The Family History As A Method Of Torture

I spotted it in a trice – on the shelf of the council library. It was a self-published history of a local family. Paper-bound, A4 size, but about a centimetre thick. I’m a bit hazy about the exact family name but I remember it referred to a country town where they lived and styled them as ” Pioneer Nobility “.

That’s a concept you don’t see all that often in an egalitarian society – but it lurks in the heart of every amateur genealogist. If they can assert that their family is noble, and get you to believe it, they can control the universe.

I come from a mother and a father. They, in their turn, came from mothers and fathers. Funnily enough, so does everyone else riding the N0.507 bus to the train station. And so do you. It is the common experience of mankind to be born because of the combination of a mother and father.

The lucky ones get to know who they were. Even better – they might have gotten to see them for some portion of their lives and can treasure this. But there is a catch to the treasure – a curse, if you will…if you try to grasp too much of it, it turns to fire and burns away your happiness. And that fire can consume all the social oxygen and leave everyone around you asphyxiated.

I met today with a relative of my wife – a pleasant man who is the amateur genealogist for her family. He is good at it and has facts and figures of all the extended family at his fingertips. You have only to sit still long enough and you will find out when in 1887 one cousin shifted addresses in Adelaide, and how we know this, and what it means for the Scottish branch of the family in 1934…

It is not polite to sneer or yawn. Neither is it to run and hide in the toilet or fall lifeless to the carpet. One must look bright and attentive. And not scream.

But, just as with the accounting of dreams, so the history of someone else’s distant family connection to even more distant relations who have done no more than breed and move is the saddest and most banal of communications. No-one wants to know.

None of us are remotely interested in the thing, and unless you can prove in court that you are a direct descendant of a liaison between Benjamin Franklin and Cleopatra, we’re not likely to care. Publish all you like, prattle all you will, thrust forward parish records from the 19th century all you may – We. Don’t. Care.

But let me tell you about my uncle Agnes and the time she met the Kaiser in Woolies…

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Have You Ever Slept With A Woman?

I’ve tried. With limited success.

When you are young you attempt this for a variety of reasons – the chief one being the period of time before you actually go to sleep. You hope to be busy. If you are lucky, both of you can occupy yourselves profitably in this period, and the less said about that the better. Mind you, if there is money involved in that profit, one of you is doing it wrong…

But after that period in your life, the time spent in bed – the bit where you actually go to sleep – can be increasingly difficult. If sleep is wanted, and needed, you require a few simple things; warmth in winter, coolness in summer, a reasonable silence, and lack of movement. As you get older, these become less likely.

Oh, you may be as much a problem as her, and the equation equal on both sides. I’ll leave you to decide who is the culprit. You may wish to set a night-vision camera in motion at dusk to record who steals the covers, thrashes around like a squid, or snorts like a Union Pacific Mallet locomotive going through Ogden. Then replay it to accuse each other. It will be concrete evidence but you’ll never convince the other party that they are guilty.

The chiefest conclusion that you can come to about adults sleeping together is that the old American sit-com TV shows with the parents sleeping in twin beds instead of a double were not as ludicrous as they seemed. They eliminated at least two factors in the blood-shot-eye battles – movement and covers. The noise of snoring, snorting, gurgling or moaning was still there. Fortunately our hearing declines after 60 and this became less of a problem.

The wild card is provided by children or pets who insist on entering the marital bedroom and hogging the marital bed. Neither class of creature respects privacy, personal space, or the need to avoid flatulence. And they have the infuriating habit of sleeping while they prevent others from doing so. It is the reason dog-whips were invented, and recently I found out that you could use these on dogs as well.

Three

Three.

That’s about all the hobbies one person can handle at any one time. Keeping in mind the formula that says a half hour per day ( 3.5 hrs per week ) you have to figure that the tri-hobbyist will be carving 10.5 hours out of what might be a working or family week. This amounts to 546 hours per year and that’s a lot of time.

Also you have to account for the expenditure. Taking a simply complex hobby as an example – model airplane building – you could figure about $ 20 a week on the average for a steady adult – $ 30 for the wild-eyed enthusiast. $ 1000 to $ 1500 per year plus the storage space needed. Of course there are far dearer hobbies and far deeper purses to support them, but even a small expenditure adds up, year by year.

Multiply that by three hobbies and see where you are. You are carefully hiding the bank statements and credit card demands from the spouse and looking to see if you could sell one of the pets or children to support next year’s hobby conference…that’s where you are. Embezzlers who pilfer company funds to support a gambling habit look good beside you…

When you choose your hobbies ( As opposed to the occasions when they choose you. ) you can either pick ones that seem to flow into each other and combine your efforts or you can go for three disparate things. I cannot say which approach is best. You may get a force-multiplication effect for your money if all three things are related, but then you need to look at it to see if they are indeed three separate things.

If you spend your time and money in three separate directions you’ll necessarily have a  smaller footprint on each strand but it may be a clearer one – and the differences in the activities may refresh you more. We cannot drink one thing for every meal – we must needs rotate between cider, beer, and wine. Which can be a hobby.

Note that the cheapest hobby so far – if you disregard the price of the computer – has been internet writing. So far I have not paid the WordPress people anything – though that may change if I reorganise my columns into one with divisions.

I used to glory in not paying Adobe any more money for the image editing programs but have come to realise that a little yearly expense does bring a world of benefits.

 

You Want To Save The World? Part Two

Okay, in Part One we got you to put a decent house in your neighbourhood and to get on in peace with the neighbours. We got you to save it, instead of trashing it for novelty. So far so good.

Now we get you to look at the things inside that dwelling…to see if they should be there or not. Start in the living room. Is it a room you live in? Or is it an isolated place that never sees visitors? Is it crammed with furniture that is never used? Have you taken to preserving it under clear plastic like a cake at a bake sale? Keep this image in mind and walk into the kitchen.

Is it clean? Is it roomy? Does it have enough space to cut up food and enough oven and stove to cook it? Is there cleaning room? If it does, you are succeeding…if it does not you are not succeeding yet, but there are many firms that can help you…

The dining room? A table, chairs, and a sideboard? Lighting? Cutlery and a tablecloth? You can eat three squares a day in there and entertain as well. No need for a breakfast nook, bar, or any other useless division of space.

Family room? Why? You have a perfectly good living room. The children are not well-behaved enough? And you need an extra room in which they can practice this behaviour? How much room would you require to teach them to be pleasant and well-behaved?

Bedroom? Is there room for  bed with room enough for you? Don’t laugh, because it may eventually involve a number higher than one. If you have cats and dogs the number may get to double digits. Do you have a clothes closet to hang your old rags in? Or is the Salvos bin a better idea?

Do you need a second bathroom? I say you might, if there is more than one of you in the house. It need not be more than a cubicle with pooper and shower, but the space you dedicate to it will pay off handsomely some day. If there is no room, spend big on air fresheners.

And is there a storage room? A big one. Big enough to take all the stuff you just can’t bear to live with nor to live without. Stuff that somehow comforts you by being stored invisibly. If you are of stern character and wise mien you will not need this room, but you’re reading this post so we need not go into that.

How has this all saved the world? Well, if you have furnished your nest wisely you need not continue to redo it every three months. The flat-pack shop will become unfamiliar territory, and you need not revise your taste every time a flyer is pushed into your letter box. It may cause consternation in the furnishing trade, but you will be putting less pressure on the rest of the planet.

 

 

 

You Want To Save The World? Part One

You want to save the world, or the planet, or the country, or humanity? Good  for you. Here’s a not-altogether-cynical guide to how to go about it. Today, how to save your neighbourhood.

a. Look left. Look right. Look back. Look in front.

Look at the buildings that form your neighbourhood. The ones that are already there before you decide to build your own structure.

Are they clean, sanitary, and wholesome? Are they proportioned to the space that is available? Are they safe? Are they attractive? Do they work, as housing or workspace? Do they help the people who occupy them…indeed do enough people occupy them? Are there trees and bushes, drains, gutters, electricity and gas? Are there public open spaces? Is there privacy without exclusion?

If so…emulate these designs when you add yourself to the milieu. Blend in, fit in, harmonise, and live happily with the neighbours. Do not press a Finnish reindeer shed into an English council estate.

b. Look at yourself. If you are a complete stranger to a neighbourhood, consider whether this is likely to continue forever..or can you introduce yourself gradually to those around you and come to terms with them and their lives. Or would you like to be a hermit, sore thumb, or pariah all the time and by doing so compel those about you to stand clear of you.

You can be a stranger in a strange land if you wish, but you cannot be one who demands that the land change for you at your whim. Even if your religious adviser tells you that you are entitled to it. You may find yourself getting with the pogrom…

c. You need not dress to impress the neighbours. You also need not dress to intimidate or offend the neighbours. If you dress in such a way that they are visibly amused, you’d better decide to change or enjoy the laughter.

Note that they need not dress to please you, or your religious advisers. If they comply with the civil law of the land, that is all that is needed.

d. If you have a structure that is new…ie. under 200 years old…do not pull it down to erect a set of jerry-built flats to resell the land at a higher price. You will waste all the energy, materials, effort, thought, and design that went into the original structure. You will further stack more into the waste-fill dumps and cost an entirely new cycle of rebuilding. If this is just chasing money, you completely negate any other environmental savings that you will ever make in your lifetime. You might as well smoke asbestos cigars and grind the butts into the faces of your grand children.

Think of that perfectly good house on a perfectly good suburban lot as a healthy tooth in your mouth. You would be a fool to have it pulled out and substituted with some artificial thing, no matter how sophisticated the operation.

 

The Permanent Playroom

Or how to live happily ever vs clean up after.

I live a life between two premises. Not the premise that I am a reasonable gentleman nor the one that sees me a slavering monster. Those are mere assumptions, and miraculous ones at that. No, I mean I live my life in two houses – my sleeping residence and my playroom.

The playroom is officially a suburban residence and/or photo studio. I inherited it and hope to pass it on one day. While I am in possession, it serves as a photo studio, entertainment venue, and repository for my scale model collections. It is a simple structure but well suited to the purpose. It also has the distinct advantage that it is far enough away that I need to put on a coat to go there. I can make it a destination that seems like a workplace, even if I have no work to do.

Every person needs something like this – even if it is only a secure spot at the local library or men’s shed/CWA/sniper pit. You must get away from your sleeping quarters to do your duty. You’ll be back there soon enough at the end of a hard day and if you can go away you’ll appreciate the sack all the more.

Some people are denied this – they are bed-ridden or restricted by circumstance to one small area for life. It can be the equivalent of a non-parole period for the innocent. For all of us who can at least go to the shops and bruise the tomatoes, no day need be a sentence.

The thing I like best about my playroom is that I do not need to put away my toys at dinner time. I can lock the door, set the alarm, cock the spring gun, and then just carry on to my sleeping quarters. If I am lucky there is a delicious home – cooked meal ready for me when I get there…because I put it in the crockpot earlier in the day. Ya hafta be realistic about some things in life…

Coughing Up A Furball

I have made a terrible discovery. Here, right here in my house. I have discovered a portal into the depths of hell.

I have found a stash of unwanted presents.

The rest of the family, and that means two guilty females, have been quietly stashing away items that have been given to us over the years that no-one in their right mind would want. The occasions upon which they entered out lives might have been Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, or other legitimate festive days. They might also have been giveaway promotions from work affairs or supermarket promotions. Some of the worst look like things that have been abandoned on the doorstep.

There are several disturbing aspect to this discovery:

a. This sort of merchandise was actually made and actually sold to someone. Those someones walk amongst us. We may be within range of their mind-control vibrations right now.

b. We were considered suitable subjects to receive these objects. Is there a sign on my back that says ” Garbage wanted – apply within. “?

c. Someone gift-wrapped this stuff so that it got in without being thrown out. OMIGOD – we probably said ” Thank You “…Oh, I feel dirty…

d. The two guilty females are keeping this stuff for a purpose. It has no real purpose in life, so it can only be to give it away again. We are going to be, in turn, criminals.

The only real hope I see is a burgeoning of the cult of Marie Kondo. If they can latch onto the idea of ditching things that do not spark joy, this stash of trash may be binned, rather than presented to some other poor soul.

Pray for us…or prey for us, if that seems better…