The Old Coot Network

The Old Coot Network is different from the Old Boy Network in several ways – and is probably similar to the relationship between the Old Dear Network and the Old Girl Network. I’m not sure if the differences are based upon nationality  but I’ll bet they have something to do with class.

Old Boys and Old Girls are traditionally former classmates at a private school. The Old Coots and Old Dears are from further down the market. But it does not stop them from being equally useful.

Take this week – I was concerned about the health and safety of this computer and called at the local Apple store to discuss it. I was handed from the greeter to a very attractive young woman with startling eyelashes and given time to ask my questions…but was immediately assured that they were groundless fears and that I really should toddle off. To help me toddle I was given the telephone number of the Apple Care help desk.

My net investigations then suggested that the Apple Care desk probably wouldn’t – at least not until I paid them some undetermined fee.

So it was on to the Old Coot Network – the people in my former trade that actually deal in and with Apple products for photographers’ use. They were more than happy to discuss my worries and to provide guidance toward a couple of anti-virus and anti-malware programs – the same ones they use for their photographic business. I came home, did as I was bid, and finally got the reassurance that all was well.

I am now curious to see whether it was beyond the policy of the Apple store to make the same recommendation or to tell me of their own, similar, product. I shall call at another store in their chain before I make any further judgement.

 

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None Of My Darned Business

Have you ever sat there and actually considered how many things in your world are none of your darned business?

I did just this recently and came up with a surprising number of topics that I need never address. The fact that I have done so in the past meant that I was making myself or others unhappy to no purpose. I could have saved my breath to cool my porridge and improved my days no end. Here’s a selection of opportunities that I can take in the future to butt out:

a. The bad driver on the road who swerves and rockets about between lanes – who tailgates and lurches and cuts in. No sense me raging about this behaviour – nothing I do is going to abate it. All I need do is steer clear and stay back and let him…or her…meet their fate by themselves. Hopefully it will not occur where I have to stop and render aid.

b. As the love affairs of others are not my business, neither are their hate affairs. I can hope, in humanity, that everyone will be loved and true and content. If it happens I will cheer. If it does not, I shall remain silent.

I’ll help out – though I draw the line at moving furniture these days – but apart from general sympathy and the occasional cup of tea, I think I should keep my opinions to myself.

I shall have to work on controlling my wince, when I hear details.

c. I’m not going to poke anyone in their religion or politics, for fear of something oozing out. If they will aid me in this by not exposing themselves so blatantly on Facebook it would be appreciated. In turn, I shall not hand out pamphlets or sell religious relics at cocktail parties.

d. While I might be uncertain if anyone’s religion is really sacred, I am convinced that their bank accounts are. Thus their financial affairs will be treated with dignity and respect. I shall not beg money of them, nor steal it when they are out of the room. Likewise I shall not advance sums that would expose them to embarrassment or me to inconvenient loss.

e. I shall try to exercise a complete sense of tolerance towards the dress of others – and hope that they can be as kind to me. I’m retired, with a wardrobe of odd, if serviceable clothing left over from the last 40 years. I am comfortable with most of it and hope to wear it out in a frugal manner. I’ll need to remember that others may be doing this as well.

f. I’m not so sure if I can treat the speech and writing of others in such a laissez-faire manner – particularly if they are addicted to foul language. I wasn’t brought up to it and still find it an offensive thing to hear. Indeed, in the mouths of some, it is actually ridiculous.

I might have to balance a middle ground in this one – grit my old teeth and take no notice up to a certain point and then just walk away after that. The real decision will be whether to ever walk back…

g. The musical, artistic, and visual tastes of everyone are personal, and I must stop mentally judging them when I hear or see what pleases them. The judgement need not be bad – I quite approve of some things, but need to remember that my opinion is not called for either way.

This’ll be a work in progress for a few years. With any luck it may make me more of a gentleman, or at least a calmer and kinder individual.

Old Coot And The Yearly Rush

A great many things happen annually, and old coots have seen enough years to know the schedule. The fact that they cope with the pressures is not because of superior intellect or courage – it is just that we know most things are soap bubbles anyway.

Take the holidays –Any holidays. We know from long experience that there will be a whole lot of things – goods, rituals, promotions, events, that are just a commercial hype. This extends through all cultures – the center of most celebrations is generally somewhere near a marketplace and the sellers are all in favour of that. The buyers are stimulated with slogans, pressure, advertisements, pressure, guilt, pressure, trite music, pressure, and greed. Did I mention pressure?

Old coots are just as susceptible as younger people to all this, but most of us peak out at about 15 minutes and don’t give much of a shit afterwards. We’ll go shopping but not for long. And we’ll buy, but not for much. Where you can really get us is at the coffee shop or the soft couch as we sit there and chill out.

Of course we are despised for this – all idle people are despised by the busily employed. It is disconcerting at first but as soon as you realise that it is inevitable, you can relax and drive the busy folk mad with inconsequential things. Do it nicely, do it politely, do it well…but do it repeatedly. And remember that a happy smile can go a long way towards infuriating someone.

If there is a yearly rush for a festival, you can also participate, – but remember that there was one of these last year and there will be one again next year. You needn’t cram the entire thing into your psyche in one hit. It is never going to be as good as it was and it is never going to be as good as it could be, but it can still be good.

A rush for payment of a council bill? Pay as quickly as you can, but there’s a secret – if you pay some and let them know that you’ll continue to pay more, they will be satisfied to wait. Show good intention and the thing is quite civilised.

Any more rushes? Generally not. You’ll not be rushing to replace your car nor to catch the latest clothing fashion. No-one can rush you to the altar at your age. If you are stubborn and inconsiderate you can prevent them from rushing you to the graveyard as well. Eat regular, sleep well, and you can irk your relatives something chronic.

 

The Machine Gun Belt Of Retirement

We often use the expression ” dodging the bullet ” to celebrate avoiding some horrid fate…and if you have been associated with as many amateur entertainments as I have, you’ll have a fair idea what a horrid fete is…

It is also a way of looking at life in retirement – the situation in which I now find myself. Two years in, and I have learned a few things:

a. You can sleep in, but only to the extent that the sun, the tradespeople, and the cat will permit. One or other of these will have you up to match their schedule.

b. You will get on your wife’s nerves. She will get on your nerves. Designate specific areas of the house where you can go to avoid each other for some portion of the day. The rest of the time will see a much better relationship.

Note: Wire, mines, and machine gun pillboxes are probably going a little overboard – just pick two rooms.

c. Your friends who are still working will be glad to see you, but on their timetable and their terms. They have busy lives to lead and may not appreciate you mooching about when they are exhausted. Be sensible.

d. If you do not need to go to the shops to buy anything, do not go to the shops to fill time. There are better things to do with it.

e. You can get a great deal of pleasure by listening to the morning and afternoon radio reports of traffic jams on the Freeway in peak hour. The best place to do this is at your kitchen table with a cup of fresh coffee.

f. Use the special seating on the trains and buses. If you are a senior, it is there for you.

g. Wear out your old clothes. Wear them out by wearing them – out. No-one is looking and  no-one cares. Just make sure they are clean.

h. Pursue that hobby. You may take it further than it has ever gone.

i. When people are polite and kind to you, be polite and kind in return. When people are not polite and kind to you, still be polite and kind to them. Repeatedly, and in public view. Until they get the message.

If necessary, help them along by explaining how to be polite and kind.

j. Expect some memory glitches. Where is my coffee? I had a cup of it started just before I sat down. No, seriously, I did…

k. As an older person, you may not sleep as well as you used to. Since you do not need to rise at 5:00AM to chop down trees, you needn’t go instantly to sleep at 9:00PM. By all means stay up late and read new books.

l. Expect former work colleagues to forget you. It is not a sign of disrespect – it is just the pressure of new demands that continues to flood into their lives. You are out of that pool and need not re-enter it.

m. ” Annual Holidays ” and ” Vacations ” might seem less valuable now – now that each day is free. This is a perceptual trap.

Certainly, the desperate relief of pressure that you used to feel when you got your annual week or two weeks is gone. But it was never an easy thing – it used up the first three days of any break you had, and there was always the nagging fear that you might be called back into work. And the feeling of impending doom when you thought of the re-start date coming closer.

No more. You cannot be doomed by former workmates and bosses. They are busy dooming each other and you are out of the blast circle. You are, quite simply, free.

Soooo…about the annual vacation business…

Why does it have to be annual? Why can’t it be every 6 months? Why can’t it be three days in the middle of the week now? No reason at all, save the monetary aspect. And does it have to be a big, annual, pressure-relieving, pressure-inducing, official escape? Can it now be a small pleasure jaunt?

Of course it can.

Give up the idea of the ” vacation “. You have nothing to vacate. You have time to spare, and time to fill. Fill it with something good – something new, if you like new, or something old, if that is your comfort.

Go see what you like and do what you like. If you don’t know what these two things are, now is the time to find out – go and do a wide variety of things and see how you feel. You might discover you’re a beach sitter who loves the nothing life. or you might hate it. You might find you are a planned tourist – or you might just like a pub chair and a book. You might find anything, if you go and look.

Be careful. You might find yourself being happy…

n. At the age of retirement, you get to mentally review a lot of things.

No, I still do not know where flies go in winter – I am just content if they stay away from me in summer. But you get to review the people you are in contact with and decide whether you wish to stay in contact with them. You really do have a choice.

I’ve made my own list of people I wish to remain in contact with. I’ve also made another list. Neither require dramatic action – I seek the company of people on one list and avoid that of people on the other. The basic result is an increase of happiness for me. That achieved, I am a better friend and companion. Of course chance may throw me in or out of contact with either lot, but I try to remain calm about it. I am a reader of P.G. Wodehouse and the character of Jeeves is a great assistance in some situations.

m. At the age of retirement, you can eat and drink less than before. Heavy consumption is unpleasant. But you can still appreciate good food and drink, and as you are taking less of it, the little you do have can be of much better quality.

It can be cooked  and served professionally, if you’ve got the money. If not, you can prepare it yourself and enjoy it in your own home. This has many advantages; you need not eat impossible melanges of modern food – you can stick to classics. You can experiment with flavours – with no scowling chef bullying you. You need fear no wait-staff with bad attitudes – you can be smarmy to yourself, and need not leave a tip.

n. The coffee. I found it. It was by the telephone. Why didn’t you tell me it was by the telephone?

o. You will get scam phone calls and computer messages all the time. Of course you will never fall for them, but you can spend some time playing with the criminals who perpetrate them. They regard you as a gullible old fool, who can be cozened and bullied into letting them have access to your financial secrets. They are vogelfrei…

I find it best to be ready – if you’ve a quick wit you can have some marvellous fun. In the past I have sung Broadway songs to one, shamed one with religious sermons, convinced one that they had been patched through to the quarterdeck of a Navy ship docked at Fremantle harbour, and demanded the delivery of white phosphorus howitzer shells from another.

I have refused life insurance upon the grounds that I was a train robber and lived too dangerous a life to get insurance, and kept another going for a half-hour on the basis of being a kindly and bumbling old fellow who was nearly succeeding in doing what they wanted on my computer, but not quite achieving it…

Of course, if I am frying bacon at the time or fresh out of the shower I am brusque. I’m pleased that a workmate was able to teach me a series of Croatian swear words, and I wish that someone could supply me with a similar list in Hindi or Arabic.

p. Speaking of computers, you may find out many new things that you did not know with these. You will also find out that the computer does not know many of the things that YOU know. And much of what you do know, you can recognise as being distorted, false, or foolish when it is spread out on Facebook, Twitter, or innumerable private websites.

The fact that you know better in some instances should give you cause for pause – if the almighty computer got it wrong in something that you know the truth of, you should also suspect that there could be many other instances where it is wrong.

You still have a public library, and you still have your native intelligence. These do not get hacked. Use them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little World – Finishing The Job Properly

I have been making plastic, wood, metal, and paper models for the last 60 years. Many of them were made in my first 17 years of life, and all bar one have disappeared. The survivor tells me how crude some of the products were back then.

But, crude or otherwise, the models of my youth were wonderful things. The center point of my life in some years, as the rest of it was spent in grey, drab boredom.  I think back to them fondly. But there is a touch of concern in the nostalgia; did I do the best job  that could have been done at the time?

The kind answer is…probably yes…given my level of skill and the materials available to me at the time…but my grown-up self wants perfection in its memories, and wants to go back and re-do the things that were badly done or half-finished.

eBay can help me in this, provided I am willing to buy old kits for 100 X  what they cost when they were new. It would have to be a pretty deep psychological wound that needed healing to pay some of the prices on eBay.

Fortunately some of the manufacturers have re-issued old kits…or redone them. And some have never been taken from the inventory. It may be possible to buy the airplane that was never built during 1962 and start in where I left off.

I am going to try. I won’t go to the nostalgic excesses that some do, but I would like to see what I might have done all those years ago. If the result is a mess, I will know that I was wise to chuck the kit back then, too.

Old Coot On The Road

Old Coot here. How ya going?

I’m the maddening character in the little car at the front of the traffic queue going very slightly less than the sign-posted speed limit. The one in the hat with both hands on the wheel. If you’re polite to me I’ll be in the left-hand lane for most of the journey.

Note: I write from Perth, in Western Australia, where the left-hand lane is the curb-side slow lane. The middle and right-hand lanes are for the people who wish to go faster and I wouldn’t dream of interfering with them as they do.

My little car is bright hi-vis green so that you can see it and dodge round it when you are racing toward your next amphetamine delivery. Don’t worry about me racing you for it…I hate to wear rubber off the tyres needlessly. And there is no need to flip fingers or scream obscenities out of the windows. I am perfectly willing to regard you as obscene under any circumstances.

No good looming up behind me to terrify me. I’ve worked retail for years – I can stand a looming that would crush a battlecruiser. I won’t speed up at all for tyrants, whether they are at a counter or a steering wheel. Being retired, I rarely need to get anywhere on my own time, let alone anyone else’s. And I like to use the exercise of driving to give me time to think. Time to think of my Super-Power…Old Coot Super Power.

Old Coots have been here before – sometimes here was better before, and sometimes it was worse – we have a comparison to go by. If it is worse now we are prepared to do something to make it better, and if it is better now we are prepared to take the time to be grateful.

We have seen better people than you do worse things, and as we are still here driving, we know how to cope with it. As conceited as you may want to be, you are not our worst nightmare. In fact a lot of us have taken up the nightmare business ourselves and we know how to do a lot with very small resources. And we are always looking for something to fill the day in between the morning radio serial and the cocktail hour.

Old Coots know that one day it is all going to end. And we’ve generally racked up enough time already to free us from regret if the one day turns out to be next Tuesday. Threatening us may seem all gangsta until you find out that we don’t care – and the man who doesn’t care is a floating sea mine with one bent horn. Steer clear.

Old Coots also can be very kind. We will change tyres for the helpless, guide the lost, and provide lunch for anyone. There is a price – we will talk while we do it. And the topic may not be apposite to the problem at hand. Don’t feel that you can ignore us – there will be a quiz later, and half your year’s marks will depend upon it.

Old Coots will rarely cuss you out, and if they do the terms they use will most likely sound quaint. They’re not. If an Old Coot calls you cowardly son of a bitch, he means it, and you are. Old Coots operate on simpler vocabularies.

If an Old Coot thanks you or praises you they also mean that sincerely.

 

Trash And Treasure Is Never Treasure

We have all gone to the Trash And Treasure, flea market, retro market, bring and buy, parish jumble sale, or weekend market in our time. Some of us have picked up bargains – the rest have picked up garbage. The really fortunate ones have picked up a bacterial infection and vowed never to do it again.

It is a basic feature of human psychology – that desire for a good buy. If it can be a swingeing bargain or a criminal rort, so much the better. But it does lead us down some dark passageways of the soul:

a. We seek for these El Dorados of dreck in the worst places. Council car parks on Sunday morning when we otherwise we could be asleep in bed or awake in the arms of a lover. It is the unwashed bottom of the top of the morning – either cold and wet or hot and distressing, and we’re out there looking for bargain clothespegs? Sheesh…

b. We deal with people we would avoid under any other circumstances. To a man, or woman, they have the look of wolves fattened on babies. None of them love us, and we do not love them, and the emotions are entirely justified from either side.

c. We do not need what we seek. We do not seek what we need. It is all greed or grot.

d. Just as Quentin Crisp eventually had to admit that there was no great dark man, we must eventually admit that there is no great dark treasure to be found. We can’t even find Quentin Crisp.

e. We do need the money in our pocket that we think we do not need. Just today a letter arrived from the water supply racket telling me that the state government will remove a subsidy they used to give to old people to help them pay for water. The money will presumably be given to mining magnates or their bankers. I now need to save my money for water. I would like to make water on the state government…

f. The things discarded by others were discarded for a good reason. They are ugly, broken, useless, poisonous, sad, or superfluous. What they are for others they will be for us, but doubly so because we spend real money on them. And if we want to resell them we will have to return to the garbage sale and become the persons we bought it from to get even a pittance back. Do we really want to exchange our souls for that?

g. We can live without it. We lived without it until we arose this morning, and we can make it through to the evening without it.

h. No-one looks cool at a junk market. Sellers, buyers, pickpockets, etc…All have a patina of naff on them, that they could have avoided assuming by staying home and doing something useful.

Well, that should make Sunday morning a lot more fun. See you at the markets?