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 (

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, Cremorne NSW (

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.


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.


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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.


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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.



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 (

Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (

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

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 🙂

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

Poor Man, Rich Man: Bankruptcy – Year Five


Year One
Year Two
Year Three
Year Four

It’s Valentine’s Day again, which is an important date in my life.

As long-time readers will know, however, it’s not because of love or romance.

On 14 February 2011, I was declared voluntarily bankrupt by the Australian Government.

Ever since, I use Valentine’s Day each year to look back at how far I’ve come financially during the past 12 months.

And after my fifth year of bankruptcy, I’ve come a long way and a good way…

…although it began in a disappointing way, with my job of 19 years being made redundant and ending on 27 February 2015.

Although having to look for work again sucked – especially as the last time I had job-hunted was way back in 1996 – there was also opportunity, especially with my redundancy payout.

My payout was about the equivalent of a year’s pre-tax income. Thus far, it has been the biggest sum of money I have ever seen in my life.

After some delay, the payout finally arrived in my bank account in late March 2015.

And ever since then, for the first (and I very much hope not the last) time in my life, I haven’t had to live from pay to pay.

It has been a very liberating experience, indeed.


As I have been describing in my other series ‘2015: A Life Odyssey’, my redundancy payout kept me going during seven months of unemployment during 2015. It also allowed for some large stress-free purchases like my first-ever suit and $1000 worth of Lego.

As well, it allowed for two different outcomes from two experiences that had driven me nuts back in 2014.

In my Year Four entry, I talked about how my trip to Canberra Brick Expo 2014 was almost brought undone by a late tax return and temporarily clouded by an unexpected safety deposit at the hotel I stayed at.

In 2015, however, I didn’t have to rely on a tax return to get me to Canberra Brick Expo 2015, and this time I could pay the safety deposit without it biting into my trip (although I think that safety-deposit policy is nonsense and I wish Australian hotels didn’t use it).


As for 2015’s tax return, my redundancy payout made another impact.

In 2014, I had done my tax as early as possible in the hopes of getting my return as soon as possible – but for reasons which the Australian Tax Office never fully explained to me, it took them three months to deliver my return.

In 2015, partly because I didn’t need my return as soon as possible and partly out of annoyance with the ATO’s previous slackness, I didn’t do my tax until only a week or so before the deadline.

Yet this time, I got my return in barely two weeks.

And not only that, it was the biggest return I’ve ever received.

And thanks to having my redundancy payout, I decided to do something special with my return.

Soon after I got it, I put all of my return into my first-ever term deposit.

And months later that term deposit is still there, renewing each month and gaining interest.

So not only did my redundancy payout keep me going for most of 2015, it also encouraged me to start investing.


After five months of job-hunting, I finally began a new job in late September 2015.

As I will be describing in detail in Part 7 of ‘2015: A Life Odyssey’, that job paid well and helped contribute to one of the best times of my life.


As I type this, a little of my redundancy payout is left.

For this year’s tax return, however, I’m hoping to claim back some money from last year’s job and add it to what’s left of my payout.

As well, if other opportunities arise during the coming year, I hope to add more money and continue investing.

In Year Five of bankruptcy, I began to thrive.

And in Year Six and beyond, I hope to keep doing so.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Life Strategies, My Story, Poor Man Rich Man, Resources | Leave a comment

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 6)

Novotel Canberra, Civic ACT (Wotif)

Novotel Canberra, Civic ACT (

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Sunday, 20 September 2015.

Once again, I arrived via Greyhound at Canberra’s Jolimont Centre just after noon. It was a nice pleasant day in Civic.

Soon I was at the nearby King O’Malley’s pub, sitting down to my ritual ‘arrival lunch’ of a Mexican King pizza and jug of diet cola.

About two hours later, I checked in at Novotel Canberra to find that I had been given a cozy room for the next five nights.

My room at Novotel Canberra looked similar to this (

My room at Novotel Canberra looked similar to this (

I can’t remember what I did for the rest of that afternoon – perhaps I ironed shirts – and I also can’t remember where I had dinner that night.

But overall, despite some apprehension about what might lie ahead, I was happy and hopeful.


Monday, 21 September 2015.

I awoke at (ugh) 6am.

Next, I did something that I also don’t like doing early in the morning – have breakfast. Well, it was barely breakfast – just a cup of yoghurt washed down with some chocolate milk. Still, I thought that whatever lay ahead, I would need more energy than what I got from my usual glass of chocolate milk (although I usually didn’t drink that until after 9am, when I had usually gotten up for the past few years).

I packed for work, showered, shaved, dressed and hoped that the day ahead would go well.

Shortly after 8:15am, I left.

Barely 10 minutes later, after a short work across Northbourne Avenue and north up a nearby street, I was standing in the lobby of the building where I would be working for the next two months.

One ‘phone call later, I was met by a pleasant young woman called Rebecca.

By 9am, I was seated at a desk and starting to set myself up.

Suddenly at 9:30am, Rebecca asked me to accompany her to a workshop that was about to begin on another floor.

And soon, my new job truly began.


I spent the next day and a half at that workshop writing as many notes as I could about a process that needed updating.

And after the workshop finished, my next task was to illustrate that updated process with Microsoft Visio.

It was just like being back at my previous employer.

I was greatly relieved, and even happy – my experience and skills were still valid, and drawing flowcharts in Microsoft Visio is (mostly) fun.


The week before back in Sydney, the agency who’d hired me had told me to show up for work in a full suit.

Thus, because I still only had one tie, I went and bought four more. Although one voice at the back of my mind suggested that I could wait to see if my job required ties every day, I typically fretted that I may not get an opportunity to buy more ties in Canberra during work hours, so I loaded up in Sydney.

That first day of work, I saw only one other person wearing a tie.

I asked Rebecca if I had to keep wearing one, and she said it wasn’t compulsory.

And that day became the first and last time I would wear a tie to work in Canberra.


There was another item in my new work wardrobe that I would stop wearing as well, although it would take me a couple of weeks before I replaced it.

Having to wear a suit didn’t bother me, but I quickly came to dislike my jacket.

One reason I didn’t like my jacket was that the feel of padded shoulders drove me nuts.

But most of all, I couldn’t stand how useless my jacket was.

Yes, I mostly wear L.L. Bean travel vests festooned with pockets that I fill with all sorts of items I think I may need (and often use) – and, yes, I appreciate that a suit’s jacket is a different type of garment altogether, and that I don’t need to carry around pockets of gear all of the time…

…but, along with those blasted shoulder pads, I couldn’t stand how the jacket’s pockets were barely able to hold my iPhone and wallet.

As well, the jacket felt flimsy.

So a couple of weeks later, I decided to switch back to my travel vests.

No one said a thing, so I kept on wearing them.

It felt much better, and right.


As well as the welcome familiarity of the work I was starting to do, another factor that I liked about that first week in Canberra – and would come to like more and more in the weeks ahead – were the people.

Like Rebecca, they were easy-going and pleasant to deal with.

As well, they were very helpful – especially other contractors I met, who provided very useful advice about the contracting life.

For a timid introvert like myself, I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to begin a new job in.


That first week passed, and the beginning of what would become a series of routines during the next weeks emerged:

  1. Get up at 6am
  2. Get to the office at around 8am
  3. Work until noon
  4. Have a moderate lunch mostly at the nearby Canberra Centre shopping mall until 1pm
  5. Finish work at 5pm and returned to the Novotel to change into relaxing shirts and shorts
  6. Have a restaurant dinner from 6pm-8pm or thereabouts
  7. Return to my room and spend a quiet night until bedtime at around midnight

It was all starting to come together quite well.

I was greatly relieved.


On the morning of Friday 25 September, I checked out of the Novotel and wheeled my luggage to the office.

By 6pm that evening, I was back at King O’Malley’s, this time having a Pepperoni pizza for dinner and enjoying the ambiance of a Friday night in Civic. Part of me was a little disappointed that I had to spend that night travelling back to Sydney, but I had several more opportunities for Friday nights in Civic ahead.

By 9pm I was back at the Jolimont Centre to board a Greyhound back home.

And just after midnight, I was back there.


Saturday, 26 September 2015.

It was back to David Jones to man my display at the Lego show, and help out elsewhere where needed. Apart from the usual small number of ratbag parents and children, it was good fun once again.

At day’s end I packed up my Lego and wheeled it all home.

While at the show I’d also bought more Lego, with the idea of taking it back to Canberra with me and spending some of my spare time over the next seven weeks building more MOCs.

And of course, I could buy even more Lego while I was down there – especially now that I was earning an income again.

Canberra was looking better and better.


Sunday, 27 September 2015.

Once again it was back to Central for another 8:00am Greyhound to Canberra.

Shortly after noon, it was also back to King O’Malleys for another Mexican King pizza and diet cola.

But this time at 2pm, I headed to Quest Canberra at 28 West Row in the historic Melbourne Building, which is a very short walk from the Jolimont Centre and the Novotel.

The north-west corner of the Melbourne Building, Civic ACT

The north-west corner of the Melbourne Building, Civic ACT (

The idea of staying at a hotel in the Melbourne Building was intriguing – and as I approached Quest Canberra, I was also pleased by the number of restaurants that were on the north and west sides of the Melbourne alone.

The lobby of Quest Canberra was also pleasing, with its blend of the Melbourne’s original 1920s styling and the present day.

The young man who checked me in – and who, along with his colleagues, would become a very familiar face in the weeks to come – was also very pleasant. It was amusing to see him do a double-take when he saw how long I was going to be staying.

And soon after, I was very pleased with my new temporary home.

An example of a one-bedroom apartment at Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (

An example of a one-bedroom apartment at Quest Canberra, Civic ACT (

I had been given the equivalent of a one-room apartment that was about three times the size of my studio apartment in Sydney (and last week’s room at the Novotel).

Again, it retained some of its original 1920s charm (like the massive non-working fireplace and mantelpiece) along with plush modern styling (like the massive shower, about twice the size of mine back home).

I couldn’t believe it.

I was going to be living in a great-looking hotel apartment for the next seven weeks (or so I thought) in the centre of one of my favourite cities, with my workplace and pretty much everything else I needed (and more, as I would soon discover) within a 10-minute walk.

Last week, my new job and staying in Canberra had gotten off to a good start.

And that Sunday afternoon, things were looking to get even better.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Confidence, Fear, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Life Strategies | Leave a comment

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 5)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

July became August, and the job-hunting continued.

And there was another big task for August – building a Lego display for Canberra Brick Expo 2015, at month’s end.

Lego 60097 City Square (

Lego 60097 City Square (

A few months before, I had gotten excited about the big new 60097 City Square set, pictured above. Originally I had planned to buy two of them and combine them into a larger My Own Creation (MOC)…and then it became three sets…and finally I decided to splurge and get four sets. After all, I now had the money to buy $1000 of Lego in one hit…and I would eventually get a new job, wouldn’t I?

And what made this situation even more exciting was having to wait – the City Square set wasn’t available until 1 July. If I bought it online, that is – the set wasn’t due to reach Australian stores until late August or early September, which would be too late for Canberra Brick Expo 2015.

And in the weeks leading up to 1 July, what made this situation even more and more exciting was the prospect of maybe getting that job in Chatswood (see Part 4). Not only would getting that job provide greater justification for spending $1000 in one hit on Lego, but it would also be a nice celebratory present for myself.

But after going to the 17 June interview and being told that that a final decision was weeks away, I knew that I would have to buy my Lego as soon as possible after 1 July, to allow for two or more weeks’ shipping time from Europe.

I waited a little longer after 1 July in the hope that a decision about the job might be made earlier.

By Friday 10 July, however, I still hadn’t heard about the job, so I gritted my teeth and paid my $1000.

On Monday 13 July, I finally got word about coming “VERY close” but not quite for the job.

And just over two weeks later, my Lego arrived.

My four City Square sets (and two free bonus sets) outside my apartment, 29 July 2015 (Black and Blue Man)

My four City Square sets (and two free bonus sets) outside my apartment, 29 July 2015 (Black and Blue Man)

And for the next few weeks after, I spent a lot of time enjoying myself as I built my way through those four big sets. There were some creative stumbles along the way, of course, but once again like in April I had the time to afford them (see Part 3).

From time to time there was a little concern about having spent so much money without having a job, but mostly I didn’t regret it.


Meanwhile in early August as I began building, I was contacted by another recruiter via LinkedIn.

This recruiter was a colleague of the recruiter who had rung me when I had visited the zoo a few weeks before (see Part 4). He was based in Melbourne, but he also looked after opportunities in Sydney and Canberra.

On Friday 14 August we spoke on the ‘phone, and he suggested that we also meet via Skype. After that, via email, we arranged to Skype on the morning of Monday 17 August.

So I installed Skype, went out and bought a pair of headphones with a microphone, and wondered: what should I wear to our meet on Skype?

It wasn’t a formal job interview, more of a get-to-know-each-other chat…but even so, would it still be prudent to wear a business shirt and tie?

I thought about it over the weekend, and on Monday not long before our meeting I finally decided that, although I did shower and shave, I would only wear one of my best polo shirts. To me, “dressing up” felt like overdoing it.

A couple of hours later, our meeting went well. He was very pleasant to talk to (and wearing a business shirt and tie), and we even had a couple of laughs.

Nothing definite came out of it, but there was some hope.

Like my getting to the interview stage with the job in Chatswood…yikes, two months ago to the day now, it was another step closer towards getting a job.


Soon, the end of August arrived.

I carefully packed my display and other stuff into two suitcases, and once again headed down to Central Station for another 8:00am Greyhound for Canberra – to find that Greyhound now offered wi-fi and USB ports on their coaches, which made that pleasant familiar journey even better.

What also made the prospect of this visit to even better was that, unlike some unexpected financial restrictions that had placed a cloud over last year’s visit, this time money wouldn’t be an issue.

No, I wasn’t planning on going stupid – but it would be great to relax and know that money wasn’t something I had to worry about.

And relax I did…enough, in fact, to spend around $70 in a way that I never thought I would ever do.

On set-up day at the Canberra Brick Expo 2015 venue in Woden, I finished putting together my display earlier than expected, so I thought that there might be time to visit one of my all-time favourite Canberra haunts – Clouston & Hall Booksellers in Civic.

So I looked them up online to check their hours of business…and I was stunned to find that they had closed their Civic doors only a couple of months before.

The last time I visited Clouston & Hall Booksellers at their former long-time address in Garema Place, Civic ACT, 22 August 2014 (Black and Blue Man)

The last time I visited Clouston & Hall Booksellers at their former long-time address in Garema Place, Civic ACT, 22 August 2014 (Black and Blue Man)

I was stunned…but soon relieved to find that their Fyshwick warehouse was still open.

Okay, so Fyshwick was a little out of the way for a Woden-staying car-less bibliophile like me, but it was reachable by bus…even if it was about an hour each way, but it would be worth the whole round-trip…

…yet the next day, when I made my way to Fyshwick and back, I went by taxi instead. Which only took about 15-20 minutes each way, but cost about $35 both times.

Looking back now, I can’t remember when I made the decision to go by taxi instead of by bus, but I don’t regret it.

And I was out at Fyshwick for over two glorious hours, patiently making my way around the huge warehouse-store (it was a booklover’s paradise, indeed) and making a long list of books to perhaps buy from Amazon.

Yes, part of me felt slack for doing that showrooming once again. That is not the fault of Clouston & Hall Booksellers, however – their range is great and their prices are very good (and, in almost all cases I’ve found since 2011, comparable to what I pay on Amazon – and sometimes better). The reasons I once again showroomed that day was that, since 2011, ebooks suit me much better for portability and reducing hoarding.

As for Canberra Brick Expo 2015, it was yet another fun occasion to see the amazing work of other Lego fans, and also meet up with Adult Fans Of Lego (AFOLs) from Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. I had a great time.

August became September, and the job-hunting continued.

There was another Lego show coming up, this time at the iconic David Jones department store in the Sydney CBD. Fortunately it was only 20 minutes or so away by foot, and I would mostly be reusing my Canberra Brick Expo 2015 display (but with some additions that I hadn’t been able to include down there) so I didn’t have to worry so much about building in time for the show.

And then suddenly, something else happened.

In doing my research for this post, I found that – amazingly – I didn’t record on what day it took place or who it was who called me – the first recruiter who had called me at the zoo in July, or his colleague who I’d Skyped with in August.

But whoever it was, and on whatever day it was, I got a call offering a job opportunity that had unexpectedly come up in Canberra.

It was only a two-month contract.

But it was right in Civic, which was very appealing.

And it was working with a federal government client, which I was interested in doing.

And it would pay the hourly rate I had decided to charge – unlike any of the previous contracting jobs I’d applied for or been contacted about in Sydney during the previous five months.

And most of all, it was a job and I could start leaving alone my redundancy money.

I said yes without hesitation…

…even though my first week of work would also be the week of the Lego show at David Jones.

That wasn’t a problem in that I could still set up my display on the preceding weekend, but it did mean that (a) I couldn’t help out at the show during the week and (b) on the following weekend I would have to return to Sydney, dismantle my display and head back to Canberra.

So much for a weekend unwinding in Canberra after working again for the first time in months, and in a 9-to-5 office-environment for the first time in years.

But life is what happens when you make plans 🙂


And during that last week in Sydney before my new job would begin, things moved very busily.

There were several days of email traffic and completing paperwork, including having to suddenly one day get someone’s signature – but fortunately, one of the few neighbours I knew in my building was in that morning.

My new employer helped me book most of my upcoming accommodation in Civic, at a place I was unfamiliar with called Quest Canberra. Because Floriade 2015 was in full swing and Canberra was filled with visitors, I couldn’t get a full eight weeks at Quest Canberra so the first week would have to be elsewhere…so I gritted my teeth and booked an expensive stay at Novotel Canberra. Despite that upcoming big cost, however, I was excited – I would be spending a couple of months in hotels; I like Novotel Canberra; I could eventually claim my stay back on tax (I hoped); and I was looking forward to seeing what Quest Canberra would be like.

I made another trip to the store where I’d bought my suit back in May, and loaded up with more shirts and ties.

On Friday 18 September, I wheeled two Lego-filled suitcases down to David Jones and spent a few hours setting up my display and helping out with other stuff.

On Saturday 19 September, I returned to David Jones to keep an eye on my display and nearby ones by my colleagues.

Very early on Sunday 20 September, I got up and packed for the week ahead.

Less than two hours later, I was once again down at Central Station boarding another 8:00am Greyhound for Canberra.

I was nervous about what could lay ahead during the next five days, and beyond that the following seven weeks – but I was mostly excited about returning to Canberra for the next two months.

And that, I told myself, would help me to keep calm and carry on, and take my new situation one day at a time at one hour at a time.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

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

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 4)

May to July

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Monday, 11 May, 2015.

My job hunt began…

…and included one application that was rejected only two hours after I had submitted it.


Despite that very sudden setback, during the next few days I continued applying for jobs online and contacting recruitment agencies.


Thursday, 14 May.

Fortunately, some promising developments had appeared.

First, one recruitment agency lined up a fact-finding interview with a potential client in a week’s time for a possible one-month contract due to start the week after.

Second, the day before I had applied for a job in Sydney – and that day I got a call from their Canberra office, asking if I would be interested in being considered for a full-time position there. I said yes, although I informed them that I could possibly be working for the next month in Sydney. They said fine, and that they would get in touch with me again.

I then spent the next few days preparing for my first interview, which included research, buying my first-ever suit and visiting YouTube to relearn something I was stunned to realise that I hadn’t done in at least 15 years – wearing a necktie.

Finally, the day of the interview arrived – Tuesday, 19 May.

Overall, I had spent several hours preparing for a pleasant-enough interview that went for barely 20 minutes…

…and the next day, I was told by the agency that they decided that someone with more relevant experience would be more suitable.


Meanwhile, back on the morning of Friday the 15th, I rang another recruitment agency to find out more information about another job. I was told that the person I wanted to speak to was busy, but that he would call me back as soon as possible.

But he never would.

And neither would the Canberra office who had called me on Thursday the 14th.


So, at the end of my second week of job-hunting, there had already been some disappointment.

It was far from the end of the world – and based on previous job-hunting experience and what I’d been told at Right Management back in May, I was prepared for these sorts of things happening.

I have to admit, though, that I was quite annoyed by that recruiter I’d called on Friday the 15th who’d never called me back.

So I struck that agency off of my list, and continued looking elsewhere.


On the afternoon of Friday the 22nd, I had another interview at the local Centrelink office regarding my application for unemployment assistance.

Although I’d previously submitted a lot of required paperwork, I had to return in person with enough points of ID to prove my existence – despite having previously supplied them with ID like my passport.

What took place was the worst experience I would have during my job-hunting, where unfortunately I was interviewed by a condescending and unhelpful arsehole who claimed I didn’t have enough points and rudely turned down some ID examples I did supply.

I kept my cool and restricted myself to commenting that I had found this whole process “infuriating” – but at the time, and ever since, and including now as I type this months later, I was furious.

At the time I was far from desperate financial straits, so I didn’t yet need assistance that (as I had been told when this process had begun back in March) I wouldn’t be able to (maybe) get until March 2016…but I was looking for work, and in the future if I hadn’t found work I could need assistance indeed.

But with this rotten face-to-face experience, and previous incidents like ‘phone calls to Centrelink going unanswered and dealing with their cumbersome online system, I was thoroughly fed up with applying for unemployment assistance and have given it little thought ever since.

(Several months later, I would read in the news that not only had there been many recent complaints about Centrelink in general and their online system, in the previous year a staggering 26 million ‘phone calls had gone unanswered)


A couple of hours after that lousy Centrelink interview, I met up with some former work colleagues for dinner.

Because it was great to see them again – I’ve known most of them since the late 1990s – and I wanted to enjoy myself, I didn’t say a word about what I’d just experienced. Thanks to what I’d learned from dealing with my depression, I focused on the now and enjoyed myself indeed.

My former colleagues were all still at my previous employer, and they reported that the situation there was getting grimmer. Redundancies were continuing, unfortunately.

May became June, and the job-hunting continued.

Increasingly, more recruiters were contacting me – and especially via LinkedIn.

There was one amusing incident where two recruiters from the same agency called me within 15 minutes of each other about the same job opportunity – but which I declined because I didn’t have relevant experience. One of those recruiters thanked me for my honesty, though, because recently there had been an embarrassing incident with a candidate who hadn’t been honest about his experience.

There was another opportunity that initially I didn’t think I would be suitable for…but after almost a month of job-hunting, I had now adopted the attitude that the worst that could happen about applying for any job was being told no (or, as I was finding in most cases, getting no response at all). I would be no worse off than I was, and in the future it could even lead to something else (like that Canberra office contacting me).

So I applied for that job, and shortly after I received an email from that company asking me some interesting and challenging questions.

I answered them honestly – and not long after, I was asked to come in to their Chatswood office in north Sydney for an interview.


Wednesday, 17 June.

About an hour or so before my interview, I went to the Chatswood RSL partly to enjoy a increasingly rare delicacy for lunch – bangers and mash – and partly to get ready.

As it turned out, I didn’t get bangers and mash because I wasn’t that hungry and I didn’t want to get too relaxed by one of my all-time favourite comfort foods (instead, I had one or two small packets of potato chips washed down with diet cola).

But I did spend a last half-hour or so doing final research at the company’s website, as well as ensuring in a men’s-room mirror that my suit and tie looked just right.

Finally, I went to the office nearby.

I was interviewed by two members of staff, including the person who had emailed me those questions.

We spoke for up to an hour.

And in all seriousness, and not just because I was very interested in the job, it was a job interview that I liked and would genuinely describe as “pleasant”.

As a result, I became even more interested in wanting to work at this company.

I left feeling very good and hopeful, despite one minor issue.

The next day, both interviewers were heading overseas on business for three weeks and they wouldn’t make their final decision about the job until after they returned.

Again, it wasn’t the end of the world…but I hoped that the next three weeks wouldn’t feel like forever.

And, of course, I hoped that in three weeks’ time there would be some very good news.


The next day or the day after, I got another call from that company to report that I was on a shortlist of three candidates for the job.


On Friday the 19th, I headed down to Wollongong for the weekend to display some of my Lego creations at Brick Fun Day 2015.

Once again I stayed at the City Beach Motel, which had come to my unexpected rescue during a previous stay in Wollongong.

Also once again, Brick Fun Day this year was as fun as it had been last year.

As well, I enjoyed Wollongong itself for two major reasons.

First, since my last stay at the City Beach Motel in 2011, the centre of Wollongong had improved greatly – including the addition of the local outpost of a Mexican-food chain I had recently discovered and become a big fan of in Sydney. I had about half of my weekend’s meals there.

Second, because of my redundancy payout, money was not an issue – not only for being able to indulge when eating out and buying some long-sought Lego I unexpectedly found in a local department store, but also because it made travelling to Brick Fun Day much easier. Instead of a train ride and two long walks each way I would have considered making pre-redundancy to save money, I took $30 taxi-rides both ways.

Because I wasn’t working, I could also afford to stay Sunday night and travel home Monday morning.

During a big breakfast on the way to the railway station, I got yet another call from a Sydney recruiter (although ultimately, again, it would lead nowhere).

June became July, and the job-hunting continued…

…and most of all, of course, there was still the waiting for that particular call or email I hoped would have very good news.


By now, most of my weekdays had been spent mostly at home with almost all of my job-hunting activity in the mornings.

But that routine was getting to me – partly because the recruiters who called mostly did that late in the afternoon, and some afternoons I found myself waiting too much and falling asleep.

So I began changing things.

Mornings now became a long and relaxed easing into each day, and job-hunting activities shifted to the afternoon.

As well, I decided to take a break every now and then and do more things like long-walking.

I began to feel much better.


Late afternoon, Monday 13 July.

Shortly before I headed out to dinner, I got an email from the company in Chatswood.

They told me that in the end it had been “VERY close” between myself and another candidate…but “we have decided not to offer you the position” because the other candidate had been more suitable.

Yet again, it was not the end of the world…but this time thus far, it had felt the most disappointing.


Back in March at Right Management, my fellow job-seekers and I had been told that these days it took an average of six months to find a job in Australia.

I had been job-hunting for almost three months.

I wasn’t getting angry or upset or hugely dispirited, only disappointed every now and then.

There had been a few big purchases thus far, like my suit and new shoes and related accessories, and a new iPad, but otherwise my spending wasn’t excessive and there was still a lot of my redundancy money left.

My main concern at this time was that it would be a shame if it took me a long time to find a job and most or all of my money being gone by then.

I was keeping calm and carrying on.

For now.


Fortunately, as I mentioned at the end of my last post in this series, a 9 July ‘phone call with a recruiter in Canberra would eventually have major consequences – and how.

But that’s another story for the next post in this series.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Anger, Confidence, Fear, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life Strategies, Resilience, Something to Think About | Leave a comment