Sunday, 24 November 2013

Modern Doodads

Recently, while I was recuperating in bed, I started thinking about childhood and I realised something quite profound: the moment you go from being young and cool to being an old sheila/codger is not related to age.  It's when you start using the expression "in my day".

This is especially true when you combine "in my day" with any of the following - "people had manners", "Children knew the real value of money", "Men wore trousers around their waists and not their knees", and "Music was actually music, and not this noise".

I'm really loathe to admit that I've been dishing up "in my day" way too frequently of late, so I guess it's only a matter of time when I too will be wearing my trousers around my nipples.

A good example of "in my day" - people used to write letters.  These days, kids seem to think 'letters' is the bit of the Big Mac that's left over once the two all beef patties, special sauce, cheese, pickles, onions and sesame seed bun have been eaten.  Lettuce .... LETTUCE!!

You know that nobody writes letters anymore, when even your World Vision sponsored child sends you emails or tells you to access their Facebook page.

Don't get me wrong, I like email, but it's nowhere near as good as an old-fashioned letter.  A love email will never be as romantic as a love letter, no matter how many smiley faced emoticons you attach to the end.

And let's not forget, it is far less likely your regular mailbox will be filled with deals for cheap viagra.

Don't even get me started on the fact that when I was a kid, if you wanted to take a photo, send an emal, listen to music and make a phone call, you actually needed a cameras, a computer, a stereo and a telephone. These days you can do it all on your mobile.

It would never have happened in my day.

Having said all of that, in a relatively short space of time, I have metamorphosed from a complete Luddite to someone who is a sucker for any new doodad (it's a technical term) on the market.  My favourite gadget, by far, has to be my iPod. I love it, yet I have to confess the feeling wasn't always mutual.

I got my first iPod back in the early days, when they were made of wood and you had to pedal a bike to make them play more than 2 songs in a row.  The main problem way back in YOT (Ye Olde Times) was that even though the technology enabled you to listen to thousands of songs in a row, the battery had a shorter life than most new Australian comedies on the 7 Network.

Still it was certainly an improvement on the discman, which if you tried to take  it with you when jogging, , it made your Best of Susan Boyle sound like it was remixed by Eminem. By the way, owning an iPod is kind of like being married to Rod Stewart - you know in a couple of weeks a new model is going to come along.

OK, seriously folks, I'm all for technological advancement, but  for me, the justifying principle is that the new doodad must enhance your life in some way and perhaps even improve you as a person.  for example, I reckon I'm a much friendlier sheila since I got my new Samsung phone.  But before I explain why - a little background  .....

Despite my best efforts - and I do try - I'm hopeless with names.  For some reason, my brain has an uncanny capacity for retaining useless trivia, but anything important like names, birthdays, tax file numbers, car registrations or my PIN gets erased like an Etch-a-Sketch.  I've lived in the same place nearly all m lfe, and I still don't know my home phone number.  Although, given I live alone, I don't know why Id ever need to call my home - unless I was going to ask the dog to tape EastEnders.

But I digress.

I find it amazing, and completely frustrating, that I can still clearly remember that Mrs Mangel caught the bouquet at Charlene and Scott's wedding on Neighbours, but often I'll be halfway through a conversation with someone I know, and have to say "Excuse me, I'm so sorry, but what's your name again?"  Only to have them stare at me, shake their heads, sigh and say ... "It's Peter, but to be honest, normally you just call me dad!"

I was ready to give up and resign myself to a life of constantly being embarrassed in social situations until a little bit of technology changed my life forever.

(I finally have come to the point of my story, thanks for your patience).

It all happened when I was invited to a wedding and had to confront what is basically my worst nightmare - a room full of people who were 'friends' of a friend.  You know, the sort of people you've met once or twice, so you should know their names, but you'd actually struggle to identify them in a line-up.

Then I had a sudden realisation.  On my new Samsung, I can access the internet.  I quickly ducked outside, and quickly looked up the bride's Facebook page where there were photos of most people at the party with their names underneath each photo.  And not just their names!  I strolled back into the party full of confidence and conversation starters.

"So, Paul, good to see you.  Are you still into ....... Kylie Minogue?  And Sally, its good to see you too.  I was so sad to see that you and Paul had gone from being 'in a relationship' to 'it's complicated'.

Ha ha no problem!!!!!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Beep Beep

It was, I think, just after my 12th birthday. My mother thought I was old enough to be trusted to go to school and back on the bus - alone!

She didn't know I was already way beyond buses.  I had even driven her car around the block with my brother David (older brother, I might add), when both our parents were out.  

Actually, I remember it really well. I turned the ignition key and put it into gear and my first thoughts were "I'm going to die" followed by "She's going to kill me" followed by "Heeeeeyyy, I'm driving. Cool".  When I drove back into the driveway and got out of the car, I thought "I've gone from child in danger to dangerous child".

When my dad finally got around to teaching me to drive at about 17, he was really impressed by my 'natural talent'.

Ah ..... cars!  I have figured that one of the most embarrassing things in life is when you become the person you used to hate.  That's why it absolutely pains me to admit that for the past couple of days I have been driving a 4WD.  

Yes folks, I am now one of those road-hogging, petrol-guzzling, environment-destroying, talk-on-the-mobile-while-driving, compete and utter tossers who drives a 4WD in the city.  I have been driving this baby for a couple of days now and the closest I've come to going off-road was when I buggered up a reverse park and ended up on the nature strip.

Friends who know me will also know that my little red car is broken, or sick, and is in hospital.

By the way, did you know that you can now buy spray-on dirt to give your 4WD that off-road look even if you've never been anywhere near the back country.

Let's be honest, I live in the city, what do I need a 4WD for?  So I can get to the next set of traffic lights faster?  Most mornings, I don't even get my speedo above 50.  I don't need a 4WD - I barely need a 4th gear. I don't need a V6, I could probably run my 'little red car' on a couple of cans of VB (that's beer for you Brit type people, who I know, read this).

Come to think about it, if petrol prices get any higher, I think I'll finally get to take this baby off road, because I may have to use it to invade Iraq myself to get some cheap oil. Honestly I filled my car before it broke and I'm sure the car doubled in value.

So transportation seems to be the topic of conversation around our street lately.  

It was like this a while ago and my partner at the time, and I went out and had a quick look at cars.

I really don't know about you guys overseas, but here, our devotion to the car borders on worship.  Despite what you hear, it's not really a matter of economics, it's an image issue.  In Australia, you are what you drive  Go and have a look at your car, and there you are.

So I thought a new vehicle (image) was in order.

The red Mercedes with leather everything really felt like me.  The bank didn't really think it felt like me to them.  Nor did the black BMW convertible.

I remember my next door neighbour suggesting, I put all my money into drugs, stay home and take all the trips I wanted.

Ok so what's wrong with my 'little red car'? Let me tell you ....

Firstly the automobile driver side window has now decided, while it is happy to open, it won't close unless I push the button while pulling up the glass with my other hand (and then pulling out my fingers at the last minute to ensure i don't sever my fingers in the process).  And I do have to get the window up as high as possible, because my car has already been broken into.

Anyway, apart from the guillotine window, the car had been fine for some time, but lately things have been falling apart.

As I said, my car was broken into at the airport, then I got a flat tyre, only to discover when I went to grab the jack, that the thieves had stolen than too.  I mean, seriously folks, who steals a jack?   I've heard of car-jacking, but car jack-jacking? Or maybe their getaway vehicle had a flat and they needed to improvise.

Is there a lucrative black jack market?

As if that weren't enough, a couple of weeks ago I got into the car and I turned the key and it didn't work at all. I turned the key again. Nup, still nothing. Turns out the battery had died.  Luckily roadside assistance was quickly on the spot and replaced it with a new one.

Only problem was, when I started the damn car, the stereo wouldn't work.

Obviously my car has some sort of security override, that means when the battery dies, the stereo locks. Now instead of belting out some non-stop blocks of rock, it was flashing "Enter Code" in a way that implied if I didn't enter said code, my car would self destruct in 30 seconds.

But what code was I meant to enter?

I tried the PIN for my bank card, my phone number, the numbers from The Da Vinci Code, Pi to 100 places, 58008 (which is boobs upside down) and last week's lotto numbers, but none of them seemed to work.  Finally, I tried my last resort, I yelled at the stereo while mashing all the buttons at the same time. Surprisingly, that didn't help either.  Go figure!

It was at this moment when the lovely man from roadside assistance (who I hadn't noticed was still there and I suddenly felt very embarrassed about the shouting and mashing) suggested I check the owner's manual for the code.

Brilliant idea!

At least something was going right.  Only one problem. Only a tiny one of course. Turns out when they robbed my car, they also took - wait for it - the owner's manual.

Think I'll buy a Jeep!!!  (ask an Aussie to explain the joke, guys). Car won't start again, so I had to admit it to hospital.

Hang on, I just thought of my friend, Damian (not his real name for reasons which will become obvious).  He is - how can I put this nicely? - frugal.  Like ex Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, Damian would consider himself to be an 'economic conservative'.  Most people would use another term.  Derived from the Latin - maximus tightius arseus.

Yes Damian is tight and proud of it.  You know the old joke about someone opening their wallet and moths flying out?  Well, that sums up Damo; except if he had moths living in his wallet, he'd charge them rent.

Why I mentioned him here .... take a drive with Damian and you'll learn that when he puts petrol in his car, he makes sure he shakes the hose until he gets to $50.02, because he knows that they'll round down the amount and he'll drive away with 2 cents worth of free fuel!!!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie eh, eh, eh?????

News of my credentials as a true-blue, kiwi-mocking Aussie must have travelled the globe, because when I landed in London last year, I found myself on the news.  Now before you start making assumptions, no I didn't try to take in a boogie-board full of Schapelle's secret stash.

No, I was on the news defending our Great Land.

Why me, you ask?  Well you all know of my credentials, but aside from those, all I can guess is it must have been one of those rare occasions when ex Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was actually in Australia - visiting from his back-packing tour of Europe or something - so they checked which Aussies were in town, saw Jason Donovan, Sir Les, Peter Andre and Dannii Minogue and figured I was the best of a bad bunch.

But the reason why I was asked to defend our beautiful home, GBS (Girt By Sea) is interesting. As it turned out, the English had taken particular exception to an advertisement put out by the Australian Sports Commission. The story was making front-page news in the tabloid press over there (whose motto, incidentally, seems to be "Small Words, Big Type, Bigger Boobs").   And suddenly I was an expert. Yes, it turns out that all it takes to be an expert is convenience by being at the right place at the right time..

Now if you haven't seen the advert I'm talking about, it was a viral email starring a boasting Brit that was meant to arouse anger and passion in Aussies.  If you can't be bothered looking it up on YouTube, it stars an actor with a less convincing British accent than yours truly, taunting Australia about our Olympic Gold Medal count.  Why the ad agency couldn't find an actual geezer for the ad, I don't know. Surely they could have just popped down to Bondi beach and asked every 2nd person there.

Anyway, I found myself on TV in the UK. Camera in my face, lights burning my eyes and being asked "Would it work?"

"Well, maybe." (Oh yeah, They were really getting their money's worth with my outrageous opinions). Maybe - I feared I was going to get splinters if I sat on the fence any longer.

I reckon most Australians would confess that in certain areas we've always seen ourselves as superior to the Brits - weather and dentistry are a couple that spring immediately to mind.  But sporting prowess is the one that trumps them all.  Sometimes I really suspect we'd be happy to come second last in the medal count in the Olympics, as long as Great Britain came in last. (Well, actually, 3rd last because there is always New Zealand too!)

In most countries, the Olympic motto is Citius, Attius, Fontius. But in Australia it is Citius, Attius, Fontius Beatius, Pommius, Bastardius.

As much as they Olympics should be about celebrating the spirit of taking part and striving for excellence, it genuinely did a) surprise us and b) burns us up that the bloody Brits beat us.

Remember when it happened? It basically knocked all the other news off the front page.  Suddenly no-one cared about terrorism.  Forget 'beat the bombs', it was all about 'being beaten by the Poms'.

And beaten we were. Every mathematician in the country was pulled off important research to prove that we won more medals 'per capita' than Great Britain.  Then we decided that although the British total was higher than ours, some of these medals were won by the Welsh and the Scots so they don't count.

Hell, if they could all compete as Great Britain, we should be allowed to combine with other countries too ... maybe the United States of Australia or Chinalia.  We just couldn't admit that the British had beaten us fair and square.

'So where does this rivalry come from?' I was asked.

Well, my theory is that we resent the British because they think we're convicts, and they resent us because someone stole a loaf of bread in cold, wet, plague riddled London and they were sent to Summer Bay. The other reason we like to play this game is simply that sporting rivalries are mostly harmless and fun. That's what's worth remembering. It's the bloody Olympics.  It's not a matter of life or death.

OK, let's talk briefly about something that REALLY matters - the Ashes!  Supporting the Australian Cricket team used to be rewarding. Used to be - thank you England!!!!  Now it's getting harder and harder to support the team who can't even spell the word 'VICTORY' at the moment.

Enough of that.  And if we're going to talk sport, a long overdue reform is making the Melbourne Cup - the horse race that truly does stop a nation - a public holiday for the whole country.  No-one can argue that there isn't something really special about the Melbourne Cup.  If nothing else, it's the only time usually rational people set their alarms early on a day off, then spend hours fighting traffic just to sit in a car park getting pissed.  It's like going to the movies but, instead of going inside the cinema, spending the entire time sculling coke and snorting lines of Wizz Fizz (a sweet for you non-Aussies) at the candy bar.

The current situation in places outside Melbourne is that people get to stop work for the duration of the race.  So if the whole day isn't declared a public holiday, like it is in Melbourne, at the very least they should have the decency to make the race longer. Forget 5 minutes, get the horses to run a marathon.  That way, the rest of Australia would get a couple of hours off. Hey make it like an F1 race Bathurst or even better, like The Amazing Race.

Ohhhhhh - sport!!!!!