“The modern world is calling on our young people to create their destinies and own their greatness. It’s exciting when it works, but must be terrifying pressure if you don’t feel up to it as a 13 year old.”

Sometimes, the simple act of non-conformity or confounding expectations can yield the most astonishing results.

As most of you will be aware, I work for myself and work from home. This means I get a little fatigued of my surroundings, and as a result tend to treat my local pub like most people treat their lounge rooms i.e. I need no good reason to be there, and if I want to read a book, I will.

So tonight found me at my new local, The Edinburgh, armed with Breakthrough by Nordhaus and Shellenberger for what one might call professional development, and The Steep Approach to Garbadle by Iain Banks for what one might call leisure.

One causes quite a stir it would seem by sitting in The Ed of a Friday night with books.

First encounter was a pommy fellow fan of Iain Banks who had lost touch with him as an author. Apparently Espedair Street is excellent, one of Banks’ that I am yet to read.

Second encounter was a bloke who occupied my table and proceeded to throw blatant leering comments at every lady in the surrounds, and trying to goad other blokes into it too. I told him that starting a fight was the quicker and easier way to get kicked out. That settled him a bit. We talked briefly about Mitcham Council’s lazy fleet replacement policy, and then he moved on.

Third encounter was a guy who left his burning ciggie next to my seat and books, literally sitting on the edge of the table burning away. I returned it to him while he was buying his drink saying “I think you forgot something”. He said “You’re not allowed to smoke at the bar”. I said “You’re not allowed to smoke next to me either” and left. He then came and exhaled on me and flicked his butt across my face as I read. Fine. He can have it.

He came back about 10 minutes later and I caught his eye briefly. I had basically been waiting for him; men who are feeling emasculated rarely let it go that easily.  He approached me as I read and I fully expected that I might need to talk him out of making a serious mistake. Instead he told me he was a 40 year old alcoholic who had drank every day for 24 years, and his piss-head mates made it no easier. He kept going to AA meetings, but couldn’t stop drinking. He put himself in rehab last Christmas but it didn’t work. We shook hands and I wished him a Merry Christmas, just in time for an assertive young lady and two walking fridges in black t-shirts to escort him from the premises. He was barred, apparently.

Next came Alison. She was not the book reading type, having left school for retail and never gone to uni, and could not fathom how anyone could concentrate on a book at a pub. She would be too interested in what was going on. I told her I found plenty of time for people watching in between. I heard about Jacob, her 13 year old son who is a voracious reader. He gets it from his Dad, but he also get routinely put down by his Dad and talked out of excelling. He is missing his first karate grading this weekend because he is with his Dad and doesn’t want the negativity. He gets eczema when nervous, like his primary school graduation where he had to speak in front of a group. The world did not care about Alison the individual when she was young. She was not told that she was a remarkable individual who would change the world, she left school expecting to be a “blender”, someone who just picks up things here and there and gets along. I ran a theory by her that the world is coming full circle. Most of the revolutionaries of old were in their late teens or early twenties. Joan of Arc managed to lead the French into battle mulitple times, be wounded twice, be captured and sold to the English where she was burnt at the stake, all by the time she was 19, and I know her name and story hundreds of years later. The modern world is calling on our young people to create their destinies and own their greatness. It’s exciting when it works, but must be terrifying pressure if you don’t feel up to it as a 13 year old.  I told Alison to never tell him to turn his light off when he is reading in bed, because he will be learning more of value from his book than he will learn in school the next day, and that he does need a man in his life that he can respect and model from. A karate teacher could be good. I said I would be happy to meet Jacob and show him photos from my karate gradings to give him some encouragement to keep going.

G was next. He shagged a Penthouse Pet of the Year a long time ago, and ended up raising on his own her two daughters, 15 and 17, the elder of them now working at The Ed apparently. He was thrilled by the site of the books, declaring himself a mad reader with a library that would blow my mind that he wants to show me. He said I am clearly a learned fellow. I explained that I try to find people who are smarter than me and read what they have to say. This concept please G no end. G was pissed, of course, but when he spoke of his daughters he oozed a beautiful oozed pride and love that comes from those who regard their progeny as a wonder that they have responsibility for, rather than a burden to shoulder. He’s a musician, and plays Amy Winehouse on the guitar for his daughters and their friends to sing along to.

Is there a moral to this post? No, not really, except that I am really very fond of other people for the most part, and that it is often the sight of the unconventional (in this case, a man reading books in a busy pub on a Friday night) that provides the catalyst to break the social barriers between us and enable all kinds of matters to be discussed. What has all this to do with nuclear power? Nothing so far as I can tell (unless you have spotted something I have not), but I definitely cannot be bothered starting a new blog.

Have a great weekend. Thanks for indulging me.


  1. Yep, sounds like my lounge room of a Friday night – only my clientele is generally under 8, the drinks are fizzy and the walking fridge (my husband) is really more mini bar (sorry Tim).

    BTW, what’s a nice bloke like you doing being a nuclear power proponent? Shouldn’t you at least have two heads and be way too scary to talk to?

    Did you ever get a response to your letter to the energy/climate minister/local member? I just received a response from Ferguson. Perhaps I’ll put it up as a post – with some thoughts added of course.

    Fukushima is in cold shut down.

    We need an open thread.

  2. I found Garbadale pretty disappointing by my expectations for Banks. Nothing like The Crow Road or The Bridge. And as Iain M Banks, I thought that his latest, Surface Detail, was frankly crap.

    On the non-fiction front, I’ve been reading Paul Gilding‘s The Great Disruption. A powerful book, it’s very interesting. Highly recommended. He’s not a nuclear convert, though he’s relatively neutral about the technology.

    I do believe Santa’s delivering me a kindle for christmas. I wonder how that will change my reading habits. I’m on the lookout for an LCA of a kindle versus dead trees, how many books you have to read before the kindle became a relative net environmental win.

    As for talking to strangers in a pub, Michelle’s got a funny story about that. Tell you some time.

    If I don’t get around to it otherwise, merry christmas to you and love to your family.

    1. Well, I am yet to read a Banks I didn’t like, though I agree Crow Road is a standout. I also have The Business sitting around waiting for me to make a start on it.

      Merry Christmas to you. Let us know when you have read 22.5 e-books so that you can feel good about your Kindle.

    2. You are not the first person to recommend that book by Gilding. I overlooked it in favour of the God Species on my last trip to the book store, but it looks like I may be going back.

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