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.


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.

The Ever-Present Danger of Happiness…

Some days it doesn’t pay to let down your guard – the moment you do something nice happens to you and then the rest of the day is shot.

This is a real problem for grumpy older people who try to maintain the rage but find that they can’t get the parts any more. They are sometimes forced to abandon old grudges and either go out and buy new ones or just give up the sport altogether. This might sound like a good idea, but what do you do with all the clothing and accessories you’ve acquired to do it with?  There is only a limited market for poison darts at garage sales in this country.

It’s easy enough to avoid happy people in the shopping mall or the airport – anyone offering religious tracts or flowers can be seen at a distance and you can steer round them. If you are riding a gopher mobility cart you can steer into them but be prepared for sympathy and hot cups of tea from the security staff. Fortunately, security staff never seem to be happy in themselves so you can hang around where they are and cash in on the negative vibes. Just don’t make any sudden moves.

Being unhappy at home takes a little more effort. If your favourite television program is on in ten minutes and you have a fresh cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits you might as well sit down and get it over with – postpone your moaning until the advertisement breaks. If you’re lucky* these will be every five minutes. And then there is the telephone with telemarketers and scam merchants ringing up during the best part of the show – you can kill happiness efficiently there.

Sometimes all it takes to develop a really good grump is to review the daily news. Of course, if your side is winning this is no help at all. Then you are forced to go further into the paper until you get to the art or food reviews to get your boost o’ sadness. At least the average modern reviewer can be depended upon to be disappointed in something. It’s the reason they never get into Heaven…God is afraid they’ll take away one of his stars.

If all else fails you can sit on the front porch and yell at people to get off your lawn. In Australia we’re not allowed M1 Garands so we can’t go the full Clint Eastwood on the local teenagers but there is nothing to stop us planting double-gees in the grass and that keeps ’em off, no fear.

*  There’s more than one kind of luck…



Thoughts Upon The Coming Of Age, Yet Again…

I am wondering about the business of becoming old. Starting to suspect that it is a bit of a fraud, and I’m wondering who is running the scam. Let me explain.

I reached 70 years old today – by the simple process of waking up alive instead of dead. I am going to assume that this is a good thing. I have given up regular employment for the misty uncertainty of part-time engagement. I have enough money to eat and drink regularly and enough old clothes to survive the cold. I have a library of books and workshop full of toys. I do not owe money to anyone, and they do not owe it to me – thus leading to a quiet mind. All would appear to be well…

But is it? Am I now officially in Old Coot Land? Can I let out my mental belt and run around hooting? Can I chase youngsters off the lawn with an M1? Can I wear flared trousers and a toupee? Can I put up signs excoriating the local council and get away with it? How far gone am I, and is there any chance that I can go further?

To be honest, I don’t feel much over 35 and I don’t think much past 25. I can still drink, but do not need to do it on the cheap stuff. I can still eat but lately the Kiddy Meal is about all I need. And I have finally decided what I like doing and don’t like doing.  Helluva long time finding it out, but…

Shall I become a Keyboard Troll Social Warrior? Or a Disgruntled Activist? Or just a Menace To Navigation? All three are tempting.

I toyed briefly with the idea of becoming a Benevolent Old Buffer but then I found  out how much benevolence actually costs these days. The kindness that ran to $ 20 in the 1960’s is now up over $ 90 and if you are not careful the recipients will find out where you live. I have nothing against beggars at the gate, but we don’t have a gate. And the doormat is generally occupied by the cat and his latest dead rat – the last thing I want is cat, dead rat, and Lazarus at the same time.

I am also troubled by the Hefner phenomenon – I don’t know whether to be a randy maniac in a dressing gown or a figure of staunch moral fibre in a black Puritan suit. The dressing gown would be comfy but the knee breeches and severe black costume would allow me to burn people at the stake. Decisions, decisions…

Contempt For Others Is Despise Of Life

Your daily pun. Swallow it quickly and you can have a spoonful of castor oil to take away the nasty taste.

I recently had cause to wonder about the word ” despise “. I encountered it reading Adam Smith’s ” Wealth of Nations ” in a section that dealt with the relationships between idle gentlemen and industrious merchants. It would appear that it is an emotion that flowed in the eighteen century in one direction in London and in exactly the opposite one in Amsterdam. The English gentry looked askance at the London commercials and the Dutch merchants were contemptuous of anyone in their society not bustling with employment.

I daresay there would have been similar circumstances in other European courts and in the various parts of the Americas. He does say that China knew nothing of this at the time – all were expected to be busy about the affairs of life. I think it is so now.

I also wonder at the relationship of regard here in Australia in the twenty-first century. I do recall the comments about ” bludgers ” heard in the 1960’s when I was fresh to the country. I formed the opinion that idleness was looked down upon then – there seemed to be a great deal to do in the development of the place and general work. I did not want to be seen in that light – fortunately the university course I was engaged in prevented any danger and there were plenty of holiday jobs to fill the year’s gaps.

Now I have arrived at an age of decent retirement. ( Though I hope I don’t have to be too decent withal…) I am not debarred from seeking employment again but….

a. I doubt employers want 70-year old people as regular workers. Our capacity to stand on our feet for 12 hours is limited – by our feet and our temperament.

b. Speaking of which, at 70 you have either got the soul of a saint or a savage. The employer may hope for one but encounter the other…We may like cats and dogs but we are not at all patient with corporate puppies, business bitches, or catty co-workers.

c. We need something that is engaging to do – we are not going to look to a slow steady progress up any corporate ladder and meteoric rises make our head spin – indeed we can get dizzy standing up quickly. We want short-term success.

d. We want that short term success in something that we are good at. Fortunately, at our age we are good at a lot of stuff, but a lot of the stuff we are good at is not done anymore.

So I think retirement will be the go. But, like the idle gentleman in Holland, I am daily cheek-by-jowl with those in paid employment – sometimes in the old trades that I followed – and the current practitioners can treat me as if I am despised. It bothered me a couple of years ago.

I am also bothered by the thought that I may risk this with people during out-of-business hours. People who have been working all day need relaxation to recruit themselves for what may be an equally hard day to come. I can see that entertaining me during the evening may not be welcome…yet there is little opportunity to meet them during the day. It is a difficult schedule to work out.

Does there necessarily have to be a barrier between the workers and the non-workers? Are those not earning debarred from contact? Is their contact merely tolerated, rather than welcomed?

I must be careful – having realised my altered relationship with the representatives of some firms, I need to stop myself from despising them in turn. You never can tell when and where you will meet – you need your emotions about you, even if your wits are scattered.


A Rest Is As Good As A Change

I have been embracing change as fast as I can recently – I found out all the shops and events in Melbourne over the Australia Day weekend that had gone bust or had decided to sit out the dance. It was a little like embracing a cactus. But as it was all external to me, and nearly always replaced by something just as good, I could view it with equanimity.

I’m also embracing the changes in my circle of friendship and acquaintance as I get older. Some people vanish into other spheres of activity – some remain fixed while I vanish. In any case it is all legitimate human interaction and not really a cause for regret.

The picture alters a little when I look at some of the things that flow through social media. I am the first to admit to being poor at judging truth or falsehood – the fake news and alternative truth pundits are just that good. I do tend to default to cynicism, and I think this has helped me out somewhat in the past. I’ve not fallen foul of scammers in the internet world as yet…though there have been a couple of credit card skims a few years ago. And I rarely fall for photoshopping that is too good to be true or apocryphal stories tricked up in new words. I do not believe in the Model A Ford carburetor that does 200 miles per gallon…

I noted as well that some people do change over time, but not in a good way. Oh, no-one in my acquaintance has become a bank robber, but some have become activists for a variety of political views that have started to make me nervous. Of course they are entitled to keep whatever ideas they wish in their heads, and there is a tradition of free speech in our country that lets them air some of them…but there are a few who I think go perilously close to the legal line in their posts.

No telling how many of these things are picked up by the patrol mechanisms of the internet before they get a chance to be broadcast…and no telling how many of them are canned through complaint by other readers. I noted recently that Facebook thought one of my WordPress columns was spam…but changed their mind when I explained that it wasn’t. Perhaps it was just a brush with a bot.

I do applaud the mechanism in Facebook that allows one to “rest” a contact for a month. It gives time for cooling of temper, and when you see their posts again in 30 days you may find that whatever caused the distress was just a passing mental gas bubble.