How Would Sir Like His Communication This Morning?

Please place the letters on the silver tray in the hall, Jenkins. Printed pamphlets, flyers, advertising catalogues, and real estate notices may be dropped unread into the recycling bin on the way into the house.

Please route the electronic letters to one of my two accounts. The commercial ones may be sent through to the studio address – the personal ones into the private address. The writers will know which to use from the email communications I have sent them originally. Unfortunately there will be a modicum of unwanted commercial material mixed in as well, but I shall institute means by which it can be held at bay.

I do not think I shall be taking the Facebook this morning. Perhaps later in the week, if there is no other pressing matter. Or later in the month.

Likewise, you need not switch on the television apparatus in the sitting room today. I have several books open on my side table in the library and I do not wish to be distracted by the sight of murders or gasoline explosions.

Do dust the wireless, however, as I shall be using it today as I write. I find the old-time radio station and the ABC classical music a soothing way to screen out other background sounds. And I do feel it a good idea to listen to the ABC news at least once a day. Not that the news is all that good, all that often, and the ABC has a decided political bias, but it is as well to know what the weather will be for the coming few days.

Should there be a call on the telephone, please listen carefully to the first few seconds of it. If there is silence, then a hiss, then a confused gabble of sounds in the background, you might be connected to a steam room in Bengal, Manila, or Mysore. The person who tells you their name – invariably a staunchly Anglo-Saxon one given in a strong subcontinental or islands accent – will be from a technical department of Microsoft. They wish you to give them code numbers for bank accounts and credit cards. Please feel free to replace the receiver on the cradle at any time.

The mobile telephone will be another matter. It will ring for only a very short period of time and then go silent. The call will be recorded as missed or the caller will try to leave a message, which will be next to impossible to retrieve. This is normal and desirable.

As far as personal callers, please ask them to state their business before admitting them to the house. Those canvassing for solar power panels may be referred to the roof, which they will then observe is covered in the things already. Those who press for my attention upon spiritual matters may be referred to my religious adviser,  Mr. Thomas Paine. Anyone selling raffle tickets, clothespegs, or books of discount vouchers should be addressed though first the locked screen door and then through the firmly closed main door. ” Goodbye ” is a useful word.

Telegrams? I have not seen one for three decades. I doubt they still exist, though I would welcome one just out of nostalgia. Not a sad one – perhaps one announcing a win in the Irish Sweepstakes. I miss those.

Now, I must to my desk. I have an essay to write: ” Have We Lost Touch With Ourselves? “.  A catchy title, I think, what…?




Fantasy For The Prosaic

Can it be that the makers of the fluoxetine medication known as Prozac were thinking of the English word ” prosaic ” when they named it? Given that the word means commonplace, dull, unimaginative, etc. and the drug is used to try to lift people from depression, it seems the wrong choice. I have no experience with depression, but I would have thought a more spirited name would be better…

Well, coming away from that speculation, today I would like to invite HAW readers to imagine what fiction they would read if they do not read fiction. What novel would rivet a person whose normal reading is a price list. If dry-goods clerks were fulfilled and satisfied with life behind the counter…what would they turn to in an idle hour?

It’s almost like the quandary that confidence tricksters are in when they have to figure out how to con an honest man. How do you inveigle away the mind of someone who has a mind that doesn’t want, or need, to go?

Well, back to our dry-goods clerk, or seed store employee – what you need to do as an author or bookseller is to capitalise on the mindset of the prosaic person to provide that stimulus. No good starting your novel out with ” It was a dark and stormy night…” if  the reader is normally home in bed on them, and perfectly happy. Worse – you might get a weather maniac who knows all the air-movement patterns over the eastern half of the continent and who will start up in indignation and throw it back on the remainder table when you try to describe something that is meteorologically impossible.

No – start your story out with lists of sensible things that a normal person would like to know. How to drive moths out of a pantry, or what the drying rate of acrylic paint is in June. Make sure you have correct technical information and do remember your punctuation. Then, after a chapter or two of ways to seal asphalt, you can introduce a girl with a heaving bosom – presumably after a day spent tarring a road. By that time the reader is fully into the swing of things and can accept a little romance – even if it is somewhat sweaty and tar-spotted.

Don’t try to stray too far from lists. Throw in a basic recipe every now and then. Describe the operation of a useful machine and its maintenance. You may wish to include the odd murder or seduction in case the book gets into the hands of children, but keep them simple and homely affairs.

The best thing about writing for the prosaic reader is the fact that most of the text can be drawn from cook books, mining manuals, and the Amanach de Gotha.

The Little World – How To Survive A Hobby Shop

We are all in danger at some time in the day. We drive a car, fly in an airplane, eat servo sandwiches, tell our spouse that they are wrong…and for the most part we get away with it. No-one hits us on the road or in the kitchen, we do not get food poisoning, we do not crash. We have learned that the dangers are manageable.

Such is not the case for the hobbyist who goes to the hobby shop. There the dangers are multiplied a thousand-fold…few escape. Wallets and credit cards are seen crashed and burning everywhere you look. Survivors are staggering out of the wrecks with armloads of kits. Painters lie in the aisles overcome by fumes – their partners beside them, overcome by the prices of the paint. It is not a pretty sight.

Shoppers in Bunnings, Home Depot, and Spotlight will also know these distressing sights…with the additional horror in the gardening section of bodies sticking up out of the loam. Whatever can be done to arrest the carnage?

Here is a list of precautions:

a. Do not take more than you can afford to lose. Like the casino, the hobby hell will consume every bit of funding that you can find. Leave your credit and debit cards at home. And don’t go to the counter with a child’s piggy bank and a hammer – it just looks pathetic.

b. Wear dark sunglasses in the shop. Hobby goods are marketed on bright colours – particularly the toy cars and R/C aircraft. If you can’t see them very well you won’t be tempted. You might pick up some dodgy paint choices in the finishing aisle if you’re wearing sunnies but use it up anyway and tell people that it is a special camo scheme.

c. Do not sniff the glues. They are addictive. Likewise, do not sniff the kits. If you have to sniff anything, sniff the owner of the shop. They get little enough love as it is.

d. Learn to make a specific list of what you need and go directly to the place it is stored. Select only as much as you need, pay for it at the counter, and run. Do not browse the cabinets. That way madness lies.

Once you are outside you have proved to yourself that you are strong, moral, and not self-indulgent. Celebrate the fact with a double martini and a glazed doughnut.

e. Never give in to the temptation to stock up on anything. If you add just that extra kit or bag of parts you are starting down the slippery pathway that will lead eventually to an intervention. No-one wants to be the person on television with the garage full of Airfix Spitfires and a sneering relative.

f. Know the signs of addiction before you get there. Is the grocery store refusing to exchange balsa wood strips for bread? Has your bank cut up your credit card, ATM card, cheque book, statement, and half the teatowels in the house? Is the bathtub full of glue? You are in need of treatment. You can get a 1:35th scale treatment kit by Trumpeter for a little under $ 40. Where’s the piggy bank and the hammer?

g. Do not sneak kits into the house. Do not sneak empty boxes up into the attic space. One day the plasterwork on the ceiling will give way and your secret will be out.

h. Do not lie to your spouse. Don’t say that you will be going off to have a night of squalid sex with your lover and then sneak around to the workshop and glue things. The plastic smell and the dried glue on your fingers will give you away, no matter how much you douse yourself in perfume.

I’m Going To Tell You Again…

Like I told you before.

And ain’t I a fool for doin’ it? If you took no blessed notice of me last time, what on earth makes me think that you are going pay attention now?

What? The tyre iron. I just had it in my hand. It was the closest heavy object I could pick up. And they took away my boarding pike when the neighbours complained. I miss that pike.

So let’s start over. I am the person who owns the house – the householder. Even if I do not hold the house all the time, I am allowed to fondle it some of the time. And when I do I want it to be a clean and neat house. Uncluttered. Not hung round with spare newspapers and pizza advertisements. No offers to sell it or buy it. No flyers promoting mulch or religion. No chemist’s fridge magnets. No council elections letters. Nothing.

You see, I only have so much space in my recycle bin, and the council is going to reduce the number of times per year they empty it, and if you and your commercial friends fill it up with advertising paper, there will be no room for the household paper. Then I will be forced to use either Plan A or Plan B.

Plan A is to bring all of the extra paper that you force on me back to your premises and dump it in your reception area. As I cannot visit all the firms that inundate me., I will have to select one firm a week to receive all of the rest of the paper. One week it will be you…

Plan B? Ah, we come to the tyre iron. You may feel it better to pick that pizza pamphlet back up out of the letter box and pedal off. Bon Voyage.

Order Now For the Holidays

Is your workplace slowing down with the onset of spring? Are the employees getting lackadaisical about their duties in the warmer weather. Has love blossomed, and is the resultant pollen clogging your corporate sinuses? Well the Backstabbers Guild of Australia ( Industrial Division ) has good news for you. Now you can clamp down again without triggering industrial safety legislation or the nuisance of state inspectors.

Call our office today and we will send out a trained consultant to analyse your business. We’ll pinpoint the spots in your workplace where employees are enjoying themselves and make sure that you can put a speedy end to it. From the simple ” cut down the meal break until indigestion takes over ” to the ” push technical papers under the stall door in the toilets ” we will be able to bring a complete range of bastardry to your management procedures.

No longer will you have to sit in your office listening to laughter. No more employee jokes. No more leaving on time. And our work comes with an iron-clad guarantee – if your employees are not miserable by the time we leave the premises – and stay miserable for a minimum of 30 days after the commencement of the treatment –  we will clap them in irons. We can confidently make this promise because we have been promoting unhappiness for over 20 years in this country. When you’re onto a bad thing, stick to it.

Taking Back Life – Part Two – The Write Stuff

How do I spend my time?

I am retired from surgery and shop work. Oh, I help out at the camera shows and write and illustrate my daily column for Camera Electronic here in Perth, but that is as much a pleasure and hobby as it is a serious job.

I am happy to say that I am discovering better how to balance what that column is and what it should be as time goes on. I initially thought I needed to tout everything that the shop had to sell, and that the various wholesalers were to be my constant companions. Nothing of the sort – I now treat the column as a daily essay in photography and find topics and interest in my own view of the art*. I do oblige if someone wants a particular product featured, but I really have to like it to make a great deal of it.

The two private columns – this one and my photographic one – are also pleasure in print. And I can be a little more acerbic if I feel the need…but there is a danger in getting older that one may lose sight of the fun of life and start to growl at everything.  I now have to monitor my posts for a couple of weeks before I launch them to prevent the level of spleen from being too high. I’m happy about this – I think it will serve me better in the future to be less critical of the world.

It has been suggested that I’m wasting time in writing these private columns. The person who said this pointed out that they might be going out to less that 1000 people in the world and that less than one percent of those would read them completely. I was delighted – ten people paying attention daily is a better audience than many borscht-belt comedians get. Ten people reacting to them is more notice than many schoolteachers get on a regular basis. Heck, I couldn’t get ten people in a group of relatives to even stop talking.

There was also the suggestion that I’m wasting my time by not earning money through this writing – that I am not commercializing it. I countered with the fact that I had plenty of money for small purposes – and as they are my own purposes, no-one need tell me to do more. Indeed, one of the ambitions of my life now is to live unbidden – free of unnecessary let or hindrance. To that end I have given up some activities – firearm shooting, dental practice, and other government-regulated affairs. I am chary of entering into other things that need rules, permission, and ritual.

I am greatly encouraged in this view by a friend who has, so far, avoided the clutches of the social media network on the internet. He maintains a good iMac computer, and derives as much benefit from it as any of us do looking for facts and entertainment…but no Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. He reads and watches television, and has so far managed to balance these sources of information admirably. An evening’s conversation with him is a pleasure, and he does not force memes or foolish ideas upon me unbidden.

And I’ll bet there are more like him out there.

*  Science? Craft? Sport? Trade? Racket?

Imagine My Initial Surprise

I have always been intrigued by the use of initials as a brand name – ever since I looked at USAF on the side of aircraft and fantasized that it meant Uncle Sam’s Air Force I have decided that some things – including 500 pounder GP bombs – could be more fun to sell if you just had the right name behind the product. Uncle Sam’s sounds way friendlier than plain old United States. Has sort of a down-home ring about it, even as the ring of the Norden zeros in on your home from 8000 feet.

To this end I have considered a number of firms who use initials to make their name and have done some preliminary planning:

DAF –  the Dutch car makers – the first two words are ” Dodgey As ” and the last word got me ejected from the Methodist Bingo Night.

IKEA – Swedish makers of little metal socket spanners – ” Imperial Kings of Evasive Accounting “. I have no idea why someone suggested this…

FIAT – easy – ” Fix It Again, Tony “. This is not my invention – it has been going around for years. Unlike some of the FIAT crankshafts.

SEATAPFEIAIAECBBC – A French firm that makes subsidized zippers. Responsible for the Zipper Mountain in the CE.

CE – ” Cut England “. Except they Cut Europe first. No-one is talking to anyone and there is an eerie silence. Glorious, isn’t it?

USSR – Uncle Stalin’s Still ‘Round.

CBC – Camrose Bare Cows – A speciallized strip joint for prairie entertainment.

NBC – Nearly Bare Cows – The less controversial version.