The Health Inspector

I think if I were inclined to go to work again I should like to be a council health inspector. But with a difference – I would do domestic premises rather than commercial ones.

In case you are horrified by the thought of some jack-in-office barging into your kitchen and lifting up the lids on your pots, consider that there is probably adequate provision for this now in council by-laws. There certainly is when it comes to the garbage, as the current trial of recycling wastes is proving. We are told that the inspectors will be going about taking mobile-phone pictures of our bins ” to improve understanding ” but it is probably to give them a chance to scold us for putting the wrong things in the various containers. Or it might just be to frighten us into putting less in anyway – with no answer as to what to do with the extra garbage.

In my case I should like to extend the surveillance to linen closets, desk drawers, and round the back of sofas – the places where small change and unused postage stamps are likely to accumulate. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned, and a penny stolen is even better. And I should be incorruptible, at least until the stakes were high enough.

Health is one of those topics that we all agree is essential…without being able to actually put our fingers on what is healthy. Robust and shining in Ulan Bator looks like terminal disease in Coolangatta. Vermin in Violet Town are considered livestock in Venezuela. You should see the thundering herds of beefrats at round-up time. The gauchos mounted on Jack Russells can be a bit startling for the novice hand, but you get used to them.

I am a little unclear as to what the procedure is if I discover a violation of the health regulations. Do I ask for the envelope of cash before or after throwing the rat on the counter? Are cats actually edible? Is mould considered a religious sacrament in some cultures? I’ll need to consult the department on these matters.

Meanwhile business owners, private citizens, and hospitality industry members may slip as many fat envelopes as they wish under the departmental door – our concern for health is paramount 24 hrs a day, or at least as long as the bottle shop is open.

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None Of My Darned Business

Have you ever sat there and actually considered how many things in your world are none of your darned business?

I did just this recently and came up with a surprising number of topics that I need never address. The fact that I have done so in the past meant that I was making myself or others unhappy to no purpose. I could have saved my breath to cool my porridge and improved my days no end. Here’s a selection of opportunities that I can take in the future to butt out:

a. The bad driver on the road who swerves and rockets about between lanes – who tailgates and lurches and cuts in. No sense me raging about this behaviour – nothing I do is going to abate it. All I need do is steer clear and stay back and let him…or her…meet their fate by themselves. Hopefully it will not occur where I have to stop and render aid.

b. As the love affairs of others are not my business, neither are their hate affairs. I can hope, in humanity, that everyone will be loved and true and content. If it happens I will cheer. If it does not, I shall remain silent.

I’ll help out – though I draw the line at moving furniture these days – but apart from general sympathy and the occasional cup of tea, I think I should keep my opinions to myself.

I shall have to work on controlling my wince, when I hear details.

c. I’m not going to poke anyone in their religion or politics, for fear of something oozing out. If they will aid me in this by not exposing themselves so blatantly on Facebook it would be appreciated. In turn, I shall not hand out pamphlets or sell religious relics at cocktail parties.

d. While I might be uncertain if anyone’s religion is really sacred, I am convinced that their bank accounts are. Thus their financial affairs will be treated with dignity and respect. I shall not beg money of them, nor steal it when they are out of the room. Likewise I shall not advance sums that would expose them to embarrassment or me to inconvenient loss.

e. I shall try to exercise a complete sense of tolerance towards the dress of others – and hope that they can be as kind to me. I’m retired, with a wardrobe of odd, if serviceable clothing left over from the last 40 years. I am comfortable with most of it and hope to wear it out in a frugal manner. I’ll need to remember that others may be doing this as well.

f. I’m not so sure if I can treat the speech and writing of others in such a laissez-faire manner – particularly if they are addicted to foul language. I wasn’t brought up to it and still find it an offensive thing to hear. Indeed, in the mouths of some, it is actually ridiculous.

I might have to balance a middle ground in this one – grit my old teeth and take no notice up to a certain point and then just walk away after that. The real decision will be whether to ever walk back…

g. The musical, artistic, and visual tastes of everyone are personal, and I must stop mentally judging them when I hear or see what pleases them. The judgement need not be bad – I quite approve of some things, but need to remember that my opinion is not called for either way.

This’ll be a work in progress for a few years. With any luck it may make me more of a gentleman, or at least a calmer and kinder individual.

Use Before January, 2018

Or freeze and use before the turn of the 21st century.

Nearly everything can be frozen. Milk, bread, bank accounts. You can freeze lots of stuff that would otherwise go rotten and extend the period of time in which it can go rotten. Time shift your smelly garbage bin, if you will. This is not as sad as it seems.

Before Christmas, we bought two cooked chickens from Woolies for use in a party dish – the meat was picked off the bones and the carcasses put back into the heavy plastic bags in which they had been supplied by the store. That went into the freezer – which might seem a little odd. Freezing garbage?

No, freezing carcasses that will be rendered for soup a little while down the track. It’s all a matter of timing. Garbage collection is Thursday morning, no good tossing chicken bodies out on Monday in a hot climate – by Thursday morning the place would smell like State Parliament. So they will be defrosted and boiled one Wednesday afternoon, then the stock frozen in turn for use in winter soups. Then they go into the organic bin.

It becomes a case of frozen Tetris sometimes as one cycles the various components through the freezer in time for disposal or storage, but the actual effect is pretty good – the amount of waste that the family produces is slightly less, and we get home-made soup for our troubles. And soup is a variable equation – nearly anything can be factored in. The only no-no is poultry and split peas – there is a chemical reaction in there that makes the entire house smell like cat pee.

Do we deserve the contempt of gastronomic nations for our freezer habits? Well, if you want to go down to the open air when it is 42º in the water bag and buy a half cup of organic kale for your masterpiece, don’t let me stop you. We’ll take bets amongst us here on whether you’ll make it to the end of the street before slumping over…while we sit in the A/C and wait for dinner to defrost. Off you toddle.

I Have A First Class Sign

I bought it at York Railway Museum in 1995 – really I did. I did not prise it from a British Rail carriage with a pen knife. Not because of my well-known sense of honesty and scruples – because all the signs were already removed long before I boarded the trains. I had to content myself with cutting out squares of the upholstery.

Rail travel is generally wonderful if you are allowed to sit in a First Class seat – you may have noticed this as well with airplane flights. If you turn left upon entering the cabin door most of your worries and discomforts can be made to disappear – though it must be said that they do not go away cheaply. They take a good deal of your cash with them.

But back to the rails. The British are a classified society and make no bones about it. They’ll analyse you in a second by your clothing and in a nanosecond by your accent and shunt you instantly into a niche in their behavioural structure. You should not be upset by this – it is not discriminatory – they do it to everyone and to themselves. And for the foreigner ( even a Commonwealth foreigner ) there can be some advantages to this. We are given a leeway in appearance and behaviour that they do not allow themselves. We are not expected to come up to their standards ( or down to them, as the case may be ) and we can be left alone to do our own colonial thing most of the time. Thus an Australian in a British Rail first class seat will be tolerated by the other passengers to an extent that a similarly dressed local could not hope for.

If we slum it down to the second-class seats it just feels like the Armadale line on a Saturday night, so there is nothing too strange about that. Actually the clothing on the passengers is pretty similar…they might be the same people.

The nice thing about the First Class seats – compartment or aisle – is that a little man or woman wheels a refreshments trolley through at intervals and you can purchase things. There is no ice for the drinks, but the tea and coffee are cold enough as it is. It’s not exactly a Bunnings sausage sizzle either, as far as food goes, but there is a certain mdf-boardiness about British Rail sandwiches anyway. I think the best analogy is the Bunbury Shell cafe after they have turned off the cabinet heaters…

Do you get there faster in First Class? No, of course not – the train arrives all together. Do you get extra comfort? Marginally. Do you get to feel like a member of the upper classes? Only if you exercise a great deal of imagination.

But it is all worth it.

The Regimental Quick March

I have just been listening to the regimental quick march of the Royal Armoured Regiment –  ” My Boy Willie ” – and find it a fine, bouncing tune. There are scores of these marches for all the regiments of the British Army, and I daresay a number of them have been adopted in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia on a brother-regiment basis.

As well, there are just as many suitable tunes in local styles used by the French, Germans, Russians, etc. All can call forth instant response from old service persons who marched to them.

But what of those of us who have never been called to the colours? Can we have regimental marches as well? I think we can – we just need to be inventive with them. Here’s a list of suggestions…

a. The Husband’s Division Of The Household Brigade…”The Slaves Chorus From Nabucco “.

b. The Teenage Regiment…” Drink Puppy Drink “.

c. The Royal Bank Regiment…” The Debt March “.

d. The 5th Mounted Motorists…any slow march you care for…

e. The Self-Funded Re-Tireurs…” Money, Money , Money “.

f. The Microsoft Technical Support Regiment of India… ” The Rogue’s March “.

g. 101st Airborne Virus Regiment…” Some Like It Hot…And Cold…And Hot…”

h. The Dental Corps…” A Bridge Too Far “.

i. Bill Clinton’s Rangers…” Yankee Doodle “.

f. The Canning Vale Lancers…”Goodness Gracious Me “.

g. Noranda Regiment…” We Are Marching From Pretoria “.

Good marching music need not be martial – good parades need not be military. Australia had a fine tradition in the 50’s and 60’s of all-girl marching societies who took part in civic celebrations and national days. Their outfits were sometimes military, and sometimes millinery. There were 30,000 of them at the peak of the craze.

30,000. That’s 30 regiments. The Australian army couldn’t have found socks for that many men in uniform, let alone rifles, food, or an enemy to shoot at. 30,000 marching girls…it sounds like Heaven from this point in time.

Just dealing with the statistics of the thing is mind-boggling. 30,000 marching girls is 30,000 uniforms and they would all have been hand-sewed and decorated as much as possible. Given 30 buttons per uniform makes it 900,000 buttons sewed on. Plus the three that rolled under the table.

I am glad that the era has passed – I do not think that I could cope right now with the sight of 60,000 thighs flashing up and down in unison. It would be a short path to the grave. Smiling all the while, but. And I doubt that the coffin lid would fit well…

 

 

 

” This One Is Named Henry…”

I stood behind myself in Bunnings today and I am very proud to say that I did not kick myself in the arse. The fact that I was wearing thongs would not have made a difference – for a while there I was prepared to break a toe if need be.

It was the oak strip and mdf board aisle – the one down the back near the waste bins. I rounded the corner at a fast lope looking for two sheets of 3mm 1200 x 900 mdf to make an airport hard stand ( As you do…) and was brought to screeching halt by me. I was blocking the aisle with a Bunnings trolley and carefully selecting the most suitable oak strips and mdf boards for my project. I have no idea what my project is.

In case this all sounds too mysterious for words, consider that we all have a doppelganger somewhere – that we generally never meet. In most cases the doppelganger looks like us, and all who see them can recognise the fact. I my case the chap picking out the wood was nothing like me in appearance, but exactly like me in actions.

I could see him eyeing every piece of wood to find out whether it was straight or twisted – not really a thing with short lengths of oak and flat sheets of mdf. Then scanning each piece from either end about half a dozen times and then going back to consult a paper list pulled from his pocket. This went on for a dozen bits of wood, and the list went back into the pocket and came out again a dozen times.

I was surprised that he did not pull out a carpenter’s square and/or ruler to check whether the dimensions listed on the price tag were accurate.

I just sat on the big stack of marine ply and watched…and waited. I kept a pleasant smile upon my face and thought about happy things. For what seemed like 12 hours. When he finally decided that he had enough wood, he slowly pushed the trolley away. I brushed off  the spider webs and lichen that had been growing on me, dived for the mdf shelf and grabbed two pieces.

I’m not a vindictive man. Or a rude one. But I could see what was going to happen if he hit the cash register before me…so I literally flew down the side aisles to beat him to it. I may have been a bit precipitate, as I could hear an avalanche of hammers and wood clamps falling behind in my wake, but I made it in time. I got through the till before he arrived with his list.

I cannot say whether I will be a different shopper in the future, but I will at least look over my shoulder and let other foursomes play through while I consider the fall of the green.

Well Goodness Gracious Me

I have been resigned for a long time now to the sound of the telephone ringing just before tea-time. It’ll be the land line – not the mobile – and it will have the classic silence and clicking before a subcontinental voice comes on and lies to me.

The lie will be one of the classics  – Telstra Technical Department, Microsoft Technical Support, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Federal Police, roof solar panels,etc.

It will commence with the voice asking me if I am Mr. Stein, or the householder. I have learned to ignore this question and ask directly to whom I am speaking. Generally they will give a first name and a slightly mumbled organisation name. Very few of them ever admit to being a Gupta or a Ranjit…it is always a Brad or a Janet. In many cases you can hear the Hindi being screeched in the background and in one instance I could swear I could hear the humidity…

I’ve tried everything. Abruptness, sugary sweetness, baffled confusion, a heavy German accent…none of it seems to stem the flow of bullshit from the receiver’s earpiece. It’s only a whim or the effect of the afternoon cocktail that makes a difference between swearing at them and singing to them. But I grow tired of it – especially when I have better things to do.

So now I am going to start firing off a series of letters of complaint to the only authority who can put a stop to it – the Indian government. If they are going to host these electronic bedbugs, they can be held up for airing as well as the bedding. I’m sure it will be for the most part futile, but the pleasure to be had in abusing a dignitary for a dollar is cheap enough amusement.