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!