Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Walk a mile in my shoes

I'm showing my age, but "Walk a kilometre in my shoes" does not have the right ring to it. It also runs the risk of making the exercise pointless as a kilometre is much shorter than a mile, and maybe that is not enough time or distance for you to see and learn what it is I am making my point about.

But I digress. What am I talking about?

I have a close friend who used to be a bank manager. He was good at his job; he had been regularly promoted because of his dedication and excellent customer service. He left the banking industry and became a used-car salesman. "Oh, good", his wife said, "You have stepped up a rung on the social ladder!" Having spent many years as a car salesman we were discussing whether or not he would make a move to the real estate industry. I warned him that it would only be a single step up on the social ladder again.

All jokes aside, I have been pondering over what it is that makes one job more acceptable, or more honoured, in our society than another. I understand that jobs that require long and dedicated study, like medicine, take a place of pride and honour, as I think they should. Perhaps also that is why, when someone who is a doctor or surgeon stumbles in their professional capacity, we are all the more shocked and concerned, fearful even; and when we respond in fear we are all the more likely to over react. I sometimes find myself wondering that if we allow ourselves to over react, do we diminish our capacity to fully understand the motivations and causes that led to a particular outcome or circumstance; and do we weaken our ability to properly manage the rehabilitative process that is required to bring things back into order?

The only reason I can think of for why used car salesmen and real estate agents may be held in less esteem than clerks, teachers and check-out chicks is because we have had a bad experience buying or selling a car, purchasing a house, or even missing out on buying the house we wanted.

I too, had a fairly low opinion of real estate agents before becoming one myself. Now that I understand the constraints imposed by legislation, and now that I have experienced the long hours, the mountains of paperwork, the flurries of phone calls, the dubious intentions of some buyers, the vague instructions of some sellers, the general attitude by both those parties that the real estate agent is at their beck and call at all hours of the day and night, I now have a much higher opinion of my trade.

Don't get me wrong, some real estate agents are rogues; but so are some doctors, lawyers, teachers, bank managers and check-out chicks. Roguery is not confined to just the lower orders of social employment. Rascals and rapscallions have existed in every endeavour mankind has ever put his hand to. Being a scoundrel speaks to a person's upbringing, education and moral sensibilities, not their chosen employment. 

So next time you're at a social gathering and you are introduced to a car salesman, a bank manager or a real estate agent, observe their behaviour and listen to their words before you cast judgement on the social acceptance of their profession.

Saturday, 5 July 2014


The wind’s blowin’ leaves across the street
It’s sure getting cold down ‘round here.
Westerlies start blowin’; rain turns to sleet
I could easily hate this place this time of year.

Water from the fountains fall across the paths,
Everywhere the grass is turning yellow.
Wood fires, and pine-cones crackling in hearths
Fashion styles for women are more mellow.

Tree-tops toss and writhe in the windy gusts,
All of Nature’s starting to look bleak.
Hot-food shops cater for people’s hunger-lusts,
And the colour of the gardens become weak.

The sky is grey-blue ashen, rather overcast
Sparrows cry and wheel upon the wing
Sunshine wanes; its time of reign is past
And people’s hearts are yearning for the spring.

MDC 14/05/81

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Is this the ultimate Lemon Meringue Pie?

You may recall my personal foible of judging the quality of any lemon meringue pie (LMP) I am fortunate enough to taste. I published a couple of judgements here and here.

The child-bride and I visited The Colours of San Cris the other day. It's a small cafe-come-tourist-come knick-knack spot at Cabarlah. We have been before and enjoyed the food and the atmosphere and I think their black spiced chai tea is excellent.

Well, now there is another very good reason for checking them out. An absolutely fabulous, all-genuine, baked-on-the-premises lemon meringue that close to the best I have ever tasted.

Here is how it scored.

Where: Colours on San Cris (Cabarlah)
When:  Saturday, 28th June 2014

A lovely tasting, smooth filling with good tartness. Not too sweet, not too tart.
36 points

The meringue was crisp and crunchy on the top, with a soft gooey centre. Although lacking a little in height its sweetness level was superb without being over-powering.
24 points

The pastry was light, not flakey, no heavy butter or flour taste. It broke easily with a fork. A generally sweet taste without contributing to the overall sweetness of the pie. It had become a little damp, presumably because the pie may have been baked a day or two before, but that did not detract from the pastry's over-all taste.
20 points

Excellent presentation. I'm happy just to see a good looking piece of lemon meringue on my plate, but this was presented with whipped cream garnished with a slice of orange artfully poised over the cream, and a delicate pink flower on the opposite side that almost begged to be eaten.
10 points

Total: 90 points

The only reason this LMP did not score higher is because I do not want to make the assumption that I have tasted perfection. I feel I need to taste many more lemon meringue pies before I can make that big a call about a single slice. Having said that, this particular slice of pie is clearly the best I can recall ever tasting.

Monday, 30 June 2014

The sad, sad truth

I had a good week-end; a very good week-end. Well, most of it was great. A house I really wanted to sell, sold; and it sold for a good price. Both the buyer and the seller were very happy. I also had the chance to have some 'coffee and cake' time with the child bride.

Although this is where the week-end took a turn for the worse.

Apparently I have been operating under a misunderstanding for a long time. I thought the definition of a week-end was that time in the week when sleeping-in was considered de rigueur, shaving was not necessary, watching a movie was allowed regardless of the time of day, and tangible concessions were given in the wardrobe department.

It turns out I was dead wrong about that last one.

Ask any man over the age of 40 about what he considers is important about the clothes he wears and I'll bet one answer you will never get is "fashionable". I will also bet that the most common, if not the only answer you will receive is "comfortable". The fact that the jeans may be a little worn, the shirt a little faded, the shoes a little misshapen, are not entered into the equation. The issue of a belt will be, at best, an after-thought, just like whether or not a comb is required to be run through my hair. Over 40, wearing clothes that are sartorially-lacking should not be considered a crime upon humanity, nor grounds for casting aspersions upon one's character or intelligence, and it's certainly not acceptable to throw them all away and go on a shopping spree.

This raises a serious dilemma.

For clothes to be truly comfortable, they must be soft. They must either fit the contours of your body or they must loosely ignore it. For clothes to acquire this essential attribute, it takes the determined passage of time and many, many washings. In my experience, one to two years at a minimum. Hanging in the back of a closet for a few years is also known to add the desired level of softness. 

There are many of us males who endure the grief and discomfort of hard, harsh clothing for many days and months, in the hope that our wretched clothes will one day be soft and pliable. We look long into the future, willingly delaying wardrobe gratification, so we can one week-end enjoy the comfort of "good" clothes. Imagine then our utter dismay when our respective partners turn around and say, "You're not wearing that old thing are you? That shirt's faded. It's time you threw it out." Just when it's reached its peak!

Oh, the horror of it, and most of all the sadness of it. I am not sure why I felt a little ashamed. I truly did not intend to offend the clothing gods. What this means for any future week-ends, I'm not sure. One thing is certain, some elements of my wardrobe are clearly unwelcome on any out-of-the-house activities.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Still Life

Chilly night; moon bright;
Intermittent star light.
Dark ground; street light round;
Shooting star earthward bound.
Thin cloud; spreading shroud;
Silhouette trees standing proud.
Shadows cast; dawn at last;
Winters night is finally past.

MDC 19/6/81

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Don't judge a book by its cover

This adage is well-known and contains a simple truth. We can't judge the contents of something by how it looks on the outside.

Take a look at this house.

It's not the prettiest house you will ever see. It's not grand, nor majestic. Drive past it in the street and you would not give it a second glance.

Inside is a different story.

Polished timber floors, a brand new kitchen, an updated bathroom, and comfortable and inviting colour scheme through out; all-in-all a real surprise if you had judged the house solely on its outer appearance.

Here's some pics to demonstrate.

I see lots of folk drive past a house that is on the market, and never bother to stop to take a look inside. Presumable they do not find the exterior to their liking. While I understand that location, neighbours and other houses in a street provide some measure of the  "niceness" of the area, it intrigues me that a house is discarded from contention simply on its outward presentation.

I have lived in a number of houses, some of which had excellent street presentation but which had little by way of comfortable living internally. One, in particular, had magnificent views of Toowoomba, a large deck for BBQs and family gatherings, and was located in a lovely, quiet street. It was both the hottest-in-summer and coldest-in-winter house I have ever lived in.

I know that people are time-poor, but choosing the next house to live in is an important decision. Make the wrong choice and you pay for it in lots of little, hard-to-define ways. Often there is no direct expense  attached to a poor decision, but inconvenience and lack of comfort are accompanied by their own costs. 

A little more time taken during the research and decision stages can make a big difference to life in general.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

To open or not to open, that is the question.

One of the questions I invariably ask sellers when listing their property for sale is whether they would like to hold open houses or have me bring prospective buyers through on individual inspections.

The answer surprises me because it is almost always along the line of, "Oh, we don't want open houses. We don't want lots of people through who have no intention of buying".

I have not been in this industry very long and already I have lost count of the number of times someone has turned up to see a house simply because their friend looked through it the previous day and told them about it. It seems there are more than just a few people who go looking on behalf of others. They are happy to peruse a property at an open house, but they do not make individual appointments for private inspections. Sheer weight of numbers is always a good thing at an open house. If they like the property people are inclined to act more promptly, and they are more aware of the increased chance of competition for the property.

The other thing to consider is this; if you want your home to be presentable for every inspection, open houses set on the Saturday and Sunday of the same week-end means you only have to clean, vac, mop, dust, and tidy the house once, and then keep it that way for a little over 24 hours. Notice that I used the word, 'presentable', not 'clean'. There is, of course, a huge difference between a clean home, and a presentation-clean home. Individual inspections, even with an hour or two of notice, mean you will go through the whole process each time, and you very well may spend your entire week cleaning house. 

When I explain this to my sellers they often relax back about open houses. I also find that sellers may start with individual inspections, but soon move to open houses when the level of work becomes difficult to sustain, particularly when the selling of their property is not replacing some other activity; its in addition to everything they are already committed to. Imagine your present weekly workload. Now add two hours of home preparation prior to every inspection. Now imagine doing that every week for two, four, six, eight, even ten weeks. It's a big call.

I am not expecting this question to become an easy one for sellers any time soon, as it goes to the core of a family's sense of security and safety. It also innately speaks to our feeling of being judged by complete strangers. Next time you wander through the house of a stranger, take a moment to consider the things they may (or may not) have done to accommodate the fact that strangers will be looking into their personal life.