Tuesday 31 January 2017

Shopping most of the day

When I got up this morning it was about midday and I made some coffee to drink. After coffee, I set the alarm and headed back to bed, planning to sleep for another 45 minutes before having to leave for a lunch appointment but the girl messaged me saying she was going into the city. I told her I was going out to lunch with a friend and she asked if she could come too. I got up after a while and dressed, then headed out in the heat across the Pyrmont Bridge to the city, entering the CBD at King Street on the expressway pedestrian path.

At my friend's office I left my name and sat down to wait until he was ready to see me. After a while he came out into the reception area and we went back to his office, where I signed some more papers to do with the settlement of the estate following mum's death in July. Then we left to go to a Greek restaurant in Barrack Street. We ordered a beer each and then the girl called saying she was on the street looking for me. I went outside and waited until I saw her walking down the street toward me. I ushered her into the restaurant and we sat down to order. I had a lamb shoulder and grilled eggplant and the girl had some vine leaves as a main. We ordered some bread and a salad as well as mains. I also ordered some wine.

The lunch was successful and we ended up talking a lot about history. The girl, being of Chinese ancestry, is fascinated by antiquity. Chinese people rightly feel that they have some legitimate claim on antiquity per se, and we talked about the Persian empire as well as the Mongols, the Egyptians, the Hungarians and the Greeks and Romans. Partly the discussion was sparked because I had seen the exhibition at the Powerhouse on the Egyptian mummies, and I suggested to my friend that he might want to go along and see it. We also talked about working in Australia because the girl had attained a job interview for a job she had applied for.

After lunch the girl and I said goodbye to my friend and the two of us went off to Myer's first floor where they sell ladies' wear. She was looking for a jacket for the job interview and tried on a few things. I sat in the fitting room area and waited while she tried some items of clothes on. Eventually she bought a black jacket, a pair of black pants, and a white shirt. Then we went out into Pitt Street Mall and entered a shoe shop, where she bought a pair of black-and-white sneakers. We then went up Pitt Street and through an ANZ building to Castlereagh Street where there is a women's wear shop. In the shop I bought her a navy jacket and another shirt, this one in a peach colour.

We went back to my place in a cab then made some food and went shopping afterward at the supermarket. I bought fruit, bread, eggs and some vegetables, as well as canned tuna. We got back home and I unpacked the backpack, then sat down at the computer and listened to her while she read through some websites looking for information that might help her in her job interview.

Monday 30 January 2017

We need more courage to be compassionate in social media

Today someone posted, quite plaintively, "Someone post something kind, please?" And I immediately understood her feelings; I replied:
I know what you mean. I think people need to be more considerate on social media, they think it's ok just to prosecute their own biases there. But it's not. We need to share things. Social media is a community. We create it when we share.
The thing is that I have had conversations with a friend lately about social media and the way she had been using it to complain about her life, when things had not gone well for her. I had remonstrated and told her that social media is not just a place to unload your grievances. You had to find things that others could also share, because it was about creating community. So the judgemental and divisive would not serve the ultimate ends of the platforms - mainly, in my case, Twitter and Facebook - as well as other kinds of post, posts where participation was more positive, guarded and compassionate.

Strangely, when I made that post in the comments area I was having a similar conversation with someone else at the same time on Messenger. I said there:
I try to feel good when I am doing social media, I seek out the good feelings in the air and in the atmosphere, and channel them to others.
She countered that while I was a nice person, she was not. "I don't like being here much lately," she said. Here's what she was replying to of mine when she said that:
But it's a conscious effort. I have to work hard at it. It's just as easy to be dismissive and uncaring.
And it's true. When we are divisive and judgemental we tear and rip at the fabric of social media, we shred the air with our cries and our complaints, whether they be on the personal level or even on the political level. We ruin any opportunity to find common ground, and merely celebrate our feelings of isolation - feelings, like the constant thoughts that we experience even in moments of downtime in our diurnal rounds - that form part of the suffering of contemporary life. This isolation is ruinous for the soul, it brands us as outcasts and leaves us feeling exhausted and alone.

Sharing, on the other hand, with an eye to creating community, soothes the soul-destroying wounds that we bear on our skin at every moment of the day and night. Wounds that open and bleed incessantly, making us feel pain. We need the soothing salve of empathy to counter this effect of modern life, in fact we crave it, but in our timidity we brush it aside as a dream and then again tear and rend the social fabric some more. It is just fear that we express in this way. We need more courage to be compassionate.

Dumplings in the evening

Yesterday I got up late, as I usually do, and got to the computer to do some social media. I noticed that with my participation the way it was I had actually not lost any followers on Twitter for three days, and in fact had gained one. I congratulated myself on this development, as it is rare over such a long period of time not to lose any followers. I had my coffee and I had my computer all fired up and I was content.

The girl rang me and said she was in Newtown and could I come to meet her she had a picture she had bought and a heavy book and she was walking down the street. By this time I was cooking some mushrooms and tomato in a fry pan and so I explained that now wasn't a good time but if she got in a cab I would pay for it. I finished frying the eggs and everything and had eaten most of the food when the doorbell rang and I let her into the building. She came upstairs with a big, framed print of a Georgie O'Keeffe cow's skull and a book on Renaissance art. She plonked it all down on the floor and I made her a pot of tea.

We talked about Heironymous Bosch whose art she had found in the book and she said she should draw some of her dreams they were just as astonishing as anything Bosch would have dreamt up.

Later, we went for a walk. I had said I would take her home in the car but she wanted to go to Darling Harbour because someone had told here there were lanterns there for the lunar New Year. She would go home by train, she said, and I capitulated. I put on my shoes to take a walk with her and we headed out, taking the headland route which goes around in front of the casino, and then into Darling Harbour. The crowds were tremendous as we walked down toward the Western Distributor. We turned left and exited the precinct at Bathurst Street, crossing Harbour Street at the lights, then headed up to a small Chinese restaurant set into the buildings on the right hand side.

We sat at a small table for two and a waiter brought a pot of tea for us with the menu. The girl ordered some cut noodles and some dumplings and I waited expectantly to see what was coming as the conversation between her and the staff had all been in Chinese. The big bowl of noodles and vegetables arrived and we doled out the spoils into the little bowls they had provided at the beginning. It was delicious. Then the dumplings arrived, and I had a couple with chilli and vinegar. They were superb. The whole meal only came to just over $21, which I thought was a coup, but she was at least happy to have had some traditional New Year's food at this moment in time. It was important in her culture, she said.

We walked up the street to the train station, where I said goodbye to her, and she went down the steps into the station zone. I turned back and caught a cab and went home. I was feeling a bit fragile because I hadn't planned on eating dinner tonight, as I was on a diet. I sat down at home in the heat as the tweets about the Australian Open and Trump's immigration bans swirled around me, and thought about life. Later, I had a shower and went to bed to read more of Knausgaard's book. I had reached the point where he falls in love with Tonje while he is living in Bergen.

Saturday 28 January 2017

A couple of busy days

Yesterday morning I got up early - for me - and made my way on foot down to the Powerhouse Museum to meet my cousin and his family - his wife and two daughters - because we had organised to visit the Mummies exhibition. The statue shown here is one of the exhibits, which include mummified bodies as well as videos of medical imaging taken to examine the contents without disturbing the wrappings, as well as a collection of secondary items. This is one of those secondary items: a minor deity who has the task of scaring off evil spirits - he is carrying and beating a tambourine. I thought it was such a human-scale piece, something out-of-the-ordinary for the classical Egyptian period, where we usually see taught, dog-faced statues standing literally like statues.

After the exhibition we went to a Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown for lunch, and then I said goodbye to my family and caught the light rail - which has just recently begun running from Central again after construction works interrupted service for about three weeks - back home. When I got home I had a nap. Later, the girl called me and I went out in the car to pick her up. We ended up eating some food in a Taiwanese restaurant in Newtown where they only serve vegan food. Two Taiwanese restaurants in one day! We went home and had a walk around the headland then played chess and went to bed.

This morning we got up a bit late and had some fruit for breakfast, then made our way into town to an exhibition at a little gallery in Albion Place - a pedestrian-only street next to Event Cinema, off George Street - called 'What's in A Surname'. It is an exhibition by a young Chinese-Australian photographer named Ken Leanfore showing a collection of people of Chinese ancestry who grew up in Australia and whose names had been decided by bureaucratic fiat mostly back in the 19th century. The way that Chinese surnames were authorised by immigration functionaries back in the early days of the country is of interest to many people, including my friend, and we were lucky to have the chance to talk at length with the photographer. We arrived at the gallery before lunch then looked around and made our way out to a Korean restaurant down the street, then came back to the gallery for the official opening party - with wine and snacks and crowds of people - later on.

We got home after stopping by a Fairfax-sponsored China food market event in Pyrmont Park and lay down for a little while, then I took the girl home in the car, and drove back home to my place. There was a nasty snarl of traffic at the intersection of Pyrmont Bridge Road and Harris Street that I managed to negotiate without too much difficulty, even though it slowed me down a bit. When I got home I ate the remains of the food we had bought at the food market and sat down to social media.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Out to lunch on Australia Day

In the morning I woke up late and then got out of bed and made some coffee. I drank a cup in front of the computer then put on my backpack and went shopping for food at the supermarket. I bought fruit and cheese and canned fish, then returned home and started to iron my shirts, having done the laundry a few days before.

While I was in the middle of this task the girl rang and asked if I wanted to go out for lunch. It was around 2pm by this time and I had had nothing too eat all day. I finished the ironing and told her by short message that I would get the train, then changed my mind and messaged that I was going to drive down to her place. I got downstairs to the garage and started the car and headed out into the traffic, which wasn't too heavy because it is a holiday today.

When I arrived at her place I parked the car and walked through the park but she called me on the phone and told me she was right there waiting in the park. "I needed to get out," she said. We walked to the train station and caught a train to Redfern, then got off and walked up to Abercrombie Street and made our way to King Street in Newtown. We stopped at a Thai place on the corner and ordered some beef with rice each. I also ordered a beer and the girl ordered a plate of noodles, as well, that we could share. It was nice sitting in the restaurant eating fresh food and having a beer, and I ordered a second beer before we had finished eating our lunch.

After I paid, we walked down King Street looking at the shops, and stopped at a wholefoods place where I bought her some muesli and nuts and apricot sticks. We went further down King Street toward St Peters and stopped at a graffiti-covered cafe where I ordered a flat white and the girl got some English Breakfast tea and a gluten- and sugar-free brownie, which we both ate with the spoons they provided. It was delicious, with a nutty, sweetish taste, but not too sweet; she is always complaining that cakes in Australia are too sweet.

We went further down King Street after leaving the cafe and crossed the road at Alice Street, where we caught a cab, and the driver ended up driving very fast - at least 70kmph - down the Princes Highway. When we got to her place we went upstairs and talked for a little bit then she decided to go to her dancing class, and called ahead to make sure it was still going to be held on a holiday. It was. We went downstairs and got in the car and I dropped her off at Redfern Station before driving back down Abercrombie Street to Wattle Street and home. The rest of the evening has been quiet and I have eaten a few things to soften the hunger pangs, but I am still dieting so can't eat everything I want.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

A very quiet day at home

I woke up with the phone message that the girl had sent this morning asking me to send her a document we had worked on yesterday. I got up and sent her a document but it wasn't the right one, so later I got up again after she messaged me again and sent her the one she was looking for.

After this I made some coffee and had a cup, then went back to bed and slept again. I eventually emerged from bed in the early afternoon and went to the computer, where I engaged with social media in an effort to raise my mood. I was relatively successful and talked to some people who are in my feed on a regular basis. Others let my comments go by. One person shared a picture showing people at one of the anti-Trump marches from the weekend that I had taken from Twitter as a screenshot in her Facebook feed, and showed me an amusing video about Donald Trump ostensibly from the people of Holland. I laughed.

I had some wine at about 4.30pm - just one glass, as is my habit these days - and then I ate some sardines on toast. Later, I ate some cheese - pieces of two types of cheese, a cheddar and one other that I had bought at Woollies recently - and a can of tuna. I had some strawberries a bit later on and then a handful of almonds to top it all off.

It has been such a slow day but at least I am gradually losing weight. I can see my waist slimming. My trousers are now size 40 where two months ago I was wearing 44s. I intend to buy 38s next time I have to go to the store for clothes.

In the late afternoon I put out the recycling garbage and later the regular trash, and I also went down to my car in the garage with a plastic bag to collect the rubbish that had accumulated in the back seat, where I am in the habit of putting it as I drive around. I took the bag back upstairs with me and put it in the garbage bin before throwing everything down the rubbish chute. I noticed that most of the recycling garbage this time is not empty wine bottles but empty fruit packets.

In the evening I watched the Australian of the Year ceremony on the ABC, mainly because I usually watch ABC News 24 all through the evening, and this program was part of their feed for today. I reflected as I was watching TV that I have changed the way I use my evenings since cutting back on the amount of alcohol that I drink. When I was drinking most of a bottle of wine each evening I would be stumping off to bed by 7pm in a blotto haze, but now I am free to experience things that come up - in the social media feed, for example - and enjoy them for many more hours until I go to sleep. My psychiatrist congratulated me for cutting back on the booze and I think that it is an achievement that needs to be recognised, so I am writing about it now.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

A cool southerly

This morning I awoke early to the alarm, set the previous night, because the girl had asked me to do her laundry as soon as possible today. She had a hairdresser's appointment this morning but wanted her sweaty dance clothes from the night before to be cleaned beforehand. So I got up and put the laundry on - including both my own clothes and hers - then went back to bed to sleep a bit more. I got up again about 90 minutes later to put her clothes into the tumble dryer, then later still - watching the clock, as it happened - I went to her room and woke her up.

We didn't have time for breakfast but instead soon enough got in the car for the short drive to Newtown - where her preferred salon is located - and so made our way through Glebe and onto City Road before we made it to the address on King Street. After dropping her off, I drove down to St Peters and turned left into Sydney Park Road, then up Mitchell Road and home.

Back at the apartment, I made a couple of phone calls in order to try to get someone to come out to have a look at the air conditioner in the bedroom - there is only one air conditioner in the apartment - because it had not worked on the really hot night we had had in January, when it was needed. I also called Medibank to inform them of mum's death - although it turned out that I had already done this in October - and emailed The Department of Human Services to let them know too. The girl came home bearing a container full of vegetarian Thai food, which I started eating as soon as she had sat down to a cup of tea. I didn't finish the container but instead stopped eating when I felt full.

The air conditioner repairman arrived not long after and I showed him into the bedroom where the wall unit is mounted. He told me that it had cut out on that hot night because of the cooling load imposed on the compressor. It seems the ambient temperature had just been too much for the machine to cope with, because today it ran quite happily, cooling the room efficiently as it is designed to do. There is a problem with it however and when the business owner called me back later to take my payment over the phone by credit card for the service visit he told me it wasn't worth fixing. I would need a new machine, and he would send me a quote by phone.

I helped the girl with a translation she was working on for a client, because the original translation from Chinese was quite hard to understand, being literal rather than logical for English speakers. She had to go into town later on and I was about to go with her when my psychiatrist's receptionist called me to remind me of an appointment made for today. I made my way down to his office and paid, before going into his room and sitting down. We talked for the usual 45 minutes and covered a lot of ground, but mainly dealt with my wish to lose weight and the dietary regime I had started. He though that my plan - to reduce calories and do light exercise with walking - was a good one and that I should stick to it. He was also pleased I had cut down most of my alcohol intake.

I got back home and the girl returned not long afterward, just before the southerly appeared and changed the outside temperature. I paid a couple of bills having checked the mailbox. I made more tea for her and we ate the Turkish takeaway food she had brought with her, talking between ourselves until it was time to take her home. I drove her home and came back to eat some cheese and crackers. Later, I had an avocado and an orange.

Monday 23 January 2017

Some fresh coffee

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 21 January 2017

Some new clothes

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 19 January 2017

A quiet day at home

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 17 January 2017

On hospitals

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 14 January 2017

An aborted emergency

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 13 January 2017

Went out to lunch

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

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

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

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

Thursday 12 January 2017

My ankle was sore

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Too hot to go walking

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 10 January 2017

On Harris Street

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 9 January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 7 January 2017

Blowing bubbles

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Holidays in January

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

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

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

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

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