Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Recognition for a fine man

I have always thought highly of Paul Brandon, my local bootmaker. He is very cheerful, friendly, hard-working and obliging and he undertook without hesitation the task of fitting longer straps to my kilt when I needed that done -- so I was pleased that the local Brisbane paper did a small spread on him in their Saturday colour magazine. I reproduce the story (by TRENT DALTON) and accompanying photo below. The story does portray him well.

Paul Brandon, 53, cobbler, Stones Corner

In 1969 I picked up a Saturday newspaper that was advertising three apprenticeships - one for a printer, a butcher and a shoemaker. I thought shoemaking sounded alright. It was better than school, anyway. I went to work for the Queensland Co-operative Boot Society making steel-caps, but I've made everything from dance pumps to firemen's boots and school shoes to stilettos.

In the '70s, I was one of the first people to make raised sandals out of layered rubber. I've since learned key-cutting and engraving. I learned engraving from the best in the business. This bloke, no word of a lie, could engrave The Lord's Prayer on a threepenny coin.

I've got five tools: my London hammer, my pinchers, my scissors, my drag knife and my knife. With those five tools I can fix anything. About 70 per cent of my business is women's heels. They'll wear out, but the lady won't want to throw the shoes out because they go with a pretty outfit. I can fix a heel in five minutes. That's my bread and butter.

It's a good life and I do alright out of it, let me tell you. I get on with everyone. I treat everyone well. Keep your words sweet because you never know when you'll have to eat 'em.

I have three kids, a daughter and two sons. I'm always repairing the daughter's shoes. She's a wild child, goes through a stack of shoes. My eldest boy, Sean, died when he was 19. I lost him to leukaemia. I miss him so much. It's five years gone, last month. Seany was a builder. He was diagnosed when he was 15 and went into remission after four months. Then, when he was 19, it came back with a vengeance. I still don't know why it happened. One day I might find out. My little baby. We'll be together again.

It's all good. Gee, I get some good tips here. I had a $40 tip once. This bloke used to work out in the mines, mining emeralds. He wanted to hide his stones in the mining campsites because he didn't want anybody stealing them. He had a pair of Cuban-heeled cowboy boots. I took the heels off, hollowed them out and put a little lip in there for a hiding spot. I charged him $60 for it. He handed me $100 and said keep the change. Come to think of it, actually, he might have been a drug smuggler.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A classical concert

Another meeting of our Westside music group last night -- at Rosemary's place at Pullenvale.

Rosemary is Austrian and her house looks very German to my eyes. Part of her decor is some mediaeval armour set in an illuminated niche. I happened to sit right in front of the niche so was inspired shortly after I arrived to get up and put the Pikelhaube (spiked helmet) on. I have plenty of the old Germanic genes in me so thought I had a certain entitlement to wear it. The helmet was meant for tall blue-eyed people with fair skin and I am certainly one of those. Anyway, Anne later commented that I looked the part in it. I put it on only for a few minutes, however. I am sure Rosemary would not have wanted me to go around wearing her decor.

Rosemary was looking good. She is about my age but Germans and the Dutch seem to wear better than Anglo-Celts. They often look much younger than they are to our eyes.

The concert was good, finishing with a rousing rendition of Chopin's Military Polonaise -- played with obvious enjoyment by a Chinese lady. I think she got every last decibel possible out of the Steinway.

We always have some Asians at our concerts. The Han Chinese fit very easily into Western civilization and appreciation of (and skill at) classical music is certainly part of that. The 21st century will undoubtedly be the century of China but the Chinese adopt Western practices so readily that it should nonetheless be a century of very substantial cultural continuity. I hear that there are even more than a 100 million Chinese Christians these days.

Tirsha, the secretary of the Brisbane Skeptics Association was there. I knew her from having given a couple of talks to the Skeptics so we were both rather surprised to encounter one-another in a different context. During the supper after the concert I had a bit of a chat with her about things skeptical.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A small celebration

We had a dinner to celebrate Joe's rise into the ranks of academe last night. Joe wanted it kept small so there were only 7 of us: Joe, myself, Anne, Jenny, Nanna, Paul and Sue. Nanna is 83 and still going well so Joe has inherited some good longevity genes there, one would think.

Joe is only tutoring at this stage but part time work should come his way regularly from now on and when a full-time vacancy comes up he will have inside running for it. Universities are bureaucracies so whether people feel at ease with you is a big factor in getting jobs and getting promotion -- and someone you know does therefore have the inside running against any outsider.

For the occasion, we went to an Indian restaurant where I dine regularly. The food was tops, as ever. Both Joe and I are keen on Indian food.

I now have something of a "mission accomplished" feeling. With Joe ensconced in academe, I feel I can do no more for him as far as his career is concerned -- though if he encounters personal problems at any time I expect to be able to help him -- as I always have been able to do in the past on those rare occasions when he has mentioned problems to me.