Riding The Horse – Part Six – The Collector’s Edition

If anyone ever meets you on the road and tells you that the only reason they collect something – whether it be stamps, coins, or matchbook covers – is for the investment value of them, you must treat them like Buddha. You must kill them. Because they are either telling you the truth or a lie…and neither one is acceptable.

The collection urge is a basic part of the human psyche – and there are studies that show it to be something that other animals do as well. Unfortunately there have not been enough funded studies employing perpetual students that have concentrated upon the animal part of it – we still do not know why crows and magpies collect junk bonds. But as far as people go, everyone has a latent collector inside them.

The classical collections involve art, antiquities, coins, postage stamps, china and porcelain, and silver and gold objects. These have an intrinsic value in themselves  – with the possible exception of outdated postage stamps – and can be turned into a current in the income stream of the collector. Of course most turn out to be money sinks, but that is the nature of the con game.

The actual objects to be collected is immaterial – it is the amassing of a group of them that forms the gratification. If they can be supported by specialist shops, publications, scholarly works, fairs, and auctions…so much the better. Sometimes they run afoul of laws, as in the collection of weapons and firearms, but that’s never stopped any keen enthusiast that I’ve ever met. The man with the working anti-tank gun is ample evidence of this. In any case no real collector lets anything – money, law, or good sense – stand in his way. The only irksome part for him may be the necessity to keep the collection hidden.

Can there be too many things in a collection? Not according to the collectors. Can the collection be too wide in scope? Again, no. Can it be too narrow? Well, I met a proud collector who concentrated his efforts upon a toy plastic boat that was produced as a promotional giveaway in the 80’s and he has found enough variants in it to base his entire happiness upon. All the items look the same until he tells you the minute history of them and lets you examine them carefully with a magnifying glass. At that point you wish you were a gun collector…

Can the objets de collection be too expensive? Well they can be so for the average person, and that for a number of reasons, but for the unlimited budget person, nothing is too dear. They are the explorers after El Dorado that poison the land for all the rest – they elevate prices and depress common sense in any field they enter. And yet. And yet…

Remember our first paragraph. In every collector’s heart is a small section that really does want their beloved collection of dried goat udders to be the secret desire of a fabulously-wealthy sheik…who will pay an enormous price for them. This small portion of the heart is known as the Jesse James valve, and it flutters in the presence of loose money. 

Collectors are easy meat for the purveyors of dreck – see the back of any woman’s magazine for the porcelain figures of the Royal Plumbers Of Tonga at only $ 256 each in a signed edition. They are also the natural fodder for makers of collection cases, display shelves, storage books, and fanciful catalogues. They can be seen at all sorts of trade shows, secondhand fairs, and repulsive little shops cruising for the bargains. The shopkeepers know ‘em in a minute and it is all they can do from salivating visibly.

Is there any harm in being a collector? No, if you do not go so far down the rabbit hole that you find the subject has collected you. This is the sad fate of several of the gun collectors I know who’ve sacrificed money, property, and good sense to serve their masters…the guns. It is not possible to bring them to their senses, but they are mostly harmless. The fate of many collectors is to find that their friends and family avoid them – at least when they start to talk about The Collection.

Riding The Horse – Part Five – The Hobby Of Action

One of the basic human needs is to be active – to sport, work, or hunt for some part of the time. With good luck this will provide food, shelter, and clothing. With bad luck this will provide injury and death.

Let us start with the good bit. You can make a hobby out of nearly any sport there is – individual ones like golf or fishing, or partnership events like tennis or badminton. You can expand to be part of a team and there are all sorts of ball or puck games that you can play.

There can be sport in pure activity – the hike, jog, or breathless run. As long as it is not in front of a pack of slavering bloodhounds, there can always be an element of fun in it – and fun is what you get out of an active hobby. There is only a concrete reward in the case of hunting or fishing – you can eat or wear the result of a success. if you are dealing with polar or grizzly bears you need to be aware that what you regard as your prey is also attuned to this idea, and they don’t need RCMP permits or salt and pepper…

The physical benefit of active hobbies is often touted as a reason to engage in them. Take this with a grain of salt – there are any number of sports physiotherapists, chemists, and manufacturers of knee braces who caution you to take care and hope you won’t listen. They need have no fear – while the sporting human’s body is composed of muscles, bones, and no brains at all, their business is safe.

Likewise the action hobbies like biking, parasailing, rock climbing, and adventuring in all its forms – it is promoted as the finest form of sport and clothing, shoes, accessories, and action cameras are sold in the millions to let people participate. Some will do so safely. Some is a lesser number than all, and within that discrepancy lies the extremely profitable business of health insurance and sports medicine. And who are we to discourage profit…

Successful hobbying…if that is really a word…would see us all engage in some form of activity at some time in the week. We would be doing it regularly, with pleasure and safety, and an increase in skill over the years. We might get the occasional trophy or memento to let us know that others recognise our skill – or we might just feel the benefits within ourselves. Whichever, the active hobby is not to be decried on the basis of possible injury or basic purposelessness. It can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

But then so can cheese…

Riding The Horse – Part Two – Lifting The Lid

The Business Of The Hobby Explained

The need for a hobby is felt by many in the community – they are the lucky ones amongst us. Those who have no need are generally in that position through overwork, impecuniosity, or cultural pressure.

If you have literally no time left out of a day that sees you scrabble for food, shelter, security, or health, you are a poor, unfortunate creature. If you have enough of the basic needs but cannot stop yourself grinding for more, you are a rich, unfortunate creature. If you are prohibited from seeking any pleasure outside of the grind, you are a slave. The fortunate thing about these three observations is that the poor may become rich, the rich may become wise, and the slave may become free.

In all three cases a hobby can alleviate many of the pains of life. The first person may feel harried by need – the second by greed – and the third by oppression. If these states are not addressed by fortune, the person needs an ally, and the hobby can be just that. Hobbies can be secret or public, cheap or expensive, long lasting or transient. They can be taken up with the minimum of equipment or pursued with every accessory and machine that science can make. They are truly flexible things.

Benefits of a hobby? Well, the hobbyist can always retire into the sanctum of their pursuit and place the distressing world at a distance. Their sanctum may be a place, a group, or just a series of thoughts. Hobbies are portable things, and the mind of the hobbyist can carry them into business meetings, waiting rooms, and dungeons with equal facility. It costs you nothing but attention to open the internal hobby library door, sit down at the mental desk, and review the plans for your next project. Caution – do not do it while driving.

A hobby can make you a calmer person – and in some cases a more considered one. This may be possible even in the more bellicose pursuits like martial arts. A person in control of themselves is more likely to be able to control the situation that they are in. If you have confronted problems in your hobby – and surmounted them – you are much more likely to be able to do the same with other troubles.

A hobby can lead to increased self-esteem. While self-esteem taken to the extreme makes for Idi Amin, lower levels of it are good. When you succeed in your hobby – even by a small amount – you feel better in yourself. Others may not care whether your model airplane flew and landed perfectly, but you’ll be admiring your skill for years to come…and rightly so.

A hobby can make you more observant. Very much more so…ask any scratch-builder and you’ll find that they look at everything…everywhere. Shapes and materials that escape others come under keen appraisal for use in their model building. That means they look at the whole world more sharply – a good thing. Their minds speed up.

But you get no crops without manure. There are down sides to hobbies that we will discuss in the next essay.

Free Food

No, I’m not going to tell you where I live or what time dinner is served. I’ve done that before and the results weren’t pretty. 32 people turned up expecting to get fed because the food was free.

But I’m perfectly happy to feed one person for free – as along as that one person is me.

I come home from a lot of events that happen through meal times; dance shows, weddings, club meetings, etc. and I’ve frequently been too busy to grab a bite at the regular time. No problems – I just set my clock back a bit and figure to eat later. After all, there are plenty of fast food outlets clustered around my house – all I have to do is call in and get dinner, right?

Wrong. The fast food outlets may sell fast food, all right  – but it is food that encourages you to fast. Greasy, sugary, bland, and tasteless – and that’s only the soda pop. The semi-solid stuff is worse. Plus they charge multiples of $ 5.00 bills for everything. I have a loving relationship with my $ 5.00 bills and I grieve to see them go.

So I come home, rather than go out, and cook here. There is nearly always an alternative dish here that can be up and running within a half hour. My go-to meals include:

  1. The cheese toastie. With garlic and herb sprinkle and some cracked black pepper, a properly made Australian cheese toastie can stand in any culinary company. If I include sliced tomato I can even count it as healthy despite the fact that it will burn the roof of my mouth. Burns are a small price.
  2. Staggs chili. Canned, admittedly, and probably made of recycled Mexicans, but a delight nevertheless. One bowl will fill you for half a day. Let’s not wall it off…
  3. Sardines on toast. You have to make an extra slice as someone always drifts by and takes it. Use lots of salt and pepper and some seafood sauce and it becomes a world-famous savoury.
  4. 2-minute Indonesian noodles with added extras. The extras can be anything that has not yet escaped from the ice box; green pepper slices, chicken meat, bacon, sun-dried tomato slices, dubious mushrooms. You can 2-minute boil ’em in a wok and then throw the water out and spend another 2 minutes stir-frying in whatever you have found to make a real dish. Get yer Asian on.
  5. Onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic; fry ’em up, and then all you need is a couple of slices of toast upon which to heap it. Oregano and basil are nice too. No meat? No matter.

Note that for all these good things you pay nothing – because the wife has already stocked them in the pantry or they are leftovers in the ice box. You keep your $ 5.00 bills safe and comfortable in your wallet. And you eat well.

This Is Red Green Day

Everyone has their heroes – football players or actors or politicians. I’m no different – in fact I’ve even got a little list of people outside my family who I admire and seek to emulate:

George Washington

Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine

Steve Smith

The last one may not be as readily recognisable  – but if you remember the Canadian television series ” The Red Green Show ” you’ll get him in a flash. It is as Red that I take to him – because I have seen any number of people very much like him. Including myself in my better moments.

One of those moments happened this weekend when the faucet in the bathroom broke off. it is some 35 years old and has evidently been corroding away for the past couple of decades. Someone leaned on it and away it went. This is not a new thing – the same breakage occurred in the front bathroom and we discovered that the particular plumbing fitments put in when the house was built are not made anymore. So the whole basin had to be replaced. I was not pleased with the thought of a $ 400 plumbing bill for the back one – particularly as we are going to remodel the bathroom in about three years. Talk about money down the drain…

All you need is time and coffee – eventually you have a Red Green moment. Off to Bunnings for some PVC pipe fittings and then a half hour sawing and gluing. A spray of undercoat and then a lacquer finish from paint that was at hand. a mix of epoxy and three S/S screws…and after a day it was ready to go. Cost? $ 15.

If they don’t find you handsome, they should find you handy.

” I Don’t Think You’re Funny! “

” Sorry to hear about your problem. But keep at it – if you try to have a thought every day – even a little one – eventually thinking comes easier.

But thank you for the complement in the latter part of your speech. You might leave a little pause between the first sentence and the second, so people understand that there is a full stop there… ”

Well, there you go. A ready-made Uncle Dick squelch for the person at a party who wants to be offended and take over your conversation upon that basis. You could cede it to them by apologising for whatever it was you said – but you would have a difficult time getting it back. This way you leave them wondering what the holes are on both sides of their mental cockpit and what that whizzing noise was. It was a 40mm Bofors squelch.

There are lots of what the Readers Digest used to call Perfect Squelches to be had – and  lots of times when they are needed – but unfortunately we often miss the cue and fail to fire. Or we are a little slow in the fusing, and the target flies away. A squelch delivered too late bounces off the ground and can detonate in your face.

The best thing to do is practise – and nowadays we are given this opportunity nearly every day when the Indian call centre scammers ring up to try to take control of our computers. There is a brief pause after you lift the telephone receiver and then often a hiss or the sound of a background camel market as the scammer reels out their spiel – you can have up to ten seconds to collect your wits, fuse a squelch, slam it into the breech, and reach for the trigger.

Use these scammers as practise targets. Do not be rude or profane – don’t even be vulgar. Be nice. Be logical. Be honest. Draw a bead on them and tell them that you are Billy The Old Kid and that you rob railway trains as a pension. Tell them that are looking for a Russian bride but all the agencies will offer is Vladimir Putin in a dress. Tell them that you are the ghost of John Diefenbaker looking for butter tarts. Do it in a serious voice.

Note: When an Indian scammer blows up the results can be spectacular. They are only human, after all, and it must be hot and sticky there in the market. They are often only one call away from running amok.

We Need To Rip Up The Roads

Not all of them – just the ones that go conveniently and sensibly between important points in the metropolitan area. The asphalt paving should be ripper-toothed, bulldozed, and loaded into trucks. Then it can be hauled away and dumped into the river or on the children’s playgrounds.

This would clear the way for a series of deep ruts, boulders, and impassible slopes to be constructed, along with the planting of tens of thousands of tangle bushes. A few clay pits and chemical sinkholes would not go amiss, either. Surely there must be enough PCB’s and  industrial waste to ring the city.

Of course this will strangle all commerce and movement of people and goods throughout the city. Thousands will be injured and/or lost as they try to make their way to work, schools, or shops. No ambulances or firetrucks will be able to move.

But think how glorious it will be for the owners of the suburban SUV’s. Finally they will not be the butt of contempt from their neighbours for parking an urban Patton Tank in the driveway. They can wear adventure gear and drive at nauseating angles all day. There will be deep water courses that they can splash through and if they get swept away, all the better. Perhaps we can import crocodiles.

It will still be less dangerous for the average motorist than parking out the front of the shops in Leeming and Winthrop.