Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Duelling Banjos (or Corporate Bakeries Still Suck)

So today I'm sitting in my car, driving obviously because if I was just sitting there I'd get tooted, and the bridge is allegedly closed according to our breakfast radio hilarious duo who are talking this complete drivel that I eventually turn off, not just because I can see quite obviously it's open and because they talk about how much they are loving Brian McFaddens new single and my head is just full of drivel to begin with because I can't sleep and I've got this confused tired expression on my face like the bass player from the Living End trying to do backing vocals - I often think when I'm driving over the bridge about that time the boat crashed into it and knocked it over in the 70s because the captain was incredibly drunk, and how few boats I actually see these days, and I sometimes think about what happened to Brashs or I sit and get myself all pumped up for the finals and think if Early Dawes gets dropped for Rocca would they bring in McAff...then the traffic in front of me comes to a complete stop and it's time to slam the brakes on. The bridge is where I have most of my thinking time, when I don't drive semi-legally listening to Melissa Mars or White Lillies or, I don't know, Real American by Hulk Hogan on the IPOD. To be honest, Tasmanian drivers are pretty useless - I've adopted my Dads tried and true philosophy with cars "right up me arse" of just driving a lot slower - of course, this course of action will one day get me killed in a horrible road rage incident, but what the hell - and I've become a really bad person when I drive because I don't let anyone in at all, hence contributing to the problem not solving it. I think about the year Freddo had a creamy Blueberry version, and wonder if I could still get one. Not the standard blueberry one, but this extra thick whipped blueberry mousse style that wasn't the usual drippy liquid you get in a Freddo...and then, my conscience kicks in, and if you want to know the voice of my conscience, imagine Kathryn Harby crossed with Debbie Black...it resonates in my head to this day....

Banjos, should you not know, is a franchised chain of bakeries and eateries that down here in Tasmania inspire, if not quite the fervour of the day in 1992 Burnie got a Maccas, at least some form of passionate devotion from pensioners who swear by it in that uniquely "we like everything safe and tepid" kind of pensioner way. Why take a risk with that home made hedgehog slice when you can have a mildly appetising "worlds best" sausage roll (The Albanians beg to differ). Actually, that's a little harsh, but the reason I sometimes talk like this is because (here we go again) I used to know this girl who I would see on the bus to work. We got to chatting, as you do, before I became rigidly terrified of buses and people cutting my head off up the back and before I scared people on buses with my "Hey! Remember City South! What a footy team!" line of banter. I can't even remember what she looked like as she was all teeth and voice, but you know, I'm surprised at myself that I was talking to a stranger so there must have been something to her. I think it was because she knew who Catatonia were, maybe that was it. As it happens, she would lecture me pretty regularly about the horrific nature of multi national and national and even state based franchises, and she would always have No Logo by Naomi Klein (which if you remember became a logo) on hand to rescue her arguments. Everything with her always had to be single identity mom and pop (she was also against Americanisation of our language - oh wait, did that joke) stores selling local products with local service and nothing else. She was always telling me about the quality of the sliced hedgehog (that's a chocolate slice foreigners, we're not that crazy down here, despite what it says in Lonely Planet) in little Grandma Pakingas bakery down in the Fingal Valley and how she was going out of business because there was a Banjos built on the grazing land of the sparrow in Avoca, and...obviously, all tedious nonsense in hindsight, especially since I think a Tasmanian owned Banjos anyway, but she had picked her target with me. Gosh darn it, there's local pride at stake, little Grandma Pakinga has been making those hedgehog slices for 20 years! She's a key part of the local community! She raises funds for the local football team! How dare you turn up with your slick advertising campaigns and your sub Bakers Delight slices and drive her out of town! I was naturally furious, in that fantastically unfurious way of the early 20s male, in that you get quite indignant but forget about twenty minutes later because the cute girl in Tracks Record store is putting up posters. The last I saw of this girl she was organising a rally in Brisbane against a corporate whistle company (no, really). Still, she did re-inforce several of my beliefs in local pride and local businesses and whenever I had a purchasing conscience moment, it was her voice that nagged me - at least, until I saw her two years later, jogging out of Chickenfeed (franchise! Driving cheap salvos shops out of business! Or something!) in a Nike tracksuit (Naomi wouldn't have liked that). Naturally, I felt compelled to question the melting of her beliefs, and she simply held up a bucket of pegs and pointed to the price tag, and indeed, Naomi Klein, for all her sound and fury against the corporate machine, wasn't going to question a full bucket of pegs for 99c, regardless of their ethical origin...

My local Banjos is really weird - I know Granny Pakinga needs the business, and I should buy local, but sometimes I get a bit Sophie Monk at KFC and can't help myself - I can't get a handle on it, or it's consistency. Sometimes the sausage rolls are great, sometimes they are terrible. Sometimes there's no sandwiches, sometimes there's so many sandwiches you think Jesus is turning water into thick crust ham and cheese. Sometimes, the girls are lovely and sometimes they are terrible. What I love in life is a consistent shop - I know if I go and get a Boost Juice, I certainly won't get a boosted ego from the actress/model/slash I'm doing my time until Tyra Banks discovers me girl serving me. Against that, I can guarantee that if I go into my local pub in Kingston, they'll ask me if I want herb bread, even if I've ordered a chocolate mousse and a coke. My only other problem with my local Banjos is they always ask how how my day is - the surly ones and the cheerful ones, always the same question. It's one of those questions I spend too long thinking about, when the correct answer is good thankyou, how are you? I'd love to give them an honest opinion after careful consideration. Actually, the real problem is queue jumpers. To get served early in Banjos where I work, you need Tetris like dexterity - it's like Frogger, you've got leap over the moving people just to get a powdered mudcake. There's this one old lady who's an absolute maestro at it. There could be a queue of a hundred and she'd work her way to the front. I watched her today, her trick is usually to jogamble to the counter, in an opposite corner to the queue, huddled over like a munchkin, some kind of woolen hand knitted blanket over her shoulders, and then feign an interest in the little charity tin up the front or to pretend she wants to get a sample slice of Boston Bun from the counter, and obviously everyone gives her some air as she ponders the merits of spending her last 3 bucks on a Daffodil Day pen (what a good egg) and then, with the reflexes of a Batkovic, she's suddenly alive, blanket thrown aside, singing like Shirley Bassey that she wants a pie. It's genius, it really is. The bewildered or the patient just never expect that kind of move. As an aside, my Dad is one of those bewildered, and to this day he still doesn't understand why, on a 37 degree day in Burnie when I had to sit in the car in a suit going to a job interview (it was so hot we got Melbourne TV, always a treat), when I asked for a "tasty treat" from the local shop, and expected a Calippo or a Solero, and he came back proudly with a pound of mince, I wasn't over the moon...

Anyway, so I was in there today, felt like a sandwich, and she was obviously in prime fool the bewildered position, and there was no way out of the queue, the long snaking queue, and I was thinking about how jaunty I would make my "good thanks, how are you", but my mind was already wandering off, to the last time I had been in a Banjos queue this long - it was the day Tassie hosted the Sheffield Shield final against NSW at Bellerive, the sun was shining, my IPOD was shining, the Shining was mildly disappointing the first time I saw it, and I was in town (mainlanders, from now on, this entirely refers to Hobart) having breakfast with a friend of mine before the eternal Bellerive struggle of beer vs light beer began. I obviously proved my masculine credentials by ordering a hearty manly breakfast of waffles with a hint of raspberry jam. My friend ordered the more North West Coast option of 245 things deep fried in chip batter (or is that the Scottish option?) including eggs and bacon and several types of toast (I forgot to ask if they deep fried Apricot Ripple cornettos). So we sat and waited, and enjoyed the magic as his breakfast was brought our ingredient by ingredient. Even the tomato got an individual entrance (he didn't appreciate my is Joan Rivers hosting a red carpet entry special, mostly because he didn't know who Joan Rivers was). As the beginning of the match approached, there was still no toast. The bacon was stringy and cold, the eggs were tepid, the waffles were bloody delicious now you ask, and my conversation was fluid with a hint of cheek and a garnish of repetition. After 45 minutes, there was still no toast, and of course, we were getting anxious to see some cricket, so, politely, he asked the Banjos girl to find out what was going on, and as she wandered off twirling gum around her finger, she got the manager, a small and frail fan of the band Jet (can't you just tell?) and he said, in full seriousness and from the bottom of his little heart, "I'm so sorry, this normally doesn't happen...the toast chef has called in sick"...and preceded to make it up to him by helping him to another serve of delicious cold stringy bacon. Obviously, no toast ever came, what with the toast chef crisis...lucky the bacon chef was on hand...

And they don't do sliced hedgehog either...that chef quit in 1995...fight the power...

7 comments:

Mrs Slocombe said...

How do you do it, Stanley?

Kris said...

The 1992 Burnie Maccas opening was the same week of my Parklands High school leavers ball. Early tip learned: pissed Grade tens + Maccas thickshake sculling comp = grotesque vomiting.

Fair dinkum, the two blokes doing it, it's the only thing that I can remember of them in four years of high school.

Jack Dorf said...

Pure brilliance Miles.

Kath Lockett said...

PHark you're a good writer, Miles. Like James Joyce's stream of consciousness stuff, but writing I actually want to READ instead of stuff on my bookshelf and hope it impresses the heater guy when he finally turns up.

Nice Sophie Monk add in there - keeping it current and your little old Frogger Lady must have a sister living near me who does the same frackin' thing at my butcher and pasta place. Thankfully I managed to kick along the floor-dwelling old cigarette butt bin-now-odd-wrapper bin and she got a homy ped stuck in it. Not the nicest thing I've done perhaps, but at least I got me scotch fillets and steak sausages before she got her foot out....

Fer said...

I think the ultimate 'treat' to ask for in Burnie is a Golden Gaytime, the spotty kid behind the counter wouldn't know what to do. Makes me think of the time a few of us went through the drive-through at Burnie Maccas and my friend asked for a 'fir burger'.

Miles McClagan said...

Just cough syrup and not knowing when to stop I think...

Do you remember how excited everyone was that Maccas was opening? Every time I went past people would ask me about them, as there were ones in Scotland, and I had to unlock the mysteries...

Thanks Jack, and thanks for the plug - much appreciated

Miles McClagan said...

I'm beginning to think I need to be more ruthless with old people in shops, I'm nearly 30, so I think in the case of bakeries, butchers or pasta shops (or indeed the Q for Frogger) I can actually ark up and get them back in the Q...almost...

I wrote in one of my early posts, there was a guy in the shop in Penguin who used to giggle every time someone asked for a Golden Gaytime...you couldn't even point to it...you had to say it out loud...