Wednesday, November 30

then and now

The cellmate's out late, so I'm off duty and can do whatever I want. It's 9p.m. and I'm really looking forward to crawling early to bed. To read and then sleep like a babe with the chain across the bedroom door (not against the cellmate, but any random psychos who might rush the front door as she gets home).

Meanwhile, my old school friend (not the transvestite one) has bravely booked to go to the class reunion. He emailed me the guest list.

Colin will be there, my chum for a few years, while dating two schoolmates from a girls' school. He was a scallywag and ruffian but without malice, an up-market Rab C Nesbitt, and helped me get started early on fags (at 13), then girls and booze a couple of years later. I still have the Stones single he gave me. I'm hoping one day it'll be an antique like me.

I went along to one reunion, last century. Once was more than enough, but I'll still be interested to hear about this one, and whether one of the folk there is still a total ****.

Johnny will be there, at whose teenage party I dimly recall meeting Gregor Fisher on downers (me not him).

therapeutic effects

For weeks, the life-enhancing tea had unfortunately been enhancing the OCD too. But I've been off tea now for 4 or 5 days, and am gradually starting to enjoy life again even without the wonderful cuppa.

Albert's botanic garden passed the inspection yesterday. The Glaswegian nurse who inducted him was a joker: "hello Albert, you've won a prize - would you like it with or without?" Albert chose "without". "OK Albert, we'll give you it without anaesthetic".

When Albert came round after the anaesthetic, he felt a million dollars.

I've noticed this phenomenon before. It's as if the experience of being cared for by a room full of benign strangers, while you surrender everything (even your consciousness), has the effect of breaking your depressive or obsessive patterns.

This has a lot in common with ECT (except for the electricity). And I wonder if part of the therapeutic effect of ECT is nothing to do the equipment.

Actually, I've just realised something. In the recovery area, they gave Albert a cup of tea, which he drank without remembering he had given up tea. So now my theory's kind of contaminated by an extraneous variable.

Monday, November 28

don't mention the thingy

I gave up tea again on Friday. As a result the weekend walk was pathetic. Hard going all the way, and none of it pleasurable. What a difference a tea makes.

Tomorrow Albert gets his botanic garden inspected, so today it's the great hosing out.

Never willing to be upstaged, his cellmate has decided to take to her sickbed. She's supposed to be the driver tomorrow.

Please note, this post was written without the aid of any mention of toilets.

Tuesday, November 22

long march

Saturday. Today we did our longest walk ever, 20km through forest and scrub, and along beaches, all in semi-tropical conditions. I couldn't have done it without the Chinese marching weed, green tea. I had a big flask of it with me, and when that ran out we used cafes.

At the place where we had lunch, the builders were doing alterations with drills and a power saw. They're great planners, the New South Caledonians, always managing to cause maximum inconvenience and reminding the paying customers that they're not a priority.

Conversation was impossible, the cellmate was getting a sore heid, and my tinnitus was going off the scale. But we'd ordered lunch and we were too starving to start looking for somewhere else to eat. Rather than accept things as they were, I nipped out to a chemist and came back with paracetamol and orange foam earplugs. Perfect peace.

Now, the cellmate is quite a bit younger than me, and in some ways fitter. But I'm pleased to tell you that by the end of the day, after 5 hours of walking, wading and scrambling she was stumbling and semi-incoherent, while I was ready to do the whole thing over again. When we got home, she went directly to bed, while I did my yoga routine, to ward off cramps and stiffness. The Thai fish curry I made was a big success, and now I'm in bed with the fan on, too hyped to sleep.

Some of the beaches we passed were chockers with power-boat folk, drinking and lying around on deck. I took some pictures to show you how clear the water was (don't let the boat people distract you).

Just to be clear - this is the part of the photo that you shouldn't let distract you:

These people were in serious discussion. There was a person in the water behind the boat - all you can see is a hand, holding a cigarette up to keep it dry, a conscientious smoker.


Saturday, November 19

cold wars

Meanwhile, Mingers has reminded me about an old Beach Boys song, which I first heard on Fanny's record player when I was about 14. To me the lyrics seemed almost blasphemous at the time. Wouldn't It Be Nice To ... sleep together. The idea of waking up beside your own real live woman (girl really).

In those days I believed that the reason I enjoyed hanging out with Colin and George was for the smoking and the drinking and the Stones records, but really it was because they were babe magnets, and got me into the company of Fanny, Elaine and Moira. The joy of kissing and minor gropings, and eavesdropping on the chat of girls - I remember them going into a swoon over God Only Knows.

In those days there was a Cold War on, and we sometimes liked to imagine that the cellar where we hung out could become our fallout shelter, where we could snog our way through a nuclear war.

Artist's impression of a mutated albert:

albert mutated

Nowadays, Albert may be entering a new cold war. Obama has just been visiting his place, and announced that he's opening an American military base in Darwin. Now that the middle east is no fun any more for the soldiers, it's time to ramp things up in South East Asia, with Australia as one big U.S. aircraft carrier.

While he was in Oz, Obama lectured the Chinese, telling them to grow up and float their currency. If I was China, I'd start asking for their loans back.

Thursday, November 17

albert at work and play

I may have to try meditating. The cellmate's having a tooth pulled at the dentist right now, and I'm having sympathetic nervous dread. Usually I use the out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy, e.g. if she's out driving late at night I just go to sleep and assume she'll be there in the morning. I think it's the only way to handle an extremely independent partner. But now suddenly I'm developing excessive empathy. Maybe this is what happens in a long long relationship.

While I'm standing by with the painkillers, here's some of Albert's photos from the last few days.

Working double shift

Camped by a billabong

The Buddha on his summer holidays

Thursday, November 10


4 a.m. Unusually, I woke up screaming from a nightmare. It's always nice to come around into a real life that's better than the dream. Pity the people who wake into the reverse. Cancer patients, for example.

When you open an Erdinger, it tastes like a whole new world, like going from monochrome to colour. The second bottle is never as good, so the trick is to stop after the first one, or in my case the first half-bottle. The guy in the photo is about to take his first sip.


Sunday, November 6

yet another day

Compared to some people I don't get out much.Today was an exception. In the morning I met Cap'n Kev for breakfast. Later we drove to the foreshore for coffee with several of his chums - I was the youngest one there, and the only one still working. I got a foretaste of the social life of old guys.

After all the coffee/tea in the morning I was full of energy. This afternoon I went with the woman across the road, and her dog, for a walk along a different part of the harbour shore.

Back home: light weight training. Mowed lawn and weeded.

In the evening, the cellmate had all her fem chums for dinner, so I was off duty. From time to time I crept into the kitchen and stacked their dishes into the dishwasher. None of them are domesticated. Untamed as a matter of principle.

At one point, the cellmate suggested I go to the living room and say hello to everyone, but when I do that it always feels like being sent downstairs to kiss the adults goodnight.

Another day gone. Sometimes I can hardly believe how long I've lived. And still never broken a bone or had a crash (except once). Like many people, my ambition was never to have a job, but to my surprise I've ended up not claiming the dole since the 70s. Amazing. It's been an easy life, apart from the black spot and a few other disasters.