Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is it a S.A.D. season?

Tasmania and Iceland have a lot in common, I've always thought (the small matter of volcanoes aside). I've often read things about SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder also known as winter depression or winter blues. Most SAD sufferers experience normal mental health throughout most of the year, but experience depressive symptoms in the winter.

(The Icelandic word is "skammdegisthunglyndi". "Skamm" means short, "degi" is day, "thung" is heavy and "lyndi" means mood ; it appeared in print as long ago as the late 1800's, according to Wikipedia.)

Being an Australian male, I usually have little time for these sorts of psycho-babble afflictions, but this winter has hit me harder than most. For one thing, it's the first really cold winter we've had since my diabetes was diagnosed. My doctor advised me to get a flu shot, but I came down with a virus before I could get it done.

Ever since then I've snuffled and sneezed my way through most days, groping my way out of bed each morning like a groundhog emerging from hibernation. During the afternoon I've started drinking three cups of coffee in a row, something I usually never do; it's as though my body is seeking extra energy from somewhere.

I was thinking about this on Sunday, which has been a particularly difficult day in recent weeks. I think this is because I'm sitting in my pew in church before I've even seen the sun. This is one of the classic SAD problems.

Probably things will improve when the days begin to lengthen. I certainly hope so.


It's twelve weeks since I became entangled with the bureaucracy of the Centrelink department. I've been through the job-seeker training sessions and the job interviews and all that and now it had come round to my return visit to Centrelink.

I won't pretend I wasn't nervous. I had a folder with all the papers I might possibly need and I spent the last 24 hours doing everything I could to prepare.

Then when I was standing in line at their office, all the possible excuses and explanations that had been running through my head were just too much. I switched into job-seeker mode, following the job-seeking videos they kept showing me. Be attentive and responsive, but don't talk too much or volunteer information.

I wasn't even thrown off track by the fact that the woman who was interviewing me had some sort of Continental accent and was very softly spoken. She whispered her way through the interview and I sat there and watched her black-painted fingernails wander around the desk and her keyboard.

She tapped away at the computer and then told me in a murmur she didn't need any more information.

Her lips moved again. " " she said.


"One hundred and fifty" she whispered softly.

"I'm sorry? What about it?"

"$150. That's how much we'll pay into your bank account tomorrow."

"Oh. Right." I picked up my little booklet. "I've filled my Job Seeker Diary. Do I need to get another one?"

"No," she mouthed almost silently and I left, carrying the folder of documents which I hadn't even opened while I'd been in the office.

It was an odd sort of experience, but not as unsettling as I had been expecting.

I remember a saying that my father was fond of. "We can't change the past and the future doesn't belong to us." I guess he was right: today is the only day that we can do anything about.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Let our motto be "No Left Turns!"

If you drive a 30-year-old car you must expect a few quirks and difficulties. Lately my old Toyota has developed a new problem, namely that whenever I turn left the right hand door flies open. (I think the doors both need re-hanging.)

The last few weeks I've become pretty good at driving with one hand while holding the door closed with the other. It's not too hard, but I don't think it really adds to the standard of my driving.

It has had one good result though. I usually drive whenever I'm going anywhere with my sister Julie, but lately she's been quick to say "Let's take my car" whenever we are going out.

Can't blame her I guess -- it must be a bit nerve-wracking sitting in the passenger seat watching the door on the other side opening and closing every time we make a left-hand turn.

But I am glad last week is over. Apart from the two days I spent at the office, there were two quiz nights, a wedding and a visit to relations. By the time we got to Monday, I was glad to be free to just call in for coffee at Café 73, buy a few things in Moonah and drive in to North Hobart to see some pictures at one of the galleries, visit the organic produce shop and pick up something to eat at Praties.

Probably also something to do with the fact I haven't had a holiday for twenty years. The level on my psychic energy must be hovering down in the lower end of the meter.

Unlike my Blood Glucose Level I'm afraid. It's been going up steadily for the last month, meaning I've left it too late to get a flu shot for this winter. Before that I was around 6.9 or 7.5 most of the time, now I'm up around 10.0 and 11.0 (in fact after over indulging at the wedding reception I hit 13.0 for the first time I can remember -- but that was a one-off.)

This has also been the coldest winter we've had for years in Tasmania. Julie pulled out of storage her warmest overcoat, a stylish blend of wool and cashmere; she's owned it for years but it's never been cold enough to wear it before. She is less pleased about the conditions on her property: "It was muddy before, but now it feels like someone brought in a truckload of mud and dumped it on top of what was already there."

The last few years I've taken up reading again two British comics that were childhood favourites, 'The Beano' and 'The Dandy'. Not all of it is as much fun as when I was 10, but it makes for an entertaining few minutes before I go to sleep each night (I used to read novels in bed, but I need new glasses). However lately their publishers have been having a fad for sticking free gifts to the front cover and this is a bit annoying: it's difficult to detach them from the covers without causing damage (they use tape rather than the stuff they use for attaching CDs to computer magazines!) and in some cases a heavier-than-usual toy almost destroys the magazine during the long sea voyage from Dundee to Tasmania. Enough already, guys.

But I am enjoying the new series of 'Doctor Who' on ABC television. David Tennant does a good job of capturing the manic energy that has always been a part of The Doctor and his sadness at missing his previous sidekick Rose is a quite believable sub-plot.

I haven't yet seen the spin-off 'Torchwood'. Robin Johnson phoned me last week to warn me it started on digital television that night but I said that I wouldn't be watching as it was too much trouble to plug in the set-top box. He was a little surprised; maybe I should have explained further that the set-top box is surrounded by chickens, making it a little difficult to get at.

I'll just have to wait till it comes out as a DVD or makes it to free-to-air television.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

midwinter blues

Frank Muir and Denis Norden usually join me for lunch on Fridays. Their long-running show MY WORD used to be a staple on ABC radio when I was growing up but for some reason it's now rarely heard in Britain or Australia.

However it's still a regular feature on American public radio, and KIPO Honolulu streams it at a convenient time for me to enjoy the show while eating lunch on Friday.

If you haven't heard it, I recommend keeping an ear out for it. For more information, try this link:

I haven't posted much this last couple of weeks. I feel so tired all the time -- maybe I'm coming down with another virus. Certainly my BGL (Blood glucose level) readings suggest something is up. A month ago it was down around 8.0 most of the time, but it's been going up steadily and is now hovering around 11.5

Things at the office have been a little difficult equipment-wise this month too. The modem packed up for a few days, but a replacement arrived yesterday. And the photocopier repairman swears that he has now received the part he's been missing to fix our copier.

But the HP printer/scanner is being a nuisance: to make it work properly I have to turn it upside down and shake it before using it. Not ideal.

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