April 4, 2017

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Blog song today is Blind by Aussie duo Georgia Fair, released off their first album All Through Winter in 2011. It’s an incredibly solid album and one I can’t help but keep coming back to.

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Current chain of writing days: 4

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During my lunch break I often read books off my phone. This is done with the kindle app, helped by my phone’s large screen, and provides a necessary escape during my work day. I usually want to leave the collection of laboratories and offices that make up my place of work for the allotted time I get for lunch and so traverse down the four flights of stairs and through the rabbit warren of corridors that make up every hospital, until I get to the cafeteria.

I rarely buy food from the hospital cafeteria. It’s overpriced and bulk-made in a way that gives a superficiality to it that detracts from it’s appeal. Not that I never do, just rarely and usually with a tinge of regret afterwards. Typically I bring in food from home, which varies depending on the season but usually runs as soup in the colder months and salad in the warmer.

If you’ve never visited a hospital cafeteria they’re not the most appealing of places. There’s a bleakness to them, I’ve found. The pall of hospital dreariness leaks out from the wards and hangs over the dining area just thick enough that you can’t ever forget you’re still in a hospital. But they’re a goldmine for people watching, which is part of the reason I go there. There’s a hub of interesting people. The elderly, the infirm and the unwell, then filled out with the visitors of these patients – usually healthier, but not always – and the army of people who keep a hospital running; some in scrubs, some in suits, some in uniforms, and some – like me – in a rotating t-shirt and jeans combo (I wear it very well).

The other part of the reason that I eat lunch here is that the hospital I work from is located on a fringe suburb of Melbourne, one that hasn’t had much in the way of aesthetic development, and so there is nothing but residential housing, suburban streets, and streams of highway in a roughly ten kilometer radius around the place. No parks, no creeks, no little areas to escape to and enjoy the sun and remind yourself that the outdoors exists. The cafeteria has a courtyard that, while lacking in plant life, does get a hefty dose of sun; so that is where I sit.

Like I said I usually read during this time, looking up occasionally to watch the other diners and wonder about their relationships, their personality, their motivations, and what it is that’s brought them here to this place on this day. At the moment I’m reading the complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, which as the name suggests is the collected novels and short stories Doyle wrote about his famous detective. I’m enjoying them immensely. The stories provide the perfect escape I’m searching for when I sit at the steel table and pull my phone from my pocket. The setting, adventure, and easily solvable problems (at least for Sherlock) are the ideal counter to my work day, which like most is repetitious and kind of boring.

I realised recently the weirdness of this fairly typical situation, and it was reading Sherlock Holmes that brought it to my attention. Here is why it is weird. I sit on the opposite side of the world from the man whose words I ingest, a person he never knew living centuries after he did in a location completely unfamiliar to him, reading what he wrote off a device he would have barely been able to comprehend. It’s odd, right? When you think of it like that. Books on their own are a wonderfully weird concept. That we can write stories down, have them shipped around the world, then enter the heads of many. That a single book can be read and shared and read again with the content never becoming diluted through the consumption; the stories spreading like a virus. Then add time and technology to the experience and the weirdness gets squared. Weirdness on weirdness. Because as unlikely as it may seem Doyle and I are linked in that moment. He in 18th century England, me in 21st century Australia sitting in the cafeteria of a hospital as he tells me a story across time and space of an extraordinary detective and his astounded sidekick.

My lunch ends like this. I get to the end of a chapter, look at the time with a sigh, place the miraculous device that can hold an entire library back into my pocket, and return to work wondering what will happen tomorrow from my seat in the hospital cafeteria.

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Talk soon

Damian

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