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timrogers

Frankly, Bruce felt rather ashamed, fearing he’d brought his friend’s name into disrepute.

After all, Tom had given him a free ticket for a You Am I gig, driven him to Ballarat for the gig and been invited for an after-hours drink at the bar with the landlord and staff as he tried to persuade them to take his brand of beer on tap. Then Bruce passed out. On the bar. And couldn’t be woken.

*  *  *

It was supposed to be a quiet Friday night in, too. Bruce and Fran’s first in weeks. Then Fran had been invited to Mount Dandenong with her colleagues leaving Bruce with no option but to make his first visit to Ballarat. The original plan had been to check out the show, schmooze the beer hawker who’d offered up the tickets in the first place, then drive back.

Figuring drinking time would be tight, Bruce opted to neck pints of Sparkling. Then events took over…

Firstly, You Am I were superb. Tim Rogers and co were pretty big once, apparently (although Bruce had never heard any of their music before). Yet here, in front of 250 stationary people (Bruce tried to get them going once the Sparkling kicked in, but with little success) he was playing as if his life depended on it. The large amount of cocaine he was shoving up his nose throughout may have contributed to his manic performance; watching his face when he wasn’t required to sing (although given his entire vocal range appeared to be completely shot singing is a little kind) revealed a catalogue of uncontrollable sneers, grimaces, gurns and snarls. That he looked like the lovechild of Keith Richards, Noel Fielding and Larry Love with a hint of Rod Stewart and was wearing a top and tie combo that Colonel Sanders would have been proud to sport merely added to the merriment. That the crowd created unintentional moments of South Park humour by yelling: “TIMMY!” throughout didn’t hurt either.

Secondly, despite the loos smelling like a cow shed (it was the country after all) the Karova Lounge was reminiscent of Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms, Bruce and Fran’s most regular gig-going haunt in the UK, so brought on feelings of fuzzy nostalgia.

Thirdly, Tom was offered a hotel room so there was no need to return to Melbourne, which meant drinking would no longer have to stop at midnight.

Fourthly, Bruce got talking to Australia’s biggest Underworld fan TM, a 23-year-old who was so excited to meet someone who knew as much about the band and had seen them even more times than him that he was forced to start buying Jamesons for his new friends (and plan a road trip to watch Underworld in Brisbane…)

Fifthly, Bruce is a lightweight and forgot to eat dinner and Coopers Sparkling really is 5.8%.

So, having sent Fran a warning text (thank God it’s hard to slur texts) at 2am, he promptly slumped onto the bar. A combination of Tom and landlord shifted him to a sofa and there he stayed until moved back to the car to continue his sleep (the hotel room offer fell through).

The first Bruce knew of any of this was when his phone rang at 2pm the following day. It was Fran.

“We’ve got to be at a bbq in a few hours,” she said. “Are you coming home?”

He looked around. He was in Tom’s spare bed in Melbourne. How had that happened?

“Errr…” he said, realising he was still drunk. “I’ll be over shortly,” before remembering he’d cycled to Tom’s the night before. Another foolish mistake.

*  *  *

Relaying the story 24 hours later on the way to cricket nets, his mind was put at rest.

“So you passed out on a bar in Ballarat?” asked his Aussie passenger.

“Yes,” replied Bruce, his head hanging low.

“And woke up 12 hours later in someone’s spare bed in Melbourne?”

“Uh-uh,” said Bruce, wishing he’d never brought it up.

“And you’ve no idea what happened in between?”

“That’s right.”

“Mate. That’s awesome!”

“Really?” said Bruce, his shame being replaced by pride. ‘This is my kind of country,’ he thought.

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Just like home

Just like home

Neither Bruce nor Fran could pinpoint exactly what it was that made them think of England.

Was it the long queues of noisy blokes in shirts and girls in little black dresses outside the pubs?

Was it the array of half-eaten kebabs littering the street?

Was it the facelessness of the majority of people encountered around Swan Street, in stark contrast to the characters populating other inner suburbs?

Or was it the man vomiting heartily over a railing and into the gutter?

Perhaps it was a combination of the four. Either way, for the first time in months, they both felt like they were back in England on a Saturday night. Worse still, it felt like a night out in Clapham, home to the tiresome boors churned out by the UK’s public school system as they spend their first few years post-university chucking up in the street outside bland, uber-chain bars and restaurants, spending the money they’ve earnt at their respective bank / consultancy firm / marketing department on nights out with friends called Squelch and Tiddles while they wait to accrue enough cash to move to a small mansion in the Home Counties and squirt out children called Squiddles and Bump all the while ensuring class hatred bubbles along nicely.

Thankfully, there was a constant reminder that they were indeed in Australia in the form of Billy, the hyper-active “boy from the country” who bounced around the bar, multiple vodka and oranges in hand, chatting to every single person and, memorably, turning to Bruce towards the end of the night to announce, with an expression of unalloyed pride:

“I put the ‘b’ into bogan.”

Equally thankfully, their host’s choice of venue for his 31st birthday drinks – the Corner Hotel – was fine, at least the huge upstairs mezzanine area where Bruce and Fran spent the evening, safely kotcheled away from the marauding street level hordes.

Mountain Goat‘s splendid Hightail was on offer, standing out amid the range of tasteless fizzy Fosters’ brews like an oasis for the discerning drinker. And, continuing the evening’s sense of being mentally transported somewhere other than Melbourne, the trains passing the windows at eye level were reminiscent of the view from a first floor apartment in Downtown Chicago and the mezzanine, with its red lantern-like lampshades and long metal tables had a feel of the late night hawkers’ food markets of South Eastern Asia.

Just a shame that reality – wobbly high heels and torrents of vomit-flecked piss included – awaited outside.

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Raise dem taxes Meester Rudd and I\'ll \'ave yer

Bruce’s head is buried in My Family and Other Animals, a couple of passengers are day-dreaming with their eyes gazing vaguely in the direction of Newport Mill, a pair of Chinese students fiddle with their mobile phones. Suddenly, all switch their attention to the walking commotion that has just stumbled onto the train to Williamstown.

A can of Woodstock in one hand, a half-smoked rollie hanging from his lips and his worldly belongings threatening to spill from the plastic bag in his other hand, he clatters his way down the aisle, colliding with every chair. Muttering expletives under his breath, he reaches the end of the carriage, drops into a seat and places his bag on the floor.

The train pulls into North Williamstown – his destination – moments later. As it stops, his bag falls over.

“Ah, fuck off, you fuck!” he shouts, leaving the bag in no doubt as to his feelings. “You fucking shit.”

Fumbling on the floor in a panic, worried that the train will pull off before he disembarks, he shovels his life’s detritus back into the bag. “Ah, fucking thing.”

Eventually, all the belongings are gathered and he leaps through the door in the nick of time, leaving a carriage full of stunned faces behind him. Just before the doors slam shut, he turns back to Bruce and co, cracks a broken smile and shouts:

“Have a nice day!”

Aussie drunks. Gotta love em.

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