Archive for November, 2008

Don’t be ridiculous, Nicholas

November 30, 2008

mach3

I’m not sure who is the more ridiculous: me [ I ?] for using this hyped and ridiculously expensive brand of disposable razor blade (and I have baulked at the even more expensive and nominally hyped Turbo marque) or the supermarket, which puts it on general access shelves, but encased with a further layer of security packaging which, even at home, poses a challenge – at least, to the wet-in-the-shower-needing-a-new-blade-challenge-challenged such as I?

Note: I was amused to discover with a little googling that the title to this post, a catchphrase, picked up I think from my father in childhood and probably by him from his parents, dates from a 1908 music-hall song by C.W.Murphy, author also of Has anybody here seen Kelly?.

Before I googled, I would have guessed that it came from something like ITMA. I underestimated how far back the roots of such phrases can extend, or conversely how long the half-life of a catchphrase can be. No wonder, as Milton said, fame is the spur! Just by way of example, as Dr Sherry said on Thursday, the phrase “all hell broke loose” is one of his, though in the original, which is more of a noun phrase than a clause, the sense is absolutely literal and “broke” corresponds to the modern “broken.”

In passing, another catchphrase: “Sweets for the sweet.” My mother used to say this when dispensing the single minty which we were allowed after dinner in lieu of dessert. We could hear the ringing rattle of the minties jar from our bedrooms at the other end of the house (where we would go after being given permission to leave the table – ah! quaint customs of times gone by!) and come running at its call.

Tale of two trumpeters

November 29, 2008

On Friday night to see/hear the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the final concert for 2008 in my Friday night subscription series.

The traffic in was terrible: this is the price I pay for having a nap before a concert and not wanting to catch the train in and out. Fortunately I still found a spot on the street and so escaped the exorbitant clutches of Wilson Parking.

The program was:

Lothar Zagrosek conductor
Michele Campanella piano

MOZART
Symphony No.27 in G
FRANCK
Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra
STRAVINSKY
Petrushka (1911)

From the beginning of the Mozart, I was impressed by Lothar Zagrosek. I see from the program that he started out as one of the Regensburger Domspatzen. (Regensburg=Ratisbon for afficcionados of military history.) Whilst I enjoyed the brace of Mozart symphonies I heard earlier this year played by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, this was playing of an altogether different class, notwithstanding a couple of french horn fluffs, though it was frustrating to hear it in the Concert Hall’s far-from-satisfactory acoustics.

The Franck is a work which of course I know of, but in Sydney it has been only rarely programmed. I certainly recognized the finale, but this was one occasion when I regretted not having undertaken some preparatory listening to enable me better to appreciate what was really going on in some of the more subtle variations. There was a lot which I want to hear again, and I shall try to catch the broadcast on December 15.

Michele Campanella has a rather steely touch, and from time to time I caught little ringing sounds from the piano which made me wonder if I was suffering momentary tinnitis. As we egressed for interval, I overheard someone saying to his companion “I thought the SSO was getting a new piano.” I took it that he thought that they hadn’t yet.

I am grateful to Thomasina to her links to a you-tube version of the ballet of Petrushka, and I’m glad I took the time to watch them. The effect was rather less piano-concertante than she had led me to believe. Perhaps it was because the piano was situated in the middle of the orchestra with the lid off. With due respect to Josephine Allan, if this is to be considered a concertante work, what would be really interesting would be to hear a concertante soloist playing it with the orchestra, a la Tiberghien last year in Turangalîla. I’m not the only one to whom this thought has occurred.

This was an exciting performance. As my neighbour, Z, said, you could see the ballet. Stravinsky’s orchestration is brilliant. When you think that there should also be a ballet as well, it really makes you think what opulent entertainment those Diaghilev ballets and other works in thae first decade or so of the twentieth century were. All on the back of the toil of the workers, of course, and war and revolution soon put a stopper on this sort of thing.

Just as people often seem to match their pets, it has always seemed to me instrumentalists often line up with their instruments. I don’t know which is cause and which is effect, but violinists do not seem to be the same as violists or trumpeters the same as trombonists. I even wonder if first violins, over time, differ from seconds. It’s not a simple thing, and of course there are variations between individuals on the same instrument. For example, Danny Mendelow, the principal trumpet, and Paul Goodchild, the associate principal, play quite differently. In years gone by, my private rather disrespectful nickname for Paul Goodchild was “boofhead” – partly to do with his personal demeanour and not, I hasten to add, based on any real acquaintance, and partly to do with his rather boisterous style of playing. Mendelow’s playing has always struck me as more refined. I can nearly always tell which of the two is playing without looking.

Maybe Paul Goodchild has mellowed over the years, or maybe I have, but I have come to respect his strong points more. I don’t know who makes these decisions, but which of the two fronts for a particular work with the SSO often seems to match their respective strong points and the nature of the work and part in question. Last night we had them both: Goodchild played the trumpet and Mendelow played the cornet. This seemed just right. Both played well.

Before the concert I received some sad news from my neighbours, Jy and Z. As I have mentioned before, Jy had come for many years with Doug, who died at the beginning of this year. As it was, because he was ill and in pain, he had only renewed this year for 5 of the concerts. Z took his place, but for next year decided to revert to her seat in a side box where she brings her grandchildren to overlook the orchestra. The orchestra wouldn’t give such a plum seat to Jy for only 5 concerts again, so she was relegated to a single seat in row U for next year – not so bad, but the end of our neighbourly relations. The funny thing is that these only blossomed with the presence of Z, who is a talkative soul: I don’t think Doug ever said a word to me for all the concerts we were next to each other. We said our goodbyes in pre and post-concert chat. Jy, who will now be coming to the concerts on her own, looked a little forlorn.

Walking back up Macquarie St after the concert, I enjoyed Christmas illumination of the Conservatorium, which brings out its Horace-WalpoleStrawberry-Hill-ish Gothicism.

I drive home over ANZAC Bridge. As you head out over the city, there is a funny kind of orphan lane or apron area where the police are wont to set up speed traps and breath test units on the eastward approach to the bridge. It always struck me as too easy to dodge this by the simple expedient of driving in the right hand lane, so that you can’t be pulled over. The police have wised up to that, and as I came round the corner from the city I drove into a traffic jam as the police held up both lanes in order to select cars from the hitherto immune lane. I really don’t like this sort of thing. For one thing, you have to wonder if there is more chance of a rear-end pile up from such interference than of any accident being prevented by the minuscule chance of detecting, even exemplarily, an over-the-limit driver.

Paradise Lost abridged

November 27, 2008

blake-expulsion

To the spikey Christ Church St Laurence early this evening for a Milton-quatercentennial reading of excerpts from Paradise Lost devised by Beverley Sherry.

This started at 6.30 and went until 8.00. Refreshments were advertised as on offer beforehand from 5.45. By the time I arrived everyone had taken their place in the church – which was comfortably fullish. After bagging a seat, I headed out to the hall to see if there was anything on offer. Judging from the few remaining Arnotts assorted I hadn’t missed much. As refreshment, it brought to mind Milton’s celestial light, which Milton calls upon at the beginning of Book III to “shine inward…that I may see and tell/Of things invisible to mortal sight.”

Apart from the openings of books I and III, Dr Sherry’s selection eschewed the poetical apparatus and concentrated on the core of the plot: “man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree.” As a result, the more cosmographical sections took a back seat to Book IX.

The excerpts selected were (approximately – there were some internal excisions):

  1. Book I: 1- 124 (the famous opening);
  2. II: 871-920 (Satan at the gates of hell ponders chaos);
  3. III: 1-134 (Milton’s famous and poignant hymn to light; meanwhile in Heaven, God pronounces a disclaimer that wouldn’t withstand a product liability suit);
  4. IV: 246-275 (Paradise through Satan’s eyes), 411-492 (Adam and Eve converse – I think there was some further abridgement here);
  5. V: 224-245 (God instructs Raphael to warn Adam and Eve against Satan);
  6. IX: 643-692, 703-709, 733-749, 763-804, 816-916 (the central drama: temptation and fall);
  7. X: 867-895, 914-936, 947-961 (post-fall recriminations, merging into mutual comfort);
  8. XI: 251-260[ish] (Archangel Michael breaks the news to Adam);
  9. XII: 537 to end (Michael brings his preview of world history to Adam to a close and gives him some advice for the future; they descend from the top of speculation and join Eve, who’s been given some comfort in a dream; they are expelled from paradise and face the future together).

NSW Premier Nathan Rees, who has said that Paradise Lost is his favourite book, read the celebrated opening invocation of the muse (I: 1 -33). Perhaps he was wary after his “being in traffic is like being in love” moment, because he wasn’t the most demonstrative of readers: the famous long-postponed initial principal verb, “Sing,” was almost missed, and enjambement is clearly not his thing. It was good of him to come. Accompanied by a minder or two or possibly a driver, he left at about line 40.

The non-celebrity readers did better than Mr Rees, some better than others.

Milton himself besides, the evening belonged to Dr Sherry. She joined the dots with her own synopsis of the poem, laced liberally with verbatim quotes and smaller fragments of Miltonic phrases, delivered without notes or prompts of any kind. She is clearly an enthusiast.

Dr Sherry allowed herself the closing lines. I do love Miltonic endings. I’m still trying to work out what it is about them, but whatever it is, I feel this also, for example, in the endings to his Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity or Lycidas. The ending of Paradise Lost is less well known than the opening, probably because fewer readers get there, but if you have reached it even with an abridged passage through the poem as we had, it is at least as good, if not (as it should be) better.

The archangel Michael has taken Adam and Eve in either hand to the eastern gate of paradise (this is on a hill), over which a flaming sword of God (possibly a comet) hovers (I’m struggling here, bear with me) at the front of a host of cherubim. That is the moment illustrated by Blake in the picture at the top of the post and used also in the program which was distributed. Then, shoved (courteously but firmly) out the gate, heading down to the plain below, they are on their own.

They looking back, all th’ Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
Wav’d over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng’d and fierie Armes:
Som natural tears they drop’d, but wip’d them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.

Maybe I’ll go back now and [re]read more of the poem.

Milton, thou should’st be living at this hour

November 27, 2008

In 1980, with a bunch of friends from the English department of Sydney University, I organized a reading of the complete Paradise Lost. I stayed up very late the night before breaking up the text into sections and identifying dramatis personae so that it could be read in a semi-dramatic way with a narrator and people doing the speeches. As a result, I was very very tired. I confess I didn’t stay for the whole reading, which took place in the then English Students’ Common Room in the Woolley Building, but sloped off in the afternoon for a nap at Women’s College in the room of my then girlfriend, UB. It took all day – a bit under an hour per book, as I recall.

Some years later, I mentioned to Dr Bev Sherry this event and, as she is a keen Miltonian, it must have stuck in her memory. It is for this reason that I claim some authorship of the concept behind todays’s reading of exerpts (only) from the poem in honour of Milton’s Quatercentenary.

Milton’s notional birthday of 9 December (possibly actually his baptismal date) is presumably under the Julian rather the Gregorian calendar. It is a moot point therefore when the anniversary should properly be celebrated, though on any view I would have thought that today was not the date.

Ironically, somebody previously identified as “the evil one” in a long-defunct blog which until recently was still traceable on the net but which I can no longer track down has secured the role of God. Other persons known to me have other parts. It seems to be a family job. Apparently Nathan Rees will be taking part as well.

More ironically still, the event is to take place at Christ Church St Laurence. This would definitely be too bells-n-smells for Milton, were he living at this hour and present.

I shall try to get there, for old times’ sake.

A shock

November 24, 2008

hickox-richard-71976

I read somewhere that Richard Hickox hated being called “cherubic.” Consequently, I used to mutter “cherubic” “cherubic” as he came to the podium. It was a joke rather than a device to cause offence, and I never said it that loudly. It’s unlikely he will have have heard me, even though I mostly sat in the middle of the front row about a metre or so away from him.

No chance that he will hear me now. News reached me about an hour ago that he died yesterday of a heart attack, aged 60. That’s a shock.

Impertinent to say more now.

R v Wood

November 24, 2008

This must surely be my case of the week for last week.

On Friday morning, just short of eight days after they retired to consider their verdict (though they had the weekend off) the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Gordon Wood for the murder of Carolyne Byrne.

This is the end, or probably just the latest instalment, of an incredibly long and colourful saga. It’s a public saga because it is a spin-off from the Offset Alpine saga. Part of the prosecution theory in this case was that Wood killed Byrne because she knew too much, either about Wood’s life as a gopher for the late Rene Rivkin and part of Rivkin’s circle of younger male attendants and assistants or about whatever skullduggery lay behind the acquisition by Rivkin and others of shares in Offset Alpine – shares which took a sharp hike in value after the company’s well-insured printing factory was burnt down in a fire.

That’s not saying anything which almost everybody doesn’t know already. Winston Terracini (counsel for Wood; my elder sister went out with his younger brother at high school – just thought I’d mention that as a six-degrees-of-separation thing) obviously thinks this is part of the problem. As the SMH reported:

Outside court, Mr Terracini said the trial had been lopsided and unfair from the beginning.

“A lot of the media would be very pleased because of the role they have played in securing [a guilty verdict],” he said.

On my way to court on the day the jury retired, I accidentally met Gordon Wood’s eye. In the tradition of press reports, which instantaneously switch over to certainty once a conviction is secured, I suppose I can now say I have met two murderers. The other was positively creepy – and I was appearing for him (but not “alone and without a leader” – it was during my criminal reading, which is a kind of new barrister’s work experience). Wood didn’t seem like a murderer to me – but then, you never can tell, can you? All the same (and I’m thinking especially of Wood’s famous “So do you think I did it?” question to Paul Barry) I wonder if Wood has suffered a kind of Lindy Chamberlain adverse reaction in public opinion for reacting the “wrong” way to the death. Juries are members of the public after all.

Based on the reports of the trial, I find it difficult to accept that this wasn’t a case where there was a reasonable doubt. But, as a criminal lawyer colleague to whom I expressed this view reminded me – if you weren’t at the trial for the whole show, you can’t really judge. That’s the jury’s job.

That’s a kind of necessary faith in the justice process. Because neither I nor the jury were there when Caroline Byrne died, and all we have is the process to make a finding. But I know enough from my own experience how unlike the truth as it looks at least to an advocate (who of course likewise wasn’t there) the results of a trial can come out.

I do wonder to what extent Wood went down because he didn’t testify in his own defence. Juries don’t necessarily take seriously people’s right not to testify, no matter how much the jury is reminded of that right. But jury speculation is a sport which can send you mad.

Now that the verdict is in, the Sydney Morning Herald has been reporting the shock on the Wood-sympathisers’ side, as well as some of the more controversial aspects of Tedeschi’s conduct of the prosecution. Doubtless, those in Wood’s camp will think this hypocritical: it’s just another way to spin the story out. The press must have made a mint out of this case over the years, whereas Wood’s mother has been pushed to the financial brink. At one stage the Legal Aid Commission attempted to to restrict the grant of legal aid to Wood on the basis that his mother still had assets.

There is bound to be an appeal.

Loitering in Arncliffe

November 23, 2008

A few months ago I was riding back to Dulwich Hill from, as it happens, Monterey. My ride took me onto the cycleway which springs into being somewhere near St George Soccer Stadium and emerges at the side of the Eve Street Wetlands before petering out at the intersection of Marsh Street and West Botany Street.

I rode through Riverine Park along the side of a golf driving range. This park, along with a surviving market garden which you can see from West Botany Street and quite a lot of other green space in this area presumably owes its survival to its situation on land otherwise earmarked for an M6 Expressway or “Southern Motorway Reservation.” Some of the park is apparently destined to be squatted on by the Sydney Desalination “Project.”

At the foot of Eve Street (near Marsh St in the map linked above), there was a gated entrance to the back end of the driving range (to the south) and a lightly wooded area, where well-established trees were interspersed with, for want of a better term, shrubbery.

Barton Park fig

If you look closely at the picture you will see a sign, which when I returned this weekend had been defaced with some graffiti.  Here it is:

no-loitering

No
Loitering
in this area
Police may issue fines
or make arrests for
breach of notice
pursuant to section 632
Local Government Act.
Max Penalty $550

The sign must postdate 1993, when the section was enacted. The maximum penalty is now 10 penalty units, which is $1100. A penalty unit has been $110 since 1999. I haven’t been able to date the sign more precisely by tracking the amendments to the section, save that it must be no later than 2002.

The full text of the section is as follows (emphasis added):

(1) A person who, in a public place within the area of a council, fails to comply with the terms of a notice erected by the council is guilty of an offence. Maximum penalty: 10 penalty units.
(2) The terms of any such notice may relate to any one or more of the following:
(a) the payment of a fee for entry to or the use of the place,
(b) the taking of a vehicle into the place,
(b1) the driving, parking or use of a vehicle in the place,
(c) the taking of any animal or thing into the place,
(d) the use of any animal or thing in the place,
(e) the doing of any thing in the place,
(f) the use of the place or any part of the place.
(2A) However, a notice:
(a) must not prohibit the drinking of alcohol in any public place that is a public road (or part of a public road) or car park, and
(b) must not prohibit or regulate the taking of a vehicle into, or the driving, parking or use of any vehicle in, any public place that is a road or road related area within the meaning of the Road Transport (General) Act 1999 .
A council may establish an alcohol-free zone under Part 4 of this Chapter for a public place that is a public road (or part of a public road) or car park (or part of a car park).
(3) The terms of a notice referred to in this section may:
(a) apply generally or be limited in their application by reference to specified exceptions or factors, or
(b) apply differently according to different factors of a specified kind,
or may do any combination of those things.

It’s easy to guess who this sign is intended to warn off. Given that loitering generally means hanging around doing nothing, you have to wonder how a power to prohibit “doing of any thing” could support a charge of loitering contrary to a notice. Such a joke that vehicles and drinking receive a protection denied to mere “loiterers.”

It seems that some loiterers will not be deterred.  You need to look closely to between the two posts and indeed you may need to take my word that there are signs of this:

Eve St - gaps in fence?

The Eve Street Wetlands show signs of having once been open:

eve street sign

They are now locked up.

Wetlands lockout - Eve St

 I don’t know why.  There is a sorry story here of neglect and also the depradations in the name of the construction of motorways which I did track down before but you will have to find for yourself if you are interested.

rotation-of-imgp3129

In the meantime, here’s another shot of that lovely tree:

eve-st-fig-tree

Worryingly, there is a development application afoot here for the golf club. It mentions removal of vegetation. I fear the worst.

development application - barton park

Cheerful young man in Surry Hills

November 22, 2008

The title of this post is an in-joke.  Those who know will know.

At the age of 21 when I was in English IV, I moved out of home in West Pymble into a share house in Crown Street, Surry Hills. The house was above and behind a barber’s shop run by Mr Evangelinos Marinos, our landlord, and opposite a little supermarket and the Clock Hotel.

The rent, for the whole house, was $120 per week.  This shared with nicely-calculated weighting according to the size of the rooms between 4 of us. My share was $28. We ran a kitty of about $15 a week (we were economic vegetarians for the most part), and divided the other bills as they came in. I paid the deposit for the gas account. I never got this back but it was only $10.

I afforded this (moving out, not the gas deposit) with the aid of a subvention from my father – he paid me an allowance calculated as the money he would otherwise pay me for my transport fares from home and perhaps some small additional amount – I think this was $17 per week. But the greater part was met by driving a taxi every Saturday night, which at this time I did from Paddington base, a short ride away by bicycle.

The ride to University of Sydney down Cleveland St was more hair-raising. I still had hair then.

We were all student debaters – three boys, Mz, from UNSW, Rz and me from USyd, and Vz, a girl, from Usyd. It’s a few years since I last saw Vz, though I think she is still in touch with Rz and his then girlfriend and now wife, K. I see Rz from time to time, and Mz even more frequently, as they are both at the bar (the graveyard of student debaters). While we shared the house, Mz became an item with Ax, and he is still married to her. (Ax and K are also lawyers. K was also a debater.)

I was very pleased to be at last living in the inner city. I ended a letter to the SMH with a cheap shot at the expense of previous correspondents writing (it was about Jill Wran’s Australian Government postgraduate scholarship to go to the AGSM) from their “impeccably north-of-the-harbour addresses” and signed it proudly as at my address in Crown Street, Surry Hills, even though, at the actual moment of composition, I was sitting at my father’s desk in West Pymble.

When we moved in, the house was infested with fleas who sheltered beneath seagrass matting in the living room, which was directly behind the shop and entered directly from a side door in the laneway.  Later, the roof of the garage collapsed on top of my piano.

Perhaps one of the highpoints in the life of the household was when Rz and K, who were neither of them petite, broke their double bed at about 10.30 one Saturday morning with a mighty crash which must have given quite a shock to the customers in the barbershop directly below.  Mz claims that after that the clientele of old Greek men in the shop increased considerably, but I do not believe this.

Mz also claims that, when I was finishing my thesis, he would come downstairs to the kitchen in the small hours of the morning and regularly find me fixing myself a midnight snack of baked rice pudding. This is another tale which has grown in the telling.

That year there was a particularly long garbage strike, and the alleyways became decidedly noisome.

Just a few streets up, someone had written opposite the house of a well-known person, XXXX which was then (possibly by XXXX rather than the original graffitist) defaced with Xs through the Ss (I shall render these as B) as: “BMUG XXXX GMUGGLES BMACK.”  [Discretion is the better part of reportage here: there was also a “B” in the XXXX.]

This inner-city interlude didn’t last long.  As impending arts graduates then commonly did, I took the exam for graduate entry to the Commonwealth Public Service. I fell torridly in love with JR, who was taking up a scholarship at the ANU. She was a Roseville girl but we consummated our love in a large house she was minding on Glebe Point Road, towards which I consequently still feel fondly disposed, even if I cannot claim sufficiently permanent occupancy to warrant its inclusion in this series. At first I ignored the letters from the Department (not a glamorous one) offering me a job – I wasn’t keen to leave Surry Hills. But finally they sent me a telegram. I was flattered, and love swung the balance. Late in January the next year, my father drove JR and me down to Canberra for our new life together…

Know your audience

November 20, 2008

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra have started soliciting participation in on-line polls by people who have attended their concerts.  I assume that they do this by the simple expedient of sending an email to everyone who has purchased a ticket for a specific concert – that is, everyone for whom they have an email address.

The questions are fairly simple, and I’m not sure how useful the information they elicit will be.  They ask, amongst other things, your postcode, gender, and age – where you are asked to pick from a series of age ranges.  Mine is 46-55. The last of these is “86 and over.” This reminds me of the polls which sometimes ask your household income. You can get an idea of the audience the pollsters are seeking by how far up the delimited income ranges go, or, in other polls, how low the final “over” figure is. “86 and over” is by no means a negligible category at the SSO, though I’m not sure how many on-line respondents would come within it.

I have just filled out the latest of such polls, sent to me after going to “Dream of Gerontius” last night. I very much enjoyed this and was sorely tempted to try to snap up a $35 ticket and go again, especially because, priced as a Gala or “Special Event” and not apparently part of a subscription series, the house was not full, even with lots of choristers’ relatives.

Previous polls have asked “What could the SSO/Opera House have done to improve your experience?” (or words to that effect). I’ve been scratching around for succinct suggestions to make about this. The problem is that I can never remember what I want to grumble about when the moment arises. In fact, what I would like to see is less junk cluttering up the Opera House forecourt on such a regular basis which, incidentally, for one money making reason or another, impedes my favoured route via the Tarpeian Way. I would also like the Opera Bar to put a sock in it, but I have to accept that has gone beyond remedy now.

In the latest poll, such questions have been omitted. This is a pity, and I wonder if it is because they don’t relish being swamped with responses such as “Provide sufficient programs when there are words to be followed in a vocal work.” That was far from being the case last night. Mv, an usher with whom I’ve struck up an acquaintance and with whom I chatted briefly after the concert, tells me that large numbers of programs were snaffled before the concert by members of the choir, presumably as souvenirs for themselves, their friends and relations. Haven’t they ever heard of FHB?

Lifestyles of the rich and fat[uous] 1

November 20, 2008

Because I ride in to work on my bike most days, I keep my suit and work clothes at the office (aka, rather poncily, “chambers.”)

Consequently, one indulgence I allow myself is that I have my shirts laundered from work by a commercial service. This entails dropping them off at a dry-cleaning shop in the arcade beneath the building and picking them up a day or two later, or whenever I get around to it.

When I started doing this, it was $12.50 for 5 shirts. Now it’s up to $16, or $3.20 per shirt. This does rather detract from the economy of riding a bike, but in truth I ride the bike more for convenience than the monetary saving. By bike it takes me 30 minutes, door-to-door versus a minimum of 40 minutes if I walk to the station and catch the train. Anyway, I reckon not ironing a shirt has got to be worth something to me – at least a dollar – so it’s not all of the cost of the laundering which counts as an incidental transport substitution expense.

Recently, the shop has upgraded its IT systems so that your orders are registered by primary reference to your phone number. If you have items waiting to be collected they can and do tell you this whenever you drop off something to be washed or cleaned. That’s not just for the customer’s convenience: the shop is very small and space is at a premium.

Yesterday, I wore my last clean shirt. Action needed to be taken, or else I would have to iron a shirt at home for Monday, when I am next in court. (If I’m not in court or seeing a client I will often allow myself to get away with something more casual.) Today I gathered up all my shirts, 10 in all, and took them to the shop. I was told that I had 5 shirts waiting to be picked up.

Amazing! I have 15 (proper, ironable) shirts! In high school, I definitely got by on just 5. And there are still a few ironable shirts at home which I keep there for concert and opera-going purposes. I suppose affluence has crept up on me. That, and the inexorable accumulation of stuff. (Well, 100% cotton, if you must know.)