Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I think I am changing, or perhaps I am just becoming aware of a part of myself that I had not been aware of before.

For a long time, I have had fun teasing LK about her penchant for precise organization. That's a nice way of saying that "A place for everything and everything in its place" is not a proverb to her, but a religious mantra.

Her organizational skills are often mysterious to me. Why, for example, are these utensils all together? Because they grate things. OK, then why are those in this drawer together? Because they have wooden handles. And why haven't you put the soup ladles together? Because the big one won't fit (often accompanied by a look that says, Gee you're dumb.)

And it's not just about where you put the utensils. For example, towels have to be folded in a certain way. I used to think this was very odd until I brought it up in conversation with friends a few times and discovered that how you fold towels is actually important to quite a few people. Kind of like whether the toilet paper comes from the top or bottom, I guess.

This information is really just a prelude to what I realized this morning. I, too, am becoming like that. I may have always been this way and am only just coming to realize it now. Or I am changing - either because I am getting old or perhaps LK's become my role model. It's quite confusing, but it's happening for sure.

It all started to dawn on me this weekend. A couple of friends were visiting Hobart and came over for dinner. Early on he slid one of the lounge room chairs aside in order to look at something on the table.

And then he left the chair where he had moved it, sitting in the middle of nowhere.

Not where it is supposed to be.

And for a very long time, that chair was just about the only thing I could think of. I thought it might be rude to my guest to get up and put it back in its place. But it became clear he wasn't about to put it back. And it just sat there, virtually screaming, "I am not where I belong!"

Finally, I decide he was the rude one for moving it in the first place, and I got up and put it back.

What worries me is that this is not the sort of thing that would have bothered me before. At least I don't think so.

I was thinking about that today while I ironed the sheets I was putting on the bed. Then I realized something else. I was ironing sheets.

I not only iron sheets, I like ironing sheets. I like removing wrinkles. I enjoy watching the spots of water I spray on them disappear under the iron's heat. I love the fact that when the bed is made, it is neat, precise, and wrinkle-free. I have to confess, I have even thought how unfortunate it is that we have to sleep in it and mess it up.

It's not just that, either. I need the kitchen to be tidy. I have to turn on certain lights as soon as it gets dark. I must do my Wii exercises in precisely the same order every time. And so on.

I once prided myself that it was LK and not me who really cared whether the cushions on the bed were zipper-side down.  In fact, I believed I was proving that this precise organization isn't for me because when I make the bed every day I deliberately arrange the cushions slightly differently each time. A little off-center, a little further apart, a little further forward. I now think it is different to me, but probably not to anyone else. With the likely exception of LK.

I am starting to believe that this "variety" is just another way of organizing things precisely. For I did realize this morning that no matter how differently I arrange them, I always put the cushions with their zipper side down.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Not much happening lately. We have done very little as LK spent much of last week fighting a pretty bad cold/flu. Thankfully, she's recovered well and feeling good again now.

She's brave when she's ill, which of course is the opposite of me and, I believe, most men. I kept telling her she should learn from us: when you're sick and feel awful, then go super pathetic, whimper every once in a while and look at your spouse with red, moist eyes begging for a little cuddle or kiss on the brow. That is, become a big sooky baby.

But no, that's not how women do it, apparently. They just take care of themselves quietly, curl up on the couch and apologize three or four times for not having enough energy to make dinner. What fun is that?

Anyhow, with not much to do not much got done. Funny how I lost all my energy and desire to do stuff around the house when LK was sick. I could try to explain that I didn't want to disturb her, but none of you would believe that anyhow.

So with not much to report about our lives, I want to share some recent highlights from the Mercury,  our local Tasmanian newspaper.  I think they will give you a good sense of what life is like around here.

First, there's this poster for the Hobart paper that I saw outside the news agency when I popped over to the IGA to get some parmesan.

(I forgot to tell you that during her illness, LK had decided it would help her get better to make gnocchi for the first time. The gnocchi was delicious, but the effort took so much of her energy that I got to learn how to make a butter sage sauce for the first time.)

Anyhow, I love this headline and think it conjures up lots of ideas about A) what gets classified as sport down here at the southern tip of the continent and B) the proper role of lawyers

There was also a great story about a new folk hero emerging here:

This guy figured it was OK to take his mobility scooter across the main bridge at peak time. He said most people were cool about the fact that he slowed his lane down to 8 km (that's 5 miles) per hour. I can only guess that he left his hearing aid off that day. Or perhaps the folks here are even more laid back than they claim to be.

And finally, this is some good news for yours truly - but hopefully won't matter for quite a while:

I am sure it is a coincidence that they decided they needed these ambulances for fat people just a few months after I moved here. Regardless, there is good and bad news about this new purchase. The bad, regrettably, is the number of people who commented on this news story by suggesting in tones not too far different from Fox News that if people chose to get fat it was too bloody bad if they get sick, but it certainly shouldn't involve spending taxpayer dollars to get their chubby butts to the hospital.

The ambulance can carry patients weight up to 500kg - that's 1,100 pounds for you Yanks. And that, needless to say, is the good news. I have a new goal! Well, OK, a new guideline.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Apparently we have been incommunicado for quite a while. Well, perhaps not completely. Let's just say we've been near communicado.

It all unfolded slowly. Shops that had merchandise on hold for us called to let us know it was in. And when we finally showed up weeks later, they asked if we hadn't received their messages. We figured they had the wrong phone number, but it was right when we checked. Oh well, one of the mysteries of life that isn't worth solving.

Then we started getting narky e-mails and SMS messages from friends and family. Why didn't we answer their calls? What calls? was our response, but you know how lame that sounds as an excuse. I think we would have been better off claiming the dog ate our answering machine.

Then LK got a testy note from Caroline wondering why we were ignoring all her calls. Since Caroline has one of the sunnier dispositions (except when it comes to the weather and real sun), this set Linda to worrying that something was wrong with the system.

I, on the other hand, am pretty much like the guy in the cheap sci-fi films who ignores all the signs foreshadowing the monster's arrival on screen only to become a late night snack by the second reel. Surely it was more easily explained by saying we were dealing with people who had not quite mastered the art of leaving a voicemail message. I pooh-poohed the complaints, but I did agree to check the phones.

Neither of our mobiles had any messages, nor any record of receiving calls so I assumed we could leave them. The home phone had some old messages, so it seemed obvious that the answering machine was still working. No problems I could find, and my final test was to ring the home phone from the mobile.


Instead of the answering machine kicking in, the unanswered call went to MessageBank, the phone company's automated answering system. Well, that would explain things. I had no memory of ever ordering it, and cannot imagine why I would have since I prefer our own answering machine. Nonetheless, Telstra had it up and running, apparently since last August when we installed the home phone.

Since the system doesn't let you know you have messages waiting, we - well - we didn't know we had messages waiting. And when I tried to listen to them yesterday, it turns out I didn't have a password, so I still don't know how many messages were waiting or what their contents were.

In part that's because, at $6 a month, I cancelled the MessageBank service yesterday. And then found out that once it was cancelled all our messages were gone forever.

So, to make a long story a tad shorter, if anyone out there has left any messages on our home phone in the past 7 or 8 months, we may have been ignorant of your call but we weren't ignoring you. Now I just have to come up with an equally good excuse for not answering e-mails promptly.

Monday, May 9, 2011


"We get along wonderfully unless we try to do something together."
Linda to me, May 6

It's hard to justify a getaway holiday when you're retired and all you're getting away from is doing the bare minimum to keep the house livable. But LK combined a great e-mail travel deal with a kind-of-justify-the-trip non-essential business reason to get us away to Far North Queensland last week.

There is a downside to a week of warm, sunny weather. When LK returns from sitting by the pool she has ideas. These ideas range from the costly, offbeat and unfortunately-likely-to-happen ("I was reading about the Faroe Islands and think we should visit there") to the not-so-costly but really not likely to happen at all ("When we get back, I think we should do a liver-cleansing program")

Or, even scarier, the not-costly-at-all and probably-going-to-happen. As in, "I was thinking that, if we can figure out how to not get a divorce by the end of it all, we should consider painting the guest bedroom ourselves."

Sure, you're probably thinking, What in the world is so difficult about painting a room? And the answer is, nothing. It's something that even I can do. And believe me, when it comes to d-i-y there is mostly stuff I cannot do.

But the key phrase in LK's proposal was "if we can figure out how to not get a divorce."  It may surprise some of you because LK and I get along wonderfully when we live day-to-day, when we travel, when we cook, when we choose entertainment, in a million different things we do together.

But we don't work well together. It boils down to this. Neither of us likes to be managed, yet neither one of us can find the STOP button on our compulsion to manage.

Back when we worked, it had been easy. LK ran a very successful division, produced a top-quality set of products and made sound decisions. So I just stayed out of her way. (And to be honest, in the interest of our marriage, I probably would have done that even if she produced crap and lost the company millions.)

But in the division of labor that is our retirement, it's becoming clear that there is a burr under my saddle when I hear suggestions on how I can do something. I've pretty much trained myself to let LK move the ladle from the drawer where I put it to the drawer where she wants it. I deliberately ignore if the cushions on the couch aren't in the same place that I put them when I cleaned up.

And if I ignore her suggestions on how I could do something in a slightly better way, I don't even get upset when she mocks me when I screw it up.

These are the things you learn to do (or not do) when you love the person you live with.

But the idea of painting a room together. Oh, that is scary. As we sat in Port Douglas sipping the first drink of cocktail hour, I told LK we could easily paint the room. "We'll have to move the mattress and box springs out," I told her. She told me they could be rested against the wall while we did the ceiling.

My next suggestion was close, but needed a wee tweak. As did the next. About the only thing she happily accepted was when I said I didn't want to do the trim. We both knew that would be a disaster. But even from this discussion we could both see the future: Me starting to do something, LK suggesting a different way, Me pursing my lips, Me doing something else, LK quietly changing it just a little bit, Me pursing my lips even tighter.

It was pretty clear the room could be painted, but I might be nothing but beard from nose to chin as the week wore on. For a couple of hundred bucks we could get a professional painter to do it. We would have no stress between us. And as a bonus, my shoulders wouldn't ache after the first day.

But something made me stubborn. Perhaps it is just the retiree gene that rebels against paying money for something you can do yourself. Yet I knew that it wouldn't be worth the savings if we were to debate every paint stroke or I had to bite my tongue every time LK complained that I had tipped the paint tray over onto the carpet.

Then the solution hit me. The problem isn't that LK is a manager-by-nature. The problem is that I am not a works-for-a-manager-by-nature person, that I can't seem to get past the fact that I no longer am the muckamuck of the company. And then I saw a solution.

"We can do it," I said, "but I think we need to settle one thing if we're to avoid fighting over things." I swallowed hard and said it. "You need to be the manager. I will do whatever you tell me, however you want me to do things. If I know going in that I am working for you and you're the manager, then I won't mind it."

LK took a slow sip of Johnny Walker and thought. She put her glass down decisively and nodded. "Yep, that will work," she said. And so we have launched a new project.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Stephen King has an affectation that I feel even he cannot get away with. He loves to call those of us who have bought 50 or 60 of his various works his "Constant Readers". Since that was the phrase he first used to describe Annie Wilkes, (the character played by Kathy Bates in the movie version of "Misery"),  I am not sure he means it as a compliment to us. But either way, it is the kind of phrase even the world's all-time best-seller hero cannot use without sounding a little (a lot) forced, a bit writer-ish.

It just doesn't sound like good writing.

Be that as it may, my Constant Readers, I have come to let you know something. You are all just the tiniest bit in a rut. And since I come from RutLand, you can trust that I know what I am talking about.

Why do I say you're in a rut? Well, for reasons best left in the appendix of my autobiography, I have not written a post since April 17. And that was, to be frank, a whining, self-indulgent complaining lament that someone may be taking away my games. Since then - nada.

But what do my googling eyes reveal but Constant Readers who come back to the blog day after day, finding nothing and still not letting it make them stop coming. Loyalty? Or just plain bad habits?

I don't know, but here's the stats:

They compare the blog's readership for the period April 17 to yesterday this year (when nothing was added) and last year (when I was writing about our adventures in Mumbai, Dubai, on the Suez Canal, in Alexandria, Athens and Mykonos - not to mention the trip through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden).

And what do the stats reveal? Well, for starters you can see that on several days there were more visits to the blog since I stopped writing than when I was actually telling people stuff.

It showed that the number of visitors to the site over the two periods was EQUAL. That's right. I didn't lose one visitor by not bothering to do anything. In fact, about the only two significant statistical variations were, first, that people spent less time on the site this year than last.

Which is a good stat, because I would really worry about you, Constant Readers, if you spent as much time reading nothing as you had reading something.

And secondly, I actually had a 71% increase in new readers by not writing anything.  It's almost as if retirement is a sound business decision on top of being fun.

For your information, there is a bit of variance by nationality. As you would guess, most of my Constant Readers are American or Australian. Well, the Yanks more or less cottoned on that not much was happening, and there was a 41% decline in visits. The Aussies, however, posted a 24% increase in visits. Read into it what you will, but I think the best phrase to explain it is to use the American spelling for the Aussie chant: "Oy! Oy! Oy!"

Anyhow, after a long period of inaction, we're back in action. More later this week, Constant Readers.