The Annual Family Traffic Jam

Today we motor south to eat lunch with the wife’s family. It is an annual event occasioned by Christmas and is generally quite pleasant once we reach our destination. It’s some 60 Km from our house and can be accessed by a modern freeway.

This freeway is under permanent reconstruction – it has been incomplete for the last 6 years to my certain knowledge – and the traffic restrictions will reduce the flow of holiday-makers to a trickle at several points. Bumper-to-bumper 60 Km there and B-T-B back again at the end of the afternoon.

There is an electric train service to the town where the relatives live but no effective connection between the train station and their district – and it is a spread-out town. No taxis to speak of and precious few Ubers operating on Christmas day.

I’ll be driving, so not drinking. The relatives will be in a reverse position so the day should deteriorate nicely.

‘Tis The Season…

To be nervous.

Falalalala La la la la.

Think I’ll phone the septic service.

Falalalala La la la la.

Liquid sounds are surely growin’.

Falalalalala La la la.

Christmas cheer is over flowin’.

Falalala Don’t get it on your shoes.

If you have a family tradition for the holidays that no-one else in the street seems to follow, are you in the right street? This is particularly poignant for those of us who live in a mixed bag. Our street hosts people from identifiably different ethnicities and many different religions. Only some would consider this part of the year to be a holiday season requiring traditional food and activities – for the rest it is just another week or so, but with fruitcake.

I myself live in a mixed household and if any of us were fanatics we could rub each other the wrong way something chronic. We do not, however, and the treble holiday season passes pretty cheerfully – except as we get older the calendar New Year’s Eve has toned down considerably. Ageing livers and dodgy eyesight mean driving home after midnight from some riotous nightclub is out of the question and we like to hit the hay earlier in the evening anyway.

But I do like the holidays – as much for the forced cheer as for the real stuff. Watching relatives who would normally bite at one another playing nice and kissy is amusing no end. If the festive event is held at someone else’s quagmire, so much the better. You can always offer to help with the dishes but leave early.

 

 

 

Off With The New – On With The Old

I am currently shopping for a white, flowing robe with long sleeves. I’m not an expert at fabrics so I’m not entirely sure if it should be linen, cotton, or muslin. But it has to have a lot of folds and flow smoothly.

I’ll also need a belt or rope of some sort to gird it round me – a gold colour would be best.

The third article needed is a trumpet. Not the valve sort like Louis Armstrong played – the long thin version you see in renaissance paintings. Long and thin and bright brass.

I’m going to become a herald angel. I plan to adopt the name of Hark. On Christmas Eve I will go from door to door announcing two things:

  1. The birth of an important religious figure.
  2. The idea that I will keep on playing the trumpet until they give me gold, frankincense, or myrrh. I have located a woman who says she can resell the spices on eBay, and I can deal with the gold myself.

As this is just the first year of operation for the racket, I will keep it to Christmas and see if the returns cover the equipment and costume outlay. Then I can expand it to cover other religions and the birthdays of their major figures. I may need to have multi-lingual signs made for the more obscure ones.

Let’s face it…no matter how much reverence you have toward the founder of your particular faith, it rarely extends to listening to trumpet fanfares at 2:00AM. You’d pay to have that cease.

Note: I do not know how to play a trumpet, which should make it perfect…

Aceing It For Christmas

Yesterday seemed to be a particularly good one. The planets  probably aligned and the vibrational paradigms bulged.

  1. Upon stepping out into our walkway to the street I discovered a Decor storage container and lid identical to the ones we use in our kitchen. I assumed someone had left it on the top of her car as she drove away, so I retrieved it and put it back in the kitchen. Only later did I discover that all ours are sitting on the shelf and this one still has a new label on it. Whoever dropped it was eating cupcakes with hundreds and thousands on them… Welcome to the family, new Decor container…
  2. The bus is rarely late to a stop in our suburb. Yesterday, neither was I. We coincided, so I waited till the cheerful driver opened the door and I gotincide.
  3. Ditto the train.
  4. The bookstore I went to had 5 copies of the Christmas gift book I particularly wanted to give. One of them was signed by the author. Score!
  5. Target had a sale on socks – my next gift requirement. Score!
  6. The return journey had the same promptitude, and air conditioned at that.

If you are always having bad days, you get to the point where you fail to recognise the good ones when they happen. I’m glad to say I haven’t reached that state of gloom yet.

The Logistics Of the Logistics Trade

I went to our local shopping centre this week and had a devil of a time getting out again.

After I parked and did my business, I found the lanes out of the place were largely obstructed by trailer trucks bringing in new produce, groceries, liquor and such. Lines of cars were swapping to the other side of the road and then being halted as the opposing lanes tried to squeeze between two 18-wheelers.

As a retiree I can take this sort of delay in good part – I am not in a hurry. Not so the other drivers, and it would appear that the Christmas spirit has largely evaporated…

I take it that most of this re-supply and logistics work is done at night when the car park is deserted – but that the recent holidays may have emptied the shelves ( they hope! ) and a daylight delivery was necessary. It certainly pointed out the fact that they needed more dedicated docks for the trucks  that were not in the main roads.

In the end, however, I am grateful for the shops being where they are and as well stocked as they are. The fact that I can buy food and drink locally is wonderful.

Bradney Soss

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Court of Christmas Justice would like to welcome you to this afternoon’s execution. We have prepared a criminal for you and will be dispatching him shortly in a spectacular manner.. But let us give you some of he details of his crime before the headsman takes over.

As you know, today is Christmas  Day – a festival day dedicated to kindness and good will towards all. It is also a time when good things are eaten and drunk, often to excess. Boxing day sees many a floor being vigorously scrubbed. There are traditional foods and drinks that bring happiness to all – and one of them is plum pudding with brandy sauce.

Now no-one would accuse the well-known hotel of being stingy with their celebration – they put on a  magnificent buffet within their main ballroom and made sure that there was enough wine, beer, soft drink, and other goodies to fill all. There was music, Santa, attentive staff, and an atmosphere of jollity. Indeed, their dessert line was as long and as replete as anyone could ask for. And they essayed plum pudding with sauce.

I suppose we should have taken warning from the sign that referred to the beige liquid next to the pudding as ” Sauce Anaglise “… It may well have been. I have never visited Anaglise but they may slurp this stuff from tureens. The awkward part is that someone may have thought it to be brandy sauce as the English like it.

The English are a sturdy race. I admire them for this. They can stand a great deal of fire. And they like brandy sauce for their plum pudding that needs to be served with care. They are wise people.

The beige liquid, on the other hand, resembled something that you would normally consult a colour chart for. Come to think of it, a good semi-matte indoor emulsion would probably have tasted better. One would have been prepared to put on two coats.

As it is, we have determined which chef made the sauce and he is waiting in the tumbril for his march up the stairs. Those of you in the front rows may wish to cover your plates when the time comes in case he splashes. It is not so much the fear of blood as the horror of beige liquid.

The True Christmas Of Spirit

No, it’s not dyslexia kicking in. It’s what I meant to write.

Christmas, we are told, is a season of renewal and promise and rebirth and blessed peace. Sounds good, but the rebirthing you can keep. I’ve seen what the house looked like for the next three years after a regular birth and I don’t really want to see that again. And the smell…

But renewal is fine, as long as you do not ask me to renew marriage vows or coronary arteries again. I’ll stick with the way things are at present. They would both be occasions for a party, but guess who would end up paying for it…

Promises – well we can have them in the pallet-load out of Parliament House. Fresh , new, implausible ones or old, tired, cynical ones. Or an allsorts mixture of the two. They actually keep very well on a shelf.

And blessed peace. Well, I have no grandchildren, so there is not quite the intensity of celebration that others suffer…but I do really appreciate it when the kids go off to the other rellies for family affairs and the wife and I are left to our own, quiet, devices here at home. We do not do much, but we do it in contentment.

Well, if we are to have any of these ingredients they must act upon our spirit. Here’s hoping they will raise it, rather than lower it. So far the several-weeks-before-New Year’s resolution has been adhered to, and in the face of temptation. I am lucky – I am allowed to eat and drink, unlike a friend who has recently been put on a food and drink diet…just before Christmas. All I have to do is be financially responsible.

I’ll be fine as long as the pocket money holds out…Then I will have to go out and pick more pockets.

Have a Merry Christmas anyway, diet, budget, or otherwise.

 

The Day Before The Night Before Christmas

And all through the house – people are scrabbling around for the last of the cello-tape and cheap wrapping paper to try to cover the presents. No-one really wants to have to go out in the 38º heat to the newsagent to get more…particularly because he knows that this is his opportunity to make a killing. Dec 26 sees a crash in the wrapping paper market but Dec 24 is premium time.

The tree has been hung with tinsel with care…no, wait, it hasn’t. That was last year and I think that effort took the wind out of this year’s sails. I, for one, am keeping grinchly quiet about it all to avoid having to dig out all the boxes of decorations. For those who give me the odd looks, I just say that I am seeking the true Christmas spirit, which redoubles the looks.

The Christmas cooking got done last week and also eaten then. We’ll get baked goods from relatives but this year we will go to a hotel for the Christmas lunch. No three weeks of increasingly dry turkey leftovers for us.

We’ve hired a portable spa for a month – we can bob round like apples in it during the worst of the hot weather and then send it way when we’re done. Not my idea, but I can see the logic of it.

The only real shopping will be the last-minute salad bits for later in the week, and the beer. My local shop claims to have hundreds of varieties of craft beer in stock and I feel it my duty to make sure that consumer law is not being flouted. I’ve made a list, but unfortunately after a dozen experiments I go to sleep.

Still, I’m ready for Santa Claus. High or low, I am determined to get him this year.

The Backstabbers Guild Guide To Visiting

Visiting during the holiday period is a tradition with many people. So are torpedo attacks if your family grew up in the Kreigsmarine. What the Guild wants to do is to make sure that if you are going to visit, your victim will go to the bottom in the swiftest manner:

a. Do not call ahead, but make sure that you have as many co-visitors with you as possible. Dress well, and warmly, and carry what look like expensive presents*. It is harder to turn a large group of people away than a small one, as the Germans found out on D-Day.

b. When you gain access to the premises – also known as breaching the walls – be hearty. Be loud. Be exuberant. This is a perfect cloak for someone in the crowd of visitors to rifle through to presents under the tree. A package slitter is a good thing to carry.

c. Make sure that your host is aware that you are thirsty and hungry. And not for just a cup of tea and a biscuit. This is the holidays. Unless they are prepared to put out a complete dinner with turkey, nuts, and crackers, they will appear to be Scrooge. It is a nice touch to carry a small crippled child who can call out ” God bless us one and all ” as you go through the refrigerator and pantry.

d. When it comes time to exchange gifts, have your gift assessor examine the goods closely before you let go of yours. Portable x-ray machines can sort out the difference between socks and Rolex watches.

e. Be ” Genuine “. Nothing beats genuine. Jesse James was one of the most genuine people you could ever meet.

f. Remember that it is the thought that counts, unless you are having the sort of thoughts that Harvey Weinstein used to have. Then only DNA evidence will stand up in court.

g. Be kind to the little children. Be civil to the slightly older ones. By the time they are 14 you can be downright rude. It will fit their frame of mind perfectly.

h. Good visitors curtail their stay before they become a nuisance. Now think – whose column are you reading? Is a Backstabbers Guild Of Australia member going to leave before all the food is gone and the bathroom drains are clogged? Of course not. When you visit  you VISIT…

Some people can stay visited for years.

*  Which you may bear away to your next port of call.

 

 

 

Wall, Hush Mah Mouf…

There have been times when I’ve said the wrong thing to the wrong people. Awkward times. Angry times. Times I do not wish to relive. So I have learned to keep my big mouth shut.

It has not been easy. the muscles that open the jaw and activate the vocal chords and tongue are linked to the portion of the brain that is known scientifically as the wizzbango cortex. Any stimulation of the cortex by listening to rubbish leads to an immediate release of a smart aleck remark. It moves down the neural pathways to the organs of speech and then escapes the lips. It’s generally done at a speed and volume that prevents it from being captured before it reaches the ears of the aforementioned wrong people.

I called upon a neuro surgeon who performed an operation on me to sever the connection between the cortex and the lower neck region. It has healed well and I can now stand in a cocktail party and listen to people who have never been further away than Bunbury tell me all about what is wrong with Washington. I can be told how colloidal silver and Bitcoin will save the world. I can listen to complaints about the onions in a Bunnings bun…

I blessed the surgeon and his skill last week at a festive dinner when I sat next to a very nice young millenial man who was just finishing some sort of complex degree in psychology . He told us how he will be accepted into the military as an officer and start counselling SAS soldiers about how to reform their lives. Had I not had the operation, the only way I could have prevented myself from disgrace would have been to stuff bread rolls and napkins in my mouth until no sound escaped. As it was, I did get up and go for a jimmy, but I’m afraid I started laughing mid-pee and splashed a bit.

My next trial will at the early Christmas dinner with the wife’s relatives. Fortunately they make good potatoes and you can cram them in during moments of crisis. I’ll carry a Bunnings bun in case I get caught out away from the table.