Thursday, December 29, 2011

As days become years

As Beloved peeled off to bed, I went out for a walk. Like so many evenings capping days that drag on, circling around the screen, files, briefings and other bureacratic occuclutter. Evenings that fail their promise of something to make the day seem worthwhile. Worth more than merely paying the bills.

We are tired. Everything makes sense. But that doesn't change the wait each day for the third part of life, the one where you are adults with your own agency living your own life, to engage, even if just for an hour.

I told an older relative, with a comfortable looking nuclear family life in Surrey, England, that we are thinking of getting someone in the bungalow out the back, perhaps an au pair. It sits empty, unvisited, and we thought if there was a boarder who could babysit from time-to-time we might be able to do things like go out on occasional dates.

...Beloved and I, to be clear!

And anyway (as Bear says when you pause in a conversation with her) they replied that it sounded like I was pining for the past, going on dates and all that; better to adjust to life as it is now. And not for the first time in recent months I found another person's helpful view of my stage in life almost suicidally depressing. And realised that even a happy-looking twee family in Surrey can be the post-script to some compromise that forever consigned some romantic notion like, well, romance, or affection, to a cold little graveyard in the far corner of the park.

Perhaps going out together is not important to those people. Perhaps all of it became less important. But in the words of a Black Crowes number I've been messing around with a bit on my old, scarred, nylon-string:

She don't know no lover,
No man I've ever seen,
To her that ain't nothin',
But to me it is, it is everything.

I walked along the ridge above Merri Creek, where the street lights are infrequent and muffled by dominating trees. It was dark, quiet. Now and then a house was fantastically lit with Christmas lights. A lone skateboarder peeled off into a driveway. A couple of dogs murmered unconvincingly.

All my closest slept. No war threatened them, no fire or floods approached our suburb. There was food in the cupboard. These things are all good and I am thankful. But we only live once, and if we spend our days apart, grinding our faces into computer screens in giant hives, then at some point surely we need more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

After transition, a transition

We are just weeks from school. Bear tries on her dress, I well up. She is excited. I am, and yet. It is the start of it all.

We went to transitions together, Beloved being in a new job. Daddy daughter mornings of nerves and bouncing excitement (respectively). I milled awkwardly with instant coffee and biscuits, staff room life, chatted to the odd parent. Mostly mums, many knew each other. I shuffled my handouts, listened to the primers about how good it will be. I am sure it will. And yet.

Bear bonded, mostly with her buddy from this year's prep. And a tall girl who can already use the monkey bars. Like me, Bear is quite a bit of work off being able to use monkey bars. She drew, listened, had fun. Then we walked home together, put on the kettle, I made her a hot chocolate, and we sat on the step that edges our back garden, side by side. Questions and anecdotes. She told me about her classes and I asked about friends. We pottered a while there each day before I put on my suit and took her to childcare, an afternoon of obiter, chronology and general administrain waiting in the office.

Work was extra hard those days. I direct my hopes to her fortune. I hope she is happy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grandparents in Queensland - a brief (dis)engagement

We went to Queensland. A few months ago now, this blog has lost some of its grasp on chronology.

It was fine. Fine in the sense that nothing catastrophic went down. I avoided the big topics. My parents made a modest effort at times, while hardly making our considerable effort, emotional and logistical, worth it.

With 4 days to share with the kids, neither of them could be bothered hanging out in the play centre when it was raining heavily and there was no-where else to go. It seemed to be too much to just be. With the kids, just be. At the huge playground next to the lake they made fanfare out of feeding the ducks. Always feeding the ducks. They lingered long after the kids moved to the swings and climbing frames, focused on the ducks.

At the gardens they engaged while showing us around. The steam train was a hit. Then we fed the ducks again. My father snarled at Mitts for throwing a large piece of bread to the ducks. Apparently it can harm them. Apparently feeding them bread is otherwise a good idea. Apparently snarling inappropriately at your 2 year old grandson because he failed to correctly apportion bread is less concerning than a duck being overfed. I moved in between, creating distance while commenting on 'grumpy granddad'. I resisted the strong temptation to shove him into the water, a real, visceral temptation derived from a strong sense of my need to protect my son from such unapologetic unpleasantness.

We got to a playground, a perfect context for relaxed engagement, big seats, shade, palms waving overhead, a benign and calming context. They both walked off and sat in the nearby cafe for an hour.

There were some nice moments. Mitts found some pumice on a beach nearby - again we were there sans grandparents, who thought it might be easiest if they just waited at home - and was keen to keep it to show granddad. Look granddad, Pu-misss. Yeeers, says graddad, allowing half a smile. Not many though. So much berating, not sitting on furniture properly (those 2 and 4 year olds are so out of control these days!) was a big one. Our efforts to get them to move dinner forward slightly to have it with the kids were mostly resisted.

We went to Hervey Bay, just us, not them too. The beach was long, wide, uncrowded. Sand in toes &c, its a common cliche for a reason. Saw the tails of 2 dolphins or Waloos from the beach. That was nice. More of that please from this day forth.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The unfinished business of repairs

Speaking with my birth mother last night. She is here, finding her space as one of the grandparent constellation.

Closing the circle. That is how I see it: repairs that can never fully be made to the fabric of her and my relationship, just because (because my guilt sets boundaries, there are others, and because of stories she can't fully tell). But with them there is no obstacle, none indeed for any of the grandfolk willing to step forward and have a relationship. Step, adoptive, birth, right pain in the arse or otherwise.

They can take a few giants steps together this week.

Landmark was on TV. The cult, movement, positive thinking self-help whatever. We spoke of repairs, to the past, the complexity of wanting or wanting to give forgiveness. And apology. Someone in her life - nothing to do with me or adoption - went to Landmark, with its clear simplicity and demands for change and movement. They came to her, seeking something. She gave something approaching apology, hoping for something back; acknowledgment, concession, perhaps something approaching apology. She got nothing. They asked for their apology. She gave it, still hopeful.

They went off with their head full of positive thinking, new starts and all of that, Landmark's simplicity directing them to the cool rainforest of Northern Queensland.

Fixing the past doesn't necessarily mean hurling yourself on coals. But no matter how much you clutch assertions, tropes, rhetoric, or other cultish devices, the repairs don't fix themselves. Not completely. People may move on but you shouldn't ask for absolution if you can't roll up your sleeves and fix that tap that has been leaking since 19whenever.

Barbara Ehrenreich nailed it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Approaching 40 - time to give up?

"If you have not self actualised by 40, isn't it time to give up?"

I had been dealing pretty well with being in my late 30s. I had no 40 issues, really none at all. Until that statement, made by a well-meaning late-20-something.

Perhaps it is time. Perhaps that last rung on the hierarchy of needs is an illusion. Many seem too obsessed with it, with something they haven't yet found. If 'too' is defined by missing the good things right in front of you.

But when I toyed with the notion, not writing that novel or thesis, losing the idea I've been gnawing away on that I might look again at career with the kids in school, consider the possibilities like an undergraduate, when grasped it and peered in, I saw a hard, lightless landscape, I saw slowly lifting one foot, then the other, forwards, towards the same. It was just bleak, a shade of ashen grey about 3 shades short of black.

It was a statement made with the same sense of certaintly I felt at that age, by now I would be everything I am and more, whatever more is, and perhaps most importantly of all I would have 'found it' and would be entirely sated by what it is that I put my energy into. Not only that, but money would be bouncing off my shoulder blades and as I straddled a perfect balance of material sufficiency and ethical purity. Saving the world, then recuperating on a ski field in Japan or a reef off the coast of Manado. As I write it the words are silly, the utopianism self-contradictory and absurd, yet it was a firm belief.

The young person, the sense of certainty, both are easy to put into perspective. But the words pierce my defences against a far broader sweep of pressures that are less passing, less easily ignored. From family, from Beloved, my kids and my own guilt, outwards.

Should I be mourning the 30s as the last time in my life I might have been entitled to do something radically different? Are the unfinished 8,500 word novel, the Masters that never turned into that Phd scholarship, the two writing jobs for which I got to second interview stage, the dream policy role that came at the wrong time, the artefacts of the final period of settlement on the rest of my life?

I have so much I am happy about. I know I should be grateful. I just don't know what I can tell my children, in complete honesty, it is all for. I know some of you have the answers, have passed this date by a while and will find the very notion here perplexing or even offensive. I hope so anyway, as I need to hear something that isn't from the maw of conservative late-30s career-life, a maw that presently has me in its teeth...

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Age of Divorce

There was a time of heightened marrying, and among those unmarried several equivalent partnerships. You know at the time that they can't all last, perhaps, in some cases, you already know they shouldn't.

Then there were children. Parenting is by necessity myopic and distorted, everything appears behind the lens of a world that so completely envelops your time and energy. You mingle by mutual interest: mother's groups switch everyone's attention to a group of others in the same place, and even within existing friends fathers seek each other out to compare notes, reassure, share an understood release over beer-soaked conversation from quarter to quarter.

Now a succession of separations and divorces. I should not overstate it, there are only 3 on my mind although a couple of other unions are clearly on the rocks. They all have small children. In at least 1, probably 2, it is a result I might have predicted if I were forced to lay down money back then. The couples, indeed the children, may be better off, and having brought wonderful children into the world through those unions there must be a caveat on any regret. In one case they are working well together to share responsibilities and avoiding vitriol.

None of which reduces the general melancholy I feel when I look across that landscape of friends and imagine the disappointments, the sense of failure most would feel, perhaps deep down the speculation - no doubt quickly suppressed out of guilt and love for their children - as to how things might have been different.

Happy photos now weigh heavily in albums, threatening to push through pages. Smiles seem strained, sunny beaches a prelude to storms. I want to hold mine close and never leave the afternoon in the back garden, grass, gently-clunking toys, Beloved with a handfull of snippings under the olive tree.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The prodigal son drags his family north

I have blogged about my father. Hit 'personal', go back, it's there. I am now in a better place. He has received the all-clear after an encounter with cancer followed by enough chemicals to kill the Great Barrier Reef. They are both pretty unwell, and against some better judgement we are paying them a visit.

Despite the one-sided nature of the effort involved, I feel I have to give the possibility of a relationship between grandparent and grandchild a chance. A small, guarded, chance. And my poor mother, stranded in a town she never wanted to go to, deserves something.

I have not fought with him for many months. I refuse to talk about work. Or asylum seekers (or anything touching on race, not that he's a racist, but..). We have some ongoing contact and it is tolerable.

As once suggested on this blog, by Zoe I believe, I took a few sessions of counselling directed specifically at our relationship. It was good. Partly from that, and from reflection, I can see things from a slightly removed place. I have additional perspective and it helps. In particular I spend less time fretting about whether our relationship is part of some adoption issue. That may be there, but it is also a lot clearer to me that I am only part of an immovable story of control and inflexibility.

Counselling helped me see wider patterns. Anything that can't be controlled becomes a threat. The only child he could have raised and never fought badly with would be one who never fully grew up, never pushed out and became an individual. No matter how similar their wiring (to use his phrase), one decent step towards independence and it would be on. My mother's acquiescence in so much of his crap frustrates me, yet I can see that it is a survival mechanism for their relationship. As he gives no room, and offers no mediation between positions, any serious push back would be like a car hitting a wall. No give. A mess.

I know what I would probably do if I were her... well I know because I have effectively done it. I said 'no thanks', 'stop saying that', 'I don't want the same things you do', 'I disagree'. Started saying it at the end of my teens, and have had a turbulent relationship since. The normal adjustment into the adult-adult relationship is not possible, because there can be no adjustment. So where I have learned from those fights at 18, 19, and long since moderated many things that led us there, he has barely changed one iota. He has pulled out insults long since buried, as if we hadn't done the burying by going through a hostile, stressful, awful process of razorblade iteration.

But. Months of carefully circumscribed conversation, the insights of counselling, and my own reflection have brought me to a better place. There are limits to our engagement, and I know I can't improve on that.

Visiting is not ideal. I need to consciously avoid both trigger-topics and opportunities, which usually come in the form of initially-benign conversations, in fact often pleasant, a glass of scotch in front of each of us, with my mother and Beloved wandering off to do other things, and my defences going down, and then the poison comment arriving like a concealed screwdriver through the ribs...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Signature noises and tweety-bird pogues

Mitts has a sound, everyone is impressed and Bear is slightly put out. He raises a warble at the back of his throat, I think it's his tongue flapping away loosely, and can raise it, lower it, pretty much sing tunes with it. I would write rrlrrlrrlrrlrrlrrlrrl or rdlrdlrdlrdlrdlrdl or simply rrrrrrrrrrr, yet none really capture it.

When I sing to him he say "STOP SINGING". However on my looking offended he sometimes relents, "Sing Daddy". He relented for Nature's Boy, a version involving his name every couple of lines and references to sitting in a tree (he and Bear have discovered that it's fun to be stuck up in the fork of the tree out the front by Daddy, who then sits under them fretting and waving his arms around behind them ready to make some attempt at catching).

Bear decided her signature noise would be speaking in a high squeaky voice, which is a bit of a thing she has, perhaps not the one I'd have chosen to show off. I'd have gone for some singing instead. She pulled out a few Coldplay lines the other day, but the best moment came from sitting in the very same tree, telling me she was a bird, then singing:

Tweet tweet tweet tweeeeeet,
Tweety tweet tweet tweeeeeet,
Tweet tweet tweeeeeeeeet,
Tweety tweet, twe-tweet....

and so on, being, OF COURSE, Dirty Old Town by the Pogues. Note for note. Which we had on in the car a few weeks ago.

A Bear likes her music, in her own way. My little brother was with us. He was out the back playing and singing, very nicely, a very talented lad. I was feebly picking along improvising, feeling very outshone. But Bearsy, every time another song started, demanded 'Play your notes Daddy' before she would dance.

Enjoying every moment.

.... Enjoying every moment apart from trying to change Mitts' clothes and apart from being woken violently at 6am...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back to where Raquel came from...

What this show demonstrated more than anything else is what most refugee advocates have long believed: the hard line reflects a failure to empathise that reflects a failure to imagine.

Raquel copped it, but right from the start others riled me more. Surely those dishing out the vitriol in her direction could see at least some of the causes- a lousy education and modest circumstances (to put it mildly). Her racism was honest and refreshing in one sense; it is plainly not an uncommon view of the 'other' in this country but it is one furiously and aggressively denied. She said it, and said it simply and without malice. And as the show developed she made the most remarkable progress.

A couple of the others made far less sense in my view, having the benefit of more time in and understanding of the world. The homicidal hatred expressed by the ex-disability advocate was astounding.

But all of them improved markedly during the show. All showed capacity to reflect and learn. Which just sadly emphasises how far public opinion might shift if people were able to imagine their plight, and empathise. It casts light on the role of selective reporting as well. If each image of a boatload of Afghanis were accompanied by images of the Taliban hunting down schoolgirls it's not beyond hope to think that many people's reaction would be a little less hateful.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hard for a boy, it is

Mitts is struggling with life at 2. He has started being physically and verbally assertive (to put it mildly) and I am sure the collective weight of correction from both ourselves and others is getting him down. He can't get away with hitting or shoving. On the other hand with the bulk of his playmates being girls there is a tendency for him to be at the rougher end, noted as such by the parents of girls, without necessarily being the instigator. Part of learning is not to hit, part of learning is not to snatch or boss other kids about. And dare I say being hit by their friends when they try to wrestle a teddy away from them is one of the ways kids learn that they aren't an island. Which is to say that it ain't always his fault.

Still. He can't hit and we will keep making that clear. And there are a few ways he is testing ground, asserting himself, pushing boundaries, most of which need some curbing at the fringes. But perhaps we need to add some other carrot. I think a boy is sad and world-weary.

He held on today, as he now often does, at childcare. His chin slumped on my shoulder, yet his grip around me was firm. The new normal, before which he was better than fine and he'd adjusted well to childcare from the start. As with Bear who hurls herself in, loves her kinder teacher, and currently strikes a nice balance by waving to me from the window but then leaving to return to her friends before I have driven off.

Men have a lot of lessons to learn as they grow up. There are a lot of contradictions in those lessons. He will be baffled many times. My job may be to guide him through those lessons, teach him to be a decent man, but it is also to make sure the weight of contradictions and the size of the task of tackling life itself don't overwhelm him. At first, he needs love and reassurance. While keeping the rules firm, I need to find more ways to give him that love and reassurance.

And hang out throwing mud and stuff.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On writing - starting midpoint of a listless journey?

From blogs, to where? How many of us want to write more, to connect with the enduring power of a novel, or even that rare poem or short story that hooks in?

For the 140,045th time in my life I am pondering the writing ideal. It could be worse, having whinged much about my jobs at least I sometimes get to hone the craft here, albeit through the distended language of policy or law. I write this in my belated lunch break. I can do that now I have belated lunch breaks.

How do you simply sit down and write something good? Ask a bunch of writers and you get the sprawl you deserve I guess, but reading this article, printed off and stapled, on the train, one of the scattering of suggestions was keeping a diary. I thought 'well I have a blog', then realised, perhaps embarrassed at the realisation that most of us out here probably want to write a wonderful novel (and more than one visitor to this site is a published, seasoned writer), that I have barely put words down on this quest.

At times I have written as I would always want to, but there are at least 3 voices I have been happy with. A brooding, emotional language where pain and happiness are drawn out with raw imagery (a little perhaps in the preceding post...). Funny - I love doing funny but it is so hard to hit the spot, it just seems to come out right from time to time. And dry, political analyst. I also do a pretty good academic essay but you don't really see that here.

As well as voice confusion, and genre/fiction v non-fiction/purpose confusion, there is also the simple reality that as often as not I don't hit the spot at all. I know it, readers show it. The blog is, at least, a great place to test this. With posts such as this- navel gazing, rambling, and self-serving! Still, a diary the writer said so here is the first jot on the epage. I will start by collecting a history in a dozen lines or so...

Writing great little horror stories at age 11, until told to desist or get expelled from thick-skulled catholic school. Hardly wrote again until adulthood.

Random efforts in poetry and short stories from the end of school into university, a play somewhere that I submitted for drama but have since lost.

The real trigger was a series of long emails I wrote to friends from the end of Uni, some of which were quite experimental as a way of breaking the 'travel email' tedium, on topics from Andalucia to skiing to the emotional experience of winning a welfare appeal. Then I started to get a few responses suggesting more than polite flattery, a friend or two really did seem to think this was something I should explore. No doubt at this point I am not alone among the triptillion would-be writers out there.

Under the blanket of rain in London I started a novel. Got about 3 pages in. Read Stephen King On Writing and -inspired- ditched the excess description, looked around, saw a beggar with a dog and started again. Attempting to meld something close to horror or the magical with rambling, observant depression. A bit over 8000 words later I had lost momentum, mostly because the colourful detail drawn from expatriate life in London was threatened by my move to Melbourne. Also, the underlying theme of loss of sanity from the circular relentlessness of single life was polaxed at first base by the arrival of Beloved.

King says don't plan, just write, but this did make it hard when the inspirations became distant. Where exactly was this going? I have no idea, it still sits in a draw somewhere. Subsequent attempts involve a lawyer going crazy (always plenty of personal inspiration for that one and I do like the idea of subverting the lawyer genre, given it captures none of the darkness and frustration involved with real lawyering) among others, none of which got far. I dabbled in non-fiction and had articles published. I came close to switching into journalism. I wrote essays for a Masters, and while they often queried my poor referencing, argumentative structure or general gist, they normally liked (sometimes loved) the writing.

I bunged out a couple more poems and songs along the way. Oh, and some blogs. Dry and political, then ponderous and emotional, then something crazy about a cat (still my most loved effort I think), then drabs of each continued to appear on this, the resulting, long-lasting diary of several years of random thoughts.

Which I love on many levels. I also know that if 1/4 of the energy put into this went into other types of writing, I would probably have a novel, or a few published articles, or something... when it comes to the creative and unpaid, time is precious and game theory applies. One replaces another, unless you want to be up at 3am.

So on I go. If you got this far and have your own tips or links, posts on your own journey, please leave them below the dotted line...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

With a sick boy at midnight

Not that bad the Doctor said, but by 5pm sheer tiredness overwhelmed him and he slept. Until 11pm.

A succession of thumps announced his awakening. He stood in the dining room squinting, thrown by the lack of routine and order. Saw us approaching and smiled.

Beloved was wrecked and left me to put him to bed. He was awake and needed to adjust before sleep might come again. Clutched a bottle of water and asked to sit with me. I hugged him close, flicked over the channels but realised nothing was suitable, least of all the biker violence I had drifted into. This late I wanted a compromise, no Fireman Sam or In the Night Garden DVDs with my remaining Shiraz. We settled on A River Somewhere and sank deep into the couch.

"Car", "House", "Moo Daddy Moo" were pointed out to me. He leaned his head back on my shoulder and I told him I'd missed him that day. As Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner waded up the Howqua River, water spraying off their airborne fly lines, he asked: "Daddy and Mitts did it?"

Perhaps one day little man- if you aren't a vegetarian. But it still made a small warm place in me. After the episode he asked for "read it?" and we snuggled through a couple of short kids' books. It was midnight. He wanted more. We stood together, he wrapped his arms around the back of my shoulder, and I went into the bay behind the curtains. Outside it was dark, cold and still, the world on pause.

"Sleep time". He still wanted another book but the protests were weaker. I tucked him in and kissed his forehead. Bear snored peacefully beside us. He smiled and blew kisses with an audible smack as I walked out of the room.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Eva Cassidy, Clare Bowditch, and the Fields of Melbourne

Beloved came home from the Eva tribute breathless with excitement, almost teary with emotion and told me firmly I was to go see the final show Sunday afternoon. She would mind the kids and it would be done. I simply could not miss it.

Eva Cassidy has perhaps the most beautiful voice I've heard. Her story is told elsewhere, but it is short and tragic, and reflects not only the essential unfairness of life but also the cold, anti-creative machine that is the music industry. I discovered her posthumously, like almost everyone, at the tail end of my time in London.

I am a closet singer. Correct that, there is nothing closet about it, I've had lessons and sang a song I had written at my wedding. But closet in the sense that if I had half Eva's (or Clare's) voice I would be weaving tales of woe through the venues of northern Melbourne on a regular basis.

My version of crooning was wrapped up in my early romantic haze with Beloved. The first night we got it together, I asked if I could get her something, she joked 'sing me a lullaby', and I picked up the guitar in the dark and warbled out 'Van Deimen's Land'. She wrote home about that effort! The night before she was to leave, on a separate journey to our chosen home in Melbourne, we huddled together and rocked on the step of the bathroom, and it was 'Waltzing Matilda' (the sad, reflective version not the rugby cheer squad version!).

As she left she handed me a present, Songbird, and told me that when we met she expected me to have learned, and to sing to her, Eva's version of Fields of Gold. And I did. And we are married with Bear and Mitts. So there is back story...

I couldn't help tearing up in that song, beautifully rendered. Clare did a wonderful job. The show intersperses songs with anecdotes about Eva, and some from Clare's life that are a bit like the one above, symbolic encounters that give subjective response to the narrative. The musicians were exceptional- you could hate the songs and Clare's voice (well you would be a robot, but anyway...) and still enjoy seeing several incredible musicians. This was perhaps the only time I can remember when I had an emotional - in the soulful, balladic sense- response to drumming!

When I bought Clare's album afterwards, and asked her to dedicate it to Bear and Mitts, she added 'Top Dad'. I was rather chuffed. I decided to spare her the story about how she got the last 2 car seats in Darebin right in front of Bear in the queue.

I came home and picked up the guitar. I was still singing in the car this morning. Dreams and all that. Although the conclusion I reached is that with musicianship like that around I would do better to put my creative energies into bonsai.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bashing reffos, now bashing the miserable

What a miserable, self serving policy-free zone the Gillard government is in.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Sorry I'm late sweetheart"

"Daddy got held up at work"...

Bear rolls away, faces the wall.

"You always do that".


*stomach tightens*

"Sorry luffy, it'll improve soon..."

In fact work has been getting a bit saner. But that doesn't stop the parent guilt or my desire to improve things further.

That feeling stayed with me all the next day, I was running for the lifts when I finally got out. Got home just in time, but thankfully Bear gave out a big hug and seemed satisfied with my efforts. But I swear she said something like "Improvement..." Mitts just laughed and tackled me, as always...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

And now your kids are slightly cross...

They are stepping up to a higher level of crossness, and we are being held to account!

Beloved went on a well-deserved couple of nights away staying with a good friend, and the kids were fine, asking a few questions, but generally having a good play with me and behaving. I was a little surprised, as it is the first time mummy had been away for more than a few hours (I know, she needed it!). But then she got home, and with Mitts it was on. "Naww" he grumbled, waving his hand 'away', as she repeatedly tried to bond and catch up, while latching onto my legs and frowning at her.

Harsh. It probably took over an hour for him to soften and let her have a proper hug.

I had a couple of late evenings in a row with work, and it was Bear's first Kinder day, so I called up just before bedtime to ask how her day went, and she wouldn't speak to me. She said something odd like 'Don't do that ever again', and I think she knew I was calling because I couldn't get home in time, and was saying 'that doesn't count'.

I got home and went straight in to check on them and she was still slightly awake, and she squeezed on to my hand then said 'Tomorrow daddy I want you to come home from work early'.


It stayed with me all the next day and I did, indeed, come home early to a wonderful reception.

Work has been relentless and as always the balance between boredom and insanity seems hard to find in a job. I'm glad I'm here, but hoping for change down the track as I get better.

And I'm not looking forward to the reaction, from Mitts in particular, when I return from a week away next month.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

On re-acquainting with my family

I have spent time with my family. Consecutive days worth of time, without the buzz of work in my head, playing with my children all day, chatting with my wife at night. It was good, a little too much so, as I return to work and the grind.

I was bored and sought out a new job. It is a good job, actually it's in many ways the best I've held. The work is high level, relevant, and I like reading the judicial decisions and journal articles that form the intellectual underpinning of my daily bread and butter. But work is so often all or nothing, or as a famous KC (going back over a century) once said of being a barrister; all bed and no roses, or all roses and no bed.

I'd settle on a nice bundle of herbs and a reclining chair as a compromise...

So I went from having 1 page letters changed over and over by people who couldn't write, to being out on a limb running things well beyond my ordinary capability, and although I didn't take on the kind of hours common to the Paris end of Collins, 9 and a half hour lunchless day followed 9 and a half hour lunchless day, week after week, with my arse in the wind as I ran things well beyond my comfort zone, and I was often still staring out of a scratched train window as Mitts went to bed.

At the same time Beloved's work, family unfriendly at the best of times, went manic, and her official (ie paid) 3 days a week went from the usual 'in practice' 4 days over 3 to something approaching full time, picked up in late night telephone conferences and urgent documents turned around on weekends.

By the time we got on the Spirit of Tasmania, we'd just about had it. The holiday didn't start at that point, not with long delays getting on board, rough weather, and the realisation that for a boat full of families with kids they'd provided 1 tiny annex room with a few toys, while a huge casino area and multiple bars hosted a handful of over-serviced adults.

But once we'd cleared Tassie customs (all I can say is !! - they claim it's about fruit but I think it's just that the process remains as hectic as it was back a decade or two ago when aboriginals and homosexuals were being weeded out) we were off and for the next 10 days we were on the island, away, mobile phone (in my case anyway) largely left off, bantering with the kids about Santa, relatives, maps, music on the car stereo, and slowly losing the toxins of several crap months.

I barely thought about my father and his issues- I've been putting some work into that, an old suggestion of Zoe's, and am gradually bedding down the new paradigm (it's really just the old 'understanding', with some new clarity, after my stretch of hope and expectation that came with the kids). I barely thought about work.

Leaving this morning I realised how long it had been since I spent so much consecutive time with my family. I didn't get sick of it at all. I was not happy as I walked to the train. However, inside, I'm a whole sunbeam happier than I was a month or so ago.

Happy unears...