Monday 31 July 2017

Front matter in Kindle books

I've been using my Kindle for a while now and it contains dozens of books but today for the first time I got to thinking about how the copyright information - which used to be part of a book's front matter - has migrated to the back of Kindle books. I don't want to be a fuddy-duddy about this but the virtue of separating this information out from the rest of the front matter quite escapes me, and if anyone has a good idea of the reason it was done I'd be glad to hear it. The provenance information for a book is essential for readers to know, and should be easy to access and clear. Below is the front matter of a second-hand book printed in 1982 I just received in the mail, it's a history of the area I live in and it was written by an academic.

Book review: My Lovely Wife, Mark Lukach (2017)

Subtitled 'A Memoir of Madness and Hope', the book chronicles the three psychotic episodes that the author and his wife, Giulia, managed over the period of about five years. Giulia has had that many episodes in her life, starting in 2009, although in each case the experience was different. That's the "madness" part (the book's title in the US is 'My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward'). The hope comes from knowing that Giulia has a loving, caring husband and a wonderful, energetic son to accompany her on her journey through life. But the book at the end is still bittersweet because they don't know if and when the next episode will strike their small family.

Mark Lukach has done something strange and wonderful in writing this memoir, and it began out of the correspondence he wrote early on in the experience with the illness that he sent to family. "It started with long emails at night to my parents while my wife was very ill, in an attempt to make sense of what was going on," he told me on Twitter on 12 June. "I studied history so I have done a lot of academic writing, but personal writing really started with those emails, and grew from there." We are all the richer for his endeavour.

The book can serve as a helpful guide to people who are just starting out with mental illness, especially with psychosis (because psychosis can be so dramatic, frightening, and life-changing). Mark focalises the narrative through himself as the player of a role in the unfolding drama and so we get to see mental illness especially through the eyes of a carer. Carers have a special role to play when it comes to mental illness, and often need just as much support from doctors, the government, and family and friends, as the person who is living with the disease. One important thing to keep in mind when dealing with psychosis is that it IS an illness and can be treated. Leaving it untreated will likely be catastrophic. In Giulia's case, the hospital stays were followed - after she had demonstrated to the clinicians that she had improved - by a period of therapy while still on strong medications, and then by a relatively normal life of domestic and work responsibilities.

So the book also shows how many manage to live fulfilling lives even though they have a mental illness. With modern medications it is now possible to keep down that 40-hour-a-week job, raise children, maintain a satisfying relationship with a significant other, and also have a mental illness. The episodic nature of mental illness that Lukach shows us in the book means that you are most often "off" and not experiencing paranoid delusions (as happened in Giulia's case). You are merely working in marketing in an office somewhere San Francisco. Then when the illness comes back you go "on" and you might need a short stay in hospital in order to recover from it. Then everything goes back to normal. I think many people might be surprised to learn how this episodic rhythm characterises most people's experience living with mental illness.

Lukach is a skillful writer, and manages to incorporate into the book a lot of technical detail as well as several passages of poetic content, as he struggles with what is to him a very important subject: his wife's wellbeing. He also has his son to think about (Giulia became pregnant after the first episode), and this from time to time causes Mark to confront a dilemma as he matches in the balance the burden of looking after a person with mental illness with the equally serious problem of keeping his child safe and happy. Hence the bittersweet. At the end you are left wondering, along with Mark and Giulia, how long the good times will endure, and whether the next episode (if there is to be one, you never know!) will last.

As a postscript I want to apologise to readers who come to me for book reviews because it has been quite a while since the last review. I had to change my own antipsychotic medication, which meant I was getting less time in bed of an evening with my books. I have gotten through the period of adjustment now so hopefully reviews will be appearing with more regularity in future.

Sunday 30 July 2017

Speaker's Corner, the Domain

When I arrived in the Domain this afternoon it was still only 1.30pm and no-one was around. I spoke on the phone with a friend and then waited until a man arrived named Steve Maxwell. He had given me a business card on a similar Sunday some weeks earlier with the web address of Speaker's Corner, and this time we chatted for a while together as we waited for 2pm to roll around, which is when the show usually starts. I told Steve about my Kindle because he has written a history of Speaker's Corner but only has, he said, a few copies of the book left. He agreed that an online distribution method would be beneficial. Soon there was a car unloading chairs for spectators, so I helped bring the chairs into the park. When they were set up a man named Shimon, wearing a yarmulke, came by with his two children, and he was soon up on the dais giving an impromptu speech about homelessness to the small gathering there. When he had finished Steve got up on the dais but I had to leave soon after so walked up through the park to the Eye Hospital, then across Macquarie Street into Martin Place where there are dozens of pup tents set up outside the Reserve Bank by rough sleepers.

Graffiti in the Domain, Sunday

Today for lunch I went to Taylor Square and treated myself to a beef kebab (doner kebab in Turkish, shawarma in Arabic) and then headed down Bourke Street to Woollomoloo, where I turned left into Cathedral Street and headed up through the park to the gallery. There, I saw a small exhibition called 'Australian art and the avant-garde' which contained a dozen works influenced by Russian Modernism, most dating from this century. Of special note were two paintings by Nigel Milsom. Then I went across the hall to the exhibition of art from the Philippines, where I especially enjoyed a large oil painting by Rodel Tapaya. I decided to save the infamous portraiture jamboree (the Archibald) for an occasion when I could bring a friend, and so headed straight outside. In the Domain across the road from the gallery the two statues of sphinxes had graffiti on them. One had the name "Jacob" scrawled on it and the other one had the name "Boaz". On the pavement someone had written "What the health" in chalk, and nearby there was "Watch earthlings" also in chalk.

The Donald makes even old Lizzie look appealing

I tuned into the ABC News channel as usual yesterday after getting home from a lunch appointment which had terminated at the Duke Hotel on Enmore Road - lots of odd characters there, I'll tell you, enough for an episode of a sitcom at least - and later after the sun had gone down I sat on the couch to watch Bill Shorten gab away about a Republic. I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with the sentiments involved in this particular debate, I should hasten to say, so it was entertaining for me to listen to this statesman fill in the gaps with his own knowledge.

A new perspective, and about time, I hear you say. And I agree. We need to have our own, native, head of state. Enough of these old notables the administration wheels out to do the honours and that sort of thing. We need someone who can truly embody who we are as a people, as a nation. Someone whose story says something about Australia in a way that Lizzie's family history fails to do. Someone who can exist on the lofty plains of our collective ambition for ourselves. Someone wholesome and interesting and talented and wise. God knows it can't be hard to find someone who ticks all the boxes when the alternative is Chuckie, that sorry old codger with his cracked notions and untold inherited wealth.

But then you see how they have arranged things in America. This is the sticking point for me. When Donald Trump was elected a lot of people stateside, it is true, started thinking seriously about migrating to Canada (or Australia). But things have just gotten worse and worse. Every day, it seems, there is some new piece of news that merely serves to illustrate the foolishness of the American president. And he can't even get any legislation through Congress. It's a sham.

So in the light of things that are happening in Washington DC old Chuck is even starting to look appealing. Many might say that we should wait until mum Liz has moved on to make way for her goofy son, or until she has kicked the bucket, before becoming a republic, but the process in a legal sense can take a bit of time. We'll have to see what the people of Australia do when the next federal election comes around because the Opposition have made organising a referendum on the republic party policy. Who knows how things will turn out. Will we end up with a complete deadbeat like Trump or will the people decide to stick with the Coalition in order to keep the Queen as head of state?

Saturday 29 July 2017

Rough sleepers taking the sun

These rough sleepers under the railway viaduct in Wentworth Park, Sydney, are taking the morning sun and watching the soccer teams play on the dusty grounds of the park. The photo was taken just before midday today. The ground gets dusty because when it rains the area becomes completely bogged with water, and then people play sports on the ground destroying its grass cover. You can see in the photo a man is sitting on a camping chair under the left-hand arch, much like they do for English county cricket.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Industrial action, Kent Street

This morning I was walking north on Kent Street in the CBD when I heard raised voices. I was near King Street and looking ahead I could see a group of fluoro-clad men walking down the hill from George Street. Some of the men carried flags. They turned the corner and stopped outside a construction site, where they congregated. They were chanting slogans, which I couldn't hear clearly, but they were definitely attracting the attention of the office workers on Kent Street. Two women spoke about the gathering of workers as I walked past one office building. It was still early in the morning so the streets were full of people going to work.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Rough sleeper, Railway Square

This rough sleeper in Railway Square, Sydney, has found an undisturbed place up against the wall of this building where he or she can get a bit of rest. While I was taking this photo the person moved and I thought they would peel back the blanket and see me. I stood on the pavement amid the foot traffic in this busy stretch of Sydney. Rough sleepers are usually found in this place. But there was no sign today of Mary's extensive cardboard shelter or of Paul's full trolley and the rest of his gear. A friend of mine who works nearby and talks with them regularly told me the names of these two people, but they weren't here today. Maybe the authorities had moved them on. Today there was a pup tent further along on the pavement which was taking up a lot of room.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

A walk to Paddington

Yesterday I went out early because I had an appointment at home in the afternoon. I had lunch at Mikey's on Oxford Street, Paddington, and I made my way out down through Haymarket and up Foveaux Street and Surry Hills.
The photo above was taken in Darling Harbour, showing that the ice skating rink has now been removed. On the water you can see the pontoons have been installed for the boat show to come.
Trades Hall in Dixon Street, Haymarket (above). The foundation stone was laid in 1888.
A discount store in the cloister on Eddy Avenue at Central Station (above). There used to be two-dollar shops like this on Pitt Street and Park Street in the CBD but high rents have resulted in their moving out. I wonder how long this place will last ...
In the photo above the car with solar panels on its roof was parked on Foveaux Street, Surry Hills. The car has the number plate "E MINI".
The photo above shows Victoria Barracks from Moore Park Road.
This clothing store in Paddington (above) was once the St John's Presbyterian Church. Construction started in 1855.

Monday 24 July 2017

There is no middle ground online

This is the story of something that happened to me recently on Twitter that brought home to me the way that the public sphere has become radically polarised in the era of mass participation. It was a few days ago and I had seen someone in my stream retweet a comment about Clinton Pryor - the Aboriginal man who is walking across Australia to raise awareness of issues surrounding his community - and I replied saying that I thought it was a waste of time, the era of protest is over and other forms of communication are needed now. This is what I think. So we started to discuss the matter, the other party being a human rights lawyer, and because I felt that he was just rehashing old arguments I got a bit angry and told him to show more respect for my intelligence.

The thread started to gain attention and people began to attack me for questioning Pryor's undertaking. I had touched a nerve, and this is the way it is online with certain issues to do with identity politics. People take these things very personally and if you even cast doubt over a cherished belief you have to be prepared for a full-scale pile-on.

I stopped participating in the discussion eventually because it was all becoming a bit too hot. I tend to do this when I don't want to get involved in something. The same thing happened earlier this year with my involvement with a group of people promoting the public profile of the Myall Creek Memorial, which was set up in 2000 to commemorate the Myall Creek massacre that happened in 1838 in New England. I had gone along to a number of the annual gatherings outside Inverell - they're held on the Queen's Birthday weekend every year - and then I had started to go along to the meetings held in Sydney by supporters here. I'd offered to open a Twitter account and had started tweeting from it but I didn't know what to say most of the time so I started asking other group members for suggestions when we met in the CBD. One person responded but the rest of the group ignored my request.

This wasn't the only reason I stopped going to meetings, but it was a major deciding factor for me. I felt that the Twitter account should be a group effort, and that it was unreasonable to put the entire burden of running it on one person. But there were other things that bothered me about the push. One meeting of the group was held in Bingara, near the memorial site. Most of the Sydney group travelled there by car to participate in the meeting and everyone was hoping to meet up with people from the local area who are also involved. But none of those people turned up, even though it was only a short drive to Bingara from the other towns. I felt let down. Why had the Sydney friends put in so much effort and the local Aborigines hadn't even bothered to show up?

I stopped going to the meetings. I felt that people were being let down and that the civic responsibility of participants was not being adequately valued. It was easier for me to just stop going to meetings, rather than to kick up a fuss. So when I started being attacked on social media I did the same thing: I just shut up.

But this is the way things are online. Noone at the beginning of this phase of the social project could have imagined that debate would be dumbed down to this extent, once the great mass of people started to get involved online. But it's what has happened. Nuanced thinking and considered approaches are ignored or deliberately misconstrued. You are either with us or against us, they seem to be saying. It can be disheartening.

Sunday 23 July 2017

A walk on a sunny Sunday

Today I decided to go to Enmore for some Egyptian food and so I went out the back of the building and down to Wentworth Park. It was a sunny day but the wind was quite cold. I wore a slicker against the wind.
The photo above shows the tents of rough sleepers under the railway viaduct in Wentworth Park, Ultimo.
The photo above shows the new construction hoarding that has been put up in Wentworth Park. The state government is going to build a new school in the area behind the hoarding, up against the greyhound track.
They're renovating this shop on King Street, Newtown (above). Shops on King Street command high rents because the area is very popular as an entertainment precinct for young people. This used to be a Japanese restaurant.
There's always someone begging outside the supermarket on King Street near the cinema (above). When I was walking back home the other way there were two beggars in this spot.
This photo above shows defaced ads belonging to a popular global sportswear brand. The company had tried to sidestep taggers by making their ads look like graffiti, but the street artists just took a paintbrush to the whole thing.
Enterprising businesspeople put up ads on traffic signal poles, like the one shown above that was on a pole in Enmore.
My lunch (above) at Cairo restaurant on Enmore Road.
Indian mynahs are fearless little birds (above). This one is eating something off Enmore Road while the traffic glides right past him.
A beautiful Art Deco facade on this building on King Street, Newtown (above).
At the university looking down City Road toward the central business district (above).
In the photo above you can see someone is advertising in the street for a roommate. This traffic signal pole is outside the Broadway Shopping Centre.
They're constructing new public housing on Bay Street in Glebe (above).

Saturday 22 July 2017

Meeting Tanner again

This is Tanner the poodle and I met up with him and his owner today in Hyde Park as I was walking to Darlinghurst. I stopped and had a chat with the owner, a clean-shaven middle-aged man who wears a cloth cap. He didn't recognise me but I've stopped to talk with him on two other occasions. Once was in Darling Harbour when I was walking back home with a friend from overseas after having eaten yum cha. The second time was on the corner of Pitt and Bathurst Streets in the city when I was walking back home after having eaten lunch out.

When I met Tanner and his owner in Darling Harbour my friend - who owns a chow chow back home - took a photo of the dog and chatted with the owner. The second time when I was alone I exchanged a few words with the owner as we stood on the street corner.

This time, when I saw Tanner walking along in his usual energetic way, I hailed the two of them from across the way, near the War Memorial. Tanner changed course to come directly toward me, lolloping along. Perhaps he knew who I was. He snuffled his snout in my hand as I stood there talking with the man. I tousled his thick fur. His owner told me he had to trim the fur, which he said was a leftover from the dog's puppy days. "I need to cut it," he said.

When I said I wanted to take a photo of his dog, he told Tanner to sit. I took the picture and then said goodbye, heading off across College Street up Oxford Street. There was a street market being held at Taylor Square but I didn't stop to browse. A few people were standing around but it wasn't busy. I went to Victoria Street and had a sandwich for lunch and a beer, then went home, stopping at the tailor's to pick up my Nike slicker, which they had repaired.

Friday 21 July 2017

Getting the desktop back and running

About a month ago I had to take my new PC back to the retailer because it stopped booting. I had bought the machine in March, so it was still covered by the manufacturer's warranty. I left it there and then returned home to wait, and a few days later the store phoned to tell me that they were working on it. I asked about the personal data on the PC and they told me it would cost me money to have them back it up. If I didn't have a hard drive they could use they would also charge me to buy a new one.

I took my remote hard drive down to the store and then returned home. While the desktop was away I used my laptop, an Asus PC bought in 2012. I would end up using it for several weeks, so I was glad I had it as a spare.

Some weeks later the store called me again and told me the computer was ready to pick up, so I drove down there and parked, picked it up and drove home. I then brought out a tech guy from a Sydney firm to set it up, including the email client and Microsoft Office. He took two hours to restore the backed up data and to install the software I needed. He also set up the email program so that I could see all my email accounts.

But after I shut it down for the night, the next morning the computer still wouldn't start. I videoed myself starting the computer, as they had requested at the store, and when I went back down to the store one day while I was out on a walk I showed the staffer there the video. He told me not to hold down the start button for so long. When I got home I tried starting the PC the way they had told me but still nothing came up on the screen, so I took the computer back to the store again. They connected it up and told me everything was fine, and that the problem must have been my monitor or monitor cable. They sold me a new HDMI cable and I went home.

When I connected everything this time the computer started and I was able to use it for a few days with no mishaps, but then this morning it took me three goes hitting the start button for the thing to boot. I managed to get it to work finally but it's still on probation as far as I am concerned. And one of the USB ports is broken, so I have to use one of the ones on the front of the machine for the video camera. My brother suggested quietly to me the other day when we were talking on Messenger that I might want to think about buying a Mac next time ...

Wednesday 12 July 2017

A hot bowl of noodles

This morning I went out and after stopping to get a button sewn back on a pair of trousers I dropped a book off at the post office, before making my way to the psychiatrist's office. He asked me about my dieting because that is a health issue and he is interested in my health. I said that I had cinched my belt in another notch, but that things were happening slowly these days in terms of weight loss. He seemed pleased, but told me that eating fast usually meant you ate more. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain that it has taken food in, apparently, so if you eat too fast your stomach doesn't have time to let the brain know about the food it is taking in.

After the session with him I left the building and went out walking with my umbrella. It was raining lightly, almost not at all, but as I went along the promenade through Darling Harbour the rain strengthened. Despite the rain the children were still going round and round the temporary skating rink near the water. A woman wearing a hijab and a loose black garment skated quickly along in the direction I was walking in. I went to Chinatown across the bridge at Liverpool Street but by the time I got to Dixon Street it was coming down heavily and I ducked into a small restaurant instead of taking a longer walk. I ordered a bowl of noodles with soup and sat down, taking the remote announcer they gave me when I paid.

After the food arrived I ate all of it. I had made a promise to cut down on carbs but the volume of noodles here was not enormous so I felt as though I hadn't broken my diet. You have to treat yourself occasionally, anyway, I thought. I left the place and headed back home, sloshing through the puddles. There was a lot of water on the ground in the Darling Harbour precinct and my shoes soon became completely soaked. They are not designed for use in the wet. Poor choice, I thought to myself, but since I didn't have any other walking shoes it was bound to happen. I made a note to buy another pair of shoes.

Once home I stripped off wet shoes, socks and trousers and put the trousers in the tumble dryer.

Saturday 8 July 2017

Buying a washing machine then lunch

With a basket of clothes to wash I decided to put on a load of laundry this morning but the washing machine decided not to start. I phoned the repairman, who I have used before with the same machine, and he told me that I should buy a new one, so I went down to the shopping centre this morning. Before leaving home I tweeted my plan and the retailer replied, sending a link to their web page for washing machines, so I knew before leaving the building what model I wanted to buy. The model I chose had a special offer included where the retailer pays for delivery and installation. They also take away the old machine for you. In the store I got the attention of a staffer and told him what I wanted and he looked up my record on a PC in order to book the delivery for Monday, then he took me to the register where I paid.

After leaving the store I went down to the ground floor. There was a woman with long pink hair walking toward me on the concourse, and she wore a cream top. I left the building and crossed Broadway into Victoria Park. I could hear Indian mynahs calling as I walked along the path. To my left there was a flock of the birds walking on the grass. As I passed the gates to St Paul's College three men came out onto City Road, heading toward Newtown in the same direction as me. They all wore fluoro shirts and one had the word "Interspan" printed on the back.

At the Chinese herbal medicine shop there was a man behind the counter. On a telegraph pole on the footpath there were sheets of pink flyers with "Flamboyance fundraiser" printed on them with other details designed to get people to go to a musical evening in Marrickville. A man walked toward me with a picture on his T-shirt of a bear with horns and "Beer?" printed underneath it. I went down to the cinema and entered the cafe there, then used the toilet. When I had come out I took a table at the back of the room and ordered a flat white. To my right at the next table were a young couple, talking. I drank my coffee when it arrived and used social media.

After paying I went outside and walked toward Enmore. There were hemp bags for sale in the markets at the square opposite the train station that were described as being from Tibet. I passed a poster showing a woman with heavy makeup holding a sign reading "Don't deny the arts, it's what feeds our souls". A man and a woman were heading toward me on Enmore Road and the woman held a leash with a dog. They passed another couple walking a dog. The first dog lunged at the second dog and growled menacingly. As the couple passed me the man said to the woman, "Just control him."

At the Egyptian restaurant I ordered some food and a beer and sat down. When the food arrived I ate it then left, heading back the way I had come. On King Street there was a woman with two teenagers walking in my direction, but slower than me. "Pumpkin and ginger soup," said the woman as I walked past, reading from the sign set outside the cafe next to the cinema that I had used earlier. Further up, inside the bakery, a man turned toward the door, where I was walking past. "You too," he said to the person behind the counter. He came out of the store and passed by me carrying a baguette and a paper bag full of goods. Even further up the road a man wearing a fluoro jacket crossed King Street toward where I was walking. He carried three pizza boxes in his hands.

Because I had to use the toilet again I went up onto the bridge at the university but the Wentworth Building was closed and so I hurried across City Road and into Victoria Park. I went into the shopping centre and used the facilities there then went into the shop run by my ISP to talk about my plan; I wanted to cancel the landline because I had decided not to use it anymore. The young woman in the shop gave me a phone number to call. When I told her about the slow internet service she advised me to get a new modem. I left the building and turned down Bay Street toward the park. As I crossed a side street two women came into Bay Street, and one of them said "They won't have enough people to put on".

A man waiting to cross into Wentworth Park held a bag of frozen "straight cut" chips and a box of a dozen eggs. I went into the park behind him. On Wattle Street near the railway viaduct a man came walking toward me who had "Google" embroidered on his T-shirt. I went around behind the Fish Market and crossed into Saunders Street, where I noticed that the man with the frozen chips was still walking ahead of me. He carried a rucksack on his back with "West1' embroidered on it. He continued along the street but I turned right into Quarrymaster Drive, then went up the stairs and into my building.

Friday 7 July 2017

A trip to Crows Nest

An appointment at lunchtime got me out of the house late this morning, and I headed into the city down Harris Street. "It was like another main road," said a man in fluoro clothes to his companion as they walked down the street. I went across the bridge and onto George Street, heading for Wynyard Station. "Everything 70 percent off," said a woman standing outside a basement discount store, as I walked past.

I saw a woman with two teenagers trying to get into the health insurers. They couldn't find an open door as the street door was locked, and they started to walk back toward the QVB. As I went past them I saw that the company had relocated its store a few doors further down so I turned and called out to the woman, "Hey! It's here!" She heard me and turned back, understanding after a moment what I was saying. "Thanks very much," she said to me. I turned back up the street and continued along to the train station. The entrance leading down to where the turnstiles are had been changed radically, I saw. The pavement had been split into two sections: a ramp, and next to it a series of steps leading down. I got to the platform and while I waited for the train I talked to a friend online.

At North Sydney I got off the train and walked through the turnstiles into the shopping centre. I found a shop serving chicken and salad and paid for a plateful of food, then sat down to eat. When I had finished eating I returned the plate to the person standing at counter of the shop and headed up toward the shopping centre's topmost entrance. Exiting the building, I walked past the post office and up the Pacific Highway. I walked past two men in fluoro gear on the footpath and as they went by me I heard they were speaking Japanese. "So that's the bus," said a teenage boy to his sister and mother as they sat in a bus shelter on the main road. I went into an office building when I had arrived at Crows Nest and had my meeting.

When the meeting was over I left the building and headed back down the highway toward North Sydney. "Discover a new taste experience," said an advertisement on a bus shelter. When I arrived back at the shopping centre I took the escalators down to the lower level. A young woman walked past me wearing a shirt that had "Everlast" printed on the front. There was also a young man with a shirt with "Gap" printed on the front. I went to the station platform and got on the train heading into the city. A woman seated in the carriage had a small child with her and an enormous stroller in front of her on the floor. She wore a pink baseball cap with "John Deere" embroidered on a green badge. "So I've taken these things into consideration," said a large man on the train wearing a dark grey coat as I got out at Wynyard Station.

On George Street a woman said to her companion, "When I was younger ... ." Further up near Martin Place two girls walking hand-in-hand started calling out to two other girls walking in front of them. "Guys we have to stop," said the older girl. "Guys stop!" cried the younger girl. The two girls in front stopped walking and turned around to face the others.

At the western end of Pyrmont Bridge a woman was standing facing a young man. "I heard about that story," she said to him. "I heard about that." On Union Street I heard a woman behind me say "Why would she?" "She's been through so much shit in her life," said another woman. They overtook me and as they did I saw that they both wore pants. One of the women held a small child by the hand.

Thursday 6 July 2017

A Caesar salad

After visiting the post office to buy a stamp and mail a postcard I headed down into Darling Harbour, aiming for the eastern suburbs where there is a restaurant I had seen on another day and had wanted to try out. Near the shadow of the bridge two women were sitting on the wooden benches lining the foreshore a few metres apart and taking selfies of themselves. I passed by the temporary ice skating rink and saw dozens of children on skates there. Some of the children were pushing big plastic penguins for balance as they moved along on the slippery surface of the ice. The side of the motorway further along was dappled with the reflection of the water where the bright sunlight shone.

Heading along the pedestrian walkway into Bathurst Street I saw a truck towing a trailer speed into the Cross City Tunnel. Both the truck and the trailer had the word "Boral" painted on the side. As I walked up the hill past a record store there were two men loading blue plastic milk crates into a white van that was parked there. "So, thirty," said one man to the other as I went past.

There was a busker singing a Leonard Cohen song on George Street and I emptied the change out of my pocket and put it on the bag he had placed on the footpath. "Any requests?" he asked me as I walked off. "It's all good, " I told him and continued on my way. Further up next to Castlereagh Street a jogger wearing a green T-shirt with "Forever Faster" printed on it went past. I crossed at the lights into Hyde Park and walked up Oxford Street.

A man with a dark beard and a beanie on his head had the word "Boy" printed on his shirt. He was smoking as he walked along the street. I kept going and in Paddington passed a veterinarian's just before County Avenue. There were two AFP cars parked outside Victoria Barracks. I stopped at Micky's, the restaurant I had earmarked to try today and went inside, where I ordered a bottle of craft beer and a Caesar salad. After eating I paid and left the building, turning right back the way I had come. I saw that one of the AFP cars had gone from outside Victoria Barracks. Near the petrol station I passed three uniformed Army personnel, whom I had seen on the way up the hill as well. "Unbox your phone," said an advertisement on the bus shelter outside the courthouse at Taylor Square.

On Pitt Street I met the owner of a poodle named Tanner I had met on an earlier occasion and we chatted briefly as we stood on the street in the sun. When I had said goodbye to man and dog I headed across to the QVB and used the toilet in the basement then headed down Market Street toward home. There were lots of people on Pyrmont Bridge. "It's not far to the city, guys," said a woman to her three companions as they headed into town. "Hey Chris, what's in here?" piped a boy to his friend as they ran on the bridge near the shopping centre. Two men were walking down Union Street in the direction of the harbour and one said to the other, "I can well imagine." "So it's not fast, I don't run fast," said a woman to the other women in the group she was walking along with.

Nearer to home I saw my downstairs neighbour on the street walking in the opposite direction on the other side of the road, and I saluted her. "It's a nice day," I said without stopping. "It's very good walking weather," she agreed.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Back to country

Very early this morning - well before nine o'clock - I headed out because I had an appointment with the therapist in Bondi Junction. I headed down to Pyrmont Bridge and crossed with the morning foot traffic: what seemed like thousands of people walking eastward into the city with its towers and glass windows. It was brisk out and I went up Market Street then made my way to Martin Place, where I caught a train. A elderly man in shorts who was carrying a tennis raquet got on the train at Kings Cross and got off at Edgecliff. I got off the train at my destination and took the Grafton Street exit, walking north to the shopping centre, where I used the toilet.

I went to a cafe and ordered a flat white because I still had half-an-hour before the appointment. I took the order number on its stick and sat outside. There were three young men sitting at a table nearby but they got up and left while I was sitting down. I got out my phone and used social media while I waited for the coffee, which turned out to be strong and hot. After 15 minutes I got up and walked south down Spring Street to an office building, then went inside and caught the lift up. At my floor I got out and went to the waiting room for the consulting suite and sat down in a chair. There were two other people in the room. The therapist came out a couple of minutes later and went to a filing cabinet in the room, then turned back to her consulting room and called me in from the doorway. I went inside and sat down.

When the session was over I left the building and walked up Oxford Street to the bus terminus, then crossed the road and went to the park exit nearby, where there is a pedestrian crossing. I crossed Oxford Street at the lights and made my way up Queen Street. There was a council truck parked on the footpath at the corner of Oxford Street, where I turned right toward the city. A bit further down there was a young man on a small green plastic skateboard rolling along the footpath.

At Victoria Street I turned into Darlinghurst and walked along past the hospital. There were people on the footpath there from the wards sitting in the sun. One man sat in a wheelchair. I went into a restaurant near the Cross that I've been to before and sat down, ordering a glass of beer and a beef salad. After eating I paid and left, turning left up the street. I turned right into Liverpool Street and walked down the hill into East Sydney, then turned north and crossed William Street into Woolloomooloo. At the Domain I walked up the hill and turned right toward the gallery. "I know they had something earlier from last week," said a woman to her companion as they walked along the road under the trees.

Inside the art gallery, I asked at the desk where the watercolour exhibition was and the young man sitting there pointed me in the right direction. I bought a card after walking around and also a catalogue for the "Making Modernism" exhibition that I had recently seen, then left the building. A man sitting in a parked car was arguing with a woman standing on the footpath. A woman was walking toward me with two teenage children walking with her. As she passed me she said "It is a remembrance thing." To my left across the road at the Police Wall of Remembrance there was a crowd of people, some of whom were sitting on the grass. There were others standing. All of the people were facing the stone wall with its black granite.

In Hyde Park many people were enjoying the sunshine and I gave the coins that were in my pocket to a busker playing an electronic keyboard next to the fountain. In Market Street I heard a woman say to her companion, "I know, that's my theory." They walked past me down the street. Both were young. "Say yes to the taste you love," said an advertisement on the street in front of the pedestrian bridge. The people flocked past in both directions. On Pyrmont Bridge a man was taking a photo of the backs of two women seated on a bench, with the Western Distributor visible to him in the background. "Like, have a great day, walk away," a woman said loudly into her microphone as she walked along the bridge past me. "It's very complicated," said a man standing outside the pub at the end of the bridge, to his companion, an elderly woman, who was holding a smartphone in her hands.

Monday 3 July 2017

To Newtown for coffee

Because I needed to buy coffee I decided earlier than usual this morning to walk to Newtown, and I went out the back of the building and up through Victoria Park. On King Street there was a man walking toward me wearing a black beanie with "Uni Pro" embroidered on the band. I went across Missenden Road and bought coffee at the Campos cafe then when I came out I walked down King Street, passing a restaurant offering diners outside butter chicken burgers. I went into the cafe next door to the cinema and sat down at a table at the back on the padded bench facing the room.

Opposite me sitting at a table were two elderly Anglo women and a man with brown skin. I ordered a flat white and later asked for a menu because I thought it might be interesting to try the food they served there. While I was reading posts on social media two young men sat down at the table next to me and immediately whipped out their smartphones. They started talking after a while and one said "Why did you have to remind me, man?" Later the other one would ask me if he could use the sugar that was on my table. I ordered a Caesar salad.

When I had finished eating I went out and turned back the way I had come. I had bought my coffee and had had lunch so there was nothing else to do and I could go home. Outside the cinema a woman was walking with two children, one of whom was gamboling on the footpath. "Is it starting?" he asked the woman, who I assumed was his mother. The three of them went into the cinema and I kept walking. I gave the change in my pocket to the beggar outside the supermarket. There is always a beggar there although it's not always the same person. Further up the road I passed a renovated building that two women walked out of. There was a vertical banner placed at the entrance, which was emblazoned with the word "Canteen". "Cancer's different in a young person's world," read the banner.

Down at the university I went into the Wentworth Building and used the ATM then went to the toilet. When I had come back to City Road I saw five cement mixers parked along the street. Inside the university grounds on the road at the back of the science building were five more cement mixers. The construction site where they are putting up a new building was very noisy. In Victoria Park as I approached Broadway I could hear a woman walking behind me because her shoes were noisy. I didn't turn around and imagined they were boots. She was talking in a Slavic language on her telephone.

I went down Broadway and turned left into Mountain Street, then walked up to Wattle Street by cutting through the petrol station. A petrol tanker was unloading fuel into underground tanks. It had the word "Toll" painted on the side. Across the street from Wentworth Park a City Ranger was booking the owner of a blue VW hatchback that was parked there. A crow was chasing another crow further up, near the railway viaduct. They crashed into the branches of a tree growing near the railway overpass as I walked along. I walked behind the Fish Market and as I crossed Miller Street into Saunders Street it started to rain lightly. I walked up the hill and was soon home.

Sunday 2 July 2017

Another busy day

After I did the laundry and the grocery shopping this morning I left home and headed across Pyrmont Bridge eastward. On the bridge there was a woman taking a photo of her small son with her smartphone. "Mummy!" said the boy as I walked past, looking resentful. Soon afterward I saw a man walking two grey Afghan hounds on leashes. On Market Street there was a woman in a short skirt walking west and talking into her phone. "Yeah, let me come back," she said into the phone as I went past her.

I turned left into Pitt Street Mall and crossed King Street, heading right up the hill. At Castlereagh Street I turned left and walked along to Martin Place, where I turned right. The buses on Elizabeth Street roared past the pedestrians waiting at the lights. The street kitchen that had been moved away from the building site at the top of Martin Place had been moved across the plaza and was now set up right outside the Reserve Bank building. "We need homes not evictions," read a large banner strung up above the tables. Two people were sitting on chairs behind the tables. There were numerous tents set up on the ground closer to Macquarie Street. A young man sat next to one of the tents in the sun.

At Macquarie Street I crossed the road at the lights and walked into the hospital grounds. "No running or jogging on hospital grounds," read the sign on the fence next to the gate. Inside, there was a trio of jazz musicians playing their instruments. "Are you busking?" I asked one of the musicians. "No," he said. "Just doing it for fun?" I pressed. "No," he said. "Cafe." I heard them start up a well-known old song as I headed down into The Domain. At the gallery I went inside and bought a postcard then left, heading down the hill toward East Sydney. I crossed William Street into Yurong Street then turned up the hill toward Hyde Park.

Inside the park there were a lot of servicemen and -women in their dress uniforms, as well as similarly dressed police. Many had medals pinned to their chests. There were chairs set up in front of the War Memorial and a truck with "Emergency Catering Unit" written on the side. A line of people led away from the truck. I turned toward Liverpool Street and hopped over the wall onto the pavement, then walked down toward Darling Harbour. The street was closed to traffic between Castlereagh Street and George Street because of construction work being done for the new light rail line. A man and a woman stood on the corner of George Street. "Oh, is that what it's for?" said the woman. "Yeah, same thing as they did on the Gold Coast?" stated the man in response.

At Dixon Street I turned left and walked down toward Haymarket. I crossed the train tracks and entered Market City and went up the escalators to the second floor, where I joined a line of people waiting to get into yum cha.

Saturday 1 July 2017

A busy day

At about 11.15am I ventured out to get to a meeting with a friend in Newtown because we had organised some time before to have lunch together today. I went out my building's back door and down past Channel Ten to Miller Street. At the lights were two men, one wearing a sleeveless fleeced top and the other, who was shorter than the first man, a leather jacket. My coat was buttoned up against the cold. They crossed when the light turned green and walked ahead of me, and before I stopped to cross the road outside the Fish Market I saw them kiss each other as they walked along.

When I got to the parking lot behind the restaurant area I could see the two men walking along Pyrmont Bridge Road toward Glebe and I followed, catching up with them where they stood waiting for the signal to change. We all crossed the road and went up Wattle Street past the racetrack and into Wentworth Park. They were moving faster than me so they arrived at the traffic lights first and by the time I got to the roadway they had already crossed into Bay Street, and I lost track of them.

I headed up to Broadway and crossed at the lights, going into Victoria Park and up along City Road. There was a woman on King Street walking a dog on a leash and she had headphones on and was singing to rap music. On Missenden Road a man on a motorcycle pulled up at the traffic lights. His helmet had "Batman" painted on the back in cartoon letters. I got to the pub and bought a beer, sitting down to wait at a table. I had arrived quite early and so I chatted with my friend on Facebook Messenger, then scrolled slowly through my Twitter feed, reading the posts there.

When my friend arrived she bought me another beer and we went out to the beer garden with our drinks. She smoked a cigarette while we talked and after a while we finished our drinks and headed out to a Thai restaurant. We ate our food and drank beer, then when we had finished we headed down King Street toward the train station. My friend's house is located behind the station and when we got there we went inside and greeted her two dogs.

My friend made coffee for us and we talked sitting on sofas in the living room with the heater on. When it was almost 4.30pm I said goodbye and headed out, walking up King Street. I stopped at a bus stop planning to get public transport part of the way home because another friend had messaged me asking if I could give her a lift from the shopping centre. I got on the bus with my Opal card and looked at the people, who were mostly young. At Broadway I got off the bus and walked down Mountain Street, then into Wattle Street, heading home.

At home I sent some more messages and then got into the car and drove down to the shopping centre. I parked the car and went up to K-Mart, where I took a seat near the entrance. There was a sudden commotion when a security guard with the shopping centre chased a teenager, catching her and walking her by the arms away from the store. A number of people were looking at what was happening and talking to each other. My friend came out and we went to a different store. I saw the security guard standing outside a shuttered restaurant talking with the girl he had caught. While I waited in the passageway they kept talking while the girl sat on a chair. Two of her friends stood nearby.

We left the shopping centre and headed to Ikea, where I parked the car. Inside, we went straight to the restaurant and ordered some fish and greens. A man with "Hilfiger" on his sweatshirt was carrying a tray full of food, heading for an empty table with his companions. After eating my friend and I went downstairs to the homewares section. I saw a woman wearing a padded jacket with a military-fatigue pattern and the word "Whatever" printed on it. There was a pink candle wrapped in plastic that had an embossed floral design and "Full God" printed on the label. I took my friend home then headed back to my place with the BBC on the radio because the ABC channels just had sport coverage.