Archive for the ‘expats’ Category

After last year’s victorious six pack of Cooper’s on the sofa, this year Bruce decided to watch Man Utd’s Champions League Final match against Barcelona with a crowd. The Charles Dickens Tavern, in Collins Street, seemed to have the best reputation for liveliness when it came to early morning football and, rocking up at 2.30am to find it rammed and rowdy – and not too dissimilar to an unpleasant episode in Blackpool watching English football fans’ latent yobbishness explode in the build up to a match against Germany – its reputation was deserved; by 3.15am they’d stopped anyone else entering while 1001 Man Utd Goals played on the screens surrounding the pub as the singing got louder.

A vivid dream the night before had Man Utd winning 2-0. That full back Patrice Evra scored the first with a mazy run past three players from inside his own half should have been warning enough that the dream was unlikely to be matched by reality. When the ball turned into a giant choc chip cookie as Ronaldo rolled in the second (the cookie being too big for the goal and requiring Ronaldo to jump on it to break it and ensure all parts of it were over the line) the alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear. Still, the bookies in England were offering 250-1 on Evra to score first and 2-0 so why not have a dabble?

Another omen appeared shortly before kick off; Irish actor James Nesbitt walked in. In town to shoot a film, he soon confirmed the opinion Bruce had formed from his TV persona – i.e. that he’s arrogant and charmless – by announcing he was on the phone to Sir Alex Ferguson the night before and would have been in Rome were it not for his shooting schedule. However, Bruce passed the moment off as a mere coincidence rather than a harbinger, like the time he and Fran met Nick Cave wandering around the Him exhibition.

Several hours on and inspiration drained by the heavy defeat and the after effects of several nasty pints of Tetley’s (the other choice was Carlton Draught so what’s a man to do?), G’day, G’day will have its first guest contributor: Bruce’s younger brother, in the form of the texts detailing his descent into despond…

“That’s what I wanted to hear. 2 nil you reckon. I like your ball s.” 2.32am

“Excellent work! I am putting a bet on that then. Not sure if cookie bet will be available!” 2.43am

“That sounds amazing! Nearly home will let you know odd s!” 3.34am

“That’s too good! I have been watching a lot of united clips of late! I forgot to say how good park s birthday was. Random yet brilliant.” 3.40am

“I am trying to recreate our old pro evo team on fifa at the moment*” 3.45am

“What does grouse mean.” 3.45am

“Right bet s on. 250 to 1 for evra first and 2 0.” 4.16am

“Thanks. Smack him for me i hate that c***.” 4.40am

“I like that even though he s a c***.” 4.45am

“Anderson and giggs off tevez and dimi on. Why the fuck is he playing giggs wayne and ronaldn out of position.” 5.39am

“Fuming. Wayne should be up front ronaldo can fuck off buy ribery. Carrick been poor fergie got team wrong. I am miserable.” 6.36am

“Iniesta is the man. I will happilz see the back of ronaldo. Get ribery. Fucking wank.”  6.47am

[* The team in question being:

GK – Michael Jackson (for his famous white glove)

RB – Lemmiwinks (for his startling similarity to Gary Neville)

CB – The Beast of Bodmin Moor (toughness)

CB – Gandalf (height)

LB – A Peter Kay / John O’Shea hybrid (one a fat doppelganger of the other)

RW – Timmy (?)

CM – The Radical MC HP (versatility)

CM – Bruce

LW – Jimmy (?)

CF – Rooney (then at Everton, but we loved him already)

CF – Bruce’s bro

Nothing like a misspent youth… except a misspent mid-20s.]

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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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The world's largest paddlesteamer flotilla cruises on by

The world's largest paddlesteamer flotilla cruises on by

The British nature has a lot to answer for. As part of Mr and Mrs Bruce snr’s three-week whistlestop tour of Oz, they’d been booked onto a dinner cruise aboard the P.S. Emmylou, one of Echuca’s vintage paddlesteamers. Despite a price tag of $95 a head for three courses, Bruce and Fran headed there with expectations low.

Perhaps it’s the result of childhoods spent at lacklustre seaside resorts such as Margate (in Bruce’s case) and its former Bembom Brothers amusement park or Southend (in Fran’s) where, prior to the smoking ban, non-smokers could experience the effects of a 20-year, two packs-a-day habit merely by sitting down to play bingo for half an hour surrounded by monolithic grandmother-mother-and-baby teams in which the baby’s dummy must surely have been covered in nicorette patches. Or perhaps, as many Aussie friends will observe, it’s just the innate doubt of an English test batsman coming to the crease.

Either way, if the choice had been soup or pate followed by fish and chips, burger or vegie pasta for main and ice cream for dessert neither would have been surprised. Perhaps they’d all have to wear sailors’ hats (Fran was quite excited about this) and sing awful seas shanties too.

In the end there was pate – but that’s where the similarities ended. The deck of the Emmylou was set out as well as an old wooden paddlesteamer can be to represent a fine dining establishment – the only criticism being a slight squash to accommodate the Easter Sunday crowd – with a good selection of food and decent wine list. A bottle of bubbly was quaffed as the menu was perused – Japanese okanomi yoki pancakes, brochette of scallops with proscuitto, fennel and rocket, muscovy duck, ocean trout and a platter of ridiculously rich desserts to name just a few.

“Aaarrrrggghhhh! I think I might be having the best time of my life,” screeched an overexcited Fran on more than one occasion as the Emmylou floated past riverside bbqs and cabins lining the north shore of the Murray.

The Bruce family's Easter Sunday dinner drew quite a crowd

The Bruce family's Easter Sunday dinner drew quite a crowd

Then it was time for the main event. At the time of booking, Bruce had been unaware that Easter Sunday was one of two occasions in the year when Echuca’s entire fleet of commercial and privately-owned paddlesteamers gathered for a sail past of the town’s heritage port. So, dessert polished off and red wine still flowing the boat turned around and led a procession past thousands gathered on the quay. Many of the boats lit flares, others sounded their horns (rather confusingly they sound just like those on trains and the footy siren at the MCG), thousands of camera flashes flickered.

Once past the quay, a firework display lit up the sky and Bruce wondered if the folks of Echuca could do anything more to make his parents’ visit memorable.

The following day was accompanied by a chorus of kookaburras on a scale reminiscent of Hollywood’s greatest musical excesses of the 1920s and 30s and a trip even further back in time along Echuca’s historic walk: ducking into the escape tunnel underneath the Star Inn for an impromptu knees-up; posing for an utterly ridiculous Victorian family photo; marvelling at the various nutcases making a living with magic tricks and performing cockatoos – and the woman charging $9 for 100 grams of fudge.

“We should come back here every other weekend,” exclaimed Fran, still giddy from the previous night.

She’ll get her wish, although not quite that often, as at just 2 1/2 hours drive from Melbourne, it would be rude not to return. Proclaiming ownership of “The world’s largest flotilla of paddlesteamers” may be akin to having the world’s largest collection of foil tops from orange Calippo ice lollies made between 1994 and 1997 but Echuca remains a charming corner of Victoria. And it’s not Swan Hill.

"Oooh!" "Wow!"

"Oooh!" "Wow!"

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Daniel Kitson turned up unexpectedly last night. And thank the Lord he did.

It was a night of music and comedy at the Hi-Fi Bar and had certain things in its favour: Bruce and Fran like music and comedy; Tim Rogers and Greg Fleet were on the bill; it was for charity – the Mirabel Foundation, which supports the abandoned kids of drug addict parents (or gives drugs to children whose parents are dickheads, according to Kitson to incredulous gasps of shock and horror from some woman standing nearby who needs to look up “comedy” before leaving her padded cell again); and Bruce and Fran got in for free.*

Against it were: the Hi-Fi is a tough venue for comics; Bruce and Fran are on a health kick so no boozing in the week; some comedians really should come with a warning, something like: “You are about to enter a lowest common denomintor zone, please leave all expectations at the door or, if your sanity and humour is something you value dearly, please just leave.”

No need to name names but, for the majority of the early show, the standard ranged from near middling to shooting is too good for them.

But then Kitson arrived, full of verbose abuse, masterful de- and reconstruction and intellectual flights of fancy, and laughter came with him. As does the point of this post…

1. Yes, it's twee. 2. Yes, Bruce was there with another man. 3. Yes, that is a copy of the Herald Sun. 4. But you're quite right, it was in Camperdown so choices were limited

1. Yes, it's twee. 2. Yes, Bruce was there with another man. 3. Yes, that is a copy of the Herald Sun. 4. But you're quite right, it was in Camperdown so choices were limited

Kitson has just started drinking coffee for the first time in his life. Likewise, Fran never used to drink the harbinger of twitches, sweats and seizures. Then she moved to Melbourne.

“Everyone goes for coffees all the time,” she complained not long after starting work at a city school. “But I can’t drink coffee.”

She could, but it would be followed by a period of manic hysteria: eyes wide open like a crack fiend closing in on the last few cents needed for her next rock; words flowing from her mouth like endless rain into a coffee cup; hands trembling; heart visibly pounding against its cage like John Hurt’s pet alien. Amusing for Bruce; less so for Fran.

Still, it didn’t take long for Melbourne to work its evil charms. Soon she was a card-carrying member of the skinny latte brigade and was differentiating between good and bad coffee. For the most part it was a strict limit of one a day, although there were exceptions.

Then she returned to the UK for two weeks in summer. And, while seeing friends and family was a joy, it wasn’t all that way. The recession has hit hard back home; it was a particularly grim winter (even by British standards); Bruce was watching Nick Cave and Spiritualized in her absence.

Worst of all, however, was the realisation she had become a coffee snob.

“I just couldn’t find a decent coffee anywhere,” she moaned on her return to Melbourne – quite a feat considering she spent most of the trip in and around London. “It was disgusting. I couldn’t drink it at all.”

What’s more, the snobbery extended to breakfast.

“They just don’t seem to do breakfast over there,” she said. “Well, unless you want a fry up swimming knee deep in grease.”

‘Mmmm… fry up knee deep in grease,’ thought Bruce.

What with the four-burner bbq, dented 3-litre Magna (complete with Bogan Bingo bumper sticker), Collingwood guernsey (and use of the word guernsey) and Bruce’s rapidly expanding beer gut, it would seem Australia’s getting the better of the intrepid duo.

Less than a year it took, Melbourne, you sly bastard.

*  *  *

* Don’t worry, we stuffed a note in the donations tin on the way out. Jeez, what do you think we are? Heartless?

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When The Lovely Guy TM is in town you have to mind your manners.

“When is it polite to start asking for requests?” yelled Bruce as the stirring finale to Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver faded away.

“I like the cut of your jib,” replied The Lovely Guy TM.

Switching Off,” came a shout from a few yards behind Bruce and Fran.

“Aye, that’s the one,” replied Bruce.

“Now this song is about the theory that when you’re on your death bed you get to choose the memory you take with you…” began The Lovely Guy TM by way of explanation.

‘Marvellous,’ thought Bruce.

At the Pies – Crows game at the MCG on Saturday, Bruce, Fran, Mr and Mrs Bruce Snr and various assorted loons were sat a few rows back from a young man who spent the game tearing a plastic bag into very thin strips while rocking back and forth violently in his seat. He was clearly enjoying himself and full credit to his pops for bringing him along to the game. Bruce became that man (minus the plastic bag) as Switching Off played out; amazing the power of music.

As for the rest of the show, well:

  1. It pays to know there are two stages at the Corner. Bruce and Fran were quietly delighted that, despite staying upstairs drinking until just prior to the support act finishing, there was plenty of room at the front of the stage. They were also delighted that they were going to watch one of their favourite bands squeeze onto such a tiny stage (three of them are rather portly). Then they realised there was another bigger stage and people were already packed in around it. (Fran used her midget skills to get them to the front however – huzzah!)
  2. Elbow are stupendously good in a live setting; credit in particular to Mark Potter and his collection of guitars for his mood setting, like a one man feng shui workout. Highlights (other than the obvious): a mighty Grounds For Divorce, a neck hair-raising Tower Crane Driver, a pounding Leaders Of The Free World, a tear-jerking nod to the lads in Weather To Fly (or Weather With You as a drunk Bruce insisted on calling it with their manager post show – bloody Finns) and a welcome (and unexpected) Station Approach (Fran cried in anticipation of “I haven’t seen my mum for weeks” – yes, in anticipation of it…). Oh, and the first ever Elbow anthem One Day Like This, obviously. No place for Fugitive Motel or Grace Under Pressure, mind you.
  3. Aussie crowds are a particularly reticent bunch. Despite an acknowledgement that Melbourne is the band’s favourite Aussie city (“You’re just like: ‘Of course’, aren’t you,” said The Lovely Guy TM) there was barely a shuffle on the floor other than the odd exception. They got down to !!! last year and give it some welly at festivals, but elsewhere – come on, chaps, show some love.
  4. Steve Coogan is, as has been said and written many times before, a nobsack, demanding a personal audience with the band after the show.

Next up, Alabama 3. Oh baby!

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The Republic will surely come – and not before time. It took less than a year in Oz for Bruce to wonder just what it was that was keeping Australia from ditching the old links and finally standing up for itself as a proud new nation rather than an outpost given it shares so little in common with the Motherland, other than language (just) and driving on the same side of the road.

It’s clear that when that moment comes, the old Queen won’t be putting up much of her fight – and nor will her husband – at least if this photo from today’s Guardian is anything to go by.

Attack of the 50ft woman (and her beaming assistant)

Attack of the 50ft woman (and her beaming assistant)

[Photograph: John Stillwell/WPA Pool/Getty Images]

Either every photo of the Obamas taken in the past two years has been doctored to make them look of near average height, and thereby give American voters one less reason to distrust them, or our first Royal couple have been shrinking at an alarming rate since Bruce and Fran headed for the Southern Cross…

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Much as Australia is treating Bruce and Fran well, it’s not as if they fled the UK for any particular reason other than the desire for a change of scenery and spot of adventure.

So, even when Mr Fran Snr assures them that they should never return – “The country’s not the same anymore. There’s going to be violence ahead” etc – it’s taken with the same shrug of the shoulders with which they treat anyone from either country who seeks to either exaggerate or denigrate the virtues of either. (Those of you who spotted the Daily Mail reader in that sentence can award themselves a gold star at this juncture)

But, having just caught SBS World News, the old codger (75 today, cor blimey Guv’nor) could have a point.

Jade Goody, the perfect tabloid celebrity, has died aged just 27 from cervical cancer. No desire here to get involved in the debate over her life – victim or user, heroine or heinous – as she was only ever a judicious switch of the television set / click of the mouse / avoidance of supermarket magazine shelves away from never existing.

However, can someone please explain how this sentence ever came to be uttered from the mouths of a sentient being…

“Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the tributes.”

In the words of the great Spottswoode – Jesus Titty Fucking Christ.

It’s well documented that something in Great Britain broke irrevocably when Diana died (well, several things: its grip on reality; sense of perspective; claim to the word “Great”; and so on) but, really… At least the late Ms Goody had the excuse of being a moron (in the literal rather than accusatory sense). What excuse does Brown have? Other than trailing in the polls.

Anyway, back to Pauline Hanson’s mysterious navel.

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