Black and Blue Walking Man: The Zoo Expedition (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

The first leg of my walk up Bradleys Head Road was very pleasant. It was a nice winter’s day and there were lots of great old houses to see.

Soon uphill became downhill, and I began descending north-west towards downtown Mosman.

*

As I mentioned in Part 1, I had initially thought about wearing my long-walk hat but in the end decided not to.

And as I headed towards Mosman, it wasn’t that hot at all…

…but it was mostly a very clear sky, and there was quite some glare.

Briefly, I regretted not bringing my hat after all, but soon I got used to it.

*

About 30 minutes after leaving Taronga Zoo, Bradleys Head Road took me into Military Road.

And as I began walking through downtown Mosman, I thought again about returning the ‘phone call I’d gotten from the recruiter while I was at the zoo.

I briefly considered stepping into what I thought was the local public library, because I thought it would be a nice quiet place to make a call – but then I scolded myself. Public libraries are meant to be nice and quiet – but not for ‘phone calls.

I pressed on, looking for perhaps a cafe to step into and get a drink while I made my call.

There were lots of nice-looking cafes along Military Road, but I was enjoying the walk too much.

My returned call would wait, again.

*

Soon I came to the major intersection in the centre of downtown Mosman, where Military Road widens and continues west towards North Sydney while Spit Road connects from the north.

And before I began my journey west, I stopped for a moment, looked up Spit Road and smiled.

It was along that section of road that, over 18 months ago, I had come walking from Manly into Mosman on my first long walk.

18 months ago!

A lot had happened since then.

I replayed a few more pleasant memories from my first long walk, and then I began heading west.

*

Soon, Mosman became Cremorne.

And as always when I’m in Cremorne, I smiled at the sight of the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, one of my all-time favourite cinemas.

But because it was across the road, I wouldn’t be stopping there to make my return call.

Instead, I stepped into a nearby pub.

And I spent a moment trying to find a quiet corner away from the music playing through the speakers.

But I couldn’t find one.

Ah, well. Try, try again elsewhere.

I stepped back out onto Military Road and continued westward.

*

Soon, Cremorne became Neutral Bay, and I realised something.

It had barely taken me an hour to walk here from Taronga Zoo.

And as I came towards the western end of Neutral Bay, I realised two more things.

One, it would take me even less time to walk to Crows Nest.

Two, I would arrive in Crows Nest long before Montezuma’s opened for dinner.

That didn’t bother me, though, In fact, I was amused at previously thinking that this walk would take me two or three hours to complete.

So it wasn’t a very long walk at all.

But it had been a very pleasant one.

*

Just before I left Neutral Bay, I once again considered stepping inside somewhere and returning that recruiter’s call.

And there was one likely-looking cafe I briefly considered – until I saw that it was closing in 20 minutes.

Ah, what the heck. I would wait until after I’d finished walking in Crows Nest, as I would get there well before the end of the working day.

*

Finally, Military Road became Falcon Road.

I followed Falcon Road as it crossed above the Warringah Freeway, and soon I walking along the northern edge of North Sydney.

And shortly after that, Falcon Road took me straight into Crows Nest.

It was around 4pm when I arrived in Crows Nest, only an hour and a half since I’d begun my walk from the zoo.

Montezuma’s wouldn’t open until 5:30pm, however.

So I decided to relax in a local pub until then, and finally return that call.

But first, I decided to see if anyone in Crows Nest sold headphones.

I couldn’t find anyone who did, but while in a local bookshop I decided to try making my call from there as they’re usually pretty quiet.

So I went right up the back to the children’s section…

…which had a music-playing speaker mounted right above it.

Finally, I went to the pub.

It was noisy, but there was one place inside that would be comparatively more quiet…

…until I discovered in the men’s toilets that the urinals automatically flushed every few minutes.

I gritted my teeth, locked myself in one of the toilet stalls, put my back to the urinals, stuck a finger in my free ear and returned the call as the urinals flushed yet again.

The recruiter’s colleague answered to tell me that he was now out of the office for the rest of the day.

I said that I’d call him tomorrow morning.

And after ending my call, I resolved that tomorrow I would buy a pair of compact headphones for my backpack.

*

I spent the next hour or so unwinding in the pub with some diet cola and potato chips.

Just after 5:30pm, I headed over to Montezuma’s nearby.

And for the next couple of hours, I relaxed with yet another pleasant Mexican meal.

Which put me in a very good mood for the next stage of my walk.

It was the walk home from Crows Nest, down through North Sydney along the Pacific Highway and across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the CBD.

It was a walk I had made many times before, but not for several years.

From memory, it would only be another hour-and-a-half or so.

At around 7:30pm, with night having fallen, I began the last stage of my long walk home from the zoo.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Jury Duty (Part 1)

The Downing Centre, Sydney NSW Australia (J. Bar/Wikipedia)

The Downing Centre, Sydney NSW Australia (J Bar/Wikipedia)

Back in mid-June, I received a summons from the NSW Government to report for jury duty on Monday 3 August, for a trial with an estimated length of eight weeks.

My initial reaction was dismay.

This was not because I had anything against jury duty, however, but because:

  • I was going to Canberra Brick Expo 2015 as an exhibitor at the end of August, and
  • most of all, a trial of up to eight weeks would seriously interfere with my job-hunting

At first, I decided to wait until 3 August and request a shorter trial if available when I reported for duty.

A week before then, however, I decided to try requesting an exemption online.

So I did, but by the night of Sunday 2 August the only feedback I’d received was two text messages reminding me to report for duty.

Ah, well. It wasn’t the end of the world – jury duty could be an interesting experience, and I would get paid for it.

*

Monday, 3 August.

I headed off to the Downing Centre courthouse complex in downtown Sydney. Fortunately, it’s only about 15 minutes’ walk from where I live.

I’ve walked past the Downing Centre many times during the past two decades, and I’d long been intrigued by what it was like inside. Today, I would finally find out.

Just before 9am I went inside, headed down to the main waiting area below ground level, and reported for duty.

I requested a shorter trial period, and I was granted two weeks instead of eight weeks.

Greatly relieved that my upcoming trip to Canberra and my job-hunting prospects were now safe, I relaxed.

Along with many others who had also reported for duty that morning, I took a seat, began reading on my Kindle and waited to see if my number would be called.

As well, a court officer arrived and showed us a short video about what serving on a jury could be like. It was very encouraging.

*

Shortly after 10am, my number was called.

About 20-30 of us gathered with a court officer, who then took us to one of the courtrooms on an upper floor in another part of the Downing Centre.

As we walked along, I was amazed by the sheer size of the Centre and wondered how it had looked in its 1908-1983 life as a department store (although as I would find out the next day, some rooms could be quite small).

We entered a modern-looking courtroom and sat in the public-gallery area.

The judge there explained more about what serving on a jury entailed, and mentioned that the case to be heard here was for a break-and-enter indictment that was expected to run for four days.

Any of us who wanted to ask for a possible exemption were allowed to do so. A few did, and while some were refused others were allowed.

Then the first 12 potential jurors were called.

I wasn’t one of them.

Next, the accused was given the opportunity to challenge any jurors that he didn’t feel looked suitable. Three or four of them were, and replacements were selected.

I wasn’t one of them, either.

Soon, those of us left in the public gallery were taken back to the main waiting room for perhaps another chance to be selected.

When I returned to the same seat that I had occupied in the main waiting room, it was after 10:30am.

We had been told that if we weren’t called again by noon, we could go home.

Either way, if I did end up on another case or not, I wasn’t concerned.

I took out my Kindle and began reading again.

*

An hour passed.

Not long before noon approached, an announcement over the PA system mentioned that the next series of cases were still being organised, and the officer apologised for keeping us waiting.

Another half-hour went by.

Just before 12:30pm, my number was called again.

Soon another group of us were taken to another courtroom in another part of the Centre, but this time on the same lower-ground floor.

This court was modern like the previous one I’d entered, but its public gallery was quite small and sealed off behind glass. With a large group of us potential jurors crowding in, it felt a little claustrophobic.

Once again the judge here explained what was involved, and mentioned the indictment for this case: sexual intercourse without consent.

That made me feel a little uneasy.

Anyone who wanted to request exemptions were invited to approach the judge. A couple of people submitted their requests privately in writing; one of them was a woman whose request was granted, and as she left the courtroom I saw that she was in tears.

A couple of open requests were rejected. In the break-and-enter case earlier that morning, an exemption was granted because the requestor claimed English as a second language – but this time the judge refused a similar request because he half-jokingly stated that with half the population of Sydney nowadays having English as a second language, if he granted exemptions for that no cases would ever be heard.

Finally, the first 12 potential jurors were called.

I was the second.

I gingerly made my way out of the crowded public gallery, entered the courtroom and took a seat in the jury box.

Soon the next 10 potential jurors joined me, and then the accused was allowed to challenge us.

The first potential juror stood up on my left, and was challenged.

A moment after he left, I stood up.

Silence.

I turned to the nearby court officer, and she said that I could sit back down.

Shortly after, the third potential juror stood up on my right.

He was also challenged, and he also left.

As the challenge process continued, I glanced at the accused and couldn’t help wonder why the others had been challenged and I hadn’t.

Of course, I also wondered about the accused himself, who looked like many other young Australian men in their 20s.

What was the crime he had been accused of committing?

Soon, the jury was finally selected, and those left in the public gallery filed out.

The judge spoke to us again about what serving on a jury entailed, and then the female prosecutor spoke.

Her official title, which sounded quite formidable, was Madam Crown.

She spoke very directly and matter-of-factly, and in the days to come my fellow jurors and I would find that Madam Crown could be very formidable indeed.

She gave a brief description of what our case involved.

The accused had been indicted for sexual intercourse without consent against a young woman back in June 2014.

It would be up to my fellow jurors and I to determine if he was innocent, or guilty.

Because it was now mid-afternoon, the judge adjourned until tomorrow morning.

My fellow jurors and I were taken by an officer up to the jurors level in the attached building next door, where we were given our room and told more about jury service.

Finally, at around 3pm we were told that we could leave.

*

About 15 minutes later, I was at my usual watering hole on George Street.

I wasn’t planning to get hammered, though – I was merely having a couple of Diet Cokes before I headed elsewhere for dinner.

But as I sat and drank, I thought a lot about the day’s events and especially what lay ahead.

Hearing details about a sexual assault wasn’t going to be pleasant at all.

But it was very important that I would be, because one of my fellow citizens needed my help.

That citizen was either the young woman who had been a victim of sexual assault, or the young man who had been accused of committing that crime.

I hoped that along with my fellow jurors, I would be able to do the right thing.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Black and Blue Walking Man: The Zoo Expedition (Part 1)

Taronga Zoo entrance, Bradleys Head Road, Mosman, Sydney NSW (Alex Dawson/Wikimedia Commons)

Taronga Zoo entrance, Bradleys Head Road, Mosman, Sydney NSW (Alex Dawson/Wikimedia Commons)

Late Wednesday, 8 July 2015.

Another day at home, waiting for an email or ‘phone call from my growing list of job applications or another recruiter.

I’d had enough. Although it was pleasant enough being at home, taking it easy and doing more of my favourite things like reading, I was also spending too much time at home waiting.

It was time to get out and do something different.

But what?

How about going to the zoo?

The last time I had been to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo was way back on 2 January 2014.

It was certainly time to go again – and best of all, I had the luxury of going on a weekday.

The zoo it was, tomorrow!

And then I had another idea.

I looked at Google Maps…

…and doing that gave me another idea.

I thought and planned some more, until finally tomorrow became a very full day indeed.

And if someone rang me on my smartphone about a job application or opportunity, big deal – I could find somewhere quiet and call them back, or as a last resort email them back from my iPad (which I had done a couple of weeks before from Wollongong one morning).

I went to bed very happy and slept soundly.

*

Thursday, 9 July 2015.

I got up around 9am, showered, shaved and relaxed.

Just before 11am I got ready to leave, and as I did I thought about taking two items with me or not.

One item was my long-walk hat, and ultimately I decided not to take that – it was a nice winter day outside, but not hot, so I didn’t think I’d need my hat if there wasn’t a blazing sun.

The other item was my large pair of headphones, in case I did get an important call and had to return it – instead of having to find a quiet place somewhere, I could just plug my headphones into my smartphone wherever (which had helped two weeks before in Wollongong, and other times I’d been out in public). As well, though, I decided that it wasn’t necessary because (a) I wanted to devote backpack space instead to a large bottle of water and (b) I thought that where I was planning to go after the zoo, there should be ample opportunity to find quiet places if need be.

And besides, I may not get a call after all.

*

At 11am, I set off on the first leg of my planned adventure.

Which was a 30-minute walk down to Circular Quay, where I could get a ferry across Sydney Harbour to the zoo.

I’d done this walk many times before, north through Hyde Park and down the slope of Macquarie Street to the Quay.

I completed it without incident, and also enjoyed the luxury of walking it near the middle of a weekday and as relaxed as I wanted to.

At around 11:30 I reached the Quay and especially City Extra, where I planned to tank up on a big breakfast and perhaps even a gelato dessert as well.

In the end I just went with a big breakfast, but that was enough to have me feeling tanked up for the hours ahead.

At around 12:15pm I left City Extra, and barely 10 minutes later I was on a ferry to the zoo.

And not long after 12:30pm, I got off the ferry across the harbour and entered Taronga Zoo.

*

I spent the next two hours at the zoo, walking around and seeing pretty much everything.

As always, it was good to be there – and today, after the previous few days of waiting at home, it was even better being there.

Every so often, I checked my smartphone – partly because it doubles as my clock, and partly to see if anyone had called.

No one called…

…until not long before 2:30pm, when I was almost done at the zoo and planning to leave.

I stood near the tree kangaroo enclosure and, with a finger in my free ear, listened to a voicemail from yet another recruiter about another possible job opportunity.

I thought about trying to return his call then and there, but (a) the zoo is a noisy place and (b) especially as the recruiter was calling from Canberra, I was worried about the call breaking up from uncertain reception, especially at a place like the zoo.

In the end, though, I decided that getting back to him could wait a little longer until I found a better place to do so.

*

Soon after, just past 2:30pm, I left the zoo by its Bradleys Head Road entrance.

While there, I considered returning the recruiter’s call as it was relatively quiet…but then I looked at the bus stop nearby and dreaded a noisy arrival during my call.

Once again, it could wait.

Instead, I decided to start the next planned leg of that day’s journey.

First, head north along Bradleys Head Road to downtown Mosman.

Second, head west along Military Road through Cremorne to Neutral Bay.

Third, cross the Warringah Freeway and follow Falcon Road further west into Crows Nest.

Finally, reach the Montezuma’s Mexican restaurant in Crows Nest for dinner.

I was familiar with all of the above areas from previous separate occasions…but I was unsure how long it would take to walk it all together.

I was thinking that it would perhaps take me two hours at least, and perhaps three hours at most.

But, again, I had the luxury of letting it take as long as I felt.

The only thing I had to consider was finding somewhere quiet to return the recruiter’s call.

That shouldn’t be a problem, though.

I began walking north up the gently rising slope of Bradleys Head Road.

TO BE CONTINUED

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Black and Blue Walking Man: Berowra to Hornsby, perhaps (Part 3)

Hornsby railway station, Hornsby NSW (Abesty/Wikipedia)

Hornsby railway station, Hornsby NSW (Abesty/Wikimedia Commons)

Part 1
Part 2

I resumed my journey south-west along the Pacific Highway.

Fortunately, as I would discover, there would be footpaths for the rest of my journey.

As well, the terrain stayed relatively flat with only a few small hills here and there.

Also, the environment was pleasant Sydney Upper North Shore suburbia.

The weather stayed fine.

It was one of my most relaxing long walks yet.

After Mount Kuring-gai came Mount Colah, which I had last visited on a cold, dark and rain-swept night back in 2012. Today, though, I could finally see most of it on a nice day.

After Mount Colah came Asquith, which I had also last visited in 2012 but during the afternoon. It still looked the same as I remembered it, including the Coles supermarket not far from the highway.

That’s where I stopped just after 1pm for another break and more chilled water that tasted absolutely delicious.

Berowra to Asquith (Google Maps)

Berowra to Asquith (Google Maps)

At 1:20pm, I resumed my journey.

Not far now to Hornsby.

There were two ways to get there – the more-direct route along Jersey and George Streets that followed the railway line, or along the Pacific Highway as it headed west and eventually turned back into Hornsby.

I decided to continue along the Pacific Highway.

And once again, I was pleasantly surprised.

As I mentioned before when I previously walked from Hornsby to Artarmon, “beauty” is not a word that many Sydney motorists would associate with the Pacific Highway – but today as I walked it from Asquith to Hornsby, I experienced and saw it in a different way as it passed through a picturesque neighbourhood.

Barely 40 minutes after leaving the Coles at Asquith, and including a brief visit to a secondhand bookshop, I arrived at Hornsby railway station at around 2pm.

I officially declared my walk complete.

Berowra to Hornsby (Google Maps)

Berowra to Hornsby (Google Maps)

Soon after, I went over to the Westfield Hornsby shopping centre, where the first shop I visited was Kathmandu.

As I browsed their adventuring gear, I smiled as I thought about the adventure I’d just completed.

I didn’t buy anything, although I was quite tempted by a few items.

*

Despite that uncomfortable half-hour between Berowra and Mount Kuring-gai, my first long-walk for 2015 had been a success.

As a result, I began looking forward to doing more.

In the days that followed, I revived a previous idea of walking from Hornsby to Parramatta and considered a new one from Carramar to Parramatta out west.

But as it turned out, I wouldn’t do another long-walk for almost six months.

Although only a week after I walked from Berowra to Hornsby, an unexpected and greater life-challenge appeared.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

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

Kodokushi

Toru Koremura (Matthew Bremner)

Toru Koremura (Matthew Bremner)

Back in August 2011 I posted ‘All the lone people’, which had been inspired by a sad discovery not far from my home the month before – the 2003 death of Natalie Wood, which had gone unnoticed for eight years.

Just then at Roads & Kingdoms, I read Matthew Bremner’s ‘The Lonely End’, a grim and sad yet compelling article about kodokushi (“lonely death”), the Japanese term for people who die alone and remain undiscovered for a long period of time. ‘The Lonely End’ also features Toru Koremura (pictured above), who runs one of 10 companies in Japan that deal with the aftermaths of kodokushi.

You can also read more about kodokushi at Wikipedia.

Posted in Life Challenges, Pain, Something to Think About | Leave a comment

Kindle: Year Four

Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3 (amazon.com)

Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3 (amazon.com)

Kindle
Kindle, again
Kindle: Year One
Kindle: Year Two
Kindle: Year Three

Back in April, I was so caught up in the excitement of not having to work, and spending most of my days building LEGO, that I completely forgot an important anniversary during that month: four years of owning an Amazon Kindle.

As I’ve previously written (see the links above), buying my Kindle back in 2011 became a life-changing experience. It made me a big fan of ebooks; it has saved me a lot of money; it has helped to greatly reduce clutter in my home; and it gave me access to reading material that otherwise would have been unavailable.

And four years and two months later to the day after I purchased it, my Kindle Keyboard 3 is still going strong. My iPad is still my main reader, but I never leave home without the Kindle as a back-up and I use it each night for bedtime reading. As well, I sometimes prefer using it rather than the iPad in places like train carriages.

Will my Kindle make it to a Year Five post? I hope so, but if it doesn’t I will definitely replace it.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Bibliophilia, Gratitude, Happiness, Life is Good, Life Strategies, Reading | Leave a comment

2015: A Life Odyssey (Part 3)

March-April-May

Part 1
Part 2

As I write this, it’s been three months since I stopped working.

It feels like both a long and a short time ago.

March
Before I finished working, I had already made plans for March: learning about job-hunting all over again.

As part of my redundancy package, I had been given six months’ access to courses and other resources at a career management firm. I could have started going to their classes as early as the beginning of February, but I decided to wait until March because:

  • I wanted to focus on tying up as many loose ends as possible at work
  • it gave me something to do, and look forward to, in March – especially as the last time I had gone for a job interview was just before Christmas 1996, so I had to lot to re-learn

As well, someone else I knew whose job had also been made redundant had told me she’d tried wrapping things up and doing job-hunting classes at the same time, and it was driving her nuts.

So the week after my working life ended, I plunged into three weeks of job-hunting classes. They were very helpful and interesting.

Not surprisingly, most of my classmates were also former colleagues. Most of them I hadn’t known personally, but some of them I had known of and others had worked with people I’d known. There was a lot to talk about.

Soon my weeks of classes came to an end. As they did, I felt a small sense of dread because soon I would be alone and out there looking for work. As well, it had been simply pleasant to be around people during business hours for the first time in ages.

During the last week of March, I also took my first steps in applying for unemployment assistance. I wasn’t expecting much at all from this, but it didn’t hurt to give it a try. Later, it would cause me much anger – but at first, it was only baffling, especially attending a first interview that was barely five minutes long to be told to return for another interview in three months’ time.

The only minor headache during this month was my payout taking longer than expected to arrive – but when it did, I was still excited and stunned by the size of it. Best of all, it meant that money would be the least of my worries for the near future.

April
Back in February, I had originally planned to start job-hunting in April. During March, though, I changed my mind because I realised that I already had important work for that month: LEGO-building.

Our LEGO Users Group (LUG) had our annual big show in April. This year, not only would I have my own table of exhibits but I would also be making two contributions to our group’s enormous city layout.

Admittedly, LEGO-building would be much more fun than job-hunting – but building My Own Creations (MOCs) can also be stressful in its own way, so once again I decided to focus on one thing at a time. Thus, job-hunting was postponed until May.

And I’m glad that I did. Although it was fun devoting most of my waking hours in April to LEGO-building, there were several false starts, days lost to creative dead-ends and wrong-turns, and one project abandoned completely – so I’m glad that I didn’t give myself added stress with job-hunting at the same time.

Fortunately, as often happens with LEGO-building, there were several “Eureka!” moments when good ideas suddenly arrived and put my builds right. A few days before the show, I had finished everything that I had needed to do, and that was a great relief.

Last year, I had taken a day’s leave for the show’s set-up day. This year, all I had to do was turn up. I arrived at 10am, quickly set up my table…and then wound up staying until almost 10pm helping to complete the group’s city layout. Admittedly, it got quite stressful at times, as it seemed like we would never finish – but one good thing about being unemployed was that I didn’t have any work-related stresses on my mind at the same time.

Best of all, though, my payout money allowed me to enjoy even more being at my own table during the show. During 2014’s show, I had found that a good way to pass the time was to build something at my table – so each morning before arrival, I detoured via a nearby department store and bought a few LEGO sets for MOC-building. Not only did each day’s building give me something interesting to do, but it was also a good conversation-starter with several visitors.

Building at my table aside, once again a big show like this one was great fun overall. As always, when it was over I was sad to see it go but also inspired to keep on building…

…which was very fortunate because shortly after a very interesting opportunity arrived. A Sydney children’s hospital had received a donation of approximately 200 litres of gold-coloured LEGO bricks (I say “approximately 200 litres” because it took about four 50-litre tubs to hold them all). Our LUG was asked if we wanted to build something with these thousands and thousands of bricks to help promote an upcoming telethon; three of us said yes, and soon I found myself lugging home a few thousand of these bricks to try and build something.

A few days later, I lugged these bricks back to the hospital mostly in the form of a large-scale toy freight train (although there were still a lot of bricks left over). My two colleagues also brought along some more creations, and we spent the next few hours building even more LEGO things and arranging their display near the front entrance. It was great fun for a very good cause.

May
That LEGO-building for the hospital took me into the first week of May, and again I had decided to focus on one thing at a time during that week.

So, it wasn’t until the second week of May that I finally began job-hunting.

But that’s another story for another post.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Gratitude, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life Strategies, My Story | 2 Comments

Mid-Life Crisis (Part 3)

(Enoc vt/Wikimedia Commons)

(Enoc vt/Wikimedia Commons)

Part 1
Part 2

As I mentioned at the end of Part 2, I wanted to make sure that 2014 would not turn into another dreary mid-life-crisis year like 2013 had been.

One way to do this was to finally do something I had been thinking about for several years.

And so, only four days into the new year, I made the first of my Sydney long walks.

As those who have read my Black and Blue Man Walking Man posts will recall, I’ve enjoyed the walks immensely (apart from harrowing moments like this one and this other one). Part of my enjoyment comes from seeing some parts of Sydney for the first time and revisiting other parts that I hadn’t seen for many years; another part comes from testing my endurance and seeing what I can achieve.

Yet another part of enjoying my walks came from them being something new, exciting and interesting to do that would not only give me good memories for the distant future, but also something to look forward to in the near future and keep away my mid-life-crisis thoughts.

And they worked. Thanks partly to my walks, 2014 became a much better year than 2013.

*

Another way to combat my mid-life-crisis thoughts not only worked like my long walks, but also exceeded my expectations.

As I’ve related in my other series Building Again (still in progress if way behind), in 2012 I became an Adult Fan Of LEGO (AFOL) and in late 2013 I decided to take it a step further by joining a local LEGO Users Group (LUG). My main intention for joining the LUG was to meet other people to talk and build LEGO with, but I thought that one day I may also take the dramatic step of displaying My Own Creations (MOCs) at shows.

Apart from attending the last LUG meeting for the year, 2013 ended before anything else could happen. And for the first few months, 2014 was quiet LUG-wise…

…but then in March I displayed at a cozy and pleasant suburban arts festival

…and then in April I displayed at the LUG’s annual big show in Sydney…

…and in the months that followed there were more shows, ranging from “little shows” like arts festivals and school fetes to other “big shows” like Canberra Brick Expo 2014.

Not only that, the LUG had (and still has) meetings every 2-3 months that are very interesting and great fun. As well, through shows I’ve met other AFOLs from other LUGs in cities like Canberra and Melbourne.

And in turn, as I had originally hoped, LUG activity has encouraged and improved my LEGO building overall.

When I was a kid and LEGO had been one of my favourite toys, I had often fantasized about still buying LEGO as an adult and wondered if I would actually do it.

If only my childhood self could see me now 🙂

*

So thanks to long-walking and LEGO, 2014 became a much better year than 2013.

What also helped was a better atmosphere at work. 2013’s onslaught of redundancies vanished, and although there was one difficult mid-year project 2014 turned out to be not too bad in general.

(Of course, 2015 would begin with a very dramatic change in my working life, but that’s another story for this ongoing series)

*

Throughout 2014, mid-life crisis thoughts remained…but as time passed, they became less frequent and intense.

I still have anger and regrets about my past, and always will, but I can’t go back and change it. It’s a shame, but that’s life.

What I can do, of course, is focus on the present and do what I can to make it as best as I can, one day at a time at one hour at a time – so that in the future, I can look back and be happy with where I’ve been and what I’ve done.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Action, Happiness, Hope, Inspiration, Life Strategies, My Story | 2 Comments

Black and Blue Walking Man: Berowra to Hornsby, perhaps (Part 2)

Mount Kuring-gai station western entrance, Mount Kuring-gai NSW (Abesty/Wikimedia Commons)

Mount Kuring-gai station western entrance, Mount Kuring-gai NSW (Abesty/Wikimedia Commons)

Part 1

It was 10:45am when I left Berowra station and began heading south alongside the Pacific Highway.

There was a footpath, but shortly after it came to an end.

I looked across the Highway and saw that there was a footpath on that side of the road.

I waited a little while for the traffic to clear, and crossed.

Fortunately, I saw as I looked ahead, this footpath seemed to continue for some time.

I walked on, and downtown Berowra fell away behind me.

Soon after, I saw ahead that the footpath turned right away from the Highway and headed downhill behind some bush and trees.

I knew from last night’s research that the footpath most likely connected to Helvetica Avenue, which ran alongside and below the Highway for a while but did not reconnect and ended in a cul-de-sac.

I could walk along Helvetica instead of walking alongside the Highway – but before Helvetica’s end, would I be able to get back up to the Highway?

I decided to take a chance with Helvetica and hope that, somewhere along the way, there was a lane or empty patch of ground that would enable me to reconnect to the Highway.

About 10 minutes later of pleasant-looking suburbia that I had no idea existed just below this stretch of the Highway, the welcome sight of a lane appeared.

I walked back up to the Highway.

For the next couple hundred metres or so ahead, there was a nice wide expanse of flat ground…

…but after the turn-off into Preston Way, it was hilly and impassable bushland right up to the narrow cycling lane that ran south alongside the Highway.

I looked across the road.

It was the same over there.

For a moment, I considered crossing over to continue walking along the ‘right’ side of the Highway to go with the flow of the southbound traffic.

But as always the Highway was busy, the nearest pedestrian lights were some distance back, and especially with no footpath over there what was the point?

So I remained on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and began walking south.

And along with my crossing of the Gladesville Bridge just over a year before, the next 30 minutes or so would be one of my most uncomfortable long-walk experiences ever.

*

Ever since, and even at the time as I walked that roadside stretch, I wondered if I perhaps felt more self-conscious rather than genuinely concerned.

Did I look foolish walking alongside the busy and this-not-very-scenic-part of the dangerous and notorious Pacific Highway – and on the ‘wrong’ side?

A few times I told myself to knock it off. Most of the passing drivers probably didn’t care what I was doing – and even if a few did, so what?

But self-consciousness aside, I was genuinely concerned.

The cycling lanes on both sides of the road were narrow, and even if I had been on a bicycle instead I wouldn’t have found it comfortable.

If a vehicle came off of the Highway at speed right at me for whatever reason, I had nowhere to go.

It didn’t feel very safe at all.

So as I walked, I didn’t really enjoy it because I on high alert…

…although funnily enough, walking on the ‘wrong’ side of the road soon calmed me down a little because if something came at me, I would see it coming – whereas on the ‘right’ side of the road, a vehicle or cyclist or something else could hit me immediately from behind.

So I focused on just walking safely to get past this godforsaken part of the Highway.

At one point a car did suddenly pull up not far ahead of me, and at another point either a cyclist or a jogger came the other way (I can’t remember now if he was riding or running), but because I was very present-in-the-moment I was prepared.

But it wasn’t very pleasant, nonetheless.

*

Except for one brief moment.

When I came to the stretch of the Highway that overlooked the large green valley that contains Lyrebird Gully and the overhead-powerline towers marching off into the western distance, I stopped and admired the view.

I didn’t stay long and I couldn’t see much through a narrow gap in the roadside foliage, but it was enough.

I smiled, thought about my very young self when he first saw this sight about 40 years ago, marveled that I was now admiring it on foot, and then pressed on.

*

Not long after the valley, I came around another bend in the Highway and smiled at what lay ahead.

For the next few hundred metres, there was a nice expanse of flat wide ground running alongside the Highway.

And not long after, when I looked across the road at the western entrance to Mount Kuring-gai railway station, I grinned at an even more wonderful sight.

Stretching ahead for as far as I could see for at least a kilometre ahead, and with several metres of space between it and the Highway, was a footpath.

I waited until it was safe to cross, and did.

And for the first time during that walk as I began heading south along the footpath, I relaxed and began to truly enjoy my journey.

*

The funny thing was, about 10 minutes later I crossed back over the Highway – but this time high above it, across the Church Street bridge.

And I crossed it to reach another wonderful sight – an ALDI.

I bought a bottle of chilled water there, and at 11:50am took my first break.

Especially after that tense first hour, that break and water felt wonderful.

Berowra to Mount Kuring-gai (Google Maps)

Berowra to Mount Kuring-gai (Google Maps)

And as I looked out of the ALDI at the Highway as it continued south, I grinned at the sight of even more footpath stretching off as far as I could see.

*

At 12:05, I finished my water and binned my bottle.

I had walked just over seven kilometres from Berowra to Mount Kuring-gai.

Hornsby was another 15 kilometres away.

Would I get there?

I resumed my journey south to find out.

TO BE CONTINUED

Posted in Action, Fear, Hope, Inspiration, Life Challenges, Life is Good, Travel | Leave a comment

Eating most of my food with a knife and fork

UK Prime Minister David Cameron (The Sydney Morning Herald)

UK Prime Minister David Cameron (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Yesterday in The Sydney Morning Herald, I was amused to read that UK Prime Minister David Cameron was recently criticised for eating a hot dog with a knife and fork.

I was amused not because I think what he did was silly or posh or both, but because I have attracted similar mockery myself.

I eat a lot of my food with cutlery because of my OCD.

*

For most of my life, I have been obsessive-compulsive about having clean hands.

It’s only since 2000 or so, however, that I’ve been eating more and more of my food with a knife and fork. I even bought myself a set of camping cutlery to use at food courts (although this was also because I find a lot of plastic cutlery flimsy, and also as a safeguard against places being out of cutlery).

Part of this is a reaction to outside factors – and in all seriousness, one of them has been the growing size of hamburgers.

Messy hands from hamburgers had long made me uncomfortable, but especially during the last 10 years the trend of bigger burgers made eating them even more unwieldy and less enjoyable. So in response, I began using cutlery to dismantle them and eat them piece by piece (I usually save the patty for last).

As a result, I now enjoy hamburgers even more – because not only does a knife and fork make their eating more neat and tidy, it also increases the length of the meal.

Another outside factor that led me to eating more of my food with a knife and fork was the internet, and especially interacting with people online. I usually don’t surf during meals, but I found that trying to enjoy a snack like potato chips but having to constantly wipe my hands between bouts of typing was quite tiresome – so several years ago, I began eating potato chips with a fork.

At first, that felt even more odd than using cutlery for a hamburger – but soon I came to like it a lot. Again, not only did it keep my hands clean, but it gave me more time to savor each chip.

If I’m sharing from bowls of chips in public I still use my fingers, but at home I always use a fork.

Not every attempt to eat more food with cutlery has succeeded, however. Some years ago I briefly tried crunching corn chips into small pieces and mixing them into bowls of salsa to eat them with a spoon, but even that was odd and not very enjoyable. So I always use my hands for corn chips with salsa (although corn chips by themselves I eat with a fork).

I have also eaten Subway subs with my camping cutlery, dismantling them like I do with hamburgers. This wasn’t enjoyably the same, though, so recently I have gone back to eating them with my hands (but not before having moist towelettes close by).

*

I have attracted some mockery for this way of eating – and in one online forum where I said that I prefer to eat pizza with a knife and fork, like David Cameron I was pooh-poohed as being posh.

But whatever his reason for eating his hot dog how he did, he should eat it however he wants to – especially if he enjoys it.

Until next time, stay well and take care 🙂

Posted in Fear, Happiness, Life Strategies, My Story, OCD | Leave a comment