” Temperance, Temperance, Now… “

When you are angry and it’s cold, warmth is a pleasure. When you are similarly out of sorts and it’s hot, coolness is soothing. What shall you turn to when the temperature is pleasant, but you are still not?

Well, the candy bar makers would have you buy their sugar sticks and cheer yourself up that way. So would the BMW corporation. I’ve looked at the price of confectionary these days and you might as well pick out a colour for your Series 2 Coupe right now – you’ll be able to afford it far sooner…

Temperance in all things was prescribed by the ancient philosophers as a way of life. Or, I should say, by some of them. Others went to extremes of being either miserably pinched or wildly overstimulated…and in the end everyone ended up just as happy as each other.

” Temperance ” when seized upon by the 19th century social reformers and religious promoters seems to have been anything but. It basically meant no alcohol – in a moral crusade allied laughingly to a mohammedan’s jihad view of liquor. If it was George Orwell writing their lines they might have been ” Water good – booze bad “.

If you want to see the combined effects of water and morality, google up 19th century images of the WCTU ladies. Lips that touched liquor never touched theirs…and the reason is painfully obvious from the photos. Admittedly, photographers did not encourage their clients to smile in the days of the long exposure, but the WCTU ladies are something else entirely. I’ve seen things painted on the front of fighter planes that looked more welcoming…

Am I encouraging you to wild licence? To drunken orgies? To wasted days and wasted nights? If you are going to experience them anyway and do it feeling guilty, no. If you plan to take wild delight and bask in the warm glow, go right ahead.  Stay out of the car, don’t juggle chain saws, and avoid contracting marriage or any other social disease.

Hot Chow

Every serviceman and servicewoman knows the value of hot chow.

They may have been fighting, training, travelling, working, digging, or trying to clean the barracks –  and the duty day may have extended far longer than anyone could have foreseen – but it all can be brought into line as long as there is some hot chow.

Likewise for the civvies who may be firefighting, working, cleaning, or caring in our own battles. If there can be one plate of hot chow at some stage of the day, they can carry on. If there has also been an up-spirits bugle it is almost as good as a holiday.

Same here in lockdown. Up-spirits is 1500 hours, hot chow is 1800. The rest of the day can be good or bad according to luck, but as long as we can drink up and chow down we can win.

” The Natives Consider This A Delicacy “

If ever you are presented with a dish by your host – whether that be a private person or a commercial restauranteur – and they use this phrase, remember one thing: the natives referred to are old and worn-out at 40. This may be due to the fact that they live in one of the most unhealthy parts of a disease-infested swamp…or it may be due to what they eat on festive occasions. You might be looking at Nature’s Little Population Control on a plate.

Don’t panic. If it smells yummy and you just have this craving for centipede eyeballs in white sauce…well dig in. Your slurps and smacks of delight will make you an honoured guest. Your hosts will think you the epitome of good manners and will search their cookbooks…and under their huts…for more recipes and ingredients to delight you. Bon appetit.

If, on the other hand, you are seized with the overpowering desire to run – and don’t wish to be doing it from both ends in the morning – you must be prepared with a plausible excuse to avoid the dish. Native societies do not respond to the idea of gluten or lactose intolerance. Your protest that it may contain traces of tree nuts will fall on deaf ears – 100% of their foods contain tree nuts, including the animal they cooked to present to you.

Allergies are unknown in the third world. They exist, of course, and sweep away the natives as readily as they might the visitors, but no-one knows why. Often the swelling, choking, and collapse are put down to evil spirits or malnutrition and they shovel more tree nuts in to counteract this.

But there is one thing that they all know – tabu. Whether things have been forbidden them by a prophet or a shaman – or just by long superstition – every population has some form of food law that prohibits something. They might be allowed to roast caterpillars but not hot dogs. They might be quite fond of hot dogs but have been banned from shellfish. The point is someone has said ” No ” from a pulpit or sacred rock and No it is. They understand this.

You must pull a ceremonial scarf, hat, or other non-controversial symbol from your coat pocket, put it on, and tell the host with great seriousness that it is tenet of your faith that the food may not be eaten. Be regretful but firm. They will understand completely, and it will vanish.

Be aware, however, that they may wish to placate your sensibilities by bringing out something worse. You can only trot out a tabu so many times before they begin to suspect.

These Three Guys Walk Into A Bar…

And ask the bartender where the library is. He directs them down the street three blocks to the Public Library and they thank him.

WRONG. ALL WRONG. The bartender has done a great disservice to literature and society and himself. It should have gone like this…

These three guys walk into a bar and ask the bartender where the library is. He directs them to the next room, where there is a wall of bookshelves full of books. Old, new, big, little. Picture books and books crammed with text. The library has a reading bench and pens and paper in trays . There are big chairs by windows with plenty of light. It is cool and comfortable.

The three guys go in, pick books from the shelf and sit down to read them. The bartender asks them what they’re drinking and they all order. As the afternoon wears on they read more and drink more and the till grows fatter from the cash. The readers do not fight or watch horse races on television. They do not swear or spit. They just read and drink. When closing time comes they are still mostly sober and perfectly satisfied…and will come back again and bring more money with them.

Keep books. Your bookkeeper will approve.

Note: Years later when the third guy writes a seminal novel and the second guy writes a definitive scientific text and the first guy becomes a gossip columnist, they all mention the bar during interviews…and the place is overwhelmed by literary customers eager to imbibe either culture or beer. If you want good advertising, get good advertisers.

Forging And Uttering

I have a friend who forges many things. And unlike the ordinary common trickster, he uses an actual forge. I think that this should attract a stronger penalty in the law – after all he is using up bottled gas and charcoal and other valuable resources to do this forging. Also making a great deal of noise.

I also know other friends who utter things. In some cases they utter them all day long, and would probably be capable of doing so under wet cement. I cannot understand why they are not taken up by the police and jailed.

For myself, the only false document that I have ever seen resulted in beer. Coors beer, as it happened, and that would probably be considered a crime in itself – at least against the taste buds.

I have gone undetected and unpunished until now. I have no need of suspect documents to buy beer at the local Liquor Barons shop as the man there knows me. He would probably peer suspiciously if I bought expensive things, but as long as he is prepared to sell vin ordinaire for $ 5 a bottle I am safe. Connoisseurs and foreigners may quail at $ 5 plonk but Australian vineyards are not that bad.

This whole topic has arisen with news reports that a number of the members of the British Royal family may not be all they seem. There is a suspicion that at least one of them has been substituted for Paul McCartney and that many of the pound notes that Her Majesty has been passing down the local Tesco’s have been hand-drawn selfies…

The Letter of Endorsement

Think of the times that you’ve seen framed letters in the offices of commercial firms – letters from satisfied clients who wanted the thank the proprietors for some good job done. Sometimes I wonder if they have been penned by the Advertising Department in an effort to fill wall space…but I’m willing to grant that a lot might be genuine. There are satisfied customers out there and some of them are nice enough to write in about it.

But recently a salesperson for a caravan firm pointed out that the letters contain more clues than we think. Specifically, we should look at them to see what the date is that they were sent in. And keep on looking until we find the latest letter.

That will tell us when the last time someone was satisfied with the service…if it is years ago, that’s a pretty good warning about what the firm has become. Everyone was happy with the airplane flight until it hit the mountain.

It’s also a funny commentary on those wine and brandy labels that show gold medals from World Fairs and exhibitions. Frequently you find that they are from Europe in the 19th century. An awful lot has happened to the vineyards since  the Paris Exhibition of 1888 and if in the interim the place has been full of artillery shells, crashed planes, and mustard gas, the quality of the booze they can stomp out of the grapes may not be quite as high.

As well, ask yourself if a person writing a laudatory letter actually has any claim to judgement. I could write in to Victoria’s Secret praising the peek-a-boo underwear, but it would be purely fervent imagination.

Mind you, I am prepared to sample the merchandise if they will send some of their girls out wearing it. Must be open to these things.

Imported Beer

Australians run on beer.

From the little toddlers clasping their cans of Fosters with the rubber nipple on the top to the octogenarians sitting at the bus stop with their yards of ale and matchlock pistols, the whole nation is permanently on the grog. Morning recess at the primary school means collecting a bin full of empty cans and even the WCTU Prawn and Piss Night is renowned for the spectacular fist fights after 10:00 o’clock.

This has been made possible by the establishment in every town and city of some sort of a brewery. Many large cities have multiple breweries and there is a constant trade across state lines of container trucks and trainloads of beer. But one part of the trade has become a puzzle in the last few years – the imported beer market. I cannot figure out why it has arisen.

Oh, I realise that there are different tastes in beer from different traditions. And some people genuinely like one thing over another. But that may also have been the case in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s…and no-one died of beer drought when there was no import trade. People drank what was brewed locally – and the growers of the ingredients prospered along with the bottlers. Now I cannot see that they might – if everything that is bottled comes in on a container ship and the trade is conducted to enrich only the middle man and the shipper.

How much cheaper might we get our beer, in spite of local taxes,  if the cost of the importation and all the overseas transportation were to be removed from the brewery’s balance sheet? Trust me – the beer would be just as cold and just as tasty if it were all made here by Australian firms.

 

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.

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.