Friday, 22 February 2019

Recapping last weekend

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon here and I'm cooped up inside the sharehouse.  For various reasons I need to move from one room to another this weekend, but I'd also planned to go to Shepparton.  So, once I get my paws on the room key, then I can transfer my belongings and get on the road.

So, rather than mope, I'll recap last weekend, which involved very little indoor time.

It had been a punishing week at work and by Friday I couldn’t face the drive to the Goulburn Valley or the farm work to follow.  I raised the white flag and settled for a mental health weekend in town. I had to work till about 2200 on Friday evening, doing some things before this week's jury trial.  I walked home as usual, but this time stopped at the Great Northern Hotel on Rathdowne Street.  It has a reputation for a good range of beers, and is nothing like the Great Northern Hotel on Twin Peaks.

A couple of beers gave me time to draft up a plan for the weekend.  The Bureau of Meteorology said it’d be a warm weekend and it looked to me like it may be the last decent one for the summer.   Naturally the beach had a central place in the plan.

I woke up tired on Saturday morning but got on with Red Cross phone calls from 0800.  My legs were still sore so I put my run off till the Sunday and replaced it with guided yoga and meditation from ABC Classic Flow.  It felt really very peaceful.

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I went out and got groceries and then made some sandwiches.  I headed for the beach for an afternoon of sun and sand and reading and swimming.  While I was there I finally finished reading Watkin Tench’s account of the first settlement in Australia.

St Kilda Beach, Melbourne, Australia
It was a little cool for it but I got myself ice cream nonetheless.  Why not, after all?  The cooler months are going to last a long while.  Beer at the Village Belle Hotel before I came back to Brunswick.

Everest ice cream. What's not to like?
I still had chores to do in the form of laundry.  I knew I’d burn off some excess calories doing the ironing afterwards, but I decided to make sure of being under my calorie count by going walking during the wash- and dry-cycles.  The sunset over western Melbourne was heavenly.

Sunset, Essendon area, Melbourne
Sunday morning kicked off with a message from the Ex that gave me a twinge of the blues.  I'll save you the details.  I only had a short window to FaceTime with Grace and Rachel but we made it work.  They could see me but I couldn’t see them.  They were happy to talk to me though and that’s all I really minded.  After FaceTime I scurried up to St Mary Margaret for Mass.  I confess I was having trouble “feeling it” today.  My prayers felt hollow and I feel hopelessly mired in sin.

St Mary Margaret church, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
After mass I changed into my gear and headed out for a good 17km run.  It took nearly half-way before I started feeling good.  At least the sun was shining!  When I got back here I made some sandwiches of avocado, spam and tomatoes.   Caught the tram to Sth Melbourne Beach which seemed less busy than usual: even though the day was warm it was cloudy.  I decided to put on sunscreen anyway and went for a dip as soon as I could, to loosen up tired muscles from the run.  

Boat off South Melbourne beach
By 1715 the sun was thoroughly clouded over and so I called it a day and went for a Hop Culture IPA at the Beach Hotel.  Delicious and sharp flavoured.  I took this photo while I was there - as you can see it was thoroughly clouded over by then.

Beach Hotel, South Melbourne
I wasn't done by that stage, so I had another beer (Kosziosko pale ale) at the Quarry Hotel on the way back. I people watched for a bit.  Even by Sunday evening there's always activity in my area!

The day itself ended quietly: an aerogramme to the girls and toasted sandwiches.  I managed to hit every item on the plan for the weekend.  I'd call that a win!

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.