Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The shadow rises to meet you
Street Art Melbourne by Pants
John Burnside said, ‘to be fifty and have no friends is a sign of thoughtfulness.’
There’s no question that the longer you have friends, the more difficult they become to manage. I’ve been whittling mine down over the years so that there are now no more than a handful. I suppose moving to the middle of nowhere will put paid to even those. So, I conclude, I have achieved the requisite state of thoughtfulness commensurate with my age. The less time you spend on friends, the more is available for essential pondering and ruminating. That’s only common sense.
The downside of being a loner is that it takes rather a lot of time to get anything done. I may be a native born Australian, but I knew nothing of the administration of life in this country. There is not a single process that is comparable to my previous experience. For example, I went to tip the hairdresser in Melbourne – you would have thought I’d tried to molest her with her own blow dryer. I then found myself affronted in virtually empty restaurants by signs warning ‘no split bills’. Perhaps that explains the paucity of custom. You don’t ask for permission to split the bill in London – you simply present your credit card and state the amount you’re willing to pay. I’ve done equal shares in the notoriously ill-tempered Marco Pierre White’s restaurants without incident. I’ve not tried it in a Ramsay establishment but I’m sure it’s no biggie.
Many daily transactions have enough mechanical and linguistic variations to put them on a par with particle physics in difficulty and make you look like a complete ninny into the bargain. You can take nothing for granted. Then again, some operations are insanely easy once you’ve lucked onto the correct line of inquiry and judiciously followed a logical path, which hopefully happens before you’ve exhausted the patience of the person from whom you’re attempting to extract vital information. People can be very understanding if you clearly indicate that your grasp on sanity entirely depends on their largesse.
I feel this state ought to be recognised in some way. So, in the spirit of complete self-centredness for which I have become renowned, I bring you the first annual That’s So Pants Awards. The gongs are bestowed on those individuals or institutions who’ve either made my resettlement heaven or hell. Without further virtual ado, I give you,
The Palme de Pants
This is the highest honour in the Pantheon and is awarded to
Ms Anne O’Dyne
One friend I’ve known for over thirty years found it a burden to endure me for a week, another offered to put me up for two days and no more. Neither demonstrated appropriate empathy with the painfully obvious emotional turmoil that the move was inflicting. It’s tempting to blame it on the Barney factor, but it was, and is, hurtful. Ms O’Dyne, who knew me only through our blogs, invited me to Victoria to housesit with her indefinitely. I stayed five months, learned all the practical things I needed to know about cohabiting with Victoria and had the space to put my head and heart back in good repair. As far as I am able to ascertain, and I am admittedly biased, the experience has done her no lasting harm. Ms O’Dyne’s generosity knows no limits. Thank you dear Annie.
Golden Kek Awards go to the following who pro-actively offered themselves as part of the solution.
• The Pants Family - Ma Pants, Sis Pants and Niece Pants have made life easier in the million different ways that come quite naturally to them all. Evidence, if it were needed, that I am definitely adopted.
• Roddy and Shirley – my friends in Melbourne who put me up, helped me buy the Pantibago and escorted me across hundreds of miles of Victorian coast in search of the new Seat of Pants and, as a bonus, acclimatised me to totally unnecessary but extremely character-building cold.
• Kay and Kiernan who lent us their lovely house in Lorne.
• Robyn who helped me understand the house purchase process and for being wonderful company.
• Chris, Lyn and Sarah, the lovely lawyers who did a brilliant job on my conveyancing.
• Ling and all the gorgeous people at Tradewinds Removals. They really looked after my stuff and landed it at the new Seat of Pants all perfectly preserved and with the greatest of good will and humour. Ditto Atlantis Removals in the UK. I give them both the highest recommendation.
• The Commonwealth Bank. From the moment I stumbled into Queen Victoria Street, London hyperventilating with hysterics because the evil Nationwide had told me I’d never see my savings again since I’d forgotten my internet banking password, the calm people at the Commonwealth have helped me get my financial house in order.
• Vic Roads. This one’s really for being not nearly as hideous an ordeal as I was expecting. It was a relatively simple matter to get the Pantibago registered and get me tooled up with a Victorian Driver’s Licence. And Kelvin was very understanding when Shirley unloaded the entire saga of the break-in at CIS when all he really wanted was to verify that I was actually who I said I was.
• Noosa and Colac libraries for keeping me in restorative reading.
• The town of Larrikin’s End for being in the right place at the right time.
And now for the bad guys,
The inaugural That’s So Pants Great Big Shit award goes to,
• EGBP. I got these people to do the building inspection on my house. After aggressively demanding full payment up front, they then didn’t bother to give me the report until days after the agreed date – threatening my contract deadline. They were unbelievably rude and dismissive of my entitlements as a customer. The report, when it finally came, was vague and contradictory. And they repeatedly referred to themselves as ‘building surveyours’ in correspondence. Get someone else. Your cat would do a better job.
Soiled Nappies for minor but no less annoying misdeeds go to,
• King and Heath Real Estate for mixing up the completion date and trying to blame me and for being more than acceptably sleazy. Although a consolation bronze ‘mini-kek’ is awarded for the two very nice bottles of house-warming wine. This kind of gesture works remarkably well with me.
• The Nationwide, UK for reasons already stated and for being far more focused on pumping their ‘product’ than providing a service. Let us all hope the present financial crisis at least heralds a shift in perspective on the part of banks leading to a re-acquaintance with their core function – i.e. to mind our savings and lend us cash when we want to buy a big thing.
So there you have it. More bouquets than brickbats, happily. All things considered, the journey that started out inauspiciously with me spending a miserable night on a hard bench at Heathrow’s Terminal 2 nearly a year ago, may have churned Barney and me in the Magimix of financial turmoil in a way we could have done without but has resolved itself with a soft landing in lovely Larrikin’s End. At long last, all seems right with the world. Now, as long as we can avoid developing friendships, we should be fine. Fortunately, Barney has proved particularly effective as a deterrent in that regard.