Visiting The Old Country From The New Country

How many migrants to and from Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand have had this experience:

They’ve migrated and worked and saved and succeeded in the new country but always hold a dear memory of the old land. This homesickness has been acute in the first couple of years but worn off somewhat after that – what with new careers, families, and homes. But it starts again at about 15 years and they decide to go back and see the old place.

They plan to make a big trip and see everywhere they used to live – and possibly everyone they used to know. The get on the plane or ship and float on water or air to the old home country. And are horrified to find that it is not there.

Oh, the dirt is still there, and in the case of a lot of places it has crawled halfway up the buildings…but the society and people and nation has so changed from what it was that they are strangers in a wasteland. Worse – if there has been a war go through the place – or a spate of developers – even the buildings they knew do not exist.

Their old friends are dead, or older, and do not have the last 15 years of shared memories to talk over. Only the past – and that can be as dead as the dust. They run out of conversation in 5 minutes. Even if the old language is the same, the speakers are not talking to them.

This is the thought that I took back to the UK when I visited in 1995 – from having once lived in the place in 1973. It was just that way, though there were plenty of tourist activities in which to immerse myself. Would I get any benefit from another visit? Yes, if my current interests could be pursued – the UK is a nice place.

Canada or the USA for me? After 52 years? There’s a big question. An expensive one to answer, too – especially with the fear that seeing my youth gone would age me more. I can do that right now at local prices and wearing comfortable clothes.

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Bradney Soss

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Court of Christmas Justice would like to welcome you to this afternoon’s execution. We have prepared a criminal for you and will be dispatching him shortly in a spectacular manner.. But let us give you some of he details of his crime before the headsman takes over.

As you know, today is Christmas  Day – a festival day dedicated to kindness and good will towards all. It is also a time when good things are eaten and drunk, often to excess. Boxing day sees many a floor being vigorously scrubbed. There are traditional foods and drinks that bring happiness to all – and one of them is plum pudding with brandy sauce.

Now no-one would accuse the well-known hotel of being stingy with their celebration – they put on a  magnificent buffet within their main ballroom and made sure that there was enough wine, beer, soft drink, and other goodies to fill all. There was music, Santa, attentive staff, and an atmosphere of jollity. Indeed, their dessert line was as long and as replete as anyone could ask for. And they essayed plum pudding with sauce.

I suppose we should have taken warning from the sign that referred to the beige liquid next to the pudding as ” Sauce Anaglise “… It may well have been. I have never visited Anaglise but they may slurp this stuff from tureens. The awkward part is that someone may have thought it to be brandy sauce as the English like it.

The English are a sturdy race. I admire them for this. They can stand a great deal of fire. And they like brandy sauce for their plum pudding that needs to be served with care. They are wise people.

The beige liquid, on the other hand, resembled something that you would normally consult a colour chart for. Come to think of it, a good semi-matte indoor emulsion would probably have tasted better. One would have been prepared to put on two coats.

As it is, we have determined which chef made the sauce and he is waiting in the tumbril for his march up the stairs. Those of you in the front rows may wish to cover your plates when the time comes in case he splashes. It is not so much the fear of blood as the horror of beige liquid.

The True Christmas Of Spirit

No, it’s not dyslexia kicking in. It’s what I meant to write.

Christmas, we are told, is a season of renewal and promise and rebirth and blessed peace. Sounds good, but the rebirthing you can keep. I’ve seen what the house looked like for the next three years after a regular birth and I don’t really want to see that again. And the smell…

But renewal is fine, as long as you do not ask me to renew marriage vows or coronary arteries again. I’ll stick with the way things are at present. They would both be occasions for a party, but guess who would end up paying for it…

Promises – well we can have them in the pallet-load out of Parliament House. Fresh , new, implausible ones or old, tired, cynical ones. Or an allsorts mixture of the two. They actually keep very well on a shelf.

And blessed peace. Well, I have no grandchildren, so there is not quite the intensity of celebration that others suffer…but I do really appreciate it when the kids go off to the other rellies for family affairs and the wife and I are left to our own, quiet, devices here at home. We do not do much, but we do it in contentment.

Well, if we are to have any of these ingredients they must act upon our spirit. Here’s hoping they will raise it, rather than lower it. So far the several-weeks-before-New Year’s resolution has been adhered to, and in the face of temptation. I am lucky – I am allowed to eat and drink, unlike a friend who has recently been put on a food and drink diet…just before Christmas. All I have to do is be financially responsible.

I’ll be fine as long as the pocket money holds out…Then I will have to go out and pick more pockets.

Have a Merry Christmas anyway, diet, budget, or otherwise.

 

The Day Before The Night Before Christmas

And all through the house – people are scrabbling around for the last of the cello-tape and cheap wrapping paper to try to cover the presents. No-one really wants to have to go out in the 38º heat to the newsagent to get more…particularly because he knows that this is his opportunity to make a killing. Dec 26 sees a crash in the wrapping paper market but Dec 24 is premium time.

The tree has been hung with tinsel with care…no, wait, it hasn’t. That was last year and I think that effort took the wind out of this year’s sails. I, for one, am keeping grinchly quiet about it all to avoid having to dig out all the boxes of decorations. For those who give me the odd looks, I just say that I am seeking the true Christmas spirit, which redoubles the looks.

The Christmas cooking got done last week and also eaten then. We’ll get baked goods from relatives but this year we will go to a hotel for the Christmas lunch. No three weeks of increasingly dry turkey leftovers for us.

We’ve hired a portable spa for a month – we can bob round like apples in it during the worst of the hot weather and then send it way when we’re done. Not my idea, but I can see the logic of it.

The only real shopping will be the last-minute salad bits for later in the week, and the beer. My local shop claims to have hundreds of varieties of craft beer in stock and I feel it my duty to make sure that consumer law is not being flouted. I’ve made a list, but unfortunately after a dozen experiments I go to sleep.

Still, I’m ready for Santa Claus. High or low, I am determined to get him this year.

The Backstabbers Guild Guide To Visiting

Visiting during the holiday period is a tradition with many people. So are torpedo attacks if your family grew up in the Kreigsmarine. What the Guild wants to do is to make sure that if you are going to visit, your victim will go to the bottom in the swiftest manner:

a. Do not call ahead, but make sure that you have as many co-visitors with you as possible. Dress well, and warmly, and carry what look like expensive presents*. It is harder to turn a large group of people away than a small one, as the Germans found out on D-Day.

b. When you gain access to the premises – also known as breaching the walls – be hearty. Be loud. Be exuberant. This is a perfect cloak for someone in the crowd of visitors to rifle through to presents under the tree. A package slitter is a good thing to carry.

c. Make sure that your host is aware that you are thirsty and hungry. And not for just a cup of tea and a biscuit. This is the holidays. Unless they are prepared to put out a complete dinner with turkey, nuts, and crackers, they will appear to be Scrooge. It is a nice touch to carry a small crippled child who can call out ” God bless us one and all ” as you go through the refrigerator and pantry.

d. When it comes time to exchange gifts, have your gift assessor examine the goods closely before you let go of yours. Portable x-ray machines can sort out the difference between socks and Rolex watches.

e. Be ” Genuine “. Nothing beats genuine. Jesse James was one of the most genuine people you could ever meet.

f. Remember that it is the thought that counts, unless you are having the sort of thoughts that Harvey Weinstein used to have. Then only DNA evidence will stand up in court.

g. Be kind to the little children. Be civil to the slightly older ones. By the time they are 14 you can be downright rude. It will fit their frame of mind perfectly.

h. Good visitors curtail their stay before they become a nuisance. Now think – whose column are you reading? Is a Backstabbers Guild Of Australia member going to leave before all the food is gone and the bathroom drains are clogged? Of course not. When you visit  you VISIT…

Some people can stay visited for years.

*  Which you may bear away to your next port of call.

 

 

 

Beat The Parcel Bandits This Year

The crime of theft from the front doorsteps of Australia is on the rise – the holiday month plus the increase in on-line shopping means than more and more deliveries are being made…and more and more delivery personnel are discovering that no-one is home.

Some of them make this judgement after ringing the doorbell and knocking for 5 minutes. Some make it from the street as they drive by at 50 kph. The second types are generally Australia Post contractors who just take the parcel back to the local depot and leave it for you to seek. The ones who invest a bit of time at the front mat may to leave the goods under it or behind the potted palm and then buzz off.

Here is where the parcel thieves succeed. They trail delivery trucks until they get one of these unattended drops and then swoop on it after the courier has driven out of the street. The goods are gone and the intended recipient may have a miserable trial trying to get anyone who handled them to admit to it.

The Guild Solution to this is BGA Couriers. In our distinctive cars and vans – we have a magnetic sign that can be whacked onto the doors of any car…and as easily removed again – we drive through the suburbs until we pick up a ” trailer “. There is a list of likely suspects circulated daily and any old Commodores or Hyundai sedans with oxidized paint panels are instantly recognised.

A house is selected – preferably with an open driveway, closed garage doors, and a porch easily seen from the street.. The BGA Courier goes to the door with a temptingly large parcel. The courier seems to ring the bell, but no-one answers…so they prop the parcel in full view of the street and drive away. With a bit of luck the thief swoops, collects the bait, and is off and away.

What’s in the box? Anything we fancy. Old laundry, used, and well past saving. Commercial leaflets that have been accumulating for the last three months. Pistachio shells and glitter in an unsealed bag. Dust from the Hoover. Just anything…

After all, it is the holiday season and in this case we are far better giving than receiving.

 

Happy Holidays

I intend to wish people Happy Holidays this year during December…in spite of Facebook memes and pressure posts that insist I must only think of Merry Christmas.

Oh, I intend to have one of those too…a pre-Christmas gathering with relatives and then a catered lunch at a hotel on the actual day. Merry will be practiced, I assure you.

But I also hope to have an equally cheerful Hanukkah and even a midsummers dinner. Here in Australia we do that instead of midwinters. If I were a Buddhist I could have a holiday during the month as well, and if I were a black American or a Hispanic American I would have even more celebrations to cook, decorate, and buy presents for. A veritable month of jollity.

And if I were an atheist I could celebrate the 25th of December as Newtonmas and send cards with ” Reasons Greetings “. I would be careful who I sent them to, however, because I think they would severely affect the people on Facebook who post those scolding memes about the term ” Merry Christmas “.

After all, I would not wish to affect their happy holidays…