Ultimate breakfast in Ultimo

breakfast in Soma, Ultimo with daiskmeliadorn

Yesterday my daughter, daiskmeliadorn, and I met for brekky in Soma at Ultimo. Today she flies out to embark on a challenging adventure in upstate New York at Binghamton University. She will enrol in a PhD there, so this could be a long absence.

We have enjoyed some wonderful times together over breakfast during the past 15 years, sharing our thoughts and emotions. I’m going to really miss her.

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Preparing for a visitor

We’re getting ready for a special visitor.

Bruce

That special guest is Bruce, the Staffy of daiskmeliadorn & Sam.

He’ll be staying at our place until daiskmeliadorn and Sam get settled in Binghamton, NY, in a place that can accommodate him. Meanwhile, we’re getting ready to host his visit by installing a (hopefully) Bruce-proof gate. Bruce is a very powerful jumper, and last time he visited he leapt over the gate in a desperate attempt to avoid being left home alone. The new gate is taller (1.8 m, or 6 feet), and doesn’t have spaces between the palings that would allow him to watch people leaving. I ordered it, and last weekend I hung it and fitted a latch. The new gate is covered with the blue tarp at the moment to protect it until it is painted. But that’s not my job!

Bruce-proof gate, we hope

I have also set up an internet-connected BruceCam in the back room where he may be shut up when there’s no one else at home. This will allow us to remotely check on whether he appears comfortable with the situation, although I’m not sure what we’ll do if we see and hear him barking or chewing his bedding. I thought about putting a speaker in his room so we could use our phones to talk to him – but that just might do more harm than good.

It’s a bit like being a new parent, isn’t it? There’s plenty of advice available, but in the end, every case is different and you just have to do the best you can –  knowing that in years to come you’ll realise what a bad job you did.

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Hitting the ground running

She hasn’t even left Australia yet, but already my daughter, daiskmeliadorn, has planned her first running race in Binghamton.

daiskmeliadorn running in SMH Half Marathon 2017

They have a festival to celebrate a kind of sandwich (yes, really! SpiedieFest), and as part of this festival there’s a 5km run in memory of a local woman who died unexpectedly of a heart condition in 1997 at age 25, the Kelly LaBare run on Sunday 06 August. I don’t think FrontRunners have a local group in upstate New York….maybe daiskmeliadorn can start one?

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the sins of the father

Extinctions by Josephine Wilson

“Australian” says the sticker the librarian has applied to this book. I guess Australians want to read about themselves? Maybe the designation is for the benefit of the large number of library users who come from other countries and want to find out more about their new home.

I’m not particularly drawn by an “Australian” sticker – in fact the very best books I’ve read have been written by Canadians about their culture and identity. I borrowed this book after my attention was initially drawn to it by its short-listing for the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

It turned out that I did actually relate very closely to many aspects of this story, including – surprisingly – the “Australian-ness”. There are lots of references to Australian events and culture which I could relate to but non-Australians would surely find to be obscure or even opaque.

I found great empathy with the protagonist, Fred, a recently retired engineering academic who develops a relationship with his neighbour in the retirement centre into which he has just moved. What initially appears to be Fred’s idiosyncratic quirkiness is gradually revealed as a much deeper character flaw which has manifest itself through his roles as teacher, father and husband. He discovers that he has been a “monster” in his relationships – and is still behaving monstrously towards his new neighbour. Is it possible to change? Can Fred restore his broken relationships with his two children?

These issues lead to much introspection by Fred … and by this reader.

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“Now you have”

It’s 03:30 and I’m walking down the Pacific Highway at North Sydney, on my way to work. It’s a 6 lane road with a small dividing median strip in the middle and I’m walking on the side with the traffic coming towards me, but there is no traffic in either direction. Well, why would there be, at this time of day? I’m listening to my ABC Classic radio with the gorgeous voice of Vanessa Hughes back-announcing the Handel’s Water Music I had been enjoying as I walked.

Suddenly I hear a siren behind me, and I turn around to see a police paddy wagon with lights flashing and siren sounding, headed towards me driving down the wrong side of the road.

[police car lights]

I move over onto the footpath and he stops next to me.

Police Officer: 
Why are you walking down the middle of the road?

Oldblack:
Because it’s safer than walking on the dark, wonky footpaths and I don’t normally have police cars come up behind me.

Police Officer:
Well now you have.

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A great way to spend a Sunday morning

I arrived at the SMH Half Marathon course yesterday just about the time the race was starting. I stationed myself at a point about 4.7 km into the race in the hope that by the time daiskmeliadorn reached me the field would be sufficiently spread out that I would be able to pick her out of the crowd as she ran past.

I assembled my sign and set it up where I hoped she would see the sign, and me. She belongs to the Sydney branch of the global FrontRunners running club and there were quite a few club members taking part.

It didn’t take long before the eventual winner arrived. He was already well ahead of his rivals. And it wasn’t many minutes after that when daiskmeliadorn arrived, recognisable in her red and white FrontRunners top. And we saw each other!

The course is a kind of out-and-back loop, such that the runners return along the other side of this road on their way back to the finish. So I moved myself and my sign over to the other side of the road. For the returning runners my location was just after the 13 km point. The loop they had run from the 4.7 km point to the 13 km point had some significant hills in it and I knew daiskmeliadorn’s legs would be feeling some pain. But when she arrived she was still smiling – if only for the camera!

It’s still a long way to go to the finish line – another 8 km – including a very demanding 2 km final uphill from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. But she did it – and completed the course in a personal best half marathon time: 01:43:02. Her previous best time? 01:43:03.

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How much hope does a person need?

Hope for the future. It can emerge from an apparent wasteland like this sweet pea shoot in my garden.

I planted thirteen seeds but only two have germinated. I suspect I am responsible for the low success rate. Maybe I should have put some lime in the soil. Maybe I should have watered the soil better before I planted the seeds. Maybe I planted too late in the season.

I’m not actually that hopeful about the future. I’ll be surprised if I end up with any sweet pea flowers at all.

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