Saturday, October 29, 2005

Personally, I think I would have preferred a toaster.

The arrival, last week, of the latest heir to the Danish throne, prompted in this country a flurry of gift giving which rivaled the birth of Christ.

Because Princess Mary is a native of Tasmania, the Danish royal family have been reclassified as Australian by default. Therefore, any issue from her marriage to Prince Frederick is an extension of the Australian nation and, as such, is entitled to be showered with gifts. It should be noted, though, should the young Prince grow up to be a reprobate, the scorn heaped upon him will be equally as generous.

Amongst the gifts of soft toys and knitted items bestowed by rank and file Australians were the official gifts from the various governments. The Federal government presented the happy couple with a first edition of May Gibbs' Snugglepot And Cuddlepie, a well known icon of Australian children's literature. Not a bad gift in itself, although I do shudder at the mental image of the cover being used as a teething rusk. The Tasmanian goverment gave them a pair of Tasmanian devils, though I can't see the young Prince playing with them in the backyard; they're liable to eat his fingers off.

This brings us to the Victorian government's proffering. Somebody obviously gave a great deal of thought to the question; "What do you give a Prince who has everything?", and Bracksie must have been impressed with the answer when it was whispered in his ear. (Steve Bracks is Premier of Victoria, equivalent of a Governor in the U.S. However, less inclined to kiss babies) The decision was made to give the proud parents a Melbourne tram, similar to the one pictured above, but a lot cleaner.

In our household - as in many others around the State, I suspect - bottom jaws fell open when they heard the news. The immediate response was, naturally, what the hell is the kid going to do with a tram? Isn't it a bit big? Certainly too big to pick up and suck on. And where on earth are they going to put it? It's going to need one hell of a toy box. And you could understand the Prince's reluctance to put away his toys when told by his mother.

Copenhagen has a tram system of its own, so I suppose the tram will be placed in a special area, and brought out for special occasions; trips to the seaside, the zoo, that sort of thing. But, what about when the Prince turns eighteen. I can just see him and thirty or so of his closest friends, in a mood to party, terrorising motorists around the city on a Saturday night.

All this is moot, though. The day after they announced the gift of the tram, the Victorian government qualified their statement by announcing that the Tram was, in fact, a belated wedding present for Mary and Frederick. The reason it took so long was the vehichle had to be refurbished and made to look as authentic as possible. The cynic inside of me, who is always jumping up and down trying to attract attention, wonders whether the Bracks Mob didn't hold off on announcing their gift until the birth of the Prince in order to save on cost. A two-gifts-in-one kind of deal.

Still, putting all that aside, if this tram was to be truly authentic, a few items had to be included;
  • An automated ticket machine that doesn't work ninety-five percent of the time. When, and if, it is working, the instructions for purchasing a ticket are to be incrompehensible to all except, perhaps, computer language writers.
  • A total absence of any display of route information (zones, etc.) that may enable passengers, who have been able to interpret ticket purchasing instructions, to determine exactly how much they are required to pay.
  • A group of three or more fifteen-year-old school girls who constantly laugh and squeal at excrutiating decibel levels.
  • An old man who stands directly in front of, or right beside, the ticket machine, singing opera badly and reeking of urine.
  • A roving band of ticket inspectors with a propensity for beating up on miscreant travellers.
  • A passenger, male or female, who places their bags of shopping on the vacant seat next to them, then refuses to remove it for anybody who hints they would like to sit down, too.
  • A driver who is totally oblivious to everything except the warning bell for the next stop.

What about a conductor, I hear you ask? That would be considered an optional extra, and is sold separately.

I hope the happy couple enjoy their wedding present. I guess they don't really have any choice. It's not like they can take it to the op shop if they decide they don't really want it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Early morning wake up call.

Like many people, I quite enjoy the sound of birdsong. The warbles and twitters touch a chord, and it can be very relaxing and soothing, peaceful.

Just not at quarter-past-bloody-four in the morning!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

One goal I don't mind not achieving.

S, my partner, has a book titled So Many Books, So Little Time. It's about a woman who sets out to read one book a week for a year, but fails to reach her goal. With my usual depth of consideration, I thought I'd see if I could achieve what she couldn't. Surely, it wasn't all that difficult to read fifty-two books in one year.

Now, with just over eleven weeks left until the New Year, and not counting the two B.C. comic books, the score so far is;
Books: 39 Weeks: 41.
Short of setting aside a couple of days for nothing but reading or, as S would say, selecting something fluffy that only takes a couple of hours to read, it's most likely that I, too, will fail to reach the magical target.
But whether I make it or not, it has been a wonderful journey. I've been able to catch up with some of the titles considered "essential reading", which have somehow managed to evade me over the years. I'm talking, of course, about such masterworks as Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World and Tuesdays With Morrie. Of the others, On Beulah Height was a stand-out, along with the Harry Potter series (although I have to admit the jury is still out on Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince; I'm not sure how I feel about that one yet). The Sand Pebbles was a wonderful surprise, and The Flight Of The Falcon was as good an introduction as any to the works of Daphne Du Maurier; her precision with the English language is a breath of fresh air. And when it comes to non-stop action, Ice Station leaves you panting.
It's still possible, I suppose, to actually get fifty-two books read before the New Year, but even if I don't make it, I've sure as hell had a great time running the race.
And there's always next year, right?