I am astounded at the literature that floods into our mail box that promotes and endorses indebtedness. It seems as though it is written in English, but is entirely divorced from the roots of the culture.
I look back at the folk sayings and aphorisms of earlier times:
Franklin: ” A penny saved is a penny earned “.
” Rather go to bed without dinner than rise in debt “.
Folk saying: ” Out of debt, out of danger “.
Emerson: ” A man in debt is so far a slave “.
The pamphlets and letters would have me borrow money from powerful institutions so that I might possess a boat, or a luxury car, or go on holidays to Europe. I should borrow this, incurring a solemn legal debt, and then be required to give them guarantee of my house or other possessions against a repayment – a repayment that would command a fee that is 20 times the interest rates paid on bank savings.
I have been sent a plastic card that allows me to run up a debt that is equivalent to half my annual income – upon much the same basis. It is tough plastic but fortunately you can cut it into pieces with tin snips.
I am immensely lucky in several things; a loving family, a secure house, a modest capital. I am also lucky in the fact that as I get older the desires for debt-trap goods has reduced to practically zero. I regard boats with no interest, I have an adequate little car, and I can see all the Europeans I want in Melbourne, the city of Stirling, or the Swan Valley. Fine dining for me is my own cooking and as I am retired, every day is a holiday. I should not flaunt smug in the face of my friends, but I will certainly do so in the face of financial institutions that wish to enslave me.
I am going to go visit a friend who lives in another part of our city. The distance that will be travelled is about 20 Km and by the time I get home it will be after dark. I shall drive carefully and expect to make the visit uneventfully.
In doing so I fly in the face of history, law, and human experience:
a. I need seek no permission from the Seigneur of the place where I live to travel inside or outside of his fiefdom. I have no Seigneur. I am a citizen of a free state in a free country.
b. I need no similar permission from the lord of another piece of land to cross into his territory. I need pay no fee for crossing a border. No-one will search me.
c. I need fear no banditti. They may exist, but they do not infest the roads of Perth, and I am very unlikely to be asked to stand and deliver. There are no hijack gangs operating at crossroads.
d. I do not need permission from the WA Police Service to make the journey. All they ask of me is that I be sober and moderate in my speed.
e. When I park my car at my friend’s house or at a hamburger place, I do not have to pay money to a street gang or a militiaman to prevent it being ransacked.
f. I do not need an expert driver to operate the motor car. It is within the capability of a person of moderate strength.
If you are reading this column from parts of the world where this happy set of circumstances do not apply, you have my sympathy. Is it time to make changes in your own country to better it?
I think if I were inclined to go to work again I should like to be a council health inspector. But with a difference – I would do domestic premises rather than commercial ones.
In case you are horrified by the thought of some jack-in-office barging into your kitchen and lifting up the lids on your pots, consider that there is probably adequate provision for this now in council by-laws. There certainly is when it comes to the garbage, as the current trial of recycling wastes is proving. We are told that the inspectors will be going about taking mobile-phone pictures of our bins ” to improve understanding ” but it is probably to give them a chance to scold us for putting the wrong things in the various containers. Or it might just be to frighten us into putting less in anyway – with no answer as to what to do with the extra garbage.
In my case I should like to extend the surveillance to linen closets, desk drawers, and round the back of sofas – the places where small change and unused postage stamps are likely to accumulate. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned, and a penny stolen is even better. And I should be incorruptible, at least until the stakes were high enough.
Health is one of those topics that we all agree is essential…without being able to actually put our fingers on what is healthy. Robust and shining in Ulan Bator looks like terminal disease in Coolangatta. Vermin in Violet Town are considered livestock in Venezuela. You should see the thundering herds of beefrats at round-up time. The gauchos mounted on Jack Russells can be a bit startling for the novice hand, but you get used to them.
I am a little unclear as to what the procedure is if I discover a violation of the health regulations. Do I ask for the envelope of cash before or after throwing the rat on the counter? Are cats actually edible? Is mould considered a religious sacrament in some cultures? I’ll need to consult the department on these matters.
Meanwhile business owners, private citizens, and hospitality industry members may slip as many fat envelopes as they wish under the departmental door – our concern for health is paramount 24 hrs a day, or at least as long as the bottle shop is open.
Or freeze and use before the turn of the 21st century.
Nearly everything can be frozen. Milk, bread, bank accounts. You can freeze lots of stuff that would otherwise go rotten and extend the period of time in which it can go rotten. Time shift your smelly garbage bin, if you will. This is not as sad as it seems.
Before Christmas, we bought two cooked chickens from Woolies for use in a party dish – the meat was picked off the bones and the carcasses put back into the heavy plastic bags in which they had been supplied by the store. That went into the freezer – which might seem a little odd. Freezing garbage?
No, freezing carcasses that will be rendered for soup a little while down the track. It’s all a matter of timing. Garbage collection is Thursday morning, no good tossing chicken bodies out on Monday in a hot climate – by Thursday morning the place would smell like State Parliament. So they will be defrosted and boiled one Wednesday afternoon, then the stock frozen in turn for use in winter soups. Then they go into the organic bin.
It becomes a case of frozen Tetris sometimes as one cycles the various components through the freezer in time for disposal or storage, but the actual effect is pretty good – the amount of waste that the family produces is slightly less, and we get home-made soup for our troubles. And soup is a variable equation – nearly anything can be factored in. The only no-no is poultry and split peas – there is a chemical reaction in there that makes the entire house smell like cat pee.
Do we deserve the contempt of gastronomic nations for our freezer habits? Well, if you want to go down to the open air when it is 42º in the water bag and buy a half cup of organic kale for your masterpiece, don’t let me stop you. We’ll take bets amongst us here on whether you’ll make it to the end of the street before slumping over…while we sit in the A/C and wait for dinner to defrost. Off you toddle.
I’ve lived in Themandus for nearly all my life. It is not as bad a place as it is sometimes made out to be but life here can sometimes be a strain. Let me explain.
As a small child I was taken to a country that adjoined my native land. I’d no knowledge of this as I was a month old at the time, but as I grew up, those around me in the new country were able to explain it to me. I found it confusing at the time – was I living in the land of Them while I was an Us, or was it the other way around?
Fortunately my father’s employment whisked me around Country No.2 so fast that I was, perforce, mostly in the company of my parents and felt that they and I were Us and nearly everyone else was Them. This satisfied me for years as I listened to the ill-temper of school teachers and students complaining about the land of my birth…just over the border…I was also fortunate that the nomad existence prevented me from being claimed by other sorts of Us people in the Them settlements that we lodged in – I was never forced to Us it on a religious basis each week, and was able to blend in with Them whenever They had Christmas or Easter. I got chocolate eggs and turkey same as They did, though not on the same plate.
Coming to Australia in the middle 1960’s let me experience being an Us amongst a different set of Thems, and as I had been trained to the sport of being an outsider in Country N0.2, Country N0.3 was easy.
I’ve even gone so far as to become a naturalised Them here and it has worked pretty well for the last 48 years. I still grit my teeth when I hear ill-mannered talk about Country No.1 from natives of Country N0.3 but I realise that it is generally just ignorance or bias that drives it – not a personal attack.
I’m also happy to say that upon becoming a Them, and then marrying another Them, and having a child, that I have now become the leader of a small family of Us. And as long as we steer away from sex, politics, and religion in our conversation, we can all be happy.
Don’t panic. This is not a sleazy attack – it is a celebration of relaxation.
I asked the two women in the house what the best moment of the day was for them – expecting some flattering response like ” Oh, it is when you come home and we see your handsome face…”. Well, it turns out that the best moment is when they get in the front door from a long day and can take off their bras.
At least they were honest.
I’ll be equally so – I’ve discovered that the best moment for the male side of the place is when I finish whatever hard work has kept me out, return home, and can get into my pyjamas or nightshirt and bathrobe. It signals the entire end of external care and an opportunity to get comfortable. Whether I choose to read a book, write a column, or fall unconscious is uncertain, but at least I will be doing it at home.
And that’s actually the fulcrum around which the whole thing turns – that word ” home “. It’s the essential ingredient in any happiness – even if it is a temporary home in a hotel room on the other side of the country. Doesn’t need much extra to make it work – a book, a television show, a cup of coffee or a drink. A chair or bed to sit on. A sense that the work is done and need not be re-commenced until tomorrow.
If you can superadd the knowledge that you have a clean set of clothes ready, a little money, and have caught up on your correspondence, you need no more.
Note: after the bra, undies, shirt, pants, and whatever come off, they need to go in the wash or the closet. Strewn around the place detracts from the happiness. And draped from the overhead fan draws nervous glances.
And all through the ( Insert dwelling here )
Not a creature was ( Insert activity here )
Not even a ( Insert vermin here )
The ( Insert item of clothing that can hold objects ) were hung by the ( Insert fixed furniture item here ) with care
In the hopes that ( Insert generous mythical creature ) soon would be there.
That oughta do it. The people who want to alter all holiday traditions should be pleased and the people who get irate at the first group will be pleased to have something to be outraged about. Everyone wins.
I should be grateful if it all works out as per the original poem, as we definitely have a mouse who stirs about the place. We surprised him while cleaning out the pantry for the new kitchen vinyl flooring and he shot into the crawl space under the cabinets. I’d grant him a lease there if he would agree to stay in one spot, but I see now that he visits other portions of the house – including the top of this computer desk.
I’m not anti-mouse per se…years of Tom and Jerry cartoons have had their effect…but I do recognise the dangers if he commences on an active social life and makes close friends.
The fact that he has been here for some little time…and is still here…points to a serious flaw in the cat. The great hunter will range the neighbourhood and bring rats back to place on the doormat, but when he is inside the house he apparently ignores the intruder. Perhaps it is laziness, perhaps it is job demarcation. Perhaps he has a pay-off deal going with the mouse. As the cat often sleeps on the bed with us, I am wondering if the next occupant will be the mouse. I am far enough over to the edge as it is right now.