A Civil Tongue In Your Head

We’re meant to keep one of these – though the old saying doesn’t specify whether it should be yours or someone else’s. I’ve seen French art films…

The phrase is particularly interesting to me because I’ve encountered an occasion where someone didn’t. Of course this is not new in the world – cursing, expletives, vulgar language, and threats are the small change of conversation in many societies. Our print and internet media positively encourage it. It can also be the common coin for some of the young, but at my age I am not in the market for this sort of investment.

The fact that it occurred in a work situation has made it stand out a little more – preventing workplace harassment of co-workers, contractors, or volunteers is actually covered by OHS regulations as well as by anti-bullying legislation. It will remain to be seen whether the occurrence was just an uncharacteristic outburst or the opening barrage of a campaign.

For the sake of the business, and the owners, I hope it is the former rather than the latter. If so, it can be forgiven and nothing more need be said. If the latter, we’ll have to see if law really does have teeth.


I Think You Can’t…I Think You Can’t…

Or, The Little Engine That Worked For The Local Council.

I have a confession to make – I have stopped asking the local council for permission to do anything. I’ve stopped asking  the state government the same question. In fact, I’m even considering cutting the federal government out of the equation when it comes to deciding how to order my life.

I’m not going to go so far when it comes to the wife. That’d just be crazy talk.

But flouting the local authorities would seem to be a good idea these days. I am no longer in receipt of a big income, nor of a pension, so throwing money around for permits and licenses seems like a waste of resource. I am fortunate in that the things I fancy are lawful and reasonably healthy and can be made to attract little attention. I am not fool enough to activate the sumptuary laws buried in council regulations nor the jealousies buried in the hearts of my neighbours.

Case in point: The state government would like to have anywhere from $75 to $100 to register a business name for me. I would like the same amount for hard liquor and model airplanes. Therefore I have named my business to my own satisfaction, to the satisfaction of my clients, and to that of the Australian Taxation Office…without reference to the local Jobsworths. I figure the financial feds trump them anyway.

I also operate a model airplane workshop in my back yard shed. I’d be willing to bet there are a dozen council regulations that might be applied to it, but after getting the first piece of paper allowing erection of the structure 35 years ago I don’t see that it is any of their business what I build in it. If I start to assemble floating mines I will reconsider…

And so on. Our family parks our cars on the front lawn as there is insufficient space for them in the carport. Betcha that’d get a fistful of paper if I were an enemy of the council…but I’m not. They see the rates paid and the bins sorted and the anonymity this gives me is just what I want.

Becoming Immature – An Older Person’s Guide To Life

We are often told that contact with the young keeps a retired person in touch with reality. That it helps them to recapture their youth. That it is golden door to eternal happiness.

This is what is known in technical terms as a crock of shit.

Look closely at the youth that you wish to emulate and observe their behaviour – perhaps when they are lying on their bed looking at a screen. Reflect that their phone may be mobile but they are not. And that a goodly portion of their disposable income is disposed of to the telephone company.

Then again, watch them as they walk or drive around the town looking at that screen in an effort to find electronic signals that indicate Japanese cartoon monsters. Here again, money is spent by them and received by someone else. It does not flow back again. There is the occasional reward for the older observer when the screen addict runs headlong into a light pole or a Toyota.

Look at the social media and observe the anguished and tangled love lives of the people who post there. Would you willingly dip your toe, or any other portion of your anatomy, into those troubled waters? No.

So what direction should you go in your search for happiness? If becoming a  re-tread twenty-something or a thirty-something is unattractive, should you aim for middle or teen age again? Lets see:

a. Teen age. Turn on Triple J radio or any other station aimed at the teen market, put the wireless on full volume, and listen to it all day. You’ll only need to do this for one day to conclude that the teenage years are best left to the acne’d.

b. Middle age. Well, you are closer to that now than to teenage, so you can use your own memory. Was being 40 a lot of fun? Were you the apple of your own eye or just the pip? Do you want to be a wage-slave again, remembering that wage slaves have wage slave-drivers to contend with? Thought not.

Go further back. Go to your childhood – to the time before you were 12 years old. Find the things that you liked to do and the dreams you had for the future…and either do them again or actually achieve them this time. You’ve got money now, and experience, and can separate the wheat from the chaff. And then make something of the chaff.

Actually, most of the cereals your physician advises you to eat are chaff…

You’ll find that nearly everyone will leave you alone when you are having this sort of fun. Either you do not come into their control radar or you look so weird that they are nervous about making eye contact. This can be the case particularly if you have determined to be a new old bike rider and have invested in lycra. Also slow exercises in the park making strange noises.

The rewards will come when you realise that you actually are having fun and that it can be done on the cheap. And no-one rails at you to get out of your comfort zone. In fact you can tell THEM to get out of your comfort zone and most times the cops will back you up. Just no shooting over the lawn.


The Ghosts Of The Mall

It is not very often that we can say we like ghosts. The traditional ones – rattling chains, screaming in the night, passing through walls, etc. are somewhat of a strain on the nerves. They leave slime. When they infest a house the resale value plummets. Few people want them.

In my case I do have a reason to be grateful to them – they have enabled me to start my retirement in a good note.

When I was working in my last career I was sent out on many occasions to help people with photographic training. Specifically, with the Polaroid passport cameras that were common at the time. These were the four-lens jobs that put nearly identical pictures onto a sheet of Polaroid or Fujifilm instant film. The requirements of the Australian passport department were stringent and the geometry and illumination needed to achieve them operated within a fairly narrow band of possibility – hence I was sent to train chemist’s assistants and post office employees on how to do it.

Fine. Motor out from the shop, conduct a hour’s training and motor back in, picking up a cup of coffee on the return journey. Easy stuff. But it was the sights in the shopping malls riveted my attention – I saw ghosts.

They were both sad and frightening, and I paid close attention to them. They were the men of a similar age to myself that had no occupation – either public or private – and who passed the day sitting in the centre of the mall. Some of them drifted silently about. Grey men in shapeless garments – they may have been wearing their grave clothes – with grey faces devoid of expression. Whenever I encountered them they hurried me on my way, as I did not want whatever had infected them to touch me.

Well, now I am a retired person, and having seen what mall ghosts look like I have determined on a few things:

a. When I get up, I dress up. The outfit may be a plaid shirt, braces, and high-water britches, but it is the clothing of a person who is determined to keep moving. No grey winding cloths.

b. When I am in a mall, I keep moving briskly to whatever store I need to go to. And then equally briskly back home. Malls are fine for concentrating shops in one area, but they make lousy graveyards.

c. I do not eat or drink in a mall. I have food at home that costs me 1/4 the price of the mall. I do not need to overspend to undereat.

d. I have hobbies – so does my wife. They are the life-rings of retirement. I do not begrudge them to myself or to her , and I realise how much good they do us.

Every hobby cannot be done all the time, but they can be rotated so that there is something all the time that can be done on one or the other of them. It might not need to be done, but that is not the point.

Fortunately I am a loner in many respects and always have been. Thus I do not need to be cossetted in a group doing things to find things to do. But I do not deny the utility of pensioner groups and other forms of entertainment. That is what some people need.

Result? I am up early and doing, and the feeling of being a ghost comes rarely to me. I would urge it upon others for as long as they can manage at whatever level they can achieve. Leave the malls to the teenagers.


” We’re Out Of Canned Snake “

Well, damn. And I had my heart set on a big plate of dugite in gravy. I’ll have to make do with bread and butter.

I admire the cuisines beloved of many different ethnic groups. Likewise I recognise the artistry inherent in their dances, clothing, and literature…albeit I have no idea what they are saying or doing and the clothing they wear looks as if it was stitched together with brass wire. I figure it is their hides, slides, and insides and not for me to criticise.

Admiration, however, does not mean emulation. In the case of exotic cuisine I am more than happy for it to remain so. If they have shops that cater for their own palates, well and good. I have mine. They include Elmar’s, IGA, and Aldi, and if I cannot suit myself there I can always haunt Coles or Woolies. I wouldn’t think of depriving them of canned insects or vermin in oil. Indeed, come high summer, between myself and the cat, we could probably provide them with all the skittering protein they could handle.

I did try to adapt myself to the influx of Asian grocery shops here in our suburb. Close as we are to an Asian dormitory suburb and a south Asian subdivision, it’s not surprising that there has been a burgeoning in the specialty grocery market. I went to my local one and did my best to understand the items on offer – eventually settling on Yeo’s curry sauce from Singapore as the easiest thing to incorporate in the family menu. It’s never failed, and I always grab a can when I see it.

But when I tried to decipher all the other curry offerings I was stumped – so many canneries, so many flavours, so many different bits of advice on the can. I took a selection of them to the chap at the counter but he said he doesn’t eat that stuff…Hmmm…

I must screw up my courage and go to the Indian grocery next. Surely, if anyone, they will be able to advise me.

PS: Don’t try to con me and make me eat some awful offal to amuse your mates. I won’t do it, no matter what the social circumstance. I won’t be rude – ” Thank you. No. ” is perfectly civil.

Take One Spoon From Bowl A And One From Bowl B…

The family are out tonight.

I am not. Therefore it is incumbent upon me to feed myself without reference to their needs or desires. I can let myself go. And I am letting myself go to the refrigerator and looking to see what’s in the Tupperware. It’s Leftover Night. I couldn’t be happier.

We accumulate plastic bowls of stuff. Potatoes, beans, pasta, Chinese food, casseroles. Nearly everything that is made fresh has an echo. While we do police the shelves to discard stuff that is too old to define, the rest is fair game for the big stir-fry lottery. I am happy to say that I have very rarely managed to make leftovers inedible.

Some tastes do not mix. Milk pudding and fish cakes is a mistake. Taco Bell is never improved by being asked to become Taco Baklava. And nothing that was ever intended for the cat should be diverted to the dinner table.

But everything else is fair game. Ooh…I wish we did have some game. Rabbit, pheasant, moose…Hard to get moose in an Australian suburb – even the Canadian specialty shops make excuses and say they’re sorry they can’t supply it. Well, they would say ” sorry “…they’re Canadians. But what I wouldn’t give for a big ‘ol can of whole moose in gravy.

You can also play the leftover game with desserts. Sweet is sweet, no matter how it is produced, and the meat/milk decisions you might have to make in the main course are swept away for the afters. The problem is that generally there are fewer leftover desserts than other portions of the meals. One solves this by making fresh desserts – it doesn’t pay to be discouraged. I was trifling with the idea of putting cake, sherry, custard, and fruit into a bowl but decided that it would never work.

A note to cooks who put things in Tupperware. TW takes up a surprisingly large volume of space in a fridge. You think it’s all jolly colours and a flexible lid, but the engineers at the Tupperware factory have a secret plan to take over the kitchens of the world. Every container is bigger than you need and the lid makes it bigger still. The clever ones that nest into each other are apt to squeeze everything else out of the appliance – but they are so cute that no-one can resist getting the whole range.

My solution is not to get twee about the food. It will all go into and out of the same holes anyway, so it might as well all be lumped into one big pot in the refrigerator and be done with it. You never can tell – no matter what you throw in there it becomes brown and you may end up for a brief period of time with a Brillat-Savarin winner.

Home Five – Bath

I live at home.

And part of living for Australians is getting clean. I do not propose to offend the British readers by making coal-in-the-bath  and soap jokes, but take it from me – Australians like to get clean.

Some of them do it in the ocean or the pool. Some of them do it in the sauna. I do it in the shower. Every blessed morning, and sometimes twice a day – if I have been making a mess of myself in the Little Workshop.

Don’t be confused by the title of this piece – we do, indeed, have a bath in the house, but it is not frequently used. We keep a cover over it and put other things on top of the cover. It is there if we ever have to soak off crusted-on scabs or make cheap gin. Mostly we use the showers.

Australian showers are a little different from the ones in English hotels. For one thing, they are not often made of plastic. For another, they are big enough to put the entire body in. We often have hot water and many of us use soap and shampoo. My shampoo days are drawing to an end as I get balder, but it is a nice memory and there are always the armpits and the other squidgy bits. I do not use conditioner, as I have no idea what condition it would leave me in and I am not about to experiment. My soap is the cheapest one on the market.

Note 1: I save the soap slivers for use in a shaving mug. It is not necessary for economy as I have five sticks of shaving soap, but there is something primeval about it that appeals. I have offered to shave the rest of the family but they give me funny looks.

Note 2: Being clean need not be a moral thing, if you play your cards right.