Strolls, Sojourns and a Soliloquy
The title was born out of my misunderstanding of the word “sojourn”. Sojourn – with the wisdom of the internet at my fingertips is “a temporary stay” which although conveys a meaning of destination, also suggests an ongoing journey or a return.
So this blog post, a monologue, a soliloquy is a about taking a stroll and the discoveries and brief sojourns along the way. Apart from being my recollections of walking to a place and consciously stopping to take note of something or simply admire it, it is also a comment on how technology, such an important part of my working and personal life allows me to stroll, think and focus.
Before I talk about the wonderful things we have seen on the strolls described here, let me plunge you into the office environment where phone calls, instant messaging, video conferences, presence awareness, drop ins, meetings, meeting interrupter and even morning tea celebrations cut into the time you can dedicate to tasks. They also mean (and this is the key point) all of those things described above – with the exception of morning teas – are supposed to be contributing to your work or someone else’s work. Interruptions cause loss of focus and the quality of the exchanges is diminished.
When I walk into my office in town (Collins St Melbourne) I am of course getting some exercise. I also use this time to call, not text or email people in my team, clients or providers of services. They have my focused attention during these calls and although I have walked the path I take many times, the surroundings offer more stimulation than sitting at a desk.
I would recommend you try it. Instead of having a phone conference from your desk, go to a nearby park, a mall and make the call. If it is appropriate, describe your surroundings briefly. What that does is mentally transport attendees outside of the four walls. While this may appear distracting and a waste of time, the intention is to trigger a little reaction – be it momentary jealousy or the feelings of what it would be like to stroll through a Melbourne park in Autumn.
With the tools available on your phone and a data plan the same as what my son has ( a couple of gig), you can include video conferencing and screen sharing along with document viewing.
Being focussed, you can contribute and consume as much if not more than when you are in the room.
Body language important? if it is one of those kinds of meetings, put the camera on both sides of the conversation.
The cost of the conversations (I don’t walk into the office every day and am not on the phone for the entire 50 minutes of my stroll) is less than a cheap cup of coffee – but the quality focus is gold – especially when it is a one on one conversation.
Another mistake with language I must now own up to… The phrase “Life is a journey, not a destination” is an often used and modified quote. Although I like it and can use it in the context of the physical office location versus the walk into town – it is not the quote I meant to apply. The quote I meant to refer to is from Robert Louis Stevenson – “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move”.
The pragmatic among you will see that this is at odds with my earlier mini treatise on the benefits of combining technology and strolls to focus on a work task at hand and the fact that I am heading to the office or home.
I counter with it is about how you look at your environment. If you have to catch the 7:53 Flinders St train and it takes 5 minutes to walk to the station and you shut your house door at 7:49… are you going to make it? Do you run?
Do you get stressed if you miss it and the next train is in 15 minutes? Not everyone can walk into the centre of Melbourne in under an hour from their home.
What you can do is stop at a station you never get off at, walk around the inevitable shops near the station and continue on your journey catching the next train that comes through… that, is a sojourn combined with a stroll.
Now, back to what is indisputably the best part of the stroll – the journey itself and my original post about a couple of weekends ago.
Joe had a trip to Sydney a couple of weeks ago with his rowing crew from Melbourne high school to row against the lads from Sydney boys high. With Joe away for a few days we decided to walk into town on Saturday morning. Before I talk about that, first my stroll into the city.
My Collins Street Office Sojourn
I walk into the office in Collins St when I feel I should sit in the company of other people. Working from home is good but when you have a team of colleagues who treat you like family it provides a good balance and I look forward to my days in the office. We share common work related knowledge in the pursuit of providing the best education of our students regardless of where they learn. We also share our experiences of our food adventures in the never ending cafes and restaurants scattered throughout the city… many hidden down tiny lanes.
One such lane is Equitable Place between Collins and Little Collins St – very close to Elizabeth St. Before I moved to Singapore in ’93 this lane led to my workplace which was with an insurance company. I was a support desk officer before becoming the training manager which started my blended learning approach to delivering training. More than 20 years later with the building now a hotel and the lane filled with a united nations roll call of cafes – Japanese, Vietnamese and Brazilian (which I absolutely love) – It is both lovely and ironic that I find myself drawn back to this laneway.
My path into town takes me first onto Stubbs Street in Kensington. This street is home to those horse and carriage rides that ply their trade up and down Swanston St. From there I turn into Macaulay Road where I cross the Moonee Ponds Creek bridge, walk across the railway line underneath the citylink tollway.
A small brass plaque commemorates a plane crash of a bomber during the mid 1940s where after participating in an aerial display it crashed into buildings in this location on its return from the event.
I continue up Macaulay road past the North Melbourne Football Club heading into North Melbourne where I lived as a University Student when I attended Melbourne University. I vary my route in this area because each street has its own character and leads to slightly different jewels from Victoria Markets to Flagstaff Gardens.
In this case I continue down King St before walking though Flagstaff Gardens, which has among other things a bowling green and with its skyscraper backdrop is the scene for Friday night bowls for office workers. The Witches in Britches theatre restaurant is located on one corner of the gardens.
An optimistic fossicker was trying his luck in the gardens with his metal detector, hoping to discover items that fall out of the pockets of the summertime sunworshippers.
I stroll past the old mint building which is now a gallery for typically Greek artefacts and visiting collections. Because Flagstaff Railway Station is on the western side of Williams St, I tend to cross over to the eastern footpath to enjoy a less congested stroll. Williams St is the location of the Supreme Court and local state courts so there many lawyers dressed in robes to be seen on this street. Also, for different reasons the homeless folk begging tend to stay on the western side of Williams Street, hoping that more people equate to more coins in their cup.
I discovered another plaque… this time commemorating the site of the first telegraph office in the Southern Hemisphere in 1854. This is located where the Supreme Court is today.
Shortly after that I have reached my destination.
Helen and I take a stroll into town while Joe is away in Sydney
So Saturday morning we walked into Victoria markets. The smells of the food from various nations like Spain, Greece and of course the jam filled doughnut van that I think has been at Victoria market since I first went there 30 years ago. Helen and I settled for a Turkish Borek. Because we were planning on eating a meal later we just had the spinach and cheese Borek. At three dollars it’s a snack you can’t pass by. We wandered through the deli section of the markets with its cheese, prosciutto, jamon and other delicacies before wandering into the meat section where we calculated how we could purchase our meat, take it home and freeze it as required for our meals.
The route to the markets takes us through a slightly different area of North Melbourne where we pass by the old meat market and a small park that had apple trees laden with fruit. One of the pleasantries of taking a stroll is enjoying the variety of flowers growing in gardens along the way.
We then wandered up Lonsdale Street towards Russell Street taking a diversion down Swanston Street where we admired the interesting facade to one of the RMIT buildings which contrasted with the old Melbourne Bath building and of course the state library.
Later that night the state library would be bathed in lights because the white night event was taking place. We had lunch in a small Korean restaurant before making our way down to the emporium which is a magnificent shopping centre. Helen and I clowned around in the Marvel section of Myers before heading down for a beautiful iced chocolate in a specialist chocolatier shop.
We then headed home certainly having accumulated close to 20,000 steps each on our walk into and around Melbourne city. Later that afternoon unfortunately when we collected Joe we discovered that he had become very ill after his rowing races in Sydney. He had a strong fever but had managed to soldier on through the races where the Melbourne high boys A team won most of their races. This meant that A team on A team the Melbourne high boys won. However because the race is between the A and the B team which didn’t do so well, that meant that Sydney High took out the Yarra Parra cup. With quite a number of our boys sick it was a great effort all round. That meant our Saturday night was a very quiet one at home.
We had taken receipt of our brand-new I-gravity bed on Friday night. After almost 15 years we reinstated the quilt cover and pillow cover set that we had used when we last lived in Melbourne (too hot for Darwin). We then moved the small balcony setting located in the kitchen up to the area near the window which overlooks our park and of course the small community garden.
As we sat and chatted about the day’s events we happily reflected on our outing and our time together.