This Call Is Finished

I took a telephone call yesterday from a noisy location. The caller was a young woman who purported to be a student at WA University. And who also purported to be asking questions connected with the alumni association.

Her voice was rapid and her name was somewhat unclear – but her questions were intrusive. Confirming address, etc. I was evasive, stating that the alumni association already had my address. To her questions about my career I also gave vague, but truthful answers.

To her request for $ 50 per month contribution to a scholarship…and then for an immediate $ 100 contribution…I gave a polite but firm refusal.

My daughter, who works in the financial section of a rival university, said that the call was most likely genuine – a result of students assigned to try to get money out of people on an old-student list. Possibly, but it could also have been a number of other things.

I think my best bet in the future is to remind myself not to engage in answering questions on the telephone from someone I have never met. I shall politely decline and civilly press the hang-up button. This will also serve when I receive subcontinental calls.

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” Contents May Have Settled “

How often do you see this on the outside of a packet of food; ” Contents may have settled in shipment. “. Whenever I encounter it I am beset by a number of questions:

a. Was the box or packet ever full at the start of the process? Or did you throw the cornflakes in from across the room in the hopes that they would form a magical geodesic structure and support the inside of the box?

b. Was the box designed for the contents or was it designed just to be as big – as well as brightly coloured  – as possible…to attract the eye of the unsophisticated shopper? We’ve all seen the laundry detergent packets.

c. Is ” content settling ” the same as crumbling to powder at the bottom of the box? Did we buy the breakfast equivalent of a spoonful of sugar spun into cotton candy – only to have it resolve itself back to the spoonful as soon as heat or moisture hit it? Do we, in fact, have any right to corn flakes or just to corn powder? Is powder considered to be just tiny little flakes?

d. Why does raw liver never settle in the packet? Why is it always bulging out there?

e. What do you expect us to do with the packet that has settled? Are we to turn it upside down, shake it, and magically it will become filled again? Tried that once with dynamite that had sweated out of the sticks and you can swim in the crater after rain fills it.

f. How far do you have to ship stuff anyway? Can we not make food closer to home so that it doesn’t have to travel three seas and five roads to get to us? Is it time to go back to eating what is local? ( The answer to that is yes, and for a number of reasons…)

g. Why doesn’t liquor settle in bottles – so you could skim off the water on the top and pour out the good stuff from the bottom.

 

 

The Two-Star Rating…

I’m sorry to have to tell you that my dinner one night last week only got a two-star rating. That low number was a worry but the most concerning thing about it was the fact that I wasn’t involved in the measuring process  – someone else who packaged it got to do the  pre-dinner criticism.

I actually thought it was a pretty good meal – I put a frozen Herbert Adams beef and mushroom pie into the oven for 60 minutes and was rewarded with a beef and mushroom pie. It had beef and mushrooms – to which I added gravy, peas, and spinach. Meat, pastry, gravy, and two kinds of greens seems to meet some of the goals of the world – it certainly met mine. But the fact that there was a star rating on the side of the packet raises a few questions:

a. Who does the rating? Nowhere on the package does it say.

b. What actually do they rate? Taste? Texture? Amount of gluten? Amount of Lewisite?

c. What is the scale of the rating? 1 is poisonous and 5 confers immortality?

d. Is this a load of bullshit? If it is, is it mandated bullshit or just some advertising executive’s way to fill up a blank space on the cardboard package?

I note that the next package in the freezer – a Herbert Adams chicken and leek pie has gotten three stars…and a logo that says RSPCA Approved Farming. Begging the question whether the beef pie was frowned upon severely.

Being a chicken pie, I guess it would not contain bullshit. But the sauce is white and I’ve seen what chickens do in the chicken run…

 

Headin’ South

I rarely ask people to pay attention to my underwear. They are rather private garments and normally there is room in them for one person only – me. Today is different. I think I could fit about four of you in here. The reason is I have tried to go a day too long – a waistband too far…and the elastic has given up the ghost. I have had a day of especial discomfort.

Those of you who have felt the elastic go at some stage of the game know exactly what I’m writing about. All of a sudden any movement whatsoever sends your nether garments heading for the nether regions and it doesn’t make any difference if you are on parade or lounging in your boudoir – nothing feels right. If you had obeyed your cautious instinct and discarded the pair of shorts or knickers this morning – and put on the fresh pair that was sitting there in the drawer – you could stride out with confidence and pride. As it is, most of your day will be split between grimacing and excusing yourself to go to the loo in an attempt to produce a workable wedgie.

As the day progresses the vicious garment gets worse and worse. You look at your ankles to see if it has reached there and is showing under the trousers. You are convinced that it is going to entangle your knees and throw you sideways into the path of oncoming traffic. And you are also convinced that everyone sees your plight and knows what is happening. The day gets longer and the hours drag more.

The only answer is retreat. Go home at the end of the day, if you can walk while clutching your knees together. Remove the offending article. Throw it in the bin. Put on your pyjamas and make a cup of tea and a soft-boiled egg. There is no more dignity in the world for you today, and you might as well retreat into the comforts of childhood.

Wait a minute. Could it be?

Is the elastic on the pyjama bottoms going too…?

 

Bright Sunday Morning

With a new lens and a car show to go to, I had a good reason to get up on Sunday morning. It was a local affair, wanting no more than a 10-minute drive and a $ 5 bill to get in the gate. The exhibitors were there because they love showing off their cars and the spectators were there because they love looking at them…and that means that there was a good vibe all round. Most car shows have this, but the Curtin FM show has more than most.

It would have been a tough thing to schedule as there was a competing Show And Shine at the big drag-race complex fifteen miles away. Some car owners might have been hard pressed to select which one to show at…and the spectators would have had to make a one-or-the-other decision. The Curtin show has good food vans, however, so I chose it.

The big bugbear of Western Australian shows is the sun – it shines on a professional basis here and in partnership with a big blue sky it can dominate any outdoor picture. This time I wanted to try shooting with a bare rig – one camera, one lens, no fill flash – to see if it was a viable option for other interstate shows. By and large I think it succeeded and the post-processing power of Lightroom CC saved most of the shadow detail. Cloudier skies could only improve it as autumn and  winter advance.

The freedom of carrying a small retro camera while dressed in unobtrusive old-guy clothes is wonderful. No-one bothers you – if you are a street shooter who can look down into the LCD screen instead of up, I don’t even think that they even see you. it is the best thing to a cloak of invisibility. I don’t even think you have to cover the camera over with tape or fake nameplates to disguise it – no-one cares a hoot.

If you also have a cup of coffee in your left hand no-one will actually see you triggering the shutter. Fujifilm cameras can be set to shut off all shutter sounds and in bright sunshine you don’t need the AF-assist light. Just point and shoot.

Note that the camera coped with the white cars – this has been improved internally from what it was several years ago – or perhaps the post-processing program is better. In any case this will be the camera and lens of choice for future away-day shooting.

Sneer Away, Vermont.

The people of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and upstate New York need a laugh occasionally. They are accustomed to the beauty of rich colours in their forests every September and October. We’ve all seen the wonderful calendar photos of the covered bridges and the old churches amongst the red, oranges, and yellows…

The heading image is Fall in Perth, Western Australia. Autumn if you want to be pedantic. Those are dirty yellow trees in the Hay Street mall overarching a wet pavement. That’s it. That’s as picturesque and romantic as it gets. You can take long, soulful walks between JB HiFi and Vodafone if you want to but be aware that no songwriters have ever made ballads about it. And the Perth City rangers will move you on if you slacken your pace. You might as well get back on the train and go home.

Autumn in Australia is wet and cold, followed by a wet and cold winter. If you get nostalgic for sunshine and heat you can either go to Singapore or wait for January when the Weather Bureau will have a little surprise for you…

Perth in winter is bracing. So is Skegness and root canal treatment. But at least if you are languishing in the dental chair under rubber dam you are not standing at a bus stop getting splashed by the 507 from Booragoon as it speeds past unheeding. Winter in Perth combines discomfort with banality – cold with pointlessness. It is the least you could do, but you re compelled to re-do it every year.

The only way to escape it is to go North. North to Geraldton and Broome and Exmouth and Darwin. You’ll find good weather and a lack of culture. Your body will rejoice and your mind will shrivel. The choice is yours.

Note: Perth does have covered bridges. They’re covered in bird shit and motor cars.

 

The Ever-Present Danger of Happiness…

Some days it doesn’t pay to let down your guard – the moment you do something nice happens to you and then the rest of the day is shot.

This is a real problem for grumpy older people who try to maintain the rage but find that they can’t get the parts any more. They are sometimes forced to abandon old grudges and either go out and buy new ones or just give up the sport altogether. This might sound like a good idea, but what do you do with all the clothing and accessories you’ve acquired to do it with?  There is only a limited market for poison darts at garage sales in this country.

It’s easy enough to avoid happy people in the shopping mall or the airport – anyone offering religious tracts or flowers can be seen at a distance and you can steer round them. If you are riding a gopher mobility cart you can steer into them but be prepared for sympathy and hot cups of tea from the security staff. Fortunately, security staff never seem to be happy in themselves so you can hang around where they are and cash in on the negative vibes. Just don’t make any sudden moves.

Being unhappy at home takes a little more effort. If your favourite television program is on in ten minutes and you have a fresh cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits you might as well sit down and get it over with – postpone your moaning until the advertisement breaks. If you’re lucky* these will be every five minutes. And then there is the telephone with telemarketers and scam merchants ringing up during the best part of the show – you can kill happiness efficiently there.

Sometimes all it takes to develop a really good grump is to review the daily news. Of course, if your side is winning this is no help at all. Then you are forced to go further into the paper until you get to the art or food reviews to get your boost o’ sadness. At least the average modern reviewer can be depended upon to be disappointed in something. It’s the reason they never get into Heaven…God is afraid they’ll take away one of his stars.

If all else fails you can sit on the front porch and yell at people to get off your lawn. In Australia we’re not allowed M1 Garands so we can’t go the full Clint Eastwood on the local teenagers but there is nothing to stop us planting double-gees in the grass and that keeps ’em off, no fear.

*  There’s more than one kind of luck…