The Local Traveller

World travelling, we read, is a marvellous thing. It is said to broaden our minds and make us one with humanity.

I expect everyone who has ever stood in line to get their baggage checked onto an international flight…and then stood in line to board, use the toilets, get off again, pass the immigration and customs desk, and then collect the remains of their luggage has an appreciation of the delights of the experience. Then as they are attended by taxi drivers, desk clerks, tour guides, cafe owners, street beggars, local militiamen, and all the varied members of the aforementioned humanity, they get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

In most cases it is a yeast infection.

I have done my share of it, but as I’ve not re-enlisted in the Traveller’s Regiment and I’ve kept my discharge papers, I feel I’m safe for the foreseeable future. The world may turn, but I’m required neither to push it around nor grease the pintles.

But I do like the occasional drive in the country or air hop to another city in Australia. And, contrary to the overseas experience, I find the actual travel quite relaxing.

In the air, whether you are in the Business seat or Cattle Class, you are provided with a number of entertainments and stimuli – videos, music, frequent meals, etc – that you are allowed to ignore. You can sit there with a book, or a notepad and a pencil, and think. No-one that you are with ever interrupts you to stick another household chore or family revelation onto you. Your phone and tablet are in Aeroplane mode which means you are officially ordered to ignore them. ( Yay! ) and even Mark Zuckerberg cannot pester you.

Likewise on the road. As a driver you need your wits about you and cannot be talking on a telephone or reading a Mills and Boon while at the wheel. You need to obey increasingly complex speed and passing laws, and to avoid those who don’t. So you are in a cocoon of concentration. Break it every hour or so for a coffee or a wee and the experience becomes all the sweeter – you might step out of your Suzuki a little more fatigued than fresh from a Boeing but then you’ve seen more interesting things on the side of the road. And if they are recently flattened, you might have been able to scoop them up for dinner.

The trick is to pick a place to go that is worthwhile going to for your own reasons – not just the fulfilment of some travel agent’s urging – and to go there at your own pace. I pick country towns that might have a friend or an event nearby or a city that has stores I’ve not visited for a while. These will cheer the heart both in prospect and retrospect, and as long as you don’t overstay your welcome, every journey will be a gain.

Overstay? An Australian capital city is worth about 1 week, a regional city three days, and a country town 2 days. If you think the time too short to justify the return journey, then combine several destinations in a round trip. In all cases, leave ’em wanting more of you rather than less…

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The Royal Wedding

I’ve been watching the social media site Facebook for the last few days and noted a number of people saying that they are not interested in the Wedding of Harry Windsor and Meghan Markle. They’ve taken time out of their day to do this, thus suggesting that they are, indeed, interested.

So they should be. It is a real event for the two young people and staged in such an open fashion as to enable all to see what is happening. There is enough drama of the good old-fashioned kind to satisfy all, and no-one need feel sad at the end of it.

Indeed, just the opposite. A cheerful union of two people from different countries, with the reasonable prospect of them having enough to eat, a place to live, a chance to do their jobs, and perhaps even have children. I cannot think of a better antidote for the sadness, the tragedy, and the politics of the world – and I would wish the same happiness for any of my Facebook friends who have seen it.

 

Make It Or Buy It?

I once started an old-fashioned hobby that needed all sorts of arcane things that I had never seen in shops. When I asked the president of the hobby club where to get the things needed he said: ” My Dear Fellow – we make them ourselves. “. And then proceeded to show me how. Over the years I discovered no end of enthusiasts making things in workshops, forges, sewing rooms, and kitchens that had not been seen for centuries.

I joined in with some darkroom and studio work that revived old practices. In nearly every case there were difficulties finding out what to do and where to get supplied of raw materials but in the end most of the projects attempted were achieved. And I found out that in the process of casting, sewing, forging, planing, and general blood-letting we had gained something even more valuable than the musket balls, swords, tunics, and historic photos – we had gained the ability to be a little independent in a coddled world.

Not all of us can make castings in a furnace that we have constructed from river clay – but I know two chaps who can. Likewise I know people who can hand-stitch an entire suit of clothes. I can make leather goods and spray paint. None of us is ever really daunted by a household repair – we might not get round to it for a decade, but that is just laziness – not fear.

We all have reversed the admiration we might have once felt for store-bought goods in favour of those we design and make for ourselves.

If you are a person who is the victim of the shops – if all you wear, eat, use, and do is governed by the goods on offer and the price that the retailer can extract – pause for a moment and think. Is there any little need that you have that can be satisfied by making it yourself? It doesn’t have to be an organically grown steam engine or an entire garden in a week. But start small and make…and use to the exclusion of a commercial product…one thing. Get used to it – get to like it – and get the feeling that there are more things that you can do…

There are.

The Ages Of Mankind

I see I’ve made a slight error – that should be Ages Of Man. Not mankind. I’m in no position to decide things for other sexes.

Actually, It should read Ages Of Me, because I can’t even speak for others of my own sex. They may well have different ages in their lives. I can only tally up my own.

0-10 – Kiddyrazzi – Just a kid, doin’ what kids do. In my case doin’ what kids in western Canada in the 1950’s did and then having to strip down in the basement and take a shower afterwards. Spring in Alberta had enough mud to make another entire planet, and if you were not careful most of it stuck to your sneakers. And your hair.

10-20 – Studyrazzi – Always at school preparing for life. On television everyone was already living theirs, but I was just between school holidays and exams. This was the 1960’s minus the drugs and the music. Also minus the sex.

20-30 – Moneyrazzi – Well, add the sex. Plus the university fees, loans, commitments, fees, leases, and childbirth. They even charged for the child.

30-40 – Workerazzi – I was meant to produce so I did. And a great deal of what I produced was taken away to pay for the 20-30 period.

40-50 – Thickerazzi – How did I thicken and wrinkle at the same time? And where was the El Dorado that was promised in the 10-20 period? El Dorado was running well behind schedule. The sneaking suspicion starts to dawn upon me that I may have been hoodwinked.

50-60 – Doggerazzi – Thinking ( mistakenly ) that harder work and more spending and networking and wine evenings and investment counselling would make it all come right, I lurched onwards. It did not come right, of course, and the cynicism started to gel.

60-70 – Cooterazzi – I just started to realise that no-one was listening and no-one was watching. This made me alternately despondent and elated. It was a good time to start robbing church poor-boxes.

70-80 – Bloggerazzi – I intend to spout the most errant nonsense and the most brilliant wisdom and no-one will take the slightest notice. I’ll get ’em used to the flow of sound and then tell the truth in the middle somewhere. They may not even  notice that I cut them off at the ankles. You can preserve ankles in jars and make a rather nice collection.

I shall not presume to calculate past 80. It is a period of time that might be devoted to anything.

 

Coupla Shotza

That sounds like a Polish folk dance, doesn’t it? The Kupula Shotza. with big skirts and lots of twirling around.

Actually it is a prescription for the end of a good day and the start to a new project. I am retired, with enough working space around me and time to spare…I can commence making trouble in a dozen ways.

Fortunately I have not retired with a fortune…or I would actually be dangerous. I have also retired in a very nice part of the world and need not try to escape from it. Indeed, I really think I should be wise to escape into it rather than the other way round. I have a comfort zone and I’m smart enough not to allow someone to try to inveigle me out of it for their own purposes.

See? The coupla shotz are working. I’m actually thinking for myself. If you’d like to draw up a chair and pour one, we can can both benefit.

It is very rarely that we can admit to being happy. We are not allowed to be so by the people who want our money…happy people don’t spend. We are allowed to search for happiness, but we’d need to buy all the equipment for the search and pay ( ask about ezi-finance terms ) before we could play.

And in the end it would not be play. It would be work.

I used to worry about not being successful, or rich, or powerful. I could as readily have worried about not being puce, or steam-powered, or slanted. It would, in the end, have made as much sense. I have now reduced my worries to whether the dinner will be overcooked or whether I will be able to do my hobby in my little workshop…rain and cold weather affects it. It is a much more basic approach to life, and much more pleasant.

 

Fine Dining

The art of fine dining can be explained simply:

A. Eat something that is good for you.

B. Eat something that tastes delicious.

B. Eat enough of it – and at the right time of day.

D. Eat it in clean surroundings.

E. Eat it with family or friends.

F. Eat something that you can afford to pay for.

If you need to make yourself feel superior to others, call it ” fine dining ” instead of just ” eating ” and if you really need an ego boost pretend to be a paid reviewer and bag it unmercifully on Trip Advisor. You may not be qualified yet to award Michelin stars but you can  put on a spare tyre trying for it…

Note: getting a free meal can equal three of the above criteria.

Too Rich, Too Thin, Too Early…

The quote that ” A woman can never be too rich or too thin ” has been attributed to a number of people. One of them, the late Wallace Simpson, might have been tempted to add ” Or too close to the British royal family or fascist Germany…”. Leaving aside who actually originated the phrase, I would venture to say that it is not true. Nearly all of us can think of women…and men…who would far better off poorer and stouter.

I would like to use the format as a springboard for a thought about retirement: You cannot retire too early or too late – you cannot retire too poor or too rich – and you should not retire too sad.

Let’s take the first part; too early. I know several people who have elected to do just this – having built up a nest egg of superannuation savings they have stopped work in their early or middle fifties. Their experiences were mixed – one found nothing to do all day, and one has been trapped by other people’s desires and has no free time. Prisoners of either ennui or ambition.

Had they been able to continue their paid working time a little longer they could have been excused after retirement from having either empty or over-full days.

Now to the second part; too late. That caught my grandfathers – one died employed, with no leisure time ever, and one died from the effects of his work’s environmental dangers…he went at it too long and too hard. We all know someone who carries on until exhausted and is horrified to discover that there is nothing after the gold watch presentation but exhaustion.

Too poor? That’s sad, and it is sometimes the unavoidable consequence of low pay all the working time. Sometimes the result of bad investment or savings, family losses, or marital strife. Sometimes just the result of bad living practices. Whatever the combination of circumstances, it leaves the retiree bound as a slave to either governmental handout or to want. The only hope is a rise in the former to alleviate the latter.

Too rich? Here it pressure is from another quarter – a moral or intellectual one. The overly wealthy retiree is beset by the temptation to spend money, and may have arrived at that position not knowing what to spend it upon. Bad choices may be made – God knows bad choices will be offered by everyone who wants a piece of that money. A perfectly good man or woman may become a perfect monster.

For my part, I am discovering that my mixture of retirement age and money may be just right for me. I have enough to live well – on a standard that I think of as well – without being tempted to pretend to be something I am not. I have arrived at retirement with very few bad habits and no need to acquire new ones to please others. I have enough old clothes to wear and old books to read and can afford the candles and firewood to do this of an evening. And I have the sense to realise that I do not need to go where I do not want to go, nor can I be compelled to do things I don’t want to do for people I dislike. It is a modest form of heaven.