Don’t Ask Me

February 10, 2015 by

The time has come, avid and benevolent reader, for me to open up the good old closet and let you have a bit of a goggle at the nasty skeleton residing therein. By which I mean I have decided to give you some insight into my troubled relationship with the art or sullen craft called dance.

I have shrunk from it, tried to disguise or avoid it but now circumstances demand that I lay the truth bare and may Satan himself take the consequences. So here I go.

Most of my primary schooling was done at a co-educational state school and the teachers there were left to impose dancing on us at pretty much their own discretion. Some were keen and we would get quite a lot. Others were not as keen and the matter did not arise often if at all.

Mrs MacMartin in year 4 was pretty keen and went so far as to arrange a “discotheque” for our class. She somehow secured a record player with a turntable that actually worked and we danced the night away to the 2 singles that had been bought for the occasion being “The Ball Bearing Bird” and “In the Summertime” (the Mixtures’ version, not the Mungo Jerry one).

Actually we may have had “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” as well though I am not sure. For the slow dancing.

In those simpler days we just wanted something we could dance to and if that meant some dreadful novelty song then so be it. It could have been worse. In other years it may have been “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back”, “Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West” or “Shuddup You Face”.

The reality is that after years of stuff like “Here We Go, ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”, we could be forced to dance to pretty much anything. And forced we were.

As I recall the Year 3/4 Discotheque was good fun though I suspect that may have been despite the dancing rather than because of it.

In year 6 Mr Quigley and Miss Roberts chose to instruct their combined classes in square dancing and the horrors that were thus inflicted on us remain fresh. Indeed, stop me if you have heard this one before but I can still remember the call that we learned:

 

“All join hands and – circle the ring

Stop where you are and give your girl a couple of swings

Now swing your corner maid,

She’s a standing right there behind you

Now back and swing your own

Like a chicken in a bread pan picking up dough.

Alley man left there with your left hand

Go sashay ‘round your own

Then back and promenade

Your corner-maid

From the inside of the ring

Singing “Oh Johnny Oh Johnny Oh!”

 

I’m not sure who was supposed to be enjoying this experience but none of we year 6’s were. Well, possibly Nigel Lamton was, but he marched to the beat of a slightly different drum.

And I mean “marched” in the very broadest sense.

I moved to an all boys school in year 7 and so the issue of dance fell quiet for a while but in year 10, after we got a firm and slightly mysterious talking to from the headmaster, a busload of girls from a nearby girls’ school arrived and the famous Mr Garry Case appeared to teach us what we needed to know.

Garry Case was a local legend and seems to have conducted the majority of high school dancing classes in my hometown. He and his partner the Lovely Gabriella (the name didn’t change although the woman herself was never the same person twice) would run through the Military Two Step, the Foxtrot and, oh I don’t know, probably the Rhumba or something.

The idea behind these lessons was presumably to get us ready for the various school dances that started in year 11.

Now these school dances were pretty odd but not so odd that anyone ever did the Military Two Step or the Foxtrot. They were a lot closer to our year 4 efforts at trying to find a dance beat in “The Ball Bearing Bird”.

For me, the most interesting thing about Garry Case’s dancing classes was that I had an important personal connection with Mr Case. You see he lived next door to my Grandma.

He cut an arresting figure in the otherwise unremarkable environs of Joslin. He was always immaculately coiffed and often wore a form fitting bodyshirt undone almost to the waistband of his matador style trousers.

He seemed awfully exotic in dance classes too but my awe was tempered by having seen him at home under the bonnet of his Valiant station wagon, swearing loudly as he administered what seemed to be random blows to the engine with whatever was to hand.

That’s how people worked on cars in those days.

Anyway, the fence between Grandma’s house and the Case residence was low and this encouraged friendly interchange. For me the best part was when his shed door was open. You could see right in and, while he seemed to have the stuff that ordinary people had in the shed like lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, jars of nails and rusty tools, he also had all sorts of electrical equipment and, to my amazement, hanging from the roof trusses was a range of mirrorballs.

I think there was a big one, a small one and two middle sized ones.

I should also mention that the various Gabriellas often seemed to be staying at Garry’s house too which is probably why he stored the mirror balls in the shed. He couldn’t have them in the spare room ‘cos Gabriella was in there. I imagine.

Perhaps this special “behind the scenes” perspective should have made me more enthusiastic about Gary’s dance classes, but it didn’t. Indeed I was one of the least enthusiastic participants of all.

My mother encouraged me saying that a man who can dance has a big advantage with girls. Frankly I doubt that the Progressive Jive has ever precipitated a significant romantic attachment but even at that young age I knew that mum was not likely to be a reliable source of information about picking up chicks.

So I just did the minimum in class and avoided Garry Case when visiting Grandma in much the same way that I avoided dance hungry girls on the odd occasion that I was forced to a school “social” (as they were laughably called).

Things improved a bit as I grew older and dance environments provided the strong drink necessary to make the whole fiasco bearable but I rarely managed any real enthusiasm.

So, that’s why you won’t find pumps in my shoe collection or a mat with footprints and dotted lines hidden under the bed.

You are no doubt asking yourself why is it so important that I make this troubling story public?

Well, to my surprise I recently came across some advertising material for Garry Case’s dance school.

The postal address is right there in Joslin.

I had assumed that he had long since hung up the soft shoes and shirts with floppy sleeves. But no.

What really took my attention about the advertising was that he claimed to have “over 20 years’ experience”. While that statement is strictly accurate, it borders on the misleading.

The events that I describe above took place so long ago that I suspect Garry Case must have more like 40 or even 50 years’ experience.

Could it be that he is trying to seem younger than he really is?

Love Bigolly

The Discontent of Our Winter

August 26, 2014 by

There has been a distinct chill about the Bigolly residence over the last few weeks, genial and observant reader, to the point that one morning the paving in the back yard was all covered in hail.

Even more exciting, a very shallow puddle had actually frozen over. A sheet (well, teatowel) of ice in the garden! This is a rarity in the Antipodes although for our friends from the Propodes (or is it just the Podes?) it is commonplace. But they don’t have redback spiders in the letterbox or sharks lurking off their stupid pebbly beaches, the soft ponces.

Ahem. I digress.

It may be that the ice etc. happens in the backyard more often than I realise, but that morning I hd taken the recently acquired small dog out to ease its bowels. The hail had woken me up and I have learnt that there is no winner when playing “chicken” with a canine digestive system, so I was getting about at 4.30 am or so, well before the hour that I generally spring gleefully from my reviving slumber keen to greet the day.

As I hobbled around the frozen ground in slip on shoes with my wonky knees and in the pitch dark, I found that I was sliding around a bit on the ice and gosh, it was quite good fun.

Then it occurred to me that there was a genuine risk of falling. Further, if that happened, there was a very good chance of me hitting my head on a slate and spending a quiet hour or two dying of exposure, as I lay there insensible in the frosty conditions in my alluring but impractical night attire.

I can just imagine our dreadful local rag, the Mt Lofty Intelligencer and Cattlemen’s Journal, with a screaming headline of the sort you will know well, “EXPOSED – Lardy local lad lies lifeless- callous canine companion covers corpse in crap.”

And so it is with some pleasure that I report that I survived and now, a few weeks later, the first few rays of sun have started regularly to peep through the clouds. Although it is still chilly, there is a whisper of spring in the air. As Tennyson had it:

 

In the spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove

In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

 

So as we contemplate casting off our clouts (whatever that means) and otherwise prepare for the change of seasons, I am prompted to reflect on the winter past and on the winters of my youth.

As I’m sure I mentioned, when I was growing up there was no television in the house. Most people assume that that was because television was a rarity back then but they are mistaken. Most of my youth occupied that frolicsome decade the 70’s so far from being part of the crowd without TV, I sat there sullenly in my corduroy flares and flowery satin look shirt and tried to think of ways of entertaining myself while all my friends watched “Happy Days”.

On the long winter evenings, desperate for diversion, the junior members of the Bigolly household would allow ourselves to be regaled by our parents with stories of how they occupied themselves during their genuinely TV free childhoods.

They seemed to reason that if they didn’t have TV we didn’t need it either but really, that sort of reasoning is how the Amish got started isn’t it? I suppose we should be grateful that we were allowed to have buttons on our clothes and that Dad didn’t shave his moustache but leave his beard.

We did listen to the radio rather a lot but in the end there was no avoiding listening to “the olds” as we were pleased to refer to them.

We would complain that we were bored. They would suggest a list of further chores that we could do. We would roll our eyes and say that that was not the same. They would say that they had to make their own entertainment when they were our age. We, unless we were quick enough to spot the peril and retire to our rooms with “The Weirdstone of Bresingamen” or similar, would challenge them to tell us how they made their own entertainment and then be stuck with a sort of living history lesson, only inexpressibly tedious.

Our mother would claim that her family were great players of charades and word games. We all knew that no one ever played charades outside of school camp and that was only to force us to bed so clearly Mum was lying about that.

When we pressed her for a word game there was only one that she ever came up with.

I suspect I have tried it out before in these pages, but I hope that the plucky passengers on this my gilded readerbarge will forgive me if I repeat myself.

The game was in the form of a puzzle or riddle, which went like this;

 

“Brothers and sisters I have none

But that man’s father is my father’s son

Who is that man?”

 

The premise was, for some reason, that the speaker was holding a photograph of a man, or possibly gesturing at a portrait or statue or something. I never understood why he could not just be pointing across a room at the actual, living fellow but for some reason that just isn’t the way it goes.

Now one might reasonably imagine that once the family had worked its way through the puzzle and determined the answer that the entertainment to be wrested from it would have played out, but this is not so.

You see, we were never able to convince each other of the correct answer.

I should explain that Dad never partook of this entertainment and my sisters generally scurried off before the sparks started to fly so really the heavy duty disagreement was between Mother and me

I had formed the view that the person depicted by the picture or carving or lost wax method casting was “my son”. Indeed this seemed to me to be the inescapable conclusion given a few moments’ consideration.

Mum, on the other hand, believed that the riddle was called “My Brother or Myself” and that therein lay the answer.

I would say “But it can’t be my brother ‘cos he starts off by saying he doesn’t have any brothers.”

Mum was unmoved and would look at me knowingly and repeat the “answer”. Sometimes she would nod her head slightly for additional gravitas.

Then I would go berserk and often end up in a big early teen huff and storm off to my room and try to get 5KA on the crystal set.

It is only now, looking back that I see that quite possibly it was not the riddle that provided the entertainment but the pedant baiting. I suspect me storming off in a huff was probably far funnier than anything Pottsy ever said.

Love

 

Big Olly

Evening Shades

June 17, 2013 by

For this week, stylish and meticulous reader, I draw your attention to a matter of fashion or perhaps, more properly, of evolution of ordinary manners.

A long time ago one of my beloved sisters lived in Alice Springs. Well actually at different times all of my beloved sisters have lived in Alice Springs. I couldn’t tell you why, they just have.

The first time I went to visit I couldn’t help but notice that the place was marked by a unique “flavour”.

No, I don’t mean the Indian/Swiss restaurant. Nor do I refer to “Panorama Guth”. I mean the fact that it was extremely isolated and there were loads of jackaroos who had come in from nearby stations. For the international readersupertanker unfamiliar with the Australian lingo, if you think “cowboys who had come in from nearby ranches” you get more or less the right idea.

The jackaroos all wore big hats, a bit like cowboy hats, called Akubras. Strictly speaking Akubra is a brand of hat rather than a style, but so is Stetson.

The jackaroos wore their Akubras for pretty much the same reasons as cowboys wear Stetsons. To keep the blazing sun off their heads etc. Sometimes to keep the rain off. Possibly to distinguish the goodies from the baddies by colour coding, though I am not sure about that.

It wasn’t just the jackaroos. Lots of the locals wore Akubras too. For anyone who spent time outside, they made sense. Of course, there was a sort of cowboy thing going on as well, so it became a fashion and spread to those who didn’t really need them for work. It was a bit difficult to tell who was wearing an Akubra out of need and who was just playing along with the crowd, but it didn’t really matter.

I mean to say, it isn’t unusual for the banker in a cowboy film to have a great big Stetson even though the only time he goes into the sunshine is when he staggers into the street with his hands tied behind his back to get the sheriff to organise a posse.

So, what I am getting at is that Alice Springs was a bastion of hats at a time when they had largely passed from men’s working wardrobes and the now common baseball cap was not yet popular.

As for men’s hat-wearing etiquette in that hard-bitten frontier town, there was not much doffing in the street that I noticed. I didn’t go to any funerals so I’m not sure if there was baring of the head in respect. I know that there are all sorts of surprising rules about wearing hats in lifts but there were no buildings of more than a couple of storeys in Alice back then, so I couldn’t check on that either.

What I do remember is the strict embargo on wearing a hat indoors.

They were simple folk, wholesome in many ways. Untouched by dreadful modern metropolitan affectations like interpretive dance or eating molecular foams, they had a simple code and they abided by it.

That meant that if you wore your Akubra into the pub you got yelled at and everyone insisted that you had to “shout the bar”. I don’t think those who broke the rule really did shout the bar, but they generally looked embarrassed, and they always took their hats off.

I appreciate that the rules about hat wearing for men are actually much broader than that and encompass the reality that hats can be a bit pricey and you should not have to risk losing your hat if there is nowhere more secure to keep it than on your own bonce (or scone according to preference).

Thus, if you are in a bar or pub but are not sitting down to eat, you are allowed to keep the old lid in place without raising too many eyebrows. Having said that, far better to take the hat off and leave it somewhere within reach, just in case your ignorance leads you to break local rules. Requiring you to shout the bar.

So, although many would call me unnecessarily strict, my view is that you should remove your hat when you are indoors.

Which brings me to this week’s “beef”, if you will.

Hats share many characteristics with sunglasses. Both provide our puny earthling’s bodies with protection against the radiation of our nearest star, Sol.

Sunglasses are not often worn indoors or at night. The reason for this is fairly simple. In low light you can’t see very well with them on. Some people wear them anyway but they are whispered about behind their backs. Which is as it should be because such people are creeps.

So when you get caught in a situation in which you already have your sunglasses on but you go inside or night falls, most people take the sunnies off and put them somewhere safe like in a pocket or tucked into the neck of their t-shirt.

However, in the last few years I have noted a trend. I speak, of course, of blokes wearing their sunglasses pushed up on top of their heads.

For some reason this really annoys me.

I don’t suppose it is really so bad when the wearer is clearly just doing it as a temporary measure, particularly when they don’t have pockets and are not wearing a shirt, but fairly recently I was at an evening performance by a popular comedian in a large town hall. The show started at about 8.00 in the evening. It was well and truly dark by then and had been for at least an hour.

On a conservative estimate, a quarter of the fellows there had sunglasses sitting on top of their heads.

Now they weren’t the big “Elton John” style ones, so I can’t complain that they blocked my view. All they did was offend my sense of what’s right.

Most of these blokes must have grabbed a pair of sunglasses when they were leaving home, probably in the dark, and shoved them on top of their heads as some sort of statement.

I say that this is a statement that would better be left unmade. To me it says “My most valued mark of personal style is this bit of coloured plastic that I bought at a service station” or perhaps “I am a bit of a nong”.

Now I can’t claim that I am the arbiter of what is and what is not appropriate. Just ‘cos I hate it doesn’t mean it is wrong, but surely a small effort to see oneself as others see one would bring a swift end to this odious habit. Surely?

Of course there is another possible explanation. Could it be that I just hate things that men put on their heads when they are indoors? Should I just make a cup of tea and have a bit of a lie down? Yes, that’s a good idea.

Love
Bigolly

I Found My Thrill

March 26, 2013 by

This year, convivial and meticulous reader, it fell to me to make a small contribution to the preparation of Christmas lunch.  Generally I just sit there with a glazed expression allowing family and friends to do the lot for me.  As with nearly everything else in my life.

 

This year, having ensured that everyone knew all about it, I made a big show of whipping the cream for the pudding.  At Christmas we are a staunch steamed pudding family, indeed in my childhood we would sometimes have pudding outside the Christmas period. 

 

Not usually quite as rich and fruity as the Christmas pudding but still pretty solid.  Sago plum pudding comes to mind.  Also there were several that were made with, for example, Glen Ewin’s prize winning apricot jam.  Can’t say we ever got figgy pudding though.

 

These days it is rare to hear of steamed pudding unless it is associated with holly, turkey and presents for the children.

 

But that’s fine because the tale of wild adventure that I am about to relate happened at Christmas lunch, as I may have already mentioned.

 

I am not a skilled cook and am not generally sought out for tips or recipes, but it is relevant to know how I approached whipping the cream.

 

I took a thing of cream, put it into a steel basin, added a few drops of vanilla then too much brandy and caster sugar and belaboured the lot with a whisk until it was practically butter, adding more brandy and caster sugar as the whim took me.  Which was often.

 

Ended up not bad if I say so myself.

 

What has inspired me to put finger to keyboard was the brandy.  “As usual” I hear the wits amongst you cry.  Well you can cram it.

 

I mean the sight of the bottle of St Agnes Brandy.

 

Until recently, the distillation of spirits was fairly rare in Australia.  There is, of course, some rum produced near the canefields in Queensland.  There was also Gilt Edge Whiskey about which I know nothing – it has since disappeared- and then there was good old St Agnes.

 

When a South Australian thinks brandy she or he thinks St Agnes.  Quite possibly this is the case for the pallid denizens of other states too. Produced locally by Angoves (well it used to be, I haven’t checked recently) this distillation of South Australian wine enjoyed some sort of tax break that made it a little bit cheaper than other spirits. 

 

It was mainly this price edge that put it into most homes in this state, along with Bickford’s Brown Lime Cordial, Woodies lemonade and the Green and Gold cookbook.

 

I think what caused me to become nostalgic on the occasion of whipping the cream was the combination of the St Agnes bottle and the Christmas period.  In my childhood, dad generally drank beer and mum was practically teetotal, so mostly the “strong drink” in the house was represented by St Aggies.  It was bought at Christmas time and used for the pudding.  Generally it was only a half bottle or even a hip flask, but even so there was always a bit left over and that sat on a shelf in the cupboard above the fridge with the other things that were not needed often, like the jar of cachous and the WD 40.

 

I would have been happy if the cachous had been used a bit more often, but they weren’t.  I bet they were in Liberace’s house, but my childhood home and Liberace’s home were easily distinguishable.  I can do you a list of the differences if you like but it mainly just involves white mink, pools shaped like grand pianos and Jamie Redfern. 

 

Anyway, I’m sure you have discerned that it was a pretty big festive season for me what with making whipped cream and thinking briefly about a half bottle of cheap brandy I once saw when I was a little boy.

 

However, I cannot leave my tale there.  In suggesting that Southwark bitter and St Agnes’ Brandy was all that was ever in the house, I now realise that I have misled you.

 

My parents were not big dinner party people, but sometimes they would have people ‘round.  After these evenings there would often be wine in the ‘fridge.  This was a simpler time.  Wine came in many forms.  Cask wine was coming in but most of the quaffing plonk that came in the door was in a flagon or “goon” as it was called.

 

However, winds of change were blowing through the nation.  From time to time there would be something far more exotic left in the fridge after the merry throng of guests had left.  There might have been a leftover Barossa Pearl or some imaginatively labelled hock or claret (yes, I’m aware I said “in the fridge”. This was the 70’s).

 

What I do remember is a magnificent bottle of what was described as “blueberry Champagne”.  Cor, can you imagine the exotic thrill of seeing that nestled amongst the greying cauliflower and bendy carrots?  The frisson generated was magnified by the fact that the stuff was called “Skip’n’go Naked”.   That’s right.  And the label had a rendering of a couple doing just that.  It was from behind so you only got to see a bit of bum but still, it was easily the hottest thing in our fridge.

 

I reckon it was a good year before there was an occasion reckoned sufficiently special to warrant tearing off the foil and easing out the plastic stopper.  We children were allowed a taste so miniscule you couldn’t really make out the blueberry flavour, though I can almost still feel the bubble on my tongue. It was magical.

 

Oddly the general public must have disagreed, as I have never since seen the stuff.  Perhaps it is time that it was relaunched, though of course I wonder if it could legally describe itself as “champagne” in this fussy age. 

 

 

 

Note: Since this was prepared, research suggests that “Skip’n’Go Naked” was some sort of rose so the blueberry stuff must have been something different.  Still, that isn’t really important so I shoved the post up anyway.

To A Nicer Tea

November 22, 2012 by

Well, impatient and demanding reader, what have I to offer this time?  A searing analysis of the lyric of “The Newcastle Song”?  A ponderous musing on some point of grammar or usage?

No.

This week I have decided to embark on social commentary.  I look to England.

Our English friends, as you may be aware, delight in according to each of the denizens of their happy land a “class”, not unlike the caste system in the Subcontinent (or is that “on the Subcontinent”?).

Every child born in England is born into the Upper, the Middle or the Lower (or “Working”) class.  At this point I would generally get into a mire over whether I mean “England”, “Britain” or “the United Kingdom” and spend much time tediously exploring the differences.  Fortunately, when it comes to class, the English simplified matters by relegating all inhabitants of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the lower class.  Or to their graves.

The class system is, of course, completely unknown in this egalitarian paradise of ours at the bottom of the globe.  We shun the idea that a person is more or less worthy than anyone else due simply to family background or landholding.  We eschew the adulation of what the poet Burns called the “guinea’s stamp” of rank.

Australians (and some New Zealanders) stand up to the world secure in the knowledge that each will find a place amongst his countrymen based on earthy and practical characteristics like Holden v Ford or what type of football he watches.  Plus how much money he has.

The Englishman on the other hand must look for little signs- indicators that will tell him where a stranger fits in the social order.

For example, if the stranger wears gorblimey trousers and lives in a council flat you can be fairly safe in assuming that he is a worker.  A horny handed son of toil.  Other indicia might be pigeon fancying, ownership of a racing greyhound or knocking them in the Old Kent Road.

A fringe benefit of this system of signs and indicators is that you can snigger at those of lower rank.  Apparently the whole Mitford family would go into a paroxysm if someone said “perfume” or “notepaper” in their presence. Or “mirror”. Or “mantelpiece”.

Which brings me to my point.

It was recently reported that science has finally resolved a debate that has raged in England for generations.

The argument concerns whether, when pouring a cup of tea, the milk should be put into the cup before or after the tea.

In this wide, brown (as opposed to green and pleasant) land we are surprised to hear that such a thing could cause an argument at all, let alone one that would rage for generations.  There are different ways of making tea but most people just seem to accept that they are used to doing it one way or the other and it would be risky to change.

I mean to say, if you are a tea in first person you know how far up the cup to go when pouring in the tea but might muck it up if you went milk first.

If you are used to going milk first, well, you are used to estimating how much milk to splash in and when to stop but may not leave enough room if you tried going tea first.

Thus down here everyone just stuck to what they had always done and everyone seemed fairly happy. The sun shone and milky, sweet tea flowed like water.

In England, however, there were those who dourly insisted in pouring the milk first and thought that to do it any other way is contemptible.  The other lot, the tea in first people, sneered and thought less of them.  They made mock, saying things like “Oh, nanny always says, milk in first!”.  Apparently that was clever and amusing, though why is not really apparent.

So, it seems, one can identify oneself as “posh” (though if one were one would never use such a term) by going tea first and “other than posh” by starting with the milk.

It isn’t really clear why the sides took these different approaches. One suggestion is that in the early days of crockery, the quality of cheaper cups was a bit iffy and if you just poured hot tea straight into a cheap cup, there was a risk of it cracking and all tea going onto your paste sandwiches or whatever.  To avoid this, the user of low-priced china would put the milk in first.

The toff element, secure in the knowledge that their pricey fine bone items could take the punishment, would just make with the piping hot tea to show that they were using the good stuff.  No doubt they would enjoy the wincing of any nearby proletarians as they did so.

This theory is widely held but I will confess that I am not really convinced.  Surely some of the working class took their tea black?  Was every cuppa a sort of Russian Roulette for them, or did they have to stand around clutching a slice of lemon in silver tongs waiting for the tea to cool before they could pour?  And if so, didn’t it get all stewed?

Still, however this great rift in English society started, the fact remains that it exists.  Eric Blair, known to some of the better educated among us for his books written under the name “George Orwell” was always pushing the interests of the working man but was a staunch “tea in first” fancy pants.

In any event, scientists now claim to have discovered an answer to the question of whether it is better to put the milk or the tea in first.

Apparently if you put the milk in first, the introduction of hot tea changes its molecular structure or something and makes the whole lot taste better than if you do it the other way ‘round.

I don’t know how scientists can claim to know something as obviously subjective as “what tastes better”, but they have.  Possibly they hope that the authority afforded by the clipboard and lab coat will stop people asking this sort of thorny question.

Frankly, the argument has never been about making the best tasting cup of tea.  It is about who can claim some sort of superiority by flaunting their grasp of arcane ceremony.  The boffins have missed the whole point, not surprising coming from a group that thinks it is smart to go about with a shirt pocket full of leaky biros.

Anyway, practically everyone uses teabags these days and you can’t really do milk in first with them.  Of course there are some people who would never use a teabag either.  I wonder if that makes them posh or not posh?

The Great Waltz

June 29, 2011 by

Well, discerning and flamboyant reader, you are no doubt agog to get to the substance of this week’s offering and so I will not delay.

I decided that it was about time that I again turned my critical eye to an iconic anti war song written by someone who lives in South Australia. You might recall the analysis of John Schumann’s work “I Was Only Nineteen (A Walk in the Light Green)” that appeared in these electro pages some time ago.

It was the one about how Frankie can only just have started his tour when he kicked the mine, which doesn’t seem to have been the point of the story and that therefore the sense of the thing was twisted in order to rhyme “moon” with “June”.

The salons of Croydon and Hahndorf are still buzzing with the controversy.

Although it was searing I don’t shrink from it. In fact it turns out it didn’t go far enough – apparently Australia didn’t send anyone younger than 20 to Viet Nam – but perhaps I should move on.

This time I decided to give some attention to “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” by Eric Bogle, currently living in Seaton or perhaps Semaphore. Somewhere near the beach and starts with an “S” I think. Possibly near Alby Mangels, but I digress.

The song is undoubtedly iconic. It has been performed by many people including the Pogues and I mean the real ones before Shane MacGowan got his teeth done.

But no one who listens to “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” can help but be struck by some difficulties with the lyric, even as they are wiping a not unmanly tear from their eye or eyes.

I will set them out but not dwell on them. One problem is that our protagonist cannot have joined the AIF in 1915 and still been present at the landing as he says. There wouldn’t have been enough time to get there.

The next is that the Australians didn’t land at Suvla Bay as he claims to have done.

Further, when he suggests that in 1915 his country “Gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun and they marched me away to the war” he further exposes himself. The Australians didn’t get tin hats until 1916. I think that before then they preferred a nice slouch hat with cockade (which turns out not to be a drink as I had assumed).

So there.

Now all of this is of course deeply satisfying but I find that Bogle himself has beaten me to the punch. This paragon, possibly Peebles’ proudest product, has admitted all. I assume that he broke down and came clean after the stress of years of harbouring his guilty secrets took its toll.

He says he didn’t realise how long it took the troops to make it to Gallipoli. This seems to be right. He could have made it “In 1914 my country said “Son”” without it making any difference.

Similarly he didn’t realise about the tin hats. Again, he could change the lyric from “tin hat” to “slouch hat” and no harm done.

He has been quoted as saying that he would correct these inaccuracies if the song were not already entrenched.

Further and perhaps providing the best contrast with “I Was Only Nineteen ( A Walk in the Light Green)”, he concedes that he used “Suvla Bay” in part because it was easier to rhyme. He is on strong ground here because it turns out that ANZAC Cove didn’t have a name before that. It was just a small unnamed cove which would make both rhyme and scansion almost impossible so I think we should allow him some poetic licence.

So I draw the attention of the readerhulkthecityofadelaide to this more as a pleasant contrast than the main meat of this offering.

For that I will turn to popular songs of days gone by. Those of you who have had the pleasure of listening to any of my selections of music will know that once I start spinning those wax cylinders and placing the bamboo needle on the appropriate place, “Ti Amo” cannot be far behind.

“Well, nor should!” it I hear you exclaim.

My fondness for the work is so well known that a misguided young friend of mine went to some effort to source it for me during a recent period of ill health.

It would, she reasoned, smooth the wrinkled brow and bring a light smile to play about my rubbery but serviceable lips. And so it might have.

The problem, as you have no doubt anticipated, is that she had secured the Laura Branigan version instead of the original by Umberto Tozzi. The Laura Branigan version lacks the hard edge and intricate bass work of the original and it set my recovery back significantly.

I did, however, take the opportunity to think over the odd association between Branigan and Tozzi.

It seems that the Branigan version of Ti Amo wasn’t a hit in her native America. In fact it wasn’t much popular much outside Australia.

On the other hand, her big hit “Gloria”, was – and gird your loins for this – another Umberto Tozzi song!

I have been holding this notion up to the light and letting it, like a dome of many coloured glass stain the white radiance of eternity.

So long have I been contemplating it that I now have a headache and rather than risk Ms Branigan’s untimely demise in the same circumstances, am off to bathe my burning temples in eau-de-cologne.

The other problem is that now that I have thought of the song Gloria, I can’t get the ad for the Mitsubishi Cordia out of my mind. “Don’t you think it’s kind of sportia (sportia) don’t you think it’s kind of roomia (roomia) don’t you think it’s kind of handsome, I’m talking Cordia.”

They were turbocharged and that, too.

Thick Fast Pants

November 4, 2009 by

Well, it has been a while but here I am.  I must say, I had slipped into a reverie in which a flaxen haired Norse maiden was luring me into the underworld. 

My nephew advises that I was locked into some sort of virtual prison, helplessly spinning across cyberspace like them villains in Superman 2- presumably he is referring to one of the lesser known works of George Bernard Shaw.  Anyway, the worthy youth was able to extricate me and in gratitude I have presented him with a magnifying glass and a compendium of 54 games.  He told me the other day how much he spends on games so I am confident that will keep him busy for some time.

So you will be agog to know, steadfast and patient reader, what was the big issue that has been exercising me in my absence? 

Well, I hesitate with such risqué subject matter, but ladies’ undergarments have been greatly occupying my thoughts. 

You see, I recently heard someone refer to “a pair of bras”.  I had long believed the correct term to be “a bra”, but it seems that there is a significant minority who see the contraption as “a pair”.  This is quite understandable to anyone who has seen one or understands its function.

I mean to say, no one baulks at “a pair of trousers” for example.  Again, fair enough.  A pair of trousers performs the function of trousering a pair of legs.  On that basis one wouldn’t call the garment “a trouser”, except perhaps in the case of this forum’s beloved Alby Mangels – but he only ever wore stubbies anyway. 

Take “spectacles”.  As far as I can tell, they have always been referred to in the plural although the singular would probably work as well. The only time I have ever heard a pair of spectacles referred to as “a spectacle” was by my uncle Cuthbert at the family Christmas lunch.

As I remember he would be slumped in his bath chair, apparently rendered unconscious by a surfeit of cheap champagne and Christmas pudding.  We children would gather around wondering if he was still alive and trying to detect a pulse in the veins on his nose.  Invariably one of us would get a little too close and brush against him.  His ropy old arm would shoot from beneath his Onkaparinga like a liver spotted taipan and scoop up the unfortunate infant.

He would press the child to him in a way that could not have been hygienic and, with a twinkle in his eye, say “Did you hear about the two monocles that got together and made a spectacle of themselves?”

He did seem fond of that one although I now realise that it doesn’t withstand any great degree of analysis. 

Surely if two monocles got together they couldn’t make a pair of spectacles.  They would have to be a pair of monocles.  Unless there was something about getting together that changed each monocle into a spectacle. 

But even that doesn’t solve the problem.  As I say, the invariable usage to describe what our American cousins would call “eyeglasses” is in the plural, “spectacles” or “a pair of spectacles”. 

What exactly was it that the two monocles made when they got together?  Uncle Cuthbert would have you believe that it was a spectacle.  Surely that must be half of a pair of spectacles?

Isn’t that effectively what a monocle is?

As children our confusion was all the greater because we had no idea what a monocle was in the first place.   I thought it must have been something to do with “mon oncle” but that only made things worse.

In any event, the gin soaked old fossil clearly hadn’t put much effort into that one and I’m glad that he was carried off by some spoiled beef tea before he could confuse us further.

There are other examples.  Take bellows as one.  I appreciate that what with calculators and other modern things people of today don’t spend as much time hanging ‘round the smithy as I did as a youth.  I was as impressed by the smith’s bellows as I was by his ability to sweat and swear and raise angry welts on his person with hot iron bars.

But at the same time, inside the house by the fireplace was what was called a “pair of bellows”.  These were altogether smaller and daintier than the bellows in the forge, but for some reason one was a pair and the other was not.  I am beggared if I can see why.

So that, you may imagine, is the burning issue which has been perplexing me.  I’m afraid to say that you are wrong.  Instead of trying to contribute to the happiness of mankind by solving this riddle I have been mulling over an issue which is unrelated but which has caused a far greater degree of consternation amongst thinking people worldwide.

The question is this;  Which was the better cover of “Muskrat Love”?  The 1973 version by America, or the 1976 version by The Captain and Tenille?

Generally I would go with America in a contest of this kind but not this time.  The Captain and Tenille version is much better and has all sort of squeaking in it too.

Love

Bigolly

Singin’ hey lolly, lolly

October 8, 2009 by

Ah – ring tones. Love ’em or hate ’em, fact is – they’re here to stay.

Question is – is it better just to go with the standard ring tones that come with the phone, or should one go to the trouble of downloading a polyphonic that wittily expresses one’s personality?

I must say, back in the day when hardly anyone had a mobile I thought it rather clever that Bobby Helpmann had programmed his to play “Country Garden”, but the other day when Nic Roeg’s iPhone burst to life in the middle of a script meeting with the theme from Dr Zhivago people shook their heads sadly and the meeting finished rather early.

So, dear readers; what are your thoughts? Heard a good one lately that particularly suited its owner? Have one on your own phone of which you are justifyably proud?

Oh – and there’s a special prize for guessing what mine is…

Through a (stout) glass, darkly.

July 13, 2009 by

Jenny again I’m afraid.

Perhaps the only benefit, ceruminiferous and arachibutyrophobic reader, of holding the keys to Olly’s blog is that one can bag him out in public to the few sad souls who might consider themselves his friends.

Not that there is anything particularly satisfying about bagging him – finding fault with Olly is just about as challenging as the point blank harpooning of a beached whale. And a fair bit has been done already by the readerdinghy (Ah– do you remember when dear Olly started that one going?). Yes, much has been proposed by the reader Poohstick (Oh, it still makes me laugh): Some say that Olly has deserted us to wander the streets of Stirling looking in craft shops, that Olly is making warm soup and sitting by the fire holding hands with his lady friend, that Olly is planting beans against the coming season and weaving dream catchers to hang in the window of his love nest, or even that Olly has been busy removing the nutrients from the lunches of his friends. All of these are true, and sadly these activities leave Olly no time to post.

But what are we to do? Olly will not declare himself dead. From time to time his ghostly presence is felt in the form of a comment by Bobby H, or Olly will take an occasional break from his thriving legal practice to put about rumours that he is working on another post; a post mind, that he has been shaping lovingly for seven months – SEVEN MONTHS.

And so we go on; returning to the blog as to an old vice, greedy for any fleeting pleasure we might find there, but too aware that we will leave soon enough, disappointed again that we have not seen the hand of Olly.

Well, the violinists played on as the bogey sank:

Q: After “My Mother the Car” which are the next best TV theme song lyrics?

Looking at the Stars

June 2, 2009 by

Jenny Agutter here, and about bloody time I hear you say.

Well, the Norsca bimbo has shot back into space, and I for one am not sorry to see her go.

I don’t know what was worse; her faux poor English (you knew she moved to the States at age three, right?) or her pseudo gender-confused soft porn romps in the shower with Angela Cartwright. Give me strength!

I mean, my early work in Railway Children had enough trains rushing through tunnels and young girls out of breath for anyone. And if not, well I totally buffed up for Walkabout (see above). Peeling off the school uniform (yes, school uniform for Christ’s sake), my bush in the bush, the waterhole scene; what more could anyone want? (YouTube it boys, and take a hanky) But Hey – that was ART, right Mr Roeg?

Then Logan’s Run – need I say more?

OK so, Olly’s gone and does not like coming back any time soon. Last posted five months ago. Get over it.

My topic for the readership? Simple:-

Best boobs on telly. Whose, and when?


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