The Christmas Away

A Christmas away from family or friends is something that everyone should do at least once in their life. It sounds sad and depressing to some and exciting to others. The actual experience can be a strange mixture.

I’ve only done it twice – in my late teens when I emigrated to Australia ahead of my parents  – and in both cases it was not a complete break from tradition. In one instance I was the guest of a good friend’s family and in the second my girlfriend’s family took me in for the day. Both were spent in traditional companionship eating extremely hot dinners in an extremely hot climate. I even had the comfort of a long-distance telephone call back to my parents in Canada and this was the days when you booked it with the PMG for a specific time and took it at the main post office in the city. Laugh at that if you like with mobile phone and Skype technology today, but the six minutes over a crackley phone line that I could afford were very precious to me.

The business of taking a Christmas trip away from the family happened to my mother the year my dad passed away. I think she really didn’t want to be reminded by hearty family goings-on so she and another widow lady took a special bus tour to the south of the state for the period. She said she never regretted any trip so much – being with rooms full of complete strangers 500 Km from home proved to be a bad idea.

I did have one semi-miss a few years ago when a studio water pipe burst and flooded the place. I discovered it Christmas morning and had to phone back home to tell them to go on to the family luncheon without me while I mopped out the place. They were good enough to save a complete roast dinner for me for later…when they were all too stuffed to eat any more…and I must say that the floor has never looked cleaner.

Now that I’m older and used to my own company, I could probably enjoy a Chrissie away – if there were some good reason for it. You’d have to pick your venue, though – either a cabin in the bush all by your lonesome with a stack of books to read or the busiest of big city hotels with the fancy dining room and cocktail lounge. And a stack of books. The in-between – the country pub or motel on the road – would be too depressing for words, no matter how many plastic Santa dolls they put out.

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The Little World – Finishing The Job Properly

I have been making plastic, wood, metal, and paper models for the last 60 years. Many of them were made in my first 17 years of life, and all bar one have disappeared. The survivor tells me how crude some of the products were back then.

But, crude or otherwise, the models of my youth were wonderful things. The center point of my life in some years, as the rest of it was spent in grey, drab boredom.  I think back to them fondly. But there is a touch of concern in the nostalgia; did I do the best job  that could have been done at the time?

The kind answer is…probably yes…given my level of skill and the materials available to me at the time…but my grown-up self wants perfection in its memories, and wants to go back and re-do the things that were badly done or half-finished.

eBay can help me in this, provided I am willing to buy old kits for 100 X  what they cost when they were new. It would have to be a pretty deep psychological wound that needed healing to pay some of the prices on eBay.

Fortunately some of the manufacturers have re-issued old kits…or redone them. And some have never been taken from the inventory. It may be possible to buy the airplane that was never built during 1962 and start in where I left off.

I am going to try. I won’t go to the nostalgic excesses that some do, but I would like to see what I might have done all those years ago. If the result is a mess, I will know that I was wise to chuck the kit back then, too.

The Traditional Garb Of My People

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Having noticed the recent critical complaints being flung out over cultural appropriation, and remembering my own shameful episode in the 1990’s when I draped myself in someone else’s colours, I decided to look carefully at my situation and correct any errors. I refuse to be politically correct, but I can be personally correct.

The primary thought was to refrain from aping any other cultures, religions, or people. This is a negative thing, but at least one can be specific whilst doing it. No longer will I appear in public as a Catholic monk, or a Scotsman. I shall not appear in a Jackie Howe, or a Hello Kitty kimono. Even the Halloween scarecrow costume will go, though I must say that I am not unhappy to lose it – it itched.

But the tougher part is to actually identify what I can wear in the future if I am to stay within cultural lines. And the first question to address is: What exactly is my culture – where am I now and from whence did I come? To answer this, I need to consider the consideration I raised a couple of posts ago…the business of the ” old country “.

I have decided to leave the European and middle eastern countries to themselves…I suppose they are ancestral but I have no contact with those ancestors save chromosomes. So I need not look there for the garb of my people.

It becomes a little more apposite when I consider the clothing worn by my parents and myself when I was younger. Personal memory of what a person of a certain age should be dressed like is still strong, and can be remarkably persuasive. When I was young, the men of my tribe wore khaki work pants and shirts when on outside job sites. In an office they wore suits or sports coats. At home there might be a sports coat but frequently it was exchanged for a sweater or pullover. Pants were broadcloth or wool and cut generously – little denim was worn as this was the additional garb of a different tribe – the farmers.

Likewise, the people of our tribe were not bowlers – so loud polyester shirts would have been seen as an aberration. No-one past high school or college would wear a blazer or sweater with numbers or letters. Blazers with piping and crests on pockets were only seen in illustrations or motion pictures and no-one took them seriously. Sandals were reserved for the beach or back yard.

Shirts in the summer might be referred to as short sleeve sports shirts, but they never betrayed the name of a sports team or the manufacturer. Stripes, perhaps, or a check pattern. Wool plaid shirts for colder times were standard, as were tee shirts worn as underwear. Tee shirts with logos were reserved for a child’s souvenir of Disneyland or a television hero – no grown man would imagine himself in one.

Ex-military garb was unknown except as camouflage in duck season and even there I doubt it fooled the ducks.

Men wore hats. These had style in most cases and practicality was always present – the ludicrous small straw brim pork pie hat was an affectation for Miami – Westerners knew that you either had sun, rain, or cold to deal with. An adult could only wear a cowboy hat if they were actually herding cattle or if it was Calgary Stampede time.

Shoes were leather, brown or black as the outfit required, and Oxford style. No ludicrous Italian toes. No Spanish heels. Work boots stayed at work until they were destroyed, and hunting boots actually kept your feet from freezing. The only rubber sole canvas shoes were on the feet of basketball players and little kids.

So….where does this leave an adult in 2016? It means that he need not and probably cannot shop at Big W or Target or Jeans West or any other cheap store. He needs must go to a better shop for formal wear – a suit or sports coat and trousers – or to a workplace outfitter for khaki shirts and pants. In any case a surplus store or workplace outfitter will be his preferred shoe shop, but there is still a core of decent leather in the Florsheim store. R.M Williams and specialty hatters still can cover his head decently.

The real problem is to find tee shirts and regular shirts that suit an adult. No logos, no signage, no odd shapes or cut. Sometimes one can trail through an entire shopping centre and come up with nothing. In many cases the Op Shop starts to look good.

In my case, the wardrobe – the back reaches – is going to be the preferred prospecting ground. My people do have traditional garb and I’ve got a lot of it. – I just need to realise that it is as valid a costume as anything that the foreign market might suggest.