Statistically speaking

Dad used to take us out hunting. To him it was quality time for boys to become men. I can’t say I enjoyed it and neither did my brother. It was great seeing nature’s beauty in the great outdoors but did we have to kill it, enviscerate it and then lug the bloody thing all those miles home?

When we finsished High School, I went on to study psychology at Uni and my brother studied maths to become a statistician. Dad was appreciative of my studies – the world was full of crazies, in his opinion. However he had a problem coming to terms with my brother’s study of statistics. In Dad’s view, something was or wasn’t and the concept of anything in between, was beyond him. After spending hours, my brother gave up trying to explain statistics to Dad.

To please Dad we agreed to go out hunting one day but, both being conservationists now, agreed we would not kill anything. That was a pretty sure bet that nothing would die that day, Dad had developed a slight palsy and shook too much to handle a gun now. The day dawned perfect for hunting, fine with a light mist rising from the ground, that would soon burn away, leaving moist green succulent shoots for the deer to nibble.

After walking a mile or so, we spotted a magestic big buck in a clearing. I took the first shot and aimed low. We saw the bullet hit the ground about 20 metres short of the stag. He raised his head and we froze. Incredibly he just went on grazing. He didn’t bolt!

My brother took his gun and fired high, hitting a tree about twenty metres behind the deer. At the sound of the bullet hitting the tree, it bolted back into the bush. Dad didn’t cuss, like we expected. He was silent all the way home.

When we arrived home Mum asked if we shot anything. Dad said how my shot landed 20 metres short and my brother’s was 20 metres long, grinned at my brother, then added, “So statistically speaking, yes, we shot a big stag.”

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You’re next!

When there were weddings in the family and I had to attend, I would hurredly have to find a partner. It was embarrassing because there are two old aunts in our family who think their role in the family is matchmaker. At weddings they would always come up to me and my partner , poking us in the ribs and with a wicked grin say, “You’re next!”

We had a week where someone in the family passed away and there was a wedding that same week. I invited Sherry as my partner and at the wedding the usual little pantomime took place, with the same two ancient aunts. They cackled and grinned lascivously as they poked first me, then Sherry in the ribs with the obligatory “You’re next!”

On the way home I applogised to Sherry. She laughed it off saying cryptically, “Every dog has their day.”

Later that week at the funeral, I was surprised when Sherry steered me towards the same two old aunts. But not as surprised as they were, when she grinned at them wickedly and said “You’re next!”

They never poked me like that again, or Sherry for that matter, which is ironic because she’s now my wife.

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Congratulations on your move

Mum and Dad were farmers but when the motorway went through, it carved a large slice off the farm, so they sold it and after a short course, became real estate agents. Whenever they sold a house, they would go to the local florist and order a bouquet for the new lady of the house, with a card saying “Congratulations on your move and we hope you enjoy the new location.”

Mum received a confused phone call from one of her newest clients thanking her for the flowers but was a little concerned that the card said “Rest in Peace”.

The following day Mum called into the florist. When she queried the wording on the card, the florist looked visibly worried.

“It’s no big deal.” she assured the florist. “I was just concerned the cards may have been mixed up.”

At that moment the phone rang. The florist answered it and was aplogising profusely to someone on the other end. When she came back to Mum she ashen faced.

“It can’t be that bad, surely.” Mum consoled her.

“Oh it is,” replied the florist, “That was the funeral director and he’s really pissed. I know where your card ended up!”

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It’s a simply matter of intelligence.

When I was in my twenties and had just finished three gruelling years of study at uni, I decided it was time to see a bit of the world – no more late nights spent cramming for exams. I decided to visit my cousin Tom, in Brisbane – a bit of a party animal. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to blow out the cobwebs and have a bit of fun.

When I called to tell him I was coming, Tom refused to let me stay in a hotel. He insisted I stay with them in his own home.

“So what’s your partner’s name? How old is she? Is she hot? How long have you been together? Not a bible-basher is she?” Tom fired the questions at me.

“Whoa! I’m coming alone. I don’t have a partner Tom, I’ve been too wrapped up in study to have time for someone else.” I replied.

“Well if you’re arriving on Monday, I’ll take Tuesday off, take you out and get some good leads. By Wednesday you’ll have a partner.” Tom replied matter of factly.

“Yeah sure! You make it sound so simple. How do you propose to do that? Speed dating Brisbane style?” I had visions of a hall full of six toed, web footed uglies and psychos.

“Leave it to me mate!” he said confidently, “We have our ways up here!”

The following Monday I was picked up from Brisbane airport by Tom and his girlfriend, Suzie. She was hot and assured me that Tom wouldn’t fix me up with any plain Jane, studying to be a nun. He knew how to get “hot leads” and would do exactly as he promised. It was late and after a few drinks, Tom said I’d need to wear a suit for tomorrow.

Tuesday came and Tom appeared in a suit and tie at my door, to take me out to get the “hot leads” he’d promised. Odd because you don’t see people in a suit and tie in the middle of Brisbane’s summer, when it’s often 40 degrees Celcius. Tom and Suzy were very secretive about where we were heading and surprised me by taking me to the local Catholic church. Now Tom is not what I’d call religious and neither was Suzie, so imagine my surprise when he approached the Father and asked for confession!

Ten minutes later he came back with a grin, assuring me he had some leads that were definitely hot and we left. I doubted it until he handed me a Post-It note with three ladies names on it as we headed to the Post Office to get their addresses off the electoral roll. Tuesday evening after three phone calls, I had three dates; a coffee date for lunch on Wednesday, a dinner date on Wednesday and lunch on Thursday and all three ladies sounded great.

I couldn’t believe it had been so easy and pestered Tom and Suzie to tell me how they had done it until finally Tom gave in and told me.

“Well it’s just a matter of intelligence.” Tom said, ” I asked the priest to hear my confession. When I went into the confessional, I said the usual ‘Forgive me father for I have sinned’ then said ‘I have been with a very attractive but immoral woman.’. Of course the priest asked me what her name was but I answered, ‘I cannot say Father for it would defame the poor woman. It would be ungentlemanly of me’. Then I just shut up and waited.”

“It that all?” I asked. “Surely there’s more!”

“Nah! That about all!” Tom assured me. “Of course when he came back with ‘Was it Cheryl Brown?’ All I said was ‘No father’ and wrote down the name. Do that a few times and you have a hot list. It’s simply a matter of intelligence and a priest has the best sort of intelligence.” Tom grinned back at me.

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It’s not heaven when . . .

When Grandpa passed away, we were sitting on the veranda after the service and Aunt Katie, the black sheep of the family, asked,” I wonder if Alf in is Heaven or Hell?”

We all looked at her stunned and Dad reprimanded her in a stern voice, “Katie that’s not the sort of thing you say at a funeral! You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.”
“Well, “responded Aunt Katie, as if thinking aloud,” Let’s face it, he was pretty rough on his wife. He was a heavy drinker, loved his rum, smoked like a train and he wasn’t slow to use the odd swear word either. He resented giving any money to the Church, the poor or any other charity. He sure as hell wasn’t an angel!”

That got us kids thinking and we pestered Mum for an answer all the next week. The following week was the school fete and there was a fortune teller there. We figured she must be pretty good because she wasn’t anyone local.  Finally, probably just to shut us up, Mum decided to pay $20 and get a reading done.

She came out of the fortune tellers tent about 30 minutes later, looking quite upset. Dad was trying to calm her down, telling her, “Come on Jane, you know it’s all a bunch of hokem. It’s all smoke and mirrors stuff with those ‘one-fits-all’ statements, like  ‘a tall dark stranger will cross your path’.  You can’t think it’s for real! Surely!”

Dad’s efforts weren’t having the desired effect, Mum didn’t look too convinced, so he decided to probe a little deeper, “Well did she say he was in Heaven?”
“Well no, not exactly.” Mum stammered.
“Then, did she say he was in Hell?” Dad asked becoming exasperated.
“Well no, not exactly.” Mum stammered.
“Well then. What’s all the fuss about?  What makes you think she even spoke to him? Why are you so upset?” He insisted.

“Well I knew it was for real when she said she had some obnoxious old man who was always asking for a ‘bloody Rum and Coke 50-50 no ice’ and was chain smoking cigarettes.” Mum replied hesitantly.
“Ok. So it sounds like him alright but what’s the problem?” Dad asked.
“It’s not what she said, it’s more what she didn’t say, that gave it away!” Mum said holding back tears. “They don’t tell you the really bad stuff.”
“I don’t get it. What didn’t she say, that’s convinced you he’s not in heaven?” Dad asked impatiently.

“He was chain smoking as usual and the cigarettes just lit themselves. He never once asked for his “bloody lighter”!” Mum howled.

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Jumping posts and tree stumps

Being single and new to Melbourne, I knew no-one. I decided to try meeting people by answering those “Personal Ads” that appear in the local paper. Many were probably weirdos but surely there had to be a few relatively normal folks out there too. Just in case, I arranged to meet at a coffee bar, where there were plenty of people present, just two blocks away from my house. After a few meetings where I met some really ‘interesting’ people, (which convinced me that if ever I was to become a consulting psychiatrist, personal ads were the perfect way to meet new clients), I met Izzy.

Izzy was a fast talking tomboy who was an outdoors fanatic, backpacking across Australia. She spent a lot of time researching wildlife and claimed to have spent several months learning bush survival skills with some aboriginal people in Arnheim Land. For you folks who don’t know Aussie, Arnheim Land is the classic “Outback” you imagine, when you think of country Australia. If the thirst doesn’t kill you, the sun fry you, or the heat send you troppo, then the crocs, or snakes will.

As a Kiwi, I had seen many interesting documentaries about the diversity of Aussie wildlife, so when Izzy asked me if I’d like to come on a bush walk with her next week, I quickly accepted. After all she had learned her stuff in Arnheim Land. I was in good hands right?

Where I came from, the bush was so thick that 10 metres was all it took to vanish. This Aussie bush here is completely opposite. It’s sparse; you can still see someone 50 metres away. The trap is the distance and the way the bush here can all look the same.

We drove north up Plenty Road, out of Melbourne, through Whittlesea to Kinglake. Izzy said she had been here several times before on nature photo shoots but this time wanted to photograph the lake. “Everything’s cool I know this place like the back of my hand!”’ she assured me.

When I stopped to get some Aeroguard (insect repellent – an essential for any Aussie outdoors activity) at the Kinglake store, Izzy waited in the car. I asked the attendant for directions to the lake. She kindly explained thet Kinglake was named after some poet, there was no lake.

Well of course! Everyone should know that Kinglake is called Kinglake because there is no lake, just like Antarctica has no ants and New Zealand isn’t new and Turkey isn’t where turkeys came from!

Izzy wasn’t too impressed when I relayed this information to her but we resolved to go on our bush walk anyway. We set off on one of the signposted walking tracks with cameras at the ready. Izzy pointed out the different plants as we went along. She certainly knew her stuff. We came to a large clearing, a couple of hundred metres wide, with long grass and about half a dozen tree tree trunks or old posts, standing in the center. Maybe the forestry had been doing some felling here.

“This is the sort of place you see ‘roos”, said Izzy as we headed back into the bush.
It wasn’t long before we came to a similar clearing with a few more grey tree trunks in the middle, then another identical clearing. The sun was dropping below the tree tops, the light no longer reaching the ground in the bush. It was getting late and night would be falling soon. Again we came to another of those clearings.
“I think we’re lost”, I said.
“ No”, Izzy said confidently. “I recognise this clearing by the posts in the middle. We’ve traveled around the rim of the clearing, so the car isn’t far away at all. We haven’t come as far as you think. The car should be a couple of hundred metres beyond the far side of the clearing”, she said as she strode out into the clearing, heading for the far side.

It was at that moment that the half a dozen posts in the center of the clearing bounded away – they were a family of Eastern Grey kangaroos. Apparently when alarmed, they face the threat and stand very still. Their colour and stillness makes them look like a tree trunk. Only when they feel danger is getting too close will they bound off.

An Eastern Grey Kangaroo with her Joey, look similar to a tree trunk or old post, close up.
Standing in that empty clearing, looking at the over confident Izzy, did I start to wonder; how many of those other identical clearings also had Eastern Grey kangaroos?
If each one had been a new clearing, we could be miles from the car!

When darkness fell and Izzy’s confidence was gone, I pointed out a yellow glow not far to the south. “That yellow glow is from sodium lamps, usually street lamps. If we head in that direction we’ll reach civilisation” I said. Sure enough after an hour’s walk, or rather stumbling in the dark, we came out at a roadside embankment I recalled passing on our way to the car park.

Since then I have shown many travelers around Victoria and they often express disappointment at not seeing a kangaroo but you could be staring straight at a group of them and never know it, until they move. I often tell them about that walk in Kinglake.

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Marketing Jargon – Avian relocation

I recently had to sit through a management meeting of marketing executives. Their goal was to increase the number of products sold so the company would make more money. There were so many buzz words, acronyms and gobbledegook going around that room, I thought I was going to drown in it. I haven’t seen so much B-S- since I was a kid on the farm in the milking shed.

Honestly these guys could make breathing sound like a logistical nightmare!
It got me wondering, what would the meeting sound like if their goal was something like, “Why did the Chicken cross the road?”

I imagine the summary of the meeting would read like this:

“After considerable discussion it was agreed that deregulation on the chicken’s strategic market share and therefore territorial limitations on it’s roadside location was challenging its dominant market position. The chicken was faced with significant challenges to create and develop the competencies required for the newly competitive market if it was to maintain it’s dominance in it’s market niche. Symes and Hamiton Training Systems were engaged as Business and Marketing Consultants in a partnering relationship with the client,(S.H.T.S).
S.H.T.S, helped the chicken by rethinking its physical distribution strategy and implementation processes. Using their Business Unity Logistical System (BULS).
S.H.T.S helped the chicken use its skills, methodologies, knowledge capital and experiences to align the chicken’s people, processes and technology in support of its overall strategy within a Program Management framework. S.H.T.S convened a diverse array of road analysts and best chickens along with S.H.T.S consultants with extensive skills in the transportation industry to engage in a two-day itinerary of meetings in order to leverage their personal knowledge capital, both tacit and explicit, and to enable them to synergize with each other in order to achieve the implicit goals of delivering, successfully designing and implementing an enterprise-wide value framework across the continuum of poultry cross-median processes. The meetings were convened in natural environmental settings, conducive to creating a strategically based, industry-focused conceptual understanding of the target market niche and founded upon the concept of a consistent, clear, and unified market message, aligned with the chicken’s mission, vision, and core business values. These outcomes were integrated into the future training programmes, so successful that a new partnership was created as Symes and Hamiton Integrated Training.
Since the Business Unity system is so diverse, a Business Unity Logistical Language (B.U.L.L) course has been developed and will be registersed for national accreditation on behalf of Symes and Hamiton Integrated Training. Thus upon completion the client (Chicken) will be accredited with the following qualification as :
Mr/Ms Chicken B.U.L.L.S.H.I.T.
Upon completion of this course and subsequent graduation the client can seek relocation to a point beyond the median, with a new territory, to further develop the newly available market niche.”

It just begs the question, exactly what do we pay our executives for . . . come to think of it, what exactly is an executive?

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Overheard in a classy establishment

When my brother was going through University, he worked evenings in a high class hotel bar. We used to look forward to him coming home every weekend. He always had some great tale that would leave us laughing. Because it was a classy establishment, patrons were frequently trying to out do each other. One incident began with three well heeled friends discussing how successful their sons were, each one trying to better his companions:

Robert said how his son had started off with a really sleazy coffee bar and had built it up into a chain of franchised cafes across Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland New Zealand. Now he was looking to start one in Christchurch. He was so successful he had given his new partner a cafe as a gift.

Daniel next told how his son had started with a small vacant lot, created a car sales business and built it up into a dealership selling luxury cars in six states. He was so successful he gave a friend a new BMW as a gift.

The third patron, Mike, said his son was an investment consultant and had done so well, that he was well on the way to making his second million. He gave his friend an entire portfolio of shares worth thousands now but would be worth hundreds of thousands in a few years time.

A fourth patron Tom, known to all the others arrived later looking flustered and obviously upset.

When they asked him what was wrong, Tom replied that he was having the worst possible day.
“My son is in serious financial difficulties with his coffee bar business, that his partner had given him. He’s discovered the previous owner had falsified the books and the business is a disaster.”
“ Oh no!”, the other three chorused.
“Wait, it gets worse”, Tom continued, “I had to collect him from the panel shop because someone had run into his new BMW that one of his clients had given him and on the way home we heard the stock market had crashed and the portfolio his latest lover had given him was virtually worthless. He can’t afford the repairs on the BMW. He asked me for a loan to get it out of the shop!”
“ Oh that’s bad.” They chorused in sympathy.
Then Tom continued, “But it gets even worse; my son came out and admitted he’s gay!”
“Look, times have changed Tom” Mike consoled him. “These days it’s different. Gay people have all the rights of straight people now. It’s not all that bad.”
The others nodded in agreement, all except Tom who was close to tears now.
“But it’s worse! When I asked him about his work, he confessed he’s a gay prostitute!”

Robert, Daniel and Mike all looked at each other, very concerned.

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Ol’Jess steak and mushrooms

Mum was a regular church goer and they had this thing going where a group of wives took turns to cook lavish dinners once a month. It came round to Mum’s turn and since we had just butchered one of our cows, she decided to serve steaks all round, sauteed in mushrooms, red wine and garlic.

It would be a big job but as luck would have it, Grandma was coming to stay that weekend too, so it was do-able with her assistance.

The only problem was the mushrooms; the local store didn’t stock them. It would mean a two hour drive to the suburbs and a supermarket. Dad suggested we use the wild ones that grew in the bush block by the creek.

We had eaten them before but Mum was really worried we could mistakenly pick the wrong ones. Dad came up with the idea of cooking a steak with the mushrooms, the day before and feeding them to Old Jess the cattle dog.

The day arrived and Mum and Grandma cooked up the mushrooms with wine and garlic into a rich dark sauce. They cooked up a piece of porterhouse steak medium rare, liberally covered it with the mushroom sauce and gave it to old Jess. She thought all her birthdays had come at once and quickly scoffed the lot. Jess was fine all that day, so it was deemed the mushrooms were safe.

Mum and Grandma slaved away for hours preparing the meal for the church ladies and it was a grand affair. The evening went very well. They were finishing their desserts, brandy baskets of fresh berries and cream, when Grandma, looking very worried, beckoned Mum out to the kitchen. There on her mat was Old Jess, dead. Grandma was sobbing, saying how Jess had died in her arms and she’d bought her inside and put her on her favourite spot – her mat.

Mum quickly called the hospital and they sent out an ambulance. They had to stomach pump everyone – not a pretty site.

Grandma was so distraught, she just kept sobbing, stroking old Jess.

It wasn’t until the church ladies and ambulance had gone, that we were able to get any sense out of Grandma. She said, “And the bastard in the car who hit her never even stopped!” she said.

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The Hogmanay Taxi

Hamish McPherson, our neighbour, was a burly Scotsman who was very proud of his ancestry. Whilst you wouldn’t call him an alcoholic, he was known to over indulge occasionally. You’d know because he’d get out his bagpipes and toture all near and far residents in the valley for a few hours. Scotland The Brave is a moving tune on bagpipes but after an hour, it gets a bit much. I think it was the only tune he knew how to play.

We used to work in together with him sharing equipment. We had a hay mower, he had a baler, We would pool our resources and together bring in the hay harvest, so we soon became good friends with the McPhersons. So when we were invited to the Scottish Society’s Hogmanay celebrations we felt very honoured and readily accepted, on the proviso we took our own car of course.

Well it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to. I danced so much that the next day, I couldn’t walk, my legs were so sore!

When the party was at that stage where you could see it was ending, Dad piled us all in the car and asked a very wasted Hamish if he wanted a lift home. Hamish was still in party mode and declined saying he’d get a taxi home. We figured as he hadn’t bought his car there anyway, he wouldn’y be driving home drunk, so it was safe to leave him there.

The next day, a very hungover Hamish appeared on our doorstep. He had caught a taxi home. He distinctly recalled the police roadblock waving him through without a breath test. The only problem was, he couldn’t remember who the taxi belonged to, that was now parked in his garage!

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