Monthly Archives: October 2008

Sharpen the Saw

Regular readers (Hi Mum!) will have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet online over the last week, and the reason for this was the annual Gladbloke Family Holiday.  This year, we packed the family chariot and choogled down to the Sunshine Coast for a week of fun and relaxation.  Great stuff! 

The family were thrilled with the accomodation, in spite of the fact that a construction crew were present on the site next door for the duration of our stay.  Still, apart from the noise, dust and diesel fumes, all of us actually took a bit of an interest in the building process required to get another set of luxury units up and away.  It was an education. 

So, what has the title of todays’ blog got to do with us lounging around the pool at the coast?  Well, it relates to the tale of two tree fellers, or axe men, from the good old days.  The story goes:

Once there were two axemen (bet you didn’t see that coming : ) who started working together at the same time for a farmer.  Their job was to clear a stand of trees to make way for a paddock which would be used for grazing.  The men set to work immediately, cutting furiously away at the trees, and it soon became evident that they were evenly matched in the skills of the tree felling department. 

The only difference seemed to be that while axeman #1 didn’t take any breaks, preferring instead to chop merrily away throughout the entire day, axeman #2 could often be seen to be sneaking off fairly regularly during the day.  Now, even though #2 was obviously having more breaks, his quota of trees felled was equal to that of #1’s tally.  Now #1 watched his workmate carefully, and noted that they both swung their axes at roughly the same rate and same force, but for some reason #2’s axe seemed to chew through more timber. 

#1 started to get a bit miffed by this, and doubled his efforts.  Really hacking into the lumber.  #2, responded by upping his rate slightly as well, and took even more breaks.  The result?  Same amount of timber cut at the end of the day. 

#1 axeman was by now understandably getting a bit upset, so before things came to blows he decided to ask #2 how it was he could have so many breaks and still cut the same amount of timber.

#2 smiled at him and said, “Next time I have a break, come with me.”  So that morning when #2 stopped and slipped off into the shrubbery, #1 followed him.  They ended up back at the farm house, where #2 took a deep drink of water, stretched his arm and back muscles, cadged a little nibble of food from the farmers’ wife, before disappearing round the back of the farm house.  #1 followed him and watched with his mouth hanging open as #2 sat down at a small stone grinder and spent a couple of minutes sharpening the edge of his axe. 

The secret was revealed.  From that moment onwards #1 followed #2’s lead, and together they easily cut their way through to the completion of the job. 

Well, I’ve been sharpening my axe, and having a bit of a breather.  It’s a good thing to do from time to time.  Particularly as it’s all too easy to get caught up in the excrutiating minutiae of everyday living.  Little things start to get you down, niggle at you.  Relationships get tense, work becomes a drudgery, and even hobbies can lose their appeal when you feel tired and overworked. 

It’s good to take some time out and just ‘be’.  Think, play, laugh, eat, drink, walk, talk and sleep.  I’ve read some great books, spent a lot of time with the girls swimming, walking, exploring, and, so help me, even shopping.  We had some ‘time out’ where we just did our own thing, (me = read & sleep), and we came home feeling pretty damned good. 

Of course the house still looks like a bomb site, furniture every where, kitchen unfinished, and a stack more work lining up and demanding my personal and immediate attention in the not too distant future.  Work beckons as well at the factory.

Does this bloke look stressed?

Does this bloke look stressed?

I gave work a little thought during the week.  This was the year of the long awaited event, ‘The Promotion’.  It didn’t eventuate due to some interesting circumstances, and I ended up jumping ship to another section to a lower position back on the tools.  This change is a major step backward careerwise, but a huge step forward personally.  I’m no longer worried about the stress and pressure of my old job.  Ok, so the new job has it’s own share of problems, but nowhere near as many as the ones in my last position.  I don’t lie awake at night worrying about ‘stuff’ anymore.  It’s nice.

And speaking of nice, I’m a much nicer person.  I actually don’t mind answering the telephone these days, as opposed to flinching every time it rings.  My family don’t bug me anymore, I like talking to them, and listening to them now.  I’ve got time to wind down before coming home from work, and in doing so, am ready to interact with my loved ones, not try and avoid them for an hour or two while I try and slow my thoughts from cyclone to mere whirlwind.  Life is actually pretty good.  This took me by surprise when it struck me sometime Wednesday morning as I strolled along the boardwalk at Kings Beach.  I actually laughed out loud from the sheer joy of it, surprising the bloke in front of me who thought I was laughing at him.   

So for those of you out there who are thinking that you are too busy to take a break, or have a little time off to spoil yourself, I would like to ask you to think again.  You can cut a lot of timber, very easily, when your axe is sharp. 

Cheers,

Gb

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Night and Daylight Saving

It’s that time of year again, when the papers roll out the old chestnut, “Should Qld be on daylight savings time?”  Usually this is followed by numerous interviews with ‘people in the street’ who agree that it’s time Qld stepped into line with the rest of the states and re-adopted daylight savings. 

Fabulous.  Just as we crawl out of Winter, they want to wind the clocks forward an hour so I spend another month getting up and riding to work in the dark.  This isn’t about saving daylight, it’s the age old battle between day people, (aka Fowls: the early risers), and night people, (aka Owls: the stay up laters). 

It’s no secret, I’m a night person, an Owl.  Unfortunately, I work in an industry run by morning folk… the rotten Fowls. 

When I started working in my very first part time job at the tender age of 15, the start time was 7a.m.  This meant I had to be up by 6am, at work by 6.30, and have the doors open, and the petrol pumps going by ten to 7.  It’s time to point out that my usual wake up time on Saturday and Sunday mornings was somewhere between 10 and 11am… ish.  If I’d been allowed, I probably would have slept til 3pm.  I’m just not cut out to be an Early Bird.  So when a vacancy came up for a person on the late shift, I got the spot because everyone else I worked with wanted to start and finish early.  Not me 🙂  I got to sleep in, and didn’t have to put up with the early morning crush of cars on the driveway.  Time oozed by on those long and mostly sunny afternoons.  Perfect.     

My father on the other hand is a Fowl.  The earlier the better for him, so to see someone slothing between the sheets when the sun is rising in the East is akin to a mortal sin.  Many was the time I had the top sheet torn off my slumbering form at some ungodly hour, and the words, “Come on Get Up!  You’re wasting the best part of the day!” 

I would stagger from my bed and sit over my cereal in a drowsy stupor, and the rest of the day would be spent in a kind of fog of tiredness.  Mornings were definitely not my ‘thing’. 

At school I would sit slumped over my desk until lunchtime waiting for the little neurons to start firing up and kickstart my sluggish brain.

By 4pm I’d be right, playing cricket, riding my bike, running wild through the scrub etc.  Tea time, terrific.  After tea, no worries.  Bedtime.  Oh oh.  I would lie in bed, reading until late, waiting for the Sandman to sprinkle my eyes liberally with his magical sleepiness sand.  Many was the time though that the miserable little fairy ran out of sand and flew off in disgust. 

Once I decided to invite my father to my little world of peace in the middle of the night.  I clearly remember strolling into his room at around 1am, and shook him heavily as he lay asleep, “Come on!” I yelled, “You’re wasting the best part of the night!” 

I also clearly remember several things about the events that followed.  Particularly the bit where he managed to grab me around the neck without even opening his eyes, and the the bit when, as spots filled my vision, I promised myself that I’d never, ever, stuff up like this again. 

Not long afterwards I started my apprenticeship.  Guess what the start time was.  Yep, 7am.  I bet a morning person decided that 7am was a good time for people to be working on heavy, fast spinning equipment.  They probably would have preferred to start at 5am, but some kind and intellegent person probably prevented them from getting their way. 

Over the next 4 years I would stagger into work looking like I’d be dragged in behind a fast moving car, clock on, note that the ink on my time card was red instead of black (a beacon to the paymaster that I was tardy), and get stuck into whatever task was at hand. 

Often I could be found at the start of the shift standing lifeless over my lathe, gazing into nothingness as my machine spun merrily away, job floating untouched in mid-air.  I was the bane of my apprentice masters’ life. 

“Look at you!” he used to shout, “Jesus boy, I’ve been here since 4am and just about done a full days work before you graced us with your presence at 10 past 7!  Look at you, about as much life in you as a wombat overdosed on valium!  Just look at you!  I’m going to start calling you mogadon, ’cause you’re nothing but a slow working dope!”  You may be surprised to know that I don’t really miss him at all. 

They were happy with my work though.  Once I woke up, somewhere around 10.30 ish, I was a model employee, who could mix it with the best.  Unfortunately, just not before lunch time. 

Then something happened that changed my life.  The plant I was employed at, went on strike.  Certain employees, among them we smiling apprentices, were left to run the plant.  I immediately volunteered to work the dreaded night shifts until the dispute was resolved.  Well, what can I say?  It was wonderful!  My ‘day’ started at 7pm, and ended at 7am the next morning.  Suddenly I went from a slow, dull eyed wombat on dope to a supercharged Energiser Bunny chock full of speed.  At 3am while my fellow workmates were falling over themselves, drool falling freely from their slack mouths, I was bouncing off the walls.  My enthusiasm was boundless, my energy and drive limitless.  I was ripping through the work, then asking for more.  The nightshift boss was delighted with me.  I was, for all too brief a time, “In The Zone”.

And, funlovers, I’d like to point out that not once, ever, did I point to a slumbering form in the smoko room at midnight and poke fun at them, call them dozey, slack arses, or dope fueled dummies.  Nope.  For we night folk are a magnaminous group, who know all too well the horrors of working outside your comfort zone. 

But all good things come to an end, and the workers returned from their strike and we ‘boys’ were put back on day shift.  Back to the 7am start.  I’d like to report here that the morning people left me alone at the break of day, but no, they just picked up where they left off with the snide insults and merry jibes.  Not to worry, I knew their dirty little secret. 

So, here we go once again with the Daylight Saving debate.  I don’t know why Fowls are so keen on it?  Going to work in the dark, getting home in the blazing daylight, then falling asleep in front of the 7pm news while outside the evening sun still burns away.  What’s the point? 

Why make Owls lives more miserable?  Let us sleep in you inconsiderate swine!  I know the inevitable will happen, that one day they will win and we’ll be forced to wind the clocks forward an hour, and I’ll be forced up in the dead of night to start my day.  Of course, my cries of “Why can’t the rest of the country abandon daylight saving?  Why not have a referendum to have it abolished?” were shouted down once again this year.  Morning people are very touchy about the subject.  I think we Night folk frighten them.  They probably wonder what terrible deeds we get up to while they lay in their comas in the dead of night (after falling asleep at 8pm…)  Mwahahahahah!  Little do they know!  Ha ha ha ha etc.     

Maybe it’s all part of the Fowl plan, to keep us so tired that we can’t get up to any trouble at night.  

The trouble is, I think it’s working!

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Getting Fit – February to Early March

 

Long post today folks… sorry!

Well, things were going swimmingly.  I’d been going to the gym for just over a month now, and was still enjoying it.  Ok, I wasn’t losing too many kg’s, but I was definitely improving my stamina and some strength. 

 

Life was busy, but in a good way.  At home the last set of handrails were now in place on the new

Deck is Done!

Deck is Done!

back deck, and my father and I managed to get the new clothesline locked into place.  A good result.  Just a couple of sets of stairs to build and this project will be nailed…

One of our nieces was married in Yeppoon, and we all had a great weekend away.  The place we stayed at had a small gym out the back, but I chose instead to go swimming and for long walks along the beach.  At one stage I even took my shirt off and did some jogging, and even sprinted for a very short distance toward some rocks at the headland.  I put my shirt back on when I realised that I was scaring little children. 

Why was I running?  Well, my motivation came from the Craig Harper website, (if you haven’t visited it yet, pop in and have a look, well worth it, http://www.craigharper.com.au).  Craig wrote a post about going for a run one night after doing a workout, and it really struck a chord with me.  I remembered what it was like to ‘just run for fun’, and I got a yearning to be that fit again (even if it was 30 years ago!).  

Lammermoor Beach Yeppoon

Lammermoor Beach Yeppoon

Back home, during one of my afternoon walks I stunned the dog by bursting into a run.  For 20 metres I ripped up the footpath and onto the track that lead into the nearby bush.  At the 25 metre mark I leaned against a large gum tree and waited for the spots in my eyes to disappear, whilst making noises similar to that of a steam train tackling a steep hill.  Maybe running wasn’t my ‘thing’.  

“No,” I decided, “I’m going to run again…, just not today.”  The dog scratched his ear and looked at me hopefully.  Well, at least my training partner was keen to help.   

I mentioned my new found desire to run to various people and every one of them pointed out the dangers of running:  ‘You’ll bugger your hips and knees!’, “Do you know how many joggers die of heart attacks?”, ‘Are you mad?!!’ etc.  Their inspirational words lifted me to dizzying heights.  Nevertheless, I ws actually enjoying myself.  Jog, walk, run.  Jog, walk, run.  I could get to like this.

So, with all the exercise I was doing, gym, dog walking with the odd jog, run every now and then, and working my arse off around the house / yard, you’d think the weight was falling off me wouldn’t you?  

Nope. 

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  So I hit the exercise bike, rowing machine, and the elliptical trainer at the gym with a vengeance, I was sweating my way to weight loss 4 times a week.  I booked another assessment for mid-April, and was determined to see some changes. 

Work

At work things had changed a little as well.  There was a vacancy coming up for a control room job in the middle of the year.  Basically it’s a position where you sit in an air-conditioned room in front of a row of screens and try and keep your section running.  A bit like Homer Simpsons’ job, but with a stack more stress.  While you’re dealing with crashing conveyor belts, train and shipping schedules and several hundred phone calls during your 12 hour shift, you’re also trying to get out of your chair at least once an hour to avoid deep vein thrombosis, numb legs, and an aching lower back.  All this makes for a potentially life shortening experience.  And I was first in line for the chance to get a full time job doing this permanently… 

The bloke who trained me to operate the panel was also a member of the gym, and worked out pretty hard for 51 y.o.  He pointed out that if he didn’t he’d be the size of a whale in no time at all.  He also told me to watch what I eat, and how much, because the job is sedentary, and there isn’t much chance to burn off any calories like we could when we’re ‘outside’ running around in the plant.  “Mind you, the stress would chew up a few calories,” I thought…

So, at work I was sitting on my date punching buttons and generally eating between phone calls and alarms.  Time to look at my diet. 

A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips…

Let’s face it, my diet was crap.  Mostly dead animal for tea with lashings of gravy, vegies, and desert.  At work it was dead animal on my sandwiches, sultanas, packet of chips, muesli bars, some fruit and about 4 coffees a day. 

Drinking too much as well.  I had developed the habit of having drinks before and after tea every night.  As well as that, I was drinking after nightshift as well, having a glass of port at 7am after finishing my shift, then hitting the sack is not a good thing… apparently.  It helped me get to sleep, but woke me up at 10 am for the obligatory toilet break, after which I’d have a bugger of a time getting back to sleep.  So by 4 pm I’d be as touchy as a bear with a sore head prior to the last night shift. 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I clearly needed to get my diet in order.  I stopped drinking in the mornings, no worries, and to help with the diet I turned again to Craig Harper.com and ordered his little booklet, “So You’ve Decided to Get in Shape… Again”.  It arrived, I read it and thought, “Bloody hell, I’ve got to make some changes!” 

So, I put together a rough diet.  It was pretty rough alright.  Sort of the same as before, but a bit less of everything.  Quantity, not Quality.  I was wary of making too many ‘big’ changes too soon, because the moment I felt deprived of something, then I would crave, then I’d eventually give in and have a pig out.  Which would usually be followed by a crashing and burning sensation, which would then lead me to throwing my hands in the air and giving up altogether.  Oh, the joys of being an ‘All or Nothing’ sort of personality.  Not this time though.  Slow and Steady.  One change at a time.  Cement in one good habit four weeks at a time, then look for the next bad habit to nail (Top Tip that one Craig!). 

The Good Life

At this stage I was also doing a lot of reading on Happiness.  This had been bought on by watching one of my wife’s favourite series over the past year, “The Good Life”, (great show from the 70’s about a couple who decide to become self sufficient in suburban London).  It was a great show the first time round when I watched it as a kid, and must have had a bit of an impact as I married a woman who looks very similar to Felicity Kendall 🙂 

Anyway, where was I…  yes, I kept thinking about that show, and how good it would be to work from home, to be the master of my own destiny, to be completely satisfied that I was on the ‘right track’, that I was doing my “Thing”, but never did anything about it.  How could I?  I had bills to pay, a job to do, kids to raise, etc, etc.    

In Feb 07 after Googling “Happiness” I stumbled across Craigs site (really, check it out… after you’ve finished reading here that is!)  After a year of reading his, and other peoples’ stuff, I’d done pretty much ‘Bugger All’ to change.  Slow and Steady is one thing, procrastination is another.  Finding an answer to the great question, “What would make me happy?” was proving harder than I thought.  Was I already happy, but just didn’t realise it?  What would be my ideal career / lifestyle? 

I’d been given a couple of great books by Barbara Sher, which helped me identify what was making me unhappy, but I stopped short of doing all the required exercises to change things.  Apparently I’m a Scanner.  I like to swap and change as ‘things’ take my interest.  Great.  I bore easily, so I NEED constant change to keep me motivated.  This would explain my chequered resume’. 

 

The promotion at work was looking good, just a matter of waiting for the bloke to leave the position mid-year, but was that what I really wanted?  Would getting the panel job make me happy?  Would getting fitter make me happy?  What about my dreams, what were they?  Where did I want to be at 50, or even 60?  Well, apart from still alive and healthy, I didn’t have much of a clue.  Was I thinking too much?  Why couldn’t I just be ‘normal’ and get on with life, and not worry about ‘stuff’ like this?  This was cause for concern.

Meanwhile on Craigs’ site in Feb 08 he was off to Fiji, then off to the States to attend a conference and go ski-ing.  “Good work if you can get it! Some people have all the luck.” I thought a tad reproachfully.  Luck!  Was that the key?

The Fickle Finger of Fate and the Dirty Digit of Destiny

I don’t think I’m lucky.  I’m certainly blessed, but definitely not lucky.  I’m blessed with a great family, pretty good health, certain talents and skills, but for some reason seemed to be ‘just missing out’ on that elusive job, goal, or stroke of fortune that always seemed to be out of reach. 

For example: Numerous times I’d seen jobs I could do standing on my head go to less deserving individuals, who I then had to assist… why?  Years ago I started to get fit by exercising at home, and was doing really well til I popped my gut and had to have surgery to repair the hernia.  No more exercise for me!  It seemed that the more I wanted something, the more determined the world seemed on not giving it to me.  WHY?  You can get pretty bitter about this sort of thing… 

This was the year all that changed.  This year, instead of bouncing round like a marble in a spin dryer, I was going to break this pattern and make some long term life changes.  This year, instead of giving up at the first, second or third stumbling block I was going to keep going.  I don’t know who wrote the quote, but basically it goes,

“Walls in our path quickly determine who is the most the determined.” 

All I had to do was think about what Changes I wanted, then PERSIST, and the How would take care of itself… hopefully.

Cheers,

Gb

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Getting Fit Part 1 – The First Assessment

 

Chubby?!

Chubby?! Don't stand there insulting me woman, can't you see my drink is nearly empty?

I joined a gym this year, and I want to stress that it wasn’t in January.  No New Years Resolution for me.  Not a big believer in NYR’s, too easy to make, too easy to break.  It had occurred to me that I wasn’t the lean, mean, fitness machine that I used to be.  Far from it in fact.  

 

 

 

So, I started with some pushups and sit ups (most mornings), and began walking the dog a little further and faster than usual.  The results were far from stellar.  I didn’t change my diet all that much, in fact, at all.  Why should I?  I was exercising now right?  Burning up all those dirty calories…     

 

 
 

 

 

So, in February, after much thought, I decided to throw caution to the wind and head back to the gym.  I hadn’t been in a gym for over 16 years, so I put it off for a few days longer than planned.  Did I really want to do this?  Was I prepared to work out several times a week?  Did I have the time?  Staring at my pudgy reflection in the bathroom mirror one evening it hit me, “When is enough enough?”  Today.  The next morning I made an appointment for an assessment and a couple of days later pedalled down to my local gym and signed up.  

Gyms had changed a little since I’d last been in one.  First of all, there were a lot more women working out.  The testosterone junkies were still in attendance, huge biceps glistening with sweat, but the majority of people were women of all shapes and sizes.  Even the personal trainer who met me was a woman.  An extremely fit and well muscled woman.  No worries… 

The scales at the gym must have been out of wack, because I certainly didn’t feel like I weighed 104 kgs.  You’d think they’d get accurate scales wouldn’t you?  The nice lady then took some body measurements and wrote them all down on a clean white card.  Then she asked me about my diet, “Diet?  No worries, I don’t eat much, and it’s generally healthy.”  Liar.  She smiled but didn’t say anything.  Hell, if I’d been in her position I’d have probably said something heavily sarcastic like, “Yeah, it must be really healthy, that’s why you’re in here talking with me… Mr.  Blobby.”    

Then she asked me if I drink, “Just a bit,” I said casually, “of course, I can give up whenever I want to.”  Liar, liar, liar!  All drinkers are liars.  When we’re young we lie about how much we drink, and as we age we lie about how little we drink.    

“Well, that’s good then,” she said, “we’ll get you to cut back to a couple of beers a week until you’re just drinking on the odd social occasion, ok?” 

I must have looked a bit panicky, “Whoa!  Let’s not go nuts here!” I said, getting to my feet and waving my arms around a little, “The whole reason I’m coming here is so I can maintain the decadent lifestyle I’ve grown very, I repeat, VERY accustomed to.”

She smiled and scribbled something down on my sheet.  Then we got down to the dirty work of going through a warm up, before starting my training routine on the various weight machines downstairs.   

Now, she’s a good looking girl, and I’m a bloke.  When she put some dinky little weights on the press up bar I smirked, and pushing her aside, selected something a little more ‘manly’, “I think that will do for starters,” I said confidently, plumping myself down on the seat.  Again, she didn’t say anything, just raised her eyebrows a little.  A minute later she re-adjusted the weight back to where she had originally set it, and waited while I checked my stomach for possible rupture. 

“How do you feel?” she asked. 

I flexed my arms and winced a little as my shoulder popped back in, “Yeah, good mate, good.  Can we come back to this machine later?”   

“Are you taking anything to stop the clicking in your knees and ankles?” she asked five minutes later as I frantically thrashed about on the rowing machine.

“What clicking?!” I gasped, I couldn’t hear a thing except the sound of my heart pounding in my ears. 

“It’s pretty loud, is it hurting?”

“Not as much as my lungs, back and arms are,” I huffed. 

“Mmm,” she said.  She was saying that a lot, but the smile stayed fixed on her dial. 

The workout eventually ended, my little training card was full of figures and weight sizes.  “Ok, we’ll do some cool down stretches before we finish up, ok?”  I grinned and as we made our way toward the stretching area.  At last!  Something I’m half decent at. 

Nope. 

The gym reverberated to the sound of my tendons twanging and snapping as I attempted to flex them in an astounding variety of ways.  As I gritted my way through the last stretch a voice in the back of my head said quietly, “Bet you don’t think it was such a good idea now to pedal down here today.” 

Bugger.  

Gazing down at my wobbly and swollen legs I came close to tears. 

The nice training lady gave me a pat on the back, “You did well today, now just do that routine four times a week and see me in a month or so and we’ll reassess you, ok?” 

I nodded dumbly before limping slowly outside to the bike rack.  It took me 10 minutes to saddle up. 

“Well,” I thought, as I coaxed my legs onto the pedals, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first trip over the doormat.”

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