I’d Rather Be Groucho Than Margaret

If you have never seen a movie with Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont I recommend that you dial up ” A Night At The Opera” and ” A Day At The Races ” and watch Groucho bounce jokes off poor Margaret’s hide all the way through.

You might feel sorry for her or think she gets what she deserves – as she always played the dignified straight lady to Groucho’s scoundrel – but movie histories tell us that she was doing it as a consummate stage actress and skilled professional. Her job – straight feed and timekeeper for the audience’s laughs – is one of the tough ones in comedy. The fact that she did it while enduring the Marx brothers is a tribute to her courage and steadiness.

You’d be surprised how many people in real life have to do the same thing – and many have the even tougher job of maintaining their cool in the face of meanness – not just stage comedy. I saw it many times in my retail shop time and sometimes even had to practice it myself.

I do not mind the high and I do not mind the mighty, but when they combine these two features along with a show of morality my liver starts to curl at the edges…followed, if I am not careful, by my lip. Fortunately most of this behaviour is occasioned by financial consideration – people use it as a ploy to lower prices – and an employee that is subject to it can finally take refuge behind the facts of business – you can’t sell things for nothing.

I’m rather ashamed to say that I occasionally Groucho’d a few people. If I could see that they were doing  a Margaret and playing at being pillars of society I would allow the conversation to run a little way past the end of the tram lines – perfectly seriously, of course – and occasionally they would follow me along until they were lost in the weeds. I could always find my way back by excusing myself to go fetch the manager. I’ll bet the manager dreaded my knock on the door.

Sometimes I even did the Groucho walk when I went off to fetch him. Never had the nerve for the greasepaint moustache or the cigar, however.



It’s Art If I Say It Is

You need not go to the State Art Gallery to get your fill of interesting sights – if you go to car shows they are laid out for you all over the floor.

Art? I don’t mean the tattooist’s stand or the airbrush stand or the tin sign stand. I mean the actual devices that the enthusiasts have made throughout the year and brought for exhibition. The 3-D actual hardware that has more to it than just function.

Two cases in point are the Sailor Jerry truck and the bike rods at the 2017 NSW Hot Rod Show. Plenty on plenty of the classic rods and customs there, and the occasional little gem just parked quietly.

Why are these art? Because they are something that some did to please themselves – things that need not be the way they are but for the inner expression that they provide. Practical? Not really – but deeply pleasing to all who see them

a. The rod bikes. I’m sure you can ride them, and I’m sure you don’t want to. The angles, curves, mechanisms.and finish are all so different from the average run of treadlie that they have gone from being transports of people to transports of joy.

I have no idea how long they took to make, but I’ll bet they took a fair length of time to think up.




b. The Sailor Jerry truck. Now this is purely a commercial enterprise, and a striking one at that, but someone in the agency was clever enough to link the distressed paint scheme rod to the spiced rum and the whole thing just swings. Presumably the advertising truck has been carefully treated so that it does not actually hole out or fall apart before they get all the rum sold.

The Little World – Won’t Someone Think Of The Adults?

I suppose it is a little silly to be going into a toy shop looking for adult entertainment – unless you are an adult that likes playing with toys. That’s a hard thing to be, and an even harder thing to admit to – it’s no wonder that the trade doesn’t think it needs to cater to us.

I say us, because I like to play with toys, and I am considered to be an adult. Shows how just how successful I have been at fooling the rest of society for the last 69 years…

I went into a Toyworld store in Fremantle a couple of weeks ago to see if I could add anything to my toy car collection or find any accessories that would help with scale model photography. I had plenty of time, my own transport, and a credit card  – I could have taken away any number of boxes of fun from that shop. Sadly, I left empty-handed…there was just nothing that answered the need in the place.

Had I been buying for children, I could have had a ball. Several balls. As many balls as you can have ball-games for. If I was playing in the sand pit out the back of the house i could have had dirt diggers and dump trucks  in any size and colour. I could have had farm tractors and ploughs. But I couldn’t get any decent scale models that I would put on a shelf and display.

People may say that this should be the province of the hobby shop – and to a certain degree it is – but toy stores are the training grounds for hobbyists and it seems like it would be a good thing to give the buyers some bridge between radio control helicopters and friction toy racers.

Either that, or I get ten cubic yards of sand delivered and go outside and start to make sand roads…

And Then You Hear the Click…

We’ve all seen that sort of movie – the one with the minefield in it. The heroes are moving silently through the jungle or the field and then one of them steps on a mine. They know it  because they  hear the click. And then there are five tense minutes of cinema when they either escape with their lives or are blown up.

I noted last week during the demolition and installation of kitchen cabinets and appliances that there were several clicks. The workmen are old hands at this sort of thing and took most of them in their stride, but the fact that they still threatened to detonate told me that we had made the correct choice between professional or self-installation. I should have been lying in a mangled heap by now.

Much the same for a lot of the things we do. I remember clicks when I was doing dentistry and tense five-minute periods thereafter. I hope I was calm enough not to alert the patients, though now that I think of it I think the submarine diving klaxon and the flashing red light may have given it away somewhat. I never got to the point of activating the escape slide and leaping off into the street.

The professionals on the job may have heard them as well – indeed I suspect that between the three trades involved they heard each other’s clicks. Presumably professional courtesy prevented them from pointing at each other and laughing – the fact that they were all armed with sharp tools probably restrained them as well. I’m glad it is a kitchen and blood could be mopped off a floor.


The Little World – You Can Buy It In Any Size But The One You Need

Here – pick a card from the blue deck. Any card. Now turn it over. What does it say?


Okay, that’s your scale. Now pick a card from the red deck and turn it over. It says…?

Portuguese torpedo bomber?

Okay, that’s what you need to buy from the hobby shop. Here is a large pile of money and a stopwatch. You have five hours to go to every hobby shop in town to buy a 1/72 Portuguese torpedo bomber – either in kit form or as a die-cast. If you do you get to keep the pile of money and if you fail we take all the tyres off your car and burn them in your back yard. Ready? Go.

This is the best game. The desperate modeller heads out the front door at a dead run and drives to the nearest hobby shop. They have 1/35 scale torpedo bombers. The next one is five miles away and they have 1/48 scale kits. The third store is across town on the freeway and they have a special on Portuguese torpedo bombers this week. All at half price and all at 1/32 scale…

It’s a big town and there are lots of stores and the five hours tick slowly away as the candidate rushes to each one. He is assured of success at the four-hour, 55 minute mark when he reaches the last one in the outer suburb that advertises itself as ” Portuguese Torpedo Bombers R Us ” and has the 1/72 signal beaming onto the clouds above the parking lot. Bursting into the doors he is confronted by the man who says:

” Oh you’re too late. We sent them back to the wholesaler yesterday. There was no call for them…”

I don’t know about you, but I like a nice tyre fire in the back yard on these summer nights. That, and the sobbing of the modeller, seems to be a home comfort.

Every Man To His Trade

And every woman too, for that matter. When someone is good at something – trained, certificated, experienced, quiet, calm, efficient, and covered in healed scars…it is the height of folly to interfere with them as they do a job.

Even if you, too, have all the qualifications…you will always promote a better result if you stop away and let the worker you have employed to do the work get on with it.

Oh, occasionally you get a poor result – some workers are not as careful as others and some are not as diligent…but problems can be rectified  if you have not been the one to cause them.

Case in point: the new kitchen that went into our house this week. It involved 6 skilled tradespeople and a deal of to-ing and fro-ing to the IKEA warehouse. Some minor parts were missing, a custom part had to be made, accessories had to be gathered. And one major error occurred that needed an overnight fix.

No-one was flustered about it. No-one went snarly or desperate. The old kitchen was broken up and tossed in the skip bin – the new one was installed and completed in three days. We still need to look at fresh vinyl floor covering but I’ll bet that will be done just as neatly. And already we have disposed the pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery in the new drawers and the kitchen is workable again.

I must record my admiration for the planner, installer, and tradesmen, and praise the IKEA problem solving office for the speedy way that they turned panic into relief.

We tested out the family cookware on the new hob – The frying pans are fine but all the saucepans and soup pots are useless with induction heating. So I guess IKEA will score a few more dollars from us in the Market Hall, and I do not begrudge them a penny.

Heading picture is the dreadful blue kitchen. That’s protective film over the cabinet fronts until the floor man has come and gone. Then the reveal. The ovens are burning off their coatings right now and I will try them out during the week with the first roast.



Our new kitchen is getting built. The team doing it is at the stage of screwing cabinets together. But to get to this point, they have had to hammer, saw, and chisel the old kitchen out.

It is not the sort of thing that you want to see happening. I’ve done my share of demolition, but it was always on someone else’s property or anatomy, and there was a certain degree of dispassion about it. Not when it is your house…

So far only a few surprises, and most of them pleasant. Only a couple of delays, and they can be side-stepped. I am closeted in the computer room trying not to hear what is going on, and failing. I am pleased that I cannot offer any actual physical assistance that would be helpful, as it prevents me from giving the other sort.

We dine out, not in, for the next few days.