Where am I today?

Long after you have been on a holiday and forgotten about it.
Or, let’s face it, in this current hectic world we live in,  it’s literally the day after you get back.
And, then, the only reminder that you actually had a holiday, is the last of the washing.
What you need are little reminders that you actually went.  This might take the form of postcards or fridge magnets, but these tend to get lost among the everyday collections of bills and children’s paintings, drawings, or certificates.
And, there’s only so much you can stick on the fridge door.
But, there is another way.

If you stay in hotels as most of us do, they always, or nearly always, provide you with several very important items that can give us a little reminder of where we been and the associated memories, whether good or bad, but hopefully good.

The first is a writing pad and pen.  You don’t get much paper on that pad so it’s only good for writing down plot points, if you’re a writer like me, particularly if you’re in an overseas location

The second is the toiletries, like hair shampoo and conditioner, along with other items, like soap and bath gel.  These invariably have the hotel name and sometimes location on them, but often the hotel name is all that is needed.

Of course, some hotels are different, like the Hilton, because every Hilton has the same pen and the same toiletries, so with these hotels, you’re going to have to have a good memory, or as I do, take the pad.  It has the hotel’s address.

With other hotels, like the Bruneschelli in Florence, or the Savoir in Venice, they have their name on both.

Some people will use the toiletries and therefore will not have a keepsake reminder, or they may not see the use in taking the pen or the pad that comes with the room, but I suggest you do.

Then, when you least expect it, there will be that little reminder of where you go been and hopefully, it will bring back good memories

Like today.
I’m in Florence.
Well, for the duration of the shower, that is.

A Long Day’s Journey into Night

That was the name of a play, the script of which I once took out of a library, but never got around to reading it.

It sparked a momentary interest in Eugene O’Neill’s work, but I found it a little hard to understand.  Of course, back then, when I knew little about anything, it was basically a mystery.

It did fuel a brief dalliance with books with a deeper meaning for a short time, one of which was Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but more intriguing of his works was called The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.

While it could be said the literal meaning of that title was rather true, having done a little long-distance running mostly in the final years of school, and realizing it was a lonely sport, it was probably the first time I discovered allegory.

But aside from all that, it led to a foray into more salacious books such as The Postman Always Rings Twice.

And, don’t get me started on D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

However, I’m doing my usual digression, so back to the point…

Taking it in the literal sense, you can do a long day’s work, not get finished by the time you are supposed to go home, and then decide to burn the midnight oil, i.e., work on into the night.

And some days, you know the ones, where time literally drags, and it feels like forever before it’s time to go home, sometimes in darkness, for a variety of reasons, not just the obvious!

Other times, like when reading a good book, you pick it up in the morning, and the next thing you know, it’s night, and the day is gone.  That was a ‘journey’ but a pleasant one.  Long ago, that used to happen to me a lot.

Now, I hardly get time to read, let alone write, and for some strange reason, retirement is much harder than being at work.

Perhaps I should have taken those time management courses when they were offered.

Around the table…

You know that you are getting old when sitting at a table where only one person is less than 65.

There were just over a dozen of us, meeting up for my older brother’s 70th birthday.

I have to say, from the outset, that I never expected him to live that long, but, when you take into consideration the longevity of our parents, my father is 97 and my mother 93, it’s no longer a surprise.

As for me, I’m 67 this year, and there are three years between us.

Something else I hadn’t realized, but what possibly seems coincidental is the age difference between our granddaughters, which is also three years. One is 16, another is 13 and the youngest 10.

But…

It was interesting to finally meet a number of the guests as, for many, many years, I’d only heard of them in passing conversation. This is because we very rarely manage to get down from Brisbane to Melbourne to catch up, and almost never when my brother has had one of these rare get-togethers.

Of course, these people had known him for years, and there was a thread to bound them together.

Stamps.

They were all stamp collectors.

I remember a long, long time ago I used to collect stamps, but I did not have the same passion for collecting as my brother did, and if truth be told, I was a little jealous.

And he had a Stanley Gibbons catalog that could put a value to every stamp. That, to me, showed dedication.

I just bought stamps that were big and colorful from obscure countries no one had ever heard of. But, in another sense, it was where I learned a lot about the British Commonwealth. Some of those African member countries were those same obscure places I had stamps for.

Then when I could be no longer be bothered, I just handed the lot to him and said he could do with them what he will.

Naturally, at this gathering, we didn’t talk about stamps.

If fact, after describing myself as the black sheep, well, grey sheep on account of the hair, it seemed we became the center of attention.

To be honest, I expected the lunch to last an hour, but who knew there was so much to talk about, even though I really can’t remember much of it other than it lasted almost three hours. That’s a lot of time talking about nothing.

But I guess when you reach that golden age, time ceases to have any real meaning.

We now have a standing invitation to return, and since time is running out for all of us, it’s probably wise to not take so long to return.

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely sources

And this was one of those times.

We came down from Brisbane to Melbourne for a wedding, perhaps the last for this family for quite some time, this being my wife’s brother’s last daughter to tie the knot, so to speak.

And like someone said, as with births, weddings and funerals, it turned into a family reunion on my wife’s side of the family.

But there were extra benefits…

We got to meet the extended family of the groom.

And, we got an insight into their friends, the thirty-something, footloose and fancy-free acquaintances that had been off and on a part of the bride and groom’s life for about 15 or so years, and most of whom had been to London, for various stints, and who are now scattered across Australia, and other international destinations.

I have to say that these people were quite interesting.

As an older person, I didn’t have much in common, so I followed one of my father’s old adages, if you’ve got nothing to say, shut up and listen.

And as a writer, I did something else, observe.

It was an eye-opening experience, if nothing else, and a rather interesting look into what it might be like as an unmarried reasonably well off thirty-something. For starters, you didn’t have to worry about the price of drinks, or how much you drank. You can just up and go anywhere in the world at the drop of a hat. For a few minutes there I was starting to feel envious.

It was sometimes overindulgence, but I noticed it was never to the point of becoming what some refer to as legless. Noisy perhaps, crude at times, yes, but in reminiscing, it was a curious phenomenon that they had all “hooked up” at some time or other.

Aside from learning what appeared to be a new “language”, there was also a running theme that at one time or another nearly all of them had lived with the groom in London for a period.

It got me thinking.

It would make a good story.

It was just trying to find a context, other than a wedding, that would bring them together, one where a series of vignettes that involved each of them in turn that could bring to the story of that person to life.

In this case, but not so much the reminiscing, it was the wedding.

What if it was an untimely funeral?

Trying to find joy in the midst of a very sad occasion.

I’m sure this has been done to death many times, but after hearing a lot of happy memories, it seems to me that in this case, it could be uplifting.

Yes, the ideas need a little work, but it’s firmly there in my mind.

Perhaps when I get back home, I might just start writing.

We all change over time

The other day when visiting a friend I was asked if I would like some camomile tea. I said it was something I had tried once and didn’t like, which prompted the comment ‘you don’t seem to like very much’.

It was not a comment made in malice, we have known each other a long time, but I didn’t realize it until then that our individual tastes had changed over time, more particularly in my case.

I used to drink tea with milk and three, sometimes more, sugars once, drink the archetypal Australian beer like Fosters Lager and Carlton Draught, but in recent years found I could no longer drink it and had switched to European beers such as Peroni or Heineken.

It got me thinking about how our likes and dislikes change over time, sometimes through a bad experience (as is the case with a type of alcohol – mine is tequila), sometimes for other reasons, like for dietary or health reasons (one is having diabetes).

My steak preference has changed from medium to medium-rare to rare, I no longer have tea with milk and sugar, and drastically cut down on chocolate.

Another phenomenon I have noticed particularly in my and my wife’s case is how our tastes have changed together, so I’m assuming that is from familiarity.

In the case of friends, you do not necessarily see them all that often, so it would be possible for them to change and you do not know about it, and no doubt eventually prompt a comment.

There is also the case of external influences on each of us that bring changes, such as those who have children and those who do not, those who travel to particular places and those who travel to different places, even having a different job can affect our lives.

This is why, over time, our friends come and go, going off in different directions for one or many reasons.

I guess that’s why the saying ‘change is not always for the better’ came into being, but, there again, for some the exact opposite might be true.

Going home

Home has a great many different meanings, for me, and, I guess, a great many others.

Over a lifetime we have a lot of different homes, we tend not to stay in one place all our lives.

I know, for me, my first home was in Carrum, when I was very young, and I don’t remember much of it. My second home was Mordialloc, but, again, I don’t remember much of it either.

My next home was Dandenong, in not one house, but two, the first I spent my grade school years, the second, my secondary school years, and in between a short period in a country town called Berrigan.

Then, after getting married, I left that house where my parents continued to live for quite a few years, as we bounced around, from Burnley to North Dandenong, having been drawn back to where I used to live, then back home to my parents for a short period, and North Dandenong again.

It’s curious how we return to certain places to live, rather than consider another suburb say North or West.

Equally curious about how I tend to call going home, when traveling in Australia, not, as you would think, our home in Queensland, but where we used to live in Victoria. I guess that is because it’s my spiritual home.

People often as if we would return to Victoria, and the answer, of course, is no. We might have all our family there, but it is not enough of a pull to return. We are content just to come back once or twice a year.

For us, Melbourne had become too large a city, with all the problems that go with it. Brisbane has and will be for the rest of my lifetime, have much fewer traffic problems and the feel of being less urbanized. One thing I don’t miss about being in Melbourne is the traffic. It is horrendous, any time of the day and night.

But what would be good in Brisbane is the markets like those at Queen Victoria and South Melbourne. We have nothing like it.

And something else, rather more frivolous, Brisbane doesn’t have the same fish and chips, donuts, or spring rolls and dim sims. Every time we come down, those are the first things we get, even if we have to go out of our way.

Since we have arrived in Melbourne, we have done two out of the three. We have 6 more days here to do the third. And managed to visit most of our relatives. The reason we’re down here is the wedding of my wife’s brother’s daughter, and there we will meet the rest.

Urban decay

It was one of those beautiful Autumn mornings, blue sky with a smattering of clouds but a sunny day all the same.  It’s Sunday so there is not as much traffic on the road.

Anyone with any sense would be going to eat their favorite coffee place and settling down to your choice of coffee and perhaps a toaster or muffin to accompany the conversation.

This is what’s happening at the cafe we go for coffee.  9:00 in the morning it is packed.  But great coffee is hard to find, and this is great coffee.

It’s that in-between time before it gets windy, cold and wet, with the sort of chill you can feel in your bones, rather it’s the time when you have a barbeque in the mid-afternoon and get home before the cold sets in, or take the kids to the park for some healthy exercise.

Today I have to take a drive from one side of suburbia to the other, taking as a network of main roads with rather anonymous names such as North and South

We travel through the older suburbs, those with a collection of red or white bricks and timber dating back to the fifties and sixties.  They are not, for the most part, in a good state of repair, and rather than looking ramshackle, it’s more like they are slowly decaying.

Fences are rotting or falling over, extensions like they have been glued on rather than added by an architect, and paint either fading or missing.

Some have been bulldozed and replaced, blocks are cleared awaiting new development, others are being renovated.  Any way you look at them they are still worth a great deal of money being in the close to the city part of suburbia.

It’s a location we could never afford.  Because we were not affluent we were pushed out to the less expensive outer suburbs.  This was of course 50 years ago, and now those outer suburbs are now the new medium suburbs and people are buying 20 km further out in the new estates.  When I was young these suburbs were farms and open land.

It also surprises me that people would want to live on the main road because with traffic as it is heading into the city, it would be difficult to leave or return by car.  At least for these people, public transport is better than it is in the outer suburbs.

Because it’s Sunday my trip takes a lot less time, except for those unpredictable traffic lights, some of which I missed and took a while to cycle through the other traffic before it was our time to move.

Time enough for reflection, and realize that nothing stands still and that everything was always in a constant state of change.

Next time I come this way, I doubt anything will be the same, except perhaps, the traffic lights