The Conference At The Winery

Or the brewery. Or the restaurant. Or the resort/theme park/house of ill repute.

Or anywhere these days, really – the gathering of solemn delegates for professional development and networking. The serious exchange of considered views and the presentation of enlightening technical papers. The art and science of the drunken tax boondoggle.

I may be a little jealous about this – I am retired and no longer have someone to send me  to a pub in some other city at their expense. I’m considered a big boy now and have to buy my own. There is also the sobering realisation that I have nothing to say and no-one wants to hear it anyway. So the conference/seminar/junket/fact-finding mission/holiday/tax dodge/perk/swizzle/fraud door is largely closed to me.

On the other hand, I am not required to attend power breakfasts, staff meetings, team-building exercises, Powerpoint presentations, or hot wash-ups. I can regard the marketing consultant, art director, and HR manager with the same interest that I would give to a sea slug. I may have to buy my own beer but I can leave after I drink it, while others have to stay…

I first discovered the pleasure of opening the door and vanishing when I was a member of the Australian Dental Association. I attended a couple of their meetings in the West Perth headquarters and decided that they were appallingly boring. Then when an ADA dinner was advertised at a golf club, I went along – thinking that things would be looking up.

Looking up, all right – looking up the noses of the ADA executive at the head table as they praised themselves and advertised their professional successes. Long about dessert time they introduced a new Dean of the local Dental School as speaker. Most of us knew him from contact as undergraduates years before. Many were amazed that he should have risen to such an academic position. I was appalled to realise as he spoke that his personality had never changed.

It was such a pleasure to excuse myself, head for the washroom, and glide out the front door of the club.

Since then I have stood up and left any number of speakers in trade and social circumstances, and have never felt bad about it. I regard it as a much more civilised response to bad lecturing than my other impulse – to throw a half a brick at the podium.

Besides, how can you get half-bricks into the venue unseen?

 

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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…

Australian Cynicism

We have often been accused of being cynics in Australia. This underestimates the citizens of this wonderful nation. We are greater than this – we are perfectly capable of being cynical in every country on Earth…with the possible exception of New Zealand. No-one is cynical in New Zealand, though they have been trying to establish a program to breed it for years.

Some have looked to climate, ancestry, ethnicity, history, and any number of other reasons for the national characteristic. It is all very well to score a PhD or a publisher’s advance upon this sort of speculation but the truth is that it is none of these things. The reason Australians are cynical is geography – we are far enough away from the rest of the world that we figure we can get away with it. We cock a snook at the various Kims, Vlads, Donalds, and Angelas…as well as the unpronounceable leaders of Africa, South America, and Canada and it is rarely sheeted home to us.

Oh, mind you, if we are of certain ethnicities that maintain spy networks here and dungeons back home into which our relatives can be thrust, we tend to be a bit quieter…but there are still pictures of Winnie the Pooh and copies of Charley Hebdo magneted onto the refrigerator in spite of official disapproval. They probably get whisked away when a national festival dinner party is held, but they come back afterwards.

Be fair to us – we are cynical about ourselves as much as we are about people overseas. Indeed, there is no topic more dear to the hearts or the sphincters of the Australians than our own national and state governments. Oh, and the local government, too. We’ll cheerfully discuss how much we despise our fearless leaders at the drop of a beer bottle cap. Our leaders hold us in similar affection.

It is known technically as a Mudgee Standoff – we don’t get to keep machine guns in our houses but Bunnings sells rope and there are trees aplenty  with stout limbs, so the checks and balances of the Westminster government are still in force. We were once told by one politician that ” We’ll keep the bastards honest. ” Actually I think that was just a case of someone making a mistake with the punctuation when they reported it. What he really  said was:

” We’ll keep the bastards. Honest… ”

But that’s just me being cynical.

 

 

Fools At My Fingertips

I used to have to go out to get my folly. The pub, the club, the workplace. It involved putting on clean clothes and making sure I had a handkerchief. This routine meant I was presentable, but the daily run of life involved a lot of travelling – it was hard on the car.

Now that I’m retired I need not spend petrol or patience in the rush hours and I can keep the same gooey handkerchief until it cannot be refolded…but the disadvantage is that I do not see people. So I miss out on my share of the follies of mankind.

Thank goodness for the internet fake news, and Facebook. ( Oops, I may have stuttered there, listing Facebook and fake news as separate items. In all conscience, I do believe them to be the same thing. ) By subscribing to the Zukerberg Broadcasting Corporation’s view of the world I can have a screen full of nonsense any time of the day or night. Much of it implicates my friends, and all of it is food for very little thought. It is the sort of entertainment that suggests the need for an S-bend in the internet router.

Oddly enough, the other sites I visit on the internet are not like this – I patronise cartoonists, photography sites, car forums, and YouTube videos that have to do with scale model building. Some of this material is crudely done, but none of it is untrue. Very little of it is bigoted or puerile. And I am not required to befriend anyone to benefit from it – or risk their wrath if I turn away.

I have made a little list for myself of people on my Facebook friends list for whom I would mourn if they were run down by a Swiss Post bus in the mountains. It is not all the people on my friends page by any means and every so often another name is pencilled out. I am not de-friending any more, but I have paid $ 869 to install an ALTP* filter in the incoming line. It seems value for money.

*  Avoid Like The Plague

 

 

The Obligations Of A Host…

And the obligations of a guest…

This topic has been the subject of social discussion for centuries. Sometimes it has been theoretical, and sometimes practical.

Societies vary, but most have set the rules of hospitality in a similar way.

a. The guest must not attack the host – the host must not attack the guest. Prior to relationship becoming established, this rule may not be in force. ie. wartime or family birthday parties. If the combatants have not yet surrendered, all legal force my be exerted against them. Once surrendered, restrictions apply.

b. The guest must fed, watered, and bedded in an honourable manner. This means that the host must exert some effort to achieve comfort for the guest. The guest must accept what is offered with gratitude.

c. The guest must be protected from attack by third parties.  The host becomes responsible for the health and safety of the guest. The guest must not overstrain the resources or attract contumely upon the host in this process.

d. The host must provide hospitality for as long as necessary. The guest must make this as short as possible.

e. The guest and host must not plague each other with unpleasant wrangling – even if this is contrary to their normal nature. They must both assume the appearance of polite persons.

And this has been brought to you by the Backstabbers Guild of Australia – who encourage everyone to behave well and to extend charity and graciousness whenever they can. And to mark the positions of their host’s magazines and troop concentrations on an ordnance survey map as soon as they learn of them.

 

The N Word

Students of modern society and manners know that one never uses the N word.

Likewise, one apparently never uses the K word in South Africa without risking a jail sentence. There may be other things that are also risky there, but you would need to depend upon other people’s first-hand knowledge to list them. Best ask a South African.

Are there other restrictions upon the alphabet? Well, a different K word would probably draw ire in New York and fire in Tel Aviv. The B word in Prague and the G word in Pyongyang as well. And there is probably a list of other letters banned from the lexicon all over the place. Languages that depend upon letters other than the standard Roman ones may have banned their own symbols as well.

Yet…you can seemingly get away with it when you are associated with the motion picture industry. I walked down the hallway of our local picture palace and noted a poster advertising a new movie coming  – the title consisting solely of a G word. This might sell it to a less sophisticated audience and, of course, here in Australia this G word does not trigger off the interest that it would in the USA. But it is a dangerous thing to do, if you want to promote something…there are other G words that can be brought into play in the American border states that work quite in reverse.

Probably too late for this movie, but future Hollywood executives might want to consider not using pejoratives as their main calling card.

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.