The Blue ( Thunder ) Bird Of Happiness

A visitor – a welcome visitor – to the 2018 Victorian Hot Rod Show was this imported 1955 Ford Thunderbird. It would have been equally at home inside the hall, but by being in the car park it meant we could get much closer to see the details. And all for free.

You can think what you will and say what you might about the way that the Thunderbird evolved over the years – how it got bigger, and lower, and heavier, and ultimately indistinguishable from the sedans that took over the personal car market. And how Ford tried to wind back the clock when they restarted production to match two-seater modern cars…But you cannot deny the impact and the style of the first models.

They were never sports cars…nor were Corvettes or Studebaker Hawks. They were personal luxury cars for a market where the average Joe or Jane might just be able to afford one – and to do so while they were young enough to appreciate it. They had a big enough engine and adequate suspension and reasonable brakes, and the rest was just style and salesmanship…and quite frankly that was a reasonable answer to what people wanted.

The Europeans who decried the style or the weight or the handling fell into two classes; those who had enough old-family money to buy faster, better handling cars with astronomic price tags, and those who had enough money to buy an Austin A40 but were jealous of the Yanks. Their children and grandchildren are still echoing their shrill sentiments now, but paying 10x the price tags for modern sedans tricked out with spoilers and LED lights to do the same thing that the Thunderbird drivers did; cruise the beach strips on warm nights. They might cruise more expensively but they don’t cruise in better style.

Note the wire wheels. They are real and simultaneously unnecessary  and cool. Likewise the chrome bumpers…though I might say that the chrome and over-riders probably does a 200% better job of actually protecting the bodywork than the plastic parts of today. I note any number of dangling things on the freeway every time I drive into town – either the plastic pans are not attached very well or the people who snag and smash them cannot afford to have them ripped off and replaced. That’s not surprising considering the price of spare parts.

Note also the porthole. This is one of the last cars to have one and actually get away with the style. It is design folly, of course, but we wouldn’t be without it on a T Bird. The bird is also one of the few cars past the 1930’s that has made a wheel arch cover look good.

You might bemoan the standard look of the tail light assembly as well – it’s the style of the Fordsedan cars of their time – but remember that Ford was a reasonable-price manufacturer and any use of standard parts would have made good sense. You never had to complain about not seeing a Ford tail light when it lit up.

Is the interior luxurious enough for you…in a spartan sort of way? There is much less of the sculpturing of the dash area that you see on other North American maker’s cars, while still not retreating to the woodwork and flat panels of the European marques. It’s not padded – so you can expect to bounce your head off that dash if you stop quick.

The seat, however is pure romance, and I am willing to bet a number of them got started on those T Bird benches. Washable vinyl, too…I think the cup holder’s a later addition but the radio and the heater controls look pretty standard for the period. Is that a tape deck? Does it have Conelrad? Do you know what Conelrad was? And look at the wheel – ribbed for your pleasure.

Finally…consider the statement that the paint job makes in these days of grey and black. This is a car for people who want to have fun and colour. Truly Happy Days.


Moving On With Life

Recently I met someone who told me that they were moving on with their life. They’d gotten to a point where the older associations and interests no longer satisfied them. They were going to seek new things.

I recognised the feeling – it has happened to me on a number of occasions in the past and I suspect it will happen again in the future. I am not sure if this means life for me will be better or worse, but in any case it will be different.

Breaking ties to the past can be problematical – it’s not just the mafia that is hard to leave – many innocent social groups are just the same. We need to observe some niceties when we do:

a. Do your changing for yourself – not for someone else. By this I mean do not leave friends or family because someone else tells you to. Whether your departure is a good idea or a bad idea, it must come from you alone.

b. Do not leave mad. Even if you are angry, repress this so that no-one is subject to it. You can discharge it elsewhere another time. If there is to be any leave-taking do it upon friendly grounds if at all possible. At least try for civility.

c. Do not announce your leave-taking generally. There may be some people to whom it is politic to make your congé, but these are generally very few these days. There is no nobility any more, and the people you need to deal with are officials or employers. There are accepted forms of severance and you would do well to observe them.

d. Do not expect mourning or great consternation. That might be evidenced if you were to die tragically but then you’d never see it. If you angle for it to gratify your ego while you are still here, you’ll be horrified to find it does not exist. The world turns without you very well.

e. Make no explanations, provide no justification. If there are reasons, they can remain within you and make you a stronger, better person in the future. You really only need to account to courts and the ATO, and if they are not involved, the rest is a private matter.

f. Leave no debts. If anything is demanded of you, consider whether it is justified. Whatever you honourably owe, pay. If you do not owe anything, smile and decline.

g. Do not return. If you think yourself improved by leaving a social circle, consider that you may also have improved that circle by your decision. Don’t go back and spoil the thing.

h. Go out and begin afresh in the social scene. You have learned a great deal about other people and, hopefully, something about yourself. Make use of the knowledge.

i. If you meet old companions, partners, acquaintances, group members in the future…and you will… be gracious. They’ll think better of you, and so will you.


The Untouchable List – Part Two – Cause and Effect

I realised that when I wrote the titles for this series of columns that the words ” Untouchable ” had an echo within the caste system on the Indian subcontinent. No such connection was intended – those who worry about it can comfort themselves that the actual caste or class situation is covered by a series of words in Hindi and the other subcontinental languages – ” Untouchable ” is just a good cover word in English for the concept. Peace, Brothers.

Making a list of unpleasant things, people, places, and situations sounds like nothing but trouble – a procedure that could only make us feel bad. Possibly for some people, but in my case it is having a positive effect on me. I am feeling better.

Perhaps it is like the business of lying on a psychiatrist’s couch and rambling onwards. Talk long enough and you let slip the root causes of your problems – and possibly let the therapist find some way of easing them. Think long and write an honest list and you might be able to see clearly into your own mind…and do a similar amount of good for yourself.

You’ll be asking yourself some serious questions:

Do you hate thinking or dealing with a particular topic? Ditto about certain people? Real hate?

Why? There might be a very good reasonIf so, recognise this and carry on. You know your own life better than anyone.

Is this hatred affecting you now? How? How long has it been going on?

If you write it down and encapsulate it in a list, can you go on even further and leave it in the past?

Saints and philosophers might be able to look at that list, crumple it up, and throw it away. Those of us who are not on that elevated plane of piety or knowledge would to well to keep it – well hidden – and to use it as a warning device in our daily lives. It might save our social standing and credibility.

There’s a terrible temptation abroad in the aether to air all our opinions on social media. We lay ourselves open to all the other people who want to express an opinion, and some of them are just looking for a chance to make us feel small. If we let them see the list we give them valuable targeting information about ourselves, and it always comes back to bite. We do far better to honestly make our list, honestly abide by it, and do so in strict secrecy.

Part three – are you on my list yet?  Would you like to be?


Talk Clean To Me, Baby!

I have a secret to tell you. You must not never, ever, tell nobody never. Promise.


Well, umm…err…umm. Here it is…

I don’t like dirty talk in bed. Or out at the dinner table. Or on the footpath. Or during surgical operations. I’m not even sure whether it is proper during artillery bombardments.

You may ask me to frangle your jangle or express the wish to molyp my polyp, but as soon as you shout it out, I want to put on my overcoat and leave. Frangling and molyping is all very well, but let us preserve a decent silence while it is going on.

Likewise the business of being a right little foul mouth during normal business hours. It may be the new norm of social conversation and I may be a hidebound old puritan for avoiding bad language, but if you wish to obtain my complete cooperation, do not descend. I know the words, and I know what they mean, but I do not wish them thrown at me in normal conversation. There’ll be a little leeway granted in the matter of emotion if you are being eaten by a crocodile at the time, but short of that…no.

Is there anything you should say to increase my interest or ardour?

” Here, have a cocktail and a bowl of snacks. ” is a good start.

” Does this ( garment ) make my ( portion ) look big? ” is always a good conversation starter as long as you are not going to get angry if I say ” yes “.

” Do you want a ride in my hot rod/custom car/vintage limousine? ” will ensure complete attention.

Past this, the thing becomes a matter for speculation. If you resort to foreign speech or sign language I have no idea what will take place next.


The Fountain Pen – Another Page

I wrote last year about getting a Visconti fountain pen upon retirement  – you can see it an other writing sticks in my desk drawer if you dial back to the second of August, 2017. It is going strong and I am on to my second bottle of ink.

It might seem a little strange in these days of cheap telephone plans, emails, and texts to persist in using this archaic form of communication. Worse still – it seems to be exorbitant; the cost of envelopes, paper, ink, and postage is superadded to that of the pen. Postage these days is $ 1.00 for a standard letter within Australia and a $ Zillion outside of the country. Delivery times can range from 3-4 days to two weeks as postal services are pinched.

Why write at all?

a. People need to hear from you. They need to hear from you alone – not a captured message that goes out over a social media site. That’s like general radio broadcast to the troops – it can only ever be couched in the most diffuse terms. When you write a personal letter to a personal person…they get an impact of communication that far outweighs any text on a screen.

b. Writing shows committment. It might be good committment or bad committment but it is real and demonstrable. For the period of time that was required to write it and the period required to read it, attention is focused upon the persons involved.

c. Handwriting as opposed to keyboard writing shows the most commitment of all. It can also be the most time-consuming, and this is a very good thing.

Say what? How could something that takes up valuable time be better?

If you are carefully writing – shaping your letters and keeping to a style – you are taking time to actually think what goes down on the paper. Your thoughts will go faster than your fingers and in most cases the best phrasing will come to you before the ink hits. I won’t say that you have less chance of making a goose of yourself, but at least it will be a complete and rounded goose.

The effort of writing can also trim down the amount you express – fulsome compliments and fatuous statements tire out the writer as much as the reader and eventually they will be discarded. You’ll get down the meat of the thing. If it is roasted goose, that is another matter…

You can pause in writing far more easily than with a telephone conversation – you can do other things in a rest interval and if you have better thoughts than you first wrote, you can throw away a page and replace them – can’t do that with a phone call. Once something is said it is out there, for good or ill.

I do not favour expensive papers or overblown envelopes – the standard copy paper and DL envelope is fine. Anything more is theatre and can detract from the actual writing. Do test out your combination of ink and paper first, though as some are so absorbent as to empty the pen too quickly and some too slick – they smudge.

Final advice: You do not need to invent an artistic signature. Use you own free hand and make it legible. Do something that you can do again.

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.


” 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…