Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The greatest firefighting hero since Wally Wombat



Depressed by the melancholy in the closing down bookstore today, the gaps in the bookstore and the furrowed brow on the bearded classical music fan, I had to get out of dodge today, go for a walk and clear my head. Not that Rosny offers a wide variety of walking options, there's no out there trail one can suddenly wander along unless you feel like skipping around the edge of the K-Mart car park like an unemployed skippy hobo. I decided to walk to library, and take the black or red roulette spin that a computer would be free without a lousy kid sitting there. My progress, and my natural walking gait is fast paced and go getting, with significant swinging of the arms, was held up by a fat girl in a business outfit who had cellulite staying on her legs in a timeshare deal and total control of the footpath. She was onn her mobile phone with not a care in the world, and was wobbling over the footpath like a bulky car with busted treads as she spoke loudly for everyone to hear, ensuring that she was the absolute centre of attention - I had an acid flashback to sitting in assembly when I was a kid and a bememoth of a girl would get up and loudly tell about her efforts for Amnesty, making sure everyone knew how wonderful she was. As the skirt wobbled from left to right in different directions to her thighs, she suddenly decided to say at random and in a screechy fat vocal chords voice, with extra hiss, that no matter what anyone else thinks of mint, she doesn't care. Why mint? Why such a strident stance on mint? And who's been dissing mint I wonder as I have a particularly awkward realisation that at this moment, we are the only two people around - the kids are mostly back at school, there's a bum on the horizon somewhat more svelte that her own, and we're walking in a strange two step. Of the two of us, she is controlling the situation, after all, I'm stuck in her world, she's not listening to tales of Waterproof Blonde songs and lime spiders. Conversationally trapped, unable to get around her, I turn around and give up, as she veers wildly into the distance, probably thinking of eating a whole box of after dinner chocolates. There's so much time to kill, and so little to do here at the moment - the shopping centre has a big upping at it's majesty and how great it is sign affixed to it, underneath which people who work there gather to smoke and look incredibly pissed off with unintentional poignancy. There's a guy who works in like a phone shop or something who's always standing there with his girlfriend, and when I walk past them today, they look like they've had an argument, but it's really hard to tell - they may possibly just be incredibly contented. In the air of their cigarette smoke and the light that makes it the best photo no one has ever taken, they stand stock still and entirely silent, and although they don't realise it, they have taken everyones attention, simply by where they are standing and their cool poses. To break their impeccable cool, and/or their embitterred Brown/Rihanna style upset, I want to ask them their opinions about mint, but there's already been just been too much thinking about other people for one day, and to turn it back to me, I'm drinking one of the most relieving bottles of water I've ever had to try and parch m...yeah, I can see why today has been turned over to others...

It's been a day for that - my e-mail lighting up with self congratulations from one of my friends patting herself on the back for donating 50ty dollars to the bushfire appeal. She's changed her Facebook status to reflect this self congratulation, her donation now taking on, in her own mind, some sort of status of Mandela like qualities. If I had leprosy, I'm poking her for sure. God bless charity and all, but she's waiting on the halo. Maybe for 100 bucks. There's a few people wandering around like this today, you can hear them idly chatting around the centre, maybe about how much an injured koala has inspired them to do something zany for charity. A few years ago, I began sponsoring a an African child, which as the old joke goes means I get my name on her footy jumper - and no, she's never told me if there's ever been snow in Africa this Xmas or anything about clanging chimes of doom. I didn't do this to get a pat on the back, I did it because I had a very strange whim one day where after all these years that hairy bloke on the Christian Childrens ad talking about a caring home maker called Angela Toth finally made me do something. Every so often, she sends me a terrible drawing of a tree in lieu of any kind of progress update, and that's as far as it goes, and the only reason anyone knows this is because, after three years, I completely forgot myself and left one of her more abstract works - possibly a chicken, possibly a commentary on the state of Ugandan politics, I don't know - on the fridge and Mum asked what it was. There's a woman today who wouldn't leave her light idly on the fridge. She's standing enraptured in her own glory whilst waiting for a sandwich, talking loudly about how she survived the bushfires in 1967, the Hobart ones, and so she has a unique insight into how the survivors feel. I'm not sure if this is true - I got bit by a dog once but I don't profess expertise on shark attacks - but she seems very sure of herself, and how great she is for ten upping my friend and raising 500 bucks for the appeal through a mix of peer pressure and zany events, her pug nose wrinkling in excitement. I don't know, I'm cynical I guess, I prefer the quiet approach, the essential goodness of a volunteer firefighter to someone organising wacky tie day and putting in 2 bucks when it's their time to chip in. In mid sentence the woman stops talking, sips some of her water from the bottle, and when I look at her, I realise it's a quite deliberate pause, to allow her friends to chip in with cooing admiration. She's scanning them, and luckily for her, they coo on cue. Suitably impressive, she screws the top on her water bottle and begins a rather strident lecture on flame patterns. Apparently they can leap over roads. This woman had the presence of mind in 1967 to calmly take notes for future reference. By the time she's moved on to her own expertise and how annoyed she is no one has called her for personal advice, I've luckily been served by a perky blonde versed in by the book personal service, and I escape before the lady decides that I need any more of a personal lesson on the horrors of 1967...and no, she didn't mean The Seekers...

My mind drifts off to another time, another pub a long time ago. A conspiritorial conversation in a roped off private part of a roped off private pub that obviously wasn't that exclusive if they let me in. It had the air of desperation all of those places have, especially in Tasmania where the clients tends to be, like, high up lawyers and people who just got a workers comp cheque and the music is tinny and strained and you begin to wonder why you are paying 6ix bucks a beer to sit here - I'm sure I went to somewhere once that I sat on milk crates. Did I imagine that? A friend is dominating the conversation, and it's going nowhere. It's 3 in the morning, past the point of courtesy surely, the music in my head now even tinnier, the beer prices ramped up in a last desperate attempt to leave. No one can get a word in, a conversational dominator is spilling his guts. Time is passing slowly, the rhythmic beats of a distant Shakira, singing through a sewer grate it sounds like, seeming slow and distant. There's a story being told, it has no form, no structure, no plot twists, no beginning, no middle, and more pertinently, no end. It's about a parent, a parent who may or may not have been a spy, and may or may not have a secretive tattoo. There's no deflecting the story, all my jokes about tattoo, fantasy island, Russian girl bands...nothing...I remember catching the eye of the barmaid, she was looking at me with a kindly smile, but I couldn't extract myself from the conversation to go and talk to her, and I rue my kindness as much as I rue how much I spent at Superdry in London, for eventually she left to go and stocktake some Samboys, and I was left with my own thoughts being invaded like lounge rooms were invaded by this guys super spy dad. Trapped in his conversational web, every word, every fractured sentence and over exaggerated paragraph lingered in the air like the after effects of the smoke machine that was still pumping where the band was a few hours earlier. Eventually I excused myself to get some Samboy chips, the sympathetic barmaid was beautiful, my ideal girl, the perfect mix of blonde hair, and slightly, just slightly North West Coast bogan tendencies, and we made small talk, the 3am atmosphere breaking down any notions of out of your league or anything like that, the ennui induced by her repetitive job broken down by a few jokes about Samboys vs Twisties. There's no one who can't be wooed by a chip comparison. I wouldn't say the conversation was flirtacious, but it was a good conversation, but I had to break it off when she began criticising the conversation I was trapped in - I had to say to say he was my friend, and she didn't understands friends listen to other friends tell really boring stories. It's what makes us friends. I left her looking confused, and returned to my table, just in time for the conversation to have moved onto to the tattoo on his left shoulder - the last I saw of her was as she headed out the back, shaking her head, changing the CD from Shakira to Britney...it could have been so good...

I break free in the end of other peoples obsessions, other peoples breakdowns that I see at their work desk when even the act of eating a chicken wrap seems too much to bear. My house is silent and cold, my own monument to my own personal foibles and obsessions, dated football magazines piling up in the corner, old CDs from bands long since broken up and working more menial jobs. Sometimes if I listen really carefully, I can hear myself as a child, arguing with my Dad in the days before I realised Dad didn't really argue, he'd just say something and then say 1-0 to me and declare himself the winner, and Mum would walk in hands on hips to tell me to gie us aw peace. I'm sure my repititious conversation about sport bores my Mum just as much as the lady with the mad fire fighting skills bored me today, but my Mum at least doesn't blog about it. The kid I was at 5ive, the overly self confident show and tell loving wean with endlessly fascinating marbles to show everyone, he loved being the centre of attention. Give that kid a stage and a microphone and you were guaranteed an hour of talking - that's all gone now, eroded by a million alleged slights and social faux pas, self awareness and poor choices of footwear. My e-mail whirrs and hums as I sit down, to read another piece of shameless self promotion from my friend - apparently she donated 50ty dollars to the bushfire appeal if everyone wasn't aware. She puts this in the middle of her e-mail as if it's some casually remembered fact, when the glisten of the handed over yellow note is all that seems to be keeping her going. I delete the e-mail quickly - it's too much for one day. The self important trendy DJs giggling profusely at their own jokes and their own self created world also go off, as does the sports chat on ESPN. Everything finishes quiet, even my imagination gets shut off. Finally, I am free to be self confident, free to ponder whatever I want to poner, and free of anyone trying to big themselves up, no overly proud gifts to charity, no anti mint crusades to listen to...the silence is pure, purer than Dalry heroin, and it's all mine, a well earned peace that seems harder to attain every day...

And with this free thought, the first thing I think is I really want a Polly Waffle...

10 comments:

Mad Cat Lady said...

Darn it - now i want a polly waffle too.

It's the organising and lecturing by busy people that is getting to me.

As if one is too halfwitted to comprehend what we have all seen/heard advised on teleivision and paper regarding donation.

Repeated as if they themselves researched it from obscure papers held only in filing cabinets in the basement of a small speciality shop that doesn't advertise.

Oh! is that what red cross appeal means? I thought it was some kind of dog.

sigh - i am petty and mean - its the rain - it makes me irritable.

Young Ned of the Hill said...

My tastes are more top shelf - I prefer the Golden Rough.

I prefer the way most of the country goes about helping people when they need it - quietly,with no fanfare, and no fuss, giving up time, items, blood, cash as required or as much as they can. Offering a few prayers to the victims and getting on with life. You know the way when someone dies, evening meals are usually quietly dropped on your doorstep with no fuss, and only a note to say who it was from so you know who the dish needs to be returned to.

This out there way of flashing the microsopic aspects of peoples lives that is the norm in
all forms of media just doesnt sit well with me - but I blog??

I think I prefered it when dignity and respect for yourself meant something.

Doc said...

Forgive an ugly American, but what is a Polly Waffle? And I looked up "bogan" on wikipedia but it doesn't sound like the way you use it.

To me it sounds like a hillbilly, which is just fine as I am one myself, but I think there are nuances to it that I'm not getting. I hate to sound like some uneducated boob, but I must own up to what I am.

I so enjoy your writing and I look forward to each installment, yet I am at a loss to make some connections. From what I gather from the comments, most of your readers are local, or at least as well-versed in the local slang as you are, and need no explanation.

I feel silly for asking, but you have garnered a fan and I feel as if I'm missing something.

Cheers,
Doc

Miles McClagan said...

I went out and bought a Polly Waffle. Delicious. You are totally right. I LOVE local pride, but community leaders and people who take it upon themselves to tell you lots of details...awful...hopefully Megan gets through in American Idol and I can be happy!

Golden Roughs and Mint Patties, the back up plan of the footy canteen. Penguin was good as those kind of dealings - little jars of jams and so on on the door step. And yeah, totally aware of the irony of someone with a blog talking about overstating your life! Maybe it's a lack of golden roughs...

A Polly Waffle is a chocolate bar. Very tasty. And I trouble the scorers with bogan - because it's both trailer trash (someone who would have a mullet and wear an AC/DC T-shirt) and, in scotland, it means dirty...I should spell it "boggin", so it's clearer! Feel free to ask if you need anything else explained, I did consider a FAQ with a lot of explanations, would that help?

squib said...

Polly waffles just remind me of our local pool, in a really unpleasant way you understand

And wow telling people how much you donate is SOOO tacky

shinynewcoin said...

It is irritating that people don't just Do the Right Thing, without needing to self promote.

Do the dinners still get left at peoples's doors? Sounds a generational thing.

Miles McClagan said...

I think that was the start of the Foxtel ad this summer, someone dropped a Polly Waffle in the pool and everyone bolted, so I know what you mean! And yes, it is tacky, tackier still when it's yer Facebook status...

They definitely would in Penguin - I know people just leave jam at your door to this day. Maybe not everywhere, but definitely in little towns in Tassie. You should see the brigade of givers down here at the moment - it's scary how proud they are of themselves...

Baino said...

It's like sports people just lobbing down to Kinglake signing footballs for kids who have no shoes and denying camera access with a manly flourish because they're doing it for the kids not the cameras .. as if that won't help their team image.

Miley, you're not the only cynical one. Charity requires humility. You just do it without making a song and dance about it. Just give it, don't talk about it.

Oh did I tell you I pledged $500 on the Triple M fundraiser, shopped at Coles tonight and put $5 in the Rotary bucket outside Wendy's!

Baino said...

My comment got ate, or disapproved . . .*sob*

Miles McClagan said...

No, it didn't, I just hadn't got to that bit yet! I was having an Abdul morning, so I hadn't got to it yet!

I loved last nights football - Matthew Lloyd saved the country! And during the cross to the cricket on the telethon when Eddie spent 1/2 the time plugging the coverage...or when Lisa Wilkinson wouldn't get out of shot to let us see the kids! Still, well done on the giving! You need to update Facebook, that seems to be the in thing!