I’m back from a quick break! Michael and I spent a week at Ocean Grove. A relatively quite seaside town on the Bellarine Peninsula.
For the first time in many years, I abandoned technology and took only my mobile phone. No laptop or tablet within sight. On my mobile I stopped all Facebook and Twitter alerts, removed the auto sync on my email and put it on Do Not Disturb for all incoming calls (I also used a natty feature to allow SMS and calls from family only)
When we went out somewhere I left my phone at home. I remember the old days when you could only call people when they were actually at home. And if you were away you’d have to call them on a public telephone, you even had to put coins into it.
In sharp focus too was the benefit of running two mobiles – I have one for work and one for private. A different mobile for work is such a wonderful idea.
After about 10 days of living like this I quickly came to understand just how my communication methods have changed in the last 10 years. Emails are constantly checked, every time a new one arrives my phone makes a noise. Facebook notifications alert me to new postings in groups and from close friends with a green flashing light, breaking news from Twitter comes with my phone vibrating with excitement.
The other new and exciting advance is TV on demand. Streaming TV means I can watch shows whenever I want. I’m currently up to Season 3 of The West Wing, watched all the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister episode, have Star Trek whenever I like and Faulty Towers is always worth watching for the 100th time. Just as well I left my laptop and Google Chrome Cast at home too then, sitting watching TV all day when the weather is a bit bad is tempting…
That leaves me with three things, walking, listening to music, and reading (and listening to) books. Sometimes I combined all three. Although reading and walking will get you into trouble pretty quickly.
It was a bit disconcerting to start with to feel out of the loop with current news around marriage equality. I quickly got over that. There’s plenty of others to be outraged while I take a break!
On a fairly bleak morning, with light drizzle I pulled on my walking shoes, stuck my Akurba on my head, raincoat on my back, plugged the earphones in my ears, because that’s the most effective place to put them, and went for a 5 hour walk.
There’s a fantastic walking/cycling track that runs from Ocean Grove, around to Barwon Heads, then onto the Barwon Heads Bluff. With the audio book “The Martians” by Andy Weir being read to me by R. C. Bray, I headed off on the beach track. The day was overcast and drizzling. I could hear the rain falling on the brim of my hat. The water would gather and form a droplet that would sit on the brim just between my eyes until finally dropping off. With the Southern Ocean on my left and the bushland on my right (and sometimes the road) I listened to the story of a man stranded on Mars and how he survived (yes, it’s fiction, I know). While soaking in the fresh wet air and looking at the rolling waves, I was entertained and given the weather it felt like I was stranded in a far away place, the only human within 1000’s of kilometres.
It doesn’t take long to get to the iconic bridge that spans the Barwon River, as I walked across it I can see a cafe built right on the river bank, that looks like an ideal place to have my lunch.
Reluctantly I remove my Martian tale from my ears, take off my wet coat and hat at sit at a table that overlooks the mouth of the river and back across to the bridge I’ve just walked over. A quick look at the menu of At the Heads I settle on “Ancient grain superfood salad” with its kale, brocollini, pumpkin, pomegranate and more quinoa than you can poke a stick at. Anything with kale in it must be good for you! I take my time savouring the flavours of the salad with nothing to distract me but the wonderful view.
From here I continue around the walk track to the top of the bluff, taking plenty of time to stop and admire the view set out before me. The river splits the land with its wide banks and snakes its way around before opening up to the ocean. Small boats and a few people fishing are the only ones out, the rest are probably sitting in the cafe watching them. The track takes me through the low scrub that grows along the coastal area. It must be way too windy for anything significant to grow. Small New Holland honey eaters, wattle birds and wrens flit about. Along the road way I can see the local tradesman driving their utes and slowing down to look at the surf. Later in the day they’ll descend upon the beaches with their surfboards for their afternoon surf. All part of the coastal lifestyle.
I wander around the track and it leads me along the coast before crossing the road and skirts around the local golf course and back into Barwon Heads. I then head back to the house, but this time I walk along the beach. Slower going but very rewarding.
Michael and I did a 10k run one night, running along the coast, around the back of a caravan park and through a wonderfully green pasture, that actually turned out to be a golf course, luckily nobody was hitting their balls. The other run I did was 7k, in the early morning with a fog sitting at ground level. I ran along the beach, the tide was out and just off at the edge of visibility I could see the waves crashing, it looked like the fog was rolling over on itself and then draining away to nothing. A little eerie.
I read five books, three of then actually real paper books, reviews below. I enjoyed getting up early in the morning, making a coffee in my little espresso coffee pot and sitting outside with a book for a couple of hours, nibbling on some fruit and making copious cups of delightfully black coffee. Mixing it up sometimes, I’d spend time listening to music that I had dumped onto a memory stick, and some podcasts that I had downloaded. As well as the audio book.
Disconnecting from the world is at first daunting for someone who is well-connected and an active user of technology. I enjoy having access to a world of information at my finger tips. However, I see the real life benefit to me to remove the distraction of the brave new world.
Give it a go on your next break.
The Life of Every Party – Noel Tennison. 2014, Primrose Hall Publishing Group. (ebook here)
Noel is a personal friend and a man of many talents. This is his second book. The first called “My Spin in PR”. This is an engaging tale of his life, funny, witty and an eye opener into the back story of Australian politics in Queensland and Victoria. Noel has a history in the trade union movement, and from there launched himself into running political campaigns. He tells the story of his early years in Brisbane growing up without his parents, and landing job after job. It’s a nostalgic view of a different time of 1940’s & 50’s Australia. He tells stories about his time as an illegal SP bookmaker. Noel worked for many different political parties, he seems to have been able to separate his personal politics from his professional politics. How else do you explain how this Queensland left-wing Shop Steward was able to take a contract with the Victorian Liberal party to get Dick Hamer elected, while also working for the National Party. Knowing the author personally, and having spent many hours with Noel hearing some of these stories straight from the horses mouth, I could see him waving his hands around, one with a glass of red as he warms to the story telling.
The Inimitable Mr Meek – Joan Luxemburg, 2015, Art Gallery of Ballarat (Exhibition page here)
James McKain Meek came to Australia from England in 1838. He made his way to the Ballarat and tried his hands at many different occupations. What he is most known for is his intricate microwriting artwork. He never really made it to the big time, so to speak, and his passion was his microwriting, even though he tried his hand at many things. A well travelled man, who loved to gather knowledge and share it. He died in poverty and is mostly forgotten. I saw some of his work at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, and could have spent days just looking at it. The book is full of examples of his work, some of it blown up so you can see the fine penmanship. If you do find the book, make sure you’ve got a magnifying glass.
Alice in Wonderland including Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll, 1865 (ebook)
A classic tale that I haven’t read since my childhood. However, as we were driving to Ocean Grove we listened to a Science Show from May 2015, it included a story about the book to celebrate it’s 150 anniversary. The line that grabbed my attention was when the reporter, Stephanie Pradier, said this:
As a young woman with degrees in both physics and philosophy, re-reading Alice I have discovered so much more, and it means so much more. The play on words, the puns, the homophones, the mathematical inverses, the nonsensical logic hidden throughout. Alice is just as entertaining in my late-20s as she was in early childhood.
It’s worth listening to the story and picking the book up for another read.
Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell, 2006, Penguin Books Ltd (ebook)
I had read one of his other books, Outliers – The Story of Success and enjoyed it. Blink takes a different angle and talks about how we make decisions. From a professional point of view, I found the book invaluable as it gave me plenty of information and detail about how I come to make decisions. I understand that sometimes my ‘gut reaction’ is the right decision, however, it takes time for my brain to catch up with an initial impression. I’m not suggesting you just go with your gut feelings, because sometimes we do get it wrong. Having an understanding of the inner workings of a brain is helpful both professionally and personally.
The best read for the week was Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, a present from my daughter. Dr. Seuss, 1948. It tells the story of Thidwick and his horns. Just go read it.