We’ve moved elsewhere on the WWW

Just before Christmas, the friend who hosts this blog for me decided to move things around and head off to another provider so I’ve had to move my blog to wherever he is now.

If you follow this blog and want to continue to keep up with the odd goings on in my life, you can find it at http://backflipboy.mitch.pro/ – all the content was transferred across before Christmas but I only got access to it on Friday so my last two entries are dated February 22.

Hope you can continue to follow me. :)

Every life is precious

Dear reader, I don’t usually go down the path of copy and paste when I write up my blog entries but the following is an edited re-post of an article I wrote in March 2012 after the death of a young boy in unfortunate circumstances. In light of the events of the last 24 hours in Victoria, I felt the basic message needed revisiting.

There are few absolutes in life. Certainly we are born, live our lives and eventually die. In between birth and death, we do the important things like grow up, form relationships, work and pay taxes, breed and watch our children grow up and live their lives.

All of this, of course, happens in an ideal world and we would all like to live in such a utopia. Unfortunately, we live in reality where the only definite absolutes are being born and dying. What happens in between these two events is left up to genetics and fate and sometimes neither of these situations works out to be a good deal.

Generally, when someone dies they have lived a pretty full life. They’re adults who have lived long enough to have enjoyed a life full of experiences that we would consider normal – the simple things like dating, courting, marrying, having children and getting grandkids – a kind of immortality you might say. These are the big events in the average persons life. Of course, there are those who walk a different path and achieve other forms of greatness through sporting, political or artistic achievements.

I am always saddened when I hear that a  young person has died. I am 48 years old now and if I were to die tomorrow, people would be sad (I hope), but at least they would know that I achieved something in the time I was alive. It may be insignificant, but at least I had the opportunity to gain and enjoy some of the unique experiences growing old brings. I would hope that my friends would be sad for a couple of weeks but then get on with their lives.

I also believe that no parent should outlive their children – ever.

There are a lot of people in mourning at the moment over the senseless passing of Luke Batty, an 11 year old boy in Victoria who was killed by his own father on Wednesday. People who didn’t know Luke, but are parents themselves, understand the pain that this boys family is going through. I’m not a parent and I am saddened by it myself.

The reason that I am saddened by this meaningless death is because Luke was only 11. Unless he was an exceptional boy, he had little opportunity to gain any life experience beyond being a child. There is no way of knowing what his life would become. Whether it be a sporting star or some kind of academic, the potential that was locked inside of him is gone. This really does go for any young person who dies prematurely. Whatever potential they have is lost.

Words and hollow platitudes will never fully give closure to Lukes family, but they will always have those 11 years to look back on and remember him. They may take some small comfort in the fact that his 11 years were probably happy ones, but their lives are now changed forever. As for the rest of us, well we will probably forget about Luke in a week or so as more important things happen in our lives.

I have many friends who have children at various ages. My message to them is to love them more every day, listen to what they have to say, accept that they may not live up to your expectations or plans for their futures and love them unconditionally. No matter what they do with their lives, where they are in the world or whatever age they live to, they will always be your little boys or girls.

Later days.

To 2014 and beyond…..

It’s the last day of 2013 in the great land of Oz and the weather has turned cool after a warm day. It’s kind of funny how that seems important in the here and now but on December 31 2014, I will have totally forgotten if the sun was even shining today. 365 days is a long time to remember things which explains why people have diaries, Facebook and blogs. My memory of some stuff is pretty shocking so I tend to rely on external sources to remind me of what happened around me.

One of the things that I have come to realise this year (especially in the last 6 months) is how much unimportant stuff that I store away in my head gets in the way of getting on with life. If I were a believer in resolutions, I’d be making one that says I’m only going to focus on what is important and stop sweating the petty things. Instead of a resolution, I’m making a commitment to do all of that. If you think that means making massive changes in the way I think or act, you’re going to be disappointed. All it means is that I’m  just not going to let everyones crap get to me and react in a negative and shouty way.

Mind you, if you act like a dick or an idiot to or around me, I will call you a dick or an idiot (or both).

I’m going to be starting 2014 with a 6 day old moustache that I’m trying out to see how it looks. A totally trivial thing, but it will be one of the amusing things that I remember from 2013. Other than that, I don’t know what the next 12 months has in store for me. If I did, it would spoil all of the surprises. It may be good, it may be bad or it may just be average. Whichever way the dice falls, I’ll look at the positives in it – every cloud has a silver lining, glass half full  etc.

Of course, my wish for those of you who have gotten this far down is that you make the most of whatever 2014 throws at you even if your 2013 wasn’t everything you thought it would be. If 2013 met your expectations, do your best to make 2014 a better year. If you’re one of those people who is happy just coasting along, keep on trucking.

So, to my real world friends and family,  we’ve had some great times, some wonderful disagreements and the odd stand up argument – I look forward to more of the same in 2014.  To my Facebook friends, keep bemusing me  with your drunken status updates, your never ending out of focus smartphone selfies and your inspiring words of wisdom. To my workmates, thanks for putting up with me this year, (especially the last couple of months) and I hope that I have been of some help to you guys. Apparently, that’s what I am there for?

That’s it for my 2013 blogging. Not a lot done this year but I hope the little amount of what was written made sense and maybe gave you a laugh or some other kind of feels. I’ll do better next year (I hope).

Have a great end of 2013 party, raise a glass or three to welcome in 2014 and remember don’t sweat the petty things but please pet the sweaty things.

Happy New Year guys and gals.

It’s Christmas again

So we come to yet another Christmas in the great land of Oz. This will be my 47th Christmas but it is most likely that I only remember about 44 of them since I’m not one of those people who can remember much before I turned 5 years of age. I can only assume that my family celebrated Christmas during those years but I can’t find any photographic evidence of the events and the only people who could give me that information are either dead or insane (or both).

Christmas lunch has always been my favourite part of the day. Honestly speaking, after the gifts had been unwrapped and either excitement or disappointment at what was revealed, it all got a bit slow so looking forward to the feast that my mother spent hours preparing became the highlight of the day. When we were kids, it was always roast turkey, lamb and beef (no pork for some reason), baked potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes (white) and onions plus miscellaneous other vegetables with the goodness boiled out of them with dessert being plum pudding and custard/cream.

Even after we all grew up and family life moved on in its various ways, the one constant at Christmas was that we had a family lunch and this was a tradition that continued right up to my mothers passing in 2000. That year was a much more subdued affair but there was still a big Christmas meal even if it was just my brother and our uncle in attendance.

That’s the thing about Christmas though. It’s the one day of the year that families gather together and forget their petty squabbling for a few hours. My younger brother lives in Tasmania nowdays but we always communicate on Christmas Day in some way (facebook, text or even a phone call). Unfortunately, I probably won’t hear from my older brother again this year, but that’s a choice he made a long time ago. The main thing that I took from all of those Christmas lunches growing up is that no matter what differences you may have, family is important.

My family isn’t just the people I am related to anymore. I don’t believe that family should be restricted to the people you are related to either through blood or marriage. I’ve met a lot of people who I think of as family. They’re the people I enjoy spending time with and who for some strange reason enjoy spending time with me despite all of my social flaws. It’s because of this, I never have to spend my Christmas alone – there are always people out there who are happy to invite me into their homes to share their family day with me.

So wherever you are in the world on Christmas day and whoever you are spending the day with, think of that as your home and the people as your family. Home is where the heart is and family is the people you love.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that wherever you are on the day that you enjoy the company of the family and/or friends you are with.

My one sentence review of Star Trek Into Darkness

Overall a good film but I was disappointed that the villain turned out to be who everyone thought it would be but at least they made him a lot more than just your average two dimensional, over the top super-villain.

1/4 of a century (and counting)

Greetings dear reader. Once again we gather so you can hear me talk about myself. Sometimes I wonder what it is that fascinates you about my life but then I realise that my life isn’t fascinating, just distracting.

This weekend is a big anniversary for me. On Sunday,  I celebrate 25 years in my current job. Yes dear reader, Sunday marks 1/4 of a century of my life devoted to driving trains for the NSW Government. That’s the longest amount of time I have spent doing anything (other than being alive of course) without getting bored and moving onto something more interesting. Believe me, there have been days when I’ve woken up at stupid o’clock in the morning wishing I had a more stable career, but I figure that everyone has those kinds of days.

Driving trains is actually the one thing I always said I wanted to do when I was a kid. Everyone else wanted to be a policeman or nurse or whatever and out of all the people I still know from those days, only I seem to be doing what I said I was going to do. Sometimes, following a dream does work out.

My eventual permanent arrival into the railway system was actually my 3rd or 4th attempt at it. Back in 1982, I applied to join the railways as a station assistant a couple of times and failed the maths portion of the entrance “exam” – by exam, I mean 5 words that needed spelling and 5 maths problems to be solved.

I am fucking terrible at maths.

So eventually, I managed to overcome this problem and ended up on the railways towards the end of 1982. This lasted a grand total of 4 days, the shortest amount of time I have ever been employed to do anything. My interest in driving trains led the powers that be to place me in a signal box at Enfield goods yard (Enfield South Box) as a telephone boy. My job was to answer the phone when drivers called in to find out where they were going and record this in a register. It also was doing general dogs body work as well. Unfortunately, the signalmen who worked there didn’t care too much about teaching me what my job entailed with one of them simply stating “If you don’t learn what you have to do by the end of the week, you’ll be fucked when you’re on night shift next week”.

Yeah, that’s gonna motivate me for sure. Next stop, unemployment.

Okay, so i wussed out and spent a year unemployed. Fast forward to November of 1987 and I’m working the Department of Social Security (DSS) in Sydney and my section is about to close down and I am expected to go do shift work in the computer centre. I figured that if I have to do shift work, I might as well take a stab at getting my dream job again. The exam was a tad harder this time, but my 4 years of office work prepared me for what they wanted and I also managed to pass the medical and got an interview with a really nice guy called Maurice Johnson who was in charge of the Drivers section of the training college at the time. I must have said all the right things because he told me to turn up at the college on January 27 1988 to start my training.

Side note, Maurice was one of the nicest people I have encountered in my 25 years on the job and I will always be thankful that he saw something in me that told him I’d be an asset. He now runs his own training company.

Anyways, after 2 weeks of initial “safeworking” training with an inspector who may (or may not) have had a nervous breakdown at some stage in his career, and an oral exam with an examiner who actually seemed to answer all of the questions he asked me himself, I was sent off to a place called DELEC which was the locomotive depot attached to Enfield goods yard.

Yes, fate had returned to the place of my defeat in 1982. I also managed to re-acquire my old employee number as well.

18 months of shunting yards, being the second person on main line trains (occasionally driving them too) and being treated with disdain by some of the older drivers because I had the audacity to be regular mates with a “scab” from before I even joined the job saw me ready to take the examination to proceed to acting driver but I elected to transfer across to the suburban network (ETR).

Initially, the ETR was to be a one year gig to get my appointment, then head back to the freight so I could transfer to Dubbo where I had bought some land. Unfortunately, they changed the rules and I got stuck for 5 years. In the end, that wasn’t such a bad thing because I got a social life again and made a lot of new friends. That’s the one thing I found about my time on the freight – I met a lot of people but didn’t get to know them or become their friend. Most of their names were “Mate”.

Now I am what you could call a “Senior Driver”. In my depot at Blacktown, out of 70+ Drivers, I am about the 15th most senior. Nowdays, the only thing that means is that I get to lord it over the “junior men” every now and then (in jest of course) and it allows me to appear wise in the eyes of the newbies should they see the need to actually talk to anyone. In reality, it means that most of the people who are in a managerial position are people I either knew as Drivers or were simple functionaries when I started but have somehow managed to bluff their way up the ladder (sign on clerks and failed guards as supervisors and managers? I’m soooo scared).

So, on this anniversary weekend, I can sit back and reflect on how the past 25 years have changed me in some ways but at the same time, it has reinforced in me the importance of remaining the person I was all those years ago. There is so much bureaucratic bullshit involved in doing the job nowdays that you have to turn off the part of your brain that acknowledges it and just do the job. As I was telling a newbie driver the other day, you do what you have to do today and worry about the consequences tomorrow. At the end of the day, the traveling public is what our job is all about and no management directive will ever change that in the eyes of us career Drivers.

I have about 14 years to go before I retire and I am sure to see a lot of changes in that time. Judging by the last 25 years, I’m going to see a lot of change that is just going to make me say “what the fuck?”, shake my head and just keep doing what I do best. On the other hand, I can say that I have at least 14 years of doing what I enjoy plus I get to be a pain in the arse to everyone I work with because that’s who I am.

Later days.

Trivial Fact 222: Due to staggering inflation in the 1920′s, 4,000,000,000,000,000,000 German marks were worth 1 US dollar – yet you still couldn’t get a decent bagel for that price.

The end is nigh (sorta)

So dear reader, we have once again arrived at the tail end of yet another year and the calendar is about to flip over from 2012 to 2013. It has all gone so fast. It seems to me that the older I get, the faster time flows and even though I know this isn’t true, it certainly does feel like I was welcoming in 2012 not that long ago.

Of course, the  most anticipated event of the year was the end of the world. A misinterpretation of the Mayan Calendar had people believing that there would be some world ending cataclysm on December 21, but it’s now December 31 and there appears to be no hint of a global apocalypse – not even one containing Zombies. The reality is that if your Mayan calendar is about to run out, you just need to get a new Mayan calendar. Personally, I’m happy it didn’t end because I would hate to end up in whatever version of an afterlife awaits me knowing I never finished the painting project I spent my entire holiday period working on.

I don’t do New Years Resolutions. I used to, but I figured that any changes I wanted to make in my life could be made at anytime. Same goes for everyone else if they really want to make the change. Sure, the first day of the year makes it easy to remember when you decided to make the change, but there isn’t a hard and fast rule about having to do it then. Making the decision to improve your life is vastly more important than remembering what day you decided to do it – unless it’s your wedding anniversary or  your wifes Birthday. Forget either of those and you won’t need to worry about next years resolutions.

It’s hard to tell whether 2012 was a success. In fact, how does one gauge how successful their year was if there were no life altering events that happened?  From my point of view, I managed to make it all the way to the end without dying so that’s a success for me of sorts – not really much of an achievement since I have relatively little control over life and death outside of being careful and responsible.

On the other hand, a couple of friends gave birth to healthy sons so they’d be looking at 2012 as being a particularly successful year for their families and they get to continue enjoying their success for years to come and one other friend announced that she would be adding a second little bundle of joy to her family mid 2013 so she gets two bites of the success cherry.

This was also the year that I learned a valuable lesson in not assuming everyone knows a family secret before casually bringing the topic up in drunken conversation at 2:00am. While it was a monstrous faux pas at the time, it pretty much seemed to have turned out okay in the end. Knowing me, I will probably do something similar in 2013 so it will be a lesson learned but ignored.

Oh, there was also the whole me “coming out” thing that was a surprise to absolutely nobody.

So with the end of 2012 only a few more hours away, what do I have to look forward to in 2013? Well, for starters, I seem to still have my health despite my love of chocolate and alcohol – neither of which I indulge in moderation. Thank goodness for my gym membership.

Also, starting at the end of January, I  will be attempting training as a Les Mill BodyCombat instructor. I may do well or I may fail dismally. Whichever way it goes, at least trying and failing is better than not trying at all. At least I’ll still be able to participate in the classes.

I was once accused of over-planning my life to the point that I knew what I was doing months in advance and was inflexible. I’d like to think that I have improved over time. Yes, due to my work roster, I have a general idea of what I am doing in my job up until at least May, but now I make commitments and work around the roster rather than missing out on things (except when I have to get up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning). That’s a positive to take into 2013 with me I guess.

So, that’s it. My last blog entry for 2012. The usual mingling of words hastily thrown together that sounded a lot better in my head and translated pretty poorly to the screen. All in all, 2012 has been a pretty average year and average is good. My motto has always been “Strive to be average” and I hope I am living down to that standard.

All that is left now is to wish everyone who has made it down this far a happy and prosperous 2013 and hope that you too strive to be your best even if you best is just average. As for success, you’re the best judge of what success is to you so embrace every little win you have throughout the year.

As for me, I’ll see you on the other side.

Later days. :)

Trivial fact number 221:- On average, women say 7000 words per day, men manage just over 2000 (when they can get a word in that is)