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Down the Aisle ... Your shopping Correspondent

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Retired carpenter..history buff, local and ancient..love stories of Italianate style, especially those village superstition stories..Very far left-wing.

Down the Aisle … Your shopping Correspondent

With Ambrose Quint.

Series 4

#1

Happy specials, shoppers!

Was greeted as I came through the shopping mall doors by a shopping trolley with comparable prices sign advertising that the same trolley-full of products at this centre would cost the shopper approx. $40.00 less! … ”Check this out shoppers!” … There was a lady at the information desk nearby where the security chain from the trolley ended and I asked if the cost difference included the shoplifting fine? … she laughed and laughed …

But it’s true … shoplifting is a grave concern … and so many funny things get stolen, I was told … but the lady wouldn’t go into details … I remarked that I suppose the usual slithy toves and wippowills are the things most baffling … she said that she was not familiar with those products …

One thing that I did discuss with the woman at the desk that was of concern to me, and ought to be to the management was: “The Displacer” … you know … that mysterious person or persons who take … oh, say … a snack-bar from that section and will slip in with the plastic containers in another section … displacing it.

I have my suspicions about these people … and I shared them with the wide eyed information officer … woke her up to a conspiracy, I shouldn’t wonder … We can expect to hear more on this subject from the management.

What happens with these displacers, in my opinion, is that it is not a haphazard operation by either older forgetful shoppers or harassed parents snatching unwanted items from light-fingered kids and replacing them back on any shelf … No … this is an organised affair by a sophisticated group of people … a club … if you like.

Here’s how it works:

A member is selected to “compete” in a weekly or monthly event, where they are judged on the number, quality and deviousness of their displacement … They wander innocently up and down the aisles while they “do their business” … an “approved” judge follows unobtrusively behind, marking points for or against the displacer according to the aforementioned criteria … for instance … 10 points (the max’) could be awarded for displacing a tub of yoghurt amongst the frozen fish products … (a daring performance!) whereas only 3 points for the muesli bar being dumped among the bread-rack … (a limp-wristed attempt!) … some points, I suspect, would be deducted if a “competitor” fumbles, is noticed or drops the displacing article in the course of the action … And the person with the most points at the end of the test period gets to wear the official fluro-vest and is saluted with free libations at the clubroom happy-hour drinks night … I should imagine.

Having told this theory in great detail to the lady at the information desk, I was assured that there could soon be someone wishing to speak to me about my “interesting theories” … So I am now awaiting for a couple of tallish blokes in white coats that should be here any minute … ah! There they are!

“Yoo hoo! … chaps over here! … I’m the bloke you’ll be wanting to talk to … I say .. this’ll be jolly! … have I got something of interest to tell you!”

So having to now go … till next time shoppers …

#2.

Down the Aisle …

Your shopping correspondent.

Happy specials, shoppers!

I see how they do it now … those cunning shelf planners in the supermarkets … How they do product placement in such a way, with the colour-coordination of similar shaped products with their labels all lined up at eye-level and the shiny, bright, flickering labels catching your eye like it does … combined with a cunning and devious use of the fluro lighting from above … A walk down the aisle of the supermarket can be as mesmerising as a hypnotist’s swinging fob-watch!

You become mesmerised by the shiny packaging and the glinting light of the fluros off them so that you cannot even see the product you first set out to buy even when you are standing right in front of the bloody things!! … I mean … there they are! … staring you in the face but you can’t see them because you have just been hypnotised by the continuing stream of another product mesmerising your mind and now instead of purchasing those cotton-wool buds you came down the chemist products aisle to get, you find you have an almost insatiable urge to buy and instantly consume two dozen economy sized boxes of “choco flavoured laxettes”!

Another trick they get you on is the smell-factor: You’ve been at the shopping for nearly an hour now and the old tummy suddenly starts churning and pushing the “hungreeee” button, just as you reach the cheese counter then on your way past the cooked chicken display … and you can just bet they have some sort of tricky fan there stoked with an msg enhancing chicken scent wafting out over the aisle and creating a olfactory riot amongst the dieting young first-time mothers who have just had babies and are trying to get the bod’ back into shape so they can squeeze back into that size 12 swimsuit they used to fit … it’s cruel …

But if you reckon the health/medical supplies aisle is bad, you wait till you hit the lollies and chocolate dept’! … It’s no accident they have that glinty cellophane wrapper on the lollies .. all tumbling out of those little “self-help” boxes like pixies and elves just wanting to frolic about on your taste-buds and help pile on those pounds! … and the chocolate blocks with that golden sheen wrapper stroking your vision like a demented Barbara Eden in I dream of Jeannie … and don’t tell me it’s just an electrical fault that the fluros flicker in just that aisle .. so that the hypnotic “voices” calling you from the bars of “Old Gold”(70 % cocoa), or the crispy wrapped “Mega Mix” of the Ferrero Rocher shelf is a relentless cooee to the ancient animal carnivore in us all crying; “EAT THE FLESH! … EAT THE FLESH!” sending the more weak-willed chocoholics into a weeping frenzy … (I’ve see it, I tell you!!), tearing wildly at the wrapper and sinking their teeth deliciously and ravenously drooling into the “flesh” of thick hazelnut milk chocolate!! … Can we criticise them? … can we condemn them (I’m asking for a friend) … and, btw … the security personnel ought to show a degree more consideration as well and not just roughly throw them out on their ear!

Till next time … signing off … ouch! ; your shopping correspondent.

#3

Down the Aisles.

Your shopping correspondent.

Happy specials, shoppers!

“Work 8, * cast off 2 sts., work 8 (7) Sts.; rep. from * 3 times more (4 in all), cast off 2 sts., work to end.”

Now some of you may recognise the above quoted code, and no; it is not derived from the German “Enigma” coding machine, but just a common knitting pattern from an old magazine … what they used to call; “A woman’s magazine” back in the old days … There used to be similar magazines for men, I believe … but with different subject matter … but they must have also contained many tricky patterns as my big brother wouldn’t let me see his as he said I was too young to “comprehend” … yes, that’s the word he used … I remember he stalled on that word … nodded and said; “comprehend” … I used to see my mother index-finger under similar codes in her old Woman’s Day mag’s when I was a child … and to this day I still cannot work the damn things out!

But you would see many mothers carry those decorated, hollowed tubes made of cellophane and cross-stitched wool around the top and bottom with a circular lid and they contained an endless supply of the latest knitting project that could be taken into the picture theatre or where-ever and set to work … One can remember that tense moment in The Gunfight at the OK Corral where Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas fight it out together … the clicking of the size 12 needles poised in mid-flight at the zenith of the action … then to continue in softer more emotional, gentle strokes for the love scenes with Rhonda Fleming … like the most sensitive touch of Buddy Rich caressing a kettle-drum with a “brush” … a sort of suburban domestic accompaniment along with the highs and lows of the musical score of the film.

And it is much the same for those coded ingredients that one sees highlighted as a “SUPER ADDITIVE” on some products … like: “Now containing OMEGA 3! … FOR EXTRA VITALITY!!” … that sort of thing … and then you have something called the “Glycemic index” followed by a number that could or could not be “GREAT!!” … and there is the ‘Glycemic Load” as well .. there are others .. One need not look far down the aisles to find them … secret ingredients or new “super-foods” just overflowing with coded letters and numbers that just ooze health and vitality … where once, the only coded label was the “V8 Tomato Juice” amongst the other juice bottles … The same sort of things can be found in “off-the-shelf” medicines in any chemist shop … it creates an air of cynical shopping experience I can tell you!

Talk about another sight that one is seeing much more of these days down the aisles … and that is the altering dress-code for the young, sartorial conscious men …

Have you, like myself, noticed the shocking new fashion for the post hipster era of young males in the socks department? … ghastly, multi-coloured things displayed by “flagging” trousers above the ankles! … or else those ankle-socks (I refuse to use the American spelling of : sox )that female tennis players use … or even worse … now brace yourselves fellow shoppers: NO SOCKS!! … Can there be a more indecent sight than a male wearing patent-leather shoes and NO SOCKS?? … it grates on the psyche almost as much as the finger-nail down the blackboard! … one feels violated!

But one has to admit that the idea of one set fashion, be it cultural or couture, is not applicable these days of stretch lycra and trakky-daxs put the two together and you got a Kardashian arse on a twiggy frame … not a pleasant sight for any male that still harbours any vestige of youthful memories of Annette Funicello or Gidget goes West! … how’s the song go?; something about; “… that which is lost upon the way … ” … or something like that … and then there’s those loud, super bright glasses that hipsters and even some “just past middle-age” people like to wear .. perhaps to draw attention to themselves … I know you can’t see anything else but those things when they are talking to you … some couples have matching pairs … sort of a “Kath and Kel” thing I suppose … is it a “metro-man” thing or just “unisex” … dunno …

Oh well … until next time, this is your shopping correspondent signing off …

(Ps; don’t forget to grab those saucepan coupons!) …

#4.

Down the Aisles

Your shopping correspondent.

Country Swap-meet special edition …

Happy specials, shoppers!

There are two noticeable things you can definitely claim about the boomer generation … They have singularly cemented the denim jean into its permanent place in history and they are positively the last generation that will, regardless of the weather, fearlessly (hu)man the stalls at these swap-meets.

The denim jean on the aged body of the … particularly … male baby boomer serves as both a object of decorum and ridicule … decorum as it thankfully is the final, secure fragment of cloth between the public and the even more gross private and it is hoped that never the twain shall meet … at least not eye to eye … and we’ll leave it at that … ridicule, because by the time the boomer generation has reached a certain age, that slim, trim body that once could support a pair of hipsters denims with elan and style, along with the stud-belt, has lost much of its hips and the now gross distortions of a body wasted on bad diet and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, cannot support much style and those marvellous denims have slipped to a depth of depravity that exposes those more fleshy portions of the body to too much cold air … particularly at this time of the year … the hipster jeans has descended to the crackster baggies!

And the second thing is; being about the last generation that actually has the know-how to fix things, those aged mechanics and handypersons hold on their stalls all the accoutrements of DiY dreamers … spanners, screwdrivers, electrical clips and callipers … but their clientele is fading … as the older patrons drop off to aged care home or Harley-Davidson Valhalla, there is none of the next generation to replace them … relying, as the gen X and Y tend to do on an App on their mobile phone to solve any number of problems … except … how to tune the Holly-4 bbl-carburettor or adjust the “dizzy” … let alone re- install an “Edelbrock” hi-rise manifold … so if I were you, I’d get myself down to the next swap-meet near you and have a good look around at history in the breaking, because they have to be a dying species.

It became noticeable whilst one perused the different eras of the stall offerings, that music complimentary to the goods on sale was belted out from the intestines of Nissan van or trailer … For instance, where the items on the tables were deliberately of the “sixties”, you could tap your fingers to, say, the throaty voices of Dusty Springfield or Helen Shapiro … and if from the “eighties/nineties”, some sort of wailing ‘death-metal’ guitar and incomprehensible growling voice wafted from the van … and one had to wonder on there being so many old blokes with showing scalp through long, wispy grey hair and long wispy beards to match … like a live view of the blokes in ZZ Top … and the tatts’ … why does everybody think they can improve on the human body with tatts’!!?? … if the bod’ is gross, no amount of “inking” to the point of a full “body suit” is going to improve it … and what’s all this Lemmy Kilmister impersonation with the bent hat, hanging fag and cadaverous hairy face? … it didn’t look good on him and I cannot see any improvement with a “tribute band” impersonation … Adonis is the male measure of handsome … not Lemmy!

And the stuff on the stalls!!?? … I thought – I – had a shed or two full of the most strangest, valueless odds and sods … but man!! …

The truth being, I suspect, is that many of the stall-holders, with just a scattering of things for sale, do it just to get out of the house .. to get some company … to meet people … and good luck to them … it’s gotta be better than Tinder!

Until next time, this is your shopping correspondent signing off.

#5.

Down the aisle …

Your shopping correspondent.

Happy specials, shoppers!

They’re taking the mickey out on us, of course … by “us”, I mean us baby-boomers … The good lady has the March edition of a cooking magazine open to the page showing a vegan pizza! … a vegan pizza do you mind …

“Oh well,” I reflect as I stir the proffered cup of “ginger zinger” tea … (I almost added milk!) “I suppose you could use the recipe there and just throw the salami on top as well to cheer it up” …

“It says to use ‘cauliflower mince’ as the topping … ” she read out.

“Cauliflower mince!!??” I exclaim … ” WTF is cauliflower mince??” But of course it is a wasted protest .. you see, we are both getting to that age where the medicinal diet is an imperative if you want to make 100 years with still a bit of lead in the pencil … and now it is only in sentimental daydreams of a wasted youth in Darwin that I can “taste” that “super-size” take-away meal of “Porky’s spare ribs” with side bag of chips and sauce, washed down with many cans of that gentle beer and a television replay of the “laugh a minute” Father Knows Best! … Ahh! … they knew how to make sit-coms in those days.

I remember a past marriage when we were mixed up with an “alternative education group” and my then partner adopted what could best be called “alternative protein” foods with fanatical zeal, and tofu and tabouli was a fixed item on our weekly menu … Tabouli goes well with a nice cut of lamb … a nice juicy cut of lamb … not tofu … tofu goes well sitting in its plastic packaged wrap in the rack of the fridge door … and staying there until it goes green and you then chuck it out!

It got to the stage where I would cunningly seek forewarning of such meals and stop off at a known small-town bakery on my way home from a hard day’s work and fill up on their renowned protein enriched pies and perhaps a macaroon or two … they had wonderful macaroons.

Needless to say, that marriage failed on the grounds of gastronomical cruelty.

But then when I was last at the mega shopping emporium, I had to park up the trolley while the good lady perused the selections of flours … besan, lupin, f#ckin’ spelt, buckwheat … is there a hemp flour? … because there oughta be! … there’s hemp everythin’ else!: Hemp seeds, hemp oil, hemp protein … and I believe you can even get … wait for it!: hemp beer! … It’s cruel, isn’t it!? … and of course there nothing you can do with the hemp except, I’ll bet, plonk it on some vegan pizzas or something … Though you can’t tell me some wide-eyed hop-head hasn’t bought a pack of seeds and tried to grow his own, just on the off chance …

Ah … I’ve just about had enough of it … all this growing old and healthy is about as bad as growing old and sober … there’s little to recommend it, it’s like that episode of “The Hollow Men” where the garrulous old politician flings the capers out of his sandwich …

“Why do they want to continually try to re-invent the f#ckin’ sandwich!!?”

I’d say the same with pizza: “If it aint broke, don’t f#ckin’ vegan it!!”

Until next “Super Wednesday” shopping experience … this is your correspondent signing off.

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Down The Aisle … Your Shopping Correspondent

With Ambrose Quint

Series 3

#1 Down the Aisle

Your shopping correspondent.

Happy specials, shoppers!

They gotta do something about these trolleys. They just aren’t designed for the male skeletal structure. You see a man pushing a shopping trolley and it looks like he is wrestling with it, like it is some strange beast … holding it at bay lest it turns on him and does some damage. Perhaps a handle more vertical, in keeping with those old “cow-horn” push-bike handlebars where a dozen-long-necks kit-bag would snugly fit, or perhaps like the ones on a trail-bike…that’s; moto-cross bike btw.

I notice this because I see more men shopping by themselves these days … perhaps “on the ground” evidence of a rising divorce rate amongst the older generation … Grey-haired gentlemen shuffling up and down the aisles looking a little bit lost … but then, they ARE getting better at the art of shopping.

I suppose those years after retirement pushing the trolley for “the little lady” has taught them some of the basic rudiments of product purchasing … and I have witnessed several times an older couple come close to blows when the male tries to “muscle-in” on their wife’s ( I have to say; ”wife’s” … the androgynous; “partner” does not feel a snug fit for that generation) selection process. So perhaps the lessons learned from those encounters may now serve them well for their solo ventures into the wilds of the mega-market aisles.

Getting back to the fact that men now seem better at shopping than they used to be … I recall the days of yore when a newly divorced man would roam the supermarket aisles like a lost elk, eyes wide for the possibility of fierce Panthers or the odd Siberian Tiger ready to spring at them from the shelves .. such were the frightening array of products there … and they would traipse up and down, aisle after aisle with the only product rolling and cannonading about the trolley being some recognisable comfort food, like a packet of iced vo-vo’s or that great smoko standby; ‘Arnott’s Monte-Carlo’ biscuits … a modern tragedy.

But now, I witness many men approach the shelves with an air of confidence … pick out a product, turn it around and over several times (their eyes darting this side and that to see if any nearby shoppers show doubt of their integrity) LOOK like they know what they are looking for … then chuck it in the trolley and move on. You can tell the newies to “the game” as THEIR trolley will contain many products purchased from the same aisle … and THAT aisle with the most colours and bling! … hypnotised, as I have observed in an earlier post, by the repetition of shape, colour and light … after all, how many bottles of “Kewpie” mayonnaise does a bloke need with his “Nasi Goreng” spice mix and 3-minute noodles?

And then there the “almost over it” males … I was passed by such a one confidently striding with head high, just today … His trolley exhibited a salubrious variety of carb’s, protein, fruit and veggies suitable to brand him a consumer of a reasonably balanced diet … AND … as one male to another, I have to proclaim he did the gender proud for his ostentatious display of five-high stack of twin-pack pure beef pies! … ”NEVER SAY DIE!” … and what with a short visit to the local pub drive-through for a slab, there goes a man with the weekly shopping damn well done and a display of all the airs and grace of true, manly independence … You can just bet HE had hairs on HIS chest!

Until next time … Happy shopping, customers!

#2 Down the Aisle

Your shopping correspondent.

Happy specials, shoppers!

Those of us of a certain age will recall that statement from the TV show; “The Naked City”, spoken in a gravitas voice, with a narrator intoning the iconic line: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Well, I’d like to report that a similar (although lesser amount I’d warrant) situation can be gleaned by casual conversations down the aisles of your local supermarket.

Was myself engrossed in the selection of a packet of “Carman’s Muesli bars” in our local mega-market there in Nuri’ … (“If you’re not livin’ in Nuri’, you’re livin’ nowhere”), conflicted between selecting the “Super berry muesli bars” and the old favourite: “Dark chocolate and cranberry protein bar” … I had the latter box in my hand and was perusing the nutritional table of contents, looking for ANY possible alcohol content therein, when the shelf-stacking lady, right there next to me saw my intense concentration on the protein bars and thrust a rather large bag of “Hemp Protein Powder” under my nose and chimed:

“Here’s a super protein for you … give you all the ‘get-up-and-go’ you’ll need!”

“Crikey!” I exclaimed, “What I can mistily recall from those people I knew in my young years who had a familiarity with the hemp plant was that the last thing they had was get up and go! … more like; lay-back-and trip-out!”

And she agreed with a hearty laugh … We were then joined by another lady our own age and she backed my statement up … and added that her tale of her old man of those years, who was a truck driver and used certain nefarious substances to sustain him on those long dreary drives.

“Dope!? … ”I exclaimed “Surely that would make him a tad dangerous behind the wheel?” … and I made “whoa … whoa!” motions like I was wildly steering a big rig (I like saying that expression: The BIG RIG … it sounds so macho-male!!: “I … drive a BIG RIG! … there, take that!”) … and I do confess to mentioning that I knew of truck drivers that were less than reliable in control of those enormous machines, breaking open Codral cold tablets (in the bad old days, mind!) to get the little pink pill of (I believe) ephedrine based stuff in the middle.

“Oh yes,” the second lady admitted … ”My old man had me as his “chemist”, grinding the tablets up with a mortar and pestle, and because the ephedrine was heavier than the codeine, I would have to puff away the lighter powder to leave the stuff he used behind …”

We three then reflected humourously on the behaviour of our acquaintances in those halcyon days of endless summers, rolled joints and frothy beers … I had cause to recall one such episode to the ladies on my attraction (now lightly diminished) to the worthy sport of lawn bowls …

“I joined the local lawn bowls club when I lived down the coast way back in my thirties … ” I said. “Well, in those days, it was mostly a conservative refuge for the old and infirm … much like some of us are now! … So I was one of the youngest there then … and this old fellah in our team asked me … out of interest … what attracted such a young, healthy chap as myself to the sport … ’I’ll confess’, I said ‘ I was watching that TV show on lawn bowls: “Jack High” … and I had just smoked a nice fat joint and I watched as one bloke softly sent that little … leeetle brilliantly, shining white ball down that vast open green space … and then I was absolutely mesmerised as I watched another bowler gently roll down that bigger bowl that followed a shallow, parabolic curve that went out sooooo wiiiiiiiide … (and here I did a Marcel Marceau style impersonation whilst on the one spot, of those bowlers stealthily following their bowl down the green in that hunched back possi’ until I came right up to the television set with an impression of one wide-eye and both hands flat against the screen) … and it went on and on and on like it was gonna’ take forever to get there … an’ I thought; Ohh Maannn … that’s in-fin-ity!! … that’s the game for me! … and my very-aged team-mates all moved away from me!”

The ladies were rather amused at my pantomime but then one gave a bit TOO much information of her druggy husband and his flirtations with other ladies while “on the stuff that ruined their marriage”; “Everyone was warning me, but I was the last to realise …”, so that put a rather teeth-gritting saddening kybosh on any possible humorous finish to the converse …

But that’s the way it is down the aisles … there are a million stories down the aisles of the Mega Supermarkets … and this was just one of them … until next time;

This is your shopping correspondent signing off.

#3 Down the Aisle

Your shopping correspondent.

Happy holiday specials, shoppers!

School holidays and the central market is chockers with parents and their kids … sometimes with other parents kids too! … One lady had quite a cluster swarming about her …

“You got the whole class today?” I asked, to which she agreed and replied; “Almost!”

Trouble is, they form a kind of grommet bottleneck at all the free-sample stalls … especially the Smelly Cheese places … their hesitant nibbling on a delightful washed rind or Italian hard-cheese occupying so much time that one is tempted to want to abandon the experience altogether … if it wasn’t a free sample …

One trick I do use to get a place in a crowded situation, now that I have age on my side .. is to say loud enough in a plaintive kind of weak-wail: “Is there any room for a retired old fellow?” … and hey … you should see them scatter on a good day! … and of course, the aged fart is always a solid fall-back position … clears a space no worries …

Zuma’s Café, of course, was the usually crowded place, where one has to reluctantly trip up a fellow pensioner and send them sprawling then walking over the top of them to get to secure a table first … You gotta be cruel to be kind to yourself in those crowded cafes …

And there I was re-packing the trolley outside Goodies and Grains, thereby the pensioner’s seat when this six or seven-year-old with those shoes with the secreted wheels on the bottom came scooting past so fast as to nearly sweeping me around in a spinning circle …

“Watch out old-timer!” he called … the bloody cheek! … old-timer indeed! … I tell you what, some of these young-uns … you just got to get one look at ‘em and you know it’s not gonna end well.

Now, just when I’m getting used to those stressed jeans that the young people wear, with the knees ripped and so on … I saw yesterday where they now are wearing those black tights and they are stressing them too … like horizontal runs in the fabric … I dunno … the only way we could rip our jeans back in the old days was by falling off our motorbikes … I suppose you’d call that; “doing it the hard way.”

And those puffy jackets that seem to be all the rage now … getting around like the top half of the Michelin man doesn’t appeal to me … but I gotta admit, while lacking in style, they do look cosy.

But I did learn a new label while standing outside Standom’s smallgoods and admiring their selection of processed meats … I heard two passing, thin-looking people, that in retrospect could very well have been vegans .. one commenting to the other in what could be called a sneering whisper .. :

“Hrumph! … perving at the flesh there … it’s carnivore porn!”

Well … until next time, shoppers, this is your correspondent signing off.

#4 Down the Aisle

Your shopping correspondent’s report.

Happy specials, shoppers.

From the Central market; Three acts of tragedy.

It is only right and correct that backing up behind the noisy chaos of Zumas Café lunchtime rush, surging like an unstoppable tide against Canute’s Clatter of cutlery was that unmistakable bass kick-off of The Rolling Stones; “Jumping Jack Flash.” I can recognize it anywhere …

“Whatcha!! … I was borrrrrrn in a crossfire hurricane … ”

The perfect beat to cutting and carving my prosciutto bruschetta … ’jumpin’ jack flash is a gas, gas, gas …’

Ah! … Mick and the boys …

I remember back in my wasted youth, a mate in Darwin telling me of his frustration when having an “afternoon delight” with a lady he knew who demanded they always make love with the music of “Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra” playing an endless-loop in the next room … It used to drive him nuts! …

“Hey … can we try the flip-side?” He one day complained to her.

“Oh no, baby,” she dreamily responded. “I don’t like ‘backdooring.“

“The record, the record,” he quickly corrected.

But to no avail … he had to end the relationship when they released; “Barry White; The best of …”

It’s cruel, y’ know … how some of us Baby Boomers have ended up … not a good look, this “growing old disgracefully” … You see them at the market, still getting around in their denims … their ‘Levi’s” … trouble is, while the mind stays young, the body starts to show it’s age … time to move into the trackie-daks and casuals, people … and; lose the white runners … the “pensioners peddlers” … please?? It’s a tragedy, that waist-line: too many years at the front bar when they shoulda’ been on the exercise bike … now, where once a studded belt with that screwdrivered-off-the-Chrysler-V8 buckle was pulled tight around the hipster jeans, it now serves as a kind of hernia belt, keeping the gut from hanging down like a butcher’s apron!

And remember when that skin-tight black Rocker’s “T” shirt had only just enough room in the short sleeve for a soft-pack of ‘Styvo’s” … well now, the front hangs over a protruding beer-gut like Uncle Norm’s verandah … and where once you could only conceal a flick-knife, now you’d have no trouble smuggling half a side of beef past customs at Tullamarine!

And those “Long-shorts” that some of the older blokes have become enamoured with … the side pockets bulging with tape measures and side-cutter pliers, I’d bet … THEY are best suited for young blokes who have the calf muscles to match … Jonah Lomu would look ok … Roger Federer … would look ok … but Clem Smith with legs like a chook’s from Gilles Plains? … Nah!

And that’s just the blokes … The ladies? … I am not that foolish to even go there! .. at least THEY have the excuse and benefit of the doubt of having a few kids to knock their body about … I would not criticize that section of society … no siree bob!

Anyway … got some nice grub, some half-decent grog and the steaks for the barbi tomorra night … the rest, as they say …

Until next time fellow shoppers …

#5 Down the Aisle

Your shopping correspondent.

Happy specials, shoppers!

The Queensland Blue Pumpkin.

Tell you what, there’s nothing in the veggie world more says “Aussie” so much as a big, blowsy ol’ Qld’ Blue Pumpkin. And there was a whole pickers bin full of them just there as we walked into the mega-market in our regional city.

One cannot but get a tad sentimental about those Blues … it always conjures up a memory of my old mum calling to one of us kids playing cowboys and Indians in the back block to: “get me one of those pumpkins down from the chook-house roof .. and hurry up about it!” … and as you look up to see who called, you get “shot” by “Gene Autry” and have to play dead … but then you gotta get that pumpkin or you’ll like as not get the brush on your backside!

Personally, I now prefer the butternut pumpkin … firmer flesh and better taste … to me at least … but there you go … to each his own. Another thing I prefer over the new fads that are coming onto the veggie stalls, is the “regular” coloured traditional vegetables … now wait a minute! … wait a minute … I’m not interested in those “ancient grains” of the “Paleo diet” thingo … and those “heritage veggies” that have those weird colours and shapes … nah!, nah! … can’t come at those … I mean: purple carrots?? … black tomatoes?? … and now I saw on the ABC’s; Catalyst … purple sweet-corn!! … there oughta be a law … who wants to sit down at the table to be greeted with technicolour veggies? … what next … Insect stew!!?? … chunder! … I’d rather die than be reduced to eating insects … it’s WHY we worked at improving agricultural produce … why we left the cave … y’know??

THIS is how it should work … The other day we’re driving home in the old Bedford truck, myself and the good woman … and there’s the horses in the box on the back … it’s been a long day and dusk is on the horizon … it is time to be thinking about dinner …

“What’s for dinner, my love?” I ask … she looks at me through the fog of Radio National’s PM … and thinks for a moment …

Now hang on … stop right there … I know what you’re thinking in this age of “bugger the male and his wanting the women to cook for them!!” … it’s HER preference … The lady loves cooking … she sees the preparation of food as an art form … and I agree with her … she cooks the exotic and the hearty … we sometimes use the old German vault wood-oven for a special treat … And here I’ll say that when we were courting, I would sometimes cook a meal for her … yes, yes … I had a couple of recipes up my sleeve to pull out when wanting to make an impression … and if I may suggest to other courting men out there … a good guide to follow is; “The Complete Middle-East Cookbook” by Tess Mallos … Brilliant! … you gather the ingredients listed and follow the instructions TO THE LETTER … you can’t go wrong … The Batchelor’s pal I called it … and I had a couple on those recipes down pat: “Spanakopita” (Spinach pie) and “Psari Savoro” (Fried fish with rosemary and vinegar) … it always pays to have a couple of standbys up your sleeve to casually drop out to impress the lady:

“Look,” … you say casually. “Why don’t you just drop around my place tonight for dinner … I’ll cook a nice “Psari Savoro” for you” … and you can repeat these two dishes at decent intervals and she’ll be impressed … and there’s the extra bonus of speaking the Greek or whatever title of the dish … suavo! .. and then you take her out to dinner in between and … Hey! … do I have to tell you everything!!?? … jeezus! … sort yourself out …

Anyway … where was I … oh yes … she replies:

“Beef stew with dumplings in a Newcastle brown-ale.” … And she goes back to the iPhone.

Y’see? … THAT’S how a hearty dinner should be … that’s normal: A long winter’s day, a long drive home, I muck the shit out of the stables, settle and feed the horses and un-pack the truck to be driven into the big shed and the lady gets our tea ready … and what’s for dinner: A hearty Beef stew w/dumplings in a Newcastle brown-ale … it doesn’t get any better than that! … and you can forget the exotic coloured veggies!

Looking forward to the next report, shoppers!

Till next time … or rather … till the next series … signing off; your shopping correspondent.

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“Clustering”: The new tool for electoral success?

The most concerning conundrum post election is the question of why working/vulnerable people voted against their own interests to help return a right-wing government that then goes on to bust them economically and socially … and not just in this country, but with Brexit and Trumpism too, there were strange forces at play to shift opinion away from sane rationality to vociferous anger.

Why is it so?

I believe I can see an answer in the word; “Clustering” … ie; getting hold of groups of vulnerable voters and using certain cultural fears to unite/corral them against what could be seen as a long-time enemy … and then letting the natural suspicions and gossiping innuendo do the hard work of: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and so bring another group of indecisive voters into the tent.

I would describe “clustering” as that action of where one central identifiable position of authority or person of power, through self-interest, raises opposition to a principle or ideal and because of their/its credible standing in a group or the community, can gather others around itself and using those people then up the ante in opposition to a principle or ideal and create a “cluster” of persons of credibility that acts like a magnet, drawing those undecided to what is seen as the most attractive position of strength. It is the attraction of strength that pulls in the undecided voters to throw their lot in with those they see as best supporting their personal interests as against the wider communities interests … Using this methodology, smaller, more localised groups can be targeted with a Cambridge Analytica-style concentration on most vulnerable seats or even ballot-box areas…with military precision to divide the electorate into smaller, easily managed groups.

Most of us of a certain experience in life have witnessed or even suffered such a phenomenon involving team sports, committees, work meetings etc … it is not nice and worse of all, after time and experience, one can see quite clearly when such a thing is evolving right in front of one’s eyes … Anyone watching ABC Insiders last Sunday (14/02) could see the journos’ there join in a “pile-on” against Daniel Andrews and his decision to lockdown Victoria … and then there was the discussion about low-income, casualised workers (Uber/Food delivery riders etc) getting decent conditions, with the “Newscorp genuflector” at one point giving clue to the future direction of his treasonous group in saying that (words to that effect) “these pizza delivery people are mostly migrants and overseas students whom many people would see as lesser workers” … implying a sense of racist interpretation in the general community … and sadly, going by recent events … he just may be correct … and there we see the possibility of the LNP playing a “cluster card” of one vulnerable working group – Australian local casualised workforce against an imported “457” cheap-labour section of the community … just as Howard played the “lower caste” refugees with his “children overboard” racism against the settled, secured Australian community … never mind that so many of that settled community were multi cultural already … it was the “do we want such disreputable people infecting our lovely country?” debate that won the day.

The last Federal election was also played on such grounds … the franking credits issue touched also the heart-strings of other self funded retirees … so many of whom were working people who benefitted from long term permanent employment, cheaper house prices when they bought and a solid superannuation scheme to allow them to invest or speculate on shares or property to harvest extra income to boost their retirement … indeed, some were heavily reliant on such investments as their aged pension could have been severely cut because of their superannuation amount and income from investment .. this created a cluster of self-interest among retirees that was inflamed by Tim Wilson’s geriatric Big-top circus up and down the East Coast.

Then there was The Greens’ “Adani Convoy”, where either through deliberate incitement or gormless political blundering, Bob Brown’s mob created another “cluster” of mining community members completely dropping Labor off their vote slips to insert the f#cking harridan Hanson on! … in a deluded opinion that they were protecting their long-term interests … again … clustering toward what was seen as a position of strength.

Add to the above a continual division on climate change, carbon sequestration and environmental challenges and you have a well-spring of clusters to manipulate … and with a now totally corrupt to the point of criminality Gov’t, the Sky-Channel is their limit!

There must be some psychological term to describe this clustering effect in groups, but I won’t go looking for it, satisfied as I am that I can see it in action among many bloggers and social media posters … on Twitter for instance, it is not an uncommon thing for groups to cluster to “pile on” singular identities to bludgeon them off the board … we see such moments as the “cancel culture” groups … the anti this or that groups … we saw it in spades against individuals like J.K.Rowling … right or wrong, it became an avalanche of trolling … it can verge on bullying when it becomes a concentrated force.

I personally witnessed it on another social media platform some years back where a moderator, backed by a “rising star” poster on the site combined forces to attack another person and then by “magnetic attraction” others who had no part in the discussion, joined in their cooperative attack to add their infantile opinions as little more than a background shout of noise to what became the collective howling down of any opposition …

This strange yet powerful attraction of the insecure individual to join forces with those they see as a more powerful voice that will give them, vicariously, added importance to an otherwise insignificant mumble of their own, makes for a cluster of individually weak, but collectively strong voting bloc of the undecided voters that in an election won or lost on a one-seat majority is a much sought out number.

Be warned … the next election is already being ‘war-gamed’ on what that slime-bag of newscorp pustulance; Campbell, gave away last Sunday … the playing against each other of Australian worker to immigrant worker/student … making note of the Chinese/Indian ethnicity … then the playing against trade-workers in building to cheap labour-hire imported workers, not to mention that old standby … the “overpaid indigenous community” against the long-suffering suburban white community … particularly in these times of JobKeeper/Seeker … and then of course, we have those others mentioned above …

It may become an adage worthy in replacing the old; “In numbers there is strength” … with; “In clusters, there is an election win.”

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Proverbs, Parables, Stories and Verse

Proverbs, Parables, Stories and Verse … An e-Book … By Joe Carli.

Fishermen

We cast our nets at eventide,

We draw them in at dawn,

And in the darkened hours between,

Are trapped the dream we spawn.

Proverb: “Bread and cheese at home is better than roast meat elsewhere.”

Parable: Nicole detested polenta! So that when he came home from the fields and spotted the polenta on the stove, he started thinking fast.

”I won’t be here for dinner,” he said as he flung a scarf around his neck. “Giovanni has invited me to his table tonight.” And he rushed out the door before his wife could say anything.

Little did he know that his wife had cooked up enough polenta for all the relatives in the village. all he saw was the little she kept for themselves! So he rushed over to his son’s house as fast as his little bow-legs could carry him. There, he milled around in front of the fire and chatted small talk while the wife prepared the table.

“You’ll stay for dinner, father? she queried. “ … we’re having polenta.”

He winced at her in horror … ”Oh bugger!” he said to himself … then; “No, no, caro … er … my sister, she has invited me to her table for dinner … speaking of which … I better hurry on … ” and he flung his scarf on again and hurried out the door.

“Hungry, hungry, hungry … ” he whispered in time to his quickening steps and his stomach rumbled as he passed through his sister’s front door.

“Ah … Nicolle!” she greeted him … ” just in time for dinner. Sit down, I’ll get you some polenta!”

”Gesu Christo!” he cried as he flung his hands to the heavens … “Doesn’t anybody in this town eat anything but bloody polenta!?” And he stormed out leaving them with open mouths and a slammed door. He came home to his own kitchen with a long face and slumped shoulders. He was beaten and resigned to his fate, polenta it would have to be.

His wife (who knew his dislikes by now) glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and smiled. She reached into the oven and pulled out a covered dish which she placed in front of the dejected man at the table and uncovered a bowl of ravioli and cheese … Nicolle’s face lit up into an ecstatic smile and he sighed very, very deeply. His wife patted him on top of his head …

“Better, you see, to eat at your own table, rather than run around town for scraps from others.”

Nicolle nodded his head gratefully, for his mouth was full of food.

Penance

God I was feeling good … you know those days when you set out with a heavy work-load of appointments and things to do so you think you’ll never have time to do them all … and then suddenly this one and that one falls off the list through no fault of anyone’s and suddenly you have half … (Continue reading).

Kapitan Kemp’s Diary

This story has two connections … The first is the idea for the setting which came from a contribution in a WW2 official government publication; “As You Were” … one of many such publications put out during and after the second world war from the Australian military … The writer was T.G.Hungerford … the article was; “Last Entry in Red.” … (Continue reading).

Proverb: “Those who need a good ambassador should send themselves.”

Parable: Daniel was adopted out at six weeks old to a childless couple who loved him dearly and raised him as best they could. His natural mother and father were separated several months before he was born so that he knew neither true parent. Years later, when he was in his late twenties, he felt the need to contact his natural parents. He could not find his mother, but through one of the special agencies that help adopted people, he obtained the address of his father.

“Well,” the father said as he sat down at the table, “this is a surprise!” and he dropped a spoonful of sugar into his cup of tea, “sugar? … Daniel … Daniel isn’t it?” the father asked.

“Yes to both questions,” Daniel replied.

“Well … then … it’s good to see you all growed up and healthy … even without my guidance.” The man nervously laughed.

“I’ve had good … care,” Daniel said as he put the cup to his lips.

“Well then … “the father rubbed his left hand on his thigh uneasily. “Well then … er … tell me; how’s your mother?”

“My mother? Daniel looked puzzled, “I don’t know, I haven’t seen her.”

“What … what do you mean – haven’t seen her,” the father, puzzled too now, queried.

“No.” Daniel went on; “Not for as long as I can remember … I was adopted out at six weeks old!” Daniel blinked at his father.

“The Hell you say!!” The man leapt to his feet upsetting things on the table, “the hell you say!” he cried again as he turned away and raked his fingers through his hair. He turned then and brought his great fist down … crash!! onto the kitchen table. “Your mother had me paying maintenance for you for sixteen years!” and he stood back from the table and welsh-combed his hair again.

“Well … you could’ve gone around there and you would’ve seen for yourself” said Daniel. The man flicked his hand away angrily.

“Ahh! … me and your old lady didn’t get on, so we “talked”, as you might say, through a mate of mine who … who went … over … oh bloody hell … ” The father stopped suddenly and stared as though in a trance. He sat down on the chair slowly.

“Oh bloody hell … a mate of mine … ”

Morning Glory

The most common insults and abuse that are given , are done in an atmosphere of intimate coercion, where the dominant party can take advantage of their position and the moment to exercise without criticism or reproach their quiet act of oppression. My first job when I arrived in Darwin in the early seventies was … (Continue reading).

Three blows on the church bell meant a child, twice three a woman and thrice three a man. After a pause the years were counted out at approximately half-minute intervals. The word teller in some dialects becomes tailor, hence the old saying “Nine tailors maketh a man.”

The Day

I stare at the wet leaves

Of the Camellia bush,

In the patio .. In the rain.

As I take in with my eyes,

I stir the cup of tea.

The spoon chimes on the porcelain;

I mind the strikes;

Tailors.

Three … Six … Nine …

“Nine tailors maketh a man”

So much to see out in the patio.

But nothing to absorb.

Just the everyday …

I will forget the vision,

But will remember the peace.

I woke in startled fright

I awoke in a startled fright

From a dream I dreamt last night.

From a memory so long ago,

I’ll recall the story as it did go .. :

A child, from the pusher, I broke free,

As my mother walked me by the sea.

I broke free to chase a rabbit fast,

Fled a shrub by the sea-cliff path.

I ran as does a child; sudden swift,

As the rabbit fled over the cliff.

I too stumbled toward the edge,

But my mother’s call of fright,

Drew me to a stop just right.

I could see the wave’s crashing foam,

She gathered me frightened in her arms …

But now, in my dream I did fall,

Tumbling over with rabbit an’ all.

As we fell in that slow dreamy way,

Each to each, eye to eye .. knowing,

The creature looked to me to calmly say;

“Do not worry, you will not drown”.

But I kept falling, falling, falling down …

Just then I woke in chilling fright,

And in that gasping, grasping struggle for sight,

I stared and stared into the dark of night.

A Box of Spoons

There is innocence in childhood that has the capacity to reduce a complex situation to the simplest of solutions. It has it’s own shining beauty in that it need not be corrected, nor adjudicated upon … just to be sure that such innocence will be perhaps, irretrievably lost once past the “coming of age.” But then, … (Continue reading).

Saying Goodbye to Ferruchio

You may have read my bits about “Ron the brickie” … He was sponsored to Australia as a young lad a few years after the 2nd WW. He left behind his mother and siblings when he came to Australia … a difficult situation not of his making. He went to school for a couple of years here, then worked … (Continue reading).

Proverb: “The dog runs a little, the hare runs a little.”

Parable: Angelo Pescari “had a woman on the sly”. His wife knew that, but he didn’t know she knew. Till one evening she sent the kids over to her sisters and sat down with her husband for a “talk”.

“A what!!” Angelo jumped up in mock surprise.

“Sit down and stop the theatrics,” she spoke calmly.

“Who told you that?” he continued to bluff “The things you think”. he continued in vain seeking to regain his ground. But she knew and now he was sprung.

“Settle down … I’m not going to leave or divorce you or go into hysterics over it, see, I’m perfectly calm … all I’m asking is that you finish the affair and we go back to normal … husband and wife … agreed?”

After some more talking and seeing the futility of trying to proclaim his innocence, Angelo Pescari sighingly agreed to his wife’s request;…

“Yes,” he said, he would terminate the affair immediately.

But he didn’t! He continued seeing the woman after work sometimes and of course his wife found out again.

He arrived home from “work” one evening as his wife was setting the dinner. She glanced wickedly at him.

“So … a hard day at work … eh?” She smiled.

“Why … yes … yes,” he hesitatingly answered.

“And a hard night on the mistress?” She smiled wickedly again, he just stood there in dumbness.

“Well” she continued “You can have your little coquette … but then so will I have mine … but the difference is … I don’t even have to leave the house!”

Angelo stood there dumbfounded. His wife served the dinner.

Nine months later she gave birth to a lovely, healthy boy … they did not separate, but grew closer and raised the child as their own.

The Tide

Like a sailor old, who watches the tide,

Life’s many moods I do abide … and still I watch,

For there comes a wash of the river flow,

That carries the ebb, what comes and goes.

That “tide in men’s lives” that carries their thoughts,

Like flotsam swept before a wave wild wrought

By wind and storm or by deceiving calm they be brought,

To wreck upon Charybdis rocks or wash up on rugged tor.

Fortune for that sailor who with astute eye,

Will risk the temper of mood and tide,

And call the exact moment makes best to ride.

He casts the ropes that hold him belay,

All wind and storm be no delay.

Yet I and thee, chained to life’s fickle destiny,

Can but watch as the vessel sails away from we,

While idly biding …

Like empty shells scattered on a wide, broad shore,

Awaiting tide and waves also, to move us ever-more …

Sacred Site

Australian Aboriginal Woomera ( spear launcher). Ahh! … yes … I can see that you are all a tad jaded and tuckered out with the political shenanigans. I tell you what … I’ll tell you a story. It is constructed from two events .. one, when a friend told me of finding a very old woomera in the cleft of a very … (Continue reading).

Proverb: “A bitter heart will sour the sweetest soul.”

Parable: Milan’s first wife left him and her baby very early in their marriage. She became ill with a rather common debilitating mental illness, and as the medical treatment in those days in Australia was hopelessly inadequate, she was left to carry on by her own . She couldn’t cope and simply left home, left the baby girl, left her husband and finally left the country and went back to Europe where she disappeared from Milan’s life.

In due course after several years, Milan met another woman, a single woman who helped him raise the child. She lived with him for ten years and then they married and she had a baby also, a son. The girl had grown up and was cared for (if maybe a bit too sternly) as the new wife’s own daughter.

Now, every birthday from seven years on, the girl would receive a letter and a parcel from France, from her estranged mother. Sometimes there would be a few notes of currency enclosed. Janice, Milan’s second wife was at first not perturbed at these little gifts. But over the years, and particularly when the girl reached teenage years, she seemed to become a little offended at the daughter’s glee upon receiving these gifts.

“Oh”, the girl would exclaim in happiness, “My mother has sent me something!” and she would take the parcel off to her room to open it.

Janice would look scornful and sorrowful at the same time and would complain to Milan.

“See, see, off to her room with the precious gift, ha! and it wasn’t that woman who raised her, no … it was me who worried when she was sick! So what does she care for me? … no … (and here she would sometimes have tears come to her eyes) not for me the respect she saves for her mother that deserted her” Milan would drop the corners of his mouth and sigh.

One day a letter arrived saying that Milan’s first wife was coming out to Australia for a visit, to see her daughter. Janice was caught between her love of the daughter and the bitter-ness of a feeling of betrayal of the girl’s love for her mother.

Not long after the visit by the mother, one evening, they were visiting a friend, and as they sat in the darkened lounge lit only by the open fire, Janice talked off-handedly of the mother’s recent visit.

“Oh yes, she came over one night last week … humph! the way she talked, humph! as if I was an interloper, as if I was the one who broke up her family … I soon put her in her place!”

“Well, she didn’t really infer that you … ” Milan spoke up.

“Oh no! not to you, no you wouldn’t see, you’re not a woman … but I know that tone of voice … you men are blind … and … and she brought over a dress for Corina (the daughter) .. ha! what a dress … it was terrible eh Corina? eh? … the colour ugh! the cut, the style … what a laugh … har har” and she laughed a forced bitter laugh without looking at the daughter sitting there alone, slump shouldered in the corner, her tear-filled eyes shining sadly and looking to the floor. “Obviously she doesn’t know her own daughter” Janice finished huffily.

End of stories.

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Why Join China’s One Belt – One Road?

Or: Forty Centuries of Sustainable Farming

“We are to consider some of the practices of a virile race of some five hundred millions of people who have an unimpaired inheritance moving with the momentum acquired through four thousand years; a people morally and intellectually strong, mechanically capable, who are awakening to a utilization of all the possibilities which science and invention during recent years have brought to western nations; and a people who have long dearly loved peace but who can and will fight in self defense if compelled to do so.

We had long desired to stand face to face with Chinese and Japanese farmers; to walk through their fields and to learn by seeing some of their methods, appliances and practices which centuries of stress and experience have led these oldest farmers in the world to adopt. We desired to learn how it is possible, after twenty and perhaps thirty or even forty centuries, for their soils to be made to produce sufficiently for the maintenance of such dense populations as are living now in these three countries … “ (Farmers of Forty Centuries, F.H.King, 1911).

This is not a panegyric for China … after all, I am a nobody as far as any social influence goes and for a person such as myself to wax flattery about a nation of around 1.5 billion people, would be presumption of the most crass and vulgar kind, they certainly can and do speak for themselves.

No … I come not to praise China, but rather to perhaps persuade others here to “listen up” to what ought to be obvious regarding the reality of this mega-populated nation to the north of us … and if we read the above portion of the preface to a book by an American, published in 1911 of the skills and traditions of agriculture of those peoples from forty centuries ago until that said date of publishing, you will appreciate a civilisation well versed in knowledge, frugality and perseverance … and other characteristics mentioned above … truly a nation of people to be, if not possibly emulated, then at the very least respected as capable and culturally cohesive.

The incessant anti-China propaganda dribbling out from all our media that seeks and finds every and any means to vilify and demean China via direct accusation or implied innuendo reeks of the old days of anti-Soviet “Red Menace” publications … Of course, these days the “Bolshevism schlock” is a damn sight more sophisticated, but none the less crude in its enactment by certain authorities and media outlets.

But what is the real feeling of what and where China is going with its social and economic expansion?

One Belt – One Road … Surely a bold and courageous initiative that ought to hold the attention of the world and inspire it to examine it as more than just a “communist plot” by China to grab power …

The stated objectives are:

“… to construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural exchange and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool, and technology database.”

The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an:

“ ‘infrastructure gap’ and thus has potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. A report from the World Pensions Council (WPC) estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates. The gaping need for long-term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state “gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth.”

Surely this would benefit Australia and open up entirely new markets for agricultural produce and manufacturing? … What could possibly be the downside to wholeheartedly joining in such an enterprise, except that certain “players” who like to control and corner geographical areas of the world trade map may find their “private back yard” of controlled and policed countries shrinking and abandoning their “protection racket” methodologies.

We have seen just recently, many Pacific Nations being approached with investment opportunities by China that would be of more benefit to those nations than the patronising pseudo-colonising by “certain western nations” that have kept them under obligation to a cold-as-charity system of “foreign aid” and exploitation … Having their revered cultures displayed as tourist entertainment for a few shekels tossed at their feet … or worse, being used as a penal colony for payment for their debts. Who can blame them for considering a changing of the guard?

And what about us? … What have we as a nation gained from this brave new world of neo-liberal, free-market philosophy? … A gig economy of casualised, part-time work, flat-lined shit wages and conditions … shit healthcare, inequality in education and a racist attitude toward multi-culturalism … retirement to a world of poverty and lack of decent care … a coterie of gangster LNP politicians who if they cannot steal the nations treasures to add to their already bulging property portfolios, they then flog it off at fire-sale prices to their mates and have sent everything of quality off-shore including our good name and honour … and there’s no point asking that old chestnut; “what have we got to lose,” because we have already lost it!

What would be lost for Australians to hitch their wagon to the One Belt – One Road Initiative? We see and hear the agricultural sector bitterly complaining of a lack of workers, surely if there was a wider market ready to pick up our produce, good wages and conditions could be paid to lure workers to their farms … if there was a greater population calling out for quality produce, then all the better for pricing and maintaining healthy agriculture practices? … If there was a wider market for the shipping of goods, then there would surely be space for quality manufacturing and value-adding to the products we make?

Someone tell me the downside? … and if we continue to clamour that Australia is a “market driven” economy that runs on the entrepreneurial inventiveness of its best and brightest, then surely the chance to join in one of the most imaginative enterprises of this twenty first century has to be a once in a lifetime opportunity!

I’m in! … Are you?

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Down the Aisle

Down the Aisle intro.

I have taken the time to transcribe these short pieces from a now defunct publication that operated for quite a while up until recently to promote the revitalised shopping precinct of Central Nuriootpa: The Barossa Barrow … It contained business information and profiles on personalities that ran those businesses along with the usual advertisements and promotions one comes to expect in such publications …

But these breezy little cameos of life and happenings ‘down the aisles’ of the super and mega shopping markets caught my eye and amused my day … I have not ever met the writer … one Ambrose Quint … but I hope to one day.

I hope also that you enjoy his journeys ‘down the aisle” as much as I do …

Your Shopping Correspondent’s report …

With Ambrose Quint.

#1

Hello and Happy holiday specials, shoppers! Ambrose here and in this series I will be taking you ‘Down the Aisles’ to report on those special products and moments in the wonderful world of the domestic shopping centres and emporiums. A world of excitement and discounts awaits!

Let us leap into our journey!

I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend ‘Natasha’s’ Pomegranate and chocolate cake mix. I have it on good authority, one; Lorna Roesler, who upon noticing the above product under my inquiring scrutiny, solemnly informed me; “That is a nice one, that is, made it for my grand-daughter’s Christening party, was appreciated all round” … and she tapped the box and nodded her approval and went on her way to turn the corner by the San Remo spaghetti stand.

Now I wouldn’t want you to think I dwell too long at the cake mix shelf … it is only a convenience stop while the Other Half peruses the John West tuna tins … always searching out, like the alchemists of old; the philosophers stone … that elusive ‘Tuna with brine’ tin, they don’t seem to make them anymore. She scorns the w/ tomato, peppers or other condiments and will grudgingly accept the tuna w/ springwater substitute, the cake shelf is just there over the aisle … and I have to say; I am intrigued by those gorgeous pictures of the perfect cakes on the packet as much as some perverts are attracted by those perfect legs on the panty-hose packets or the stunning blondes on the home-perm packs … I linger very little at any of the above … I want you to trust me on that!

But I have to say, I have seen several middle-aged shoppers handle those packs of food-wrap sealed meat trays with a fondness beyond mere purchase curiosity … I see them rub their thumb over the taut film of wrap covering the lamb loin chops so it ‘squeals’ and ‘chatters’ with tantalizing intensity … almost comparable to a squeal of delight! … Maybe that is the attraction … and then, having stretched the tension out, they move on, thinking no-one is noticing their apparent interest, to the next, but … I … am watching … I am always watching, I am watching you all!

Until next time, this is your shopping correspondent signing off.

Down the Aisle.

Shopping Correspondent’s Report.

With Ambrose Quint.

#2

Happy Holiday specials, shoppers!

Although one is reticent to admit of little discernable difference in weight for weight in hand measure between the Messy Jessy sticky-orange and almond semolina cake and Green’s Zesty Orange Mix, I am drawn toward Messy’s for the warmth of the personal piccy of the young lady on the cover of the box … a delightful portrait of what looks like a conscientious cake baker if ever there was one. More power to her I say!

Anyway, there I was, a box in either hand, when an elderly lady bustled up to pluck a muffin-mix from the shelf … The lady in Q’ was noticeable amongst the shopping surge by the fact that she was sporting a shiny, complex looking mechanical prosthetic lower limb! I held her sleeve before she could escape …

“That looks expensive,” I motioned toward the damn fine machinery protruding down from her shorts.

“Too bloody right it is,” and she leant in to whisper; “One hundred and ten thousand dollars … inc. gst.” And she nodded.

I gave a low whistle of respect.

“And can you get it on the national health?” I asked.

“No way … and they have a new model out … ‘The Cougar’ (I think she said that!) one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.” She noticed my raised eyebrows. “But it’s better than a wheelchair!”

“I bet the kids love it,” I proposed.

“Oh yeah … they come rushing up and say; ‘Cool! I want one!’ Oh no you don’t, I say … no you don’t” … and she strode confidently away. I have to say I agree with that last statement.

This is your shopping correspondent signing off for another fortnight.

Down the Aisle.

Your shopping correspondent’s report.

With Ambrose Quint.

#3

Happy holiday specials, shoppers!

Hello, fellow shoppers … just back from that bohemia of bargains and I have to report that Ms. Betty Croker has one-up on her competitors in the cake-mix dept’: the new ‘soft-pak’ bag of cake mix. No more chaffed corners and leaking tears … the new papery/plastic bag gives that soft touch to a serious product … but I do miss the feeling of mystery when one ‘feels the weight’ without squeezing the contents … oh well … technology an’ all that.

Onto the complaints dept’: Different coloured items of the same veggie product … don’t like it! I see carrots have now been given the ‘technicolour shine’, as have cocktail tomatoes … the carrots look totally unappealing … I won’t have them … and today I see pre-packs of cocktail tomatoes with several different coloured types … outrageous … yellow, red and brown! The brown ones are those so-called Black Russian variety … the ‘good lady’ had me try to grow some … got a few off the plant … weird … half red / green / dun-brown … not really black at all! … And the ones in the pre-pack were decidedly brown, so they looked like wombat droppings! … Can’t come at ‘em at all ! if it ain’t broke … don’t fix it, I say.

Had the devil’s own job finding the almond milk”… looked high and low and they turn out to be in the real milk section, who’d a thunk it? … along side soy, coconut, rice milk, now I have always thought cows and other animals were milked, but by jingo … they have taken this miniaturisation technology to a new level! … milking a grain of rice now … I’ll be jiggered!

Asked a woman packing heaps of brown onions into a shopping bag if it meant a heavy BBQ weekend …

“No,” she innocently replied. “My husband likes them raw … has been for the thirty-eight years we have been married.”

Damn joint is getting over-run with LNP voters!

Catch you down the aisles next time … and always remember: “It’s not the specials that matter most, it’s the smile of the checkout person when you groan at your bill.”

Down the Aisle.

Your shopping correspondent’s report.

With Ambrose Quint.

#4

Happy holiday specials, shoppers!

On a different theme today, not withstanding the news from the packaged cake mix shelf that The Little Brownie Co has nudged ‘Messy Jessie’ off the main shelf over to the ancillary shelf … sad, really, to see that delightful young cook ‘remainded’ … though I do notice that White Wings has maintained complete domination of the shelf space! … Isn’t it always the same: Corporations rule!

But that’s not what I wanted to report today from the shopping. The most amazing thing happened … You know how difficult those unwieldy shopping trolleys can be with a full load? … Well, I came swishing around the corner of aisle 7, cut close to the rack of “Sienna chopped tomatoes” and lined myself up on “the right line”(as they say in the motorcycle racing game) to cut into the rice rack for a quick pick-up of Doongari Clever Rice … and there, right in front was another fully laden trolley navigated by this slip of a girl! … evasive action was applied by both of us to avoid a collision … and I do not think I need to describe the consequences of such a disaster of two fully laden shopping-trolleys colliding at full-pitch … ISIS. would have claimed responsibility for the resulting mayhem!

But just as it seemed inevitable, the strangest thing happened; We both put in place, with synchronistic timing our ‘collision prevention plan’. With my left hand in a firm grip on the trolley handle, and my right on the basket corner of the trolley, I pulled off the most amazing 90 deg. Spin around … and the lady did exactly the same manoeuvre in opposition! … both trolleys performing the perfect pas de deux whilst the owners exchanged places and then continuing the movement, like two rock’n’rollers performing a jitterbug routine, we spun and double switched back so avoiding an earthquake of a collision and continued on our way with a passing high-five as salute.

An amazing manoeuvre that has to go down as an essential in The Shopping-trolley Collision Prevention Handbook … But in my book, I will always refer to it as The dance of the seventh aisles.

Until next time, this is your shopping correspondent singing off.

Down the Aisle.

Your shopping correspondent’s report .

With Ambrose Quint.

#5

Happy specials, shoppers!

Yes, with the holidays now over, this week your shopping correspondent reports from the Central Market … I first secured my spot on The Pensioner’s Seat there opposite Goodies and Grains and patiently watched ‘the passing parade’ … I have to report that the shelves of bread and pizza bases over the aisle there are a wonder to behold. No longer are we, the shopping public, limited to dull, boring Lebanese flat bread, now there is mountain bread made, no doubt for those more hardy eaters of the staple diet than the rest of us … there are “wraps” of many different grains and condiments, there are breads of so many different grains, I am not at all surprised at the organic five grains or the wild grains or the spelt and barley combos … some of which could see one getting done for GBH. If they swung it at the head of a victim! … What has happened to the old Tip-Top Tank-loaf, I ask?

Anyway I have to say that the old maxim so drummed into our generation by those sartorial watchdogs of our parents generation; “Blue and Green should never be seen” has gone by the wayside … out the window even, for I saw such harlequin mix of colour and fabric would make a Ringling Bros’ circus clown seem dullsville in comparison … and such fit of clothing … There were those body shapes that should not wear such tights so that it was a shocker … and enough to make a pensioner blush … there was more movement there than a whole battalion of infantry on manoeuvres! … And some that deserve a tad more discretion in their choice of shoes …

Tiling is a dead give away for poor stature and poise in the walk. You have the heavy clumping of the sloth-footed to the rappata-tap-tap-tap! … of the hard-soled / high-heeled lithe of step … Asian ladies have perfected the “slapping sandal” movement to perfection … I have on occasion practiced their style to try to emulate the rhythmic clap … it is difficult … and draws unwanted attention to oneself .. a bit like a white guy trying to tap his foot to jazz … it just doesn’t go … there must be that natural sense of rythym. ( 🙂 ).

Thankfully, fast fading away is the brutal look of the shaved head … replaced by the more stylish if pretentious Hipster lick … Now, the only blokes sticking to the style are the old guys going bald anyway and hoping nobody will notice if they shave the lot off … the five-o’clock shadow on the pate is a dead give away.

Anyway … been a busy day and now I gotta go dust the tomatoes ..

This is your shopping correspondent signing off for another week (or two).

Down the Aisle.

Your shopping correspondent.

With Ambrose Quint.

#6

Happy specials, shoppers!

I think we may all appreciate a little bit of cheering up … doncha think?

This shopping trolley I picked had a dud wheel. It had a flat-spot on the rear left hand wheel. I didn’t realise it was so bad until we had started to fill it with products … you know those shopping trolleys … you expect something to be wrong with them … after all, many of them suffer the most awful treatment … two or sometimes three little kiddies being pushed around the aisles by a long-suffering mother .. or getting dumped in a ditch the other side of the car-park (the trolleys, not the kids!) … in a shallow water drain … generally treated like rubbish … sad … or else it’s got the wobbly wheel … I’ve had a few of those, you know … no matter how you try to control it, the trolley gets this wriggle, wobble, rattle and you look a goose as you wrestle with its runaway attempts .. or at least you think you do … and that’s just as bad.

But I don’t know if you have noticed, but you rarely see women shoppers with a dud trolley … you hardly ever see it … I suppose that women, conscious as they are of being observed from a young age as they go about their everyday business, are just too savvy to let themselves get tricked into pushing a dud trolley … the image, the image … you know …

I tell you what is the saddest sight you’ll see down the aisles of the supermarket; The recently divorced middle-aged male trying to do his shopping. He’s never done it regularly, you see … or if at all … and he doesn’t know where things are or what’s the best buy … or even what he needs to buy … so he spends the first two weeks wandering up and down the aisles looking dazed and confused and to make it look legitimate as he finds his ‘shopping legs’, he’s got the first thing that represents a sense of security that springs to his recently divorced mind; a packet of Arnott’s Monte Carlo cremes rolling about the otherwise empty trolley like a loose cannonade in a 17th century sailing battleship. I can assert these things because I have witnessed them … with blokes I have known personally.

But I had this trolley with the flat-spot on its rear left side wheel … I don’t know how it got there, probably got jammed some time and the person kept pushing it with the one jammed wheel over the bitumen car-park till the wheel got a flat spot … and now, with the good lady loading the blasted thing up, it was coming down heavy on that wheel at every revolution so that it made a distinct dud sound … and when I was called upon to make a swift manoeuvre. Like overtaking an aged pensioner … it would make accusative “dud-dud-dud-dud” sounds and I would feel the insult like it was directed straight at me … like the defect trolley was my fault … Women shoppers would lower their eyes and smile and I felt obliged to explain away the defect that really wasn’t my fault and curse the god of shopping trolleys … but they knew, and I do believe it gave them a comforting feeling to get one back on the “handy-man” of the species … a sort of self-satisfied ‘Mr. Mechanic- fix thyself’.

Every now and then, for some unexplainable reason, my good lady pauses at a display of this or that product shelf and peruses the ingredients label on a number of different brand but similar products. It never ceases to amaze me that women, some of the best known cynics of the species, will yet search out the lies and misinformation in an ingredients label and take what they read as the gospel truth!

And talking of wobbly shopping trolleys, this chap I got to know, when he purchased his brand new lime-green, HQ Holden, back in those days … made sure it wouldn’t get scratched by a carelessly handled shopping trolley at the supermarket by parking at the furthest place in the car-park … only to one day helplessly witness through the café window where he sat to have a coffee and admire his new Kingswood car … a reckless person, after emptying their trolley of food and products into the boot of their car, shove the trolley away carelessly into the vast emptiness of the car-park, where it ran to an almost stop, turn slightly to the downward slope and gathering speed with a wobbly wheel, steer a course as if under the control of cruel fate, directly toward the broad-side of a new, shiny, lime- green Holden HQ Kingswood motor car … and there was not a thing he could do to stop it … “It was like torture,” he reflected wistfully … and he shut his eyes at the memory.

And this will be all for this series, faithful shoppers … so until next series and we hope it will be soon, this is your shopping correspondent, Ambrose Quint signing off.

Happy shopping, all!

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The Making and Marring of a Baby-Boomer

This collection of stories and cameos (on my blog site) reflects a time and place where there was a ‘coming of age’ for many of us Baby-Boomers… It was an age of great social and political change… change that shaped the future for many of us and cemented an attitude toward life that has, if not lingered, then has burned a period of cavalier free-wheeling memories into our mind.

Mick… A character study

It never ceases to amaze me how some people can compress the whole spectrum of human emotions re. disgust, despair, weariness etc. into a short, sharp comment. “Jesus wept!” Bubblehead passed his hand wearily over his eyes. Mick had just that minute walked through the bar-room doors. It had been nearly one year since Mick… Continue reading

Mrs. Hancock

It’s funny, you know… the image of adults one has as a child, compared to the actual reality known by the adults of the time around you. Mrs. Hancock used to cut our hair when we were children… the four of us; from the oldest brother (about 10 yrs), down incl’ to my sister… Continue reading

Mrs. Fookes andThe Marino Fish Shop

Let me tell you the story of another fish and chip shop owner. A woman too… not arrogant, nor opinionated or accusative… Oh, she was not a quiet retiring type. She had the voice and stride like a sergeant major… she would call for her child and he would hear her loud and clear half a mile away!… and… Continue reading

Kids, Cultural Differences and Willy Wilson’s Ferrets

When one reflects on some of those past acts of terrorism it seems the culprits of a certain “terrorism raid” were teens from 14yrs… backed by “adults”… Jeesus… how frightening!.. it would have scared the bejeesus out of us as kids, so when my big brother, with the help of his ‘Junior Chemistry Set’ purchased by the adults… Continue reading

“Static Electricity”

I hope I have not given the impression that the only intellectual activity in the front bar of the Seacliff Hotel was “bending the elbow”… and getting inebriated?… I would like to assert that, like many front bars dotted about this great country, a good deal of instructive and philosophical comment was conducted on any given night… Continue reading

Glen and Mrs. Wright

Did I ever tell you about Mrs. Wright and Glenn?… no?… Well, they were two “locals” down at the Seacliff Hotel… back in the old days, some of the last of that “war generation” that were retired or on the point of when we younger folk came along and taught them how to drink! Mrs. Wright was a… Continue reading

“Sos”

“Sos.” You had to feel for Sos… He was one of those people raised in an institution from a very young child… ”Minda Home”… that what it was called once, but the name was changed to ‘Minda Incorporated”… there was a personal slur in this state by using that original name… ie; to call someone a ”minda” was to imply… Continue reading

Nan

Getting back to that “Last Supper” thingo… you notice (as have many others) one of the “Apostles” looks remarkably like a woman… well, that’s because she is!… It’s no secret that whenever a group of “alpha-males” gather, there is always one token female allowed into the group. She is there as the “straight- man” for their confabulations… Continue reading

Jasper / The Tank Sisters

Jasper was a “Balt’ ”… ie; he was of those states cantered around the Baltic Sea… perhaps he could have been Estonian… he was a tall ponderous sort of chap… with a long serious gaze, with one of those what are called “lantern jawed” faces. He always spoke in a slow, carefully chosen word way… I don’t wonder many… Continue reading

Jim… A character study

A Sunday reflection… stories from a “wasted” decade. Henry Lawson once said the if you were drunk more than twice a week, you were never sober… using that as a premise, I can confidentially state that many of us boomers in the seventies were rarely sober! The story goes that Jim, on visiting the dentist to… Continue reading

Toothless

Toothless wasn’t really toothless… it’s just that she had a plate that filled the gap of three missing front teeth, that she would click and clack and sometimes push out with her tongue… an unfortunate habit that gained her the nickname of “Toothless”. She was ahead of her time for those days, as she didn’t carry… Continue reading

Steve

Steve. He was a study in tragedy… because of what he had become from what he once was. In the early days, you’d see Steve sitting in a tatty, stuffed lounge chair in one of the many dives and squats he frequented down “The Bay” (Glenelg), his acoustic guitar cradled in his lap, a… Continue reading

Billy Guy

Billy Guy wasn’t so much a mystery as an enigma… and that only because he spoke with such a thick Scottish accent that nobody could understand a word he said. Mark could claim that he knew him best, having spent a whole evening drinking with him, conversing with him while both were in an inebriated state… but… Continue reading

Erroll’s Prawn Night

The “Pub Gathering” was interesting, if for all the other things, the Hotel where it was held. I have “history” with that establishment… lesser so than my old “alma puttana”; The Seacliff Hotel… it was there that I forged an alliance (however accidental) with Beelzebub!… ahh!… the “demon drink” did for all us youth in that den… Continue reading

Jack Mitchell

Jack Mitchell shared the family home with his two sisters after the parents passed away… none of them ever married. Not that there were ever any suggestion of dubious behaviour amongst them one way or the other, it’s just that they never married… though I was told by a person who knew him, years later that “Joking Jack”… Continue reading

To The Lighthouse

“One must forgive the young their foolishness, for without them, there would not seem so much wisdom in old age.”… Socrates. Ah!… Friday nights, didn’t we look forward to them. But we were young and carefree in those days. A group of us young bucks would meet after work at the Seacliff Hotel on Fridays and imbibe… Continue reading

End of stories.

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A Lack of Conviction or a Lack of Confidence?

Is it a lack of conviction toward an ideology of the Left, a lack of confidence that the Left can lead them to personal prosperity, or a lack of corporate memory of how the Right-wing has damaged the working people of this nation that has created this pot-pourri of political confusion?

And if there is anything the Right of politics thrives on, it is confusion within the voting public … because when there is doubt, a promise of financial security via pork-barrelling is “votes-in-the-booth” for the demagogues … and given that it is a dead-weight on the decency of a party with good intent that they cannot use the same machinations and malevolence of a cruel party to try and convince the voter in a now corrupted “democracy”, they are on the back-foot from the start.

Then we have the “swingers” in the party … or the base … chockers to the gills with enough social media links up their sleeve to gaslight a whole suburb with their “knowledge and opinions”. Unfortunately, as many of us have witnessed with our own now grown gen X or Y children, there seems to be a lack of solid anchoring to any ideology other than that which is delivered down a smartphone with 4 or 5G multi-megabyte speed from their peers or some of the most dubious sources on the net…and we see yet again that as in the old adage of; ”If it is reported in the newspapers” … then it must be true …

But hey, this is where a lack of corporate memory comes into the game … In an age where the reading of deep-thinking tomes of philosophy, history or satirical literature is a thing of the past as far as this next generation goes, lessons of the past, let alone advice most salubrious for the future is scorned for the incessant rush of “YouTube Instant Enlightenment” … Heaven knows how many “gosh!” moments I have had to listen to from people enlightening me with such profound newly learned knowledge …

I didn’t know I didn’t know so much!

And that takes us to the inevitable next phase of this post-modern (yes … sigh … it is still among us) outcome of spoon-fed dis-information … the lack of confidence of a rising generation to make decisions based on their own evolved knowledge and experience.

How can we expect a person raised upon uncertainty or distrust in culture, ideology, education and work to have the confidence to strike out without fear or favour. A whole generation … NO, wait … several generations … thrown into a mix of massive debt before diploma, no certainty of employment after graduation, be it in many spheres of training or tertiary education, and then only casual or crude short-term contracts and perhaps only a fall-back position of chance and circumstance in the notorious “gig-economy” of Uber or such-like … a ghastly outlook.

We recently had to go to the Telstra Store in the capital city to get them to validate our ownership of an ipad that had locked itself over password difficulties … we were told to go wait in the corner like shunned lepers while a bevy of hipsters worried over the legitimacy of ownership … It soon became clear from snippets of overheard conversation and grave looks in our direction that these youngsters couldn’t individually come to a decision without the whole group agreeing that those two obviously aged pensioners were perhaps part of a black-market gang trading in stolen iPads! … this little “jury of doubt” would have passed my fatalistic acceptance of the trials of modern technology but for another one-on-three feisty complaint another aged pensioner was having with Telstra staff over his old flip-top mobile phone, the staffers telling the old chap that he ought to upgrade to a later “smartphone” to get the service he now complains that is lacking …

“Smartphone!” … he loudly exclaimed. “The phone may be smart, but I have doubts that those who run it are!” … and he stormed off leaving the youngsters giggling and smirking … gone to us of a certain generation is the old Telstra … as reliable as the “On the stroke, the time will be … “ Man … and there we see not so much a gap between the generations, but more a gaping abyss of distrust and deception … a rising generation that leans more and more on fed dubious dis-information and jargon of a rhetoric complexity that both reassures and appeals to the demand of instant solution … the type of solution that pork-barrelling of various methodologies can assuage … the sort of thing we have seen the current collision of clowns in gov’t are brilliant at.

So there we have it … a combination in my opinion of a lack of conviction toward identity ideology, a lack of “follow-your-instinct” confidence in one’s own self and confirmed with a sadly lacking corporate memory of historical precedence to give solid grounding to one’s political stance …

Whether an attractive by its brutality swing to the far right, or a fright by the brutality swing to radical left will win the day and the vote, it all seems up in the air at the moment … one thing is for certain is that anyone with demagogue rhetoric will be out there swinging their shlock to create more doubt and confusion and if there is one thing Right-wing politics thrives upon, it is doubt and confusion in the electorate … grist for their mills and no mistake.

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The Philosophy of STOP!

We’ve all had those times in our travels through life, when we’re on a roll and there seems to be no stopping us … perhaps it’s a winning streak at punting on the horses … I heard of one chap went years on such a winning streak … till it suddenly crashed and he just couldn’t believe it would end, so he kept going and going, losing and losing till he was back where he started …

Perhaps it is something more simple, where as a young high-flying, good looking, partying person, you have the option of dating more than one or even two people at once … and you start to believe you’re almost movie-star material … until a chance meeting between one or the other persons in your dating life and then …

Yes, you get the drift … we’ve all been there one way or another … but the curious thing is not being able to read the signs that it is all getting way out of control and the best solution would be to pause right there in your actions and … STOP! … STOP right here, right now … don’t go a step further, gather those thoughts together, sit down and work it through to where the current line of action will take you.

When we look at the actions or policies of, particularly, conservative governments in Australia, we see a momentum of hubris that builds from the first days of coming to office, where there is a surge of enthusiasm to purge uncontrollably those policies of the Labor govt’ to the point of breaking every election promise, every reassurance of trust and integrity, until they move on to the inevitable blunders and corruption … a seemingly endless caravanserai of plunder and rapine of social and economic essentials.

With the business community also, riding on the coat-tails of such a govt’, CEOs mindlessly granting multi-million dollar bonuses to themselves and their favourites until the companies they lead and rely upon for their living standard begin to totter and collapse under such insatiable greed … ”When first the tottering house begins to sink, thither goes all the weight by an instinct” … Even private citizens, investing their retirement superannuation in property to rent or speculate on or negative gear in the search for ever more wealth … and of course, those famous “Franking Credits” cabal of parasites again investing their retirement monies in stocks and shares know no limit to their slavish hunger for more and more! … until suddenly they discover their financial adviser or bank has been leading them down the garden path and they smack themselves on the forehead for not seeing the obvious … they should have done a STOP! … and considered their options … but too late.

No … we have to incorporate the philosophy of STOP! Into our culture, into our creed and into our deepest psyche to pull us up BEFORE stepping into the abyss. But how do we know just when the fall is coming so to be warned?

I’ll tell you …

It’s that moment when you are about to commit to action a deed or statement and you are in such a euphoric / confident state of mind that you think; “No-one will notice” … or “This won’t affect anything or anyone” … or; “This’ll be funny” and you blurt something out and it all goes to shit in an uncontrollable way in an instant. I call such moments “ Self incontrovertible blunder” … a thing coming from your own “left-field” and yourself watching / listening to yourself saying / doing a thing whilst simultaneously thinking; “what the hell am I doing?!” … there is that split-second moment in the hiatus between the actual action and the framing of what you are going to do where your logic/reasoning capability says … or OUGHT TO SAY … STOP! … just fucking STOP! … don’t be so stupid! … and after all, stopping demands no effort, indeed, it could be described as “inaction”.

We’ve done this as well … and congratulated ourselves later in dodging a bullet for the deed. We have to be able to recognise that split-second moment and be able to mentally put on the brakes to STOP! I would suggest practicing by creating mock scenarios and recognising the moment when STOP is needed. There are also opportunities on social media platforms like Twitter etc. where you can bait a conversation to a point where it is getting out of hand and then execute a STOP moment by pulling up and giving ground to the person/s you were baiting … such an exercise is easy to set up and to wind down so that you do not come under suspicion of trolling and perhaps your sudden admission of compliancy would be seen as altruistic and you get complimented for a conciliatory action … but such an exercise would be more recommended for the experienced “player” … and I’ll take my own advice here and STOP! Before I go too far ..

The recent shenanigans in America is a perfect example where the Philosophy of STOP! Ought to have been enacted … perhaps as far back as 2016 when Trump could not help himself as he played to his own ego and plunged into the vortex of national destruction. Here in Oz, we can now witness a similar scenario in regards to a leader who has neither ability to fore-see, nor capability to fore-bear catastrophe or corruption and as far as one can see, no time soon will his mental faculty nor his political advisors put a brake on the runaway controversy of reckless governance and say STOP! … just bloody well STOP! … and let the nation and it’s battle-weary citizens take a breather and stop the forever grinding machine.

Yes, there is need in an age of increasing “just in time” economics for this new philosophy … never before have we had need to STOP! And reconsider our work opportunities, our social positions and our relationships in a time of epidemic and lockdown.

We must embrace this Philosophy of STOP!

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The Lost Blend

I have almost resigned myself to the fact that I may never more be inclined to write another story, nor to record local history events. I am afraid that, like my mother foresaw in her later years, there comes a time in one’s life for ‘The end of stories‘.

The rapid onset of this COVID-19 pandemic has, I suspect, accelerated a change in attitude toward the telling of stories … and where once I would write of characters from a recent past generation, using storylines of a recent past era and with a style of the “author as objective observer” … such a genre and style is now also of a thing past … the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions have created a population, I believe, that has shrunk more inside itself … become more insular, more introverted … where once I would describe my style of writing as “they and those” … now there is more a demand for “me and thee” … the author now more a “subjective participator” in the story itself, becoming a central character themselves and the reader, vicariously joining with the author in a kind of “identity persona” in the plot and storyline.

Mind you, I doubt the passing of Joe Carli as author will create even the slightest ripple in the calm mill-pond of Aust’ literature, but what is happening here is a bigger picture event … I believe we are witnessing a decline in cultural renovation that begun with such cinematic classics as Sunday too Far Away on through to the cheekily arrogant Crocodile Dundee and a host of Art-House delights in Indigenous films that demonstrated a rising confidence in risk-taking in the Arts … But now we are seeing that risk-taking that is the proving-ground of cultural confidence being wound back and mainly “safe-house” genres of performance and bottom-line payables are being considered … a tragedy in itself.

It’s the price we pay with conservative governments holding the purse-strings of artistic development … conservatives who most likely have little artistic imagination beyond a mental picture of ANY art other than that metaphoric Nordic ‘fat-lady-sings’.

I have been challenged many times to describe what exactly is Aust’ culture … and of course there is this perception that there really is no solid foundation that can be called “national cultural identity” … I disagree … after all, I grew up amongst it … and like all national cultures, you can’t really pin it down to an absolute … to point a finger at something and say; “THIS” is Oz culture .. because it is a “moveable feast” as Hemmingway described Parisian society back in the 1920s … and you can read of it in Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas … but Oz culture is there all around us in the cynical strine of the rebellious individual against conservative social structures … the “won’t take shit” confrontation of both vulgar boganism and wry intellectual witticism of the clever wordsmith … We see it in Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter and in common front-bar repartee ..

A bloody excellent example of the latter was Gough Whitlam’s sudden interjection at a Town Hall meeting to Sir Winton Turnbull (a Victorian MHR) who was raving and ranting on an adjournment and shouted ‘I am a Country member’ … Whitlam interjected with; “I remember” … Which brought the house down!

It is this singular style of twisting the language from straight comprehension to sardonic irony … that is inherent in every dialect and ethnicity … but has been given freedom of expression in this expansive, wide-open country that (ought to and once DID) allows broad interpretation to both logic and lies with neither fear nor favour and has the ability to liven the conversation in any room. This freedom of idiosyncratic, laconic expression is the foundation of many iconic stories and displays in book or audio/visual art … Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series springs to mind, as does Russell Drysdale’s The Cricketer, with the stark image of the individual batsman lighted against the imposing backdrop of the huge structure there … truly a contrast of determination against odds in a lonely landscape … likewise a short story I remember of Peter Carey’s “The Windmill in the West” … and that hilarious song by The Tennants; You Shit Me to Tears … of the individual battling a lonely vigil against seeming impossible odds .. yet battling on … a central theme in many Lawson stories like Water them Geraniums … and I would like to think that I too in my own humble way, have carried on with that tradition … strength of character vs. imposing power of the seeming inevitable.

But now things have changed … that window of voyeurism on the past has shut and a new window brought about by the immediacy of confrontation of both COVID-19 pandemic and a distinct change in social confrontations of extreme politics and gender issues … neither of which allow contemplative reflection on history. In my case of “where to from here?” … I cannot find a sympathetic connection to a rising generation that places “self” at centre and “them” on the outer with accusatory condemnation … for there seems so much injustice in our immediate vicinity, that there must be at least someone to blame, even if that someone is a closest companion … Myself … call me old fashioned … but I like to sling my arrows of accusation at that old bogeyman; the conservatives … after all, their style of stubborn refusal to admit even ethnicity into their comically insular environments gives opening for any number of ‘taking the piss’ moments.

So I have to accept that a rising generation that is more inclined to demand that the 1st person singular be central to plot and character, has little interest in a broader picture of the wider complexities of work and the outside world around them … truly, the vicissitudes of life that were once grist for the “mill of life” of a hardy pioneer generation have now become a means of income for a legion of New-Age therapists servicing the vainglory of a materialist/consumerist society …

And good luck with all that!

PS: The title for this piece comes from a O’Henry story about a couple of shady characters seeking vainly for the blend of salubrious ingredients for a cocktail of accidental mixing that created an alcoholic elixir of sublime delight … worth a read …

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The Jewel of the Eye

The farmhand held the burly sheep tightly by its head and rump. The farmer lay his two hands flat, side by side on the sheep’s back and pressing, spread the dusty coloured fleece to reveal the glowing, creamy fibres beneath. The thick, smooth fleece seemed to glow with health. You could smell the lanolin. The farmer looked up at the helper, “That’s the real McCoy!” he smiled. “Look at those fibres. It’s a real beauty!” He let go of the wool and the gap in the fleece closed up and the animal was released.

The soft woolly clouds parted on that November day and the sun beamed down on the creamy limestone road of the small Mallee town of Sedan.

“Hello,” his smile beamed out from a ruddy face, and the storekeeper lay his hands flat on the wooden counter. “I know now,” the storekeeper snapped his fingers. “You’re the new bloke in town,” he offered his handshake, “I’m Hans Bulmer.”

“I see you’ve taken up Schirmer’s old place.” The storekeeper continued “not a bad site in the town.”

“What? Oh don’t worry about fitting in here, I reckon it’s more a matter of you accepting us rather than us accepting you.” Hans Bulmer pulled over a stool and made himself comfortable and crossed his burly arms. His brow knitted thoughtfully:

“In my experience, the people who don’t meld into these small towns and end up leaving are the ones that won’t accept us for what we are. Oh, I’m not saying we’re faultless, just the opposite rather. But you have some that see us country people as a little … er … backward, you know … hayseeds behind the ears and they like to have a little giggle at our naivety. Well, like I said, those people don’t fit in … don’t want to I think, for once the giggles wear off they get bored with the place and move off to giggle at other people … you know?”

“Here, have a glass of orange … No! No! on the house, welcoming gesture … cheers!” The storekeeper belched: “Pardon!”

“Well, I’ve been here my whole life. Was born down the road there, and I can tell you we’ve had some beauts in this town. Probably no more than any neighbourhood, but still … Now take old Willy Meister, silly as a wheel, harmless, but still they put him “away” for a while you know, used to get around town in women’s dresses, and if you made a remark at him, why he’d up and double over like this … lift his dress and bare his ugly hairy old bum at you … gawd it was a sight … some of the chaps over the road there at the pub would jibe him just for the spectacle of it all, ha! still, the local copper got him certified for a while, just in case.”

The storekeeper broke off the conversation as a customer came in. He served the “local” and then resumed his seat behind the wooden counter.

“Funny thing was though, when they let him out they gave him a certificate of sanity … ha! Ha! he got the last laugh on all those blokes at the pub when he come back.

I can see it now … it was a warm evening, around dark when this side of the street is in shadow and the post office over there gets the last bit of sunlight so that it and the house next door glows a sort of pink … ’long with the road. Well the chaps are sittin’ and standin’ along the verandah havin’ a beer an’ along comes Willy, still with his dress on, mind and the chaps give him a few snickering jibes and giggles, you know. Well, Willy doesn’t show them his arse no more, he just digs into his bodice an pulls out a large piece of paper like this .. unfolds it and says to the assembly:

“So you think I’m crazy eh? Well this piece of paper from them doctors at the hospital declares me sane and I’m the only person in this whole town ‘as got a certificate that says he’s sane … so what does that make you lot?!! ha! ha! ha!” and away he runs laughin’ his head off and them all swearing at him and chuckin’ stones after him what a sight never forget that,” and Hans Bulmer gave a rumbling laugh.

“But then we’ve had sad cases too.” Here the store-keeper thought for a moment …

“Janet Green for instance, but that wasn’t any fault of hers, it’s hard enough as it is to keep yourself together out in the bush without the bad luck as some people have. Some people curse drink for ruining people, but I tell you; if it wasn’t for the country pub in these Mallee towns, a lot of those hard working farmers would’ve ended up in the funny-farm long ago.”

“Drinkers and dreamers they used to say the Mallee was made up of. Well, I reckon drink can drown a man’s sorrows better than any teapot, and dreams well, dreams are the carriages of new ideas … ”

“But I was tellin’ you about Janet Green … old Mrs Green now. But she was young then. My father ran this store then and I was twelve and helped him out here. Janet had only been married early that year, ’bout lambing season, autumn, and she had a kiddie in December .. they didn’t muck around in those days … I’m going back sixty year or so, gives my age away eh! a little boy it was and oh she was struck on that child. Happy as a lark she was, showing it off to everyone that first month or so. But then after that first flush of newness she sort of got a bit worried about something with the child. I remember she was in here one day and she says to my Dad: “Kurt?” (that was my Dad’s name) “Kurt, don’t you think his colour is a bit off?”

“Oh I don’t know Janet, what do I know about babies, I haven’t grown up myself yet!”

“Well, I feel he’s not that well … I feel it,” she spoke tensely.

“Take him to the doctor then,” my Dad said.

“Oh I did … he said the baby was perfectly well and I was just upsetting myself for nothing.”

“Well there you go then,” my father encouraged.

“Yes,” she looked uncertain “but something’s not right … his colour … ”

Well she bothered that doctor again and again over the next couple of weeks till he sent her off to the hospital who sent her back to the doctor who sent her home and that little boy died at six months and she was so struck on the child.”

The storekeeper wiped his hands up and down the thighs of his trousers as he sat on the stool. He seemed to be thinking.

“People thought it strange she showed so little emotion at the funeral … shock, they said, shock, she’ll get over it. I dunno how it went at home but her husband wore a lot of it for a while I reckon, he looked terrible. He’d come in here and Dad would ask; “How’s it going Ted?” an’ Ted would nod his head on and on and sigh and say “alright I guess, but Janet doesn’t even talk about it.”

And she didn’t talk about that little boy to anyone in town, wouldn’t say a word .. till one day about six months or so after the death, she’s in here an’ the old man asks her how’s it going and she looks all perky and bright and has this little smile on her face and says:

“Guess what, Kurt?”

“What?” says the old man while he’s packin’ the groceries into a box.

“I’m expecting.” She blushes and smiles that little smile.

“Well that’s grand!” Says the old man and he slaps her on the back gentle like and gives her encouragement like on the turn around in events and that’s that … Till we find out it’s all a tale she’s invented in her head … the shock people said … the shock … and she’d get around town telling everyone she was expecting a little baby boy in the summer and she’d pat her swelling tummy only it was a pillow she’d put under her dress and she’d smile and say she was expecting a baby boy in the summer.”

The storekeeper sighed and shook his head.

“I take me hat off to some people, the way they carry hurt around with them. Some can shake it off quicker than others, though it doesn’t hurt any less, but others stretch that hurt out over months, years till it becomes almost a habit … I don’t know where some people get the strength.” He sighed and rubbed his thighs again.

“Well she got about like that for months so that we all got used to her and just used to humour her along in sympathy, it’d been a real shock to her and we could sympathise …all we could do really, I ‘spose …

Anyway we were in here one day and Janet Green was shopping down the aisle there with her pillow under her dress and her green string bag on her arm. I was stacking the shelves just over there an’ my old man was at the counter serving Mrs Turner who’d not long before had a baby herself. She and the old man were laughing and chaffing each other and she had her back to the store while she rocked the pram to and fro with the baby inside and a bundle of fresh nappies folded at the end of the pram. She and the old man were giggling over something when Janet Green comes out of the aisle between the rows of shelves and spots the pram and she stops and stares an’ a puzzled look came over her face, I could see it all as I was just there, but I don’t think she even saw me. I don’t think she saw anyone in the entire store. She stopped and looked with that green string bag hangin’ from her arm and she went slowly to the pram so I thought she was going to touch the baby, instead she slowly, gently picked up one of those folded nappies, puzzled like, she gazes at it and then raised it slowly up to her face with her hand and then with both hands like this she caressed her cheek with it, just rubbed it over her cheek like this as though she was in a trance … well the old man happened to look over his shoulder sort of and stopped talking suddenly and then after a sec’ just touched Mrs Turner gently on the shoulder to get her attention and not to alarm her at the same time an’ Mrs Turner looked around slowly and the old man stared and Janet Green was there with her eyes closed an’ that fresh soft nappy pressed against her cheek and then a big tear slowly crept out of her shut eyes and then another till she seemed to go weak all over an’ started to shake in the shoulders like people do when they cry but she wasn’t crying out loud, just shaking in the shoulders so the old man comes quickly around the counter without a word and just took her in his arms and she just sort of broke down in great big breathless, heaving sobs, her mouth agape but not a sound, just a sort of gasping for breath and she held her arms around Dad with her fists clenching and unclenching behind his back and her head on his shoulder and she just kept on saying over and over … ”Kurt … oh Kurt … oh Kurt,” like she was trying to tell how much it hurt and the old man was saying “It’s alright Janet, it’s alright now.” and I was behind the old man and I watched as a big tear rolled down her cheek and dropped onto his shoulder and ran down the back of his vest and then stopped and stayed there and glowed like a little shining jewel in the middle of his back.

“Well, that was sixty year ago now and she had a couple of kids after that and lived to regret it like the rest of us I ‘spose eh! But she was crook for a while there but she came good again.”

Hans Bulmer stood up and strolled over to the window looking out at the sky.

“Looks as if the weather is going to close back in, we might be in for another wet night.”

Outside, the big woolly clouds gradually closed over and shut out the afternoon sun. The storekeeper shot a glance over his shoulder.

“Didja fix that leak they had in the kitchen roof?” he asked.

 

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On Empathy, Sympathy and our Pets

In these days of the news of so much brutality in many places in the world, of domestic violence, military massacres or social collapse in far away places or here in our own backyard, it may appear self-indulgent and facile to shed a tear or two for the loss of a domestic pet when we can but turn our gaze away from the hurt of humanity. An indulgence of sympathy some would say.

But there is the thing about a knowledge of love and affection. I believe we as humans are born with the innocence of love already in our self, while affection is a thing that can grow in our hearts … There is the interpretation that affection can be a stepping stone toward love … which is true, I’d say, but love is not a learned thing but a indelible emotion of the human spirit … to be capable of love is to be human.

The same with empathy and sympathy … With all those suffering peoples we see every day on the news, there is both empathy and sympathy … I would say that the combination of those emotions as between the separation of those emotions is the major difference between the Right and the Left persuasions of societies:

“To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.”

I recently finished a project I have been working on in fits and starts for many a year … the result gives little evidence of that time … and perhaps the quality of the finished product may be viewed as a wasted effort on my part! … But it had to be written … and some of you have read it to which I am very grateful … after all, it was directed to be read.

It is the story of the Italians interned in the 2nd World War to cut and burn mallee here near the Murray River … and the “play” … which I called a “reading opera” … ”A Ukulele Opera” describes a microcosm of their situation in those camps … The “opera” starts and finishes with a character named “Gemano” who is lamenting for his fiancé who he left behind in Italy when he came to Australia (with my father) to start a new life and then to go back and marry the lady and bring her to Oz to start a family … It was a true event … But the war broke out and he heard nothing of her … whether she be alive or, like so many millions more … dead … what were the odds? … Yet he held out with a belief and conviction that she lives … for five years! … five years of despair and internment … and then came the letter of joy …

In these days of “instant gratification”, how many can hold onto a desire or a commitment a person to love or hold affection with for more than a “clickbait” moment? … We seem to live in a time more of “want” than desire …

Which brings us to the love of our pets and the loss felt at their parting. With the death of a pet, in most cases we are there at the dying, we touch the body and witness the fading life and say a gentle goodbye with the stroke of the fur … or a gentle twist of the pet’s ear or some other favourite touch or word … I would think, in that moment of death, we are more in sympathy to that loss of mute, innocent love with the parting than with the empathy of the loved one. But once we are parted from that unconditional continuity of mutual company and aware of that loss of mutual confederacy between two close companions … I believe we then feel the sympathy of camaraderie so much that the weld of empathy to sympathy can become seamless, a stepping stone from affection to love is complete and that knowledge learned through the companionship of our love toward a pet takes over as instinctive behaviour into our adult relationships between fellow citizens, is what guides decent and civilized attitudes toward our fellow humans no matter what their circumstances. And it is fairly said that one can judge a person by their treatment of their pets or animals. It is a pity our leadership cannot seem to travel far enough down this route to become civilized barbarians!

It has to be fair to ask: Where would we be without our precious pets?

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Poor Cocky

My mother worked as a servant girl at the station on the Murray where this event took place … She heard it told by the station owner to a guest one night after dinner. Those stations in those days were almost like miniature kingdoms on their own.

It is one of those little things that one sometimes meets a hardy, rough-on-the-outside farmer, only to find a soft centre due to some event in their lives.

His story went like this:

Poor Cocky

The door of the shearing shed opened and it clattered that grating corrugated iron sound as it banged against the steel rails of the holding pens. A short, stocky farmer stood framed in the square of light that was the doorway. Another man and a young lad ceased their occupation to turn to stare at the intruder.

“Gazza!” the man in the doorway called.

“Ah … George … come in, come in,” the older man responded.

George stepped into the shearing shed eclipsed as it was in its corrugated iron cladding from the bright day outside … Nail-hole shafts of sunlight on floating gossamers of dust beaded the gloomy floor. He ambled over to the others with a swinging gait familiar with aged workmen. The man called “Gazza” (Gary) was busy cleaning the working parts of a rifle with a soft cloth; the young lad, around fifteen years, sat, legs dangling, on the skirting table, watching half-interestedly. The air in the shed was musty with residual odour of sheep, shearing, workmen and machinery oil.

All the trappings of a just finished shearing season remained scattered about the work-space; marking dyes, dousing drenches, tufts of belly wool and wool bags with sharp, bent fastening staples hooked onto them hanging from a nail in the wall. A steel-plate stencil with the station’s name “Portsea” black-edged with paint hung skew-wiff on another nail next to the bags and the floor-boards still greasy with a waxy gleam from the task just completed.

“What’s the score, Gazz?!” George asked as he approached, hands in pockets.

“This is my grandson … Jamie … ” and the man sort of winced at the boy’s name.

“Jay-mee, eh?” George pronounced slowly with an emphasis not lost on Gazza …

“Yeah, righto.” Gary silenced any further comments on what he too considered an effeminate name for a boy child, but the lad surprised them both by standing up from the skirting table and offered his hand to George.

“Call me Jim,” he said confidently.

George raised one eyebrow in respect and took the lad’s hand proffered. The other man, Gary, smiled gently but proudly at this small gesture, then he spoke.

“We’re going to get a lesson in gun-handling, so I thought it best to start off with the basic requirements of the skills.” Gary spoke as he concentrated first with a toothbrush and turpentine, then with the soft cloth as he cleaned and worked the trigger mechanism of the rifle. The small metallic clicking sounds mixed with their breathing seemed to drift smoke-like up to the rafters to mix with the lingering, tremulous feelings of the cacophony of shearing machinery and men over the past few weeks … like the residue of excitement left in a stadium after a full-house wild sporting event … the people gone but the echoes remain!

“You gonna teach him to shoot?” George asked.

“Mmm … this arvo.”

“Where?”

“Oh … dunno … I thought down on the flats, near Dempsey’s Landing.”

“Coupla’ bunnies?” George persisted.

Gary was reassembling the rifle as he spoke and now it was complete, he pushed in the bolt and worked it a couple of times with a click! clack!

“That,” he answered contemplatively ” … or maybe a couple of those bloody galahs.”

George winced imperceptibly, he himself did not shoot at all now, although it was once said that he was the best shot in the district.

“Gonna come along?” Gary asked, though he knew George would refuse.

“Nah … nah … give it a miss, Gary.”

Maybe it was the moment, maybe it was the fact that the younger lad was there which prompted Gary, but he carefully placed the rifle on a cloth on the skirting table and folding his arms whilst leaning against the table, looked George squarely in the eye and said:

“George … you used to be the best shot in the district when we were young, but now you don’t even pick up a gun … it’s a puzzle, George, a real puzzle … so c’mon, out with it, what’s the story of all this pacifism, eh?”

George took his hands off the table and plunged them into his pockets, they were rough hands, coarse hands with solid callouses and chipped nails, they were hands that had shaped the framework of the family farm, he himself was a nuggety man, old now but still solid with yet firm muscles from an age of hard labour on the farm, from a generation who structured their lives around the necessities rather than the leisure’s, his face wore evidence of struggle against nature … nature was winning! … His shoulders set.

“Aww … you wouldn’t want to know Gary … Why … you’d just laugh,” he grimaced a sort of smile.

“Oh give it a rest George … how long have I known you … ?”

“Yeah … well … but some things that happen to a man might be terribly upsetting to him but still seem funny to others … like, like slipping on a banana skin, or walking into a street sign while looking the other way, for instance.”

“Ha, ha.” Jim and Gary laughed together.

“No, George,” Gary shifted his body, “you’re not going to get out of it that easy … Now, if I’m going to teach young … ” and he paused “young Jim … here the correct use of firearms, he’d do well to hear why another man (who used to drop a rabbit at a hundred yards running) … suddenly gives the game away … you owe it to the young lad’s education, so c’mon,” he made little flicking “c’mon” gestures with his fingers and hand “ … out with it … ” and he crossed his arms again.

They both looked at George impatiently.

“Well,” George decided, “alright, I’ll tell you, but it mightn’t mean much to you and I feel a bit of a fool for the telling of it, so I’ll trust you not to spread it far and wide.”

Gary agreed with this request with an of course … of course: George took his hands out of his pockets and leaned at arms length against the skirting table and gazed at the floor.

“You know, it’s strange, the things that change a man’s life … and it’s almost always little things that do it too, not the big but the little.” He took a breath, pursed his lips and began.

“You remember that Sulphur crested cocky we had for a pet years ago?”

“No … no, can’t recollect it … but everyone had a pet magpie or cocky ’round here at some time.” Gary scratched his head as he answered.

“Well, we did and you know we got him from old Tedmonson out there on the ‘Bulldog Run.’ He was a cranky old bastard, that Tedmonson, he used to treat that cocky mean, was there myself one day and the old man swearing and hammering away at a plough-arm, trying to straighten it and that cocky up and mimics him. “‘Bloody bastard of a thing,’ says Tedmonson. “‘Bloody thing! Bloody thing!’ cackled cocky. “‘Shuddup stupid!’ yells Tedmonson. “‘Stupid bastard, stupid bastard!’ mimics the bird, and old man Tedmonson up and chucks a hammer at the cage, swearing and cursing, picks up a length of water pipe and smacks the side of the cage with it something shocking, so the bird in there has its crest shooting up and is flapping its wings and screeching something awful! “‘Steady on Sandy,” I said to Tedmonson. “‘Bloody bird … I’d wring its neck if I could get close to it.” “‘Wring your neck! Wring you neck!’ cocky mimicked again, so the old man picks up the water hose and sprays the parrot while all the time laughing sort of cruel like ’till I calmed him down.

Then one day they’re moving interstate and I happened to be over there looking at a generator I was thinking to buy and I asked him what he was going to do with the cocky.

“‘Wait till the wife’s gone and then shoot the bloody thing … then I’ll tell her it got away.’

He grinned menacingly at the parrot who just raised its crest and ducked its head away sideways, always keeping its beady eye on the old man though.

“‘I’ll take him,” I offered. “Be a shame to kill it, I don’t mind birds and the kids’ll be thrilled!’

Tedmonson looked disappointed, but I pressed him on the subject and said I’d ask his wife that night, so he shrugged and said: “Oh well … so be it, but it’ll cost you a dozen bottles of beer.”’ and that’s how we came by the cocky … and we called it “Wudgie” or “Wudge” because when I first brought him home, Louise, who was just three years old then, looked at it and asked: “‘Is that a wudgie?” meaning budgie of course and we all laughed, so we called it “Wudge” … and the kids taught that bird to say all sorts of things and some words it picked up on it’s own, like those birds do.”

“We had that parrot for around eight or so years, ’til one day it escaped, an’ it tells you how clever those birds are: every day we came to feed it, it’d climb up the wire, beak over claw to hold by the door lock with its head cocked and one eye watching us lift that catch. We had one of those gate catches that click up themselves as you shut the gate, and that bird spent eight years every day watching us lift that catch ’til one day I come out to feed it and he was gone and a twig was left pushed through the wire where he’d flicked that latch …

“Oh bullshit!” groaned Gary, turning away.

“No … no … listen, “Bandy” Phillips had a cocky that used to undo the valve-caps on his bike with its beak and press the tiny tip in there to let the tires down … and Harry Hocking’ll tell you … ”

“Alright, alright … I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but go on with your story.”

“They’re clever birds, those sulphur-crested cockys,” George persisted

“Yeah?” Gary broke in sarcastically, “then they oughta put ’em through university and make politicians out of them … or perhaps they already have” and he raised his eyebrows and an indicative finger as he nodded his head sagely.

“Anyway,” continued George with a sigh, “it was gone … but I thought I might see it again if’n it came back or someone caught it, and I’d recognise it by the one missing claw on its left foot where, presumably, Tedmanson had hit it with something one day. By and by over the next few years I forgot all about the bloody thing … presumed it was dead … Then one morning the missus says that Uncle Charlie is coming up for the weekend and would I go shoot a couple of wild ducks down by the river so as to have a nice roast come Sunday. They always said that: “George, go shoot a couple of ducks … George, go shoot some bunnies for Christmas … ’cause I was a good shot, you see.”

“I’ll say,” interrupted Gary, then turning to his grandson eagerly, “I seen George here trim the corners off a playing card at twenty-five yards with his .22, then plug the centre with his .410 shotgun.” Gary finished with his arms gesturing.

“Wow,” the boy remarked, suitable impressed.

“Well, I was a reasonable shot then,” George admitted shyly.

“Any-road,” he continued, “I’m down near ‘Westies Billabong’ there at seven in the morning and my breath’s steaming … I’d spotted a couple of ducks by the reeds there so I got into a crouch … (and here George went into a pantomime of his actions) … and was working my way bent-backed ’round the billabong real quiet when suddenly all hell breaks loose … (he threw up his arms in a gesture of surprise) … and these two cockys come twisting and screeching in the air above me … must’ve had their nest in a hole in a tree there and saw me as a threat. Any-road, they were making a hell of a racket so it scared the ducks who flew off , and I was that angry with those bloody birds that when one came swooping and diving then twisted side-on to me … (George used his hand flat to show the action) … just above, I quickly just swung the shotgun in its’ general direction and let fly … boom! ”

“Well, I hit it and it fell like a folded object to ground over near a red gum and it lay twisting on the grass so I started walking casually over to it all the while pushing another cartridge into the breech of the shotgun. (He went through the action of loading the gun) … ”But as I came nearer, suddenly! (he paused) … I hear a voice … call out:

“Poor cocky.”

“What’s that!” I called … again I hear it …

“Poor cocky.”

“Who’s there!” I called … turning 360 degrees to see who it was … I thought someone was having me on .. but there was no-one, nothing but the screeching of that cocky’s mate weaving and diving madly in the air above, around the branches of the gums … Then again, that same voice calling weakly and I turned to the direction of the sound (George turned staring to the empty pens) and there it was, on the ground in front of me, the cocky I had shot, calling weakly … ’poor cocky’ it was saying, ‘poor cocky, poor cocky’ over and over till its voice faded, I looked down at the bird … and suddenly I saw that missing claw … Nah! I thought … it couldn’t be … Wudge … Wudgie? I said unbelievingly as I stood over it, but sure enough, there was the crook foot with the one claw missing … sure, it could have been another pet bird that had escaped and gone back to the wild … after all ,it had been years since I last saw it … I bent down and lay the gun on the grass, then raised the body of the bird close to look at its’ eyes to see if there was still some life left in it … but it was dead, and I stared and stared, but all I could see in that dark pool of it’s eye was the reflections of passing clouds overhead … and there was something about that … that killing of the bird, it threw me … maybe something to do with it gaining it’s freedom and losing it perhaps, and I couldn’t even let a poor bloody cocky have a bit of life but I go and kill it! So really, in the end I was no better than old man Tedmonson, perhaps worse .. ’cause even he didn’t kill the bird … Killing, killing … George kill this, George kill that and I was so sick of it, sick of the killing … ” he let his arms fall to his sides wearily. “ … I dunno … just … sick of the killing … so I went home, threw the gun in a locker in the corner of the shed and I haven’t shot it since …

“It was the killing, I think … I just got sick of the killing … ”

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A Study in Scarlet

Can we see a pattern emerging?

Do we see a certain fear … no! … wrong word … not “fear” but rather a wariness in being seen to join in any seemingly “suggestive” activity, even if only looking or reading something that may hint of impropriety?

Recently … a couple of weeks ago … I put up a post; The Eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel … it got several hundred clicks on it … that’s alright … but only one actual comment on the piece from the reliable and perceptive Anne Byam … who correctly observed what I was trying to convey in the writing:

“Anne Byam October 10, 2020 at 2:42 pm

A delightful read again Joseph, with great visual imagery which sent me to a place I believe I might have been many decades ago – but certainly to the people and their actions, speech and body language etc.

An excellent portrayal of people and not so much of a by-gone day, either. Just as relevant today, as far as whispers and rumours, as it was in the yesteryear.

Cheers ~~ ”

No … not so much of a by-gone day … You see, I drew inspiration for that modest social observation from a story by Guy de Maupassant: The Piece of String, where a thrifty peasant stops to pick up a piece of string from the road, and in doing so is spotted in the action by a person he dislikes and the coincidental loss of a wallet is misconstrued and reported by that peasant’s enemy as the action in picking up that piece of string and the consequences thereof … no spoiler alert from me! … a great story …

In the story, the peasant ends up dying of the stress to clear his name and there are none who believe his simple explanation of the piece of string … in my story, the main character is already deceased before her good name is put under suspicion … indeed, the simple mention of the one word; “Erotic” … was enough to throw suspicion on the innocent Hildegarde Hempel, and so the rumour mill grinds on … certainly the same today as of yesteryear … on nothing but the strength of one little word or action …

And I’ll tell you why I can say that with a degree of certainty …

I put my stories up on my Facebook page, where I have a modest readership of relatives and frenemies, who usually place at least a “like” to my posts … yet this particular post drew absolutely zilch “likes” or comments … even no “visits” to my blog where I first placed the story from Facebook … unusual … I then experimented and put up a picture of little consequence with no explanation at all to accompany it … and almost immediately there were the usual suspects gracing the post with likes … So I have to conclude that with the insertion of the word “Eroticism”, that previous post was just that little bit “over the line” of acceptable decency to warrant a look … a “blush” of modesty?

I confess that the use of the word “eroticism” was a deliberate choice … rather than … ”innocence” or “mistake” … or even “guilt” … to name a few considerations for the title that passed through my mind … I chose “erotic” for the hidden voluptuousness and suggestiveness of that word … that directed the mood of the story … vis: that people are more driven by salacious rumour than actual fact … that gossip and suspicion can play a greater part in a person’s demise than actual action … and to this end I feel I was proven correct … and the fact that it was only Anne Byam who dared to make comment on a perfectly straight story as against any number that comment on the most banal posts everyday shows a bent toward avoiding being drawn into social commentary that could mean taking sides.

Truly … a “Study in Scarlet” … if not the scarlet letter …

And this is why I think many people now are over-cautious in such a degree concerning matters of women’s eroticism.

I suspect that the image of heterosexual women has become captive in a web of perceived fraudulent “ownership” of the gender by extremist feminists and dominant political “identity queens” so that a manufactured image of what they perceive womanhood should look like and what should be looked at, is the only one permitted on the “stage of life” … Any perception of the “erotic” or “sexualised” heterosexual woman is verboten and as a result, about the only “permitted imagery” we see these days of attractive women is of either sterile anatomical observation or “soft” pornography … even those moments on screen of men and women in a lover’s sexual embrace are so woodenly enacted as to become brutal, sharp and brittle, that the sensitive male has to wince and turn one’s eyes away … ”that’s no way to treat a lady” … no more room or allowance of admiration, fully clothed or otherwise, of the curvaceous classic lines of female beauty for beauty’s sake in itself, lest one attract the condemning eye of ferocious accusation from the “owners” of the gender demanding remorse or guilt for any act of visionary delight!

But I am fully aware that any heterosexual woman, confident of her own sexuality and capacity to attract attention to themselves to fulfil her social needs does not need to heed or make acknowledgement of those more fanatical elements of society … and more power to them for it!

I wrote on this situation a long while ago and the article was taken down after protest from some of the above-mentioned cabal … I post the link to that piece here; I’m worried about you ladies, (lurve those 40’s fashions and hairstyles!)

I again write of this conundrum to provoke some commentary on such an important subject, lest we all become too accepting of an artificial construct of the gender issues that only suit a small percentage of us all.

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The Eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel

An incident borne out of an innocent remark can inflame old resentments among a confined people. ‘Folk will have their ways’, goes the old saying. Such was the occasion of the spread of the accusation in the little parish of Saint Paul’s in our little Mallee town of Sandleton a long while ago and it became for a time the mainstay of undertone gossip did the eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel.

I have to say that the suspicion of Hildegarde Hempel’s eroticism did not become talked about until after her passing … indeed, it was a slip of the tongue of Pastor Noske at Hilda’s funeral that started the chatter … the slip came at the mention of a collection of Spanish veils, mantillas and combs, that Hilda had proudly collected over the years and would put out on display at times of community shows or church fundraising events.

Having survived her husband by more than a decade, Hildegarde Hempel devoted her time to church events and fundraising. Being childless, she was capable of devoting many hours of volunteering to that end … and her tireless activities were held in high esteem by the Pastor of that church … even if she did have a certain wearing effect upon those more taken up with family life and farm than she herself .. some even found her requests upon their valued spare time a little tiresome and wished she had found another husband to occupy herself with … But it was also with a certain sadness and shock that her death by heart attack was announced one day around the gossip pools of the small town.

It was in the eulogy that Pastor Noske was waxing lyrical about Hilda’s achievements and works for the church community that the mention of her being proud of her collection of Spanish veils and the combs that went with the veils that the slip of the tongue was made …

“Hilda can also be remembered by us all with her generosity at fund raising, where she would proudly put on display her collection of seven Spanish veils and combs … Hilda was very proud of her veils … and it has to be said the she had a taste for the erotic … pardon … the exotic … ” and the Pastor went on to further deliver his panegyric … but it was too late … the voicing of the word “erotic” just after the mention of the seven veils conjured up in more than one mind of those whose bible was closely studied in prayer and Bible classes as a testament of blind faith, the story of John the Baptist, King Herod and Salome’s dance of the seven veils … a most lustful evocation mistakenly, but believed to derive from their most holy book … and no matter the trying, the image of Hildegarde Hempel doing the dance of the seven veils could not be removed from the thoughts of many of the congregation.

So the idle chatter began among the hatted and gloved men and ladies of the congregation outside St. Pauls church on that Sunday morning .. their heads all leaning in to hear while the ladies taffeta skirts and soft silken scarves floated on the rising air of the spring day, their corsages of new blooms dancing with each excited opinion …

“A slip of the tongue is no fault of the mind” … Silvie Tempke judiciously remarked .. ”none the less, you have to be wondering just where pastor’s mind was wandering to.” Other members of that little gathering pinched their lips and nodded their heads in cautious agreement.

And it wasn’t long before the memory of certain moments concerning Hilda were recalled with a leaning toward the possibility of salacious intent. And one has to keep in mind that those veils of Hilda’s were not just any old veils, but rather exquisite pieces of the finest silken Spanish lace … seven mantillas of the finest quality with their accompanying combs … peinetas of finely carved ivory … a world of conjured images of dark-haired Spanish ladies dancing a lustful flamenco with swirling abandon … Whenever they were on display, many visitors to her stall couldn’t help but touch those finely carved combs or run the soft flowing silken veils over their hands … the electric sensation of the finely laced craftmanship sending a thrill through the skin …

There was that time at one of those shows where Hilda, in a moment of delightful abandon ala Isadora Duncan, upon a request did throw one of the veils across her body and do a pirouette with a snap of her fingers held high so that she made to be a Flamenco dancer in an exotic pose … a picture of just this moment was taken by the enthusiastic Norman Ziedel with his “Kodak Brownie” camera that was brought out of his archives and passed around, now that there was an interest in more than just the everyday display of veils … and as is sometimes the unfortunate situation with such candid snaps, they can capture one in a most undignifying pose or facial expression … and in this photo too, was Hilda caught expressing a most vampish look in her eyes coupled with an alluring twist of her body … while suitable for that particular moment as wanting to demonstrate the voluptuousness of the pose, the ramifications of that picture spread even more the luridness of the rumours.

Another, a drinking mate of Hilda’s long deceased husband; Herbert Hempel, recalled being told by Herbert, with accompanying wink of confederacy, that Hilda was an excellent dancer in her day … but that “day” being so long ago, none could recall. And that left Hildegarde Hempel out on a limb with none to defend her honour or reputation … such is the form of small town gossip that relies on a healthy diet of rumour, envy and schadenfreude to thrive.

Layered on top of the salacious rumours now circulating among the congregation, was the curious fact that Hilda only had those seven veils … and a niggling reference to the Bible story of John the Baptist, King Herod and Salome dancing the “dance of the seven veils” was resurrected time and again and washed the whole episode with fantastic colours and intense gossip … THEN, when it was heard that Hilda had bequeathed her collection of Spanish veils and combs to the church fete committee under the care of Pastor Noske … well … didn’t the tongues really start to wag!

Of course, Pastor Noske never heard any of the gossip or rumours surrounding Hildegarde Hempel and her collection of veils … indeed, he wasn’t even aware that he had started the whole thing off with his miss-reading of the word “exotic” for “erotic” in his eulogy, so was delighted to announce to the congregation one Sunday later that month of the fortunate and generous benevolence of Ms Hempel’s bequeath and those veils would be, as per usual, on display for public gaze the next month’s Strawberry Fete … a not too small rumbling of disquiet erupted from the pews of the church gathering … Pastor Noske took this as a murmur of approval and beamed a satisfied smile from the pulpit.

“I will ask Mrs. Appelt if she could arrange and attend to the display of those most exotic items on the day … ” the pastor continued innocently … There was again a frantic rumbling of turned bodies and all faces now fixed upon Mrs. Appelt in wide-eyed inquiry … Mrs. Appelt blushed and twisted her hands together in anxiety and blurted out ..

”Oh … oh really, Pastor, I don’t know … I don’t think … ” the congregation again turned as one to look to the Pastor …

“No, no … I can assure you, Mrs. Appelt, we have the greatest confidence in your capability to “man” the stall … after all, I believe YOU were one of the greatest admirers of Hildegarde’s collection.” The congregation instantly as one spun to gaze upon the hapless and now shocked Mrs. Appelt.

“Oh but Pastor … only in admiration of the craftmanship … I can assure you!” … she protested loudly and she gazed appealingly to all around her.

But in the end, it all turned out for the best, as the hint of eroticism now attached to those exquisite veils drew more visitors to the stall and by consequence, the sale of raffle-tickets from that one stall outsold more than several other stalls combined … and such an inquisitive crowd as gathered at Mrs. Appelt’s stall brought a cheerful smile to the cheeks of Pastor Noske as he did his rounds.

“Quite the interest in the veils today, Mrs. Appelt?” the Pastor enquired.

“Yes … it seems there has been an upshot of interest in them this year … and several strangers have commented on how they certainly DO have an erotic appeal.”

Pastor Noske blinked and squinted at the mention of “erotic” … and he looked deeply at Mrs. Appelt.

“I’m sorry … did you say ‘erotic’? … I … I don’t understand … ,” and he stood there, hands clasped behind his back bending toward Mrs. Appelt with his right ear listening ..

“Yes … erotic, Pastor” … and Mrs Appelt pointed to a small hand written sign that said: “Erotic Spanish silk veils and peinetas, worn by Spanish women when dancing to attract their menfolk” …

Pastor Noske immediately stiffened in shock and surprise, his hands raised up in front of him …

“Oh good heavens, NO! … Mrs. Appelt … not erotic … but exotic! .. EXOTIC, Mrs. Appelt! … good heavens … no!” … and he snatched the sign away … and it has to be noted that on replacing the sign with more subdued though accurate wording, the attendance at the stall soon dropped away … but that did not stop any future reference to those veils among the small congregation as being of the collection of the eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel.

Folk will have their ways …

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