Tram thoughts

I can hardly think of any major changes I made in my life through the strange year and a bit that is/was March 2020 till now. I’d already stopped running because of my heel (turned out there was nothing they could do for me – even surgery was unlikely to fix it), but I guess I’d begun riding into work in the summer of 2019/20 – maybe 3 days a week? That certainly stopped.

The one thing that ramped up (in opposition to the drop in clothes buying and work trips to NZ) was my buying of baseball cards and jigsaws. I probably spent 3k on those over the year and suspect that the obsessional eBay and Facebook Marketplace searching I did up to 10 times a day were a reaction to the boredom felt and general powerlessness. At least it wasn’t alcohol or promiscuity! Those buying urges have eased off and been replaced by a new one of course. The great caravan hunt ensued, starting in September 2020 and culminated in a somewhat worn Bailey Unicorn making its way from Leeds to Wollongong via a 2.4m wide shipping container. The old van sold and was towed out the door in about 5 hours in early December, giving us a driveway back after 7 years (felt wonderful too).

We did a recent trip to Maryborough and found the van to be beautifully insulated and warm ( Kim’s primary concern) but it wasn’t the smoothest tow and had us searching Carsales in a panic for a 3-ton- capable car before sanity prevailed and we’re now checking a few suspension options and loading ideas. There’s always something to make you worry I think.

Fergus has been yelping a little in the night, having trouble settling and it’s like a baby crying even though he’s not seriously distressed. The tablets don’t seem to work at all, so we’re resigned to lack of sleep as his decline deepens. He got disorientated the other night and weed in the bedroom which is extremely rare, and I think we both looked at each other and gulped. I don’t particularly want to take him to Woolgoolga this year as he is right near the end and the slightest touch will topple him and the inevitable weeing and restlessness doesn’t make for a fun holiday really. Let’s see how we go I suppose.

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.