Friday, 7 April 2017

Got the internet working again

A couple of weeks ago I may have written about the internet going down here and the problem never really went away even after the telecommunications company sent out a technician to fix it. They did send me a notice by text message saying that they would be sending out another technician - so I needn't have worried - but somehow I forgot about this message in the usual press of everyday things.

This morning, the internet was down again and I tried rebooting the modem but nothing worked. Then I called the ISP and the guy reminded me that someone was coming out today to fix the connection. I remembered about it then and we rang off, then I went about my business - in fact I ironed the shirts - while I waited for the call on the intercom. Then I realised that the technician this time might not be coming to the apartment itself, but instead might be doing other things in other places to fix the connection. Anyway, I waited until midday - the zero time for the appointment to end this morning - and eventually the connection came back on because I could see the little icon change on the computer screen from "no connection" to "connected".

So now I have the internet back on, although how long it lasts this time is anyone's guess. We'll just have to see. Meanwhile, I have a glass of wine and a thought now about going out to get some lunch. I have been dieting but I have a regimen that allows me certain foods at certain times of the day, and I think a chicken schnitzel roll will be just the thing for me today.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Movie review: Ghost in the Shell, dir Rupert Sanders (2017)

The main character, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is a transhuman law enforcement android capable of tremendous feats of physical violence. This is a violent movie. Early in the piece, several senior figures in the company Hanka Robotocs - a government supplier that built Major - are targeted, and Major has to find out who is doing the devilry. She narrows the field down to one - Kuze (Michael Pitt) - who turns out to be a transhuman himself.

The plot turns on issues of identity. Hanka had told Major that her brain had been recovered from a person caught up in an accident but the story turns out to be untrue. In the process of unraveling the truth, people are hurt and killed including Major's fighting sidekick Batou (Pilou Asbaek) and scientist Dr Ouelet (Juliet Binoche). The stakes are high. And behind Major operates an outfit headed by Aaramaki (Takeshi Kitano) who reports to the prime minister and who has some independence from the company. In charge of the company is the shadowy Cutter (Peter Ferdinando).

As Major narrows in on the real identity and motivation of Kuze people are hurt, as we have seen. But the story becomes more complex and interesting. The relationship between Kuze and Hanka becomes clearer as the action moves toward the final battle between Major and the spider tank. Hanka is producing many lethal weapons for the government, it turns out, and not all of them were developed following ethical guidelines. This is a story where capital has a lot of answers to give to a lot of questions, which is not an unusual trope. But the problems of the plot are handled dexterously. In the centre of the maelstrom is the relationship between Major and Hairi (Kaori Momoi), who turns out to have a special relationship to our heroine.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Back into walking

It has been several months since I went walking. The hiatus was mainly due to the excessive heat of summer, which made walking uncomfortable. Now that the summer is over I can get back into it.

I went down into Darling Harbour today and came across an extraordinary sight. There were hundreds of mothers with babies in prams at the Darling Precinct, near the CBA buildings, all milling about and eating food from McDonald's. Some of the prams were in series, some in tandem. With some of the prams the babies faced backwards, with others they faced forwards. But the sheer scale of miniature humanity was staggering. There were mothers and babies on rugs on the grass, and mothers and babies sitting on the benches provided for the comfort of visitors. There were mothers and babies everywhere.

I continued on down Dixon Street and noticed that the council has installed lights in the footpath to signal to pedestrians when the traffic lights are red. Another tightening of the terms of existence in the public sphere, I thought. Another increase in severity of the level of control exercised over us by the authorities in their incessant search for obedience from the plebs.

Further on, around Harris Street, the traffic was quite heavy, and a new building site has sprung up where an existing building is being converted into apartments. There was a truck reversing through the Harris Street traffic into the driveway as I came upon the place. Everyone had to stop while the truck maneuvered into the correct position, including pedestrians.

I made my way back to Pyrmont and stopped in the sushi train restaurant for a few plates of sushi and a beer. Then I went home and got onto social media. I'm having a glass of wine now.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Remembering Cyclone Oswald

In 2013 starting on Australia Day Cyclone Oswald started tracking south down the Queensland coast at about 30km per hour. It went all the way down the coast into New South Wales and brought torrential rain to communities up and down the coast including those in the heavily-populated areas of southeast Queensland. I was living in the area at the time and I remember the downpours for two days that it took the system to pass over the area I was living in. The rain was literally horizontal, angled with the wind that thundered through the town for that time.

Today's Cyclone Debbie reminds me of those days. They were a time of fear and anxiety, when the weather takes control of the entire community, shutting down essential services and causing people to shelter inside. I am so grateful that we don't have these types of weather systems down here in New South Wales. They are terrible and bring an inordinate amount of anxiety to thousands of people.

In Sydney over the past three weeks we have had rain, but it has been a pedestrian, docile type of rain, not the grinding, pelting rain that you get with weather systems like Cyclone Oswald or Debbie. We are lucky down here to have pacific weather, calm weather that only occasionally steps over the bounds of comfort to cause problems for people.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Internet is fixed

On Wednesday I posted about the PC crisis which saw me buy both a new PC and a new monitor. The PC crisis, however, was immediately followed by an internet crisis, where the net slowed down to a snail's pace. It reminded me of when I moved back to Sydney in February 2015 and the modem immediately conked out as soon as I moved into this place. That seemed strange by itself, but because it is added to this new event things look doubly strange. How can a new PC cause your internet connection to go slow? It can't, said the Optus technician who came to my house this morning. "It's just a coincidence," he added.

The technician was only in the apartment for about five minutes then he went down to the building's communications room in the garage - he had gotten keys from the security office beforehand - and then he came back, put some things away in his bag and said that telecommunications provider Optus would be in touch with me probably within 24 hours. He said he wasn't sure where the problem was but agreed that the rain we had had so much of recently probably hadn't helped things. "Ït's probably the rain," he said.

So here I am again able to do internet banking. Which is a luxury for some but for us here in Australia it's just a normal part of life. We are surely blessed by such things being almost universally used. It takes so much of the effort out of banking, being able just to log in from your computer at home and transfer money from one account to another, and to pay bills online. I certainly don't take it for granted. People must think there's something strange about me when I go onto Twitter to say 'thank you' for being able to do online banking. Well, there you go. I'll just have to put up with people thinking I'm a little strange. Because I am thankful for this amazing facility. I'm also thankful to finally have a computer and internet that work properly, because life without either of these things these days is quite unthinkable.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A new computer

I had had some problems with the display of the computer because it was blinking repeatedly, and so I thought I could get it to cooperate by pressing some of the buttons on the right hand side of the screen. This was on Saturday. It worked and my call to the technicians was anyway filled and I got the guy to reset my iPad instead. Then when I booted the computer the next day, I got the same problem, so I called the technicians again. Meanwhile, I made do with the laptop, which is a less-then-optimal solution because the screen is so small and it is so slow.

Another technician came out and he tested this and that and told me that the motherboard in the computer was broken, so I would have to buy a new computer. This was on Tuesday morning, and I had a spare 90 minutes between appointments so I got in the car and went down to the electrical store at Broadway Shopping Centre and bought a new HP. The technicians sent out a new guy to install it and bring across the data files from the old one, but in the process of doing that work he found that the screen was still not working. Therefore the problem of the blinking screen turned out to be either with the video cable or with the monitor.

I got in the car and the technician got on his motorbike this morning and we went down to an electronics store near Ultimo TAFE and I bought a new monitor. We brought it back and installed it and it worked fine - I now had a new PC and a new monitor - and it was also bigger than the previous one, so I have abundant screen room now. It was also cheaper than the previous one - which, admittedly, had been bought in 2009 - so I was marginally happy. The new technician - who had done work on two days for me - called his head office and they discussed my case and decided to waive the fee for the second technician, so I will only pay for the first technician.

This is a good outcome anyway because even though the computer was not broken, most computers only last for about 4 or 5 years, it would have been time to get a new one soon anyway. I gave the second technician the old computer and monitor in case he could get the monitor to work. He took them home to his place in his car.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Went out to get some lunch

This morning I was woken up by the telephone and handled the call then got some coffee from the pot of cold coffee. Then I had some wine, and a bit later I went up the street to get some lunch. I had to go to the ATM in the convenience store first, then I ambled up the street to the kaiten sushi shop and ordered a beer. I sat down opposite two young men who obviously knew each other, and started picking the plates of sushi off the track.

It feels fine being without the girl. I do miss her and that's something real that I can contemplate when things get boring, which they might do on occasion. But I do miss her as well. I miss not being connected to her daily life, being excluded. It's something of an adventure. I won't stop loving her just because I'm away from her, it's just that the feelings are different in quality and quantity. There's no downside - I mean no irritations coming from her, that there might be if we were spending time together - it's all a uniform blank pain gap that needs filling.

I'll be busy all day tomorrow. There are appointments from 9.30am through to 4pm. I have to do lots of things and be in different places. We'll see how the 1.30pm appointment with the dietician goes. I'm frankly not looking forward to that one, as it means being open about my drinking, which is something I don't feel like doing. But I am fairly open about it here, on the blog, if anyone is interested. It's just that there'll be someone who is close to me who will be watching all these things, like what I eat, and that makes me a bit nervous.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Wrote two poems today

I got up this morning a bit early and made some coffee, then went back to bed and slept for a couple more hours. It was raining fairly hard this morning, and when I got up the second time it was still raining. I sat down at the computer and checked poems done the day before. I saw that one of them needed some more work, and I worked a bit more on another poem from last week as well.

Then I started work on a poem about the rain and it came out quite easily. I was happy with it except for the last two lines. I then went out to the sandwich shop to buy a roll - schnitzel, tomato, lettuce and onion - and came back with that and a two-litre bottle of milk, because I had been running low on milk. When I had finished eating the roll I took a look at this morning's poem again and decided to change the final couplet based on the fact that the sun had started to shine again. I had actually worked out some of the two lines - including the essential rhyme - on the way back from the shops. Walking has this effect on you, that it makes things flow.

After finishing the poem I published it on social media then started work on another poem based on some thoughts that I had had on my walk to the sandwich shop - that period of my life when I had quit smoking. Again, this time the poem came out quite quickly, and I tried putting the discarded final couplet from the poem about rain written this morning in it but then decided to do something different. I just had trouble finding a word to rhyme with "lungs" and decided that the half-rhyme "feeling" would be enough, and went with that.

Today was a very productive day, during which not only did I write two original works from scratch, but I also finished two other poems, improving them materially. I feel blessed because although it is summer the temperature is reasonable, and there was no sitting in the chair covered in sweat like there had been before, during the heatwave.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Grateful to live in a stable society

I got up late this morning and made some coffee, as usual, of which I drank two cups before going back to bed for about 25 minutes. But it was no good. I couldn't go back to sleep, and if you can't go to sleep what's the point of being alone in bed? So I got up and dressed, then went into the bathroom to get two prescriptions that my psychiatrist had filled out. I took a walk down to the pharmacy near Coles and enjoyed seeing people on the street.

There was the young woman walking her dog just up the street, and the crowds of people at the cafe in John Street Square having their lunch break sitting around tables and laughing and talking. There was the man in the hi-vis shirt going into the building that is still - after all these long months - being renovated. There was a workman threading cable down into a manhole cut into the pavement. There were three young women walking abreast up the street next to the cafe set into the casino, one of whom made way for me as we passed. I saw them all and reflected how lucky I am to live in a society where just going to the pharmacy - to buy subsidised medications that are completely affordable - is a routine part of life.

Here there is no scuttling from doorway to doorway to evade snipers perched on rooftops. There is nowhere the sound of bombs going off just down the street, turning neighbourhoods into piles of indistinguishable rubble. There are no tanks roving through the street machine-gunning people who must run out of the way. We might see from time to time a police car cruising at low speed down the street on the watch for trouble, but that is all. We are truly blessed to live in a country as devoted to peaceful pursuits as this one.

When I got back home I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to write a blogpost. I thought about Fernando Pessoa writing his curious entries in his journal under the name Bernardo Soares, a "heteronym" he invented to express this aspect of his personality. Pessoa loved his city of Lisbon and was a great flaneur, walking around watching the people go past and cultivating an organic sense of the city in his fecund mind. I have been reading Pessoa since finishing the Karl Ove Knausgard series of autobiographical novels - I still miss lying down in the evening before going to sleep and reading his stories - because a dear friend of mine sent me his 'The Book of Disquiet'. And I have been enjoying it immensely. Knausgard is a hard act to follow, but Pessoa is up to the challenge, and keeps me entertained for the 30 minutes or so that I spend reading each evening in bed.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Got the car rego done

This morning I was up early to get the car to the garage at 8am for a registration inspection. When I arrived the floor manager said that it had been a year almost since my last car service, and he asked me if I wanted them to do another one. I said yes. When I had handed over the keys I walked out of the garage along Ross Street and luckily an empty cab was on the street, so I got in and came home.

I went back to bed and slept for a few more hours, then got up and went to the computer, logging onto social media. I put together the last pieces of the paperwork needed by my accountant to do the end-of-financial-year accounts. At about 11.30am the garage rang me to tell me the car was ready to pick up, and I left home, heading up the street to where the cabs congregate. I caught a cab to the garage and paid for the service and the rego inspection, then left and drove down Parramatta Road and Broadway to Quay Street, then I turned onto Harris Street and made my way home through the heavy traffic. The rains had made the traffic worse, with some streets flooded and cut off.

At 1pm I left home to take a package of papers to the post office to send off to the accountants. After paying, I went to a restaurant and ordered some noodles, had some sushi and a beer, and ate my lunch. Then I went to the psychiatrist's office and we talked for an hour. At the end of the appointment I left and went home, and went to bed for a nap. At about 5pm I got up and started on the white wine. Later, I had some food for dinner - just a little bit, including some mackerel on toast - and settled down to watching the TV in the evening. I thought about how lucky I am to have a warm, dry home to go to in the evenings, and how I can come and go when I please. It is a great blessing for me.

I have been writing poetry for the past two days, which explains why I haven't been blogging as much here over that period of time. The poetry came back to me because I have replaced my totems from the Queensland days - the magpies and the paperbark - with new ones. I wonder if anyone out there can tell me what my new totems in Sydney are? I have anyway been trying to be positive and helpful to others on social media. I hope that people find my participation to be of use. My aim is to be reliable and encouraging.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Writing poetry again

This morning I had an inkling about the first line of a poem and instead of ignoring the inkling as I would normally do I sat down to the computer and opened up the last Word file from 2015 and copied it with a new name: '2017 sonnets'. I had a nervous feeling tinged with excitement in my stomach as I wrote the first words of the poem I had started in my head. The next line followed and as I put it down I planned the rhyme for line three.

Thus it was that I started to write poetry again. It has been two years since I last wrote poetry. Exactly two years, it transpires (because I date all my poems in the Word file; the date comes directly under the title of the poem). The previous poem was written on 5 February 2015. After that: nothing for two years. Until this morning.

I went back to read the other poems from other years, including the prodigious year of 2013 and the next year of some output: 2014. There are only three poems in 2015. All my finished poems have been saved as PDF files, so that I can quickly go back and read them in isolation. Removed from the company of what precedes them and what follows them in the flow of writing they are more like themselves, and of course inside the folder on the hard drive they sort themselves in alphabetical (not date) order. Rereading the old items I felt something like that same nervous feeling in my stomach. It's as though when I read the old poems I am revisiting a mood, seeing again an image that I had first seen on that day so many years before when I wrote them.

But the interesting thing is that most of the poems in those years were conceived in the summer. It seems that I am most fecund when the weather is warm and the breath slips in and out of the hot body unencumbered by any chill or other temperature-based abeyance. Up in Queensland in 2013 and 2014 I was accompanied, as always in those days, when I wrote poetry, by the twin presences of the park with its enormous paperbark, and the cries in the morning of the magpie. The birds used to settle in ones or twos on my balcony up there in southeast Queensland. And the paperbark was like a sentinel for me - in fact I think on one occasion I likened it to exactly this type of thing in one of my poems.

Down here those things - those totems of my spirit - disappeared replaced by the sounds of the city. The helicopters that fly by over the CBD on their endless quests, and the cars that roar up the street nearby in the night and during the daytime too. These are the new totems for my productive soul.

The sensation of movement in the pit of my stomach is the thing that characterises the experience of poetry for me. I feel vulnerable, exposed. Perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to revisit the experience of writing poetry, now that I am down here in Sydney. I needed to build the ties that bind me to the new totems of my life here. Perhaps that is why it has taken me so long to go back to writing poetry.

Movie review: Paterson, dir Jim Jarmusch (2016)

Nothing much happens in the lives of Paterson (Adam Driver) a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, and his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). While he gets up every morning without an alarm clock at almost exactly the same time - he says there is something special about his watch - she stays at home and paints everything black and white (her favourite colour combination). They have a routine life but they support each other and love each other, and therefore also have a rich and full life. A night out at the black-and-white movies is something to celebrate.

Paterson's poetry - which he captures in a notebook with an elastic catch on the cover - is also something to celebrate for Laura, and she takes every opportunity to tell him what a great poet he is. Paterson is content. Even when Laura's bulldog Marvin eats his notebook he doesn't get angry. But after that happens we know he will continue to write because a stranger in the park who Paterson meets one day gives him a new notebook as a gift. (The stranger, a Japanese man, had come to Paterson because of his love of the poetry of William Carlos Williams, who had lived in Paterson while alive. Williams is Paterson's favourite poet.)

While nothing much happens, the things that do happen seem to have a meaning beyond their immediate significance. When Paterson meets a child who is sitting outside - he thinks he should wait with her until her mother returns to take her home - it turns out she is also a poet, and she reads a piece of her poetry to him. He takes home the first few lines and recites them for Laura.

Laura is busy with her own things, too. She bakes cupcakes for the local farmer's market, and makes a big stack of money. She also gets Paterson to buy her a guitar so that she can become a country-and-Western singer. She has dreams. Meanwhile, Paterson finds that having a mobile phone would sometimes be an asset when his bus inexplicably breaks down while he is out on his route, and he has to borrow someone else's phone to call back to base for help. He might have a stack of poetry books on his bookshelf in the basement, but he doesn't have a mobile. Paterson is a bit odd that way.

He's also odd in the way, each evening when he takes Marvin for a walk, he stops at the bar for a beer. At the bar we meet other people in Paterson's life, such as Everett (William Jackson Harper), who is in love with Marie (Chasten Harmon) although she doesn't reciprocate his affections. He also meets Everett one day when he is taking a walk in the afternoon, when he doesn't have anything on his plate. Everett is something of a philosopher, unlike Donny (Rizwan Manji), who checks off Paterson every morning before he starts his rounds. Donny always has problems at home that he complains about to people. Paterson has Laura at home and he never complains.

What the movie does so well however is to slow things down to a snail's rate of progress. We notice each smile and display of intimacy or dislike. We are drawn into this shadow-play of tiny gestures and our hearts almost start to beat at a more sedate pace. This is a film out of the ordinary. Most films these days hep us up to a high state of excitement with their special effects and explosions. This movie does the complete opposite, so when the Japanese stranger appears at the end we are primed for the explosion of emotion we feel as Paterson denies he is a poet. This doesn't put the stranger off his quest for meaning, however, as he works to experience what it signifies to be a poet in New Jersey.

Monday, 30 January 2017

We need more courage to be compassionate in social media

Today someone posted, quite plaintively, "Someone post something kind, please?" And I immediately understood her feelings; I replied:
I know what you mean. I think people need to be more considerate on social media, they think it's ok just to prosecute their own biases there. But it's not. We need to share things. Social media is a community. We create it when we share.
The thing is that I have had conversations with a friend lately about social media and the way she had been using it to complain about her life, when things had not gone well for her. I had remonstrated and told her that social media is not just a place to unload your grievances. You had to find things that others could also share, because it was about creating community. So the judgemental and divisive would not serve the ultimate ends of the platforms - mainly, in my case, Twitter and Facebook - as well as other kinds of post, posts where participation was more positive, guarded and compassionate.

Strangely, when I made that post in the comments area I was having a similar conversation with someone else at the same time on Messenger. I said there:
I try to feel good when I am doing social media, I seek out the good feelings in the air and in the atmosphere, and channel them to others.
She countered that while I was a nice person, she was not. "I don't like being here much lately," she said. Here's what she was replying to of mine when she said that:
But it's a conscious effort. I have to work hard at it. It's just as easy to be dismissive and uncaring.
And it's true. When we are divisive and judgemental we tear and rip at the fabric of social media, we shred the air with our cries and our complaints, whether they be on the personal level or even on the political level. We ruin any opportunity to find common ground, and merely celebrate our feelings of isolation - feelings, like the constant thoughts that we experience even in moments of downtime in our diurnal rounds - that form part of the suffering of contemporary life. This isolation is ruinous for the soul, it brands us as outcasts and leaves us feeling exhausted and alone.

Sharing, on the other hand, with an eye to creating community, soothes the soul-destroying wounds that we bear on our skin at every moment of the day and night. Wounds that open and bleed incessantly, making us feel pain. We need the soothing salve of empathy to counter this effect of modern life, in fact we crave it, but in our timidity we brush it aside as a dream and then again tear and rend the social fabric some more. It is just fear that we express in this way. We need more courage to be compassionate.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

On hospitals

It's so hot and even though it's getting late there's no point in going to bed because I've been dozing on and off all day and the night-time temperature will be excessive tonight, so I decided to sit a while and write about something that I talked to a friend about not long ago. We were talking about hospitals and I said to her that I always felt compelled to stand up for these institutions, places which we normally only enter with trepidation, and of which we only speak in critical tones.

I had a lot to do with hospitals last year when mum was getting sick all the time prior to her death. I could refer back and get the exact dates but it was roughly from November 2015 until she finally died in July 2016 that I had most to do with hospitals. It's only fair to say that I have the utmost respect for the people who work in hospitals, even though they are obviously overworked by their bosses, and spend most of their time running around in a frazzled state trying to bring succour to all the places where it is needed.

But it's more than that. People are more like themselves in hospitals. You can have the most lovely conversations with people - whether staff or patients or the families or friends of patients - in hospitals. The presence of mortality brings people closer to their real selves. They are genuinely friendly and when they ask after you - just saying "How are you?" - they really want to know. People are more empathetic, compassionate and real in the presence of mortality. I remember sitting in the waiting room at the Emergency Ward watching the people go in and come out. The TV was tuned to one of the awful commercial stations that we have but I was unlikely to watch it when the procession of characters - and the series of events they performed in, for my exclusive benefit - was so rich and varied.

One family would come in and go to the administration desk, where they would talk with a clerk. The daughter who was limping when they arrived would be called to the triage desk, and ushered into the doctor's area. An orderly would use his access card to buzz himself into the actual ward - where my mother lay, waiting to be processed - and disappear from view. I freely admit that I enjoyed these small events, and this endless succession of new people. I am a flaneur after all - as my friend reminded me - so taking notice of the small details of existence in public spaces is my specialty.

So here's to hospitals, those busy hives of restless humanity where doctors - young and old, male and female - tend to the needs of people when they are at their most vulnerable. And the nurses - young and old, male and female - and orderlies and other support staff - young and old, male and female - all going about their tasks with dedication and commitment. If we listen to them they can teach us something essential about being human.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Movie review: La La Land, dir Damien Chazelle (2016)

There's no definitive image that encapsulates the major themes of this movie so I just chose an image of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) looking into each other's eyes. The movie was a nice surprise, as I wasn't expecting much from a 2-hour rom-com where the main character is Hollywood itself. But Stone and - to a lesser extent - Gosling do bring out the best the script and the songs had to offer.

The movie charts the relationship of aspiring actress Mia and aspiring jazz pianist Sebastian as they navigate the vicissitudes of life in tinseltown. The bad casting meeting and the underwhelming band practice are put to the test against the love and support the two young people show for each other. Mia eventually finds her feet - partially, it turns out - by putting on a one-woman show and Sebastian does a stint on keyboards with a pop band whose sound he in fact hates.

Interspersed between the acting scenes are musical numbers and it's here that Gosling falls a bit flat. He can't sing, that's obvious, and the director gives him a lot less work to do. He can play the piano though, and the film's producers make sure he gets plenty of work to do on the ivories. Stone can sing, however, and she gets lots of work. The songs are uniformly good. The signature tune of the whole piece, City of Stars, appears at tonic moments to remind us that it is the lovers and dreamers who make the world turn. In fact, Mia includes words to this effect in one scene where she has been called to perform in front of the casting agents for a movie to be shot in Paris, which turns out to be the hinge on which her career swings.

The ending is endlessly poignant and touching, although you wonder what happened to some of their promises to one another. I can't recommend this film highly enough, though, especially to those who like to walk away from the cinema with a lump in their throats.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Blowing bubbles

This morning I took a walk down to Darling Harbour and saw that they had put up the ferris wheel again, after taking it down for the New Year festivities. They have also set up a big sandbox occupying about 100 square metres on the esplanade, with wooden sides and wooden chairs on the sand for people to sit on. There was one man doing little jumps for someone sitting in one of the chairs at the front, presumably his son or daughter, to make them laugh.

Under the Western Distributor there was a person wearing one of those outsize cartoon suits used to entertain children, except the character being represented was a policeman. He had a yellow face, a light blue shirt, dark blue pants, and a badge over the right side of the chest. I thought it was an interesting, if back-handed, way to impose order on the crowds; the toon was walking where the crowds were thin anyway.

Further down, in front of the CBA building someone was blowing bubbles, and the bubbles drifted out across the thoroughfare crossing the foot traffic.

I went down to Chinatown and saw people already sitting out on the tables eating lunch; it was later than my usual walk, already midday. The noise-reduction hoarding around the worksite for the light rail - the trains have been stopping at The Star and will continue to do so until 23 January - had been moved, I noticed. More of the road at the end of Dixon Street was open to car traffic. I made sure to cross with the light. Then I made my way along Ultimo Road to Harris Street, turned right and headed up toward home.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Some thoughts on using social media

Because the end of the year seems to be a time when everybody looks back over the past year and makes judgements, I thought I would take a look at some of the things that have occurred to me about using social media, which after all is a place where we spend growing amounts of time. It's not a trivial aspect of our lives any more, I think we can safely say. In fact, for some people - like me - social media forms an important component of the day.

I think the first thing that I should say about social media is that it works to make communities. If you work at it and develop larger communities of people in Facebook or Twitter you can easily spend hours without seeing the same messages twice. The important thing is to develop capacity in your feed sources by connecting with more people, who may be people who have views that are similar to yours or else they might have completely different ways of seeing the world. Developing capacity means connecting with other people to form a community that is resilient and strong, and that can provide you with the quantity of information that you need to get through the day. You don't want to run short of stories to read.

Once you have built a community of like-minded, or variously-minded, people you can start to talk to them regularly. But participating in social media isn't just a one-way thing, it's a conversation. So be prepared to have your off-the-top-of-your-head rant ignored if it is excessively narrow in scope or if it too negative. People like to respond to things that mean something to them personally, so try to be engaging in what you tweet or post. Reach out to all those lonely people out there in the social graph and try to make their day just that little bit better. Don't be shy. But don't be bitter either. Be positive and you'll find that your efforts are rewarded with the attention you crave online. You'll get likes and comments to things that appeal to your followers.

But if you don't then don't get despondent. Go back to the social graph and try to find a conversation that you can become part of. This can be painful. We like to think that our views and ideas are the most important things in the world. But they may not be. However there may be existing conversations out there in social media that you can tap into in a way that gives you the recognition that you crave.

I've written before about how social media is changing the way we deal with life by giving us a responsive locale where we can find the support we need to get by. Because it is always on, and because we can participate in it in meaningful ways, social media can play a role in alleviating isolation and giving us the sense of community that we need to survive. Humans are social animals, after all. I think that social media can help people to be more fully themselves at the same time as it gives us the opportunity to engage in online communities. By distancing sorrow, social media can help us in unique ways. Everyone has a burden to carry, and it reminds us that we can transcend those restraints by getting in touch with others in a public space.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Reveries during my quotidian walk

This morning for a change I went on my usual walk through Chinatown and up Harris Street. On the approaches to Darling Harbour the crowd-control fences had been put up leaving gaps so people could pass through. On the evening of 31 December those gaps will be closed off to limit the number of people who can go onto the Pyrmont Bridge and into the pedestrian area of Darling Harbour.

I saw a fat middle-aged man standing by the wayside and smoking, further down, past the Western Distributor, and he made me think of the way we fetishise longevity, as if living a long life were always the best thing. Having seem mum in her last five years of life I tend to wonder, myself. But the medical ethos means to strive to preserve life at all costs, so the medical profession goes all gung-ho about longevity, and getting people to live healthy lifestyles regardless of the cost emotionally.

The death of Carrie Fisher, and even more the death of George Michael, puts paid somewhat to those qualms. Who wants to live forever if it means going without the substances that we need to get through every day. I intend to read Fisher's memoir, in which she talks about self medication to deal with her mental illness. I've been living with mental illness for 17 years now, and I'm still struggling with the demons associated with it. It doesn't really help to know that you can "get help" because those people are just going to try to get you to stop the self-medication, which is not what I want. Why should I do something that I don't want to do just so that I can live 15 years longer?

So here's to George Michael, dead at 53. He was born in the year after me. By the time he came around musically however I was in my 20s, and well past the peak music-listening years, so he never had that much influence on me. And anyway I'm not gay. I think. Some people become gay in their later life. Hmm.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

It's Christmas Day

Well here we are again at Christmas time on a hot day in Sydney. The sun is out and the air is quiet as everything living takes shelter; all I can hear is the occasional cry from a group of revellers down in the park or in one of the highrises around here. Even the birds are mainly still and mute; an occasional trill reminds me of the presence somewhere out there of something living.

But I feel alive. I know I am alive because of this special feeling in my heart, a mixture of happiness and loneliness. It must have been this kind of feeling that motivated my father to put Christmas carols on the record player in the morning for Christmas Day, so that we kids could hear them as we made our way upstairs to where the Christmas tree had earlier been erected. A feeling like this must have motivated my mother even in her final years to always make sure we had some sort of bird cooked in the oven for Christmas Day. Her preparations on days earlier still a memory for me when I came over to celebrate the day with her in her small apartment in Queensland.

A strange mixture of happiness and loneliness, one inspired by closeness to all the things we love in the world, and by a separation from those same things that we know is equally eternal.

Later today I will be going off to celebrate the day with a friend at his brother's house. I will catch the train and then walk; it's not a long way. Long enough but not too long.

And I will walk through the quiet streets from which most people have been emptied by the nature of the day, as people spend time with those who are close to them. And I will think again with regret of the people left behind in the other country, people whose lives are now separate from mine. I made my choices and they made theirs and now here we are living ten thousand kilometres apart, separated by such distances as used to drive people insane. But at least we are still linked by that feeling, that strange mixture of happiness and loneliness that comes over us on Christmas Day and on other days like it in the calendar. Days of general slumber and relaxation, days of tender devotion and rarer joy.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Boys dressed as girls

When I was walking down to Darling Harbour I saw a group of boys dressed as girls. Well, in fact one of the boys was dressed as a box of beer, but that's just the way it turned out. In the main, the boys were dressed as girls. One of them was walking along in high heels and a skirt, waving at people on the opposite side of the road with his mouth fixed in a grin. It was funny, I suppose, although you wonder when a group of boys decides to bend the rules as far as this, what else are they willing to do?

This is just me talking as an old guy. Actually, I welcomed the young men walking down the street as young women. Aping the targets of their quotidian desire. That's the way it was.

In Chinatown everything was as normal. I crossed the street where the light rail goes and walked around Paddys Markets, which were closed. Then I walked up Harris Street and around Mary Ann Street it smelled. The birds nest in the trees and do their droppings on the pavement. I've been shat on once myself.

Looking back it was the young men dressed as young women who stole the show. If it had been the other way around - young women dressed as young men - it would have been a bit of comedy. But the way it was - young men dressed as young women - it was a bit of burlesque. Nothing else to compare it to. It was burlesque. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

A new television

Yesterday morning after extracting some cash from the ATM at the convenience store I headed up the hill to go on my usual walk around Chinatown but the thought of the diminishing sound quality on my TV brought me back home, where I measured the old TV with a tape measure. I left the building this time via the fourth floor, which has a door that lets you out onto the park at the back of the building. I walked down the scrubby hill with its stairs to Saunders Street, around the Fish Market and across Pyrmont Bridge Road to go up Wattle Street toward Broadway Shopping Centre.

At Harvey Norman I told the salesman that I had a 2006 TV that needed to be replaced and it has a screen of 93 cm in size. He pointed me to three models of similar size and I chose another Samsung - the first one had done good service for 10 years so why not? - and paid before leaving the store. They told me the new TV would be delivered the next day. On the way home I stopped off at the Fish Market and bought some lunch.

This morning the TV delivery guy called me - as promised - about an hour before dropping the unit off at the lift. (He couldn't get the lift to go to my floor.) And the scaffolding guys were busy disassembling the scaffolding outside my front windows. Today for the first time in I can't remember how many months I was able to open the windows that give onto the balcony. I sit here with a glass of wine and listen to the world outside humming along as it used to do back before they started putting up the scaffolding - it has been more than a year now - including cars and trucks, fire engines and aeroplanes, dogs and young men shouting into the endless afternoon. (We have daylight saving every summer.)

I calculate how likely it is that it will rain. I love the rain. Just the sound of it on the balcony fills me with a weird happiness, as though the world were about - finally! - to come to an end, and I was to be an observer of the event. Going by this afternoon's hum it seems likely that it won'r rain. But it's hot enough for a good summer shower. There are dark clouds in the sky. Perhaps it will rain this afternoon after all?

Monday, 28 November 2016

A sick pigeon

As I was walking down Dixon Street near Goulburn Street today I saw a sick pigeon sitting on he pavement. The poor creature looked bedraggled and wan, just sitting there on the grey pavement with its feathers sort of ruffled and not smooth. It's head was down pointing toward the pavement and its shoulders were hunched.

Probably if I were a kinder and more decent human being I would have picked up the poor thing but with avian diseases you never know ... In any case, I left it there to cope with its hardships on its own and continued walking down the street on my own way.

It wasn't so long before that I had been like a sick pigeon on the pavement myself, liquored up with white wine at 1pm and feeling sorry for myself. Then she called and we had one of those long, rambling romantic conversations which end up with both sides agreeing but it takes forever to reach that point, oh the hardships and the pain that has to be recounted by both parties. Anyway that turned out ok and I wasn't head-down on the pavement myself as a result, just flat out on my back in bed sleeping off a drunk.

Then later in my walk as I was crossing Fig Street I thought about her because I had driven up Fig Street in the car on my way home from her place yesterday after having dropped her off at her place.

As for the poor pigeon, I doubt anyone did anything for the sorry little thing, it's probably dead by now or sitting unfed somewhere with people walking past uncaring. Like one of  those smelly bundles of clothes you see on the street, which way is the head and which way are the feet. There was Mr Smelly yesterday saying hello to the firies at Pyrmont Christmas Party at John Street Square. I was walking right behind him so I knew that he was homeless, although he didn't necessarily look like it. He just looked a bit unkempt and the shirt was a bit sweaty, but with a shower and a load of laundry he'd have come up ok.

God forbid if ever I should end up like that, destitute on the street with noone to turn to, all my friends long lost. I've got an appointment with the psychiatrist tomorrow so that should be ok.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Up on Manning River

On Friday I got in the car about midday and drove north onto the Pacific Highway on the way to my cousin's place on the Manning River, which is located a couple of hours north of Newcastle. The trip up took four-and-a-half hours. I could feel the steering wheel start to vibrate at around 110km/hr but as usual I sat at around 90km/hr to 100km/hr for most of the trip even though the highway in that region is now completely divided and the speed limit is 110km/hr for most of the way.

I arrived in the late afternoon and was soon sitting in front of a beer as the family circulated around me. The house is built on a hill in front of a curve of the river, with the upstream side curling around to the left in the photo. The river in this stretch is tidal and they say bull sharks breed in the deep waters off the bank. Around the dining table conversations formed and broke up as people came and went. I retired later than the rest, had a shower, and went to bed.

On Saturday morning we all piled in the car - my cousin, her husband, two of their children, and a friend of their oldest daughter - and went to a lagoon fringed by scrubby eucalypts. I stayed with the clothes on the bank while the rest of the group went swimming. It turned out to be a hot day. After swimming, we went further down the road and had fish and chips for lunch, then headed back to the house. We sat around talking for a while then I had a nap. Later, we drank beer and sat on the balcony overlooking the river and ate chips.

Yesterday morning I woke up early as I had previously on the river and then had some breakfast before getting back in the car for the trip home. It seemed to take less time going south, than it had going north. I stopped a couple of times for coffees and food and water. Coming back into the confines of Sydney I felt slightly claustrophobic, as I usually do when I get off the highway at Hornsby. After arriving home and napping for a couple of hours a friend came over and we had dinner.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Reflections on my state of mind

Over the past few days people have been contacting me about my blogposts asking if I was feeling suicidal, because I had said that I was happy with life and could end it without any qualms. But I think that the blogposts contain quite another message. In fact, I think that it is an extremely life-affirming stance to take.

I was thinking about these things while I was taking my usual walk today down through Chinatown and up Harris Street. It's a Monday today and so Paddy's Markets is closed. There weren't as many people around as there sometimes are.  During the walk, in fact, I was feeling really positive and happy about things, in a way which is perhaps unusual. I was quite content.

Things are different later, after lunch, when it comes the time to have a nap. I don't usually like having a nap during the day unless I'm particularly tired, but these days I have been fine except on the weekend when I had a friend over who broke up my routine a bit. When the friend left, I had a nap.

I had a dream last night about school again. It's usually a dream I have where I haven't been studying my French, and have been missing classes - something that never happened in real life, I was always very punctual and dutiful when it came to attending classes. But last night the experience was transposed to university. I used to have regular dreams about the higher school certificate - the matriculation examination that all year-12s have to sit in New South Wales. I don't know why this time it was French that was giving me trouble because at school I was very good at French and eventually topped the year with my mark.

Then the dream shifted and I was back at Yamatake unpacking rocket capsules make from cardboard. The capsules had cardboard figures that were painted, in them, and floppy disks to operate the figures, and all the necessary parts that I had made all those years ago. But now they were being unpacked and given the respect they deserved as elements of the company's historical record.

Strange little dreams on a strange day. 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Sitting inside on a November day

Yesterday morning I went for a walk in company to Barangaroo instead of to Chinatown and ended up not in the park (it's such a tiny little park) but in a gelato bar having a flat white while my companion had a gelato milkshake (if there is such a thing). I caught a bit of sun, as you can see. It was a hot and sunny day and we were walking at the hottest time of the day.

I got back home today after dropping my friend off at her apartment and went back to bed to have a nap. I dreamt about my father, which is unusual. What was more unusual was that it was a civil and polite dream. Normally when I dream about him it is an anxious and disturbed dream.

He was a younger man than I am now and I was explaining to him some things about demography and the economy in Australia. I remember from the dream that he listened to what I was saying politely. I took this as proof that I have surpassed my father in some essential quality, in something like wisdom, as I enter the last stage of my life. I have become the bigger man, at least in my eyes. The lack of anxiety - which normally accompanies dreams I have where he appears, as I mentioned - serves for me as a kind of signal that I have achieved something important in life.

My blogpost of yesterday contains a few clues about where my head is these days. I have reached a kind of impasse vis-a-vis experience, and feel myself to have come to a kind of limit in life where the rewards of experience are totalled up against time served. (Excuse the penal metaphor.) The dream gave me an idea that I have reached a kind of acme of contentment and self-awareness - I am a bit afraid to talk of wisdom - beyond which it is not really possible to go.

This might be cause for some alarm. In normal circumstances. But other things that are happening tell me that I am not far off the truth. I feel quite happy with things now and would be happy to drop of the proverbial branch in the near future as long as it wasn't too painful. I guess I have my father to thank for this realisation. No doubt he served other purposes during my life. But my life has been long enough and I see no particular reason to continue it. Come what may.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Demolition of IMAX

Under the Western Distributor they've constructed hoardings to keep people away from the IMAX, which is currently being demolished. A big crusher on wheels is attacking the theatre's external parts each day, ripping pieces off and chomping into the wooden structure. The Darling Harbour managers constructed a walkway on the outside of the hoarding so that people can still get from the south side of Darling Harbour to its north side.

I walked past this demolition site today as well as yesterday but this photo was taken yesterday.

Once I went to a film showing at IMAX. It was a Harry Potter film, I remember. I remember the theatre was very steep, constructed at a sharp angle against the enormous screen. You had to go down a lot of stairs to reach street level.

For myself, I am almost ready to go. I will do what I can to help my family but after those measures are in place I don't care how long I continue to live. All I want is to make sure my family is looked after. I know it sounds a little melodramatic to say this but it's true. I have been through so much in my life, and I am almost at an end of the process of discovery. There are no new things under the sun, and I can happily pass to the other side of the dark curtain that separates us from the other life, the life of the spirit.

What happens to us in that other life I don't know. Perhaps we drift on the winds in clouds like transparent jellyfish, watching the living go about their daily activities and praying for their wellbeing. Someone has to be watching out for us, we are so fragile. I hope it will be me. I can do it. I can look down on the crowds of the living marching up Market Street of a morning before work, bags over their shoulders or held in their sweaty hands. I can wait at the lights while they stop at the cafe for a cup of brown before going into the office. I can do all that. Let me.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Major loony wins US election

The Sydney Morning Herald is currently giving Donald Trump 264 electoral votes out of 270. It looks therefore as though the American people have done the unthinkable and elected a complete loon to their highest office.

The signs were there from the beginning of the evening, when Hillary started to lose key states like Florida and Ohio. Now, Trump is even looking set to win traditionally Democrat states like Michigan and Wisconsin. He has targeted the rust belt, the areas hit most forcefully by the GFC, where property prices have collapsed and people are trying just to get away, if they can.

Trump's foreign policy looks likely to set the US on a track of aggression against China - he wants a 45% import tax on goods and services supplied from China to the US - and he also wants foreign nations like South Korea and Japan  to pay for more of their own defense. This means that Japan and South Korea will be forced to develop their own nuclear defense programs. As far as Australia goes, it is likely that we will be more responsible for our own defense and the US might even pull its Marines out of Darwin as it scales back operations globally.

At least now we know that Trump was right when he called this pending election "Brexit plus plus plus". This is a backlash of the American white working class against its traditional rulers - the college-educated middle class. And it is a stunning victory, one which noone could have seen coming. We'll have to see if China now decides that it's a good time to invade Australia, but there are millennarian feelings and intimations surrounding current events that make such an outcome seem at least possible.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

A windy Saturday

I noticed on the way through John Street Square this morning that the light rail had been stopped and that they had put on buses to transport prospective passengers to their destinations both up and down the line. In the Haymarket I saw the reason for the stoppage: a fairly major exercise in repairing the tracks, or something possibly related to the introduction of a light rail line along George Street in the CBD. The photo shows the measures the authorities have set up in the Haymarket to suppress sound from the repairs.

Back up on Harris Street a young woman sat in a car facing south with a paddy wagon with flashing lights sitting behind it. She looked preoccupied, as I suppose you would be in that circumstance.

It was a windy day out, with whitecaps on the harbour up behind Pyrmont and dark water generally about the place. The gusts of wind pulled up my shirttails and had made women tie up their hair. In Chinatown the restaurant spruikers were out in numbers but the tables were empty; no doubt it was too windy to sit outside under the trees. The trees up along Harris Street were still dusting the footpaths with their seeds.

Walking in the bright sunshine of a Sydney weekend I thought of my family in Tokyo and how they would have liked to be able to visit in this kind of weather. The restaurants for tourists along the Darling Harbour waterfront were doing good business as it was sunny and warm. Ideal weather for people to sit on the tables under the umbrellas designed to keep the sun off diners.

For myself, I stopped at one of my usual Japanese restaurants on Harris Street in my locality and had a bowl of udon with karaage chicken and a stein of beer. Then I went home and had a nap.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Still missing Japan

Late this morning I went for my customary walk down to Chinatown and up Harris Street back home, stopping off at a Japanese place for a bowl of noodles for lunch. Once home I did the ironing and then had a short nap. I got up at about 4pm to step up to the computer. And then at some point in the late afternoon I contacted my daughter on Facebook Messenger.

Messenger has changed its layout, moving the service to a dedicated URL and making the interface a bit bigger and brighter. It's not at all an improvement as far as I'm concerned because you need to open a new tab now to use it, so it's less easy to use for me. But at least it works in the same way that it has always done, which is a relief.

I miss my kids terribly after getting back from Japan a week ago. Their lack has replaced the lack of my mother that dominated my life previously. I still remember Adelaide introducing her boyfriend to me one day in Chinatown, Yokohama. We went to a nice restaurant and drank beer while eating our way through the course meal. Courses of food that are modified for the Japanese palate, not like the authentic stuff they served me in the Chinese place in my hotel in Shibuya.

Adelaide and Ryo - for that is his name - took me for a walk around the Yokohama foreshore until we arrived back at a railway station where I could catch a train back to Shibuya. They were courteous and considerate. They chatted easily between themselves. I could feel that they liked each other, which is the most important thing for people their age from my point of view. Later, when Adelaide and her mother and I were sitting around in her flat in northern Yokohama, I asked if she wanted to marry Ryo. She said she had talked about it with Ryo. They had discussed having children. They had discussed Ryo's job. There were a lot of things to talk about.

What was clear however was that my daughter wants me to be part of the process of discussion. She had introduced her boyfriend to me even before introducing him to her mother, after all. She thinks I still have something to contribute.

My son also tells me things about his girlfriend. These children are still looking for guidance and help in their early maturity. It's up to me and my ex-wife to try to deliver the help that they need, when they need it. It's out job, and we are obliged to take it seriously.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Taking a stroll on Melbourne Cup day

This morning I got out on time - at about 10.15am - and made my way down to Darling Harbour. As I was going down the hill next to the entry to Pyrmont Bridge a guy on a bike riding the opposite way up the hill looked at me and told me to "smile, buddy". Which I thought was unfair so soon after getting out of bed. Maybe he had been up for hours, I don't know. But I had only been awake for about 30 minutes at that point.

I made my way under the bridge past the first of the restaurants - which were already open for breakfast or whatever it is they serve at that time on a weekday - and came across the assemblage of things shown in the photo here where an enormous TV had been set up on the concourse with fake grass and chairs in front of it. Next to the furniture was a TAB van painted green - and there was another van exactly the same further down near the CBA offices - with mostly men in green-and-white striped shirts hanging around. One or two people were sitting in the big padded chairs on the Astroturf. It was a bit early for punting, but everything had been set up in preparation for a big day. Maybe this was what the cyclist had been telling me to smile about.

On Harris Street a butterfly or moth coloured black and yellow dropped in front of me, startling me, as I walked up the street.

I got back home and had some lunch and then lay down for a nap while setting the alarm on my phone to wake me up for an appointment I had later in the afternoon. When I got up I put my clothes back on and went out. I walked down Harris Street to Miller Street, and at the intersection there a Commodore sedan suddenly started flashing police lights, making itself known to the flow of traffic. I turned into Miller Street and walked down toward the Fish Market. At the lights at the bottom of the street was a marked police van waiting for the lights to change, travelling south. When I got to my appointment I tweeted from the waiting room that there were cops all over Pyrmont, to which someone online asked "why". "Melbourne Cup," I answered. 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

First walk to Chinatown after trip to Japan

You could see cars of this calibre in Tokyo squeezing through the crowds in Shibuya or roaring down the street in Roppongi, but this little monster I caught on camera just at my local up the street here in Pyrmont turning right out of John Street into Harris Street. These beasts tend to make a bit of noise as they toodle along. I turned the camera to landscape to quickly capture this image and turn it into a feature spot in this blogpost.

This morning I set out on my customary walk a little later than usual, at around 11.30am, so I didn't snap this photo until around 1.15pm after I had had lunch at the Vietnamese joint down the street. It was pho, of course, and very spicy. Just like the car.

There were a lot more people than usual in Chinatown because of the time of day when I chose to get out and about. I didn't actually time it to be like this. It's just that I'm still recovering from the lack of sleep due to the 9-hour flight from Tokyo. I should be right and back on time by tomorrow. We'll see.

The seagulls were busy on my walk anyway. I saw one cramming a big piece of bread into its mouth and flying off, followed by a trail of other gulls - flying so close to the humans walking along that they almost collided with them - out over the bay. I brought my hands up to protect my face but the gulls seemed to have got the manoeuvres under wraps as they wheeled and veered to get out of our way. I was impressed by their acrobatic skills.

Around Paddys Markets the tall guy in the gaudy costume was plying his trade. I'm not sure what that is. Whether it's to distribute messages of goodwill or to curry favour with passersby and collect donations, I'm not entirely sure. He is a remarkable sight however and you can see him at any time after about 10am in the area - either in Dixon Street or nearby - on his stilts whirling hoola hoops around his hips. He seems to be aged around 60. But who knows?

On a sunny spring day like this the young people were out in numbers taking advantage of the good weather. I rambled my accustomed way up Harris Street toward home, taking notice of noone and taken notice of by noone. A ghost. A shadow. Just me.