Fading Memories

Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

It's a conspiracy!
Tuesday 5th April - Australia - 5895 cases - 231 per million population

I'm starting to believe those conspiracy theories doing the rounds; the one's that spruik that this whole government response to the virus thingy is a contrived scam.

No, I haven't lost my marbles entirely, I know the disease is real, the illness terrifying, the front-line carers brave and extraordinary human beings.  I also know that the dictionary says that "Isolation" is the state of being alone or away from others, the act of keeping apart from others.  

I know too that when the government says "stay home" except to shop for food or to exercise (then go straight home), that our national character is such that we'll take that as a challenge.  We'll all be looking for loopholes.

Therefore today, Tuesday, mid afternoon, mid week, when "our" beach should have been deserted it was shuddering under the weight of every man and his dog and probably his neighbour's dog as well, "exercising" just to prove a point.   

Midway along that beach today the penny dropped. What if this was a deliberate ploy?  It's obvious isn't it?  They're having a lend of us.  They WANT us to go out.  By the end of this isolation thing, we'll be the most underfed, over-exercised nation on earth.   

The Bronzed Aussie is coming back!

Monday, April 06, 2020

In the swing of things.
Monday 6th April - Australia - 5795 cases - 227 per million population

A few weeks ago, quite early in the morning in relative terms, it was quite cool.   It wasn't chilly, but it was cool enough for one to reach for one's long pants for a time.  While one of us was snug and smug in her fluffy new birthday dressing gown the other stood staring into his empty wardrobe as it slowly dawned that with two exceptions every item of clothing that he owned that even remotely covered his knees was neatly if inconveniently zipped away in a bag, on the boat, in Belgium.

With all hope of flying north for the winter abandoned this year, the prospect of enduring a winter with temperatures below twenty degrees while clad only in board shorts is not one to relish.   Naturally heading off to a department store was out of the question too.  However he is fairly well versed in the ways of the world, and quickly found a pair of jeans of exactly the right size online, at a bargain price with free shipping.   They arrived today, no fuss, no dramas, problem solved, happy days, roll on winter.

The other of us on the other hand is a borderline technophobe, but none the less bravely sat at a screen, assembling our first ever grocery order "on the line" as she once described it.  The ordering part went very smoothly as one would expect from a system that has been simplified to the point where all one needs to do is to click on a photo icon of the item one desires apparently.  Job done, we settled back to wait for our next three weeks worth of groceries to arrive on our doorstop.

This they mostly they did, also today as it happens.

There were a couple of substitutions, and one or two things were out of stock (still) but it was the single tomato that adorned our bench that is already etched in our memory of good times had by all.  Were she the Ancient Mariner this would be the albatross hanging around her neck.  It appears that during the ordering process the tomato icon was clicked, but the boxes marked "number" and "kilograms" beside it were not.  As we now know, artificial intelligence has not yet progressed to the mind reading stage, with the result that a single lonely tomato arrived gift wrapped in green plastic.

We've never really liked Bruschetta anyway.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

You shall have a fishy when the boat comes in.
Sunday 5th April - Australia - 5681 cases - 223 per million population

We had a blow-out in a clothes line overnight.  

One of the lines simply broke, launching a fish into the jasmine, necessitating a running repair, which I have put on the list and will get around to doing when I have time.  No, wait…..   I'll do it later.

I have come to the realisation that when I made mention the other day of repairs to rocks hanging from our clothes line and now a fallen fish, that this discussion may not be entirely in keeping with the context of  "clothes line" in many people's minds. 

For they among us who we have not yet had the opportunity to welcome to the place we call "DickyWorld" a  further explanation of how we came to be in the rock-drying business might prove to be a pleasant distraction in these times of globally enforced "nothing better to do anyway," besides perhaps fixing their clothes lines.

Here then is a tale of practical problem solving, repurposing (because that's the "now" way of saying "using") some left over wood and scrounged materials and adding a bit of cheer to our drying area to boot.

No one likes a saggy line, at least no-one round here does.  

Well perhaps one of us doesn't mind it all that much because as she quite fairly observes from time to time; she's the one that has to reach it mostly.  The prospect of leaving the hanging out to the other of us, the one who can reach easily but actually almost garrottes himself every time he walks past, would never do.  If we could find a way to keep the lines tensioned when not in use yet accessible and easy to reach for pegging stuff on, everyone would be happy.

This was a problem which occupied much of our thinking time for a considerable period and actually while travelling across several continents as it happens.  

Initially we thought a weight attached to the end of each line and a pulley to reduce friction would provide the obvious solution.  It could be simple and elegant and in evoking that "seaside context" if we pinched a couple of stones from the beach to act as the weights it could all be done and dusted one evening.   

Note:  While removing anything from a beach may appear on the face of it to be environmental exploitation or even vandalism, we have assuaged our guilt by adjusting our wills to ensure that on our eventual demise all will be returned whence they came.

"Done and dusted in one evening" - that was the plan.

A few trans-continental flights later (now those were the days!) and after a bit more jetlag and a few more cups of extra strong coffee, a light bulb moment occurred: If we were to set up a lever on the end of each line to give a bit of mechanical advantage much less weight would be required and therefore we could use smaller stones.  

As a bonus we probably had enough left over verandah floor boards tucked away to make the levers and undoubtedly there were old pulleys lying around somewhere in a box marked "pulleys for future clothes-line tensioner" that we could use.

Construction drawings were hastily prepared, somewhere over Greenland as it happens,  perhaps not in the sort of detail that those using those new fangled drawing computers would find useful, but adequate for the job in hand.

All that remained was to gather up the necessary timber offcuts and remove all the bits that didn't smell vaguely of fish.

Things went swimmingly for a while until one of us, the one who was actually home and making the mess, found that the verandah doors had been inadvertently left open, and about a thousand cubic metres of terribly fine wood dust had filtered its way through the house.  

Admittedly this did put a bit of a dampener on progress, for almost an entire afternoon but the formerly white outdoor setting probably needed a good deep clean anyway, and with one of us visiting the Big Smoke the other had that time to himself to think about what he might do differently next time.

Then the timber ran out.  

Of course I checked before I started and of course there was enough then, but when it came time to cut the final piece it turned out to be half the length of all the others.  

Only a little daunted and wondering what I'd find within it, I started anyway and kept plugging on with grinder, chisels and saw until to my shock I found Nemo, or what was left of him after the drought.  

All that remained was to find the pulley, assemble the contraption, and balance it all on a bit of aluminium angle. After a bit of fine tuning to each line, finely balancing stone size, lever length and cantilever against the required tension of the line we had the makings of a very satisfactory line tensioning system.   

In practice all of those mile-high doodles had worked to perfection.  The line is easy to pull down for use,  yet it is just weighted enough so that wet clothes on the line cause it to sag.   

In the year or so since its been complete it's weathered nicely, the jasmine on the fence has grown into it a little, and apart from the previously mentioned problem of the stones simply dissolving in the rain, and exploding fish, we've been delighted with our little school of once were Mackeral.


Saturday, April 04, 2020

One advantage of being tall
Friday 3rd April - Australia - 5550 cases - 218 per million population

On a day when the most exciting thing that happened in our household was a toss up between backing the car out of the garage to wash it, or driving it back in again, in the interests of education to my fellow would-be photographers, I thought I would re-post this, an educational piece I first uploaded to this very blog in October 2008:-

Being the eldest in our brood, it’s not surprising that I was the tallest child for the entire time that I was growing up. It’s a matter of history now, that I was actually also the tallest because that’s just how it turned out to be. In looking back through all those old photographs it’s astonishing how many times I was actually too tall for the camera.

For reasons that don’t seem particularly clear, but may well have been related to the quality of hair cut my mother used to provide, there’s often, if not mostly, a goodly chunk of yours truly cropped out of any photo which featured more than one person including myself.

Where most children have a complete photographic record of their changing facial features, my legacy seems to be a chronology of what surely were the least attractive knees in primary school.

I had a brother in law once, who came from a country which is often the brunt of stereotypical jokes about people whose perception are apparently quite different from our mainstream. Without wishing to cast aspersions on any nationality, a lot of the attendees at his mother's seventieth birthday party had names like Seamus, Paddy, Patrick and Sinead and it was one of their kin who had the duty in that time well before digital photography, to record the event on film.

All seven rolls of film were duly processed after the event, and to the complete horror of all, each and every one of the one hundred and sixty-eight borderless glossy photographs featured at least one headless person.

The initial reaction from the photographer was an outpouring of pure anger, in an accent that could only be described as something of a heavy brogue:

“I TOLD you we should have got someone taller to take the photographs!”

Friday, April 03, 2020

So much to do, so few lifetimes to do it in.
Friday 3rd April - Australia - 5350cases - 210 per million population

It's a bit hard not to notice that the world is in a bit of turmoil, and impossible not to notice why.  If one can be over-informed on a topic perhaps we have made it.  I really didn't know we had so many experts in molecular biology and epidemiology in our suburbs.  We are well beyond the "need to know" tipping point, but at the same time perhaps if the flood of even close to correct information can drown out the misinformers, the conspiracy theorists and their ilk, it is worth putting up with the short term pain. 

There's another more hilarious flood though on social media channels.   The "content creators" have been flat out getting stuff to air each day, thousands of them, all with titles like "Things to make when locked in - Day 5".  I am not sure that any of them understand that this may not be a two-week phenomenon, and look forward to seeing what day 157 will bring. 

We, being all seeing and all knowing, would be surprised if we are out of this situation before September or later.  We will have time we think, to cross a few little projects off the list, but at the same time there's no sense knocking ourselves out in the process.  We don't want to wear ourselves out prematurely after all.

After three weeks of very satisfactory rest, we're starting to wonder if pacing ourselves hasn't turned into procrastination.  The fact that we've started on a few other apparently more exciting projects, such posting  "ten photos in ten days taken in our bathroom" might just be a sign that we may as well throw away the old list and start a new one.  We're not quite sure what's happening in our brains, perhaps we have actually retired.

One of our daughters reminded us today as we were discussing this (via telephone), that she once thought she'd be much better at doing housework if she had time.   Now she's beginning to think it wasn't time that was the problem after all.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Social (Bee) Isolation.
Thursday 2nd April - Australia - 5137 cases - 201 per million population

Late last year, we "rescued" a slightly misguided hive of tiny Tetragonula hockingsi (a species of Australian native stingless bee which measures about four millimetres in length) which had happily set up  home below ground in what appeared to be a vacant ant nest, digging out as much as was possible, as the first big storm of summer was inundating their abode,

We put them in a nice new hive and gave them a splendid spot in our backyard where they have lived happily ever since alongside our other hives, apart from the odd skirmish with intruders, or as has been the case over the last few days - the angry spectacle that is a mating swarm.   

Every now and then when the old queen is on her last legs, one of the new "virgin queens" is appointed as pretender to the throne.  All of the males (the drones) who have until that time contentedly lived a wastrel's life, enjoying the largess of the court, are unceremoniously booted out of the hive to await her ladyship's pleasure.  They are forced into what these days we'd call social isolation.  

Homeless and alone, except for the other five hundred or so blokes who are all trying to pull the same chick, they spend their days in an agitated swarm around the hive and its environs and their nights huddled together on any nearby branch, trying surviving as best they can until the new dawn.

When she emerges, young and fresh to offer herself to the bloke that can catch her, there can be only one winner, and it's not going to be one of the drones, but they chase her anyway until the strongest and fittest of them has his wicked way with her and she returns home, presumably flushed as she realises that everyone in the family knows what she's been up to. The blokes meanwhile, all of them, face a short, bleak but entirely predictable future, huddling each night in successively fewer numbers, flying more lethargically each day in the futile hope that she'll be back, but she's made no promises, has had her fling and she's already in there putting her stamp on their next generation.  

While those who value even the most microscopic of life forms may be disheartened at this tale, it's not all bad. We can all rest content in the knowledge that one of them died happy!

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

The Pest Man.
Wednesday 1st April - Australia - 4868 cases - 191 per million population

Anyone who lives in our part of the world and says they don't have the occasional giant cockroach fly in, is either delusional or fibbing.  After an American friend of ours had lived here for some time he reckoned they should be officially designated as our state bird.

As a rule we prefer to use organic means of control, usually by belting them with a rubber flip flop, although this chap met his end more organically than most, by having a kilo of coffee beans dropped on him from a great height.  Clearly intent on ignoring social distancing regulations, he crept out from his warm hiding spot under the fridge at exactly the time I was removing the bag of coffee from the freezer.  "Bombs Away" I called, but he either failed to hear the warning or with that arrogance that cockroaches seem to have, truly believed that I'd miss.

Ironically perhaps, this occurred about twenty minutes before "the Pest Man" came for his annual inspection and a spray with something somewhat less organic than a bag of coffee beans, but no less deadly to unwelcome insects.  

His visit turned out to be a bit less than comfortable for us all given the extent to which we have been separating ourselves from the outside world, but he noted our nervousness and kindly made a great show of assuring us that we were safe, donning fresh nitrile gloves, glasses and a clean respirator before setting about his task, ensuring that we opened doors as required to minimise him touching interior surfaces.  Even his invoice will be sent electronically for online payment to avoid any risk of virus transmission.  

After his departure we took great care to sanitise all surfaces his gloved hands had touched of course, we remained curious as to whether pest control was actually an "essential service" but never the less were congratulating ourselves on finding a bloke who was so sympathetic to the constraints we imposed when the penny dropped: 

When was the last time we'd seen a Pest Man spraying deadly poison without wearing protective respirator gloves and glasses?
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