The WordPress Gang

That joke works on several levels.

If you didn’t get it, here’s a tankard of ale and don’t forget to look into the bottom and see what’s down there… pick it up and peer at it…God Bless The King, and stand up straight, you horrible little man…

The WordPress organisation is a marvellous thing. I wish to praise them unreservedly. Before their activity commenced I would have been stifled. Silenced. Prevented from publishing every stray thought that enters my head and leaves by my fingertips. You would have never known how clever I think myself, and neither would I.

As it is, I can launch these guided missives every day at no cost. Few will see them, fewer care – but the very act of putting the ideas down on the screen does good. In these viral lockdown times, more good than you would think.

I live in a bubble of self. You may do too, and I do not judge you for it. But we need to contact other bubbles. In some case we can pop and merge – in others just bounce off each other. No matter which…as long as we can say our piece, state our case, tell our truth…we can stay sane. Others who read what we write may be pitched over the brink of madness, but you get that with most hobbies.

Your Government Grant Is Ready

He’s right there at Appomattox Court House. Just waiting for you. General? General Lee? Are you going to get out of bed? General ?

Well that was probably the last US government Grant that did any good at all – though poor old R.E. was probably not in a good mood to be getting one.

I’m more sanguine. The feds and the state government seem to be showering the coins down just at present. Adding together the factors of my low income, age, and health care card seems to have opened up the coffers somewhat. I won’t get paid for not being at work because I am not employed anyway, but they threw $ 750 at me, then another $ 100 or so every so often to ease the rates or the water or other utilities.

This is good, as I do not propose to go travelling or buy expensive motor cars or caravans. I eat regularly and well, but I cook regularly and well, too. There’s a link there that I intend to foster. As far as purchasing expensive clothing with the money…well I have a closet and a wardrobe full of expensive clothing that never gets worn. Even the pile of cheap underwear and socks has not diminished – so the economic stimulus will likely go to groceries.

Is the household doing poorly? No, it’s not. It’s warm, cosy, fed, watered, and entertained. The local library sent a mystery book hamper that is being read through and these are apparently available as many times as we ask. Don’t mind if I do. The beer fridge is full.

I shall watch the account to see if further amounts arrive.

The Haircut

I’ve just been for another Mickey Spillane haircut – the first venture into a barber’s for several months.

There was no sitting down in waiting room chairs – they taped them off. I picked a time when I could walk straight in and be seated in the cutting chair. The prescription was easy, now that I know it; N0.1 comb at the side, N0.2 on top, and chase the eyebrows and ears until they are run to ground.

It will be a further 2 months before I need shearing again. I have not got the courage to do it myself, but if I ever do work that up…

The Biscuit Scale

You can tell what the state of the economy/world/universe is by the biscuits in the local shops. Never mind carbon dating and astro-physics – these are mere whims. Biscuits* tell the truth.

The current viral panic has led to a number of changes in the grocery store. No toilet paper, socially distant markers on the floor, and different biscuits. I’m not so sure about the first two things, but I’m red-hot on the biscuits.

Let me explain this by making it into an open letter to the grocery store. Sirs…,

a. I do not need biscuits than cost $ 7.00 a packet, any more than I need $ 15 bespoke cups of coffee. These may be superb things, sourced from El Dorado and conveyed to me by limousines, but at that price I am not going to dunk anything in anything.

b. Equally, I do not need Milk Arrowroot or Nice or Wheat Thins biscuits. No-one does, with the possible exception of medieval torturers or people who need to replace the filter on their vacuum cleaner.

These are not biscuits. They are impositions. Jokes played upon the masses. Disgusting objects. Save your shelf space.

c. Chocolate biscuits are very pleasant but you must distinguish between real chocolate and brown industrial sludge. By all means spread the first about as far as you like, but avoid the second like poison. We buyers will, and you’ll be the loser.

d. You can make composite biscuits by layering anything.

e. $ 2.00 packets of biscuits will sell, even if they are made of sawdust and horse dung.

f. National biscuits will sell better than imported ones in the future as we become more used to checking out where food comes from. If the RSL tries to muscle you over a copyright on Anzac biscuits just call them something else. Don’t take it personal – it’s just South Chicago in the biscuit aisle.

g. Once a biscuit gets over 10cm in diameter or 3 cm in height it is a cake. Still delicious, possibly, but not the sort of thing that you can balance on a saucer. Dunking invites dry cleaning.

h. There is, to a certain extent, an inverse ratio between the taste of the biscuit and the amount of advertising on the packet. The introduction of supermarket-brand stock may upset this, but you only have to buy one packet to find out the truth.

*  Cookies for the North Americans.


I Sit Aghast

No point in standing aghast if you can be comfortable. Ghasting takes a lot out of you.

I went for a shop run today to buy essential supplies – no-one can fault me for that. The essential supplies were Easter eggs and petrol. We do an exciting annual ritual with chocolate molotov cocktails here in Bull Creek and this year will be no exception. Won’t the neighbours be surprised!

Well, no more surprised than I was when I called in to the local BP petrol station. 91 octane unleaded petrol is now 89 cents per litre. Two months ago it was at $ 1.49 for that same measure. I topped up the tank for less than $ 15.00. ( The petrol actually cost me nothing – I am running out a free gift voucher from my former bank and haven’t spent cash for two months. )

I was delighted, but it does make me think that we are being run through the wringer in normal times – if the station can deal in 89 cent petrol now.

It wasn’t all frugal joy, however. There were plenty of chocolate eggs in the shop but from the prices, it looks like Cadbury has joined OPEC.

Wondering About The Toilet Paper

The Great Toilet Paper Scandal should be winding up about now – if we are to believe the blandishments of the supermarkets and governmental flacks. We’ve gone though the disgraceful panic hoarding episode and endured the bare shelves while we stay home – but now the vaunted normalisation is what we want.

There is an interstate ban on unnecessary travel by tourists – even a regional ban here in Western Australia. All sensible and all deserving of our support. We are staying put in our houses as per orders – with online shopping and the barest of grocery runs when unavoidable. And keeping our distance from friends and family.

Plenty of time now for the TP supply to return via normal trucking schedules.

So where is it?

There Are No Leftovers

Not in a siege. There is only the next meal.

We eat everything. Not ” we eat everything that moves ” – that’s apparently what got people into this mess in the first place. I mean in this house we eat everything on our plate and everything that got cooked.

Today, tomorrow, the next day…it doesn’t matter. As long as it all goes into the people and not the bin. The cook will do his best with what is available and will get better at estimating quantities. Obvious traps will be avoided. There will be no liver and onion smoothies.

And we will try new things. There are tins of mystery in the pantry that call for exploration. Buckle up your tongue and follow me.

Semi-Extensive Plans*

I was searching for a more polite word to use than ” Euphemism “. I’m that kind of a writer. A horrible person, mind, but my essays are smooth things to read. I tone them down for the milksops in the readership.

Now then listen up, you people

This time of unprecedented crisis has had many previous examples. The Red, Black, Bubonic, and Trudeau Plagues of the Middle Ages. The attacks of Mongols, Tatars, and other community organisers. The world has had many stressful centuries. We are unlucky in being alive while this one is raging and are only going to see an improvement in our luck if we are alive when it has passed.

I have consulted the rest of the family and concerted a course of action – it is informed by the most authoritative scientific research and backed by governmental approval and the blessing of Mark Zukerberg.

I am going to stay home, stay in and stay busy. I shall build 12 model aircraft over a series of months and then come up for air. I shall speak to others on computers and telephones and not worry who is eavesdropping. I shall take my daily tot of ethanol and not feel worried about the effect it might have on my morals. I shall exercise my morals in full view of the neighbours.

I shall cheerfully ditch plans to go overseas by any means short of a Heinkel 111 bomber. Ditto over east for at least 6 months and likely longer. I shall store up my wanderlust and only let it out in a year’s time. The desire to appear sophisticated and well-travelled has evaporated.

I shall read the library again. Already I have read something that was put on hold for 50 years. There are books at the back of the stack that are nearly as old and neglected and i will likely have forgotten whodunnit by now.

I shall learn to bake. Expect smoke and indigestion for awhile.

And I shall continue to say my piece and speak my mind as the weeks unfold. I’ll lose Facebook friends, I’m sure, but I won’t lose my soul.

*  Half-vast.

” Compliments To The Chef “

Never mind the compliments. To hell with the food reviews. Stick your Michelin star.

The only criteria of success is whether the family was fed and whether they ate everything. If you got nothing left over, you won.

Today’s victory was brought to you by leftover mac and cheese combined with curried hamburger, onions, and green peppers in a cream sauce. What the daughter christened ” Bangladeshi mac and cheese stroganoff “.

The pan was easy to clean. As I’ve said before – there are no leftovers – just rescheduled cuisine.

Take That, You Bastard Virus!

You’ve got us bailed up in our house scared of touching petrol pumps or each other – compulsively looking at news feeds that try to outdo themselves in fright – and wondering if the bog roll will outlast us…

I can’t answer the toilet roll question, but I can do something about the fear. I can do macaroni and cheese. Big time, weapons-grade macaroni and cheese. The food that puts heart in the faint and fart in the pants.

It was a standard of home life for many of us…either as the weirdly-orange Kraft product or the better-built home cooked version. My wife and I were thin, hungry, and poor in London in 1972 and we reserved one night a week to go to a small cafe on the Bayswater road called Panzer ( ? ) to eat M&C. It was cheap and hot and wonderful. I hope they can  still open one day.

I could do with a bit of cheap and hot and wonderful right now, so I fried up a mess of bacon and onions, threw in a three cups of cheese, 500 ml of milk, 2 tablespoons of butter, and some sort of packet of garlic potato bake spice for good measure. The pasta was four cups of cooked macaroni and the lot went into the bacon frypan for a final heat and melt.

And yes, it was very good.