Struggling To Be A Gentleman

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I realise that if one needs to struggle to be a gentleman…one isn’t.

Well, that might apply to a number of states of being. If you struggle to be kind or brave or reliable – all attributes of a gentleman – you are acknowledging the fact that you may not be yet, but that you wish to be. A gentlemanly thought.

Confusing isn’t it?

I think that the status of being a gentleman is my highest ambition. I have passed though other desires in my life and achieved them – being a dentist, being a husband, being a father. I have conceived of other desires and failed miserably at them – being a military officer, for instance, or an airplane pilot, or a famous artist. Fortunately I realise that the former bits were better than the latter bits for me and my family.

Of course that still doesn’t answer the question of becoming a gentleman. When I dig into the classical English definition of the status I probably just squeak into the financial section as I do not need to work down t’ mines for daily lump of grey soggy bread. I have enough saved to afford grey soggy bread. Dripping is another thing – I would need to become a racetrack tout to afford dripping. It is doing all the other gentleman business that is hard:

1. Possessing a learned and noble mind is one thing. Latin, Greek, French…That dentistry career was certainly somewhat learned but it is hard to be noble with someone else’s spit on your fingers all day. Likewise my employment after that – dealing with people’s greed over a shop counter all week – tends to wear the armour of the gentleman very thin in spots. I have been an avid reader for years and I think that this has supplied a little of what formal study did not. Still no Latin or Greek, though.

2. Fine gentlemanly clothes. Well, I do have a basic wardrobe of these – three suits and a half dozen good shirts. They are snuggled next to the flannelette and khaki and denim old clothes in the closet. At least they will last – they get a run about twice a year. And they have the advantage that they have been chosen with classical care – the styles are undefinable and timeless.

3. Kindliness and noble nature. Well, I did not hit the cat with a hammer these last three weeks when it was confined yowling inside the house whilst recovering from an abscess. It survived to run free in the end. Does that count?

4. Bravery. Heaven only knows if I would ever be brave and I don’t want to find out. I prefer dramas to be kept on television rather than confront them in real life. And I don’t watch television…

5. Generosity and modesty. Well you can’t comment on one without destroying the other. Suffice it to say I never pass by a person who is begging for money to buy drugs without assaulting them. They wish to get their kicks and I merely cut out the middle man.

6. Reverence for religion. Ah, yes. Well at least I do score well here. I treat all religions with equal reverence. Indeed I treat many other things in the same way – fulminate of mercury, electricity, taipan snakes, political questions. I never ask and I never tell.

The scorecard is looking far from promising. I do not see myself qualifying for White’s or Bootle’s anytime soon, much less for a living in a comfortable parish. I doubt a commission from the sovereign will come my way, nor an honorary degree from any institution of worth. My old university promises fellowship at some sort of gathering but I think it is  ploy to get my bank details. I’ve half a mind to give them the information just to see their disappointment when they try to clean out the account…

 

 

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Im Haus Nichtes Neues

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I am enjoying the cool and quiet in the house. The family are Elsewhere, doing Other Things. I wish them well and will welcome their return…but not for a while.

Please don’t get me wrong. They are not gone for 3-5 years with good behaviour. They are not interstate/overseas/on another planet. They will be back for tea, but until then peace can prevail – peace and literary endeavour.

It is surprising how external noise, smell, and bustle can interfere with the thought processes. I found it inexpressibly so in my old workplace as telephones, customers, bosses, and passing mountebanks constantly interrupted the workplace weblog column. In some cases a simple set of three paragraphs took three hours to write – a circumstance not helped by the fact that the internal internet connections of the building were faulty. Some days saw no social media communication due to ” interrupted service “. It was the commercial version of snow on the points at Didcot.

Of course there are also the internal interruptions. I need a water, I need a coffee, I need a pee…now I need another water…Some of these are my mind telling me I have no story to communicate and sending me off to get one. Quite what gems of philosophy I hope to bring back from the refrigerator or the toilet is a moot point. The interruptions for physical needs are one thing – stopping for mental refuelling is another. Sometimes you just need more thought inside the brain if you are going to pour it out on the keyboard. This is what reading breaks or a trip out in the car can provide. Sometimes all you need to do is see one new idea or sight and the business flows again.

No writer can bang away all day and hope to keep on target – unless they were Anthony Trollope and then he did not so much write as turn a handle on a word machine and cut the resulting prose up into chapters. Rather the literary equivalent of an efficient sausage machine. I admire Anthony and wish I had his celerity. And his salary. Hell, I’d settle for his celery, particularly if I could get the sticks with the cream cheese in the center.

The best I can do is what I’m doing now; taking a holiday day and racking up one weblog post after another in anticipation of a trip interstate in a few weeks. This column may be difficult to write from a little Ipad during the ten days I am away, but if I have a number of posts ready to go on the launcher I may be able to use that iPad to send them out each day. The trick in doing this is not to tie the posting to a particular day – to make it universal enough to cover a broad space of time.

I should be interested to read in other weblog columns how their authors operate. Are they all in garrets typing away in gloom and spiders or are they in gay cafés surrounded by noisy waiters and the clash of plates? Do any of them deliberately poison all the people in their apartment building just to get enough quiet to write? Is it very expensive, poison?

A New Year’s Greeting

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Well, it’s New Years if you ain’t Chinese or Jewish or Muslim. Probably it’s just another day if you are Hindu or Sikh. The Buddhists probably just stand there wondering why the Scots are all lying around this morning with cold compresses on their foreheads – or desperately trying to first foot somewhere. Calendars are dangerous things and in the case of the Caledonians tend to make them bilious and head-sore on the 1st of January.

Well, at least I can wish everyone not wearing a tartan a happy day – and even they will generally feel better by sundown. The 1st of January around here is the traditional get-the-date-wrong-on-the-cheque day and leads to complications with the bank. I suspect it is a ploy that is used to kite bad paper and to give the bad hats time to escape but that might be just cynicism. The really bad…or cheap… hats that I know don’t even bother to pay…

Never mind. it is a new calendar year without being a new religious or commercial one and we can make of it what we will. There will be new elections in South Canada in November of 2016 and we can all participate in them. For people who are not South Canadian citizens we get to bray and tweet and puff and publish with no danger that we will have to regret our vote. No matter who nominates or runs or gets elected – or defeated – it will be wrong, wrong, wrong. If it wasn’t we would be out of a topic to shrill over the chardonnay. It’s a win either way – the ony real danger is if we are seen to support the candidate who gets elected and then they turn out to be the dud that the opposition always said they would be. It’s scary tying your credibility to people on the other side of the world who have none of their own…

Well, politics aside, there will be new challenges to overcome this year. Finding enough money to live well will be one of them. Of course that depends on the definition of well – I already have a run up to the post with my realisation that I have a tow closets full of clothes and never need see the inside of a department store again. Not sure if this is good or bad, but I am sewing button on shirts and pressing trousers. And throwing away Hawaiian gift shirts with never an aloha.

There are no resolutions this year – but there is a list of social contacts to renew. I realise that some of them may not wish to be visited after all these years but then that’s what the Romanian oil refiners in Ploesti thought when the USAAF came to visit and didn’t that work out well. I plan to do the same.

So thank you to all the people who read this column. There will be more all year, because I’m Here All Week.

Uncle Dick Stein

 

A Little Dry, But…

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Who has not been in this position; you visit a friend, they tell you that they have recently started making their own beer. Or wine. Or raki. Or toluene. Whatever – they are determined to get you to drink a glass. They wish you to praise it, and them.

You wish desperately to avoid the stuff. But they are closer to the door than you are and it is likely they would catch you if you dodged sideways and bolted. Short of falling to the floor and faking a heart attack*, there are few options open to you. Let is review the dismal prospects:

  1. Let the glass slip carelessly through your fingers as they hand it to you. Try not to let any of it splash upon you. This works one, two, maybe three times before they start to become hostile.
  2. Pretend to sip it and look around for a potted palm into which to empty the rest of the glass. If there are no palms an aspidistra will do. Or a velour sofa.
  3. Thank them firmly but say that your religion forbids alcohol. Or nitric acid. If you are trying to do this while eating a pulled pork BBQ roll it may get you a funny look.
  4. Sneeze. A good sneeze will empty a glass in an outward direction. Don’t sneeze toward an open flame in case they have been distilling the stuff for a month and it is just about to spontaneously combust anyway.
  5. Drink a good slug. You can live for years with half your stomach removed and if you are over 40 it doesn’t matter so much.

Be particularly wary of beverages to which a pre-drink warning has been applied; ” You may find this a little tart” ( If I wanted to find a little tart I’d go to a bakery or a cheap night club…). Or ” This takes some time to become accustomed to” ( So do old wounds from mortar fragments – and at least they help to predict wet weather…).

If you are at all suspicious of the drinks on offer, observe the bottles and stoppers. Fine old wines will have a sediment at the side of the bottle where it has lain at rest for decades. So will used motor oil. Corks are the traditional closer for traditional wines. Followed by screw lids or crown stoppers. If the neck of the bottle is sealed with a wadded rag it may still make a fine cocktail but you’ll have to light it and throw it against a Soviet tank to find out…

Remember that pocket hip flask that someone gave you as a novelty last birthday? Looks like a good idea now, doesn’t it? Even if it is filled with Wipeout**or lemonade it is still a better bet.

 

  • * Risky. They might apply their home-made spirits to your bloodless lips.
  • ** Ask an Australian who was alive in the 80’s and 90’s. Beware – they spit.

The Holiday Spirit Or How I learned To Be Cheerful

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For those of you who are in a hurry here is a précis: The official Muslim and Jewish holidays are just finished and the official Christian one is about to occur. We are urged to be of good will by everybody except the gangs of fanatics who would like to kill us all. If we do not spend enough money in the shops in the next few days this group will be enlarged to include the local retailers and our immediate family.

I have finished the Christmas shopping for the year. It was simpler than ever this time – I rang the I Have No Idea store in Canning Vale and read my list of recipients and their addresses over the phone the the girl. Actually, to be accurate I read it to a machine – then gave them my credit card number and that was that. Everyone on the list will get a carefully-chosen token of my love and affection delivered personally by a chap from Australia Post in a fluoro vest who will get them to sign for it. I paid for the Ho Ho Ho service as well so it should be quite heartwarming. I’m not sure what he does if the recipient is not home – possibly just pushes Ho’s under the door.

Of course with the family it is different. You can’t just have the fluoro man do the business – you have to select things and wrap them and all that stuff. I am still puzzling whether to go for the soap saver press that lets you cement old slivers of bath soap together or the wrapped clothes hangers. I’m tending to the former rather than the latter – hangers are hard to wrap.

This year we miss out on the hour and a half’s drive in bumper to bumper traffic to the brother-in-law- and sister-in-law’s house for the giant family gathering. Gosh I’m going to pine for that traffic as well as the hour and a half back again. Instead a posh hotel will serve us our turkey and plum pudding.

Still we must make do as best we can with being kind to people and wassailing and such. Bit of a bastard for the local liquor store who have just had to close and lock their doors a week before Christmas because the big chain store operators undercut them out of business. I suspect the same treatment will be meted out to as many small shops and service industries as can be found within the grasp of the big shops. Scrooge is not dead by a long way.

 

 

 

Flying The Old Red Flag – A Bull’s Perspective On The Social Media

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” Click Bates” here – you’ll remember me from such posts as ” Bomb Peking Now” and ” VD For Fun And Profit “. Well, I’m going to get you right on the edge of your seat with this newest revelation. Wait for it. Waitttt foooor iiiittt…

Wow! Wasn’t that amazing! Bet you never saw that coming! Bet you don’t know what to do now that it’s going! Another exclamation point! Two!! Is this man unstoppable?!!!

Now don’t just sit there. You can send this on to all your friends on Fashbook ( The Scottish social network for people who get all worked up over things…) or Fiercebook – for those who are angry about _____( fill in blank and submit to our judges. First prize is a month’s supply of blood pressure medicine.) or even Faecesbook. Try not to send a picture with that last one as the editor is getting a little jaded…

If you elect to do your schrei-ing on Faschesbuch be aware that you will need to submit a detailed ethnic diagram of your grandparents and great-grandparents so that suitable czechs can be made. No, I did not do a typo. We never do typos. We are superior to typos. Typos have been liquidated.

Fussbook is open to all – everyone who has nothing to do all day – retired geezers, stay-at-home parents, unemployable teenagers, and Those Who Wear Eco-Friendly Sustainable Pashminka Shawls Whilst Sipping A Glass Of Government Grant. You may correct God and the government all you wish on Fussbook, and no-one, least of all the Deity, will correct you. Delete you, yes. Block you, yes. Possibly damn you to the fires of Eternal Rockingham. But you’ll still be able to bleat.

Flossbook is , of course, a wasteland of postings by dentists and oral hygiene assistants, and can be safely bypassed. It is really rather sad, as no-one does it for longer than about a week.

But the chief point is you MUST re-post any and all inflammatory material you encounter. If it is lightweight – unable to be confirmed by anything but the reader’s prejudices – all the better. Sparks of anger that are unburdened by the weight of proof travel farther and ignite more spot fires when they land. Anything that flares up really well can be fed by further propaganda.

Remember – it is up to YOU to forward the revolution, or crush the revolution, or sell the revolution for a nifty little profit. And if you can do it with a nifty little prophet, so much the better.

 

 

 

 

How Does An Atheist Bless You?

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Well, it’s not as silly a question as you might think. If an atheist does not imagine or believe in any deity but still wants to give out some sort of non-committal promise that you will be happier because they said so…they have no mechanism in place to project it from. They can’t really promise you kindness from the government because they know what the government is like – and they can’t promise you the fealty and love of other people because the other people might know what YOU are like.

About the best they can do is assure you that they hope you are not run over by a street car. And even this is difficult to promise in Melbourne.

Atheism is a tough row to hoe. All the work of being moral and no relaxation afterwards by killing your enemies in the name of superstition. You might get a chance to kill them in the name of economics or theory or a coloured rectangle of cloth on a pole, but like as not someone will write a book about it 50 years later and try to make you look bad.  It almost takes the fun out of explosions.

The other tough part is there are no feast days for atheism. And feasts involve food and drink. Oh, you can go to the local hotel and order a counter lunch and a couple of pints on Tom Paine’s birthday but no-one puts up a tree or makes presents or takes you into the broom closet for a cuddle because of it. ” Joyeaux No ” as a song has never made it to the charts.

Worst of all is there is no money to be made out of atheism. No cards, no gifts, no food, no booze, no sleigh rides in cold climates or slay rides in hot ones. No-one ever gives money to the No Salvation Needed Army. Even when their lassies are not blowing trombones and tambourines outside the pub.

I tell you, it’s enough to shake your faithlessness…