Visiting The Old Country From The New Country

How many migrants to and from Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand have had this experience:

They’ve migrated and worked and saved and succeeded in the new country but always hold a dear memory of the old land. This homesickness has been acute in the first couple of years but worn off somewhat after that – what with new careers, families, and homes. But it starts again at about 15 years and they decide to go back and see the old place.

They plan to make a big trip and see everywhere they used to live – and possibly everyone they used to know. The get on the plane or ship and float on water or air to the old home country. And are horrified to find that it is not there.

Oh, the dirt is still there, and in the case of a lot of places it has crawled halfway up the buildings…but the society and people and nation has so changed from what it was that they are strangers in a wasteland. Worse – if there has been a war go through the place – or a spate of developers – even the buildings they knew do not exist.

Their old friends are dead, or older, and do not have the last 15 years of shared memories to talk over. Only the past – and that can be as dead as the dust. They run out of conversation in 5 minutes. Even if the old language is the same, the speakers are not talking to them.

This is the thought that I took back to the UK when I visited in 1995 – from having once lived in the place in 1973. It was just that way, though there were plenty of tourist activities in which to immerse myself. Would I get any benefit from another visit? Yes, if my current interests could be pursued – the UK is a nice place.

Canada or the USA for me? After 52 years? There’s a big question. An expensive one to answer, too – especially with the fear that seeing my youth gone would age me more. I can do that right now at local prices and wearing comfortable clothes.

Advertisements

The Backstabbers Guild Guide To Visiting

Visiting during the holiday period is a tradition with many people. So are torpedo attacks if your family grew up in the Kreigsmarine. What the Guild wants to do is to make sure that if you are going to visit, your victim will go to the bottom in the swiftest manner:

a. Do not call ahead, but make sure that you have as many co-visitors with you as possible. Dress well, and warmly, and carry what look like expensive presents*. It is harder to turn a large group of people away than a small one, as the Germans found out on D-Day.

b. When you gain access to the premises – also known as breaching the walls – be hearty. Be loud. Be exuberant. This is a perfect cloak for someone in the crowd of visitors to rifle through to presents under the tree. A package slitter is a good thing to carry.

c. Make sure that your host is aware that you are thirsty and hungry. And not for just a cup of tea and a biscuit. This is the holidays. Unless they are prepared to put out a complete dinner with turkey, nuts, and crackers, they will appear to be Scrooge. It is a nice touch to carry a small crippled child who can call out ” God bless us one and all ” as you go through the refrigerator and pantry.

d. When it comes time to exchange gifts, have your gift assessor examine the goods closely before you let go of yours. Portable x-ray machines can sort out the difference between socks and Rolex watches.

e. Be ” Genuine “. Nothing beats genuine. Jesse James was one of the most genuine people you could ever meet.

f. Remember that it is the thought that counts, unless you are having the sort of thoughts that Harvey Weinstein used to have. Then only DNA evidence will stand up in court.

g. Be kind to the little children. Be civil to the slightly older ones. By the time they are 14 you can be downright rude. It will fit their frame of mind perfectly.

h. Good visitors curtail their stay before they become a nuisance. Now think – whose column are you reading? Is a Backstabbers Guild Of Australia member going to leave before all the food is gone and the bathroom drains are clogged? Of course not. When you visit  you VISIT…

Some people can stay visited for years.

*  Which you may bear away to your next port of call.

 

 

 

No Knives In The Heart Of The Empire…

It would appear that there is no possibility of carrying a knife in London – or possibly in any other part of the UK. They are so worried that the citizens will stab each other that they are removing all possibility of it.

Of course, this will be somewhat of  partial measure, as we have discovered – by careful scientific experiments – that it is possible to stab people with other things. The local criminals here in Western Australia seem to carry a great many screwdrivers and I daresay there are any number of sharp combs and other implements to hand nearly everywhere one goes. I favour my heavy brass-bound walking stick when dressed for an evening, and my Gerber folder when taping up wires and lighting rigs out in the photo world. At home, of course the good old butcher’s knife and the Swedish feather are always to hand. The swivel gun, mortar, rifled musket,and crossbow have all been sold off or given to other people so they do not figure in the equation. One hardly needs them in our suburb.

And that brings a question to mind of what sort of people are in the UK – to require such stringency. It cannot be a case of race – we have every variety of human in our street and we never stab each other. We do not run each other over in motor cars to promote religious belief, either, though I can count the adherents of 6 separate faiths in the street and can guess at a couple more. There is something to be said for living in the colonies…

I’m glad did my UK travelling some decades ago – when it was safe to walk the streets. I now quite prefer Singapore or Japan…where it is safe to walk the streets. Perhaps the British should think of importing more Singaporeans or Japanese to their island to improve the stock…

Serious Thoughts Upon The Death Of A Business

I have been a customer of one particular business here in Perth since the day after I arrived in Australia in 1964. When we flew in we were taxied from the airport to a hotel and deposited to slough off our jet lag. As the parents sat there comatose trying to focus upon a pay television with the Tokyo Olympic Games on it, I lit out for a hobby shop.

I had seen it as we came past on the way to the hotel. As a kid I had a sure instinct for hobby shops and could spot them in any town we visited. It was a matter of some relief to find that the wilds of Perth were not so primitive that they could not afford one.

No kid assesses distance accurately – what I thought was four blocks turned out to be twenty-three, but I kept on walking. I was rewarded eventually with a house turned shop, several crammed rooms of kits, trains, planes, and toys, and a pleasant owner. I returned in the following weeks and bought a number of items, and took them off to our house in the hills. Later forays to Perth never actually got back to that location, but I discovered the four or five other hobby shops in the centre of the town that were accessible by railway.

Crikey – that’s over 50 years ago. The other shops have packed it in long ago – some to move to the suburbs and some to disappear forever. The original shop I visited moved to a railway suburb and kept there for 50 years…but I suspect it is now moribund. The location is perfect for them but their sales stock is depleted and their reputation dwindling away. They have been forced to become a tiny portion of their previous size and are fragmented.

Yet…They have a name that everyone remembers. Were they to relocate, restock, and promote themselves, I still think they could recover. Were they to combine with one of the other shops the whole town might benefit.

As for myself, however, I have a new shop a mile from my door on an easy road – with free parking out the front. I am a constant customer. Sentiment is one thing but practical life – even when it is a hobby – is another.

I suspect this might be the case for any number of other businesses in all forms of trade. People are spread out more in the Metro area – they are doomed to travel far longer distances to get the things they need from the disparate suppliers. Some have taken to the internet as a solution…but it isn’t. Others have just realised that a 30-mile round trip for a bottle of paint is just not practical.

The Local Traveller

World travelling, we read, is a marvellous thing. It is said to broaden our minds and make us one with humanity.

I expect everyone who has ever stood in line to get their baggage checked onto an international flight…and then stood in line to board, use the toilets, get off again, pass the immigration and customs desk, and then collect the remains of their luggage has an appreciation of the delights of the experience. Then as they are attended by taxi drivers, desk clerks, tour guides, cafe owners, street beggars, local militiamen, and all the varied members of the aforementioned humanity, they get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

In most cases it is a yeast infection.

I have done my share of it, but as I’ve not re-enlisted in the Traveller’s Regiment and I’ve kept my discharge papers, I feel I’m safe for the foreseeable future. The world may turn, but I’m required neither to push it around nor grease the pintles.

But I do like the occasional drive in the country or air hop to another city in Australia. And, contrary to the overseas experience, I find the actual travel quite relaxing.

In the air, whether you are in the Business seat or Cattle Class, you are provided with a number of entertainments and stimuli – videos, music, frequent meals, etc – that you are allowed to ignore. You can sit there with a book, or a notepad and a pencil, and think. No-one that you are with ever interrupts you to stick another household chore or family revelation onto you. Your phone and tablet are in Aeroplane mode which means you are officially ordered to ignore them. ( Yay! ) and even Mark Zuckerberg cannot pester you.

Likewise on the road. As a driver you need your wits about you and cannot be talking on a telephone or reading a Mills and Boon while at the wheel. You need to obey increasingly complex speed and passing laws, and to avoid those who don’t. So you are in a cocoon of concentration. Break it every hour or so for a coffee or a wee and the experience becomes all the sweeter – you might step out of your Suzuki a little more fatigued than fresh from a Boeing but then you’ve seen more interesting things on the side of the road. And if they are recently flattened, you might have been able to scoop them up for dinner.

The trick is to pick a place to go that is worthwhile going to for your own reasons – not just the fulfilment of some travel agent’s urging – and to go there at your own pace. I pick country towns that might have a friend or an event nearby or a city that has stores I’ve not visited for a while. These will cheer the heart both in prospect and retrospect, and as long as you don’t overstay your welcome, every journey will be a gain.

Overstay? An Australian capital city is worth about 1 week, a regional city three days, and a country town 2 days. If you think the time too short to justify the return journey, then combine several destinations in a round trip. In all cases, leave ’em wanting more of you rather than less…

The Valley Of The Shadow Of Debt

I am astounded at the literature that floods into our mail box that promotes and endorses indebtedness. It seems as though it is written in English, but is entirely divorced from the roots of the culture.

I look back at the folk sayings and aphorisms of earlier times:

Franklin:           ” A penny saved is a penny earned “.

” Rather go to bed without dinner than rise in debt “.

Folk saying:       ” Out of debt, out of danger “.

Emerson:             ” A man in debt is so far a slave “.

The pamphlets and letters would have me borrow money from powerful institutions so that I might possess a boat, or a luxury car, or go on holidays to Europe. I should borrow this, incurring a solemn legal debt, and then be required to give them guarantee of my house or other possessions against a repayment – a repayment that would command a fee that is 20 times the interest rates paid on bank savings.

I have been sent a plastic card that allows me to run up a debt that is equivalent to half my annual income – upon much the same basis. It is tough plastic but fortunately you can cut it into pieces with tin snips.

I am immensely lucky in several things; a loving family, a secure house, a modest capital. I am also lucky in the fact that as I get older the desires for debt-trap goods has reduced to practically zero. I regard boats with no interest, I have an adequate little car, and I can see all the Europeans I want in Melbourne, the city of Stirling, or the Swan Valley. Fine dining for me is my own cooking and as I am retired, every day is a holiday. I should not flaunt smug in the face of my friends, but I will certainly do so in the face of financial institutions that wish to enslave me.

The Manangatang International Festival Of Comedy

Manangatang in Victoria occupies a fond place in my heart. On a motor trip east from Adelaide in 1996 its arrival on the horizon during a thunderstorm reassured me that the world had not ended. The road takes a jog in Manangatang, and you get to slow down. It is good for the soul.

I was reminded of Manangatang when I saw a recent YouTube clip taken at a comedy festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Now Winnipeg is larger than Manangatang and has fewer kangaroos, but apart from being halfway between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Regina Saskatchewan* I can see no essential difference in the two municipalities. And if Winnipeg can laugh, so can Manangatang. Possibly at each other.

Most comedy festivals are held to allow people to see entertainers who cannot get exposure on television or in the movies. This is not because they are bad comics – indeed many of them are genuinely funny – but the conventions of the entertainment industry make it very difficult to advance yourself via a casting couch if you are wearing a red nose and a bow tie that twirls round. Funny business is harder to sell than funny business – so the journeymen and journeywomen of the trade do their work in the off-time off-city festivals.

There is no place I have seen in Australia that suggests off-time or place better than Managatang. Oh, granted, Caiguna has its roadhouses, and the staff of these can be right comedians – and there is nothing on earth to match the restaurants of Bridgetown…but for downright rural spunkiness, Manangatang takes the biscuit.

There is nothing to stop the place from becoming the Las Vegas of the Swan Hill Shire. Top acts, showgirls, the pokies…nothing is wanting. All they need to do is book the comedians and the world will beat a path to their door. The Victorian Roads Board has pre-empted them to some extent, but not so much that it could not be improved. They might have to wait a little on an 8-lane freeway from Shepparton but it could only be a matter of time.

I wonder if Winnipeg is looking for a twin-town…?

*  Which must have the effect of evening up the distress…