13 May 2019, Blackburn

I went to vote yesterday. Being an early elector, I forwent the democracy sausage (don’t ask how the sausage is made) in favour of a surprisingly long queue slightly outside of my electorate.

We have a very good-natured democracy, but one still has to run the gauntlet of people handing out flyers. Apart from the ubiquitous redshirts and blueshirts (reminiscent of chariot racing in Byzantium), we were joined by many greens, some aqua, a smattering of yellow placards (although no individuals) and a variety of small-time independents with poor graphic design skills. The only colour not represented seemed to be purple, perhaps because that is the totem of the Australian Electoral Commission and therefore sacrosanct.

Some people take all the how-to-vote cards they’re offered, so as not to offend the rainbow volunteers and to give no hint as to how they intend to vote. I choose to go the opposite path – I accept nothing.  The lower house voting is normally not a problem without a cheat sheet, but the Senate can get quite complicated. I forget whether the Pirate Party are civil libertarians or uncivil buccaneers.

I left with a sense of relief, but with an urgent desire to hear the results. Now! Man’s lot is to be unhappy, and that appears to extend to having to wait for the results of a national popularity contest.

Sunday May 5, 2019, Glen Iris

I spent the afternoon at a trampoline gym with one of my kids. We both had a glorious time, bouncing, flipping, landing awkwardly, trying not to crash into other people.

The place was filled to the brim with kids, being a Sunday. A handful of adults were bouncing too, but the vast majority were patronising the cafe selling overpriced coffee made by teenagers and looking at their phones. Some of them were working on laptops.

I found this all terribly sad.

While I understand that trampolining isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it should be plenty of people’s. It’s super fun. Judging by the number of non participating adults of child-bearing age, I guessed that probably some of them had a medical (orthopaedic) reason for not joining in, which is sad in itself.

But I suspect that the rest of them had some combination of fears – fear of lack of fitness, fear of looking silly, fear of being not very good, fear of hurting themselves.

I think that these fears are probably rubbish. One of the great gifts of adulthood is understanding that most people don’t care about you, they barely even notice you most of the time. Why not exploit that and have some childlike fun?

I mean, really. Do it now before you get old and die.

Unless there’s something on Facebook that can’t wait.

14 April 2019, Canberra

Sometimes I drink instant coffee at work. I joke that I do it because sometimes I need to hurt myself in order to feel something. The truth is really that I just like coffee.

It’s tough to live in Melbourne and not have strong views on espresso style coffee. I mean, I like it, and I can detect a bad cup. But a lifetime of nasal dysfunction and a general lack of interest in culinary culture means than Melbourne’s febrile cafes are mainly interesting for the interior design.

I feel that becoming a connoisseur of something, or any other kind of refined aesthete is a risky business. It’s a radically effective way to reduce your enjoyment of mediocre products and to overall decrease life satisfaction. Why would you create in yourself a need that can never be fulfilled?

Anyway, sometimes you find yourself in a situation where a quality product is simply unavailable. Apartment hotels in Canberra on a Sunday morning are just such a place.

7 April 2019, Union road, Surrey Hills, Victoria

In this election season I have been forced to conclude that Clive Palmer’s electoral office are trying to sabotage him.

I mean, look at that poster. Looks like it’s been put together by the year nine work experience kid. Awful Photoshopping, lurid colours, typography that could only be worsened by the addition of WinDings. It’s like the graphic designer hated Palmer’s guts and is playing a gigantic prank on him.

Let’s not forget the slogan. Clearly Clivosaurus wants to be Australia’s Donald Trump, hence the slavish imitation. But in Australia, I don’t think the Cheezel-in-Chief is a sensible role model.

This election may be tragic. It’s already comic.

6 April 2019, Surrey Hills Uniting Church, Victoria

Most churches in Australia give off a strong air of swimming against the tide. The buildings are spic and span, gardens watered and mantels dusted by a committee of keen parishioners. But the demographics are inescapable. There are no young people.

There are twee little poems posted on the bathroom wall about not leaving the lights on. The notice board lists various worthy causes about which the parish should write to the government, with the subtext that what those brown people need is a dose of religion. There is even a magazine extolling the virtues of the church’s youth wing and its members. Yes, they’re exactly the kind of people you’d expect.

Increasingly the church halls are being used for community purposes, just as they always were. But now it’s rehearsal space for the local ballet school, rather than a cake sale or knitting bee. How else to keep the lights on? Money talks.

I wonder whether I’m seeing the last gasp of mass organised Christianity in this country. No doubt many people will still believe. But between child abuse scandals and the even more devastating curse of irrelevance, I suspect that church-going as we know it is fading away, fast.

5 April 2019, Camberwell, Victoria

In these peri-Brexit days, the imperial tide is pretty far from the shore. But you still come across a few pieces of flotsam, washed up and left stranded in an ocean of transnational sameness.

The stern Victorian aesthetic is a bit out of place in a country that prides itself on being egalitarian and easy-going, but the truth isn’t hard to find. The foundry that spawned this cast-iron erection was in Castlemaine, 90 minutes drive away, amongst the eucalypts.

No matter how hard the immigrants try, the echoes of the old country keep rattling round your head. Culture is malleable, but it’s also immortal.