Thursday, August 28, 2008
I’m fairly certain that Taxi drivers the world over are given a handbook with the same old stories, and the same contrary political views in them no matter what flavour of government is in power in their particular slice of the world.
They even have the same accents. No matter which country they reside in, inevitabley they can neither speak fluently in my language of choice nor the vernacular of whatever country it is in which they choose to reside.
There are of course some regional differences. In Japan your driver is likely to be wearing white cotton gloves and the door will open for you as if by magic.
In Jakarta, the supervisor at the airport will rather ominously hand you a complaint form already filled in, complete with a number to call as you get INTO the cab.
Indonesian Taxi drivers are the fastest in the world I think. 180 kilometres per hour is the norm in a rattly ford Metro between two lanes of traffic until one reaches the freeway, and then they put their foot down.
London cabbies have a mystical reputation for friendliness and honesty, which in our admittedly limited experience seems to be entirely proportional to the size of the tip offered, or confined to the pages of picture books.
But it is the blokes in Sydney and Melbourne that really capture the imagination, with their tales of derring do, sleep deprivation and dealing with passengers who may have overindulged.
I think I had the same driver on the same week day in both cities once, which rather heightened my sense of deja-vu.
Not more than two hours between journeys I was told the same tale of the difficult customer they’d had the weekend before.
It was two AM when his mates poured their rather fluid and non comprehending associate into the back seat of the car, giving the driver his home address.
Said passenger remained lifeless in the back seat for the entire journey, and both drivers assured me that they’d tried to talk to him on several occasions during the trip. On arriving at the address, they couldn’t rouse their passenger sufficiently to elicit a fare, nor for that matter to get him out of the car.
Both swore that they’d helped him out but he’d simply fallen in a crumpled pile on the footpath.
Being decent human beings, they took their passenger under their arms and half carried, half dragged them to the front door, hoping to wake someone who had enough to pay the fare. The walk up the front lawn was a difficult and frustrating one apparently, with the passenger doing little if anything to aid in the journey.
In both cases the door opened after a short delay, and a bemused spouse greeted the driver supporting an almost lifeless passenger with;
“Thanks. Where’s his wheelchair?”
It must be true, they both swore it was, and I'd never doubt a cabbie!
Monday, August 25, 2008
We live in an increasingly international world.
Our planet is shrinking apparently.
Things are closer than ever they were before, but even so, when last I checked I lived approximately from 16,000 kilometres from St Mark's in Venice, and although I'd never thought too much about it, in certain light, the colour of the water in the little backwater of the Mooloolah River on which we live could, if one were to squint and not pay attention to the surrounds, perhaps bears a passing resemblance to the colour of the Grand Canal.
I was doing just that the other day while sitting on the back steps having a quiet sandwich, when out of the corner of my squint I caught something that didn't look at all like a tinny, the particular kind of aluminium fishing boat favoured by just about everyone round here.
Unless I'm mistaken, and I really hope I am, what I saw that day gliding past our house was indeed a Gondola, or at least a facsimile of one, because if it wasn't I'm going to have to spend a lot less time out of the sun.
I think I'll put it down to climate change.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
During the Sydney Bienniale, we found Dot in the Art Gallery of NSW, happily painting a black wall in white paint, while at the same time on the opposite side of the foyer, a contemporary of hers was painting a white wall entirely black.
This, it turns out, was not a mid year revamp of the gallery entrance, but a work of art (apparently) that has been ongoing in one part of the world or another since 1990. One of the clever things about it is that the “artist” one Mr Nedko Solokov is no doubt holed up somewhere in his Mediterranean Villa while his volunteers slave endlessly furthering his art in the far flung corners of the globe. He doesn’t actually have to do anything except log on to his bank account occasionally to check that his latest installment has been lodged.
It’s some sort of reflection on the futility of everyday activity I suppose, but it did leave a lasting impression and as art is intended to do this piece left me entirely inspired.
Never again will I be accused of procrastination, of never completing a job, of starting things and leaving them. Never can I be accused of taking forever to get anything done around the house.
Next time I’m wandering round looking at all those jobs that are half done, I won’t feel a pang of remorse. I’ll be perusing my collection.
I’m not a slacker.
I’m an artist.
Monday, August 18, 2008
In an older part of Sydney, we found ourselves walking in the proverbial dark alley. In an apparent effort to make it more hospitable it had been lined entirely on one side with freshly painted, if not brand new hoarding, neatly stencilled every few metres with the words “Bill Posters Will Be Prosecuted” in large black lettering.
“Wouldn’t you think they’d have caught him by now, and have it all over and done for?” I wondered out loud rather obviously.
In my defence it turned out I was in the early stages of incubating what turned out to be a particularly nasty bug so wasn’t my usually erudite self, but even so I was alert enough to spot the miscreants in the light at the end of the alley.
They were dressed in black and wore dark glasses, they looked like the sorts of people I imagined should be prosecuted, particularly as they were clearly in the act of actually posting Bill’s posters. Guilt was written in their demeanour.
I snapped into action, firing shots at random, certain that there’d be some sort of reward if just one of my 8x10 glossy photographs was to prove useful in putting the miscreants behind bars.
Alas they turned out to be quite friendly, and we didn’t have the heart to turn over the evidence, particularly since they actually knew Bill Posters, and the bills they were posting were actually photographs of Bill, and the spot they were posting them was midway between Bill’s office and the pub, where they were heading to celebrate his last day at work.
Bill Posters, we know who you are!
Thursday, August 14, 2008
If I ever needed a reminder that there's a price to pay for everything, it was the changing expression of the grandboy sampling his first "Ekka Special" Strawberry icecream yesterday.
When one is not quite two, and one hasn't tasted strawberry icecream before, it's something rather special, and one doesn't of course, mind sharing with one's mum as long as she doesn't consume too much of one's share.
It's a pleasurable experience, indeed an event that should be approached with relish, if not gusto.
Until one gets to the bit with the fresh strawberry pieces in it.
It's a trap! Underneath that cold sweet exterior, there beats a heart of fresh fruit!
One will probably never trust an adult again, neither will one touch that cold sweet stuff for some time either, one would imagine!
Monday, August 11, 2008
One of the beaut things about living seven or so floors above the ground is that you don’t have to clean windows, not that we have ever been in that position, but Joan and Ian have, and we're happy to have shared their predicament.
It’s not that they don’t get dirty, but more the fact that it’s difficult to assemble enough handles onto one squeegee to reach them while standing firmly on the ground, so if you want to have clean windows you have to hire a chap to do it.
Access to them used to present a problem at the building design stage, when all sorts of contraptions and ledges were designed in to provide safe (a relative term) access for a few hardy souls who made a career of cleaning windows while clinging on. Now that we live in the era of adventure sports and extreme games and at a time when everyone’s grandmother seems to have had a parachute jump to celebrate their ninetieth birthday, finding window cleaners isn’t nearly as difficult.
The world these days seems to be full of people willing to hang from the end of a rope while swinging backwards and forward with a squeegee in one hand and a bucket in the other.
Of course if it weren’t for Workplace Health and Safety inspectors there’d be more of them I’m sure. There’d be a real risk of them breeding until, like the windscreen washing people at street corners, they’d start swinging down buildings without being invited, hanging in front of one’s apartment until paid a tip to move on.
Perhaps there's a reason we should be thankful for that Safety stuff after all, although I do wonder at the requirement to wear steel capped boots.
Rock climbers can buy special slippers clad in stuff that’s so sticky that it makes flypaper look like teflon, and I have to confess that if my life was hanging by a piece of blue rope I’d want to make sure that I wasn’t going to slip too, so what is so remarkably dangerous about window cleaning that gives rise to potential injury to ones big toes?
I can't imagine that the steel caps in the boots of a cleaner would be particularly useful if they were hit by say, a falling refrigerator while suspended a hundred metres above terra firma, but perhaps they are a means of ensuring that the absailor's toes are prevented from being bent upwards for hours on end. Just as in years gone by, there were hazards which left symptoms which clearly identified one's occupation, like "black lung" for coal miners, perhaps they prevent "pixie toes" in Window Cleaners.
I suspect that's why that particular form of boot with the pointy curly toe and bell on the top of it is rarely seen anymore. There are just no more people with curly toes.
Thanks Workplace Health and Safety People, I can sleep soundly again!
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
I don’t think I’ve ever come across any unnatural spring water and I shudder when I try to think of the form that it might take, but when the cabin attendant delivered my bottle of natural spring water the packaging gave me cause for reflection.
I suppose in defence of the marketeers that there are very few ways of making water attractive in the marketplace short of calling it beer.
I did give passing thought to the fact that when one is sitting on an aircraft, desirous of a simple drink of water, one could probably question the need for marketeers involvement in the packaging at all.
I imagine that if I was the manager of the graphics department in a large marketing company I’d be inclined to leave the packaging of something as simple as a bottle of water whether from a natural spring or not, entirely in the hands of one of the upwardly mobile young things in the office, it’d be great experience for them after all. A bit of a taste for the real world eh?
It wouldn't be a task that would demand a good deal of experience I would have thought, but do think I’d stop short of flicking it to someone on work experience from the local tuck shop though.
I’m not usually prone to giving harsh criticism of this sort of thing, after all the label on a water bottle label is hardly going to have a lasting impact on the way I live, and it was hardly going to be an impulse decision, held firmly as I was by my seat belt unless moving around the cabin. I must say I was initially curious rather than impressed by the simplicity of the somewhat drab, two toned grey colour scheme, spoilt by what I thought was a mark where someone had pulled a bit of sticky tape off it.
Perhaps the words “Fresh Spirit” rising vertically in the fine print were there to instill me with confidence that this water was not just natural, but supernatural. Or had they just cropped the label a bit long and left some printing from the margins in the real thing accidentally, I wondered.
Then I put my glasses on and realised that what I thought was an unfortunate accidental defect in the packaging was just as unfortunately although quite irrelevantly, an apparent rendition of a cloud.
A cloud, juxtaposed with a flying kangaroo, a natural spring and a fresh spirit, on a blue-grey sky, with a wide grey land hanging below. All I wanted was a drink of water.
Next time I think I'll have a Coke and leave the natural stuff to people who understand these things.
Monday, August 04, 2008
We were contemplating the folly of driving the equivalent distance of London to New York and half way back again, while towing two small boats to a regatta that could not be held because of inclement weather, past drought ravaged lakes and dams and rivers, none of which were in a navigable state because of the drought.
There must be a word, we thought to describe driving so far without so much as getting the boats wet.
Then, somewhere between Menindee and Broken Hill, the radio crackled and faded back into reception range to the tones of a talkback caller having a grumble about the difficulties he was experiencing with life in the outback, so far from a built up area.
"It's the irony of distance," he explained.
And it was.