buy hose, and to install signs at the various entries to Shepparton.  And then I mistakenly stripped some vinyl off a sheet of perspex, leading to my dismissal.  I noted that Dad was visibly disappointed that I was unemployed again.

And within less than a month I'd had two job interviews, attended my first barre and yoga classes, moved to Brunswick and started my new job as a lawyer.  I have a hard time believing life could have such a rapid reversal of fortune.

It's a trite learning, but there's a lesson in not giving up: hard work and good luck can mean a reversal of fortune is just around the corner.

For the linkup: how has 2018 treated you?  Well, or harshly?  Are you on the way up, or weathering a storm?  And how do you think 2019 will go?

Monday, 24 December 2018

Summer starts with a beer

I wrote this a few days ago, but I'm only just posting it now.  Sorry!
I’m here in my preferred watering hole having a quiet beer and planning.
Nothing more at peace than a man drinking alone
I’m officially on summer break.  The office formally closed on Tuesday and I worked the balance of the week in the office catching up on things.  I think things are ok for the summer.  It’s hard to feel sure, because I remember with much pain the debacle in 2013 that saw me fired from Thomsons Lawyers.  The scar remains.

Today has been challenging: SES callouts from 0830 in the form of a cat trapped under a house and a tree limb down in a back yard.  The first of those was the more challenging and required us to cut a chunk out of a lady’s kitchen floor.  The things we do for love of cats.
Post callouts I came down to the Barkly Square shopping centre in Brunswick to tackle Christmas shopping.  I’m at one gift per adult and multiple for my uncle’s kids (basically the same age as my daughters).  It’s not really enough, I feel, but then again adults are hard to buy for.  Me? My wants are simple.  Wine is enough. And books.

Speaking of books, I saw a good book shop near where I was shopping.  Huge selection of Camus, Hemingway and Faulkner, but ruinously dear.  $5 for a very battered copy of Road to Wigan Pier? I don’t need it that badly.

I’ll be at the farm for much of the break, although I hope to do a couple of races at Geelong and Point Nepean and Semaphore. Hence my initial comment: planning. We’ll see. The Goulburn Valley is great but I was still glad to leave.

Having wanted to leave the Valley makes me wonder if the ex was right to cut me loose.  Would I have been happy in small town Louisiana?  I thought I would have been. But maybe she was right to doubt. I don’t know anymore

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Playing in the rain

I’m starting this post on the train from Euroa to Melbourne.  It’s been a pretty incredible few days.

The most striking part of the weekend was Friday night.  I’d planned to get the train from Southern Cross Station to Euroa to spend the weekend up country.  The weather had other ideas; they looked like this -
Storm cells, Melbourne, 14 Dec 2018

When I saw the map of those storm cells I decided I’d be more use turning out with my SES unit than having dinner with Mum and dad.  I caught a tram through a deluge of rain and then drove over to Northcote LHQ.

Oranged up and ready to roll!
The unit received about 40 requests for assistance and I was sent out in Rescue 3 with Thao and Gabriella. Thao was crew leader and I was driver.  Our first job was repairing a roof from the inside (replacing a tile, which I’d only done from inside a roof in training). The second job was essentially structural damage to a roof and way beyond our ability to fix.  We assisted the households to take steps to mitigate the damage.  By this stage it was getting on for 2300, which meant food and coffee were in order.

Northcote Rescue 3 at Northland McDonalds
This was followed by one more job, sandbagging a garage which was likely to flood in another downpour. Operations wound up for the night. We returned to LHQ and were dismissed.  It was a strange feeling to be on one’s way home and to see people drinking on their patios or on their way home from a night out.  One had the odd impression of two entirely different worlds existing in tandem without much touching each other.  This, I suppose, is the case with much emergency response.

I was in bed by 0200.  I knew I was still probably needed at the farm and so I was up again about 0620 to get the 0700 train from Southern Cross to Euroa.  All credit to the V/Line conductor who understood why I hadn’t been on the previous nights train and didn’t require me to buy another ticket.  It seems silly to say it but buying breakfast from the trains buffet felt kind of glamourous, even if it was merely coffee and an egg and bacon roll!

Dad picked me up from Euroa and we headed out to the farm.  They’d had perhaps an inch of rain up here, which won’t go astray at all.  First job of the day was feeding out to cattle and tracking down some kind of damage to the backhoe.  As the day went on I couldn’t help but monitor the storm cells hammering Melbourne.  Towards the end of the day Dad and I headed over to the new property at Nagambie.  It’s a fertile looking place with good soil and water storage.  All being well we’ll get cattle on there in the next fortnight or so.

I was stunningly tired by evening and crashed into bed by 2100 and was asleep by 2200.  And I slept well.  All the way up to 0055 when my goddamn pager went off!  I was of course far too far away to be any value, so I turned over and went back to sleep as well as I was able till about 0830. 

The rain came back this morning and so today has been on the quiet side.  Rain meant that drenching cattle wasn’t an option, and so the highlight of the day was a couple of hours FaceTime with Grace and Rachel who are all geared up for Christmas.  I love how natural communication by technology has become for them.  I’m sure that they’d prefer to have a normal home life with a normal dad, but since that not an option, well, Dad is a face in a screen and that’s how it is.  They know I love them and I’m as much “there” as I can be.

And now?  I’m on the train for town (just passed through Broadmeadows). This is the last week that the office will be open before Christmas.  I will be busy; and hopefully all will be well.