Aberdeen

I’ve been a wanderer all of my life, and many’s the sight I’ve seen…

There is no Aberdeen to which I long to return. My whole life has been spent moving on. There has never been anywhere for me to return to, because it was no longer there after I left.

I can remember two homes in England before I was five. We had five more homes in four towns in New Zealand before I was eleven.

The most stable period of my youth was my teenage years in West Auckland. After that I moved around a lot again, until I acquired a family and had a second, relatively stable, period with them in only three locations. And that didn’t last either. Not nearly as long as I wanted. It was not my choice. Which does not mean it was not my fault. I don’t know.

What I do know is there is nowhere to which I can return. No family seat, no family. Just scattered relatives. A few friends.

In the small hours I wonder “What if?” There is no answer except the soft early call of the magpie who roosts in the trees behind my caravan.

I ponder the events that led me here. Living with anyone is difficult. When does the effort become too much? Is the person wiser who decides “enough” or the one who keeps trying? Who is at fault, when someone calls enough? Perhaps the fault must always be borne by both.

I am trying to be more zen in my introspection and self-appraisal. I accept what is, but still can’t help wondering what if? I am the sum of my memories. I owe it to myself and the world to ensure my memories are honest and clear.

I was not a good son, I was not a good brother, I proved to be a poor husband, Twice. I truly don’t know any more what kind of father I was. I want to write accurately about my memories. Of what made me what I am. That will not always put me in a good light, but it also may not please those who get to see themselves as I saw them. They may see my perception of causality as blame. But one does not blame the sun for sunburn. It is what happens.

Well. Wow. I didn’t know that was where I was going when I started this post.

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Buoyancy

I’m not doing nearly as well as I expected, despite some positive signs. In the pool yesterday, I spotted something someone had dropped in the deep end and dived to retrieve it. Successfully. That may not seem much of an accomplishment but not so long ago I was so buoyant with adiposity that I could not sink no matter how I tried. Though I could float on my back and snooze without fear of drowning, I could not reach the bottom of the pool no matter how hard I tried. Now, I can swim down.

This positive sign perhaps explains why my weight loss graph has plateaued in the last couple of weeks. I’m developing muscle, which is denser than fat. I am still incrementally tightening the drawstring in my waistband, so something positive is happening.

The best time of day is when I am weightless in the pool. I am virtually pain and discomfort free . I feel as fit as I was when I made my marathon swim around Mayor Island over 47 years ago. But climbing out and returning to the gravity of the world leaves me limping and hobbling like the old man I have become. Riding the bicycle is my second pleasure. Seated, so my knees bear no weight, and with my feet positioned properly on the pedals, the discomfort in my knees is minimal, and the ache in the muscles of my calves and thighs is an acceptable sign of effort being rewarded. Climbing off the bike at the end of my journey is a painful return to reality. I have to take care not to fall over. I believe it is time to talk to the doc about new knees, and get onto that waiting list.

My mental buoyancy is better. Despite occasional bouts of loneliness when I am acutely aware that I am far away from my family and closest friends, I am coming to embrace solitude, and the self-awareness that comes with it. I have left so much behind. Lost so much. I am not, and never was, the person I wanted to be. Perhaps I am where I am now because it is where I deserve to be. That is not self-pity, it is self-appraisal.

Part of me wants to return to New Zealand, but why? My family don’t need me. I actually have fewer friends there than I do in Western Australia – and the weather is worse. I’d be financially worse off. Plus there is the inertia that seems to come with old age. I find it difficult to even contemplate moving on from the camp I am in.

One of my neighbours has a sign on his cabin “Der Komandant, Stalag Luft 13”. The old chap has a sense of humour like mine. Despite the title he has given himself, he knows he is a prisoner, like the rest of us.

Neighbours

Every body needs good neighbours.

I have good neighbours. Some are more disabled than I, yet they are always cheerful. Or at least when they are not, like me they try not to show it. The other day on a whim I made some savoury muffins for breakfast. They turned out so well I shared the recipe here.

At 600 kJ each, even though I only made half a dozen, I could not eat them all before they went stale. I thought I should share them with the neighbours. I went for a walk to share them.

As a direct result, during a conversation about mobility, one of my neighbours kindly offered me his mobility cart when the Veterans Association supplies him with a new one next year. Who knows? If I can’t get these knees working again, I may just need it. I am thinking it is inevitable I shall need new knees after all. All my efforts so far have not helped as much as I thought when I wrote in a moment of optimism a while back.

I know, “no pain, no gain”. I’d settle for no pain.

Having determined that a lack of social interaction may not be conducive to my mental wellbeing, I decided the only answer is to be more sociable. Also, it occurred to me today that although I have been living on Bribie for months I have not yet spent any time on the beach. I’ve visited it, but stayed up on the sealed paths to watch the waves. So I went for a paddle. The water is cold. I was swimming in the sea this time last year, so I probably could now. But not today. The wind was strong and the sea rough. The lifesaver’s flags were not even ten metres apart and only three people were swimming. I struggled through the soft sand back to my bike, which I realised I had not locked, and left with the key turned on. I must pay attention. It was an invitation for someone to ride off on it. You’d think I’d have learned by now. I wheeled it to a park bench and sat down to rest.

A young lad, maybe six or seven years of age, looked at my flag and asked me if I was a pirate. In my best pirate voice I said “Yaarrr, matey. That I be”. His mother looked alarmed and dragged him away.

I probably need a haircut.

Yaaarrr Matey!

The windy conditions reminded me I still had a number of kite kits I could make up and give away. Perhaps though, instead of offering them to random kids as I did in the past, perhaps I’d just tie them to a fence and leave them with a sign saying “free kite”. Probably safer to do that.

While I was pondering this, a chap on a mobility scooter pulled up and asked me about the trailer behind my bike. I told him where he could buy one and we sat for a while, talking about how it might be attached to his scooter and other old codger matters. Ha! My social life just doubled.

When he drove off back to his (probably million dollar) home just one street away from the beach, I was left with a thought that had not occurred to me before. I am in the low socio-economic group of the elderly. Most people with my professional background and education have a home or homes, a boat and/or a caravan, are financially secure and not dependent on the pension and state funded health services.

Somewhere along the line I fucked up.

Arrrr

In the laundry yesterday I met a man with one leg, and a Cornish accent. His prosthetic was a pretty good approximation of the peg leg of yore. He would make an excellent pirate, I thought. In his eighties with white hair and beard, he towered over me, at least 6’4”. I considered offering him my pirate flag to fly from his caravan, but in keeping with my resolution to think before I speak I forebore to do so. He might have taken it amiss.

Besides, I like my flag and may not find another.

We exchanged stories. He is a retired policeman from the UK. He has been a Grey nomad here in Australia for eleven years. He has seen all the places I’ve been and more. I thought he seemed quite interesting, and when I learned he was travelling with his wife I considered inviting them both over for a meal and a drink.

Then he said something racist, and I was glad I hadn’t. Again I thought before I spoke, and by the time I had gathered my wits for an appropriate but non-confrontational response he revealed that he and his good lady would be moving on later this week, heading south.

When the dryer announced it was finished with my washing, I unloaded it, shook his hand and wished him safe travels.

That was my social life for the week.

Sand

I just ate a whole cauliflower. It wasn’t a big one, but it should have been three serves. It was so bloody delicious and I was hungry. I was experimenting with a roast cauliflower cheese recipe I had devised in order to enjoy cauli and cheese without all that high carb, high fat, high calorie white sauce.

The experiment was a success. Very Moorish. I didn’t need to have anything else. I was going to do a salmon steak but i’ll save that for tomorrow.

I earned it. I’ve had a busy day. I did the laundry and tidied up around home a bit before heading to the pool. Unfortunately I had forgotten this week is school sports week. I would have to wait until around three. I’d missed it yesterday because I did not get to the pool until 4.

So I went exploring instead. I pedalled around the roads a while then thought of exploring some of the bush tracks I encountered. They are all over the place. I was riding a mountain bike, and Bribie Island is virtually flat. How hard could it be?

Quite hard, it turns out. Although I am unsteady on my feet when walking I have become a little too cocky about the bike. Rough ground is hard to negotiate when one is putting one’s legs down tentatively to steady oneself. And riding in soft sand is not easy. Even with powered assistance. Neither is walking in sand, but at least I could use the accelerator to make the bike pull itself along and support me as I walked beside it. There is an awful lot of sand on Bribie. I doubt I shall try that again.

I skipped the pool for today and headed to Aldi for fresh groceries. Then home. I hurt. Codeine and an early night, I think.

The Really, Really Fat Persons’ Support Group.

Hello. My name is Alan, and I am morbidly obese. It is four weeks since I ate a pie.

My dietician and psychologist encouraged me to join HELP, the Healthy Eating Life Plan group which meets on Monday afternoons at North Lakes Health Precinct. I attended the first meeting, three weeks ago, but missed the second due to confusion arising over Queen’s Birthday. It was announced there would obviously not be a session on that holiday.

What I did not realise is that Western Australia and Queensland celebrate the holiday in separate weeks. So when the calendar in my iPad told me it was Queen’s Birthday, I did not think to look into where. I just took a holiday. As if every day isn’t already a holiday.

Thus I missed a meeting. QB in Queensland is a week later.

I was reluctant to go in the first place, as I felt I already had a handle on things. I was already motivated, educated, and making progress on my own. Besides, it is an hour drive each way. I could spend that time swimming.

In fact it has so far proved that I am indeed already doing the things they are promoting; planning my meals, balancing the food groups, counting the calories, but not denying myself the foods I like. I feel like I know what the dietician and psychologist are going to say next.

Having given lectures myself over the years, I know there is nothing more irksome than a know-it-all smart-arse in the room when you are trying to make a point. To be frank, this is a life or death matter – for some of us at least. On the other hand some positive examples can be encouraging. And I have learned a few things. I can’t just sit there like one of the plastic vegetable portion sizes they had on display. So I tried to assume the role of the quiet chap in the corner who occasionally comes up with a good idea. But there is this matter of my sense of humour. I know it can be a problem. I like to think it is self-deprecating, but when I call the group the Really, Really Fat Persons’ Support Group, and I am the smallest really really fat person in the room…

Enough of that.

A serious problem with travelling off Bribie Island is that the only route out and back takes me past Beefy’s Pies at Ningi. I can drive past MacDonald’s and KFC without a second thought, but a good pie bakery is another matter entirely. I was forced to abandon any notion of camping at Tin Can Bay after I discovered how very, very good the mushroom pies were at the Tin Can Bay Bakery.

As I only leave the island for medical matters, it has not been often until this weekly session began, so I have not minded indulging myself at Beefy’s whenever I passed.

They do make very good pies.

I may have to rethink that, as a weekly treat of that many kilojoules is not going to be as easy to deal with as a monthly or even bi-monthly one.

I justified it today by promising myself a good two and a half hours of swimming on the way home. I got to the pool at about 4 and was in the water by 4:15. That should have given me plenty of time before the pool closed at 7.

But best laid plans gang aft aglae. At 55 minutes in, I suddenly got an excruciating cramp in, of all places, the second toe of my right foot. I made my way to the shallow end and stood up, relieving the pain immediately. But as soon as I started swimming again it returned. After a couple more tries I knew that was it for the day. I hadn’t even burnt off the energy from the pie. I definitely should not have had chips with it.

Ah well. Tomorrow is another day.

Architeuthis dux

I remember well my one and only encounter with the great giant squid, Architeuthis dux.

It was long ago, when I was young. So long ago, in fact, it was back in the days of pounds, shillings and pence. If you youngsters know what that means.

I was swimming in the sea near Goat Island when I encountered the huge squid, almost 10 metres long. That’s 32 feet as we called it back then. Huge.

Well this was a deep sea creature and was clearly unwell being washed around in the waves and surface currents. I grabbed a couple of its tentacles and dragged it towards the shore.

With a lot of heaving and hefting I managed to get it into the back of my beach buggy. It was pretty flexible.

I knew what to do. I drove straight to my friend John’s place. Luckily he was home.

I knocked on his door. “John!” I called.

“I’ve got that six quid I owe you”.