The Land Of Themandus

I’ve lived in Themandus for nearly all my life. It is not as bad a place as it is sometimes made out to be but life here can sometimes be a strain. Let me explain.

As a small child I was taken to a country that adjoined my native land. I’d no knowledge of this as I was a month old at the time, but as I grew up, those around me in the new country were able to explain it to me. I found it confusing at the time – was I living in the land of Them while I was an Us, or was it the other way around?

Fortunately my father’s employment whisked me around Country No.2 so fast that I was, perforce, mostly in the company of my parents and felt that they and I were Us and nearly everyone else was Them. This satisfied me for years as I listened to the ill-temper of school teachers and students complaining about the land of my birth…just over the border…I was also fortunate that the nomad existence prevented me from being claimed by other sorts of Us people in the Them settlements that we lodged in – I was never forced to Us it on a religious basis each week, and was able to blend in with Them whenever They had Christmas or Easter. I got chocolate eggs and turkey same as They did, though not on the same plate.

Coming to Australia in the middle 1960’s let me experience being an Us amongst a different set of Thems, and as I had been trained to the sport of being an outsider in Country N0.2, Country N0.3 was easy.

I’ve even gone so far as to become a naturalised Them here and it has worked pretty well for the last 48 years. I still grit my teeth when I hear ill-mannered talk about Country No.1 from natives of Country N0.3 but I realise that it is generally just ignorance or bias that drives it – not a personal attack.

I’m also happy to say that upon becoming a Them, and then marrying another Them, and having a child, that I have now become the leader of a small family of Us. And as long as we steer away from sex, politics, and religion in our conversation, we can all be happy.

 

Advertisements

Desperation Is The Snarky Auntie Of Invention

We have often been told that necessity is the mother of invention. That’s fine as far as it goes, but like most copybook maxims, it never goes far enough. It doesn’t provide much of a clue as to what prompted half the stuff that you find in a gift shop. If the shop is an arty or trendy one in Melbourne, it provides no clue whatsoever. Nothing in there for sale is necessary.

That doesn’t prevent it from being sold, mind, but you get the meaning anyway.

Desperation, on the other hand, can provide some very good decisions. If there is nowhere else to turn, anywhere you do turn is a good direction. It doesn’t matter if the eventual outcome is disastrous – doing nothing would have been disastrous anyway. At least you get your disaster fresh and if you survive, you will have learned something. If you do not survive, we all learn something.

Despair is defined as the complete loss or absence of hope. The dictionary almost makes this sound like a bad thing. That’s a mistake – in a number of situations, it is the most useful and refreshing state of mind that you can be in. Such as:

a. The enemy is all around you. They are merciless. It is your final hour.

Fine. That removes all the doubt and uncertainty. You need never be plagued again with moral qualms again. Whatever weapon you have by you can now be used freely and with a real delight. Go ahead – treat yourself.

b. You have been caught. Your guilt is evident to all. There is no way to hide your sins.

Fine. Revel in them. You wanted to do them anyway, and now you can finally admit to yourself that you did. And you don’t have to footle around with anyone else’s good opinion, either. They don’t have one that applies to you.

c. You have lost everything. Nothing is left. No possessions whatsoever.

Fine. There are lots of possessions all around you. You’re in a perfect position to select the ones that you wish to have and then just go take them. In most cases, you will succeed. In the cases where you do not, society will eventually have to provide you with the basics – food, shelter, clothing. So it is an overall win to you.

 

Cutting A Piece Of Personal Peace

As a kid I never really appreciated peaceful times as much as I might have. I was always looking for something new and exciting and there was nothing as new and exciting as Christmas. Everywhere you turned there was a reminder of the day to come and the sense of anticipation that built up like a head of steam.

This holiday period past has shown me how much I have changed. The hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations this year have been 10 X what they might have been on other occasions and they have been centred on my home…meaning that nothing has been settled and comfortable here for a fortnight.

I frankly missed the sense of relaxation of other years. And it is going to take some degree of work to get it back later in the new year. Funny that – working to be relaxed. But for the person who is anxious or who wishes for order and perfection, it is just that  – a task that you need to undertake on a steady basis. Any event that you are involved in is one that needs preparation – and for some of us we over think and over prepare every time.

I will be making a list for my annual vacation trip and it will be many pages long – things to see, places to visit, items to shop for. I’ve got notebooks full of these lists from previous years and it has been surprising how many items do get ticked off in a week. But in 2018, after this Christmas, I think I am going to make a change.

Oh. I’ll still write the lists, but this time I’ll select one thing only from each category, instead of five. One activity per day, with the rest of the time left for calm and peace. Don’t know exactly where to find it in a holiday city, but I’ll bet there are pockets of it all over the place. Wish me luck.

 

” Fix Not That Which Doth Not Need It “

” For verily, I say unto thee, that thou wilt be sorry. That which hath not been put asunder up until now need not be fiddled with.  For lo – things will shoot out of the inside of the mechanism and roll under the fridge and thou shalt curse the heavens.”

Oh if only I had heeded the holy text. I would not have attempted to cure the floor lamp of its permanent lean and I would not have destroyed it in the process. We would still have light, if at an angle. Now we have an even and oppressive darkness in the corner…and the prospect of an equally oppressive journey to the furniture shop to get another lamp.

It was not an expensive thing…and the internal construction of it was in keeping with this. The lean was caused by the base crumbling, and really there was no cure possible…but it could have kept on leaning for months had I not commenced treatment. It was well enough and needed a dose of leaving alone.

I shall take the hint. There are a number of little things that have been niggling at me around the house and shop. I will look very closely at them now and see if they really do need human intervention, or whether they are just a natural feature of the landscape…

Postscript: The lamp was replaced by a similar item from IKEA – to my immense satisfaction. But I am still not going to attempt to retile the sofa myself…

 

” Stop Writing Your Blog “

” Just stop it. Get out and do something useful. ”

This is the orders from a well-known English advertising writer who has published a book on creativity. He is able to insist on this because we have paid $ 18 to buy the tiny little yellow book that he wrote and he is not there for us to argue with.

Mind you, the first four pages of this $ 18…errr…I mean this book…have been devoted to telling us that there are no rules. So we’d better obey. I don’t know if there is an or-else to go with it, but at $ 18 you sort of expect one.

Get this in perspective – I also bought a book the same day written by Guy de Maupassant for $ 4.95 and I suspect it might have been better written…

Okay, heavy humour aside, I think our English hack is way off the beam in his judgement of the humble online page. Call it a blog, weblog, column, essay, or what you will, it is a real thing that can do real good or real harm. It may do it for free, or it may garner a little money. It won’t get the advertising agency fee that would feed an $ 18 author but it might just provide an even more valuable thing; an opportunity for someone to write, photograph, draw, and think…and opportunity that they may never have had in the world before.

There are enough vaporous weblogs to fill a zeppelin hangar – enough poetic ones to gag a unicorn. Enough recipe columns to keep us at the stove until Doomsday. There are enough movie reviews, literary sniping matches, and commercial plugs to fill all the rest of our time. And the wonderful thing is that we need not read them all – but we can if we wish. We need not write them all – but if it is late and we’ve got a good idea…

Not all creativity has to be billed at an hourly rate – not every writer has to be the next coming genius in the agency. Some of us use the weblog column as memory, speech, connection, and release. To be frank, we know that most of what we write is only read by ourselves, but the very act of writing it – writing it well, if we can manage that – is enough to make it real.

Oddly enough, we are doing something useful…

The Little World – It’s Only A Hobby – Part Two

” It’s only a hobby ” as a defensive statement can cover a multitude of situations. I’ve heard it in real life ( not on a comedy record ) as a slogan of pride and an excuse for shame. Can’t tell you which was the most disturbing:

a. The person who received a genuine complement on their models – a series of scratch-built boats – and modestly said that it was only a hobby. I was engaged in the same sort of modelling at the time, but without the spectacular success of the other chap. I was a little ( a lot…) jealous of his skills and thought that the answer rang false.

It seemed like a boast that he was better at other things, and that the modelling was some sort of lesser thing. It wasn’t a lesser thing for him, or for the rest of us that were doing it. It was the life and blood of our out-of-work hours. It was our art, and deserved a better reference than that.

b. I also remember a person in the same club who responded to criticism of his cruder models with nearly the same response – that it was only a hobby. Here the clear inference was that it was not an activity that had to be done well – it could be a mere bagatelle and done in a sloppy fashion.

That led to the conclusion that there was no point in him doing it at all. He could go off and do something more important – something that was important enough to do well. But I suspect that anything that he tackled would have had some small taint of the attitude. I wonder if anything was ever satisfying for him?

I wonder if the flaw inherent in both yesterday’s and today’s column is the word ” hobby”. If people substituted other words or phrases; ” activity “, “job “, ” pursuit “, or ” avocation ” for the word ” hobby “, would the uneasiness arise? Could people excuse themselves for anything if they were more serious about it – or more light-hearted.

For my part, I regard my Little World as real. For me it has more actuality than many other places on this planet that are merely internet reports. As creator, I take pride in it, and do not count the costs of the effort made in detailing it. I do count the costs of costs, though, and look at economic ways of having my fun. I try to keep my big spending for things that truly do make a difference.

How Old Do You Have To Be To Legally Purchase Nostalgia?

This good question was supplied by a friend over dinner. The venue was a retro pub that had been burned out and restored to the appearance of a burned-out pub. I found myself getting nostalgic for it and hoped that it would re-ignite.

As a child, we rarely have a sense of former times – all things happen in the present. Indeed, we are sometimes so impatient for new things to happen that we discard the present almost as soon as it arrives. Either way – nostalgia or impatience, we cannot really be said to dwell in much contentment.

Well, if we are lucky, time marches on for us. We get to the point where we have something to remember and the interval gives it a sort of hazy mental glow. It becomes better than it was – even if it was actually awful at the time. We edit our thoughts so that there is a good side to the former situation and then we home in on that. It is the kindliest self-deception we can practise.

Of course it also goes the other way – We’ve all seen that Monty Python sketch of the old clubmen bemoaning the modern times and trying to compete with how bleak their childhoods were. The idea was pinched from an Israeli book published a few years earlier than the sketch, mind, but it was still funny. And you can find this sort of thing done for real in any pub front bar. The older we get the tougher we had it.

I wonder if anyone ever really assesses their past and comes out with a neutral view of it? A view that would pass the scrutiny of a common magistrate’s court. It might be the one thing that could give them happiness now – and blessed relief for their listeners.

Ah, but there can at least be some winners – the companies that reproduce vintage items – from clothing to radios to camera outfits. Of course you have to grant them some chance to incorporate modern improvements for safety, convenience, and a higher profit margin – and there will be an inevitable bias in the advertising that accompanies it.

The people who remember the real times may wince a bit when they see the copy version. But some small scrap of the past will have been carried on.