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Archive for the ‘aussies’ Category

During their first Melbourne Comedy Festival, Bruce and Fran, as part of their crash course in experiencing all things Aussie, were considering going to see Chris Franklin’s show. He’s the mulleted, VB-swilling uber-Bogan who’s been responsible for such musical delights as his ‘Bitch’ parody ‘Bloke’ and ‘Jack Off Australia’. It never happened and, following a trip to Adelaide at the weekend, now they needn’t bother.

In town for a mate’s 30th birthday festivities, the opening night rapidly descended from free drinks and nibbles accompanied by the odd speech into wild, debauched karaoke at La Sing. In the cab on the way there, Bruce thought he’d heard “La Scene” or “La Singh” and pictured somewhere with either a) a modicum of faux 70s chic or b) somewhere they’d be able to tuck into some late night curry if the singing became too unbearable. Instead, it was the sort of place you leave without hesitation: dirty, bordering on sleazy; splashes of fading neon; odd men in booths; smashed harpies overcome with a misplaced self-confidence. Oh, and two men were being thrown out by security as they walked in, an incident that led to the police arriving ten minutes later.

Still, it took approximately ten minutes and the first enthusiastic efforts of fellow party-goers for Bruce and Fran to realise they had La Sing wrong. In reality, it was a fantastic nightspot, easily the sort of place you could spend three hours, fight over pens for the chance to get up on stage and dance wholeheartedly to your friends’ efforts. That, or the free booze kicked in just in time.

Still, the woozy 5am finish was nothing compared to the sights that welcomed them to the following day’s birthday part II bbq. Walking into the kitchen to unload a slab of Coopers, Bruce and Fran were welcomed by the sight of Chris Franklin stumbling in the other direction. In his hand, a tumbler of Wild Turkey swung violently, sloshing over the rim and onto the cupboard walls.

“Who the fuck are you?” he asked. “I’m Chris. Is that your missus? She’s hot. If you wasn’t here I’d have a fair fucking crack a it.”

And they say chivalry is dead.

It transpired he’d flown down from Queensland for the previous evening, got too drunk and not made it, instead arriving at the bbq house many hours early, waking those who’d not been in bed long, and getting back onto the Wild Turkey. What followed was several hours of trying to get everyone to punch him, cooking a bbq with his cock out, falling off his chair repeatedly, wandering around with some form of pickaxe, getting his cock out, sticking his head in an oven, drinking more Wild Turkey with his cock out, singing a new song he’d written, then finally passing out with the axe in the host’s bed, although not before declaring:

“What’s wrong? It’s only a fucking cock.”

He returned soon afterwards, hit the whisky some more and started over. It was clear the stage persona was not a hard act for him to portray.

Several hours later, Bruce decided it was time to walk home and rejoin Fran at the motel. Franklin escorted him out.

“Come on. Hit me. Go on. As hard as you can,” he said.

“Only if you’ll fight back,” said Bruce.

“I’m not going to do that. I’ve been in prison, you know.”

“Well, I’m not going to smack you unless you fight back. May as well test myself.”

Suddenly, he turned serious, explaining that it really wasn’t a good idea. Awakening the following day and recalling that Franklin had slept with an axe and that Bruce’s martial experience was confined to various sporting fields (none of them involving any legal fighting) he was glad that he did. And that he and Fran no longer needed to fork out $20 a head to see his show; after all, what was left for him to reveal? Certainly not his cock.

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It’s well documented that Fairfax, owner of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald among other things, has been struggling for some time. There’s even talk that those two papers might disappear with only their mastheads retained into the future. However, after Saturday night’s experience, Bruce and Fran believe there may yet be a solution: they just need to put the right man in charge.

For the time being, the right man appears to be wasting his time driving taxis around the CBD. Said man, complete with greasy mullet and forthright opinions (which should help the paper in its ongoing efforts to become more like the Hun), in the space of a ten minute journey displayed a knack for not only having his finger on the pulse but for finding snappy headlines. After a debate over the likelihood of Bruce and Fran’s Pies overcoming his Saints (the less said about this the better…) talk moved to CBD violence.

“It’s a load of rubbish,” he said when Fran rehashed the State Government / Police / media line on increasing troubles. “It’s no worse than it ever was.”

“Really?” said Fran. “So why is there so much being reported about it?”

“It’s a distraction. They want people to worry about something that isn’t there so they don’t pay attention to what’s really going on, like the way they’re treating taxi drivers in this city.”

He paused for effect.

“The headlines should be about the cuntsacks they’re doing to taxi drivers,” he explained.

With a tip and a wave, they sent him into the night and headed for yum cha enlightened. Give that man a job. What a way to start the week that would be:

“REVEALED: THE CUNTSACKS BEING DONE TO TAXI DRIVERS”

I’d buy it.

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The Sunday afternoon visit to the laundrette had already thrown up an amusing little piece of Collingwood. The first of the tumble dryers to finish its cycle contained nothing but pairs of Levi 504’s in shades varying from very black through black to very dark blue and dark blue. All the same size, all clearly belonging to someone who was 1) dedicated to their look and/or 2) afraid of making choices of a morning.

As Bruce was folding them carefully on the table (after resisting the urge to fold them incorrectly so they’d all have creases down the front – not so cool now, hey, Levi boy!) the acrid smell that had welcomed them into the shop appeared to get stronger.

“It stinks in here,” said Bruce.

“Oh my God,” said Fran. “Those clothes are on fire!”

True enough, smoke was rising from a pile of dishcloths, overalls and aprons at the end of the table. Bruce pulled them apart: an intense heat was burning inside. It appeared someone was trying to start a fire.

“Jesus. I’d best go and get some water,” said Bruce, racing next door to Cavallero, bumping past the returning owner of the Levi’s as he went.

Three buckets later – and with a month of airing his clothes to get rid of the smell to look forward to – the smoke had subsided, half the laundrette was filled with puddles and a load of destroyed fabric lay scattered on the floor.

“Ah, I told them never again,” said the Chinese lady in charge of the laundrette who had just appeared from the rear door.

“Who do they belong to?” asked Bruce.

“James’ place. You know, the Greek one on Johnston Street. They did this before,” she added, resigned to a ruined Sunday afternoon.

Bruce and Fran returned the buckets to Cavallero where they were offered coffees for their troubles, although not before the Levi’s man had stolen their place in the laundrette queue. Opportunistic bastard. Another Smith Street dweller had also come in by this stage, seemingly unpeturbed by the stench from the smoldering pile, and continued with her washing.

It left Bruce and Fran pondering two things:

  1. Are Collingwoodians so laid back they’d have left the laundrette to burn to the ground?
  2. How spicy must the hot dishes be at Jim’s Greek Tavern?

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Fran has just had to cancel a long-planned trip to Hong Kong at the end of this month to visit her sister and baby nephew because Victoria is to swine flu what the Pope is to AIDS. Bruce has already had one moan about the Australian Government’s handling of the bug and the pissweak media scrutiny they’ve faced over it – here.

However, neither aspect seems to have improved. Given that Australia was among the later countries infiltrated by the pig sniffles, it boggles the mind to think it – not one of the developing nations – could be the reason the threat level is raised to pandemic.

This morning, on ABC, the issue was raised again with Victoria’s head of public health. Bruce expected the ABC’s questioning to be of a more thorough bent than that of the commercial television news but, alas, no. It went along the lines of:

Journo: “How seriously ill are the Victorians now in intensive care for swine flu?”

Head of Public Health: “I don’t know. All I know is that they are in intensive care.”

I DON’T KNOW! Shouldn’t you perhaps have asked, since you’re Head of Public Health. And shouldn’t you perhaps have been pressed on this?

Journo: “Why has the spread been so bad in Victoria?”

Head: “Well, because the symptoms can be so mild we think the first case may have come in from the States undetected and spread before we knew about it…..”

But weren’t you supposed to have tough regulations in place to spot any cases aided by the headstart of watching it spread to several other countries first? And shouldn’t you have been pressed on this? No, once again an official was allowed to get away with declaring ignorance of facts that they must surely have known.

A doctor friend in New Zealand who has an even younger child than Fran’s nephew sees no reason for Bruce to cancel his visit planned to coincide with Fran’s trip to Hong Kong.

“Swine flu is a lot of smoke, little fire,” he reasons.

So, these latest events highlight a few problems:

  1. The continuing incompetence of the Australian Government
  2. The continuing ineptitude of the Australian media
  3. The overreaction of the Hong Kong medical fraternity

Worst of all, however, it means Fran’s now coming to NZ with Bruce. A week’s freedom ruined…

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What with Victoria Park being closer to home and trains generally offering a quicker route into town (when they deign to turn up) Bruce has been somewhat neglecting the number 86 tram from Smith Street. For while trains might still offer moments of unexpected entertainment, there’s something about Melbourne’s trams that ensures a higher amusing overheard conversation / junkie / threat of violence / entertaining driver to trips taken ratio.

He was reminded of that today while passing along Bourke Street towards the Parliament building. Onto the seat across from him sidled a borderline clinically obese woman clutching a bag to her bosom. The grey hair pulled back tightly from her forehead was losing its battle to iron out the wrinkles and excess chins making a Blitzkrieg attack on either end of her face, but at least allowed Bruce to spot the sparkle of glee in her eyes.

Dammit! Series nine's rubbish!

Dammit! Series nine's rubbish!

The bag appeared to hold the key to her excitement and, sure enough, soon her mitts were inside. Her body tipped forward, the faded workplace identity card swinging from her neck nudging against the bag, so she could sneak a glance at her prize as it was retrieved. A smile spread across her face as she leant back; there it was: the complete series nine of Murder, She Wrote.

After carefully removing a strip of sticky tape (and folding it perfectly in half) her chubby fingers began clawing at the plastic wrap. As they did, her face became a study in concentration: jaw working overtime like a champion gurner OD’ing on MDMA crystal, tongue lapping at her lips like a dog anticipating Sunday dinner leftovers.

Sadly, the plastic proved a troublesome foe, although her cause was hampered by an apparent desire to remove it tidily (the late Angela Lansbury deserves to be treated with reverence, after all) and the DVD remained cocooned when the time came for her to alight. Still, it did mean she could go through the entire process again later in the day.

Other than reminding him of the joys to be had from riding the tram, it did leave Bruce pondering two questions:

  1. Isn’t Murder, She Wrote on all free-to-air channels in the Western world every day at 2.05pm anyway? Or is Columbo back in that slot these days?
  2. Had the poor wretch forgotten that the show entered a three-year slump after episode eight of series seven – ‘The Great Twain Robbery’ – only to recover midway through series ten (‘Love and Hate in Cabot Cove’)?

Oh dear. Would hate to be around when she realises her error.

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It’s been too easy to ask the question: “How many people currently have normal flu at the moment?” although the well-intentioned glibness of such a comment is tempered by an almost complete lack of knowledge of the N1H1 virus, so… shut up, Bruce.

Anyway, reports this morning that the number of swine flu cases in Australia is rising rapidly – more than 150 now when there was none not too long ago – brought to mind the first TV interview Bruce witnessed with a senior Government official a few weeks back when the virus had reached around 15 countries but not Australia. The identity of the interviewee has been forgotten but the gist of the interview has not. Essentially, it went:

Nicely made up, big-haired Channel 7 / 9 /10 interviewer*: “What are you doing to prevent swine flu entering Australia?”

Government official: “We have procedures in place to deal with this that have been worked on over the past few months.”

It went on for about five minutes but, essentially, that was it. Never once was he asked what those procedures were, who had drawn them up, what steps people could take as preventatives, whether certain sections of the population should be especially aware, when such “procedures” might be put into place and so on. No, there was a five minute merry-go-round that, like all merry-go-rounds, ultimately went nowhere and left the passenger begging for more.

Now, it’s probably harsh to criticise someone employed to smile nicely and have big hair for not acting like a journalist (at least the muppets doing the advertorials are given a script – this poor thing was up against a man with years of experience at deflecting awkward questions, who here deflected them before they even had the chance to get near her mindspace) but it left the distinct impression that really the Government wasn’t prepared, was hoping swine flu wouldn’t make it to Australia and would try and wing it if it did arrive.

Allowing people who admitted to feeling ill off a cruise liner to then wait in airports for flights and re-enter the wider public suggests they weren’t prepared, their hopes have been dashed and they’re not very good at winging it.

[* Is there a difference?]

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So, in their first 15 months Down Under Bruce and Fran have done their best to assimilate into Aussie culture:

  • stung by jelly fish (Fran)
  • bitten by a white tail (Bruce – does anyone know when or if the hairs start growing back on the affected patch?)
  • lived in a weatherboard cottage (next door to famous Aussie musicians and across the road from an Aussie cult)
  • become Pies fans (and recently received a formal apology from a man who was instrumental in that decision)
  • embarked on a road trip to Broken Hill
  • played Keno
  • met Nick Cave
  • obsessed over footy tipping (and, in Bruce’s case, got angry at the TV when results went the wrong way)
  • bought a massive bbq and cooked mountains of snags
  • used words like snags
  • eaten vanilla slice in Ouyen
  • said: “It’s good – we need the rain”, something no Pom would ever imagine saying
  • begun referring to themselves as Poms

and so it goes. They’ve also tried to hurry along their citizenship, not least by catching a mugger and rescuing young drunks collapsed in the road and returning them home.

Fran St Kilda pier

Awaiting Paul's arrival?

Tonight’s a biggy, though: Paul Kelly in concert. At the Palais in St Kilda, too, which should add an extra whoop of delight from the crowd when St Kilda To King’s Cross starts up. (Hopefully the venue will prove more suitable for this gig than it did for the Arctic Monkeys).

Fran was the first to fall for his iconic Aussie charms. And boy did she fall. One afternoon she started crying while walking along Smith Street just thinking about How To Make Gravy. That’s right: thinking about it… When Bruce surprised her with tickets for the show it was like watching a five-year-old susceptible to sugar rushes being force fed half a kilo of Redskins washed down with a gallon of Coke and a couple of sherbert fountains then let loose on a bouncy castle. When she later got hold of Songs From The South vol. 2 and realised he penned Every Fucking City – the tune she rewrote into an Ancient Mariner-type odyssey with her road sisters while travelling the States in pre-Bruce days – it’s a miracle she didn’t shift a couple of tectonic plates.

Bruce, on the other hand, has been pretty 50/50 about the guy: Leaps and Bounds yes, Bradman (which reminds him of his attempt aged 10 to write a stat-heavy biography of Ian Botham) no. However, he just heard If I Could Start Again for the first time while listening to the hits collection on repeat shuffle and reading this fantastic Robert Forster article and found his emotions stirred and his anticipation for tonight growing.

Well, as some wise man whose name escapes me once wrote: “From little things, big things grow…”

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