” This Is Telstra…”

Or Optus, or the Australian Taxation Office, or the Federal Police. And the Indian person on the other end of the scratchy phone line is named Mary Smith.

If she said she was ringing from Icelandtel or the Icelandic Taxation Department  or the Icelandic Police her name would probably be be Mary Svensdottir. The phone line and the accent would be the same.

The Subcontinental Round is starting again. 4 so far this afternoon. You lucky bastards at work are missing out – come be retired and talk to Bombay.

My wife says that her late mother used to get the Indian scam calls all the time and was nervous and frightened by them – she was in her 90’s and had little computer experience. Fortunately we are an IT family and could soothe her but there must be thousands of elderly folk who are badgered  – and some who fall prey to them.

It set me wondering what my own parents would have been like had they lived into our scam age. My mother was raised in New Mexico and Texas and had little time for subcontinentals at the best of times. She also passed her  life in construction camps and mining towns and was not afraid to discuss things on an extremely basic level when required.

My father  – long gone – would have had a ball with them. I think he would have pulled up a chair, reached for the popcorn and an big orange drink, and then attempted to drive the scam artist mad. He was bad enough with Mormons at the door and my mother had to shoo them away before he got fairly started. No bad words from him, but he did have a habit of making people tie themselves up when they started to sell doctrine or junk bonds. He just put his finger in there every now and then to make sure the knots were good and tight…

I find the best way to respond is with friendly politeness and a grasp of the topic that is 270º away from what is on the script. Today I debated the advisability of changing the .50 cal machine guns for a 37mm autocannon. I was worried where the shells would be ejected to. The Indian woman assured me that Telstra would make it work perfectly.

I’m skeptical. Those empty cartridge cases are quite bulky. And hot.

 

How Do You Take A Vacation From A Holiday – Part One

Or vice versa. It is a question that the retired individual can ponder. And there isn’t an easy answer – lots of factors come into play:

a. You may not be wealthy. The disposable income of the working years – assuming you had any – has been disposed of. The rest is what supplies your daily living – it may be comfortably enough, but it rarely stretches to unlimited expense, unless you have been very successful indeed.

If you stay at home, you spend less – less on travel, accommodation, external meals and drinks, and tourist activities. Your supposrtsystem is all round you, supporting you, and need not be paid for elsewhere.

b. You may not be filled with vim and vigour. Older people can be bundles of energy in some cases but in others the bundle contains a lot of aches and pains as well as frayed nerves. Travel rarely improves this, unless you are going to the hot springs.

c. Your friends are here. Even if they are really your bitter enemies, they are at least convenient when you want a fight. No need going halfway around the country or the world to find new battles.

d. You can drink the water and understand the money and bus system here. If you go elsewhere all three things are likely to give you the shits. If you’re really lucky you get a free train and bus pass here and can plague people all over the city economically.

e. If you stay home you do not have to be out later than you want to be. You can turn off the lights and hit the feathers at 10:30 without looking like a party pooper.

f. If you stay at home and eat and drink the exotic foods and liquors of the place that the tour goes to…and it is possible, given the upsurge in restaurants in the last decade… you can still get heartburn but you can do something about it discreetly. When you do your own cooking, you can read the menu. And you need not eat the weird offal that they try to serve as folk food. Folk that for a joke.

But enough of the gloom. Next time we tell you how to holiday at home and be happy.

Planning For The New Year’s Resolutions

No good cobbling these things together at the last moment…people see through that in an instant. Far better to sit and sensibly plan promises that you intend to break as soon as the hangover eases up. The new decade will be a good opportunity to clear the old cobwebs of questionable behaviour and establish new and worse habits. I fully intend to:

a. Avoid passive-aggresive behaviour. It never works. Pick one and go with that.

b. Eat more greens and fruit. I have a cocktail book with an entire section of fruit drinks. I should be legless about 80% of the time but there’ll be no danger of scurvy.

c. Be positive. Mind you, I’m not sure whether that means I should be given doses of antibiotic or just settle down to be more bloody-minded about things.

d. Save more money. This is an easy resolution to keep as I do not save anything at all now. 5 cents saved would see this done. I shall go mug someone for 5 cents.

e. Broaden my mind. Everyone says this is desirable but no-one knows why. And the proposed formulae for doing it differ widely. One says travel, one says study, one says mingle with the mob. I am going to canvas more opinions until I find someone who wants me to eat and drink to excess.

f. Exercise more. This seems a good idea until you find out that the exercise involves turning off your mind for hours at a time just to burn calories. I plan to take fewer calories in and to make the most of the ones that are in there already. If this sounds like work, that is precisely what it is…work to accomplish things while exercising.

g. Be more mindful but carefree and seriously joyful at the same time. Now this is just getting to sound like bullshit. A few more lines of it and I’ll have my memes for the year. Should be able to sell a book of them, if I make it sound scientific and mysterious at the same time. I need a vaguely biblical name to sell it, but.

Self-Promotion For Seniors

Just because you have gotten older doesn’t mean that you have to get wiser. Join the BGA Self Promotion School and make an ass of yourself just like you did when you were young. Bonus: Now you can make your children and grandchildren cringe, instead of doing it to your parents.

Here’s a few suggestions to get you started. We also have a few to get you stopped, but some of them are illegal.

A.   We have been told that we should be learning something all our lives. As we get older, that can be as simple and beneficial as don’t climb ladders to clean the gutters and avoid driving at night. But this sort of practical thing doesn’t generate government subsidies, so things like Universities Of The Third Age have been invented.

They appear to be old folks clubs that pretend to intellectual pursuit. I would be willing to bet that tea and scones features prominently in the academic program. In any case, most of the codgers know most of the stuff that they try to teach – and know it because they did it themselves earlier on.

B.   Are you the sort of oldie who wants to become involved in volunteering? Have we got a treat for you…With the proposed cutback on illegal Asian slave labour for the market gardens and other processing industries – and a subsequent crackdown on slave smuggling through the airport – the fields will become bare and unproductive. Here is where a senior can step in – All you need is a straw hat, a pair of overalls, and a cotton sack. The tanned complexion will be provided for free and you can qualify for fried chicken and watermelon by singing work songs and spirituals. Yassuh…

C.   Are you good with children? Are you good with grandchildren? How do you define good? Could you pick one off at 300 yds. over iron sights? The Education Department would like to talk to you about our new sniper course.

D.   Men’s Sheds have become extremely popular as places where men can go, build furniture or model airplanes, and complain about the Government and women. We propose to open a similar chain of venues called Women’s Drawing Rooms. In them, women can meet to do arts and crafts and complain about the Government and men. Those who refuse to deal with anything in life on the basis of gender will be accommodated by a neutral meeting place where they can do nothing and complain about the Government and boredom.

 

 

The Ten O’Clock Highway

I live a retired life, which means I push my nose into all sorts of places. This is fun if you time it right – and the chief requirement there is to coordinate your movements with the road traffic.

Or, to put it more accurately, without. You choose to venture when others do not – you go places they are not. The shining goal os a day is an unobstructed road ahead and no arrogant BMW driver or tradie in a tray-top pushing up behind you. In some cases it is worth seeking out a road that doesn’t even go where you want to go to so that you can enjoy the peace.

It gets harder, as our metropolitan area expands and the suburbs in-fill themselves with multiple dwellings on older blocks. Just more people on the roads. I try to use the bus and train system when I can – the attraction being free travel in air conditioning with time to rest rather than drive. However, there are places poorly-served by public transport so the car has to be wheeled out.

I’ve learned to only venture after 10:00 AM and to bring myself back home before 4:00 PM.  If the route is planned well you can get through the flak defences, accomplish your mission, and be back before they can catch you. Of course there are always road crews out playing Tetris with the traffic barriers as they lean on their shovels and you do well to learn about them from other road users on the net the night before. They really do affect where you travel for shopping – they steered me away from a certain sale at a shop last Saturday by the simple expedient of blocking the shop’s street from both ends. I hope the shopkeeper and his assistants do not stave and die behind the counter while the paviours play – it would make the shop premises stink awfully…

Shall I resort to the net and on-line shopping more? I hope not – I like the establishment of physical shops in our city as a way of giving employment and providing convenience for me  – after I have run the gauntlet of the roads. On-line doesn’t benefit our state or nation in the end.

 

 

 

Riding The Horse – Part Ten – Genug Ist Genug

How do you know when enough is enough? And what do you do about it?

If you are sitting at a dining table you’ll know. One of two things will happen; either your plate will be empty or you will be full. It is a blessing when these things are simultaneous. If there is a discrepancy you’ll feel like something is wrong. And this is where we turn to either our intellect or our emotions.

When you use your senses  for anything – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling – you experience a rising sensitivity, a plateau of appreciation, and then a decline. Your mind knows when it has had enough of any particular stimulation, and reduces its response to it accordingly. In the extreme, it turns to a part of you that deals with disgust and sounds an alarm bell. Enough! Genug! No further!

The wise hobbyist will see this same cycle happening with their pursuits. They’ll start with a tickle of interest, then a rising rush of exploratory lust. Then comes a period of direct reward for effort – the plateau. Finally, however, the interest slackens and the amount of effort put in does not yield an increase in pleasure or knowledge. If they are not careful they get to that alarm bell and start to hate what they once loved. Recognise this cycle, and you can start to control how it affects you.

Start out with a notion. A curiosity about something. A flash of something bright in the water. Pursue it. Start to become enthusiastic – then studious – then fascinated. Then gain a mastery of it – and share your pleasure and pride with others.

But when the interest starts to flag…when the rewards decline but the cost and effort do not…realise the fact and set a careful plan in motion. Analyse how much further your hobby can go for you. How much you can give it and how much it will reward you. Be realistic. See ahead to when you will have had enough. 

And then make a plan to quit it in good humour just at this point. If you need to leave some goal that you can never achieve untouched, do so. Take away a set of fond memories of the hobby before you hear the alarm bell. You will have done your mind a favour and not have wasted all the time and money heretofore spent on the hobby.

Your dinner will have done you good.

Golden Time

Some people value gold. I don’t – my father’s life was focussed upon prospecting for it too many times – and under harsh conditions – for me to respect it. I recognise it for what it is – a solid medium of exchange that doesn’t vanish. Sometimes I wish it would.

But I also recognise that gold can also be good -particularly when it is as aetherial as light. I like golden light – particularly the golden light of late afternoon.

It’s always been that way. As a child in Calgary, Alberta, golden light was associated with the end of the school day, the release of responsibility, and the commencement of playtime and family time. I make no apologies for valuing these – they were good then and they are good now. And golden light triggers the happiness of these times.

We are in the process of rebuilding the back yard at our house. My wife has a personal vision of garden beds and rockeries and as she is the family gardener, I do not stand in her way. She had the brilliant idea of painting our eastern fence in a mustard yellow paint a few years ago and now when the sun sinks into the west it lights up the fence like a golden band. When you sit out under the pergola or look out as you eat your dinner you get this glorious blast of the essence of afternoon. I could not be happier.

There will be plants and trees and all sorts of garden eventually when the workmen stop laying limestone blocks but for now I am just basking.