Tales from Urban Dilettantia



As promised in last month’s post, here is the mindmap for my 2016 theme, ‘Share’, along with a couple of mini maps about things that block or enable sharing.

They’re all dodgy phone photos, because the perfect is the enemy of the good, and because holding off until I manage to post beautifully scanned, cleaned-up versions in late 2023 won’t achieve much.

2016 'Share' Map

2016 ‘Share’ Map

Four central questions, or bundles of questions, popped up while I was working on the map.  I don’t have answers for any of them now, but I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ll be closer:

  1. How to manage overcommitting? How to say no? What not to share? Boundaries?
  2. But who wants to hear?
  3. What does sustainable sharing look like?
  4. Why does this scare me so much?


Share Enablers

Share Enablers


Share Blocks

Share Blocks


2016: Share

Before I die I want to...

Once a year, every year, I choose a theme.

It’s usually no more than a word. A guiding thought for the year to come. A subject of inquiry. A standing piece of advice for life’s decisions, big or small. Once, it was ‘sovereignty’, once ’hearth’, once ’capability’. I think once it may have been ‘balance’, and once ‘the small’, but my record-keeping is somewhat lacking.

So, once a year, every year, I choose a theme. But ‘choose’ isn’t quite the right word. It implies a range of possibilities, when in fact it is a matter of a single idea, bubbling to the surface. Almost always, it emerges when Ju and I meet to discuss the year just gone, and the one to come.

This year, somewhat to my surprise, my theme is ‘share’. I am surprised because it seems more outward-looking, more engaged with other people, and more open than any introvert-who-just-wants-to-be-left-alone could be. Consequently, I have found myself stubbornly pushing back against the idea.

Sharing time? I don’t have time!

Sharing energy? I don’t have energy!

Sharing stories, experiences, food, friendship, space? Did you hear what I said about time and energy?

Evidence that I have found a fitting theme.

As usual, perfectionism – ever my companion – intervenes. It appears self-evident that I need to conduct this inquiry on a grand scale, at no cost to all the other things I do. That somehow (if I’m a better person, a kinder person, a healthier and stronger and more organised person) time and energy will rain from the heavens and all will be well.

This is – self-evidently – ludicrous. I have learned and forgotten and learned again that the only way I do things well is incrementally, in tiny, successful steps. (I recorded this knowledge many years ago on The Map of Win which hangs in my hall, but I still forget and re-learn.)
And so, some tiny sharing possibilities.

Write here again – just a little. Nothing epic, nothing grand.

Help organise Cary’s open-house breakfasts at The Workhouse (instead of just showing up at best).

Process and upload just a handful of a three-year backlog of photos to my Flickr.

Give a tiny gift.

Make a date to appreciate a friend’s new house.

I will – as usual – make a mind-map soon to explore the idea of sharing more broadly and deeply. And this year, I will share it here.

More Heart Than Me

Music has, as ever, been a saving grace in an upsy-downy year, and so I’m sharing a few of the songs that have been stuck in my head throughout.  Some of these took quite a bit of finding, being rare/old/live, and the last one I think, is surely one of my theme songs for the year almost gone.

My Friend the Chocolate Cake – More Heart Than Me
Jeff Martin – Love The One You’re With (cover) – I don’t think a good video of this exists, so you’ll just have to go buy the album.  It’s just about my favourite love song of all time.
The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wheel – rare piano version; this just breaks my heart.
The Tallest Man on Earth – The Gardener
Billy Bragg – Greetings to the New Brunette
Machine Gun Fellatio – Unsent Letter
Nick Drake – Time Has Told Me
Pendulum – Propane Nightmares
Manic Street Preachers – You Stole the Sun from My Heart
Radiohead – No Surprises
Tom Waits – The Piano Has Been Drinking
The Triffids – Tender is the Night
Tool – Wings for Marie
Lou Reed – Perfect Day
Warren Zevon – Poor Poor Pitiful Me
Karnivool – Sleeping Satellite (cover)
Kaki King – Pull Me Out Alive
Amanda Palmer – In My Mind

But maybe it isn’t all that funny,
   but I’ve been fighting all my life.
   But maybe I have to think it’s funny,
   if I want to live before I die,
   and maybe it’s funniest of all, to think I’ll die before I actually see
   that I am exactly the person that I want to be.

Old Year’s Resolutions

[2007] [2008] [2009]
For the fourth year running, behold my list of retroactive resolutions for 2010!

Refrain from triggering apocalypse.
Acquire chickens.
Become a better photographer.
Run a half-marathon.
Complete a 60km bicycle ride.
Make more genuine friends at work.
Visit Penguin Island.
Visit Rottnest Island.
Become more assertive & confident about my needs, wants & boundaries.
Make time to enjoy gaming again.
Compete in a short-course triathlon.
Do things outdoors. Go camping. Go hiking.  Go snorkeling.  Go fishing. Go geocaching.
Feed a chameleon.
Compete in a 24 hour rogaine race.
Sail a mini-catamaran on the river.
Become a UK citizen.
Learn to celebrate and embrace introversion.
Find a good psychiatrist & work on treatment options.
Survive working on those treatment options.
Go flying in a two-seater plane while said plane does aerobatics.
Begin learning about shibari, in practice & in theory.
Gleefully paint & draw on willing victims.
Complete my Chartered Accountancy qualification.
Cement & grow friendships of intimacy, trust & support.
Get a cleaner once a fortnight & learn to stop feeling guilty about it.
Reconsider my diet to minimise farmed and/or unsustainable meat.
Make more art; sell some of it.
Improve & expand my DIY skills.
Learn to be more comfortable in my own body.
Give away more things.
Be an election enthusiast & electoral education activist.
Nurture, support & engage with my strange little city.
Become a better cook.
Make some fantastic & interesting new friends.
Become less tolerant where tolerance is not warranted, and more where it is.
Learn about negotiating relationships with love, communication & integrity.
Start working on a collaborative short film.
Be more honest.

Spread more love, more of the time.

Decision Day

After much furious thought, this morning, I declined the offer of a year working in our Moscow office. The decision wasn’t the product of any single large factor, but rather of the aggregate of a number of medium-sized things. Here are some of the things:

1. HR fail: Our HR division is understaffed, under-resourced and, in my opinion, unlikely to ever be a great source of drama-free support. Organsing a teleconference was an ordeal. Clarifying the terms of the secondment and costs to be paid back was a pain. Pro-forma contracts were not available for to be viewed before I gave a verbal decision. These things, and the stories of every other person who has been seconded by Large Accounting Firm, gave me little confidence in the process. Also, in contrast to firms in the Oil & Gas sector, Large Accounting Firm does not pay a living allowance.

2. Opportunity: I work for people who keep telling me this is a Great Opportunity. And it is. Thing is, I’m at a point in my life where taking this opportunity means giving up other opportunities here. Launching secret map project software. Making a film. Breaking into the local art scene. My life is not my job at Large Accounting Firm, and the more I look at what I’m building here, the more I realise that.

3. Travel: I have UK citizenship. I can work in the EU any time I want. On my terms, at a time I choose.

4. My support network: It’s been a tough couple of years. A really tough couple of years. And out of it, I’ve grown an amazing network of people I love around me. And, as one of my workmates said yesterday, ‘in your place, I’d want my friends and family around me’.

5. Career: Even if my life were all about my job at Large Accounting Firm, my interests run very much towards energy policy & sustainability. Russia lags Australia significantly in this area, and a year there would be a year removed from what I really want to be doing.

6. Proving Things: I have decided that I can be the sort of person who Has Adventures and Does Interesting Things without saying ‘yes’ indiscriminately to every single thing that scares me. I know I could do the year in Moscow if I wanted to; I don’t need to say yes and go do it just to prove I’m big, resilient and brave. I am big, resilient and brave anyway!

7. I have decided I am too old for ‘because Mum doesn’t want me to’ to be a good reason for doing something.

There are all kinds of smaller reasons too, but I these are some of the weightier ones. I am building a life I love; renovating a house and garden I adore and throwing everything I have at growing my tiny, ridiculous, parochial, sunshiney, isolated little city into somewhere better to be. And I am going to spend 2011 doing more of just that.

Tiny Seeds and Long Shadows

Some days, I am fortunate enough to stumble across sparkling little ideas and quotes that are Exactly What I Need To Hear. Recently, at a time when I was feeling pretty wretched about a number of things, Havi posted this on her blog:

When you encounter a bully, they seem so big.
They seem so big because you’re also seeing the shadow of every other bully you’ve ever encountered, at the same time.
They seem powerful because you are remembering vulnerable. They seem threatening because you remember being threatened.

And it sparkled (and by sparkled, I mean it shouted ‘hey woman, pay attention – you need to know this’) because I realised that – while she is ostensibly writing about bullying – the underlying concept translates so well to other things.

Relationships seem so overwhelming and powerful, because I am remembering being vulnerable and hurting and exhausted. Projects seem so overwhelming because I am remembering being let down by others and overwhelmed. Social engagements seem threatening because I am remembering being threatened or harassed or otherwise encroached upon.

My sense of overwhelm, my fear and my near-constant catastrophising are products of my bringing Every Single Thing That Has Ever Happened To Me to new experiences. It’s time to start realising that new experiences are just that – new – and only tiny seeds, neither great, nor looming, nor foregone conclusions.
To borrow from the late, great Bill Hicks, it’s a choice, right now, between fear and love. And tiny seeds grow into better trees with love.

Love and Logic

tacit posted a thoughtful article today on choosing relationships. I wanted to point it out, not simply because it’s a good article but also because it covers a number of points that really resonate for me personally. This part in particular hits home:

It is possible to deeply, sincerely love someone and still not be a good partner for that person.

I’d also go on to say that it’s possible to choose not to be someone’s partner specifically because you do love them so deeply and sincerely, and want them to live a life the best possible life they can. For me, love is not about being all-conquering, but it is very much about choosing to do the right thing by the people you love even when that’s very, very difficult to contemplate.

Another point that interested me was the discussion of relationship choice in the context of fail-safe logic, basically contrasting the outcomes of taking a blacklist/dealbreaker approach to potential partners to those of taking a whitelist approach. I really like the concept of this being an abundance model as opposed to a starvation model – the choice of approach implies quite a lot about one’s self-perception and self-worth:

A person who holds a starvation model of relationship, in which relationships seem to be rare and difficult to find, is not likely going to want to use an approach that fails open, on the fear that if he doesn’t take a relationship opportunity that presents itself, who knows when another person might express interest? If relationships seem rare, then why not jump at an opportunity if there seem to be no dealbreakers standing in the way?

And, just because I love this bit, and because I see so many people doing the opposite so unhappily:

I think that people who hold a starvation model of relationship often seem to be always searching for a partner, and that can really be off-putting; whereas in an abundance model, if you simply live your life with enthusiasm and joy and instead of seeking partners you seek to develop in yourself the qualities that you desire in a partner, then other people will tend to be drawn to you and relationships will be abundant.

So much for writing original content today! However, I’m not sure I can say any of this better than it’s already been said, and it is something I wanted to share.


  • LEGO Shinkansen
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • LEGO redback spider
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake



I like animals with too many or too few legs.