Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Ten things to know about marrying a loner

Regular readers will have noted that, for some reason, I've been thinking back to my marriage a lot lately.  Not to events, exactly, so much as to what went wrong.  I've found myself googling things that lead to fights between the Ex and I, with a view to trying to see the situation from her perspective.  I'm not sure why I'm doing this.  That ship as long since sailed.  Regardless, it's a puzzle my brain seems to want to explore.

The questions I'm asking are ones I imagine she feels she should have asked before she married me.  The necessary implication of framing the matter this way, of course, is that I was an unsuitable husband and the failure of the marriage was my fault.  I'm content to assume both things for the sake of this discussion, and indeed for most other purposes.

Something that I think she would, in hindsight, have viewed as a red flag was my distinct shortage of friends before we got married.  The picture I gave when we were courting may have been unintentionally misleading.  A good number of the people I thought were friends turned out simply to be "coworkers" or "blokes I went to uni with".  I did not know there was a difference.  If she had had a clear picture, I expect she would have been less willing to marry me.  I do not think I would have blamed her.

I have proved amazingly bad at hanging on to friends over the years.  As of 2007-2011 I was only in the loosest contact with people from my school or university days (we might catch up once a year).  I worked too hard in my first decade as a lawyer to have time for a social life even if I had desired one, which I didn't.  This meant that our marriage had a shackle from the start: I well recall The Ex saying sadly how she missed having a social life like that of other young couples.  She might fairly have added that it'd be nice to be with someone who could be at a social event without looking like his wisdom teeth were being extracted without anaesthetic.

Based on this experience, I offer you ten things to consider before getting involved with a man with no friends.

First: ask yourself how long they've been solitary for?  The reality is, if it's been a few years, the habits of living alone and thinking for one are going to be well-ingrained.  You'll have only limited leverage by threatening to leave.  After the shock and sense of betrayal has worn off, the response is likely to be "ok".

Second: Your wedding day will be out of kilter.  You'll have bridesmaids and a maid of honour and the like.  He'll have a best man he barely knows and groomsmen hired through Airtasker.  If that's not a good omen I don't know what is.

Third: Fundamentally, most of his social contacts are transactional.  Going to someone's house to help them fill in a claim form or to borrow a lawnmower is a perfectly normal thing to do.  Going to someone's house to drink tea and make small talk will seem as absurd as tattooing "buffoon" on one's head.  Suggesting it will have him look at you like you're speaking Norwegian.

Fourth: You'll be socialising alone a lot of the time.  I recall once waiting a long time outside the Ex's work and declining her invitiations to come and drink at the Prince Patrick Hotel on a Friday evening because by that stage of the week I couldn't face another person.  She felt guilty about that.  I had a book to read and didn't mind in the slightest.

Fifth: Sometimes he'll be no fun at all.  I recall a lunches, dinners, pub trips and one football game where I was counting the time till I could leave and (at one lunch) became more and more unpleasant and shocking because it was the only entertainment on offer.  We weren't invited back.

Sixth: Despite anything Google will tell you, don't try and treat his nature as a problem to be fixed.  Doing the things recommended here will be really. fucking. annoying. I speak from  experience.  Fish are not made to run.  Turtles are not made to fly. Some people are not meant to be sociable.

Seventh: The place you live is neither yours nor his, but belongs to both of you.  So if he's driving home from work on a Friday, and you text him to say a half dozen friends (and remember, they're basically your friends) are there and can he get a couple of buckets of KFC, don't expect him to be happy about it.  From his perspective, it feels like a non-violent home invasion.

Eighth: You'll probably fight after any social gatherings you host.  Because he doesn't much like talking, and because sulking is childish, he keeps busy.  This means he'll spend much of the time mixing drinks, cleaning up, washing dishes, plating up food and so on.  You won't pick up on this, because you have a social nature and will be enjoying the gathering.  At some level, your friends will see you as the Host and him as The Help.  He'll pick up on this.  And he'll resent the fuck out of it.

Ninth: The relationship won't last forever.  You're too different.  Perhaps you'll leave.  Perhaps he will.  It won't matter.  Either way, the final word will go to Edgar Allen Poe -
"Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door! / Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"

Tenth: On the bright side, when you break up, you'll get to keep all the friends.  He'll be just fine with that.

What do you think are the things to know about being with a loner?

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Marriage: it's basically chicken pox.

I almost asked someone out today.  Well, I kind of did (I know, I know: I feel a touch of guilt about it, and I’ll seek absolution before next Mass).

India Pale Ale, Lomond Hotel, Australia
She batted the offer away.  And almost as soon as she did I was relieved.

Why? She’s a Ph.D. candidate, and that means she’s already more successful than me with my little ol’ Bachelors degrees [B.A. (Hons); LL.B.].  I’ve already been with someone who was more successful than me, and who earned more than me, and who always seemed to remind me of both facts when the caused the greatest humiliation.  I remember the crushing feeling of knowing I could do nothing about it, because I would not abandon the promises I made at the altar.

I never want to feel so caught in a bear trap of someone else's contempt again.

It struck me afterwards that because I can’t repartner, I’ll never feel like that again.  Never ever. So now I’m sitting solo in the beer garden of the Lomond Hotel with a pint of India Pale Ale thinking that marriage is the emotional equivalent of adult-onset chicken pox.  Mercilessly contagious, and miserable as hell when you get it.  But once you’ve gotten over the infection, it can’t strike you again.  You’re free.  Free forever.

Table for one please.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Why don't I read fiction?

Nanowrimo is drawing to a close.  It passed me by, as one would expect.  Why?  Because I don't read fiction.

This dislike is a fairly harmless one (don’t like it? Don’t read it), although I remember it lead to a paint-blistering argument with my ex.  Perhaps because it is trivial, I seldom analyse why I have a visceral aversion to this type of writing.  However, it's been something discussed a bit on social media of late, so it might be an interesting post.
The most common objection raised to fiction is that “it’s not real”.  That doesn’t actually much trouble me. A great many things one might consider factual also have a tenuous grasp on reality: the last two volumes of CMH Clark’s History of Australia are a case in point.  However, this is a clue to something that does cause me a visceral response: it’s a lie.  Fundamentally when you permit someone to tell you something that isn’t a faithful reflection of reality, you’re trusting them with your mind, and (more seriously) giving them control of your imagination.  I feel nauseated by the thought of surrendering my grip on reality that way, especially when one realises how many fiction writers are people you wouldn’t trust to borrow your car. Trusting such a person with your mind is like going joyriding with the most irresponsible person you know.

The second objection is that defences of fiction always seem to involve one of my least favourite concepts: empathy.  One writer refers to -
... the empathy-boosting abilities of a great story. "Imagining a character's situation can help you become more empathetic toward people in real life. That's because when you read a story, you connect to personal experiences, according to researchdone by Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada,"....

Empathy is the most parasitic reaction I can imagine: feeling someone else's emotions does no good at all.  If they are feeling joy, they don't need your involvement.  And if they are in distress, it should be something you can detect.  Further, if they are in distress, then you should do something to alleviate their pain because it's the right thing to do, and not just because you can somehow feel it yourself.

A close cousin is the claim that reading fiction is the key to business success -
Developing the entrepreneurial superpower of empathy requires a determined dedication to discovering the subjective truths and experience of others.
When you pick up a well written novel, you hand yourself a key to that.
The master novelist is a master precisely in decoding the subjective experience of others. A novel succeeds – when it succeeds – by allowing us to know as fully as possible what it’s like to be another person.
Great entrepreneurs learn that this empathetic appreciation of other people’s experience is the key to building incredible, wildly successful products and services.
Allow me to save you the trouble of "decoding the experiences of others".  Fundamentally, people are driven by two things: fear and desire.  Save for a rare few people in the world, the objects of their fear and desire are blindingly obvious: fear of pain, poverty or embarassment, and desire for purchasing power or comfort.  All that is needed is to pull their levers accordingly.

It's also possible that I came to loathe fiction because I was forced to study it in Year 12 and found myself stuck with Patrick White's generally disliked The Aunt's Story.  That, at least, seems to have been when the rot set in.  Since that year (1995), I think I've only read four works of fiction right through, and the experiment hasn't induced me to try more -
  • Lord of The Rings: Needs no introduction.  Well written and imaginative but in hindsight looks like Wagner's Ring Cycle performed by Winnie-the-Pooh.

Look Piglet! Orcs!
  • John Boyne's The Absolutist: Gay soldier meets bisexual soldier on the Western Front in World War One.  The first ends up shooting the second.  Their sexuality is far less memorable than how profoundly annoying they both are.  Probably the first time I've wondered if the use of mustard gas may have been excusable.
  • William Faulkner's Sanctuary: Psycho rapes girl with corn cob.  Paycho dies.  Some other guy dies too.  Have a nice day.
  • Ernest Hemingway's Snows of Kilimanjaro: Prose style is Hemingway's unsparing best, although the version I read seemed to be a set of odds and ends with the title of a more famous book.
I've also tried a number of others in the last year or so, thinking maybe I'd find some type of finction writing I cared for -
  • Mark Gimenez's Accused
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms
  • Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath
  • Whatever the first Harry fucking Potter was
Epic fail.  After about a dozen pages of each I concluded none of them would be a good use of my time.

Added to which, as you can see from my bedside table, I've bought more books by Faulkner, Bruce Chatwin, Hilary Mantel and Tom Wolfe.  I have literally no idea why as I'd literally rather drill a corkscrew into one ear than read them.

See something you like?  Make me an offer.
Would I benefit from reading fiction?  We'll never know.  Pass me my copy of Robert Conquest's The Great Terror and we can call it a day.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

People-Watching Diaries Part 1

People get awfully funny about eating at a table-for-one.  They used to at least: I suspect that with the ubiquity of smartphones the fact that someone is eating or drinking alone does not mean they're not engaged in a detailed conversation about the football or the Morality of Inclusion or whatever.  Anyway, since I'm now in one of my bouts of averred singleness i had no qualms about having a Nigel-no-mates beer at the Charles Weston after getting groceries last night.  After I'd bought a pot and found my way to the beer garden I asked myself "what would Hemingway do?".  But I decided against getting into a fight with the bouncers and did some people-watching instead.  When I looked at my notes afterwards, it struck me that they were actually not a bad sketch of the area I live in, so with minimal editing I've made them into this blogpost.
7:40pm  I'm sitting solo in the beer garden of the Charles Weston Hotel in Brunswick enjoying a Mornington Sessions IPA.  Very into IPAs at the moment: I love that sharp, slightly fruity taste.

Charles Weston Hotel, Brunswick
7:48pm  To my left is a group of four men and one woman talking noisily. A sporting club perhaps?

Sitting at about 2 o’clock to me is a group of six, perhaps 3 men and 3 women.  One chap is sitting there quietly in a brown pullover looking politely bored and fundamentally miserable. It’s clear his partner has dragged him along. Been there, buddy. #introvertprobs.

At 4 o’clock to me is a couple.  Both are in their mid twenties. She has long coppery hair. He has a wispy beard and a man bun.

At one o’clock to me is another couple. He looks like a stout Leonard Hofstadter. She has a short haircut that makes her look angry (on reflection, it's of course possible she was angry)

In the 2 o'clock group nobody is browsing their phone, save for a young woman who seems to be showing a fellow a video.

There’s too much noise from conversations to isolate particular words.

Brown pullover just walked in the direction of the bathrooms. He’s oddly dressed: black shirt poking out which has a floral pattern. Jeans rolled up. Light brown elastic sided boots.  I'm suddenly aware of my own boots being black and somewhat scuffed.  That is, workboots rather than a fashion statement.

Another couple walk in: a woman with another angrily short haircut and a man of East Asian appearance (Vietnamese?).  He's wearing a weatherbeaten cap with the badge of the Wisconsin Badgers.  She walks in the direction of the bar.  He rolls a cigarette and looks like he’s waiting for time to pass.

8:07pm  I get a second beer. I haven’t eaten all day. The alcohol is starting to hit me. Thank heaven it’s a short hop to my digs.

Another few people join the 2 o’clock group. A few lines of "Happy Birthday" were sung. There are introductions. Interesting: it's a birthday where many of the people don 't know each other.

8:21pm  I call stumps. It’s getting cold and I’m only in a thin shirt.

Going home

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Why dating sites are bollocks

In the past I've mentioned in these pages that forming a new relationship isn't really an option for me unless I've decided to damn myself for eternity.  Despite this, I'm human and as liable to develop a crush on somebody as the next man.  Precisely this happened to me not so long ago and (sadly) resulted in me having a bad case of the rebounds.

Predictably, while rebounding I set up a few profiles on various dating sites and paid two monthly subscriptions.  I also put a couple of apps on my phone.  By Sunday just-gone my natural temperament had reasserted itself and so I deleted the lot of them.  Nevertheless, I did glean a couple of useful insights that I'd like to share.


Don't be mislead by the TV ads for (say) eHarmony.  When people look like that, they don't need a singles' website.  On that subject, if you've set up a profile, maybe have someone review it for you.  More than a few times I looked at the profile picture and thought "if that's the image you went with, what were the ones you passed up?!"

If your profile pic makes you look like Donovan from the closing scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, maybe reconsider
Fake Profiles

Even on semi-respectable sites like Coffee-meets-Bagel, a lot of the profiles seem to be computer generated by the site to boost traffic (you completed a degree in economics at the University of Florence and you're a physiotherapist in Melbourne?  Totally plausible).  Warnings about scammers should be redundant but, in case you're out of the loop, know that if someone says "I am want big love with good man", you should probably doubt their claim to be a graduate of Yale (although you can probably assume they have a Russian-English dictionary).

Fake Alerts

The sites themselves are almost comically dodgy, and no more so than when you're in a position to know.  When one site tells me "you have fifty potential matches in Fawkner", it may be correct.  When it says "you have fifty potential matches in Moorilim", I'm naturally suspicious: Moorilim is a rural district southwest of Shepparton with a population of under 30 people.

Danger (this one matters)

This one isn't a matter of personal experience, but it's perhaps the most important insight of all: online dating is fucking dangerous.  To condense Hollingworth J's sentencing remarks in R v Dinsley [2013] VSC 631 -
Sharon ... was a 29 year old mother of a four year old son .... After [her] relationship with [his] father ended, she started using internet dating sites, as a way of meeting other people.

You met [her] through a dating website called “ Plenty of Fish ”. After communicating through the website, the two of you exchanged frequent text messages, for a period of about one week, in mid-January 2013.

You also met once in person during that period. On that occasion, [she] met you at the Ballarat train station, and you went back together to the house she was renting in Doveton Street, Ballarat. Apparently not wishing the date to continue, [she] texted a friend of hers, and asked him to call her, to say there was an emergency with Aron and she had to go to the hospital. The friend did as she asked, which ended the date.

[She] later told friends and family about your date. She described you as filthy, with dirty clothes; she said she was embarrassed to be seen with you.

There was no further contact between the two of you from 19 January 2013, until the night of these offences....

On [6 April] [y]ou awoke around 2.00am, suffering from what you described as an anxiety attack. You decided to go for a walk towards the Ballarat city centre, to relieve your anxiety.

As you walked along Doveton Street, you recognised [her] house from your visit some 2½ months earlier. You told police that, when you were outside her house, you started thinking about all the times you had been rejected in the past, and “it all just bubbled up.” You said you were “fuming”, and decided you “had to do something”.

You turned around and walked home – a distance of about 2.7 kms – to find a weapon with which to “punish” [her]. You spent about 10 minutes looking for a suitable weapon, before picking up your cricket bat. You then walked back to her house with the bat.

At first, you tried to get into her house using a small pocket knife to open the rear metal security door. Unable to open the door that way, you removed three glass louvre panels from a window next to the security door, and placed them beside a bin. You climbed in through the window, into the back room, carrying the cricket bat, and intending to assault [her].

At this point, you were confronted by [her], and the two of you argued. Within a very short space of time, you “just flipped”. You threatened to “beat her head in”, and hit her head with the bat, causing her to fall to the ground. You continued to hit her with the bat, swinging it from above your head with both hands, as she was on the floor, screaming. You put your hand over her mouth, and told her to “shut up”....

Once in the bedroom, you demanded that she lean over the bed and remove her pyjamas. You were holding her hair with one hand, and a knife to her throat with the other. She sustained a knife wound to the throat, at some stage during this part of your attack.

You let go of her briefly, in order to put on a condom. However, you were unable to get an erection, and put the condom back in the packet. [She] was yelling and screaming throughout your attempted rape.

You told police that you were “pissed off” at not being able to get an erection. ...

You then picked up the bat, and swung it downwards from above your head, hitting her again. She tried to get out of the way, by climbing across the bed to the other side of the room, but you continued to pursue her with the bat.

By this stage, she was on the ground, completely defenceless, cornered in the room and unable to escape. You continued to strike her repeatedly with the bat. You could not say how many times you hit her at this point, just that you “didn’t stop”.

[She] died from the multiple blunt head injuries which you inflicted....

If you're looking for love online, do yourself a favour: turn off the laptop.  Put down the phone.  Go do something else until the feeling passes.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

What I learned on Bourke Street

It was another big weekend here.

Long-time readers (I must have some, right?) may remember that I have a firm view that the old civil defence skill-sets are more vital than ever in the age of terror. This weekend just gone I found myself forming part of just such a response, following the terror attack on Bourke Street last Friday.  An event like that tends to shock people far beyond the immediate zone of impact: Bourke Street is a major thoroughfare and a great many people will have a feeling of "I could have been there"

Because of the impact on the public at large, Red Cross Emergency Services was asked to attend the CBD with our friends from the Victorian Council of Churches and provide psychological first aid to anyone who might need it.  I volunteered for the Saturday morning shift and cancelled my barre class.  I was up at 7am and after a breakfast of pita bread and cream cheese headed over to the Red Cross premises in North Melbourne for a briefing.

That moment when you think "God, do I really look that awful?"

Our task was to patrol up and down Bourke Street, identify people who had witnessed the attack (shop workers and the homeless, for example) and anyone otherwise in distress and to provide sympathy and support.  Briefings were conducted by Victoria Police and the City of Melbourne.  I probably shouldn't share details of what was discussed with people, but I can tell you that there quite  a lot were rattled by what they had seen or been close to.  No wonder either: it's asking a bit much of a young woman in a boutique to take her own brush with the War on Terror in her stride.

At about 10:30 we were redeployed to Pellegrini's, a cafe on Bourke Street.  Pellegrini's is very popular.  Nearly everyone who has reason to be in Melbourne's CBD has had dinner there or at least coffee from there (including me).  It turned out its part owner had been killed in the attack.  That was what struck close to home for many people: it's different when a part of the landscape of one's life vanishes in a moment of violence.  People began to lay flowers at the door of the cafe and there were many truly distressed people waiting to sign a condolence book.

When we were sent for lunch at 12:30 I was surprised to find how emotional I'd become, even though I couldn't identify the emotion or the cause.  I don't believe that empathy is a virtue.  If it is, it's a valueless one: it helps nobody for me to "feel their pain"; all that matters is that I take action to alleviate it.  Regardless, we must have been doing something useful since the police and the City of Melbourne seem to have been grateful Red Cross and VCC were there.

Our shift was meant to end by 2pm but continued on till 3:30pm including debrief.  As a result, I was going to be too late to get to the starting line for the Portsea Half-Marathon and regretfully withdrew from the race.  I still wanted a run and stopped in Frankston to get one in and hopefully burn off the emotions of the day.  In the event I knocked out 15 kilometres including two trips up Oliver's Hill.  For the first time ever, I found I actually felt worse post run: as foetid and hollow as an old rotting mattress.

View from Oliver's Hill, Frankston
This was a remarkably annoying state of affairs and so I drove on to Shoreham where I was meeting with the old boy to get some farm work done with him and Barry (a close friend): I reasoned that what running couldn't fix, alcohol and a good night's sleep probably would.  I'm not sure the old boy really "got" why Red Cross was doing what it was doing today.  Noting how welfare has usually been presented in the civil defence universe, this may not be incomprehensible:

Be all that as it may, there was work to do and I lent a hand.  That's the key thing.  At any rate, it felt good to crash out to sleep at 11pm

I woke again nine hours later(!) feeling warm, rested and safe.  I was a little struck by how much this last actually meant to me.  The day was that coastal combination of warm sun and cool breeze that is a reason to be alive.  The bay was as flat as glass and I recall thinking it might have been a good day for fishing.  The day itself passed well with farm work and ended with fish and chips which I hadn't had in quite a while.

Westernport Bay with Philip Island in background
On any measure it was a weekend to remember. Some people were helped, at least, and I learned something about people and about myself.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Cup Day Long Weekend

It’s been a funny sort of a long weekend.

First, on the subject of it being a long weekend at all: one of the quirks of Victorian life is the Cup Day public holiday.  This is held to mark the running of the Melbourne Cup horse race.  If you’re like me and don’t care two pins about horse racing, there’s a vast temptation to take the Monday off and make a four day weekend and get out of the city.  All bar three people in the office did the same! Anyway, this was why I found myself leaving the office for the train to Shepparton on Friday evening.  After finishing my last hearing for the year last week I kind of felt I was due a strategically placed day off! 

Even though I’d only been away a week, it felt oddly good to be back up there.  There was a faint sense in the air of holidays at Brocklesby when I was a kid.  There was a sense of possibility in the air that I don’t always feel these days and that I value more and more.

Polly the Calf
Dad and I had earmarked Saturday as the day to head down to the Lake GoldsmithSteam Rally, a festival of restored engines, tractors, trucks and motors if all sorts.  The day kicked off with feeding Polly the Calf and putting a roll of hay to the heifers before we got on the road at 9am.

The trip took a bit longer than planned (we got lost and somehow ended up at Clunes). It it was well worth the drive.  We both love old engines and there was no shortage of them to see.

Sunday brought more mundane activities: a good night’s sleep, feeding Polly and a good walk with the dog.  The high point of the day was of course FaceTime with Grace and Rachel.  This time, Rachel was especially chatty.  I love this because she’s usually the more quiet one.  Having the ability to spend time with my daughters this way isn’t what I’d expected being a dad to look like, but at least I get to BE a dad.  I just hope it’s enough for my darling daughters as well.
Grace and Rachel
Sunday wrapped up with a run (just like old times!).  I’m down for the Portsea Half Marathon next weekend and so I had a decent distance in mind.  I settled on a run back over the ridge towards Miepoll.  Conditions were perfect with enough sun and cloud to keep you warm but not burnt.  My new runners are cheap but held up well.  A couple of moderate runs this week and maybe a barre class and I’ll be gold for the race.

Monday brought its own challenges, and from an unexpected quarter.  Longtime readers will remember a few of the posts I shared about unemployment.  I’ve known a few hard times in my life, but nothing - nothing - was more soul-grinding, more sadistically humiliating than unemployment (and that included working for a certain psycho).  Those memories make this time of year painful for me, because it’s when fruit growers always call for greater access to foreign workers to carry out the harvest.  Why do they want foreign workers? Because they have an obstinate view - almost an article of faith - that Australians won’t do the work and that anyone on welfare is by definition lazy and useless.  This year the Prime Minister has decided to help the growers out by tweaking the visa rules to make it easier for them to hire foreign workers rather than Australians.
Naturally, Joe Public had plenty to say about it:

Hearing myself - and every other poor SOB who has ever had the misfortune to be out of work - spoken of in that manner fills me with an emotion I can’t identify but which is certainly not a positive one.

Being unemployed is hard. Pope Leo XIII’s observation over a century ago still rings true:
Work is a gift. The human person has a right to productive work, a fair wage, private property and economic initiatives. Work enables a person to use gifts, be affirmed and contribute to the common good. Unemployment is the diminishment of a person’s skills, potential, personal confidence and a sense of purpose in life
There’s a special place in Hell for anyone who goes out of their way to grind the face of the unemployed in the dirt. And if you hear someone threaten someone with unemployment, by saying “if you don’t like how we work here, you know where the door is” when all concerned know that jobs are scarce, then you should know you’re in the presence of a sadist.  If a person forces their worker to knuckle under by threatening them with economics, ask yourself what they will do if given a whip.

Cup Day itself brought a change to the weather and rain in the morning.  There’s no better sound to wake up to than rain running into a water tank.  This made for a slowish start to the day since there was little incentive to be outside save to feed Polly and walk the dog.  I felt a bit guilty, however, as my phone kept beeping with alerts to tell me that Northcote SES’s area was getting smashed by the weather.

The rain more-or-less cleared through by midday, letting us get some farm work in before it was time for me to get the train for Melbourne.  The weather must have close in again because I’d not long been on the train when my phone beeped a storm warning.

I passed this back to Mum, who explained that at least one of the denizens of the farm was making the best of it: “thunder heavy rain for about 5mins hail. Dog out eating hail stones!”

And now what?  Typing this blogposts took me all of the train ride back to Melbourne.  I’m now on a tram for my digs and should be there by 7:30pm.  Tonight’s plan will be to unpack, go for a gentle 10km run, have a shave and a shower and then watch some TV with dinner.  Bed, hopefully, on the stroke of midnight.

Wherever you’re reading from, I hope you got as much out of your weekend as I have!

Friday, 2 November 2018

Office Healthy - Part 2

Yesterday I put up my current go-to lunch in these days of "no really, I want to be healthier over the warmer months".  Today the subject is: how do I not go mental?

I've had a matter in the County Court this week.  As you can imagine, this usually involves a great deal of pulling threads together and making sure everything is done.  This naturally, requires a fair bit of activity and a measure of stress from both solicitor and assistant, especially if, like me, your week is already somewhat over-structured:

The diary sheet I use to organise my time

You can manage some of this by humming the Largo al Factotum a bit, but this only goes so far.  Anyway, yesterday I found myself in desperate need of a bit of calm.  Plugging in the earphones and running the "Calm" app seemed inappropriate during working hours, so a good alternative turned out to be grabbing my pocket notebook and writing down the first half-dozen or so impressions I had of my physical state -

Yes, I dated the entry: a lawyer cannot stop being a lawyer.
I can tell you this was a remarkably calming thing to do.  My body stopped (as it were) generating its own stress and the weight lifted off my shoulders.  If you're feeling the load at work, I can really recommend this as a chillout technique.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Office Healthy - Part 1

Quick show of hands: how many of you (in the southern hemisphere at least) are trying to get healthier as the weather warms up?  Everyone?  It certain seems to be the thing to do at my work, where the choice of fish for lunch appears to be keeping the nation's purse seiners in business.

On that note, this seems like a good moment to share two small things I'm finding are paying dividends at present.  The first is pre-packaging lunch.  I'm not a fan of eating tinned fish straight from the can, and even less so if it's salmon.  Yes, I know salmon is the best all-round healthy fish -  a regular piscatorial heptathlete - but I don't care for the flavour of canned salmon on its own.  THis is where pepper and the sharpness of raw broccoli come in.

Preparing lunch on Sunday night, I cut the broccoli into clusters and also cut the thick skin away from the core.  I layered this in a plastic tub and then gave it a good dusting with cayenne pepper:

On top of that went half of a 415gm can of salmon, which then got a decent drenching with Louisiana hot sauce (I suspect that horseradish cream would work well too but need more stirring).  It then went into the fridge for at least a night or longer to let the flavour of the pepper soak into the salmon.

Once at work, the whole lot will mix together once you scoop it out into a bowl.  About 90 seconds in the microwave will be enough to soften the broccoli for eating.

Total energy value about 315 calories.