And now you’re set to take over the castle. At least now you’ll be obliged to be noble…
I once lived in a country dominated by a hereditary ruling clan – a ruthless lot who had the power to incarcerate enemies for indefinite periods for unspecified crimes. All the while demanding obeisance from everyone around them. And it wasn’t Arkansas under the Clintons…it was the UK.
Before that, and since, I have lived largely free from the scourge of noble rule – save for brief visits to Japan, Singapore, and a Packer casino. While my life has not been spectacular, it has been comfortable.
Set, as I am, in a land of crass egalitarianism, I pay little heed to the Gowings and Cummings of the titled nobodies. The supermarket tabloid that chronicles the way the Duchess looked askance at the Princess means nothing to me. If it is anything, it is a blob of colour in the corner of the eye next to the Kinder Surprise. I’m more interested in the chocolate anyway.
Why do we still have ruling families – both royal and noble? Why, when the whole world pretends to some semblance of democracy? Even if it is a warped joke like the Asian dictatorships, it still trumpets the rule of the people somewhere in its name. There may well be Asian nobles and princes and gauleiters in every corner but they still pretend to be humble.
I should be delighted if someone would be honest and put an end to the pretence. Admit that the rulers are not noble or royal – just rich in hidden bank accounts and powerful with armies of thugs. We can accept that – it is expected in most local councils and shires here anyway, and the CWA is apparently a hotbed of scandal and vice. Well, a lukewarm bed anyway…But they do a nice lamington.
It could be quite exciting. I mean the idea of an independent Great Britain. A new experiment for the British people. Something they have never tried before.
Oh, they’ve been a sovereign nation before…and they’ve wielded sovereignty over many other nations quite cheerfully. Taking food and fibre, oils and minerals, gold, silver, iron and timber from them to supply the things that the British isles cannot grow or mine. They’ve used them as sources of slaves, when that was fashionable…and indentured labourers when the fashion changed. They’ve used them as receptacles for the unwanted poor or religiously inconvenient. Other nations have been jolly useful – even when you have to been forced to trade with them instead of looting them.
But that doesn’t make you independent. Quite the opposite – like Japan, Singapore, the various Arabies, and any number of quasi colonies…if Great Britain cannot do without those other outlying sources of goods and food, they are in a position of strategic dependency. That’s the most frightening one of all, as Japan discovered when the submarine campaign against them ramped up in the mid-forties. Isolated and independent is fine when you are stocked up but you go hungry and cold pretty quick as the pantry clears out.
Still, the British have been hungry before – the Second World War comes to mind. They got thinner and had less tooth decay, so maybe a period of austerity will be good for the people as a whole. Give them three decades and they might well have balanced their population with their arable land ( Mind you, you can only increase the latter by so much before you have to trim the former. The withdrawal of the National Health Scheme should do that. ).
I think they can do themselves a lot of good by trimming the overseas fat off their budget. Not just the EU contributions but the money that is put out to maintain the show of overseas political rule. Haul down the Union Jack from the places where it is a symbol of the 18th century…Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc. and sell off the residences of the various governors that prance and prate therein. Stop pretending to be Queen or King of Someplace Else and concentrate on being Q. or K. of the UK. Let the former colonies elect or appoint their own parasites as heads of state. Then they’ll have to entertain the Q. or K. of the UK when they visit at thethe expense of their own nation.
Or do they do that now…?
Eh? Shouldn’t that be ” Go To Singapore “?
Well, yes…the first time. Go to see the gardens and the Raffles and the Zoo. Go to the Bird Park and Chinatown and the temples. Go to the casino, if you must. Go and have a safe, good time. Spend some money and don’t make a goose of yourself.
But go the second time to see the people.
Singaporeans are a heady mixture of cultures, races, classes, sexes, ages, and religions. Each person has a great many things different from their neighbours, but they have one great commonality; they get on together. That might be because the government of Singapore demands that they do, but I suspect it is also because they want to. They are people of good will.
When you go the second time you can fill in the lines on the tourist card that you missed the first time. I need to tick the Botanical Gardens, the Chinese Gardens, and the Japanese Gardens. All do-able on the MRT. I need to see the Battle Box. I need to go to the building you see in the heading image and find out all about it – it is the most fascinating structure i have seen in three decades.
Then I want to sit in the malls and drift through the shops and eat in the open air to observe the Singaporeans living their lives. I would love to see them at home but they may be private people. In any case I would get enough joy from just seeing them to keep me cheerful for years.
Apparently they cleared out a Canberra public library quick-smart today after someone smelled a gas leak. The gas turned out to be an abandoned durian fruit – but the library visitors were probably grateful to be out of the place anyway – such is the reputation of the thing.
I have also seen notices in Singapore prohibiting it in hotel rooms, elevators, and public transport – because of the vile odour it emits. This is said to be somewhere between sewer gas and faeces. Hell of an advertisement for a food, eh?
Hell of an advertisement for the people who want to eat it, as well. I understand that lots of things can be acquired tastes, but acquiring a taste or faeces seems to be a pretty remarkable culinary achievement. What’s next? Franchise hamburgers?
Perhaps it is like the chili-eating contests that pit smartarses against each other to see who can feel worse – while the locals stand around laughing behind their fans. There is a certain cultural revenge inherent in seeing people eat offal and garbage if you have tricked them into it. It’s what accounts for poutine during Dominion Day celebrations outside of Canada.
Wait a minute. I think we’re onto something here. The durian poutine. Faster than a speeding pheromone – able to penetrate submarine hulls – capable of knocking a French Canadian off a gut-wagon…
The Asian cultures have Old Uncles. And Old Aunties, too. These titles have nothing whatever to do with being relatives, but everything to do with being a real someone.
My daughter introduced me to the idea – she says all the Asian food van ladies at her university are Aunties. And I have met Uncles working in Asian businesses. You see, it is an honorific given to the senior workers…because they are workers.
Old Uncle or old Auntie may not be doing quite as much as the rest of the people but they are doing something, and generally doing it well. They are engaged in daily work to benefit their families, their employers, and themselves.
All too often we in Australia see this and scoff at what is happening – saying that the old people are slaves in a culture that has no social security. What nonsense – the Old Uncles and Old Aunties have the greatest security there is – a position in the team. They have not been relegated to the sidelines of the culture – they are players along with the rest.
I have come to admire this…and I hope to be able to continue being Uncle Dick in my daily commercial weblog column. And Uncle Dick at the dance shows, taking photographs that benefit the artistic community. If I am Uncle Dick taking pictures at a wedding or in the studio – or Uncle Dick doing anything useful – I will have retained the dignity we all need.
Note: In my case it is a parlous sort of dignity as I am given to breaking into the occasional fit of folly. Mind you, I am perfectly content with being Foolish Uncle Dick as long as there are drinks and snacks available.
Do you remember Steve Irwin? The chap who used to wear khaki shorts and shirts and juggle animals on television? The one who used to say ” Crikey!” a lot on air?
Of course you do, He was immensely popular in North America as the image ( and sound ) of Australia. He was the archetype of the wise bushman, savvy in all outdoor adventures and steeped in true Australian slang. But North American viewers never knew the real truth – when Steve used the word “Crikey”, he was the only person on the continent to do so.
Or to be more accurate, he used it, but not here. No-one uses it here. We might use the names of various deities, or bodily functions, or secretions, or even WWII Australian army generals when we need an expletive*. We still use bloody hell, or worse, but we have let Crikey alone for decades – so much so that the copyright on it expired and it could be taken up by the television company for use in scripts.
While having a reputation as a swearing nation amongst the English, we rarely ask God to damn anything, as they might do in America. Unlike Canada we do not have any SOB’s – except the Sultan of Brunei, and he is indeed a noticeable SOB…We have eschewed the more colourful curses involving Australian animals or sporting history because you can’t get them out quickly at a traffic roundabout and they probably don’t translate into Mandarin or Hindi very well. And it is useless cursing some people because their lives are far worse than anything you could wish on them – indeed bidding them on to longevity could be the cruelest thing one might say.
As for Steve, well his fate was eventually to be remembered for…his fate. At least he got off better than Rolf Harris.
- Gordon Bennett. Sorry, I let that slip out…
I have just had the most marvellous telephone call from India. Or perhaps it was from East Pakistan. Hard to tell in the brief period involved.
Of course it had the necessary silence before the actual call – and the busy static as the caller came onto the phone. That sound of the steam laundry in the background and the subcontinental accent we know so well…
I answered the ” Hello “, with ” Good Afternoon “. The caller then asked me if I was always so rude! This…on Good Afternoon…? The next thing I said was ” May I Help You?” and the response was I couldn’t help him because I was so ***ing rude and stupid. And he hung up. Presumably in a Dudgeon, or a Huff. Or a Snit. Well, it was one of those little foreign cars anyway…
This is entirely a new departure in the normal run of scam phone calls – they generally want me to go to a computer and give them my credit card details. It is a tiresome slow thing sometimes as the caller reads from a script, but it does give me time to frame a suitable response – and up until now my response has been to allow them to lead me through the computer keyboard hoops until it eventually dawns on them that I am looking at an iMac keyboard instead of a Windows one. Then they abruptly ring off. I am gentle and polite, so as to not frighten the game…
I once was offended by these scam calls but lately I have relished them. They are fun to listen to. I wonder if there is to be a new wave of curry-flavoured abuse around the 2:00 each day? I must be ready with my Peter Sellers accent. Or I may be able to get an acquaintance from Singapore to school me in Singlish. Is it?
Apparently we are under attack yet again by the telephone scammers. I could not be more delighted.
We’ve all had them by now – the long pause and/or hiss, then the ever-so-slightly subcontinental voice telling us that they are from Microsoft and that we have a virus in our computer. And then we must go to the computer and turn it on and follow commands and tell them our credit card numbers…
Up until now this sort of thing has been exasperating – coming as it so often did while I was trying to cook dinner. It is hard enough to get something fried or grilled well if you have it under constant observation and intervention, but this becomes impossible if someone is Gunda Dinning it into our ears that we need to play with the computer.
My Indian and Malaysian and Singaporean readers will forgive me a certain cynicism in this – to be fair I will say that dodgy telephone calls really could come from anywhere in the world – even Brisbane – and the tricksters trying for that credit card number could be of any ethnicity at all. But they aren’t, are they…?
Perhaps this will change in the future now that I am retired from shop work and am writing and photographing here at home. I will be available all during the day and different time zones can dial up and try it on. I look forward to the Balkan and Russian adventurers. I shall practise my best fractured English to answer them. No profanity or bad language, mind. Kindness and concern will be my approach, but if I can lead the scammer to believe that English is only my third or forth language, that approach can be at 90º from the conversation and dead into the teeth of the prevailing wind.
My goal is to frustrate them so badly that they will explode in rage. I did achieve this once with an insurance sales lady from Melbourne by telling her that our family business was train robbery. If I did it to Melbourne, I can do it to Mysore or the Mekong delta…
Some of my readers who collect die cast models will say that Dinky, Corgi, Matchbox, Solido, etc have not disappeared – and they will be right. They can be found on eBay, at dedicated hobby shops, and through on-line sellers. The models they make are marvellous and cover a wide range of vehicles and aircraft. Any adult can afford them.
The offerings that are seen in large chain toy shops – the shops most likely to attract the youngsters and their parents – are not in the same class. I have just visited a model shop here in Perth this morning, followed by a chain toy store, and the experience convinces me that the toy store is doing a distinct disservice to their customers.
If you wish to by plush toys or dollies or board games then you are far better at the chain store – but if you try to find realistic and affordable cast models then they are the pits. There is a great deal of franchise/merchandising tied into the latest animated film or comic strip, but the sort of vehicles that we used to get to show us what reality on the roads was like are missing. You can applaud the fact that they encourage play, but the play becomes pretty media-centred when all the toys are studio caricatures of reality.
In contrast, as a child we had access to Dinky, Corgi, and Matchbox cars and trucks at a price we could save up for. A Dinky race car was 50¢ to $1.00. The models were cruder than today’s Chinese die casts but they were a reflection of real vehicles in real colours on the road. We could collect them or dirt road them as we wished, but at least they were real.
I should hesitate to do the same with the collector’s items that I collect, and at the prices the other collectors want to re-sell things at, I would also not give classic Dinky’s from the 1950’s to the kids. I wish they could have the modern cars in the old style.
Note: A big hand for the Japanese Tomy company who does do precisely what I have asked for in diecast models of modern vehicles. They also make die cast trains that kids can actually play with. Big in Japan, and Singapore at the big chain stores. If only they could penetrate those same brand chain stores here…
I have often been asked whether the Backstabbers Guild of Australia confines its attentions solely within our own country. The answer is yes, but a qualified yes. That means no, but not a complete no. Can you tell we write policy statements for Canberra…?
Here is an example of Guild activity in our sister organisation, the BGS – Backstabbers Guild of Singapore. The venue is the Singapore City Gallery – a delightful building featuring planning offices and scale model representations of Singapore- open for free to the public, and a great entertainment for fans of miniatures and small worlds. Also a good way to understand the layout of the city/nation. Thoroughly recommended.
But be careful that when you go there, you are not tempted to sit down on the convenient glass-topped bench near the scale model on the ground floor. Because it is not a bench – it is a perfectly clear water fountain with imperceptible water flow over the edge. Like a small infinity pool, but placed to catch the unwary traveller. Sit on this one and you disappear with a shriek and have to be hauled out by the grinning locals.
Farewell, dignity. Hello, wet trousers.
Congratulations to our Singaporean Brethren – this is a perfect example of the aqueous betrayal. The Bishop of Salzburg would have been proud…