Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Joy of Soap

I am a Neighbours fan. This long running television show is very well known in both the United Kingdom and here in Australia where it is produced, and although not as popular as it once was, it maintains a legion of fans who live for their daily dose of this most celebrated soap opera.

There are of course many things Neighbours could be criticized for, and even fans join in sometimes, but there must be a reason why it has survived for over 30 years.

The thought has occurred to me numerous times over the many years I have watched the melodramatic lives of the residents of Ramsey Street, but of late it has made me laugh. Convenience. Father Jack arrives at the coffee shop on his way to church and asks his ex girlfriend, Paige if she wants to join him. Guess what? She has just finished her shift and she would love to. Gary breaches his AVO by not only approaching Cooper over the assault of his daughter, but threatening him. Guess what? Ramsey Street's resident cop, Mark, is there to stop any escalation and arrest Gary.

If someone gets hurt, Ramsey Street resident, Dr Karl will be there to assist. If someone breaks the law, or is in trouble Mark will come to the rescue. Jarrod 'Toadfish' Rebecchi lives in Ramsey Street and he's a lawyer so guess who makes his legal services available whenever, wherever and to whomever?

Ah, convenience. Imagine if life was like a soap opera. In real life, no one could handle the drama load dumped on the actors by the scriptwriters, and the good guys are not always around to help, but just for a moment, consider such a life...or not.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Celebrate the small things: Anytime Fitness

In the previous volume of the book of my life, the last few chapters were marked by a lack of emotional stability and physical exercise. Moving to Darwin has not made any immediate impact on the former, nor had it improved the latter situation until very recently.

My search for peace continues, and I must confess to being a tad naive in thinking a change of location would facilitate any alterations to my state of mind. I understand the theory of peace, and I know where to find it, I simply haven't managed to take hold of it yet.

Exercise, on the other hand, is an easy shift. I enjoy exercise. I simply had to make time, and work out how to work out. While I was searching for my own place, and figuring out the intricacies and vagaries of the bus system, I was doing a lot of walking, and at the end of most days I was beat. I was rising at Sparrows and getting home late, so there really was no opportunity to tune the machine which is my body.

I pass a couple of gyms on the way to work and into town, so I decided to check them out: primarily I mean cost, but also the atmosphere. I'm not a gym person, and I didn't want to be surrounded by a crowd of beautiful, albeit sweaty bodies. I maybe 48 years old, but I am still a little self conscious, so if I felt like I didn't 'fit', or I sensed a repellent vibe, then that gym was not going to be for me.

Happily I can report that Anytime Fitness has afforded me a free 14 day trial of their facilities. The gym is not packed. It doesn't smell. It's cool, and the staff are very helpful and friendly. Three days into my new regime, I feel comfortable there, and I am learning how to use the various machines. My arms hurt, but I am very happy and grateful to be once again partaking of regular exercise. I feel better already.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Little Shade

Even though every time I open the app it says it has stopped working before it opens, NT Bus Tracker has become my best friend in the Territory. It tells me where the nearest bus stop is and which buses are arriving and when. Initially I was using the timetables provided on the website, and at the bus stops themselves, but this app kills the competition. With its assistance, I have been successfully navigating my way around Darwin with very little down time waiting for a ride.

However, it is on the subject of waiting to which I now turn my attention and ergo, your attention. In the hierarchy of bus stops, there are major stops and minor stops. The former appear on the timetables, the latter do not, but they are all on the app.

The major bus stops have seats and shelters which is very nice because it's hot here. I mean the weather is hot or hotter, and the sun invariably beats down upon the earth, and all of us who wander it, during the dry season. (The benefits of shelters in the wet season are potentially less significant for obvious reasons.) The minor stops have a sign. That's it. No shelter from the sun and nowhere to plant one's sweaty bottom.

Occasionally the dear little minors have trees which furnish the steaming traveller with shade, but many, dare I say most, have no shade and no seats.

And that is the extent of my problems in life at the moment. How blessed am I.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: Fit for a Granny

I gave myself two weeks to find a permanent abode in Darwin. The shared accommodation I had pre-booked was comfortable, but neither cheap or convenient. I needed my own space, and I needed something closer to work, but in the short term the house in which I had a bedroom, and shared every other, was fine, and my hosts and fellow guests were lovely people.

Last Saturday, I looked at three one bedroom units before buying a newspaper and lunching at Subway. There were some private rentals advertised in the property section. Private was what I really wanted because it would be cheaper, including low or no bond, and I wouldn't have to deal with agents.

To cut a log story short, I called about a granny flat in the suburb of
Parap, was told it was still available, that I could come and see it immediately, and was given directions from the city. I had a good feeling about it as I traveled via bus and foot to check it out. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was perfect for me. A fully furnished granny flat including crockery and cutlery for a lower price than I was prepared to pay. Only ten minutes from work and from Darwin city by bus, air conditioned and with a pool, I had found my new home. My host kindly offered to pick me up and bring all my stuff from A to B, I paid him a week's rent in advance, and seven days later, I am all settled in.

I'm super thankful that I found this place which ticked all the boxes. Now all I have to do is stop wishing away the days until I can see my loved ones again. Live in the moment, Dave. Live in the moment.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

If the hat fits...

Stereotypes are an interesting thing: a necessary evil perhaps. I'm really keen, wherever I go and with whomever I talk to, to be a champion for open-mindedness. I often challenge people who put others in boxes and attach simple labels to them. I don't like it because I think it's unfair to judge people when we have such limited knowledge and experience. They guy who told me 'hated' all Chinese people because he'd had a bad Chinese cab driver is an example of the narrow minded prejudiced which I detest.

Many non-indigenous Australians believe that Aboriginal people are lazy drunks. They'll make exceptions for their sporting heroes, but generally hold a very dim view of indigenous people.

Not having much experience with them, I have tried to keep an open mind and be positive about this most disadvantaged group of Australians. I'm aware, of course, of their significant problems with alcohol, their over-representation in our jails and their low life expectancies, but indigenous people with public profiles don't have these problems and present themselves as positive ambassadors for their people. I have great sympathy for the Stolen Generations and I have gained a greater understanding and deeper respect for Aboriginal culture.

Before moving to Darwin, I was aware that there would be more Aboriginal people than I was used to in Wollongong. What has surprised me and disappointed me is how many drunk and disorderly indigenous people I have seen. In the streets, in parks and on the buses, a majority of them have fit the negative stereotype. At any time of the day, they'll be hanging around in groups, drunk or drinking, talking loudly and arguing among themselves in their native language. Many of them don't wash and they smell awful.

These experiences have disturbed me, and I have felt not only uncomfortable at times, but also intimidated. I've been humbugged for money and cigarettes frequently, and I feel quite sad about it. I'm seeing and hearing a lot of stereotypical behaviour which, as I said, I find really disappointing. They are many tourists in Darwin at the moment, and I wonder what they make of the behaviour of the first Australians. If I'm struggling with it, I wonder what messages our visitors are receiving and sharing with their family and friends.

I came to Darwin hoping to find some evidence to destroy the negative stereotypes of indigenous Australians. I'm still looking.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Home among the Gumtrees

For a number of very good reasons, I have relocated, albeit temporarily, to Darwin which is the capital of Australia's Northern Territory. I formally accepted a job offer on July 25, flew out of Sydney on August 5, and commenced work at my new job on August 8.

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but moving is not like going on holiday. I arrived at Darwin airport at midnight with two suitcases, a backpack and an address. The last time I moved to another city by myself was more than 25 years ago, so I forget how long it took for the sense of disorientation to subside. Busyness has certainly saved me from madness. The immediate start at work, and the search for permanent accommodation has given me little time to think about what I am doing. Everything is good and positive about this move except for the fact I have left all my loved ones behind; my fiance, my children, my family and my friends.

I'm finding my way around, learning where things are, and finding my groove; trying to establish routines which I cherish. I've been in shared accommodation, and although very comfortable and welcoming, it is not my space. Having my space is an important part of sorting myself out, testing myself and proving myself.

Yesterday, I found an advertisement for a granny flat in the newspaper. Today, I am moving in to it. It is exactly what I was looking for and I am thanking God hugely for the circumstances which have resulted in me getting a place of my own.

Five minutes on the bus to work and to the city, in a quiet street in a nice suburb, a private rental at a lower price than I was prepared to pay with no bond required, my new home is fully furnished including cutlery and crockery...and it has a swimming pool.

I still feel weird, and have some doubts about whether it will all work out the way I want it to, but my faith I am moving on, trusting God to light my way.

Please share your 're-location' stories. I'd love to read them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Alice part 6

As I mentioned previously, the night after my return from The Rock Tour, I was in great need of a good night sleep...and that is what I got. Sadly, this was to the detriment of myth plans to watch the sunrise from ANZAC Hill.

Nevertheless, I walked to the memorial lookout after having a sensational eggs benedict at Red Dog cafe in Todd Mall. I walked the road up, and the bush path back down, then proceeded back to the mall to visit the souvenir shop where I purchased some -wait for it- some souvenirs. As fridge magnets are the new teaspoons, I grabbed a few of those, some key rings and a tea towel for mum.

On my way back to the hotel to pack my bags and head to the airport for my flight back, I received a text message from QANTAS informing me that my flight had been cancelled. Bad news, right? Not so bad was them arranging for me to be a later flight, and a direct flight. This meant that I left later and arrived home earlier.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 entertained me on the home flight and 2 sloppy joes sustained me until we landed and I exited into the arms of my fiance (not immediately, but you know what I  mean).

The next day, it was business as usual and I returned to work the following Monday. Every day since I have reflected on what a great holiday it was. If you got to Alice Springs, and I highly recommend you do, make sure you do the Rock Tour-if you think you can handle it.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Alice part 5

To my multitude of followers, I must apologize for the long gap between part 4 and this installment of the sublime recount of my recent holiday. 12 days have already passed since I returned from Alice Springs, and the reason for the delayed release of the The Alice series has been my preparations for a more long term move back to the Northern Territory. I leave for Darwin on Friday- more about that later.

For now it's back to Alice...Alice? Who the @#$% is Alice? (That's a shout out to my fellow Rock tourists and in particular to the guru of guides; Matt.)

Day 3 began after even less sleep than I got at the conclusion of day 1, but I was alive and loving it. We returned to the Uluru viewing area in the dark, then had breakfast while watching the sunrise. With breakfast sorted, we traveled back to Uluru to walk around the base.

This was a very leisurely walk during which we marveled at the various holes and shapes which dot the rusty exterior of this most renowned of monoliths. Matt gave us an hour or so to get around Uluru and back to him at the bus. As usual we were unable to move any more quickly than our wonder would allow. We rolled into the car park like brown cows and partook of the oranges and fruitcake while we shared reflections on our visit to Uluru.

A long drive back to the roadhouse followed, but not before a quick pit stop at the Mt Connor, (aka Fooluru) lookout. We lunched on left overs at the roadhouse, then proceeded to a camel riding place where for $7 I had the dubious pleasure of having my equipment bounced uncontrollably against the saddle on the camel's back as it trotted down the home stretch of the circuit. That was fun.

Our time together was drawing to a close. Three friends left us at the airport, and back in Alice I was dropped off at the Doubletree Hilton. My American friends were also staying there, but they planned to go out to the Rock bar for the official farewell. I declined due to tiredness, otherwise known in some circles as 'old man-ness', and had a quiet night in my room. 

My plan for the morrow was to rise and walk up to ANZAC Hill to watch the sunrise.