Work…. It’s A Living

I’m starting to get the hang of this work business again but it’s not easy. In fact as the new year dawned I wondered if I would be able to do it at all. I had some time off and without the pressure of having to front up at work to service my usual deadlines I was lost.

At one stage over the silly season I couldn’t even remember what day it was. Brisbane City Council can verify this because I rang them in high dudgeon one day complaining that they hadn’t taken my bin away. I got home and found it sitting there thinking all the other bins had been emptied because mine was the only one still out.

The problem was it was a Tuesday morning and the garbage truck comes on a Wednesday. I did ring council back later and I told them I was an idiot but I think they already knew that.

Lots of people go away over the silly season but we stayed home and the neighbourhood was dead as a doornail. I swear I looked out at the street at one stage and saw tumbleweed go by. This exacerbated the general feeling of entropy that engulfed our household, a place where the days all seemed the same and time ceased to mean much.

I became the human version of a blancmange and started to find that most mornings I could barely lift my head off the pillow.

“How did I ever go to work?’ I asked. It was a rhetorical question of course but I did wonder. I also wondered how I would ever go to work again. Thinking back I realised I had a very busy and productive 2016 but who exactly was that dervish who cranked out story after story for months on end? Now here I was spending most of the day prone, watching Foxtel, barely able to bring myself to scribble even a meagre shopping list.

In the end I began to yearn for some sort of structure to my life because I’m the sort of person who needs structure and discipline. I know people who have retired but the thought horrifies me. I need to go to work, to have things expected of me, for my own good and the good of the community as a whole.

Those mornings over the holidays when I didn’t have to go to work were nice at first but eventually it all became too hard. It’s not easy doing nothing.

“Are you getting up?” my wife would ask me each morning and I would moan: ”Why should I?”

But now I’m back at work and while I’m still not exactly leaping out of bed in the morning (I’ve never been a morning person) I’m happy to be back in the saddle. I may end up being the guy who works until he is 90. I’m not sure if that’s a promise or a threat. Maybe both.



I’d like to be calm, I really would. But unfortunately panic is my default position in life. It motivates me, helps me get things done. Not everyone understands this. When something went wrong at work the other day I started moaning and banging my head on the desk, muttering expletives.

One of my colleagues was thrown by this . “I thought you were having heart attack,” she said.

“No, I’m fine,” I said because I was done by then. And I felt better.

When something goes wrong I escalate immediately I can’t help it, it’s just what I do. There’s no use running around like Jones on Dad’s Army saying: “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” (This is actually a form of panic itself, of course)

No dear reader, take my advice. Panic. It’s how to get things done.

When I was a lad I read and admired Rudyard Kipling’s poem IF, which begins

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you …” You know the verse? But I fail miserably right there at the beginning of the poem. What’s a fellow to do about the flaws in his own nature?

I have tried calming down but it has never really taken. I know there are techniques that can help such as meditation and yoga and I have tried them all and failed miserably. Even thinking about them makes me tense. I had some acupuncture the other day which should have been calming but I took my coffee in with me and I spent the whole time looking at my watch and panicking about being late for work. That’s how I roll.

I didn’t want to relax because I had the whole day ahead of me and without stress I just couldn’t get through it. If I was calm and relaxed I would just sit there all day staring into space.

The upside stress and panic is that once you have done that for any length of time you become so emotionally and physically exhausted that you actually do relax. It’s a conundrum.

But the reality is that I don’t want to be calm. I want to be stressed so I can get through my day. Panic helps me overcome things.

We’ve had some great moments of panic on overseas trips, like the time I decided to go to the loo at between trains at York in the north of England and nearly missed the service to Inverness. My wife panicked more than me on that occasion, so much so that she ran into the men’s room and started banging on the toilet door shouting: “The train is here, get out of there for God’s sake!”

“I’m not in that cubicle, I’m in this one,” I said. Then I panicked and we just made the train. If we hadn’t panicked we would have missed it. I think I’ve made my point.If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,



I’m sure you would be bored to sobs if I recounted the highlights of my recent overseas holiday. I might regale you with the disasters instead?

It all began on the flight to Hong Kong, sitting next to the Russian version of a complete yobbo. This bloke was talking loudly on his mobile phone as we were taxiing for take-off. I threatened to call the cabin crew but he protested: “I am just calling my wife in Moscow.”

“Mate, I don’t care if you’re calling Vladimir bloody Putin, turn your phone off!” I insisted. He relented and then told his mates what a dickhead I was – I may not speak Russian but I got the gist. Then he proceeded to inhale nine cans of beer and 32 of those little packets of peanuts (I counted them) they give you on airplanes.

As we descended into Honkers he tried to make another phone call and I went ballistic so he waited until we were taxiing to the terminal to make his call, which was still against regulations. My wife and son sat in the row behind looking bemused.

In Hong Kong things went largely to plan and I think I may have actually had had less meltdowns than I normally do on vacation.

There was, however, that awful moment at the Macau Ferry terminal when I realised I had left my credit card with reception back at the hotel. After much effing and blinding I was able to get a cab to fetch it and we still made the ferry.

In Macau we were taken on a tour of the old city and I can’t remember ever being so hot. Our guide seemed to ignore my pleas for a drinks break and I got so overheated my eyeballs were perspiring.

When our host took us to a seaside Portuguese restaurant for lunch I managed one sardine and when a plate piled high with pork arrived it was all I could do not to vomit onto my placemat.

I recovered in time for the ride back to Kowloon on a jetfoil ferry. It wasn’t until we were in our seats that we realised the number 3 typhoon signal had been hoisted but by then it was too late. For the first half hour it was like being on the spin cycle in a washing machine.

After recovering from that ordeal we were treated to a banquet at Spring Moon restaurant at The Peninsula, Hong Kong’s swankiest hotel which is still there, thankfully, despite my son’s best efforts to burn the joint down.

When he went to the loo our boy tossed his napkin onto a candle without realising it. My wife and I were chatting and sipping Pu-erh tea when we noticed staff running towards us in panic.

By this stage the napkin was well alight and smoke was rising from the table but luckily they got it out before the fire alarm or sprinklers started up.

I could tell you about the good stuff too but that wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, would it?

Phil Brown