Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Beer and Family

It was another very full weekend here.

I walked out of the office just on 5pm on Friday evening and made a beeline for my digs.  My SES Unit was holding a social night at the Charles Weston Hotel in Brunswick, after which I was going to need to drive up to Shepparton.  I'd decided it's be easiest to pack my bag, drive to the pub and then go direct up to Solar City.

The social night was good to go to.  The Unit is, as I think I've said, genuinely very welcoming.  It seems to have very little infighting among the rank-and-file, so getting together for a few drinks and some pub bingo was a welcome evening.  The Charles Weston is very much an inner-northern Melbourne pub, which is to say it tends towards craft beers and vegetarian food.  I was good with that: I do love an India Pale Ale!  The haloumi burger was a little underwhelming, although anything that comes in a bright purple bun is worth eating for curiority's sake alone!

India Pale Ale, Charles Weston Hotel, Brunswick
The drive up to Shepparton was kept entertaining through the magic of podcasts; I was there about midnight.

The weekend itself saw me getting in plenty of walks with the dog.  This might seem trifling, but the labrador that the parental units have acquired has enough energy for three dogs, so he snaps us any walk you can offer.  Exploring the farm this way was sobering.  This is usually the wettest time of the year.  This year it isn't, and the paddocks and dams look ... well ... like this:

The wildlife is still sticking around: any number of kangaroos and God-knows how many cockatoos.  Two kookaburras waited long enough for me to photograph them from a distance.


I've often wondered what the early explorers must have made of the call of kookaburras and wondered if they were hearing some madman laughing in the bush (the seriously-demented Jan Pelgrom, for instance, was marooned in Western Australia in 1629).  If you don't know what I'm talking about, have a listen -

Saturday ended with some work on the old boy's car but (sadly) without being able to go run.  I started off Sunday with a trip into town to pick up a couple of hundred litres of diesel for the farm.  Shepparton looks very much as it does this time of year, and I felt much the same way about it as I usually do.  Flat, dry and hot.

Shepparton from the RRD Diesel yard.
After returning to the farm it was time to FaceTime with Grace and Rachel.  They are doing as well as ever.  Grace seems to be remarkably sensitive, and she gets scared around Halloween.  She wakes up a lot at night this time of year, it seems.  I'm not over worried: I was the same at her age and I expect she'll grow out of it.  Ghost worries aside they're doing well and were very chatty!  In light of this, though, I don't think I'll send them the mildly macabre photo from that day's walk with the dog...

Sheep skull, Shepparton, Australia

I drove back down early on Sunday evening and got the day wrapped up.  Monday itself was unremarkable, although it finished with SES training.  I have to say that training nights are much more agreeable in daylight hours in during daylight savings time!

The balance of the week has been illuminating; I'll make that the subject of a later post.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Using fitness?

Hi everyone,

The other day, Anita at Running against the Odds put up a very thought-provoking post about using running as a way to channel anger.  This post resonated with me.  I’ve often used exercise to burn off unwelcome (or at any rate, unhealthy) emotions over the years  The punching bag in the shearing shed will bear me out.  

I can’t say I’ve often used running to burn off rage, exactly.  Guilt and fatigue and weakness, certainly, but not rage.  I've also found it's a good way of getting rid of the oddly discomfiting feeling of not knowing if you’re happy or not about the passage of the years (regular readers will know this is a sore point for me).  In my mind, at least, being young and fit are more-or-less interchangeable concepts.

Anyway, this got me thinking: what else do we use healthy living for?  My friend Madi, for instance, values a healthy life for its own sake -
I like being connected to the land, I love camping, specifically the smell of campfires and the sound of cockatoos and other native birds in the morning when you wake up and I love LOVE the smell of fresh air.
As well as emotional control, I tend to use fitness to break up my day.  Among other things, I walk home most evenings from the office.  The hour or so of movement with a podcast playing clears my head and splits off "home" and "work" in a way that sitting on a tram staring at my phone just doesn't.  It also means I get to see some rather cool bits of Melbourne

So my question to you is: what do you use fitness for besides the obvious benefits of cardiovascular wellbeing and strength?

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

A paddlesteamer and a look at life

This post has been written across a couple of days at work.

Spring is treating me well.  Now that the grey vampire of winter has retreated to her coffin for 9 months (and now that I'm reasonably well settled at work), life feels as bright as it's done in ages.  Every so often I think that I ought to compare each day's entries in last year's diary to this year.  I don't doubt I'm happier.  For one thing, I think that this time last year I was regularly working in the shipping container at the Signmakers as a way of avoiding the boss.  Here I haven't needed to play "boss can't find me".  And in any case, the folks I work with are great.

In short, I haven't felt this good about turning up to work since I was with the now-defunct Riordan Legal.  I couldn't be much happier about that. I had the chance to ponder this sort of thing at the weekend.  I was in town on Friday night, which meant a walk home on a warm evening.

Old Melbourne Magistrates Court

It was the sort of warm evening that usually means it'll build up to a downpour of rain overnight, as indeed it did.  This was a bit of a nuisance as I was catching up with the Old Boy in town to take care of a few things and I got caught in the rain en route.  Anyway, business taken care of, he and I headed up to Shepparton.  Second Oldest Sister, Little Sister and JP were there when we arrived and it was good to catch up over dinner.

Sunday started early for me.  I'd signed up to run in "Sweat vs Steam", a race against a paddlesteamer on the Murray River that's held in Echuca each year.  I always find races against machines (the Great Train Race is another) philosophically fascinating: it intrigues me to pit human willpower against an engine that doesn't get tired and human muscle against steel that can soak up endless punishment.

Conditions were stunning for the race: an almost-cool morning and no clouds at all in the sky.  The course is 12.5 kilometres with only very small undulations.  It was well marshalled and there was no risk of getting lost.  I set out fairly briskly, with the idea being that if I could keep pace with the boat while it had the river current, I'd have the edge on it once it turned around and had to work against the current.  In the event, it still won, coming in at 51m46s (as against my 1h5m42s).  Nevertheless, it was one of my fastest times for the distance and so I was pleased about that!

P.S. Canberra, Echuca, Australia
The only shock of the event was finding I'd been put in the "Masters" age category, which to me translates as "old guy".  Maybe it's because I work with people a lot younger than me, but I don't feel old.  I'm certainly healthier than I was at 25, and I may even be a bit wiser than I was then (debatable), but I feel a lot younger than my birth certificate says I should.

Once the race was done I headed over the river to Moama to find a place to park and have a quick FaceTime with Grace and Rachel (I was fighting for their attention with Bill Nye the Science Guy: they love to learn!).  Then, I went to see one of the firm's clients in that town since she can't easily come to Melbourne.

I drove back to the farm by way of Mooroopna and Toolamba.  I have surprisingly mixed feelings about that part of the world now.  The job I held in Mooroopna, as those of you who know me offline will recall, was utterly miserable, even though I was glad of the money.  I'm certainly glad it's behind me.

It also feels odd not to feel anything much when driving through the operational area of the SES Unit I lead.  I understand there's been another change of controller there.  Once again, I'm glad I had the opportunity to lead the Unit for my full term of two years, and to take it through some challenging times.  One can be glad of an experience without feeling the need to repeat it.  I wish the Unit well, but I can't see myself returning to it.  This set of thoughts dovetailed with finding I was looking forward to SES training with my current unit on Monday night.  This was a multi-unit navigation and communications exercise and I found myself in the team assigned to running a staging area

Once again, it felt good to work in a team with no backbiting or I'm top-dog I'm-going-to-wave-the-rule-book behaviour.  The State Emergency Service is a great organisation, and when it's members are on form, they couldn't be better people.

My life since November 2011 has been characterised by impermanence: changing jobs, changing addresses, changing units and changing people.  I'm not sure I'll ever expect the world to be static again.  This is a little sad.  Regardless, right now I'm pretty certain life looks how it ought to look.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Bullying at the workplace

I'm starting this post in my office with a file in front of me and a cup of tea brewing.  The file is one of those that I get passionate about within five minutes of looking at it, because it involves workplace bullying.

I hate bullies.  I know, nobody likes them, but I truly fucking hate them.

I could tell you a lot of guff about why I hate them.  It's enough to say that I was knocked around at school a lot when I was a kid, and for a decent whack of my life I kinda thought I had to just wear it when people threw their weight around.  I can't abide the casual cruelty of bullies - the way they present you with your own weakness: "you wouldn't last ten minutes working there - the boss would be chasing you about the place with a hammer".  I hate their petty, venal abuses of power.  Above all, I hate the endless excuses they have: "you don't know the pressure I'm under" ... "I built this business up from nothing so I can run it how I want" ... and the most sadistic and responsibility-denying of all: "if you don't like it here, you know where the door is" when the all concerned know full well jobs are scarce and workers easily replaced.

As an aside, I notice the legal profession has a few dark secrets of its own -

It's tempting to name the person in the case I'm working on, but I won't.  I'm happy to let the pleadings do the talking (Michael Avenatti I am not).  It's very tempting, however, to paste a Hellraiser meme into an affidavit and serve it on my opponent:

The case in question isn't straightforward but I think I can win it.  I couldn't fight back when I was on the factory floor.  The courtroom and the registry are my preferred battleground.  The defendant likes pushing people around?  I'll play.

Let's dance.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Kicking off the week

The week has started out busy here.  As per usual, I was up at 7am and at the office at 8am.  I put it down to the very active weekend that I felt a bit underpowered this morning.  It was a great feeling when the coffee kicked in: not unlike the moment in 'Comfortably Numb' when the hallucinations wear off in the limousine.  If you haven't seen the music video to 'Comfortably Numb', you really should.  It's worth seeing.

People sometimes get a bit sniffy about coffee from 7/11.  I don't know why.  Yes, it's not A1 barista-made coffee, but for $1 a cup it's great!  Anyway, the morning had me seeing a client and so I can't talk about that, save that it's a good case.  Lunch was made from the groceries at the Market yesterday - broccoli, chillis and tinned salmon.  It's a good blend but it needs something more in the jar with it for the day or two it's in the fridge.  Hot sauce, maybe?  Or perhaps soy sauce.  Vinegar at a pinch.  Experimentation ahoy!

Broccoli, salmon and chilli (c) New Citeaux

The afternoon saw me in conference with another client, although with a twist: I saw them at the coffee shop near work as they were going to struggle with the stairs to my office.  This presented its own challenges: not least that the cafe was near some roadworks and the client is softly spoken. There was a definite problem.

In the evening I needed to head out and do some particular volunteer work and so I was a no-show at SES training.  The job in question was near the Bay though, so I was able to get some clean fresh air after the warm day.  It’s nothing less than rejuvenating.
Pier, Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne (c) New Citeaux
Looking back towards the beach (c) New Citeaux
Not sure what the weather will do this week. Rain is forecast but the storm warnings seem to have ceased.  Lord knows rain would be welcome in the north about now.  Hopefully my SES transfer will finally get through so I can be of some use this storm season!
 How's your week starting out?

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Pick-me-up weekend

I’m starting this post at the Lomond Hotel.  Kinda odd that I’ve lived around here so long and never darkened its door.  Here I am in the front bar having an immensely pleasant Furphys ale.


I decided to stay in town this weekend.  It was a difficult week just gone.  A matter was fixed for trial on Thursday for a fairly demanding client who was determined to press a high risk strategy ... until he decided at the last minute to accept an offer that the defendant had put some months ago.  This is the sort of thing that adds substantially to the stress levels of lawyers and their assistants without actually producing anything.

Anyway, by Friday evening I was barely able to string a sentence together and decided the best thing I could do was have a weekend to myself for a bit of rebuilding. Naturally, there was planning.  Am I the only person who uses the calendars from to plan the weekend in half-hour blocks?  I find it incredibly useful in getting everything out of the time.


Saturday started out with Telecross phone calls for Red Cross (happy to report that everybody was well and happy) followed by a walk up to the 7/11 for their cheap coffee.  Don't judge me.

I’ve been more and more taken with mindfulness and meditation, so I’d planned two blocks of 45 minutes meditation with some suitably hippyish music. I took the first block of it after my coffee.  I’m not sure I felt much different for it save perhaps a bit calmer.  Anyway next on the agenda was FaceTime with Grace and Rachel. They’re getting so grown up now.  As often though, I was competing with the iPad for their attention!  Kids will be kids I guess.  The strangest thing is, I miss them as much now as I ever did.  It never fades.  You just learn to live with it.  Truly, there’s nothing you can’t get used to.

(I just moved onto a Brunswick Bitter; good but I think the Furphy ale was better).

Next item on the agenda was a run.  I decided to try for two hours or 20 kilometres in the Yarra trail and got the tram down to near the Arts Center.  

The Yarra trail turned out to be closed near Powerhouse boat sheds, and I got lost trying to find the detour (getting lost happens to me surprisingly often).  I found myself on Toorak Road back through South Yarra and decided to just head back towards Southbank and see what happened.


In the end I was getting tired and as I’d booked a barre class for today I didn’t want to wreck my legs completely, so I went through to Latrobe and Swanston Streets till I got to 2 hours and called it quits. I was a bit pleased to find that I’ve dropped another kilo when I weighed in when I got back to the Casa.


Next item on the agenda was Mass at Our Lady's. It's only 5 minutes walk from the Casa, but I don't go to Mass there anywhere near as often as I'd like to (it's a timing issue).  Fr Casey does the mass very straight, though, which I like and which is surprisingly rare.


The church isn't that far from a laundromat so I stopped there afterwards to do the laundry and then ironed my shirts.  Yep, my life is that exciting some days.  It felt good, though, to finally get to the stage of the day that involved food (I hadn't eaten all day). 

Today meant another early start in the form of an 8am barre class.  It's an abidingly good cross training for running.  Aside from the utilitarian benefits, there's something liberating about going to something like this without anyone giving a damn.  Herein one of the appeals of coming down to Melbourne.  In Shepparton (and even more Tatura), I was always aware that what you did was seen by everyone.  This was OK the first few years I was there.  And by the last year or two, it really wasn't OK.


Barre done, I walked down to the Queen Victoria Market to get groceries.  The market is a bit uneven cost-wise relative to the supermarket.  However, the quality is almost always rather better and certainly broader.  I picked up some broccoli, rockmelon, strawberries, grain bread and ham.


I walked back to the Casa and and found I'd racked up 10kms,  The fountain in the photo, by the way, is outside the Exhibition Building

After I'd prepped meals for the week, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and head up the Merri Creek Trail.  I made up sandwiches with the groceries from the market and bottled some water and wine.  A few kilometres in I found a bench in the shade and that was ideal for me.


Once I got walking again, you can guess what happened: I got lost again.  I think this gets me up to something like 40 kilometres for the weekend.  Healthy or bust!


One of the final items on the agenda was going for a glass or two of wine: clearly, I went with beer instead.  As I was wrapping up the draft of this the band was getting ready to play.  It's been a satisfying weekend, and I think a good pick-me-up.  Let's see what the week brings!

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Cautiously pokes head out of shell...

Hi everyone,

Here I am blogging here again.  I'm a little surprised how long it's been.  Not that I've been silent: for one thing, in the course of rebooting my career I've been putting a reasonable degree of energy into my other blog, which focuses more on my work.

Things have been going well since last update.  I still love being back in the law.  I'm still stoked to turn up to the office each day, and that's just as well: I don't think I've ever worked so hard in my life.  I've noticed that I've pretty well fallen back into my old habit of working late (till about 2200) each night, but I'm OK with that.  I'm getting things done, I have an A1 assistant, and the boss seems broadly happy with my work.  That's good enough for me.  And any time I even think about complaining, I remember how miserable I was in the sign factory and then life seems unutterably blessed again.

A post shared by Stephen Tuck (@sdtuc2) on

Living in Brunswick continues to suit me.  For one thing, it's close enough for me to be able to walk home on evenings when I don't have SES.  It's of course hipster-central, and at present Labour and Greens Party election posters are going up everywhere - rather different to the National Party heartland I've been living in the last five years.

It was a remarkably cold winter which is now giving over to a warm spring (in the north, a drought that doesn't bear thinking about).  I'm loving that it's warm enough to run and keep fit again.  Seems to be working according to the health check with SES the other night, which said I have basically zero risk of heart disease!

Tomorrow is looking fairly packed, so it may be a while before I write again,  Looking forward, however, to updating here more regularly.