Kinda Canada, Eh?

I once lived in Canada – for about 17-18 years. Then I moved to Australia and have racked up another 50+ years here – with time out for a working holiday in England. Thus I have the basic qualifications to be horribly wrong about three countries. I make the best use of whatever false insights I have made over the years.

Note: I also lived in the USA for a couple of years as a youth and a student. So I can be an instant expert about the place, too. If I am dreadfully wrong, it can be no worse than most of the overseas posts and news reports you read anyway.

All this leads me to a question; how long does one have to actually be in a country to be able to make a rational judgment on and useful report of it. How long does one need to form real memories – as opposed to the ones the glimpses airports and freeways give. How far down the biological and social chain does one need to go to reach the real experience? And is it worth going there?

Well, if your entire experience of, say, Canada was an arrival at Vancouver airport, transfer to a cruise ship and up the coast…then a quick trip to a ski resort and back to the airport…you might be forgiven for a really distorted view of the country. It might have been a pleasant holiday – in between two horrendous airplane flights – but you’d have no idea of summer in the fire season or winter on the prairies or the smell of hockey skates drying in an enclosed space. The same could be said for the tourist who comes to Australia  – though most of the North American visitors spend more time here than we do there. It’s the Asian tourists who do a quick round of casinos, beaches, and wildlife parks and then scatter back to their homes. Possibly with a glazed look in their eyes.

Does anyone ever take home a real view of a real place?

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Riding The Horse – Part Four – It’s Only A Workshop If You Work

There is an Australian meme that says every man needs a shed. It is attacked by those who wishes to press themselves forward, demanding equality, but fortunately in this case that generally involves dirt and hard work. You can let ‘em into your shed to rant away, but leave the door open for when they discover the spiders and the pools of old motor oil.

If you wish to make a hobby of making things, you have a choice as wide as the world of what to do. Every object you see about you was made by someone. With the possible exception of an nuclear reactor, you can do the same. Indeed, if you are prepared to make scale modelling your thing, you can have your own Oak Ridge, Hanford, or Semipalatinsk. And the advantage of a scale model is that you won’t die of radiation poisoning.

Each hobbyist’s bent will be different, and each can be guided by what they like in life, and what materials they like to work with. 

You like wood? Make tables, chairs, beds, cabinets, boats, chessboards, boxes, etc, etc. The hardware stores and wood merchants are your friends and will have machines, tools, and finishes enough to keep you busy forever. There will be books, magazines, YouTube videos, clubs and societies all over that you can repair to for advice and admiration. Go on – knock yourself out.

Metal your thing? Howzabout blacksmithing, etching, welding, fabrication, boatbuilding, furniture, clockmaking, casting, railway work. Expect to get big and black and dirty doing any of these and become resigned to the blood blister and the burn.

Plastic? Model kits, artwork, fabrication, furniture, casting, imbedding.

Mechanical things? Oh Dear Me. Classic cars, hot rods, car maintenance, clockmaking watch repair, camera repair, motor boats, steam engines, oil engines, old farm machinery, tool restoration, appliance repair… be careful to get good at what you do but keep it secret because as soon as people find out that you can fix things they will come to you to have things fixed. Your hobby will become work and you’ll need a hobby to relax from your hobby…

Cloth? Clothing making, dressmaking, costume making, sail making, awning work, upholstery, knitting, tatting, crochet work, embroidery, lacework…I cannot list all the things you could make with fibres…

Leather? Shoes, saddles, belts, bodices, BDSM gear, military equipages, furniture, art, carvings, bookbinding, fake steaks at cheap restaurants…

Paper? Bookbinding, paper making, magazine and pamphlet printing, origami, model making.

Rubber? Well…besides BDSM wedding dresses, you can become a tyre repair as a hobby. Or make mats, boating gear, or other waterproof goods.

Electronics? Despite the fact that we get lots of goods from overseas, we also have good electronic stores that sell components and circuits. You can make or mend  – your choice. You can get zapped either way.

Plants? Grow a garden, grow a lawn, grow a vineyard, grow an orchard. Stop when you run afoul of agricultural law or produce boards and you should be fine. Exhibit, eat, or dig in the results of your endeavours. If you smoke them, expect to be visited by either the local Don or the local detectives.

In short, there are no end of things that you can make. If you make them for yourself, you are rewarded with both pride of ownership and competence. Sometimes you can gain a financial advantage making your own goods – sometimes not. Be wary of making things for profit, as this quickly erodes the hobby benefit.

Be prepared to go from one form of making to another as you gain skill and need to expand. Also be aware that you can get to a plateau or a rut – I have 5 tables made by an old hobbyist who was a friend of my late mother-in-law. They are a delight individually but a nuisance in a group. I hope to give several away to the unwary.

Remember, as well, that some making hobbies border upon the expressive or artistic pursuits. This is no bad thing in itself unless the maker sees more in it than there actually is – or if someone else tries to make art out of mere work.

The Kitchen Is Closing In Five Minutes

Ever been to a mess hall and discovered that you’re too late for chow? Some mess halls run on a very strict schedule – based upon the knowledge that they’ll have to serve out a meal to the next lot of troops at a specified time and they need the dixies back to clean and use again. Bad luck for you if you’ve just been marched up during the hungry interval.

How about a commercial restaurant or bar at about midnight? That’s a reasonable time to shut the hatch as well, as the staff need to clean up for the next day and it’ll be on into the night for them.

But how about a café on a trendy restaurant strip in the centre of town – on Saturday lunchtime? Closing the kitchen at 1:00 and turning the eaters out at 2:00 in the afternoon when they still have hunger and money seems to be a particularly stupid thing to do. Yet it happens all the time here in trendy, cosmopolitan Perth. Eat up and get out and you can admire our decor from the street…

We have been in the habit these last few years of thinking that Perth has become an international city, open for art, cuisine, and commerce. We thought that the days of the 1960’s when 1:00 Saturday saw the shop doors slam shut and the sidewalks roll up were finished. We thought we could get something to eat on Saturday Arvo, without having to go to a pub or the footy. So it might have been during the Café Spring…but we have passed into a different season. Back to the good old days of dead Saturday afternoon.

Well, the coffee pot at home still works, and the biscuit barrel is full. And another lesson has been learned.

Riding The Horse – Part Two – Lifting The Lid

The Business Of The Hobby Explained

The need for a hobby is felt by many in the community – they are the lucky ones amongst us. Those who have no need are generally in that position through overwork, impecuniosity, or cultural pressure.

If you have literally no time left out of a day that sees you scrabble for food, shelter, security, or health, you are a poor, unfortunate creature. If you have enough of the basic needs but cannot stop yourself grinding for more, you are a rich, unfortunate creature. If you are prohibited from seeking any pleasure outside of the grind, you are a slave. The fortunate thing about these three observations is that the poor may become rich, the rich may become wise, and the slave may become free.

In all three cases a hobby can alleviate many of the pains of life. The first person may feel harried by need – the second by greed – and the third by oppression. If these states are not addressed by fortune, the person needs an ally, and the hobby can be just that. Hobbies can be secret or public, cheap or expensive, long lasting or transient. They can be taken up with the minimum of equipment or pursued with every accessory and machine that science can make. They are truly flexible things.

Benefits of a hobby? Well, the hobbyist can always retire into the sanctum of their pursuit and place the distressing world at a distance. Their sanctum may be a place, a group, or just a series of thoughts. Hobbies are portable things, and the mind of the hobbyist can carry them into business meetings, waiting rooms, and dungeons with equal facility. It costs you nothing but attention to open the internal hobby library door, sit down at the mental desk, and review the plans for your next project. Caution – do not do it while driving.

A hobby can make you a calmer person – and in some cases a more considered one. This may be possible even in the more bellicose pursuits like martial arts. A person in control of themselves is more likely to be able to control the situation that they are in. If you have confronted problems in your hobby – and surmounted them – you are much more likely to be able to do the same with other troubles.

A hobby can lead to increased self-esteem. While self-esteem taken to the extreme makes for Idi Amin, lower levels of it are good. When you succeed in your hobby – even by a small amount – you feel better in yourself. Others may not care whether your model airplane flew and landed perfectly, but you’ll be admiring your skill for years to come…and rightly so.

A hobby can make you more observant. Very much more so…ask any scratch-builder and you’ll find that they look at everything…everywhere. Shapes and materials that escape others come under keen appraisal for use in their model building. That means they look at the whole world more sharply – a good thing. Their minds speed up.

But you get no crops without manure. There are down sides to hobbies that we will discuss in the next essay.

Riding The Horse – Part One – A New Series

A Definitive Guide To The Business Of Hobbies.

This is written in response to a lunchtime conversation with a good friend – a person with whom I shared membership in a hobby club. We’ve moved on from that club, but have fond memories of it.

I’m currently juggling three hobbies myself and pleased with each of them in its own way. He is between engagements, as it were, and casting about looking at the why’s and wherefore’s of a new hobby. Hence the discussion and a series of essays from me. I’ve sent them to him prior to publishing them here and I hope they have proved helpful. So let’s begin…

The are are few animals more useful, more extensively used, or more expensive than the hobby horse. It has been ridden since at least the Middle Ages by many western and a few eastern cultures. The parade has been for religious, folkloric, magical, or sexual purposes and has happened through the year. You can see hobby horses in the circus, the pantomime, and the Christmas Pageant with equal pride of place. Oddly enough, no-one wants the job of cleaning up after them…

 But you can also thank the hobby horse for giving a name to pursuits that help us all live a better leisure life. The hobby presumably gets its name from the fact that most of them are deemed unnecessary, costly, wasteful, and fun. People pursue them much as they would ride a wooden horse down the street – with a great seriousness and a sore arse crack.

This series of articles is presented to help the hobbyist make sense of the whole affair – to make good choices in what to take up and why.

Part One: The five classes of hobby.

Leisure time comes to us all – even the galley slave has times when the ship is in dock and the hortator is off having a drink. Something has to fill that time. That is where hobbies come in. There are five general classes of activity that fill leisure time ( Note: sleeping, excreting and urinating, and eating do not count. They are active pursuits necessary to continued life. Some people compress them into one span of time, which is a lot of fun to see if you are out of splash range.)

First type is the sport or action type. It is entirely possible to devote all your hobby time to golf, horse riding, jogging, or fishing. And a dozen other active pursuits that break a sweat and an occasional ankle. This satisfies a basic human instinct to fight or hunt –  often moving the urges into safer, if less useful, channels. Age can wither some of these pursuits, so people are wise to choose them according to actual physical ability.

Second type is the making type. Whether the making is jewellery, wooden furniture, hot rods, or dolls clothes is immaterial. There is a basic human instinct to turn something out with the hands and eyes and you are well advised to give into it – something will come out of it in the end.

Third type is the collection – of anything. Humans collected shells and pebbles when there were no tools and everything else thereafter. It is a basic instinct. Some collections are of practical value, some promote monetary increase, and some are just the magpie’s eye operated by a human. It doesn’t matter which – the quest must always be unfulfillable to be of any hobby value.

Fourth type is the artistic expression hobby. Writing, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, poetry, singing, dancing, dressmaking, etc. Whenever you pour passion – whether that be fierce or gentle – into anything that is less useful than an Allis Chalmers air compressor, you are creating art. You won’t be able to drill rock or inflate earthmover tyres with it, but it is art nevertheless.

Fifth type of hobby is the socialising hobby. The Mensa or Probis club. Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Elks, Moose, RSL, CWA, Shriners, etc. etc…the list goes on and on of clubs that bring people together with some avowed purpose but are thinly-disguised attempts to start a social group that will cohere. In most cases they will succeed if people really want to be either friendly or fiendish. There is scope for both approaches.

In the next essay we will deal with how to analyse yourself and see which hobby will suit you best.

Your Real Look – Part Two Of The Closet Saga – Cloth Clues

Okay, Inspector – you have the suspects in hand and they are laid out on the bed.

The old dress – the old jacket – the old pair of pants – the old shoes. Worn many times – reached for in preference to others. Shaped like you. These are the duds that you put on when you are unthinking – your mind is comforted by something about them.

They need not be horrible and wrinkled and 50 years out of date – and equally they might be ( so might you, but that’s existentialism for you…).  They may be drab or colourful. They may be matched or disparate. But there is a clue in each one as to what your real look is.

The underwear – if you get the same brand each time and only discard the old stuff when the holes in the cloth do not cover the holes in you…ahem…then you do so for a deep psychological purpose, as well as to keep from snagging on your zipper. You wear the pattern because that is what you want to be. As it is generally unseen, except by those who want to look, you can wear what you fancy. Pass onto the shirt or blouse.

Shirt or blouse covers your upper torso and lets your arms, neck, and bosom move about. If you find you always wear short sleeves because you like to have free arms, you’ll possibly like to wear shorts as well – or at least trousers or slacks that let you move freely. If you have all your comfy shirts as long sleeve formals you may like the more formal skirt or trousers to go with it. What you do with your bosom is generally your own affair, as long as you don’t do it on the train or bus.

Skirt or dress or trousers? If you’ve maintained your weight at a constant – neither up nor down – you’ll have been rewarded by a favourite covering for the nether regions. Chances are it works with the upper garment as well – and may also go with the next covering – the jacket or coat. You will have unconsciously coordinated yourself for years without realising it.

And the top wear – you say most about yourself with this but the truth is no-one listens. Unless you have the good fortune to be RuPaul or a carnival barker, you will probably be stuck with a drab jacket but there is always the chance that you have bought a lime green one while drunk. Screw up your courage and wear it.

As to colours…read tomorrow

Your Real Look – Part One Of The Closet Saga – Moths And Dust

I don’t mean the look that the latest fashion site, catalog, or store promo would like you to have. I don’t mean the look that your school, regiment, or company require you to wear. I don’t mean the clothing that you can afford or the ensemble that you can’t afford.

I mean the real look that is really you. That’s a tough one to nail down – I know people who have been hammering as fast as they can all their lives and it’s still comin’ up at the edges…

And in case you were worried about the closet reference as a sex and gender thing…this is not about that at all. Come out or go in there as much as you like – just don’t slam the closet door off the hinges. This is about what you wear.

Today’s question is simple; do you have a real look – yet?

Go to your wardrobe or closet with a rolled up magazine and turn on the light. Shoo away the cat. Then haul back and hit the clothes a good hard whack with the rolled magazine. Are you enveloped in a cloud of moths and dust? Are you swatting and coughing? If you are, there is a good chance that you do not have your real look.

You have a collection of odds and ends that you have not had the courage to toss out. You have not worn them and they have sat neglected – for a very good reason. They are not you. They may have been worn by you some time ago but they were not sufficiently real to fix themselves in your psyche.

If you do find clothes that are not covered by dust and are worn into familiar shapes that resemble you – like the husk of a butterfly after it has moulted – you are on the trail of the real look. These are clothes that you wear to death, and you wear them because they are comfortable. Comfortable for your body and for your mind. They are clues to the real look you are seeking.

Tomorrow we follow the clues.