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.
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.
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…
…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.
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 🙂