All my life I have lived in the centre of a whirlpool of fear – fear of bullying, fear of failure, fear of social ostracism, fear of girls, fear of debt, etc. Add to that fear of Soviets and savages and spiders. It’s amazing I made it out of the house some days – it was probably worry about Russians with tarantulas under the bed that got me out of the place.
Well, that was then, this is now. I was young, and then middle-aged, and now I’m not. The fear of business failure was cured by failing – and then living comfortably – and the spider phobia went early in the piece when I started swatting redbacks with my thong. These days being socially ostracized is positively relaxing and debt is expected of us anyway. Girls are still frightening, but I am taking them in small doses and the nervousness is wearing off…
I still get to worry about random attacks of intruders or the collapse of bodily health, but even here the terror is not as great as it might be. There are sensible precautions one can take, and at this age there are a number of dangerous and dreadful options as well that are quite attractive.
The great thing is that you finally realise that no-one knows what is going on, or how to do it, or what they look like, or where it’s at. We all thought so when we were young and quaked or preened with the thought. None of us appreciated what we had half as much as what we thought we wanted – and it is only the fortune of time that’s brought experiences and objects to us to show whether they were worth desiring or dreading. In most cases, nothing was.
But now we oldies have a pretty clear vision of exactly what we don’t give a shit about. The delicate and gentle amongst us – and I include myself in this group – do not go shouting our disdain about to harry others. We merely do not attend, even when we are there. We may have bad ears but we can listen to internal music, and without Apple products either.
Don’t believe me? Look at the ol’ folks on the bus or train. They are the ones enjoying looking out the window or laughing at you as you bend over your mobile phone. You may have no idea where you are and what you look like, but they do.
And I’m going to visit you. And there’s nothing you can do about it.
You’ll never see me coming…because I’ll never phone ahead. You’ll hear the doorbell and open it and there I’ll be. And I’ll force my way in and sit down on the sofa.
From then on it’ll be a nightmare of horror. I’ll demand a cup of coffee, and biscuits. Good biscuits. And more than one. And a second cup of coffee.
I’ll want to use the toilet pretty often. And the bathroom. I don’t use guest towels – I use your bath towel. And I’ll be looking in your medicine cabinet, you bet.
Is this a bad time to call? Who cares? I’m here and social mores demand that you cope with it and smile. I know that and will press the visit as long as I can to maximise your discomfort. If it overlaps your meal time you are either going to have to go hungry, invite me to eat ( And I will…) or commit the social blunder of leaving me in the lounge room while you bolt your food. Be sure that everyone in our mutual acquaintance will know of this within hours.
Do you have pets? Expect them to either detest me or love me more than they love you. Whichever it turns out to be, you’ll be sorry. I’ll feed them greasy treats and you’ll be scrubbing the carpet later.
It’s no good hiding behind the sofa. Your car’s out front. You stay crouched behind there long enough and I’m going to get bored and write you a note. ” I called but you were out. ” is particularly poignant when it’s keyed into the duco.
Note: I can always leave something on the mat. Particularly after that bad taco I had for lunch.
No, not that far down. That’s a different hobby. Stop staring.
My hobby is what you are reading right now. I write now. I write four weblog columns each weekday and three on the weekends. I get paid money to pen one of them and the other three pay in joy.
I did not realise this was going to be the case when my friend Joanne suggested over a café breakfast that I look up WordPress. She, like many young people, is somewhat of an expert on the social media and connection side of things. But she doesn’t make the technical side of things sound as hard and confusing. Nor was it, once I had picked up a couple of simplistic books on the WordPress blog experience.
My first efforts were crude – like my first engagement with Facebook – but gradually the business of telling a story ( and that is all I am doing when I write ) started to flow and it has gushed ever since. I’m a photographer with my own studio so I can make pictures to enliven the print and as much as the graphic designers amongst my readers may quail, I can dot them with words. Generally the words I choose try to be funny. Sometimes they succeed, but only sometimes…
So I finally have to admit I like engaging you in this one-sided conversation – I look upon it as a Catskill monologue. Hence the title of this first weblog column. I’m here all week – try the pasta surprise.
The chef was absolutely surprised. He was aiming for bacon smoothies.
If you were looking for an internet columnist who will write mean things about people, I’m your man. I’m available 24 hours a day to bang out copy telling the world how dreadful your enemies are – no target goes unscathed. I charge reasonable prices for scandalous writing, and I have an ABN number so you can get a tax deduction.
Except today – this is the one day of the year when I write nice things about people – and today it is about Yamina, the Samba dancer.
She was kind enough yesterday to buy me a ticket to the movies during the Festival Of French Cinema and accompany me to the show. As a French teacher, she could get a lot more from the film than I, but fortunately there were very good subtitles. And as it was a show about music and dance, the soundtrack and visuals spoke for themselves.
Totally not what I thought it was going to be. The title was Le Grand Bal, and I expected opera or theatre costuming, sweeping staircases, and Offenbach. As it turned out, it was a doco on one of the festivals of folk music and dance held in the central part of France in the summer. She had been to many of these in similar circumstances and this was the connection. Apparently it was a very accurate as well as charming film.
I found it fascinating seeing people dressed as ordinary tourists but doing extraordinary things – dancing for 7 days and 8 nights while taking workshop lessons and getting 2 hours of sleep in the interim. Performing intricate art for their own enjoyment. Acting as an impromptu corps du ballet – perfectly controlled, and all to folk instruments. Amazing.
After the show another member of the audience recognised her and rushed over to find out if this sort of dancing ball would ever be held here in Perth.
Note: it is very much of advantage to have an experienced French wine-drinker looking at the wine list in a restaurant when you want something good to drink.
But Terrible? Why have I written Terrible? Easy…
I teased her that I was going to write a column with this title, so I know she is now going to read the column assiduously. I am not ashamed to get my readers by subterfuge and sneaky tricks…Of course there is nothing at all terrible about her – quite the contrary – but now she’s reading.
Mwa Ha ha ha …
I use this in my title to alert a reader of this column to the fact that I read his column as well. He’s recently mentioned the word and lamented that it is not used any more. I have been thinking about that and agree with him. But there’s nothing to stop us – he and I – from inventing new phrases that can be just as effective.
Do we wish to suggest that someone is shallow, annoying, and attention-seeking? Would we like to include overtones of callow and valueless behaviour? Would we like to call someone a whippersnapper?
Well, we’ll try one of these:
a. ” A Beardless Youth “. Sounds classical and classy. Particularly effective if the target person happens to be female.
b. ” An Ungracious Lout “. If we, in our turn, look like unmade beds, it gives added piquancy to this.
c. ” An Exquisite “. No-one really knows what this means but it sounds brittle and slimy at the same time – a considerable feat.
d. ” A Social Climber “. This suggests that the person is a snob but that is only one of the options. People can climb down as well as up…
e. ” A Brazen Vessel “. A bit more biblical, but still suggesting more valueless noise and shallow capacity.
The good thing about using these phrases is that while they are not obscene, they are memorable. We must use them sparingly, and pronounce them in a slow, clear manner. They will stick better than wax* to a blanket.
* Wax is not the word I wanted to use but this is a family column.
If the bed can spit me out, that is.
Retirement resets your clocks, that’s for sure. When employed away from home I was up at 6:00 or 6:30 each morning for a drive to surgery or shop. 48 years of rise and flaming shine. Then the handshake, fountain pen, and valedictory speech…and the alarm on the clock could be turned off.
I was surprised just how quickly I dropped the early routine. It was no conscious decision – I just woke up when I wanted to wake up, and the want-to advanced to about 8:30 in the morning. I must say it has made a difference to how I greet the day. As the bathroom is not so icy and dim, neither am I. I can do my 20 minute ablutions cheerfully, then dress and make the bed before wandering toward the coffee pot.
I do have a place to go to – vital to anyone’s well-being – and it is this keyboard. I’ve four columns to launch each morning and I pride myself on getting them out regularly. The rest of the day may have work or travel or hobby activity, but you have to have that morning intellectual jolt to get going.
Oddly enough, I do not read the comics in the morning – they are a treat reserved for late afternoon – rather like an evening paper.
I do enjoy rush hour on the roads, however. Enjoy it enormously. Can’t get enough of not being out there in the middle of it. It is a daily joy to see the road ragers roaring by and to hear their screams as they collide with each other.
And I enjoy grocery shopping – because I can go when the tills are open and the staff are relaxed. So many foods to see. If only I knew how to cook them properly.
I used to ask my mother this question with some trepidation – the answer might not be what I wanted to hear. In fact, it frequently wasn’t what I wanted to eat, either, but it took a few years before we adjusted ourselves to an agreement between the cook and the customer.
Essentially it amounted to me agreeing to eat what was on my plate as long as it did not have liver, kidneys, or eggplant. I wasn’t being precious about it – I just could not, and can not, stand the taste or texture of these foods. I could be bent to liverwurst in small doses and like patés nowadays, but steak and kidney pie or liver and bacon was a case of electing to go to bed hungry rather than gag on it.
These days I am the cook, and the question exercises my ingenuity daily. We have plenty of ingredients in the pantry and freezer, and it is just trying to get a variety into the week as well as a balanced meal on a plate. Sometimes the family is out doing things elsewhere and I am cooking for myself – which generally results in a cold cut and cheese sandwich – and sometimes it is two rather than four to table, but if you have ingredients that are divided sufficiently and are warned about the expected crew, you can size things well. I do not want to leave days of leftovers, but a couple of extra serves is always handy for lunch next day.
I do appreciate the plates being cleaned, as it shows the meal was a hit. I appreciate them being washed and dried even more…