Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happy memories of looking through someone else's window with binoculars

Now, you may think the title of this blog post is a bit creepy. A bit peeping Tom. But it's more innocent than you think.

Last night I was pondering the evolution of the TV set since the 1970s. We have a modest plasma telly in our place; our living room is for living in, for talking, for welcoming guests, for laughing, for listening to music as well as watching telly so covering one wall with an intrusive giant tv was never in the game plan. I was watching Downton Abbey, which we had recorded via our digital recorder, when I harked back to 1975.

Back then the VCR wasn't even an option in Australia. Colour telly was just coming in and how exciting it all was! I was nearly thirteen, and as square-eyed as any kid that age in that era, the era before computer games, x-box and mobile phones. You had the telly, or you mucked about outdoors, read a book, played a board game.

Our neighbours across the road weren't short of a dollar. They bought a colour telly the day they were available in the shops. From our balcony, we could look across into their living room where, unfettered by curtains, the telly blazed away in full colour.

Mum and I were transfixed. So much so that we took to tuning our black and white telly in to the same channel the neighbours were watching, turning the sound up so we could hear it on the balcony, and watching the colour telly through binoculars. Yes, we did. I am almost ashamed to admit it. What a pair of dags!

When the weather turned chilly we gave up and went back indoors to our black and white telly, but within six months we had bought a colour telly of our own. I can still remember the day it arrived from Grace Bros. It was a Nordmende 26" tv, with a plastic key you inserted to turn it on. You could remove the key and hide it so little kids didn't muck with it. It came with instructions which included the recommendation that when you turned it off you waited an hour before you turned it back on again to give the CRT time to cool down. Mum took these all very seriously.

That fab telly, with its futuristic looks that didn't date it to the mid70s, lasted 20+ years. Gradually it developed problems, the screen took on a greenish tinge and there came a day when it broke and the technician couldn't fix it; the parts were no longer available. Sadly it went in the council cleanup to be replaced by a Sony. Mum bought the Sony just before the advent of plasma and LCD tellies, and the CRT on that thing is enormous. I think she got it in 1995/6 or thereabouts, and it's still going strong.

How exciting it was back then to get a new item of technology! These days twelve year old kids seem to accept that an iPod, iPhone, XBox, whatever, will automatically come their way sooner or later (sooner if they pester hard enough). The me in 1975 had never dreamed about computers, or recording the telly to a hard drive, or watching telly on the internet. The me back then would stay up till all hours to watch a particular show or movie, as there was no other option. You watched it or missed it. Simple.

How times have changed, and how much we take for granted in today's rapidly evolving technology culture. Part of me thinks the simpler days were much, much better. The other half says I'm too much of an old fart to bother staying up to midnight to watch a tv show.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts on shopping trolleys

They're all out today. My husband calls them, collectively, morphines. Slow-acting dopes.

I'm referring to people in our local shopping centre. I'm not sure whether today's vagueness in the human race is due to the phases of the moon but gee it's surprising how many people are totally spatially unaware once they walk into a shopping centre. Some days are OK, but today it was like wading through glue.

When I'm in a shopping centre my head is always swivelling around, making sure I don't bump into people, cut people off if I have to stop suddenly and most importantly, to seek the quickest way through the morphine to get where I want to go.

I think there should be rules about moving around in a shopping centre; unwritten rules are fine. But I would like to see something like this tacked up on the door of my local Centro:

"If you are going into this shopping centre with no specific purpose in mind but intend to dawdle along aimlessly, do NOT take up the entire space between aisles or shops. Stay to one side so people who actually have a purpose or who are carrying heavy bags of shopping can get past you."

I would also like to see indicator systems on shopping trolleys to minimise the shock of people suddenly darting across your path with no warning. And a little bell you could ring so the two very overweight women walking abreast in aisle 3 of Woolies would hear you coming and hopefully move to single file.

Then there are the family groups walking four abreast in the middle of the centre. When you're four abreast in the shopping centre there is no room for anyone else to squeeze past, shopping trolley or no shopping trolley. And when the family members on each end decide to veer off in different random directions, there really is no way to safely get around them without squishing a child, especially if you're driving a trolley as I was today. Dawdling along, they just don't consider that other people are behind them and may need to get in front, desperately trying to do a lunch-break shop.

I have said, 'Excuse me, please' so often today I'm running out of voice.

I can understand why some people don't move as quickly as I. I watch out for the elderly and the disabled and help them if they're having trouble reaching things in the supermarket. But the able-bodied brain-dead, walking around like zombies at a snail's pace? Now that's when I wish I had a horn or bell on the trolley!

When I watch some of these folk push their trolleys around I wonder what sort of car driver they are. Do they use their rear-view mirrors? Do they glance around to check before changing lanes? Are they mindful of other road users, do they watch the road a couple of cars ahead to see if traffic is stopping? In some cases, I definitely suspect not!  I think if I had followed one particular woman to her car today I would have discovered it was covered in dents!

Much as I hate nanny-stateism, maybe it's time that people were given lessons on good behaviour when pushing a shopping trolley or moving around shopping centres in general.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Or am I simply rapidly becoming a grumpy old woman?

Friday, June 15, 2012

If you like a ukulele lady....

There. I got my grouch about Whingy out of the way a couple of hours ago. Onto more positive stuff.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed a reference to a ukulele in the previous post, and yes! we have no bananas...er...I mean yes! I have bought a ukulele.

Now I have never played a stringed instrument in my life (but did play the drums for a few heady years). I come from a family of gloriously tone-deaf people and hearing us all singing in the car when I was a child (we didn't have a car radio) had to be heard to be believed. Mum, my grandparents and I all singing in the key of Z.

So me getting hold of something that has to be tuned is a worry, isn't it? Not at all, dear reader. I forked out $20 for an electronic tuner and the little uke is spot on. I'm even learning to hear for myself whether it's in tune.

But ah, the little black dots! Those chord charts. Thank heavens for the internet as a) you can buy your uke online as I did and b) there is a wealth of lessons and resources for aspiring ukologists.

Having had the wee thing for nearly three weeks I can now play:

  • When I'm Cleaning Windows
  • Darktown Strutters Ball (if you know the TMG version imagine it on a little soprano uke... hee hee!)
  • Don't Bring Lulu
I have almost learned them all by heart but have to cheat and look at the charts occasionally.

I have a hankering to learn some of the 1920s songs my grandmother taught me when I was little - hence Don't Bring Lulu. I think the ukulele lends itself to quirky fun music. 

Now I spend about an hour an evening strumming away, more when G is away. It's a good replacement for the drums - and doesn't annoy the neighbours nearly as much!

With friends like these who needs enemas? #2

My friend Whingy is at it again. Easily offended, she flies off the handle if she perceives she is not in the centre and control of things. It's one of the reasons I don't see as much of her as I used to, as she has got worse with age. Here's the latest on someone in danger of being renamed Mad Cow:

We are heading to Europe next month. Whingy has a friend (called, er, Mopsy for no reason at all) who has recently stayed at a friend's apartment in Paris. (Let's call that friend Artgirl.) Whingy offered to ask Mopsy if Artgirl would be willing to rent us her apartment for a few days. Mopsy agreed and Whingy agreed Mopsy, Artgirl and I could sort it all out between us. In a nutshell, we're staying at Artgirl's. All good.

Mopsy, meanwhile, apparently had the spare keys to Artgirl's apartment, so Artgirl thought.

I then contacted Mopsy suggesting she, Whingy and I get together for a drink and a natter and she can give me the keys. Mopsy thought this was great - only she'd dropped the keys back in the apartment letterbox when she left a fortnight ago. Artgirl and I are sorting that out.

So I was left with a social dilemma. I had asked one of Whingy's friends out for a drink without doing it through Whingy. The keys were the reason. Take the keys out of the equation and what do I do? It would sound rude to say to Mopsy, "Well, since you don't have the keys we'd better not meet up." Besides which I like her and we have know each other for 20 years through The Whinge.

I suggested to Mopsy we three meet up anyway. I spoke about it to Whingy.

She said she'd rather organise something herself later on (presumably when we're overseas!). I said fine. Instead I booked a table for Whingy and I and our husbands at the local club for tonight at her request.

Meanwhile Mopsy got back to me and said she'd love to meet with me and Whingy at the local club tonight, and she'd contact Whingy to organise it.

Now Whingy is in a huff. She's cross with me for organising something with one of 'her' friends - I keep thinking of a child in a playground complaining that another girl is stealing her friends! She claims I was going to organise it without inviting her.

She sent me a grumpy email this morning: "I'm not happy about the outcome of tonight. It seems that you emailed Mopsy and gave her the impression we weren't coming! 
I offered you help in finding the flat in Paris through Mopsy, I don't then expect you to start emailing invites to her whenever I suggest to meet up.
It's not as if you ever invite us to meet with your friends."

Faaark. I have invited her to meet with my friends and it's usually been less than successful as with a group of people The Whinge doesn't get to be the centre of attention. She doesn't like most of my friends. Aside from which she grumbles if she has to come to our place as we live 40 minutes from her's and that's too far and she gets too tired...

So. I emailed back stating it was never my intention to exclude her, that emails crossed paths before some of us had spoken to each other, and that I'd be quite happy to not go tonight and she and Mopsy could go, if that made her happy. (Makes me happy, I'm quite contented to stay home and practice the ukelele.) I haven't heard back from her yet. 

Is she reasonable in her grumpiness about this? Is she being precious about two of her friends contacting each other? Is she overreacting? Is she a mad cow? 

Answers on a postcard please or leave a comment below.