What Do You Do When…

  • When Facebook is not an option: When you have committed yourself to a month of no FB to see what the effect on your life will be.
  • When you do not want the latest toy that your toy retailer has put out on the shelf because your current toy is working just fine.
  • When the motion pictures on offer at your local cinema are too juvenile for words or too politically correct to stomach.
  • When every new trendy drink costs $ 20 and every new trendy food in the restaurant costs $ 50.

Answer? You blink twice, knock the water out of your ears, and come to your senses.

  • Firstly, you do things that do not involve Facebook. Hobbies, for instance. Or reading. Or writing. Or visiting friends. Or going for little trips. The things you did before you first bought one of Mr. Zuckerberg’s nickel bags.

You’ll have time for things that you ran out of time for prior to Facebook eating your day hollow. Or to put it in another way, you can call into a bar for a drink and walk out again or you can live in a bar and venture out for brief periods. Same bar, different life.

  • If you are playing with your toys so hard that the wheels fall off and all the paint is gone, you may need to get new ones at regular intervals. If you are not, the old ones can serve a great deal more time than you’d think. The money you save using the old ones can be put to other uses.
  • A motion picture is someone with millions of dollars in the bank telling you a story for ninety minutes while you sit in the dark and cringe at the price of a chocolate ice cream. The story may be well worth the telling and well worth the seeing  – if the story teller and the tale are good. If they are new, they gain a whole dimension.

If the tale is not new – if it’s a re-hash of something you saw in a comic book in 1957 – or if it’s so puerile as to suggest a Little Golden Book worth $ 4,000,000, you are perfectly justified in giving it a bye rather than a buy. With ninety extra minutes and the price of the ticket and the chocolate ice cream in your pocket you can immerse yourself in the best of new or classic literature and feel a lot more adult for it.

  • At the end of spending from $ 70 to $ 120 at dinner time you are entitled to feel both full and foolish – but in some cases you’ll only get the latter. Some restaurants do, indeed, see you coming. And then they see you off.

You need not spend that much to feed yourself, either at home or on your travels. You need not eat badly, unless you’ve fetched up at a country town that has nothing on offer at all except a blood pit pub. If you’re going to be on the road, take an emergency pack of beer, soup, crackers, sausage, and cheese, and  even if the town has closed for the night you should be able to go to bed fed. If you are in a strange city look for a Chinese, Vietnamese, or Greek restaurant and eat what they cook.

If you are at home, consider the advantages you have – your own pantry, your own icebox, your own cellar. Your own expertise at preparing something that you like. Your own schedule. Do not sacrifice these for those fast-food lights winking down the road.

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Treasure The Honest Shopkeeper

If you find a shopkeeper who will refuse to sell you something on the basis that it is not right for you, you have a gem.

These people may be hard to find – but if you enter into conversation with them over a regular basis -and if it is a genuine and respectful exchange…you can find a whole new world of intelligent help out there.

I talk regularly to the family who run our local post office agency – and to the lady and the chap who run the Asian food store in the shopping centre. I talk to the man who runs the bottle shop, and to the lady who is teller at my local bank. The result is I get told how to cook well with the Asian ingredients, when to change my deposits for good interest rates, and how to send postal items safely at low cost.

Occasionally the bottle shop man warns me off a dud or mentions a good deal. I am always repaid for listening.

Moral: Your local retailers are human beings who appreciate being treated as such and who  will  make your life better if you recognise the fact.

Chinese Leftovers

No, I’m not talking about Taiwan.

I mean the oblong plastic containers that h0ld the remnants of last night’s takeaway. They  are the most valuable asset that you can find in the fridge:

  1. If you were not a cook last night, it is doubtful whether you will be one tonight. Skill with cuisine doesn’t set in at 3:00PM . Those leftovers are what stands between you and hunger at midnight.
  2. If you look critically at what is in the containers you’re likely to encounter meat, vegetables and rice in considerable quantities. I’ve no idea whether it has gluten, lactose, fructose, sucrose, or twinkletoes, but if you eat a little from each container you are likely to have a balanced meal.
  3. It is all tasty. Depending upon which uncle or cousin was cooking there will be various Asian spices in the mix and enough variety in the textures to make for an interesting dinner.
  4. It is paid for, and will not last longer than another day. Eat now, or waste money. Which should not be a matter for any debate.
  5. We need the container for model airplane parts so hurry up and wash it out.
  6. That’s all that is on the menu tonight. Eat or starve.
  7. You’re allowed to drink Goon with Chinese leftovers with no loss of social status.

$ 5.00 Goon

My local shopping centre bottle shop is a cozy place – albeit floored with plastic wood veneer and ringed with refrigerators and cool rooms. The decor is to-the-point: bottles and cans stacked neatly, offered for sale. There are wine racks and beer fridges and a bargain tub up the front. The staff are polite and friendly and I really want no more in such an establishment. I do not need music or great art or vague descriptions of vinous products.

It also has a wonderful feature – the cask wine racks. These are in the Australian tradition of providing booze at cheap prices. And for the most part, the stuff that is boxed is quite drinkable. It is never sterling, yet rarely drack. If it is to be consumed with a casserole, or BBQ, or evening cheese and olives, one need never feel disappointed. Goon is goon, and as long as you are prepared to recognise it for the cardboard packaging exercise that it is, it can sometimes be vin extraordinaire.

That is the regular $ 20 for 2 litres stuff. Red, white, yellow, or pink, it can all be sloshed down with little shame. But when it comes up against the retail laws and date stamping, it can become a pirate’s treasure. You see, when wine gets to the ” best by ” date it becomes largely unsalable to the upper classes. They would never consider such humble pleasures. And the retailer may well be stuck with it.

Stop laughing. Goon boxes are never going to be considered Chateau Lafitte by anyone ( possibly Chateau La Feet…) but even they have stamps on the side. Hit that month and they either pour it away down the storm drain or…

Mark it at $ 5.00 a box.

Friends, it is not poisonous. It is not noxious. It is not nauseous. It is $ 5.00 goon and you can afford to have a glass whenever you like. It goes perfectly with cheese toasties or leftovers au gratin. You can cook with it. You can clean with it. You can chug it while reading a detective novel. It can be decanted into an expensive bottle and served to your painful sister-in-law.

Trust me on this. If she likes it you have achieved one of life’s pleasures for 65¢. If she screws up her face and looks aggrieved you have achieved one of life’s pleasures for 65¢.

Highball

I went into the first floor cocktail bar of the Intercontinental on Collins Street in Melbourne at 5:00 one afternoon. A day of shopping – mostly successful – and I was ready to sit down and peruse the iPad. And I needed perusal oil to do it with.

I went to the bar and asked for a Highball.

The look of confusion on the face of the young man there should have warned me.

” You want a highball glass? ”

Yes, with a Highball in it. It transpired eventully that while he was familiar with the glassware, he had no idea what the drink for which it is named was made of…

So I told him – ice, rye whiskey, and ginger ale. In a highball glass…

He rose to the challenge, though his inexperience caused him to put two shots of rye in the glass before the ginger ale. I did not think it right to complain.

The next day the highball was served by a more experienced man – and it contained only one shot of rye. Ah, well, you can only win some of them.

Highball: rye, ice, and ginger ale. Named after the American railroad signal that all is clear and you can go ahead at full speed. The British railways do it with a whistle and a flag and the German railways do it with a red disc on a paddle. The American railroads do it with a lantern.

I do it with rye.

 

Carrie Nation Has Risen From The Grave

And she still has the tomahawk…

Australians who frequent social media sites on the internet have just been served a moral googlie – we’ve been bombarded with a high-sounding call to abstain from the Demon Rum for the month of July. This is advertised as alternately a shaft of saving grace beamed from Heaven, or a warm and fuzzy feel-good socialist fire-side chat.

I prefer to think of it as a crock of shit. Let me explain…

The call to righteousness assumes that we are sinful – or at least wrongful. That we harm ourselves and our families and the planet and little fuzzy kittens by drinking wine, beer, or spirits in the month of July. There are dark hints that we must do better…or risk the disapproval of the people who want us to abstain.

That is interesting. Why should we care about the disapproval of unseen and unknown entities? Particularly if they are the sort of organisations that scold on Facebook. Are they the touchstones and guiding pillars of our lives? Along with Candy crush and ” What is your Viking name? “.  Is it possible that this is all a load of hooey?

It is.

The scolders who advocate a dry July, stretching as far as next century, want us to do something else – not with our time or our digestion – they want us to do it with our money. They want us to give it to them. Because we will then be moral, and presumably fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven…or at least the Kingdom of Zukerberg…

Do as you will. If you think you are a drunk because you down a bottle of wine a week and have immoral thoughts, smash the glass in the fireplace and set your mind on higher things. I intend to Up Spirits each afternoon at 15:00 hours and take beer with dinner. I am even prepared to join you in a toast Carry Nation and her tomahawk, but be warned – if you disrupt my table you will be thrown into the street.

 

What Do You Do When You Look At The Map, Eh?

If you are looking at the map of North America and stray above the 49th Parallel you give a little start and say

” Oh. Canada…”

And in many cases you will be correct – save perhaps if you go too far north and are looking at Alaska or too far east and are looking at Quebec. Most of the rest is still Canada.

It’s not the Dominion of Canada, except to us old emigrants who cleared out of the place before 1982. The current flag is a red-and-white affair with a maple leaf on it* – symbolising a hockey team that rarely wins. This is considered quintessentially Canadian – both the hockey and the the not winning.

I suspect the current Prime Minister is also somewhat of a red-and-white affair as well, though it is naughty of me to say that. After all, he is someone else’s choice, saviour, and burden, and it’s not for me to mock the afflicted – or their afflictor, either. As Prime Ministers go, he will….eventually…and unless he takes out Australian citizenship I am safe. There is a whole planet full of molten lava between he and I.

I do miss Canada on some October days when the memories of the autumnal woods and the clear air return but then this is the start of Australian spring and the weather turns cheery here too. There is always solace in Canadian Club, maple syrup, and Red Green Show re-runs.

I am a little nonplussed by what our local hoteliers think makes for a Canadian celebration on Dominion Day – 1st of July. There is a great deal of foofle about Clamato and poutine  and no recognition at all of butter tarts. Remember these got a Prime Ministerial vote of approval in the days when Prime Ministers were real. I should be prepared to make a suitable Canadian menu up but some of my friends would be horrified at what was on it. Many of the dishes were developed before there were gluten or food allergies and quite a few of the ingredients were on the hoof, fin, or feather prior to being on the plate.

I shall celebrate the day with a highball and work on a model of a plane for my little RCAF airfield, wearing my plaid shirt, moccasins, and Red Green braces. It might not be the Inner Canadian that the novelists bang on about, but it can at least be the Inner Former Canadian, eh?

* A corporate logo. The old red duster for me. A proper flag with a flag and a crest on it.