History is what’s happening – 12th-15th February 2018

A fond farewell to Hayden in Brisbane as we lugged luggage again, two coffees down before boarding the plane.  It was nice to fly in over Sydney (yet again) and if Brisbane was 10 times busier than Adelaide then Sydney repeated the feat over Brisbane especially as I struggled with my bags at two stations that didn’t have lifts.  My dodgy elbows are extremely upset with me but what can a poor boy do.

Tonight I would stay with my friend Billie, her husband Jade and their daughter, Nexis, in the upmarket suburb of Killara on the North Shore of Sydney.  They live in a house far too big for them, boxes still not unpacked from moving in 9 months ago.  It did mean they could offer a spare room for this temporarily homeless wanderer for which I was grateful.

I met Billie about 10 or 11 years ago when I was part of a dragon boat racing team, representing Australia (somehow!), in a dirty bay on Hong Kong Island.  Billie’s family head the institute of dragon boat racing in HK and Billie and her sister, Mandy, were the compere’s for the races.  Both girls were and are extremely attractive and, Billie especially, bright and outgoing positive personalities.

Needless to say, they attracted the attention of the white boys at the races and at the drunken awards dinner on our last night there.  Myself and another racer went out later for supper with Billie and we decided to stay in touch through email just in case our paths crossed again, under the pretence of sharing our photos of the week’s events with one another.

A few years later our paths did cross again as Billie became an air hostess with Cathay Pacific airlines.  This, of course, took her all over the world, and eventually to Sydney.  She got in touch and we met up one night for dinner.  At the end of that night, she quietly invited me up to her room for coffee.  I didn’t want to presume anything and I have no idea of her intention at the time but something in me decided not to take her up on the offer.

I’ve not really been one for one-night stands and I definitely didn’t want to do that with someone I felt that if I had then that might just be all our relationship might have been.  I liked Billie, a lot, not because she was pretty but because we got on so well and had a lot of fun together.  A friendship was more fulfilling than the possibility of brief exciting encounter and that’s the way I wanted to keep it.

We met a couple more times when she flew to Sydney.  The final time with another of her crew, Kit, also a beautifully attractive girl.  By then I had already met Amy and it was with some pride that we all headed to Amy’s favourite nightclub after dinner, I got to walk up to the dance floor with three amazingly attractive women.

Of course, I didn’t want to embarrass myself by actually dancing so I left them to it.  Immediately they were swamped with guys wanting to dance with them, to which Billie and Amy crossed their arms in big X’s indicating for the guys to go away.  After 15 minutes of this though they became exasperated and we decided to leave.  On our way out a guy near the stairs grabbed Kit’s arm and yanked her towards him at which point I had to intervene and got to tell him that these three girls were all with me.  It made me chuckle to bruise the poor guy’s ego (and radically inflate my own, briefly) as we left the club.

A few more years of staying in touch and Billie told she had met someone from Australia, Adelaide, in fact.  I knew she met a million guys around the world and that she could pick anyone she wanted but this one she met in a bar in Hong Kong.  She said he was not handsome, a bit fat even but had a generous and family-oriented personality.  This was what she was looking for in her ideal partner more than a troublesome good looker.

Then a couple of years later they decided to relocate from Hong Kong to Sydney and ended up living a couple of blocks away from Amy and myself in Chatswood.  We got to hang out a bit more but also were leading busy lives.  A case of when living near the beach you never go for a swim.

Billie and Jade now had a baby on their hands and Billie could become the dragon mum she always dreamed of.  I caught up with her sister Mandy during this time too and she soon was married with a couple of kids of her own.

Anyways, Billie rushed to pick up from the station in her new 4WD, on the phone to her friend, as we rushed to pick up Nexis from school, now in Year One.  Nexis and I always get on like a house on fire, like I do with most kids, and we were soon making fun of her mum and I was getting her into trouble so we were both getting told off.

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Nexis and I played some more, with their water hose – more trouble – and with their French Bulldog Dunstan, short name Dunny.  Billie cooked up a nice veggie dinner for us all, Nexis went to bed and Jade overruled Billie to watch a movie instead of Billie’s favourite Aussie trash TV, Married at First Sight, thank heavens!

Next morning, Billie dropped me in Chatswood, with all my bags and we wished each other well, hoping they can come and visit Amy and me in Thailand sometime in the future.  I spent the morning running around getting coffees and trying to arrange to meet people but everyone was busy.  Never mind – I know you’ll always be there, somewhere.

A train to the city and more coffee as I met up with one of Amy’s best friends Jess as I was staying at her place right in the centre of the city.  We went out for a big seafood dinner to celebrate another friend’s, Grace, birthday, joined by Muoy and Hakan.  Amy had already prepped me to pay for the meal tonight as her gift to everyone and for Grace’s celebration.  Grace kindly reciprocated by offering to take me to the airport a couple of days later.

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Next day was a big run around and I’d been hitting my ten thousand steps easily for a few days now.  In the morning I met Jess at the cafe where she works and got my first free coffee.  We were heading to Chippendale to meet one of my friends who had opened her own cafe recently.  Jess is thinking to do the same in Adelaide sometime in the future so Amy thought it would be a good idea to introduce them and for Jess to get some tips.

On the way there I ducked into another small cafe another Chatswood friend was working at and was offered another free coffee, gladly accepted as always.

In Chippendale, we found my friend’s cafe, the Bean Brewers.  Jenny runs it with her husband and has managed to build up a good little business.  They spent a long time looking for this place and are working hard, seven days a week, to make it a success.  I met Jenny when she was just 16, ten years before, when she was working at my favourite cafe in Chatswood.  She had moved to Australia from Vietnam to study and wanted to stay.  Similar to my own story with Amy, a customer had taken a fancy to her and eventually they got married.

Once again, we all wished each other well and went on our way.  Jess went back home whilst I went to my next appointment, this time at UTS, to see Bronwyn, Hayden’s mum, my ex-wife, the partner of all the 1994 diary entries you can find here.  Twenty four years is a long time and things change and things stay the same.  Bronwyn told me of some photos she had found of our time back in the UK and when I saw them later it was odd to look at the person in the photo that was me.  I didn’t recognise them as me, though I knew it was obviously me.

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After lunch and during another coffee stop my 3pm appointment cancelled which I was actually a little grateful for as the temperature was soaring and I was starting to get sweaty.  I headed back to Jess’ for a quick shower and recovery before heading out again to meet Jochen, at a pub just down the street.

Jochen arrived with his friend, from a meeting that they had just attended.  Jochen works for the Goethe Institute and moved to Sydney with his wife, Sabina and kids, both of whom are a similar age to Hayden.  They actually moved back and forth a couple of times before finally settling on Australia as the place to stay.

I first met Jochen, about 15 years ago I’m guessing, through a band he was playing in with a mutual friend.  Although being from different countries within Europe, which becomes a little competitive, here we were suddenly comrades on foreign turf.  I’m over dramatising but in some ways bonds are made through mutual conditions such as these.

The other thing that drew us together though was our musical interests and our roles within our own DIY music scenes.  The connection was instant, an unspoken understanding of the way things had been, the way we were doing things now and the way we wanted to continue doing those things.  I value Jochen’s friendship above most others – one of those friendships where you may not see each other for a couple of years and you can sit down and continue the conversation as if only a day had passed.

And of course, this was pretty much the situation we were in, having not been in much contact for the previous six months since leaving Sydney.  I expected to be out for a couple of hours, perhaps drop by another friend working in a shop that night too.

Kicked off with interesting conversations with Jochen’s friend, a filmmaker, again about mutual musical interests, particularly the Dutch band The Ex (crazy thoughts arising about how to tour them through South East Asia and Australia), moving on to discussions about working with Japanese musicians for live film scores.

After he left we decided on another beer, and another, conversation free flowing, about our lives, our kids, our futures, about continuing to work together in one way or another and just about generally staying connected.  Something that is so much easier to do now than it was in 1994.

All these thoughts could lead to longer stories that I will have to leave for now.  But that night, my last in Sydney, the beers continued along with the stories and topics and we eventually stumbled out around 1.30am, I think, and on our respective ways.

In a blink, I was asleep and awake again, still drunk and almost voiceless as Grace whisked me to the airport and I jumped on the plane, last time for a while in Australia, hoping for more sleep, which didn’t come.  But I was too drunk to care, too drunk to think.  The perfect exit.

 

Going off! – 22nd May 2011

Chatswood Youth Centre went off last night, rammed with kids!

13th May 2011 – Not sure who was playing and I was probably just passing by to grab some dinner but it was great to see kids coming out to check out the music and for a while, shows were happening there almost once a month. Picture is taken from a video of Legions playing there at some other time.

The Thaw at Chatswood Youth Centre – 13th April 2006

16th May 2021 – I’d forgotten about these shows. Having caught the show organising bug and wanting to stay out of the pub and bar venues as much as possible I decided to approach my local youth centre, just a minutes walk away from home, as they had just built a rehearsal room for aspiring musicians. I ended up doing three or four shows here but others took over to continue the legacy and I would often walk past some evenings or weekends and the Centre would be packed with young hardcore kids listening to their friends bands playing in the corner of the room. I felt very proud that I had played a part in getting that happening, even though the music wasn’t much to my tastes.

From the Thaw blogspot:

to celebrate the opening of a new rehearsal space at chatswood youth centre we’re taking part in a massive “rock vs hip-hop” night of all ages splendour. its us and colatia and chaosmaths, and a rad doco screening too.

we be bringing the forces of ‘rock’ to the suburbs on thursday 13th april. the night kicks off at around 6pm and in a whirlwind will finish somewhere near 8pm. its only $5 to witness the radness with all proceeds going towards helping the youth. and no excuses – its only 5 mins from chatwood train station so utilise public transport children.

I’m just trying to hold on, I said, but when you were gone what could I hold on to? – 8th June 2003

Strange weekend – kinda had plans but things went awry! Felt severely down yesterday and freaked out (in my head) at the shops.

Feel better today, though TLJ has been on my mind and that really gets me low. Decided to call her and spoke for a few minutes. Not sure what it achieved. But I realised when I lost her I lost my best friend – I want that back and know I never will. I want so much and try so little sometimes. Yes, I know – I am my own worst critic. I guess I’m still stuck trying to figure out what to do with my life – cos I sure ain’t doing much right now.

25th April 2022 – Living in Chatswood was very convenient as I was a one minute walk from the shops and station. Though, despite there being a large enough Asian population, a mix of all, shops generally all closed by 6pm, except some restaurants. It started to change in my last few years there but it’s still nothing like the vibrant nightlife actually in Asia.

But sometimes the problem with choice is that it can overwhelm and occasionally, disappoint. In the sentence above describing freaking out, I immediately know my feeling. Being so convenient and having enough disposable income meant that I often ate out, though not usually at restaurants.

There were times I would head out without any idea what I wanted to eat and would get frustrated at not being able to choose. I wonder if at those times I wasn’t actually that hungry and was just expecting myself to eat out of habit. The frustrating search and possibly low blood sugar would freak me out and I would go home despondent and depressed.

The realisation of losing a best friend (yet again, though through choice this time) and the confusion and doubt that was causing me was a wake-up call that I was still ignoring, for whatever reason. The deep passion of the relationship with TLJ was replaced with emptiness.

The Dismemberment Plan’s ‘The First Anniversary Of Your Last Phone Call’ still sends shivers down my spine. The minor chord dirge and the chiming-crying chorus get me every time.

I continued trying to fill it by checking the local newspaper lonely hearts and a dating agency, of which my then less than satisfactory girlfriend, Lorraine, knew nothing. Lorraine wasn’t the right one but we gave it a go, somewhat based on our shared personal demons. Whilst staying with her I was always looking for other options.

This down period of time was what I deserved and due and in hindsight I can see that I knew what was going on with me but still didn’t have the skills to get a foot out of the mire. But it was coming.

Some people are up all the time. Others, like myself, have to go down and up again until we learn enough self-respect and self-esteem to gain some stability.

There are many paths dripping dark so dense – 24th May 2003

What is wrong with my body? Does my sick mind hurt my body too? I get sick a lot – I don’t know why. But this feels different – could just be some weird virus – hopefully nothing more. But what if….?

I feel dizzy or weird when I move my eyes or head and feel sensitive to noise sometimes. The thing is I don’t feel sick – not ill or anything – but it seems my body wants to shut down – I don’t feel like doing anything in particular – just resting or the things I normally do at home. I don’t have the energy to get out really. It’s been like this for about two weeks.

23 Apr 2022 – In 2009 or 2010 I got glandular fever which knocked me around for about 3 months and ever since then whenever I’ve had the symptoms described above, I always put it down to a reoccurrence or triggering of it again. As I was writing this in 2003, it seems like it must be something else that has been causing these symptoms which still bother me even now.

It may be connected with my sertraline medication, which I started taking in 1999 and still take now. I could try and get off it but it’s such a small dose one doctor suggested it may just be a placebo for me. Every time I’ve tried weaning myself from it though, after a while a situation would get me down so much that I would end up taking it again. It’s always worked so I’m a little reticent to stop taking it. I have very little stress in my life now though, so it could be worth thinking about again.

Sometime around 2000 or 2001, I went to an allergy specialist to see if it might an allergy issue but they didn’t find anything in particular, just a pretty general allergy to dust and which I doubted anyway. A highlight of going to this specialist though was the beautiful and friendly Burmese receptionist that worked there. At the end of the day, I would’ve preferred a resolution to my problem but I took what I could get and tried to make the best of the situation.

I often wonder about people that I’ve had brief connections with and what they ended up doing with their lives. These people were usually serving staff in favourite food shops. Mami at the coffee shop next to where I worked in Help Street, Chatswood. Emma, at my favourite Chinese takeaway (Shanghai Gourmet) in the Mandarin Centre, who taught me how to order my favourite dish in Chinese. That may even be Emma in the attached picture. Eun Bi at the Sushi shop. Mikiyo at another coffee shop. Sue from another coffee shop who I was close enough to to hang out with occasionally. After Sue went back to South Korea I became friends with Jenny too. I would meet these friendly people at least once or twice a week for many years in some cases and it certainly paid off to be nice to them as I would often end up with freebies and extras.

And then there was also Jenny, Peter, his wife Nancy and Nisha who all worked at the sandwich shop I would frequent whenever I could. I watched Jenny grow from a quiet 18 year old, unsure of her future to a business owner and now mother. She even asked me for advice about the guys who chatted her up in the shop, eventually asking for more advice about one in particular who she ended up happily marrying. After moving to Thailand she was the only one of my friends who called me to see how I was doing. I remain very grateful for her thoughtfulness and we still stay in touch.