Job hunting is like being at a fancy dress ball and nobody wanting to dance with you.
On the first day you jump on Seek or some other careers site and the world is your oyster. You’re presented with page after page of life-changing employment. Fresh opportunities and the lure of cold, hard cash that’ll elevate you from cask wine to bottled wine, from two-minute noodles to a main at Sushi Noodle Guy.
On day two, once you’ve updated your CV and written a cover letter, you start pumping out the applications. After two or three hours you actually feel like you’ve done a day’s work and sit down for a glass of Banrock Estate, and a hearty bowl of noodles.
When you rise on day three you eagerly scan your email account for all the replies you dreamt about during the previous night’s slumber. Yes, Seek has sent you a ‘Job Application Confirmation’ email but no, your future employers are at work oblivious to your brilliantly written cover letter and excellently formatted CV.
You combat the disappointment of no ‘actual’ replies by applying for more jobs and suddenly you’re surrounded by a flurry of virtual paper swirling around your head, cartoon-like, with daytime television and, in particular, Ellen’s dancing, taunting you from every corner of your mind.
After a couple of weeks of this you find yourself waiting for your name to be called out in Centrelink. You can smell the desperation, and, what’s worse, you’re now a part of a dreaded system where you become accountable for your every inaction. In Centrelink, no one can hear you scream. Well they can but they just call security.
Jobfind is next – the not-for-profit job agency time forgot. Enough said.
A month passes and maybe you’ve embraced unemployment and decided to use this time to write a novel or photograph some street art with the help of a mate who’s always unemployed. Once the project is underway you become elated and regard it as your job (and so you should). You pass off this time of unemployment as an opportunity to explore yourself and your art. Your life develops greater meaning. Until…
… just as you begin to regard yourself as a serious but potentially homeless artist, a recruitment agency call you and invites you in for an interview, and you’re excited but have no idea which job they are talking about.
You rake through your wardrobe for your interview clothes. They need an iron and smell stale, so you spray them with deodorant and leave them out to air.
The next day you front up to the interview and dazzle the recruitment people with your experience and devastating repartee. They smile at you with 21st century teeth and promise you the employment equivalent of a rose garden. You go home, pour yourself a Banrock Estate and a week later you walk into a call centre to start your new job. A team leader greets you wearing the new K-mart range of office wear, and you join five others in a training room to watch a video about telecommunications etiquette.
For three months you endure minimum wage and enthusiastic team leaders who speak in jargon and say, ‘does that make sense’ fifty times a day. You don’t smoke but get in with the smokers because they’re more fun and hate the job as much as you do. You go home each night and drink a couple of bottles of Bowlers Run because it’s less than five dollars a bottle.
One morning you wake up to a call from the recruitment agency advising you that the call centre no longer wants you, muttering something about ‘attitude’. You roll over and go back to sleep.
A few days later you jump on Seek again but deep down you know you’ll be dragging out that arts project in less than a month. You get up, buy a cask of Golden Oak medium dry white and turn on the television.
Ellen dances towards you.
I’m off work sick (not COVID), meaning I have the telly in my bedroom to drown out the coughing and the swearing. This morning, I woke up and turned the telly on to continue drowning out the misery, and what came on the screen? Sunrise morning show with Sam Armitage and that grinning idiot Kochie.
I know they’re easy targets and morning TV is not meant to be high-brow entertainment but I was blown away by the subnormal format. It was like watching two grown adults discovering that their genital region has a hidden function, yes, the joys of masturbation. That moment when you discover that you can run solo during a drought, or fill time with some jolly self-gratification.
It’s all exuberance and no substance, not even the consistency of diarrhea to whet the pallet. And what’s worse, it’s dated. This same shit was on morning shows when I was a kid but at least Paula Yates had some street cred and asked some entertaining questions, instead of grinning like a fart in a trance, and spewing mediocrity into the face of her viewers.
Pass me the bong …
For two months, a bird’s been attacking my window with gusto. In fact, I now call the bird Gusto because I’ve never encountered a creature with such tenacity and mindless courage.
The first time Gusto slammed into my window, feet, and headfirst, I almost shat myself because I was doing the dishes and the window in question is about two feet from my face. When Gusto hit, I did that thing from Jaws where Brody sees blood in the water and the camera performs a dolly zoom, AKA a Hitchcock shot. That’s when the camera is dollied either forward or backward while the zoom on the lens is pulled in the opposite direction. A bit like life. Easy!
After ten seconds I reached for the bottle of whisky that’s no longer there because I’m a recovering alcoholic with a ghost addiction. I regard these reactions in the same way that amputees claim to still feel a missing limb. I sometimes wake up with a phantom hangover on Saturday mornings.
Apparently, Gusto is a Pee Wee and part of the Magpie family. In the realm of birds, I’ve always regarded the Magpies as the traditional 1920s mobsters and the Indian Myna Birds as the Eastern European gangsters. So, Magpies and their ilk are getting fucked over by the Mynas and that’s why I’m not too bothered by Gusto. The poor fucker’s the last of his kind and I feel a bit like that too.
And why? Because I’m drowning in a sea of miserable absurdity. I understand why Gusto is smashing himself against my kitchen window because he’s done with it all. It’s an existential crisis, poorly disguised as a reflective territorial dispute. We all have territorial disputes in our minds. Think paranoia versus reality, seasoned with good old-fashioned vitriol. But life’s not bad, it’s just problematic. Well, that’s what I tell myself in the dead of night as Gusto continues his attack on my kitchen window. Neither of us knows what’s next. My dreams absorb his attacks.
But we are at one, that concussed bird and me because I get his absurd task, and I hope he never stops, or at least stops before he breaks his neck. Before he does break his neck, I want to invite him in, have a sneaky whisky with him and tell him all my hopes and fears.
Maybe that line of communication will make him realise that all is not lost, it’s just a wee bit out of reach for now.
BTW this is a dolly zoom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5JBlwlnJX0
It’s been a long time since I’ve written about Melbourne bogans and I’ve been extremely interested in how my bogan mates from the old days spent lockdown. There are numerous assumptions I could make involving bongs, smoking inside, Studio 10, KFC, and four-litre casks of wine from the local BWS but that’s all hearsay and outdated stereotyping. So, what I did was contact a friend of mine who is a self-professed, card-carrying bogan from way back. Let’s call him Ed.
Ed owns a Jim’s Mowing franchise because he likes being on the road and working for himself. He has an offsider called Spoons, who’s his mate’s eldest son. Come lockdown and the end of all non-essential services, Ed and Spoons were temporarily out of a job. And so, began Ed’s long, dark descent into Netflix and kidney failure.
Ed lives alone. He’s divorced and sees the kids every second weekend. He and his ex are on good terms but not mates. She moved on, while Ed stood still in his one bedroom flat in Melbourne’s outer north and smoked a dart while looking out of the window at a dog sniffing around a dead bird on the pavement.
On the first day of lockdown, Ed got up, showered, brushed his teeth, got dressed and grabbed the keys for his ute, only to remember that he was in lockdown and had no lawns to mow. So, he sat down on the couch, flicked the cap off a stubbie, and turned on the telly. He’d never watched free to air morning TV before and promptly signed up for Netflix.
Within a week, the world of Netflix became Ed’s entire world. When mates called him, he talked about stuff he’d watched on Netflix, when he talked to the kids he talked about Netflix and when his mum called him to tell him her sister died, he talked to her about Dead to me on Netflix. Ed was transfixed by the haze of the Big Red N and he spent his days and nights bathing in its warm glow.
After a week, Ed stopped going to his local supermarket and started getting his supplies delivered via the endless array of online delivery services. At first, it was groceries from Safeway and alcohol from Jimmy Brings. And then one day he gave up on cooking altogether and started to rely on Netflix’s partner in crime, Uber Eats.
Ed’s flat had become a one-stop delivery destination and the thought of going outside didn’t even cross his mind. At this stage, the phone stopped ringing and Ed’s home looked and smelled like a compost heap but at least he was up-to-date with Vikings and Peaky Blinders, and he’d been smart enough to panic buy toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic.
What Ed didn’t realise, was that for everyone else, life was slowly getting back to normal. With Netflix and Uber Eats in his life he didn’t need things like outdoor activities, a job, or the news. He had new friends in his life because Netflix had every episode of Friends available to watch whenever he felt like watching his new friends having madcap adventures in Manhattan’s West Village.
And it was during an episode of Friends that Ed first noted a dull ache in his lower back that he attributed to hours of sitting on the couch.
The ache got worse and worse and one morning he looked at himself in the mirror and his eyes were bloodshot and his skin looked mottled and his lower back now felt like somebody had battered him with a sledgehammer.
When Ed woke up in hospital, he had no idea how he’d gotten there. Apparently, Spoons had come round, knocked on the door got no reply, so had a look through the kitchen window and saw Ed in a heap on the lounge floor next to a pile of Uber Eats bags and a bottle of Penfolds Port. He called an ambulance and the rest is history.
Ed tells me he’s getting better but has lost a lot of his kidney function and has type 2 diabetes, so Spoons and his mate are running the business until Ed gets back on his feet. Since his hospitalisation, he’s canceled his Netflix account and deleted the Uber Eats app from his phone, and now gets all his food delivered by Light n’ Easy every Monday morning. He’s completely given up on TV and now listens to a lot of true crime podcasts and sometimes Russell Brand.
I talked to Ed on the phone yesterday and I asked him if he had any regrets about how he spent lockdown and if he had his time back would he do things differently. He paused for a moment, drinking in the question, and then said: “Well, obviously there are the health concerns and all that but I did get to watch some awesome stuff on TV and Spoons has said that he’ll give me one of his kidneys if I get desperate. So, things could be a lot worse. At least I’m not starving to death.”
And that’s Ed’s lockdown story. I was looking for a funny bogan story but instead, I found a story about a man who fell foul of laziness and all the online products and services we have that prop this pandemic of laziness up.
So, the next time you find yourself in a pandemic/lockdown situation, think about Ed before you get comfy, switch on Netflix, and brush your index finger over the Uber Eats app. Kidney failure is only a 30-minute wait away, and you can track its progress on your phone, while you watch Friends!
Once upon a time when I was a commuter …
The 19 tram is a fickle beast, prone to fits of madness, rage, and the inevitable delays of Melbourne public transport. For the most part, I like my tram route because it goes up Royal Parade past Princes Park and glides up Sydney Road spewing commuters onto the pavement and into the many bars and cafes along the way. It’s like a Mallee Ringneck feeding the road with tiny morsels of consumerism.
I can’t remember my first ride on the 19 tram but I do know that I’ve used it almost every day for the last nine years and I can even hear it clanking away at night, as I eat my dinner up in my wee flat amongst the trees.
I think it was the Bedroom Philosopher who wrote about the 86 tram a few years ago and he captured the spirit of the journey perfectly and some of the pretentious shitehawks who use the service. The 19 tram has a slightly similar ambiance but it’s also different in many ways. The main difference being that the 19 tram has a strange sense of nobility, particularly if you watch it stop and start, as it makes its way northward up Sydney Road from Brunswick Road. I love watching it slowly crawl up passed Blyth Street and disappear into the Land of the Hookah, the sun reflecting off its back windows. It reminds me of being a kid in Scotland, watching my Dad walk up David Street with the day’s takings tucked under his arm, in an old biscuit tin. Just a reassuring feeling of familiarity that makes us all feel at ease when perched on the edge of perpetual trepidation.
However, on a bad day, the 19 becomes my biscuit tin of nightmares. I only catch it a few stops down the road but when I see it approach my stop with its windows misted over and people packed in around the door I’m filled with dread. Why not walk I hear you ask? It’s only a few stops down the road. I’m constantly running late, so I end up having to squeeze myself in and just take it like a commuter. It’s that feeling of impending doom as I mount those stairs and squeeze myself into that jigsaw puzzle of arms, legs and torsos that pisses me off the most. Being stuck next to the person with a bag that’s far too big for what they really need to do that day. Music from earphones that’s too loud and never my cup of tea. Sour coffee breath, cheap deodorant, bullshit conversation, and that erratic pulse of unease from people just like me.
Poor morale is infectious and a bad start to the day.
But on the whole, I like the 19 tram. No, I love the 19 tram. It’s frequent, double carriaged, has mostly un-vandalised upholstery, runs most of the night/morning on Friday and Saturday nights and there’s something reassuring about coming home on the tram and getting off on Sydney Road and navigating your way across the road to Barkly Square. Crossing Sydney Road is an art form and is definitely an example of real life Frogger (see Seinfeld, season 9, episode 18).
So, next time you’re on the 19 tram have a think about its strong links to Sydney Road. It dominates that strip of road, which unfolds between Brunswick Road and Bell Street; a huge metal worm muscling its way up the asphalt in all its glory. One of the few trams in Melbourne with a soulful journey, as it passes through the ever-changing history of Brunswick and Coburg, disappearing into misty mornings and reappearing somewhere just beyond the Phantom Tollbooth.
And now, a poem about the morning commute on the 19 tram, by Bianca Frost:
The steel spine of Sydney Rd
as night gives way to yawning day
the e-class grumbling awake
into the electric current
inertia into motion
soiled steel bones grating scapular over knee
out of the old depot
resentfully onto old road Sydney
shuddering sputtering spat
the hacking paroxysms
mimic the percussion of smokers
splattering oily phlegm pocked
pearl purple green
with petrochemical carcinogens
on the daily lug every morning
up and down
arterial route 19
stop starting staring weary down the hill from Coburg
the twin lumbar spines of Moreland
stretching each articulated vertebrae
along the track
like a great glob of cholesterol
choking the straining heart
of commuters up the rabid carriageway
festooning turning rims with sprays of carbon grit
as it meets the expectant faces
of passengers ready to ride
not such a bad way to start the day
rumbles the tram with pride
Image of 19 tram courtesy of Bianca Frost (2015).
The supermarket is now a dangerous place to be. People who might be sick move up and down the aisles searching for hand sanitizer, pasta and a way to wipe their arse. It’s a depressing sight, watching people navigate their way through a human obstacle course. However, today I’m not going to dwell on the doom and gloom of a pandemic, instead, I’m going to write about something that brings me joy.
There’s a coffee shop, well a window, down the road from me that sells coffee, cakes, and muffins. And yes, it’s an open window right on the pavement that’s part of a residential property. Apparently, it used to be a DVD nook at the east end of their lounge that’s been converted into a takeaway coffee shop. You’d never know. It’s now called Capulus and Co.
It’s run by a family who make the best coffee I’ve ever had (I write this with conviction). They’ve secured the beans, the good stuff, the primo brown gold, and I’m one of their caffeine disciples. Most mornings, I walk 100 metres to pray at the altar of their divine brew. I order a regular latte, and after a wee chat with the barista, I respectfully maintain my distance from the other disciples on the pavement and attend to my emails.
After a couple of minutes, the barista gives me one of the highlights of my day, a regular latte in a brown and tan cup. Then I walk home slowly enjoying each sip until I reach the stairs that lead me to my place of isolation, where The King of Queens seems to be playing on repeat.
But those 100 metres to the window and back keep me sane and I’ll always remember that walk and the life-affirming coffee, as something that got me through this thing.
We all need something like that walk in the morning because it’s those slivers of joy that give us something to look forward to. And when this is over, I’m going to give the barista a big hug, hail a taxi, and get the fuck out of dodge.
Capulus and Co can be found at 9 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, Victoria and is open from 7am – 2pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am – 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.
As I slide further and further into unknown territory, there’s only one thought that keeps sliding around my head: How many animals live in my attic? I’ve also gotten paranoid about any noise outside the front door. I keep a hammer there just in case, but somehow, I know I’ll never use it. Too much time on my hands invites all sorts of paranoid delusions.
However, my sanity is kept intact by watching Salvage Hunters with Drew Pritchard and his trusty sidekick Tee. Drew Pritchard runs an antique business in Conwy, Wales and he and Tee frequently travel all over the UK checking out antique and vintage stashes in stately homes, other antique dealers’ lockups, and all manner of other establishments. It’s the antiques roadshow for people under the age of 60.
Drew’s ex-wife, Rebecca, claims that he’s built a career around his personality, and I agree with her. His personality is like an advent calendar and his cheeky chappy, could be a bit of a dick, disposition is interesting to watch. I also enjoy the banter between Drew and Tee, however it’s during these interactions that Drew can sometimes come off as a bit of a dick. A lot of banter finds its roots in the heart of bullying.
Anyway, the dynamic duo spends a lot of time on the road in a white Transit van, scouring the nation for hidden treasures/bargains. They arrive at each destination, where Drew shakes hands with the client before Tee, and gets to work finding stuff to haggle over and eventually sell on his website for an inflated price to Americans and collectors (the most vulnerable of buyers).
Watching Drew rummaging around in a pile of antiques is like watching a stoner getting the remnants of marijuana residue from the pipe section of a bong with a butter knife. Tee tends to look on hoping the object isn’t going to be too heavy because it’s his job to carry it to the van and load it up, while the vaguely confused client looks on in wonder, as Drew dazzles them with his industry knowledge.
Once Drew has found an object he wants to buy, the haggling begins. Depending on the client it’s usually over quite quickly and invariably they meet in the middle. However, if an elderly client starts the bidding too low this is an opportunity for Drew to show his compassionate side and insist that they start the bidding a little higher, allowing the viewer to love Drew for a few seconds before he makes a crack about Tee’s weight and we’re back to square one again.
With all the goodies loaded into the back of the van, Tee and Drew drive back to Wales. Oh, by the way, Tee always drives because apparently Drew’s banned from driving after a drink driving conviction, which was slapped on him after a big night at his local, which he’s also banned from now, along with every pub in Conwy (I can’t whole heartedly vouch for this because I got this info from the internet but it adds so much to the story).
As they arrive back at Pritchard HQ, the team assemble to see the goodies that Drew has procured. Drew stands with the team as Tee hauls out each piece for them to review. This represents Drew’s moments of glory and you can see the narcissism glowing in his beady little eyes. Every once in a while, the shot shifts to Rebecca in the warehouse, who gives her pounds worth on each piece, which is always positive. Sometimes I wish she’d say something negative like: “they saw the little prick coming on this one!”
So, with everything hauled into Pritchard HQ the restoration team set to work while the narrator, Finchy from the UK Office, runs us through what’s going on. Then it’s over to the photographer to get snaps of the pieces to be placed on the website.
Somebody like Hannibal from the A Team would love Salvage Hunters because the plan always comes together, and Drew runs a tight ship. With his flat cap and trendy scarves, Drew strides through the world of antiques doing it his way. He definitely knows his stuff, which is one of the highlights of the show, but you can tell that Drew will die alone with a bottle of whisky on the nightstand and only Tee will attend his funeral just to make sure he’s dead.
I like cooking but I can be a right lazy bastard. The main thing I dislike is washing up. It puts me in a dark mood, even though I’m exceptionally good at it after a series of dishwashing gigs in the 90s when I was young and made no plans for the future. However, one time when I was washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant in Galway, I had a vision of my death in the diminishing suds. But enough of that, let’s take a gander at a quick meal with minimal washing up.
My main rule is that everything else should take as long as the base. For example, if the pasta takes 10 minutes everything else should be ready at the same time. If it’s not, give up and order in. There’s enough disappointment in this life without homemade meals letting you down.
Let me hit you with my favourite quick meal, Moroccan spicy chicken cous cous sprinkled with lethargy and some diluted, lonely love. When you cook alone, you’re truly alone, unless you drench it all in cheap whisky and terrestrial TV, and then get on Messenger to bother people who have a functional domestic life. Anyway …
Step one: go to a supermarket for chicken thighs, cous cous, spring onion, fresh chili, garlic, parsley, cherry tomatoes and Moroccan spice.
Step two: come home and smash down a couple of cheap whiskies.
Step three: step out onto your roof terrace and gasp at the sun setting in the west.
Step four: smash down another couple of whiskies.
Step five: splash some olive oil into a frying pan and cook the chicken and garlic.
Step six: put the cherry tomatoes into a wee oven dish, season with salt, pepper and olive oil and put into the oven at 180 degrees for ten minutes.
Step seven: chuck on an episode of Salvage Hunters, with Drew Pritchard, who’s banned from every pub in his hometown, Conwy in Wales.
Step eight: add the Moroccan spice into the chicken and garlic and add in the chili and spring onions aka scallions.
Step nine: cook the cous cous (see the back of the packet for instructions you lazy fucker).
Step ten: crush a Sudafed tablet with your maxed-out credit card (times are tough) and snort, using the shell of a ball-point pen.
Step eleven: remove the cherry tomatoes from the oven.
Step twelve: add the cous cous into the frying pan, along with the cherry tomatoes and parsley and mix through.
Step thirteen: cover the frying pan, smash a few more whiskies, snort another line of Sudafed, send a message you’ll regret in the morning, smoke a spliff and pass out.
Step fourteen: wake up at 3am, check your sent messages for potential legal problems (death threats etc.), drink some fizzy water and heat up a serve of the spicy chicken cous cous.
Step fifteen: enjoy your homemade meal in bed, while watching Ray Donovan, smash another couple of whiskies and call a mate in a different time zone.
Step sixteen: repeat steps one to fifteen ad infinitum.
See, a simple 16 step guide to feeding yourself and assuring the kind of death George Michael experienced because he quite simply gave up, a bit like Paula Yates. However, you never heard them complaining about washing up.
For more information about other quick recipes, please contact me in hell, or as Alfie Solomons in Peaky Blinders calls it, Margate.
It’s been an odd few months. I quit my job, woke up into a new world after a four-week drinking session, swapped red wine for stout, spent a lot of time on my own thinking about stuff and now, two significant people in my life have found significant others in a post-apocalypse landscape of hope and uncertainty.
Significant person 1: Can’t go for a walk, having breakfast with the dude from next door.
Significant person 2: I had a date last night, he works in tiger conservation!
I got both messages within the same half-hour. The first one while I was having a Poogle and the second as I had my first sip of coffee today on my terrace in the sun.
So, for the first time in years, I’m on my own and I’m kind of sad and excited at the same time. These seismic shifts in life offer us the opportunity to move on and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The old me would have bought three bottles of cheap wine, got self-indulgently drunk, and listened to Joy Division on the terrace until I passed out on my cacti. Cacti, you are safe.
I have self-indulgent tendencies. Bad ones. Ugly ones. Ones that become crazy monsters in the dark. I can drink an entire bottle of whisky and stare at the floor for hours and hours. Like when my ex left me in 2005 and I came home to an empty house and a note. I went straight out, bought a bottle of whisky, put OK Computer on and stared at the floor until the sun rose into an empty house on Rose Street. I showered, didn’t shave, didn’t pray for my sins, and went to work, where I lost my temper and threatened a co-worker with a hammer. I got sacked, went home via a whisky purchase and put OK Computer back on. Repeat, repeat, repeat, fucking repeat ad infinitum.
But I’m getting self-indulgent again. I need to avoid that state of mind or I’ll wind up back at the Sisyphean drawing board with an Albatross around my neck. I talk to my therapist about the Albatross a lot, it’s a strong theme in our sessions. She’s become the wedding guest that I’ve stopped in the street to tell my story. She has the face of an angel and this uncanny ability to deconstruct my bullshit and throw it back at me like a chimp in a zoo. Sometimes during our sessions, I stop breathing and she tells me to breathe. I like that. I’m not in love with her. She’s a lifeline, end of story. Let’s move on …
But what’s next for this tarnished jester who “struts and frets his hour upon the stage?” Now, this could be an opportunity to be a sad self-indulgent twat. No. Never. I’m taking the bull by the horns and driving that beast into the land of milk and honey. I’m going to build a beach bar in Samoa with my bare hands and “give up the booze and the one-night stands, then I’ll settle down in some quiet little town and forget about everything. Full of sound and fury, signifying” something.
And to my significant people who have moved onto significant others. Dance on. Be happy. Please call me sometimes. I’d like that.
NB. Anything with quotation marks is by Shakespeare and Gerry Rafferty. I can’t work out how to do footnotes in WordPress.