Touching A Land Mine With A Barge Pole

Also known as ignoring the warning bells and the voices in your head.

We have all done it at some stage of our lives, but I address myself to those who have not quite reached that stage. Unlike Wells Fargo, this stage doesn’t have a guard with a shotgun on the front seat.

We will all encounter situations where there is a little internal voice – or a faint hint – that tells us to back away. To avoid engaging. To be quiet and do it quickly. If we are intelligent, we listen to those voices. There may also be tiny silver bells, or submarine diving klaxons. In any case they invite us to heed and hold off. And how often have we ignored them…and ploughed ahead to disaster.

I can think of a dozen times when discretion would have been the better part of valour and disinterest the better part of friendship. Yet I only acceded to the call of wisdom in half of the cases – and got 6 bruises for the other half. I’ve lost money, friends, reputation, goods, and self-esteem by barging wildly into situations that needed me to be somewhere else.

This was bad news for me over the years, but fortunately each mental scar has the decency to throb in wet weather and remind me of itself – and I have gotten old enough to take lessons from my own past. I may not remember dates of battles won, but I do remember defeats. Each one has helped me far more than the victories.

I recently had an opportunity to step into the breach and ” do the right thing ” and cover myself with self-love…and I looked at the ceiling and walked on by. I also deliberately avoided doing bad things to good people and/or becoming a living saint. And I think I shall be much happier in all cases for it. I know how quickly good works can turn into bad times.

Land mines blast far further than barge poles can reach.

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When They Ask You To Play ” Misty “

Yet again.

You may never be in this position, Clint, and good luck to you. but if you ever do find yourself listening to that phone call or reading that email…

  • Immediately remove yourself from all social media. Cancel your subscription to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other electronic conduit.
  • Clean out all traces of the correspondence that have accumulated. This may involve burning old letters tied with blue ribbons, deleting files, throwing everything into the ” secure trash disposal ” icon, or any other means necessary to clear the table.
  • Consider reducing your computer and hard drive to atoms by strapping it onto a North Korean nuclear device and poking Kim in the back with a stick. As alternatives you can do much the same with an oxy-acetylene torch or by wrapping the computer with a sock and putting a matching pair into the dryer. With any luck the offending one will disappear into the sock void and never be seen again
  • Contact your local network news agency and confess to something. Make it something juicy – it need not be a true confession to an actual crime or sin, as long as it is going to be chortle-worthy on the 6:00 news. Make yourself a neon-lit, steam-powered, toxic social pariah. That usually stops most pests.
  • Send a price list for misty-playing. I usually ask $ 30 an hour and in the cases where I suspect the bill wouldn’t be paid, I demand cash in advance. You’d be surprised how often a business-like approach to this sort of thing sorts out the cheapjacks.
  •  Move away. Away away. Go interstate or overseas.
  • Take holy orders. Tuck yourself into whichever superstition seems most likely to provide protection against unbelievers.
  • Come out of the closet. Or go back into the closet. Buy an closet at IKEA and spend the weekend putting it together. Buy an secondhand closet from someone who has come out of it and no longer needs it. If you do, inspect it beforehand for moths or worse.
  • Just play Misty.

Piracy On The High Seas

I love pirates. From Johny Depp as Jack Sparrow to Errol Flynn as Captain Blood they have swashed buckles and shivered timbers from Tortuga to Tahiti. Even Aardman had wonderful pirates as animated characters.

I’m even more impressed with the ones off the Horn of Africa who try to zoom aboard passing merchant ships and rob the crews. And I just loooove the way the US, Britain, France, and the Russians treat them – from opening up on their tin can boats with autocannon to boarding them and blowing them up with satchel charges.

I note that the Iranian floating terrorists are now entering the game and stepping up the pace with ship captures and mines.

Please, let us return to the days of the Caribbean and the Royal Navy sinking pirates on sight. And Wapping Stairs, please. In chains.

Rules of engagement for countering pirates: There’s one, open fire.

PS: Let the air squadrons play too. If they can’t get a Warthog that far out from the coast, surely someone has a spare gun pack in the stores they could clap onto a Hornet.

Pirates are ALWAYS freie Vögel…whether they have a mullah or a mad king at their back. And eventually you get to storm their pirate nest and burn it to the ground. It took care of Port Royal and Cartagena…and Bandar-e Abbas is no different.

Allons, Enfants!

Let us now celebrate one of the best days of the year for democracy – a day when the downtrodden finally rose in arms and started to break the power that had always set its foot on their necks. Today is Bastille Day.

It was not a quick revolution nor a clean one – the real ones never are – but it was, by and large, a successful one. The old monarchy tried to return after the new upstart monarchy was defeated. Eventually both their powers petered out and people took more of their lives into their own hands.

They’ve been conquered since, and then liberated and have conquered in their turn, and are facing  more of it  – as all Europe does. But then Europe has always faced strife since before the Roman Empire – none of it is new.

I take comfort on Bastille Day in reading  Tom Paine’s ” The Rights Of Man ” and am inspired by our Marianne in the liberty cap. It is a good day for cheese and wine and paté.

What Do You Do When You Look At The Map, Eh?

If you are looking at the map of North America and stray above the 49th Parallel you give a little start and say

” Oh. Canada…”

And in many cases you will be correct – save perhaps if you go too far north and are looking at Alaska or too far east and are looking at Quebec. Most of the rest is still Canada.

It’s not the Dominion of Canada, except to us old emigrants who cleared out of the place before 1982. The current flag is a red-and-white affair with a maple leaf on it* – symbolising a hockey team that rarely wins. This is considered quintessentially Canadian – both the hockey and the the not winning.

I suspect the current Prime Minister is also somewhat of a red-and-white affair as well, though it is naughty of me to say that. After all, he is someone else’s choice, saviour, and burden, and it’s not for me to mock the afflicted – or their afflictor, either. As Prime Ministers go, he will….eventually…and unless he takes out Australian citizenship I am safe. There is a whole planet full of molten lava between he and I.

I do miss Canada on some October days when the memories of the autumnal woods and the clear air return but then this is the start of Australian spring and the weather turns cheery here too. There is always solace in Canadian Club, maple syrup, and Red Green Show re-runs.

I am a little nonplussed by what our local hoteliers think makes for a Canadian celebration on Dominion Day – 1st of July. There is a great deal of foofle about Clamato and poutine  and no recognition at all of butter tarts. Remember these got a Prime Ministerial vote of approval in the days when Prime Ministers were real. I should be prepared to make a suitable Canadian menu up but some of my friends would be horrified at what was on it. Many of the dishes were developed before there were gluten or food allergies and quite a few of the ingredients were on the hoof, fin, or feather prior to being on the plate.

I shall celebrate the day with a highball and work on a model of a plane for my little RCAF airfield, wearing my plaid shirt, moccasins, and Red Green braces. It might not be the Inner Canadian that the novelists bang on about, but it can at least be the Inner Former Canadian, eh?

* A corporate logo. The old red duster for me. A proper flag with a flag and a crest on it.

 

Marcel Was ‘Ere

In a previous post I declared that I was a friend of Art. And that I was a kindly and  nonjudgemental soul. That I would celebrate all I saw.

I lied.

You have only to place before me some of the most celebrated works of European artists to call forth from me the Canadian version of the Bronx cheer. It has bellowed forth through the art gallery of New South Wales and the NGV many times. This year Marcel Duchamp’s works evoked it. And it was not even because it was a paid exhibition – I’d have laughed it to scorn for free.

There’s Marcel’s pisser, of course…

And the edifying sight of a bus-load of earnest French  high school students worshipping it.

I was taken with the red wooden box in which Marcel established a portable gallery of his works, and with the revolving discs that made optical illusions when placed on a gramophone…and by the portable chess set he carried.

But I cannot bring the same sense of admiration – other than the sort of regard in which I hold P.T. Barnum – for the bicycle wheel, the ball of twine, or the urinal. He said that they were art and got people to agree with him – but people can agree on folly as readily as they can on wisdom.

Are You Sorry You Never…?

Yes. and no. When I consider the possibilities of what I might have done…or had done to me…I figure it is about a draw. I have never been as happy or as miserable as I might have been. Not that I did not try.

We can all remember chances we could have taken that would have resulted in vast wealth, fabulous sex, and untold acclaim.  The land we could have bought for a song, the partner we could have bedded, the position we could have stood for and won. But we have to be honest – if we pass the same period of time through our memory we can also list junk bonds and properties that we passed by, people who have turned out really rotten, and ventures that have proven to be toxic to all concerned. If we missed some, we at least avoided the others.

It’s been a constant meme that the saddest phrase is ” If Only…” but this is a crock. The wise person remembers the mixture of events and benefits greatly from the warm glow – in some cases of nostalgia and in the other of burning wrecks. In both cases you benefit from being far away and long after. Just remember the dumb thing and do the smarter thing next time.

But, but, but…what if there is no next time? What if you fetch up on the wrong side of 70 and all the bikini girls are 18? And what if there is no more land in Dalkeith for 5 Pounds? And you have retired from the Association Of Veeblefetzers long before you could become president and reap the bribes? How can you stop the gnaw of regret? Easy. Remember then, if you wish, and then look at now realistically.

Talk to an 18 year-old. If you can get them out of their iPhone long enough. Ask them about music or the movies. Be prepared to grit your teeth and/or other parts of your anatomy at some of the answers. Let’s face it – you’ll be lucky to resist the urge to order the kid off your lawn!

Fabulous land bargains? They come with fabulous land taxes and/or dealing with contractors to develop the dirt. They are the start of decades of worry, culminating in the fear of capital gains tax. You’ll get a six-foot plot of land soon enough…

Position and power? Over whom? The sort of people who have meetings, seminars, and workshops? The committees and subcommittees? The Annual General Meeting? You could wash out stale yoghurt containers and have more fun than occupy most powerful executive positions.

So do not regret. Leave that to others. If you enter into the thing at all, opt for being the person who makes them sorry for it all.