Tuesday, December 22, 2015


This morning, I went to my first ever funeral! It's taken me forty years, but I finally caved in.

I have known many people who have died - friends, family, acquaintances - but I have missed all their funerals because:

  • a) I have been in another country
  • b) I have not been able to get away from work or
  • c) I just didn't like them very much

Today's funeral was for an old friend of the family whom I have known since I was a little boy. Her name was Eileen and it's so sad she is no longer with us. However, she was very pragmatic about things and liked a laugh, so I know she won't be upset about me blogging about it...

Mum was doing the eulogy, so we turned up early to make sure we got a good seat. Normally, when going to a show, I like an aisle seat, but seeing as mum had to get up, I magnanimously relented and gave her easy access.

It was quite a crowd queuing up outside the venue. It's kind of like speed-dating... you wait for the previous mourners to have their little soiree and then your crowd can pile in after. It was a bit like waiting for a ride at Alton Towers but without the crowd-control turnstiles. Whilst waiting, I was checking out the talent amongst the mourners. There wasn't a lot, but some lads do brush up well once attired in a suit... even Derbyshire folk!

Mum and I were allowed in first (a secret "Nur, nur-ne, nur-nur" went through my head to the others in the queue as I can be rather infantile) and we got front row seats. Normally I hate hate front row seats, but thankfully, this wasn't IMAX.

I was actually surprised at the little crematorium chapel. It was reasonably warm, but I imagine someone had lit a nice roaring fire somewhere for our convenience.

Once everyone was in, the service began. It was a short and sweet affair. Mum's eulogy was beautiful and touching, a letter from Eileen written before her passing was also read and it was charming, funny and moving. The host-chappie said something about Jesus Claus and the Christmas Miracle, or something... and then Freddie Mercury belted out The Show Must Go On. (He wasn't actually there, otherwise I might have to start believing in all that hocus pocus!)

We all paid our respects to Eileen as we passed through the exit (no gift shop - rude!) and then we got to speak to her husband, sons and family.

It was a tearful morning. All jokes aside, Eileen really was one of the kindest, gentlest, funniest, warmest, most beautiful women to have ever lived. She really was one in a million. She will be dearly missed.

As I am currently in a 'Will Young' phase when it comes to naming my blog entries, I have chosen 'Evergreen' as Eileen loved gardening and loved her allotment, I know that in our memories, her garden will be kept evergreen forever.

This isn't her garden, but I think it's pretty and Eileen would have loved it!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What's in Goodbye?

Today marks my final day in Australia (for the time being, at least). I fly out at 10:25 this evening and should arrive in Manchester just before midday on Tuesday.

I had originally intended to fly back on the sixteenth but, being unemployed and having already shipped my stuff, I was getting bored and decided to bring the flight forward. It was cheaper to do that than sit about eating take-out for three weeks and staring at a blank wall.

In the sixteen years of living in Australia, I have made some amazing friends, seen some wonderful things, and had some terrific experiences. As I look back on all that now, I feel a pang of sadness as I bid a fond farewell to this chapter of my life.

This was me in Queensland near the beginning of my time here.

As my fingers hover over the keyboard, poised with an anticipation of some profound words to type to express my oscillating feelings - some tenebrous, some bracing, all slightly overwhelming - I struggle to articulate myself coherently. Where do I begin? What do I focus on? Whom do I thank? Where do I go? How do I say "goodbye"?

Those friends who know me well will be fully cognizant of my feelings towards them. I am supremely grateful to those who have touched my life here in the past decade and a half. Some friendships have been fleeting, others more permanent, but all have shaped me in various ways to create the man who is writing this now.

Out of all the great things in Australia - the landscape, the society, the cost of living, the culture, the flora and fauna... - it is the people that I am going to miss most. I part the country with an ache in my heart.

But what's in "goodbye"?

It's not an ending, just a new direction (gosh, I sound like Oprah!) and it's not like I am never going to see any of these amazing people again. With travel and the supremely incredible land of the Internet, I shall be able to keep permanent contact with everyone. I still keep in touch with the majority of my UK friends, so I am sure the trend will continue (I'm a hard man to get rid of!)

OK, OK, I shan't waffle on much longer now for it is in danger of becoming maudlin and tedious.

Let's not be like this...

...but more like this!

P.S. I never did get to meet Ryan Kwanten, damn it...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

My Needs

In December, I return home to the Mother Country after spending sixteen years and four months in Australia. Some people look at me incredulously when I tell them I am making the leap back and ask me why. Well, it's perfectly simple. I need to.

After a rather rocky twelve months (including the fire at my old building, moving home, losing Fizzgig, a painful break-up of a friendship and a pitiful slip into morose self-pity and depression - not all of which has been chronicled in this blog) I made a snap decision but the right one. I need to be within the bosom of my family. I need to be there for my niece and nephew (both under the age of two and I haven't met either of them yet). I need to start afresh in a new career. I need to be somewhere I can buy Yorkshire Gold tea at a reasonable price.

I will miss a lot of things about Australia; my friends the most, of course. But are there things I won't miss? Let's have a quick look...

  • The heat - I get far too sweaty and I burn quicker than a ginger in a solarium.
  • Melbourne's adoration of the awful avocado. You can't even buy a frickin' BLT without them turning it into a BLAT! SERIOUSLY! *shudder*
  • Having to listen to teenagers on public transport who ALL sound like Ja'mie King

However, I am aware that I am going to return to;

  • The cold - honestly, I don't mind the cold, but I am not a huge fan of the perky nipple.
  • Britain's obsession with reality TV and the constant inane drivel surrounding it.
  • I'll have to listen to teenagers on public transport who ALL sound like Vicky Pollard.

At some point in the near future, I will write a longer post about my last sixteen years. I bet you're all thrilled to hear that!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hopes & Fears

A friend suggested I blog about some of the things that come up in my counselling sessions. I think he's right. I find writing very therapeutic...

I recently stumbled across on article on the Mamma Mia website that spoke of an app that is a place where people can admit to secrets and, in some cases, they confess to something hitherto made taboo. The great unspoken distaste for sex. It was something that touched my heart as I have often spoken about a fear of intimacy and it was oddly comforting to find that I was not alone. Some people say they hate the idea of people seeing their naked body (I can confess to having the same fear), some say they just find sex too painful and some simply say that they have no interest.

I do crave intimacy but I would be happy with hugs, cuddles and kisses. However, saying this out loud actually bemuses the majority of others. How often have I heard people say "If you don’t like sex, you’re obviously not doing it right" or "You haven’t met the right person"? Is it really that simple? I don’t think so.

This probably explains why I fall in love with straight men. I know deep down that there is no possibility of sexual interaction but I still get the joy of male company (although I cannot deny that I would love to snuggle up to them at times!)

A lot of things about sex actually repulses me. I gag at the thought of some of the acts. There is also a plausible argument to say that I am terrified of the loss of control one has during the orgasms. Words like ‘frigid’ are often bandied about when people have sexual issues. Those of us who aren’t as comfortable with our bodies or our prowess in the bedroom are often laughed at or dismissed as being freaks.

The truth is, I want to be loved, I want to be held, I want to have a deep connection with someone – and I probably could perform the more intimate acts with someone I felt that bond with – but instead it is a barrier against anyone getting close to me and, as one of the people on the site said, I guess I will be alone forever… but I certainly hope not.

Of course, I could always make an exception...

Just a hug will do...

Friday, July 3, 2015

Losing Myself*

Just a quick blog post to fill people in a bit as I've been a bit of a lurker on Facebook rather than a proactive blogger recently.

The ol' depression has been a virulently persistent demon of late; partly brought on by the death of Fizzgig, but also due to the fact that I am so unhappy at work and at home.

One of the things that exacerbates the darker days is the knowledge that other people go through far worse and I beat myself up over it because I have no right to wallow in such maudlin self-pity.

I have also been having a few issues with my gut and I have had a few tests (blood tests, CT scans etc.) and all have been inconclusive to date. There will be more to come. It might just be all stress-related but it's best to go through the rigmarole of all these tests to get a satisfactory diagnosis.

My (handsome) doctor has put me on anti-depressants which irks me a bit as I don't think pills can cure the factors that are getting me down; but I am, reluctantly, giving my doctor the benefit of the doubt. I will also start seeing a psychologist again shortly in order to vent some of these dark thoughts that parade through my mind like a skulking, hungry panther.

I won't go into great detail here about the weighty chains of self-loathing etc. as it would be tiresome to all and sundry; just know that I am taking steps to come out the other side.

In a couple of weeks, I am going to have some time off work (as advised by others) and I intend to "regroup" myself (is that possible?)

I need to work out a new plan. I need to find a new life, new job and new goals.

Wish me luck!

(I should add that, without the support of my utterly incredible friends, I don't know where I'd be.)

*Going back to Will Young song titles for blog posts. Gosh, I love that talented, handsome man!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Express Yourself

There’s an invisible blanket of fascism enveloping us all and most seem oblivious to it.

People (if they are cognizant) are far too complacent about it and, in some cases, complicit in its weighty shroud of control.

Have you noticed it?

Them: So, tell us what you need, what is bothering you, what we can do to help.

Us: Well; X, Y & Z is bad. Life, health and everything would improve if we had A, B & C.

Them: Thanks for the feedback… we asked. That was the first part of our job. The second part is to completely ignore your desires and tell you to “suck it up”.

The unspoken motto is “Blend in and shut up”. Or should that be “Resistance is futile!”?

Am I talking about governments, corporate industry or just humanity in general?

You decide.

I think we should break free and express ourselves. We need to be heard. We are not automatons.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I'll Remember

It was as though I had experienced a premonition. A couple of weeks before, I removed the photos of her as my desktop wallpaper. I forgot to pick up more tins of cat food during my usual weekly shop. My baby girl had lost her appetite a bit during those last few days, but this was not entirely unusual. She had also gone to the toilet less and less.

On the Sunday night, she suddenly let out a howl. She crouched on the floor and tried to vomit, but only saliva came out. I knew at this point it wouldn’t be long. When I carried her to the bedroom that evening, I had a suspicion it would be our last night together.

At 2 a.m. Fizzgig awoke me as she clambered onto my pillow and rested by my head. I dozed in and out for about an hour. At 3 a.m. she issued another wail and struggled down from the bed. I immediately leapt out from under the covers and followed her. She choked up a little more saliva and then skulked off into the living room and lay down behind the sofa. I grabbed my quilt and a pillow and went to lie down beside her (moving the sofa out of the way first). For the next couple of hours, I just stayed with her, talked to her, stroked her beautiful fur coat and reassured her that I would not leave her. She tried to move around from place to place, but it was a struggle. At one point she managed to get to the rug in front of the heater and as she lay there breathing heavily, I looked into her eyes and told her not to worry and it was OK if she had to leave me, even though it was the last thing I wanted.

At 5 a.m. I knew I would not be going into work, so I phoned my boss and left a message on her voicemail. I barely got to the end of the message without my voice breaking… “I don’t think she’ll last the day”, I croaked.

I’d had less than four hours sleep, but I was too emotionally wrought to nap and I wanted Fizzgig to see I was with her all the time. I put on some familiar TV show and lifted her onto the sofa and cradled her in the crook of my arm as I watched through blurry eyes. At one point, she grabbed my right arm with her fore-paws and dragged it into her and hugged it as tight as she could muster. She looked up at me and gave a meek meow. I cried.

At 7:10, I sent a text message to my usual vet (a mobile vet who has looked after Fizzgig for various ailments in the past few years). He phoned back soon and said that although he couldn’t make it out today, I should take her to the local vet and maybe get an X-ray as, he said, it might only be a blockage that is making her uncomfortable. This did give a slight ray of hope, but deep down I knew the truth.

At 8:30, I called the local vet. They could only book me in for 10:15 at the earliest and, because I hadn’t been there before, I should arrive at 10 to fill in the registration forms. I then booked a taxi for 9:45.

The next hour was awful.

I messaged one of my closest friends in order to get some support. He was magnificent. He kept giving advice and tried hard to aid me in my distress. Fizzgig dragged herself to her water bowl and drank for a while before collapsing down onto her side and she began panting heavily.

I knew I had to shower before leaving, so I quickly got myself ready and then returned to the kitchen.

Fizzgig was on her side in an awkward, twisted position, she turned her head slightly and saw me, adjusted her hips into a more comfortable place. She had coughed up some more saliva and he cheek was soggy. I wiped it away and she cried to me a couple of times. I held her head, put my head to her body and heard a much slower heartbeat than I had heard before. I was now crying and my tears fell on her body.

I phoned the mobile vet again and, through sobs, I told him what was happening. She was limp and all she was doing was letting out these large gasps of air.

Then he told me, “I’m sorry, she has gone.” He explained that those gasps were an automatic reaction as the lungs were giving out the last of the air. There was no heartbeat when I listened again. Her eyes were open and her pupils were the widest I had ever seen them. The vet was so kind with his words, but I had to hang up, but not before thanking him for all his help.

I messaged my friend and simply wrote ‘She’s gone’.

This all happened between 9:30 and 9:45. At that moment, the bloody taxi arrived. I lifted her body into the carry cot. My arms were shaking, tears were streaming down my face. I carried her out and apologised to the driver for making him do sucha short trip, but when I explained, he was sympathetic.

When I entered the reception area at the clinic, the reception dropped everything. She saw the state I was in. I was ushered into a private room and the female vet took Fizzgig out of the box. She explained that Fizzgig showed signs of liver failure as she was a little jaundiced. She asked if I would like a few minutes alone and I said I would.

I stayed with my baby girl. I kissed her, stroked her head, and said my goodbyes even though she had already gone.

Then I did something I never thought I would do. I took a photo of her. As morbid as it seems, I felt I had to take one last photo of my surrogate daughter.

The people at the vet were fantastic. They said they would take care of the funeral arrangements but they waived the normal consultation fees given the circumstances.

One of the nicest moments was when the vet saw Fizzgig’s name on the carry cot. She said “Fizzgig? Is that from ‘The Dark Crystal’?” And I actually laughed as it is so rare for anyone to know where the name came from – but this vet said it was one of her favourite films from her childhood.

I left the clinic with the empty pet carrier and Fizzgig’s blanket. I was numb, cold and lost. I walked home in a haze of tears. I didn’t know what to do with myself that day. I couldn’t watch anything. I really don’t remember what I did apart from put on old childhood favourite films.

Despite the anxiety, pain and stress I was going through, I was buoyed by the amazing support I got from friends and family. My Facebook page was flooded with so much support. My mate Chris came around in the evening armed with pizza, wine and a beautiful card. Other friends sent me flowers, another prepared a care package of my favourite foods, friends and colleagues sent beautiful text messages and some called me (although speaking was a little harder to do)… At times like this, I am reminded how incredible people can be.

The hard moments continue. I find that distractions like TV shows and (I hate to say it) work keep my mind free from wallowing, but it’s the little things and quieter moments that break my heart. If I am walking around or even taking a shower, I start to think about her and I begin to cry. Seeing the spot where she died in my arms, the fork in the cutlery drawer I reserve for her cat food, the place where her litter tray used to sit… I haven’t even been able to throw away her food bowels – it’s just too difficult.

I had friends provide company on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night, but on Thursday evening, I arrived home after a long day at work and, as I entered the dark flat, I burst into tears because Fizzgig wasn’t there to greet me. I went from room to room sobbing my heart out and saying out loud to no one “She should be here!” My sobs were akin to panic attacks as I struggled for breath.

I opened some wine, knocked back a few glasses of red, watched a few TV shows and skulked off to bed.

It has to be one of the hardest things I have ever been through in my life. I have lost pets before and it has always been sad. I have lost friends and family members which has also been very painful. However, Fizzgig was special beyond words. We were a duo like Wallace & Gromit. She loved me and I loved her. I have never had such a connection with a creature like I did with my baby girl.

I don’t feel like the Ben I was any more. I will plough forward, though, despite being less than 100%. No one will fill that void and I don’t want them too.

Fizzgig is gone, riven from my life, but she will never, ever be forgotten.

The last photo of my precious baby girl.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bye Bye Baby

For nearly fifteen years, Fizzgig has been more than just a pet. She has been a companion, friend and daughter. Although often aloof, she has always held me in high regard and would frequently follow me from room to room just to be close. When I have been ill or upset, she has sat beside me in comfort. I will miss our snuggles. I will miss her voice. I will miss her beauty. Most of all, I will miss her company. In fifteen years of personal highs and lows, she has been the one constant I have always relied on.

On her last morning, I sat with her from 3 a.m. onwards. She was weak, unsteady and confused. I stroked her, held her and returned the companionship she has given me all these years.

At 9:30, she passed away as I cradled her.

I grieve, I ache and I cry until I am exhausted.

Fizzgig, my baby girl... thank you for everything.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rescue Me

Prepare yourself for yet another rant about the satanic implementation of universal open-plan offices… and before you say "First World Problems", let me say that anyone who does say to me gets a punch in the genitals with a glove made of nettles.

I have often railed against the insanity of ‘open-plan’ and I continue on my mission to spread the word that it is abominable, detrimental to mental health and definitely not suitable for all roles and all personality types. However, it seems those in charge are not dissimilar to the Borg from the Star Trek Universe; We have to assimilate or be killed (a bit dramatic, but you see my point I hope).

How come so many people are, apparently, unable to use their "indoor" voice? Unless they are on a private call, of course, and then they suddenly adapt! Suspicious, methinks. Are these boomers intent on proving to all that they are working? Are they that inconsiderate that they believe no one else’s work is worthy of quiet and focus? My job involves a lot of talking, but I have been told that I am barely audible – because I respect boundaries and I, frankly, don’t think others need to hear my shit.

The cacophony in the office forces me to wear noise-reducing headphones. That’s not enough to quash the decibels of death, so I have to turn up my headphones as loud as I can bear. Then I get stabbing headaches and have to knock back a number of paracetamol tablets just to cope. If I go deaf, I’m going to sue!

You also have to listen to other departments discussions about tedious shit. I sit near I.T. and it is nowhere near as fascinating as it was in The IT Crowd. And not only do we have to listen to boring work conversations; there is also the banal banter of people’s small talk – stuff about where they bought their new shoes or who went to a barbecue at the weekend. A load of blabbering crap.

Oh, don’t let me forget to mention… what about the nasal passages? The smells! Oh, my god! The SMELLS! People should be forbidden from eating Vegemite/Marmite at their desks or using hideously fragrant hand moisturiser, or farting!

Then there’s the open-plan etiquette of communal living. The forced chit-chat in the kitchens. I have little interest in how you are if I don’t bloody well know you, so don’t ask me how I am. Just because you feel uncomfortable in silence, that doesn’t mean you have to drag me into your inane world of blithering bollocks. The communal aspect also stops you from being a selfish bastard, annoyingly. If you have a large bar of chocolate to share, or a packet of biscuits, you can’t just share it with your friends, you feel obliged to offer EVERYONE a piece and then you’re left with nothing. ARGH!

I could go on (and I frequently do) but I feel that it is better to vent here than to actually punch someone in the head through mere frustration and despair.

Lastly, I need to vent about the effect it has on me physically. I have chronic shoulder and neck issues, my gut is tied up in knots and I feel physically ill on a daily basis - but only when I am in the office. The tension floats away when I step out of the building. I know that I am not the only person who feels like this. But do you know what? No one gives a shit.

I need a new job – maybe I could be a lighthouse keeper.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

This Used to be My Playground

Yesterday, I had to hand in the keys to my old apartment. Before I did that, I checked my mail box for the last time and then had a quick wee in the apartment (in the toilet, obviously!) - I can't deny that when I left I said out loud Goodbye, apartment... I have loved you!"

OK, so it was expensive, noisy and had shit elevators; but I had some happy times there. I felt secure and it had mod-cons. I took advantage of the free gym and pool, I was close to work; I was just down the road from one of my best friends... but it was time to move on.

The new place is $110 cheaper a week and it is located in one of my old haunts, so I know the area well. Only a one bedroom, so I have to make room for all my furniture (although I did dump some during the moving process!)

I am on the top floor (which means extra security) and I am near a number of friends. I may not have access to a free gym, but I can get back into my old walking regime that helped me lose weight a few years ago.

I am still not 100% happy with the set-up, but I will work on that. I am actually looking forward to just enjoying my new surroundings over Easter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bedtime Story

I have always loved Oz. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time on a black & white TV (brilliant, huh?) and being entranced. I was only about 5 years old. I read the original book many times in my youth and I delved into a handful of the other Baum books including The Marvellous Land of Oz and Tik Tok of Oz during my early school days. It is only recently that I have finally ploughed through all 14 (well, I am half way through book 13, but I am getting there!).

I have lived in the alternate 'Oz' (Australia) for over fifteen years now and I have made some superb friends. However, in the past few years, I have made three rather special friends. I call them my "straight-dates". Three handsome, smart and talented heterosexual men who are amongst the kindest, sweetest and decent men I have ever met. I have a strange bond with each of them and, oddly, they share similarities with a certain trio from the land of Oz. Weirder still, I met them in the same order as Dorothy met her friends! Let's take a look...

For the sake of decency and privacy, I will refer to these fantastic chaps by their first initial.

A few years ago, I met 'D'. I saw him in a stairwell and I lit up. Gosh, what a handsome devil he is. I pursued him in a friendly manner as I was keen to find out if he swung my way. He did not, but we bonded quite quickly and became firm friends. Now, 'D' is smart. Really smart. He is wise beyond his years, he is a deep thinker and dedicated to truth. The thing is, he tends to doubt himself (as I often doubt myself!) - he really shouldn't, for I know what I am talking about. He is also charming, talented and (did I mention before) ridiculously good looking. He has been there for me through thick and thin. He is my scarecrow and he has more brains than he realises.

A couple of years ago, I met 'C'. I had seen him about the place at work but really got to know him one evening at a nearby watering hole and I learned all about his talents, his life and his charm. Another handsome chap but, this time, ruggedly so. He has a cheekiness that appeals to me greatly too. Now, 'C' is a man with heart. He is so kind and generous. He frequently gives and gives to others. He gives his time, his effort and his money! I am lucky to know a great number of generous people, but his generosity is boundless. 'C' has so much to give, yet he (like 'D' and myself) has self-doubt. The amount of times 'C' has helped me out is astounding. His heart couldn't be any bigger.

Then we come to 'P'. Sweet, strong, beautiful, courageous 'P'. I met 'P' about 15 months ago at a mutual friend's Christmas soiree. He and I hit it off quickly. Initially I was a bit intimidated by him because he appears so confident and I am a paranoid mess. However, he showed strength of character and he impressed me with his prowess, his stories of his life and, again, his stunning looks. (I am not that shallow, it's just a common ingredient!) 'P' is courageous in many ways. He left a career in the film industry and began a new life as a nurse - one of the most courageous jobs in the world - he also does rock-climbing and all kinds of manly activities. He is also lithe, fit and strong. And, sometimes, he has a wonderful mane/beard. He is a protector and a king.

That wonderful trio is my alternate "friends of Dorothy". As I mention, I have a load of amazing friends over here. They know who they are. But this post is dedicated to the three men who make my journey that little bit more magical.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Paradise (Not For Me)

PHEW!! A long walk, a bit of sunburn and seven soggy, snotty handkerchiefs later...

I just got in from a rather laborious morning of apartment hunting. It's funny when you're focussing on one area and you keep bumping into the same prospective renters. Of course, each gets a death glare from me if I want that apartment specifically.

There were a lot of single people, but there were a few happy, gorgeous, young couples looking for their first home. Bastards.

I find that a lot of the places I am looking at in my price range are really the sort of things only students can cope with. I am finding it difficult to find something to suit my needs.

Today's Viewings

  • 9:55 - Toorak Road:
  • Agent gave wrong address on website, so missed that one!
  • 10:10 - Powell Street:
  • Agent never turned up
  • 10:20 - Fawkner Road:
  • Tiny, horrid hole. But cheap.
  • 10:30 - Punt Road:
  • Massive three-bedroom house. I got very excited and dreamt of a life sharing with friends and it'd be like This Life. But it was $900 a week and no friends would want to live with me. *sigh*
  • 11:10 - Osborne Street:
  • Nice, but no laundry facilities
  • 11:35 - Davis Avenue:
  • Lovely! Just right for me (bathroom needs work, though) - I have applied
  • 12:30 - Margaret Drive:
  • Nice, actually. Small, but has an outdoor area. Bathroom in wardrobe. Fact.
  • 1:10 - Osborne Street again:
  • I have already applied for this one as it is definitely pet friendly - even has a cat flap!

We'll see what happens.

I had lunch at Cafe Republic. I had scrambled eggs and bacon on toast. I was served by a guy who looked like Orlando Bloom... in a good way.

I also broke up the morning by sitting in a little park. That was nice.

This afternoon, I deserve a treat...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Nobody's Perfect

So, when did I become such a miserable old bastard? As I approach 40, it occurs to me (and others) that I have become surly, selfish, self-absorbed and down right miserable. How did this happen? I certainly don't get it from my parents. Both are equally upbeat and positive about the world and its people. Certainly not from my brother who may, indeed, suffer the ignominy of the masses, but he does it with joviality and irony.

As a child, I was bright, spirited, eager-to-please and what one might call 'chipper'. My mother always said that I was "great with people"!

Oh, but times have changed.

Now I find people to be rude, ignorant, inconsiderate and the bane of my existence. I have turned into a grumpy old man 30 years too soon. I am a curmudgeon; a miser; a borderline hermit; a critical, self-righteous arsehole... I'm the depressingly unfunny version of Alan Partridge.

Maybe it's because I have lived alone for too long. Maybe it's because the social injustices of life make me bitter and angry. Maybe it's because I miss the simplicity of the halcyon days pre-iPhone.

A less angry Ben makes a happier Ben. Ah yes, I used to be happy...

I need to change. I need to get a new perspective on life. I need to regain my faith in humanity.

Or maybe I just need to get laid.

Who can say?

Where is Ryan Kwanten when you need him?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rebel Heart

I came late to the music of Madonna. Obviously, I was well aware of her in the 1980s and I really appreciated Material Girl, Express Yourself and a handful of others, but it wasn't until my friend Rhian introduced me to I'm Breathless that I actually began to admire the performer for her diversity, humour and sensibilities. The 1990s were, for me, Madonna's best decade. I think Erotica is an incredibly brave (and sexy) album, Bedtime Stories is near-perfect but horrendously under-rated, and Ray of Light is a masterpiece.

In the 21st Century, I felt a little let down with Music and American Life but in later years, I have become fonder of them and gained an appreciation of them both. Confessions on a Dance Floor is a terrific concept album and Hard Candy is unfairly criticised but it is a below-par effort on Madonna's part. Only about 50 % of the tracks are actually worthy of her talent.

Then, MDNA came along. I found it hard to listen to. It reeked of desperation in places and the over use of the deeply irritating Nicki Minaj makes me want to pour burning fat into my ears. The album had a handful of terrific tracks (Falling Free and I'm Addicted spring to mind) but as a whole, I found it barely tolerable.

For 2015, we have a superb return-to-form in Rebel Heart. We witness again the maturity we experienced in Ray of Light and a wide range of songs that often (deliberately) hark back to earlier eras of her career. Sure, the grating electric nymph that is Nicki Minaj does make a fleeting appearance, but it's not as nerve-jangling as in Give Me All Your Luvin' *shudder* I can't help thinking that Ms Minaj must have something over Madge, otherwise why would she allow the untalented gaudy imp into her recording studios? Luckily, she doesn't ruin the fun of Bitch I'm Madonna.

Rebel Heart is provocative, eclectic and thoroughly enjoyable album and it shows a very focussed artist behind the scenes. Madonna is also not afraid to bring her religious beliefs into her lyrics, but it never feels heavy-handed, just honest and thoughtfully formulated.

The first official release form the album is Living For Love and it feels like real Madonna. The video, where she plays a bullfighter amongst her (continually impressive) back-up dancers dressed as bulls, is a simplistic yet beautiful piece with stunning choreography and perfect direction and editing.

Other stand-out tracks include Devil Pray, Iconic, Body Shop, Holy Water and Wash All Over Me; but, frankly, there is barely a mis-step throughout. On the "Deluxe Edition" there is another cracker of a song entitled Veni Vidi Vici which details the rise of her career and the obstacles she overcame to become the superstar she is today. Oddly, it's on the deluxe edition that you will also find the album's title track, Rebel Heart, and - once again - it has a very autobiographical feel to it. Admittedly, this is what Madonna is incredibly good at and the result is a touching number with great integrity.

Ghosttown is destined to become an instant classic as it is hauntingly beautiful (pardon the pun!) and, even though Unapologetic Bitch irked me upon first hearing, it has grown on me immensely and I find it great fun

Joan of Arc is also a stunningly beautiful number. It is songs like this that make me want Madonna to release another ballad compilation similar to Something to Remember.

You may be aware of a number of 'demo' tracks that have been leaked and these too are stunningly good. There are over 30 tracks out in the ether associated with these recording sessions and, frankly, Madonna could have released everything as a full-on double album (like Rufus Wainwright did with Want). One of the tracks that sadly missed the final cut of the album is, perhaps, the best of the lot. Beautiful Scars is a raw song of love and acceptance. It speaks so deeply about how we view ourselves in the eyes of others and offers little apology for it. The song reminds me of her brutal honesty she displayed in the classic Human Nature but, this time, in the form of a superb melody with touching lyrics.

I could go on about all the tracks, but I think you get that I am slightly in love with this album. I haven't felt so obsessed with an album since Kirsty MacColl's Tropical Brainstorm or Madge's own Ray of Light - it took 15 years, but I'm back in the groove!

So, in conclusion, I thank Madonna for taking the time to focus. THIS is the sort of music that made us fans in the first place. If she never made another album again, we would be safe in the knowledge that she left the industry on a high note.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


For the past 30 months I have been living within the city limits. I have enjoyed being close to work, minutes away from public transport and literally down the road from one of my best friends in Australia. However, the cost of such a convenient location has slowly been crippling me financially.

Prior to moving into the Docklands apartment, I was briefly living in a rather undesirable area of which the denizens often perturbed me with their cantankerous conduct and nefarious antics. Being a rather sensitive soul, these surroundings were not conducive to a happy lifestyle, so I decided that, no matter what the cost, I would move to somewhere more secure.

When I moved into the Lacrosse building by Etihad Stadium, I was deliriously happy. I even recall dancing around like an uncoordinated bunny with myxomatosis. I was throwing caution to the wind and I deliberately ignored the fact that I am not exactly wise and thrifty, but I was happy.

This year, I decided to make some changes in my life and the move had to be one of them. Admittedly, there are some other reasons other than financial to get away – the building itself suffered a damaging fire four months ago and it still isn’t up to scratch; there is perpetual noise from next door as another tower is being constructed mere feet away from my bedroom wall; the constant noise from the trams and train station has kept me awake most nights… the list goes on.

So, I began the laborious chore of house-hunting…

Firstly, let me say how much harder it is for renters. I came across a number of obstacles during my search. Estate agents only seem to pander to home-buyers. Renters seem to be a nuisance to them. I went to many estate agent offices and I was confronted by a lot of unhelpful receptionists who gave me looks of derision when I asked for help. The most they could achieve was to pass me a print out of places for lease. Yeah, thanks.

I had spent a lot of time on websites but they are quite poor to judge places, especially when they a) don’t provide the information one needs and b) lie through their teeth! I think we should supply every estate agent with a dictionary to replace their optimistic thesaurus which seems to be their holy bible. ‘Spacious’, ‘exciting’, ‘fantastic’ ‘cosy’??? As I have said for a long time now, ‘Sales is about bullshitting; Marketing is about bullshitting and believing it!’ Utterly deluded.

And what is the thrill about “communal Laundry”?? This isn’t 1985!! Unless I get to shag Daniel Day-Lewis in the back room, I certainly am not interested in sharing my de-soiling of garments with an audience.

Please don’t get me started on the ‘no pets’ rule!! It is one of the most infuriating things about renting. She’s a cat for God’s sake, not a Tasmanian Devil! People make more mess then Fizzgig. They let people rent with demon babies, for fuck’s sake! (I said ‘don’t get me started’!)

My baby girl!

A lot of the one-bedroom places available to rent in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs are so incredibly tiny that, unless you’re a foreign student with only a laptop and a mattress in your possession, you are going to find it incredibly difficult to be comfortable. I am 39, for crying out loud! I have a life in tow – furniture, belongings etc. I don’t want to live my life like a battery chicken. I looked at some flats and could see myself attempting to bite my own legs off through the sheer insanity of the cell-like abodes.

There is an inescapable problem in our society and that is, simply, life does not avail itself easily to the single person. Modern life caters toward the couple and, unless Ryan Kwanten wakes up to realise that he really should marry me and live happily ever after, I am going to struggle. I work in publishing and, fair’s fair, it’s not the best paying industry (I confess I am not the brightest or best educated person in the world, so I can’t complain too much about failing to climb the career ladder) but I still want to be able to afford pleasures like buying friends gifts at Christmas, paying for a holiday once a year, the occasional pizza. Sadly, landlords are shockingly greedy and that’s never going to change. (I have a theory that if all landlords across the globe stopped upping their rents for one year, the world could catch up with itself and the economic crisis would smooth over – see? Not that educated, but I have nice and simplistic ideas!)


During my jaunts around the suburbs, I came across some annoyances such as estate agents not turning up for appointments, disgusting lightless hovels, preposterous lies and dismal excuses for dwellings.

The lighter side of it is I have met some rather handsome estate agents and, quite often, wanted to take the property on that notion alone. ”Ooh, hello Hottie McHothot, I’ll take it!”

Anyway, my rant is drawing to a close. I have (hopefully) found and secured a place that is a two-bedroom place, top floor with balcony and in a pleasant area with a decent pizza restaurant down the road (important!)

My new home?

All I hope is that the next time I move, it will be as a home-owner, not a renter… now, what numbers should I choose for the lottery??