I was busy adjusting the world the other day with my friend Warren – we meet during the week to condemn the guilty and praise the worthy. It is a mad session of tea and biscuits.
We agreed that we have both been very fortunate – his time as an airframe rigger in the Royal Australian Air Force did not result in any crashes or loss of life. For my part, my time as a dental surgeon did not result in any fatalities or overweening infections. We can both sleep soundly of a night with no ghosts haunting us.
But it begs the question; how many of the people we know can say the same, in their own fields of endeavour? We know many of the same people, and then others in different social sets…somewhere in that lot is bound to be a death or despair. A bankruptcy or suicide. A soul that was lost because of something that someone did…
I don’t want to know the answer to the question. It would colour my perception of the persons involved – even if there was no possibility of redemption or repair. Far better to remain ignorant of it.
This may not sound like the thing that the Right Evil Bastard of the Backstabbers Guild of Australia should say…but there is a difference between deliberate and artistic evil-doing and mere accidental disaster. I would far rather ambush a bus full of orphans with a 17 pounder than run over a cat with a Suzuki…
Warren is not so fussy. He has a new truck and is more impatient than I – he is hunting for lane-changing idiots on the road. I can hear the maniacal laughter now…
How many migrants to and from Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand have had this experience:
They’ve migrated and worked and saved and succeeded in the new country but always hold a dear memory of the old land. This homesickness has been acute in the first couple of years but worn off somewhat after that – what with new careers, families, and homes. But it starts again at about 15 years and they decide to go back and see the old place.
They plan to make a big trip and see everywhere they used to live – and possibly everyone they used to know. The get on the plane or ship and float on water or air to the old home country. And are horrified to find that it is not there.
Oh, the dirt is still there, and in the case of a lot of places it has crawled halfway up the buildings…but the society and people and nation has so changed from what it was that they are strangers in a wasteland. Worse – if there has been a war go through the place – or a spate of developers – even the buildings they knew do not exist.
Their old friends are dead, or older, and do not have the last 15 years of shared memories to talk over. Only the past – and that can be as dead as the dust. They run out of conversation in 5 minutes. Even if the old language is the same, the speakers are not talking to them.
This is the thought that I took back to the UK when I visited in 1995 – from having once lived in the place in 1973. It was just that way, though there were plenty of tourist activities in which to immerse myself. Would I get any benefit from another visit? Yes, if my current interests could be pursued – the UK is a nice place.
Canada or the USA for me? After 52 years? There’s a big question. An expensive one to answer, too – especially with the fear that seeing my youth gone would age me more. I can do that right now at local prices and wearing comfortable clothes.
Well, that seems to have gotten rid of the trickortreaters for another year. In this neighbourhood they are organised into parties with adult supervisors to oversee the visit. Nearly all are dressed up – some in quite elaborate costumes – and they all seem delighted with the mini-chocolates or snack bags of chips.
I’m happy to participate and the organised nature of it, with a clear flag to be tied onto the letter box indicating that we are trickortreat friendly, makes it a breeze to deal with. None of the kids are mean or rude.
I have fond memories of this in Canada as a child, though scooting through twilight streets in Calgary in October wearing a bed sheet could be a pretty cold experience.
Others tut-tut it…generally complaining that it is a cultural invasion from America that threatens their very British discipline and good manners. Yeah. That’s what it is all right. Those Americans again. Trump. It must all be the fault of Trump. Prior to this it would have been the all the fault of Eisenhower or Truman. So hard to get that nice stiff British upper lip like before the war…
Perhaps a cathedral service and then a dinner round the pub, or a punchup, innit?
I have given up pretending to be other people; I have commenced pretending to be myself. Whether I will be more successful at it remains to be seen, but I know one thing – the clothing bill will be considerably lighter.
Do I have enough life accrued to have a history? And is it notable enough to be worthy of re-enactment? I’m not Dwight Eisenhower or Jim Carrey…so I don’t know whether anyone else will want to see me playing me. But I will still pursue the idea for my own purposes.
What was I? A little kid, then a teenager, than a young man, than a middle-aged man, and now an oldish sort of man. I have never climbed a new mountain, nor discovered a new cure for anything. Equally, I have never murdered people nor stolen money from them. Just an average Joe.
But an average Joe who had a great good time doing several things; taking photographs, reading books, and building scale models. If I re-enact what I did then I will not please or harm anyone else, but I can still please and harm myself…hopefully in equal portions.
This column, and the others I write, are part of the re-enactment I do of success in school. That petered out early, but these WordPress posts are going along nicely.
The Little Studio continues to take dance pictures as well as commercial illustration to the satisfaction of the customers.
The Little Workshop is spooling up to produce more and more scale models that please and delight me. And keep me agile of mind and hand. The activity is totally beneficial.
I may decline to wear the clothing of my childhood – the Howdy Doody vest is a difficult garment to integrate into normal day wear – but I’ve noticed recently that I can rock the flannel shirt and work trousers…and as a retired man I can wear them in more places than you’d think. The white moustache and flat cap help as well.
I used to take a great delight in the re-enactment hobby. I discovered it in the 1980’s as an adjunct to the activities of our local muzzle-loading rifle shooting club.
We’re in Australia, but a section of the country that has little colonial history of note – few battles and none of them famous. Re-enacting colonial times would mainly involve hard work, dirt, and discomfort. It is an unattractive prospect compared to the pageantry and bloodshed of the United States, Britain, or the European continent. There is little in the way of glamour to it all.
So I reached out – gathering materials to pretend to live in 1860’s America, 1800’s England, and various areas during the Middle ages. There were a lot more things to wear and do when one concentrated on these cultures. At various times you could have seen me as an ACW soldier of either side, a British soldier of 1815 or 1860, a medieval dentist or crossbowman…it was a varied picture. But none of it was a picture of my own life …or of the lives of my ancestors.
Ultimately, this is where the activity failed. It introduced me to like-minded individuals here and now, and I value their friendships….but it had no valid connection to my life.
So what has taken the place of this once all-consuming passion? What fire burns in the grate now? And why is it producing a better heat for me? Read the next post and see.
When I was a kid I worried about sex.
What was it? What was it like? What did people do? What were they supposed to do? How did they know they were doing it? What happened after they did it? What would happen if they did it wrong?
Later, when I came closer to the subject, the worries intensified. When was I going to have sex? What was I supposed to do/say/feel/remember/forget? What if I became pregnant?
Finally I got to worry about what was it all supposed to have been like. What did I do? What did I miss? Did other people do it better? Where was I when they did?
I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever other things sex might be, most of what it is – most of the time – is worry.
But am I worrying well enough…?
I think the high point of my social life was a dinner I attended several decades ago when the after dinner speeches were interrupted by someone going off on a laughing jag. I lead a sheltered existence and this was the first encounter I had with this sort of thing.
Oh, I’ve seen Disney villains before and I knew that Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha was pretty standard when they had the good guys trapped in their lair. But a suburban hotel dining room hardly qualifies as a lair and when you hear it floating out over the cheesecake and coffee it can be a bit startling. When it changes to a cackle and then settles into a long series of shrieks – that never stop – you know you are not in Kansas anymore…
I did not see exactly how it was stopped – though after five minutes there seemed to be a scuffle and a series of yowlps and it went relatively quiet. I hope they did not need a wet canvas waistcoat. And I know nothing of the subsequent history.
The oddest thing about it all was the reactions of the diners at the various tables. There just is no social convention for this sort of thing. I cannot remember if I said anything, but I can describe the cornices of that dining room in minute detail to this day, and I suspect others can too.