An Untimely Christmas Visitor

Well there we have it. After making it almost three years covid-free through this pandemic, I’ve been hobbled at the final hurdle – the 2022 Christmas family visit. As late as the morning of Christmas Eve, packing was being finalised and lists checked off. Cars were fuelled and tyre pressures correct. Departure was imminent, save for the pre-trip Covid check, which as you can now guess, in my case turned out to be disappointingly positive.

Sure, there are ways to manage these things and still make the trip, however suffice to say, our particular circumstances dictated the trip be cancelled. A somewhat quieter Christmas at either end of the two hour drive which separates us would now follow. Time for a little quiet reflection perhaps? Right you are, and of course that’s exactly what happened.

Amongst the kind (and certainly welcome) messages acknowledging the sad situation we found ourselves in, also came a certain clarity of thought around the reason for the trip. To see loved ones — as is the case with most of us this time of year. With many solutions offered in the well-wishing messages, summarised as: take a separate car/sit outside/wear a mask/just drop by at a distance, all consideration was given, however the decision to cancel was never in doubt.

You see, a little clarity of thought around what was being missed here is the key — at least in my mind. Yes, we are a family that celebrates Christmas in all the typical ways. All things going well, that is what has always occurred, and will continue every year into the future. The key however being it’s not the date that matters. The disappointment I feel in not being able to make a three day visit to see my family is no worse on December 25th than it might be on say, the 10th of June — or any other date.

Sure, it’s very disappointing. Seeing them on a particular “day” is not really what’s important to me — simply seeing them is. It’s about the visit not the date. And yes, plans are already in place to visit in about 10 days if things go our way.

So in the spirit of making the most of a bad situation, it’s a fine summer day here in Brisbane, and I’ll continue my recovery in front of the television, alternating between the Boxing Day cricket test match and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. A return to full health is best achieved with leftover ham and judicious amounts of pavlova — both of which are in plentiful supply. Add to that the real saviours and joy in this situation, my wife and kids, with whom I’ve just spent Christmas — albeit at a short distance through a mask. It wasn’t “as planned”, and despite feeling a little unwell, I can certainly not complain about these past few days.

In the midst of the chaos surrounding extreme weather, flight cancellations, health concerns, and many other challenges, I hope your plans went along as proposed. Mine certainly will — just a little later than expected.

It’s All New

In many ways it’s new, yet many things remain the same. Outwardly the world has changed — permanently I would imagine, though perhaps that will be clearer in another few months, or more likely years. The “same”? Well, that remains our own little segment of that world doesn’t it, narrowed even further by factors beyond our own control.

I find myself with the ability to have shifted from working in an office to doing so from home. One of the extremely fortunate group whose employment remains largely unchanged (for the current time at least), save for the change in geographic location. A good portion of what follows can (and should) be dismissed quite readily, for I really have nothing to complain about, as the first sentences of this very paragraph can attest. That said, many of the day to day challenges in this narrow little world of mine (and of many), remain well… the same.

A world of phone diversions, virtual portals and a mix of operating systems. Of screens both small and large, Zoom meetings and group chat. Substandard sound and connections (can you hear me…? they say, lips moving in their own silent isolation bubble — well for starters I don’t know what you’re trying to say, so lets go with no…), weird videoconference backgrounds, and the real likelihood of caffeine poisoning, I wonder whether this new reality is all that distant from a truly dystopian version. Perhaps it is a brave new world.

Now is the time for more communication rather than less, they say in the tips about managing virtual teams. True enough, and it certainly seems virtual conversations are far more frequent than the real ones ever were. Another email anyone? How are we doing with that cc field and reply all? Pretty consistent it would seem. More communication? Tick. More effective communication? Judgement reserved. Actually let’s not reserve it — you all know the answer.

Hold up. Yes, dismiss those two paragraphs. Nothing to really whine about when there are those with genuine, devastating problems having arisen from all of this. I remain very, very mindful of that.

I do have some genuine concerns, as I sit and work in the relative safety of my own home.

Many good friends I’ve left behind in Brisbane’s CBD continue (for now), to front up to work every day, managing or working in cafes and retail outlets — some ultimately having to close their doors.

With an economy like nothing I’ve seen before, not only will some of these businesses perhaps not see the other side of this situation, but their people are in constant direct contact with members of the public — many of whom seem to have no real concept of social distancing, let alone adherence to it. All I can really do is hope and pray I see you all in thriving businesses again, whenever that may be.

In the previous post I mentioned the journaling habit I’d managed to sustain over the past year or so, which continues each morning as I write this. Structure and routines are key when working from home (again… “they” say), and I must admit mine took a hit in the first couple of weeks remotely working. The journaling remained, the overall incidental physical activity level plummeted — notwithstanding the fact I no longer sit on a bus for two hours every day. I’m sorry — what are we doing with that time now? Certainly an adjustment, and one I am still making. Can’t be that hard right? Exactly what I said before this all started…

We now begin to enter a period of perhaps even greater uncertainty, as restrictions begin easing on our “path out”. I must admit to being a little uneasy at the fervour our general populace has shown in embracing this new “freedom”. Perhaps this unease will need to subside if I’m to see those businesses mentioned above thriving again.

Eventually there will be an office to return to. I guess…?

hazel and me

Family owned and run businesses really are the best aren’t they? When it’s your own family — even better. I’d have to say my sister knows a thing or two about owning and running a business, having successfully done so for most of her professional life.

Now? Well something a little different.

Introducing hazel and me

Moving towards a sustainable lifestyle with quality homeware products…

A range of quality hand made fabric homewares for your online shopping pleasure — now shipping Australia wide:

We believe in taking a practical approach to living a zero waste lifestyle. Our products are eco friendly choices, look attractive and will stand up to every day use. We make all items from our premises in the Northern Rivers of NSW.

Products galore…

I can now finally reveal that I’ve been beta testing these products for several months now (disclosure: I was provided these products free of charge, I mean… she is my sister), and can certainly vouch for the quality and utility they offer. Sustainable, helpful, locally made products? I say bring them on!

Time to use that flour and bread improver you’ve all been hoarding…

Whilst most areas of the every day home are well catered for in the Kitchen, Bathroom, Lunches and Garden categories in the online store — I’d like to propose one more (selfish) addition: Barista.

Barista cloths, yes indeed. There is nothing like an Unpaper Towel to dry that portafilter basket before dosing your next espresso. Delter Press drying and draining? Absolutely — got you covered! (Also fits an Aeropress – go figure!!)

Portafilter pre-dose prep taken care of…

The Delter drain…

I don’t really think there is a better time to reassess what we use around the home, and if that results in the need for some products like these, I’m sure you’ll find something you like that will serve you well.

My sister? Well, she’s pretty great.

hazel and me (affiliate link – every purchase earns me a thank you from my sister)

Also on Instagram and Facebook.

Sneaking Back In

The great New Zealand south island family road trip – July 2019

What do you do after all this time — just sneak back in like nothing ever happened? Like a teenager returning home late only to have the back door hinge squeak really loudly when you try and silently close it? I guess that’s it. Like nothing ever happened. Nothing to see here — with the exception of a random new post.

In the context of having your own blog with zero deadlines and a misguided perception of being “busy” doing other things — I see the last post here was 25 March 2019, about some colourful pen refills. That’s a year ago. Not a bad break of sorts. When you feel like writing, I guess you do just pick up pen and/or keyboard and go — like you never left.

I could offer various reasons for why now, however would be lying not to admit the usual introspection which typically occurs around the earlier part of the year (this post originated late January in its early draft).

Although clouded by recency bias, if I think back over the past year or so and the topics usually covered on these pages — there is nothing overly new to report. Pen news saw the acquisition of a Lamy 2000 ballpoint and a bottle of ink (a gift of Iroshizuku Momiji). Apart from being a somewhat lazy roaster in the latter part of the year, the coffee supply and consumption maintained a metronomic rhythm. We all have our dependencies I guess.

That journal streak

I did learn that when I’m not writing here, perhaps I’m writing there. In this case, “there” being a morning journal habit which Streaks app tells me I have now completed 263 times. Once I got into it, my first decent streak was broken at 126 when away for the day one weekend (somewhat proud of myself for not fudging the numbers on that one). Managing to get back on the wagon, I’m currently back up to 133. My hot tip on getting started? A one page limit in an A6 journal – done and ticked off in a flash.

Due to a very generous Christmas gift I was also able to learn the AirPods Pro are transformative to both my listening (that active noise cancelling…), and daily carry habits (daily backpack now sans over-ear headphones). They are seriously good.

Every year my consumption habits change and I’ve been in and out of podcasts, blogs and the usual splattering of social media. There is no quick summary of all this so perhaps more detail is for another day. I would add I’ve recently been enjoying viewing my RSS feeds (yes, still…) through cached full text in Lire.

Is there more to report on? Well, quite a bit most likely. Do I have any idea where to start with all of that? Absolutely not. First a word, then a post, and from there we’ll see.

Perhaps one of those other things to report on – dabbling in the Theme System journal…

I am somewhat mindful of what has changed in the world since beginning this draft to the current time, however perhaps some of the two hour commute I’m now saving by working from home can be devoted to writing a little.

Anyway, I’ve made it back in, the door is closed, and I’m carefully making my way up the stairs — looks like I’m going to make it…

Light flicks on…


Lost in the Algorithm


Recently I decided to create a separate Instagram account (@petemanship) to follow my pen and paper related interests, after the original feed became overwhelmed with posts related to various other topic areas. Although I’ve always looked to keep things fairly simple, I feel pen people deserve more than to be lost in the algorithm.

As long as I remember to switch accounts on occasion, it should now be a little easier to catch up on things. A fairly simple yet hopefully successful fix. When transferring the pen accounts I follow over to this new feed, I couldn’t help but think perhaps a few other things in my 2018 had been “lost in the algorithm” as well — if I could use such a term to describe what didn’t get written, posted, read, listened to, or moved forward.

The most recent post here? In late September about my love for the cappuccino as a beverage. Look a little deeper, and the last pen-related post was back in June of 2018. Really? That’s the best you could do?

Apparently so…

Don’t get me wrong. I continue to be a staunch proponent of the no apology approach to blog post gaps. Things get written or they don’t. Personally though, I find this can be a reflection of other areas of my life perhaps not syncing as seamlessly as I’d like — assuming the intent to write remains of course. Nothing too serious, simply the busy-ness of life, work, and the organisational and prioritisation aspects required to keep all areas ticking along. We all have them.

I sometimes wonder if a passion is really that if it constantly needs active “feeding” — or should it always be simmering virtually of its own accord. I think it probably is, though whether the effort required to feed it (again, assuming intent) feels like a joy or a chore is most likely the very essence of prioritisation. Not only that, but how well we do in recognising those priorities and putting energy into working on them.

Of course many aspects around what we do, look at, listen to and write about are well within our control. Other things which take up our time and are perceived to be beyond our control probably aren’t — at least not entirely. Put together, they make up the “whole” that is life, and what we choose to do with it at any given moment I guess.

Despite reading many Year in Review and New Year New You posts over the past month or so and vowing there is no way I’m doing that…

While a stream of consciousness more than bullet points and actions, there are a few things I’ve considered while on a week-long break from work.

In the grand scheme of things I would have indeed liked to write more, and for that matter, spread myself less thin across my consumption as well. I seem to have reached a point in my content consumption of being scattered superficially far and wide, interspersed with periods of not much at all. I keep coming back to the word focus when I consider what could improve in both these areas.

Another consideration has been exactly how I use my tools across all areas of my interests, and of course you know what these interests are (if not, tap or click the menu at the top of the page). In lamenting the cost (don’t get me started) of upgrading anything(I didn’t) in the Apple ecosystem these days, perhaps a better approach is to ensure I maximise the capabilities of what I currently have. This of course led me to think such an approach would be a reasonable one to take across the board. Read the unfinished books and saved articles; ink the idle pens; finish the unused notebooks; and in the process perhaps rediscover what brought me to the point of owning so many in the first place.

Notwithstanding the above, I’ve been pleased with the increasing consistency and quality of my coffee roasting, and made some decent strides (despite a little inconsistency at times) in my health and fitness, so it hasn’t all been missed opportunity and lacking in focus. That being said, the perfect cup or the best roast are still ahead of me.

Now if I were, hypothetically speaking, to look at one or two themes for the coming year (Cortex podcast; episode 79), I would probably be looking at something along the lines of The Year of Rediscovery and The Year of Maximisation. I would also probably be thinking of one feeding the other in a cyclical type of arrangement, the result being greater focus on the areas I prioritise as being in need of it.

Regardless of arbitrary blog post titles, if it looks like a year in review, and sounds like a year in review…