The End of “Strange Notations”?


Into the sunset for “Strange Notations”?

It’s been a long time between drinks. I haven’t written a blog post for nearly two months and so much has happened in that time that life has been a blur. I’ve been on leave for five weeks, been back at work a month and have had plenty on my plate to ponder.

I once heard it said (in fact I read it on the internet!) that all blogs eventually die and for some time I have been fearful that “Strange Notations from a Laborious Life” is in a death spiral of it’s own with posts dropping off in regularity and my enthusiasm for writing waning-all things I’m sure which contribute to the death of other blogs.

So, is “Strange Notations” heading off into the sunset? Will this be the last you hear from this earnest blogger? The truth is-I don’t know. For five years I have wanted to put my personal story forward to whoever might want to read it. I wanted to leave a small mark on the world, just so there was a piece of me left floating around when I am long gone. I think I have achieved that and I am quite proud of some of the content I have written on this site. I hope a few people somewhere got something out of it occasionally. But I have been wondering-is it time for a change? A freshen up? A new beginning (I’m starting to sound like George Lucas writing the preamble for Star wars!)?

I was thinking of starting a new blog with more specific content, a narrower reach and perhaps a larger audience. Although it would be a shame to kill off “Strange Notations” the truth is that nothing lasts forever and to grow and broaden our horizons we sometimes have to move on and leave behind the labours of our love.

I was thinking I may do some freelance writing and concentrate on producing more short stories. Something new, something different. Should I leave this blog behind to wither and die? You tell me. I am open to suggestions and welcome comments from anyone interested enough to make one.

The truth is I may soon have plenty of time on my hands with which to write. I can’t go into specifics at this stage as I am not sure of them yet myself but my life, one way or another is about to get a big shakeup. It’s an exciting but nervous time for me as I move forward. Every now and then an opportunity arises to improve yourself and that opportunity is looming for me now. I won’t make a mistake this time.

So, it may not be the last you hear from me. Or maybe it will be. I’ll keep battling ahead with laborious life and try to make the most of it. I hope you all do too!


2017-Here We Are-Here We Go!


Photo at the Wheel of Brisbane

Greetings and salutations! 2017 is here in all it’s glory and we all should have shouldered slowly but surely into the year by now. Unfortunately and depressingly some things never change.

I’m back at work and although my mood has improved since that very first day  whence I had to return I’ve found it’s very much the same old thing, it’s just a different calendar on the wall. But, I am not going to spend 2017 whinging and whining about work. There is too much to look forward to and I have always concluded that the eight hours of monotony  we suffer every day is only a requirement for us which enables a better life to be had when we are not engaged in employment.

Some may have noticed too that my Blog has a new look. I figured it was due for a change and as  my posts have been infrequent lately I needed some inspiration and a fresh start. I was also thinking of changing the name of my Blog. “Strange Notations from a Laborious Life” has always seemed a bit silly and jarring and I am open to any reasonable suggestion for a new title. Put your thinking caps on!

I’ve also been drawing a blank when it comes to actually writing a post. This has been happening for a while but all creativity has dried up and I am hoping to get into some useful work this year, write a few short stories and perhaps get a freelance article or two published. I need to read more, be socially active, get those creative juices flowing! Again, I’m open to suggestions for topics for the Blog.

I spent Christmas/New Year in Queensland, the first time I have been in the land of the Banana-Bender for over twenty years. It was a pleasant time staying with Linda’s daughter and her fiance although it was hot! Everyone loves their air conditioning unit in Queensland and the humidity is such that you seem to be in a constant lather of sweat the whole time. My photo of the day was taken at the Wheel of Brisbane and although it is actually a green screen behind us with a view of the Brisbane River creatively inserted into shot, the wheel is on the river near the area they call Southbank  I hope Megan and Tristan don’t mind appearing in this post.


The Brisbane River from the Wheel of Brisbane.

I also spent a couple of days in Wangaratta, the town of my birth, attending a family reunion. My mother, her two sisters and two brothers are getting on in years so they try to get together in early January every year. It is only the third time this has happened but it has quickly become a tradition. I had missed the first two reunions so I wanted to make every effort to get there this time and it was a pleasant experience. Leaving Wangaratta at two years of age I never got to spend much time with maternal cousins so I don’t know them all that well. I guess now is as good a time as any to strengthen family ties.

So-what lies ahead in 2017? For me it’s more travel. Linda and I are going to Melbourne in March to see a concert then we are hoping to get to New Zealand in May. Not the greatest time of year to be heading to the Land of the Long White Cloud but a bit of cool weather never phased me. I haven’t made much of it yet, just a thought or two coalescing in my mind but I hope to get over to Western Australia later in the year as I have never been there. That, and improving my employment status and writing more are my goals for the year. How about you? Drop me a line in comments and let me know what you would like to achieve in 2017.

It promises to be quite a year. A new President of the United States, Britain trying to extricate itself against it’s better judgement from the European Union and the continuing threat of Terrorism  will all play a major role and be the dominant features of the year no doubt. There is plenty to write about. Plenty of fun to be had. I’m up for it. You should be too.

Have a great day.

Work, Writing and Reality

I’ve been perusing the employment pages today and it is always sobering to realize I have no sale-able skill in anything! Even the smallest of administration jobs need a prospective employee to understand office applications on a computer. There was a cleaning job going at Defence headquarters at Bungendore. Night cleaner. Hhmm. I’ll keep looking for a while thanks.

Then again, I can run a Barcode Sorter, A Culler Facer Canceller machine, a letter sequencing machine, can sort mail by hand and drive a forklift. That’s a skill set the average punter can’t deliver! Unfortunately, in the real world, apart from driving a forklift, none of these skills can help me find another job.

Speaking of forklift driving, I was required to do my first spell on the machine at work yesterday. I can’t say I was nervous. Just a little wary of myself. It would be easy to drop something and the ground outside is very uneven and I had to make sure I didn’t run into any bollards or concrete posts. I was slow but I managed it without a problem. I just have to remember the little things. Turn headlights on. Check where I am going. Don’t go too fast in a turn with a load. Don’t drive with the forks raised. Don’t drop anything!! God, wouldn’t there be a hullabaloo if I did? Anyway, all went without incident and it was good to actually get some time on the machine. Experience is invaluable.

I could skill up a bit more I suppose. Do some courses, online or in person. But I am too lazy. I lose interest. My mind wanders. I may be stuck where I am for the duration. What a horrible thought.

I did a course in Freelance writing a couple of years ago. It is probably something I could try to do for a living. But again, interviewing people and dealing with editors, setting prices etc, is not something I would be pro-active in. Then there is research-another sore point for me.

I suppose I could try and do some writing that may sell. There is a myriad of jobs for writers out there although I am not sure if I am a fit writing for companies or copywriting. I could try short story writing. I don’t think novels are my thing. Maybe photo-journalism? I suppose I would have to buy a camera?

I’m open to any suggestions for writing topics. Drop me a line if you would like me to research and write something on this blog. Totally free of charge of course. I also have a Facebook page for my blog and you can drop me a line there too. Just search for @matthewsumnersblog on Facebook.

So, on a cold, blustery and windy Canberra day I will bid you farewell. Hope to hear from you soon.

Racing the Deadline


 John vaulted off his chair in fright as a clap of thunder shattered the sedate, unwelcoming atmosphere and rattled the sorting frames in the postal delivery centre. He heard a man across the room chuckle and another to his right mutter an insult under his breath as he struggled to fill his own pannier bags. Newbies were always an easy target. He glanced at the figures congregated in the room. Veterans were indistinguishable from the fresh meat under the heavy rain-soaked jackets and wet-weather pants they all wore. He looked at his hands, soft, wrinkled and numbed from exposure from his first run as they struggled to get his mail into any sort of order, all feeling in his fingers a distant memory. What a day! His first. The rain began to thrash the metal roof once more and John dreaded leaving the safety of the post office and it’s bright lights for the gloom of the morning and the dangerous, sodden streets of the city. He pulled on his gloves. Still wet and stinking from the mud and grease of the road and his numb hands gripped his panniers and he stumbled out into the storm.

(With apologies to real postmen!)

Hemingway you are wondering? Steinbeck?  Norman Mailer perhaps? No, just little old me and a paragraph I had to write in  a few minutes as an assignment for a creative writing class I am doing online. What do you think?

The assignment was due at midnight on Sunday and as usual I had thought about it all week and managed to manouevre  it out of the way until almost the last moment. After listening to two half hour long monologues from Valerie Khoo of The Australian Writers Centre who narrates the lesson I had to write a paragraph about a place I imagine in my mind and the sights and sounds which accompany that unique vision. She added that the face to face class which does the same course have only fifteen minutes to comply and put something down. No good for me. My head fills with air when pressure is applied to me like that and I briefly considered blowing off the assignment as it was nearly 10pm and I was tired enough for my usual complacency about meeting online assignment deadlines to kick in and I teetered on the edge of the cliff of abandonment.

However, I found some steel in the depths of my flawed character and came up with an idea about a newbie postman on his first day at work delivering mail and the uncomfortable introduction he has to the job due to a storm. I am no postman and never have been so I apologize to anyone who delivers mail for a living and is scoffing at my depiction of what actually happens when a postie packs for his run but I was getting desperate and I made it up as I went along. I really do respect you lot who work “over the fence” from us in the processing area. Being a postman can be a tough gig.

I managed to get the assignment logged at about 11.30pm, a load off my mind although it is not compulsory to  complete them and load them and you only get feedback on your work not a mark as such. But I figure as writers work to deadlines it was good practice and that is why the course is designed as it is. You must meet those deadlines!

So, how was it received by the tutor? Very well in fact. She considered it to be a very good example of “show don’t tell” and even though the writing was introspective it fitted the atmosphere of the piece. I am not sure what the average punter may think.

I have only looked briefly at this week’s lesson and assignment but it appears I have to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and give feedback and dissect the novel! Not a job for a few hours on a Sunday night. I had better load the novel onto my Kindle and at least have a crack at it tonight. I don’t want to miss my deadline!

The course has a week to run after that and while it has been interesting it has not really been as good as the freelance writing course I did through the writer’s centre a couple of years ago. But at least it has inspired me to do a bit of writing. I will keep battling on with it from here.

Have a nice evening.





Thanking You

 Last night, as I plugged away at work, my mind was burgeoning with imagination, contemplating what I could write on my Blog today. Ideas were overflowing and creativity was in full bloom. Alas, I have arisen this morning and run into a dead end. All that I thought exciting last night seems to me this morning to be stale and uninteresting. Perhaps the monotony of work made my feeble thoughts seem more exciting than they were and in the cold light of day they have been exposed  as weak and meaningless.

 No matter. I will push on with a short note today as I have some tidying up to do with those who regularly read my Blog.

 The winners have been announced and prizes awarded in the Australian Writer’s Centre Blog contest and sadly I was not among the winners. Of course with over 1100 Blogs entered the chances of victory were slim and at the end of the day I have to admit my Blog and my life is not overly exciting and my technical skill when it comes to literary matters is not great. No matter. I enjoy what I am doing and that is the main thing but I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to vote in the “People’s Choice”  section and those who support me regularly by reading this Blog. It must be just short of having teeth pulled out at times just trying to negotiate my crude style and make something of the nonsense I write but it is not called “Strange Notations from a Laborious Life” for nothing!

 Another thing I am doing at the moment is a short course in feature writing for magazines and newspapers and if anyone is willing to help me out it would be much appreciated. If you have any ideas for a feature article that I would be able to research and write please feel free to drop me a line here in the comments section or on Facebook. Somewhere down the track in this five week course I think I will have to come up with and expand on an idea for such an article so why not use my friends to help me out? I need all of the encouragement I can get!

 I have also been thinking of upping the ante by creating a Facebook page for my Blog. I know many Bloggers have such a page but it seems a little vain to be doing such a thing but I will probably press ahead and see how it goes. I may pick some Blog posts to put on it retrospectively just to kick it off and I guess I can always delete the page if it seems to be pointless or too much work to check and or moderate. It’s all about getting yourself and your work out there. A “writer’s platform”, is what they call it. I will see how it goes.

 So now as the sun rides high in the sky and the frost and fog meanders away until early tomorrow when they will once more combine to run their slippery hands across the countryside, I will go on my way with my day and get to it the best I can.

 And once more to my small band of regular followers, a big thankyou and I hope you all continue to find something of value occasionally in the murmurings of my life.

 Have a great day. 

To Be Or Not To Be

 I once had pretensions of being a professional writer. That is why I started this blog. To improve myself. To get into the habit of writing regularly and try to be better with each entry.

 Only those who have regularly read my column over the last three years can judge if I have been a success as I have no ability to do look at myself and my efforts with any sort of candour.

 The major stumbling block for me has been a lack of self-belief  which has been the bane of my life. My lack of training in the art of writing causes technical deficiencies and my shallow vocabulary leaves me stretching for images at times. This has made me realise my limitations and focused my writing somewhat.

 Being simple and direct is often the best way and as I don’t write for the snobs and intellectuals of this world I feel my method is the best for me. And I’m sure those who pop in here appreciate my style as opposed to a wannabe straining to impose flowery prose upon them.

 I have been thinking for a little while of upping the ante, of saying goodbye to my blogger site and moving across to WordPress which is the current king of blogging platforms and has much more functionality than this one. That would mean leaving “Strange Notations” behind and starting all over again, something I am loathe to do. Of course this site would be here forever more, just silent and all but dead.

 Wordpress also caters for those who want to get a little more imaginative than what they offer for free and bloggers can pay for even better functionality on their site if one desires to go that far.

 Aspiring writers looking for writing platforms can also pay for software which will create their own blogging site with all the functionality they require or need and this is another option but I think that caters for the more professional operator and is something I feel is not necessary for me. Yet.

 So, after much thought and consideration, I have decided to stay where I am and continue to contribute my “Strange Notations of a Laborious Life” to the Internet and the wider world through Blogger. To hell with professionalism. I’m happy where I am!

 Perhaps one day if I ever manage to write something of note which the community at large would be interested in, I will shift to a more professional outlook. But that day may never come, so Blogger it is.

 For anyone who comes here regularly or even occasionally, I would like to hear what you think. Should I upgrade or stay where I am? Should I stretch myself or be happy in my little world, my little corner of the Web?

 To be or not to be. That is the question.

 I’d also like to say that if anyone enjoys reading this Blog, sign up for an email which will send the latest entry straight to the inbox on your computer. Also, if you enjoy any particular post and feel you would like to share it, please don’t hesitate. Any entry can be shared on Facebook. There is a button on the bottom of every page that allows you to do so. Just keep scrolling.

 There is also a button for RSS feed or you can simply email it to anyone you feel may be interested.

 If there is anything any reader would like me to write about, drop me a line. I am open to writing about any subject, it may just take me a little while to research. Most of my writing is done off the top of my head which can be dangerous as facts and figures get blurry after rattling around in my brain for years. This is not Wikipedia!

 I can also answer any question although I do draw the line on some things. But take a shot if you dare!

 I’ll take a crack at writing something of substance one day. Getting the time, the inclination and the inspiration is the problem. But you never know………

 I will be back next time with another “Photo of the Day” and don’t hesitate to tell me what you think of my pictures and if it worthwhile continuing with such a theme.

 Until next time, take care and love thy neighbour.

Reign of Peace

 Peace and tranquillity has descended on the house as the soccer players and their supporters who reside here have departed to various parts of the city to pursue their hobby.  It’s a nice day for it. Beautiful autumn skies, warm sunshine slowly melting the brisk start of the morning. A nice day to be out and about.

 Not for me are such trivialities. Washing up after last night’s birthday party for Linda’s eldest daughter has been the extent of my productivity today and with the mass exodus from the house completed I can go about the rest of my chores in peace and quiet and most importantly, at my own pace.

 It would be nice to be out riding or, at a stretch, walking or doing any one of a number of things which should see me out of the house on such a day but sometimes a Sunday, with a few hours to yourself at home is just what the doctor ordered.

 Life continues to roll along at a sedentary pace and the laboriousness continues but it is pleasant enough while I remain upright and I wouldn’t be on the other side of the grave for quids!

 There is plenty I could write about to soothe my urge to post in my blog as it has been a busy week internationally and personally but as I sit here the news of the world seems distant and my own journey through life trivial and I can’t find the depth to talk with any great detail about anything.

 The changes on my blog which I instituted a couple of weeks ago don’t seem to have increased traffic flow at all. If anything traffic has fallen off although I am still getting a few spammers leaving automated messages in the comments section. The new layout has been a bit of a fizzer but I like it and intend to keep it the way it is.

 At the end of the day the main problem with my blog in regards to securing a large readership is the fact that it is not very interesting. I toyed with the idea of making it a sports blog or a cycling blog or even a blog of world affairs despite the fact I know next to nothing of such things but I must say I like it as it is. I guess more than anything it is an online diary. A portal to the world. An activity which relaxes and engages me and releases some creative energy. The fact my life is as boring as the next persons probably exposes the reason for lack of readership. My life is not so interesting that the average Joe would like to read about it! So be it. I accepted my lot in life some time ago. I don’t like to specialize. I just like to ramble. If you like it you are welcome if not, well, thanks for dropping by and trying a sample. You are welcome back any time.

 During the week ABC Grandstand posted on their Facebook page details of a short story writing contest where the subject must be an unsung Australian sporting hero. That is a very ambiguous brief. Without more information it is very hard to know exactly what kind of brief it is. An international sportsman who has never been given his due? A local champion in an obscure sporting club somewhere who someone feels should be highlighted? I don’t know but I have taken up the challenge and written a short story about the great Aussie cyclist Phil Anderson.

 For those of you who don’t know, this unsung champion was the first Australian to lead the Tour de France. In fact he was the first man from outside Europe to lead the race so he was a pioneer in a couple of ways. He finished in the top ten of the Tour de France five times in a row, a feat not equalled until Cadel Evans came along and he was ranked number one in the world for a short time but was certainly one of the best international cyclists around for quite a while.

 He was also the first man in professional cycling to bring a lawyer to contract negotiations; in itself a radical move which horrified the traditional European gatekeepers of the sport but a moment which brought professional cycling into the 20th century. Professional cyclists began to get paid somewhere near their worth after that and Phil Anderson’s legacy can be seen all over the modern professional sport of European cycle racing.

 So, considering his glory days were roundly ignored for the most part by Australian sport reporters who deemed cycling to be a part of another world, an alien culture in the land of Aussie Rules, Rugby and Cricket, I consider him to be somewhat of an unsung hero in our sporting culture. He kicked the door in and Aussie cyclists followed. Cadel Evans’ 2011 Tour de France victory is a culmination of all Australian effort over the last 100 years but it is Phil Anderson who proved it was possible to race and beat the best on their home turf.

 So, I wrote my short story and will send it off. I have no expectation for it and my confidence was shaken last night when my mother read it and thought my unsung hero was Cadel Evans who I only mention in passing in the last paragraph! Hmmm. Not a good review.

 I figure you have to keep trying to capture a bit of attention if you want to be noticed. That being said I have no illusions about my writing. Anyone can write so there is limitless competition and a stacked field and there are plenty of writers far more intelligent and articulate and talented than me who can’t make a living in the writing game. But it would be nice to write something worthwhile and see it in print. Even if it was just a one off. I will keep trying and perhaps one day I will stumble onto a lucky subject have a moment of inspiration and manage to put down something worthwhile which more than a dozen or so people will read.

 And so, on this beautiful autumn day I will continue on with my laborious life and enjoy this reign of peace in my house while it lasts. The spell will soon be broken. Not that I mind but life becomes a little more ordered when the house is full and ways of the common man can frowned upon. Such is life.

 Have a nice day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

 Agatha Christie was once asked what it took to be a good author. She replied, “write, write, write!”
 If that is the case I should be Ernest Hemingway by now! This is my 65th blog post and counting.
 I originally started this blog because I seemed to be getting a bit bogged down in the minor details of my life and wanted a creative outlet. It has certainly provided that. I also wanted to make my own little mark on the world. My own little piece of the internet. The history of Matthew Sumner I guess. So here I am.
 I have always liked writing. I guess like everything else I have ever done though I haven’t been dedicated enough to really get my head down and do it.
 I find writing fiction really hard although I have done it. With a blog I seem to be able to get onto a subject and roll with it whilst writing fiction I get stuck on minor points of grammar, plot, pacing etc. Maybe I haven’t lived enough to be a fiction writer. I have written a few short stories that have been fair to middling which are on the website “booksie” and in the notes section of my facebook page if anyone would like to look.
 I always wanted to write a book about the Canberra Mail Centre. I kept a journal for quite a long time. In fact I started it just days after the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 so that is obviously just over ten years ago. I had copious amounts of notes about things I had done, people I had known, incidents that had occurred involving me, plenty of scandalous stuff about my private life etc, hehe. My own opinion on my life and I guess other people and their lives.
 I kept writing in it well after I moved in here at Wanniassa but it got to a point where I had written so much that was personal and really private that I shivered at the thought that someday someone close to me would read it. It would be a shock for some after going through my personal effects after I have expired to find it and some of the internal thoughts that I had put to paper, particularly since I often wrote after a drama to release the inner tension.
 So I trashed it. I was a bit sorry about it but figured it was all for the best. Then I read “Post Office” by Charles Bukowski. He is quite a famous writer in the States and people may know him from the novel “Barfly” which was made into a semi-successful movie but he has written a lot of notable stuff  that will jog the memory if people care to look him up. A very talented writer.
 Charles Bukowski worked for the US Postal Service for 12 years and wrote a book about his time there which became his first novel and brought him to prominence as an author. A good read if you can get your hands on it.
 The silliness he encountered at the US Post office reminded me so much of my time at Australia Post I began to regret ever having thrown out my journal. The blockbuster I could have written would have set me up for life I’m sure. I may have been sued by certain people but it would have been a ripper of a yarn none the less. I would have had to change the names of the main characters and others to protect the innocent but I could have made it a titillating read!
 Alas, “Confessions of a Mail Officer, Recollections from the Canberra Mail Centre” will never be written. My memory isn’t good enough to write it from scratch. And maybe that’s a good thing because it would probably cause me more trouble than it would be worth. I doubt Australia Post would be too pleased. I guess I can just satisfy myself by dreaming what may have happened had it been written, become a best seller and been translated into a movie adaptation. I may have been able to force the producers to hire George Clooney to play my character! Haha. I’m sure my mate Dave would plump for Brad Pitt for himself. As for Neal the supervisor? Hmmmm. Will have to think about that one for a bit.  I’ll have to sound out my workmates.
 So for now I will just keep plugging away at my blog. Who knows, you may be walking through a bookstore one day, (or browsing for books on the net which is the way things seem to be going!) and see something with my name on it. You may not want to look too closely though. You might be in it!