The Fast Life In The Slow Lane

I try to hit all the stops. And then I really do stop.

Like last Sunday – I was jerked bolt upright at 8:30 AM by the realisation that I did not have to go to work in the cotton fields. Of course we don’t live in Mississippi and I’m retired anyway, but there was still that feeling. And once up, you can’t go back to sleep. The cat will make sure of that.

Then it was off to the shower, the shaver, and the sh….umm..let’s change the subject.

Breakfast. They say we must start the day with a substantial breakfast. Toast is substantial. So is oatmeal. So is rum and motor oil, for that matter. Don’t get near me when I burp.

Out to the Little Workshop. On with the radio. Olde Tyme Wireless from Wireless Hill. So you can avoid the horrid music of millenials by listening to equally vacuous stuff from  baby boomers. And it is true that we pluggers can identify a piece of music from the first two notes – if it is one of the only three that the station owns and plays repeatedly. Anyone fancy a Walk In The Black Forest?

Lunch? Don’t mind if I do. The chicken and celery soup is attractive, seeing as it is left over and doesn’t need any effort to heat up. No-one else in the family will eat it, so I get as much as I want.

Shall I work or shall I nap?

And dinner. I must prepare dinner. Fortunately there is an electric oven and as long as you let things cook over a slow heat they will be fine. Too many people think that an fan-forced oven run at welding temperature will be more efficient, but they are eaters for efficiency, and are welcome to it. I cook for flavour, and if this takes 3 hours rather than a blowtorch, so be it.

And the dinner need not be hurried when it is ready. It’s Sunday night and the family is home and there is nothing more important to do than the roast and three veggies. And the glass of red wine. And of course one must not drive or operate machinery after this. Safety in all things.

 

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The Commercial Ghost

Upon commencing retirement I read a book of essays by Michel de Montaigne that proved quite inspiring. It was one of the forces that impelled my to increase my daily weblog column output – his essays were the same thing to him – a way of propounding philosophy in easily digested portions.

One of the things he said about retirement was that it should really be retirement – from whatever occupation had formerly used up one’s life. If one were a public figure, one should become a private one. If a commercial entity, this should be foregone for a life away from the marketplace. I would suppose he might have added that if one were a conqueror or warrior it might be nice to beat the sword into a plowshare…or at least into a drinking cup …for the last portion of life.

I am drawn back to this reflection each week as I revisit the camera shop where I was employed. I do have a purpose for going there – to gather material for weekly reviews and columns. But to return to semi-familiar premises while having little to do with day-to-day operations is a little odd.

Drifting through with no responsibility is all very well – and it suits the semi-independent nature of my columns – but  it is hard to know which is more disturbing; the changes made to the premises, operations, and staff…or the sameness of it all. I can  see things that were genuinely foolish in 2008 that are still foolish.

My lack of responsibility also means a lack of any power – save that of sending in a bill once a month for the writing. And while I cannot be ordered about in daily affairs by the bosses, I can be by the employees – who have far more stake in the place than I.

This may be what a ghost feels like – nearly able to communicate and almost able to touch the living. But with a diminishing degree of care as time goes on.

The Oslo Lunch – Part Three

How long is lunch hour? If you are a child at school it is often an hour – if you are adult in retail trade it is often half that. If you are in a situation with inadequate staff, it can be 20 minutes or less – depending upon how willing you are to be chivvied back out to work.

Those people who get no lunch break at all are free to sneer now – but then they are also free to consider why they have no lunch, whether that is a pleasant thing, and what they might do to remedy the situation.

Now that I’m retired, I am always pleased to be able to take some time to eat in the middle of the day, and can do so about 20% of the time. The other 80% of days are ones in which I am flat-out travelling or working at a hobby and eating takes a back seat. In addition, there is the problem of eating alone when out…few places that you care to eat at care to have a single person eating at them.

At least the problem of lunch hour is solved – most cafes and bars will chivvy you out as fast as they possibly can to make way for more money to come in the door. You are lucky to get 20 minutes undisturbed and 30+ is unheard of. You will be ” attended ” until you either spend more or rack off. But I do not blame the owners of the cafes – they are in business  for a limited period of time before the next owner.

Time on the road can be a foodies dream or nightmare. I find that truckstops are fine if you are a truckie – they expect you and cater for your needs. The rest of the travelling population can be considered a nuisance and ignored. This is blazingly obvious in some of the roadhouses and service stations on the  road across the Nullarbor. It is wise to carry your own food and water – much as you might have had to do in the 1860’s – because you may be bloody invisible to the staff at the truck stops.

One place that nearly always can be depended upon for calories is a country pub. If you are prepared to restrict your desires to pies, sausage rolls, pasties, and chips you can eat. You can nearly always get a cold beer to go with it – the pub with no beer is a song. Occasionally there will be someone trying to make a gourmet paradise out of the pub and you might get a salad and a steak.

Ideal lunch? You’d be surprised how good things can be in some of the Asian cafes that spring up in small shopping centres. Not the big chain ones – the Mum and Dad ventures that can do simple curries, rice dishes, and stirfries. The prices are often a pleasant surprise as well.

 

Expectorate Me In The Morning

If the bed can spit me out, that is.

Retirement resets your clocks, that’s for sure. When employed away from home I was up at 6:00 or 6:30 each morning for a drive to surgery or shop. 48 years of rise and flaming shine. Then the handshake, fountain pen, and valedictory speech…and the alarm on the clock could be turned off.

I was surprised just how quickly I dropped the early routine. It was no conscious decision – I just woke up when I wanted to wake up, and the want-to advanced to about 8:30 in the morning.  I must say it has made a difference to how I greet the day. As the bathroom is not so icy and dim, neither am I. I can do my 20 minute ablutions cheerfully, then dress and make the bed before wandering toward the coffee pot.

I do have a place to go to – vital to anyone’s well-being –  and it is this keyboard. I’ve four columns to launch each morning and I pride myself on getting them out regularly. The rest of the day may have work or travel or hobby activity, but you have to have that morning intellectual jolt to get going.

Oddly enough, I do not read the comics in the morning – they are a treat reserved for late afternoon – rather like an evening paper.

I do enjoy rush hour on the roads, however. Enjoy it enormously. Can’t get enough of not being out there in the middle of it. It is a daily joy to see the road ragers roaring by and to hear their screams as they collide with each other.

And I enjoy grocery shopping – because I can go when the tills are open and the staff are relaxed. So many foods to see. If only I knew how to cook them properly.

 

Synchromesh

If you never learn another thing…learn to shift gears smoothly.

The people who have automatic transmissions miss this skill – they jerk their T-bar into ” D ” and just accept whatever the unseen mechanism decides to do. In some cases this is flawless work, but in some it is a drag upon their resources.

And it can be worse if they are steering a motor car. Those car transmissions need a lot of maintenance.

What? You though this was all about motor cars in the first place? Wrong – it is about life.

You’ll do lots of things in life that happen at different speeds and under different loads; you’ll be a little kid one day with no responsibilities and a school student next day – with the weight of the world on your shoulders. If you cannot shift smoothly from a 4-year-old centre of the universe to the 5-year-old who is in line and quiet, you have trouble.

Likewise when you transition from grade school to high school – high school to university or trade training – and so on through your lifetime. Be assured that you need a good deal of strategy and patience to make the leap from employed person to retired one. You need to plan to speed up one set of gears while you are slowing another down to get them to mesh properly – you need a mental Synchromesh.

My transition involved writing these columns  as well as hobby interests gathered over the years. I selected a couple that still resonated with me – ones that I could afford and could manage on a physical level. The result has been a smooth transition with no loss of traction. No gears grind and no teeth have broken off the idlers.

If I travel slower than before, and do not surmount such high hills of achievement, I can still take some comfort from the smoothness evident in the ride. It’ll stop one day, of course, but hopefully not from idleness or inattention.

I Want A Job As A Test Pilot

A test pilot in a toy factory. Or a book store. Or a pin-up studio. Something with dignity, intellect, and a big tray of cakes for morning tea.

I did health care until I didn’t care anymore – I’ve done retail sales until they took sharp things away from me and started making soothing noises. I’ve done studying until I couldn’t see straight. I’d like something different.

” Oh “, I hear you say, ” You’re retired now. It is time to take a trip around Australia towing a caravan or go to the Greek isles and look at tourists. Or potter in a garden. ” Do these two fingers mean anything to you?

I like to think of it as retyrement. A fresh set of treads and an opportunity to do burnouts at the lights. Old enough to know better but not inclined to pay attention to the voice of reason. It is partly the reason that I write these weblog columns and entirely the reason I write them the way I do. I detest a day without doing, and I am getting to the point where I am not that fussy what or who it is I do…

It is just as well that I realise the need to be canny with money – if I were flush with cash all Hell would break loose. And the funny thing is, I would not have as good a time with unlimited spending as I do under the current regime. There is comfort in frugal endeavour and delight when it actually succeeds.

Note: I would accept employment in a suburban bank, as long as I was allowed to serve at the window and actually be there when people started to queue up. I detest the modern bank that has no serving officers in the teller’s cages. I’d love to bring back the old days of face-to-face cheque and passbook work.

What Grade Are You In?

One of the primary questions of our childhood. It determined how we were going to be treated by the other kid – if we were a rank up, we had to be deferred to – if a year down we could be dominated. Thank goodness that sort of thing stopped when we entered tertiary education, the military, or a corporate structure and were all mature and kindly adults…

Okay, okay, that was heavy-handed. Not everything can be rapier wit around here. Sometimes the bludgeon is closer to hand.

There were all sorts of rules about school status – and this in North American public education where equality was meant to rule. God knows how it must have been for the post-war British coping with their societal changes. As it is, their adults didn’t manage so well, let alone the kids.

Now, in Australia, there is really only one effective gradation system – money. No matter who or what you are, if you have it, you advance up the ladder. In most cases there is no sense of noblesse oblige so you needn’t be concerned with being seen as good or moral at the same time. All you need is the perceived ability to pay – you’ll generally not be required to do so. That’s how money works – it sticks to the fingers that have it.

But there is one out for this – the power of money and the status it confers can only extend to those who have it and those who want it.  Outside of these two groups, everyone else can see it with a wider vision – they can live life in spite of, and despite it. And none more able than the retiree.

Retirees – as distinct from railway hoboes – are people with enough money for their own purposes, but who may have no actual purpose. They are people freed from the clock. Of course the cosmic one still ticks, and they are a damn sight closer to the alarm going off than their younger counterparts. But until then, they can look at their nominal superiors and inferiors with a mild eye. A mild tongue too, if they are not provoked.

They can converse with the multi-billionaire easily – given that there is no prospect of any of the billions drifting their way. They need pay no lip service. In most cases they have seen it all before, and in many cases it was better done. They can be prevailed upon for advice and give it freely – not having to be responsible for it after it leaves their lips. It is not that they do not care – but they may be opting for a bit of destructive experimentation. Do not ask a retiree which wire to cut…

They can be kind without fear of reprisal. No-one expects them to be competent. No-one suspects them of it either…

It is a delightful time of life, if only people would realise it.