The Dishes

Doing the dishes seems to have been the underlying theme through most of my life.

It was one of the first of the ” chores ” that was assigned to me as a kid – in exchange, I suppose, for my weekly allowance. This was never stinted, I might add, and I was as free to spend or save it as my understanding might dictate. But the dishes were always there.

They are still here. Two or three times daily there is a fill up of the basins – detergent in one and fresh in the other, and the results of four people cooking and eating are dealt with. I do not include the cat as a person – I am able to distinguish species – but the cat dishes get done as well.

In truth I should not complain.

a. If I am doing dishes it is because we have eaten. We had enough money to buy food, a stove to cook it on, and plates to bear it. Being fed is better than being hungry, even if you work afterwards as well as before.

b. We have dishes that can stand cleaning. The people who eat off paper plates or flimsy plastic dishes do themselves, the food, and the environment no good.

c. If it was really that onerous a task, we could buy a dishwashing machine. But we’ve never used one that was satisfactory and the addition of another complexity to life is unappetizing. Just scrub and wipe dry.

All this having been said, it is a pleasure sometimes to take a meal elsewhere – a hotel or restaurant – where the staff may pester for tips or to move you on, but they cannot compel you to the soapy water torture. It makes holiday eating a pleasure.

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What’s For Dinner?

I used to ask my mother this question with some trepidation – the answer might not be what I wanted to hear. In fact, it frequently wasn’t what I wanted to eat, either, but it took a few years before we adjusted ourselves to an agreement between the cook and the customer.

Essentially it amounted to me agreeing to eat what was on my plate as long as it did not have liver, kidneys, or eggplant. I wasn’t being precious about it – I just could not, and can not, stand the taste or texture of these foods. I could be bent to liverwurst in small doses and like patés nowadays, but steak and kidney pie or liver and bacon was a case of electing to go to bed hungry rather than gag on it.

These days I am the cook, and the question exercises my ingenuity daily. We have plenty of ingredients in the pantry and freezer, and it is just trying to get a variety into the week as well as a balanced meal on a plate. Sometimes the family is out doing things elsewhere and I am cooking for myself – which generally results in a cold cut and cheese sandwich – and sometimes it is two rather than four to table, but if you have ingredients that are divided sufficiently and are warned about the expected crew, you can size things well. I do not want to leave days of leftovers, but a  couple of extra serves is always handy for lunch next day.

I do appreciate the plates being cleaned, as it shows the meal was a hit. I appreciate them being washed and dried even more…

What If Nothing Happened All Day?

How could I be happy if nothing happened? Where was the joy in that?

a. I was not being bombed or shelled by anyone. No-one hates me enough to bother with the ordnance, let alone the targeting.

b. Nothing broke. Neither the legs nor the washing machine nor the car nor the airbrush.

c. No-one stole anything from me or my house.

d. No-one sent me a bill.

e. The Facebook pests that perpetually swing their little axes in my face had other things on their minds.

f. I was not on the Freeway for morning nor afternoon rush hour. So none of the sirens were for me.

g. The cat did not put a dead rat on the doorstep.

h. I did not lose another pair of panties to the elastic monster.

This was a day full of the noticeable absence of stressful excitement. It left space for food and drink, hobby work, and writing. I would like to achieve an entire week of this boredom some day.

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.

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 Big New House Vs The Small Old House

I visited a big new house that is occupied by small old people and wondered what the heck.

It’s lovely, mind, and they are lovely, and I hope that they will be very happy there…but I cannot pretend that it will be for a very long time. The business of life doesn’t work that way, as we have found out this year.

There has been a tremendous amount of work put into the new building by the owners and it is stylish and complex…but there are years of work left to finish all the myriad aspects of it, and I can’t help think that the time needed must be subtracted from other things that might be a lot more rewarding in your senior years.

Perhaps it’s jealousy on my part at the shiny bright newness and neatness of the thing.  Or at the obvious expenditure that has gone into it. But then I remember that I am the chap who delights to wear a 60-year-old suit and jacket on occasions and feels on top of the world when I can pursue my hobbies for no expenditure. If I do not have a water feature and two pergolas in my back yard, I do not have to maintain them.

In fact, seeing that new suburban house, I understand better the impetus for people to retire to prefab villages and mobile homes. You get as much new as you fancy without having to be a suburban farmer or constant home repairman. I can also see the attraction of a residential hotel or apartment. Perhaps those movies of the high-rise life in New York in the 1930’s weren’t as silly as they seemed.

Trying To Be Plain, Without Being Simple

I have come a little late to realise that I am plain bun. Possibly with one sultana in it, and occasionally a bit of jam…but a simple bun nevertheless. For an awful long time I pretended to be fancy pastry.

Do we all do this in our youth and early adulthood? Do we dress, drive, and do far more than we need to? Do we try to live to a fancier standard than we are really able to sustain? Do we intend to fool others and end up fooling ourselves? I fear this has been the case for me.

It was the access to ready money – derived from a secure professional job – that made it easy to attain more and fancier goods than were strictly required. In its turn this produced fancier internal visions which demanded more goods…and the cycle went on and on.

Occasionally there was a hiccup – when tax time revealed that I was not the high-flyer I imagined. But the taxes were paid, goods accumulated, activities ongoing at the time smoothed over the unease, and there was always something new to do. And new things could keep the money flow going.

Eventually, however, retirement reduced the spending river to a small rivulet, and eventually it became time to close down the luxury mills or take up train robbing to pay for them. I have chosen the former, rather than the latter, though the idea of a pistol and a mask is still attractive. The wonderful side effect is to discover – as the first paragraph states, that I have simpler tastes than I suspected.

My hobby pursuits do not see me wearing $ 1500 clothes, $1500 away from home. My dinners cost well under $ 10. I play happily on $ 20 a week and am never bored. And I do not have a debt that lasts longer than a month.

The life of a plain bun can be just as nourishing as anything the patisserie can supply.