Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Tag: Humour (page 1 of 2)

Horse and Carriage or Unfinished Symphony

I had to laugh (out loud on the train)! For My Dad, Kevin Whalan’s latest blog,opens with the same words as the following speech, written and delivered in 2001,  while I was going through…

“Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage “

Well, you don’t see that any more do you?

Do I mean horse and carriage or love and marriage?

There is a hidden pandemic of loneliness occurring right now.

It’s called second and third marriage or permanent singlehood.

Actually it’s really divorce.

Most marriages fail. Most second or third marriages fail. Most divorces fail too!

What is the triumph of hope over experience? A second marriage!

But all is not lost! Like flowers in the desert after a rain shower, a new industry has sprouted to upend this trend.

Books, radio shows, tapes, videos, courses, even laws and of course marriage counsellors are lining up to help you and your loved one out of your marriage! I have checked out some of these resources. Unfortunately, few have been helpful.

But I did find something. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, when you take away what’s left, whatever remains, no matter how strange it is, is the answer.

Or what I might call Whalan’s law of failure, success is the path you take when all else has failed!

My neighbour loaned me a book. The basic idea of that book was that the man is the problem. And if he helped around the house a little bit more: let’s just set the scene…

The wife has gone out somewhere or is working and has come home late. The husband has just finished washing up and is putting away the dishes. He’s a bit bald, maybe a bit of a paunch, but tonight to the wife, he has never looked more attractive.  When she comes home, she is so glad to see him… scene cuts to the flames burning fiercely in the fireplace.

So you men, if you wash up marital bliss waits. Maybe even a second honeymoon. I wonder what do I get for doing the washing and my own ironing too?

One other book, which I bought and attracts dust, also says the man is the problem. If the man stopped going to the footy or cricket, stopped watching TV, didn’t go out with his friends, gave up his favourite hobbies then marital bliss awaits. Just spend more time with your wife and family.

But I ask you, what man has enough time to do all of this and the housework as well?

And suppose women are the problem.

Yet another book says the above. Laura Doyle’s “The Surrendered Wife: A Practical guide to finding intimacy, passion and peace with a man”. Luckily for me I haven’t read it even silently or aloud to my wife or coloured in the pictures.

For instance her advice is for the woman to stop nagging the man, even covering her mouth with duct tape to do so. She should say, “Whatever you say, dear? “ Talk about the inaudible language of love!

The woman should always say “Yes” and be available for the man. What does this mean? Maybe I should get the book…

The woman should never ever tell the man he is wrong. Does this mean that I’m always right! I can’t remember that time!

Or as I saw in a leaflet which prided itself as a prescription for marital bliss. It suggested that when the husband came home from work, the wife should have all the children lined up to greet him all squeaky clean and neatly dressed. The wife should be perfumed and also neatly dressed, made up etc. She should do all the cooking and housework and hang on every word the husband says.

Obviously, the wife does not work and the children are robotic. Not even in the Brady Bunch, could they make this happen. Even with Alice and Carol Brady slaving away…

It seems ridiculous that Ms Doyle can write a book saying the way to marital bliss is to let the husband do as he pleases.  Please no cheering men, for if what she says is true, men are Neanderthals with a no thickening veneer of civilisation and have to be appeased.

It always seems to me that its either the man is the Conqueror and the wife Surrendered. The women’s liberationists hate that and rightly so!

Or the other way around. The man is submissive and the woman a conqueror.

Maybe there’s a market for a book called the Surrendered Man. It would probably sell to the sensitive new age guys (you know, the ones with boyfriends) and I would have the other copy.

Maybe we should live like accountants, counting up and valuing every task and redeeming them for prizes. Like a game show.

Is there no common ground between men and women except mutual selfishness? Its that the answer?

Or is there not another way?

Maybe there’s a market for a book, video series, etc, called the Surrendered Spouse where both husband and wife promise to live for each other alone.

Maybe they could commit to mutual respect and work together and find that two people can do more together than each alone!

Maybe instead of trying to change each other for selfish gain, they could just change themselves one day at a time.

My point is that the only person you can change in your marriage or any part of your life is yourself. How is up to you !

That takes more courage than slavishly following a reverse tit for tat marriage manual.

Perhaps then marriage (And Life Itself) be an unfinished symphony!

Baby Crush

A bald head crowned by a few curls peeks out. Two eyes large and watchful wait and see what I might do.

I’m not moving. I stand silent. I’m a daddy statue.

Tiny hands cover her eyes. She tries to catch my gaze.

No way. I’m having no part of it. Not yet.

She opens them. She peeks carefully at me. Then covers herself with the blanket.

“Peep bo!” The blanket speaks.

That’s my moment. My eyes close. Although I keep the good one only an eighth open. Enough to cheat. Enough not to get caught.

Each time she closes her eyes, I open mine. Each time I see her open her eyes, I close mine!

Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. Blanket on. “Peep bo!”
Blanket off. “Peep Bo!”

“Peep bo!” I say again. Before the blanket went on.

I chuckle as the blanket giggles and rolls on the floor. Then smile at her laughter while she wriggles her way out. Usually she beats me to it. Then as she unwravels…

“Peep Bo!” She got me that time.

The blanket again wraps itself up. It giggles and rolls on the floor. Then she crawls out. And stands a little taller than this morning. Now her jumpsuit is too small for her. But that’s no matter now.

Two arms stretch to the sky. She starts to waggle her fingers. Twinkle twinkle? Yes i’m happy to sing that with her. But no peeking. Otherwise she’ll catch me lip syncing.

Then she stops stock still.

No. I was lucky there. Then not so lucky.

“Jump game.”

Oh no! Daddy workout time.

Arms stretch high. “As high as the sky.”

I squat down. I waddle towards her. I put my shoulders under her arms. Then my hands around her waist.

I lift her up. Until her head is level with mine. Her eyes are already laughing. Daddy’s doing the heavy lifting now.

I stand up and throw her high into the air.

Giggles, then laughter.

I stop just before I let her go. I’m not a dad, I’m an astronaut trainer. Besides she’ll never get vertigo from me!

“Again. High as the sky.”

More deep squats. More overhead presses. My knees ache. My shoulders sing. I sneak a glance at my burden.

She’s frozen in time!! One arm up, one arm out, frozen in a ballet pose.

Carefully I shift her to my stronger arm. I lean forward, most weight pushed backward and draw back the coverlet, sheet and blanket. Then i place her in her bed as if one false move would be the last. She slumps flaccid in her bed. I cover her up. I start to lightly leave…

Her hand finds my finger. And crushes it. I hold my breath. I listen to her breath slow and deep measuring eternity one second at a time.

Yes parenthood is a vocation, it’s not a job. But if someone can tell me how to remove a child’s hand from my finger without waking her, I’d be really grateful!

The Happiest Dental Patient Ever

Was this the last one? I went to the surgery door and called his name.

He looked up at once. And his eyes twinkled at me. And he smiled as if he had been in last week! 

He walked in arms swinging by his sides as if it was too easy. Tall, thin and vaguely familiar. But he wasn’t on my books at all. He couldn’t be. He was a walk-in as far as I was concerned. 

I didn’t know him from elsewhere in this town. Today was just my second day. I still was remembering more important matters. Such as which room was mine, the name of the receptionists, where the autoclave was, in case my assistant forgot to bring in the instrument tray. Which saving my anxiety, she did.

But this guy! He swings into the chair like a test pilot promoted to astronaut! And I think to myself, is he another one too? Another professional? If he is he’s pretty confident in what we all do!

Unlike me. I make a bad patient. And I’m even worse, now that I lecture. And  worst of all, provide expert advice when things go badly. If it was me, I’d be jelly.

And I ask,”What can I do for you?”

He says, “Just a check-up, ma’am.”

And I laugh, and ask, “ma’am. No one says that anymore!”

He says as unbidden, he swallows, swishes and spits, “The school librarian made us say it.

And while he’s drawling, he puts on a posh accent, “Don’t call wimmen Miss, Ms, Mrs unless you know if they’re married or not. And she said never call them Madame. And never said why. Reckoned I worked out that one!  But our French teacher wouldn’t answer to anything else! Reckoned ma’am is the least worst thing to say. Yeah. no. It’s okay most times except when I say it to the really young girls. They hate it. They scowl at me and swear under their breath while they’re texting!!”

Between us the ice is broken. And it seems familiar somehow. I laugh, and ask, “What do you do?”

He said leaning back and opening wide, still talking like a Northern Texan, “Professional bludger. Tell people stuff they don’t need.Write documents no one ever reads. Better get started, eh?”

And that’s the giveaway. He’s from the deep north of Queensland like me. Even with his mouth wide open, he still makes each word twice as long like a native. And that “eh!” That’s a deadset giveaway right there! And then I laugh to myself. Sometimes I still lapse back, I think. Just because I shifted states.  Another lapse now too.

Meantime, the work begins. I peer into his mouth with my mirror and sickle probe. I check and call the numbers and state to my assistant who scribbles dutifully. He’s as patient as Job. Except a lot more silent!

I say, “There’s a small hole in your back molar. We could leave it for another appointment. Or we could whiz through it now. It will only take another half hour.”

It didn’t matter, I thought. He was my last patient for the day and I was running half an hour early. My husband still had his lectures tonight so time didn’t matter.

He nods me through.

Drill, chip, wash, clamp, check, double check, tighten the clamp, fill, let set, wash and clean. It’s like doing dentistry on the Dalai Lama, I suppose. He’s so composed and relaxed. Simple and straightforward. By the book, I thought, the textbook. Which made a refreshing change from the day I had. 

And then a memory returns to me. “Didn’t I do a root canal on you?”

He just laughs, “Yep you sure did, wasn’t the once-off either, took a couple of goes, if I rightly reckon.”

And I remember, he didn’t flinch an inch that time either. That’s why I know him but he’s not on my books. 

I say, “You would have been my easiest patient.”

As the filling sets, he laughs and tells me why (out of the corner of his mouth of course). 

“It was easy,” he says, “I had the full metal jacket as a kid, a couple of teeth removed, wired up, that mouth guard thing and braces. Thought it would never end. Always knew this would!”

The Lingering Look (of a Book Lover)

It’s no task at all. Simply take the books you don’t want and put them into the two spare boxes. But to succeed at this meant I had to be a zombie bricklayer. Pick up a book, one in each hand from the first pile. Then with closed eyes transfer to the outgoing book box.
Book Pile
Then I said to myself, “Don’t look down. Don’t make eye contact with the books.
But books tend to gaze back like long lovers.
And when it happened, I had that second and recurrent thought. “I like that book. I might need to read it sometime.”
My counter-thought. “I haven’t read that one. It’s unlikely I’ll read it now.
And then the thought trap closed shut. “I know I haven’t read it but some day I just might.”
Back and forth it went until I wore myself down. Finally, I could only complete the task the opposite way. I filled the boxes allocated for the books I wanted to retain. To overflowing. I could not fit another book.
 And then I thought. “Perhaps that paperback could just squeeze into that space between the hardbacks.
 Not a chance. No space even for a bookmark. That was the finish. I was done.
Two boxes filled. The next part should have been easier. All I had to do was lift and shift my gift to a charity book depository four train stops away. I picked up one box. Then the other. Suddenly those two boxes were leaden heavy. I couldn’t budge either of them. Spare Book Box
I then chose a course of action calculated to deceive myself.  I grabbed two large IKEA carry bags. And filled each with books. Now I could carry both over my shoulder.
Then on the street, I saw a man with two small black bags. He had just crossed the road. I recognised the bags from Abbey’s : a well known Sydney bookshop.
I thought to myself. “We have something in common”. But  the lucky man was adding. I sadly was subtracting. In truth we were opposed. I let him walk ahead of me. I tried not to imagine his joy at unpacking those bags of books.
Arriving at the station, I dumped the two bags. And sat with my back turned away from the books. But I peeked didn’t I? There was that thought again. “Perhaps I should keep Made to Stick?” I closed up the bag as the train arrived.
On the train, I ensured I sat near no one. I worried that someone would realise what I’m doing and stop me.
Until I alighted at the station. I avoided everyone and stayed unnoticed. I guarded my anonymity carefully, ensuring no one could possibly remember a man staggering with two full blue and yellow bags.
However, during the escape, I noticed a boy who was asking his mother questions about everything. I knew what would happen next. I moved quickly out of sight so he wouldn’t turn his curiousity towards me. But what I really was dreading was her answers. For she spoke with that curt finality that still irritates me even as an adult. I thought, “Perhaps a book would help her?” But that would mean I would need to look down.
Then followed the short climb up the steep street. Over the intersection was the charity’s office. But no book shed in front, or behind or on any side. I thought, putting the bags down, now that downhill trek to the station is a much better option than lugging these now even extra heavy books any further.
I decided to follow the internet directions. I looked for and found the car park. And shaded by trees was an ordinary garden shed. Unlocked. And three quarters full of books, with only some in boxes.
 I opened the door wide. I stepped back and swung one bag and then the other into the shed.
Then I stopped still. I didn’t look down. The shed smelt like a library. It was that semi fresh scent that had always carried knowledge from page to brain!
I was transfixed. I lapsed. I lost control. I looked down.
And I thought as I saw the first book, “Why would anyone throw out books on world geography? That’s fascinating!”
I shut the doors quickly before my gaze was held again.

Captured By An Audience

You never really wanted to go out there. You’re outnumbered for one thing. You know that any false move in front of them will be the last and final one. You’re thinking that the light is too bright, your  voice will be too soft, your tread too heavy, your stance too awkward. You’re really scared to death, deep down. You don’t know why what starts you on those first steps out there. You shuffle tentatively at first. Then you’re puzzled as to why you then confidently stride forth. It’s as if you’re already a success. Like you’ve already been applauded and called back for more. And then you meet.

 

You’re all alone, just you and them. You never expected them to listen, even for a moment. You start as you always do. You focus on relaxing yourself. Or you’re trying to look relaxed. Or acting as if you already are. But now you don’t have time to be confused. You’re already speaking. And listening to your tone, your rhythm, your timbre and your breath.  For it’s as if to your great relief, at the very last moment, someone far more confident than you’ll ever be has stood in for you. And saved you. And for that you silently give great thanks.

 

But in all of that you kept on speaking. And you never think that ten seconds in, they’re looking you in the eye. And that after eleven seconds, you can look straight back at them. And that after thirty seconds in, they’ve stopped fidgeting, all of them. You watch extra carefully and realise you’ve never seen so many people sit so still for so long, ever. You start to become aware that perhaps these people may have started to listen to you. You’d never think that there could be such a thing as an inviting silence. And you’re in it,far too involved now to realise how rare and precious is the privilege they have extended to you. And you meditate upon that and think perhaps you really do have something far more to say than your trite rehearsals. And you keep on speaking amazed and astonished.

But you were waiting for the whisper, the voice too loud, just  enough that will silence you and your words forever. But it never speaks. It is struck silent by the silence.  It never speaks because there’s nothing for it to say. Yet you say it just the way you’ve said it before. And in the reality, it’s better than you’ve ever heard. You never think the pause for breath, which seemed in practice so short and now is an everlasting chasm of time, is perfect comic timing.  You make the joke that you’ve heard far too many times before. You know they’ve heard it for the first time. As now do you.

 

You find yourself unexpectedly relaxing and experiencing that joy of the endless moment. And you’re left wondering why you ever were afraid in the first place!

Hunt for The Wilder People : Movie Review

It’s 6 o’clock Saturday 11th June 2016. I’ve exited the Event Cinemas in George Street Sydney. I’m sitting on a step scribbling furiously as people pass me by, lights and shadows draping me briefly.  I’m too immersed in what I’m doing to notice much else.

I’ve just seen Hunt For The Wilder People, the New Zealand smash-hit, apparently seen by one-in-nine Kiwis, though not yet as many people living on the West Island (Australia, in case you’re wondering).

It’s the story of an incorrigible orphaned boy Ricky (played by Julian Dennison). As a last resort, he is sent to the final foster parents in the middle of nowhere by Child Services. Totally unimpressed, Ricky tries to return to Child Services but once settled at home promptly runs away. After being found again (and again),  he  slowly acclimatises to his new environment, and starts to bond with his foster mother Bella (played by Rima Te Wiata). However, he develops a tenuous and stand-offish relationship with her cantankerous partner Hec (Sam Neill) who really would rather be left alone.

Sadly, tragically, Bella collapses and dies. With only Hec left, Child Services informs them that they will now take Ricky back. That’s enough for Ricky to go bush for good. Once Hec realises the situation, he searches for and finds Ricky but is injured in the pursuit.

Unfortunately, Paula from Child Services (No Child Left Behind, No Child Left Behind is her mantra), arrives on the now deserted farm. With no Ricky or Hec, she calls in the real police and starts a manhunt.

Directed by Taika Watiti, (director of Boy) who has an amusing and disturbing cameo as a pastor, this film showcases the scenery of New Zealand (the opening is like a travelogue) but lets the story unfold itself at its own pace. Through crisis, contemplation and humour,  we see the relationship between Ricky and Hec develop even if they are complete opposites. In their continuing adventures, Ricky learns bushcraft, bravery and brashly defies Paula from Child Services when she nearly catches him again. As the manhunt becomes national news, they’re left to the encroaching winter, the not-so-stealthy efforts of the pursuing Special Forces and the police. Although I did experience deja vu having watched Sam Neill in much the same situation in Sleeping Dogs!

Luckily, the Hunt for the Wilder People has a more humourous and happy outcome even if Ricky and Hec do end up confronting the New Zealand Army on its home turf.  And Julian Dennison steals the film.

This is a wonderfully told story, with many laughs and some sadness too. And a cast whose enjoyment in making this movie shines through! Go see it and enjoy.

Where Is My Laptop?

 

I got the phone call about five minutes before the meeting was due to start. Someone important needed a laptop set up for a presentation.  Knowing the type of laptop and the meeting room setup, I knew it would be easy, just plug the laptop in and the screen would show itself in seconds.

I knew the important personage’s department had two spare laptops. I also knew the right person to speak to. I also knew this person would be in the meeting in five minutes also.

I raced down the fire escape and barged through the double doors. I just got the administrative manager as he was leaving for the meeting.

“So and so needs a laptop for the meeting.”

Where is my laptop?

Where is my laptop?

“Both have been booked out. So and so couldn’t organize a shipwreck.”

My thought was the Cunard line couldn’t either with the Titanic ( It wasn’t Cunard, it was the White Star Line). I kept my silence for a change and thought furiously. Who else did I know has a spare laptop?

Plan B? One of the other departments had account managers. They occasionally went out and visited clients and left their laptops behind. So I took it upon myself to liberate one of their laptops. I informed his colleagues as to the reason why.

Once I had the laptop, I had to set it up. This particular laptop had to be setup slightly differently : a process that would take time. I raced into the meeting room and connected the laptop. As I entered everyone looked up.  All the staff for the meeting were there. But not the manager. He had disappeared. And I needed him to login and make sure things work. I logged in. And it worked for me.

My next mission was to find him. I checked all the offices on that floor. I went back upstairs and checked. I finally returned downstairs and told his staff. He still had not reappeared. So I left it and went back to the conflicting priorities that had beset me beforehand. I thought all was well. It wasn’t as I was to find out.

A few days later, I was greeted by an external consultant. After I asked her how she was, she told me truthfully. Then she asked me to extract some files from a media device. As I did she told me her story.  I was extracting the presentation the important personage was supposed to have given several days ago. Obviously, he failed to do so.

I wonder what he said about me when he couldn’t do the presentation…

I always thought that it’s not what you know, but who you know. In this case, that almost worked for me. But this time it was when you found out.

Now as a trainer, I always set up as early as possible. This is why.

 

 

 

This Printer Isn’t Working (Diagnostic Ping-Pong)

“Hi I’m just ringing about the printer. It’s not working.”

It was the printer just over the partition from me. I had taken it on myself to try and fix it. But I was not a desktop support person any more. I had:

Printer

Printer

  1. Checked the printer had paper, no jams and enough ink
  2. Stopped and restarted the printer queue
  3. Deleted the print job
  4. Cleared my temp files
  5. Switched the printer on and off and, of course
  6. Rebooted my PC .
The first-support information technology person walked me through all the checks. I had done all her suggested steps and perhaps more. Sigh!The next day the printer man arrived. He:
  1. Checked the printer had paper, no jams and enough ink
  2. Switched the printer off and on, and of course
  3. Ran a printer self-test.
I forgot that one. But after he left I leant over and checked the test results. The printer had passed. So all was good. It still didn’t print though.The next day, the network cable guy arrived. He:
© Ginasanders | Dreamstime.com - Network Cable Of A Computer Photo

© Ginasanders | Dreamstime.com – Network Cable Of A Computer Photo

  1. Unplugged the network cable from the printer
  2. Attached it to a grey box
  3. Pressed a button
  4. Checked the flashing lights.
While he was doing this, I peeked over and checked. I’d used such a magic box before.  The lights were blinking in sequence. The network connection had passed. So all was good. It still didn’t print though.
I waited to see what happened next. It was the printer support person again. And again, he did the same tests as he had done two days ago. He got the same result. The printer passed the test. So all was good. But the printer still didn’t print though.
It was looking like a game of diagnostic ping-pong. So I rang back.
“I know it’s not my job but…perhaps you could try this…just check to see if you can get the printer to talk back to you over the network (I had tried this in my old job). Or do a printer network test. Maybe it’s the network card. Or even the connector.”
There was a long, long pause and then, “I’ll add that to the notes for the call.”
Another day passes. It’s the printer guy again. He does a network test. He looks behind the printer at the network connector.  It has no lights and is damaged. They get a new connector and life goes on. Sigh!

Sex and Vacuuming : A Game of Mutual Selfishness

Kathy Lette’s If Your Wife Doesn’t Want Sex Then Try Doing the Vacuumming article echoes the Annabel Crabb‘s The Wife Drought re having it all and needing a wife.

Like the old expression, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage“, there isn’t much of that anymore.

Yes, unfortunately, I’ve heard this all before.

In the throes of a disintegrating marriage, I turned to reading books many of which made the same recommendations.

The prescribed panacea was that if a man did more housework or spent less time with his mates, marital bliss awaits.

In truth I did step up and I fervently believe that men should (see Having It All). But there’s no guarantee of reciprocation. Not that reciprocation was my motivation.

Unfortunately, the opposite argument is of course is that the woman should do more. As set out by Laura Doyle in her book the Surrendered Wife where women need to step up so the man can step down. Again there’s the implicit guarantee of reciprocation.

These viewpoints seem to treat marriage as some sort of reality show (Wife Swap perhaps?). Marriage is seen as a game where you amass points for doing the right thing, are penalised for doing the wrong thing and receive or forgo prizes. Marriage in this light seen as territorial and transactional with winners and losers.

My real problem with all of this is that both viewpoints are both motivated by the guarantee or expectation of reciprocation. If I do this, I get that and if you do this, you get that.

What that creates is a relationship based on mutual selfishness. Both partners keep score and amass points and expect to be rewarded. The problems occur over keeping track of the points, rewards, penalties and prizes. From my personal experience after arguing over that there’s little energy left for vacuuming or sex.

Nor does it foster much love. Nor create an environment that fosters compassion and generosity.

So what’s left from this? My dull insight is this. Perhaps we could try an unselfish love for oneself and for others for a change? Perhaps we could create an environment of compassion and generosity?

 

 

What a Training Evaluation Should Be

A friend asked me to put together an evaluation of a course. Here’s what I should have done:

Trainer Evaluation Form

Please rate your trainer’s performance using the following criteria.

Tone of Voice Soft Droning Really Really Enthusiastic
Sense of Humour Droll Funny Hilarious Good ROFL
Movement Stand Sit Walk Pace March
Body Language None

Tai Chi

Evangelistic
Dress Sense BackPacker Smart Casual Evening Suit
Eye Contact None Back Ceiling Furtive Staring
Trainee Interaction None One Trainee Only Anyone Single?
Favourite Expression

There’s always one!

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