Epistles to Neil

Neil,

The business with the girl at the restaurant. You must go back there, as soon as possible and act like nothing happened. I’m sure she will forget the soup incident and the toilet paper. In future, you should, first of all, taste soup carefully after it is served. Blow on it.  It is only human to spit it out in a rush if it burns your mouth. It was unfortunate that you turned toward the waitress as you did so. The sneeze was really insult to injury, wasn’t it?
Another thing, always carry a handkerchief, or at least a couple of tissues.  Even when you don’t have a cold. Toilet paper is never a good look in public. I am grateful I lived for a time with my Grandmother when I was young. She would never let me leave home, without a hanky in my pocket.
The upshot of this, is that, you have not made a good impression with a girl with whom you wish to develop a relationship.  Not all is lost. I once got off to a bad start with a young lady. Later I talked to her and found that she hadn’t even remembered what to me had been a highly embarrassing incident with my hat and an elevator door.
That look that the waitress gave you, when the little bit of toilet paper was hanging from your chin, was probably more that she was  tired or over wrought. You should never read too much into facial expressions. Most people wear their own inner turmoil on their faces and don’t always show how they truly feel in a given situation. What you interpreted as a look of disdain, was probably some deep seated emotion about her father’s inability to show her love as a child.
Neil, you must try to step back from the events of your life and see the dramas of human interaction in a wider context. Learn to see through the veneer of people’s behaviour and intuit their deeper motives.
Sitting here, right now, I am almost certain this girl is thinking fondly of you and wondering when she will see you again. Ring the restaurant today and make a reservation. Take her a bunch of flowers. A whole new relationship may be about to enter your life.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

That was bad luck about your foot. Does the doctor say how long you will be on crutches?
I once sprained my ankle hiking in the Pyrenees. It was at the door of the Lodge, actually. My heel caught on the step as I was turning to answer someone who had spoken to me from the rear. So you see, you aren’t the only one to suffer from little incidents of freakish bad luck.
Now, you must set your mind at ease about the lawsuit. For a start, they take many years to come to court, if at all. That arrogant Salesman may find that he hasn’t got a leg to stand on when he tries to claim that you were responsible for the falling tile that hit him on the head and caused that nasty gash. The fact that you slipped from the roof and landed badly, nearly breaking your ankle, all because he came onto your property selling ear wax candles, seems to have escaped his notice. He actually caused your injury, not the reverse.
Mind you, it probably isn’t going to help your case that you yelled “Piss off, or I’ll brain you with this!” as you waved the tile you were fixing to the roof. The energetic swivel of your hips as you did so, no doubt caused the tiles you were standing on to break free and hurtle to the ground, one by way of glancing off the Salesman’s forehead. The fact remains, that one minute, you were minding your own business, mending your roof and the next, you were lying on your own front lawn without a shred of sympathy for the uninvited Salesman writhing in agony with blood streaming down his face.
Human conflict, is a funny thing. People forget their basic humanity when they see an opportunity to better their condition by lessening another. This Salesman has no doubt looked at your modest brick and tile home, estimated its market value and calculated the odds of a settlement forcing you to sell the house and pay him the equity, leaving you with a residual mortgage and no place to call home.
I think you should try to take a philosophical approach to all this. There are people in other countries, less fortunate than our own, having their houses bombed by terrorists through no fault of their own. You on the other hand, still have a roof over your head and may well have so for many years to come.  Make hay while the sun shines. Go out and have an alfresco lunch with white wine. Walk along the fascine. You could even buy yourself a budgerigar. Life is not so dreary for him who would take the time to enjoy it today.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

Don’t take it to heart.  She isn’t worth losing sleep over. The time may come when she will regret her missed opportunity. She does not seem to have a very compassionate nature. That in itself suggests that she is probably not the kind of person with whom you would want to develop a long term relationship. There was no call for her to say you were “pathetic”.
I don’t doubt that you made an error of judgement in choosing flowers that you were allergic to. Have you ever had trouble with wattle before? Perhaps you could have invested in some roses, or at least gerberas. I’m glad you remembered this time, to carry a hanky. It must have been awful, sitting there, with the flowers she had spurned, sitting on your tale, while you just sneezed and sneezed. Were you able to eat your meal? Unless you are particularly keen on that restaurant, I suggest you don’t try to see her again. If you must go to that restaurant, you should simply treat her like any other waitress. Don’t let her have any illusions that you are there for any other reason than to enjoy the food. You may want to go as far as smiling at everyone else.
Did I ever tell you about the Peruvian girl that I fell in love with? Absolutely besotted, I was. I can still see her olive skin and raven black hair.  I too tried flowers in my efforts to woo my beloved. If only someone had told me that South American people regard white lilies as symbols of death, things may well have turned out differently.
Neil, women are like ocean liners.  Some of them pass you in the night. Some are waiting at at the pier.  With others, you are skating on thin ice.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

I know there is nothing worse than a dog, barking late at night. There are Council by laws against this. Had you reported the matter, I’m sure some thing may have been done. I have heard that dog owners can be compelled to buy special collars which squirt unpleasant substances when a dog barks, causing the dog to stop. They are approved by the RSPCA and don’t cause undue suffering.
You have chosen a different approach and I am not sure you would have the sympathy of the authorities in this matter, now. The owner is probably quite within her rights to recover the cost of having the red paint removed from her pedigree silky terrier. Not to mention her axminster carpet.
I am wondering if it is not too late, to negotiate with this woman, make amends and then perhaps her heart will soften. I didn’t really help for you to tell her how much she looks like her yappy little dog. People often resemble their pets but it isn’t prudent to point this out.
I once had a neighbour who owned a bull terrier.  It used to cause me no end of aggravation, snarling and biting at the fence whenever I went down the side of our house to the rubbish bin. I put up with it for years without ever complaining. Then one day, out of the blue, I had a real Freudian slip when, in a quite  friendly tone, I called my neighbour Butch, which was his dog’s name.
There is one solution you might consider. Fight fire with fire. In this case, dog with dog. Get a dog that barks louder than “Peppy”. It will probably scare the thing out of its wits.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

Everyone is required to know the road rules before they get a driver’s license. The Road Safety Code gives the specific distances a vehicle must travel behind another vehicle at various speeds. I can’t remember what they are exactly but it is something to do with car lengths. I’ve never remembered things like that, since we changed over from pounds, shillings and pence. I never agreed with the change, either.
Now you are certainly entitled to slow down, if the vehicle behind you is too close for the speed you are travelling. This forces him to conform to the law.  In the case of the pick up truck driver you mention, it also makes him angry.
Perhaps you could have tried to pull over into the next lane and let him pass, as he clearly wished to travel faster than thirty kilometres an hour.  I know you maintain that the lane next to you was full but this pick up truck driver seems to have managed to change lanes, weave across two more lanes and back again to end up driving beside you.
Road rage has been identified as a response by certain individuals to the stress of coping with traffic conditions. It is usually preceded by what is called “background stress” that the individual may already be experiencing. Someone in this condition, especially, anyone with red and orange flames painted along the sides of his pick up truck, will probably over react to the simple thumbs up gesture that you gave.
As you say, you were maintaining your course in your lane and this person  swerved, allegedly deliberately, to strike the side of your Datsun 120 Y with his enormous bull bar, causing considerable damage.
Your insurance company will back you up in this but I urge you to bear in mind that the settlement of any dispute between you and the other driver will possibly involve an exchange of addresses. You may sleep better with your Datsun in the driveway, knowing that the said driver has no idea who you are, or where you live.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

I don’t own a mobile telephone, myself, however, I do acknowledge that they are a very useful form of communication in the modern world. Personally I feel there is much public education to be done in raising awareness of the appropriate etiquette for their usage.
I am not sure that you weren’t being a tad inconsiderate, ordering pizzas on your mobile during the violin solo,  especially as your order involved five different toppings in three sizes.
Have you heard from the insurance regarding your claim? I think a portable device such as  a phone, should be covered for misadventure. If not, I suggest you arrange a special policy when you buy your new phone.  And does the SIM card still work? You said it didn’t appear to be damaged when you retrieved it from the crushed hand piece. Who would have thought that  someone attending a classical music concert would be so violent?
On the subject of mobile phones, there was a man in the Post Office this morning, talking on his phone in the queue, which was quite long. He was oblivious to the fact that a dozen or so people were listening to him have an argument with his girlfriend. I don’t know why people’s voices get so loud when they are on a mobile. It doesn’t seem to happen with ordinary telephones. Everyone in the room, including the Post Office staff, heard him insult his girlfriend in a most intimate manner. It was quite embarrassing.
Now you’ve got me started, I saw a woman in the traffic the other day, who was completely contemptuous of the law regarding their use in vehicles. She was talking on her phone, while smoking a cigarette and checking her hair in the rear vision mirror.  She sideswiped  an orange hazard marker without  seeming to notice. It was lucky the road maintenance workers were standing well clear. I was quite amazed, when someone tooted her and she gave him the fingers up, driving without a hand on the wheel at seventy kilometres an hour.
All this seems to suggest that in the case of mobile phones, technology has outstripped the ability of we humans to adapt appropriately to its use.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

The express checkout lanes in supermarkets are one of those little spheres of human activity that bring out the best and the worst in human nature. I always double check, that I have the correct number of items before I go into one. As you know, the number varies from store to store; some allow ten, some fifteen, some as few as five. Of course, staff never try to enforce the requirement. They rely on the decency of customers to do the right thing by each other.
I once saw a man complain to the Supervisor about a woman who had gone into the checkout with an excess number of items. By the time he had vented his anger and the Supervisor had explained that there was nothing she could do about it, the woman had made her purchases and left the store. The poor man had in the meanwhile lost his own place in the queue.
As for your own recent experience, Neil, I must commend you on your diplomacy. No one likes to see bickering over trivial issues in public. It was the right thing to do, to admit you were in error. A full trolley of groceries, certainly was over the limit for an express lane. I like the way you promptly apologised and let the man through before you. It was probably a prudent thing as he sounds from your description, to be some kind of martial arts exponent.
I hope your shoulder is healing. It must have been quite a wrench to dislocate it. Wasn’t that nice of the Store Manager to have your groceries taken to the ambulance?
Remember Neil, everything happens for a reason.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil.

I don’t blame you for resigning from the Stamp Club.  Societies and Clubs are all about sharing interests and the bonhomie that goes with it.  If you were experiencing anxiety about attending your weekly meetings then it simply is for the best that you find another circle of friends.
I have been a member of the Numismatic Society for seventeen years.  We meet every fortnight at one or other of each other’s homes. Our respective spouses are welcome to attend and of course, they usually take care of supper for us, while we are busily engaged in discussing our latest acquisitions, or perusing a new catalogue. I have had countless hours of pleasure from the Society’s meetings and profited quite tidily from my investments, often on the recommendation of other members. Do you know, I have a Queen Victoria sixpence that is worth over two hundred dollars? The thing with values, of course, is that you have to find someone willing to pay the recommended price, if you want to realise your investment. For myself, it is simply the satisfaction of knowing the value of my possessions.
Now, your resignation seems to have put an end to the acrimony.  I trust you aren’t receiving any poison pen letters? Some people become very attached to the things they collect. I’m sure it is the same with stamps, as it is with coins. Mind you, I feel a smug sense of security, knowing that coins are less vulnerable to damage than postage stamps.
At least you have been responsible for some reforms in the Club where you spent so much of your time. Ironically, I think, you once suggested they put all the viewing areas under glass, so that people with coffee etc. couldn’t have the kind of accident you yourself have had.  Didn’t they laugh at your idea, at the time? Thanks to you, no one else should ever have a three thousand dollar rare mint set, stained with tea.
By the way Neil, I did check for you and there is a Philately Club that meets in the local Shire Hall. They say new members are always welcome.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

Your next door neighbour does seem to be prone to nervous excitement. I suppose it is too late, now, to invite him in for a cup of tea and a get-to-know-you chat.
I am very fortunate to have pleasant neighbours on both sides and across the road. The lady on one side is a war widow who keeps quail. Every Christmas we have a very pleasant pre-Christmas neighbourhood lunch, usually Christmas Eve Eve. Mrs Tippett roasts some of her quail, my wife does a vegetable bake and Mr Ribbon from the other side brings the sparkling wine. The good cheer seems to last us all year and gets us over any minor disagreements we do have. Like the time Mrs Tippett’s Avon was delivered to Mr Ribbon by mistake and it was three days before he took it across. Not to mention, another time, when my nephew Eric came to stay for a weekend and he had his portable stereo turned up quite loud in the back yard. Some of that heavy steel music has very rude words to it and Mr Ribbon (you might have thought it would have been Mrs Tippett) was very offended. I told him, we have to learn to understand the need for our younger folk to go through their rebellious stage. (Actually Eric is twenty seven now and he still has an earring).
Your problem of course, is a little more aggravated. It seems quite silly for the “Cactus Man” as you call him, to take out a restraining order on you. It’s not as if you are a violent person Neil.  You were obviously not in a rational state of mind when you threw the eggs onto his roof.  I’m sure you didn’t realise what a terrible smell they would make in days to come. But that was no reason for him to poison your Callistemons.
You see now, Neil, how one thing leads to another. You have lost those beautiful flowering shrubs that took years to grow, Mr Cactus has blue paint stains in his swimming pool, you will never be able to replace the terracotta gnome that your mother left you, Mr Cactus will have a bare patch in his front lawn until the sump oil leeches away, your cat is terrified to go out at night for fear of having another  bucket of bleach thrown at her, Mr Cactus has a dead honeysuckle vine on his pergola and is still to realise that you super-glued his meter box door. So it goes on Neil.  I hope you can see now, that recrimination and retaliation are the road to despair.
Enough said. I am sending you some dried quinces from my tree. They are full of vitamins and will last until next summer. They are very good in apple and quince pies.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

What a lovely surprise, to win a  hundred and three dollars from the lotto. Perhaps it is a sign that your luck is about to improve.
I take a  slik pick with Mrs Tippett every Saturday. I always get it, as she doesn’t like the Saturday rush. My wife has a naughty little joke about it. She calls it my “fling” with the lady next door. Over the years, we have won twenty dollars here, thirty there. Never as much your little windfall.
Have you invested the money in some way, perhaps a systems bet? Or alternatively, treat yourself to a night at the Casino. You might do well on the pokies while your luck is running.
Talking of luck, our son Nigel has won Employee of the Year with his Firm and they are giving him and his wife a weekend on Rottnest Island with a free bottle of champagne. It is good to know that hard work is still valued. The Firm expects a lot from Nigel and he never balks at overtime, or even taking work home. His little wife says sometimes she thinks he is married to the Firm, he spends so much time there. It’s a pity they can’t take the trip as Nigel’s wife gets seasick just running a bath.
You haven’t had a lot of encouragement from your Employer, have you Neil? Does he still call you “Dipstick”? I’m sure you could find a better job, if you really tried. I saw a vacancy advertised for a car detailer last weekend. That would be better than sorting at the recycling depot. You would be out in the fresh air. I know you feel you are helping the environment, where you are but sometimes, you have to put yourself first. You need to develop your own inner potential. Car detailing might give you the chance to be creative in your work – polishing rear vision mirrors, getting a good buff on the chrome work – mind you, not many cars have chrome, these days.
Think about it Neil. I know you can do better than  separating paper from plastic and getting the stones out of aluminium cans. Your destiny is beckoning. Look up and see the horizon.

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

You seem to have had quite a time of it lately, what with your twisted ankle, the aircon not working and then the trouble with your lawnmower.
It must have made quite a sight, your roller mower, trundling  over the brick paving and into the swimming pool. The water must have practically boiled from the heat of the engine. I can just picture you, lying on the lawn, crippled with your bad ankle and the dog licking your face. I don’t mean to make light of your misfortunes but it sounds like something you would see in one of those comedy of error television shows, like “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em”. I used to love that show.
I myself don’t generally have a good relationship with machinery. I decided a long time ago, to allow myself the luxury of a lawnmowing contractor.  I was simply fed up with the unreliability of my old Pope. It never went first time. I would always have to clean the spark plug and the carburettor jets.  I dreaded mowing the lawn. I would put it off until the grass was so high it would make the mower seize up because the lever that controlled the level would slip and the blades would sink down into the thick patches. Once the engine was heated and it stalled, it was a devil of a thing to restart. I would practically give myself a hernia, winding the rope around and pulling at it, a dozen times, just to get the thing to kick over. Once the carby was flooded, you might as well give up and try again another day.
When it all boils down, I’m a great believer in trusting the experts. The money you pay them to do a job properly is worth it, if you avoid the stress of trying to do it yourself. Not to mention the outlay of special equipment that you only use periodically. Think of all the equipment you would need to own, if you did everything yourself: machinery, power tools, scaffolding, lathe, backhoe. It just goes on. I know a fellow who bought a sheet metal cutter and a pop riveter, just so he could build a garden shed.
Mind you, I do admire someone who will have a  go at something. Like yourself, for instance.
I am very impressed at the way you fixed your air-conditioning unit. It was just bad luck, twisting your ankle coming off the ladder – then exacerbating it when you were mowing. Still, you have three days sick leave to recuperate and the satisfaction that you achieved at least one thing over the weekend.

Regards

Henry Hat.

Neil,

Home burglary has to be one if the most insidious of crimes. It is not only theft and vandalism but an invasion of privacy. My heart goes out to you Neil. To come home at the end of a day’s work, to the place where you normally find sanctuary and instead to be confronted with chaos, destruction and loss. It is a cruel blow to the sensibility of the heart.
Whatever were the Council thinking?  At the very least, they should have consulted you, before acting. I suppose these Parks and Gardens chaps were just doing as they were told. You should take it up with their Supervisor. You  cultivated that bougainvillaea for years, until it formed an impenetrable barrier along your back fence, where it adjoins the park. Your reasoning was sound, of course – there is nothing like the spiny branches of a mature bougainvillaea to deter unwelcome visitors.
I doubt the Parks and Gardens people considered the fact that they were removing an effective protection from your property, when they cut it all away. They were probably only thinking of the fire hazard. I’m sure it wasn’t doing any harm, hanging down over your fence into the park. I agree, it is no coincidence that, within two weeks, you had a burglary, the first in over ten years at that location.
Has the Insurance said whether they will recompense the full value of your meccano set? You can’t really arrive at a “replacement cost” for something they don’t make any more. I know for a fact, they don’t cover stamp or coin collections. It’s something to do with perceived value, as opposed to actual.
I would write to the Council, if I were you and point out the results of their actions. It won’t change anything of course, but at least you will have the satisfaction of letting them know how you feel.
That little dog of yours is very brave. How are her ribs healing? Poor little mite!

Regards

Henry Hat

Neil,

What next? It’s not as if a newspaper costs much. It’s just the convenience of getting it from your front lawn in the morning. For someone to be watching and waiting, every day, just to steal a one dollar paper, is such poor form. You may as well cancel delivery, which you have done, as supply some niggardly sneakthief with his daily read.
I like nothing better, than to wander out and get the West Australian from the front lawn while my coffee is brewing. It’s such a civilised way to begin the day, perusing the world and local news. It’s an established part of my routine now. I would be quite lost without it. I know how disoriented I become, if for any reason, as occasionally happens, my delivery is late. Normally it is there when I go out at six thirty. I always finish my coffee and  the paper just going on seven, which is when Mrs Hat likes her tea and her turn with the paper. It causes such a sense of dissonance if our routine is delayed. If, for example, the paper comes at six forty, I am half way through my coffee. At seven, Mrs Hat will be waiting, in bed for me to bring in her tea and tell her the day’s weather as I hand over the paper. I don’t mind telling you, she gets quite grumpy, if I say I want another ten minutes with the paper.
This is not what you want to hear, is it Neil? I’m just rubbing salt into the wound.
I suppose you still haven’t found out who it was and are not likely to. Your neighbours seem to have lost sympathy for you after that business of accusing the man on the corner and then finding, he couldn’t have been the one, as he gets his own paper delivered. We must always be careful about jumping to conclusions before gathering real evidence. That smug look he gave you when you were buying a paper at the deli, certainly didn’t constitute evidence that he was the culprit.
Remember Neil, an honest man can never hope to know the mind of criminal.

Regards

Henry Hat.

Neil,

Well, four times in as many months is enough to try the patience of a Saint, I agree. I don’t know how I would feel if the back of my car had been run into that many times in close succession. You had just finished dealing with the insurance and the repairs each time, when bang, it happened again. I understand, it’s not so much the cost, since the insurance covers it but the inconvenience of making the claim and then being without your car for two days each time.
I have only ever had to make an insurance claim on my car once and that was bad enough. A lady dinged the front mudguard on my Humber when she was backing out of a parking bay at the Convenience Store. It was a hectic Saturday morning and she was most apologetic.  I have to admit, I was quite short with her.
As you know, I take great pride in my Humber. Never a weekend goes by when I don’t wash and polish the duco and buff the chrome work. The repair job was quite a saga. These days, not many repairers are genuine panel beaters – they just replace all the damaged parts with new ones. I insisted that I wanted the mudguard properly beaten, with no filler. They had to get hold of a retired panel beater and pay him cash, to have the job done properly. It’s a work of art, properly beaten bodywork.
Now, Neil,  I wouldn’t worry too much about what was said and done in the heat of the moment after your latest rear end incident. Your anger was perfectly understandable. That young fellow, as you saw in your rear vision, was weaving and hopping lanes all the way from Station Street and he was tailgating you quite illegally before you stopped at the lights.
I’m sure he realises, he quite deserved to be dragged out of his vehicle by the scruff of the neck. His threat to have you charged with assault was just hot air, I feel certain. It might be prudent thought to seek legal advice on the matter, just in case.
Well Neil, Mrs Hat and I are just about to rush off to a Bowls tournament, so I will catch you anon.

Regards

Henry Hat.