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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Cricket on the Village Idiots ... Sorry: Cricket on the Village Greens.

The time has now come for me to write about cricket, a subject close to my Anglo-Antipodean heart.
I couldn't write about cricket before because England kept winning the Ashes and to have written about it would have seemed too much like gloating.
Now that England have been smashed in an Ashes contest, I can write about it to my heart's content - because doing so makes me look like an arsehole Aussie, trying to stick the boot in while 'we' are on top. 
Being born in Australia of English parents and having spent my formative years in Old Blighty and my adult years in Australia I am in the happy position of being able switch my sporting allegiance at will, as it were.
Olympics? Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi! Tennis? Go team! (Lleyton Hewitt excepted, of course.) Rugby Union? Waltz that Matilda boys – although I can’t say I was too displeased when Johnny Wilkinson tore out Australian hearts in THAT World Cup Final.
I’m proud to support our Little Aussie Battlers wherever and whenever they don the green and gold. Did I not help not-very-speedy speed skater Stephen Bradbury win the greatest accidental gold medal in history by focussing all of my energy on his opponents and chanting ‘Fall over. Fall over. Fall over. YES!’?
I’m a true blue dinky di Aussie sports fan – with three exceptions.
The first is football. I support the Australian team except if Lucas Neill is playing, because Lucas Neill is dick.

Second: Rugby League. I hate rugby league. A lot. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that there could be anything in the world with fewer redeeming features than Tanya Plibersek, The Greens and offal as a foodstuff, but rugby league is it.
It is a little known fact rugby league was invented by a philanthropic good Samaritan who ran a hostel for mentally deficient, self-obsessed binge drinkers.
Growing tired of forking out money for constant repairs in the aftermath of their games of ‘Head-butt The Wall’, ‘Bend The Bed Frame’ and ‘Bang The Pissed Chick’, he decided to invent a game which allowed them to channel their mindless aggression into more healthy – and cost effective - pursuits.
The idea took off and they had a whale of a time. Unfortunately, he was criticised in some quarters for the violent aspect of his new recreational activity, so he introduced a ball, restricted them to a confined area and added goal-posts and a system of scoring, innovations which added just enough veneer for it to be classified as ‘sport’.

The third exception is cricket. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time when I’ll support the Australian cricket team. Ever.
For as long as I can remember they have been bad losers and worse winners. Being a boorish sook when you lose is one thing, being a boorish braggart when you win is something else again. They sledge relentlessly, but get the sooky lar lars if the other mob sledge them back. They bully umpires mercilessly, but when they get busted trying to cheat they blithely state that 'it's up to the umpire to decide'.
Whoever the Australian 11 are up against, I’ll cheer for the other side. If Australia were up against a combined Al Qaeda/Taliban 11 I’d wear my ‘Stone-Age Religions Rock’ tee-shirt with pride.
Hell, if they were pitted against a Greens Invitational 11 I’d back the Greens – which would be pretty big of me if you stop and think for a minute about the probable make-up of the Greens’ side.
Let’s face it: automatic exclusion of Christians, conservatives, male heterosexuals, female heterosexuals, Caucasians, small businessman, big businessmen, medium-sized businessmen, nuclear families, the private school-educated, carnivores, Jews, people who buy coffee made by Jews, fishermen, farmers, coal-miners, tree-loppers, the employed (unless in the public service), Japanese, Russians, sealers, whalers, scientists not in the pay of Big Green, Trotskyites, Mensheviks, factionalists, Murdochian tools of Satan, non-consumers of soy-based products, deniers, decriers, debasers and sharks doesn’t leave the biggest talent pool.
None the less, I’d still cheer on GBLT/Vegan/Refo/Stone-Age Religion squad. And if they lose, well, as Sarah-Hands-On Dung and Ricky Ponting would say: “We were robbed”.
I had intended to deliver my verdict on winning Australian ‘Ashes Down-Under’ 2013/14 squad, but I’m now much more interested in the Greens’ squad for the next Ashes battle in 2015, so I’ll get my verdict on the Aussies over and done with quickly.

C. Rodgers: Good bloke; tries hard; deserves success.
D. Warner: Heir to Hayden's boofhead crown; should be digging ditches.
S. Watson: A K-Mart Jac Kallis. Talks big for a glass-jawed pea-heart.
M. Clarke: Has no idea why it works, but takes credit anyway.
S. Smith: Eye like a dead fish with brain to match. Philander fodder.
G. Bailey: Australia’s Mike Brearley. Should be captain.
B. Haddin: Terrific player. Great comeback. Feisty bugger.
M. Johnson: Bounces bunnies and is suddenly Wasim Akram? Pfft.
P. Siddle: MJ got the wickets, Sid got the work.
R. Harris: Bionic man. Best of the lot. Twitter dick.
N. Lyon: Gutsy. Improving. Best attribute? He isn't Xavier Doherty.

Right. That is the bad losers and worse winners out of the way. Now we can concentrate on the Greens’ squad for 2015. It has been a tough gig, but I believe I’ve picked a team that can bring home the bacon-flavoured tofu:

R. Pachaudri: Employs lots of wrist action. LOTS of wrist action. 
A.S.L.M Seeker: Handy, but all at sea on dry tracks. Travels well.
G.A.Y Marriage: Not convinced as yet. Has issues with swing.
G.L.B.T Rights: Adaptable. Master of the switch hit.
U.N.H.C.R Convention: The ‘glue’ that holds the team together. 
R.J Brown: Spiritual leader. Aggressive - likes to stick it up 'em.
D. Hicks: Spins a good tale. Poster-boy for lefties everywhere.
C. A Milne: Workhorse, judging by the face
A. P Bandt: Well groomed. Nice ties.
A.A Gore: Best spinner around. Bowls exclusively wrong 'uns. 
C. Handson-Dung: Bustling action, but may be all cow and no poke. 

Well, that’s it. I’m sure that team will give anybody a run for taxpayer’s money in 2015. If they don’t, well, I’ve got the passports to prove I’m English to the core.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News ...

In a recent post I mentioned that we would be staying interstate next week.
What I failed to mention was that we are travelling to the Nation’s Sporting Capital to take advantage of the many fine surgical facilities therein.
I had intended to reveal that snippet of information because I thought it was high time that the Tasmanian health system received the shellacking it richly deserved, but I got sidetracked and it slipped my mind.
The sudden bout of attention deficit disorder viz a viz Tasmanian doctors was bought on by the shock of discovering just how much a week in Melbourne was going to cost.
I was puzzled at this, because there clearly aren’t enough people in the world rich enough to fill hotel rooms at the extortionate rates on offer, until it dawned on me: the Australia Day long weekend and the Australian Open tennis.
Of course! What better time for Australian hotel proprietors to fleece their fellow Australians than when they flock to town to cheer on their sporting heroes and celebrate their national day?
(Just for the record. We are not among the deluded fools who think Lleyton Hewitt won’t crash out in the second round, pleading a sprained nasal hair, nor that Bernard Tomic won’t spontaneously combust after checking himself out one too many times in his pocket mirror.)
After the initial shock, I reflected on the alternative and paid over the king’s ransom demanded to secure accommodation within walking distance of the hospital with nary a murmur.
Why? Because the alternative was to submit to the tender mercies of a Tasmanian health system which based its patient care model on the Black Hole of Calcutta patient care diaries.
We were prepared to sell the children for scientific experiments so we could go private in Tasmania, but inquiries revealed that the only two surgeons who purportedly provided the services required had either earned enough money to last them until 2063 or had retired to deal with the psychological issues that had bought them to Tasmania in the first place.
There remained a lingering doubt about incurring the extra expense involved in travelling interstate for medicinal succour, but a radio news report on the very day I was writing my previous post sealed the deal.

“Nursing unions have blamed massive budget cuts for falling standards of patient care in Tasmanian hospitals. It has been revealed that patients are waking up from surgery with infections or things left inside them.
“The Health Department says that there has been an increase in the number of adverse events of more than 100 in the 12 months between late 2012 and late 2013.”

What the fuck?

Surgeon: “Nurse! Have you seen my sand-wedge anywhere?”
Nurse: “Only yesterday sir. You were practicing your bunker shots when you       took a break from operating on Mr No-Account-Normal-Person.”
Surgeon: “That’s right. My lay up landed on his lower intestine and I took a drop on his bowel. Do you know something? I think that swine stole my club!”
Nurse: “I wouldn’t know sir. The budget cuts have affected my eyesight.”
Surgeon: “I won’t have this sort of behaviour.” (Searches pockets for mobile phone. Can’t find it. Presses intercom button: “Millie? Get Nigel for me.”)
Surgeon: “Nigel! Look, do you have a spare sand-wedge I can borrow? Mine has been stolen. You do? Excellent. So we are still on for this afternoon then? Fine. See you at 2.”
Nurse: “Do you want me to get in touch with the police and have Mr No-Account-Normal-Person charged?”
Surgeon: “What? No, don’t bother, the insurance claim will be a bitch. Tell Millie to add $500 to his bill for the club and another $500 to compensate for the ribbing I’ll get from Nigel. She can put it under ‘anaesthetist’ – he still owes me $500 from our Bridge night.”

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the Tasmanian Health Department admitted that “adverse events increased by more than 100 in the last 12 months”. How the fuck many were there to start with?
(Also, if nursing unions think their members are worth so much, why didn’t the nurses notice that half the surgical instruments, two rubber gloves and a mobile phone were missing after the patient had been stitched up?)
I have spent most of my life on the North Island and, to be fair to Tasmanian medicos, I admit that doctors have never been my favourite people.
I’m not sure why that is, but it may be something to do with that fact that the majority of doctors seem to suffer from I’m-A-Doctor-Which-Means-I’m-A-Lot-Smarter-Than-You syndrome.
Take dentists. It is well known that dentists wear face-masks so patients don’t recognise them in the street and giving them the filling-in (so to speak) they deserve. Doctors/surgeons wear face masks so they don’t catch germs from the scum prols they are forced to deal with, a crucial difference.

Thankfully, Tasmanian GP's here have a quota system. Once they've reached peak Medicare rebate income, they don't see any new patients. I've been on a waiting list just to get on the list for three years. Long may it continue. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Ode To The Motelier

I’m not looking forward to this week at all. Apart from the usual disasters that befall us all on a regular basis, I’m facing the task of choosing a hotel room to be our home for a week interstate.
There was a time when this would have been a breeze. When I was young and carefree and would have slept anywhere, or when I was well-heeled enough to stay up market I wouldn’t have given it a moment’s thought.
Sadly, being of that indeterminate age between world-weary and dead, I have entered the third stage of the human/motel relationship – the stage where seemingly inconsequential things matter. A lot.

The first stage, which normally lasts for the first 10 dates or so, is the Inadvertently Finding Yourself Dating A Supermodel stage.
Everything about the hotel/motel is exciting. There is a little voice in your head telling you that only rich people stay in hotels, so you spend the night worrying that the management will discover you are an impostor and unceremoniously frogmarch you to the car park.
You know you shouldn't really be there and, subsequently, you are shit scared of doing anything wrong. You try not to ruffle the bed too much – in fact, you make the bed in the morning; you dare not fart and if desperation finally compels you to use the toilet, you try to have a dry shit in case they notice you used some toilet paper; when you have a shower you try not to get the cubicle too wet; you don’t use the shampoo or soap and can only gaze at the mini-bar in terrified awe. You are terrified of even touching the telephone, lest you be charged for picking up the receiver.
You are also, having watched countless movies where people get robbed while in their hotel/motel rooms, a trifle nervous. You tuck your wallet under the pillow and sleep in shorts and t-shirt – because fighting off burglars is one thing, but fighting off burglars with your willy exposed is taking things to a whole new level of embarrassment.

The second stage is the Married to the Check-out Chick for Ten Years stage.
You’ve graduated to fully fledged traveller. You’ve seen enough hotels to last you a lifetime. As soon as you get in the door you do the rounds and put every complimentary shampoo, conditioner, soap, pen, notepad in your bag. You order room service, partly to see if you have stumbled on the only hotel in the known universe where room service food doesn’t taste like crap, but mostly because it is a work trip and your boss is paying.
You spend an hour in the shower, using the spare towel as a floor mat; get the spare pillows out of the cupboard – hey, you’re paying for it, may as well use it; drink every bottle of beer in the mini-bar; amuse yourself with a one-man farting competition and fall asleep with all the lights and the television on.

The third stage is the one we are now in: the All I want Is Real Milk And A Pillow That Doesn’t Feel Like A Leper’s Back stage.
You have no expectations at all. You accept that the carpets and d├ęcor will have been chosen by a visually impaired alcoholic schizophrenic; you use the shampoo instead of stealing it; you take your own wine or beer because hotel mini-bars are a bigger rip-off than a Craig Thomson expenses claim.
You also know that even though the only source of water for the kettle is the bathroom vanity tap, the tap will be designed in such a way as to make it impossible for you to manoeuvre the kettle under it; and no matter how miniscule the coffee cups, the management will provide exactly two too few coffee sachets and four too few sugar sachets, and you will spend 10 minutes gently trying to peel the lid off the UHT milk thimble, only for the damned thing to tear just when you least expect it, leaving you with not quite strong enough or sweet enough black coffee and a milk stain on the doona. As for the doona itself, in winter it will have the consistency and thermal qualities of a parachute. If you visit in summer, it will weigh 40 kilos and carry a ‘two-man lift’ safety notice.
You are resigned to having to endure a degree of supercilious smarm you wouldn’t normally expect from hotel employees whose greatest achievement in life is gaining Certificate lll qualifications in Room-Key Identification, Bag Trolley Stacking and Advance Booking Fuck-Ups and Bill Confusion: Methodology and Practice.

All of that only applies to big city hotels, of course. If you hanker for that frisson of anticipation that comes from not knowing whether the hotel of your choice is a dive or not, you need to head for the country, where motels fall into three broad categories of homely, adequate and keep driving until you drop.
(Overwhelmingly in favour of the country motel is the almost complete absence of proprietor smarm. They are rude, incompetent, slovenly arseholes, trapped in a life they hate and couldn’t give a shit one way or the other or good-hearted souls who view meeting the next customer as possibly the best thing that has ever happened to them. But they are never smarmy.)
The ‘keep driving’ motels are the ones you find yourself checking into at 9pm after 16 hours behind the wheel. You keep passing perfectly respectable looking places until you suddenly realise that you either stop voluntarily or have the car introduce you to a tree.

I have stayed in places so gruesome, if my dog had been with me he would have inspected the room, given me that 'you can fuck off'' look and wandered off to find a nice, comfortable gutted kangaroo carcass for the night.
The worst was, surprise, surprise, in Port Augusta: the town that gives shit-holes a bad name. I knew it was going to be bad when I saw the piece of plywood nailed over the hole that had been kicked in the door.
The door not only wouldn’t lock, it wouldn’t even stay closed. Too tired to argue with the talking corpse at reception, I tried to block the door with the bed only to discover that it had only three legs – the fourth had been replaced by a few bricks.
I  wedged the door as best I could with the chair, decided that, having left my asbestos suit at home I’d have to give the shower a miss and tried to distract myself by watching whatever crap passes for television entertainment in South Australia.
The television – probably a bargain when it was bought at the John Logie Baird deceased estate auction – hummed to itself for a bit before emitting loud ‘crack’ and a thin spiral of blue smoke. The last straw was the kettle. When I picked it up a Huntsman, which I initially mistook for a furry squash ball on articulated stilts, hauled itself out of the spout and demanded to know what the fuck was going on.
I spent the night in the car, watching would-be thieves climbing in and out of my room window. I forget the name of the place, but all you need to know is that it was in Port Augusta. If you voluntarily stay in a place as God-forsaken as that dump, you deserve everything you get.

As luck would have it, the following night I found the best country motel I have ever stayed in. It was late. I was tired, hungry and would have sold my sister to an Arab sex-slave trader for a beer.
My first question on checking in was whether there was a pub/restaurant within walking distance. No, said the nice lady. She added that I could try the RSL, but the kitchen would probably be closed.
Something about the way I slowly banged my head repeatedly on the counter must have moved her because she gave me the key to my (spotless and stylishly furnished) room, and said she’d be along in a few minutes.
I answered her knock at the door to be greeted by a roast lamb dinner – she had just finished cooking and had plenty left over – and a six-pack of her husband’s beer.
Between those two extremes there are countless variations on the motel theme, which is what makes random country motel choices interesting, if nothing else.
I’d still settle for bland conformity in Melbourne, though, as long as the pillow is firm and there is a carton of real milk in the fridge.

Like I said at the start … I’m in the stage where inconsequential things really do matter.