Monday, 31 December 2012

PC?


Not this .....................




Nor this .........................

................................. But this:




The PC police are everywhere.

Fair enough when there are major issues and contraventions of laws, libellous and racist insults causing harm and instigation of political unrest but .......... humour, satire and fun?

The Americans have taken the fun out of most aspects of life through litigation and oppressive laws governing society (this in a country that has 'freedom of speech' in its constitution and the biggest porn industry in the world).

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IN USA

Let's hope New Zealand doesn't follow all this bullshit.


Hey teacher administrator, leave our kids teachers alone.

JUST BECAUSE IT IS SUPERB

RUBBISH



I did some sorting today - shed, basement, cupboards - storing away the 'good stuff' and piling up things for the tip.



Now, I wonder if you know this but women have a different idea of what is rubbish than men do.
The Old Girl considers anything as rubbish that hasn't been used in a while. 

I look at things and evaluate:
usefulness
value
historical importance
emotional connection
future usefulness
fond memories
quirky interest
just in case it might come in handy sometime
how much it cost me x years ago
what is it?
and generally put it back on the shelf or at the back of the shed.

In some cases I have had to sneak back an item that she has thrown on the scrap heap.



The Old Girl's idea of rubbish to go



My idea of rubbish to go

Friday, 28 December 2012

GRAVEYARD SHIFT

I woke early this morning. Having got up to make a cup of tea I noticed that the harbour was very still. It was a change from the choppy water after the storms of the last week (remnants of Cyclone Evan) and while the sun hadn't come out it was great conditions for a kayak.



I headed out across the bay and at this time, before 7, there wasn't much activity. Some fishermen were readying their boats and there was only one couple of idiots, typical holiday recreational fishermen who ignored the speed limits and shot away from their rental accommodation and sped between the moored boats. There were two guys in the boat and neither were wearing life-jackets. They seemed to be heading out of the bay towards the Heads where there would be rougher water. Fools. The police had to rescue two morons on jet skis out there before Christmas despite the severe weather warnings.

Summer is when the morons with boats come out to play.



The water was so still it was easy to slip along and I'd soon got to the other side of the bay. I decided to visit the pioneer cemetery which is accessible by sea. It is almost overgrown in its bush setting which gives it an ethereal character.



I mooched around for a while reading the inscriptions on the old gravestones. Apart from the ones who lived to a ripe old age (90's) most of the younger ones seemed to have drowned out in the harbour making me think of the twits I'd seen earlier.
I sought out all the distant relatives (there were quite a few) with gravestones from the 1860's to mid 1900's.



I don't mind cemeteries. Its good to have a sense of the past and to be reminded of how short life is. It makes you appreciate the good things day to day.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

WE KNOCKED THE BASTARD OFF



We climbed Mount Manaia yesterday morning. OK, not a big deal as we've climbed it many times but yesterday morning, after the excesses of drink and food for Christmas dinner the evening before, it was quite a feat.

Manaia is 403 metres high. It is all up (with now nicely sculpted paths) and has 1060 steps.

I reckon that if we analysed the sweat that came off us it would have to have a few degrees of alcohol in it.

Although hard work, the climb was worth it with magnificent views at the summit and a feeling of well-being afterwards.






There is a stone plateau 3/4 of the way up that has a sheer drop off the end. The Old Girl always perches right on the edge daring gravity to have its way.




Tuesday, 25 December 2012

FOR LYCRA BOY.....

.... You know who you are.


CHRISTMAS MUSIC


The origin of Christmas music is in ...... nah. Just kidding.

We don't do Christmas music like Snoopy's Christmas and Jingle Bells at our house





 although I like old Bing's White Christmas and The Little Drummer Boy has always been a favourite especially this version:






When I was young, having been brought up as a Catholic, the classical carols like Adeste Fidelis appealed. Anything sung in Latin did and, as an Altar Boy, I really liked the mass in Latin. It was when they changed to English that the mystery and appeal waned.

Nowadays the little ritual we have here is for me to put on some 'Christmassy' music first thing on Christmas Day. This can be Gregorian chants sometimes and normally something from the Baroque era - Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, Albinoni, Pachelbel etc.



This morning it was Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, Gluck's Dance of the blessed spirits, Handel's Pastoral Symphony from The Messiah and Pachelbel's Canon a 3 on a ground in D.

Magic.



METHINKS HE DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH

Richard of RBB rants on from time to time about cyclists and their nancy lycra gear.
Shelley obviously realised that he had a secret wish to dress like this and so outfitted him to his heart's desire this Christmas.



Now the old feller can't ride a bike (maybe he could borrow TSB's wife's 3-wheeler - ed), but he may add on to the outfit with accessories like this mailbox:


And he could hang around in bars like this:

The 'Rectum Bar' in Germany

Sunday, 23 December 2012

CHRISTMAS TREES

Some people think that Christmas trees are a fairly modern invention.



I guess that the modern form of them may be, going back to Germany in the 18th century but really the origins go back a long way before that.

The earliest reported use of a tree either growing inside or cut down and placed inside a dwelling dates back to Scandanavia (then referred to as Scania) in the 11th century. The Scanes (Swedes, Norwegians, Finns etc) built their houses of wood since the land was richly covered in forests, and usually in the form of communal lodges.


Heating was by central fires inside the halls and plumbing was non-existent.
Fresh running water was easily found in streams and rivers nearby and bodily functions usually carried out under or on a nearby tree.

This was OK in the Spring, Summer and even Autumn but in Winter when the weather was bad no-one really wanted to venture outdoors. In fact it was downright dangerous to expose the 'old feller' to sub-zero temperatures.



The norm then was to pee not only by or near the door of the lodge, but inside.

After a while the accumulated stench of piss and the obvious rotting of mats, floors and even walls got a bit too much for even the roughest of the inhabitants. The solution was to plant trees inside near the door.
Spruce, Aspen, Rowen and Alder were often used but the most common tree used was the Norwegian Pine.



This fast growing tree also had the advantage of smelling nice. The resin weeping from the trunk when peed on would react to emit a fresh and pleasantly pungent aroma (which is why most bathroom aerosol fresheners are flavoured 'Pine' nowadays). The pine needles which freely fall would create a nice soft mat to soak up the careless spraying of drunken men or the natural inaccuracies from women.

More often though, as planted trees took a while to reach the desired height and after some time grew too tall,


the Scanes resorted to lopping the tops off growing trees and planting them in planters inside.



These would be replaced every couple of weeks thereby keeping the area fresh and pleasantly smelling.


Being positioned close to the door meant that the pissers could excuse themselves from the tables or their beds and  go to the door and urinate without having to venture outside.

Also, being close to the door meant that people coming into the dwelling would, when divesting themselves of items of clothing, bags, bows, spears, shields and swords etc. would hang these from reachable branches. After a while it was common place to see the trees festooned with things.



Now in Scandanavia Winter coincides with Christmas. Visitors and well-wishers, on arrival at the halls would place their gifts on the trees along with the aforementioned stuff and the trees would take on a festive look over and above the functionality.

As this became the accepted norm over the centuries it became custom, spreading beyond Scania and through Europe to become what we have today.
 No longer are the trees cut down and installed to disguise the smell of pee (although as any pet owner will attest the tree does encourage the little house guests to use it as a sand-box),


in fact the modern way is to not use a real tree at all.

Sometimes though old habits die hard and at many late night Christmas revelleries some idiot still decides to pee on the tree.





Friday, 21 December 2012

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

Do you know how this accustomed addition to Christmas came about?
Well, I do.
I studied History at University and almost became a  Historian.
Since then I have always been interested in history and how things came about.
As an avid reader I come across interesting bits and pieces that I am able to put together to form a picture. Sometimes it is absolute discovery.

My sister makes her own Christmas crackers that have for years been sought after. They are nothing like the limp offerings from the supermarkets that rarely 'snap', have junk inside and because they are made cheaply in Asian countries have paper hats that only fit people with the smallest of heads.




Crap Christmas cracker
Good home-made Christmas crackers

Some other Christmas crackers


OK, how did Christmas crackers come to be?

Well do you remember the Crimean war? Of course you don't but you might have heard of it.
This was a war in the 1850's with the Russian Empire on one side and on the other the British Empire (still rampant), the French (nervous about the British) and the Turks (declining Ottoman Empire) with someone else. The Turks of course didn't suspect that the Brits were not just helping them to reclaim lost lands to the Russkis out of the goodness of their hearts and the French didn't really know what was going on but wanted to keep an eye on the Brits.
The Crimean war was really a fuck-up on both sides. There were some  memorable things ( Hey, if you want more information look it up. I only nearly became a Historian. Remember?)

Being a 'modern' war both sides experimented with ways of obliterating the other. (if you want detail then refer to my peevish comment in the paragraph above).

One of the British inventions was the 'McCracken's Cracker'.

Based on a field ambulance




and the legend of the Trojan Horse

(you can imagine it)






Sergeant Hamish McCracken a wannabe engineer who had made a career mistake by joining the Hussars, was frustrated at the stupid way that his commanders ordered them to charge at lines of cannon and believed that there was a better way to breach the enemy lines.

He tried to explain to his superiors that the human body even if protected by a busby and beard couldn't really stop a bullet let alone a cannon ball, let alone an exploding shell.

His 'superiors' with names now celebrated as items of clothing, stationery, motor vehicles and retail stores merely responded with " Arrr, but arrr, methinks that, errr one, I mean basica....ally, one should, arrr, do one's duty errr, to ahhh, do one's best then, arrr , my good man, don't you think?"

Resulting from in-breeding, public school up-bringing and a diet of brandy, gin and opiates the strategy of the day was generally this:




McCracken saw a lot of his men butchered in these mad escapades and was up to his knees in loading wounded and broken bodies into the afore mentioned field ambulances. It was then that he had the idea of giving the Russkis a great surprise. It was December 1855 and cold as hell (strange expression that) so the officers were wrapped up in their furs and plastered. McCracken called in some favours and got the artillerymen to load up some ambulances with explosives. They packed them in as tight as they could and interlaced them the munitions with 'surprises'. As you might expect in the Crimea in winter of 1855 there weren't a lot of wee gifts to be had but a quick forage in the kits of drunken, sleeping junior officers found a 'surprisingly'  large number of tin and lead toy soldiers.




The irony of loading these into his 'surprise packages' didn't escape McCracken so when the supply was exhausted he employed his men (those still with working limbs) to whittling and molding small cannon, guns, knives and other materiel that he deemed appropriate.

When the ambulances were ready it was late December. The sergeants began to move them forward to the enemy lines but realised that they might naturally be suspicious, after all the plan to assassinate Czar Nicholas with an exploding hat hadn't worked.



No, they would need to dress the bombs up a bit. McCracken decided to get into the Christmas spirit and secured yards and yards of brightly coloured paper and ribbons to disguise the shape and intention of them.
One of the bombardiers came up with the idea of having long trailing ribbons which could be pulled to detonate. The Russkis, duly mystified accepted the sneaky British trick and were obliterated.



This helped shorten the war and led to the  'McCracken's Christmas' as they called it being adopted into the arsenal.
After some modifications many were produced and tried out on fuzzy-wuzzies, wogs, Hindus, Chinamen and anyone else around the globe that the Brits didn't like. The invention was renamed the 'Chrsitmas McCracken' and eventually shortened to 'Christmas Cracker. Peace and Good-will to all men indeed.






Later advancements in science and technology saw more powerful explosives coming in smaller packages however so the Christmas Cracker as a munition was shelved. This meant that it was also declassified and soon variations were seen in the public domain.



At first they were like smaller versions of the original and resulted in many deaths and disfigurations of the populace so, in the best traditions of nanny states everywhere were toned down a bit.




And eventually resulted in the limp versions we have today



Unless of course you have an enterprising family member who can make their own, ideally with a bit of a bang inside.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

CHRISTMAS CARDS



Richard B’stard, an English investor in the mid 1800’s, invented the first Christmas card. B’stard had invested heavily in the new British postal service and was eager to sell stamps and to encourage people to send letters and packages by mail. He needed to do this to support his ever-growing cocaine habit. B’stard also had a pornography addiction and had depleted the family fortune in ever more exotic quests to discover graphic renditions of copulation, fornication and all things sensual and sexual. He travelled to India, Asia and the Middle East with his old school chum Richard Burton and brought back many volumes, which he painstakingly translated, into English. Honey pots of Heaven, Tantra Shagstra and Find my Yoni  however were never published as before B’stard had finished his translations former chum Burton had released The Perfumed Garden and the Kama Sutra. The two had a falling out and never spoke again.



In a drug-addled moment B’stard had printed a card depicting the ‘virgin’ Mary, her mother and an unknown minor being ravished by an archangel with the title “…pound yon virgin, mother and child”. This understandably caused an uproar and, with questions being raised in the House of Commons, B’stard removed himself to the remote and ramshackle country estate in Norfolk. The cards that he had printed never actually made it on to mantle pieces but mysteriously disappeared. Rumour had it that avid collectors were paying well over the asking price for them and B’stard, it is said, secretly produced many more and became very rich.

The obscene version is on the obverse


Christmas cards came in all sorts of sizes with themes ranging from faeries and gardens to winter wonderlands, reindeers, santas, snow, holly nativity scenes and the plethora of religious clap trap. Eventually the cards became ever more risque, a bit of a throwback to B'stard's original, with anything going (usually santa going in a chimney pot).
After time though, in the early 21st century Christmas card giving tapered off. The custom had been hi-jacked by corporates and commercial operations to the point where most cards coming by post were sent by electricity or telecommunication providors, banks and insurance companies. Who really wants to display these? Most simply get binned.

Modern communication also assisted the demise with e-cards becoming de-rigeur although the business houses soon jumped on that concept and now clutter the e-mail traffic at Christmas.

Christmas cards, notwithstanding B'stard's contribution, became very popular over the next century and a half. People drew up Christmas card lists and carefully checked off who they had sent a card to , who had responded and, if any new sender appeared then they had to be added to the list. It became a kind of quiet challenge to demonstrate who had the most cards on display. Mantle pieces no longer were enough to display the collections - sideboards, top shelves and bookcases were used. In this context the invention of the Venetian blind was a godsend as each window could display as many as 60 cards.




At our house we have steadfastly refused to send out cards for over 20 years. We have still received plenty but I'm happy to say that the flow is down to a trickle. I guess the senders have kept lists to see who responds with a card and we have gradually been taken off the list.Why this post?


Well, Richard of RBB the well known Luddite sent us a card yesterday.








He signed it from himself and Shelley and some (not all) of his weird alter-egos.



He addressed the envelope to 'The Curmudgeon and The Old Girl'. God knows what the postie thought but at least he didn't address it to 'Comeinyourpants'.


We'll have to steadfastly refuse to send a card by return (unless we re-adress the Vodafone one we got) and maybe he'll take us off the list.

Thanks though Richard and Shelley.


Saturday, 15 December 2012

FINDING MY RELIGION



(Apologies to R.E.M.)

I awoke this morning to a dazzlingly beautiful day. It is one that makes an old atheist like me think of a deity.



I sat on the deck having my morning cup of tea (Irish Breakfast with soy milk) and the R.E.M. song came into my mind particularly the lyrics:

"Life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me"

OK, I know, R.E.M. lyrics are cryptic and obtuse but for some reason it hit the spot with me.

Actually the song is nothing to do with losing religion. Apparently its just an expression meaning to be at one's wits end. It is about obsession.

So obviously nothing to do with finding religion either ......


Um......

Nice song though.





Sunday, 9 December 2012

TURNING TURTLE

I had my first swim of the season today.
It has been a cracker day here, the best since last Summer.


The water was still a bit cool at first but once in - marvelous.

As a wimp I wore my 'rashy'- the swim/surf top.


The top keeps me warm, helps avoid sunburn and hides the 60 y.o. girth.

I used to look like Donatello's David

Note how cold the water must have been

Now I look more like Donatello himself


NEW POST - THE NEW DIFFERENT TIME ZONE BILL

Bill just got back from travelling and published a new post      HERE   It's good that he's busy but I'm starting to ...