Age is considered good for cheese and wine. Drinkers prefer to nibble on aged cheese and drink mature wine. Beaujolais and cottage cheese have their place. But for something special cheese aficionados prefer an aged Gruyere or Cheddar to Mascarpone. The same applies to wine. If you can afford it kudos comes from drinking an aged French chateau wine.
We struggle with old people. The walking stick, the dribble, the befuddled mind, are the archetypes that spring to mind. We have reached the period in this State even young people feel old. This is our fifth lockdown and people are fragile. It needn’t be so.
If I am, I am unaware of how you see me. The cover you see above is of a book of my recent writing. I plan to give to my grandchildren at my birthday party (if lockdown rules allow) later this month.
Finally, as an early 80th birthday present for myself I have enrolled in the course below. This should take care of lockdown ennui.
With significant risks, there are great possibilities. That, we are told, is a sign fortune follows the brave. One of the greatest risks is to enter business using your own money. If the business succeeds the opportunity to make it is before you. The chances are you will have to prove yourself before anyone else will invest anything in something you start from scratch. It gets going, even if you have a lot of money. Be prepared because it will take more than you plan to spend.
A third and fourth career of mine was to help business manage cash. I did this for fourteen years. In my case, I have seen how easy and how hard it is. Many years ago I knew one family where both mum and dad were running a successful business, yet I saw the woman in tears. She remembered when she was told there was no money, none to buy a meal for the family. The mother went through her purse and found a few cents. Francene reached in the crevices of the couch and found a few more. She told me that after robbing the kids piggy banks she just found enough to buy half a dozen eggs so they could eat one night. Even after that, she said, “Bob had faith this business would succeed.” With the T family it did, however, it took many years living, hand-to-mouth like this before it paid off for them.
Only last month I heard a similar story of a family that had invested everything in farming. They had faced years of plenty and invested it all: in more land, in more equipment, in more seed. The current season is the best they have had for 25 years, yet they were at the mercy of the weather for 10 days after they cut the crop before they could harvest it. Even then there was no guarantee until it was in the silo.
Such is the life of those who risk everything in the hope of — One Day. One day we will be ok. One day we will have a holiday. One day we will have enough to buy a new home. One day….
I have also seen people who didn’t have to go through these trials. I have spoken with people who have taken charge of the family business and decided the wisest way forward was to grow the business. The decision to borrow and expand is also fraught. Normally the generation that makes that decision is very aware of the risks and they work as hard as their parents did on the business.
They make personal sacrifices and measure their chances with the risks of expansion. Like many farmers, they succeed where others might have failed
It is a factor of business the risk is not over even when they make the sale This is especially so when the sale is one made of business terms? We can be owed companiesed, and owe thousands of dollars at the same time. All party’s reason the job be done before all payments are made.
Not that that is the end. If I return to my story from Mrs T. They sold their business to a multinational competitor after their years of struggle just to see the business close and the products be taken off the market. The millions they received did not make up for the work, recipes, name loss, and pain – it just helped them have a very comfortable retirement.
In the third generation of a business, things are more difficult. You take an enormous fortune and spread an enormous fortune, and all you get are arguments. If, as is done with two very public big names – the money is left to one person to manage things can go wrong.
James Packer has halved his wealth in a decade. The mental anguish is apparently awful. Noting what our eldest has said of his friends clever enough to have sold businesses for tens of millions. They talk of the pressure they have had not losing what was so hard won. It must be worse when billions are risked.
One fellow, and his brother, inherited Australia’s largest building company about 15 years ago. Most of it went to one grandson. Now, remembering when I was preteen, I travelled around the eastern suburbs in the early mornings with my uncle. Some first workers we saw every morning were stocky Italian chaps. Many of them arrived in this land with no English. The owner of the business knew these men before he came here. As his business grew he remembered these hard men. He knew there was no work for them in the aftermath of WW11, so he called on them. The country was short of tall men, and stocky men were even better for the job.
The jobs they worked at were dirty. The equipment they had was scarce, so they picked and hammered with manual tools forming roadside gutters and curbs. The old yellow grader was the only tool of note I remember with the name Grollo printed on the side.
Fifty years afterwards one grandson managed the expansion of the business across the world. He decided he could manage the building company and its expansion into a whole new field from New York. He lived part time there and wherever else it was possible to live as a jet setter and still monitor the business. All the stocky men had retired or died like his grandfather, so he hired the smartest people money could buy.
Last weekend the building company went into receivership. Daniel has named many reasons the company has run out of working capital, but the one person ultimately responsible for the loss.
It is awful to watch a company collapse. Many times, losing a business can be put down to happenstance. Things like the pandemic are not down to mismanagement. Sometimes companies fail because their customers run out of money. Many times good people get caught by sly operators. That hasn’t happened here, and it will not stop many hundreds of innocent people from being hurt.
I have worked with people on both sides of the ledger. I have seen the damage done to families when ill health is the cause of failure. I have seen the anguish when an owner has to find thousands a debtor cannot pay. Insolvency used to be a crime.
Occasionally it is no one’s fault. All too often it is. The lesson from all this entry is to learn from what I have seen close by — fortune follows the brave. Sometimes. Sometimes the brave one is just a foolish gambler. Sometimes the brave one is a thief that will steal and steal again with a Phoenix movement. Observationally i say if you want to play because you inherit the earth, play but don’t pretend your play is business. Better to invest your money and play with the dividends than play with your capital that is someone once worked hard to build it.
(Not sure my last statement is correct.) What have you got to say?
I do not remember much of Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel “The Loved One,”. To those who know me this is not news. First I read the book over sixty years ago. Secondly most who know me, know as someone who regularly misuses names. “Howard would you hold this please.” When the name I should have used was, Frank – who was working with me. It is a family thing to mix names I say. That is because Grandma alway did it. “Bruce, Ian, Paul she would say until she arrived at the name she needed. Ron.”
As an adolescent the plot of the book didn’t resonate with me as did the explanation of what happened to the bodies that entered “Whispering Glades”, the funeral home. The manner in which the dead were prepared for everlasting life as beautiful specimens of themselves as possible has especially remained forever with me. The notion of the dead being falsely preserved seemed strange when we never saw the dead.
What happens in America, or in your pcorner of the world is bound to be different when it comes to loving your deceased. Here, first, is a personal recollection of my experiences.
It was only, many years later when I joined the big Vagg clan I came face to face with my first corpse. In those far off days it was a family practice for the body to reverently reside in the parlour of the family home in the days before the funeral. Prayers were recited in the room, and the body lay in an open coffin. After prayers, visitors would spend a few minutes in contemplation with the deceased. A day or two later a mass was said and the body committed to the earth.
As the years rolled by the ceremony changed. The body remained in the funeral director’s care until it was required at the church. The body arrived at the church in a closed coffin. Nearly always it remained that way and people lost touch with the sight of a cadaver. Death was left to the professionals and the only members of the congregation who did have a viewing were the immediate family – if that was their wish. Otherwise no one did.
Almost as invisibly funerals have shifted further to become products of big business. Once they were exclusively church affairs – somewhere in the past couple of decades the church has given way to the funeral chapel. Just as the grave has given way to the invisible cremation. In the past in my circle, the coffin left after the ceremony of the church for the graveyard. Family and friends gathered around the grave and after prayers the body was committed to the ground and buried. Hundreds of generations of my ancestors rest where they were placed just like this. Now, in a funeral home a curtain is closed and the casket is whisked away to the crematorium for cremation.
Funerals have become a commercial business. The country’s largest business in Australia is Invocare. This is an American conglomerate with literally dozens of once familiar local business names. (I am cynical about them if I am honest. I do not think death is a product to be exploited by business). Here I recite some of the practices business has been known to exploit – without reference to any particular model.
One company is know to ship multiple caskets to the cheapest under-utilised crematorium even if they are shipped hundreds of kilometres. Once processed the ashes are redistributed to the director’s place of choice giving the funeral director another chance to benefit from the grieving family.
The operators are ruthless profiteers, clipping the ticket of the grieving relatives: for celebrants, cars, flowers, music, caskets ( you wouldn’t want your dad to be sent off in a cardboard box so if you step inside we can show you a gold, bronze or an aluminium casket. If this is beyond your means – (why would it be. – Dad left you some money didn’t he?) we have Mahogany, Blackwood – with a lovely grain, Pine, or (heaven forbid) processed Craftwood. (The slick-sell can last for hours, but don’t worry, We will look after your Dad as if he was our own.
The truth is, over the years we have removed death from the process of life. We don’t even say Dad has died. We lie and refer to him as “In a better place.” “Passed”. Crudely you might read he is Deceased, because we seem to prefer euphemisms to Dead.
People live. People die. I will die. That is the nature of things. In 2020 we have all become aware death happens. It happens suddenly and without warning in a pandemic, and we do not like it. The media is consumed by it. Governments around the world are hiding behind the words of the epidemiology teams that project if we do not do this: close businesses, stop movement, limit traffic, bring in lockdowns, our hospitals will become overcrowded and more people will die.
People have always died. For democracy a dying constituent is no good. So leaders have given way to science and created fear in their communities. Yet the virus kills. Bacteria kills. Stupidly viruses and bacteria spend their whole lives trying to kill their hosts. Just as we people stupidly over consume and kill our planet. Yet when it comes to the planet we ignore science and kill it anyway.
Grim isn’t it? So too are the predictions of philosopher Byung-Chun Han who posits COVID -19 is probably not a good omen for Europe and the USA. “The virus is a physical test. Asian countries, which think little of liberalism, got a grip on the pandemic quite early.” He continued , “The virus is a mirror. It shows what society we live in.”
In his opinion, COVID – 19 shows we live in a second class society because COVID- 19 is not conducive to democracy. It has left the poor to their own devices. We have inadequate hospitals for them. “The pandemic is therefore not only a medical problem, but also a social one.”
“Faced with the shock of the pandemic, the west will be forced to give up liberal principles” and choose strong autocratic leaders.
He even observes it has killed religion. (People) “ totally sacrifice faith for survival. Everyone is listening to virologists who have absolute sovereignty of interpretation. In the face of the virus religious belief generates into farce.” Further he observes, “And our Pope Francis? St Francis has hugged lepers.” We are left to assume Pope Francis has to be cosseted to remain safe.
He is asked a question on everyone’s lips, “Is COVID – 19 a mortal wound for globalisation ?”
In his answer he observes, “We no longer do business for people, but for capital.” He continues, “We freely exploit ourselves in the belief we are fulfilling ourselves. But in reality we are servants.”
Now, Byung-Chun Han suggests the winner from the Pandemic is more likely to be China than is to be the West. It already seems apparent, the virus is forcing people to re-examine the neo-liberal ethos forced upon us for the last forty years. Small government has been a bane on our development by demolishing civic organisations in the belief life will be better if more is left to commercial operators because civil servants cannot work as efficiently. Clearly it did and it can again.
Tony Abbot. (Oh it hurts to write the name of our former prime minister but there – I have). Tony Abbot suggested the world had gone mad locking down business when we should just let the virus rip. Sure the elderly will die, he said, but the pain caused to the economy when they live an extra month or year is too expensive to the economy.
These paraphrased words are similar to the arguments used by Byung-Chun Han in his treatise. The cost of saving the elderly is extravagant when their lives are so costly. (My words are not exactly his). The average life expectation in Germany (he lives in Germany) is 80.5 and the average age of the German Covid-19 cases is 80 or 81.
Written, as these words are, in the sunset years of my life, life is good, yet I am as uncertain as you when it will end. I do not want COVID but neither should you. This does not mean either of us should live fearfully, but was Princess Dianna fearful when she met with AIDS sufferers thirty years ago. No? I don’t think so either. We just need to wash our hands. Keep a social distance. And wear a mask.
This is spring. Unlike the last twenty Springs this year we have had average rain. Accustomed as we are to below average rainfall it has been a dismal one. The vegetable patch still has its uneaten winter crop in a state of overgrown profusion. Each remaining plant has gone to seed. In the last generation if we had left over plants they were ripped out early and replanted with spring varieties that leapt out of the warm ground. My only trouble with them was with how thirsty they were.
Now we are told a phenomenon called La Nino has cooled the Pacific waters heading our way from Peru and we are going to have a Spring and Summer of average rain. The thing is we have become accustomed to parching unseasonal weather caused by an opposite system called El Niño.
El Niño is mean. It was responsible for the horrid events most of the country experienced last year. Fire, floods and famine followed. Thousands of acres of land were burnt in months no one could ever remember it being so dry, or so wet. Now we have this soft system – La Nino – and all it can do is rain like it would any other year and frankly I am over it.
How dare the weather be cool. How will the climate change deniers accept the globe is warming from the affects of mankind induced climate change when it rains every day? And it is too unpleasant outside to plant spring vegetable so close to the summer months. Frankly it is ridiculous.
The funny thing is this is an ordinary year. Ordinary as far as the weather goes. It is far from ordinary by any other measure. We are in the grip of a pandemic. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods. The global movement of people from country to country has paused. The world’s economy has collapsed. Governments are grappling to contain a deadly virus. One that for the most part is uncomfortable but unpredictably lethal for far too many. As I write the effects seem worse all over the world.
The crystal ball needed to halt the virus is as elusive as is the vaccine needed to stop it despite the presidential announcements from: The White House, The Kremlin, and Brazil. It could be said the world is in some sort of hiatus. Nothing ordinary is ordinary anymore. The optimistic are holding on to a belief things will spring back to where they were. Others, too many, have lost belief in life and are now living in the hell of despair.
In these times we need not be either optimistic nor pessimistic. Life is too unpredictable to require from us more, or less, than pragmatism. In this way we must face whatever comes our way as ordinary. Some are calling we accept this as the “new” ordinary. There is nothing wrong with accepting ordinariness is what is happening.
It is ordinary not to act stupidly and take precautions. We accept when in a car is a sensible thing to wear a seat belt to avoid injury. Just as we accept protected casual sex is a sensible precaution against disease. The ordinary thing to do is to ensure you do not spread the virus to those you love and wear a face mask when you are outside your family circle.
We might rail against this advice, but science advised us, to act otherwise is reckless. Many things previous generations did was reckless. And it cost lives. Builders of great architecture sometimes rode with the building steel from the ground to great heights without any protection. The loss of life led to rules about safety and safety equipment. It is illegal to act otherwise because when people cut corners they put the lives of innocent people at risk – to say nothing about themselves.
I am happy to admit to being ordinary. I write without any fulsome plan as some authors I admire use. For the most part I have written essays of a certain length. In them I have expressed my innermost prejudices – perhaps even without awareness. Lately I have written more poetry (I call it poetry even though it doesn’t measure up against classical poetry. It ((sort of)) resembles the style of modern poets.)
Writing like this requires me to use words economically. A haiku of seventeen syllables might be easy to some, on the other hand I have difficulty. Just as I have difficulty painting pictures with words in my longer work.
Facing difficulties is an everyday human test. Most of the time we have learned from previous experience yesterday’s test no longer bothers us. We don’t even think what we need to do, we just do it because it is the easiest way to get by. Sometimes the test, is a bit like this Spring weather, it is uncomfortable to become wet, or get blown about in the wind. Past experience has taught us to wear a jacket and just get the job done.
If my writing today reads as if I am preaching, my tenor is wrong. If you were here to talk with me about what I have written you could set me right. Fortunately your grandmother is quick with her slant to balance everything I say.
As a last word I observe the more opinions one hears on a topic the more likely you are to get to the truth. In other words don’t jump to conclusions based on only one side of an argument. Be like one character in the 1982 film, “A Few Good Men” says, “You can’t handle the truth”, and listen for it.
Before you leave today please tell me what you think.
The garden stake snapped off at the ground the instant the lawn mower grabbed hold of a loose thread of twine hanging from it. The stake had not long been in the ground yet the break was clean across the grain of the hardwood at its base. There it lay motionless beside the silent lawn mower as I contemplated my lack of caution in the moments before.
I had seen the dangling thread and reasoned I was close, but not near enough for it to be caught in the spinning blades. I reasoned as I had on other careless moments. The silence following the noisy break became a loud reminder I was wrong.
Despite the rude break and the instantaneous yank from Mother Earth a worm clung to the rotten timber, and so did a few grains of damp soil. The square sides of the light timber post were flat upon the freshly cut grass waiting for my next move. The worm writhed it’s body toward the shady side resting on the ground.
The bacteria responsible for most of the damage to the wood remained unseen – by design. That is the role of microbes and fungi. They grow unseen in damp soil and silently fulfil their roles as decomposers. They have other important roles In the garden including as soil improvers.
Fungi is slower to rot and invade wood but careful inspection showed the giveaway signs of fungi mycelium, or the white tread like structures of the invading yeast. These microbes had begun their role as soil improvers long before I tore the timber out of the ground.
From my over enthusiastic movement I had created a couple of jobs. My first job was to unwind the twine from around the blades of the lawn mower. I did this with some difficulty yet I was able to remove the treads of rope without resorting to cutting it away. My next job was to replace the broken stake with another to contain the raspberries to their patch. That done I continued to mow the lawn more carefully than I started giving myself time to marvel at the power of these secret friends of the gardener.