British Independence – Part Two – The Opposition

The opposition to the British BREXIT decision taken some time ago seems to have been set along party lines – as so many social questions are – and further connected to a number of interest groups. Whether they might be said to be special interest groups or not is up to the reader to decide. I counted :

  1. Some youth groups  – who were horrified that the easy access to Europe for jobs and/or vacations might be compromised.
  2. Some immigrant organisations who feared that the nation’s gates would swing shut  and prevent their clientele and relatives from coming to the UK and staying there.
  3. Some organisations opposed to nationalistic sentiments or actions of any kind – good or bad. Not ALL nations, mind, but the UK version was to be abhorred.
  4. Some companies who could see financial loss or inconvenience caused by having to move their headquarters out of the UK or their manufacturing plants into it

I’m sure there were many others, some with genuine concerns for the country and some with genuine concerns for their own concerns.

But have we considered that some of the opposition to an independent Great Britain may come from the rulers of the place? They have been used to a populace that does what they are told – they have been told what to do all the way from William The Conquerer to the last speech from the Crown Prince – and the idea of the locals getting free of the Germans and the French might start them thinking that they’d like to be free of the rulers…

You can’t sing  ” God Remove Our Gracious Queen…” with quite the same poetry as the current words, but then you could always write a new piece of music to go along with it. I don’t think the British populace would think about this at all, but they could change their minds when Charles and Camilla ass-end the throne.

The Hatter – Retail Clothing Part Three

I like hatter’s shops. They seem such an old-fashioned place to be that I can relax and slow down as I browse. And hatter’s shops are not for the shallow or insensitive – they have surprisingly little to do with the modern youth – or that may be the other way round.

The feed-cap-with-a-baseball-team-on-it shop is another matter. That may be staffed and crowded with all forms of youth – golden, brassy, or plastic as the case may be. I would not know, not being the sort of man who wears a feed cap backwards.

But back to the proper hatters. There is a good one in the basement of the Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne and also one in the Strand Arcade in Sydney. They are small shops with a great deal of stock, but be aware that the stock may be seasonal – hot or cold weather – and priced accordingly. Treat yourself to a coffee at a stall before you call in, and take your time to review all the choices and fit before you decide to purchase. The Sydney shop has a good range of braces too.

Advice for someone buying a hat?

a. Do you need a hat for a protective purpose or is it to be fashion? You can get ones that will do a single or double duty.

b. Can you be a hat wearer? Some cannot. They are so self-conscious that they never seem to be able to actually put the hat on and wear it. They think everyone is looking at them and that this is a bad thing.

c. Do you know hat etiquette? When to cover and when to uncover?  How to do it – how to wear and how to carry – is an important social skill. One that can set you apart from hoi polloi in a very favourable way. There are numerous books that will help you to learn what to do.

d. Do you realise that hats are seasonal, and that you can own more than one? Try a straw for summer, a felt fedora for winter, and a good tweed cap for in between. Then, if you find you are comfortable with them, you can get many more to match your wardrobe choices.

e. If you wish to wear a ten-gallon Stetson hat, there are places where you may do so without incurring laughter. Texas, Calgary, and the outback stations of Australia come to mind. The ten-gallon is not a hat to wear in places where there are dudes.

f. If the hat you fancy makes you look younger, reject it. Likewise, if it makes you look like an English used-car salesman, an Amish elder, or Popov. Hats lend dignity, but withhold it if you make the wrong selection.

g. Do not wear a peaked cap unless you are commanding a regiment, ship, or air station. German railway drivers can get away with one, but then they are that sort of person. Führers to a man.

Note: if you are a service peaked cap wearer and they issue you with a side-cap or fatigue cap it is because they are going to make sure you are sidelined and fatigued. It is not a good cap and not a good sign.

h. Treat your hat well, but do not expect it to last more than a few seasons. Your sweaty head will see to that. If continuity of style is important, select a standard Akubra that has not changed since the days of Menzies and just buy another one when yours gets greasy and spotty.

 

Who Is Whizzing On Whom

A few days back a new Mini motorcar passed me in the Northbridge tunnel and slowed down – the brake lights came on. See the heading image – they were in the shape of part of the British Union Jack flag. Thank you to the chap who took that picture – I couldn’t get my camera out while driving.

I was instantly delighted – it was such a clever use of technology to tie this iconic symbol into the iconic car. But it gave me to think…

a. The car is not wholly British. it is made by a company that is firmly German – BMW – at plants in the UK and Holland. The design comes out of Bavaria. Leading to the question of whether or not it is a gentle piss-take.

b. Apparently it is associated with a wide-eyed ring of LED running lights up the front that make the car look permanently deranged. I did not see the front of the vehicle in the tunnel. But again, aus München…

c. In the past there have been any number of Issigonis and later Minis that have had the roof painted in a complete representation of a Union Jack.

d. Which leads to a cynical smirk at the proclivity of Brits to complain about Americans flying the Stars and Stripes or displaying it as a symbol. Be honest, Johnny Bulls – you’ve all sneered at the Yanks for their patriotism at some time or the other…and yet painted your national flag on the top of a tinny little motor car. Or in the case of the modern version, an expensive little German motor car.

All the same. I did admire the modern Morgan in the York Motor Museum…If you’re going to be crass for $ 92,300, you might as well do it big-time.

Ve Germans Haff A Sense Of Humour

As you will haff noticed, my name iss a Teutonic one. It iss from the Tyrol where my Grossvater has come. He wass in Amerika from many years and I am here in Australia until now.  So I haff a connection to the Old Country…in fact to several old countries.

I wish to address the libel that iss promoted that Germans haff no sense of humour. This has been the standard of jokes throughout the Western world since 1914. The Eastern world iss too serious for this sort of thing – they regard the German nations as carousels of comedy.

The libel iss false! Ve haff as strong a sense of humour as anyone. The fact that we do not haff a native Mr. Bean does not bar us from appreciating him, though ve would not vish that he was a German or Austrian citizen. After Brexit this will be less of a danger.

Ve haff many jokes – you must look up back copies of ” Simplicimus ” to see this and there are amusing cartoons of the German Imperial general staff there as well. Wise people do not laugh at them in public, however.

Vee also participate in ze jokes that ask how many people are required to screw in light bulbs. But we know the secret that they are not screw-based bulbs. They are bayonet -based bulbs, and if zere iss one thing that a German iss good vith it iss a bayonet. Zat iss why ve only need one person.

And ve are as ready as anyone to laugh at ze Amerikan President. It iss fashionable and makes us look better by comparison. Ze fact that we were not fast enough to erect a border wall around Deutschland in the last couple of years to prevent the sort of thing that he complains of iss neither here not there – but ve are not laughing quite so hard about zis.

If you vant people who haff no sense of humour, try the Swedes.

 

 

 

The Standard Bearer Is The One Who Gets The Bullets

The heading image of this column is the rootin’ tootin’ flutin’ King of Prussia, supposedly striding out ahead of his loyal troops to inspire them. It may have been drawn from fact, or it may just be a German propaganda construct, but it points out the title of our piece admirably. The individual who makes a flag bearer of themselves can attract far more than applause – they can attract lead.

I don’t suppose many of us march into enemy guns these days with flags flying and bayonets charged – though I did just that a couple of decades ago – but we do tend to climb the Facebook ramparts and wave our opinions to attract attention. And in most cases we don’t even have a kingdom to defend by doing it. We appear to be attacking public figures for the sheer joy of it. Fortunately the public figures never notice us and most of the people who do would have no idea how to fire a spud gun, let alone a musket.

The only wounds we suffer are to the ego and the reputation. Grievous hurts, of course, but mostly non-fatal. Friendships crumple up and fall over, and that is perhaps the saddest part of it.

So what to do? I’m sure if you look far enough into Roman and Greek history you’ll find advice to keep yourself from party, as well as from lust or gluttony. If you pay me $200 I’ll tell you what they say about avarice.

I don’t tell people what to think or do – apart from this hectoring column. It is safer not to, and even better if I do not tell them what I think or do either. If it is necessary to throw rocks through their windows after dark it is best not to tell them who is doing the throwing.

Flags do need flying, and causes championed, and virtue signalled – and we can see it every day on our social media feed. But we should glance up at them carefully before we raise the pole. Fred’s got his family and the state on the stick there, and a good many armed Germans behind him – he’ll be fine as long as the French don’t spot him and lay a double canister round his way. Not so our Facebook warriors, who may be flying the flag of many foreign parties – replete with vulgarity and foolish appearance. ” Sharing ” the antics of idiots is allying yourself to them…and sometimes the flag that you think you are hoisting is a disgrace to all.

Note: I could be wrong. Friedrich might have just have taken a snout against his generals and is taking his flag and going home.

Mongolian Yak Crisps – Baked Just For You

I am so often nonplussed these days that I have forgotten what a good plussing feels like. And one of the places that seems to take it out of me most is the grocery store.

Don’t get me wrong – I like stores and I like food and I like to eat. I’ve no allergies and few aversions when it comes to cooking. But the long aisles of shelving can be daunting. There are so many things to think about:

a. Am I being too mundane with my purchases? Is getting a tin of green peas at the local IGA rather than a hand-woven basket full of fresh-picked pods dewy with the dawn from a roadside stand in Shepparton just a sad reflection on my life? Would I get the same benefit if the peas are in a dewy-fresh frozen packet from Shepparton? And I just googled up a view of the main street?

b. Is this stuff made locally? Is it made in Australia at all? Okay, I do not expect chocolate-coated rice weevils in Hyow Twang sauce to be made in the Swan Valley…I’ll accept that Asia might be the best supply base for these, but the business of the peas comes back to mind. They grow peas in Australia. Let’s have a crack at them.

c. If I am in the Asian specialty store, what is the difference between one brand of curry sauce and the next? There are 15 different varieties there and I need some help sorting out the poisonous from the merely fearful. And it’s no help when the grocer says he doesn’t eat that stuff himself…

d. Fish. I like them on a plate and I like them in aquariums, but everything in between unnerves me. Is the thing with the eyes fresh? What do you do to it? Will it have poison spines that stab me when I try to clean it? Will there be enough flesh on to justify the price? Will it smell better at home than it does here?

e. Vegetables 1. Is that orange capsicum the product of a farm or Fabergé? Judging by the price I should guess the latter. How far up the street did you have to look to see me coming?

f. Vegetables 2. Thank you, Mr. Grocer, for giving me the choice between open produce and similar fruits and vegetables sealed in plastic bags. I am not such a fool as to imagine that they are the same things, and judging by the prices, neither are you.

g. Cheese 1. Sliced cheese is a wonderful invention if you are incapable of using a knife. As you invariably do have one in hand to spread the butter or the Vegemite for the cheese sandwich, this shows the effects of not thinking as fast as the accountant at the dairy company.

h. Cheese 2. A gourmet cheese shop is a wonderful place – next to Fort Knox, it is the only place on the planet where you can see that much currency tied up in such small blocks of matter. The exotic gourmet cheeses that the shop sells – presumably to exotic gourmets – do not last, and neither do the shops. When the mining money caves in we all go back to Kraft Coon Cheese.

i. Cheese 3. All cheese comes from something that makes milk, and by the time you get it, that milk is not fresh. Steel yourself.

j. Bread 1. ” No artificial preservatives “…” No preservatives “…” Free of gluten, lactose, sucrose, fructose, and 300 listed ingredients “. Either eat it at the bus stop on the way home before it turns green in your hands or take it into the shed and nail it to a bookcase as a new shelf.

k. Bread 2. ” New Honey Soy Linseed Flower Petal, Raw Cellulose Bread ” Get it this week before the people who bought it last week get back to the store and throw it at the cashier. You’ve got a couple of days – most of them are still on drips in Outpatients.

l. Meat 1. Never mind the packaging or the cut or the price or the look of the thing. Demand to see the butcher’s passport. If he or she was born in the Balkans, Poland, Germany, or Italy just give them your meat money and take whatever they cut for you. Ask how it should be cooked and follow orders.

M. Meat 2. Offal meats. They generally are.

N. Biscuits and Cookies. The fancy imported ones at the front of the store are there to take your money without making you happy. The ones down the back in the plain generic wrappers are also going to disappoint. Pick a national bakery, pick a biscuit you like and stick to it. Don’t eat chocolate ones in high summer.

 

 

 

The Last Time I Saw Paris

I’ve never seen Paris.

But I am led to believe that it is a wonderful site to sight. Full of art, food, fashion, romance, wine, and wonderful shops. And that the citizens of the city are charming and welcoming.

The problem is that I am debarred from participating and enjoying this by my lack of facility with the French language. Many years of life have scrubbed most of the high school French from my mind – I would be at a loss to conduct the most rudimentary of conversations or deal with the tourist’s life. How to overcome this – and to overcome a similar language barrier in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria, etc.?

Berlitz? Alliance Francaise? Goethe Society? Well, at 70 years old, I doubt my ability to absorb enough of any of these fine languages in time to actually enjoy a trip. I need another solution – I am going to look for it in the idea of a dedicated valet.

That sounds a little old-fashioned, but it’s just another word for a courier or translator or guide. But I need someone who can make a dedicated effort for my welfare that may go beyond just getting me a train ticket and pointing my in the vague direction of the turnstiles. I need someone who will plan out an itinerary that can be changed radically, that will research social and cultural items, that will find accommodation suitable and make sure that I am comfortable. Someone who will see me fed and watered, and not cheated in the bar or newsagency. In short, a companion with their eyes open.

The good news is they need not be this forever. A European vacation can be a long thing or a short thing, but the fact that each country visit may not be longer than 2 weeks means that whoever does the French portion need not be on duty for longer than a fortnight. Likewise the German, Ukranian, etc. And each day need not go for longer than a standard job – I poop out in 8 hours and if I’ve seen that day’s amusement and eaten that evening’s dinner, I can be hung back up on the rack in the early evening. All I need is assurance that the valet will be there just after breakfast to start again.

The valet will make all this simple if they plan ahead – they will house me in a friendly hotel, find me a friendly bar, and search out a friendly restaurant. Their real translation skills will come in the shops, galleries, and transportation, and as I would hire them for local knowledge they should be able to make these transactions as painless as possible. I do not require to go to bad neighbourhoods nor to deal with horrible people. I wish to be polite and pleasant.

Now – how to find such paragons? Is there a service just like this already extant? Is it affordable? I would be willing to pay premium prices for a good experience. I think it is time to start my research…