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!