Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Filthy lucre

Who'd have thought that Radiohead would be
advanced thinkers in the field of economics?
You may notice the Paypal button over to the right of the blog now.
In fact if you haven't noticed it, NOTICE IT NOW!
I would like to think I am not hung up on money, I certainly don't want to be as rich as Rupert Murdoch, but, as you know well, I don't want to be spending the rest of my life listening with frantic intent to the sounds of my car, praying that no new rattle or thunk emerges to disturb the equanimity of my days.
Paul Barrie on Media Watch did say though that "we should be prepared to pay for good journalism", and so, I have at least put the link there so anyone can donate if they feel like it.
NB: Whether my gibberings can be described as good is another question, but I can categorically say that I am a better journalist than anyone at The Telegraph.
So what have Radiohead got to do with this?
Well I, like many, was impressed when Radiohead, maddened no doubt by the lengths record companies were going to try to protect the music they had payed so much for, put their latest album up on the web and asked people to pay what they thought it was worth.
I cannot find any source to tell me what, if anything, people paid for it, but I hope it was fair.
Which reminds me of another little piece of economic mastery that the all governments across the world would do well to contemplate.
My friend Antony the super engineer was telling me that an engineer he knew did a study on Sydney's train system.
It was discovered that it would be cheaper for the taxpayer if all train rides were free.
The amount of money spent on turnstiles, ticketing, and inspectors to see that you have bought your ticket, is so massive that it completely eclipses the mere costs of making the trains move.
On the topic, probably the most famous quote to do with money is, "money is the root of all evil".
However, as I learned on a gardening course of all places, the full quote is: "The love of money is the root of all evil."  
Another odd character to find espousing valid
economic theory - Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures.
Which I think you would agree is a different matter entirely.
Being hung up on how much money you have is a recipe for unhappiness.
And as Michael Palin's character in Fierce Creatures said to the boss, a caricature of Rupert Murdoch, "how much is enough?"
And likewise it is something I have always wondered, how much is enough?
When I was working in the corporate world of Sydney, I used to hang around with a lot of rich people.
Some of them thought nothing of spending $500  on a Friday night for drinks, pokies, dinner and cabs back and forth across Sydney. 
One of them came into the bar one Friday and announced he had just exchanged contracts for a one-bedroom unit in Bondi costing $900,000.
I was earning six figures myself and boy, is that world a long way away.
I don't want to write anything trite about "but was I really happy?", (I can assure you that at ten pm on a Friday night with ten beers under the belt and a load of glamourous women in the bar, I was certainly episodically happy), but it was the period when I first began to contemplate the idea that once you began to earn money, at what point do you stop?
Well there is no answer to this, but an often quoted breakpoint is when you've paid off the mortgage. 
However, you can't stop there because you've got to keep earning money for ongoing maintenance and repair, then there are the rates, then insurance, then your kids have to go to college, then you crash your car and need another one.
And so it goes seemingly eternally.
So how much is enough is a question in the realms of 'if a tree falls in the forest', but I will give you a few examples.
A guy I played soccer with at Uni was a classic figure of well-to-do north shore.
Private school then Economics/Law at Sydney Uni.
On graduating he then went to work for the MacQuarie Bank, the so-called "millionaires factory", and after some years there he quit and went white water rafting for the rest of his life.
I don't know if he became a millionaire, though I strongly suspect he did, but to his credit he said, "this is enough", and went out and paddled a lot of trout streams.
I might add Keith was telling me that he went to the Snowies in summer one year for a white water session but found that the drought had lowered the river levels to the point where even a kayak scraped the rocks, so they set their kayaks up next to the road and paddled against the stop watch to at least get some fitness training.
It provided tourists driving past with some wacky photos at least.
Another example was a Canadian friend, Dean, whom I worked with at Greenpeace in Vancouver.
Dean had worked with a merchant bank for some years, earning in the realms of $250,000, but eventually he didn't say, "how much is enough?", but "I've had enough".
He woke up one morning and realised he couldn't give the tiniest shit about the movements of money and so quit.
Dean was telling me that he had taped the word 'ignore' over 'hold' on his phone, showing the first cracks in his ability to deal with customers.
While he was looking around for something to do he began working with Greenpeace and used his mighty sales and administration skills to earn Greenpeace a lot of money.
And it has to be said, he did become happier.
He worked four days a week, attracted the attention of all the women in the office and rode his push bike vast distances (to California once) in the company of his German friend Tomas.
And so to myself, as ever.
When my father retired from Charles Sturt Uni he attended some retiree seminars and one thing he was strongly advised not to do was move.
The idea of retiring and then moving to the coast, or somewhere nicer, is often fatal as you get there and don't know anyone.
Understanding the sense of this I 'retired' at age 39 and moved to the place I had always wanted to live, Byron Bay.
Now when my knees are too creaky for me to weed and my wrist no longer closes the secateurs with needed force, I am in the right place for my retirement.
Do I have enough money? No, but I am as happy as anyone with my childhood can be.
If you have any further interest in economics and the cycles of cash, then I recommend this book, Eat the Rich, by P.J.O'Rourke.

In it he travels the world to try to discover why some countries are rich and some poor.
For instance, Tanzania has more mineral wealth than Canada, yet lies in the bottom fifty of the world's countries by wealth.
Albania fell to the absolute bottom thanks to government condoned pyramid schemes, and with the breakdown of internal economics and then the rule of law, the military began selling their weapons to buy food, ultimately leading to the First Bank of Albania being robbed using a tank.
Economics it has been famously said is at best a pseudo-science.
It has lots of jargon and plenty of equations, but predictive outcomes, none.
To expand on that.
A chemist can tell you if you add these two chemicals, in these two amounts, at these conditions, this reaction will occur.
Thus if you park your car near the ocean every day for six months, oxidation of the ferrous metals, or rusting will occur.
Economists can take the same economic system, with the same inputs of labour and capital, and get a different outcome each time.
As someone once put it best, "economists can't tell you what will happen tomorrow, but can tell you why you why they were wrong yesterday".
So to close with, in my opinion, the best fable I ever heard about the pursuit of the money.
A man lived on the coast of Portugal and fished each day to feed his family.
One day an agent from a major bank in Lisbon was touring the area and got talking with the fisherman.
The fisherman was saying that the downside to his life was that some days he caught nothing and his family went hungry.
Other days the ocean was too rough and he couldn't go out at all, and likewise hunger was the order of the day. 
So the bank agent says, "well if my bank loans you some money, you could buy a bigger boat and a freezing plant, then you could catch a lot in one go, freeze a load, then sell the rest to pay off the loan."
To which the fisherman says, "What then?"
So the agent says, "well if it goes well, you could then buy a second boat and employ another fisherman to work it, then you would make even more money."
Again the fisherman replies, "and then?"
"Well", responds the agent, "if it goes really well, you can have a fleet of fishing boats, and you don't have to go out at all, just stay in the office and administer your fleet."
The fisherman nods and says, "and then what?"
And the agent replies, "Well then when you've made enough, you can retire and just go fishing."
Says it all really.
 
 






 



Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Let me park the yurt and I'll come right in.



Paul Sironen in action - who'd have thunk
it that he would be used in a
treatise on anarchy.
When I first moved out of my bucolic home town in the country to the cosmopolitan pulse of Sydney, it slowly began to dawn on me that there was a different life possible, and that Bathurst wasn't the centre of thought, as my parents had led me to believe.
This was first brought home to me by a piece of graffiti I saw on a bridge in Petersham in Sydney's inner west, in the heart of Balmain Rugby League Club territory. 
On the bridge some inner city radical had written, "The only thing we have to fear is institutionalised anarchy".
Under which some else had written, "And Sirro".
And truly Paul Sironen was the most frightening player in the league at that time.
With a playing weight of 17st (107kg) and standing 6'4" (a smidge under 2m) he was frightening to behold even when watching from the stands.
Whether he was more frightening than institutionalised anarchy I didn't know, then or now, but it was really the wittiness of the graffiti that got me.
Here in Sydney even writing on a bridge was a cut above anything I had heard or seen in Bathurst.
And just across the uni campus was another bit of snappy rejoinding.
A fundamentalist christian had written,  "god hates hommos" (he meant homos, of course, short for homosexuals), under which, possibly the same paint spraying wit from the Petersham bridge, had added, "but does he like tabouleh?" 
I think that's where my love of the english language and its fertile grounds for humour began.
So likewise I was impressed with this I read in Reader's Digest.
A sign in a campus eatery said "Shoes are required to eat in the cafeteria", under which some student had put, "socks can eat wherever they want".
And so to my recent trip to Possum Creek to mow Joanne's lawn, as I whipper-snipped down at the front end of her property I saw this sign indicating "Yurt Parking".
A standard wheel-less yurt.
It of course refers to where guests who are attending an activity in the yurt, yoga, meditation and hula are three of them, are to park and uses economy of words to fit on the sign, but more accurately it states that mobile yurts can be parked here.
Which then made me think, are there any mobile yurts?
In it's original form it was the first mobile home, a heavy felt tent used by horse people of the tundra, but then, somewhat to my surprise, I discovered that the sign put up by Joanne's landlady Ruth may have been more accurate than I thought.
A yurt on wheels. They could park it at Possum creek.
And so I'll end this section with the best piece of signage I ever saw, it was a headline in the Macleay Argus at Kempsey.
But first the almost mandatory digression.
Elvis Costello was so in love with the Mental as Anything song, "If you leave me, can I come too?", that he said he would have given anything to haven written that title.
And likewise, I was in the bowling club at Kempsey one day when I saw a clipping from the Argus pinned to the noticeboard.
It was a story about a dispute between the women members of the club and the local council about the positioning of their new bowling green.
The dispute was hotting up and the headline read, "Ladies in white see red in blue over green".
Like Elvis Costello, i would have considered my newspaper career a success if i had written anything as good as that.

I've worked in newspapers for a chunk of my working life, and in my time I've seen some good and appalling uses of English, and, I might add, everything I learned about correct written english, such as it is, came from my training as a journalist.
None of it came from HSC English, what a waste of bloody time that was.
For instance there is no point learning grammar.
Or at the very least, if you are going to teach grammar, you can't mark anyone wrong, for anything.
Let me explain.
English grammar rules are based on latin, and two of the better known ones, you can't end a sentence with a preposition and you can't split an infinitive, are only loose guidelines, not rules, in latin to make the sentence more elegant.
If someone said to you "I wasn't happy with his behaviour, but."
It's not elegant, but wrong it is not. (NB: I just ended that sentence with a preposition.)
In my mind English usage is only wrong if the listener cannot understand what you mean.
Here are a couple of examples.
If you say "I looked out of the window", some persnicketty English teacher would say that is incorrect usage, you are supposed to say, "I looked through the window".
Also, there was a game show a while back called the Weakest Link in which contestants would be eliminated one by one through a general knowledge quiz.
As each participant was eliminated the host would say "you are the weakest link", and off they would go.
But as some wit wrote in to Viz comic, when the game got down to the last two the host should say, "you are the weaker link".
Somehow when there are only two things, weaker becomes the term, not weakest.
Then there is this business of labelling terms to make it "easier"(!) to learn grammar.
Thus we learn nouns, verbs and adjectives.
However, due to the infinite flexibility of english words, even this quickly descends into the murk.
Take colours.
Green is an adjective, everyone knows that, thus, "The apple is green."
But once you take to the golf course, green becomes a noun, "my second shot landed on the green."
Then you can make it an verb, "I'm going to green up my garden before I put it on the market."

Blue.
Adjective: "The ocean is blue."
Noun: "I got in a blue."
Verb: "I blued him till he couldn't stand up."

Black.
Adjective: "The night sky is black."
Noun: (racist) "He is a black."
Verb: "I'm going to black my boots."
And so it goes with the almost infinite malleability of english.

The lexical yoga champ is the word fuck.
in the sentence, "The fucking fucker's fucking fucked it." the F-word fills every category and then some.
And while I'm here.
There is a common story that the word 'Fuck' started as an acronym "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge", scrawled on police blotters when taking notes on a case.
It is completely untrue.
The F-word stems from the latin word 'futuo: to make love' and has been in use in english since the twelth century.
The first modern police force was founded in London in 1829 by John Peel, and thus post dates the word by a mere four hundred years.

As you can imagine English was not my favourite subject at school, like many boys and men, I liked the certainty of maths and science.
I still can't understand, though I have a few good guesses, why English is the only compulsory subject in the HSC.
My logic was: you have to go to school to learn maths, you have to go to school to learn Geography, Science, Commerce, Home Science, Woodwork, Metalwork and so on.
But what's the only thing you already know before you get to high school?
English.
You may argue, what about the children of immigrants to this country, they have to go to high school to learn english, don't they?
Well, they do, but they attend English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes and learn far more useful things than we ever did in English.
Also, if English wasn't compulsory, then a lot, and I mean a lot, of people with arts degrees would be out of a job.
So for those of you still reading I will end with some sample HSC English questions and the answers I would have dearly, sorely, loved to have written.


A reading of Letters to Alice changes the modern responder’s understanding of Pride and Prejudice. Discuss with reference to both texts.

The dog ate both my copies of these texts, and really I don't care.


Explore how perceptions of belonging and not belonging can be influenced by connections to
places.
In your response, refer to your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your own
choosing.

See above answer re fate of my texts, and really I still don't care.


Explore how Great Expectations and ONE other related text of your own choosing represent conflicting perspectives in unique and evocative ways.

I am still trying to find a stomach pump for my dog and further more, I really, really don't care.




Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Collingwood, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

The title of this post is paraphrased from English poet Elizabeth Barratt Browning's famous poem, "How do I love thee?".
And it's relevant because this post all started with this odd spelling mix on the one street sign (right).
You see, the streets of Byron Bay are named after poets (mostly).
Thus we have Keats, Shelley, Browning, Kipling, Burns, Jonson and so forth.
Mostly the names are Englishmen and one English woman, Browning herself, but two Australians made the cut, A.B. "Banjo" Paterson and Henry Lawson.
So I found this sign a little confusing, I checked with my fave search engines and Banjo's surname is spelled with one 'T', so what's going on with Patterson Lane?
Probably just one of those things, when the order came up to the sign writer he didn't know how to spell it and so bunged it down the same way his mate John Patterson spelled it.
I might add in my nerdlish way that Paterson is the ultimate in redundancy for a surname.
As Peterson means "son of Peter", Paterson is a latin-english amalgum and means "father's son", a self-evident truth if ever there was one.
Look, it's an Eastern Grey
I-don't-understand-you.
Pater is latin for father, best known to most of us in the term, paternity suit, in which the biological father of a child is determined to the satisfaction of the court.
So a Paterson can say, "I am my father's son." 
And we can reply, "thanks for the update, can we get you on Mastermind, special subject 'the bleeding obvious'!"

But then the names of things here in Australia have been a fertile field for confusion and humour.
There is a story, now sadly lost to the mists of time that Kangaroo means, "I don't understand you" in the indigenous dialect of Sydney cove.
Apparently a settler asked a native, "What do you call that animal there?" and the indigenous local replied bemusedly, "Kangaroo".

Elsewhere in Byron we have Marvell st.
When I first saw this I thought for a heart-skippingly joyous second that the street was named for Marvel Comics, of which Spiderman is probably the most famous character.
However upon closer look I saw that Marvel comics is spelled with one 'L' and the street with two.
Turns out that the street was named for English poet Andrew Marvell, much less interesting in my opinion.
(And believe me, there is nothing in the history of the human race less interesting than a seventeenth century metaphysical poet. High school English teachers please note.)
So, sadly we don't have streets named after interesting characters like the Silver Surfer, but just think how cool would it be to live in Spiderman Street or Captain America Court?

Also here in Byron is this very minor confusion for map navigators.
The road sign (left) indicates that the beach was once owned by someone called Watego.
But the second sign (right) seems to be the correct spelling, having only gone in six months ago.
However, if you look really closely at the first picture you can see that the apostrophe in "Watego's" has been added later over the top of another letter, almost certainly an 'e', indicating that it was once spelt Wategoes.
So take your pick really, Wategos seems to be the correct spelling.
For now.

Then, all unknowingly, a sign war began, synchronised nicely with this post about street signs and confusion.
This sign (left) put up by a poor confused soul with limited intelligence and no friends, indicates that they are a supporter of the Richmond Aussie Rules team. 
I snapped this pic on Friday last week.
Then Saturday came and Richmond were beaten by Carlton and are out of the playoffs for this year.

And reflecting this was a new sign put up on Monday indicating that the putter-up of the original sign has gained a hundred IQ points over the weekend.
Tuesday lunchtime
Abandoning the now defeated Tiges, they have gone over to the mighty Swans, and have therefore some chance of enjoying the fruits of victory. I was particularly impressed with the wrapping of the 'give way' sign in red and white Swan livery, which in itself is largely couloured red and white.
I would also like to point out that if this "change-like-the-weather" sign writer starts supporting Collingwood, then telegraph poles will burn! 







UPDATE 
Talk about pace of change.
Saturday lunchtime, Carlton gets involved.
Saturday afternoon, Carlton haters got involved.





But then the ultimate in street name confusion and road sign monkeyshines occurred in Swansea, Wales.
The local council asked for a sign to be translated into Welsh, which is the protocol to help keep Welsh an active language.
An email came back from the translator remarkably quickly and the text was sent down to the signage shed and the sign made, taken out and bolted into place on its required street.
Then the calls started from native Welsh speakers saying "did you check that translation properly?", turns out the Welsh reads: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."
The translator had gone on holidays and her email autoreply had been taken as the Welsh needed for the sign and duly put up.
If you don't want to take my word for it on the welsh translation, you can follow this link to the original story done by the BBC.











Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Machine gunning gnats

These shallots seemed happy, they started flowering.
Henry David Thoreau's famous quote is "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation".
Thoreau wrote these words in 1854, and the sentiment is still relevant today.
Together we can paraphrase it to "the mass of people" to include everyone, but again the essence is there.
When, as I am constantly told to, we compare our lot with those in the third world, we certainly would seem to have the fixings for happiness, yet we in the overfed and apparently overpaid first world are constantly unhappy and perennially running to our therapist moaning about our lot.
This seems to be mostly to do with money, and is best put by Doug Adams.
“This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.
Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.”
I as you know am perpetually crying poor, yet on a world scale I am well off.
My friend Lloyd, now sadly dead, gave it his spin by saying "whatever you earn, you spend".
And it was certainly true that even when I was living in the corporate world of Sydney and earning six figures, I still had to go through the pockets of my pants on Sunday night, scrabbling up gold coins, to pay for pizza.
To counterpoint this, P.J.O'Rourke points out that by having money and using it to make our lives more comfortable, we are living longer.
So is money, or our perceived lack thereof,  the cause of our general society-wide, unhappiness?
Well it's unquestionably a factor, it certainly stresses me out when I hear a new noise from the car and immediately jump to the conclusion that the head gasket is going and how god damn much is this gonna cost me?
But then a friend of Lloyd's and myself, Mark, has this philosophy, "Are you gonna die today? No, then things aren't that bad".
So what's the point of all this?
Well this morning I am very depressed, and I am not sure why.
Previously I reported being unhappy because I was working too hard.
Well today I have a day off.
Sometimes I am anxious and can't park the car on a hill in case it rolls away and gets damaged, well I can see my car from where I type this and it is completely intact.
I didn't drink heavily, or indeed at all, last night, or smoke any pot, so there is no chemical cause for a Monday depression.
What then is going on?
Some of the greatest minds have tried to describe depression and failed miserably, not because they were bad writers or ignorant of the problem, but simply because..., well already we are in the hopeless mire of trying to talk about depression.
I once asked Paula, my wonderfully knowledgeable therapist if she knew what depression was, and she replied, "the whole mind itself is still a mystery".
Thus a small component of a malfunctioning mind is enigmatic to say the least.
However JFK once said of the space race, "we don't do this because it is easy, but because it is hard."
So now I am going to add my name to the list of those who have tried and failed to describe depression.
It helps me to write about it, and it may help someone out there who has always wondered if they are "down" or are indeed, "depressed".
I'll start with something I heard on QI, which was studies have shown that we all have a "resting" state of happiness.
The example was of two people, one wins the lottery and has more money than they know what to do with
and the other is involved in a car accident and is paralyzed.
To my considerable surprise, the studies showed that after some time, both these people move back to the approximate level of happiness they inhabited before these events.
Thus the lottery winner, after some months of partying, paying off the mortgage and buying Ferraris, went back to having the same worries as before, and likewise the other, now wheelchair-bound, subject of the study, began to once again concern themself with going grocery shopping and finding a park and whether their children's school was preparing their offspring adequately for the adult world.
Which I found fascinating as my immediate thought would be that both these events would change their lives forever, but, apparently not.
Thus it seems our resting levels of happiness are set in our adolescence, and therefore god help us all, as we all know of the turbulent hormone-fuelled chaos this period of our lives can be.
My primary thought about how to tell if you have depression is if it's mysterious.
That is, if something happens, e.g the death of a loved one, you will be unhappy, and justifiably so.
Bad as this is, you can hang your low feelings on a readily discernible cause.
But even then it hardly clarifies things because we all know of people who "never get over it".
So although a particular event led to someone being down, if said event happened twenty years ago, is the person still justified in being down, or are they, to quote one of the zarking arseholes who parades around under the title of mental health worker, "just wallowing in it?"
Again, we can't know.
Stephanie Dowrick wrote that "depression doesn't cause suicide".
She clarifies by saying that, "when a person despairs that their depression is eternal, then they commit suicide."
To illustrate that she writes: "If at some point in your young life a psychological arbiter of some kind visits you and says that you will suffer 800 hours of loneliness in your life, that wouldn't be great, but the upside is that like a prison sentence, you know when it will end."
The problem we all face with loneliness, depression and despair, is that when you are in it, your immediate thought is that this is how I will feel for the rest of my life.
One of the factors in teen suicide I have no doubt, with many a teenager starting to think that they faced sixty more years of this, and couldn't take the pain.
And my main feeling of depression is of a paradoxical world, where nothing, just nothing made sense, and every single thought was diametrically conflicted by the thought immediately after it.
When I was in bed, I didn't want to get up, once awake I never wanted to go to bed.
When at home I never wanted to go out, when out I never wanted to go home.
If I was smoking a cigarette, I often, like a Martin Amiss character, wanted another cigarette.
If I was eating, I never wanted to stop, if I wasn't I never wanted to start.
I constantly thought if only I had a relationship I wouldn't be lonely, but recalled that some of the bleakest periods of my life were being alone and bereft as half a couple.
Once drunk I clearly never wanted to feel anyone than other than the joy of joie-de-vivre brought on by my Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, but, paradoxically, even as I approached the summit of alcoholic joy, knew that the crash and roll down the other side was coming, with first the depressive effects during, and the hangover after, to come.
When my car was in for repairs I would think if only I had my car back my life would be more manageable, but the moment it was back on the forecourt I would use it to buy booze then not go out in it for days.
I would say "if only there was some good surf I would be happy", but then I would check the surf and even if the surf was good, make that little speech, "it's not so good, think I'll just sit on my porch and drink".
Even sitting still was blown apart by the conflicted mindset of depression.
On the one hand everyone told me I should meditate, but then when I did, my parent's voices would crash through the reverie and scream "you can't sit down, you must work hard constantly."
NB: This was rich, particularly from my mother, who never did a moment's hard work in her damn life.
When working hard I would feel my mental state collapsing and knew I should sit down and read a book, but knew that as soon as I did I'd feel guilty about not working.
I was too tired to sleep and too exhausted to stay awake.
Often I was so angry I would punch whatever was handy, the walls of my tent were common, at other times I would start crying when I saw a developmentally delayed person playing happily with a balloon, I still do not understand why this was, perhaps a grief at how sad the world can be, though even this was a paradox as well as developmentally delayed persons often find happiness in the simplest things, a pretty balloon for example.
Once I scaled the mental Everest of driving to the coast and putting on my wetsuit I would go surfing and once out there never want to come in.
However sometimes a crowd would form, or a big wave would smash me backwards and I would retreat and never want to go in the ocean again.
I could go on but won't.
If you are down and there is no readily discernible reason, this could be depression.
If you are riven with paradoxes, this is another.
A common example is a person married with two wonderful kids, a mortgage, a "good" job, a nice car and to all appearances having got it made, yet they burst into tears once a week or more as soon as they are alone.
This person may have a mental illness and indeed depression, and are now finding that the goals set out by society aren't making them happy.
If you are troubled by thoughts that are unwelcome and general "low" feeling, think of seeing someone about it.
Anyone here in Australia can see a mental health professional through their GP.
I started this blog as therapy, and it has definitely helped.
If one day I learn that someone reading this didn't kill themselves, or even got it together to seek mental health treatment, that's good enough for me.
So I'll leave you with something that helped me, and indeed is why I am a gardener today.
One of the things that used to fascinate me as a child was the way plants would emerge every year in the still freezing Bathurst spring.
As I hid under the bed and waited out the next of my parents' cyclonic rages I would think of those plants and it helped me endure.
I began to check, like Thomas Jefferson of an earlier age, for the first blossoms and flowers of the spring, often pushing through the frost or snow.
I would stare at those plants and marvel to myself 'how tough are these things!', it is barely liveable out here, and these plants aren't just living, but bursting into flower.
All my life I have heard conversations and discussions about who is the toughest footy player, who is the hardest man.
Well, for me the toughest of the lot, and the greatest role model of them all is daffodils growing through the snow.