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Today's quote:

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Never in a month of Sundays


I've just been watching "Never on Sunday" again to remind me of a time when not every day was the same as every other day, and when I still believed I was actually 'going somewhere' (like a bus), and when I still thought my life would eventually 'add up to something' (as if anyone were counting).

Actually, it was a toss-up between "Never on Sunday" and "Lawrence of Arabia", because both are re-enactments of sorts of my time with the same employer - perhaps the longest I have ever been with the same employer outside my articled years - and "Never on Sunday" won out.

Until that fateful year when I finally returned from my last overseas assignment in Greece after a misdiagnosed case of acute homesickness, life had been like scenes from a movie, no beginnings, no real endings, just fade-outs, as I had always feared the danger of returning to a life of constant sameness, and preferred to linger in the climate of memory.

After a couple of false starts, first in Townsville and then in Sydney, I settled in my old house in Canberra and took up computer programming and lawnmowing which seemed to suit my always restless disposition (the first part, not the lawnmowing!) as each week brought a new client and a new challenge, even though the location remained the same.

For years I had thought that there must be something wrong with me, since all the other people around me seemed to live contented lives in their assigned slots, or, as Somerset W. Maugham so well described it at the beginning of his short story "The Lotuseater": Most people, the vast majority in fact, lead the lives that circumstances have thrust upon them, and though some repine, looking upon themselves as round pegs in square holes, and think that if things had been different they might have made a much better showing, the greater part accept their lot, if not with serenity, at all events with resignation. They are like train-cars travelling forever on the selfsame rails. They go backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, inevitably, till they can go no longer and then are sold as scrap-iron. [read the rest of the story here]

That was until I tried to trace on realestate.com.au the whereabouts of some of my former neighbours who at the time seemed like the epitome of "settledness": like that nice couple across the street from me at 42 Wackett Street in Pallarenda who I waved to each morning from my balcony as they drove off to work while I was stuck at home with no work prospects, trying to lose myself by reading Leon Uris's "The Haj" from cover to cover. I still have a photo of me reading it on the balcony, and when I recently saw a copy of it at Vinnies, it all came back to me.

They invited me several times to dinner during which they expressed their regrets that their daughter lived in far-away Tasmania (which the implied conclusion left unspoken) and that I should enjoy my newfound sabbatical since I would soon enough be back in work (which I was but I couldn't see it then). I left for Sydney only a couple of months later in mid-1985. Did they stay in their "settledness"? NO! They sold in 1989!

The neighbours to the left of me at 41 Wackett Street owned a chicken place in town and repeatedly invited me over to the pool they had only recently added to their backyard. As he put it, "We put every dollar we can spare back into our house", suggesting to me that they meant to stay put. Did they stay in their "settledness"? NO! They sold in 1988!

I repeated the same exercise with my neighbours at McMahons Point in Sydney and at Kambah in Canberra with similar results. None stayed in their apparent "settledness" for all that much longer than I did which makes me feel that there wasn't all that much wrong with me after all.

In fact, I am starting to feel that there's something wrong with me now that I have been at "Riverbend" for twenty-nine going on thirty years. Never in a month of Sundays would I have thought this would happen.

Googlemap Riverbend