Thursday, March 23, 2006

Good evening, Sir Robert

is the way that Victor, the other waiter/bartender at the Baguio Country Club greets me.

I'm not a knight of the realm and, as a prospective US citizen, I doubt I ever will be. But even without that prospective new citizenship I doubt I'd ever be knighted. Benighted maybe!

I do have an honour[^] I value much more highly :-)

I know it's just a form of address from hotel employee to hotel guest but it still makes me feel uncomfortable. The first time I was ever addressed as 'sir' was sometime in 1971 when, all of age 17, I was searching the bookshelves of Collins Booksellers, Swanston Street Melbourne, the site of Melbourne Central Railway station these days, in search of the novels of Lyndsay Norman.

The guy who addressed me as 'sir' would have been pretty much my own age and I'm sure he had been instructed to call all customers sir. I'm just as sure he was as uncomfortable with following instructions as I was that he had!

I had the name wrong, I was really looking for Norman Lindsay but my stepfathers first and middle name are Lyndsay Norman. An understandable mistake. Some smarmy bastard maybe my own age came up and asked if he could help me 'sir'. I made the same reply then that I do now when addressed as 'sir'. 'I didn't realise I'd been made a knight of the realm'. That makes em stop and wonder and gives me enough time to escape!

Diffidence and disdain borne of experience. Even today I imagine that any Australian who put on airs and graces would be invited to 'come out from under yer hat!'. God only knows how I'd fare as a member of the military; a fellow employee who is a military 'brat' calls everyone 'sir', even the women! I know Brad means well and he's one heck of a nice guy but man I wish he wouldn't call me sir!

Ok, maybe I exaggerated on the women! :-)

I couldn't very well put Victor on the spot and ask that he not address me as 'Sir Robert'. Everyone here at the hotel does. They do at the Manor Hotel (the hotel I stayed in until I discovered the Baguio Country Club) too.

So I tried a different tack. Walking into the Par 7 bar a night or three ago Victor addressed me again as 'Sir Robert'. 'Good evening Sir Victor' I replied. A momentary expression of puzzlement and then the smile.

Sir Victor seems to enjoy his title. Good luck to him!

I found the novels of Norman Lindsay (1879-1969). Redheap, A Curate in Bohemia, Dust and Polish, The Cousin from Fiji, Saturdee, Halfway to Anywhere and so on. Wonderful novels and my copies accompanied me in my baggage from Australia to the USA when I made the flight to my new home. The very few things I owned that did. I think I've said this before but for me Saturdee is the best ever boyhood novel. It out Tom Sawyers Tom Sawyer and I say that as a kid who read Mark Twain from cover to cover more than several times!

Of course I had a problem in that first reading of Tom Sawyer. On the very first page Aunt Polly threatens Tom with a switch! I, as an urban Australian lad in 1964, knew only one meaning for the word switch. How, I wondered, was it possible to threaten anyone with a light switch? I also puzzled mightily over Mark Twains description of young men pushing their toes against a wall to get the right turn-up. A puzzlement long since solved at the sight of a step-daughter starving herself to maintain a most unladylike resemblance to a pipecleaner. It's long since past the day but I remember asking Morgan if she had to dance under the shower in order to get wet!

In early 1975 there was a bookshop in Nicholson Street Footscray that had the entire set of Norman Lindsay novels, paperback, in the window. The problem was that the owner had recently died and the shop was shut. There they were, every novel of his in a row and no way, short of breaking the glass in the small hours, of obtaining them.

Of course I didn't break the glass; it was plate and who knew how many bollards I'd have had to throw! :-) Patience and by June of 1975 I'd found all of them in remainder shops. I remember laughing myself sick over the trials and tribulations of the curate as I lived in a caravan behind the local ministers house in Williamstown.

Good days!

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