What did I do in 2019?

Well, I’ll start off with what I didn’t do – run. By May or June my foot soreness had reached the point that I couldn’t go on, and I ended up getting some scans and eventually a cortisone injection into my left heel in August. Managed a couple of runs after that before things returned to their sorry state. I wish I could say that I suddenly found solace in swimming or riding but those things never really happened either. Hello 73kg again.

I did have a great reading year though, and inspired by Kim and Jenny joining a book club, I went to a Meetup book club in North Fitzroy in December and gave away a copy of my favourite book this year (Beauty is a Wound). We didn’t watch as much TV together this year, but Silicon Valley, The Man in the High Castle, The Crown and Game of Thrones come to mind.

This year I got more involved in my fantasy baseball league (UDL), became more confident in my player trading, did some Skype interviews and got nominated as the secretary for 2020. I started collecting player cards for an album that reflected my team at the end of each season. That was really fun.

In Feb I started some piano lessons again at Red Note Studios in Gilbert Road, and wound up doing my grade 1 AMEB exam on a very nervous weekday morning in December. I didn’t think I played my set pieces very well, but the instructor mostly disagreed and I wound up with a great result. My hands were shaking at lunch at Miss Margaret 10 minutes afterwards. I’ll take a bit of time off for a few months before committing to another year – the lessons are pretty pricey and I’m coming up with what seems like some physical limitations, which is worrying.

The jigsaw and podcasts (my god there was a lot of baseball this year – see below) thing is still going strong, and Kim just loves buying me loads of them, which is lovely but at the same time isn’t going to get any home renovations started. I’ve also started drinking more again, which summer isn’t helping but is becoming more steady and regular than it should be. 2019 favourites were Stomping Ground IPA, Hawkers IPA and pretty much anything from Two Birds out of Footscray.

I did quite a bit of travel in 2019 for work to NZ – Bluff, Mount Maunganui, Seaview, Woolston (Christchurch) and Lyttelton and I really enjoyed it. Can I please retire to the South Island oneday?

What else happened? Kim got an electric bike for Christmas and I got a PS4. The people who live behind us on Oakover Road sold their house for a lot. We had a few rats in the compost this year, and gave up on most things except herbs in the backyard (but still tons of pots to water). They redid the whole school oval across the road with irrigation and new turf and it’s wonderful. After the NZ cruise, Kim went into hospital in March for a few weeks for anxiety and was off work for a few months, but she’s mostly fine now. She started playing WoW and D&D with Michael and Sian, Ben and Oui too.

Lastly I started playing some Chess puzzles on my phone, something I haven’t done in 35 years, and no surprises I am not very good at it. Richmond won the Grand Final and Kim is now back on the bandwagon! I must be reverting back to my teens because I’m now finding myself listening to Ipswich Town podcasts and watching game highlight -so weird.

It’s been a solid year really, but apart from my foot, since about July I’ve been having bad allergy symptoms, which disappeared up in Woolgoolga but then reappeared two weeks after getting back – I’ve been on daily or twice daily Telfast for 4-5 months now. WTF!

Piano and West Preston

I decided to begin piano lessons again this year when I realised the studio within 5 minutes walking distance of our house had free slots on weeknights. My satisfaction with living in Preston for the past 28 years (and not succumbing to moving houses out of restlessness) seems to rise with every new local person I talk to and every new shop I can walk to. I’m enjoying being less and less car dependant, and so for now it’s the coffee shop, the hairdresser, the lovely couple who run the grog shop and Red Note Piano Studios. I try hard to remember the shopkeepers and people I run into’s names.

I have long been thinking about what ties me to where I live and whether it would continue in the future, even into retirement. I don’t think I have enough friends or activities nearby to make a compelling argument for staying and I find myself trying harder to find some community I suppose, knowing a decision is coming at some point.

In a silly way I’m enjoying ticking off the years in one place and yet I’m wary of falling into my grandparents scenario of “50 years in our house in Preston, but wow we’re loving this new unit in Heidelberg – wish we moved earlier”. And then dying within 5 years or so.

But back to piano. I stopped in 2007 when World of Warcraft kicked in hard and I just couldn’t keep up the motivation. This time (Feb 2019) my teacher is half my age and she’s got similar classical interests Bach etc..and likes Phillip Glass too. She reckons she wrote a thesis on minimalism. We’re still getting to know each other a bit but it’s going well and I hope to do the grade 1 exams in December.

Leesa Cupcake

I rarely use this site for anything but book reviews anymore, but here and there other things need to be noted. And in the past 12 months there have been some high and low points. After Bonnie died so suddenly in mid 2018, I got it into my head in the months to follow that Fergus had lost some zest, perhaps even more than a 15 year old dog with faded hearing and dozens of benign lumps should. He just slept and slept. Kim and I debated it in a pretty casual way, and in building a case for another dog, my mind was tossing up how much effort it was to look after 2 dogs vs. 1, versus how much I wanted another dog around to give him more interest in life. It was inferred that it was on me to take most of the ongoing responsibility if we went down that path, probably because Bonnie had been quite a burden really.

Once again it took a lot longer than I wanted and I probably applied for about 8-10 dogs in varying states but generally older and with some health concerns, but I still rarely got a call back. I like how the rescue people take their caretaker role seriously but it made me anxious when they would talk about a meet and greet session which I knew Fergus would fail. I don’t know why he tries to chomp other dogs really. In the end we drove to Wodonga and in a highway roadhouse carpark met a free spirited young guy called Morgan who would do the rounds of outback NSW pounds and try and rehome them regionally or in Kyneton. Even then, he only let us take her because the previously approved adopters hadn’t got back to them the day before.

Leesa Cupcake was her name and she was really shy and kept wanting to get on Morgan’s lap and lick him on the face as a submissive act. We had the impression she had been part of pack of 3-4 dogs and hadn’t been on her own much. We took her back with us and it was interesting to watch her react to Preston. On the lead she had no idea what to do, and she mostly just followed Fergus with her head snapping at the slightest noises on the street. I don’t think she’d ever been in a city before. In the early months she was fantastic when meeting other dogs but over time this has changed as she’s become more confident and aggressive. She loves nothing more than lunging at birds or getting a head of steam up approaching other dog houses.

I’m so happy she is a healthy 8 year old and isn’t too dominant with Fergus. I think he’s picked up a lot since getting her and I see him watching her and following her as he trusts her eyesight and ears. She gets into bed with him sometimes out of boredom I suspect and he stands up irritated and moves over to her bed and spends ages mussing it up till it’s how he likes it. She’s put on a lot of weight too, thanks to our overly generous treat regime. It makes me excited that we’re about to take her on a caravan holiday to the beach which she’s likely never been to before. I bet she will love chasing the birds there and I’ll take some video for sure.

And like that, another pet is gone

In October 2016, we took over the care of 12ish year old Bonnie, a senior rescue dog with canine Cushings and near-deafness, and who had aged beyond her years, with lumps and bumps and non-malignant tumours abounding. She looked rough and unloved and had large sections on her chest and back flanks where hair didn’t grow.

 

She was a most inquisitive little thing, trotting over to strangers, as if to say – “Are you my mother?”. I warmed to her immediately, and she only got better as she relaxed in our household.

It took a year or more of tablets before she stopped gulping down all her food in 5 mins, and making a beeline for poor old Fergus and his dish, and he developed anxiety about her stealing it all. But she never stopped with her incredible thirst, and did some famous wee trails as she walked, because I didn’t want it to pool around her feet. She walked pretty well, but never really figured out exactly which house we lived in. I’d do tests to see if she’d turn into the driveway without prompting but it rarely worked!

Although deaf, she’d make these cute little gulp sounds, snore loudly at night beside my bed, raise her front leg inquisitively when in doubt (like a lot of dogs), and sometimes struggle to get out of bed as her belly made her a body with legs. She’d sleep with her tongue out and take a minute or so on waking to realise it needed to go back in.

Over the last six months, she developed some routines –walk out the dog flap, do a complete circuit around the outdoor table and chairs, and drop down the brick steps to the tanbark sideway where she’d take her time finding the right spot to wee. Then rush back in, as if to say – hey I did the right thing, reward me now? We took her in the caravan for a month, and with her bad legs it was 2 times a night for me to take her out but hey, I was on hols so it didn’t matter.

Recently she figured out that laying in her human’s arms was not as scary as it seemed, and she seemed to like it more and more, but in short doses. She began to seek head and neck rubs more and more.

 

I just didn’t expect it would be over so soon, and even though she took the bulk of the dog attention because of her disease, and made walks an exercise in patience, I never minded any of it because I really loved this dog, and I’m embarrassed how few photos I took considering how much time I spent with her.

 

I’m happy that her downturn was pretty quick, and decisions were made for us, and I’m supposed to console myself that we gave her a really good 20 months, but it wasn’t long enough, and I bet she’d think the same thing because she had all the love in the world from us too. Goodbye BonBon, Bonza, my beautiful innocent girl – I’m really heartbroken and wish you were back with me.

Back to normal

Sometime in the 2000s I started to drink more regularly at home midweek. It’s something we both had in common and enjoyed, although rarely to excess. I sometimes think about my life and its routines and wonder if a morose boredom brought about the excesses of 2010 to 2013 which saw me drinking higher alcohol (but awesome flavoured) boutique/Belgian beers most nights, which I believe now to have brought about my pancreatic problems at that time.

After stopping all alcohol for 3 years I realised how much I had relied on it and I’m wary of resuming former habits, but it feels utterly fantastic to have a schooner of hoppy Pale Ale a few times a week now. Talking to Ash, it’s one of the few things that guys with disparate hobbies or interests can share…a beer at a local watering house. Guys that I know don’t just drop by your house for a chat and a cup of tea. I’m looking forward to hitting the Raccoon Club with the old geezer again soon – especially now the weather is warming up. It’s been years since I visited that place.

Inexplicably a better running year

Sitting on 800+ kilometres so far this year and a really good half marathon result in October, I can only surmise that Woopi (and the accompanying rest / less time on my feet) has been good for my preparation. As has running through continual hip discomfort.

It’s taken me till now to realise that the extra Pilates sessions I took on last January had made things worse, so I stopped all Pilates in August however mild pain lingers even when walking.

I always feel like I am on the cusp of a complete bodily breakdown and am just grateful for all the runs I manage. I don’t really know what I would do if I had to stop… it’s tied so much to my wellbeing and goals now (and increasingly to my way of meeting new people / getting out of the house).

Through running I began my first genuine bromance and friendship with another fella a bit older than me via parkrun, and hopefully we may run a marathon together in 2018. He’s a bit devastated by his recent first attempt at it and admitted the lack of company and the mental side of it was a huge factor so I am considering being his training buddy through summer to get us both over the line. What a great memory to share…can I really just run side by side the whole way and disregard my time? I am a fairly fierce competitor and find it hard to run slower than my best.

I managed to best my modest goals (1/2M less than 1:39:00 – did 1:31:10 and 5k parkrun under 20 mins – did 19:39) this year and am scared to take them to a new level, especially since it would mean an increase in mileage. Everything from here till January is a bonus so perhaps my 10k Zatopek time from last year may fall in December.

When I think back to 2006 till 2015 when I mostly sat in a chair playing WoW for pleasure/leisure, they seem like wasted years in terms of my fitness. I probably played a couple of years too long if I’m honest. Cycling may have to come back onto the agenda if I can’t get this hip into a manageable state. The cortisone injection did nothing so I’m unsure what else can be done.

Not the best patch for book reading

Whoa…a bit of a rough run it’s been in 2017. A few unfinished novels including the lauded Richard Ford (Lay of the Land – 2 stars). I guess this signals I’m really not truly ever going back to an American novel phase in a hurry. Having said that, I managed to read Haruf’s Our Souls at Night which was sweet but didn’t quite have the impact I’d hoped (4 stars). The fourth of the English history series Revolution by Ackroyd (3 stars) was a bit of a dry slog, and did inform me of the first three Georgians, but I feel like I need to read another book to commit Hannover things to memory a little better.

Somewhere in the pile was a decent Quarterly Essay by David Marr on Pauline Hanson. My god, I am leaving things so long before write ups that I can barely remember them.

The Tontine books (by Costain) I got for a buck each from an Op Shop and were an enjoyable romp, though they took awhile to get through. 3 stars.

The Stone Raft by Saramago was a magical road trip by a small group of oddballs and a stray dog around a cast-adrift and erratic Iberian peninsula for a purpose I can no longer remember. Quite a charming novel though – 4 stars.

When I was Mortal by Marias was a fantastic bunch of often menacing and unpredictable short stories, translated from Spanish. Loved nearly all of them and just tore through this book. 4.5 stars.

A gift from my old mate James, In Love With These Times by Flying Nun Records founder Roger Shepherd was an easy, if mediocre read. He seems to have done his fair share of drugs and booze and the recollections are accordingly hazy. 3 stars for him being an unapologetic Clean and Chris Knox fan, and for admitting he was often pretty bumbling and incompetent.

Woopi summary

We’ve been back at work for a month now and holiday memories recede quickly. This was our fourth year up north (for ~4 weeks) and things went fairly predictably. The highlights were my parents and sister staying in a nearby cabin; catching up with old colleague Jamie Stammers, a parkrun PB at Coffs Harbour (19:39!), 3 games of golf, forest running with the local cross-country team, and losing my wallet at the pub one night (blame loose jean pockets). The oddest moment was seeing Kim get a rush of nostalgia and buy a pair of Op Shop roller skates, which I was terrified she’d break a leg with.

No fishing rods this year, because I was told things were poorly. It was very dry, and didn’t rain once. Folks were watering their sites to keep the grass alive, and many python sitings were made in Josie’s back garden (coming in for domestic water). Bonnie had a good time, with minimal toilet incidents, but I feel like I spent a good chunk of each day escorting her and Fergus on toilet breaks. It was not the most restful of holidays for me in that way.

Plans for next year – buy / loan a boogie board. Buy golf clubs – those hire ones were terrible. Bring a less-weighty book that I will actually finish.