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's 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 off 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.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Day before the trip to Japan

This morning as usual I went for a walk to Chinatown. Because the scaffolding is still up around my building I couldn't go outside on the balcony to test the air, so when I got to the street I found that it was quite cold. I went back inside to get a jacket to wear on my walk.

In Darling Harbour there were few people - not unusual for a Tuesday - and I ambled along thinking about this and that, but mainly focusing on the things that I still have to do before the flight tomorrow evening. The plane departs at 10pm which means I will have to be at the airport at 8pm, so I'll have to leave home at about 7.30pm to get a cab.

When I got down to Paddys Market there were some people ahead of me holding their phones up to the sky and so I turned around to see what they were looking at, to find it was a plane skywriting. I couldn't see what was being written but it looked like there was at least a "J" and another character already written in the sky with smoke. I passed by the small gathering of people and then at the next lights walked into a group of students being taken round the traps on a tour. The tour guide had on an orange T-shirt and the students each had an orange label around their necks on a lanyard.

On Harris Street it was quiet, the only difference from normal being that I was lucky with the traffic lights, which all seemed to change to green for me as soon as I arrived at the kerb. I headed up to Pyrmont and ducked into Kura where I had a beer and a bowl of udon (thick wheat noodles) with karaage chicken (fried chicken). After lunch I continued on home and put the laundry on in the machine, because I will need some more trousers for the trip tomorrow to pack in my suitcase.

Then I headed to bed and had a short nap, and got up just in time for the washing machine to finish its cycle. I put the first load of laundry in the dryer, switched on the TV and got myself a cup of cold coffee. I noted happily that the ALP caucus has voted against allowing a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, so the bill to hold the plebiscite will not pass through the Senate and will therefore not become law. We'll have to wait until the Coalition is voted out of office next time for the Parliament to vote on same-sex marriage.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Staying inside on an overcast Saturday

When I first got up my first inclination was to do a longer-than-usual-walk up to Newtown to buy coffee but a quick look outside at the overcast sky determined me to stick to my usual route through Chinatown. Once I was outside, however, I could smell the moisture in the air and decided to call off the walk for today.

The picture you can see here is one I took yesterday while entering Darling Harbour from the north - as usual, just after coming out from under the Pyrmont Bridge - and it shows a bunch of people on exercise bikes doing riding to raise money. I heard someone on the loudspeaker - you can see the DJ's blue-and-white tent to the left - as I was walking away talking about how much they had raised.

It's a shame the weather is so bad today because I like going for a walk. In fact, I miss it if I cannot go. And I miss it now. But I don't want to carry an umbrella and I don't want to get caught in the rain. The last time it started raining during the walk I had to jump in a cab on Harris Street and ride home which cost me $10.

This morning I installed the GIMP graphics software to help me with images. It's freeware so I don't have to pay for it. When I reset my computer a few days ago all the application software I had installed was deleted. I have just got Outlook to recognise emails for the two main email addresses I use. There will be other software that I will have to install in future, but at least I got the Microsoft stuff I need for daily tasks installed.

But it's just remarkable how merely moving your legs makes you feel good. I get along when I walk at a relatively slow pace, usually, but I still can feel the tendons and muscles in my legs being stretched. And that's what feels so good when you walk.

I don't really mind sitting at home alone doing social media, on the other hand. It's just that the fitness I get from walking is good for my waistline and for general bodily health. I also went shopping yesterday - in addition to the regular walk - and I bought a lot of vegetables, because I have decided only to eat veges in the evenings. It's my new regime. Mornings for breakfast I don't eat anything. Then at lunch I can eat what I want - including a big bowl of Japanese noodles if I feel like it, along with some gyouza should it take my fancy - but at dinner time from now on it'll just be veges on my plate. (And I'm using a smaller plate than formerly.) So last night I used up the rest of the opened jar of Thai red curry paste to make a vege curry with eggplant, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Windy Saturday walk

I entered Darling Harbour in the wake of an elderly man in a fawn-coloured jacket - he must have been 75 if he was a day - who was ambling along at just my rate of progress, so he stayed ahead of me for a while and then disappeared into the crowd. It's a Saturday and the crowds are thicker on these days. Suddenly he was gone, just like that. I simply continued ahead down the bay and underneath the Western Distributor despite the fierce wind blowing from in my face.

At Paddys Market a young woman who looked like Lionel Shriver, the author, with blonde hair and a delicate face, turned to me out of the crowd and pulled some hair back from her right ear while asking the way in an American accent to Darling Harbour. Well, I thought, there are several options. But I chose to tell her the easiest one - from my point of view - which was the reverse of the route I had just taken down Dixon Street after crossing Harbour Street at the Liverpool Street pedestrian bridge. I told her to turn left at the servicemen's memorial statue across the bridge into Darling Harbour.

It's always a relief for someone - like me - who has a beard, to be asked directions. It means that you don't look totally strange and unkempt. Maybe the young woman thought I looked like a local just out for a walk. If so, she was right on the money in her judgement. After giving directions I continued up Ultimo Road to Harris Street and turned right as usual. There were a few pedestrians on Harris Street but fewer up at the Pyrmont end which was my destination. The seeds were flying again today willy-nilly and accreting in any available crack or obstruction on the footpath. Even where there was no obstruction the seeds built up into little mounds, except where people walk. But even then, even where people were walking the seeds were building up into little piles. They were everywhere.

I had been planning my lunch while walking up Harris Street and when I got home I took two eggs out of the fridge and broke them into a pan, grabbed two slices of brown bread from the bag in the fridge and popped them into the toaster, and cut the remaining avocado, but it turned out to be completely brown so I had to throw it away. Instead of avocado with the toast I cut slices of cheddar cheese and put them on the toast, then laid the eggs over the top. The eggs had already been seasoned while in the pan with salt and pepper. So that was my lunch today.

Friday 30 September 2016

Installing a new printer

A couple of days ago I noticed that print jobs that had been sent to the printer were still in the queue even after a week and so I tried to clear them. Unfortunately, the control for this process in the software didn't work. I had also noticed that the printer was not printing dark enough and so I went out to buy some new cartridges from the stationery store. The new cartridges however made no difference. With two printer problems current - and a legacy problem from a long time back relating to the remote backup drive for the PC - I decided to get a technician out to have a look at things.

I called the service and they scheduled a technician for Thursday morning early, and he arrived. He tried printing the default control pages that are designed to let you gauge the performance of the printer, but the black wasn't working at all for him. We switched out the old black cartridge for a new black cartridge but the problem wouldn't go away. The printer queue problem was another matter but since the printer wasn't working as designed he told me to get a new printer, which I did later the same day.

After opening the printer's packing box and placing the printer where I wanted it to go, I tried to install the driver software. The device driver executable in the package on a CD-ROM referred me to a website and I downloaded the printer drivers from there, which took some time due to download speeds. I set up the printer using the screens that came up and then tried to print from a PDF a document that needed to be printed but the name of the new printer wasn't in the list of available devices. I typed in the name of the new printer over the top of the old printer, but it still told me the device was offline.

I went back to the device driver CD-ROM and installed the software from it this time but with the same result. Then this morning I called the technicians and booked another service visit for Tuesday because Monday is a public holiday. I also talked about the problems with my brother - who is a bit of a whiz with technology - and he told me to go into the devices page in Windows, which I did. I tried to install the new printer from there but it said that the device was not visible on the network. So we'll have to see what the technician says on Tuesday. Meanwhile the number of documents I need to print out just piles up. I hope I remember all of them when the printer finally comes online.

Sunday 25 September 2016

A walk on a busy Sunday morning

When I headed out for my walk this morning it was sunny and warm, and it had rained earlier in the morning. There were puddles on some of the pavements, and the corners of the buildings were damp. I went past the homeless man across the road from the casino, and he had little blocks of different-coloured glass near his collection hat; it was a cap that had just been turned upside down for people to throw coins into. The man himself was asleep on the footpath and people were walking around him.

I'd like to see him trying to sleep on that pavement on a work day, I imagined to myself. After getting through Darling Harbour I saw a plastic syringe without a needle sitting on the parapet next to a green, transparent plastic spoon on the bridge at Liverpool Street over Harbour Street. There were drifts of sand up Goulburn Street where the cars had pushed it aside from the wheel tracks.

Dixon Street south of Goulburn was busy as usual on a Sunday morning, with all the restaurant tables set out on the mall for people wanting to sit down and eat Chinese food. Some people were already sitting at the tables, waiting for their food. A yum-cha place near the top of the hill only had a few people sitting outside at tables.

Harris Street was almost deserted, with only a few people walking along. There was an Indian couple - aged in their twenties - walking up Harris Street and the man was dragging a wheeled shopping basket that had loose wheels. I felt like going up to him to tell him about the situation, for what good is a shopping trolley that has wheels that do not turn?

The airborne seeds from two days ago had all settled down and were lying in patches in the gutters and around the bases of the trees standing in their plots cut into the pavement. Some seeds were caught in the cracks between pavements. In any case, they were not flying around as they had been a couple of days before. Now they were all sitting quietly in silence as the world moved past around them.

Friday 23 September 2016

Flying seeds!

When I was coming to the end of my walk today - a windy, warm day in spring - I could see thousands of seeds from the trees that line the street flying in the air. The seeds congregated on the dry footpaths, creating eddies and whorls as they slipped along on the torrents of air. Harris Street was replete with the moving currents of seeds shaped like little umbrellas. The seeds have a hairy fringe that allows them to catch the slightest breeze. In the strong wind as we had today they were shooting in streams through the air, catching the light.

It reminds me of the changing seasons. Soon I shall be in Japan in the autumn, watching the cold weather come on in the evenings as I catch the train back home in the evening to my hotel from where my family lives in northern Yokohama.

When I called the travel agent yesterday the young woman who answered the phone told me she was Brazilian, and so would not have any trouble with my name. She said "amazing" all the time. Like, all the time. "Do you have any preference for a place to stay," she asked me. "I want to stay at the Excel Hotel Tokyu Shibuya," I said. "Amazing," she replied. "And have you got a budget?" "No but I am only booking the flights and the hotel and I think the hotel is about $250 per night," I told her. "Amazing," she said.

She asked me if I was from Brazil and I had to tell her that my grandfather had come to Australia from Africa in 1924. I can't remember if she said "amazing" in reply to this, but it's highly likely. But it is amazing that he came here when he did, at a time when even immigrants from Southern Europe were rare. White Australia. Yay. Not.

Thursday 22 September 2016

A rainy day out

In a positive mood because I had finally decided that I would travel to Japan to see my kids, I went for a walk as usual, heading down through Darling Harbour. Under the Western Distributor there were three schoolgirls in uniform with packets of McDonald's chips in their hands, and they were starting to run because one of them had foolishly given a chip to a seagull. As a consequence, a dozen other seagulls had started gliding in their direction through the pre-lunchtime crowd. As I walked away I could hear their squeals and laughter as they negotiated this new obstacle in their progress.

The seagulls in Darling Harbour fear nothing, and noone.

A little later, in Dixon Street, I saw a McDonald's chip packet on the pavement with a 'Monopoly' label on it. "That's about right," I thought cynically to myself as I walked past this potential cultural relic announcing something in the way of the downfall of Western civilisation. What we throw away, I mused, tells as much about us as what we keep. It reminded me of the inspirational video on Facebook that someone had posted overnight, and which I woke up to in the News Feed in the morning. I had watched about four minutes of the video before shutting it down, irritated by the blase rendition of passe cliches that it represented. What we ignore tells us as much about us as what we faithfully consume to the end ...

But it was true of course by this time of the day that I had nothing specific planned for the rest of the day. What would I be doing in the afternoon? Inspirational videos that might make a difference in my life are surely things that I can benefit from. I really wanted to be a poet. And to see my kids in Japan. Easy things first, then. First the kids, then the poetry. I thought - now that the probate has been granted - that it was a good time to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The drudgery of executing my mother's Will was as nothing compared to the rewards that awaited if I played my cards right. It had been - what? Three years? - since I had seriously written any poetry. I had given up partly because of the move to Sydney - moving home can be very traumatic - and partly because of the lack of recognition. But wasn't I just giving in callowly for shallow reasons?

As I came up Ultimo Road it started to rain so when I was at Mary Ann Street I caught a cab back home, ducked into the sandwich shop, and bought a schnitzel roll and some chips. If you want to plan your future, I reasoned, you have to have a full stomach to do it on.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Catching up with an acquaintance

Last night I set the alarm for 8.30am because I had an appointment in Glebe this morning to meet with an acquaintance I had done business with back in 2013 and -14. It was at that time that I had visited Ecuador, where this friend was living at the time. I had also met his wife and another man, who was studying American Indians in their local areas.

When I arrived at the cafe in Glebe there was noone there so I hung around outside to wait in the street until he arrived. After a while he appeared and we sat down at a table outside and ordered coffees. Conversation took off as we caught up on what had happened since we had last met - in 2013 in Ecuador - until we were surprised in our discussion by the other man who had been in Ecuador three years earlier, and who now sat down with us to order some breakfast. I ordered a salmon special, my friend ordered corn fritters, and the new gentleman ordered smashed avocado on sourdough bread.

Sydney is really a small town. Imagine the odds of the three of us meeting here - even though two of us had organised to meet there - on Glebe Point Road in the morning three years on from our first meeting in Quito, Ecuador. There is something magical about Sydney and the way it organises things for us, despite our prior planning.

The three of us talked for an hour or so then I made my excuses and left and made my way back down Bay Street, through Wentworth Park, and along Wattle Street, then past the Fish Market and home. I lay down when I got home and slept for a while. The intercom might have buzzed - I'm not sure - but I will check the letter box in the morning (I am awaiting a delivery of wine). After a while I got up and opened the mail I had collected from the letter box after returning home in the morning. Then I called Medibank Private health insurers to tell them that mum had died, as I had received an invoice from them for mum's health insurance. I also paid an amount for strata levies using my internet banking interface.

Sunday 18 September 2016

A rainy Sunday at home

When I awoke early this morning to a bad dream I got up and made myself a cup of coffee, planning to drink it then go back to bed and so miss out on the rest of the dream that was troubling me. Which is what I did. I eventually got up at around 10am and went out the back to the library to see outside (the scaffolding is still up out the front windows). I had an inkling that it was raining. It was. I went back to the computer and spent more time on social media instead of going out for a walk.

Eventually, I went back to bed and dozed for a couple of hours. I had only eaten two slices of toast with Vegemite in the morning - usually I don't eat any breakfast - but now as I was lying there in bed I realised that I was peckish. I put on shoes and a slicker and headed out, going first to the convenience store to use the ATM, then heading up the road to the Vietnamese cafe where I ordered a chicken pho to eat in.

Also in the restaurant was a young couple with a baby in a stroller. (Some people call them buggies.) At some point the mother - I assume it was a married couple with their baby - started to sing 'Twinkle, twinkle little star' and laugh at the same time, alternating between singing and laughing. Her bubbly laughter filled the restaurant. I contemplated as to when the song had been written. The doubt expressed in the song about the nature of stars made me think that it must have been written after the great astronomical discoveries of the 16th century had become more well-known in subsequent ages. It might have been a 19th century composition, I mused. But after a while the woman stopped and the young couple got up to leave.

I walked back with my umbrella open against the fine rain that was falling. The air was fresh and brisk, there was no sun at all. I came home and went to bed, then, unable to sleep, I got up and ironed the shirts, and put away the laundry I had done in the morning. Then I poured a glass of wine and sat down to write a blogpost, as you can see.

Friday 16 September 2016

A drive out to visit St Peter's in Watson's Bay

This morning I went out to St Peter's Church in Watson's Bay to drop off mum's ashes for interment. As I have mentioned beforfe here, St Peter's has a columbarium - a reserved place for dead people's ashes with gardens built into it - where my grandmother was also interred in 1995. 21 years later I went back with mum's ashes. My brother and I had chosen a niche close to granny's as mum's final resting place.

For the past two months mum's ashes have sat in my hallway near the bedroom, in fact not far from a portrait of granny I had made in 1981 in acrylics. Granny had kept a weather eye out in the hallway in case of any nocturnal visions. Many a time I had gone to the loo at midnight in the dark with the fear of the other world in my veins. Granny kept me safe, I suppose, though I never actually felt anything malevolent emanating from mum's ashes sitting there - as they were - in a white paper bag on the floor.

To get to St Peter's I went out down Cleveland Street and up to the Bondi Junction Bypass - near to which a highway patrol car sat threateningly by the curb - and then down Old South Head road all the way out to the peninsula where the church is situated. It's a different road now, with more traffic than there was in my day. There are lots of SUVs turning and parking by the curb along the main road. People honk at each other in the crowded conditions (which I thought is a bit unnecessary) and zoom around when they have right of way. Or even when they don't. People out in the Eastern Suburbs feel entitled to drive like this, and I was glad to get to the turn-off to the church on the old road. I turned into the driveway and parked the car.

The first thing I noticed was the new building (see pic) which has been built in the place where the old kindergarten hall used to be located. I remember going to kindergarten at St Peter's, associated - as it was - with Cranbrook. We had naps in the hall during the day on little cots that were set up for the purpose. I remember playing on the grass out front, and getting picked up in mum's Morris Minor when she came at the end of the day to collect me. The hall was the location also of school plays at the end of the year. I might have been an angel in one of them, I can't recall.

This time, however, I walked through the swing doors and into the Parish Office set in the top corner of the new building and said hello to the staffer whom I had communicated with earlier by email. She took the bag containing the ashes and remarked on how heavy the ashes were. I agreed with her. She showed me the bronze plaque that was made - in Melbourne - for installation on the niche where the ashes will be interred in the brick wall. All the details on the plaque she showed me were correct. It had mum's name, my father's name, my brother's name and my name. It had the date of birth and of death. It had everything that was necessary. I drove home down along New South Head Road and through the Cross City Tunnel to the Fish Market.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Une journée du ciel gris

I'm not sure of my French here but it looks accurate. Or is it "au ciel gris"? Can't be helped, but I was reminded of French when I thought back to those days after mum was diangnosed with Alzheimer's in 2014 when I was not reading at all because I was just so stressed. After I started reading again I took refuge in books by French people, or about France. I remember I wanted to find the perfect expression of the flaneur - the person who just walks the streets during the day or night observing what goes on around.

Today I was in company. A woman dressed head-to-toe in comfortable, concealing clothing, including what looked like a dressing gown - in pink - and a grey-coloured hijab, turned around the light post ahead of me as I entered Darling Harbour and headed back up toward Cockle Bay Wharf about ten yards in front of me. There was a large crowd of school students with brass band instruments underneath the Western Distributor and she stopped her stroll to take a photo of them in their blue uniforms. Their instruments gleamed gold in the light. The filtered light, because today was overcast.

The other thing about the morning is that it had been raining earlier, which means that parts of the route I took today - which was the same route I take every day I go for a walk in Chinatown - were more fragrant than usual. This was true of the gardens of the old building of TAFE on the corner of Mary Ann Street and Harris Street. The ibis who use the garden leave their droppings on the paths inside it, and you can smell the garden - and hear the raucous birds - from the street. It is not entirely a pleasant smell.

There was a strange fragrance also up near the corner of Fig Street where the Western Distributor crosses over the top of Harris Street, because the trees there have been doing what many species of deciduous trees do in spring - dropping pollen on the footpaths.

My left ankle held up quite well today despite some twinges that manifested themselves when I was near the corner of Macarthur Street where the Powerhouse Museum is situated. When it sent signals up my leg to my brain I slowed down and "tromped" a bit on it, to show it that I was being careful - like an elephant walking - and hoping that it would take this maneuver as a sign that I was conscious of its importance in my daily life. You have to look after your ankles when you are as big as I am. When I got home I had only one slice of bread with avocado and cheese, instead of the usual two. I also had a cup of milky, cold coffee. I picked up the mail from the letter box as I came through the front doors on the street - because the Post Office have changed delivery routines from once daily to once every two days, I am less likely to check the mail than I used to - and opened what seemed important but there was only an election brochure from Clove Moore's campaign office, which I put in the recycling.

Monday 12 September 2016

Not walking today

Yesterday while I was coming back up Harris Street toward home I had some pain in my left ankle that made me slow down my pace, and this morning after I got out of bed I could feel some soreness along the outside of my left foot when I put weight on it. For these reasons I decided not to go walking today, so I am staying at home this morning. I have to go into town tomorrow morning across the Pyrmont Bridge to go to the dermatologist, so today is a good opportunity to take a day off walking.

Also yesterday was the first time that I put on a pair of 42 trousers, instead of my usual 44s, and they fit - albeit a bit snugly - so  I wore them on the walk. (The 44s had been snug, too, before I started my walking regimen.) It's rewarding to know that the effort of walking almost every day is resulting in some weight loss.

I did the ironing this morning instead of walking, as I had just done the laundry yesterday. There were six shirts, five of which needed ironing. Doing the ironing reminds me again that I need to buy a new ironing board cover, as this one is starting to tear in a part of the outer cover near the sweet spot, where most of the contact occurs between the iron and the board's top surface (which is a metal mesh).

So having done that chore I am at a loose end somewhat, and so naturally I thought about doing a blogpost to keep myself occupied. I have also been attending to social media. There was one video that I found especially rewarding that was posted by a FB friend who lives in the Blue Mountains. The video showed a group of progressive young women participating in a discussion group where they are talking about social theory and gender politics. Then the partner of one of the young women - the one sitting at the top of the table - comes into the room and starts behaving in a way that clashes with the politics of the group. The young women who are discussing gender politics are very earnest, whereas the partner is flippant and sarcastic. She is trying to make a point about them. The young woman who is leading the discussion group makes apologies for her partner, but the bond securing all the participants together is broken by the newcomer's intrusion, and the discussion is interrupted. The video ends.

The video made me think about how Twitter, especially, used to be a lot more playful in the beginning, than it has become. The video's poster actually himself made a point like this in his FB post. To a significant degree Twitter has become a place where people tend to launch judgmental attacks on others in a competition for supremacy, and I think that this change is a shame. Things used to be a lot more loose and casual. Now, people are paying more attention to what they say, out of fear of saying something that might attract someone else's opprobrium.

Anyway, this was just one thing that I have been thinking on my day off walking. I hope to get back to blogposts in my role as flaneur later in the week. Let's hope those calories keep burning off!

Saturday 10 September 2016

Saturday in the Haymarket

When I got down under the Pyrmont Bridge this morning - after starting my walk a bit later than usual - I found there was a brass band playing for the crowd. They were playing (surprise!) a medley of Beatles tunes including 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' and 'Something' at a kind of drunken gait because they were not completely on top of the technique of brass bands. It was touching. It was like someone had turned up the "sway" control on the day and everyone who was walking through Darling Harbour had a kind of drunken lisp to their gait as they ambled along recklessly.

A motorized catamaran named 'Jillian' was skillfully pulling up in the water to the pier in Darling Harbour.

Down in Dixon Street, in the middle of Chinatown, there was a throng - an absolute throng! - of humanity and the spruikers for the restaurants down along the street were out fanning their menus in large numbers. I smiled at the little old lady trying to distribute printed material put out by the Falun Gong - who have been protesting organ harvesting by the Chinese authorities in Dixon Street for as long as anyone can remember - but didn't take anything. Across the street, near the entrance to Paddy's Markets, a middle-aged man played guitar near a sign exhorting people to support him because of a mid-life crisis.

Harris Street was quiet. I walked along, stopping at the lights at each intersection, like a robot. Walking off the calories that I haven't been taking in. I am down from a size 44 trouser to almost a 42, so I can start wearing some old clothes soon. My decision to start eating dinners in restaurants only - and not eating meals I cooked myself at home - was obviously a bad idea. You cannot control the amount of food you take in as easily when you eat in a restaurant. You are to a certain degree prey to the quantities they serve automatically to customers. I think they don't care about strange people who only eat dinner in restaurants. But who would care?

I came home and cooked some brunch. Today for a change I made avocado-on-toast with fried eggs. It was delicious. I headed for bed and had a snooze, then got up at about 3pm and got back onto social media. I turned on the TV hoping to see some news about the local government elections - I voted this morning - but there was nothing on air about it. I will have to wait until after 6pm, when the polls close, to see any results. 

Thursday 8 September 2016

A change in the pattern

Normally I will walk for about an hour and 20 minutes then come home but today I changed the pattern and stopped off to have coffee with a friend. I haven't seen this friend since Christmas and even then we don't meet that often. But he dropped me a line on Facebook this morning and asked how I was so we decided to meet up for coffee.

It was a relatively warm day again today. The days are getting distinctly warmer, which makes me hope that the workmen on our building will get their jobs done and be able to remove the scaffolding that is up all along the east side of the edifice. I took the usual route down through Darling Harbour and past the crowds of school children - there seemed to be more of them today than usual - and along to the bridge that crosses Liverpool Street.

In Dixon Street there were only a few people as it was still early - too early for lunch crowds - and I could walk unheeded past the shopfronts with their loud signs in Chinese advertising real estate or food. At the corner of Hay Street as I passed the pub there was a group of older men at a table outside each with a schooner of beer in front of him. One man in particular whom I had seen while I was on other walks, stood out from his peers. He seemed to have tattoos on his neck. At least his neck was heavily lined. He seemed weathered. All of the men there seemed to be set like jewels in their places, as if that were the most natural place in the world for them to be.

In Ultimo Road I sent a text message to my friend, who I was to meet at "the corner". I didn't know which corner so I stayed at the corner of Ultimo Road and Harris Street. It ended up that he wanted me to meet him at the next corner of Harris Street - I think it is called Mary Ann Street - and when I saw him walking along the footpath on the other side of the busy road, I pressed the button to change the pedestrian signal. We ended up eventually going into a cafe on Harris Street where we sat at a table at the back and talked for about 40 minutes. We spent a fair amount of time talking about my daughter and her troubles, which is hardly surprising. He reminded me that when he and I had worked together over 10 years ago I had been having problems contacting my son and daughter. It was true. Things had changed - mostly on the positive side - and we had a good chat about how time alters all things.

After all this philosophy I set out again to complete my walk, and stopped at the sushi place on the way home to pick up some packets of sushi for lunch, which I ate at my desk with a cup of cold coffee: the remnants of the pot that I had prepared for breakfast and which had sat unfinished while I was out walking during the morning.

Monday 5 September 2016

Day after a night out

Well I got home last night somehow. I don't remember changing trains, although I do remember walking down a passageway in what I assume was a train station. We had drunk beer then white wine then red wine yesterday over dinner. We talked about tattoos - my daughter got one and my host's daughter, who was there with the rest of her family, wants one - and the conversation got quite heated. I joined in. Probably a big mistake. Eventually I got out and my friend took me to the station and put me on a train. Then the rest of the trip - a complete blur - home.

So I got up late this morning and had some coffee as usual. I went out after putting my socks and shoes on and went on my usual walk down through Darling Harbour and up Harris Street. It was warm today and I was on auto-pilot. I got back to Pyrmont and had some ramen at one of the restaurants on Miller Street. Then I went home and had a nap. I talked with my daughter on Facebook Messenger after getting up and turning on the TV. I also did my laundry today, including seven shirts.

So it was a quiet day for me. It is Monday, which is the best night for TV on the ABC, and with dinner now out of the way I can sip a glass of wine and settle in to do some serious slothery. My friend is no doubt busy with his family. I think my daughter has forgiven me for talking about her tattoo with this family, but maybe there will be some more fallout in that regard in future. I am just happy - deliriously, deeply happy - to be inside on a Monday night in Sydney with the cold outside and the incessant rush of traffic on the busy roads. I am very aware of my surroundings and treat each object I touch with care, as if it were made out of cut glass.

Of course the reason for my happiness is due to the contrast between yesterday's dice with danger - getting home when you are insensibly drunk can be a fraught business - and today's domestic comfort. It is the difference between those two states that results in the feeling of wellbeing. Because I didn't have it yesterday, I can enjoy it now. And because yesterday I was in company I can enjoy being alone tonight.

Saturday 3 September 2016

Another quiet day

This morning I got up late as usual and made coffee then almost immediately after finishing it, I went for a walk. I took the usual route down through Darling Harbour to Chinatown, then turned right at Paddy's Market and went up Ultimo Road to Harris Street, where I turned north to go back home.

It was very windy today and I thought about the possibility of something falling over and hitting me. Maybe the Pyrmont Bridge? Maybe the Western Distributor? The large gusts of wind threw down restaurant signs in the upper part of Dixon Street, north of Goulburn Street. Measures had to be taken to keep them upright. I thought about having some noodles for lunch but then remembered the avocado that sat waiting for me in the kitchen. When I got home I would spread it on toast and put slices of cheese on top, making lunch.

People walked around in Chinatown doing their business. There were people of all sizes and shapes, even big, round people like me. Some bigger and rounder than me, in fact. Back up in Darling Harbour a big, round man in some sort of tourist outfit had steered the small child in his charge by telling it to follow the seagulls that it wanted to chase. There was always a seagull in front of them, which the man could soul the child on. "There's one! Up there!" In Dixon Street a man holding a sign was spruiking a store selling knick-nacks - a store with pink writing all over its front on the street side - in Chinese and English. When big, round Matthew walked along in front of him he switched to English thinking perhaps that a big, round 50-something like me would be interested in the wares of a store evidently targeting 20-somethings. I laughed inside.

Near the old TAFE building on Harris Street it looked like someone's closet had been emptied all over the footpath. There were clothes, handbags and containers at the bus stop. Across the road - when I had waited for the light and eventually arrived there - I could see a pair of black Ugg boots on the pavement. Who had lost their clothes? And why?

I went my way slowly up Harris Street, waiting dutifully at the lights at each intersection. The cars roared around on their incessant quest for clear passage. While waiting to turn right into Harris Street off the Western Distributor their orange indicator lights flashed on and off, alternately. Waiting to turn while the pedestrians had right of way across Harris Street. Soon I would be walking past the restaurants near Allen Street, which forms the border between Ultimo and Pyrmont. Again, I would think about my avocado sitting on the black, stone bench at home, where I was bound inexorably, like a charged particle in an atom.