” Are You The Owner Of The Computer? “

Are any of us really owners of the computer? Or are just lessees? Worse, are we servants of it, rather than owners?

I am drawn to this reflection by a pleasant young lady with a sub-continental accent who seems to ring every few days from a windows technical department. I’m not sure which window company she represents – we had ours done some 35 years ago by Westral and they’ve held up very well. Only had one pane has broken and that was fixed promptly.

I suppose she wants to make sure that I can receive advertisements for their blinds and curtains. I was polite and told her that the owner of the computer was unavailable – she was equally polite and wished me a good night. I look forward to her next call, which I’m sure will be at dinner time again…


Going Thump In The Night

I often wonder about the societies that still believe in ghosts, spirits, demons, angels, and local council politicians. Do they sit in fear in the dark whenever the trees rustle or the roof timbers contract? Are they scattering talismans around their beds to keep the monsters at bay? If that’s the case, what sort of talismans would sell best, and can we get them wholesale from China?

For that matter, are the Chinese sitting up in bed clutching the covers, and staring into the darkness?

I have my moments, but most of them are related to where the darned cat is at any one time – ready to jump on my middle parts or already on the bed with its bum an inch from my face? I have taken to keeping a small torch by the bedside. If I see the bum one more time I am going poke it with the torch…

For the most part the house is quiet after midnight, except on late soccer nights. Then I trust in the football fans to keep the demons away from the door. If they could do it at a lower volume I would appreciate it, but one of them is Italian and there is no lower volume  on an Italian football fan. I have come to accept this and will hope for increased deafness in old age.

There are few external disturbances in the neighbourhood – we’re a middle-class suburb and have learned not to leave loose change visible in the consoles of our cars. I leave overdue bills there, hoping that if someone breaks in they’ll rush away with them and pay them for me.

T’was not always thus, as we had several years of mad motorcar chases in our suburb when we first moved here in the 1980’s. These seem to have died down – the miscreants growing up to be about 50 now and younger ones not replacing them. It may have been the hoon laws that stopped this – laws that confiscate and crush cars used by dangerous drivers. Or maybe it has moved out to wilder outer suburbs. We still get overflights to our local light plane airport at all hours, but these are mercy flights by the Royal Flying Doctor aircraft and are really a matter of civic pride.

We’re in the middle of time as far as our houses go – too early to have holes in the eaves that would let possums or rats in and too late to have much native fauna about. The cat doesn’t count as native or fauna.

At least we don’t have the same lives as Mr Lucien – the Moldavian cray fisherman I met some 30 years ago. He was working in Australia to get money for his family back home and before he returned he got me to make up dentistry kits so that they could get their teeth repaired. He also took back drums of Arlec electrical cable, weatherproof work lights, and motion-detecting sensors that turned them on at night.

When I asked about them he said it was to protect the family’s fish farm ponds. When thieves were trying to break in, the lights would illuminate them. I asked what happened then…

” We shoot them with Kalashnikov. Is good and work every time…”

He was completely serious…



Slugga Rye

The old movies were right. A slug of rye whiskey is the best way to solve the world’s problems. Or cause a bar fight.

The fact that a bar fight is the best solution to international tensions and the post-existential angst of shifting paradigms™ says a lot about the state of human relations. I find it a comfort in a changing world. The slugging and crashing of wooden chairs – the bartender ducking down below the line of fire – and the drunk being hurled through the window into the street gives me a warm glow. It’s been that way since kindergarten.

For a time there it was hard to find a bar in Perth that would serve straight rye. I tried the Victoria Hotel in Subiaco in about 2012 and got refused service at 1:30 in the afternoon based upon asking for a simple shot glass of whiskey with no water or ice . Apparently it contravened the state government regulations of Liquor, Gaming, and Making People Feel Uncomfortable. Times have changed, and I might have better luck in Perth today…though probably not at the Victoria Hotel. I’m not fashed – it’s hard to get parking in Subiaco anyway.

Most local Dan Murphys and Liquor Barons can now sell quite decent rye. There is still not the selection than a North American customer might find, but the situation has improved vastly. A home consumer* can feel comfortable.

The link between rye and prohibition is undeniable – just as it is with rough gin. That’s one of the attractions to it. It can be made into sophisticated and seductive solutions like the Manhattan or bashed down in shots like a cowboy or a gangster. It can be a highball anywhere on the North American continent. The Europeans probably look upon it with disdain, but what have they not? They would probably sneer at God and good health if they thought they came from the New World…

As an Australian who migrated from North America – a person who has not only one but two new worlds between him and the continental pig pen – I can celebrate the joy of rye whiskey. Smoother than scotch, devoid of the flavour of burnt moss. More masculine than gin, and more feminine as well. Possessed of a colour and an opinion that vodka never has. And free of the class snobbery of brandy. The only brother spirit is rum, and I say no bad thing about that. Rum and rye can sing together and damn the Governors!

*  ie a person not out on the roads. A person who can have another of the same and do it legally and safely. That second drink is the dangerous one – it either makes or breaks. Truth, sorrow, and appearances before the magistrate occur when the cork comes out for the second time. I only pull the cork twice when I am at home on front of my own hearth.

Home Six – Bed

I live at home.

And for eight hours a day I live horizontal next to a wife and a cat. We have a big bed, and if we are decent about it we need not impinge upon each other’s territory. The cat developed the habit of getting into bed by coming to my side of it and jumping up onto my bits, but I countered this by doing the hockey protector pose when I heard him enter the room and the worst that happens now is a bounce and a thud. On occasion he has tried to lie starfished onto my entire side of the bed but I pick up the blanket and sheet and roll him off.

We have also discovered that you can get a marvelous pad for the top of the mattress that means Mrs. I want to roll around like a pig in a fit can do so without disturbing Mr. for God’s sake lie still until I go to sleep. It has prevented divorce, suicide, homicide, and worse.

The only down side to a very large bed is very large fitted sheets. They cost a lot, and sometimes do not fit as well as the makers would have you think. Oh, the top bit always covers something but putting on the bottom stretchy bit is like fighting a giant squid in a diving suit. And you’re not allowed to use a knife.

Bed is often taken as euphemism for sex. Fine. That’s always a good thing, provided everyone agrees. But also consider that a bed is also a bed. It can be a great comfort even if there is no-one jumping on your bits other than the cat.

Today’s Victories

One: I read a dozen foolish and arrogant posts on Facebook from a dozen foolish and arrogant people and then elected not to make it a Baker’s Dozen…

Two: I coped with the needs of other people at the expense of my own. If I keep my blessed mouth shut about it, and then dismiss it from my mind, it will be a victory.

Three: I did not spend money for unnecessary things.

Four: I did my duty and kept my promises.

Five: I took the moral decision to avoid a bad idea that has been suggested to me. My initial reaction was to reject it – then I researched the morality – and I was delighted to see that authority agreed with me.

Six: I was a good host. So was my wife, and our house welcomed our visitors.

That seems pretty small stuff, until I consider it in terms of the way the world sometimes works. And also when I consider the times that I did not do so well. I hope I have other good days.

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.

Home Four – Fire

I live at home.

And one of the chiefest parts of my home that comforts me is my fireplace. If that sounds all retro and folksy and twee, I don’t care – it is true. I love sitting at my own fire.

You can laugh at this even more when you realise that my fire is just a gas heater that plugs into a delivery line in the wall. No vast Tudor fireplace with hanging pots and blazing logs – just a Rinnai heater on a hose. But it means that I have a secure hearth in front of which I can sit with my feet up on an ottoman.

I choose to do this with refreshment on a table beside me and a book in my hand. The former may be coffee or tea or it may be stronger waters. There may be biscuits and cheese. The latter may be anything that my library affords…and my library affords a great deal. I do not use the public one as I prefer to own my own books, but I recognise the good work they do.

Occasionally I will turn on the hi-fi in the room and let the music flow over me as I sit – though a peculiarity in me means that I cannot read and listen to music at the same time – neither of the stimuli get the attention they deserve. One or the other.

But it all comes back to the comfort, security, and ease of that hearth. In the Australian summer the heater is cold and the air conditioner takes over to comfort and console.