Saturday, August 1, 2009

Simpler Times

If you ever need to replace your letterbox to make way for a new one I can help you. Its easily arranged. I will provide my son and you provide a car with a reverse gear. He removed ours in great style and with awesome audio effects. The sound the exploding letterbox made was one of those run to the window - “What in Gods name was that” kind of sounds. The birds in the trees stopped singing briefly and our cat went out to investigate.

There is a forlornness about a thick post with a large piece of concrete on one end and its decapitated crowning glory lying expressionless some meters away. Never again would that particular letterbox chat idly with the postman or wink at pretty girls strutting their plenitude in the street.

Thoughts of the French revolution and the guillotine ran through my mind as I looked at this corpse and head. I didn't metaphorically guillotine my son, or even give him a cat o’ nine tails lashing with my tongue. Accidents happen don’t they, and besides, none of my children has ever inflicted property damage on the scale that I did when I was young. So in a way I am grateful to him for unwittingly preserving my hard won record.

When I replaced the letterbox I replaced the street number but couldn't’t find the little sign that stated “No Junk Mail or Circulars”. Within a few days the Tsunami of unsolicited mail began.
You know the kind of stuff I am talking about – The one I am looking at advertises an “Electric Knife with steel blades” (No rubber blades here, I am instantly impressed of course by their huge common sense) - the knife has “an ergonomically soft grip” - God almighty, love handles as well, I think I am in love.
In the same magazine I find I can purchase a “Glass Body Fat Analyser Scale” (whatever the hell that is) for $79.99 or a set of “Coloured RIVET Handled Knives”… mmmmmmm riveted handles, so strong, they will never break when I am out hunting on the plains, cutting into buffalo steaks – so, so, so, handy to have.
All of the advertisements in this junk mail make me think back to simpler times. A time when there weren’t a thousand different gadgets, geegaw's, widgets or triple nipple back shackles to make life more complicated.

I thought back to the way we used to wash the dishes at 587 Pages Road all those years ago. There were 8 children and 2 adults in the house – 10 of everything come wash up time. My mother would fill up the sink and vigorously thrash the water with a bar of ‘Sunlight Soap’ which was held in a little wire cage on the end of a wire handle – none of this fancy detergent stuff for the Smiths. She would always wash a cup first – a good strong cup. Against this cup a plate was placed, then another, and another and so on - cups, plates, saucers, bowls, pots, pans etc, etc. The size of the pyramid of crockery would wax and wane according to the number of children doing the drying and the amount of fighting that went on amongst the dryers as to who was doing the most work (oh happy days) - (“If you kids don’t stop your bloody fighting, I will give you a bloody good clip around the ears”) – ah yes, don't ever underestimate the decisiveness and fluency of working class language – and woe, oh woe, oh woe betide any smart arsed kid who pulled a plate out deliberately so that the great mountain fell and slid back into the sink or onto the floor – that would involve intervention by our father whose kind hands could metamorphosise into paddy whackers the size of Texas in an instant.
My mother always did the dishes like that. It was only decades later and when my parents were retired in Northland that one day I went around to see my mum - and wonder upon wonders, on the bench next to the sink was a dish rack – I think it must have been about the time that junk mail started to be posted – and the world was never the same again.

I thought too of how we would ‘make do’ in so many ways. I remember going to my first dances at St Chads Church. I would borrow my oldest brothers black suede winkle picker shoes and another brothers flash pants. The shoes were ok, a size too big, but I could cope with that - But the flash pants were too big in the waist, but never mind, I just folded the waistband a bit and held it in place with the biggest safety pin I could find.
Ah, those were the days! Fifteen years old – first dance, first kiss, first feeling of a warm body close to mine - all amidst the slow dancing and the warm glow of adolescent pimples in the half light – Ecstasy until the bloody safety pin popped and tried to skewer me.

I gathered all these memories to myself today as I went off for my daily exercise on my bicycle. I had just bought a fluorescent yellow safety vest at the local discount store for $6.50. They only had one size (huge) - it flapped like a flag in the wind as I sped down hill – yes, that’s right, I probably need a safety pin - or perhaps some new fangled arrangement I can purchase from a catalogue that comes through the new letterbox - perhaps a new type of safety pin with an "ergonomically soft grip" that won't skewer me.


Janice said...

The old ways were best
He said to the world wide web
On his computer

That's a wonderful new mailbox, Alden, looks like a mail mansion to me. is there actually a place to put the mail? Perhaps there's no need for one; I can imagine that a guy with a lot of time on his hands in his newly retired state would want to wait by the thing and snatch the flyers out of the mail person's hand in order to cram them down the poor unfortunate's throat! You must be careful not to qctually order anything on the internet; if you do, you'll suddenly begin getting catalogues from places you've never heard of, just full of the most wonderful, have-to-have products, like a stainless steel wallet, or the latest in remote controlled cricket bats. All we can hope for really, for thse sob's that load us down with all their crap, whilst destroying a good part of the earth's resources, is that their hell is a subdivision made of paper, and built next to a perpetual forest fire. (Sorry, it's just really hot here at the moment, becomes all you can think of after a while.)

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

Yes, the trouble in NZ is that paper is a readily renewable resource. During the great depression of the 1930s the central North Island was planted in massive pine forests. These are cut down regularly for paper products but continually replanted so there is always a regular supply.
What is interesting is that the computer which was supposed to create the "Paperless Office" has actually (because it can be attached to a printer) created more paper than ever before - hmmmm feel a blogpost coming on here.

Delwyn said...

Hey I was one of those wall flowers in the floral flower power tent dresses at St Chads. I wonder if we crossed paths then...

Happy days

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

A wall flower? never! in fact I distinctly remember you go-go dancing and jumping off tables using your tent dress as a parachute. In fact I think you should introduce this early talent of yours to Jim and take him sky diving.

Janice said...

Alden, did you really miss the point of my haiku? Was it too subtle?
And it isn't just the printer, methinks; it is our penchant for having hard copies of everything in the world besides our bills and the payments we make. I remember being told in school about the 'paperless' society we would inherit as adults, and it was to be cashless too. Our teachers must have been a terrible bunch of liars, wot?

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

Yes, never trust a teacher I say.

Your Haiku is not too subtle at all and you are right, here I go talking about simpler times and transmitting my ideas via greatest and most sophisticated communications networks ever!
The worlds full of contradictions and ironies :-)

Janice said...

Poking the tiger -
Fun for the cheeky monkey
if the cat reacts

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

Another example would be Al Gore waxing lyrical about global warming while his huge family abode draws enough electricity to power Amsterdam.

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

Rapier political satire
Cartoons, wit and humour
Democracies leaven and guardian

Janice said...

I like the wit and humour part best, because if you can't laugh, you're done for! And you are a funny man.

Katherine said...

A lovely post, in your usual delightful, inimitable style, Pal. (Did you know you were one of the first bloggers I read?)
I've been away from blogworld for a while, 'arting' and I'll have to come back to read all your posts I missed!

Alden Smith (Nick name - Pal) said...

Katherine, good for you for taking time out to do your art - which I must say is very impressive. I just loved your abstract painting "Enkindled Spring", The joy of your representational work transfers over into the abstract so very well.
I was also very impressed with the work of your uncle? Ted Bracey - I think that abstract of his that you posted on your blog is wonderful - is he represented in New Zealand art gallery collections?.

Katherine said...

Thank you Pal. Nice of you to say so. And praise, indeed, given your son's talent!

Ted had (still has, I think) a large piece in the art school foyer, Waikato University, and also his memorial exhibition in the Waikato Museum/ Art Gallery.
Retrospectives are occasionally held around the country.