Friday, January 01, 2021

It's Yule time again?

 20th December
Sunday evening, sitting in my neighbor's lounge room, sipping champagne and watching the children and dogs playing in the garden, I  experienced a wistful feeling.   I thought back to decades past and similar experiences in my own family.  I sighed and took another sip from my glass.

The picture below is one I saw in an op shop a couple of days earlier.  I stopped to look at it because it conjured up the long gone times at Julie's house.  Every night when we fed the animals, the geese would come trailing down the hill from the top paddock, marching in single file like a delegation of aldermen entering a civic reception.

Apollo, the last survivor of Julie's flock of geese, is a living refutation of the old song "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat."  As he ages, he is less active and his feathers are getting thinner.  At one stage in the winter we actually contemplated what you might call Goothanasia, but he seems to have staged a comeback in the summer.  He is up and walking around a lot more, and I was pleasantly surprised one day when he came over to meet me at the back door as I came out with their breakfast.  Will he still be here next Christmas?  Who knows.  But for the time being I'm happy just to still have him around.

22nd December
Maybe it was because of the Summer Solstice, maybe it was because my watch had stopped, but Tuesday felt like time was out of joint.  My usual routine no longer applied.  It was too wet for croquet this afternoon (I got damp just checking the mailbox) and the quiz night is in recess for the Christmas break.  I had no reason to leave the house so stayed home and allowed the hours to tick over quietly.   The radio seemed to have gone into the "silly season" and I have not turned on the television in a couple of weeks. The phone rang once;  it was a wrong number.  I sat around in silence, thinking, sipping coffee and gazing into space.

23rd December
Our friend Mick the goatherd called in this morning and cut a bit of feed for the goats in the garden.  As he was getting ready to leave, he struck up a conversation with an elderly couple who happened to be passing. As it turned out, they were quite familiar with my household -- they said they admired my cat and asked after the geese.
After dinner tonight, I put on the TV for a change and ended up watching ABC all evening.  Unexpectedly I found myself watching Nigella Lawson's Christmas special, and started feeling hungry in spite of having just eaten.  I'd love some of that black bread with smoked salmon, followed by a few of those Olliebollen.

24th December
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.  John X, who's doing the morning show on ABC radio in Hobart, played Eartha Kitt's song "Santa Baby" on the air.  He was surprised to receive a text from one listener thanking him for playing it, because he had friends from New York staying with him and they were astounded because they had never heard of Eartha Kitt!  John X was incredulous, recalling when he'd seen her in a play on Broadway in 2003 and the audience had applauded for a full minute whenever she walked on stage.  It confirms my suspicions that many of the modern audience only know current entertainers  -- to them, an "old movie" is one they saw ten years ago.

We spent part of the morning gathering up greenery and throwing it into the goats' enclosure.  "Consider this your Christmas dinner a day early," I told them as they romped around in it.  I thought of going out to the shops in case I needed anything, but decided to avoid the crowds.  After lunch, I had short lie-down, then went settled down in my chair outside the back door to read for a while.  Every few minutes, two of the chickens would sidle up next to me and stare at me, obviously wondering how long it was till dinner.  Eventually I put down the whodunit I was halfway through, got a bucket of wheat and took them out in the yard.   

Christmas movies getting you down?  Tired of the same old films being repeated every couple of years, over and over?  Well, here's one you may not have seen.  EMMET OTTER'S JUGBAND CHRISTMAS is on 7.30pm on Christmas Day on NITV  -  Channel 34 in Australia I think.

25th December
 Memories tend to surface at this time of the year.  I remember many years ago, the late John Foyster sent me a home-made Christmas card.  Nothing fancy.  On the front was a drawing of the star in the sky over Bethlehem.  Inside were just five words:

Christmas Day schedule has not changed:

1. Church
2. Lunch with relatives
3. Nap
4. Queen's Christmas Message

28th December
Finished Helen McCloy's DANCE OF DEATH [1938].  An intriguing whodunit, with some interesting observations about high society in the Manhattan of the late 1930s, where you had to appear to have money whether you had it or not.  Think Henry James but with a corpse in a snowdrift.  And, surprisingly, you may learn something about psychiatry and chemistry.   I hadn't known till today that McCloy was married to mystery writer Brett Halliday and they had a daughter Chloe. From a genetic point of view, it would be interesting to know if Chloe ever did any creative work?

29th December
Tuesday was cool with a few clouds. Spent some time before lunch burning folders off my laptop to CD;  what can I say, I'm a traditionalist.  I went over and played one game of croquet then returned home to meet the goatherds for afternoon tea.  One of them moaned about boring movies he'd seen including THE ENGLISH PATIENT.  "There's an episode of SEINFELD about that," I observed.  He went on to tell a story about a misadventure with a suede jacket.  "That's also a SEINFELD episode," I muttered, unsurprised at the connection between art and life.

30th December Wednesday
A quiet day at home.  Fed the livestock before breakfast, then listened to the Eloquence CD of "Best of Brahms" while I did some backing-up from my hard drive before I had my morning coffee.  (Slightly difficult because the cat seems to believe that I should be paying more attention to him to make up for the time I spent going out to Christmas functions.)  Lunch outside while listening to "The World Today" on ABC radio then went out to buy some feed for the goats.  Home in time for a pre-dinner nap.  

In the evening,  Keith Curtis phoned and we talked for 65 minutes.  The cat thought this was great because I was just about to put him down when the phone rang, meaning he had another full hour snoozing in my lap before he was disturbed. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Songs are in, books are out

 A further hiccup in the calendar.  The annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race has been cancelled for the first time after a fresh outbreak of Covid19 in Sydney.  Sigh.

November 24th
Monday was Espresso Day in some parts of the world, but that's no excuse for the amount of coffee I consumed on Tuesday morning and lunchtime.  Blergh!  It was also the 57th birthday of Doctor Who --  it confirms how old I am that I remember seeing the very first episode when it was broadcast on our old black-and-white television set.
I got out to the Croquet Club on Tuesday and played two games.  We had a couple of new people trying out the sport and they weren't too bad.  Hope to see them back again.
The evening saw another quiz night, where we didn't do so badly.  We got a perfect score on the opening round where you had to match the novel with its opening paragraph.  Money for jam!   At the climax, we came in second, our best result for months.  (A big thank-you to Minerva's Disciples, our friendly rivals at the next table who helped us over the line.)

Finished the audiobook of ON THE ROAD, read by David Carradine.  Certainly it's abridged, but a memorable experience being able to sit behind the wheel and listen to Jack Kerouac's prose flow over you from the car stereo.  Driving across town while listening to the protagonist making his way down into Mexico was almost like being there.  
25th November
Warm and windy -- it hit 32C at 2 o'clock -- so a perfect day for putting out some washing on the clothesline.  The poultry were nowhere to be seen, staying in the shade till dinner time.  
The cat complains whenever I go out and leave him.  Today I was home all day and he still complained.  "Cat, you are a mass of perplexity," I told him.  I don't think that's actually a word, but he doesn't know that.

26th November
A bit cooler and more pleasant on Thursday.  Tomorrow is exactly four weeks to Christmas -- I had a dream a few weeks ago in which I was back at the hotel again and it was Christmas eve.  But my conscious mind kept trying to butt in and say it couldn't be that time of year yet, so I was aware of two different tracks my mind was running on!  I don't often exerience that, although now and again I am aware that I'm dreaming.
The goats are still thriving in the backyard.  They have plenty of greenery to eat, but that doesn't stop them from being keen on breakfast.  I usually give them a couple of slices of bread as well, though you have to be careful;  if your attention strays while you're feeding them, you may suddenly find your fingers are disappearing into the goat's mouth  (fortunately they have small mouths).

28th November
Saturday the traditional day for doing the op shops.  The Hobart Tip Shop is still closed after the fire, but the Hobart City Mission have opened a new "super store" near me.  Much larger than any of their previous sites.  I am not very good at searching bookshelves these days, but look what turned up  -  a couple of vintage Thorne Smith novels, still bearing the stickers from the venerable Fullers Bookshop.

Saturday night I seldom go out, but I made an exception this week for Nadira's concert at the Moonah Arts Centre.  I remember seeing her when she first appeared there in 2015, singing all the great old standards.  In a less PC world, she probably would have been described as "the little lady with the big voice" !
She came over and gave me a hug at interval.  I asked if she'd changed her green hair because it would have clashed with her red dress?  She grinned but didn't answer.

29th November.   After the Sunday morning church service,  some of us went down to South Hobart for lunch.  I always like going to the Cascade Hotel because it's the only place I know that reliably has Lamb's Fry & Bacon on the menu.  The modern generation just won't eat liver, along with kidneys and several other things.
When I got home, I sort out some things that had gone missing from when a friend had "tidied up", then lay down for a nap.  Woken an hour later by a text message from a different friend, who sent a photo of the Union Jack motif toilet he's buying for his flat.  Shiver my timbers.

December 1st, the first day of summer;  Tuesday was unsettled, but I managed to get in two games at the Croquet Club despite windy weather.  [Last night I put a brick against the back door but even that didn't stop it blowing open overnight.]  At least we were indoors for the quiz night.
We were missing Rose, but the rest of the team were ready for the game and we did pretty well. At the finish we came in at second place, so not so bad. Only another couple of weeks to go for the year -- possible to get it to the number one spot before the holidays maybe??  

Thursday 2nd December
Thursday was the annual Christmas lunch for the Friends Of Mission group.  The only time of year when you'll see Presbyterians wearing funny paper hats in public.  I had thought of going to the Bocce Club that evening, but was so tired when I got home took a nap instead. Woke at 7.30 and wasn't sure at first if it was a.m. or p.m. - till I noticed I was still fully dressed!

At the FOM luncheon there were a couple of displays for various missionary and refugee groups, and I solved the problem of what to get someone who has everything.  I paid for a donation that will buy a goat for a third-world family and they gave me a card to give to the donor.  I look forward to seeing her face when I tell her Christmas Day "I've bought you a goat."

Friday was a day wasted.  I was expecting Mick to come by to move the goats, but the hours ticked by with no sign of him.  About 6:15pm Helena rang to say he'd be round tomorrow morning.  "What have you been doing today?" she asked. I bit my lip and said nothing!

Saturday 5th December was the annual Christmas lunch at the Croquet Club.  Quite a few members turned up for a big lunch, a few drinks, a game of croquet and of course the annual Christmas quiz.  Last year there were complaints about too many Biblical questions (Hey, folks, it's a Christmas quiz!), this year I collaborated with June to produce a more acceptable set of twenty questions.   I think it went over all right, and June cheekily wrote a 20th question which was about an abstruse point of croquet law!
Our timing was pretty good.  It started to drizzle just as we finished the croquet game.  My team didn't do so well, but maybe I would have played better if I'd been sober and not using a borrowed mallet.  Or maybe not.

6th December
The Sunday morning service at St John's was the annual Sunday School celebration, which proceeded almost as normal - the people giving out the prizes were using hand sanitiser, and the minister didn't shake hands with the recipients.
But things weren't the same as the past.  Ten years we had snapped away with our cameras and probably posted the pictures for all to see.  But that was then and this is now.  Our minister had sent out an e-mail saying "This Sunday at our 10am gathering we will be participating in our annual Sunday School Celebration. I am looking forward to the teachers, helpers, and students sharing with us about the things they have learnt about God this year. Please note that, because our children will be participating in the gathering, we will NOT be livestreaming this Sunday morning. An edited version of the gathering, with the Sunday School celebration taken out, will be uploaded onto our Youtube channel on Tuesday of next week."
On the way home from church, I stopped to buy a newspaper.  While I was in the shop, I felt a gentle tap from behind.  Looking behind me I found a small boy looking up at me.  "I saw you in church," he said.
"Ah," I replied, "Were you one of the children getting a prize?"   He nodded shyly then scampered off in search of his mother.  Even in this paranoid century we can admire the innocent goodwill of children.

Sunday evening took an unexpected turn.  I was lying down reading and after a while I began to feel cold.  Checking the  weather bureau's site I noticed the outside temperature was fine, but the "feels like" ambient temperature had gone down to 6 degrees centigrade.  Got up and closed all the doors and dug out the old green jumper that I wear in midwinter.  Not what I expected from the first week of summer.

7th December
Broadcasting in the digital era  --  one of the good things about the Internet is that radio and television shows can be posted on-line so if you missed it live you can use a "catch up" site to listen or watch it.   But of course broadcasting companies are staffed by human beings, and while a big organization like ABC or NPR can have their stuff on-line in a matter of minutes, not everyone is able to do this.  Today I noticed that one small semi-professional radio station in New York had posted in one day on their Mixcloud page two episodes of the weekly show In The Mood, three episodes of the weekly show Radio Roots, and six episodes of the weekly show One Nostalgic Weekend!

Made my way to the Croquet Club on Tuesday, finding my way through an eye-opening amount of northbound traffic on the roads.  Can it be the Christmas rush already?  Played two games despite the cloudy and breezy conditions.  Only half a dozen of us there today.
However at the Quiz Night that evening, we had a full table indeed  --  even Derren showed up for the first time in months.  We did all right, though the results were a bit confusing;  there were twelve teams, but so many tied that there were only six positions.  I think we were either fourth or fifth.  

9th December
A day off on Wednesday, in the sense that after a busy couple of weeks I didn't have any appointments on my calendar.  There was stuff I could have been doing, but I decided not to.  So what did I do?
The day began with my trundling around feeding the goats, the chickens and the cat.  After that I could serve up my own breakfast.  After my morning coffee, listened to ABC's local radio station then Richard Fiedler's always-interesting "Conversations" programme.
Had a nap before a late lunch, listened to the UK radio show "Sunday Tea Dance",  I looked at the day's Facebook entries and downloaded some e-books from the Internet.  The cat lazed about on the table outside the back door, enjoying the mild weather.  Read Martin Lindstrom's monograph "Travel Truth and Lies Unmasked" which concluded with a dismayingly long list of precautions you'd need to take to be completely safe from the Coronavirus!
Had a couple of phone calls, then heated up a quiche for my evening meal.  Ate while listening to the US radio show "Make Believe Ballroom". Fed the animals, let the cat out for a while, then went to bed after listening to the late night news on the radio.
Didn't leave the house, didn't turn the television on.  A self-sufficient day.

10th December
Coffee anyone?   I always used to say that K-Mart missed a bet when they started opening 24/7  --  if they had a coffee machine, they would have had a captive audience am9ng late-night and early-morning shoppers.  When Coles (next door to K-Mart) renovated, they installed a superduper coffee machine the size of a small car, and I felt vindicated.  I didn't foresee what would come next.  When I went into Coles this afternoon, I felt there was something different.  Then it hit me -- all the shopping trolleys were now equipped with cup holders!
 We can now consume coffee while we do our supermarket shopping.  I don't know if this is a good or bad thing

Thursday I wasn't sure what exactly I was doing.  The plans to meet with one friend fell through, but another trio of friends arrived for a long-delayed clean-up in my driveway  -- fortunately tonight was rubbish night, so it will all be cleared away tomorrow morning.  In between I went out for cat food in the morning, and played two games at the Bocce Club in the late afternoon.
Sat down to my evening meal at 9.30pm!

11th December
Keith got a lift out to New Town so we visited the  Salvation Army and had lunch at the Green Store.  While we were in the Salvo shop I picked up a movie I'd never seen before, a movie from Finland.  Keith looked at it appraisingly and said "After you've watched it, if you decide not to keep it could you pass it on to me?"
"So I shouldn't add it to my collection of Finnish movies?"
"You have a collection of Finnish movies??" said Keith in surprise.
"Well, I would have if I kept this one," I replied.    Laughter.

12th December
Goatherd work took up a bit of the morning then I had a quick lunch before going out.  Took two slices of low-GI bread and some low-fat margarine, then added some plant-based Deli Slices and a few bean sprouts.  "O Brave New World that has such snacks in it" I thought, recalling the days when your product was sold on what was in it,  not what wasn't in it!

It's Make-Believe Ballroom Time
Put all your cares away
All the bands are here to bring a cheer your way
It's Make-Believe Ballroom Time
And free to everyone
It's no time to fret
Your dial is set for fun
Just close your eyes and visualize in your solitude
Your favorite bands are on the stands
And Mr. Miller puts you in the mood
It's Make-Believe Ballroom Time
The hour of sweet romance
here's your make-believe ballroom
Come on, children, let's dance, let's dance!

December 14th
No, I told the cat, you're not going out yet.  It hit 33C at lunchtime (about 91 in the old scale) and I would like it to go below 30 before I open the back door.  It's all right for him, he can walk around naked all afternoon...  I did let him out about 4 p.m. when it had gone down to 28C.
Got the electric fan out in the evening and left it running all night in my bedroom, but I still tossed and turned a lot.

December 15th
Slept badly after yesterday's scorching weather.  It was 28C when I went outside to feed the animals at breakfast but it did ease off after that, falling steadily (e.g. 13C at 9pm).  Felt pretty run down, but did get over to play two games at the Croquet Club and felt refreshed by the cool winds blowing across the grounds.   Felt a lot better;  went home and napped for half an hour then took a shower before going out to the last Quiz Night for the year.
Tonight we seemed to be scoring seven points per round more often than not, our total was 77 and Caroline  brought out a cake to celebrate her 70th birthday.  So we finished seventh, you ask?  No, though I had half expected it.  We came third.  And a thank-you to our pals at the Minerva's Disciples table who helped celebrate Caroline's birthday.

December 17th
Another lunch for the gang, this time down at the Boardwalk restaurant at Wrest Point Casino.  The crowd ate and drank, exchanged memories and stories of days gone by and traded greetings for Christmas and the New Year.  I had the grilled salmon and the cheesecake, washed down with cider and coffee, then went home to rest for a while.

December 19th
I was out two afternoons running this week with Keith.  We turned up at the Salvation Army two store two days in a row, which surprised even the staff who've known us for a long time. (One of them commented "I love the banter between you two while you're looking through a table of stuff.")  Keith had a good look through the CDs and came out with a set of the TSO's Beethoven albums and an almost complete set of the Ring Cycle [Wagner, not Tolkien].   Apart from that, we made a trip down to Kookaburra Books in Battery Point, who sadly are shutting up shop on Christmas Eve after many years at that location.  To paraphrase John Donne, I feel that every bookshop that closes somehow diminishes me and what used to be called the clerisy.  I did take the opportunity to buy some Leslie Charteris novels I did not have in hardcover, and at least one of his books I had never seen before.

December 20th
Right up till a few days ago, St John's had been preparing for a difficult time staging their annual Christmas Carols service.  But at the last moment the state regulations were eased and we were allowed to fill the church to the 75% level.  It was great hearing so many voices belting out the old favorites,  though I felt uneasy when the woman in the seat behind me starting coughing halfway through (my first impulse was to get up and run, but that seemed an over-reaction).   Thanks to the organist, the pianist, the guitarist and the clarinetists who accompanied us.