I had been a rut for far too long, and I knew it was time for a change.
But change I knew came with difficulties. Old habits are hard to break. I liked my habits, they were comfortable, predictable, and I knew where I stood with them.
But I also knew I was going nowhere. It was the same shit/different day. I was beginning to despise myself.
The first thing I decided to change was my shopping habit. I always shopped in the afternoon; I was comfortable there with the hordes of others all pursuing the same bargains as me, standing in line at the checkout, often wondering why the person in front of me was buying six packs of toilet deodoriser and one small pack of toilet paper.
I realised one day I had become judgemental of people based on what they bought, how they dressed and how they spoke.
So yesterday I was up early and off to the supermarket where there was me and two other people. The shop was practically deserted, and it felt odd. But at the same time energising knowing I had the shop pretty much to myself.
The other thing I noticed was the checkout girl was much more relaxed, not stressed like the afternoon girls so often were. This was a beginning I was going to enjoy.
Next, I started playing with different routes, to work, to play to my friend Hilda’s.
Hilda and I had been going out for the past ten years. It too was predictable; we knew where we stood, we did the same thing each week, visited on Thursday, shopped on Saturday, had dinner on Friday and breakfast Sunday morning. We went to the same restaurants, ordered the same food; to those around us, we were boring a couple if not predictable.
Changing Hilda, establishing some new beginning, was going to be a challenge as Hilda was more stuck in her ways than me.
One Saturday morning, I drove us to the beach instead of the supermarket. It freaked her out a bit. She was a creature of routine, she didn’t like change, and she especially didn’t like change being foisted upon her. But it was a beautiful day, the water warm, the air clear; it wasn’t long before she began to enjoy being there. We decided this was a good way to begin each Saturday and so began visiting there, hail rain or shine.
I did change a few things over time. It was a slow process, and I know I fought tooth and nail against many, but I began to see the benefits.
Change is a good thing, beginning something new can be exciting and thrilling in so many ways. I’ve become so very aware falling back into old habits and even more aware of starting new ones where I find myself basking in my own sense of comfort.
Bubbles looked at the sight before him realising it was the same one he’d looked at for the past ten years.
Four grey walls, a small excuse for a window and the crushing reality of this was his world.
Now in his sixties, he had spent the last forty of them in rooms just like this one.
With age came the understanding of a life less well spent. When he was young and vibrant, the name Bubbles had been a moniker he had thrived under.
In old age, he knew there was nothing ‘bubbly’ about him. He shuffled nowadays in his gait; his appetite was diminishing, he health more and more dodgy as each day went by.
He had tried a few times to have himself known as George, his real name, but there didn’t seem to be any way he could change a lifetime of being known as Bubbles. Somethings he knew just stuck.
Today marked his last day. He dreaded that tomorrow they would release him, and the thought terrified him. He’d spent so much of his life incarcerated, he knew he’d become institutionalised. He knew it, everyone knew it, and for many around him, it was the source of jokes as to how Bubbles was going to manage on the outside.
The social worker had taken him under her wing, had spent time with him educating him, as best she could, about the outside world. So much had changed that for the most part, he could make neither head nor tail of any of it.
There was no family to go to. They had moved on from him, dissociated themselves, changed their names, moved towns he’d not heard from any of his ‘family’ in a lot of years.
He was on his own; he knew that he’d either make a go of it or he’d be back inside as soon as he could manage it.
He had reckoned there had to be more to life than the one he’d been leading all these years. He was excited and at the same time very anxious about venturing outside.
There were plenty of stories of guys who didn’t make it, ended up back inside and plenty more who couldn’t cope and took life into their own hands.
He had his stuff packed by the break of day. There was a halfway house arranged for him, a job with the council street workers so he knew he wouldn’t starve and he had somewhere to be.
It was the lack of routine that scared him the most. Being his own boss, responsible for getting up and to work, knowing he was now the master of his destiny. When you’d lived a life of total organisation that in itself was a huge ask.
He shook hands with Phil, the guard on gate duty and took his first steps in so many years, into the sunshine.
Crisp, my aged companion, had a thing for art galleries. We came across one in the visitors centre and Crisp was eager to visit to Kempingville to see what the brochure described as ‘innovative and cutting edge’.
I looked down at the pile of rubble on the floor, puzzled as to why the mess wasn’t cleaned up before they opened the doors.
“It’s an installation,” Crisp explained, “the artist has depicted the loss of innocence and the destruction of the environment in one beautiful piece.”
“He has?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” replied Crisp the level of enthusiasm in her voice was positively enlightening. She proceeded to walk around the floor viewing the rubble from all angles. “Wonderful, just wonderful,” she exclaimed.
I tried to see the work from her perspective but no matter how hard I tried my most primitive instinct was to go find a broom.
In 1916 my Great Uncle Hector received the call to go over the top.
I’m not sure how far he got before death greeted him, but I bet he was more afraid than ever about what he was doing.
Another innocent to the slaughter.
He was a young man answering the call to defend king and country.
He and his two brothers set sail from country New South Wales, believing it was their duty to fight the Hun and support their one-time mother country.
The boys had come to Australia with their father in 1900 and joined their uncle in country New South Wales.
In France, they encountered the harsh reality of war. It was mud and blood and trenches, with young men suddenly realising that there was nothing glamorous nor exciting about war if fact getting killed was the greatest reality.
I hope when the time came for Hector that it was quick and painless, that he was here one second and gone the next. If not the alternative is all but unthinkable.
Today there is a field of crosses in a field in France the only evidence of him and others who died having gone over the top.
His father and family must have been heart-broken when they received that chilling telegram. I don’t know if he left a sweetheart behind, in fact, I know very little about him as they were like so many of the time, not the best at writing things down.
His brothers returned in various states of injury. One of them Robert, became my grandfather, the war must have had an impact on him, he suffered from being gassed, and sadly he died a relatively young man. The pleasing thing about my grandfather is he lives on through my sons, one of whom has an uncanny likeness to him.
My great uncle, like many others, went over the top, they paid with their lives, but their efforts did give rise to the great oxymoron, military intelligence.
The inhabitants we would find intriguing if not repulsive. They, like humans, are gregarious; they like to mill around a lot.
Togetherness, they consider strength.
They don’t any concept of time as we do but rather measure the daylight and darkness. Their environment they treasure, accept and nurture.
The planet provides more than adequately for them. It is, for the most part, a land of plenty. They enjoy their daylight hours working the land, sowing weeding and harvesting.
Social order is a collective endeavour. Long ago they decided how they wanted to live, and they concluded that getting along with one another was a far better idea than any alternative. As a result, ego is a dirty word and has, for the most part, been evolved out of their makeup.
They enjoy making and seeing their neighbours happy and content. Competition only exists at harvest time when they marvel at the feats of others in producing that little bit more.
Physically they are more blob-like than humanoid. They have no clear features such as eyes and limbs but rather get about by hovering over the ground. They are surprisingly agile, and as we know, looks can be deceiving.
They are vegetarians and have evolved a simple and efficient way of eating.
Their mouths are beneath their bodies. As they hover over the ground, they are able to settle on a patch of grass and devour it. It is an efficient method requiring neither bending nor limbs.
You’d expect with their mouth where it is body waste would be an issue, but where we would expect their hips to be there is an outlet that deals just as effectively with that issue.
They are very herd-like such that when not working on growing and nurturing the land, they roam the grasslands together. They have no shelter as we might imagine it, as their skin is impervious to weather. At night they simply stop and wait till the sun rises and start all over again.
How they produce more of their kind, I’m not sure, but it must be equally as efficient as everything else about them as there are plenty of the beings in existence.
On one occasion, one fell and injured itself. Its skin was ruptured, and it hung limply in pain.
Immediately those closest gathered around it. From within their bodies, needle type apparatus’ appeared and in a matter of seconds had I assumed injected the injured one, and its injuries disappeared.
They communicated with me through their minds. Once they had figured out my brain waves, I began to ‘hear’ what they wanted. Reading one’s mind leaves no place for secrets, which I quickly discovered. They literally removed from my mind everything I knew, and once it was over, as painful as it was, they left me alone.
I settled down to sleep as the entire experience was very tiring and when I woke I was at home in my back yard, they’d deposited me where they found me, under the clothes line.
My wife called out, wondering why I was taking so long to hang the washing, that’s how long the whole experience seems to have taken.
I know it was real as I have bruises on my skull from where they inserted their probes but its not a story to say too loudly as who would believe me.
“Oh look,” I said, “there’s a duck in amongst the reeds.”
Crisp, my aged and learned companion looked to where I was pointing.
“If I’m not mistaken,” replied Crisp, “I believe it a mallard and not a duck but a drake.”
She then launched into a long discourse about the relative qualities of ducks and drakes.
I wasn’t all that interested and said I didn’t give a flying duck about ducks and drakes, which as it turned out, was not the attitude to have. It fired her up even more, and I found myself shutting down with her words floating around me in a meaningless babble.
She never liked me being rude to her and often made clear her feelings.
“Well,” I said, “saying I don’t give a flying drake has not the same impact as a flying duck now does it?”
She looked at me in disgust and stormed off down the track.
An Octopus’s Garden played out in his head every time he went for a dive.
“I’d like to be
Under the sea…”
And under the sea, he did love to be. He never grew tired of the colours and the life that existed below the waves.
He often wished he could stay down longer than his air tank allowed. He was convinced that in a previous life he must have been a fish of some kind such was his affinity for the underwater world.
He often went diving into a landscape that held him on awe. It was a jagged rocky world and contrasted against the harsh landscape was the infusion of the most delicate aquatic life that he never grew tired of.
The tiny colourful fish that made this their home, darting in and around the rocks and the often-mesmerising vegetation that harboured ecosystems of their own.
There was the occasional big fish, the sharks that glided past ignoring him as there was obviously plenty of food for them and they didn’t need to resort to a chewy old body such as his.
Twice he had been captivated by a whale shark. Its massive body came gliding through the water, and he was taken aback by the sheer size of the creature as his slipped past him. It was travelling slow enough for him to swim alongside it and take in the magnificence of this unique creature.
Sometimes he had friends accompany him, which he enjoyed mainly for the de-brief afterwards in the coffee shop at the marina. Their chat describing what they had seen always excited him.
It came as no surprise to any of his friends when he didn’t return from a dive one day. They knew of his love of the sea, to them, he had gone off to join the underwater world, where he felt most at home.