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.