Lone Aussie Rider

(Chris Anderson/Lone Aussie Rider)

(Chris Anderson/Lone Aussie Rider)

Today I learned about Chris Anderson, the Lone Aussie Rider who on 1 May began an incredible journey to raise money and awareness for beyondblue.

Having started from Frankston in Victoria, Chris is aiming to ride 20,000 kilometres by bicycle around the coast of Australia.

He’s already covered more than 3,500 kilometres across the Nullabor Plain and through the southern half of Western Australia.

Unfortunately, the Lone Aussie Rider’s bike was recently stolen – but fortunately, he’s been given a new one.

If you’d like to know more about Chris, here’s the Lone Aussie Rider’s Facebook page.

If you’d like to help Chris, you can donate here.

Chris, stay well and take care – and keep on riding!:)

Posted in Action, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life Strategies, Resilience | Leave a comment

The night oasis

First – to regular and long-time readers, an apology.

It’s now been over three months since I last posted here. Don’t worry – nothing major happened to me. The only things that did happen were busyness elsewhere (some good, some not so good), inertia and (especially) ongoing meh.

As well, initially I had been waiting for life events to influence the outcome of a few small series I had been planning to write. That outcome took longer than expected to arrive – life always happens when you make plans – but even after it did, the things I mentioned in the paragraph above didn’t make me feel like writing.

*

Second – recently I had finally planned to start on those series, but then an unexpected yet very welcome experience has prompted me to write this post instead.

Next time, I may finally start those series. We’ll see.

*

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed reading some online articles about Barack Obama’s late-night routine (like this one).

I enjoyed those articles because like Obama I’m a “night guy”, and reading them took me back to my last full-time job when, especially during its last four years when I worked from home, I preferred completing some of my work hours at night (and sometimes very late).

Those articles also resonated because of my work situation since that full-time job was made redundant early last year. Since then I’ve worked on a few short-term contracts, which meant getting back into the mindset and routine of 9-to-5 hours in offices. That hasn’t been all bad, but many mornings (especially after many nights of unsatisfying sleep) I have missed no longer having the luxury of getting up at around 9am, throwing on just a pair of shorts and being able to start work less than 10 minutes later.

There is always hope, though, that I may be able to work like that again.

*

Monday, 18 July 2016.

Another work day was over, and I decided to revisit a new favourite restaurant for dinner.

So I headed down to Braza Darling Harbour and once again I enjoyed their all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrasco.

Yet, when I got home afterwards, something was very different.

My usual bedtime is between 12am-1am – but tonight the time wasn’t even 10pm, and I was exhausted.

I hadn’t eaten more than I usually did at Braza…but I think the last few weeks had finally caught with me.

I hadn’t been sleeping well – but most surprising (and troubling of all), the weekend just past had been the worst. It was the first weekend in about a month where I didn’t need to be somewhere by a certain time, so Friday and Saturday nights I’d given myself the luxury of staying in bed for up to eight hours…but despite that, I had spent both Saturday and Sunday feeling tired all day. It had well and truly sucked.

And now I wanted to go to bed long before my usual bedtime, and at first that sucked as well…

…but then I decided to embrace it.

Why not go to bed now? Okay, I may wake up again a few hours later – but even if I do, relax and wait until I go to sleep again.

Or maybe – just maybe – I may even sleep solidly for more than a few hours.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

So I brushed my teeth, made a last pit-stop and shortly before 10:30pm went to bed.

I fell asleep pretty quickly.

*

When I awoke, the first thing I did was glance over at my main window.

There was no dawn light at all coming through the blinds.

Great! It was still most likely very early Tuesday morning, so I relaxed.

Next, I decided to read with the hope that eventually I would fall asleep again.

Recently, I’d been enjoying Keith Foskett’s books about thru-hiking the Camino de Santiago, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. As well as being welcome respites from recent life, Foskett’s adventures had got me thinking again about perhaps one day thru-hiking one of those trails myself. I was leaning towards the Camino de Santiago, so recently I had also gotten a copy of Suzanne Ball’s Follow The Yellow Arrows about her Camino experience.

So I powered on the Kindle, read Follow The Yellow Arrows and liked it a lot – but it’s a very short book, and I quickly finished it and found myself not ready to go back to sleep yet.

For a moment I debated whether to lie there and try going back to sleep, or get up for a short while. I decided to get up, as I’m usually no good at lying there trying to go to sleep…

…but for the first time since…I couldn’t remember, I felt refreshed and keen to get up.

I looked at the time on my iPhone. It was 3:51am.

I already been awake for perhaps at least half an hour, so I had slept barely five hours.

But I felt wonderful.

Again, I hadn’t felt this way after sleep for a long time.

I got up feeling very happy.

*

For the next hour-and-a-half or so, until just after 5:30am, I sat at my desk and felt very mellow.

I did a little gaming, I did a little surfing, and I read some more – including this great article about the joys of train-travel, which added to my mellowness.

Finally, just after 5:30am I started to feel a little tired, and so I went back to bed…albeit a little reluctantly, as I’d very much enjoyed waking up feeling wonderful and having some relaxing middle-of-the-night time to myself.

It took a while to get back to sleep, however, and until 7:30am or so when I reluctantly got back up it was unsettled sleep.

*

It’s now been almost a week since that visit to the night oasis, and ever since I’ve remembered it very fondly.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to visit again – but in a few days’ time I’ll be travelling to Canberra Brick Expo 2016..

I can’t wait – partly because of Brick Expo; partly because I’ll be in Canberra again; and partly because of five nights relaxing at a hotel, which promises several possible opportunities to return to the oasis.

Until next time, stay well and take care:)

Posted in Action, Depression, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges | Leave a comment

Black and Blue Walking Man: North by Northeast, and Back (Part 3)

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney NSW (J J Harrison/Wikipedia)

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney NSW (J J Harrison/Wikipedia)

Part 1
Part 2

The drizzle continued as I followed Military Road back into Neutral Bay, but I left my compact umbrella in my travel-vest pocket.

I smiled as I passed many restaurants filled with diners.

Soon, I was crossing back over the Warringah Freeway, re-entering St. Leonards Park and heading back to Miller Street.

I was almost back down the slope of Miller Street to the Rag & Famish Hotel when the drizzle turned into rain.

I pulled over to the steps of one of the high-rise buildings just before the Rag & Famish, put on my backpack’s wet-weather cover and took out my umbrella.

I briefly considered walking another 10 minutes or so to North Sydney Station and getting a train back across Sydney Harbour…but I decided to press on with my walk across the Harbour instead.

It was only rain, after all.

I shouldered my backpack, raised my umbrella and resumed walking.

It was now around 8:30pm, and North Sydney was mostly closed and quiet.

Soon I was heading down the slope of the Pacific Highway past Greenwood Plaza, and entering Milsons Point.

Yet again, similar to when I had last walked this route nine months before, many memories flooded back from the 2000s when I had walked home from my then office in North Sydney hundreds of times along this way.

The rain continued as I headed south through Milsons Point, and once again arrived at the awe-inspiring sight of the night-time Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Soon after I began crossing the Bridge, and about half an hour later I was across the Harbour and in The Rocks.

The rain still continued as I headed south into the CBD, and later south-west as I made it home.

It had taken just under two hours to walk all the way home from Cremorne.

I was wet all over.

But I was happy. Even in rain, a walk like that is always worth it, and the memory will remain with me forever.

That memory makes me smile now as I type this over a month later.

*

The week after I completed that walk, I suddenly found myself embarking on an adventure to another favourite place that, at first, was filled with excitement and hope.

Unfortunately, both of those feelings would dim during that trip, and then fade afterwards.

And in the weeks that have followed since then, life has become somewhat meh overall.

I may or may not write about this in my next few posts. We’ll see.

But what the last few weeks have reinforced is the value of spending a day doing things like indulging in long meals at fondly-remembered restaurants, and enjoyable night-time long-walks in the rain.

It’s those experiences, and the memories they provide, that help keep you going through the meh.

Until next time, stay well and take care:)

Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life is Good, Life Strategies, Travel | Leave a comment

Black and Blue Walking Man: North by Northeast, and Back (Part 2)

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne NSW (http://www.orpheum.com.au/)

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne NSW (http://www.orpheum.com.au/)

Part 1

I continued north up the long slope of Miller Street and passed more locations from my past.

On one side of Miller was the Rydges North Sydney, where one year I’d attended a work function and another year stayed one night for a NaNoWriMo event the next day at the Stanton Library on the other side of Miller Street.

Like many memories, my visits to both those places seemed like they’d happened yesterday yet also hundreds of years ago.

Shortly after that, I reached the summit of Miller Street and continued past North Sydney Oval until I came to St. Leonards Park, where I took a turn north-east.

About 10 minutes later, I crossed the overpass above the Warringah Freeway and entered Neutral Bay.

I’d last walked through Neutral Bay during my walk home from Taronga Zoo in early July last year. It was still very much how I remembered it – noisy thanks to the never-ending traffic along Military Road, but cozy and pleasant to walk through.

I continued along Military Road as it curved up into Cremorne, and soon I smiled as a welcome sight came into view – the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, one of my all-time favourite cinemas.

Across the street from the Orpheum is the Minskys Hotel, where I had briefly stopped during last year’s walk and thought about trying to return a recruiter’s ‘phone call, but didn’t because of the noise.

Today, however, I planned to stay at Minskys for a while, so I bought a glass of diet cola, grabbed a table and sat down to relax.

It was approaching 3:30pm. Barely half an hour had passed since I'd left Had To Happen Mexican Restaurant (WARNING! Make sure your sound is not too loud).

I didn’t have to be somewhere else for at least another hour and a half.

So relax I did.

*

There was one small task I had to attend to, though.

Just before noon, not long after my train had left Town Hall station, I had gotten a ‘phone call from a recruiter.

She asked if I would be interested in a possible opportunity based in Parramatta, way out in the western suburbs. Although a job in Parramatta would mean long commuting (ugh), I said yes.

The recruiter sent me an email containing more information about this opportunity, and now at Minksys I was reading the email on my iPad.

Again, the prospect of perhaps working at Parramatta wasn’t all that inspiring…but several weeks had gone by with deafening silence from several other jobs I had applied for.

I replied to the recruiter that I was still interested.

*

Time passed very pleasantly.

As 5pm approached, I thought about remaining at Minksys for dinner as they had an appealing menu.

But I also thought about the other option I’d been considering during the afternoon, and ultimately I decided on that.

So at 5pm I left Minksys, crossed Military Road and walked past some of the many restaurants that Cremorne has on offer until I came to the place whose food I’d had a growing craving for during the afternoon.

McDonald’s.

I could have stayed at Minksys and enjoyed a ‘real’ burger, but I rarely eat at McDonald’s anymore and the idea of a couple of Big Macs seemed appealing and exotic.

They weren’t bad.

*

At around 5:50pm, I left McDonald’s and headed back up Military Road to the Orpheum.

Just after 6pm, I found myself sitting in one of the Orpheum’s charming Art Deco cinemas.

The week before, I had won a double-pass to a ‘secret screening’ preview of an upcoming film.

I heard several people around me wondering aloud which film it would be.

And soon after, the screening’s host appeared and announced that we would be seeing the film I had been hoping for – Eye In The Sky.

As many others cheered, I grinned.

So far, my day had gone very well.

And fortunately, Eye In The Sky turned out to be quite engrossing and thought-provoking.

*

Shortly after 8pm, I stepped outside the Orpheum to find that it had been raining.

There was a bus stop right across Military Road – but despite the weather, the idea of getting a bus all or part of the way home wasn’t very appealing.

I had always planned to walk home tonight.

And if it did start raining heavily before I reached North Sydney station about half an hour away, it shouldn’t be difficult to get a bus.

I took my compact umbrella out of my backpack and tucked it into one of my travel-vest’s pockets.

Then I crossed Military Road and began walking south-west back towards Neutral Bay.

TO BE CONTINUED

Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Having a Laugh, Life is Good, Travel | Leave a comment

Black and Blue Walking Man: North by Northeast, and Back (Part 1)

Had To Happen Mexican Restaurant, North Sydney (Had To Happen)

Had To Happen Mexican Restaurant, North Sydney (Had To Happen)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016.

It had been almost four weeks since my last job had ended.

Since then, it had been back on the job-hunting trail via my PC at home.

And once again, as I’d experienced during a previous spell on this trail, I’d had enough.

It was time to devote a day to hitting a long-walk trail instead.

And fortunately, today I had two more good excuses to do so.

*

Shortly after noon, I got on a train at Town Hall station.

Barely 15 minutes later, I was across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and getting off at North Sydney station.

For most of the 2000s, I had worked in North Sydney and spent a lot of time there. In 2009 (I think), I was relocated to Pyrmont, and since then I had only passed through North Sydney a few times.

But today, as North Sydney was on the way to where I had to be by 6pm that evening, I decided to spend a little time there.

And as always, whenever you revisit a place from your past, it’s often astounding to see what has changed.

After I got off at the station, I walked through the Greenwood Plaza shopping centre and observed how much it had changed indeed.

A few minutes later after I emerged at Mount Street, I smiled when I saw that the book exchange I had visited many times during the 2000s was still there…but not for much longer, as it’s now closing down.

Shortly after that, I saw that a building that had once held a bar I had visited several times back then was now occupied by a Coles supermarket.

But fortunately, the place I had especially come to visit in North Sydney was still there (although I had confirmed this online during the past few days).

And when I entered the Had To Happen Mexican Restaurant (WARNING! Make sure your sound is not too loud), my smile widened when I saw that it was still very much as I remembered it from my last visit…good grief, over five years ago?

*

Back in my North Sydney working days, I had had many lunches at Had To Happen – sometimes with colleagues, and sometimes by myself.

In particular, many Fridays I had treated myself to end-of-working-week lunches there.

Today, though, I didn’t have to hurry back to an office, so I could spend as long as I liked at Had To Happen – or until 3pm, when they closed for the afternoon.

I was shown to a table I had sat at several times before; marveled that the menu and paper place-mats still looked like how I remembered them; and ordered two dishes that I had previously ordered at many of my old Friday lunches – corn ships with salsa dip, and all-you-can-eat fajitas.

Shortly after, though, what I found that I had forgotten was how big the serving of corn chips was.

And shortly after that, the first of two large lunch parties arrived to remind me of another aspect of Had To Happen – its fun and relaxing atmosphere.

I would keep to myself and read on my iPad, but I enjoyed others around me enjoying themselves.

*

Soon, after I’d made a good stab at the corn chips I knew I wasn’t going to finish, my fajitas arrived.

I pleasantly took my time eating my way through those.

An hour passed.

I debated about getting a second jug of diet cola, and eventually decided, Why not?

Another hour passed.

I debated about getting some dessert, and eventually decided again, Why not?

Eventually, it was not long after 2:30pm when the two large lunch parties finally decided to leave.

And as Had To Happen suddenly emptied, I decided to leave as well.

I visited the bathroom – especially after all of that food and drink, but also because I didn’t know how far away the next bathroom would be.

I knew my bill was going to be big, and I did pause for a second when I saw that it was a little bigger than expected – but I didn’t regret it.

I had spent just over two-and-a-half hours relaxing with a very pleasant and satisfying meal in a place that had brought back a lot of fond memories.

I paid my bill, and walked out of Had To Happen smiling.

I felt very satisfied, and also very tanked-up for what lay ahead.

*

I headed back up Mount Street, and then to another place where I had eaten many lunches years ago – Berry Square shopping centre.

It was partly how I remembered it – but I was also a little stunned to see that it was now half-empty with vacant retail spaces, especially its first floor. Was business that bad, or was some sort of redevelopment coming?

I made my way through Berry Square until I reached Berry Street on the other side, and soon after that I came to the intersection of Berry and Miller Street.

I crossed Berry to the landmark Rag & Famish Hotel, to where the day’s walk would begin.

It was a warm day with a suggestion of rain – but after the recent weeks-long heatwave that Sydney had endured, that was very welcome.

My objective was an hour or so away (or so I thought), and a couple of hours after that should be a pleasant surprise (or so I hoped).

I began walking north up the very long slope of Miller Street.

TO BE CONTINUED

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‘Sideways’

Theatrical release poster for 'Sideways' (2004) (AMP Awards/Wikipedia)

Theatrical release poster for ‘Sideways’ (2004) (AMP Awards/Wikipedia)

Way back in early 2005, one of the first movies I saw at the cinema that year was the American comedy-drama Sideways, adapted from the novel by Rex Pickett.

Sideways is about two friends in their early 40s, Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church), who spend a week holidaying in California’s Santa Barbara County Wine Country before Jack’s upcoming wedding. Miles is a depressed divorcee and frustrated writer who is anxiously hoping that a novel will soon be accepted for publication, while Jack is a fun-loving free-spirit but also a senseless womaniser who is keen for a last week of action before he weds. Very quickly, what Miles had hoped would be a quietly pleasant week of golfing, wine-tasting and dining becomes complicated and exciting – but ultimately disastrous – after he and Jack become involved respectively with locals Maya (Virginia Madsen) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh).

At the time, I enjoyed Sideways a lot – I found it very funny, but also bittersweet and moving.

A year or so later, I also read and enjoyed the novel (and in more recent years I have also read and enjoyed the two sequels).

Eventually when Sideways became cheaply available on DVD, I bought a copy and as years passed I watched it a few more times.

A few years ago, however, I suddenly became hooked – and since then, I’ve lost count of how many more times I’ve seen Sideways. At one point for weeks on end, I was watching it late every Friday night.

As well, last year I bought a copy of Rolfe Kent’s soundtrack album (and it is playing in the background as I type this).

Why did I become so hooked on this film?

*

Like many good things in life, Sideways is straight-forward yet very effective in what it does. It’s a low-key yet well-crafted film that every time I watch it still makes me smile and groan and laugh and feel a little sad.

A few years ago, I began re-appreciating Sideways so much that it became a comfort film. The reason why I used to watch it late Friday night for weeks on end was that it was a good way to start unwinding after a working week and see in the weekend.

As well, because I had changed since I first saw Sideways in early 2005, it came to mean more to me for several reasons.

*

One of those reasons had its preview during that very first time I saw it.

Early in Sideways, there’s a scene where Miles and Jack are walking from their hotel in Buellton to the restaurant The Hitching Post II for dinner, and Jack is telling Miles about his concerns regarding his upcoming marriage and life after that.

When I first watched that scene way back in early 2005, I marveled at Miles and Jack’s situation of (a) beginning a week’s holiday, (b) staying in a hotel and (c) going to a restaurant for dinner. At the time, I had done plenty of (a) (albeit mostly staying with relatives) but very little of (b) and (c).

A few years ago, however, my life had changed a lot – working away from home for a couple in months in 2009 had made me a huge fan of staying in hotels (and aspiring to one day perhaps living in a hotel); and since early 2007 I have eaten out most nights.

Thus, rediscovering Sideways reinforced some things I’d very much come to enjoy doing and living.

As well, there’s an amusing sequence that takes place after Miles’s plan to go golfing with Jack is thwarted by Jack instead spending the day with Stephanie. Thus, Miles finds himself spending most of the day doing things by himself – and although it highlights Jack’s selfishness and is accompanied by the soundtrack piece ‘Lonely Day’, to me it looks like a great way to spend a day.

Sideways hasn’t encouraged me to take up drinking wine, but it did make Santa Barbara County Wine Country look like a very nice place to visit. The prospects of me ever going there are remote…but who knows?

*

Another reason why Sideways came to mean more to me a few years ago was that by then I was in a similar situation to Miles and Jack.

When I first saw Sideways in early 2005, I was 33 years old.

A few years ago, like Miles and Jack I was in my early 40s.

As well, like Miles and Jack I was going through my mid-life crisis. Although mine was nowhere near as drastic as theirs, it weighed upon my mind at times – so ever since, whenever I watch them talking about what they’re going through I can relate to it much more.

*

Another reason why I have come to re-appreciate Sideways is Miles, because there are a couple of things that we share.

One thing is writing. Miles is a frustrated writer, whereas I was a would-be (or perhaps a never-was) writer. To cut a very long story short, for about 30 years I had thought that perhaps one day I might become a published author, but by 2010 I had very much killed that idea. Not having become a published author by now (and most likely ever) is one of my biggest regrets in life, although I must admit that finally killing that idea did take a load off of my mind – and as an alternative, I have very much enjoyed blogging here.

The other thing that Miles and I share, most of all, is depression.

When I first saw Sideways back in early 2005, I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with my depression – but I could relate a lot to Miles. We both had downbeat views on life, and dwelt too much on the past (and especially its failures).

After mid-2007, when I began my therapy and medication, I could relate to Miles a lot more.

There’s an especially powerful sequence in Sideways that begins with Maya attempting an emotional connection with Miles through their mutual love for wine. It’s a highly-charged moment – but unfortunately Miles (who suffers from anxiety and depression) finds it overwhelming and makes an awkward exit to the bathroom, where he snarlingly curses himself (“You’re such a fucking loser. You make me so fucking sick.”)

When I rediscovered that sequence a few years ago, it hit me hard and it has stayed with me ever since – and sometimes during the past few years, I have been unable to re-watch it. I have had many similar bathroom moments.

*

As I mentioned earlier, I find Sideways funny and pleasant yet also bittersweet and moving.

As its last third begins, the first major disaster takes place and the holiday quickly goes from one awful situation to another (although some of them still have their very funny moments). Even the journey home ends badly, and then there’s Jack’s bittersweet wedding…but at the end, there’s a last poignant sequence with some hope at last for Miles.

Perhaps.

*

So far this year, I’ve only watched Sideways once or twice…but writing this, and listening to the soundtrack a couple of times while doing so, has got me thinking about revisiting it again in the near future.

There will be other comfort films to discover (or rediscover), but for several reasons Sideways will always remain a favourite.

Until next time, stay well and take care:)

Posted in Happiness, Having a Laugh, Inspiration, Pain, Something to Think About, Travel | Leave a comment

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 7)

Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (questapartments.com.au)

Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (questapartments.com.au)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

October
September became October, and my new job continued.

There were some initial hiccups – there was a delay in getting my first pay, and I came down with a persistent cold for a couple of weeks – but otherwise, life in general went well.

And as the weeks passed, life kept on getting better.

Part of it was the job itself. As I mentioned in my previous post, the work was familiar and it was a good environment with nice people, some of whom I became quite friendly with. In all the time that I would spend working there, I would only ever have one really bad day there (and it wasn’t that bad – it was resolved the next day without major issues).

Another part was being able to live in Canberra for a while. As well as my fondness for Canberra since my late teens, the pace of life in the nation’s capital was a nice breather for a while from Sydney.

But the biggest part of why I enjoyed my time there so much was where I stayed, at Quest Canberra in Civic.

Overall, it was a wonderful combination of living in a cozy hotel with great staff in the centre of a favourite city with pretty much everything I needed within a 10-minute radius by foot – work, Greyhound coaches to and from Sydney, groceries, the latest version of one of my all-time favourite bookstores, two cinemas, many restaurants and more.

That more included an unexpected discovery I made shortly after I arrived at Quest Canberra. One morning, I walked around the corner from Quest to the southern side of the Melbourne Building to find something that made me laugh – a big men’s clothing store. Indeed, everything I could possibly need or want was close by (and, yes, I would eventually buy something there).

And as for my hotel room itself, it was grand – not only because there was so much room and I didn’t have to worry about things like housework, but also because it allowed me to live a minimalist lifestyle for a while.

And because there was very little to worry about when not at work, that also meant there was less to worry about at work…

…except for the only persistent problem I had while in Canberra. I don’t know why it happened, and eventually I came to grudgingly live with it, but it caused some trouble at first and it always nagged me.

It was the return of one of my life-long problems.

Insomnia.

*

When my time in Canberra began, I was prepared for some trouble with getting back into a workday routine of waking up early (blah) and going to bed at a more reasonable time than my usual 1am-2am bedtime (blah).

Funnily enough, though, when I look back now I don’t recall that first week at Novotel Canberra being memorably bad for lack of sleep.

But it was during my second week, when I began staying at Quest Canberra, that I recall the dreadful pattern beginning.

At first, I found myself getting tired and going to bed at around 11pm – which I wanted, as it meant that I could possibly get up to eight hours’s sleep before getting up at 7am and getting to the office by 8am…

…but at 2am or so I would always find myself waking up, and then spending the next five hours falling in and out of sleep every 30 minutes or so…

…and for pretty much every other Canberra night that followed, and no matter what time I went to sleep (sometimes as early as 10pm, or as late as 1am), I would always wake up after only two or three hours of sleep and spend the next few hours falling in and out of sleep.

It drove me nuts – especially as I suspect it partly (if not mostly) contributed to that bad cold that blighted my first weeks in Canberra.

I was having a great time in Canberra with few troubles in my life – SO WHY COULDN’T I GET A GOOD’S NIGHT SLEEP?!?

I cursed my subconscious for undermining my life yet again for whatever fucking reason (or reasons), and tried to live with it as best as I could.

But that did mean that for a while, even on weekends I felt like doing very little – which was a shame, because I had plans for long-walking in Canberra. But for several weeks at first, on many after-work nights I barely had enough energy to even watch TV.

As well, although I did buy more Lego as I’d initially hoped to do, I had little and then no creative energy to build MOCs. I began one project that after two sessions spent the rest of its time in Canberra sitting half-finished on the dining table; and most of the other Lego I bought was never opened.

*

While I was in Canberra, I made several trips back to Sydney.

A couple of times, I had to go back to get some things I needed, which wasn’t so bad – but there were also the two weekends I had to go back for an unwelcome reason: prepare my flat for a real-estate inspection. Fortunately, despite all the clutter still in my place, I passed (at least it was clean and tidy clutter).

Another couple of times, my small and cluttered apartment got on my nerves when compared to my grand residence in Canberra, and so did the noise and crowds in Sydney.

But what never bugged me about those travels to and from Sydney were the three-and-a-half-hours each way by Greyhound – and in fact, I always looked forward to those coach trips.

It was partly because they were very comfortable, with two seats to myself and USB ports that ensured my iPod and iPad never went dead.

And it was partly because I knew that whenever I headed north from the Jolimont Centre or headed south from Central Station, all I could do for the next three-and-a-half hours was relax.

And I did.

*

In late October, not long after my two-month contract passed its halfway mark, I got some very welcome news – an extension until 24 December (although I would later use Christmas Eve to travel to Queensland for Christmas with family).

I would now be working and staying in Canberra for three months.

Things just kept on getting better and better.

*

There was also the money I was earning.

Staying at Quest Canberra took about half of it.

I was also still paying rent and monthly bills for home back in Sydney.

And there were the several Greyhound return-trips I made.

But even after all of that, I never lacked for anything in Canberra.

Apart from a few big Lego purchases, and an iPod Touch to replace my iPod Classic after its long career finally came to an end, I didn’t live extravagantly – but I was able to live very comfortably.

As I have previously mentioned, there is the chance that for my next tax-return I may be able to claim back most of the money I spent staying at Quest Canberra and Novotel Canberra – but even if it turns out I can’t, I don’t regret spending it for a working holiday that I enjoyed very much.

November
October became November, and my new job continued.

And although my fucking insomnia persisted, I was feeling less and less like a zombie.

So on weekends, I had begun doing more.

One weekend, on a whim, I decided to get on a local bus and visit a part of Canberra that I hadn’t seen since 1993 – Belconnen, where I’d lived while attending the University of Canberra. And thanks to unexpectedly putting some Lego on lay-by while I was there, I would make two more trips to that place from my past.

Visiting Belconnen was quite an eerie experience. Some of it looked very much like I remembered, while some of it had changed dramatically – especially Westfield Belconnen, which was huge back then but was monstrous now.

Another weekend, I revisited another place that I also hadn’t seen since my uni days – the Australian War Memorial. It was less than three kilometres from Quest Canberra, so I walked out there.

A fellow contractor I was working with said I would be amazed at how big the Memorial had grown – and he was right. I was out there for four hours, and I only got to the end of the Second World War.

As I had been over 20 years before, I was engrossed, moved and unnerved by what I saw at the Memorial.

After I left, I did something I hadn’t done before – walked down the eastern side of Anzac Parade to visit the series of memorials there. Similar to my previous four hours at the Memorial, and especially as I was alone for the whole time, it was a very interesting experience.

*

After that visit to the Memorial, I wanted to return another weekend to finish seeing all of the exhibits and visit the memorials on the west side of Anzac Parade.

Alas, it was not to be – but I did make another walking trip that I will always remember fondly.

A Sydney friend who had worked in Canberra a few years before recommended visiting the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston, on the south-eastern side of Lake Burley Griffin. It was about the same distance by foot as the Memorial, so I decided to walk there as well.

I followed Commonwealth Avenue south across the lake, and then headed south-east along the foreshore to Kingston. It was a great sunny day for walking and seeing some of Canberra at its best.

About half an hour later I reached the Old Bus Depot Markets. Although I’m not really a markets person, they were quite pleasant and I enjoyed the history of the location.

As well, the Markets gave me the excuse to visit nearby downtown Kingston for lunch. From previous experience I knew that Kingston was renowned for its restaurants, and although this visit’s choice was disappointing food-wise the staff and venue were pleasant.

After lunch I retraced some of my past once again by crossing Telopea Park into Barton, where I’d had my first experience of working in Canberra back in…yikes, 2003. On a whim, I then decided to head south-west into Manuka as I vaguely remembered shops from my last visit there in…yikes, 2009.

I’m glad I had that whim because I liked Manuka shops a lot with their lively Sunday-afternoon vibe. I especially liked the local Gelatissimo which was the right place to visit on a hot Sunday afternoon, and then the local bookshop where (I admit) I spent up to an hour showrooming in their history section alone.

After that, I headed north-west through Forrest towards Parliament House and followed Capital Circuit back around to Commonwealth Avenue which took me back across the lake. Finally, I ended my walk at a local institution where I ended many of my Canberra days – Happy’s Chinese Restaurant.

It was one of my favourite long-walks ever, and yet another reason why I didn’t want my time in Canberra to end.

But end it would have to, alas…

December
…although as November became December, there was some hope that my contract might be extended once again.

A couple of hopeful weeks passed – but, alas, it wasn’t to be. 23 December would be my last working day in Canberra (or so I thought).

I confirmed with Quest Canberra that I would be checking out on the 24th. I booked a Christmas Eve flight to Queensland. I made a last trip to and from Sydney on the weekend of 12-13 December to take most of my stuff at home.

And then, on 16 December my employer advised that my contract was now finishing on 18 December instead.

Although three last days of income before Christmas Eve would have been welcome, it wasn’t the end of the world – and I could now spend those last three days holidaying in Canberra instead.

I spent my last day at work attending two separate Christmas functions, which was good fun.

The next week, on my second-last day in Canberra, I once again crossed Lake Burley Griffin to see a place that I had last visited in 1986 on a high-school excursion – Old Parliament House, now the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Before I crossed King George Terrace to get to the Museum, however, I visited a place directly opposite that I don’t recall visiting in 1986 – the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. That was a humbling and moving experience.

The Museum was also very interesting. It was amusing and fascinating to think that Australia was once run from a building that had originally been designed for 300 people and to last for only 30 years, but instead it functioned for over 60 years and had up to 3000 people working there when it was retired in 1988.

*

I spent my last night in Canberra having a final dinner at Happy’s, and packing.

The next morning, I bid a fond farewell to Quest Canberra and hoped that one day – and sooner rather than later – I could return.

A short bus-ride later, I was at the airport.

A couple of hours after that, I was flying north to Queensland.

*

A week later, after a pleasant stay with family, I returned to Sydney on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.

I had spent most of my previous 31 Decembers alone at home, but this time I would be spending it with a friend and his family in Sydney’s inner-west.

And so, I saw in 2016 with good company – and most of all, happy with how my 2015 had turned out.

It had been one of the most challenging and change-filled years of my life, but also one of my happiest and rewarding – especially during those last three months spent in Canberra.

I will remember that time with great affection for the rest of my life.

Epilogue
2016 began, and I hit the job-hunting trail once more.

A few weeks later, I landed my first (and I certainly hope not my last) job for the year. It was for only four weeks, but one good thing about it was that it was only 20 minutes’ walk from home in the Sydney CBD.

Another good thing about it was that it was close to a pleasant club where I would eat most of my meals for the coming month.

And another good thing about it was the people I worked with.

But a bad thing, however, was the work itself with a difficult client. By the end of the first week, I was already hating it.

At the end of my third week, I was offered a four-week extension and the possibility of further work beyond that – but I’d had enough, and I politely declined.

I did give some thought about whether it would be more prudent and sensible to stay there – after all, it was paying work – but I decided to take a risk and try my chances elsewhere, because I could still afford to and I wanted to.

And as I write this, there are a few potential opportunities.

One of them is a full-time job only 20-30 minutes’ walk from home.

And another is perhaps the chance for a 12-month contract in Canberra.

So there is hope.

Until next time, stay well and take care:)

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