Seasonal Stress

Every year on December 26, I tell myself that I’m going to give myself a break next year – you know, give the whole Christmas thing a miss and disappear to a remote island for a month instead. “There’s heaps of time to arrange that,” I think to myself. “I’ll sort it out in a few months.” Of course, it never happens, and next thing I know December has rolled around and I’m at my wits’ end once more.

Well, this year I’m discarding my supposed festive obligations to family and friends and booking myself in for a last-minute holiday. I could call it a present to myself, but it’s actually just basic stress management. Melbourne might not be the most jitters-inducing city in the world, but it’s no tranquil haven, either – especially at this time of year. I’m over the sleep deprivation, heart palpitations and general state of anxiety instilled by the endless hubbub of traffic, advertising and assorted social demands.

I mean, sure – there are probably some stress management techniques I could apply in my day-to-day life that might keep me from reaching the breaking point of needing to chuck in my plans to go sit on a beach alone. Like, maybe if I occasionally had some time to myself throughout the year, I would feel so overwhelmed by December’s high social load.

The stress in my life could be seen as a good thing, I suppose, since it brings viscerally to my attention the fact that my lifestyle could do with a bit of a touching up. It is certainly motivating me to prioritise what’s actually important to me, namely my health and wellbeing. I don’t really have any choice – if I keep this up, I’m going to end up with high blood pressure or something.


So, having thought that through… what’s the plan? Do I take myself off for a well-deserved break – stress leave from family, friends and acquaintances, so to speak – or do I simply do my best to carve out a bit of time for myself this festive season?

New No More

Disclosure: I don’t understand how people can be into that acrid ‘new car’ smell. If car air freshener manufacturers are to be believed, there are those who like it so much they’ll actually go out of their way to buy products to create it – apparently, they’re big sellers. As for me, it makes me want to retch. That’s why I’m thrilled to say that my car has finally stopped smelling that way.

Unfortunately for my wallet, this coincides with it being time to take my no-longer-so-new car for the first of many annual services. This is the first new car I’ve ever had, so I’m on a mission to hook myself up with the best mechanic Northcote has to offer. It can’t be that hard, can it? A lot of garages these days do servicing and repairs by the manufacturer’s logbook, I’m told, and are just as good as going through a dealership.

Still, there’s always that slight bit of trepidation around mechanics that we all carry around. You know – that fear stemming from that one time we had to get an unexpected transmission service four hours inland from Byron Bay, shattering both our bank account and our self-confidence in our ability to adult.

Trust me, this concern can be overcome – it’s just a matter of reminding yourself that you’ve lived and learned, and you’re no longer driving a van that you bought from your mate’s older brother for $400. You’re not driving across the desert on a whim, entirely unprepared. You might not be driving a new car, or even a reliable one, but at least you’re have an awareness of limits when it comes to your ride’s capabilities. You understand the value of a current roadworthy certificate.

To be truthful, I never even wanted a new car – partly because I hate that smell, and partly because the stakes are higher when it comes to maintaining the thing. I like stuff that’s a little bit beaten up – just enough to not have to cringe for days when you put a scratch in it. Anyway, my car’s officially no longer new… yay!

Tender Loving Car

Cars: so convenient, yet such a pain in the rear end. Honestly, sometimes it’s like having a temperamental child – granted, one that you can leave out in the driveway and only wash when you feel like it. That’s been my experience, anyway, up until now. I’m super grateful to have a car that’s dependable, resilient, and up to the task of everything my lifestyle throws at it.

The poor thing has had a couple of injuries in the past week, though. First, I discovered a big scrape in the paintwork after parking in a narrow street, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t my doing. Then, I somehow managed to clip the left side mirror on a pole, causing the glass to smash. I guess it’s time for a trip to see a mechanic. Ringwood people, tell me who’s good for getting this sorted in a hurry.

That’s the thing about cars. You become reliant on them, and then your whole schedule gets thrown out of whack when you don’t have access to one. Things stop running like clockwork when you’re exposed to the realities of public transport, which I suppose is kind of healthy. It’s not my style to be utterly dependent on a machine to run my life, and it’s good to remember that there are other ways of managing things.

I might as well think about if there’s anything else that needs doing on the car if I’m going to take it in to Ringwood. Automotive services aren’t something I’m great at keeping track of, and it’s possible that I’m due for one right about now. If so, that’d actually be pretty handy – gotta love a bit of efficiency. 

My elderly neighbour did ask me if I could talk to someone about RACV inspections and roadworthy certificates, although I’m not totally sure what he has in mind. I assume he’s looking to sell his ute. But I think looking out for one car child is about all I can deal with right now.

Family Values

There’s no finding the sweet spot when it comes to creating a comfortable environment for the whole family. That may be a hard pill to swallow, but it can’t be denied if you’ve ever attempted to manage the climate control preferences of at least three people at a time. You’d think genetic relationships would make it easier – like, that at least one of the kids would have similar preferences to at least one of the parents. I can confirm that that’s not necessarily the case.

The best solution I’ve arrived at is to continually toggle the thermostat up and down until the next round of complaints. I have to say, adults do some of the worst of the worrying, partly because they’re concerned about the kids getting the chills, overheating or simply being exposed to too many fluctuations in temperature. Then they start getting in a flap about how they haven’t booked their ducted gas heating repairs. Melbourne might be getting cold, but there’s still time before winter – settle down, will you?

Honestly, it’s a luxury to have any form of heating system, let alone ducted heating and cooling. Melbourne is an extremely fortunate place to call home – much safer for your kids than a good many other places in the world. So how about relaxing a little about those tiny imperfections in your home environment?

Besides, here’s the thing: the kids are going to have to get used to fluctuating temperatures, no thanks to our love of climate controlled comfort. You might as well let them get accustomed to it early by letting it be a couple of degrees off that elusive perfect air temp. I’m sorry if that seems a bit dark, and I’m not trying to make you feel bad. It’s not your personal fault, and I know that I’m sure as heck not going to hold back from heating my home over winter. It’s just some food for thought next time you start obsessing about whether your kids are in their optimal growth setting.

Dad’s Day

It’s my dad’s birthday in a week, and I have no idea what to get him. Without fail, I get to the same point each year at a complete loss as to what he’d like. Christmas is generally not a problem because we have a family secret santa, and mum always rigs it so that one of dad’s brothers gets his name out of the hat. And for Fathers’ Day, I just take him out for lunch. On his birthday, though, there are expectations that I’m perpetually unprepared to meet.

It’s not my fault. He’s not clear in communicating what he likes, although he’s always been happy to pontificate at length on what he doesn’t like. He’s always hopping between hobbies, too, swaying like grass in the wind between woodwork, restoring old motors and building ponds.

His current thing is boats, so I should probably just get on with it and buy him something related to that. But he has a habit of expecting would-be gift givers to know as much about his current area of interest as he does, despite the fact that he’s useless at communicating about it. It’s infuriating!

I know what’s going to happen. I’ll spend ages finding a store that sells, say, stainless steel snapper racks. He’ll find something about them that’s not quite right – even if they’re top of the line and selected as per the make of his boat. Then I’ll have to find someone to fix them to his liking, and traipse out to a place that does custom marine welding. Melbourne might not be that hard a place in which to find such a service, but it’s not on my usual circuit, that’s for sure.

If dad just told me straight out what he wanted, I could save myself a lot of fuss and bother, along with my father’s rejection of my gift in its original state.  I guess it’s easiest if I just think of it as me giving him the gift of something to complain about.

The Handbag’s Tale

Personally, I see nothing wrong with a novel from the perspective of a handbag. For as you see, novels can be from the perspective of anything. I wouldn’t expect anyone in this group to have read something with such graceful prose, but Confessions of an Icicle by Natalie Dusky is written entirely from the point of view of an icicle, and we get to read about all the many and interesting things it sees before it melts.

Sorry, spoilers. Anyway, no spoilers for Brown Leather Bag on Tour, my upcoming self-published novel for which cover art has not been finalised, but here’s a minor spoiler: it’s a brown leather bag. A really nice looking leather bag, and based off one that I own. As a matter of fact, I got the idea when I realised that I take my handbag with me everywhere I go, it sees everything I see and maybe even more, so in a sense this handbag is living a life just as full and rich as mine. And what would it say, if it were able to talk? What stories would be told? These are all the questions that inspired me to write my epic.

Of course, coming up with a complication in the tale was difficult, and so was the process of crafting a villain. I decided that my bag probably has a rival in Irene’s black leather bag, because we see each other all the time and work and coffee, and we lay down our handbags next to each other, and I’m creating an interesting contrast between me and Irene’s friendship and the intense rivalry between my brown leather bag and this black leather bag.

I mean…leather slouch bags in general are items that are designed to look good, as fashion statements. Makes sense that they’d have their own strengths and insecurities. And that they’d see these outings as wacky adventures with beginnings, middles and ends. Right?


Lucky Schmuck

Does bad luck always come in sets of three? Please tell me it doesn’t… I’m on two strikes already today, and I really don’t have the wherewithal to deal with anything more.

First, my toaster exploded, which I hadn’t known was a thing. Did you know that that can happen? Well, it can, and I’m here to tell the tale. There’s not a huge amount to said tale, but it was a bit of a stressful start to the day. Then, my car broke down on the motorway, and now here I am waiting for roadside assistance instead of nailing that property deal down on the coast.

What’s the third thing going to be? The client thinks I’m flaky and backs out on the whole meeting? I find out that my engine has conked it? Or perhaps something completely unrelated, like tripping over a stray brick and twisting my ankle?

Whatever. Right now I need to focus on getting hold of a decent car mechanic. Mornington locals, who’s good for this type of thing? I suppose I should wait for the RACV person to point me in the right direction. I just feel like I don’t have that much time to wait around for them to get here.

While I have very limited knowledge of Mornington, car repair workshops included, I do know that my client isn’t going to be stoked about the delay, even though it’s clearly not my fault. I mean, maybe it is – I have put off having an annual car service for a couple of years now. But the client doesn’t need to know that. 

Maybe I need to put a different spin on this. Maybe I’m actually having a bout of good luck. The toaster exploding when and where it did might have been the difference between my house burning down or not, and I got away with barely singed eyebrows. Similar logic could apply to the car breakdown – the outcome could have been a lot worse.

Be Safe Around Electricity

Back when I was a lad, my parents always said to me: “We have no son, and we renounce thee.”

Yes, they were quite the old-fashioned sort, may they rest in peace. However, there was another thing my Dad said to me once. He was fixing the fuse box behind the house, or attempting to. It was during a thunderstorm, the power had gone out and he and mother were quite determined to watch the re-run of the moon landing. Removing all the swearing, after his multiple failed attempts to fix the box he came back and said “Always, ALWAYS hire a commercial electrician for the big jobs, because it’s not worth your life.”

Then he fell down, and…well, those were his last words, but I learned the valuable lesson that you don’t mess around with electricity if you’re not a trained professional, or wearing special gloves. I wonder what point of your electrician training you have to get to before you can forego the special gloves? Maybe never; it’s not like you receive a qualification one day and become immune to electric shocks. You don’t just go rewiring a house without protective equipment because you’re shielded by the power of your TAFE qualification. My mother didn’t even have a TAFE qualification; she just thought she’d start rewiring the house anyway, out of anger, possibly at how she could have had a childless existence and she took a different path. Anyway, she joined father on that day. And that’s why you always wear gloves.

I’m no electrician, of course, so you don’t need to listen to any of the silly old words coming out of my mouth. I’m just assuming that all the electricians Bayside area locals would normally think to hire must go to work fully protected – with clothing AND knowledge.


More VR Lemurs

I didn’t really think a day out at the Lemur Sanctuary would be…um, a whole day out, overall. They’re just a few lemurs, how much time could you possibly spend there? Turns out they’ve done a really good job in terms of making you stay for a while, because there all all kinds of special events, the cafe/restaurant is really nice, and they just added a lemur VR experience. And that was a lot more entertaining than it sounds.

Also, there’s quite a story behind the whole thing, so the lemur history section was quite comprehensive. I never thought learning about property conveyancers would be something I’d take the kids to see, but I like the idea of them getting some idea of how conveyancing works, through the magic of lemurs.

See, the place used to be in Keymore, which is where the endangered lemurs came when they were first brought to Australia. Then they had to move it to the current Docklands location, and when you take title transfers and getting a whole horde of lemurs into a new property, that’s a logistical nightmare that the conveyancers probably hadn’t dealt with before. I think the place was a zoo, quite a while ago, and then there was a hubbub over who actually owned the place, more conveyancers were brought in, the lemurs were all moved to their new, much larger habitat, some lawyers got involved, even MORE conveyancing solicitors were brought in, and eventually it all worked itself out. The official Melbourne property transfers were settled, they got permits to transform the place, and the whole venture was saved.

By this time the rest of my family had gone to try to lemur VR simulator for the third time, but I’m the type of person who a) enjoys property ownership debates and b) reads absolutely every placard at museums. I was quite happy in my history room.


Ever-Changing Rooms

Ever since I cast an enchantment on my kitchen and bathroom, I’ve been very happy with this new home. The place just felt so…static before. See, I’m used to a degree of change, due to my quarters in the castle being under the same spell of transfiguration. This meant that the place looked completely different every single time I walk in the room, and it’s the same here now. Today I went to the bathroom to do the regular bathroom things, and it had renovated overnight to give itself a nautical theme. Porthole and all. It was quite nice.

With that in mind, I can see why people are so into the idea of kitchen and bathroom remodelling in this realm…albeit without magic, so it becomes time-consuming and quite costly. Still, worth the wait. Sometimes I wonder if I could get into the kitchen renovation business instead of my current position helping out with children’s parties, which I despise. But then, even banished wizards are taken to task if they use their magic to interfere, or especially if they use magic to garner fame and fortune for themselves. This is meant to be a punishment, after all. Besides, I already have to cast subtle twisting spells to make the appropriate balloon animals for the demanding children, and that in itself is skirting the edges of the law.

Just imagine, though…someone would ask me to create them the perfect bathroom, and I would be able to do it in any number of ways. I could animate their drawing or plan with a life-projection spell. I could astrally project the image of the perfect kitchen renovation onto the minds of anyone who walks into the room. I could cast a complicated enchantment of longing upon the room, so that it transforms into the shape one wishes for.

Bit risky with that one, though. At least with conventional, non-magical renovations, the room stays as it is. People might notice if they thought it’d be nice to have a dishwasher and one suddenly sprouted from the wall.