Sunday, 28 November 2010

like old times, only better

Its amazing how one conversation, albeit a prolonged one, can have a big impact on how one approaches things. In what has been a very active last week and a half, I've rediscovered a bunch of activities that, at various points in my past, have been very regular parts of my life, but that in recent times have been neglected or entirely absent.

I had been making very little progress on the book I'm reading, Jack Kerouac's Lonesome Traveler (I have neglected to write a little review for The Beach, which I read in between Love in the Time of Cholera, and this one). This past week, though, I made more an effort to make time for it, and as a consequence, I got into it, enjoyed it, and finished it. In my defense, I still think it starts slowly. His style is somewhat stream-of-consciousness throughout, but early on, as he is traveling through Mexico and working on the railway in northern California, it seemed less coherent. As the book and its author moved on, to New York, the Seattle Mountains and Tangiers, I thought the prose got much clearer, and I enjoyed the book a lot more. Its a strange style with which he writes. The narrator is the central, often only, character, but at no point is he developed, which gives the book a certain sense of a travel diary, albeit one that is eloquently and interestingly written and paints a vivid picture of the places through which it travels.

The next book on the pile was Breath, by Tim Winton. There was no slow starting for me on this book. I read a third of it in the first sitting, and I finished in about a day and a half. The story is a kind of coming of age story for a young boy who takes up with a group of surfers during his upbringing in a small town. Winton's prose style is just so familiar and easy to read, and the plot just slides so by very comfortably. Like Cloudstreet (the only other Winton I've read thus far), the book is set in Western Australia, in this case around the late 70s, and like the other, it has a very strong sense of place. I have never been to the town where the book is set, or even spent any meaningful (i.e. as an adult) time in the state, but for some reason the setting and characters feel very true. If I had a criticism, I thought the dénouément was a bit drawn out; the book might have worked better for me had it been topped and tailed and presented as a novella.

In addition to doing a lot more reading, I've also been getting more exercise this week. In addition to my usual Monday night volleyball, I got out for 3 runs, which is a lot more than I have been doing in recent months. My leg is starting to hurt from them, which is worrying - I might have to curb my enthusiasm a little.

I also went for a bike ride. In Rennes, a 20-40km ride out along the canal was a fairly common activity on my weekends, but other than organised charity rides and commutes to work or tennis, and excluding one ride up Mt Coot-tha a while ago, I haven't been doing social rides in Brisbane. Yesterday afternoon, though, I just jumped on the bike and rode out past the city, around the river past Toowong and out along the freeway to where it intersects Moggill Road, and back again. It was a nice little 35km route, and it reminded me of what I used to enjoy about riding out of Rennes (although i would trade Brisbane's Western Freeway for Rennes' Canal St Martin any day of the week).

This afternoon, frustrated by Australia's stagnation in the cricket, I rode down to New Farm park and threw a basketball around for an hour or so. This was something I used to quite often while I was living in St Lucia and Toowong, and it was good to try my hand again, even if I quickly realised that the shortcomings I had as a basketballer before my knee operation were not excised with the torn ligament.

I also found a little time for new activities, going with some friends for a night of pickup ultimate disc. I threw a lot of frisbee as a kid, and realised playing social games of ultimate at college that it was something at which I might be reasonably capable. This proved to be true enough, although after a while I fell into the trap of playing dumb, expending a lot of energy without getting my hands on the disc. This, combined with playing almost non-stop for two hours without substitutes, meant that I was well and truly spent by the time the night was finished. It probably took 3 or 4 days for my hip flexors, groin muscles and quadriceps to stop hurting, but I'll be back for more this week, I think.

I also managed to squeeze in an extremely pleasant night at the movies, seeing Gainsbourg, a biopic about the French chanteur from the 60s and 70s. The performance of the lead, Eric Elmosnino, was very strong, convincing in both likeness and style. Although he came across as a flawed character, especially in his relationship to women (at least, from my perspective he did), it was a very interesting film, and nice too as a means of exercising/refreshing my French language comprehension.

I even got out to a concert. My friend Kylie's band Laïque (the haven't been putting the trema on the 'i', which is a little vexing) had the launch for their album "Cravin' just a little misbehavin'", at the Old Museum last night. There was a good crowd in, which was reassuring for their sakes, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Its tempting to ask what it was that I sacrificed from my previous routine in order to make room for these things, but to be honest, nothing sprung to mind. I watched less TV, which is a boon rather than a price, as was playing less computer games (I am rapidly losing enthusiasm for the games I have been playing of late). I even squeezed in a visit from my parents, a screening of Cinema Paradiso (it had been too long since I'd seen it), and got plenty done at work. I need to be this aggressive about getting off my bum and doing things more often.

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