Teenager buys £600 worth of shopping for 4p and donates food to charity.
Cheer yourself up, click the link.
Teenager buys £600 worth of shopping for 4p and donates food to charity.
Cheer yourself up, click the link.
I am often to be heard murmuring, and more than usual round about this time of year, that wonderful phrase “first world problem”.
“The oven doesn’t cook fast enough.” Well, no it doesn’t, but it does just come on at the turn of a switch, and you don’t have to gather wood before you can eat every day.
“The supermarket is out of my favourite bread.” Yes, but there are 47 other types of loaves within an arm’s reach.
“God, there’s nothing on the TV.” True, but you also have your laptop, the internet, your playstation, musical instruments, hobbies, or you can even go for a walk without someone sniping at you from a nearby rooftop. As you stroll down the street, if you’re lucky, people will actually smile at you. They may even say “Good evening.”
And most of all. “I can’t think of anything to give so-and-so this year.” Well, turn on the tap then, and give them a glass of water. Clean, pure, uninfected water. Then give a gift of clean water tor someone who needs it, on behalf of your friend or family member.
I don’t consider myself an especially holy or even particularly good human being. Like most people, I have my good bits and bad bits. I can be as thoughtless and as selfish as the next person. And while I always try to find a few bob for those less well off than myself, I know I can and should always do more. And every year, round about this time, I hear my old Mum saying “Count your blessings, Son”.
She came from another era, to be sure. An era when there wasn’t enough medicine or doctors, when children died of vitamin deficiencies in “advanced” countries, countries that were periodically locked in titanic death struggles with the forces of evil, when food was hard to come by, when fuel was in short supply, when tens of millions of workers were unemployed and it seemed like no-one cared. As she turned out Depression-era meals onto the dining table long after the need to be so careful with our pennies had passed, she quietly inculcated in me a profound respect for what we have, instead of an envy for what we don’t. What that woman could do with a chicken that was years past the moment it should have been popped in an oven was a small miracle.
So as you struggle with your first world problems this Christmas, please, give what you can to those with nothing. This is how I do it. It’s even fun, too. Who said doing good has to be boring? Not the ‘Beests.
(This is why you cant get any sense out of me after noon on the first Friday of every month. Well, you can try … new ‘Beests always welcome. Spread the conspiracy.)
Shopping malls. Dangerous places for all men. You have been warned, ladies.
(From Yahoo, Daily Mail and others)
A Chinese shopper has tragically taken his life after he couldn’t bear to enter another shop with his girlfriend.
Witnesses said the man leapt to his death at a popular shopping centre after getting into an argument with his partner.
Tao Hsiao had been shopping with his girlfriend for five hours.
Despite already carrying a large number of bags, the woman insisted that they go into one more store where there was a sale on shoes.
An eyewitness said: “He told her she already had enough shoes, more shoes that she could wear in a lifetime and it was pointless buying any more.
“She started shouting at him accusing him of being a skinflint and of spoiling Christmas, it was a really heated argument.”
The pair argued until Hsiao dropped the bags he was carrying and jumped over the rail, falling seven storeys through Christmas ornaments.
Authorities said the man died immediately on impact when he hit the floor.
A shopping spokesman said: “His body was removed fairly quickly. He actually landed on one of the stalls below and then fell to the floor so although the store was damaged it meant he didn’t hit anybody.”
“This is a tragic incident, but this time of year can be very stressful for many people.”
Memo to Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink: a few new pairs of socks is fine, thanks.
It is tough, when one is so obviously a genius oneself, Dear Reader, to confront the fact that one’s better half is rapidly proving to the world that she is smarter than one by a considerable factor.
One has the pleasure, sometimes, of visiting Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink in her Richmond, Melbourne studio, to sit and watch her producing her glass: measuring, scoring, breaking, rearranging, merging, melting, creating.
Her eye for colour and what goes with what betrays her genes as the daughter of an oil painter and member of the Royal Academy on one side, of a talented pencil sketch and portrait artist on the other, with one brother who is a highly regarded watercolourist and another who is a talented amateur sculptor.
At dinner parties or with clients, at the drop of a hat she can wax lyrical about the various melting points of glass, the way it behaves under certain treatments, how it’s manufactured, and has also developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of other glass artists around the world, with whom she networks effortlessly and with great generosity of spirit.
So anyway, last night she presented her latest work – a multi-coloured 40cm x 40 cm lattice fruit bowl – you can see it in the picture above – to her newest client, who was duly gobsmacked with its beauty. The clever thing about this item is how it combines solving a real life problem with beauty. The holes in the lattice let air circulate under the fruit, keeping it fresh for longer. The nexus where practicality meets art has long been a source of inspiration for artists, (Clarice Clift, anyone? Alessi?), and we see it again here.
I see this reaction again and again – how people admire the glass from different angles, marvelling not only its artistry but also it’s crafted mechanical aspects, how it simply “works”, and how it is nothing like they have ever seen before, which, of course, it always is, as every single item that comes out of the kiln is unique.
How it both refracts and reflects the light, turning our world into something new as it is rotated, leaned, lifted, peered around and through.
Artists do not receive, in my opinion, anything like the recognition they deserve, as they meander through our lives wide-eyed in wonder at the world about them , lifting gloom, inspiring, causing us to pause and reflect on the nature of life, of the things we see around us, and on each other.
I am very proud of my wife. So I thought, after nearly 600 blog posts, it was long overdue that I said so.
That is all.
If you would like to experience more of her work, you are more than welcome to head to her Etsy shop at http://www.etsy.com/au/shop/jensstudio. But do us all a favour, if you’d like something as a Christmas gift, delivered to Ulan Bator, please don’t leave it till December 24th.
Or you could head yourself over to https://www.facebook.com/jensstudioglass and like her FB page and join in the conversation.
If you live in the Melbourne area (or if you feel like visiting) Jenie will even teach you how to make your very own piece of art glass.
One was one of the guinea pigs for her class, and one promises you hand on heart it’s the best couple of hundred bucks you’ll ever spend, and amazing value for money.
She even throws in a light lunch. Remember what we said about generous?
If you’re interested, give her a ring direct on 0408 899 900. (From outside Australia, +61 409 899 900.)
You go, grrrl.
One of the weirdest thing about being a northern hemisphere fellow in a southern hemisphere world is obviously the fact that it’s blazing hot at Christmas-time in the antipodes.
Readers who were on board this time last year will remember the article Home Thoughts From Abroad when Melbourne was visited by the thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms on Christmas Day 2011. I am pleased to report Christmas Day 2012 was much less dramatic.
Summer in the heat has its own traditions. Using the barbecue not the oven, for one. (Indeed, wandering the streets at this time of the year at any mealtime will leave most people salivating by the time they get home, as the air is perpetually heavy with the sweet smell of grilling steaks and snags – otherwise known as sausages or links, depending on where you’re from.) Oyster Bloody Mary shooters are a regular in the Wellthisiswhatithink household – they’re a hell of a good way to start the meal preparation time. Most people down here now choose seafood not turkey on Christmas Day itself – especially lobster, (hang the price), and, of course, the ubiquitous prawns. (Which down here are gigantic, not the shrimps you get around northern Europe.) Heading to the beach or the cricket on Boxing Day is another favourite.
(We actually prefer to call Boxing Day “St Stephen’s Day” in our home, for obvious reasons.)
And not least in the traditions of the Christmas-New Year is the annual “Blimey, it’s Christmas already, we really need to get the pool ready for use!”
It was particularly the case for us this year, because during the off season we had the pool re-painted, after years of it looking like a patchwork quilt of the previous three paint jobs, all of which had worn off the base concrete to some degree or other.
So the pool is now unique. No, I don’t mean it’s nice, or new looking, or all that. On a whim, we chose a colour that the pool painter said the paint company told him had never been ordered before! It’s called “Jacaranda”, after the flowers of that lovely tropical tree which abounds throughout Australia at this time of year, or if you feel a little more prosaic, “Purple” would describe it just as well.
We now have the only purple pool in Melbourne. Unless you know different.
So, sure as the most common comment you hear at this time of the year is “My God when is it ever going to rain?” Dad gets despatched to the pool to get the accumulated detritus off the floor of the pool so it can be enjoyed in the warmer months. Our pool is surrounded by very beautiful trees that shed constantly (not a smart idea to plant them in the first place, but we inherited the problem) so a decent blow and it can look like there’s a small field growing on the floor of the pool overnight.
The funny thing is, we have one of those automatic pool cleaners. The ones that quietly vibrate their way around your pool, vacuuming up the crap and cleaning the water at the same time. But ours is seriously old. It was given to us as a gift years ago, and has been quietly putt-putting around on and off ever since, gradually getting less and less efficient. But we can’t bring ourselves to chuck it out. It’s almost like a pet. We call it the Putt-Putt and nurse it back to life every summer with loving care, which this year involved actually taking it to the pool shop in desperation, whereupon Mr Putt-Putt Vet (known to the rest of the community as the man who runs the pool shop) diagnosed a near fatal hole in a critical part of the structure, which he repaired for free with something akin to cement. Thus far, Putt-Putt is well, and I am eternally grateful to his saviour. If you want to know a pool man who actually does something – anything – for free, call me.
But Putt-Putt has a problem. It’s on the end of a hose which doesn’t reach easily to the shallow end of the pool. In addition, the pool was dug many moons ago, when they didn’t make structures that are peacefully sloped to the deep end that isnt so deep anyway.
In our pool, the slope down to the deep end is like the north face of the Eiger and the deep end is so deep that you could drown a brigade of cavalry in it and no one would notice. Putt-Putt simply can’t make it up the hill.
So every year, we undergo a ritual called “Dad’s walking the Putt-Putt”.
This involves me using the device exactly as it isn’t meant to be used, in other words, carefully shepherding it around the shallow end of the pool as if it was, indeed, a gentle old dog needing a bit of help finding his water bowl. Automatic it ain’t.
It’s all worth it in the end. There is nothing much as wonderful as reading the newspaper by a sparkling pool and plonking into it when one gets overheated. Friends come round and share quality time – once they get past worrying that we’ll think they only want to see us because we’ve got a pool – we are quite happy to acknowledge that they want to see us AND we’ve got a pool ready and waiting on a 100 degree day – bonus.
One Christmas tradition in Australia is not so welcome. The fires have started up in Tasmania over the last couple of days and it is feared lives have been lost along with plenty of homes. And today there are over 100 fires burning in New South Wales with over 20 of them out of control. In Victoria, we lost 173 hundred people (with another 414 injured) in February 2009 in an event called Black Saturday. The event is still seared into the minds of the entire community. For twelve terrifying hours the fire separated me from my family, still on holiday in an area with a fire roaring towards it, as I had chosen to return from our family holiday early. My daughter’s best friend was with her and my wife. At one point, her parents phoned my wife and asked for the numberplate of her car. No one needed to ask why. If they got caught in the firefront, they wanted to know how to identify that their daughter had died.
It is hard to explain the horror of the inevitability, the inexorability, the sheer uncontestability of a large grass or bush fire in Australia. Of course, we are not the only country that suffers these frightening events, but as the driest continent in the world we suffer them more often, and more severely.They are a natural part of the bush renewing itself. Essentially, humans were never meant to live here, and we do so at our peril, clinging to the land nervously, knowing full well we are not in charge.
As the world warms, the fires will come earlier, and harder, than ever before, just as they have this year. Indeed, the weather in NSW today was reported earlier as the worst fire danger day ever recorded.
As I walk the Putt-Putt around the shallow end, you can’t see it, but I am praying. You can read below about Australia’s “Dome of Heat”.
Er … Mayor? Someone?
I bet local councils everywhere add “Christmas Lights” to their risk assessment profile from now on!
OK, so I have to confess: I never really get used to Christmas in Australia. I don’t think I ever really will. Not a complaint, merely an observation.
It’s often bloody hot, for a start. Not just warm, but hot. A friend posts to Facebook that he’s excited to be going to Florida for the holidays where it’s due to be 80 degrees on his arrival. I guess when most of the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year is either cold, or wet, or perhaps cold and wet, that’s good. Then again, the mercury passed 90 in Melbourne about the same time, and has been climbing steadily ever since.
It’s just not right, somehow.
Last night, at Midnight Mass, the hot weather broke, for about fifteen minutes, as a sharp, severe thunderstorm hit semi-rural Warrandyte, near Melbourne.
(Why we were in Warrandyte? We had met the vicar at the local craft market some weeks previously, where she was cheerfully selling wooden toys and home-made jams to raise funds for the Lord’s cause. A cheerfully chubby lady (says he, who was last described as slim, er, well, never, actually) I hollered out “It’s the Vicar of Dibley!” She smiled wanly at me, and murmured, “I’m OK with that, really, the therapy sessions have been working.” In response, it seemed only right that we should patronise her pretty little Church for Christmas – and it was called St Stephen’s, as it happens – spooky or what? Anyway, I digress.)
So right in the middle of the Vicar’s homily, God started moving the furniture around upstairs. It started with a few distant rumbles, then some refreshing rain, and then whammo, God dropped the leather recliner armchair he uses for watching sports on TV, right over our heads.
Megan the Vic had just got to the core of her sermon: how important it is that we remember to do the little things at Christmas, the ordinary things that touch people’s heart, when all the lights went out, bar a few well-placed candles. After a brief pause, she carried on, and a few more trenchant remarks later, there was another percussive, punctuating clap of thunder, and the lights all came back on again. People shot each other meaningful looks.
In a small country Church, with a total of maybe forty people, everyone can hear everything. I turned to the future father of my grandchildren and remarked: “Neat trick.” Hardly pausing for breath, Megan deadpanned from the pulpit: “That’s why I get paid the big bucks.”
After the service, we drove future-son-in-law back to his place, windows wide open, oceans of warm, wet air streaming into the car. At 2am, steam rose off the road, almost fog-like. The sky was now perfectly clear, the deepest imperial blue, almost black, like wet just-laid tar, and studded with a billion billion stars. Anyone who has ever seen the Southern hemisphere sky will understand. It is wildly, unfathomably more brilliant and dramatic than the north. Frankly, it’s worth heading south just to see it, at least once, before you die.
Rising bleary-eyed on Christmas morn, the day was already oppressively hot. All the new blue blinds are wound down around the house, the three small air-conditioning units are labouring ceaselessly and largely ineffectually, and the ceiling fan whirls and clicks in the kitchen, stirring the sticky air to no purpose whatsoever that I can divine. By the time we are halfway through the present opening, sweat pops uncontrolled on the forehead and trickles down one’s chest.
Time for champagne, with a block of ice in it. Hang tradition, and snobby wine critics with it. Champagne was not invented to be drunk on days like this, or, indeed, in Australia, but it is Christmas, and I am damned if I will resort to water.
As one glances outside at the pool, it is clear that the overnight thunderstorm has also encouraged the water, by some miracle of chemistry that I will never understand, to turn milky-white and opaque, instead of crystal Mediterranean clear. And then on cue, the good Lord decides he is not happy with the interior design from last night, and starts shifting furniture around again. The heavens open, then shut again. And then again.
Family swim tomorrow, then. And I take a management decision – the duck will remain un-basted and uncooked in the fridge, because it’s too hot for a roast.
Wherever it is I have got to in my wandering life, it is never where I expected to be. So I sit down at my computer instead of pottering with the duck, and idly reminisce over what Christmas used to be like before I ended up on the other side of the planet, more by accident than intent. I recall that when a mere youth I would always wander down on Christmas morning to the Saxon King pub in Southbourne, and have a couple of pints of Gales 6X while Mum struggled to make sense of cooking a turkey for two people.
Need a recipe for left-over turkey rissoles? Just message me.
It rarely snowed, but it was often bitterly cold, and roughly every other day a biting wet wind would sweep in off the English Channel, lashing the little seaside town with horizontal rain. We would cower in the pub, and eat free Stilton provided by the publican, stacking on the body blubber for the walk home like so many vigilant Eskimos. And later in my life, you would find me trudging home from watching Southampton play on Boxing Day, invariably either frozen or sodden – but happy – to thaw out or dry out in the Bevois Town Hotel with mates.
Yes, I am a long way from home.
When you’ve moved around a fair bit, it never really stops being a long way from home, even when what you perceive as home stops being home and home becomes where you are now. I run the idea past my daughter, and she remarks that this will be her memory of “home”, when she has moved on.
On the other hand, there are compensations for the life Antipodean. The oyster and Bloody Mary shooters for breakfast are already a happy memory. The “champagne”, grown just up the road, is seven bucks a bottle, and by the third glass I am feeling no pain, memsahib and the fruit of my loins have finished breaking open the Antarctic Crab legs that we have decided on instead of duck, and the crayfish tails that I am about to barbecue momentarily and serve with white wine and garlic butter are looking moist and inviting.
Later, we will even get to chuckle at the Queens Speech before it’s seen in her own country.
The message of Christmas is surely to be thankful for small mercies. The small mercy of a tiny child, laid on straw and wrapped in rags, whose words and actions were to change the world, mainly for the best, for the rest of time. And the fact that although the heat may be weighing on my aging British head like a ton of bricks, we have been blessed with enough good fortune to have a choice of Christmas lunches, and a damn fine choice, at that.
So, Merry Christmas, everyone, wherever you call home today. As I write, the mother of all thunderstorms is now breaking over us, with hail so bad the better half and daughter rush out and cover the cars in the driveway, and so intense and lasting so long that the roof is leaking in 20 different places, and every towel and receptacle we have is rushed into service to prevent the entire house (and all the Christmas presents) disappearing under water. It’s called a “super cell” storm apparently, which I suspect isn’t good. There’s a tropical cyclone due in Darwin, tomorrow, as well. Then again, that is a long, long way from here, too, and in this case, thank goodness.
“Weird country we live in,” mutters my daughter, serving us panacotta and fresh strawberries, as we watch the pool making like it isn’t a suburban front yard pool but a storm-tossed sea some latitudes further towards the equator.
Indeed, it is. Anyway, anyone mesmerised by the opening photo of this article will be amused by this little flash, hot off the presses. Personally, I am going to bed for a snooze: isn’t that what Christmas afternoon is all about? I see I am supposed to turn the computer off. Isn’t this exciting? Isn’t it like actually being here? The wonders of modern communications, eh?
For coverage of how bad the storms now are this afternoon, just pop here. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/a-beauty-of-a-super-cell-thunderstorm-hits-melbourne/story-e6frf7jo-1225837959592 or here http://www.theage.com.au/environment/weather/violent-storms-shatter-the-peace-of-christmas-20111225-1p9mc.html
Meanwhile, I shall set the alarm for Her Maj. Pip pip.
Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Victoria Regional Office
TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING – MELBOURNE AREA
for DESTRUCTIVE WIND, FLASH FLOODING, LARGE HAILSTONES and TORNADOES
For people in the Inner, Eastern, Northern, Western and parts of the South East,
Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula, Outer East and Port Phillip Local Warning
Issued at 5:19 pm Sunday, 25 December 2011.
THIS INCLUDES A TORNADO WARNING.
The Bureau of Meteorology warns that, at 5:10 pm, very dangerous thunderstorms
were detected on weather radar near Bacchus Marsh, Greensborough, Hurstbridge,
Lilydale, Yarra Glen and the area south of Bacchus Marsh. These thunderstorms
are moving towards the east to southeast. Very dangerous thunderstorms are
forecast to affect Deer Park, Healesville, Melton, St Albans, Sydenham and the
area south of Melton by 5:40 pm and Craigieburn, Essendon, Footscray, Melbourne
Airport, Preston and Sunbury by 6:10 pm.
Other severe thunderstorms were located near the area north of Meredith and the
area west of the Brisbane Ranges. They are forecast to affect Anakie East,
Brisbane Ranges, Lara, the You Yangs, the area south of the Brisbane Ranges and
the area west of Werribee by 5:40 pm and eastern parts of the Bellarine
Peninsula, northern parts of the Bellarine Peninsula, Portarlington, waters off
Portarlington, waters off St Leonards and the area east of Lara by 6:10 pm.
Destructive winds, very heavy rainfall, flash flooding, large hailstones and
tornadoes are likely.
A tornado has been reported near Fiskville [15km west of Bacchus Marsh]
associated with the thunderstorm currently south of Bacchus Marsh.
Very large hail has been reported with thunderstorms this afternoon.
The State Emergency Service advises that people should:
* Keep clear of fallen power lines.
* secure any loose objects in the vicinity of your home.
* keep away from creeks and drains.
* do not drive vehicles through flooded areas.
* stay indoors if possible.
* Avoid using the phone during the storm.
* if you are outside, avoid sheltering under trees
* listen to the radio for storm updates
* switch off your computer and electrical appliances
The next warning is due to be issued by 6:20 pm.
As we hurtle ever faster down the slippery slope that leads us to Christmas, for many in the world tonight is the start of Hanukkah – it was last night here in Oz – and someone kindly reminded me of this HILARIOUS seasonal-specific piece by Sarah Silverman, who is not only one of the cleverest comediennes in the world but undoubtedly one of the cutest. Just bloody funny – enjoy :-)
And a Happy Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah and a Happy Whateverthehellelseitis to all of you from all of us at Planet WellThisIsWhatIThink. Which is just me, of course.
The name of the blog says it all, really. My take on interesting stuff + useful re-posts :-)
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So when the world knocks at your front door, clutch the knob and open on up, running forward into its widespread greeting arms with your hands before you, fingertips trembling though they may be. Anis Mojgani
Rosie Waterland is a writer based in Sydney. She finds her own jokes particularly hilarious.
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