The Birthday Howitzer

Or the art of dropping on people at short notice.

It is an art. A black art, mind, but notable nevertheless. In Australia it’s been been refined into folklore. The ” Sundowner ” was an itinerant who turned up at stations looking for work just at sundown…when hospitality would not be refused but no actual work could be done. The nearest modern equivalent is the person who calls at tea-time, sees you trying to prepare the meal, but will not go away. They stay until you give way and invite them to a meal.

Then they complain about the cooking…

The Birthday Howitzer is somewhat similar except it is fired when there is a family celebration in the offing. The gunner arrives at the start of the family party with a gift…and therefore cannot be refused entry. The gift can be as tawdry or cheap as you like – the $ 2 or Reject Shop is a good place to stock up. The wrapping can be terrible. It need not be appropriate in any way for the recipient. It can even be horribly offensive – the salient point is that it is a present, and thus a key to all the food and drink on offer. A good Birthday Gunner can consume half their weight in barbeque and beer before the cake comes out. If there are take-away lollie bags for the kids, several of them can be snaffled as well.

A very special variant of the BH is the hospital visitor that brings in a magazine that they got out of the waiting room but stays to share morning tea and lunch and then departs with the patient’s fruit bowl.

You must excuse me -I’m feeling a bit peckish and I heard the rustle of a crisp packet opening…

Insomnia Is Nothing To Lose Sleep Over

If you are currently sitting at your screen because you can’t sleep, I have some good news for you: you might not be in such a bad state as you think.

Oh, you’ll be tired and listless, all right. Up too late when you think you should be sleeping soundly and fearful of how bad you’ll feel in the morning. Worried about not sleeping and then worried about the worrying. Not a pleasant prospect.

Note that I separate insomnia – an internal wakefulness – from those nights when you can’t get to sleep because some pest is watching soccer at 2:00AM or the neighbours are hosting a drunk. What you do about the latter two circumstances is between you and the man down at the gun shop. Remember murder is not legal, but rat shot is generally not lethal.

What you do about internal insomnia is…wait for it…nothing. No warm milk, sleeping tablets, meditation tapes, essential oils…nothing. Because all these are just chemical or physical rituals – they don’t cure anything. Possibly because there is nothing to cure.

If you are awake at 1:00AM, you are awake. If it is because you are cold, or sick, or hungry, go get a blanket or an aspirin or a sandwich. Don’t expect this to be an instant cure, but at least it means you are not lying there in the dark being uncomfortable. If you own a Siamese cat don’t expect to lie there comfortably anyway. But if you are lying there, awake, make the most of the physical comfort and then let your mind be free.

It may be free to sleep or it may be free to think. If it is a nasty little mind it can think nasty little thoughts  – otherwise it can have quite a good time remembering, planning, designing, telling stories, or anything else it wishes. It will know when to switch off and sleep, but when it is awake in the dark, the rest of your body gets about 85% of the physical benefit of sleep anyway.

Think of it like your computer when you shut it down – sometimes it runs on for a bit as it finishes off programs. Don’t panic about how you’ll feel in the morning. If you haven’t given yourself a drunken hangover you’ll have at least 85% of the health you need.

The Proper Nostalgia We Used To Get

Not the stuff they dish out nowadays. Proper nostalgia from cans. With a good layer of fat and bugs on top…

I am not a particularly nostalgic person…because I have a pretty good long-term memory and can remember what was bad about the old days as well as what was good. It may not have been as tough for me as it was for other people, but on my personal scale I could tell the difference between misery and joy.

Being fair to life in modern days as well as to myself, I must say it is better now. Food is available in greater variety and is, for the most part, safer to consume. Our water supply prevents most of the young from getting caries in their teeth – I have a mouthful of posterior teeth that are filled. But I have ’em.

Our houses are sturdier now than they were – go whack an old fibro and frame one with a hammer and see what happens. What happens is a cloud of fragments and asbestos dust…and you won’t get that in a modern dwelling.

You won’t get a face full of tobacco smoke on the train, bus, or airplane these days, either. Nor in a restaurant or bar. – at least not in Australia. You might have to run a stinky gauntlet of the inconsiderate as you go into a public building, but once inside the laws  protect your lungs.

I’d like to think laws protect schoolchildren from bullying, but they don’t. However, public pressure may eventually lessen it. Hopefully it will also be reduced in workplaces, though there again you run up against resistance to decency by the indecent.

My quiet joys today are at least as easy of access as they were when a child. I had a little world that welcomed me and I still have one. I just need to adjust my mind to accept it.

So there’s no need to get all nostalgic and retro about Good Old Days. They were good in parts and bad in others. Better to concentrate on increasing the one and reducing the other right now.

 

The Welcome Wagon

As a child we moved about North America a great deal. It was my father’s work that occasioned this. No, not train robbery…that was never work as such…more a hobby. I mean heavy construction, mining, and dredging. Its the sort of profession that whirls managers and engineers from one job to the next and can uproot their families 3 times a year for decades.

Every time we arrived in a new city or town there seemed to be a Welcome Wagon. This would be generally ladies meeting my mother and bringing cake or cookies  plus what seemed to be special gifts, but were in reality advertisements from the local tradespeople. In many cases the Welcome Wagon ladies were the wives or employees of the tradesmen. This was in the days before professional girlfiends so there was never anything juicy in the gossip line.

My mother would have them all in, serve tea, coffee, and whatever was in the kitchen at the time. The ladies would introduce themselves and then gently probe for answers – much like Facebook does now. Age, marital status, education, children, hobbies, income, religion, politics, preferred brands of tobacco or liquor, etc. The answers would then lead to additional probes and/or discrete advertising for whoever had filled the Welcome Wagon basket.

I listened to my mother respond to some of this; fence with some questioners, answer others,  then supply them with what in retrospect was a very friendly form of obfuscation. I think she would have been good in front of a Royal Commission or Senate Enquiry. It was the time of  Senator Joe McCarthy so I think she realised the value of keeping family information private.

In any case it was always the same – as soon as the welcome ladies found out that we were birds of passage, likely to be there for only a quarter of the year, the welcome mat would be rolled up and they would vanish. To be honest, even though I was only about 7 or 8 at the time, I got to be quite cynical about the whole exercise. I got far better treatment from teachers ( and far worse from students ) at the schools I went to.

The Full Bins

Interesting.

I had a fit of the clean-ups last week and decided to toss out all the old clothes that were not giving me any joy or beauty any more – like the Japanese lady  who advocates simplifying life. It was less of a wrench than I thought – once I started to be critical about the stuff it was easy to send a lot of it away.

I was surprised at myself because I am not the snappiest dresser and a lot of the clothes still fit pretty well. But you do recognise that even if you change clothes twice a day you still have ten times the number of garments that you need and 1/10th of the space needed to store them.

So it was into boxes and out to the Goodwill bins at the local shopping centre. Once it was in the bin, it was out of sight and mind. Now, I missed a shelf of old jumpers, and caught up with it today – and sacrificed a couple that I can no longer pull over my head. I called past the bins…but found that all five of them were stuffed to the gills with bags of other people’s discards. Hardly any room at all.

Has there been a television show on decluttering recently? Is it a cultural tradition to ditch  clothes at the start of summer? Are we a suburb full of fashion trendies?

Whatever – my next ambition is not to rush to the shopping centre and get more clothes – I want to see if I can wear out and abandon the ones that survived the first cull. Every undergarment discarded is another piece of laundry that need not be done. I doubt the Goodwill wants my old undies, but surely there is a roof somewhere in the suburb upon which they can be flung in the dark.

 

The Ten O’Clock Highway

I live a retired life, which means I push my nose into all sorts of places. This is fun if you time it right – and the chief requirement there is to coordinate your movements with the road traffic.

Or, to put it more accurately, without. You choose to venture when others do not – you go places they are not. The shining goal os a day is an unobstructed road ahead and no arrogant BMW driver or tradie in a tray-top pushing up behind you. In some cases it is worth seeking out a road that doesn’t even go where you want to go to so that you can enjoy the peace.

It gets harder, as our metropolitan area expands and the suburbs in-fill themselves with multiple dwellings on older blocks. Just more people on the roads. I try to use the bus and train system when I can – the attraction being free travel in air conditioning with time to rest rather than drive. However, there are places poorly-served by public transport so the car has to be wheeled out.

I’ve learned to only venture after 10:00 AM and to bring myself back home before 4:00 PM.  If the route is planned well you can get through the flak defences, accomplish your mission, and be back before they can catch you. Of course there are always road crews out playing Tetris with the traffic barriers as they lean on their shovels and you do well to learn about them from other road users on the net the night before. They really do affect where you travel for shopping – they steered me away from a certain sale at a shop last Saturday by the simple expedient of blocking the shop’s street from both ends. I hope the shopkeeper and his assistants do not stave and die behind the counter while the paviours play – it would make the shop premises stink awfully…

Shall I resort to the net and on-line shopping more? I hope not – I like the establishment of physical shops in our city as a way of giving employment and providing convenience for me  – after I have run the gauntlet of the roads. On-line doesn’t benefit our state or nation in the end.

 

 

 

You Don’t Like The Dinner?

Fine. No problem. We can work with this.

How’sabout the rest of us eat the dinner – leftovers or whatever – and you go hungry? That’ll  keep your tastebuds free of contamination and we can carry on and clean our plates. If you’d care to watch us doing it …and gain spiritual nourishment thereby…we’ll just dig in…

If you’d like to eat something else, there’s no end of people who would be happy to feed you. They’re called restaurants and all you need to do is pay them and not burp loudly. No, we won’t be able to pay for your meal as we have already paid for the one on our own dinner table.

Not fair? Can’t see why you’d say that. We provide clean and nutritious food at a warm table. Your decision to reject it is respected. No-one forcing you to eat. We’re in the business of feeding you…not making you happy. We give you what you need – not necessarily what you want.