How Good Are Leftovers?

As a child I hated leftovers…I accused my mother of buying them fresh frozen so that she could serve them every night. There I was…complaining about being fed so well that there was enough food for the next night as well…Yes, you can snort in derision.

Now I treasure them – as much for the time-saving of having a good meal that is 5 minutes away from hot on the table – as for the taste. The taste that in most cases gets better for a night in the fridge. I am talking spaghetti Bolognese, Texican beans, home-made Eternity soup*, casseroles, etc. I’ve even evolved a means for heating and serving day-old fish and chips that makes them good.

And I appreciate the savings of the thing. Part of my brain knows that I have paid for it all, but part of me pretends that the second night is free food. It is certainly better economics than if it were scraped into the recycling bin after the first meal.

I’m a bin. Scrape it into me.

I do not appreciate this approach when out for a commercial dinner or at some resort or conference. I’ve seen the recycling caterers at work at a big Eastern States do and learned not to approach the canapé tray after the first night – indeed not to approach the scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet. If you want an egg, get it poached fresh.

But here at home, we do not let our food go over the ” Best By ” date by over 6 months. I regularly scrape and wash the cheese to get the green off. Also the bread. The old trick of calling it ” Dad’s fairy bread ” stopped working after the kids started vomiting.

I have been accused in turn by my daughter of overcatering in some things…oh, the irony. But I notice the L/O lasagna, spaghetti, beans, and Chinese food seems to disappear on a regular basis. So I am still going to play the kitchen by my own rules.

*  No soup ever really finishes or starts – there are elements of the things that have carried over several years – in and out of the freezer. No-one has died from soup yet.



The Ghosts Of The Mall

It is not very often that we can say we like ghosts. The traditional ones – rattling chains, screaming in the night, passing through walls, etc. are somewhat of a strain on the nerves. They leave slime. When they infest a house the resale value plummets. Few people want them.

In my case I do have a reason to be grateful to them – they have enabled me to start my retirement in a good note.

When I was working in my last career I was sent out on many occasions to help people with photographic training. Specifically, with the Polaroid passport cameras that were common at the time. These were the four-lens jobs that put nearly identical pictures onto a sheet of Polaroid or Fujifilm instant film. The requirements of the Australian passport department were stringent and the geometry and illumination needed to achieve them operated within a fairly narrow band of possibility – hence I was sent to train chemist’s assistants and post office employees on how to do it.

Fine. Motor out from the shop, conduct a hour’s training and motor back in, picking up a cup of coffee on the return journey. Easy stuff. But it was the sights in the shopping malls riveted my attention – I saw ghosts.

They were both sad and frightening, and I paid close attention to them. They were the men of a similar age to myself that had no occupation – either public or private – and who passed the day sitting in the centre of the mall. Some of them drifted silently about. Grey men in shapeless garments – they may have been wearing their grave clothes – with grey faces devoid of expression. Whenever I encountered them they hurried me on my way, as I did not want whatever had infected them to touch me.

Well, now I am a retired person, and having seen what mall ghosts look like I have determined on a few things:

a. When I get up, I dress up. The outfit may be a plaid shirt, braces, and high-water britches, but it is the clothing of a person who is determined to keep moving. No grey winding cloths.

b. When I am in a mall, I keep moving briskly to whatever store I need to go to. And then equally briskly back home. Malls are fine for concentrating shops in one area, but they make lousy graveyards.

c. I do not eat or drink in a mall. I have food at home that costs me 1/4 the price of the mall. I do not need to overspend to undereat.

d. I have hobbies – so does my wife. They are the life-rings of retirement. I do not begrudge them to myself or to her , and I realise how much good they do us.

Every hobby cannot be done all the time, but they can be rotated so that there is something all the time that can be done on one or the other of them. It might not need to be done, but that is not the point.

Fortunately I am a loner in many respects and always have been. Thus I do not need to be cossetted in a group doing things to find things to do. But I do not deny the utility of pensioner groups and other forms of entertainment. That is what some people need.

Result? I am up early and doing, and the feeling of being a ghost comes rarely to me. I would urge it upon others for as long as they can manage at whatever level they can achieve. Leave the malls to the teenagers.


Home Five – Bath

I live at home.

And part of living for Australians is getting clean. I do not propose to offend the British readers by making coal-in-the-bath  and soap jokes, but take it from me – Australians like to get clean.

Some of them do it in the ocean or the pool. Some of them do it in the sauna. I do it in the shower. Every blessed morning, and sometimes twice a day – if I have been making a mess of myself in the Little Workshop.

Don’t be confused by the title of this piece – we do, indeed, have a bath in the house, but it is not frequently used. We keep a cover over it and put other things on top of the cover. It is there if we ever have to soak off crusted-on scabs or make cheap gin. Mostly we use the showers.

Australian showers are a little different from the ones in English hotels. For one thing, they are not often made of plastic. For another, they are big enough to put the entire body in. We often have hot water and many of us use soap and shampoo. My shampoo days are drawing to an end as I get balder, but it is a nice memory and there are always the armpits and the other squidgy bits. I do not use conditioner, as I have no idea what condition it would leave me in and I am not about to experiment. My soap is the cheapest one on the market.

Note 1: I save the soap slivers for use in a shaving mug. It is not necessary for economy as I have five sticks of shaving soap, but there is something primeval about it that appeals. I have offered to shave the rest of the family but they give me funny looks.

Note 2: Being clean need not be a moral thing, if you play your cards right.

Make A List

Despite what James Dean said about lists in ” Rebel Without A Cause ” – and wasn’t he the one to talk – they are a very good idea for people with either no time to spare or all the time in the world. Lists organise, monitor, and reward. You can live a happier life with lists:

a. Make a list last thing at night of what you wish to accomplish tomorrow.

b. Look at it – recognise that you are only fooling yourself – then cut it down to three do-able things.

c. Get up in the morning, consult the list and set about doing the three things.

Even if you are interrupted, go back to the list and do the three things before the end of the day. If your day ends at midnight with you collapsing in a heap on the floor, you’ll have time to dawdle. If it ends at 4:00 when you mix a cocktail, you’ll have to have been a bit zippier with the early part of the day.

You decide whether you’d like exhaustion or a cocktail and work accordingly.

d. Tick off the list. Really, tick it off on a sheet of paper and you’ll feel a glow of accomplishment. It will reinforce your will and make it easier to persevere next time.

e. Save the list. Whether it is saved in  paper form or on some electronic instrument, it means that you can go back at the end of the week, month, and year and see the vast number of things that you have accomplished. This will boost your morale no end. And you don’t need to depend upon anyone else’s approval or reward – you reward yourself.

f. Tomorrow is another day. Make tonight’s list.

Home Two – Drink

live at home.

That means I get to drink at home as well. And I ‘m not talking about buttermilk. I have a liquor cabinet and a wine rack and enough clean glasses to host a block party.

The advantages of drinking at home are many:

a. There is no danger of being over the .05 % alcohol limit on the road. The car is parked in the carport, I am parked at either my dinner table or in front of my fireplace and I can have that cocktail without trepidation.

b. The cost of the drink is much lower than the same thing in a pub, club, or restaurant.

I do not begrudge the licensed premises their prices and profits – I realise that they pay far more in maintaining their business than just my pint or martini. They must have a fair return to be there.

But I do growl when I see the price of half a bottle of whiskey being charged for a cocktail that has one jigger of liquor in it tricked up with a show and a shot of water. If I was incapable of making a better cocktail I would have to accept this, but I own a Savoy book and good implements and know how to measure and shake.

c. I can have what I like, rather than what is on offer at the bar. My tastes are pedestrian enough that my local bottle shop can cater for any whim. I do not whim often, but stick to what I enjoy and to what does me good..

d. It does me good. A daily tot ups the spirits without drowning the intellect. I feel the master of the house when I can call for a glass…even if I then have to go and prepare it.

e. I can afford to treat friends who call. And there is none of that multiple buying frenzy that happens when a group meet in a pub. I am standing the rounds in my own house and while I might pour many, I only need to drink the amount that suits me.

f. No Zone Of Smoke to pass through coming in and out of my house.

g. I can go to bed when I like. This may involve putting out the cat and the visitors, but the mat is a big one and accommodates them all.

Poutine – Cultural Cuisine Or Misspelling?

We are just about to encounter Canada Day. It’s the 1960’s revision of the first of July –  Dominion Day – that allows Canadians to make slightly sad cultural asses of themselves throughout the world…or throughout the world that actually notices. This would be about 0.08% of humanity…

Shorn of its fun features – picnics on the shores of freezing lakes, fireworks, and a couple of months off school – Dominion …Oops…Canada day is a time of wild celebration for Canadians overseas. All through Kenya ice hockey and curling is breaking out. The mountains of Holland echo to the sound of gunshots as Canadians open fire on moose. The Indians dedicate another temple to Justin Trudeau and then flush it…

Just kidding. We go out a buy a carton of Molsons or a bottle of rye and some ginger ale and  scuff round the kitchen to see if that recipe for butter tarts has turned up. And we contemplate poutine.

I say contemplate, because I do not know any Canadian overseas who has eaten the stuff. Indeed, I passed a childhood and youth in the Dominion of Canada without ever seeing it, and I lived in Montreal and Chicoutimi for years. I did see strawberry pie in Quebec, but my parents were wise not to let any of it get on me.

Poitine would seem to be French fries with cheese and gravy. I should like to hear the Canadian Heart Association’s take on the dish, as it seems to be comprised of equal quantities of cholesterol, oxidants, and toxins. I am surprised it is not linked to Donald Trump. In an age that views anything other than salad as sin, how has poutine become a star dish? Is it because it is French Canadian, and is therefore excused from any goodness? Is it the culinary version of the Cirque du Soleil?

Well, for me, I shall celebrate Dominion Day with the aforementioned rye highball and something else Canadian enough to do the trick. I am going to get a pound of small fish, split them and roll them in cornmeal, and fry them in Crisco like Fraser River Smelt. Add some PEI potatoes and creamed corn and it will be as close to the True North Strong And Free as you can get in Western Australia. Unless I can gun down an elk on St Georges Terrace.

I may even put up a picture of the current Prime Minister, if I can find the dartboard, eh?

It’s Never Too Late To Be Pretty

I should know. I’m 70 and I’ve had a good look in the mirror. I can’t get anyone else to look in there with me, but…

Being older than you were is a universal phenomenon – we all do it from the day we’re born till the day we die. Then we stop and hand over the problem to someone else. The thing is – it ain’t a problem.

Poverty, illness, criminality,war…they’re problems…but getting older isn’t. Oh, you’ll have to pay the price of aches and pains and insults – those are the common lot of mankind. But you’ll also have the privileges of age; no-one will listen to you so you can tell ’em the truth with impunity…no-one will desire you, so you are safe from the hazards of vice…no-one will lend you money, so you are kept from indebtedness. All you really need is a moderately successful digestion and something to read while you’re sitting on the can.

But don’t neglect being pretty. Being pretty is something you can have as long as you like, and when you are old you can have it on your own terms:

a. You are not subject to the whim of current clothing fashion. You can wear the clothes that make you feel good and that flatter you. If they are the designs of 3 or 4 decades ago, that is fine. You will move and speak, see and think far better wearing them than some imposed look from the current catalogue.

You can certainly wear socks and sandals if they are comfortable and make you feel happy. No-one can say you nay based upon some meme or whim. If they try, you are free to curse them roundly in public to their embarrassment.

b. You are not required to participate in foolish ventures – you can treat them with undisguised contempt. You’ll be assumed to be wiser than the foolish youth, even if you are not. Just refuse politely.

c. On the other hand, you can certainly do foolish things and get away with more of them than you might have earlier on. People will regard it as just an effect of your age – of course you might play this for all it’s worth and cause mayhem, but then mayhem can be a nice hobby.

c. Your hair is no longer anyone’s concern. They are not running their fingers though it, sighing. You’re not, either. If it is not there, wear a hat, cap or touque.

Get a good barber or hairdresser to make it look the way you like it.

d. Do you like green? Wear it. Yellow? Wear it. You may be a parrot.

e. Do you like to read? Or to go to the cinema? Or to fish? Or to garden? Or to build model airplanes? You need not hesitate to do any of these things, in any form you desire. Nor need you hesitate to pursue any other honourable activity. Go toit.

f. Like a drink? Like to eat certain foods? Well, as long as you’re not driving, you may order your menu as you like. Your digestion will set a natural limit to your consumption and there are always tasty alternatives if your physician becomes oppressive.

g. Gain is fun and exciting when you are 20 – whether it is financial, sexual, or sensual…you want it and you want it now. Well, now that you have passed the point of being able to effectively rob and rut, you are allowed to let those desires go – you need not prove anything to yourself or others. You can have friends who are not potential customers or potential lovers.

You can cease to keep your eye out for the main chance and stow it back aboard. The passage through life will be smoother and more pleasant.

h. You are allowed enemies. And as long as you keep them at arm’s length, no harm will be done. Treat yourself occasionally to a bout of either Schadenfreude or forgiveness – just as the fancy takes you. Most enemies will be straw figures anyway and the best method to deal with them is to refuse to stuff more straw in.