A Routine is as Good as a Holiday

The daily grind cops a lot of hate, but I spent three days in Melbourne two weeks ago and my poop schedule is still all over the place.

image 1869 from bradism.com

In my twenties I lived for adventure. I traveled around the country going to music festivals. I asked around on Fridays to find out where the weekend’s house parties were. I went to bars and even clubs, and sporting events and I socialised with strangers and it made me feel good. I liked being able to reflect back over the past year and define myself by the experiences I’d had.

In my thirties I find experiences stressful. Am I having enough fun? Should I be taking photos? If I don’t share at least a snippet of this on my phone to other people, did it even happen? And the opportunity costs! If I go to this cafe, what if I miss out on a highly rated other restaurant that I’ll never have a chance to visit again? What if I don’t see all the sights? What if my favourite song actually doesn’t feel as moving live as it does on the sound-engineered record?

These days I live for routine. Planning ahead, making sure every part of my day will be like an array of aligned dominos just waiting for me to knock them over and surf the dulcet clack-clack-clack all the way to the next day. I always have a delicious fruit smoothie for breakfast. I know when my coffee and gym will fit between work meetings. Incidental exercise always happens at the right times of the day. I never need to iron a shirt at the last minute, or work out what to eat for lunch, or find myself bored.

This routine isn’t clockwork. On the contrary, every week I find ways to rearrange and tweak it, defrosting fruit before bed, adding new recurring meetings to my work calendar, switching fabric softeners. That’s what truly makes me so excited by my routine, not the fact that I enjoy all the mundane parts of my life, but that I am able to schedule them so seamlessly to make more time for more routine.

Melbourne seems a bit weird.

Melbourne seems a bit weird.


Maybe my dependence on routine for my self-fulfilment is the reason I didn’t find my most recent vacation particularly enjoyable. I tried to plan my days there too, where I would buy yogurt and cereal for the AirBnB, when I would get my steps in, how to keep my carry-on luggage below the 7 kilogram limit. It didn’t help both my flights were delayed considerably. No holiday plan survives first contact with a budget airline.

On my final day in one of the world’s most livable cities I found myself unexpectedly needing to buy lunch and falling apart trying to decide what to eat, how many calories I should allow, how much I should spend. I ended up consuming an over-cooked and underwhelming chickpea burger for $20 on the corner of two dead downtown streets, then arrived at the airport over an hour too early for my flight home.

The best thing about a routine is that if you fail to appreciate your breakfast, your walk, your coffee, your conversation, you know that the next chance to savour it is only a day away.


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I love Sydney

image 1817 from bradism.com

I hate Sydney. Though it is where I do some of my finest fast walking. It's got skyscrapers and a huge IT industry and trendy bars. That said, I can only tolerate it - the traffic, the prices, the population - in short bursts. Like pointing a hairdryer at just the right spot on your armpit, the heat can make you feel alive. But hold your brain up to the collective body warmth of four million people for too long and it browns the surface, sealing in the juices.

I had a productive twenty-four hours in the harbour city, attending a cloud computing conference, and spending much of my downtime writing a story about a spiced rum loving detective who can smell the future. So much writing that my fingers hurt.

image 1818 from bradism.com

I flew back tonight into different kinds of clouds. The wind might be howling, but it's good to be home. Ironically, the spiced rum I drank in a trendy Sydney wine bar was actually from South Australia.

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Sydney at least has this Kookaburra going for it.

Children

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Parenting is not something which comes naturally to me, but this weekend I was entrusted to keep alive two small humans for over 24 hours.

To get through this I needed to draw on the advice and examples of other child-raisers in my life. Most recently, I saw a mother swan with four developing cygnets crossing a lake in the hope of a feed. When I offered nothing, the mother coloured the water with fecal discharge, which the trailing offspring sucked up for nourishment.
I put this in the maybe pile.

image 1809 from bradism.com

I was proud of myself for lasting the first day of babysitting without resorting to TV, candy, or violence. I gently led the children to believe that playing Lego was their idea, and killed several hours building “spaceships” which were in fact a carrot, and an octopus’ car. I didn't even need a drink that night.

image 1810 from bradism.com

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My greatest challenge early on Sunday morning when both children were crying about how their sibling “hated them” or had said something mean. I solved this by explaining that, as brother and sister, they would always be in competition for emotional superiority, and the earlier they developed a thicker skin to their family member's trolling and jabbering, the more successful they'd be.

Ultimately - despite never feeling completely comfortable that I could sit on the toilet for thirty minutes without interruption - I think I did a capable job of fostering children. Made possible completely by the knowledge throughout that it would soon be over.


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My Weekend In Melbourne

A mug of coffee on a table next to a notebook.

Coffee, Writing...


A man with the face of a little girl, and a little girl with the face of a man.

Family...

Marion Bay

There's two things I don't like about the roads on the Yorke Peninsula. One is that they're very bumpy, and two is that there's too much roadworks.

One good thing about these roads is that they took Vanessa and I to Marion Bay for a weekend of walks, beaches and a combination megacouch.

A shoeprint in the sand.

I saw a lot of my own footprints during our hikes in Innes National Park.

It was a nice trip. Not only do they have spectacular cliffs and places to swim, but there's also 4G mobile reception.

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A Baxter Inn

I was in Sydney for a conference today, and I made the poorly-reasoned decision to attend the networking drinks afterwards. I spoke to no one, drank a beer quickly, then fled downstairs to write by a phone charger.

I still had over an hour to kill before I needed to leave the city. I opened Maps to plot my route to the train station, and that’s when I saw, a few hundred metres away, a pub named The Baxter Inn.

Only a few people would recognise this significant of this. Why Google’s unfeeling brain felt the urge to present me with it, I can guess. It probably has something to do with one of the heavily-used tags in my Keep notes, plus the time of afternoon. I clicked on the details and learned that the venue offered an amazing selection of whiskeys and gins. I wondered if this also included the most exotic of dark, spiced rums.
I was already walking. I was about to find out.

I turned down a narrow alley off Clarence Street, which widened into an old loading dock shrouded in the shadows of skyscrapers. In the corner was a speakeasy, bottles of liquour visible through the windows.

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I stepped through the low doorway and approached the bar where a young man with a hipster haircut and a trimmed moustache watched me approach with a friendly smile.
“I’m looking for a dark, spiced rum,” I said. “What do you recommend?”
He glanced over his shoulder at the long shelves of whisky bottles. “We only have one, actually.”
“What is it?”
“Bacardi.”
“Oh,” I said.

I had nowhere else to go, and the itch to write more, so I ordered a dark, spiced Bacardi (which wasn’t actually that bad). I sat in the corner of the bar, working on a short story by candlelight, learning how to sip while negotiating the single, giant ice-cube that floated in my cup. I wrote a couple of pages, felt good about it, noticed on a coaster that the name of the place was not actually The Baxter Inn. I’d gone and bloody stepped into the wrong speakeasy-down-a-laneway-on-Clarence-street and some delicious, spiced rum was in a bottle waiting for me somewhere else. Or maybe The Baxter Inn didn’t exist, or it did but it was in a different universe to the one I was in. That could make sense.

The Moment You Realise You're Not In Adelaide Today

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