Sunday, August 24, 2008

Princess Mary, The Apricot Ripple and the Homeless Man

So now that my hangover has faded, I feel a lot better, I at least made it off the floor. The ham sandwich was much better than the pancake, and I admired the wonderful stoic I will not make a joke performance of Josh Fraser on The Sunday Footy Show. I'm obviously stoked the Olympics are ending, as it means we'll soon be getting endless slow motion review of the Games montages set to Coldplay (come on, we all love them - the montages, not Coldplay) and Johanna Griggs can do whatever the hell she does for the rest of her life when sports don't need to be analysed really badly. Someone actually sent me an e-mail about obscure 80s lollies and drinks, and actually mentioned the famous apricot ripple Cornetto (delicious) which I thought I imagined (at the football yesterday, someone else remembered the DMCs, so I'm on a roll). And best of all, literally my favourite place in Tasmania when I was growing up is apparently still open - the mighty Old Yolla Butter Factory in Yolla (duh) where you can get crafts and go to the Bullock Wagon Restaurant with it's a la carte dining and 15 different ways to cook chicken (fried in Fanta? Well I never)...well, I don't know what's going on there because I can't find any information, but it's still there on the Waratah Highway doing something apparently. I don't think local stores 11:59 Clobber in Devonport ("Specialising in Tops and Bottoms" was their slogan, which if you think about it, is probably quite good in a clothes store) or Morse and Son ("we know how to give you lubricant" was a much more benign slogan in 1986) are still there, and I know Devilmania in the Cat and Fiddle Arcade died a long time after Wendy Kennedy stopped doing their ads but in Yolla, there's still some good old fashioned 80s goodness out there...I think...maybe they still sell Apricot Ripples...

So Princess Mary is in town - she doesn't worry as much as she worries Wil Anderson (famously Anderson once had a radio phone in for people who met Princess Mary before she was famous, and one guy rang up and said "Yeah i rooted her in me ute" - which is funny, but Wil has never invited people to tell stories about him...and the Gruen Transfer hasn't got onto Maxibons yet), because I'm Scottish, and I don't much worry about royalty. I met the Queen when I was 8 and Burnie became a city and they had some big sports thing and I got hit in the head with a rock someone threw across the road (could I have been more Wile E Coyote as a kid?). Well, I say met, she drove past me in her car (we hilariously stuck our thumbs out and pretended we were hitching...hilarious) and Phillip looked ready to kill someone. Princess Mary as far I know is from Taroona, home of the big windy road and a soccer team set up by a St Mirren fan, picked up a prince at the Sydney Olympics in a bar called The Slip Inn, and...well, that's about it really, she's a Princess now. To think all I did when the Sydney Olympics were on was work in Glenorchy and try and avoid the Olympic elf that was in the mall (we'll get to that soon). Yesterday, in one of those "gosh I'm an ordinary Australian, I enjoy you peasants" moments, she went to Salamanca yesterday to do some gosh darn ordinary shopping. Salamanca is awful right now, so god knows what she expected to find, maybe a knitted beanie that says "HIWKS" on it. Anyway, while she was there, in a no way contrived situation, she met an old school friend and chatted about Taroona...and thus, I realised that, no matter where we go in life, this remains an absolute and complete social hell...the old school friend...really, is there anything worse than the "what are you doing" conversation? "Oh, I'm blogging - I'm also trying to get the apricot ripple back in stores...so how about you? Oh...TAB cola...right...hey, Anne Maree Cooksley is in the...oh, sorry, you've gone to talk to Justin Plapp, fair enough."

I will admit, I am not good with small talk. Some people love school re-unions, I don't know even know if my school had one - if it was on, no one invited me. I couldn't think of anything worse than "Hey remember that time that guy at our school went mad and ripped up the tape that was supposed to play at our farewell and we were completely screwed! Wasn't that a funny story!" and then someone would play a Garbage song cos they were so big in 1996 and I would want to kill. I'm quite complex on this issue because I'm going to retire to Penguin and be one of those help the community annoying old people (or the town drunk, either or) and help the footy club, but I can't think of anything worse than going back and meeting all the old people I went to school with. This is entirely because I'm a different person now, and to meet someone you went to school with sends you back in time to the moment they last saw you. For instance, there was a girl I went to school with who was Batkovic of figure (what a lovely phrase) that, the last time I went to Burnie, hadn't physically changed much, but she came bounding up to me at Siroccos and started being quite the harry have a chat - now, I had spoken to this girl, I'd say, twice? At school? Once, she said I was cool, and secondly she signed my farewell shirt - that was it. Suddenly to the thumping strains of Spiderbaits Old Man Sam, she was impossible to get rid of. And the major problem with that was, a large part of her conversation was about the real estate business and how she totally was going to revolutionise the world of real estate once she'd done her apprenticeship as a receptionist, and the other 4% was about Ricky Martin and how he was so gay and no one knew it? I mean, precient observation on Ricky but...why are we talking? The entire reason she even spoke to me was because she knew me in 1996? Well...I'm completely different now...I've got a job, my own car, several Anguillan stamps, totally different...and you are completely different too, well, you look the same but come on, Midori and Kahlua? What are you, sic...oh, sorry, you've gone to talk to Peter German...just sliding to the kebab shop now...

OK, this is a little unfair, she was just being nice, and to be honest some people love having a chat, and I'm just being grumpy. Maybe it's just Siroccos that was at fault. To be honest with you, I wish there was one school friend I could have helped, because one day I was walking through the mall on my way to, I don't know, let's say going to Subway (how many questions do those people ask) when I saw down below in that little bridge bit next to the National Bank that has the water under it, someone asleep on the pavement, curled up, and quite evidently homeless, as opposed to just sleeping off a big night. Now, I'm bad with homeless people, I'm not a great helper, but I do what I can, and probably had he been in the mall rather than on a lower level, I'd have tried to give him some change or something, but since I was on an upper level I was about to keep walking, I realised this was actually someone I went to school wish - not a super close friend, but a friend nonetheless, the goalkeeper in my soccer team, someone I went to primary school with, someone who had always to my knowledge been quite a happy person quite happy, like the girl, to have a chat to strangers and help them out. I had no frame of reference about him other than that, so I don't know what happened to him - drugs, divorce, don't know, but he looked up just as he grabbed his little bundle of blankets to move on somewhere else, I don't know if he knew who I was, but there was just nothing in his eyes, no light, no colour, nothing at all, his face was all stubble and sores, and...then he just shook his head and got up and walked away. I didn't know whether to chase him or what to do, but I lost him for some reason, his own movement or my own lack of action. I don't know what's become of him, because I've never seen him again, but I think about it often - I think I could have been like that, if I'd run away when I was 14 or had a family who threw me out when I was failing uni...I've thought about local pride and the various little communities that support people when they need support the most...but on this day, there was just nothing I could do to help someone who was a part, once, of my community.

I wish him well wherever he is...and maybe I'll go and see Burnie again soon...for old times sake...

6 comments:

blackie said...

While Mary has been here I have found myself seriously pondering taking the kidlet for a walk in the area of her sister's home so that I might accidentally on purpose bump in to her. I've even found myself wondering what I would say to her if I did see her. "Hi Mary, I went to Taroona High too' is the best I could think up. Needless to say I broke out of my tea-time daydreaming enough to come to my senses and not take that walk. I think I've been brainwashed by New Idea, and I don't even buy New Idea.

Kris said...

For a few years there I worked in what essentially was a ‘needle and syringe’ outlet in Glenorchy, and then was the primary interviewer in a research project that annually did hour long (paid) interviews with injecting drug users asking about the drug market (price, availability, purity, sources etc),their lives (mental illness, criminality, income etc) and some other stuff. We’re talking between 80 and 120 users each year hearing some pretty full on stuff. Well, you can imagine that in a place like Tassie it isn’t too long before you start seeing people that you once knew.

Generally, I’m a pretty cold hearted bastard, but where some people have ended up, it’d curl your hair. The main thing that has struck me that for every predictable one (the crim expelled from Parklands – school of last resort – at age 14 for chasing the horticulture teacher around with a knife), there are just plain odd ones (the nice looking quiet girl who was good at English who now doesn’t have any teeth because she took to banging up her methadone).

Thus, I try to avoid meeting ‘old school chums’. Too bloody dreary!

Kath Lockett said...

This is a great piece, Miles.

....and yet, somehow, despite the infinite ability of Wil Anderson to wrest the truth out of all his listeners, I don't quite believe that Mary had a root in a ute....

Rita said...

Interesting thoughts Miles.

Re Mary - she's a totally down-to-earth, thoroughly NICE person, who is as normal as she can be, given her wierd life. Yesterday in Hill St Grocers, she met another old school friend, who had a really normal, 'mumsy' conversation with her about their respective offspring. Mary was introduced to Miss 4 yo offspring of her friend, and talked openly and naturally to young madam, especially when questioned about being a Princess! Just a normal meeting we all have with friends we meet at the shop. All the hype that accompanies Mary doesn't seem to have altered her at all in regard to the way she acts with old friends.

Re school reunions - I too held your opinion about these ghastly social occasions, for 40+ years. Then I decided that it was time to face up to the fact that much water has passed under the bridge, and before we all died it would be interesting to see who had changed and how!
So I actually organised the school reunion, along with a girlfriend from those days. Apart from about 5 of them, I had totally lost contact with everyone as of the last day at school, and actually hadn't even thought of anyone I went to school with over the ensuing years. Imagine my immense surprise to find that at the end of the night, I found I had actually enjoyed myself! If you'd previously told me either of those facts (that I'd organise one, and that I'd enjoy myself at one) I'd have had you certified instantly, or even slapped you in disgust!

When enough time has passed it seems it worked out OK. It felt like I'd read the first 1/3 of a novel, and needed to know how the plot developed, and how the book turned out at the end.

As a keen observer of my fellow humans, I found it great to see who had gone on to be as predictable as the young child I used to know promised to be, and who didn't.

Miles McClagan said...

I've been in that position, I was once outside Bec Cartwrights house and someone went "Hey, that's Bec Cartwrights house!" and I thought, gosh that's interesting...wait...no it's not...why am I even listening...damn you New Idea...

We played some sick intersports against Parklands, but I know what you mean - the nicest kid I went to school with sold drugs out of his house at 9 in the morning last time I saw him...thank god when it came to drugs, I stuck to Halibut Orange tablets...

Miles McClagan said...

Ah, Wil Anderson - such a funny man...or not, Adam Hills pointing out his I'M TELLING A JOKE style of comedy is annoying. Besides, I saw him once completely lose his cool over a Maxibon heckle and it's stayed with me as perhaps he's not the guru he thinks he is...

Princess Mary, it's good to know she's a nice person. It's good to know she hasn't gone all Ian Thorpe on us all. However, I don't think I could face a school re-union - someone else e-mailed me to say how much fun they had at one, but I just know I would hate it - I'm glad yours was tops though - and I'd get bored and do something dumb like try and DJ drunk or summat. Maybe my Penguin kindy re-union is the go!