What A Wonderful Lot Of Things…

Socrates was said to have watched the procession of a rich man through the market place with all his goods accompanying him and to have remarked:

” What a lot of things there are that a man can do without . ”

I think he was quite right, but as he was a better philosopher than I, he could manage his acquisitiveness better. In my case I still have desires for some goods and services. These can be got or not, and that can affect my happiness. Soc would possibly frown on this but he isn’t round my place all that often.

I might get his approval regarding riches in another way – I find as I grow older that I can become curious about the possession or use of things but can satisfy that curiosity without actually having the goods – or at least without having them long.

I test cameras out as part of my writing job – also lenses, accessories, lights, etc. This is on a weekly basis as I try to find topics to write about. I’ve had some pretty expensive gear pass through my hands for a week at a time – and have been able to see whether the reality of it matches any part of the advertising hype. There is a responsibility to return it undamaged, of course, and the expectation that I will say something nice – or at least encouraging – about it. I’m relieved that I do not have any obligation to like it or desire it for myself.

And there are many occasions where I do not. I compare it to the equipment I normally use and in many cases find it to be less useful, comfortable, or practical. I can heave a great internal sigh of relief as it goes back onto the storeroom shelf and tick it off my ” desires ” list. Not exactly Socratic practice, but the result is the same.

Sometimes it works the other way, but my purse has the final say and it most often says ” No “.

Note that this is just one division of consumer goods. Other things like clothing, furniture, art, etc. do not even get a look-in. I am warm and dry in clean clothing, inside my own house and that is all I want. I do confess to a small desire for some of the fancier motor cars, but I suspect that if I were to drive them they would not really live up to their price. My Suzuki does.

And as far as the other appurtenances of wealth – gold, jewels, expensive food and drink, exotic travel, entertainment,etc…I am absolutely in line with Socrates.  These items pass my personal radar without registering a blip.

Small confession of sin: I do like book stores. And hobby shops. But in these I restrict my desires to the economic goods and leave the expensive ones for others. And I have just as much fun with what I can afford.

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Serious Thoughts Upon The Death Of A Business

I have been a customer of one particular business here in Perth since the day after I arrived in Australia in 1964. When we flew in we were taxied from the airport to a hotel and deposited to slough off our jet lag. As the parents sat there comatose trying to focus upon a pay television with the Tokyo Olympic Games on it, I lit out for a hobby shop.

I had seen it as we came past on the way to the hotel. As a kid I had a sure instinct for hobby shops and could spot them in any town we visited. It was a matter of some relief to find that the wilds of Perth were not so primitive that they could not afford one.

No kid assesses distance accurately – what I thought was four blocks turned out to be twenty-three, but I kept on walking. I was rewarded eventually with a house turned shop, several crammed rooms of kits, trains, planes, and toys, and a pleasant owner. I returned in the following weeks and bought a number of items, and took them off to our house in the hills. Later forays to Perth never actually got back to that location, but I discovered the four or five other hobby shops in the centre of the town that were accessible by railway.

Crikey – that’s over 50 years ago. The other shops have packed it in long ago – some to move to the suburbs and some to disappear forever. The original shop I visited moved to a railway suburb and kept there for 50 years…but I suspect it is now moribund. The location is perfect for them but their sales stock is depleted and their reputation dwindling away. They have been forced to become a tiny portion of their previous size and are fragmented.

Yet…They have a name that everyone remembers. Were they to relocate, restock, and promote themselves, I still think they could recover. Were they to combine with one of the other shops the whole town might benefit.

As for myself, however, I have a new shop a mile from my door on an easy road – with free parking out the front. I am a constant customer. Sentiment is one thing but practical life – even when it is a hobby – is another.

I suspect this might be the case for any number of other businesses in all forms of trade. People are spread out more in the Metro area – they are doomed to travel far longer distances to get the things they need from the disparate suppliers. Some have taken to the internet as a solution…but it isn’t. Others have just realised that a 30-mile round trip for a bottle of paint is just not practical.

I Think You Can’t…I Think You Can’t…

Or, The Little Engine That Worked For The Local Council.

I have a confession to make – I have stopped asking the local council for permission to do anything. I’ve stopped asking  the state government the same question. In fact, I’m even considering cutting the federal government out of the equation when it comes to deciding how to order my life.

I’m not going to go so far when it comes to the wife. That’d just be crazy talk.

But flouting the local authorities would seem to be a good idea these days. I am no longer in receipt of a big income, nor of a pension, so throwing money around for permits and licenses seems like a waste of resource. I am fortunate in that the things I fancy are lawful and reasonably healthy and can be made to attract little attention. I am not fool enough to activate the sumptuary laws buried in council regulations nor the jealousies buried in the hearts of my neighbours.

Case in point: The state government would like to have anywhere from $75 to $100 to register a business name for me. I would like the same amount for hard liquor and model airplanes. Therefore I have named my business to my own satisfaction, to the satisfaction of my clients, and to that of the Australian Taxation Office…without reference to the local Jobsworths. I figure the financial feds trump them anyway.

I also operate a model airplane workshop in my back yard shed. I’d be willing to bet there are a dozen council regulations that might be applied to it, but after getting the first piece of paper allowing erection of the structure 35 years ago I don’t see that it is any of their business what I build in it. If I start to assemble floating mines I will reconsider…

And so on. Our family parks our cars on the front lawn as there is insufficient space for them in the carport. Betcha that’d get a fistful of paper if I were an enemy of the council…but I’m not. They see the rates paid and the bins sorted and the anonymity this gives me is just what I want.

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.

 

Let And Hindrance III

Gosh, time flies. It’s been four years since I last considered this subject, and so much has happened in the meantime; I’ve retired from retail shop work and taken up home hobby shop work, and I’ve officially gotten too old to give a good God Damn.

It’s a little frightening – this new freedom. As middle-aged citizens in employment  we were required to be a pillar of the community and an example to the young. We needed to follow all applicable laws and apply for official permission on the correct forms.  Now that I am 70 years old, no-one looks, no-one asks, and no-one cares. Other people are depressed by this but I am exhilarated. I feel like a kid with a box of limpet mines and a pair of swim fins.

I’ve given up nearly every activity that requires permission – shooting firearms, flying toy airplanes and sailing toy boats, entering prestigious photographic contests, etc. Having had as much success with these things as was ever likely to be, I can leave them – and their lets and hindrances – far behind. And I can be a lot smarter in the next few years about joining into things that require obedience.

Please understand – I’m not an old rebel. I was never a young one, and wouldn’t know how to do it. I am merely a person who is determined to consult their own counsel and take their own decisions. I shall not be a nuisance nor a danger to navigation – but I shan’t be a sheep any more.

The tax people have my complete respect and obedience – monitored and assisted by an honest accountant. The police also have my wholehearted support for civil law – I shall do all I can not to be a scoff-law in any vital matter. I shall be delighted to participate in the political process of my state and nation – but decline to be bullied by friends or strangers regarding my own vote.

Past this – I shall enjoy toy boats, cars, and airplanes – studio photography,writing, reading – interstate trips and whatever local amusements offer – and I shall not ask permission nor take scolding from anyone whilst doing so.

The chief care I will have to take is not to shock those who like to dictate and direct. I do hope my smile will be bland enough – I must go get my copy of Alice In  Wonderland and  practice Cheshire catting in the mirror.

 

Am I A Clubman? – Part Five

The last question that you need to ask yourself is the first question you should ask. If you don’t know the answer you can call a friend. If you haven’t got any friends, you have your answer already.

Some people are born clubmen or clubwomen. They are loud, make friends easily, are unruffled, take hearty exercise, eat breakfast, produce bowel movements every day ( frequently at the same time…), and are kind to animals. They can stand for office, scrutiny, the flag, or any other thing that the club needs. They are extroverts. indefatigable, ineffable, and impossible to have anything to do with. You’re soaking in one now…

Other folks are born to be recluses – hermits – loners – individuals  – eccentrics – etc. They are generally distinguishable by the simplest senses – silent to the hearing, invisible to the eye, clammy to the touch, and slightly odorous. No-one has as yet tasted one, and no-one is about to start…

And there’s a lot of people in between. Most of us have aspects of each of these types within if we would only see and admit to them. And most of us can choose a club or organisation to suit our real personality. It might not be a fashionable or distinguished society we move in, but if we find genuine correspondence in a group – that is the one we should join. Here’s a few checkpoints for you when trying to match yourself to others:

a. DO I ENJOY LOUD NOISE? If yes, take up shooting. If no, take up reading. Read about shooting if need be.

b. Do I enjoy working with my hands? If yes, carpentry, model making, and any number of crafting clubs are ready for you. If no, run out on a field and hit a ball somewhere with something.

c. Do I enjoy thinking? Yes? Literary and intellectual clubs, political parties, business clubs call. No? Singing and drinking, eating and dancing are for you, and there are people who will help you do it.

d. Am I artistic? Yes? Go to the art store, spend a week’s wage, take the resultant small paper bag to an art society, and ask for help. No? Gardening’s for you – Nature will make what you cannot, and you can eat some of it.

e. Am I an opinionated smart-arse who wants to best everyone in argument? Yes? Become a member of a debating team or get your own secret identity as a troll on internet forums. No? Have you thought of joining a religious order? Or the Asian version…a religious suggestion?

f. Do I love sports? If the answer is yes, join a sports club. If the answer is no, get a competent surgeon to tear your cruciate ligament for you. The cost of the year’s membership to the sporting club or the operation will be about the same and the hospital is quieter than the club rooms.

A New Column Has been Born!

Fans of The Little World posts here on this column will now have a dedicated channel for their miniature and scale model interests – I’ve decided to open another WordPress free site to take the Little World traffic.

Please go to:

littleworld678590491.wordpress.com

– and see if your computer, tablet, or phone view see the new site. It’s a horrendously complex address, so please bookmark it. I think that the WordPress people want me to buy a paid site theme that has a simpler name and simpler address, but I will just see if this basic opening has merit first.

This column will continue as before, and you can view all the older Little World posts on it just by dialling back into the archives. Please feel free to contact me with advice and consent. And chocolate biscuits.