I'm concerned that I might be selling out and becoming part of the system, but this week I applied for a credit card. It's a fancy one that earns frequent flyer points when you use it. This means I had to join Qantas frequent flyers to get it, but with the amount of travelling I seem to do (Brisbane at Christmas time is my latest plan) I figured that couldn't be a bad thing to join. The catch? It is extremely difficult to join Frequent Flyers without a credit card.

Seriously, every form I collected asked for credit card details. The box at the bottom for payment options just listed some common cards and asked you to pick yours. Most people just sign up online, but I had to take my forms all the way into town to the Qantas office in person.

So there I was, I needed to join Frequent Flyers to get my credit card. I needed a credit card to join Frequent Flyers. I fronted up to the desk with my forms and my joining fee in cash and explained my dilemma to the lady at the Qantas service desk. She didn't seem to understand why I was trying not to laugh at her. She had to ask for advice from her supervisor because the computer system wasn't set up to handle cash payments. She could process my identification and automatically assign points from a flight a booked six weeks ago to my new account, but the whole system crashed down under the pressure of one man without a card.

It kind of makes me regret my decision to get one in the first place. I feel motivated to wander around the city and see what other systems I can devastate with my ferocious cash payments of destruction.

Unfortunately my desire to be able to purchase concert tickets from my office is too great.

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs

A co-worker asked me this week if I could confirm or deny a rumour which had begun to circulate about me. I was fascinated. Obviously I immediately started checking off dark secrets in my head, reassuring myself that none of them could possibly have made it as far as Sydney. And then I began pondering what possible piece of gossip I might have inadvertently (or knowing me, quite deliberately) inspired about myself. Believe it or not, I was left momentarily speechless by the eventual question (only momentarily, mind you).

"Is it true you're a dance teacher?"

Any one reading this who has seen me dance will be laughing already, but my co-workers weren't to know. I was tempted for a moment to answer "Why yes, I am. Rhythm and movement are all I live for," and see what happened. However, I was aware that this particular co-worker had just emerged from a meeting to plan the office Christmas party and was looking for entertainment for the evening, so after overcoming my brief moment of speechlessness, I explained exactly how many left feet I have (fourteen and a half at last count, and all wearing different sized shoes).

We went back to managing our respective spreadsheets, until about five minutes later when she casually remarked "It's not that difficult to believe. You could be a dance teacher". Eventually I said

"… thanks…" and went back to scheduling voice recordings.

It got me thinking. I don't really go out of my way to share details of my life with co-workers, but neither do I consider myself particularly secretive. I'm happy to answer questions about what I get up to. And yet someone who spends most of the day sitting at a desk just across from mine has formed a picture of me that is so far from reality it is literally laughable. I wonder how many of the impressions I have of people are complete nonsense. And what other hidden talents people might believe me to possess. And what happened to that pad of post-it notes I had…

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs

I was discussing a weird language paradigm today with some work friends (this is the linguist's version of a water cooler moment). We were trying to classify the word "brunette" part of speech. Noun? Adjective? Consider the following:

He's blond

She's blonde (I only found out today that there's a gender distinction in the spelling. Freaking French and their pansy orthography)

She's a blonde woman

She's a blonde

As far as I can tell, all these examples are fine grammatically (we can discuss whether they're socially acceptable later), but what about this?

?She's brunette

She's a brunette

??She's a brunette woman

Given that I find the marked sentences grammatically gammon, I'm inclined to call the word "brunette" a noun in English, no matter what it might be in French. But apparently my grammaticality judgements are not representative of the universal use of this word (surprise surprise). Some people at the office found "she's brunette" fine and "she's a brunette woman" weird but acceptable. What the hell is going on here?

I had my first ever tournament level win at chess last night. I'm at one win, two losses and a draw after four rounds. Five rounds to go. I feel like I should write more, but I've got to go and find something to put my left over stir-fry in.

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs

I had another interesting conversation with God this evening.

To set the context, I've been becoming increasingly frustrated with the futility of my job. For one, I still don't feel like I'm particularly good at it. For another, even if I get things right, it doesn't seem to result in any progress, it just qualifies me to move on to the next ultimately futile task. It's all meaningless and a chasing after the wind I tell you. And I just got confirmation that a couple of my good friends are leaving Darwin, which means I wont get to visit them next year after all, unless I do something really weird like travel to Spain via Dunedin. Hmmm…

To make matters worse, I had just been roundly thrashed at chess. Again. I knew I was in trouble (two pawns down) but I thought there might be a chance for a chirpy counter attack, when my opponent pushed his rook forward and said "checkmate". Bugger!

Consequently I was walking home from chess in a rather disheartened mood, so to take my mind off the game I started whinging to God (I do this a lot).

Me: God this really sucks. I'm not achieving anything here. I feel like I'm even further away from the things I'm passionate about than I was in Adelaide, and I can't even win a stupid game of chess.
God: Well what do you want me to do about it?
Me: I dunno… Rescue me or something. If I'm supposed to be here to learn something, then teach me already, because I'm starting to struggle.
God: Exactly. It's in the struggling that you learn what you're here to learn. Just trust me already.
Me: Yeah but… hmmm…
God: Checkmate.


Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs


And so it was that, with a shout, Garry returned to the world of those with internet connections, and those with blogs. That use them. I had considered the merits of announcing my return by shouting something slightly more random (spark plug, binoculars, insulate, etc… the usual Garrylian rubbish) but in this case my usual protocols have been vastly outweighed by the fact that the Lord has, in my cyber-absence, been extremely good to me.

Before we continue; a warning: I have about two extremely eventful months worth of stuff to blog here. Settle in, this is going to be a long one. If, like many, you are currently thinking "Freak this, I'm off to watch Deal or No Deal," then allow me to summarise, in four brief arguments, the general gist of what follows:

  • I'm fine
  • Work is alright
  • Sydney is cool
  • God is awesome

Having now filtered out the less committed readers, I'll now elaborate in (vastly) more detail exactly what I've been up to since we last spoke … read… blogged, whatever we call this sort of communication. I've even gone to the trouble of dividing it into chapters. I'm not sure why.

1. The Escape or "Get Me the Hell Out of Here!"

It's been fairly clear from my previous writings that I really wasn't dealing very well with being stuck in Adelaide. As is often the case, God waited until exactly the last possible moment to wander in and fix everything (always going after our attention. As if a universe full of stars wasn't enough. Hmmm…). Just as I reached the end of my rope, the job offer comes along. Sydney seemed like a strange option given my northerly aspirations (I'll get to that later) but the speed and ease with which everything fell into place for the move (I'll get on to that later too) put the matter of God's instructions beyond any reasonable doubt. With that in mind I obediently (for once) booked my tickets and got ready for Sydney. But first…

2. The Wedding or "Getting Beaten Up by a Girl in a Bridal Gown"

It has been said of my life that I spend all my time saving up money to travel across the country every three months for a wedding. Of course, it was me who said it, and I'm inclined to exaggerate every now and then. Be that as it may, the latest in my series of wedding based excursions was to Brisbane, or more accurately Gatton, for the Robson-Hannant wedding (also known, again by me, as the Fluffy/Wobson calendar roach). I was at college with the bride and through her also spent a fair bit of time with the groom. Despite having absolutely no funds to draw on, there was no way I was going to miss this one.

This however did not stop me bending the truth ever so slightly when it came to my RSVP. The bride's parents knew I was coming. The bride herself was told that I wasn't. Apparently she was quite upset that I wasn't making the effort to come, preferring to stay in Adelaide instead. I felt a bit guilty about that, but it was all okay again when she walked in and there I was sitting at the piano playing the bridal chorus for her. Awwwwwwww. Besides, it was all her own fault. If she was stupid enough to believe I wasn't coming, then she deserved it, and I told her so at the reception. It was at this point that she beat me up, wedding dress notwithstanding.

3. Leaving Adelaide or "The Final Insult"

So I flew into Brisbane late on a Friday night, drove out to Gatton for the wedding on Saturday and spent that night out there, then drove back to Brisbane on Sunday morning and flew back to Adelaide Sunday night. After a farewell dinner with my family on Monday night I was back at the airport on Tuesday morning. I've developed quite a taste for terminal macaques. (Well, actually that's musac, but I couldn't figure out how to spell it and macaques was the best that Microsoft Word could come up with. I thought it sounded cooler anyway, so I went with it) And just as well because I was stuck there for quite some time.

Not content to let me leave without serving me one last helping of annoyance, Adelaide knew that there was only one thing for it. Realising the urgency of the situation, she teamed up with her old sparring partner, Melbourne. Melbourne obliged by filling her skies with fog, holding up flights all over the country. My half past nine flight finally got out of Adelaide at a quarter to two. But nothing could break my spirit. I was out! As we left the runway I flipped Adelaide one of the most satisfying birds I have ever flipped (at the city itself, of course, not at the cool people that I really did meet there). And, theologically implausible as it may be, I like to think God was flipping along with me.

4. Accommodation or "My Name's Garry and this is My Place"

I should say that by this time I still had no idea where I was going to live. I checked into a motel in Kirribilli for the first week and began the real estate grind. Here is where I step back into street preacher mode and say again that God is awesome. I'm kind of stupid, so at no point did it occur to me that taking off for a new city less than a week before starting a new job without having organised somewhere to live was a really dumb thing to do. However the Lord's provision transcends even my vast cluelessness. The same day I started work, I settled into an apartment just down the road from my new job. It's not fancy, but it does the trick in terms of having the appropriate number of walls, roofs and running water supplies. I'm in Artarmon and within walking distance of work, so my transport costs each week are effectively zero. This is a big deal in Sydney. If you know me and haven't received an email with my new contact details, drop me a line and I'll fill you in.

5. Finding a Church or "Ecumenical Me"

While I was in Kirribilli I wandered past an Anglican church most mornings on my way to the train station and saw that they had two evening services every Sunday. Thinking this was a good sign and having heard good things about the Anglican Church in New South Wales, I checked it out on my first Sunday night in town. The music was cool and the people friendly enough. The real clincher was that the minister preached a pulled-punchless sermon and bore a striking resemblance to the Master to boot. I've started calling in there most Sunday nights. It's called "Church By the Bridge" and is located, as the name suggests, just beside the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The next weekend, having settled in to my new flat, I tried a morning service at the Uniting Church up the road. The congregation was about twenty people and the demographic would be best described as 'aging'. Normally I would not have looked back, but it was bought to my attention that this congregation was struggling to run worship services without a musician. The organist had left because the struggling congregation could no longer afford to pay him. When I heard that, as you can imagine, I just about fell off my pew. Pay him indeed. Honestly! Needless to say they now have a musician for free, and I have two brand new congregations.

6. North Sydney Chess Club or "The Opiate of the People"

I've joined my local chess club. You might expect such a place to be full of people straight out of Weird Al's "White and Nerdy". In fact it was full of elderly European gentlemen who meet for half an hour before the chess begins to discuss the virtues of Leninist sociology. My second week there I sat down to play with one old guy and introduced myself as Garry. Without a word of exaggeration, he replied in a thick Russian accent: "My name Joe. Like Stalin." I'm playing in an open tournament starting this week, which means I'll end up with a FIDE (International Chess Federation, but in French) rating which is cool. Well, maybe cool is the wrong word, but whatever.

7. The Job Itself or "Arts Degree For The Win"

I have said in earlier blogs that my new job gave me the chance to actually be a professional linguist. That is indeed what my title is, but the reality of my situation is that I am nothing of the sort. I'm more like an assistant project manager for the numerous data collection projects my new employer runs. It's nothing like what I expected when I signed on, but whatever. I have had some rather intense discussions with God about exactly what I'm doing in Sydney when I could be elsewhere doing more relevant things, but as usual the answer was

"Stop grumbling. You're where you're supposed to be doing what you're supposed to be doing. Shut Up. If I want to turn an arts graduate into a project manager I will." There's not much you can say to that without running the risk of getting stuck walking in circles for forty years… Which brings me to the next chapter.

8. The Immediate Future or "OK, Let Us See Where Zis Goes (You Two, Get Ze Key-Maker!)"

Having chucked everything in to move to Sydney, I now intend to stay here for a couple of years at least, depending on what else happens. I've got another freaking wedding to get to in Brisbane in December, so I'm planning on Christmasing up there. Hmmm… Christmas is now a verb, but whatever. I do still have plans to visit Europe once sufficient funds and leave can be accumulated. This will probably happen some time next year. Doubtless there will be other Australian capital cities I will visit in the process. Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.

9. The Slightly Less Immediate Future or "More training I have for you Obi-Wan".

In case you were wondering about all the direct speech I've attributed to God during this blog, I should point out that He doesn't actually communicate with me using audible speech. Normally He just lets me argue myself to a stand still, subtly inspiring a series of counter arguments inside my head. It's kind of like talking to myself, except that the refutations of my logic are much smarter than anything I'd be likely to come up with on my own. A classic example occurred just the other day:

Garry: This is dumb God. I'm starting out in Sydney, and I'm going to be here for a while. I know you've got big ideas for me in Darwin, so what am I doing here? I want to get in and start managing these Darwin projects you've put on my heart. And here You are sticking me Sydney and turning me into a… project manager… hmmm.
God: (almost audibly) Der!
Garry: Oooh look! Chocolate is on special. I should buy some.

I'm easily distracted, but the point still stands. I want to get back to Darwin, and God has promised that I will one day, at exactly the last possible moment. In the meantime the bright side is I get to keep using my signature sign-off for a little while longer. And given that I've now rambled on for almost four pages, I think it's about time that I did exactly that. Congratulations if you've stuck with me all this time. You've made it!

Far from home


Garry with 2 Rs

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