Monday, 23 January 2017

Some fresh coffee

Last night I got home late after driving back from the girl's house. I had dropped her off for the evening. I was back home and I sat down in front of the computer for a while until I got tired and decided to go to sleep. We had had an argument and I was feeling vulnerable. We had argued about what we should be doing on weekends; she wanted to go out, I told her I had seen her on Saturday and wanted a quiet Sunday for myself. But we had reconciled our differences by now and apologies had been exchanged. Everything was back to normal, and it was late. I went to sleep.

This morning I woke up and got out of bed late, planning to go to Newtown to buy coffee, as my supply had been getting low in the coffee can. I had my usual cup of coffee after getting out of bed and getting dressed, and then headed out the door with the green satchel over my shoulder. The bag was to carry the bag of Campos coffee home in.

At Broadway Shopping Centre I headed up to the first floor to the hair stylist and sat down to wait where I was shown, expecting a free chair at any time. When the chair was free I sat down in it and took off my glasses, and put them in my shirt pocket. The guy I had today had also cut my hair last time and he remembered me. "Still living in Pyrmont?" he asked. "Yes," I answered. I asked him if he was busy and he said it was always busy in the shop. "It's good," he said. He has an Arabic tattoo on the inside of his right forearm, but I didn't ask him about it. He has a beard and is muscular and big-bodied.

I paid when I got to the register and left the store, making my way down the escalator to the street, then crossed Parramatta Road to Victoria Park. I walked up through the park past the swimming pool. Up near the children's playground men were setting up canvas kiosks for an outdoor event. A man in a forklift was manoeuvring his vehicle around a tray filled with ground coverings, which he was taking off the pile with the forks. I went further up, past St Paul's College and Moore College. At the coffee shop I ordered my usual bag of filter-ground Superior blend and paid with a card.

On the way back home I bought a beef kebab at the old Lebanese kebab shop on King Street - Ya Habibi's - and ate it with relish as I walked down the pavement toward home. A workman was doing something in one of the canvas kiosks when I got to Victoria Park, and he raised his eyebrows at me in a friendly manner as I passed, and took a swig from a resealable bottle that sat on the counter. Down near the shopping centre a gaunt man with tattoos was nursing a stubby of beer sitting on one of the park benches. I went past to the pedestrian crossing. It was hot. I got home and had a cold cup of coffee then had a nap.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Some new clothes

Yesterday I was feeling quite vulnerable because the girl and I had had an argument - about my stomach again, no less - and so when she contacted me in the evening and asked if I wanted to buy a set of chess pieces, of course I immediately said yes. I put on my shoes and left the apartment and caught a cab into the city, getting off at King Street, then walked up to Dymocks where she was looking at stationery alone.

We went downstairs after she had bought a few things, to the games section, and I chose a set of chess pieces. She was feeling adventurous and also selected a set of Monopoly (World edition), and I took both boxes to the register and paid. Then we left the store and turned up George Street heading south.

As we were passing Myer I asked her if it was ok if we went inside so I could buy some clothes. We went up the escalators to the third floor - which is where most of the menswear is sold - and I headed to the back of the store and found some size 40 and 42 pairs of trousers in navy and black. I then went to the Gazman section and got some short-sleeve shirts. I took everything to the register and asked if I could leave the trousers there while I tried on the shirts for size. I left the bundle of clothes there and headed to the fitting rooms with the two shirts, which turned out to fit well. I headed back out to the retail area and met my girl at the Sportscraft area, where she handed me a white linen shirt to buy. I took the three shirts back to the register where I bought all of the clothes, then we headed downstairs in the elevator.

We walked home to my place and got progressively more wet as the rain picked up. By the time we got home I was well saturated in the shirt area, and I had put my phone into one of the plastic bags for safety. I took off the shirt once we were inside and put on a fresh one, then we made some food. Later we would go out to a restaurant for more food.

Before going to bed we played chess. I had had more experience with the game than the girl, so it was not exactly an even match but she improved with time. We played three games and I won all of them, with her conceding twice and losing once. The next day - today - I took her home in the afternoon and we went shopping for groceries from her place. I bought some more fruit and olives and cheese.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A quiet day at home

This morning I got up before 8am because the cleaners came to clean the apartment, and I let them in and waited until they had finished. When they left the girl and I had breakfast, which included some leftovers from dinner last night - we had gone to have dinner at Golden Century and ordered four dishes, which was a lot, too much for two people at one meal - as well as some added tomato and mushroom. I had coffee and she had tea. We tidied up the apartment and then I took her home in the early afternoon.

I came home feeling very forlorn and put on the washing. Then I went up the road to the bank to deposit a cheque that came from Telstra for the unused part of the data allowance under mum's plan with them for the iPad. The guy at the bank said that it was not something they would normally do since the cheque was made out to 'Estate of Mrs da Silva' (plus my address). Normally they would ask for the cheque to be reissued to be in my name. But since it was such a small amount of money - just over $25 - he allowed it to be deposited in the account I specified, even though the estate had already been wound up in the bank's estimation.

Then I made my way further down Harris Street to the post office and bought a packet of plain envelopes. I don't normally send letters but I use the envelopes to put the cash for the cleaners inside, and since they come to do their thing every two weeks, I need a regular supply of envelopes for their money. I only had one envelope left before buying the new packet. I also went to the convenience store to take out money from the ATM because I had just put most of my remaining banknotes in the cleaner's envelope for the next payment.

When I got home I lay down for an hour then got up and put another load of laundry on, shifting the wet clothes from the washing machine to the tumble dryer. Then I had a glass of wine and nursed my lacrimose mood through the rest of the afternoon. The time was taken up with washing the dishes from breakfast and sitting with social media. For dinner I ate the rest of the mabo dofu we had ordered the night before and a piece of toast with cheese, tomato and pepper on it. As I write the final load of clothes is spinning in the tumble dryer, and the TV is on.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

On hospitals

It's so hot and even though it's getting late there's no point in going to bed because I've been dozing on and off all day and the night-time temperature will be excessive tonight, so I decided to sit a while and write about something that I talked to a friend about not long ago. We were talking about hospitals and I said to her that I always felt compelled to stand up for these institutions, places which we normally only enter with trepidation, and of which we only speak in critical tones.

I had a lot to do with hospitals last year when mum was getting sick all the time prior to her death. I could refer back and get the exact dates but it was roughly from November 2015 until she finally died in July 2016 that I had most to do with hospitals. It's only fair to say that I have the utmost respect for the people who work in hospitals, even though they are obviously overworked by their bosses, and spend most of their time running around in a frazzled state trying to bring succour to all the places where it is needed.

But it's more than that. People are more like themselves in hospitals. You can have the most lovely conversations with people - whether staff or patients or the families or friends of patients - in hospitals. The presence of mortality brings people closer to their real selves. They are genuinely friendly and when they ask after you - just saying "How are you?" - they really want to know. People are more empathetic, compassionate and real in the presence of mortality. I remember sitting in the waiting room at the Emergency Ward watching the people go in and come out. The TV was tuned to one of the awful commercial stations that we have but I was unlikely to watch it when the procession of characters - and the series of events they performed in, for my exclusive benefit - was so rich and varied.

One family would come in and go to the administration desk, where they would talk with a clerk. The daughter who was limping when they arrived would be called to the triage desk, and ushered into the doctor's area. An orderly would use his access card to buzz himself into the actual ward - where my mother lay, waiting to be processed - and disappear from view. I freely admit that I enjoyed these small events, and this endless succession of new people. I am a flaneur after all - as my friend reminded me - so taking notice of the small details of existence in public spaces is my specialty.

So here's to hospitals, those busy hives of restless humanity where doctors - young and old, male and female - tend to the needs of people when they are at their most vulnerable. And the nurses - young and old, male and female - and orderlies and other support staff - young and old, male and female - all going about their tasks with dedication and commitment. If we listen to them they can teach us something essential about being human.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

An aborted emergency

In the morning I got up and made some coffee but it had been so hot during the night - I discovered later that it was the hottest January night in Sydney since records began being collected in the 1850s, with temperatures around 30 deg C - that I decided after drinking my morning cup of coffee to go back to bed and sleep. My sleep during the night had been patchy and I needed to get a few more hours of shut-eye.

When I got up later I cut my toenails and made some breakfast: eggs on toast with fried tomato, fried mushroom, and sliced avocado. I ironed my shirts and so doing got a bit sweaty, then she called me and asked me to drive down to her place to take her to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown. She had a rash on her hand, she said, and the doctor in Pyrmont who had prescribed the anitbiotics to her last weekend was shut. She obviously suspected the antibiotics were responsible for the outbreak on the skin of her hand. I told her I would be down, although I doubted that the emergency was as pressing as she made out.

I got down to her place and found a parking spot for the car, luckily, then went up to her apartment in the elevator. She was fretting about her hand but wouldn't stay still so that I could look at it. She was complaining about a friend who had yesterday wanted to go and have a drink with her, but she had demurred, "I have had a cold and she wants to drink with me? How stupid?" I kept quiet and shepherded her to the car outside, making sure she took her key with her. She had filled up a pink plastic bottle with water before going out the door, which she put down on the floor on the passenger side.

We got onto the main road and were talking about her rash. I asked her if it was really that important that she had to go to the emergency ward in the hospital, and spend three hours sitting in the waiting room. After a while she calmed down and we turned around and drove back to her place. She called a couple of close-by clinics from Google on her phone while we were in the car but they weren't open today, a Saturday. She was much better when we got back to her place, and had quieted down a lot. Inside her apartment she got a wooden plate filled with steamed sweet potato and put it on the table. She asked me to stay to dinner but I said I had to go, and get some rest. I also told her to get some rest too, since she had just recovered from a flu.

I got home and walked to the convenience store. I bought two cans of prepared mackerel and a loaf of bread - the makings of dinner - and walked back to my apartment. I sat down happily at the computer and a message appeared from my friend in Poland asking about a movie she had seen and enjoyed. I made some cheese on toast with tomato and sat down to the conversation.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Went out to lunch

This morning I knew I would meet an old friend for lunch in the city, but I didn't know exactly where, so I put a message on Facebook Messenger after I got to the computer with my coffee. Later a message came through telling me to meet my friend at his office, from where we would go out to lunch.

After the coffee I went back to bed and slept some more through the heat, then got up and walked into the city across the Pyrmont Bridge, turning left at the end to go into King Street via the Western Distributor walkway. I got to my friend's office on time and waited in the waiting room for about 15 minutes. Then I went to his office, signed some papers, and we left to go down to the street. On the way downtown we turned right into King Street to get ourselves across to a fresh pick: a Greek restaurant I hadn't been to before. We had originally decided to go to an izakaya near Event Cinema but changed our minds. I ate a huge meal of lamb shoulder and we had a bottle of Orange chardonnay to go with it. My friend had moussaka.

When the bill was paid we made our way out to the street and my friend told me he would show me a new tunnel from Wynyard to Barangaroo. You go through one of the old George Street entrances to the station then head right around past the escalators, following the white plastic cladding on the walls, heading north west. You come out at the root of Hickson Road, which you cross on a pedestrian bridge, then head down left on Darling Harbour past the ferry docks on the right and the restaurants on the left. You eventually get to Pyrmont Bridge. We stopped at a pub on the way and had a beer, then went on to my place, where we opened a bottle of white wine.

We talked through the afternoon, touching on dozens of subjects. It was one of those discursive conversations you can have with someone you have known for a long time. No subject is too trivial, from what a cab driver said about Uber to the nature of English socialism. I made some cheese on toast later on, and then some sardines on toast, just to top up the tank. Both of us had eaten so much at lunchtime that we didn't need to eat a full dinner today.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

My ankle was sore

After I got up this morning and on my way to the closet to get a pair of trousers, my left ankle decided to give up. It hurt very badly for a few minutes, then the pain disappeared, but the severity of the pain suggested to me that it would be a bad idea to go for a walk today, so I didn't. I stayed at home this morning, and suffered for it.

Not walking left me feeling depressed and sad, so after making and drinking a cup of coffee I went back to bed at around 10;30am and slept for a few extra hours. Later, after I got up again I went out to one of the Japanese restaurants on Harris Street and had some sushi and a bowl of ramen.

When I got home there was a message from my cousin suggesting dinner in Chinatown. This cousin lives in Cairns so I infrequently meet with him but I had already made a date with the girl to have dinner at her place and I didn't want to disappoint her, so I turned down Rob. I went to bed and had a nap. When I got up again I got back in front of the computer and then left the apartment, got into the car and drove to her place. I found a parking spot - something which can be difficult because the parking available there is often completely filled up along the street - and went up to her unit.

We went out to Woollies to get some last-minute groceries for dinner, including coriander and ginger. We also bought some rice - black and white - and a couple of packs of cup noodle. (I always keep cup noodle in my apartment, even though I hardly ever eat them, just in case I need some calories at some unholy hour.) We walked back to her unit and she made dinner. We had pork meatballs in a tomato soup, plus a mixture of black and white rice out of the rice cooker, as well as salmon steaks with ginger, garlic and coriander on top.

Later, I put together the kit jewellery cabinet we had picked up in Alexandria on the weekend. It was kind of like an Ikea kit but a bit simpler to assemble. The main body of the cabinet came already assembled in one piece, and all that really had to be done was to put the legs together then fasten the cabinet to the legs. I left her in her apartment before it got dark, busily putting items of jewellery away in her new cabinet. Later, I called her to tell her I had got home ok and she had already done the dishes. She was still putting things away in the cabinet though.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Too hot to go walking

This morning I knew it was going to be hot because of the forecasts on the news over previous days, and after getting up and making a pot of coffee I got into the car and drove to Glebe to visit Officeworks, where I bought a new computer mouse. The previous one had started to malfunction, double-clicking when it was clicked only once, for example, which made it impossible to use reliably. After I got home I decided not to go for a walk because it was too hot, and I settled down to use the computer with the new mouse.

The new mouse works well. I noticed that it is the same make and model as the previous one was, even though I had not intentionally bought it on that basis. It was just a reliable make and it only cost $15 so I thought I couldn't go wrong. I made some eggs and haloumi for lunch, which I ate with toast, and did some banking and paid some bills online later on in the afternoon.

I put on the laundry to wash and transferred it to the dryer when the cycle had finished. I took the sheets off the bed in the spare room and put them in the laundry basket to wash next time.

Later, I put on my backpack and headed to Coles to do a bit of shopping because I was getting low on toilet paper. I also bought some fruit, biscuits, laundry liquid, and dish-wash scrubbers. I was sweating profusely when I got home but picked up the mail from the mailbox on the way through the door to the elevators. It turned out one letter, which had no return address and was addressed to an earlier occupant of the apartment I live in, was a scam letter from a Nigerian. There was also a corporate magazine addressed to another previous occupant, and a water bill.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

On Harris Street

Today it was very hot on my walk through Darling Harbour and on to Chinatown. I got onto Harris Street and saw an unusual truck with big black and yellow squares painted on it. There was a ute behind it also painted in glaring colours. The truck and the ute had illuminated electronic signs on their backs that told drivers coming up behind them to stay clear.

The two vehicles were making their way slowly up Harris Street taking down signs put up to make a clearway for New Year's Eve. The event finished and so the signs need to be taken down. The men in the two vehicles were jumping out of them to put up ladders and unscrew or otherwise unfasten the bright yellow signs that had been posted all along Harris Street before the event.

I made it back home after buying some sushi for lunch. After eating, I lay down and had a nap, knowing that I had to go to a psychiatrist's appointment later. I set the alarm. Before it went off I got up and left the apartment. I had to wait for about 30 minutes in the clinic's waiting room. I was somewhat restless due to the delay but reminded myself that it was like this every time I came to the psychiatrist's office. I always had to wait. When my turn came, the psychiatrist came out and called for me, so I went into his room and he closed the door.

I sat down in the chair he has assigned for patients' use and he sat down in his own chair. We faced each other and I talked about things that had happened recently, including the fact that I had gone to see a movie which was a musical. I talked about how rhyme and meter live on in popular culture even though in high-culture poetry they have been abandoned almost entirely. If a poem in one of our small literary magazines uses traditional rhyme and meter it is always striking for that reason, because since the 70s most avant garde poetry has eschewed rhyme and meter in favour of free styles.

My psychiatrist noted how I seemed to become animated when I talked about poetry, and it's true, I love poetry but I haven't written any for about two years. I haven't felt like writing anything during that time and it might have something to do with the move to Sydney, the fact that I'm not caring for mum any more, or something else. There are a number of reasons why I have given up writing, but it's not something that I regret. I just live with it.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Movie review: La La Land, dir Damien Chazelle (2016)

There's no definitive image that encapsulates the major themes of this movie so I just chose an image of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) looking into each other's eyes. The movie was a nice surprise, as I wasn't expecting much from a 2-hour rom-com where the main character is Hollywood itself. But Stone and - to a lesser extent - Gosling do bring out the best the script and the songs had to offer.

The movie charts the relationship of aspiring actress Mia and aspiring jazz pianist Sebastian as they navigate the vicissitudes of life in tinseltown. The bad casting meeting and the underwhelming band practice are put to the test against the love and support the two young people show for each other. Mia eventually finds her feet - partially, it turns out - by putting on a one-woman show and Sebastian does a stint on keyboards with a pop band whose sound he in fact hates.

Interspersed between the acting scenes are musical numbers and it's here that Gosling falls a bit flat. He can't sing, that's obvious, and the director gives him a lot less work to do. He can play the piano though, and the film's producers make sure he gets plenty of work to do on the ivories. Stone can sing, however, and she gets lots of work. The songs are uniformly good. The signature tune of the whole piece, City of Stars, appears at tonic moments to remind us that it is the lovers and dreamers who make the world turn. In fact, Mia includes words to this effect in one scene where she has been called to perform in front of the casting agents for a movie to be shot in Paris, which turns out to be the hinge on which her career swings.

The ending is endlessly poignant and touching, although you wonder what happened to some of their promises to one another. I can't recommend this film highly enough, though, especially to those who like to walk away from the cinema with a lump in their throats.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Blowing bubbles

This morning I took a walk down to Darling Harbour and saw that they had put up the ferris wheel again, after taking it down for the New Year festivities. They have also set up a big sandbox occupying about 100 square metres on the esplanade, with wooden sides and wooden chairs on the sand for people to sit on. There was one man doing little jumps for someone sitting in one of the chairs at the front, presumably his son or daughter, to make them laugh.

Under the Western Distributor there was a person wearing one of those outsize cartoon suits used to entertain children, except the character being represented was a policeman. He had a yellow face, a light blue shirt, dark blue pants, and a badge over the right side of the chest. I thought it was an interesting, if back-handed, way to impose order on the crowds; the toon was walking where the crowds were thin anyway.

Further down, in front of the CBA building someone was blowing bubbles, and the bubbles drifted out across the thoroughfare crossing the foot traffic.

I went down to Chinatown and saw people already sitting out on the tables eating lunch; it was later than my usual walk, already midday. The noise-reduction hoarding around the worksite for the light rail - the trains have been stopping at The Star and will continue to do so until 23 January - had been moved, I noticed. More of the road at the end of Dixon Street was open to car traffic. I made sure to cross with the light. Then I made my way along Ultimo Road to Harris Street, turned right and headed up toward home.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Holidays in January

Yesterday we went to Watsons Bay and parked the car at the top of the hill away from the traffic that clogs things up down in the valley. We walked down through the scrub along the path beside the cliff until we got to the park, then went down to the beach. I stood on the esplanade while she waded in the water. After she got out she brushed the sand off her feet with her shirt and put her shoes back on. Then we queued for fish and chips.

There was a lively little boy wandering around the queue talking to people. He was very chatty and curious about everything, and made lots of friends. We took our fish and chips to a table in the park and ate them there, then walked along Fishermans Walk to the steps at the end. After going up the slope we went down by the park to Camp Cove then headed off along the South Head walk maintained by the National Parks service. After we passed Lady Bay Beach we turned back and it started to rain immediately after we got back to the street. We sheltered under a tree until the rain slackened off, then walked back up the hill to the car and drove home.

This morning I set off into town and headed to the Vodafone shop on George Street. When I got there I found that it had closed. I fired up the mobile phone to use Google to search for an alternative store but as soon as the results appeared the phone shut down. It had been doing this for a few weeks recently, working fine but then suddenly shutting down for no reason. This was why I needed to replace it with a new one. Then I remembered that there was a Vodafone shop on Pitt Street Mall, so I headed there, and found it open.

Within 30 minutes I was walking out of the store with a new iPhone 7. The iPhone 4 it replaced had worked fine for most of seven years but in the end it just had to be replaced due to malfunction. Then I headed to Myer to buy some pants, as the pair I had worn to Watsons Bay the day before had ripped in the crotch. I found a size 42 in a tan colour but in my preferred colours of dark blue and black there were no 42s. I mentioned this to the cashier and she tried to find a pair for me in the storage room but there were none.

Aftger buying the pants I headed downstairs and ordered a kebab, which I ate at one of the very narrow tables they have in Westfield. It was uncomfortable but I got the thing eaten successfully without mishap or contretemps. I headed to Dymocks looking for a jigsaw puzzle for my sister-in-law but they didn't have the one she wanted. I left my phone number for them to call me back in case it was possible for them to order it, then I headed home and set up the new phone on the PC.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Some thoughts on using social media

Because the end of the year seems to be a time when everybody looks back over the past year and makes judgements, I thought I would take a look at some of the things that have occurred to me about using social media, which after all is a place where we spend growing amounts of time. It's not a trivial aspect of our lives any more, I think we can safely say. In fact, for some people - like me - social media forms an important component of the day.

I think the first thing that I should say about social media is that it works to make communities. If you work at it and develop larger communities of people in Facebook or Twitter you can easily spend hours without seeing the same messages twice. The important thing is to develop capacity in your feed sources by connecting with more people, who may be people who have views that are similar to yours or else they might have completely different ways of seeing the world. Developing capacity means connecting with other people to form a community that is resilient and strong, and that can provide you with the quantity of information that you need to get through the day. You don't want to run short of stories to read.

Once you have built a community of like-minded, or variously-minded, people you can start to talk to them regularly. But participating in social media isn't just a one-way thing, it's a conversation. So be prepared to have your off-the-top-of-your-head rant ignored if it is excessively narrow in scope or if it too negative. People like to respond to things that mean something to them personally, so try to be engaging in what you tweet or post. Reach out to all those lonely people out there in the social graph and try to make their day just that little bit better. Don't be shy. But don't be bitter either. Be positive and you'll find that your efforts are rewarded with the attention you crave online. You'll get likes and comments to things that appeal to your followers.

But if you don't then don't get despondent. Go back to the social graph and try to find a conversation that you can become part of. This can be painful. We like to think that our views and ideas are the most important things in the world. But they may not be. However there may be existing conversations out there in social media that you can tap into in a way that gives you the recognition that you crave.

I've written before about how social media is changing the way we deal with life by giving us a responsive locale where we can find the support we need to get by. Because it is always on, and because we can participate in it in meaningful ways, social media can play a role in alleviating isolation and giving us the sense of community that we need to survive. Humans are social animals, after all. I think that social media can help people to be more fully themselves at the same time as it gives us the opportunity to engage in online communities. By distancing sorrow, social media can help us in unique ways. Everyone has a burden to carry, and it reminds us that we can transcend those restraints by getting in touch with others in a public space.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Reveries during my quotidian walk

This morning for a change I went on my usual walk through Chinatown and up Harris Street. On the approaches to Darling Harbour the crowd-control fences had been put up leaving gaps so people could pass through. On the evening of 31 December those gaps will be closed off to limit the number of people who can go onto the Pyrmont Bridge and into the pedestrian area of Darling Harbour.

I saw a fat middle-aged man standing by the wayside and smoking, further down, past the Western Distributor, and he made me think of the way we fetishise longevity, as if living a long life were always the best thing. Having seem mum in her last five years of life I tend to wonder, myself. But the medical ethos means to strive to preserve life at all costs, so the medical profession goes all gung-ho about longevity, and getting people to live healthy lifestyles regardless of the cost emotionally.

The death of Carrie Fisher, and even more the death of George Michael, puts paid somewhat to those qualms. Who wants to live forever if it means going without the substances that we need to get through every day. I intend to read Fisher's memoir, in which she talks about self medication to deal with her mental illness. I've been living with mental illness for 17 years now, and I'm still struggling with the demons associated with it. It doesn't really help to know that you can "get help" because those people are just going to try to get you to stop the self-medication, which is not what I want. Why should I do something that I don't want to do just so that I can live 15 years longer?

So here's to George Michael, dead at 53. He was born in the year after me. By the time he came around musically however I was in my 20s, and well past the peak music-listening years, so he never had that much influence on me. And anyway I'm not gay. I think. Some people become gay in their later life. Hmm.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

It's Christmas Day

Well here we are again at Christmas time on a hot day in Sydney. The sun is out and the air is quiet as everything living takes shelter; all I can hear is the occasional cry from a group of revellers down in the park or in one of the highrises around here. Even the birds are mainly still and mute; an occasional trill reminds me of the presence somewhere out there of something living.

But I feel alive. I know I am alive because of this special feeling in my heart, a mixture of happiness and loneliness. It must have been this kind of feeling that motivated my father to put Christmas carols on the record player in the morning for Christmas Day, so that we kids could hear them as we made our way upstairs to where the Christmas tree had earlier been erected. A feeling like this must have motivated my mother even in her final years to always make sure we had some sort of bird cooked in the oven for Christmas Day. Her preparations on days earlier still a memory for me when I came over to celebrate the day with her in her small apartment in Queensland.

A strange mixture of happiness and loneliness, one inspired by closeness to all the things we love in the world, and by a separation from those same things that we know is equally eternal.

Later today I will be going off to celebrate the day with a friend at his brother's house. I will catch the train and then walk; it's not a long way. Long enough but not too long.

And I will walk through the quiet streets from which most people have been emptied by the nature of the day, as people spend time with those who are close to them. And I will think again with regret of the people left behind in the other country, people whose lives are now separate from mine. I made my choices and they made theirs and now here we are living ten thousand kilometres apart, separated by such distances as used to drive people insane. But at least we are still linked by that feeling, that strange mixture of happiness and loneliness that comes over us on Christmas Day and on other days like it in the calendar. Days of general slumber and relaxation, days of tender devotion and rarer joy.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

End of year shenanigans

During my regular walk today I found that the large, floating barge for public events that was usually moored at the head of Darling Harbour has been moved down to under the bridge, halfway down Darling Harbour. At this time of year you get a lot of people getting onto this structure as companies and other organisations hold their end-of-year celebrations.

There have been a lot of people embarking on boats in Darling Harbour due to end-of-year celebrations of late. I had a walk yesterday through crowds of them milling around the lower reaches of the harbour, near the city. They made getting through to Barangaroo very difficult.

Walking further up Darling Harbour, near where the Western Distributor crosses the area, there was a city ranger ushering people around a pool of vomit, which was coloured light pink. The loonies are out in force now, at this time of year, when people get out to celebrate and maybe indulge a little too fulsomely in the products of Australia's liquor suppliers, including wine and beer.

Yesterday it was hard to get through the area around the Pyrmont Bridge because of crowds. People have been gathering in Darling Harbour to get on boats to cruise around the harbour. It creates bottlenecks where usually you have no trouble getting through.

I got home later and had a nap, then she came over and we talked. I said some things that were unadvised but were due to still grieving for mum. I don't know when I will get over mum's death. She was everything to me for such a long time. I did my best for her, but she had to go. Her span ended, it's as simple as that. And now I am alone. I ask my friends to please be thankful for the things that they have, and in this way to send me their best wishes at this time.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Boys dressed as girls

When I was walking down to Darling Harbour I saw a group of boys dressed as girls. Well, in fact one of the boys was dressed as a box of beer, but that's just the way it turned out. In the main, the boys were dressed as girls. One of them was walking along in high heels and a skirt, waving at people on the opposite side of the road with his mouth fixed in a grin. It was funny, I suppose, although you wonder when a group of boys decides to bend the rules as far as this, what else are they willing to do?

This is just me talking as an old guy. Actually, I welcomed the young men walking down the street as young women. Aping the targets of their quotidian desire. That's the way it was.

In Chinatown everything was as normal. I crossed the street where the light rail goes and walked around Paddys Markets, which were closed. Then I walked up Harris Street and around Mary Ann Street it smelled. The birds nest in the trees and do their droppings on the pavement. I've been shat on once myself.

Looking back it was the young men dressed as young women who stole the show. If it had been the other way around - young women dressed as young men - it would have been a bit of comedy. But the way it was - young men dressed as young women - it was a bit of burlesque. Nothing else to compare it to. It was burlesque. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Black dog with blue eyes

No this is not an oblique way of talking about depression, although with the way she has been treating me you wouldn't blame me for doing so. Today on my usual walk through Chinatown I really saw a black dog - which looked like a wolf - with bright blue eyes.

It's eyes looked like lasers they were so bright. What kind of dog looks like this?

I got home after buying a banh mi at the local Vietnamese cafe, and eating it on the way, and then did the ironing. There were eight shirts, including two of the last lot of long-sleeve shirts. I got that done in about 30 minutes. I don't stint on quality when it comes to ironing shirts, I take my time to do it properly.

After the ironing I had a nap. During my nap she called me and we organised that she would come over to eat dinner at my place even though last night she said she wouldn't come for a couple of years. I didn't get angry. I never do. Women get angry. Men just get drunk. Which is what I have been doing since I went shopping for groceries. I needed food for meals and went to Coles. The eggplants were lovely and firm and dark and I bought one. I bought some delicious looking mushrooms, an avocado and a punnet of mixed olives.

Since I got home I have been sitting in front of the computer with the TV going in the background. I had a nice little chat with my daughter on Facebook Messenger. Mainly I have been getting slowly drunk. I can stop any time and cook dinner. I have tandoori curry paste and tomatoes ready for the vegetables. I can cook some Brussels sprouts and broccoli to go with the eggplant and sweet potato.

Friday, 2 December 2016

A new television

Yesterday morning after extracting some cash from the ATM at the convenience store I headed up the hill to go on my usual walk around Chinatown but the thought of the diminishing sound quality on my TV brought me back home, where I measured the old TV with a tape measure. I left the building this time via the fourth floor, which has a door that lets you out onto the park at the back of the building. I walked down the scrubby hill with its stairs to Saunders Street, around the Fish Market and across Pyrmont Bridge Road to go up Wattle Street toward Broadway Shopping Centre.

At Harvey Norman I told the salesman that I had a 2006 TV that needed to be replaced and it has a screen of 93 cm in size. He pointed me to three models of similar size and I chose another Samsung - the first one had done good service for 10 years so why not? - and paid before leaving the store. They told me the new TV would be delivered the next day. On the way home I stopped off at the Fish Market and bought some lunch.

This morning the TV delivery guy called me - as promised - about an hour before dropping the unit off at the lift. (He couldn't get the lift to go to my floor.) And the scaffolding guys were busy disassembling the scaffolding outside my front windows. Today for the first time in I can't remember how many months I was able to open the windows that give onto the balcony. I sit here with a glass of wine and listen to the world outside humming along as it used to do back before they started putting up the scaffolding - it has been more than a year now - including cars and trucks, fire engines and aeroplanes, dogs and young men shouting into the endless afternoon. (We have daylight saving every summer.)

I calculate how likely it is that it will rain. I love the rain. Just the sound of it on the balcony fills me with a weird happiness, as though the world were about - finally! - to come to an end, and I was to be an observer of the event. Going by this afternoon's hum it seems likely that it won'r rain. But it's hot enough for a good summer shower. There are dark clouds in the sky. Perhaps it will rain this afternoon after all?

Monday, 28 November 2016

A sick pigeon

As I was walking down Dixon Street near Goulburn Street today I saw a sick pigeon sitting on he pavement. The poor creature looked bedraggled and wan, just sitting there on the grey pavement with its feathers sort of ruffled and not smooth. It's head was down pointing toward the pavement and its shoulders were hunched.

Probably if I were a kinder and more decent human being I would have picked up the poor thing but with avian diseases you never know ... In any case, I left it there to cope with its hardships on its own and continued walking down the street on my own way.

It wasn't so long before that I had been like a sick pigeon on the pavement myself, liquored up with white wine at 1pm and feeling sorry for myself. Then she called and we had one of those long, rambling romantic conversations which end up with both sides agreeing but it takes forever to reach that point, oh the hardships and the pain that has to be recounted by both parties. Anyway that turned out ok and I wasn't head-down on the pavement myself as a result, just flat out on my back in bed sleeping off a drunk.

Then later in my walk as I was crossing Fig Street I thought about her because I had driven up Fig Street in the car on my way home from her place yesterday after having dropped her off at her place.

As for the poor pigeon, I doubt anyone did anything for the sorry little thing, it's probably dead by now or sitting unfed somewhere with people walking past uncaring. Like one of  those smelly bundles of clothes you see on the street, which way is the head and which way are the feet. There was Mr Smelly yesterday saying hello to the firies at Pyrmont Christmas Party at John Street Square. I was walking right behind him so I knew that he was homeless, although he didn't necessarily look like it. He just looked a bit unkempt and the shirt was a bit sweaty, but with a shower and a load of laundry he'd have come up ok.

God forbid if ever I should end up like that, destitute on the street with noone to turn to, all my friends long lost. I've got an appointment with the psychiatrist tomorrow so that should be ok.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Up on Manning River

On Friday I got in the car about midday and drove north onto the Pacific Highway on the way to my cousin's place on the Manning River, which is located a couple of hours north of Newcastle. The trip up took four-and-a-half hours. I could feel the steering wheel start to vibrate at around 110km/hr but as usual I sat at around 90km/hr to 100km/hr for most of the trip even though the highway in that region is now completely divided and the speed limit is 110km/hr for most of the way.

I arrived in the late afternoon and was soon sitting in front of a beer as the family circulated around me. The house is built on a hill in front of a curve of the river, with the upstream side curling around to the left in the photo. The river in this stretch is tidal and they say bull sharks breed in the deep waters off the bank. Around the dining table conversations formed and broke up as people came and went. I retired later than the rest, had a shower, and went to bed.

On Saturday morning we all piled in the car - my cousin, her husband, two of their children, and a friend of their oldest daughter - and went to a lagoon fringed by scrubby eucalypts. I stayed with the clothes on the bank while the rest of the group went swimming. It turned out to be a hot day. After swimming, we went further down the road and had fish and chips for lunch, then headed back to the house. We sat around talking for a while then I had a nap. Later, we drank beer and sat on the balcony overlooking the river and ate chips.

Yesterday morning I woke up early as I had previously on the river and then had some breakfast before getting back in the car for the trip home. It seemed to take less time going south, than it had going north. I stopped a couple of times for coffees and food and water. Coming back into the confines of Sydney I felt slightly claustrophobic, as I usually do when I get off the highway at Hornsby. After arriving home and napping for a couple of hours a friend came over and we had dinner.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Reflections on my state of mind

Over the past few days people have been contacting me about my blogposts asking if I was feeling suicidal, because I had said that I was happy with life and could end it without any qualms. But I think that the blogposts contain quite another message. In fact, I think that it is an extremely life-affirming stance to take.

I was thinking about these things while I was taking my usual walk today down through Chinatown and up Harris Street. It's a Monday today and so Paddy's Markets is closed. There weren't as many people around as there sometimes are.  During the walk, in fact, I was feeling really positive and happy about things, in a way which is perhaps unusual. I was quite content.

Things are different later, after lunch, when it comes the time to have a nap. I don't usually like having a nap during the day unless I'm particularly tired, but these days I have been fine except on the weekend when I had a friend over who broke up my routine a bit. When the friend left, I had a nap.

I had a dream last night about school again. It's usually a dream I have where I haven't been studying my French, and have been missing classes - something that never happened in real life, I was always very punctual and dutiful when it came to attending classes. But last night the experience was transposed to university. I used to have regular dreams about the higher school certificate - the matriculation examination that all year-12s have to sit in New South Wales. I don't know why this time it was French that was giving me trouble because at school I was very good at French and eventually topped the year with my mark.

Then the dream shifted and I was back at Yamatake unpacking rocket capsules make from cardboard. The capsules had cardboard figures that were painted, in them, and floppy disks to operate the figures, and all the necessary parts that I had made all those years ago. But now they were being unpacked and given the respect they deserved as elements of the company's historical record.

Strange little dreams on a strange day. 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Sitting inside on a November day

Yesterday morning I went for a walk in company to Barangaroo instead of to Chinatown and ended up not in the park (it's such a tiny little park) but in a gelato bar having a flat white while my companion had a gelato milkshake (if there is such a thing). I caught a bit of sun, as you can see. It was a hot and sunny day and we were walking at the hottest time of the day.

I got back home today after dropping my friend off at her apartment and went back to bed to have a nap. I dreamt about my father, which is unusual. What was more unusual was that it was a civil and polite dream. Normally when I dream about him it is an anxious and disturbed dream.

He was a younger man than I am now and I was explaining to him some things about demography and the economy in Australia. I remember from the dream that he listened to what I was saying politely. I took this as proof that I have surpassed my father in some essential quality, in something like wisdom, as I enter the last stage of my life. I have become the bigger man, at least in my eyes. The lack of anxiety - which normally accompanies dreams I have where he appears, as I mentioned - serves for me as a kind of signal that I have achieved something important in life.

My blogpost of yesterday contains a few clues about where my head is these days. I have reached a kind of impasse vis-a-vis experience, and feel myself to have come to a kind of limit in life where the rewards of experience are totalled up against time served. (Excuse the penal metaphor.) The dream gave me an idea that I have reached a kind of acme of contentment and self-awareness - I am a bit afraid to talk of wisdom - beyond which it is not really possible to go.

This might be cause for some alarm. In normal circumstances. But other things that are happening tell me that I am not far off the truth. I feel quite happy with things now and would be happy to drop of the proverbial branch in the near future as long as it wasn't too painful. I guess I have my father to thank for this realisation. No doubt he served other purposes during my life. But my life has been long enough and I see no particular reason to continue it. Come what may.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Demolition of IMAX

Under the Western Distributor they've constructed hoardings to keep people away from the IMAX, which is currently being demolished. A big crusher on wheels is attacking the theatre's external parts each day, ripping pieces off and chomping into the wooden structure. The Darling Harbour managers constructed a walkway on the outside of the hoarding so that people can still get from the south side of Darling Harbour to its north side.

I walked past this demolition site today as well as yesterday but this photo was taken yesterday.

Once I went to a film showing at IMAX. It was a Harry Potter film, I remember. I remember the theatre was very steep, constructed at a sharp angle against the enormous screen. You had to go down a lot of stairs to reach street level.

For myself, I am almost ready to go. I will do what I can to help my family but after those measures are in place I don't care how long I continue to live. All I want is to make sure my family is looked after. I know it sounds a little melodramatic to say this but it's true. I have been through so much in my life, and I am almost at an end of the process of discovery. There are no new things under the sun, and I can happily pass to the other side of the dark curtain that separates us from the other life, the life of the spirit.

What happens to us in that other life I don't know. Perhaps we drift on the winds in clouds like transparent jellyfish, watching the living go about their daily activities and praying for their wellbeing. Someone has to be watching out for us, we are so fragile. I hope it will be me. I can do it. I can look down on the crowds of the living marching up Market Street of a morning before work, bags over their shoulders or held in their sweaty hands. I can wait at the lights while they stop at the cafe for a cup of brown before going into the office. I can do all that. Let me.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Major loony wins US election

The Sydney Morning Herald is currently giving Donald Trump 264 electoral votes out of 270. It looks therefore as though the American people have done the unthinkable and elected a complete loon to their highest office.

The signs were there from the beginning of the evening, when Hillary started to lose key states like Florida and Ohio. Now, Trump is even looking set to win traditionally Democrat states like Michigan and Wisconsin. He has targeted the rust belt, the areas hit most forcefully by the GFC, where property prices have collapsed and people are trying just to get away, if they can.

Trump's foreign policy looks likely to set the US on a track of aggression against China - he wants a 45% import tax on goods and services supplied from China to the US - and he also wants foreign nations like South Korea and Japan  to pay for more of their own defense. This means that Japan and South Korea will be forced to develop their own nuclear defense programs. As far as Australia goes, it is likely that we will be more responsible for our own defense and the US might even pull its Marines out of Darwin as it scales back operations globally.

At least now we know that Trump was right when he called this pending election "Brexit plus plus plus". This is a backlash of the American white working class against its traditional rulers - the college-educated middle class. And it is a stunning victory, one which noone could have seen coming. We'll have to see if China now decides that it's a good time to invade Australia, but there are millennarian feelings and intimations surrounding current events that make such an outcome seem at least possible.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

A windy Saturday

I noticed on the way through John Street Square this morning that the light rail had been stopped and that they had put on buses to transport prospective passengers to their destinations both up and down the line. In the Haymarket I saw the reason for the stoppage: a fairly major exercise in repairing the tracks, or something possibly related to the introduction of a light rail line along George Street in the CBD. The photo shows the measures the authorities have set up in the Haymarket to suppress sound from the repairs.

Back up on Harris Street a young woman sat in a car facing south with a paddy wagon with flashing lights sitting behind it. She looked preoccupied, as I suppose you would be in that circumstance.

It was a windy day out, with whitecaps on the harbour up behind Pyrmont and dark water generally about the place. The gusts of wind pulled up my shirttails and had made women tie up their hair. In Chinatown the restaurant spruikers were out in numbers but the tables were empty; no doubt it was too windy to sit outside under the trees. The trees up along Harris Street were still dusting the footpaths with their seeds.

Walking in the bright sunshine of a Sydney weekend I thought of my family in Tokyo and how they would have liked to be able to visit in this kind of weather. The restaurants for tourists along the Darling Harbour waterfront were doing good business as it was sunny and warm. Ideal weather for people to sit on the tables under the umbrellas designed to keep the sun off diners.

For myself, I stopped at one of my usual Japanese restaurants on Harris Street in my locality and had a bowl of udon with karaage chicken and a stein of beer. Then I went home and had a nap.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Still missing Japan

Late this morning I went for my customary walk down to Chinatown and up Harris Street back home, stopping off at a Japanese place for a bowl of noodles for lunch. Once home I did the ironing and then had a short nap. I got up at about 4pm to step up to the computer. And then at some point in the late afternoon I contacted my daughter on Facebook Messenger.

Messenger has changed its layout, moving the service to a dedicated URL and making the interface a bit bigger and brighter. It's not at all an improvement as far as I'm concerned because you need to open a new tab now to use it, so it's less easy to use for me. But at least it works in the same way that it has always done, which is a relief.

I miss my kids terribly after getting back from Japan a week ago. Their lack has replaced the lack of my mother that dominated my life previously. I still remember Adelaide introducing her boyfriend to me one day in Chinatown, Yokohama. We went to a nice restaurant and drank beer while eating our way through the course meal. Courses of food that are modified for the Japanese palate, not like the authentic stuff they served me in the Chinese place in my hotel in Shibuya.

Adelaide and Ryo - for that is his name - took me for a walk around the Yokohama foreshore until we arrived back at a railway station where I could catch a train back to Shibuya. They were courteous and considerate. They chatted easily between themselves. I could feel that they liked each other, which is the most important thing for people their age from my point of view. Later, when Adelaide and her mother and I were sitting around in her flat in northern Yokohama, I asked if she wanted to marry Ryo. She said she had talked about it with Ryo. They had discussed having children. They had discussed Ryo's job. There were a lot of things to talk about.

What was clear however was that my daughter wants me to be part of the process of discussion. She had introduced her boyfriend to me even before introducing him to her mother, after all. She thinks I still have something to contribute.

My son also tells me things about his girlfriend. These children are still looking for guidance and help in their early maturity. It's up to me and my ex-wife to try to deliver the help that they need, when they need it. It's out job, and we are obliged to take it seriously.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Taking a stroll on Melbourne Cup day

This morning I got out on time - at about 10.15am - and made my way down to Darling Harbour. As I was going down the hill next to the entry to Pyrmont Bridge a guy on a bike riding the opposite way up the hill looked at me and told me to "smile, buddy". Which I thought was unfair so soon after getting out of bed. Maybe he had been up for hours, I don't know. But I had only been awake for about 30 minutes at that point.

I made my way under the bridge past the first of the restaurants - which were already open for breakfast or whatever it is they serve at that time on a weekday - and came across the assemblage of things shown in the photo here where an enormous TV had been set up on the concourse with fake grass and chairs in front of it. Next to the furniture was a TAB van painted green - and there was another van exactly the same further down near the CBA offices - with mostly men in green-and-white striped shirts hanging around. One or two people were sitting in the big padded chairs on the Astroturf. It was a bit early for punting, but everything had been set up in preparation for a big day. Maybe this was what the cyclist had been telling me to smile about.

On Harris Street a butterfly or moth coloured black and yellow dropped in front of me, startling me, as I walked up the street.

I got back home and had some lunch and then lay down for a nap while setting the alarm on my phone to wake me up for an appointment I had later in the afternoon. When I got up I put my clothes back on and went out. I walked down Harris Street to Miller Street, and at the intersection there a Commodore sedan suddenly started flashing police lights, making itself known to the flow of traffic. I turned into Miller Street and walked down toward the Fish Market. At the lights at the bottom of the street was a marked police van waiting for the lights to change, travelling south. When I got to my appointment I tweeted from the waiting room that there were cops all over Pyrmont, to which someone online asked "why". "Melbourne Cup," I answered. 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

First walk to Chinatown after trip to Japan

You could see cars of this calibre in Tokyo squeezing through the crowds in Shibuya or roaring down the street in Roppongi, but this little monster I caught on camera just at my local up the street here in Pyrmont turning right out of John Street into Harris Street. These beasts tend to make a bit of noise as they toodle along. I turned the camera to landscape to quickly capture this image and turn it into a feature spot in this blogpost.

This morning I set out on my customary walk a little later than usual, at around 11.30am, so I didn't snap this photo until around 1.15pm after I had had lunch at the Vietnamese joint down the street. It was pho, of course, and very spicy. Just like the car.

There were a lot more people than usual in Chinatown because of the time of day when I chose to get out and about. I didn't actually time it to be like this. It's just that I'm still recovering from the lack of sleep due to the 9-hour flight from Tokyo. I should be right and back on time by tomorrow. We'll see.

The seagulls were busy on my walk anyway. I saw one cramming a big piece of bread into its mouth and flying off, followed by a trail of other gulls - flying so close to the humans walking along that they almost collided with them - out over the bay. I brought my hands up to protect my face but the gulls seemed to have got the manoeuvres under wraps as they wheeled and veered to get out of our way. I was impressed by their acrobatic skills.

Around Paddys Markets the tall guy in the gaudy costume was plying his trade. I'm not sure what that is. Whether it's to distribute messages of goodwill or to curry favour with passersby and collect donations, I'm not entirely sure. He is a remarkable sight however and you can see him at any time after about 10am in the area - either in Dixon Street or nearby - on his stilts whirling hoola hoops around his hips. He seems to be aged around 60. But who knows?

On a sunny spring day like this the young people were out in numbers taking advantage of the good weather. I rambled my accustomed way up Harris Street toward home, taking notice of noone and taken notice of by noone. A ghost. A shadow. Just me.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Adjusting to Sydney after two weeks in Japan

Readjusting to the rhythms of life in Sydney after spending two weeks in Japan is proving to be problematic. I had a busy time there seeing family and friends and I came away feeling sort of at home. I felt welcome there, even a bit appreciated. The hotel in Shibuya turned out to be a real treat as on its second floor it has three restaurants - an Italian one, a Japanese one and a Chinese one - so I didn't even have to go out in the streets for dinner at night. The Chinese place was established by the mentor of Chen Kenichi - one of the Iron Chefs from the TV program - and they served authentic Sichuan food as well as some other, less fiery dishes.

The weather in Tokyo was fine every day except for one day. I bought an umbrella on that day but left it in the hotel room after I left the country. Shibuya's famous Tokyu chika gai was also a reliable resort. The liquor store there sells a range of good, inexpensive chardonnays - I tried ones from Australia, California and France - and I would buy a bottle usually every second day to drink in my room while watching Japan's famously irrational TV game shows. I loved just sitting back and letting the inanity wash over me in the afternoons, until dinner would draw me out of my room.

That's not all I miss about Japan, of course. It was great seeing the kids again, and I also met up with old friends I used to work with 20 years ago in Shibuya. They took care of me and even invited me to their home for dinner and good conversation.

I had laundry to do when I got back but on returning home I found that the washing machine had stopped working again. I called the repairman and he said he will come by this afternoon. He recently moved his family into the apartment above mine in the building. Meanwhile, I went out to lunch today and headed to the Japanese restaurant where I ate a bowl of udon in a beef curry soup.

I really miss Japan this time. It was expensive living in such a cushy hotel but it was worth it. Being in Shibuya again after so many years of coming back there made me contemplative. The wine and TV took the edge off the melancholy, but I find that now I am back in Sydney I continue to feel sad. Japan is a special place. The Japanese like to think that they are different from other places, but it's true to a large degree. They are different. And it's because of the way people take care of even the smallest things, and pay their respects to the simple gods of the mundane world.