I’ve been extremely slack at blogging recently. It’s ironic that what has been keeping me from blogging has probably been the very thing that I could be blogging plenty about: the constant travel to Canberra. I’m planning on writing a bit more about my experiences of and in our nation’s capital, so for now here is the first edition.

I’ve been doing the three-day-per-week thing now for nearly two months and it’s fair to say that I’m over it. πŸ™‚ It’s not the weather so much: okay, it’s cold, but at the moment I’m breezing in and out so I don’t have to live with it. It’s not the loneliness; I’ve been working at home (and away) for long enough that solitude doesn’t bother me at all. I have a bit of an idea of things it might be, though…

* The inconsistency of accommodation: one week I’ll be staying five-plus stars, the next I’ll be in a little fleabag place with barely adequate heating and hundred-year-old floors (which is quite a feat when the city itself has only been there eighty years[1]). One week I’ll have a kitchen and be making myself healthy meals, the next I’ll be eating lukewarm takeaway noodles using toothbrush handles as chopsticks.

* Trying to do the right thing by work by saving money: this has me riding my motorbike to the airport at 5am to save a night’s accommodation and a couple of taxi fares. I’m DEFINITELY over that.

* Separation from N: Although he’s coping really well now (much better than me, I think), it worries me that I’ll be one of those absent fathers that ends up having only a passing influence on the lives of their children. A bit dramatic, sure, as this is not meant to last for long, but how long is too long?  How long is long enough to do damage? It seems like I do little else but spend time with N when I get back, which is probably making things worse.

* Separation from S: I think we’ve changed. We used to do the living-apart thing really well (when I was working in Melbourne and Auckland, we really seemed to be living proof that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”), but now things are different. She is looking after N, and is in full-time work, so she has a lot more on her plate than before, and I barely get wound-down from one trip than I’m having to gear up for the next.

* Not being able to “connect” with the place: When I have worked away from home in the past, I went to special effort to do things that would familiarise me with the locality. In Melbourne I went on tram rides “just because”, and in Auckland I’d ride my motorbike here and there. Day trips, intended to not only help me know my way around but to give me a feel for where my career had sent me. With Canberra, however, these work trips have never been across weekends and I’ve not had any opportunity to do my “connecting”. If not for a colleague of mine who was living in Canberra about eight years ago, and whom I visited one weekend while I was working in Melbourne, I would never have visited places like the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House, Mt Stromlo Observatory, and the comms tower on Black Mountain. After all the visits I’ve made I’ve never seen the National Gallery, The Royal Australian Mint, and the dozens of other things worth visiting.

However, probably the number-one thing that’s getting to me:

* Having little (nothing) to do when I get there: I’m a technical person, and I feel most useful doing technical things. From that perspective, there is no need for me to be in Canberra to do what I’m doing. My presence there at the moment is merely a perception thing, building trust and a relationship; intangible things that probably are tremendously significant to the client and their perceptions, but don’t register with me at all.

I mentioned how well N is coping with me being away: he’s doing so well that I’m in awe. It seems like he’s keeping me sane. He got upset the first couple of times, but now he almost packs my bag for me! I took him to preschool the other day and this is the conversation that took place:

I said “now, Mummy’s going to come and get you this afternoon, mate.”

“Why?” said N.

Oh great, I thought, I almost made it without mentioning anything. “Well I’m going on the plane this afternoon,” I said.

“Are you going to Sydney, or Canberra?” he asked.  I was taken-aback: no tears, no don’t-go-daddy-I-need-you…

“Canberra,” I told him, “back to Canberra.”

“Oh, okay Daddy,” said N, “have a good trip. Bye!”, and off he ran to play with his friends.

Four. Years. Old. πŸ˜€

So on Canberra… I think I’ve worked out which are the roads not to be on when I need to get from place to place (not having to spend much time in, near, or passing through Civic helps in that regard). I used to take a drive around after work at least once a trip (the closest I’ve been able to come to my “connecting”), but I’ve stopped doing that now as I think I’ve been to most of the districts. I have a bit of an idea what are the good food places, and which restaurants one can go to (as a male person dining alone) without ending up feeling like a total outcast.

Next update I might talk a bit more about the places I work and stay. Don’t expect anything too soon, though, as I have about 18 more months in which to do it…

[1] Okay, my little joke. The floors obviously aren’t a hundred years old. They do, however, sound like they belong on the sound-stage of a cinematic re-enactment of the voyage of the First Fleet. πŸ™‚