Is It Them... or is it me?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
A visit to the big smoke revealed the difference between country and city folk.

Submitted: February 07, 2019

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Submitted: February 07, 2019



‘Back from the big smoke, eh?’ It was Albert’s welcome.

‘Three days in the big smoke and I reckon they’re all crazy! Or maybe it’s me.’ Henry added.

‘We’re going to have a little rant are we?’ Albert  smiled.

‘Well,’ Henry puffed his chest, ‘even in the outskirts, when the traffic lights go green, there’s a mad rush to get to the next set, there, they creep forward so they have some momentum before the next go light flashes and voom, their off! It’s a speedway!’

‘Townies! No patience!’ muttered Albert.

‘Exactly! What the rush is, I’m buggered if I know,’ continued Henry, ‘but it seems to me that being first, in front, is what’s important. But the good old council’s spent a fortune painting arrows on the road so you know which lane you should be in. The only trouble is, you can’t see the arrows because there are always bloody cars sitting on top of them!’

‘Well that’s silly! Why don’t they get out of bed ten minutes earlier?’ Albert mused. ‘Was it a funeral you went to?’

‘No, my niece’s wedding. The youngest,’ Replied Henry shaking his head. ‘They have to drive everywhere! Like, there was this bargain to be had!’ He laughed, ‘Maccers were selling ice-creams for two bucks! So I had to drive past maybe five ice-cream shops, using half a tank of petrol, to find the right Maccers! Lucky my nephew was my GPS.’

‘Tisc.’  Albert saw Henry’s point.

‘Now admittedly, the place had only been opened for a week or two, but it took us nearly twenty minutes for them to make four blimmin’ ice-creams! The big thing was, they were dipped in chocolate,’ Henry rolled in eyes, ‘maybe they had to melt it first. It was all my nephew’s idea, and he was getting impatient! He marched up to the counter from time to time, checking. Y’know, it was the first ice-cream I’d had in maybe two years, but one of those Magnum things would’ve done me. The first shop we passed might have been twice the price, but and it wouldn’t have involved being like a gladiator, facing the hordes, ducking through traffic and following the leader at red and green lights! It took a while to even find the Maccers.’

 ‘Was it worth it though?’ Albert asked.

‘Nope. But its apparently how you fill in time in the big smoke.’ Henry replied.

‘But you’re a townie now.’ Albert was never happy about Henry moving into town.

‘I still like to go for a walk after breakfast,’ Henry didn’t bite at Albert’s quip, ‘I’ve been doing it for many a year. The surprising thing in suburban big smoke, is that bugger all people use the very smart and wide footpaths. I saw a couple of people walking, but there weren’t any kids and I thought it might be an oldies area because no kids were out and about. But then, on the Monday, out they came like lines of termites, milling around the bus stops, waiting in groups engrossed in their phones!’

‘Young buggers on their phones.’ Albert likes manners. ‘ I suppose they didn’t move for you either.’

‘Just too engrossed I guess.’ Henry supposed. ‘Didn’t see anyone walking dog, either, but there were plenty of dogs, they were running loose in their yards. They didn’t seem happy padding inside their front gate though. I reckon most of them would have taken a chunk out of me given the chance! They were barking aggressively – you know, I’ve had enough dogs to know the difference – they weren’t friendly at all! One person tapped on their window as a command to shut the dog up – an aggressive little bugger, the size of a loaf of bread. He took no notice. It must scare some people, maybe that’s why the footpaths are empty! The owners seem to sit there eating their porridge and couldn’t give a toss that their dog was making a nuisance of itself.’

‘Yeah, it’s a bravado thing to have a dog that scares people.’ Albert agreed.

‘Y’know they always say the big smoke’s got a reputation for its high standard of water quality.’ Now Henry wanted to tell Albert about the water. ‘Their artesian water’s snow-fed and it’s filtered through alluvial gravels. You’d think they’d realise it was resource worth nurturing, but no, the dairy farming on the plains is a massive money-go-round with local and central government raking in a hefty whack, filling their coffers. And we all know politicians; they rub their hands at the mere prospect of spending someone else’s money!’

‘You’re damn right there!’ Albert doesn’t like politians any more than Henry. ‘And they’re not particularly careful how they spend it either!

Henry nodded agreement. ‘By allowing unfettered dairy farming, and through dairy farmers’ habitual over-irrigation, cow shit has oozed into the aquifers! So people don’t get crook because of faecal contamination, the water’s being treated with chorine! Of course nobody up there likes the taste of the chlorine, and fair enough, it’s never been used in the past – no need. Anyway, some shrewd buggers brought in a lot of special jugs with chlorine filters in them, which the good folk of the big smoke snapped up by the truckload! A good earner for someone, I bet! The funny thing is though, most cities I’ve been to chlorinate their water and the smoke’s water tastes no different, but y’know, even after filtering, I couldn’t taste any difference! Maybe it’s all in the mind.’

‘Even our water’s chlorinated these days,’ Albert confirmed, ‘I boil our water and drink it cold, been doing it for years. It’s just a habit now.’

‘But that’s not all!’ Henry continued. ‘Already, some of the ancient aquifers have been drained dry! The culprit, everyone says is irrigation on dairy farms, but they do feed a large population. The experts, hydrologists, reckon it’ll take two thousand years to refill them! That’s what they say. Anyway they’re all grumbling up there because whoever signs these things off, has allowed a Chinese company to buy more land and expand their water bottling enterprise, they say it’ll create two hundred jobs!’

‘They’re doing that all over the country!’ Albert has long been against the idea. ‘Why the hell’s the government sucking up to China? Two hundred jobs? That’ll be for building the factory, but then they’ll automate it!’

‘I know,’ agreed Henry, ‘in this little paradise of ours, the law doesn’t allow water to be sold, there’s already an ongoing dispute over who actually might own the resource, so it seems strange that any council would risk a backlash and be voted out for allowing it. There’s no money in it, just a meagre license fee from China. I’d be suspicious, so why isn’t there a song and dance about it? Anyway it looks like something else for the next generations to rue.’

‘The next generation’s going to inherit a hellava mess!’ Confirmed Albert. ‘There’s a lot for them to fix!’

‘Well, during the trip to the big smoke I learned a thing or two.’ Henry concluded. ‘To live there, you’ve got to dash about playing the game of find the arrows. You plant your foot at the green, and ignore the orange, keeping your eyes fixed on the tail lights ahead. If you see a bargain, you go for it, the thrill of the bargain will always outweigh cost of travel – it’s a blimmin’ game! In the big smoke, they quickly lose interest in training their little pups, they grown into bloody nuisances. The council could have saved a fortune by narrowing the footpaths. I already knew to have no trust in politians, but they don’t seem to care, everyone’s too busy looking for arrows, chasing green lights and bargains, and ignoring yapping dogs, to take their politicians to task! Are they all out of their tree – or is it me?’

‘All that in three days!’ Laughed Albert. ‘You must be fair tuckered out! Yeah, they’re all crazy! Anyway, don’t worry, it’ll be the same in a hundred years’ time.



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