Of what, or of whom, is he thinking, I wondered as I aimed my lens at the man in the window. Perhaps of someone far away, in another state, another country, a continent or two away…
I remember those days… Doc Martens, high-waisted-belted shorts, lots of black, cigarettes, too. I’m pretty sure that at one point in my university days, I used to sling the same bag over my right shoulder. I just don’t remember looking this self-assured.
I’d guess that the prevailing thought in her head, when she turned and caught me mid-snap, was: “Damn photographer.” What she didn’t know that I was going through a major flashback moment of being 18 or 19 again and having no idea of how the fuck my life was going to turn out.
I still have no idea…
I am drafting this post on a warm night – it’s almost half-eight and it’s still about 29C. Late-summer fills me with a sense of restlessness and lethargy. And I don’t mean the weather. It’s been about a month since I have been out on a proper and committed meander with the camera. Blame it on the day job, which seems to have morphed into 11-, 12-, sometimes 13-hour, days, seeping into the weekend on bad weeks.
I had made plans to take a photo-walk with a friend on the weekend, but she bailed on me, for a perfectly legitimate reason apparently. As expected, it did nothing to persuade me to reach for the camera on Saturday. I think the only productive thing I managed that day was a 6km run.
That afternoon, as we were heading out to meet with friends, I happened to glance at the pub across the street, and couldn’t help but notice the heavy, contrasty shadows, courtesy of the 4pm still-blazing sun. I’m rarely out at this time of day during the week, affixed as I am to my dual computer screens, but what I mean to say is had it not been for the fact that we were on the way to ‘something’, I would’ve run back to the house to grab my camera immediately. I had been hoping for the exact same conditions when I was off work for a fortnight over Christmas and New Year, and in true ‘Sod’s Law’ fashion, the weather simply did not cooperate.
The Hub was kind enough to position himself outside the pub for me on Sunday so that I could revel in the light and shadows and have a go at capturing and creating what had been percolating in my brain for a few weeks.
He even allowed me to point the lens at him on our terrace so that I could make the image below, which I confess to enjoying for the shadows, light, contrast and textures all rolled into one.
I guess I will keep trying to grab what opportunities I can because I still do enjoy the photography, even though my output is greatly reduced these days, compared to say, a couple of years ago. These things come and go and come back again. I say that with a wry smile…
… I guess he had just stopped by to refill/refuel. The location was Melbourne’s tourist hotspot, Degraves Street, which is best avoided by those not keen on getting caught up in the hordes of said tourists, it is great for photographic subjects, and coffee for those who like to live their life caffeinated.
I’m a part-time coffee drinker. Having lived in England for almost a decade, I am a confirmed tea person and don’t need coffee to kickstart my day. That said, I do drink it a couple of times a week. When I have work or social meetings, I go with coffee because it’s easier, and because I don’t enjoy the tea experience at cafes. (Cafe tea always tastes thin and insipid for some reason. I realise those are not typical words one would use to describe a beverage, but I stand by them.)
Speaking of ‘taste’, a strange thing happened to me when I first moved to Melbourne. We stayed at a service apartment for the first five weeks while we were looking for a longer term place to rent or buy (whichever happened first was what we agreed, and by luck, it was the latter), and after a couple of weeks there, I had developed a soapy taste in my mouth. I don’t know when it began, but I do clearly recall feeling like I couldn’t quite discern the flavour in my food one day, and next few meals tasting extremely bland despite the addition of lots of salt. One evening, after having eaten a chip, I declared to my hubby and his friend whom we had met for a catch-up that the chips tasted like soap! My companions’ curious expressions were confirmation enough that it was me, not the food. And then, even the coffee began to taste like it had been made with detergent.
In desperation, I went to the doctor because I thought it would be wiser than going down the google+self-diagnosis route. The doctor was no help at all. She wrote a prescription for some ‘flu meds even though I thought it was plainly obvious that in front of her sat a perfectly well person whose only complaint was that she felt like she had been force-fed a bottle of laundry liquid!
I was feeling quite depressed. I was worried that something was seriously wrong with me, and contemplated seeking a second opinion. It was driving me to distraction, and worst of all, I had completely lost my appetite entirely. I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted from the worry and fear of what I didn’t know – to say nothing of the discombobulation of having recently made the move from one state to another.
… And then, most unexpectedly, came the breakthrough! I was tidying up in the kitchen a few days post-GP visit, when I picked up a sachet of dishwashing powder (which came with the serviced apartment), and happened to notice the words printed on the back: “Not for consumption. Very alkaline.”
Alkaline. Very alkaline. Very alkaline! It described exactly what I had been tasting in my mouth!
We stopped using the dishwasher immediately, and the soapy taste faded and eventually disappeared altogether – in all, it took about two weeks to clear. It was such a relief to have made that discovery and to find a solution to the problem. What I found odd about Soapygate was that the hubby had not been affected at all! We had been using the same kitchen equipment and utensils so who knows why only I was affected.
I will never again take my tastebuds for-granted. I will even drink weak tea in a cafe without complaining as long as it doesn’t taste soapy! It was such a strange experience that I don’t think I will forget it for a long time. (And enough of one to see me put it in words here, too.)
Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go. ~ Hermann Hesse
I’ve been contemplating Hesse’s words this week. I suppose the seeds of it were planted in mid-December after my year-end review with the boss. Things went better than I had expected: a small bump in salary and a bonus to boot. And feedback was positive, supportive, favourable. All the words my low self esteem self never expects.
Since moving in August, and ‘working remotely’ as the sole Melbourne employee of a Sydney-based office as a result of said relocation, the experience has been mixed. Some days are great because not being in the bustle of the typical office environment means that I’m shielded from the usual distractions and frustrations. Productivity without the office politics feels so good! On the other hand, there are days of grinding solitude, where I feel almost overwhelmed by the smothering embrace of isolation. Those days when I feel like I’m missing out on important interactions, and that I could be adding more value by being ‘there’ in person.
Perhaps I should start a journal to record the good/bad days – it could prove to be an interesting exercise, one that might provide some useful insights. To date, when asked, my response oscillates depending on my mood that day. I don’t know if I would recommend the remote working arrangement to anyone, but then again, for a self-avowed introvert who has to psych herself up each time any meaningful social interaction is required, the solo set-up is often preferred.
There are other challenges to working like this. A certain sort of discipline is required to ensure that I don’t forget that there is a world out there, that I remember to move beyond my desk and my study. I force myself to walk to the shops, go a cafe (even though tea is my preferred hot beverage, I make room for a piccolo), visit the gym. But there are days when all I seem to do is stare at my screen and worry about whether my Sydney colleagues think I’m working (or not).
Back to Hesse’s words about holding on, letting go. I’ve been with this employer for a number of years now, and although the job requires long hours and can be trying at the best of times (politics again, but I’m sure it’s the same in most places), overall, I really have very few complaints of which to speak. I’m fortunate too that although I know my role comfortably well, it’s varied enough and I find myself still learning new things regularly. However, I recognise that I may need to recalibrate my compass at some point down the line – I can’t keep looking towards Sydney forever, can I? I mean, I live in Melbourne now.
Speaking of which, the photo in this post was taken outside Melbourne Town Hall a couple of days ago. I saw the man standing by the columns looking somewhat defeated, or perhaps he was simply struggling with being back to work after the new year festivities. Anyway, Hesse’s words sort of lent themselves well to the subject’s demeanour and stance, and reminded me of my own work situation. (I’m back to work on Monday.)