Monday, 6 July 2020

Monday, July 6th, 2020 - Reading From A to Z, French Rolling Pins, Updated Blog Banners + Recent Wristwatches

Customer or store details go on the left. Symptoms or issue with the watch go over on the right. I switch between different pens to provide a little contrast between each enquiry.

Private customers can be tricky at times because they can take a while to get back to me with a decision. Two or three months can go by. Then eventually, they call back and expect that I'll remember the details of the original conversation. Which is why I hold on to these pages for a few months. If somebody calls me back four or six months later, we start from scratch. Occasionally, a customer will get ticked off by the fact that I don't recall the conversation and I then remind them that I deal with a lot of enquiries on a daily basis and that the notes that I keep are held on to for only so long. 
They usually see the sense in that. 
Some of this info is cross-referenced into my daily planner, but generally, it's all written down in these A4-sized notebooks. Once full, they get numbered and stored in my desk drawer and held for about six months. After that, they are shredded. 
This system works well for me, as I've always been able to locate an old enquiry.

Here's a pic of the fiction bookshelf;

I've decided that it may be an idea to actually start reading these, beginning at the beginning of the alphabet. The idea is to read and release a few of these books that I've had for years. Something tells me that, once I've read some of these, I may not ever read them again, so it would be wise to then move them along.

The red book on top is a bunch of John Cheever's short stories. Ain't finished that one. I tend to dip into short story collections a little at a time. I've read some of the Carver short stories, but that was back around 1990, so I'm probably due to take another crack at them. I do recall liking what I read back then. 
The Plague by Albert Camus, not sure why I have that one, but I'm almost certain that it was a text that my brother had to read back in high school in the '70s. 
The thin red-spined book is Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller. It could be a trippy read. 
I read Jaws back in the late 70s, after seeing Spielberg's film in '75. Been afraid of dark water ever since. 
The New York Trilogy could do with a re-read. 
Any Human Heart sounded interesting. It's about a fellow who...well, here's what the blurb on the back cover states;

                           William Boyd's masterful new novel tells, in a series of intimate journals, the story of Logan  Mountstuart - writer, lover, art dealer, spy - as he makes his often precarious way through the twentieth century.

That was pretty much enough to pique my interest. 

Of course, if I'm going alphabetical, Martin Amis is the first author to read.  The Information is about a struggling author who decides to ruin the reputation of a more successful rival. 
Another book of his, Night Train, is a thin novella (148 pages?) and I've started that one. It's about a female detective in Chicago (possibly) or San Francisco (maybe) who investigates a suicide where a young, promising and seemingly happy woman has shot herself three times in the head with a .22 calibre pistol. 
How somebody can manage that is what has kept me turning pages in this one. The story is told in first-person narrative (a favourite literary trope of mine, thanks Messrs Chandler and Hammett!) and the detective, with the rather improbable name (for a woman) of Mike Hoolihan is in her 40s, a liver-damaged reformed alcoholic who knew the woman and her family. The woman's father is ex-Chief of Police and he wants the truth.  
It's been described in one review as noir and Chandleresque, but I think that description's a little lazy on the part of the reviewer. It takes more than a first-person narration to make a book Chandleresque. The detective is darkly existential and quite downbeat, for one thing, and her voice-over does come across at times as stream of consciousness observations and musings. 
I'm probably wrong. I'm no book reviewer and I don't tend to 'read between the lines' when reading.
I'm on around page 80. If the book turns to crap, I won't mind so much, since it's so short.
Recently purchased was Martin Amis' father Kingsley Amis' first book, Lucky Jim. Figured it might be time to take a crack at that one.
Don't ask me why, but I recently bought a biography on Amis senior. It's 800 pages long! I would first have to plough through the three-volume biographies of Graham Greene by Norman Sherry. These total around 2,500 pages. By the time I'm done, I'll know Greene's life better than my own.
I though it would be interesting to read about these 20th century authors.

I finally got this watch back from repair;

It's the Tudor Oyster, a hand-wound model from around 1963. It was on my watchmaker's bench for almost two years. This was because he was waiting for a suitable window of time to work on it.
This is the watchmaker that I work with. He and I are busy enough dealing with the watches that come in for repair, so I knew that this job would take a while. The repair intake slowed down a couple of months ago thanks to COVID-19 and he was able to work on this watch. It needed a new mainspring, which he was unable to source for this calibre. He was confident that he had one in his collection of spare parts, but that would take considerable searching.
Meantime, I jumped on eBay and began a search for a ETA 1080 movement mainspring and ended up finding one after a few weeks. Once it was fitted to the movement, he tweaked the timekeeping a little and got it to a level that he was happy with. I have to say that the watch now winds as smooth as butter. Probably the only thing it needs now is some luminous paint on the hands. This is something that I may have done at some point by another watchmaker that I know.
This now leaves me with two watches currently under repair. One, a Lanco hand-wound model from the late 1950s, will most likely be sold once I get it back. The other is a Rado Golden Horse automatic and that one is in very good cosmetic condition, so I'll probably keep that one. It just needs a new winding crown and the watchmaker is having slight trouble getting hold of the correct one.

Just to note, my scanner has finally packed it in and I've therefore been taking photos of any handwritten or typecast pages. This is evident in the crappy lighting of the photographed pages.
Anyway, onwards!

And here it is. A French rolling pin. Tapered down to allow your fingers to curl around the ends a little more securely so that you have a little more control over it. Granted, it's just a damn rolling pin, and all you have to do is push it back and forth, but this makes for an easier-to-use implement. If the pin doesn't roll over whatever you are trying to flatten out, then there's the risk (especially with pasta dough) of tearing through the surface or bunching it up, which kind'a defeats the purpose of what a rolling pin is designed for.
It only took me about 2 and a half hours (!) and I somehow managed to skin a couple of my knuckles in the process, but at least it's done.
All that's left is some fine-adjustment sanding to smooth down a few bumps and then I may just dip the ends in varnish.
Not a perfect job, but that was the point. I rubbed some olive oil onto it prior to hanging it up. With anything like rolling pins and wooden chopping boards, the idea is to never submerge them in water, as this will mess with the composition of the timber. It's always suggested that you just wipe them down with a damp cloth and maybe rub them down from time to time with oil.
Tuesday, 23rd - 1st coat of varnish. Leather string removed from hook. Hook wrapped in masking tape. End of pin dipped in can of varnish. Excess brushed off.
Saturday, 27th - 2nd coat. Dipped into can and brushed off excess.
Sunday, 28th - 3rd coat. Final dip in can and excess brushed off.
Man, I can't believe the trouble I went to with this thing. I can't believe that I'm writing about it AND I can't believe that you're reading it, if you've gotten this far. This semi-lockdown/reduced workdays schtick must have gotten to me.
Anyway, both ends of this French rolling pin now look like this;

I was almost tempted to varnish further along the handle, in order to provide less friction when being used, but I figured it wasn't really necessary. The surface of the timber is sanded down smooth enough and a light coat of flour on the ends of the pin or on your hands will provide the required amount of 'slip'.
Besides, I spent way too much time (and money) on this endeavour.
And lately, I've been thinking about making a fountain pen stand, since I still have quite a few off-cuts of merbau timber lying around. That's right, a fountain pen stand. Something extremely useful in the 21st Century.

I wore the Omega Railmaster this month, seen here at a local Japanese cafe near where I work. I was going to order the beef bento box, but the place has been operating with limited staff since Covid-19 kicked in and they therefore offer a scaled down menu as a result. No matter. The chicken dish that I had was nice.

This pandemic has certainly knocked the hospitality industry for a loop. My son hasn't worked now since late March. His workplace (A local hotel with a restaurant offering pub meals*) has re-opened, but he tells me that they've had to give preference to staff who have been there longer than him. Still, he's been assured that he still has a job and once things get back closer to normal, he'll get some shifts.

*Pub meals - Australia certainly has its fair share of bars, but this country was built on pubs, or public houses. A lot of them were built back in the 1800s when English settlers began arriving in full swing and, to give you an idea, they probably resemble saloons like those you'd see in a western. Most, if not all of the older ones had rooms upstairs that were for rent, although I've never met anyone who's ever stayed in one. I think by the time I arrived on this Earth, these pubs were probably 80% vacant, with maybe a few rooms used as offices, staff change-rooms, and storage.

This pub here is The Albion Charles in Northcote. It looked a lot plainer back in the 1970s when I was a kid. My Father worked there briefly back then. In those days, liquor licencing laws dictated that pubs had to close at 6:00pm. This is where the phrase "the six o'clock swill" came from, as men would race into pubs after work to down a beer or three after finishing work at 5:00pm.
Back in those days, it was common for pubs to keep a tin box at the end of the bar. These boxes were usually about the size of four shoe boxes, and they were  filled with sawdust.
Some men back then just couldn't hold their liquor. Gave those pubs a very 'acrid' atmosphere. And slippery floors.

Tavern, Inn, Ale House. Here in Oz, they all mean the same thing- A pub.
About twenty or thirty years ago, a lot of pubs began serving a 'Pot & Parma'. Basically, a glass of beer and a veal parmigiana. I'm gonna assume that you all know what a glass of beer is. A Parmigiana (parmi-jahnah -I'm using phonetic spelling here, hepcats) is a pan-fried veal fillet which then has a slice of cheese draped over it and a ladle of Napoli (tomato-based) pasta sauce drizzled over the top of that.
Done properly, it's a nice meal. Even though I cringe at it being called a 'parma'. However, what really gets my goat is that classic pasta, Spaghetti Bolognese, often referred to as 'Spag Boll', or 'Spaghetti Bolognaise'.
It's not 'bollognayz', it's 'bollon-yeah-zeh' (say it fast). In Italian, when the letter 'n' follows a 'g', it's the same pronunciation as in 'lasagna'. To simplify it so that a nasty kid could understand it, it would be pronounced the same way as 'Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, naah!', but an Italian would spell it 'Gnah, gnah, gnah,gnah, naah!'

Anyway, Veal Parmigianas. Most pubs began to lift their game about fifteen or so years ago, as my town Melbourne (already the gastronomic capital of Australia) got even more food savvy. Pubs began to compete with more established eateries and the menus began to change.
Sure, most pubs will still offer a Pot & Parma, but you can bet your bottom dollar that a lot of them will serve it with rocket lettuce, kale or potato wedges drizzled with garlic oil and rosemary. Gone are the days of plain old French fries, with a greasy squeeze-bottle of tomato sauce (ketchup) on the table next to the napkin dispenser.
I'm taking the long way to get to my original point here. The place where my son works offers the kind of Pot & Parma meal that will consist of an upmarket brand of Aussie beer and an imaginative variation on the traditional P & P.
Yep, pubs have come a long way since the days of the six o'clock swill. 

You may have noticed that I changed my blog banner up above. Not entirely happy with it. I neglected to include some movie and music related items in the frame, and I also think the picture is too tall. I was aiming for more of a widescreen ratio. Not only that, but I was working against the clock, as the little amount of sunshine that I had available was diminishing quickly.
I'll take another crack at it soon.

I wore the Oris Divers SixtyFive. Here it is, hanging from the group handle of our coffee machine, which I took in to get serviced recently. We were without this machine for the longest two days of our lives.

I currently still have two watches under repair. The watchmaker is searching for a winding crown for one of them. I'm keeping an eye out on eBay, but I think it could take a while. 

Okay, so I changed my blog banner last week, to this;

I wasn't entirely happy with the placement of the objects in the frame. For one thing, I knew I had to leave some room along the top in order to fit the blog title. Secondly, I didn't include enough stuff which give a snapshot of the stuff that I'm into.
So, out came the props and the camera earlier today and I arranged it all on the kitchen table directly below the skylight. I decided to use some of the Art Filters on my camera.

Pop Art accentuates the colours;

Although, I still wanted to give it an artificial vibe. The 'Dramatic' setting was nice;

But a little harsh. And I wanted the wood-grain of the table to look a little lighter, in order to mimic the old hardcover Bond books of the 1950s.

Diorama was a nice setting. My wife liked this one best;

This setting blurs areas of the frame in order to make it look like a miniature model. Look at what this setting did to a nearby train station when I had the Olympus EPL-5;

You almost expect Thomas the Tank Engine to come chugging along. So, I was going to use this setting, but I didn't like that it blurred the titles of some of the books in the frame.

And so, despite my wife's preference for the Diorama setting, I decided on 'Key Line 1', which I had used on a previous banner years ago, and that's the banner that you see at the top of the page. This time, though, I decided to use the 'Paint' function in Microsoft Photos to write in the blog title, rather than using the Blogger template option. Reason being that I wanted to write the title in 'Cargo Crate' font, to link it further to the old Bond hardcovers.
And below that, I used a downloaded font called 'Underwood Quiet Tab' , for that well-worn typewriter font look.
The camera that I used was the Olympus Pen F, which was my replacement camera for the EPL-5.
The key line filter gives the photo an overall 'cartoony' look. Sure, the eye has to work a little harder to make some things out, but I liked the way the colours popped.
Probably the main areas where this photo suffers is the slice of lemon in the glass, whereby you can't see the texture of the fruit, and the Bond fan fiction page over on the far left. Still, I hope you get the gist.

Okay, another longer-than-expected post. Here are some of the other watches worn over the past month.

The circa 1996 Oris Big Crown Small Seconds Pointer Date.
This watch has gotten a surprising amount of wear since I got it.
Oris still produce the Big Crown model, which makes sense, since it's a design of theirs that dates back to 1938 and it has become a classic model in their catalogue.
Originally designed for pilots, the winding crown was oversized (hence the name) to allow them to set and wind the watch while wearing flight gloves.

Virtually every watch brand has at least one 'hero piece' in their history.
A hero piece is that one watch that is unmistakably their own and has achieved cult or classic status over the years. Omega has the Speedmaster Professional, the Moonwatch as worn by NASA astronauts. Rolex has several hero pieces, pretty much one watch from every range they have produced. Notably, the Submariner dive watch and the Daytona chronograph are the two models that are revered by watch collectors.

Brands that are no longer around also have that one watch that came along at the right time and became a classic. Take Enicar, for example. The brand went bust sometime in the 1970s, but they did produce the Sherpa Graph chronograph back in the 1960s and it is a collectable watch these days.
Eterna is another brand that produced a classic piece, the Kontiki, back in the late 1950s.
While these two brands may not have had the clout of the more well-known Swiss brands, they still produced at least one model during their time that could be considered a hero piece these days, based on how sought-after these models have become.

What else did I wear? Oh yeah, this one. The Omega Seamaster 300, seen here while I waited for lunch on a cold Winter's day recently. Just as well I wore my hat. The rail started pelting down as I walked back to my car.

I have three hats at the moment and I think I can maybe snag one more fedora and then get rid of one of my others. Storing these can be tricky. You either need to keep them in a hat box to preserve their shape or you store them somewhere in a wardrobe where they won't get pressed against other clothing. The idea is to keep the brim curved and/or folded as it should be. Hats can lose their shape pretty quickly if stored incorrectly. This can be solved by steaming the brim back to the desired shape, but access to steaming equipment can be- ...wait, what am I saying? I have a coffee machine. The steam wand will work fine. Although, if I can avoid having to steam the hat, then that's preferable.

And, while out to get some chore jackets at a nearby Uniqlo store, I wore the Submariner 5513. This Covid-19 era drags out processes that were once simple. I queued up outside the store for about ten minutes before they checked my temperature with one of those thermometer 'pistols' before letting me in.
I was there to buy a 'chore' jacket. These are usually an unstructured lightweight jacket with a few pockets. The kind of thing a carpenter would have worn sixty or seventy years ago. The pockets were designed to hold things like a pencil or tailor's chalk. This style of jacket has gotten popular in recent years.
I figured they'd be good for wearing around the house. Certainly came in handy on those mild early Winter days while I worked on that new bookshelf in the driveway. By the time I was done, the jacket smelled of sawdust. Like a carpenter from circa 1947.
Anyway, after wearing this one, I decided to head back to Uniqlo and buy a couple more of them. My wife thought I was nuts. At $49.95 each, they were hardly going to break the bank so, aside from this one in 'mushroom brown', I got a dark blue one and a khaki green one as well. That ought to do me. For a while.
They're thin enough to wear over a shirt. I wouldn't wear it on a cold day, but if the weather's a little crisp, they do take the edge off a little.
And yeah, they have enough pockets, for things like tape measures, carpenter's pencils, and my glasses. They're a good jacket for those times when you need to run out on a quick errand.

And, speaking of errands, my car needs fuel. Time to shut this puppy down, as my buddy Lee used to say back in the early '90s when it was time to close his restaurant for the night.

I hope you're all coping well. Stay safe, and thanks for reading!

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Sunday, 14th of June, 2020 - Follow the Recipe!, Where's the Editor?, The Bookshelf of Dr. Caligari + Recent Wristwatches.

It was the name of these biscuits that caught my eye. Well, that plus the sneaking suspicion that these would go nicely with a cup of coffee. Taken from a book called The Art of French Baking, which is filled with éclairs, brioche, meringues, and macarons, among other staples of the French pâtisserie.
The recipe seemed simple enough. Butter, egg whites, plus 5 other ingredients. Prep time of around 10 minutes, cooking time of about 7 to 10 minutes. 
How hard could it be? 
Well, my daughter and I got started with the ingredients. Egg whites, caster sugar, flour, pinch of salt, vanilla extract and almond meal. 

But...what we forgot to do was whisk the egg whites first. To be honest, I'm not sure if this was a crucial step or not, but given how these things turned out, I think we should have followed the recipe to the letter.
Once the mixture was done, I poured it messily into a newly-purchased piping bag. We had six(!) baking trays on standby. Four of them were pizza trays, lifted by my Mother from some restaurant that she worked in back in the '80s.  The trays were lightly buttered, the oven was pre-heated. I began gently squeezing the piping bag, creating 2-inch in diameter circles of the mixture on the trays, making sure to leave enough space between them to allow for expansion. I thought I was holding the piping bag securely enough, but some of the mix oozed out from the top of the bag onto my knuckles. This was getting messy.
One tray done. Okay, into the oven and on to the next. Bake for 7 to ten minutes, said the recipe. We continued with the other trays and put them into the oven. A couple of them wouldn't fit lying flat, so we rested one end of them on the edge of the tray next to them.
A few minutes later, we checked how they were going. The tilted trays showed that the mixture had 'migrated', causing the circular mix to drift across the tray into an oval shape. Once cooked, we used a spatula to lift them off the tray and, while still hot and pliable, each biscuit was wrapped around a pencil and rolled into a cigarette shape.
It was a messy production, resulting in some weird shapes, but they did taste nice and crisp. You could taste the vanilla and almond in them.
Not a perfect success, but worth trying again, now that we knew where we may have gone wrong.
We'll try it again sometime.

I wore the Rolex Sub 5513 at various points throughout May;

You may recall my post about the Dry Martini;
A Recipe for the Dry Martini...According to Teeritz

I wrote that post seven years ago. In recent months, I've had a Dry Martini on a Friday night after dinner. It's not a regular thing, but there are some weeks where a drink such as this puts a definite full-stop (period) to the working week.
And, as I have bought different gins over the last year or so, this has given me a chance to notice the slight differences that they bring to a Martini.
My wife got me a bottle of Aviator Gin for Father's Day last year. This brand is owned by actor Ryan Reynolds and it seems to have done well since it was released a few years ago. I tried it in a Gin & Tonic and it seemed okay, but it didn't knock my socks off. Then I made a Martini out of it and wow!

My God, it was smooth! 
A Dry Martini can pack a punch, which is why I tend to have them sparingly. And I really have to be in the mood for one. It's not the kind of drink that you can rush, either in it's preparation or its consumption. In my humble opinion, anyway. I take my time making them because of the ceremony involved. And then I take my time drinking it because it deserves to have some time spent on it. 

Next gin that I tried it with was Suntory Roku Gin from Japan. When the Japanese try their hand at something that is more traditionally known as a Western pursuit, they don't tend to mess around. Suntory makes a Single Malt Whisky (Hakushu) that has won numerous awards over the years. Hardly surprising when one considers the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that the Japanese are renowned for. 
As I've said before, there was always a certain cachet when something like a film camera or transistor radio had the words 'Made in Japan' engraved/printed on it.

Here's Toshiro Mifune in Venice in 1962.
Smooth, sharp and cool. Like a Dry Martini made with Roku Gin. 

I had a few shirts to iron one day. Don't know how, but I'd let them bank up and, rather than leave them for my wife to attend to, I thought I'd do them myself. I usually listen to a wristwatch website podcast while I iron, as this seems like the only chance that I get to just zone-out slightly and do something that doesn't require any thinking. That way, I can concentrate on what I'm listening to. Problem with these kinds of podcasts is that whenever they mention a new watch that I'm not familiar with, I stop ironing and Google the watch in question. That tends to slow me down a little.

I recently bought a couple of extended  edition soundtracks to the last two Mission:Impossible movies. I loaded them onto my iTunes (call me old-fashioned) and then transferred them over to my iPod Touch, which I keep in my work-satchel. 
I listen to soundtracks and movie scores when I'm chained to my computer at work because this type of music has no lyrics to distract me from what I'm writing. Since my job involves a lot of inputting of part numbers, customer e-mails and addresses,  there's always a risk of getting one number wrong, and while it may not cause a disaster, it can become a pain later on. 

Sure, I could probably play classical or jazz, but I'm not a huge fan of either of those genres. Although, I quite like jazz from the '20s through the '40s. Anyway, these soundtracks are unobtrusive, and who doesn't love the theme to Mission: Impossible? Between the two, I think I prefer Lorne Balfe's score to M:I - Fallout. Might have to play them both a few more times to really be sure. 
Balancing out the weight of the iron in my right hand was the Omega Planet Ocean clamped to my left wrist.
I'm currently reading this book, seen here with the Sinn 103 St Sa chronograph that I wore in the last week of May;
It's about an Israeli Defence Force (named Unit 8200) Special Intelligence Unit Commander's quest to locate a young Israeli national who has gone missing in Paris. The Commander happened to be arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport just before the young man was due to fly out. The French police are launching a search for the man by viewing security footage, which shows that he was lured away by a blonde woman in a red dress. 
The Commander, Col. Zeev Abadi conducts his own investigation, much to the chagrin of Commissaire Leger, the French detective assigned to the case. I'm about 100 pages from the end and, while there have been some interesting scenes, I have to say the book is taking its time getting to the point. 
Abadi is in Paris and he communicates via a state-of-the-art smart-phone with his newly-appointed second-in-charge, Oriana Talmor, who is back in Tel Aviv and not fully aware of what Abadi is up to. Meanwhile, heads of other Israeli intelligence departments are trying to usurp Talmor's authority.
I'm not minding the book, but like I say, I don't really know where it's heading. In Paris, we have Abadi unaware that a Chinese hit squad is pulling the strings of this whole affair. I'm assuming that things will begin to pick up sometime soon. The chapters, all 121 of them, are short. Some last two pages, others go for about six.  
The book was written by a fellow named Dov Alfon, and ex-member of Unit 8200 (referred to in the book as eight-two hundred, not eighty-two hundred) who went into journalism and became editor of a newspaper before turning to writing full-time. The book was first published in Hebrew and became a best-seller before being translated into English and winning the Crime Writer's of America International Dagger Award last year. 
It's well written, but I have to wonder if it was properly edited. Page 62 (Chapter 16) has Abadi and Leger viewing the airport's security footage showing the young Israeli being lured away by the blonde in the red dress. Regarding the security camera;

                     It had a very sensitive audio microphone, which created an odd soundtrack of background noises. Abadi felt as though he were watching a strange work of video art, an homage to a classic black and white film lacking only the narrating title cards...

Now, I can always forgive an author if he does not use the correct or appropriate terminology. In this case, rather than "classic black and white film", I would have gone with 'silent film'. No big deal if an author gets it wrong. That's what an editor is for. They're the ones who are supposed to know stuff like that. For example, the face of a watch is called a dial. 
Alfon is a competent-enough writer, so I can forgive this kind of lapse. Page 197 (Chapter 54!), however, is another matter;

Abadi stood up and looked out of the window, down at the river. The sun had begun to set behind the Eiffel Tower, but it was still full daylight. Hundreds of people were scurrying towards the St Michel metro, anxious to leave the city before rush hour. Yerminski could be anywhere - in Paris, outside Paris, in some hotel, in some apartment, in the Bois de Boulogne, in the Bois de Vincennes, in a public  garden, in a church, in a department store, pacing the streets, sleeping on a bench, staying with an Israeli friend, riding the metro back and forth, strolling along the river, drifting in the river. Anywhere.

Okay, we get it! Yerminski could be anywhere in Paris. I can't really blame Alfon for this long list of places. A competent editor would have trimmed this list of 17 different places down to six or seven at the most, choosing the most varied of them to illustrate the notion that Yerminski could be ANYWHERE in Paris, from a brothel to a church to somewhere in between.
I think I'm on around page 310, with about a hundred pages to go. I'm now really curious to see how the book ends, not because it has me on the edge of my seat, but because I'm wondering if the tale will move at a faster pace before I get to the end.
My wife was reading Kazuo Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans up until about a couple of weeks ago. She gave up on it, stating that the protagonist would be reminded of some event that had not been previously mentioned and then there would be no further mention of it afterwards.  
"And for a reader, you then kept thinking; Did I miss something? Frustrating.", she added.
Speaking of books, I've had a hardback copy of Julian Barnes' The Sense of An Ending for about five years. Picked it up for a few bucks because I liked the cover art. It's about 150 pages long, but my wife cautioned me against reading it, stating that Barnes is a miserable bastard like Ian McEwan. 
Let me guess, she said. It's about a man in his 60s who looks back on his life and recalls some great tragedy or event that occurred and now he has to come to terms with it.
I read the blurb inside the dust jacket. The story concerns a man who is now retired and he receives a letter from his lawyer which brings up people from his past. 
Hmm, she may have been right. Maybe I'll give it the first fifty pages or so. If I'm not engaged with it by then, then I never will be. 
As I get older, I have less patience for books and movies that don't grab my interest. There are still a tonne of them that I haven't read or seen, so I don't want to waste time on something when there's something else that's more fitting with my interests, taste, sensibilities, etc.

I decided to build another bookshelf. Bad idea. You may recall that I built a few of them four years ago. Surprisingly, they're still standing. However, it has always bugged me that there was a small gap between a couple of the shelves. There's a power-point on the wall, so that's the reason why I left the gap in the first place, but I still felt that I could put in a shelf and work around this power-point.
Sure enough, I decided on a 2100mm tall shelf that would be less than 30cm wide. Asking for trouble, wasn't I?
I bought two 2400mm long lengths of treated pine and this time, I took my time measuring the height of each shelf. I busted out the router, clamped the two lengths of pine across two folding workbenches and, with the help of my son, cut out seven slotted dado groves across both pieces. So far, so good.
The problems began when I decided to fit the top and bottom sections of the shelf before cutting the other shelves in between. Once again, I ended up with a shelf that was narrow at the bottom, but widens out slightly at the top. The difference between the shelves is anywhere from 5mm to 9mm. This meant that I'd be doing a lot more sanding down of each shelf than I had hoped.
I have enough left-over pieces from the old shelves, but they aren't the same 235mm width as this new shelf. So, I'll have to get a little creative with the 184mm and 90mm off-cuts, in an effort to end up with 235mm pieces. Looks like some planing and/or sanding down will be in order. I may even get a surform plane, as this might be a faster method for removing more of the surface.
I should mention that I'm no handyman, if the above paragraph didn't already alert you to the fact.

I wore the Hamilton Khaki Automatic throughout the month, especially while I was building the shelf;

The Nikon FM2 was giving me some headaches. Whenever I'd try taking a photo, I'd get the over or under exposed light coming on in the viewfinder. This happened with 95% of the photos that I took on the 36 exposures roll that I loaded into the camera. 
With the aperture set down to its widest setting, the light would come on. If I adjusted half-way towards the next setting, the light would go off.
I found a camera repair service in the city and, with about half-a-dozen SLRs in my possession, I think I'll pay them a visit one day when I'm ready to spend some money to have them checked and refurbished. The idea is to get rid of one or two cameras. But you've probably heard me say this before.  

Finished the bookshelf a week ago. Not entirely happy with it, but it will do. There's not ONE perfectly horizontal or vertical edge on the entire thing. Still, it's been a week and it's still standing. I gave it three coats of marine-grade varnish because I wanted to give it a rich look. I used treated pine and cut dado grooves into the long edges with a router. That was all well and good, but it began to get out of hand once I measured out each shelf individually. Given that this shelf was going to 'slot in' between two existing shelves that I built four years ago, I noticed that the space between these two shelves was 30cm at the base and 26cm at the top. Yep, that definitely sounds like something I built. What I should have done with this shelf was measure and cut out seven shelves all 26cm wide, regardless of the space at top and bottom. This may have resulted in a straighter looking shelf overall. No matter, really. The carpenter a few doors down told me to call it 'rustic' if anybody ever asks me about them. I have no plans to build anymore shelves right now, but if I ever do, I'll do things differently. This job ended up with me re-cutting, sanding, planing and swearing a little more than usual.

As you can see, the gap between this new shelf and the one on its left widens a little as it gets higher. And that middle shelf was meant to be for my binoculars and a couple of cameras.

It slants noticeably, but I figured that it mimics the 'V'-shaped binocular case anyway, so I'm fine with it. Anyway, aside from referring to these shelves as 'rustic', I'll also tell anybody who asks that I was aiming for a German Expressionist vibe with them, hence all the distorted lines. Yeah. That'll do it!
Actually, not sure why I really need to have the binoculars on display, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
It (once again) became a bigger job than I had planned, but with all this extra time up my sleeve, I thought it would make good use of the gap between the existing shelves. The gap is there because there's a power outlet at the lower edge of the wall. So, to still allow access to it, I didn't put the backboard on the entire shelf. That way, we can park camera battery charges and mobile phone charges on the bottom shelf and plug them in out of the way.
We had some leftover off-cuts of merbau timber from the decking that our carpenter neighbour made for us a few months ago - a week before COVID-19 hit - and I used some pieces on this shelf to provide a little contrast with the treated pine. You can see that the front section of the shelf where the red Olympus Trip 35 is resting is a little darker than the shelf above it. Once varnished, it took on a nice deep hue.
And that is my latest attempt at handyman stuff. I ain't very good at it all, but it's still a buzz when it's finished and standing. Three coats of varnish to make it look like a Riva Aquarama.
I may try my hand at making a fountain pen rest with some of this timber. A square piece, with two or three dado grooves cut into it (to lay pens down in them), maybe drill a large hole at one end so that I can put a pen in it standing upright, and then some coats of the varnish to make it look like it's an antique.
The Hamilton Khaki served me well during this shelf build;

And, while I wore it with a view to not worrying if it got scratched or dented, it actually survived the endeavour without a mark.
In other wristwatch news, I FINALLY got this one back into the collection;

The WatchCo build Omega Seamaster 300. I think it's almost a year since I last wore this watch. I had it serviced by a watchmaker who trained under the watchmaker that I work with, but this guy - while he did a very good job with the watch - was unable to source movement parts. This watch needed a friction spring for the seconds hand, Omega Part No. 1255. This spring helps the seconds hand tick around smoothly. I spent a couple of months trawling eBay and one came up eventually. I bought it and then gave it to my watchmaker colleague and he installed it a couple of weeks ago, once his workload calmed down a little.

I have two other watches that are currently being serviced and as soon as I get those back, I'll put one of them on eBay and then look at the rest of the collection to see what else could or should go. Definitely one other of my lesser pieces could be shifted along.

And finally, in other urgent news, I ran out of gin earlier this week. Managed to squeeze the last remaining drops out of the existing bottle of Bombay Sapphire to make 70% of a Dry Martini, seen here on the right.
Truthfully though, I do have a bottle of Bombay Limited Edition English Estate Gin, but I'm sort of saving that bottle for the warmer months.
Since I've been working a 60% work-week for the past two months, buying a bottle of gin seems like an extravagance at times.
As I get paid monthly (I hate that, by the way), I pay all outstanding bills first off, then I lay low for a week or two, not spending on anything besides groceries.  In saying that, we pretty much run on the smell of an oily rag around here anyway. We rarely get take-away meals, we ain't got cable TV, and there's no speedboat on a trailer in my driveway.  As I get closer to next payday, I may get a bottle of wine or some spirit that I may be lacking. I don't go for anything too exotic, usually something in the $45 to $60 range. The idea is to get to my next pay with a couple of hundred bucks still in my bank account, which is then transferred into my own personal saving account or the joint account, which is there for emergencies, such as if our washing machine - which we bought back in 1999 - decides to pack it in once and for all, or some other financial urgency that may pop up.
Anyway, earning 40% less at the moment, so a simple pleasure like a bottle of alcohol sits further down the list of priorities.
And then I remembered the two 200ml 'emergency bottles' of Bombay Sapphire Gin that I bought at Ho Chi Minh City Airport on the way out of Vietnam back in April last year. I had them stashed in a drawer where I keep my tumblers. Time to bust one of them open. Needs must, as they say.

Can a bottle of gin look cute? I think so. AND, I found out after I made a Gin & Tonic that this particular gin is 94 proof!
The Bombay Sapphire that we get here in Australia is 80 proof. I'm not sure if it was my imagination or not, but this drink had a slightly heavier kick to it. Or maybe I was imagining it.
Either way, next time I travel, I may come back with a couple of full-sized bottles of it.

And that's another month done. Our younger cat, Bowie, managed to lose a claw from one of his hind paws, so that involved a couple of trips to the vet. They put one of those plastic collars around his neck to prevent him from gnawing at his paw while it heals. We thought him licking his paw might help it heal faster, since cats are fastidious about their grooming, but the vet told us that their saliva (the cat's, not the vet's) is riddled with bacteria and they should be kept away from any open wounds. A course of antibiotics and twice-daily cleansing of the wound should see it heal up within ten days or so.

But the cat had other ideas. He managed to stretch his neck so that he can still reach his wounded paw, so this has meant that we are all keeping an eye on the little weasel, 'cos he just can't be trusted.
Just as well we called him Bowie.

"Take your protein pills and put your helmet on..." 

Needless to say, he's not impressed with this get-up. Spent the first hour back at home walking backwards everywhere.
Never a dull moment with this little guy.

Anyway, stay safe, all, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

20th of May, 2020 - Pasta La Vista Baby, Gates of Hell + Recent Wristwatches

           So, here we all are, in the midst of this adjusted existence in the grip of COVID-19. I'm still working three days a week at the moment, and that's the plan for May, but things could change without notice.
I hope you're all coping with things the way they are at the moment, and that you're all staying healthy, cautious, and above all, positive.
The only way out, is through. And this too shall pass.
As they say.

So basically, working less means a little more free time.  As my hours began getting cut in mid April, I figured it was a good time to take a shot at making pasta. 
For the first time.
From scratch. 


150gm of '00' (fine) plain flour
150gm of semolina flour
2 large eggs
1 tbsp of olive oil

But before I got started, I needed a rolling pin. Not just some crappy, tiny wooden thing that you get from your local supermarket.
Nope. I needed something heavy-duty. Something that reminded me of my childhood, when my mother would make pasta on a huge wooden chopping board, using a two-and-a-half-foot long rolling pin that looked to me like a short, fat broomstick. With a hole drilled through one end with a piece of old string looped through it so that it can be hung up when not in use.
So, instead of buying an actual rolling pin for five or ten bucks, I went to my local hardware store and bought a 1.2 metre (3',8") length of Tasmanian Oak. For thirty-four bucks.
I was aiming for heirloom quality, folks.

I cut off a 60cm piece and sanded it down to a smooth finish. At one end, I attached an eyelet hook and on the other, I wrote down the month and year. Then I gave both ends a light coat of teak oil. What I should do is sand down a hand's-width at both ends. Ideally, it should taper down at each end like a cigar, so that you can curl your fingers around it for better control, but it'll work okay as-is.

The small glass and spoon are the odd items in this photo. It's an espresso. A quick kick-start before getting stuck into proceedings.

My daughter helped with this endeavour. I thought it was gonna take ages, but it only took an hour or so. After mixing the two types of flour together, we made a 'crater' in the middle of the mound and then added the oil and eggs.
Mixing and kneading it by hand, I noticed bits would break off. No matter. Just add a little more oil or egg to help it bind together. If it sticks to the work surface, add a little more flour. If it keeps breaking, add a little more oil. Keep kneading it until you have a ball of pasta which 'springs back' a little when you press into it.
Give it a light dusting of flour, Glad-Wrap (TM) it and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

I was wearing the Seiko SARB033 while I waited (I need to get a more professional-looking apron.);

Then, it was time to use the pasta machine that belonged to my mother. The machine that hadn't been used since around 1978. I can still remember one of the last times she used this machine. She made flat sheets of pasta and then cut large circles out of them, about the size of a drink coaster. She filled one side of the discs with ricotta cheese and finely chopped spinach before folding over the other side and pressing the edge down with the tines of a Lucky Wood steel fork, creating a sunburst pattern in the pasta and sealing the edge.
Ravioli, thrill-seekers.

She was a fantastic cook when I was a kid. Really was. And that's not me remembering things with child-like simplicity. And then, sometime in the late '70s, she started working as a cook in a small, nearby Italian bistro. After that, her home cooking got a little robotic and 'procedural', if you know what I mean.
I didn't realise it at the time, but looking back, her cooking took on a by-the-numbers, production-line kind of feel. It still tasted good, but there was something missing. A little less care taken. A little less 'soul'. I think she had gotten too used to slinging out meals in ten or fifteen minutes flat. Too used to the pace and rhythm of a restaurant kitchen.
As a result, her cooking processes, in her own home, no longer took the time to breathe.

I got the ball of pasta out of the fridge and cut it in half. Then I went to work on it with the rolling pin, a flood of memories from my first job as a pizza maker back in December '79 filling my head as I gave the smooth timber a light dusting of flour before rolling it across the pasta.

I worked it into a long thin surfboard shape. It was now ready for some fine tuning from the machine. We ran it through about three times, adjusting the thickness each time by turning a knob on the side of the machine which narrowed the gap between the rollers. The machine gives you the options of making lasagna sheets, fettuccine or spaghetti. 

I figured we'd make fettuccine. If my recipe was wrong, the machine would be more forgiving with fettuccine ('cos it's wide) rather than spaghetti (which might break as it's lifted away from the machine). My daughter fed the pasta through the machine while turning the handle. I gently took the strands of pasta from the other side and rolled them around my knuckles to form them into little 'nests';

Geez, only four? That'll feed two people. I took another sip of my whatever-the-hell-this-drink-is (Aperol, Martini white vermouth, soda water) and looked over at my daughter.; "Okay, Sister Sledge, grab some more eggs and flour. We're making another batch."

I made another drink while she mixed up the two flours on the chopping board. This second batch took even less time to prepare, since we now had the hang of the whole process.

Once completed, we had three trays of pasta. I brought them into the lounge room, where my wife was seated on the couch with a magazine, and placed them gently on the ottoman stool in direct afternoon sunlight for about 20 minutes to dry them out a little.

The next evening, it was time to try this pasta. I was hoping it would cook properly. My main concern was that these ribbons of pasta might break or snap while cooking, resulting in a congealed mess.
I got a large pot of water on the boil and added just a dash of salt. The past cooked in three or four minutes, reaching its al dente state pretty quickly.
When cooking pasta, it needs to reach that point where, when you bite through it, you shouldn't see any white in the middle of the bitten-off piece, but the pasta should still offer some slight resistance to the bite.
This is al dente, which translates literally into 'to the tooth'. It's not so much your taste buds that determine when pasta is cooked.
It's your teeth and your eyes.

The bolognese (pronounced 'Bollon-yeah-zeh', not 'Bollog-nayz') sauce that my wife made was the perfect one for this meal.
The pasta held together nicely and tasted surprisingly good - considering it was my first time - , but what took me back 40 or so years was the feel of the pasta on my teeth and palate. Not smooth. Each strand had a certain texture or roughness to it.
If I had closed my eyes right then, I would have thought my mother had made it.
And I probably would have burst into tears. 
That's my Italian side coming out. 
Wristwatch-wise, I wore the Hamilton Khaki Auto. I've ordered a couple of NATO straps for this watch, from a site called...

Cheapest NATO

...which was started by a young lady in Sweden in an attempt to offer these nylon straps at low prices. She soon expanded into stocking other types of watch straps.
The COVID-19 situation has resulted in a sharp drop in sales on her site. Subsequently, she posted news on Instagram about a current sale of all stock at up to 70% off her usual low pricing.

I purchased a couple of bare-bones leather straps from them about five years ago and they weren't great, but their other items have been very good quality and value. Maybe I'll take another look at those bare-bones leather straps. In any event, I decided to get a couple of nylon NATO straps and a couple of leather NATOs as well. To give the watch a real WWII vibe.
Real or imagined.

The Hamilton will see more time on the wrist as a 'beater', which is a term used by collectors to refer to a watch that's used for rough duty and runs a higher risk of getting scratched, nicked or dented. I figured this watch might look a little better with a few battle scars, even if they only occur while pulling out weeds in the front lawn, sanding a strip of timber or taking out the rubbish.

Since my last post, I also wore...

The Oris Big Crown Pointer Date, from circa 1996. This is the 36mm model and, on a bracelet, it has a nice Jazz Age vibe to it, even though its design dates back to the late 1930s rather than the decade previous.

The 36mm Omega Railmaster, from 2009. This one hasn't been getting a lot of wear, but whenever I do put it on, it stays on for a few days at a time.

And the 2017 Movember Edition Oris Divers SixtyFive, seen here on top of a recipe book that I was sifting through one day. I jotted down a few notes and bookmarked a few pages here and there which featured basic recipes for staple dishes. I want to try making a vegetable stock sometime, as my aim is to try and re-create a thin broth or brodo with butterfly pasta in it. Butterfly pasta is not made from butterflies, in case you're wondering. In Italian, a bow-tie is called a farfalla, which is what Italians also call a butterfly, since their shapes are similar. Butterfly pasta is usually quite small. You could balance one on your thumbnail, so they therefore make a nice pasta for a chicken or vegetable broth.

This is the old gate that leads through to the side passage-way of our house. I decide to try and fix it. Upon closer inspection however, I noticed that the timber had rotted beyond repair and also. one of the hinges had snapped off due to rust. Stupidly, I decided to use this old gate as the template for a new one. Now, I should point out that I'm no handyman. Sure, I built some bookshelves a few years ago, but there's not one straight line to be found in them. That's okay. A neighbour of ours (who is a carpenter) described these bookshelves as 'rustic'. "If anybody asks, that what you call them", he said.
Regarding this gate, I should have just gone out and bought a new one. Which would have cost me about $135.oo, and I could have (probably) modified it to fit the doorway where it was meant to go.
Anyway, without going too much into the details, it required much measuring, re-measuring, cutting and sanding, a lot of swearing, and finally, some repeated going-over with a plane, on both the edge of the gate and the door-frame, but I finally got it done and hung.

Not a perfect job, but it will do. If it falls apart by next Summer, I'll just measure the door-frame and take another stab at making a new gate from scratch. The piece of timber on the right-hand side needs to be painted and I also want to cut away the lower section of the central slat in the gate to create a small  opening for the cats to get through the next time they're being chased by a neighbour's dog. 
Not sure about the rope on the top left. I'm not really crazy about putting in a new latch because I don't like the choices from my local hardware chain. Basically, they have one latch to choose from and it's just like the old one, as seen in the photo above.
No thanks.
Also, after spending longer on this gate than I had planned, I don't wanna look at the damned thing anymore for a while.
Still, it hangs true and straight along the hinged edge. Which was surprising.
Next up, a seven-foot tall, 12-inch wide bookshelf, to go between two larger shelves in the study. Let's see if that ends up taking me six or seven weeks.

My wife and I went for a walk one morning and chanced across this beauty. No seats, no steering wheel, no engine, no bonnet (hood), but somebody's gonna spend some time and money bringing this thing back to life. Best of luck to them. Who doesn't love a Mustang? Looks like one of the early ones from late 1964. And I know nothing about cars.

You know what, gang? This post has gotten long and, while other stuff has happened, I think I'll end it here and start a new post.

I'm feeling a little stale with this one.

Stay safe and thanks for reading!

*Recipe taken from;

Ferrigno, U. (2006) Ursula Ferrigno's complete Italian cookery course. 1st ed. Great Britain: Mitchell Beazley, pp.12-17. 

I had a different recipe taken from the weekly epicurean section of a local newspaper, but once I'd read and re-read both recipes, I decided that Ferrigno's was the more straight-forward one.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Wednesday April 15th, 2020 - Strange Days Indeed, RIP Miss Galore, More Spy Fiction + Recent Wristwatches.

This post began with my thoughts on COVID-19. Toilet paper shortages, panic buying, hand-washing, elbow-bumps, social distancing, etc, etc.

But then I thought that there's nothing I can say about this that hasn't already been said. And you all have your own thoughts, views, opinions, ideas and fears about your corner of this world and how to navigate your way through it at this time.

My hope is that we'll all come out the other side of this with a better understanding of ourselves (and our resilience), a stronger appreciation of each other, and a better idea of what we all think is important. 
I just hope it doesn't take too great a toll on us all in the process.
If there was ever a time to exercise a little stoicism, this is it. 

Anyway, much as I may plan to avoid it, this post will no doubt show where the Coronavirus ripple-effect has impacted my life and where it hasn't. The pictures of whatever wristwatches I've been wearing lately are all part of a show-must-go-on mentality that I've chosen to adopt.
Amid this chaos, I'd like to stick as close to a normal life as possible. 
Otherwise, this virus has beaten me already, hasn't it?

The 1st edition copy of The Honourable Schoolboy arrived sometime in March, thus concluding my hunt for Le Carré's 'Karla Trilogy' of the 1970s.

I bought tickets to something called Skyfall In Concert, which was to be performed on April 4th. Basically, the film would be blasted up on the big screen while the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra re-created the music score down in the pit. I bought four tickets back in August last year, knowing that it would be eight months before we'd be sitting down to this performance.
Well, I got an email a couple of weeks ago stating that this show would be postponed (better than cancelled, I guess) until a later date, when this whole COVID-19 mess eases off. Add this to the news that the new Bond film, No Time To Die, has had its release date pushed forward to November. 
The delay of the Bond film was petitioned by a couple of Bond Blog websites, most notably and;

Sure, I'm ticked off about it all, but not too much. It makes perfect sense to delay the release. Yeah, it's a financial decision first, and a health concern second (call me cynical), but there's no point screening a movie to an empty theatre. Other films have also had their release dates reshuffled.
No big deal, really. It's not like we all don't have other, more important issues to deal with over the next six months or so.
This poster here is a fantastic fan artwork, done by somebody named @thrice_champ over on Instagram and it's reminiscent of old film poster art before photography took over.

Early March...

I took a week off from work. Didn't go anywhere, just stayed home and took it easy. It had been a very busy start to the year and I was feeling like I needed a break.

The week ticked along smoothly enough and I managed to get a few things done. When I got back to work after this short break, there was a mountain of e-mails waiting for me. No biggie. I'd work my way through them. More disconcerting was the fact that nobody had done anything with regard to repairs while I was away. This meant that I had 15 completed repairs to do paperwork for and ship out, 16 new repairs to book in, and about a dozen repairs to prepare quotes for. Left undisturbed, this would take me about a week to sort out. Of course, between phone calls and e-mails, as well as co-workers distracting me, this time-frame dragged out. On top of this, each day brought a few more new repairs to book in, a few more new quotes to write up, and a few more new completed repairs to ship out, so it took me longer than anticipated to get it all under control.
Three weeks, actually. By the time I had it all reined in, I felt like I needed another holiday.

I wore the Sinn 103 St Sa chronograph at the start of the month. Seen here with an old chess clock that needs some repair or servicing to the movements. I don't know how to play chess, so I suppose there's that to look forward to one day. 
I have this clock on the Cold War espionage fiction shelf because it was manufactured in Western Germany and it has a certain utilitarian aesthetic in its design.

The Sinn has been getting a little more wear recently. Towards the end of the month, I made a decision to wear watches that had adequate water resistance, considering how much regular hand-washing that's been recommended to us all. 
With everything that's going on at the moment, one less thing to worry about is probably a good idea.

And here comes a typecast...

Needless to say, I got a tad distracted by recent events and the first casualty was my time spent reading fiction. I'll get back into the book in the next day or two. 
Daily circumstances can change with little notice, with regard to work hours, grocery requirements, etc, so getting back into regular reading could be tricky. 

I'm writing this section on March 28th and we had a meeting at work on Friday regarding reduced work hours (along with the requisite reduction in pay) and it just may be that April starts with shorter working weeks. That's unless our government here gets around to finally announcing a complete nationwide lock-down. 

My son's employer has suspended all casual staff for the time being. He was one of them. He works at a nearby motel in their restaurant. It's a big place and they just haven't been getting any lunch or dinner bookings in recent weeks. He's been told that they'll gladly call him back once business improves. 

My wife was let go from her job a couple of weeks ago, although that's not as bad as it sounds. She's been working in the funeral industry for the last two years as an arranger/conductor and she had just started out at this new agency on a casual basis, to help out one of the owners, whom she used to work with. Being a new agency, they had their work cut out for them, since there is some competition from two other agencies in the same suburb. 
At any rate, business has been quiet over the past month and they couldn't afford to keep her on. It didn't bother her because she had only been there about six weeks and was still looking for full-time employment anyway. Not only that, but she had enrolled in a counselling course online as well.

At the time of writing this portion (April 4th), my work hours will be reduced to three days a week, along with the requisite drop in pay, and this will continue till the end of the month. The situation will then be reviewed, to determine whether or not we dip into our annual leave hours or go on leave without pay throughout May or June.
Glass half-full, folks. Glass half-full.

I spotted this book on eBay;

Yes, yes, I already have it in both paperback and hardcover, but this one looked interesting because it was an uncorrected proof copy. This is a pre-publication draft that needs to be checked for errors. I thought it would be interesting to see if Le Carré's draft was different to the published novel.

The starting bid was seven bucks. By auction's end, I was the winning bidder. I got it for the opening bid of seven bucks. Now, the Seller's description of the book left a lot to be desired. It merely stated; 'Book'.
I contacted the Seller the next day to ask if the book in the picture was indeed the one that I would receive. I got a reply stating that the book had already been sent and they had no way to check.
Okay, no problem. I could always wait until the book arrived.
Well, the book arrived about ten day's later and it looked like this -->
Was I ticked off? Should I have asked the necessary questions of the Seller prior to placing a bid? Yes and yes, but that didn't stop me from contacting the Seller to voice my disappointment, stating that the book I received was not the one listed in the photo. I could have bought a cheap paperback copy of this book for under five bucks from any thrift store or second-hand bookseller in my neck of the woods, so why would I spend seven bucks plus fifteen dollars shipping on something like the book that they sent me?
Now, I know that booksellers on eBay will often state; Item in photo for illustrative purposes only.
Now, they didn't say that in the listing, and they used a picture of an Uncorrected Proof copy, even though a quick Google search of this book in paperback will throw up a bunch of pictures. So therefore, I felt they had been underhanded with their listing, especially given that the description could have been a little less 'zen' on their part.

I got a reply next day saying that they included the ISBN number of the book and I should have used that information to determine exactly what copy of the book they were actually listing.  The International Standards Book Number is a book's 'fingerprint', and no two are alike.
I called BS on that, saying that nobody cross-references the ISBN number of a book on eBay. That's what the photos and description are for. I reminded them of their super-concise description, adding that this further enhanced the shady nature of the listing, and I told them that I had no desire to ship the book back to them because I didn't want to be further out-of-pocket.

They replied that they would refund me the full price as a courtesy. I thought it was the least they could do, since they're basically big, fat liars.

In other Le Carré book-related news, I bought a copy of his latest work, Agent Running in the Field;

While it would have been swell and cool to have bought a signed 1st edition hard-cover copy of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I just couldn't justify spending $500 bucks. So, I thought I'd see what else I could find. A bit of searching across eBay landed me this;

I recall a few book signings from my days working at the first Borders bookstore in Australia back in '98.   American crime writer Lawrence Block was in-store for a reading from his latest Matt Scudder book called Everybody Dies (ISBN: 9780380725359 - Yessiree, I can do this ALL day!), and I remember this middle-aged married couple who brought in a shopping bag filled with Block's novels in paperback. They were hoping that he'd sign them.  
All of them.

"Do you think we brought too many?", the wife asked me, with a slightly worried look on her face.
"Yes, I think so", was my reply. "Only because the other customers might get ticked off waiting while he signs all of them, I added, surveying the line of people queuing up to the table where Block would sit to sign copies of his new book.
They then began to sift through their collection, in an effort to pick a handful of favourites for him to sign.

Anyway, enough about them. They left the store smiling, when all was said and done, and I met Lawrence Block and he laughed at one of my gags, about how Melbourne can look like parts of New York if you're drunk enough.
He was a nice guy, even if he hadn't laughed at my joke. And it was great hearing him read the first chapter of his book. You get a sense of the 'rhythm' of the writing when you hear its author reading it out aloud.
Before he left the store, I headed over to the Genre Fiction section (I was the Supervisor of that area of the store), grabbed a copy of his first book, The Sins of the Fathers and took it over to him. He opened it up to the title page and wrote; To Teeritz, Keep this one and sell all the others! and then he signed his name below that.
Cool. Just cool.

So yeah, it was great to get this copy of Le Carré's book with his signature in it.
I took the long way to say it, didn't I? And yes, I did pay for the book after he signed it.

Wore the Seiko SKX031 to do some fence painting. Managed to get some paint onto the fence too!

You may recall me mentioning in my previous post that I'll need to have a titanium implant to replace a root canal that I had done a few years ago.
As well as that, I did have an Orthopedic appointment at a nearby hospital scheduled for March, to discuss the bunions that I'll need to attend to at some point.
Well, this COVID-19 situation has meant that firstly, hospitals announced that all elective surgeries have been postponed for the time being, to keep beds and medical staff available for Coronavirus patients.
Secondly,  dentists have stated that they'll only take on emergency dental work for the time being. I may just contact my dentist to see if he's in limbo as well. Mind you, this procedure's gonna end up costing me about six or seven grand, so if I have to wait a little longer, that's probably not a bad thing.

Sold this watch in March as well.

It's the 2005 model Omega AquaTerra and in recent years, it just wasn't getting any time on the wrist, so I thought it made better sense to move it along. I have a few other vintage pieces that are currently being serviced and I'll be getting rid of those too. Regular readers may know that I've been meaning to thin down the collection for some time, and so, I finally got around to doing so.
Next up will be a couple of cameras, some fountain pens and maybe a typewriter or two that just aren't getting enough use to hold on to. 

I've said this before. There was a time when I would mourn the death of an actor or actress who had made it to a ripe old age. Nowadays, when I read of the passing of a celebrity who was in their '80s or '90s and I look back on what they achieved in both their professional and personal lives, I feel a sense of celebration and gratitude that they left us a body of work to enjoy. We're now reaching an age where a lot of actors of the 1950s and '60s will begin to shuffle off their mortal coils. The Bond Girl line-up has already taken some hits in recent years, most recently with the deaths of Eunice Gayson (the first Bond Girl, Sylvia Trench, in Dr No, 1962) in 2018 and Claudine Auger (Domino Derval in Thunderball, 1965) in December 2019.

Earlier this week, we lost Honor Blackman, who starred as the controversially named Pussy Galore in Goldfinger in 1964. Blackman was born in 1925 and worked as a dispatch rider during WWII. She was under 20 years old! That alone makes her super-cool in my book.
<-- This photograph to the left 'borrowed' from

She went on to a career in theatre, film and television, most notably as Cathy Gale in The Avengers in 1961, where she starred opposite Patrick Macnee's urbane John Steed.
Her character was a skilled martial artist and she became a role model for a generation of women. She left The Avengers when she was offered the Bond gig and went on to other roles in film, but never achieved huge stardom on the big screen. Her career continued with regular work in theatre throughout her later years as well as further television appearances. Goldfinger long ago earned its status as a classic Bond film for so many reasons, and one of them was Honor Blackman.
She died at home, of natural causes, at the age of 94.

I wore the Oris Movember Edition Divers SixtyFive at some point. Sabre-Tooth is the second book in the Modesty Blaise series of '60s spy novels written by Peter O'Donnell.
I grew up occasionally reading the comic-strip version of Modesty Blaise which was published in The Sun newspaper back in the '70s and '80s. From what I know of the character, she's an agent-for-hire and she has a male assistant by the name of Willie Garvin. A film was made back in the mid-Sixties with Monica Vitti as Blaise. Beyond that, I don't know much else. I'll see if I can hunt up the first book in the series. Entitled Modesty Blaise (natch), it's readily available on eBay.

 The 1969 hand-wound Seiko Skyliner also saw some daylight over the last month or so. This is a clean piece. With a diameter of 37mm, it's a little larger than the majority of similarly-styled watches of its era, but this slightly larger sizing gives it a modern feel and a nice presence on the wrist. The dial is clean and in very good condition, considering its age, and it  gives the impression that this watch was well looked-after by its previous owner(s). I did in fact see quite a few crappy-condition versions of this watch on eBay selling for a great deal more than what I paid for this one.
Definitely a lucky fluke on my part.

Well, it's now Easter Sunday. Cloudy outside in my neck of the woods. Rained heavily overnight and the lawns are needing a trim. We had a timber decking installed in the side garden area and the next step is to landscape it a little. Like I said at the beginning, the aim is to live life as per normal wherever possible, and if I have a little free time up my sleeve, I ought to try and make the most of it. Maybe take a good stab at some regular exercise too. If it's true that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make a lifestyle, then now's as good a time as any to get started, I suppose.

It's now Wednesday night, April 15th. I'm back at work tomorrow and Friday, and then I'm off until the following Wednesday. It's all very confusing.
Over the past few days, my daughter and I made pasta from scratch, and today, we all planted some bamboo trees in the back-yard.

I wore the Sinn 103 St Sa chronograph at some point in March. Like I said, with all the hand-washing going on, a water-resistant watch on a steel bracelet makes more sense.
I hope you're all taking the necessary precautions.  Stay safe, wash your hands, keep your distances, stay home. And stay positive. I've learned over the past year or two that negativity and pessimism all add to a stress level that can really take its toll on your overall mood and your health. Which is why I try to view the glass as half-full wherever possible. Some days, it works easier than others, but persistence is key.

Twenty-one days to make a habit, ninety days to make a lifestyle.

Take care, all, and thank-you for reading!