GingerAle

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 #12
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Ginger’s Journal Memoir

Spying on Father Christmas, Horse Pìss, My First Brandy, Fire-Water from HeII, (Ages 5, 6, 12)

 

To this day, my father still won’t admit Father Christmas (St. Nicolas) is only a legend. My mum and dad still get gifts from him every Christmas. I usually do too. Around Christmas time when I was five, I asked my father if Father Christmas was real.  My father’s affirmative reply was:  “Of course he’s real! You won’t get gifts from him if you don’t believe in him. You do want his gifts, don’t you?” I remember saying that I did, but I wasn’t really concerned about it, I was much more concerned about hurting his feelings for doubting his existence. 

 

I resolved to watch Father Christmas come down our chimney. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to greet him, but I wanted to watch him set up the Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and lay out the presents—all in a magical blink of an eye. Oh, and after he finished, I wanted to watch him drink his brandy, too.  “No milk and cookies for Father Christmas; no sir! It’s a brandy to warm the bones of an old saint who works hard in the freezing cold of Christmas Eve.” My father always said.   I slept through it that year, but I did complete my spy mission when I was six.

 

Sometime during Christmas day, I proudly confronted my father with my eye-witness observations.  I carefully described how he and my mother with the help of my sister, setup and decorated the tree, neatly laid the gifts around the tree, loaded up the stockings and hung them on the mantel, all while he sipped on St. Nicholas’ brandy.  So There!

 

My father started to laugh. He laughed just like jolly ole St Nick would laugh. He kept it up for a long time. It was contagious and I laughed too. So did my mum. Not my sister though, she never laughs.   Then he suddenly quit laughing and said, “So that explains it! For over sixty years Father Christmas has come to my home, setting up and decorating the Christmas tree, laying out the presents and hanging the stockings, drinking me brandy and giving his blessing, but this year he couldn’t do it. “St. Nicholas’ stopped by early and dumped everything off, telling me I have to tend to the details meself because he can’t.

 

“I thought it was because he was too busy this year, but it was because he knew you’d be spying on him. My god, your mum and sister and I did all this so you wouldn’t know, and here you be the cause of it all.  I hope he comes next year, I hope we haven’t pìssed him off.  You don’t want to get on the bad side of a powerful saint like St Nicholas!  Now go do penance—pray the rosary for an hour.” 

 

This was the worst bloody Christmas ever!  I stormed off crying my eyes out. I was terrified that I’d pìssed off, beyond forgiveness, the most benevolent saint to children in all of Christendom.  Halfway through the rosary, I’d calmed down enough to begin wondering why watching Father Christmas do his thing would make him so angry. It had to be something other than that; but what?

 

It seemed that St Nicholas was telling me to ask my father if this could be so. I went to ask my father as much. Rather than giving me the business, he responded logically. “Well maybe you are right, let’s see if we can figure it out.” He asked me, “What was different this Christmas compared to last Christmas?” He also answered it for me: “Maybe it was Ginger trying to spy on him.”

 

I reminded him that I was going to do that last year but I didn’t wake up in time. “He knew you weren’t going to wake up, so he came and blessed us all the same.” 

 

“Well, if it’s so important for us to be asleep when he comes why doesn’t he make us fall asleep? He can do all these things why not that one?” I asked.

 

“I don’t know,” he said, “maybe only God can cause people to fall asleep, not saints.  Besides we need to be responsible for some things.”  While he was explaining this to me I noticed the empty brandy snifter on the coffee table.  After he was finished, I walked over to it and picked it up and swirled the few drops that remained. “Maybe it’s this,” I suggested.

 

“What? The brandy I set out for St. Nicholas. What’s a matter with it? He asked. 

 

“Maybe he doesn’t like the horse piss you call brandy.” I said, as I drained the few drops that would come out. “Yep, horse pìss!” I repeated, after smacking my lips. “... From a swayback headed to the glue factory.” 

 

My father stood there motionless for a few moments and then his countenance changed. It’s the kind of look people have when their brain sends signals to their bodies to prepare for long bouts of laughter and not much breathing.   In my mum’s case it included the instruction to expel the coffee, that she was in the midst of drinking, through her nose.  So my mum and dad began to laugh and they cackled like hens trying to lay oversized eggs. Not my sister though, she never laughs. 

 

 After five minutes or so, they took a break only to start again.  I was doing my best to remain serious and stoical. My best wasn’t very good. Though I thought it was funny too, I wasn’t in the mood to laugh, so I said, “I’m going back to my room to finish my penance.”

           

 “No. Wait!” my father said.  After three rounds of cackling my dad regained his strength and picked me up and hugged me like a child would hug her doll. As the remnants of his laughter subsided, he said “You know, I was thinking in me head, that your mum and me kind of like decorating the Christmas tree.” 

 

“You do?” I asked.

 

“Yes we do,” he affirmed. “Your sister does too. At least, I think she does –it be hard to tell with her....” My father added as he momentarily drifted off.  “So,” he continued, “from now on, we will all be decorating the tree together. Father Christmas can just bring his gifts, and I’ll set brandy out and he can drink it or not. If he wont to be a bastard, then I be happy to oblige and drink it for him.  He can leave me a note if he wants something different.”

 

 After that, that was the way it was—and still is. Decorating the tree was a lot of fun, and for me the happiest part of Christmas time.  I still do that with them every Christmas. My father still has his snifter of brandy, and after I was old enough, he’d pour one for me—a short one, lest I not be able to trim the tree properly.

 

During Christmas time, when I was 12, I asked if I could have some of his brandy. “Aye, you can, my child.”   There were about two ounces remaining in his snifter, and I downed it like it was soda. “Gorblimey me, child! I thought you were to have a have a wee sip, not down it like an old sot! Now sit your arse on the settee, before your boots become wobbly.”

 

I wasn’t in any condition to argue. My mouth and throat were on fire. It was hard to take a breath, and the alcohol fumes were burning my throat and lungs when I did.  I did as I was told, remaining stoical, tiring to act like I didn’t just drink fire-water from heII. I continuously cleared my throat to keep from coughing.  Despite my stoicism, my watering eyes might have given me away.  After a few minutes I recovered, and my father asked, “How be ye? And what think ye of the brandy?

 

 “I be fine, father.  And your brandy still be horse piss.”

 

“Aye, from a swayback headed to the glue factory,” my father added, followed by a long belly laugh. 

 

-----

 

Notes:  While the above anecdotes are true, some of the dialogue is greatly embellished and trimmed for dramatic and humorous effect –especially the dialogue from my six-year-old self. One exception is the “horse pìss, swayback ...  glue factory” comments, which are verbatim as best I know.  My father has repeated this anecdote countless times.  As a child, I often overheard my father commenting on the quality of liquor served by his poker buddies.   “Horse piss” was by far his most common adjective. “Clyde be an eejit for thinking we’re fooled by mankey horse piss he serves from fine bottles of yesterday” If my father lost a bet on a horse race: “The bloody capall went to the glue factory!” I heard this and similar comments from my great uncles too.

 

 

GA

7 janv. 2021
 #5
avatar+2145 
0

Hi Ron,

 

I'm sure it didn't escape you that I said "merely very unlucky" was the best answer, not in an absolute sense, but in comparison to the other five choices. 

 

Actually, you didn’t say that, but I understood that was part of your reasoning.

 

All you did was criticize my reasoning

 

Wow! You are touchy!

Your reasoning was worthy of criticism, but what I did was give an opinion, supported with math-based comparisons to probabilities of familiar games of chance. The math comparisons articulate the ratios or the equivalent number of sequential statistical successes for unlikely and extremely unlikely events.  While these articulations contradict your reasons for selecting “merely very unlucky,” they do not overtly criticize your reasoning.   I’m sure you’ve read enough of my posts to know when I’m criticizing.  (I’m still LMAO over the Gracie Allen comment. –It’s my best one-liner troll post ever.) 

 

...Continuing with the postscript assessment:

My introduction to the post,

Merely Unlucky?  No! Not merely. This unlucky series of failures is astronomically unlikely,

is my articulation of disagreement for the use of the word “merely,which was intentionally used by the teacher who wrote this question to trivialize or down play the “very unlucky” part of the phrase. The word “simply” could be substituted for “merely” as it is used in this context.

 

Simple things happen frequently, complex things happen less frequently.  But there is nothing simple about a series of events, that when aggregated, is so statistically unlikely that before it happens the Earth’s sun will be a cold brown dwarf (if it still exists at all), the Milky Way galaxy will with merge with the Andromeda galaxy, a team from the PeeWee football league will win the Super Bowl, and CPhill will have extracted the Roman Zero from Sisyphus’s Bolder.       

 

The "e." answer does include the word "very" which, as you've demonstrated – I'm assuming your calculations are accurate, or at least, accurate enough – is an apropos modifier.  Maybe it should have been in an emphasized typeface, but I'm not the one who posted the question.

 

There are probably no words typically used as modifiers in English, Latin, Greek, or any language that can conveniently depict the absurd statistical improbability of this hypothetical question, – at least, not without sounding hysterical.

 

 Here’s an analogy:

To bottle all the water in the Atlantic Ocean requires a very large number of gallon jugs.   As you may see, though true, it’s an understatement.  It’s absurd.

 

To bottle all the water in the Atlantic Ocean merely requires a very large number of gallon jugs. Adding ‘merely’ makes it absurdly funny.

 

The modifiers in this answer are intentionally used to teach novice students about highly improbable events.

 

...I'm assuming your calculations are accurate, or at least, accurate enough...

 

They are, but for most novice students of statistics, the path will be a long one before they begin to understand the significance.   While many can at least intuit an understanding for large ratios, the enormity of the numbers in the ratios is lost to them. It’s worse with the sequential successes of highly improbable events. For example they see the royal flush and think “Oh, I only need three (3) of these in a row. Three is a low number –that shouldn’t be too difficult to do.”

 

Most students will not realize that a professional poker player will likely never have a natural royal flush in a five-card poker game, and will only see two, in their entire careers.  And in a billion billion life times they will never see two in a row, let alone three. 

 

...and I did get a Royal Flush.  No joker, no wild cards at all, just the 10 thru Ace of hearts, and I didn't draw to it, I received it on the deal. 

 

Congratulations. It’s too bad you only won macaroni! 

Were you playing five-card or seven-card poker?   It’s (1/649740) for five-card and (1/30940) for seven-card poker. The seven-card is (21) times more likely, but still amazing. In my logbook where I’ve recorded over 29,000 poker games, I’ve never had a natural royal flush. I’ve had a natural king-high straight flush twice, and one queen high straight flush. It’s worth noting that in seven-card poker the royal flush is slightly more likely to occur than the other straight flush hands. In five-card poker, the probability is the same for any given high-card.

 

 So, unlikely is not synonymous with impossible.  

 

You’re right, it’s not.

What infinitesimal number is small enough to be synonymous with zero?

How small does a probability have to be before it becomes synonymous with impossible?

 

How about this one?

What’s the probability that a single shuffle of a randomized standard deck of 52 cards returns to its factory-sealed box order of A-K spades, A-K hearts, A-K clubs, and A-K diamonds?

 

Shuffling the cards once per second, how long would it take before the expectation of (1) success reaches a probability of (63.21%)?  At this point in time, how many statistical successes will our coin-flipping-roulette player have?

 

I'll  answer the last question.

 

\(\large \log_{576460752303423488}(52!) \approx  3.82 \) statistical successes

 

So if our coin-flipping-roulette player takes forever to have one success, then our shuffler will take (3.82) forevers.  

 

-------

you neglected to say which choice you think would be better, perhaps that wasn't an oversight. 

 

You are right, it wasn’t an oversight: My offer “...to bet a Rouble that that some Russian fucked with the Roulette wheel,” implies answer (b).

 

I’m still willing to make the wager. A Russian Rouble is 0.014USD; that’s about 8 elbow macaroni noodles.  You know, my point in making the wager was to encourage you to use your noodle –to think outside of the box (of macaroni).  LOL

 

 

 

GA

22 déc. 2020