Don’t Mind If I Do…

That’s a persistent buzz phrase and meme that we use whenever we luck into something. We discover a free feed or booze-up – a discount or special price – or a chance to have a good time. It’s a cheerful event, and we’re celebrating it.

But what if other people mind if you do? Even if it is none of their concern, your good fortune is a canker to some folks. While they might not go out of their way to be mean to you, the sight of you having a good time is and unpleasant reminder that they’re not.

We may never know of their distaste. It’s not something that they bray about, unless within the safety of their own computer they can be snarky and anonymous at the same time. If we never see their feed, we may go through life not realising their enmity. The best thing to do is to be philosophical about it…as the late Eugene V. Debs admitted – ” You can’t displease all of the people all of the time. “. Accept the fact that there are secret haters out there that you’ll never get to know about and just be grateful for the sound of teeth grinding in the dark.

Note: When Fate, Heaven, and serendipity combine to supply you with a Boston Cream Pie just when you are hungry and you find a fork ready to hand, you would be a churl to refuse the treat. Accept that good things can happen to bad people like you and just eat the pie. Or throw it, if you get half a chance.

The National Day

On the national civic* day – 26th of January – we had become accustomed in the past few years to being bombarded by ambitious politicians, academics, and advertisers for their various purposes. In many cases this was driven by lust for power and money. At least when the CWA and local kindergarten were involved.

Then there was a spate of excoriating those with European background for not being Australian enough. Or for being British. Every sin and misery for the past two hundred -odd years was seeded home to the Dreadful British and compensation demanded. Compensation, guilt, and obeisance. If you couldn’t manage the guilt and obeisance, at least cough up the money…the lawyers had sent in their bill.

Arrived late? Not British? Never had a hand in oppressing anyone? No matter. As long as you had money they’d let you on the tumbril.

However.

This year it seemed to be different. Very few ambitious local councillors fronted the television cameras weeping. Few calls for the scrapping of the day emerged, and those that were repeated came from the established disestablishment. Most people seemed set to do their citizenship ceremonies, watch the fireworks, get drunk and sunburned, and let it go at that.

My local hobby club even garnered an award from the city of Bayswater for not being as dangerous as they might have been. I shall share in the honours as long as there is cake and coffee involved.

*  The national military day is later in the year and it will have it’s own set of special detractors – though oddly enough there will be many of the same names bitching about the past then as do now.

Do Not Fear Me

For I am not fearful. The smile is real, and conceals nothing but the back of the teeth and a fair few fillings.

Do not praise me, because I am not praiseworthy…or at least not for the things that you think. If I need praise I can do it myself.

Do not be my enemy – because we are judged on the quality of our enemies, and you may not measure up.

Do not try to seduce me with offers of commercial sales. I have all the goods I need. If you offer to buy some of them off me we can talk, provided you are willing to load them on the back of your truck yourself. I don’t do heavy lifts.

Please do not sell me a plan or a program. I’ve had many plans in the past and have learned to be wary – some are futile con games that take my money and leave me disappointed…and some come to glorious fruition. Of the two results, the first is a lot easier to bear.

I can always be purchased with coffee, tea, and cakes. I am not greedy and I do not slurp or drop crumbs. The quality of my interest in your problems is directly proportional to the quality of the coffee and cake. Barista special and rich fruit cake will enlist my deepest sympathy – a plastic cup of Pablo and Nice biscuit will get you what you deserve…

And never be afraid to ask me for money – make the sum as grand as you wish. I shall be equally brave in my refusal, and the higher the demand, the greater the saving. You may be treated to a hollow laugh and a hearty handshake or vice versa.

 

 

 

Ethical or Ethnic?

I can’t decide which to go for. They both have advantages and drawbacks. Consider the case of being ethical first:

  1. You appear good in the eyes of the world.
  2. You appear good in your own eyes.
  3. You need not fear exposure by reporters looking to fill a 5-minute slot on television.
  4. People will point to you as you pass in the street.
  5. You may be offered money to endorse  ethical goods and services.

Okay – that’s the good side of ethical. Now the bad side:

  1. The eyes of the world are often crossed, myopic, or ridden with cataracts. They see what they want to see. They wanted to see Hitler in the 1930’s – shall they look at you now…?
  2. My eyes are myopic, crossed, and cataract -ridden. If i see myself as good, how can I be certain it is not just bad eyesight?
  3. You may not want to be the subject of a media side-swipe, but then again you may wish to be a media star no matter how you get there. It’s easier to be one with a pistol than a bag of hot towels.
  4. People pointing at you can be achieved by may means. Goodness, badness, and horrid taste in clothing. The first two are changeable matters – the last is permanent.
  5. You may be offered more money to endorse disgusting things and awful practices. The cash looks the same except there is more of it and you often don’t have to tell the tax office. If the tax office offer you money to endorse them, do not draw up the contract in blood. I’ve seen cult movies…

Now we move on to being ethnic. Frowned upon at the start of the 20th century, it became all the rage in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In truth, there was a lot of rage in the 30’s and 40’s but you had to be the right ethnicity to find out about it. The good side first:

  1. If you are genuinely of a certain ethnicity, you can wear interesting clothes and speak in mysterious languages.
  2. You get to be the interesting person at the party that everyone wants to talk to.
  3. You get to eat spicy food.
  4. People defer to your perceived ethnicity and you get to feel quite special.
  5. You can always find someone from your same tribe to lend you money or to hide you from the police.

Now the awkward bits:

  1. The clothing that your ethnicity demands makes you stand out – even when you wish to blend in. It often comes from a place that has different raw materials and climate and wearing it here and now is either hot and sticky or cold and miserable. Finally, it might just look ugly and make you feel silly.
  2. If you are the interesting person, the drunks will cluster about you and try to make themselves look big by arguing with you. You will never be right, because they will always be drunk.
  3. The spicy food you get to eat often contains the parts of animals or plants that more sensible societies bury in a sinkhole. If you want to maintain your ethnic ticket you have to choke it down.
  4. People do not defer to your ethnicity – they make a show of it based on what they saw on television. Their measured comment on racial questions is just one drink away from asking you whether you like fried chicken and watermelon. ( I do, as it happens…)
  5. The person from your tribe who lends you money and hides you knows exactly how much interest you owe them on that loan and where to find you. They also know the phone number for the police.

So there it is. I am still undecided as to which course to pursue. Advice written on a small slip of paper and stuck in a crack in the wall would be appreciated.

How Did You Know?

At the local post office I fell into conversation with the lady behind the counter as she clerked through a power bill. We have arrangements here in Australia to pay a lot of our things through the local Post Office and it’s a real time-saver, I can tell you.

Well, being the 2nd of January at the time, we wished each other a Happy New Year and agreed that we had survived the holiday season. We both looked tired. But then I told her not to get too comfortable, as Chinese New Year was coming at the end of the month – the 25th.

She is of Chinese ancestry so I reminded her that it’ll be two more weeks of family celebrations, preparations, food, expense, parties, having to stay up late wishing that everyone would just go home…while smiling brightly. And that she doesn’t qualify for the red envelopes any more because she’s too old – now she has to hand them out…

She laughed, but then looked concerned. How did I know all this? I’m not even vaguely Chinese…

Kid, we all have this sort  of thing – no matter what our ethnicity or culture. 8 days of Hanukkah, 10 days of Rosh Hoshanah, 12 days of Christmas, Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Christmas and New Years slightly offset from all the rest of the country…The poor old Mussies have to go hungry all day for a month and the Hindus and Buddhists probably have something similar somewhere in their own calendars. We all get a season to be ever so jolly and I suspect we all enjoy the first couple of days but then sit smiling grimly until the thing finishes.

One thing to brighten our day, though. You might be sleep-deprived at the end of the fortnight here in Australia, but you’re not stuck on the platform of a Chinese railway station waiting to get home after it.

The Annual Family Traffic Jam

Today we motor south to eat lunch with the wife’s family. It is an annual event occasioned by Christmas and is generally quite pleasant once we reach our destination. It’s some 60 Km from our house and can be accessed by a modern freeway.

This freeway is under permanent reconstruction – it has been incomplete for the last 6 years to my certain knowledge – and the traffic restrictions will reduce the flow of holiday-makers to a trickle at several points. Bumper-to-bumper 60 Km there and B-T-B back again at the end of the afternoon.

There is an electric train service to the town where the relatives live but no effective connection between the train station and their district – and it is a spread-out town. No taxis to speak of and precious few Ubers operating on Christmas day.

I’ll be driving, so not drinking. The relatives will be in a reverse position so the day should deteriorate nicely.

‘Tis The Season…

To be nervous.

Falalalala La la la la.

Think I’ll phone the septic service.

Falalalala La la la la.

Liquid sounds are surely growin’.

Falalalalala La la la.

Christmas cheer is over flowin’.

Falalala Don’t get it on your shoes.

If you have a family tradition for the holidays that no-one else in the street seems to follow, are you in the right street? This is particularly poignant for those of us who live in a mixed bag. Our street hosts people from identifiably different ethnicities and many different religions. Only some would consider this part of the year to be a holiday season requiring traditional food and activities – for the rest it is just another week or so, but with fruitcake.

I myself live in a mixed household and if any of us were fanatics we could rub each other the wrong way something chronic. We do not, however, and the treble holiday season passes pretty cheerfully – except as we get older the calendar New Year’s Eve has toned down considerably. Ageing livers and dodgy eyesight mean driving home after midnight from some riotous nightclub is out of the question and we like to hit the hay earlier in the evening anyway.

But I do like the holidays – as much for the forced cheer as for the real stuff. Watching relatives who would normally bite at one another playing nice and kissy is amusing no end. If the festive event is held at someone else’s quagmire, so much the better. You can always offer to help with the dishes but leave early.