Monday, 11 February 2008

Wherein the author vacillates between acquisitiveness and smashing the state with foregone chocolate bars

The anniversary of my migration to the Deep South has just passed. I marked the occasion with a minute's silent remembrance of Oop North, friends, relations, and cockroaches, and then I got on with Day 2 of Harlot's Parentally-Supervised Tour de Victoria.

The Runcible Spoons picked me up from Hôtel Harlot at first light on Saturday and pootled me off into the wild blue yonder, where I learnt many things about Victoria, her heirs and successors.

For instance, I learnt that if you pop into the Shell service station in Daylesford at a quarter past ten in the dark of the night to buy half a litre of cowmilk, the salesworker will personally advise you of the three-for-the-price of-two chocolate bar special. Note that in normal circumstances, I am the reason three-for-the-price-of-two chocolate bar specials exist. At a quarter past ten in the dark of last Saturday night, however, the three-for-the-price-of-two-chocolate bar special caught me in the immediate aftermath of a parentally-sponsored three course dinner. I rejected the three-for-the-price-of-two chocolate bar special, vehemently. And then, worried that the salesworker might find me in contempt of her advice as to the compatibility of three chocolate bars with half a litre of cowmilk, I added, "But gosh I'm so impressed that you'd bother to point out the chocolate bar special. That's really conscientious." Patronising much? It turns out not that our trusty salesworker was being conscientious, but that Shell plants plain-clothes scrutineers in its outlets by dark of night, and these scrutineers - so the legend goes - will pay $50 on the spot to any salesworker who personally advises them of the three-for-the-price-of-two chocolate bar special. Whether this rumour is true or not, the salesworker has clearly been told it's so, and this I call teasing and manipulation of the highest ordure. I am reminded of pigeons tricked into pecking at empty grain dispensers. Not that I'm suggesting that the lass in the Daylesford Shell service station was particularly pigeonesque. Pigeons cannot get their beaks around the words "chocolate bar special", for one thing.

Thus the perversities of capitalism. And only that very morning I had been contemplating my 'rents investment advice: never to buy the most valuable house in the street.

Not that I'm in much of a position to buy any house in any street, but if I were - this is before the Daylesford Shell service station fandango reminded me of the perversities of capitalism and I foreswore all property for evermore - this is the house I would buy. It is not, investment advisers will be pleased to hear, the most valuable house in its street.

Just take another gander at that front verandah, and you'll fully appreciate the turn my real-estatorial tastes had taken:

Thank you, Trentham. You do a fine morality tale for callow young builders.

Meanwhile (this is still before the episode at Shell, while I was still contemplating investing the kitty in lop-sided verandahs), I found the perfect automobile to go with the perfect delapihabitation.

What, I ask you, is a cubic foot of rust between Morris 1000s? This is the horseless carriage for me, and I've got just the hill to start her on.


JahTeh said...

I really like that old house and I'll have you know that my verandah droops in exactly the same way. I have rusty hair as well.

Martin Kingsley said...

See, I approach the car ownership issue from the other end of the spectrum, as it were. I don't drive, and have no need nor real intention to, but if I had to drive, and I'd also made millions of the single European currency in the publishing industry, I'd refuse to get behind the wheel of anything less than the sublimely engineered 2008 Bentley Brooklands sedan. Hitting nearly 300kmphs on the straight and sporting the finest ceramic brakes known to the automotive industry, I can hear the siren song of the autobahn even now.

It's my way of keeping myself off the road, y'see. You can't deny that it's effective (well, so long as I don't reach the heady heights of solid financial success, I suppose).

alexis said...

I like that old house too. I like everything from its boggy foundations to the corrugated iron boarding up its front window. Your verandah sounds like a national treasure, Jahteh. As for your hair, rusty's where its at.

Martin, I just don't like new cars. Not on principle, it's that they're clunky and square and ugly. I'm more of a P.T. person anyway, but if there must be cars, I don't see why they can't all be curvaceous and mottled like that Morris Minor in the photo there.

eyrie said...

I like peugeots.

From my understanding, the usual code of practice is that the mystery shopper will report you to the head office if you do not offer her the three-chocolates-for-the-price-of-one deal, leading to "disciplinary procedures" and the possible loss of employment. By comparison, a cash reward for proffering an upsize sounds like the most damnable socialism. I expect you will find that the Daylesford servo has been replaced by the Daylesford Biofuel and Organic Chocolate Co-op when next you call in.
Indeed, one suspects that the run-down house and rusty Morris Minor may well have been planted by tourist bureau staff, terrified lest the mystery day-tripper may not find enough suitably quaint pieces of Victoria to love.

alexis said...

By Peugeot, are we talking the 1930 model or the 2002 European Car of the Year?

I did consider the possibility that a $50 on the spot reward was the alternative to a Shell Employee Demerit Point (three strikes and you're out), but I'm not sure the latter is worse. This way, the worker is reduced by the empty promise of $50 that will almost certainly never come to making banale comments about chocolate specials on saturday night when she could be at home watching ABC police dramas. They might as well scrap regular wages altogether, and advise employees that if the national Shell spot-checker finds them hard at work at 3 a.m., they'll get a million dollars.

eyrie said...

Um, all peugeots (not that I've been in a 1930 model!). I was driven around the Lake District in a peugeot, so the scenery may have given the peugeot an added allure. And Japanese cars are like French cars, only redone in a boxier shape. At least, that was my observation. I didn't dislike it- it was just something different to look at.

It is indeed hard to know if the stick or the carrot is the more dehumanising way to treat one's employees. Really, we're splitting hairs. But I'm sure the corporate twit who devised the $50 reward scheme fancies that it's altogether "cuddlier".

TimT said...

They used to do that to me. The Shell Service Station people, I mean. When I shopped there, I mean. You'd whimsically buy a chocolate bar (you know how it goes, you saunter in and stand in the shelves flicking your hair back waiting for a particularly zesty chocolate bar to make eye-contact*), and go to the counter with your Chosen Bar. And then they'd tell you about your latest two-for-one, or three-for-one deal, or free-giraffe-with-every-seven-and-a-halfth-purchase-on-alternate-Sundays**. And my invariable reply would be 'thanks but no thanks'. I mean, why bother? My chocolate purchases aren't common enough to make it a going concern (though they're common enough). And besides - it makes me cantankerous when people try to upsize your food. It's as if they know how much you want to eat, not you yourself.

These and other musings will be released in my forthcoming memoirs, Life at the (Chocolate) Bar.

*I mean, isn't that how everyone buys chocolate bars?

**Okay, I may have acquired one or two giraffes in my time.

eyrie said...

I was fascinated when I was in the US a number of years ago and an American friend would always respond to the upsizing offer with "Hmmmmmm.... No, I think I'll go with the small size today, thanks". She always had that moment of consideration, even though she never upsized, and that promise of perhaps upsizing tomorrow.

I'm such a chocolate snob that I spurn pretty much all the chocolate in the servo, so no one has ever tried to three-for-one me.* But if anyone can give me the name and location of a stockist of valrhona in the Sydney region, I will mortgage my soul.

*But if one needs a quick, uncomplicated chocolate hit, I swear by furry friends, even if the new-fangled wrappers are not as educational as the old ones.

alexis said...

I am not a chocolate snob. Oh, no. Any old chocolate will do. (Just saying, y'know, in case you have some spare you want to sling my way.) Of course, I have preferred brands, and they go something like this: Green & Black organic, and Haigh's. But, truly, I have nothing whatsoever against Cadbury.

eyrie said...

If I have any chocolate I feel like spurning, Alexis, I will certainly think of you first. Green and Black do ice cream too, although I have not seen it anywhere in Australia. Tell me you've had Valrhona at least once, though, for I think I almost died from the pleasure of my first piece. Haigh's frogs are just a foretaste of the chocolate experiences one can have.

I was not a chocolate snob at first, but I became one as the addiction refined itself with age. I expect to be at the point in a few years of not being able to eat anything that isn't at least 75-80% cocoa.

alexis said...

Nope, never eaten Valrhona, but I just looked it up on google image, and oh my! It looks lovely. I like a chocolate that's three parts velvet to two parts grit. Still, in the words of my inner non-chocolate-snob, bring me your Cadbury, your Nestle, your Home Brand chocolate buttons yearning to breathe free.

eyrie said...

Home brand chocolate buttons- you are truly democratic, aren't you?

Whereas every time I go into the alleged "gourmet" section of DJs, I feel like howling in despair. Recently, my nearest DJs got rid of about two-thirds of their stock of French chocolate and replaced it with Donna Hay-branded chocolate (I just shuddered involuntarily as I typed those words). You can get Michel Cluizel quite freely here, which will get you about a third of the way towards the Valrhona experience. And Valrhona actually has vintages- God bless the French!

eyrie said...

Oh, and you reminded me of Lou Reed's version of what the Statue of Liberty is really saying, a rather cynical version.

Cistern harlot said...

Luckily I'm not after your soul, Eyrie, as you may need to mortgage it to pay for your chocolate. have a look at (2nd page under chocolate).

eyrie said...

Oh goodness gracious me, that kind of information could warrant the sacrifice of my first born!

(The mark-up isn't too bad- And the Pyrmont store is at such a convenient location for taking in the fish market too! Why was I not informed of this earlier?)

eyrie said...

O my, the tea page!

alexis said...

Just wanted to say: that's my sister, Cistern Harlot. She knows a thing or three. I'm proud to be related.

eyrie said...

Yes, I thought "Cistern" must be sister. I certainly am most grateful to your cistern/sister. This is just the sort of thing one needs to know when one has a birthday coming up (although emailing the link to loved ones might be stretching the bounds of what can be legitimately called hinting).