Yearly Review – 2019

It’s the morning of December 28th, and I’m sitting at the kitchen table at Pat’s place in Lismore. Pat is wandering around the house doing bits and pieces. Jack and John are sitting on the verandah discussing the state of the world (from fishing licences to global warming).

Over the last few years, things have been a little troubled, due to the disruptive behaviour of one family member, but things seem to have settled down this year, since he’s received some help.

Christmas Day

Within maybe 6 or 7 years, I’m pretty sure I’ll be living back here. I had a look through the real estate pages in the paper today, and I’ ve also had a look in some real estate shop windows over the last few days. I have a fair idea of where I’d like to live, and am reminded by some good advice I received from a friend: “Blocks of land seem like a good idea, until you realise you’ll spend all your time mowing the grass!”

Some of my friends in Sydney worry I’ll be bored moving back here, missing some of the things I take for granted in Sydney. I remind them that it’s not the outback I’m looking to live: it’s Lismore, a reasonably cosmopolitan regional city, and a place where I have friends and family. 

In the meantime, Surry Hills in Sydney remains home. I moved to Sydney in 1995 thinking I’d be here for only a few years until I got “Sydney” out of my system. I thought I’d return to the country within a few years, but then I fell in love, and my career took off, and now it’s twenty five years later.

Surry Hills

Our biggest change in Surry Hills this year was that, after years of waiting, we finally have a light rail/tram. I can hear the “ding ding” sounds from my bedroom at night. I’ve only caught it a few times, as I’m already pretty well-served by public transport. It improves access for me to George Street, which I’m pleased about.

A few days ago I received a phone call from a colleague in Darwin who spotted me on the ABC News tv channel. Earlier in the year, I participated in an episode of the TV program, “Compass”. Although the program’s main focus was on the ministerial work of Karina Kreminski, a fair bit of the program focussed on the local story-telling project a few of us work on together called, “Surry Hills & Valleys”.

Travel

This year, there’s been a couple of long distance trips to Canberra, Lismore, Melbourne and Brisbane, and I had three weeks working in Darwin in the middle of the year. It was THE BEST time of the year to visit Darwin. The weather was sublime, and I was there when a number of major cultural events were underway: the Darwin Festival, the National Aboriginal & Islander Art Prize, and the National Indigenous Music Awards.

It was awesome that both Kate and Sue spent some time with me during this time.
I had a lovely trip to Melbourne in early October, and caught up with my old school-friend, Anthony. There’s a terrific saying I once heard that, “In Melbourne, there’s a strong case of Melbourne-Sydney rivalry, but in Sydney, it’s a case of New York/London/Tokyo rivalry”. Though I’ve lived in Sydney for half my life, I’m not imbued with any of that rivalry bullshit. Phrases like “cultural capital” and “most liveable city” and “gateway to Australia” mean nothing to me. I mean “who cares”? Both cities are terrific in their own individual ways, though you would have to say Sydney definitely has the better climate, and for the last few years (due to the broader impact of the lock-out laws), Melbourne seems to have been doing better in the area of nightlife. As I walked around the inner-city last night, there was a genuine buzz on the streets, that you often find lacking in Sydney. Perhaps because Sydney is so spread out?
When Kate mentioned she was heading to Wagga Wagga, half way through the year, I asked if she would like company for the trip down. Our epic road trip took in sites like The Big Merino, The Dog On The Tuckerbox, and serial stops along the way to look at the mixed-emotion beauty of paddocks filled with Paterson’s Curse and Canola, and to see the Murrumbidgee River.
I spent some time trying to remember how I felt when I left Wagga Wagga at the beginning of 1995. As I recall, I was still pretty happy about living there. I’d made an excellent circle of friends, in part due to my involvement in co-establishing the Riverina Gay and Lesbian Social and Support Group. I had a very “social” house, located on the shores of Wagga’s Wollundry Lagoon. Here, I’d fulfilled a few of my career dreams, and thought it was probably time to move on, which is why I’d moved to Sydney. 

Family & Friends

After years of ignoring “Facebook”, I began to use it more regularly this year. Like many, I’ve had concerns about privacy and data misuse, but I’ve concluded the advantages of being able to re-connect with friends and family way outweight the disadvantages. As a result I’ve re-connected with cousins I haven’t seen for almost forty years, and even met some for the first time.

I received this lovely message from a family member the other day.

The little lady with the blue shirt on James reminds me so much of Mum. I see so many of your old photos and can see just how much the O’Briens look alike. Always thought Meg and Uncle Johnny we’re alike. Silly old me, but sometimes I get a bit emotional just to see people whom I never knew look like my own family.

Meeting Sandra in Sweden
Sadly this year, one of my great “internet friends”, Sandra Carpenter died suddenly. She was married to an Australian, so enjoyed ready my blog. And as she was based in Stockholm and wrote in English, I enjoyed reading her blog. After about six months of chatting online, we met each other face to face in Stockholm in March 2010.

Work

Work has been pretty enjoyable this year. After the “managerial turmoil”, of the last few years, it’s been great to have both a Managing Director (David Anderson) and Chairman (Ita Buttrose) who both enjoy widespread staff respect, a reflection they both have many decades of experience working in the media.

I celebrated thirty years of working at the ABC this year, having started in October 1989 as the Morning Presenter at Renmark, in South Australia.

For the last few months of the year I’ve been enjoying “Work-Free Wednesdays”, as I’ve come to call them. Because I’ve gone into “Excess Leave” (meaning I haven’t take all of my annual leave over a few years), I was instructed to take some time off. Rather than take a month or so, I asked if I could take Wednesdays off instead. In reality, I’m still probably working my full-time job, but in both a practical and emotional sense, it’s been really fantastic to have a break in the middle of the week. I’ve been enjoying getting up late, going out for a morning coffee, going to the movies, having lunch with friends, going to galleries, and going for a swim. It’s been absolutely awesome, and I look forward to continuing this in 2020.

This year, I was also strongly involved in a group called, “ABC Pride”. Part of the “Pride In Diversity” groups which are part of many large organisations today, ours is a staff-led initiative to both support LGBTIQ+ staff, and to hopefully contribute to making the ABC a more inclusive workplace. One of the most exciting things coming up in 2020 is that we’ll have an “ABC Pride” float in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Keep an eye out for me!

The first time I was in a Mardi Gras Parade

One thought on “Yearly Review – 2019

  • A nice summary of your year. I think the ABC has always been supportive of gays, or at least didn’t find their sexuality to be a problem. It is pleasing to have people like Mark Reddie and Nate so out there, but among gay circles in Melbourne back to the 1960s male employees never hid their sexuality, such as tv presenter Peter Couchman, newsreader Rod McNeil (they did not tolerate drunkenness when on air though) and Clive Stark, along with Victoria’s own tv weather presenter Paul Higgins. There are probably more who I can’t remember I am not outing anyone as for the current it is widespread knowledge via their social media accounts, if not mentioned in mainstream media.

    That is sad about Sandra. She looks quite young.

    I think you are right about Sydney nightlife being more spread out.

    Six or seven more years? Why not go for forty years service.

    Re Sydney/Melbourne, oh the hills in Sydney. We are not used to them.

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