Category Archives: memories

Torrie Banks …

In this shambolic township perched on the edge of the sea wall, the cottages along the waterfront are garlanded with prayer flags and windchimes and studded with mosaics made of shells. Tess thinks the cottages probably started as holiday shacks, but now they are homes for the dreamers, the hippies, the artists and the others who are running from somewhere else and are starting again. Tess is none of these things, but she and Bill retired a year ago and bought one of the cottages on a whim whilst visiting. It is small and white, and a street away from the Esplanade. Because they had never before taken risks or done anything particularly impulsive, Tess still can’t believe they are actually here.

Tess walks along the sea wall most evenings. The breeze from the ocean cools her skin where the sweat of the day has dried and itches and irritates. She likes these cottages; the imperfection of them, the way some of the foundations sink into the ground as if being reclaimed. Dust to dust, and all the rest of it. She likes the tin rooves pocked with rustholes and the overgrown gardens. Too hot to do anything. She and Bill renovated madly for the first few months, until the weather became steamy and intolerable. They sit on their verandah to make the most of the breeze and wait out the wet season. The locals sit along the sea wall with glasses of wine at the end of the day. They wave at Tess and raise their glasses and smile.

Halfway along the Esplanade, there is the house Tess calls the Time Warp House. Not very original, she knows – but what else is there to say? At first, she supposes it is abandoned. Its symmetrical facade is made of peeling, horizontal boards and there are two sets of French doors nailed over with plywood sheets. Against cyclones and thieves, maybe – sealed tight as a drum. Along the front, a narrow verandah runs the width. There are three wooden steps down to the front garden. No lawn, just weeds and a jumble of pebbles and shells and broken paving stones. There is a strange silence in front of the Time Warp House. The ocean hisses and foams beneath the sea wall, but the air seems closed like a vacuum.

One evening when Tess is walking, she is stopped dead in her tracks. She can smell, inexplicably, lemon delicious. Did people still make lemon delicious? She is standing in front of the Time Warp House and the French doors are open like the front of a doll’s house, the rooms inside laid bare. The kitchen has apple-green paintwork and ancient cabinetry. Tess sees battered wooden chairs and a table on which an orange woollen tea-cosy covers, presumably, a teapot. An elderly lady stands by the stove. She wears an apron with a bright paisley pattern and her hair is a fluff of white perm. Her husband is sitting at the table with a newspaper and teacup. The old people look out at Tess. They wave and smile.

.oOo.

There are drifts of dried leaves under Tess’s dining table because there are no insect screens on the windows of the little white house.  Bill says screens would stop the sea breeze. Tess used to mind, but doesn’t now. She loves the house fiercely, even the bathroom and toilet which they haven’t got around to renovating yet, and which are outside on the back verandah. At nights during the monsoon, the rain blows in under the corner of the verandah, and Tess goes back to bed with wet feet after a nocturnal visit. It isn’t like the house they used to have, in which they’d lived for over 30 years with an ensuite bathroom within a few steps of the bed. This house is not new, like their first home. This house breathes with other people’s lives.

.oOo.

The night following the lemon delicious, the old lady is cooking a beef stew. Tess stands on the sea wall and somehow knows there are also dumplings. It reminds her of her childhood, and the smell of the school dining hall when she was five. The rest of the houses along the Esplanade smell of lemongrass and curries and oriental spices.  The old man rests his hands on his newspaper and nods at Tess. The orange tea-cosy has a bobble on top, and zigzag stripes in Hunter green around its girth. Tess also knows the biscuits in the glass jar will be homemade. She raises her hand and the old man smiles.

She doesn’t see the old people again after that. The next night, and afterwards, the Time Warp house is closed up tight. Although Tess always hopes, the two symmetrical French doors remain boarded tight as a drum.

.oOo.

There is a garage sale at the end of the Esplanade. Trestle tables in the driveway hold piles of ragged books and dented kitchenware. There is a box of LP records and an old rug laid on the grass with some rusty tools and fishing reels. A middle-aged woman in a batik skirt sits on a garden chair with a coffee mug in her lap.

‘Hiya,’ she says to Tess. ‘Nice day for it.’

Tess smiles and sorts through the books. The usual offerings. Stephen King and Harold Robbins and children’s books with Bible stories. She finds a tattered cookbook with a picture of lemon delicious on the cover. It seems to tingle in her hands as she holds it. The woman on the garden chair inclines her head.

‘She used to live here, you know. The woman who wrote that.’

‘Really?’ Without her glasses, Tess cannot make out the author’s name.

‘Torrie Banks,’ the woman says helpfully. ‘They lived down the Esplanade further, at Number 302. She was pretty well known back in the day. For writing cookbooks. But the house is all boarded up now.’

‘They’re back,’ Tess tells her. She holds the book tightly against her chest. ‘I know the house you mean. I saw the lady and her husband – they were there last week.’

‘Nup, that couldn’t have been Mrs Banks.’ The woman shakes her head. ‘She died when I was a kid, but I remember her coming round and having a cuppa with Mum. Funny …’ she tilts her head. ‘They’d sit right about here, where I’m sitting now. Mrs Banks used to bring ginger biscuits in a tin. I remember that, because my brother hated ginger biscuits and used to chuck them over the fence into next door’s pond.’ She smiled fondly. ‘The bugger.’

‘It must have been a relative, then,’ Tess says. ‘The old lady I saw. I saw them two nights running, a lady and man. She was cooking, and he was sitting at the table. ’

The woman shook her head again. ‘Not in that house, love. It’s been boarded up for … geez, probably more than 50 years. Mrs Banks and Harry didn’t have any kids, so Harry lived there by himself for a while after she passed, then I think he went to a retirement home. We thought the house would go up for sale, but it never did. Weird, really.’

‘How much is the book?’ Tess holds it out. ‘I don’t have any money on me at the moment, but I’ll bring it tomorrow.’

‘No worries,’ the woman says. ‘Two dollars? The recipes aren’t very modern. Nobody cooks that kind of stuff anymore. It’s all Jamie Oliver and Nigella, eh?’

.oOo.

It is possible, Tess thinks, that the garage sale woman is talking about a different house. But she isn’t surprised to see the number on the mailbox of the Time Warp House is 302. Still clutching the book to her chest, where she feels her own heart beating against it, she pushes the wire gate open and walks up the path.

Down the left-hand side of the house, Tess picks her way through weeds to a bank of dusty louvres. She puts the book down in order to pile three bricks up and stand on them. She scrubs at the dirty glass with the bottom of her T-shirt and presses her face to the window.

The apple-green cabinetry is covered in dust and the table and chairs can be picked out through dust motes and gloom. Tess sees that the tea- cosy, which had been such a bright orange, is faded and tired and swathed in cobwebs. There is a yellowed newspaper beside it, and a glass biscuit jar. Tess knows the house has not been lived in for a very long time.

Out on the waterfront, the sea is crashing against the sea wall with a relentless beat. Birds wheel overhead, over the rustling palm fronds. Tess sits on a bench with the book in her lap and watches the Time Warp House for a long time, until the day starts to fade away.

It is going to rain. The air smells of ozone and treacle tart and warm custard.

…oOo…

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This time, Rocco’s mother doesn’t have any idea what to call it …

Lately, on just about every level, Rocco’s mother feels old age is creeping up on her. And it’s not Rocco’s father. Things in general are going downhill, dropping off and seizing up in an alarming fashion. And that’s before she gets out of bed, even.

The most worrying thing seems to be the problem with RM’s memory. What? Her MEMORY. Ah, yes. And it’s not just a matter of trying to figure out where the frozen peas are – or even whether she’d remembered to buy them in the first place – but finding the right word to describe something. Where the word should be – and indeed, once was – a blank space mockingly waits. But Rocco’s mother finds she is increasingly unable to fill it.

A few weeks ago while visiting one of Rocco’s sisters in Darwin, RM and Flygirl were wandering around a shopping mall and came upon one of RM’s favourite things. And no, it wasn’t a chocolate-covered Alan Rickman wrapped in gold foil. She would have remembered that. It was a book sale. Rocco’s mother, as was only to be expected, fell on it with rapture and frenzied excitement, calling out to Flygirl – ‘Oh look – they’ve got those … those … calendar books.’

Flygirl raised an eyebrow. ‘Diaries,’ she suggested. It hit Rocco’s mother that she hadn’t been able to retrieve that word. It hadn’t been there. A programming glitch had occurred at the vital moment. Diaries? Surely she used to know that? Even yesterday, it had been part of her everyday vocabulary – flung into conversations in a random and cavalier manner whenever the occasion called for it. Which happened to be often. Which happened to be often, because as sure as bears mess themselves in the woods, Rocco’s mother is going to make sure she doesn’t go starting conversations where she needs to use the word … the word … that word any time soon.

It is alarming to suppose there are other words in there, silently becoming fainter and fainter until they slip forever out of the memory bank. Tomorrow, will Rocco’s mother tentatively request ‘filled bread’ when asking for a sandwich? Will she come down for breakfast and not recognise anybody, like Rocco’s father on the day he first wore his new spectacles? It scares Rocco’s mother to know she’d be utterly useless if called upon to witness anything. After being served in a shop and walking outside again, she is aware she would not be able to describe the shop assistant – or recognise her in the police line-up. When the police officer demands, ‘Where were you on the night of September 23?’ in an accusatory manner, Rocco’s mother would not have a clue. She would not recall shoplifting from Food-o-rama or whether she’d eaten the legs of the chocolate-covered Alan Rickman. She would possibly not remember what September was.

Some people are blessed with extraordinary memories. Do they purposely focus on every minute detail before they file it away – or is it entirely accidental? Where is the fairness in that? The first time Rocco’s parents visited Flygirl in Darwin, they ambled downtown one morning to enjoy an alfresco breakfast under shady trees in the early morning warmth of the city. The menu was written on a huge blackboard outside the cafe, so Rocco’s father made his selection. At the counter, he said, ‘I’ll have the Full Monty, please – without mushrooms.’ The lad behind the counter – who happened to be bald and British – frowned.

‘Does it say it comes with mushrooms?’

‘Er … I don’t know,’ Rocco’s father admitted. There had been so many menu options and permutations of breakfasty ingredients.

‘Well if it doesn’t say it comes with mushrooms, it doesn’t come with mushrooms,’ the lad said patiently. Which was fair enough. The breakfast, sans mushrooms, was very good indeed and enjoyed enormously by Rocco’s father, who only eats breakfast when he’s on holidays anyway and then makes an absolute pig of himself. 

A whole year or more later, Rocco’s parents returned to Darwin – by which time Rocco’s father was dying to reacquaint himself with the excellent breakfast – so he and Rocco’s mother headed downtown on their first morning and were happy to discover the alfresco cafe was still there in all its glory, blackboards cheerfully chalked in anticipation.

‘I’ll have the Full Monty, please,’ Rocco’s father told the lad behind the counter. And the lad eyed him up over the top of the coffee machine and baskets of freshly baked muffins, and said,  ‘… it still doesn’t come with mushrooms …’

.oOo.

Bring me my bow of burning steel …

I’m sick of being regulated. Not allowed to eat this, not allowed to park there, not allowed to do that. Pah! You’re not the boss of me! I just took a really good look at the pompous-arse sign at the edge of the park up the street, with its list of little black silhouette pictures – each of them overscored with that red circle, slashed through the middle, which means the little silhouette picture is verboten in the park.

So – no dogs, no horses, no golf, no kites, no motorcycles, no bicycles, no camping, campfires, knot-tying, dib-dib-dobbing or anything bloody else. No nudie yoga at sunrise, either, which will disappoint one of my nephews immensely.  He lives in a lovely, bohemian town which welcomes nudie yoga at sunrise, and gleefully – with quite a few Jaegerbombs under where his belt might have been had he been clothed – fronted up (at every possible level) one morning in order to dingle-dangle at daybreak. From what I gather, things were going marvellously well until the local constabulary were called and informed my nephew, amongst other official-sounding policey things; ‘… you are not in command of your faculties and it might be better if you went home, Bud.’ According to his mother, my nephew was actually semi-qualified to take part – after all, even though he’d never done yoga before, he had, on occasion, been nude. But I digress.

The point is, I’m getting more ornery as I get older and having turned 51 this week and being over halfway to a century, all these rules are making me feel as if I want to be very disobedient indeed.  I want, in fact, to get a great big motorcycle, panniers filled with dogs, kites and other random sporting equipment, and perform the shitkicker’s waltz all over that park. In the nude, too – but with a sheet wrapped around in order not to scare the horses (who aren’t allowed there anyway and shouldn’t be looking).

What was wrong with a childhood where we left the house after breakfast and only showed up in time for tea? Why was our world not populated with paedophiles and perverts? According to the Warrior Queen, you were in danger of slave traders dragging you into sinister vehicles which had blackened windows and leering men intoning, ‘Have a sweetie, little girl …’ – but I never saw any in my neighbourhood, and seeing as boredom hadn’t been invented then, none of us felt the need to cover the local shopping centres with graffiti or wrangle pensioners to the ground in order to steal their fluff-encrusted sherbert lemons and soggy tissues.

Local parks are no longer dangerous and fun. Gone are the high, steel slipperydips from which you hurtled into a hollow of hard-packed earth – which might have a few inches of mud in the bottom if your mother was unlucky – and gone also is that long plank swing, which eight kids could straddle while two more stood at the ends and made it go parallel with the top bars. Many arms were broken by the plank swing – and many more on the maypole, or from bicycles, go-carts and frenzied whirls on the Hills Hoist when no mothers were watching. Indeed, my multi-talented brother – he the inventor of so many goodly things to do – was able to sustain a marvellous head injury by hurling himself onto the bed from his top cupboard – while the ceiling fan was in full and splendid motion.

Alas, these things are merely a memory. Our park has a mean swing with a rubber sling which will only seat babies. People like me are unable to fit our legs through the legholes in order to revisit childhood even for one whimsical minute – and there would be absolutely no chance of squeezing one’s bargearse between the chains anyway . Under the swing is a pit of sawdust laid on rubberised mats. You couldn’t decently break a limb if you tried.

It’s all very well to purse our mouths, stop the fun and deprive today’s children of a proper childhood. They may not run on beaches with wild abandon and joyous dogs at their heels – nor may they eat too much icecream or climb a tree or ride a bicycle down a killer hill with no hands on handlebars nor helmet on head – and they shall not use imagination; that free and wonderful commodity which has died and been buried by technology and plastic crap.

It’s time to stick up for ourselves and be allowed to live again. Gather together in local parks this weekend with illegal animals and appliances. Build a bonfire, burn an effigy, smoke something herbal.

Bring me my chariot of fire …

.oOo.

Mopknocker plays to incontinent audience …

When we were kids, which was a very long time ago, my brother and I were taken to Nightcliff Drive-In on Friday nights in the back of the Holden stationwagon. The back seats were folded down and we had blankets and pillows in case we wanted to sleep – and we’d be treated, over our parents’ shoulders, to such classics as The Magnificent Seven, A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Idiot who forgot to put the speaker back on the pole and drove off with it still attached to the car window. We would have liked horror flicks if they’d had any then – but it seemed to be either westerns or James Bond. Nevertheless, it was great fun altogether and I wish the Hunter Gatherer and I could have taken our own children to a drive-in when they were little. Unlike Dad and the Warrior Queen, we have four children, so the thrills of being hit in the back of the head by soggy chips and errant Maltesers would have been excitingly doubled.

To make up for the fact we didn’t have Freddy Krueger in those days, Dad happily obliged when we got home, staging his very own version of Creepshow for our entertainment and edification.

There were three favourites you might reasonably expect to encounter. Mopknocker, Underbed Fred, or the silent and deadly Curtain Zombie. There was no clue as to what you’d be getting, so complacency was not an option. Lying in bed minding your own business, you’d have just about forgotten there was any imminent danger. Then you’d hear it. A faint tap, tap, tap on the window and there, etched on the other side of the flyscreen, would be a gruesome and frightful visage, leering from beneath its tattered grey, crypt-cobwebbed hair.  Okay, I’m well aware mopheads can’t leer. But you would have had to have been there.

After you’d practically crapped yourself with fear and the Warrior Queen had confiscated the mop from our hilarious and evil pater and told him he was going to bed without any gruel, you could finally go to sleep in the happy knowledge the postman never knocked twice.

Naturally, we’d always be on the alert to Dad’s whereabouts when we returned home from the drive-in – but he got the better of us every time. And just as you were dozing, thinking maybe this time he’d forgotten, there’d be the hideous creak of bedsprings and you’d feel something horrible pushing the mattress up underneath you. Underbed Fred. Or the heavy curtains covering the built-in wardrobe would start to ripple and bulge. The Curtain Zombie was behind them … and ready to emerge and hurl you into the depths of the River Styx.

Years later, the Hunter Gatherer and I were visiting Dad and the WQ. The WQ and I were chatting happily in the kitchen, stuffing ourselves indiscriminately with one sort of foodstuff or another, when we suddenly became aware of faint music. Dad had a large organ (of the Wurlitzer variety), but he and the HG were safely in the living room and there was nobody else in the house but us chickens. An organ was definitely being played, so the WQ and I crept down the darkened hallway to the accompanying strains of a Bach fugue. From the organ’s lair, a pale, ghostly light leaked under the door over the hall carpet.

It was the WQ who pushed open the door. And there it was. Its grey, tattered, crypt-cobwebbed hair fell over its leering face, the arms of its putrid shroud were draped artistically on the keyboard. Undoubtedly, it was readying itself to turn its head and stultify us with its evil, shiteating grin. Mopknocker, in all his glory, was playing Bach.

The WQ says she didn’t pee herself, and I’m not admitting anything myself at this stage. The reason Dad thought it would be funny to drape the mop in his dressing gown and set the Wurlitzer to autoplay was never explained. There was actually not much chance of him giving an explanation, because some of us are still not speaking to him. But the incident has left its legacy. To this day, I can’t walk past the mop section of Food-o-rama without hearing a Bach fugue faintly in the back of my mind and overriding the Barry Manilow musak track. And we don’t have mops in our house. They were banned long ago.

Any relative of Mopknocker is not a friend of mine …

.oOo.

The necessary gigabytes for a lifetime memory stick …

I can’t remember much these days. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I was thinking five minutes ago. So it would be really innovative if we could download the contents of our brains into a computer in order to rewind and replay.

It’s a constant annoyance to the Rt Hons that I (allegedly) tell them things ‘a million times’. It’s partly (I try to convince myself) because there are four of them, and I can never remember which one I told a particular story to in the first place. According to them, it’s because I’ve lost it. There is much sighing, eye rolling and gnashing of teeth. Also according to them, I don’t remember things they (also allegedly) told me five minutes ago. Sometimes I don’t remember which one of them told me something but I do remember what it was. And if it’s any consolation whatsoever to them, I do remember bringing them into the world. Most very definitely indeed and with loud hallelujahs.

The first thing I remember ever (I think) was being at Filey in England on a caravan holiday when I was about three or four. And the part I remember in particular was my Dad taking me into a milk bar and buying me a milkshake.  The milkshake was pink, and was in one of those tall, fluted glasses with a paper straw. The top was frothy, with huge bubbles. It smelt pink, and I can still smell it even now. It was lovely. I don’t remember whether my Dad had a drink, or the pattern of the formica on top of the table we were sitting at, but I remember Ketty Lester was singing Love Letters on a jukebox. You don’t hear that anymore, and I wish we did. It would be nice to do a rewind and watch it happening and see whether I’d got it right; but we can’t do that, of course, and I’m wondering whether it will ever be possible.

What gets remembered and what gets rejected? I don’t remember the furnishings of the house I was brought up in – but a few months ago while crossing the street in town I had an overpowering memory of the smell of the dinner hall at a school I went to 45 years ago. It came wafting over the road and knocked me for six. Horrible stew and spotted dick? Wherefore art thou, banana junket, in the middle of the day in an Australian country town? Which brain signals conjured it forth when I was thinking about purchasing toilet roll, posting the Telstra bill and goodness me, how could I have possibly left the house still wearing my slippers?

It probably says a lot about me that most of my memories are food related. It has, after all, always been about the food. I remember little glass bottles of orange juice arriving with the milkman before school, and having to drink it even though it was covered in frost. I remember taking Peek Freans tick tock biscuits (the square ones with nursery rhymes iced on them, not the crappy pretender ones you get today) to school and having them nicked every day by a bigger kid. I remember the smell of the cardboard cover on my primer. (No, I realise the cover of a primer isn’t food and I couldn’t have eaten it … but hasn’t sniffing a book  always been as good as jamming your nose into an open bag of Maltesers?)

 I have no idea, however, what the Hunter Gatherer wore to work this morning, or indeed, whether he wore anything at all. Seeing as I don’t remember washing or ironing it, this is a distinct possibility. If he has spent the day in blissful nakedness, I doubt he’d either roll his eyes or gnash his teeth at me, considering he was the one who came to breakfast wearing new glasses 20 years ago, gazed at his offspring who were artfully arranged around the table, saying, ‘Who are these people and where did they come from?’

I wonder whether your life really does fast-forward before your eyes as you are departing … and where do all the memories go after that? And if it’s ever possible for us to download the contents of our minds and watch them on our computer screens, I hope there’s a delete function for the strange and evil stench of every school dinner anyone’s ever had the misfortune to remember …

.oOo.

Hangin’ with the paparazzi …

            Bearing in mind my memory seems to be fading – or dying completely – I’ve been wishing lately we’d taken more photographs over the past 30-odd years.

            It seems there are rather long gaps between events, if you go by the lack of action in the family album. On one page someone’s a baby – on the next they’re cutting a cake at their 21st. You’d think we’d all gone into hibernation for long periods of time in between photo opportunities. Maybe we should have, judging by the amount of stuff which obviously wasn’t worth documenting.

            Anyway, I was rather pleased with myself on recent holidays, because I actually managed to dash off a couple of quick rolls. Rather nonchalantly, I thought. There are the ones I took in the mist, the ones I took in the dark – and some mighty fine efforts which give breathtaking views of the inside of the lens cover.

            These little gems pale into insignificance when you take into account the cinematic brilliance of our first effort, when the Rt Honourables were small and we thought it might be a nice idea to record important things like birthdays, etc. We had one particular film in the camera for years. It had five birthdays, a couple of Christmases and a christening on it. There were still a couple of shots left the day we went to Luna Park. Seeing as the Rt Hons were having such a brilliant time, we decided to splurge on a new film, which meant taking the old one out and replacing it. Not the best idea we’d had that day, if you don’t count the accident with the Dagwood Dog.

            The Hunter Gatherer took the last shot, wound the little handle to rewind the film and popped open the back. Two long, thin black streamers came cascading out – ‘surprise!’ – a bit like a gothic party popper, if you really want to know.

            There went three or four years of photographic genius, bearing in mind the film was totally ripped in half – down the middle. Which would have been no mean feat had he done it on purpose.

            For a long time after that we were very disillusioned. The HG has refused to touch a camera since, so it’s been up to me. And I can’t understand why, when everything looks okay through the lens, you end up with a family of amputees and leering idiots who look like victims of cosmetic surgery malpractice cases.

            One member of the family – on the HG’s side – does even better. Her specialty is ‘spontaneous’ shots at barbeques, where the surprised participant is caught with cigarette in one hand, beer can in the other and views of half-chewed, flyblown chop bones on a dirty plate in front of them. We got into the habit of cutting the unpalatable bits off, so pages in our album have tiny little circular pieces dotted all over them, giving legitimacy to the term ‘thumbnail sketch’.

            I remember being told once to take photos with people and/or signposts in them. This is to make the pictures more interesting and gives a point of reference. This accounts for some very odd views of complete strangers standing in front of such gems as ‘Welcome to Wagga Wagga’, and ‘Danglewillee – Home of the Giant Choko’. I can’t for the life of me remember the giant choko – but it’s impossible to wipe from memory the frenzied look on that man’s face just before he dived into a clump of noxious weed at the side of the road and nearly emasculated himself on an electric fence. Which would have served him right. If he hadn’t had his raincoat open in the first place, he wouldn’t have attracted undue attention.

            There’s still half a film in my camera, and I’m looking forward to finishing it and seeing what the rest of my holiday looks like. Reminiscing is pretty good. Sometimes it can bring back those halcyon days before you ‘let yourself go’.

            Ah … last night I dreamed I went to Danglewillee again …

.oOo.

 

 

Putrid in prime time …

            Don’t think I watch it, because I don’t. Ever. It just happened to be right there in front of my eyes one evening because someone had walked off and left the gogglebox turned on. I couldn’t believe it anyway. Who could? The World’s Funniest Something-Or-Other. A mind-boggling sortie into the life of the common-or-garden suburban family – though in this case it happened to contain both common AND garden.

            What appeared to be going down was this: some people – who were obviously not the brightest chickens in the henhouse – had taken their video camera outside while they were having a barbeque. Just on the offchance, as you do. And they’d filmed these rooooolly exciting things like a fat kid falling through the middle of a rotting trampoline mat, the family cat igniting as it walked past the birthday cake and Uncle Dumbarse being whacked across the back of the neck by Auntie Doofus – who was on the other end of a cricket bat at the time. Hilarious? Not. The only funny thing involved (peculiar, not ha ha), was how these people had actually had the bright idea (you can hear the ‘ping’ of the little lightbulb coming on above the head), of sending this appalling crap to a TV station – which, even more amazingly, had nothing better to do than air it!

            You can imagine this family sitting around the box on the evening in question, sated with barbeque fare but tucking into beer and Cheezels anyway, laughing their wobbly bits off as they replayed their merry antics – again and again and again. Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk! Then Auntie Doofus would say (insert light bulb special effect here): ‘Hey – we oughta send it in to ‘Straylya’s Funniest Home Oxymoron … we moyt WIN!’

            And win they certainly did! They won another camcorder, which is pretty terrific, as there’s now no holding them back. They’ll be able to re-record the fat kid (which, due to its own padding, miraculously survived its death-defying plummet through the dilapidated canvas); this time hurtling from a minibike into the guinea pig hutch. They’ll record the remains of the guinea pigs. They’ll record Part 2 of the Dumbarse’n’Doofus Show. In which he kills her.

            While the show was in progress, a voice-over man gave a running commentary. Just in case the audience couldn’t get a handle on what was going down. It was both witty and enlightening: ‘… and here comes Auntie Doofus … WHACK! He’s down for the count!’ There followed much canned mirth. ‘Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!’ The studio audience had obviously been fed a cocktail of amphetamines in red cordial in order to cope with this frivolity. They just couldn’t get enough of it. A blonde hostessy creature came on in between events and made a few witty and enlightening observations re Auntie Doofus in a voice akin to a not-very-eloquent parrot. ‘What a woman, eh? She could bat for ‘Straylya! Hyuk, hyuk!’

            Give us a break. Please. Does this rate? Do TV executives actually think it’s amusing to encourage the terminally brain-dead to set fire to their pets and hurl their obese offspring head first into garden furniture, just on the offchance they might acquire a camcorder? Or do these people really take video recorders to family barbeques? If so – why? Will anybody want to look back in 20 years at Uncle Dumbarse sucking blissfully on the fat of a greasy chop with half a dozen empty beer bottles lined up beside him and his right testicle escaping from the leghole of his vile old Stubbies? Will they look back fondly at the grubby teatowels flapping behind him on the Hills Hoist and marvel at how the bindies had really gotten a hold of the lawn that year? Memories, eh? Not to mention the chance of spin-off shows – up to date, more pertinent to the times – such as ‘Australia’s Funniest Bungled Home Invasion Attempts’,  or ‘World’s Most Side-Splittingly Hilarious Bag Snatches’, or even ‘Candid Office Dunny’, where lavatories in high rises are bugged and the whole country gets to check out your butt and see who doesn’t wash their hands afterwards.

            Isn’t it great how technology has boosted our intelligence to levels never before imagined? How it’s given us insights into life we didn’t used to have? We’ve come such a long way since Shakespeare, baby!

            If the Bard were alive today he’d probably be firing up the barbie …

.oOo.