Tips for Birthday


Birthdays are never the same to me since the tip in front of our place has been reclaimed and turned into a park. A bed of calliopsis now blooms where I found my birthday pres­ent for Grandfather in 1936, and where Joan, my eight-year-old niece, discovered the E.P.N.S. (electroplated nickel silver) toast rack that she placed before me at the table on my birthday last year, a sign now reads "Keep off the Grass".
Ah, that most interesting week before the birthday of a friend when I tramped the tip in search of a present. No dipping into my pockets, only dipping among carrot tops and turning over retired bath heaters. I never realized the possibilities of the tip as a source of cheap birthday gifts until one day, when we were celebrating my arrival on this earth, my nephew presented me with a solid silver cigarette case with the initials R.A.L. engraved on the front. I was impressed. He handed it to me open. I tried to close it but that was impossible. A horse had stood on the back and the catch had gone. However, in our family, we never look a gift horse in the mouth. I put it, opened, in my pocket and set off for the tip im­mediately. Fortunately our tip was only patronized by the best people. The dustman informed me that the cans he cleared were owned by some of the most influential families in Melbourne. Therefore, our gifts were all of a very high grade.
On my last birthday, Grandfather gave me the body of a motor car. He left it down at the tip and told me I could get it whenever I wanted it. I never seemed to want it much. Now it is buried under loads of soil and men have planted a small tree there. (Acacia harpophylla—S. Q.) In return, on his seventy-fifth birthday, I gave Grandfather a cracked phonograph record featuring his favourite song, "Come into the Garden, Maud". When the singer reached the name, "Maud", he kept repeating it, "Maud, Maud, Maud, Maud," until the machine ran down or until you bucked the needle over the crack with your finger. This was difficult because you could never get it on the right line again and the "soloist would often sing: "Come into the garden, Maud, Maud, Maud — — To faint in his light and to die, die die." It was not a very good birthday present, although it was most interesting and educational in that it showed you what happens when cracks get in records.
I remember one year Joan and I were getting desperate. We were each faced with the problem of finding a present for a friend in the one month. For weeks past the refuse had been of a very poor quality and produced only a few prongless forks and knives without blades. Joan found the lower jaw bone of a sheep. It was dry and clean. Now the lower jaw hone of a sheep is a most interesting thing to look at, but it is absolutely useless as far as a pres­ent is concerned. None of my friends is interested in such things.
Joan and I differ from our friends in that we can look at the lower jaw bone of a sheep for quite ten minutes and enjoy it, so when Joan asked, "Is this any good?" I replied, "The lower jaw bone of a sheep is a good thing, but only to you and me." Anyway, we brought it home, but they wouldn't let us bring it inside. Joan once gave me a book marked "With love from Gladys" in the inside of a plain cover. I don't know the name of this book, because all the front pages were torn out. The first page in this copy started at the top with the words: "... gasped tragically." To this day I can never find put who gasped or why. I used to lie in bed and wonder what he or she was gasping about, but a friend told me that's the way to insomnia, so now I never think about it except on my birthday, and anyway, one never sleeps on birth­days for various reasons, mainly reasons of eating, so it really doesn't matter.
To-morrow is Grandfather's birthday. Excuse me, I must go and buy him a present.

body - the main part, the frame
bucked - moved or caused to move in a quick, jerky manner
calliopsis (called also coreopsis) - a yellow or crimson flower (of the aster family)
cans - metal containers for dust and rubbish
catch - a fastener
engraved - carved, cut, or etched a design or letters into metal, etc.
featuring - here: performing
grade - here: quality
insomnia - inability to sleep
loads of (colloq.) - plenty or lots of
Maud [mo:d]; "Come into the garden, Maud" - the first line of a poem by A. Tennyson, set to music
Melbourne ['melben] - a city in Australia
prongless - without pointed parts of a fork
ran down - stopped
reclaimed - brought back (land etc.) from a waste to a state of cultivation
refuse - that which is left over and not wanted
retired - here: thrown out
tip - a place where rubbish, refuse, etc. may be put
toast rack - a rack for holding at table slices of toast - slices of bread browned at each side at the fire
tramped - walked about