Anxiety burnout

Looking at the posting dates, I see that it has been nearly 6 months since the last. I descended into a pit of work-related anxiety, and now — well, it’s not that I have overcome the anxiety; more that I am getting sick of it, and need to do something else.

I’ve been out of my depth at work since I started, but in volunteering to write a particular document, I bit the bullet of learning enough about the things we do to be able to explain it to other who were starting from the same position as me. And a serious case of lead poisoning I developed. Continue reading “Anxiety burnout”

A visit to Medjugorje

In the autumn of 1996 I took a ferry from Ancona across the Adriatic to Split. There was a reasonable swell, into which we heaved through the night. I slept little in the “aircraft style” seats, keeping an eye on my knapsack, in which all of my travelling possessions, and a significant portion of my worldly possessions were packed. I was travelling with cabin luggage only, which kept the volume down, and made the airports mercifully easy to leave. By dawn we were sailing down the Dalmatian coast. We moved in behind the shelter of the string of elongated islands that parallel the coast, and came into Split. I’d met a Kiwi on the boat who suggested we get accommodation together in Medjugorje. I agreed, having become all to aware of the cost of single rooms. It was a bad mistake. Continue reading “A visit to Medjugorje”

Oliver’s Greatcoat

I was less than ten years old when I was given a copy of Oliver Twist for Christmas or birthday. It was a small-format Collins hardcover, blue-bound, with the Collins fountain logo stamped in silver on the front cover. The pages were very thin, so much so that in places the print from the other side, too heavy in places, showed through, making reading difficult.

I read avidly, and was delighted at Oliver’s rescue. At that point, of course, things take a turn for the worse. When Oliver, carrying his benefactor’s books, is kidnapped by Nancy, my heart sank, and I put the book away.

At the moment, I’m reading Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida, edited by Robert Chandler. The first story is Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades, the third is Gogol’s The Greatcoat. Reading Gogol, I had that same feeling of impending doom as Akaky Akakiyevich makes his way back from the party whose pretext is his new greatcoat.

It took me some years to pick Oliver Twist up again. I think I finished it in my mid-teens. My expectation of a satisfying resolution may have sustained me. If so, Dickens did not disappoint. Gogol offers no such promise, but I am grown-up now, so I pressed on through my dread. Gogol did not disappoint.

Speaking of dreams

Once, I had a dream. It was many years ago, some time after my conversion, or reversion. Many of the details of time, place and event are now hazy; even the details of the dream have blurred. I was still young enough in my newly-recovered faith to be susceptible to such a dream, and to go searching eagerly for its references. Continue reading “Speaking of dreams”


If I am not woken suddenly—by an alarm clock, for example—I often find myself in a state on the cusp between sleep and wakefulness; in reverie. And often in that oftenness some questions that have been in the back of my mind will find their way to the front. The other morning—the one that triggered this post—I “woke”, and started thinking about the West Antarctic ice shelf, as one does. Continue reading “Emergence”

Drifting off

I was in the Blessed Sacrament chapel at St Stephen’s a couple of days ago, listening distractedly to the sermon echoing in the body of the cathedral behind me, as I drifted off sleepily. The almost indecipherable words commanding attention from some unseen source reminded me of another sensation. I suddenly realised that one of the defining characteristics of the state of drifting into sleep is a similar loss of precision in things heard.

As you slip over the edge, some sounds retain a grip on the attention longer than the rest; familiar voices, for example. It’s not that these foreground sounds echo—indeed they seem to become sharper—but that the auditory background becomes blurred, so that the voice that arrests your melting attention becomes detached, and drifts off above the blurring and echoing sounds below. It was a sensation frequently noticed and immediately forgotten, brought back by this auditory accident before the tabernacle.

Night Vision

I don’t enjoy aspirin the way I used to. Aspirin used to be a taste sensation for me. I would always chew the tablets, for that shrapnel burst of salicylate, almost as mouth-curdling in its own way as lemon, and it seemed to me that the analgesic effect was kick-started with the absorption of that distinctive taste. I don’t think that the generic aspirin I buy tastes any different, but it has lost most of its interest; a consequence—another consequence—of the breakdown of discipline and morale in the body’s engineering corps that comes with advancing years. Continue reading “Night Vision”


We had a day for it, all right. It was, I think, the 3rd of August, a Friday, in what we would always have considered the depths of winter. It’s a Brisbane winter we’re talking about, and it can be cold and windy on Moreton Bay, but that Friday was, as you can see, balmy—blue sky, green-blue water, and a light wind. The water-taxi took us from Redland Bay out between Macleay and Coochiemudlo Islands, then up to Peel Island. Once we rounded Peel, we were looking across the broad expanse of the bay, with the port just visible to the west, Moreton Island to the north-east, and northern-most part of North Stradbroke to the east. Continue reading “Ashes”

Tell me why

I’ve started going to Mass again, although I am not in communion, and I don’t know that I will be able to take that step. I feel the pull of it again though, and I feel a great deal calmer than I have for some time. The pressure of existence, especially the pressure of time, is not now so unrelenting. The wreckage of the past is not now so intolerably present. These benefits are, for the moment, associated with being present at Mass. They are a mild form of the consolation of prayer. Continue reading “Tell me why”