Archive for the ‘A Year in Wagga Wagga’ Category

Beer is one of the world’s oldest manufactured beverages, with its history dating back to the 6th millennium BC, and being recorded in the written history of ancient Iraq.



So I am not just popping down to the pub for a quick one or just having a coldie, I’m taking part in history and therefore should be encouraged to do it more often.

In Australia, beer starts very early in Australia’s colonial history. Captain Cook brought beer with him on his ship Endeavour as a means of preserving drinking water.  On 1 August 1768 as Captain Cook was fitting out the Endeavour for its voyage, Nathaniel Hulme wrote to Joseph Banks recommending that he take -Beer may have been known in Neolithic Europe as far back as 3000 BC, though was mainly brewed on a domestic scale for local consumption. Now my dad called this home brewing and my mates encouraged him far too much in my opinion. It was an integral part of everyday diet and that’s the bit my dad over did it.  By the 7th century AD beer was also being produced and sold by European monasteries. During the Industrial Revolution, the production of beer moved from artisanal to industrial manufacture, and domestic manufacture mainly ceased by the end of the 19th century but is now (thanks in no small degree to dad’s enthusiasm) undergoing a revival of sorts. 

“a quantity of Molasses and Turpentine, in order to brew beer with, for your daily drink, when your Water becomes bad. … Brewing beer at sea will be peculiarly useful in case you should have stinking water on board; for I find by experience that the smell of stinking water will be entirely destroyed by the process of fermentation.”

Good on ya, Mr Hulme.  Incidentally, beer was still being consumed on board 2 years later in 1770 when Cook was the first European to discover the east coast of Australia.

Beer has played an iconic role in Australian life since the beginning of Western colonization. Australia ranks the fourth internationally in per capita beer consumption, at around 110 litres per year and that is an accolade that the Aussies are quite proud of and have encouraged me heartily to help them improve so they can ‘get on the podium’.

Although Australia was colonised predominantly by British ale drinkers, the most popular beer style in modern day Australia is lager. This is likely due to the hotter climate of Australia whereas Britain has a cool and wet climate most of the year.  Funny that.  Cold and wet is how we all like our beer.

As a bit of a wine lover, I’m very much aware that wine tasting has been around for quite some time. I myself have partaken in many a delightful hour ‘tasting’, enjoying the properties of a juice made from squished grapes and then stuffed into wooden barrels for a time.  Beer tasting however is something that is quite new, (well new to those of us Down Under at any rate). will teach you everything you need to know about tasting beer.  It will be useful whether you want to be a beer reviewer (and you can submit your reviews for publication on, or if you want to impress your friends at parties, or if you simply want to appreciate your beer more.  I read this on their website and thought that they sounded like a bunch of tossers.  But as I read more, I realised that they were just legitimising their drinking hobby.  Clever tossers. The best part of their article though, was the advice given near the end; ‘but remember you cannot become an expert overnight.  The key is practice, practice and more practice’.  And what better thing is there to practise than beer drinking!  So I read on with much gusto.  Very clever tossers indeed.

Apparently, a good sense of smell is the key to tasting.  You no doubt have noticed how food tastes bland when you have a blocked nose.  I was a little confused at this point and wondered just how much ‘tasting’ the lads may have done at this point.  I taste with my mouth and have found this to be the best way to taste since I was a toddler when facial smearing was all the ‘go’.  The other important attribute they talk of is a good memory. This did seem a little contradictory in my view.  Alcohol consumption and memory are not usually talked of in the same paragraph in any of my books. They go on to say that when you have tasted a particular beer you need to concentrate and attempt to store away the sensation so that you can compare against it later.  Most people have a very good smell memory – you may find that certain smells cause long forgotten memories of places and events to flood back.  It is usually the morning after that that my memory gains clarity.  Vowing to abstain from further imbibing sessions and to start leading a purer life are often very clear in my memory banks as I lay down, delaying the lifting of the head or even the unnecessary blinking of eye lids in case they too add unnecessary noise.

The upshot of all this is that to properly detect the flavour a beer you should first smell it and then after sipping it you must move it over your tongue and mouth.  This ensures that all the taste buds are employed and it also releases pleasant vapours which waft up to your olfactory glands. My bed partners have all been quick to detect these vapours that seem to stream from every pour the next day, long before me.  They are an effective form of contraception that no doctor or health professional ever talk about.  Shame, these vapours never let you down.

Finally, you must swallow the beer – at fucking last. This causes it to pass over the back of the tongue and provides you with important aftertaste sensations.  These aftertastes seem to intensify the next morning.  Throughout the process you must concentrate to try to categorise and remember the sensations that you are flooded with.  If they compare well with what you consider to be the ideal beer, then you will find that it is a very good beer also.  If it doesn’t rate that high, just enjoy the bugger anyway.  Remember, it is cold, wet and fizzy; it can’t be too bad.

Of course, I have always thought that not everyone will reach the same conclusion on a particular beer.  The taste for beer is an acquired taste; to a large extent you are conditioned to treat the beer that you were brought up on as what a beer should taste like.  Therefore, you are likely to dismiss anything which is too different as being a poor beer.  You should try to resist this temptation and approach each new brew with an open mind.

Another very important thing to watch is that the beer which you are tasting should be as fresh as possible.  Just like all the other vegetables, beer is only at its best when fresh.  The ideal place to taste beers would be at the brewery. Unlike wines, most beers deteriorate over time.  They deteriorate particularly fast if exposed to heat or sunlight (that is why beer is usually sold in dark brown or dark green bottles and in dark places such as pubs painted in dark shades of brown and green).  Good storage and transportation of beer is crucial.

This is just one of the reasons why you should not write off a beer after one tasting.  You have to try it from a number of different sources before you can fairly say that it is not a good brew. Maybe the brew is a day or two too old?  This is yet further evidence that one should attend as many tasting sessions and at as many establishments as possible so as to avoid writing off the beer prematurely.  Imagine knowing that someone out there is being served up a beer that has past its best because you failed to taste it first.

The golden rule is a simple one – a good beer is a beer that tastes good and to maintain that standard, beer should be tasted often.




I want one of those jobs



Being paid not to work is very much an attractive proposition to me.  One I felt worthy of an investigation.  Last year I saw an article in the paper that caught my eye…..

An Australian State Government (not sure which one at this point but in reality, probably more than one) is forking out a mammoth amount of funds in the form of wages and salaries every year to some of its workers to just sit around doing nothing.  I’ve worked with some annoying little shits in my time and they all seemed to be underutilised or just bored with their job.  This seemed to give them time on their hands which they chose to spend pissing others off as much because those being pissed off had a mountain of work to do and wondered how the ‘pissee’ had time to do their pissing?

Now I don’t mind admitting, I have had days where I have been somewhat underemployed too.  I have scurried around looking for ways to look busy which is a lot harder in fact than doing work.  A confident air about you and a piece of paper can placate many a boss.  In my early days in the Dairy industry, wandering around the factory in the off season carrying a device for tightening pipe joiners called a ‘C’ spanner, could convince most that you were on a mission and a long way from fucking around like you actually were.  Civil Servants tapping away at a computer regardless of whether is on or not is probably the Government Department equivalent.

A whopping $11.8 million has been set aside to pay for those chosen ones to do fuck all in NSW this current financial year.  Now, I’d do it for a considerable amount less than that!  It was revealed this week that some 164 civil servants remain on the payroll of which we are the bankrollers, although their jobs are now well and truly redundant.

One of the departments (yes there are more than a brace of them), the Transport and Infrastructure department accounts for some 40 of these annoying fuckers.  Some of these 40 have on the payroll contributing nothing for seven years.  This is due to many reasons but the official term is that they are in excess to vocational requirements.  At this point, I am uncomfortably clenching fists and reddening my face with disbelief because I am paying for this.  Being a government department you might reasonably think they may have heard of the Dole office and why it exists.

To make it worse, an ex high flying (but actually working) HR manager revealed he thought the figure was much higher.  He states that one of the areas he worked in had in excess of 30 excess employees but the department fudges the figures by reporting they are working on meaningful work in another area.  So a $50K job being done by a redundant worker on $90K is considered fiscally responsible. Bullshit if you ask me.  More to the point in my view, why is a civil servant being paid as much as $90K?

Mr and Mrs Joe Public are out there trying to make a real go of it and those we vote for to manage our civic matters have built up bureaucracies that unnecessarily gobble up our rates that rise each year due obviously to cover along with other things, the cost of living expenses of our idle servants.  Not only is taxpayer’s money being poured down the drain, these ‘poor servants’ must have really poor job satisfaction.  I know I could put up with sub standard job satisfaction if I was being paid to do nothing especially when I’m being over paid as well.  Mr Government official believed this to be a no win situation.  No shit Sherlock.  Why not sack the slackers then?  And while we are at it, sack those that manage this situation and think it a good outcome.  That way we, the tax payer will only have to pay the minimum dole and not some over inflated Civil Servant pay rate.

So where are the supervisors and leadership of these teams? How are their budgets audited before accepted by the hierarchy?  Maybe it is time to have a few more of the ratepayers involved in the signing off of expenses and the performance to budget analysis sessions?

The irony of this Australian story is that the Justice department has 22 people in this situation of their own.  We still have court backlogs and delays and yet we have 22 people in NSW paid to administer justice in some way or another, but actually not doing a thing. Not a sausage.

Where’s the justice in that?

Don’t you just Love it?

There are some things in life that others love.  The joy is evident whether it be in their voice, their smile or the wild gesticulations. Don’t you just love it?

Don’t you just love being in a crowded space like in an airport terminal or shopping mall and the throngs of inhabitants are drowned out by the sound of an Asian talking?  Talking so loud and with no consideration for all the rest of us; just rude.  And they are the loudest when the speaker is female.  Burbling out what sounds like the menu from the local Chinese restaurant, in that very unique sound always gets a head turning from me.  Why must they speak over the top of everyone else?  Why do they have to talk across vast spaces rather than move closer so as to lower the volume.

Don’t you just love the adverts on the telly that pop up at every break so that they become annoying?  There is a small supermarket chain in and around the Riverina that are guilty of running small product / price adverts for 5 or 6 add breaks in a row.  To make it worse, it is usually promoting hot BBQ chickens for a super low price.  Tuesdays appear to be the day of choice for Foodworks.

I know the advert off by heart and the only thing that varies is whether it is for all 3 Foodworks or just the one at Forest Hill and at Turvey Tops.  I believe Turvey Tops to be a silly name for an area or suburb and that is why I first noticed the green and red telly interruptions. To make things worse, these interruptions appear to be more frequent depending on how interesting the actual program for which you are sitting down to watch is.

Don’t you just love it when you are in an unfamiliar town and need to eat at a restaurant on your own?  Every time you sit down, hoping it is in a corner away from prying eyes and it isn’t, you just know that every eye other your own is fixed on this poor sad loser dining on his own.  I usually like to people watch but need to be to one side of the room or in a position to enjoy a panoramic view of your fellow diners.  From this make shift grandstand, you can surmise, make up or overhear the stories and the backgrounds of those in the room.  Deciding on who is up whom, who is not paying, who of the females are using the ‘hairy chequebook’ for dinner, which shouldn’t be here and certainly not with them.  All these stories can be finalised by the time dinner is finished usually so long as you are not the one in the middle of the room, with your back to the crowd whom you suspect are all writing your story.

Don’t you just love it when you are at the said restaurant, on your own again and as you sit down, you remember that last night, when in the same predicament, you vowed to bring some reading material so as to pass the time away in a little less obvious way?  And tonight, you bloody forgot … again.  Because you got sprung earwigging last night whilst waiting for the waitress to appear or to bring your meal, you can only stare out to the darkness that is outside. The ultimate is being able to ‘stare aimlessly’ whilst intently listening out for clues that might put another piece in the puzzle.

Don’t you just love the amateur food critic sitting at the table nearest to you whom is wining and dining his latest possible conquest and loudly instructing her about his vast ex restaurant knowledge?  The 60 something Greek slickball in his pink shirt with white collar and cuffs (including those gaudy 22 carat gold cuff links) and very European accent showing off all his thoughts on all things epicurean at a volume that ensured all those in the room could be annoyed / impressed.  Don’t you just love it when you leave a room now knowing that the merits of the Tasmanian oyster are far less than those of the great Sydney variety?  So long as he got his leg over, who am I to question his modus operandi?

Don’t you just love the two ex workmates catching up after a year or so over coffee at the local café?  The excited giggles and laughter I find quite acceptable.  The volume and the inability to not learn all about the other ex workmates is the difficult part.  “You are going to laugh” prefix for most sentences get a little grating especially when I didn’t find it laughable.  Don’t you just love it when they don’t give a shit about anyone else in the room?

Don’t you just love it when teenage pedestrians think they own the footpath or shopping mall walkways?  What about when they not only believe they own the floor space, they have the bloody right of way and that you have no right to be there?  When I was growing up and when growing my children, I have always thought, you make way for women in general and those older than yourself.  So don’t you just love it when you are continually having to step aside or being bowled over by those just springing out of puberty?  Don’t their parents or teachers demand it?  Weren’t they ever taught such etiquette?

Don’t you just love it when your sports teams all loose badly in the same weekend?  Don’t you just love it when you have supported them faithfully, bought the supporters gear and defended their poor performances to those that question your devotion and you now find it hard to even watch them on the telly?  Then you hear that the players have been caught misbehaving with the opposite sex, with alcohol and /or gambling when they should have been practising so as not to embarrass you anymore.

Don’t you just love it?  Well frankly, I don’t.

It was a week of Bums

Posted: April 18, 2011 in A Year in Wagga Wagga

It was a week of bums

31 March 2010





I am not usually one to be attracted to backsides.

The last week has seen me view far more bums, posteriors, booty or any other descriptive terms for backsides than I can remember in my 40 or so years.  And to think of it, I didn’t ask or enjoy any of it either.  I know many a man (or woman of a certain sexual persuasion) may find bums of both sexes to be seen as somewhat, attractive.  I, on the other hand have always had a penchant for the breast.  Fun bags have done it for me for as long as I hung off one as a newborn.  And all this time later, I am still interested in doing the same but the nutrition they provide nurtures other parts of me now.  I prefer lime or chocolate milk these days anyway.

My first unpleasant encounter was on Saturday when I was at the airport saying Haere Ra to my children as they left for New Zealand.  There was a line up leading to the Qantas flight from Wagga to Sydney that stretched from the terminal to the plane.  Bums of all sizes, some denim jeaned and some in baggy shorts or summery floral dresses.  But the ones belonging to Liam and Katie got onto the plane far too quick.  I was happy for this flight to have been delayed indefinitely.

I was sad to see them go; it meant I was on my own again.  I thought I would have mixed emotions seeing them gobbled up by the plane; sad because they’d left and happy that now the pantry and wallet might recover from my over exuberant child spoilage spending.  But no.  It was a few tears after the reality brought on by the door closing on the plane hit me … hard actually.

The next day, I was driving the 350 or so kilometres to Echuca in my almost brand new rental car.  It was in pristine condition with a shine on it worthy of a prize.  It was then that I realised that driving into insects at speed induces a mess worthy of a Chernobyl type accident.  Locust bums make a great noise as they slam into your windscreen.  It’s a kind of ‘splot’ as opposed to a ‘splat’.  Some just seemed to ‘poof’ as their arses and their brains became intermingled and spread over an area many times the original size of the beast.

I would travel through many swarms/hoards/flotillas of these creatures before I stopped ducking the splots in fear of them breaking the glass and just enjoyed the accumulation of legs, wings, guts, brains and bums in front of my eyes.  They hit so hard at speed that I thought the rear view mirrors might break, not that I let that slow me down.

I also noted in time that the presence of crows pecking away at the road was actually these blue black giant black birds feeding on the dead and fallen locusts hit by previously passed vehicles.  So as I realised what they were ahead, I could expect to be bombarded by thousands of full bellied field strippers unable to fly high enough to avoid the gold waka that was speeding towards them.

The piece of road south of Ned Kelly town, Jerilderie, had the straightest and most empty roads of the journey.  It also managed to have the most locusts to collect in the grille and windscreen.  Having travelled for around an hour at high speeds, the vision was becoming limited.  I realised that my sunglasses that I was wearing which provide limited vision at best was not to blame for my lack of ability to see now.  So turning on the wipers at 140k/hr didn’t seem much of an issue.  I just wanted to get the ‘big bits’ like legs and heads and bums out of my field of vision.  Unlike the majority of female backsides, I am not enamoured with locust arse.

The first two swipes of the wipers achieved the immediate desire; the big bits that didn’t stick to the moving wipers had been dispatched.  At this point, it started to spit.  I was approaching the Murray River at ‘Tok’ so rain should have been expected.  The torrential downpour and associated lightning, I was not ready for.  Nor were the remnants of my kill.  In a matter of seconds I had gone from admiring the amount of smudge and pieces of anatomy adorning my screen to not being able to see a bloody thing as the guts and bums exploded in front of me.

By the consistency of the muck on the screen, these buggers had been feasting on some form of cereal because I now had a windscreen covered in what looked like some of Uncle Toby’s porridge.  All of this at over 130k/hr.  The wipers struggled to move the ‘Locust Bum Milk Oaties’, just making an ungodly mess like you might see on the porridge pot at home once you had served up.  This forced me to slow down … a bit.

On the telly later that night, there was an interview with a woman that had had half her bum bitten off by a shark whilst she was diving somewhere up north.  Now some woman I know would see this as a blessing but this one was a slight girl and didn’t like the idea of poohing like a bloody shower rose or garden sprinkler.  She was to have plastic surgery to remedy this problem.  A 60 year old backside would again not normally be something I would give a second thought to.  This lady and her half a bum looked terrific so I had empathy for her problem.  The shark had great taste.

My final bum encounter was a strange one by comparison.

Speeding along the most boring part of the journey home, along the banks of the Murray, getting caught behind numerous holiday makers in their 4 wheel drives towing caravans and boats and also being held up by large trucks, I approached the twenty kilometre section of highway that warns of the presence of Koalas.  I always look up at the trees trying to spot the little balls of Vicks smelling fluff.  I have never seen one though.  Looking for them helps break the frustration of the slow travel caused by the other vehicles and the draconian speed laws that Victoria places around small towns, schools and potential koala spotting vantage points.

Spotting a gap, I was overtaking yet another caravanner by the name of Baz whom had Irene sitting proudly beside him (they had their names emblazoned on the backside of their ‘van’), when I saw an arse in the middle of my lane.  I assumed it was a possum ‘sleeping’ such was the size of the ball and colour of the fur.  I made no attempt to swerve due to my speed and the dislike of the possum –dead or alive.  But as I got closer, I noticed it was a cuddly Koala ‘sleeping ‘and unable to swerve due to Baz and Irene’s Optimus Prime sized vehicle’s presence, I treated the animal connected to the bum as a high speed judder bar and budder budder’d it.  I couldn’t be sure as I had the windows up but I don’t believe Kenny (or Belinda) the Koala made the squeaky sounds normally associated with squeezing the tummy of toy Koalas. I did sense a hint of Vicks in the air but I couldn’t be sure.

The last bum I saw that night was mine as I dragged my tired and sorry arse into bed. And that is a far from attractive sight.

Let them lose it, I say

There are a lot of Kiwis inAustralia.

They pop up in all kinds of unexpected ways.  The other day at the local fruit shop that also sells meat as do most of the fruiterers in Wagga, a bloke I thought to be a dead set Italian/Greek/etc, opened his mouth and a beautiful kiwi accent fell out.  I should have known better, he had a Maori design tattoo protruding from his ‘tinted’ skin coloured arm.  They take the sheep jokes and the Fush and Chup comments on the chin knowing that it is the Aussies that have the accent and have the well documented liking of all things that the back end of a sheep offers.

There is all sorts of attractions and lures to make the move across the ditch.  But one that is not well recorded but well known is the availability of young woman keen to have a taste of Kiwi.  Not the brown and furry, fruit either.  The eagerness to lose their virginity has got a whole bunch of air play this week.

The Federal Opposition leader, Tony Abbott has been poking his nose into the debate and making a lot of Anzac lads very worried should the local girls listen to him.  He is having a go at ruining a promising social life for both the boys and the girls by suggesting that the girls (no mention of the lads) consider their virginity as a ‘gift’ that must not be given away too lightly.  Now I have always thought that a woman’s virginity was much like a balloon.  One prick and it’s gone forever.  By the way, Tony was a right little rooter when he was young.  Not much credibility in my books.

I have no experience as a girl.  I have had numerous experiences with a girl however, and as a teen myself, a girl was prey and they were happy with that.  They subscribed to the Golden Rule … she whom has the ‘gold’, makes the rules if you know what I mean.  I’m told that most young girls nearing the time they are ready, talk about sex as much as the predators.  They just have the ability and the vocabulary to say ‘No’.

What the girls saw in us other than a wanga, eludes me now.  Entering a teen boys room requires care and a gas mask.  The aroma of sweat, dirty laundry and musty food would be enough for me to invite the lad back to my place if I were a teen girl on heat.

There is of course a warning to young women whom wait too long as they seek Mr Right.  Virginity for a modern young woman can also turn into a curse.  At 19, shy and nice girls start to worry that sex ain’t ever going to happen even if they start down the westie slut look.  I’m lead to believe that at 21 if the flower still has all her petals, she will fling herself at anything with a wanga just to have the deflowering happen.  At 25 and a virgin, she had better be one hell of a god-botherer with some weird ideal about purity or keenly imagining herself as a spinster forever.

She’ll be rereading all the Janet Austen books to find out at what stage the heroine finally got down and dirty.  She’ll avoid all sex related conversations with her mates instead, turning bright scarlet and talking loudly about her imaginary boyfriends having imaginary sex with his imaginary wanga.  This imaginary boyfriend is probably some nice equally pure lad she met at some chess camp she went on in her final year at high school.

Let’s face it.  Most teenagers, boy and girl, just want to get it on and get it out of the way like some ritual when joining a gang.  The miracle of contraception makes it possible to get your jollies without the possible onset of the ‘pitter patter’ of tiny feet some nine months later.  Young people can experience more than one partner like Tony, before settling down with one and worrying about compatibility all the non sexual parts of a relationship.

I say, “Shut up Tony.” You’re more than spoiling the teenage fun.  Should the girls ‘shut up shop’ as it were, the population ofAustraliamight reduce due to not only the reduction in teenage pregnancies, but also, the potential exodus of many young and randy Kiwi bloke looking for ‘greener’ pastures.  This would have a much larger effect in my thinking.  The boys would have to go to places at home like the Eastern Bay of Plenty to match the randy girls of Aussie.

Funnily enough, a lot of the Kiwis I’ve met here are from that region anyway.

In search of a Grong Grong

It was Sunday again.  It only seemed a week since I had one.  Sundays for the last few weeks can only mean one thing.  Kerry’s Tiki tours.


This week’s adventure would see the white waka and I go in search of the great Grong Grong.  Now the local people of Wagga Wagga, the Wiradijuri, have taught me that a repeated word just implies the plural.  There must be more than one Grong.  I feel that my labours have been at least halved.


To get to Grong Grong I chose a clockwise journey through Narrandera, Griffith and Coolamon.  The object of my desire would therefore be found (if possible) on my homeward stretch of the saga.  Narrandera is a quick 100 or so kilometres from Wagga along the trusty Sturt Highway.  I would follow the mighty Murrumbidgee to an area known as the M.I.A.  There were a fair few directional signs along the way that had M.I.A. as a suffix.  I had long passed the secret army base at Kapooka that wasn’t too secret as signs also pointed it out!  The road became straighter the longer I drove just every so often there would be a slight rise in elevation then a drop to resume our regular level.  This ensured your visibility was limited to a mere 20 or 30 kms only so overtaking was regularly restricted if you were on a push bike, skateboard or pedal car.


I knew I was entering a special place when the signs started appearing on the side of the road.  Even here, signs in the middle of the road have not been a success.  They had a variety of messages but were very much directed at the flies in the area.


All motorists were being enlisted to fight the fly.  Fuck, I’d been doing that since I got here!  The last of the signs in the series advised us that flies were not welcome here.  Why hasn’t Wagga started this campaign like the folk up this way?  The fight was aimed at the fruit fly and there were bins along the way to dispose of your fruit that you were planning on eating during your journey.  Maximum fines of $11,000 are threatened for those that break the law and are caught ‘smuggling’ mandarins or bananas across the imaginary border.


In reality, the real prize though is the dreaded tomato.  These dastardly fruits (never a vegetable) apparently a true threat to the local fruit producers.  And here I was thinking here was a town that had its shit together and were going to war with the little flying fuckers.


Narrandera is a quaint little town that takes the mantle of ‘The Town of Trees’.  Coming from the real tree town, Cambridge, I was more than a little interested in this Australian version.  It has trees, it has tree lined streets and it had tree coloured flags but the town was very much a town blessed with magnificent Australian buildings.  The buildings impressed me more than any horticultural structures.  A coffee and a muffin saw me ready to investigate the town.  A three minute walk had it done.  Thank Christ for the trees and the buildings.


Leeton would be my next destination, another 40 kms up the road towards Griffith.  Leeton interested me as I knew the M.I.A. had its origins up there.  It also grew rice, lots of rice.  It lured me as I always thought rice was grown in murky Asian ponds by people wearing Separator cone shaped hats.  There were probably snakes there too.  Slithering between the cone hat wearing paddy field tenderers.


SunRice has its base here and I have sold and bought a shed load of SunRice branded rice in my life.  How the fuck do they grow in this barren land?  As I approached the town, I noted very green tall grass being irrigated by large 300 metre booms that travel in a circular movement on one side of the road and acres of what looked like citrus trees on the other side.  I was more than a little intrigued.  I ‘hit’ the information centre to find out and also because I was busting for a wee.  As per normal.


Wine, fruit juice and rice are the mainstays of Leeton’s economy.  I saw now secret compound that might house the M.I.A. but you wouldn’t see it would you.  It would hardly be secret then would it?  The citrus was for the Berri fruit juice company.  This was true Riverina, fly free country.  The SunRice mill was on Calrose Street (how twee I thought).  The Lilly Pilly winery like all the fucking wineries I visit was closed.  I was surprised to learn that the Riverina grape growers produce 7 times more than the Hunter Valley. There is an Agricultural college in a nearby town called Yanco where the study of rice is the main reason it is there.  I wonder if it is Riceology?


The M.I.A. let its secret out.  The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area was formed around Leeton back in 1912.  A chap by the name of Sir Samuel McCaughey showed the government that you could irrigate these parched paddocks in this part of the state.  He was so successful that the government began the construction of what you see these days as the great irrigation scheme.  It is bloody massive.  Paddocks the sizes of small countries are flooded, aerial sown then drained and harvested 6 months later. Sir Sammy’s scheme was that successful, they renamed the town after the official that oversaw the construction, Mr Lee.  Thanks for your idea Sam.


Leeton was a scruffy industrial town that could do with some of Narrandera’s trees and Tidy Town awards.  Burley Griffin, the designer of that city full of politicians, galleries and roundabouts, Canberra, also designed this town.  Not his best work I feel.  Nice juice and rice though.  In fact, there are 8,500 hectares of citrus planted in this area and this is nearly 30% of all the citrus grown in this large land.


Next stop was to be for lunch and at another town that Mr Griffin had a ‘go at’.  Named Griffith funnily enough, it was another 80 or so kms to the west.  I must be getting close to the edge of the world now as my map goes no further west.  I decided to take it easy on the roundabouts in case I fell off them into the abyss.  I drove up one side, turned around and drove back towards the end of town I came in at.  Not much here at all.  As per all the other towns I have visited during my Sunday Tiki tours, 90% of the shops are closed.  Not even the information centre was open.  Shit, shit, shit.


I chose to keep going.  This was as far west as I was planning to go so it was a detourish way home.  I set off for Ardlethan which I had heard was the home of the Kelpie.  I passed some massive wineries including the De Bertolli family venture.  It makes many in New Zealand look like lifestyle blocks.  Half way to ‘Kelpieville’ was a town called Barellan.  The town has a few tumbledown buildings and a massive boarded up hotel that would have been very grand in its day.  I would have flashed through town, scared of blinking and missing another rundown town had the biggest tennis racquet I had ever seen not appeared on the side of the road bang smack in the middle of town.  Barellan is the birthplace of Evonne Goolagong, one of Aussies greatest battlers.  I don’t think she lives here now.
Ardlethan was a town just outside the fly free zone.  Never saw a Kelpie.  There was just a tent beside the town dunnies serving free tea and coffee as part of the Police’s tired driver scheme.  Two fat truck drivers were enjoying a chat and a cuppa as I drove past.  There was no obvious influx of flies.


I was now just 40kms from Grong Grong. I would have headed straight for the information centre and not just because I needed the loo again, had there have been one.  A handful of ramshackle houses lined both sides of the main road which was actually the only road.  But there was a very flash looking motel in town.  To confirm it was flash, the sign informed all that like the shoe repairer of Young, this motel was an award winning motel.  It didn’t elaborate as to what award so I went inside to ask.  Alas, like the main street, it was empty of helpful residents.  I was sure they would gladly show me their accolade and at the same time, hopefully, they could show me a Grong or two.


I did find out however by doing some research over some Book Book (many Owls) wine that the name Grong Grong is an Aboriginal term meaning “bad camping ground” or “very bad camping ground”. No wonder they built a motel!  I thought the rest area looked ‘bad’ too.


Half an hour later I was home, rushing to turn the air con on to change the oven that the house had become, into a refrigerator.


Can’t wait until next Sunday where I can go and investigate another strange named town.  Or maybe one that has a winery that is open.




I see the signs everyday

24 January 2010

Every day, I see them.  They puzzle me, they amuse me and some of them even inform me.


I’m talking about signage that companies and individuals spend lots of money on but often the proof reading department seem to have missed checking these puppies.  They appear as advertisements in newspapers or signage erected as warnings, compliance (and we all know what I think of compliance tossers) or enticements to get you into their little retail webs.  When well constructed, they are capable of doing all three but far too often I am left chuckling away at the other interpretation of their messages.


I have often wanted to call into the rural properties advertising “Free Range Eggs”.  To go up to the front door and knock on it warmly.  When the landholder greets me I would ask for some of their Range Eggs that they are advertising for free.  I know the answer I would get, but maybe there is a point of law here.  “Eggs.  Free Range” would be a much less confusing way of putting it.


Across the road from me in Tarcutta Street is a sign that is somewhat ambiguous.  “Possum’s Occasional Child Care”.  Does this mean that the centre does child care occasionally?  I imagine a frazzled mum turning up in the morning, rushing to get to work and having had to get up hours earlier just to be ready with extra clothing, food and provisions for the day for a kid that doesn’t want mummy to go and a mum feeling guilty about leaving little Johnny anyway, when Mrs Possum greets her at the door with,

“Actually I don’t want to do child care today.  I only do it occasionally and today ain’t one of those occasions”.  Or do the kids get occasional child care throughout the day and at other times during the day they have no care?  At least the sign is permanently a sign.


At Pat and Don’s Muffler shop, Don proclaims to be the exhaust specialist.  Obviously because Pat is a lady, she doesn’t know anything about farts like a man does.  They also invite their clients to follow a large arrow on another sign which takes them through a door to their reception area.  Such a grandiose name for what is probably a smelly old sofa that Pat made Don remove so the new microfibre chaise lounge would fit into the sitting room where the old one had been for the last 20 years.  There would be posters of scantily clad women draped unnaturally over shiny exhaust systems or neatly polished cars.  There would be a water dispenser in a corner that is covered in grubby apprentice fingerprints because he was the apprentice and he got to do all those exciting and worthwhile jobs like changing the water bottle.  But before you could actually take up the signs directional invitation, there was another sign advising all to stay out.  In big fuck-off lettering, it advised that there was no admittance.  Now Don might know a thing or two about dealing with the gases not required by my car, but he confuses me tremendously with his signage.


In today’s local paper, I was drawn to the lost and found section.  I know I’m not lost but others maybe.  Jan has lost her 8 month old male kitten.  There is a reward offered apparently but it could also be Jan’s last name as there is little punctuation between the two words and ‘reward’ is spelt with a capital ‘r’.  This kitten is ginger with a white tummy and ‘stripped’.  I would have thought a skinned kitten would all look the same let alone having a cute white tummy. Come to think of it, a skinned kitty is probably dead.


There are some lovely flats to let at the Kindra Lodge.  They are proudly advertised as suitable for Aged Persons.  Now the only place I’ve seen aged used as a marketing tool is at the butchers.  This is where aged beef is a bonus from the non aged stuff.  But what is ‘aged’ I would have thought everything is an age.  So we are all aged to some degree.  I might give Terry Kiss the General Manager a call and ask how aged he is.


Another headline recently caught my eye in the classified section.  Sad I know, but reading these adverts give me much pleasure and I feel you don’t know a town until you read their classifieds.  “Expressions of Interest – Miniature Donkeys”.  I know you can train animals to do all sorts of stuff by rewarding them with handfuls of nuts and berries but donkeys that can read?  The local council was emptying out the local zoo of it’s beloved donkeys.  There was a Jenny that celebrates her birthday on 2 January and whom was 2.  There was also a Jack that was born 387 days later.  It describes the colourings of the two which seemed a waste of time to me.  I don’t imagine the fact that the boy was black and the girl was grey and white would have any bearing on their suitability as new members of any family.


At one end of the main street in Wagga is the Funeral Directors.  They are the last building in the street.  I would love to see a sign that read, “End of the Line Funeral Directors.”  Or ‘Dead Last Funeral Directors.” Because of their locale, I wondered if that made that part of town the Dead End?


In the Poultry section there was an notice that I am not sure what they were advertising.  “Chooks and chickens, pure/cross bred.  Ph.“  I thought chooks were chickens and vice versa.  Were they for sale or did they want some?  Or did they just want people to ring them as they get few visitors or callers out the back of beyond down some dusty no exit road?
At a local accountant’s, the sign proudly announces that they are Certified Practising Accountants.  Why would anyone want an accountant that practised on their accounts?  I know I would want someone that had done all their practising before they looked at my books.  Wonder how these bean counters know they have trained all they need to?  Will the sign read, ‘Really well trained now Accountants”?


One of the many churches need to improve their marketing also.  The Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos is hardly an attractive name to lure those on the cusp of leaping into a relationship with the Greek version of religion.  My initial thoughts were to look for a character from the movies, Transformers.  I imagined The Dormition to be a mate of Optimus Prime, Church by day, Dormition when the world needed saving.

I have looked around on numerous occasions as I walk past the plain brick building with the chief Greek’s accommodation adjacent to see if I could get a glimpse of Theotokos.  But all I’ve seen is his kids playing cricket in their small front yard.


The situations vacant advertising is always a source of entertainment.  Especially when companies are looking for a Casual Worker.  There are plenty of people out there whom don’t give a flying fuck about work so I feel these people should talk to the advertiser’s people.  They could interview with such phases like, “I sort of want the job, sometimes, I’m pretty laid back about work so that makes me qualified to be a casual bricklayer (insert job title at this point).  There was one for a casual Masseur.  You can picture some woman outlaying hundreds of dollars for a session of massage and pampering and then in walks this person that is a bit casual.  The woman gets  a bit of a rub and a bit of a pamper before our employee tells her, I’ve had enough, finish off the job yourself, I’m going for a cup of tea”.  Similar might be the case with the Casual Junior Café Assistant in the next column.  I actually thought all juniors were casual about work anyway.


What the hell is a Plant mechanic?  I thought they were arborists or horticulturists.  Reading further on, this tree expert has to be fully qualified as a diesel mechanic and welding.  Russell was actually looking for a grease monkey and nothing to do with trees.


I thought I’d found a job for myself though.  MSP photography was looking for a fat person, and all rounder.  The salary was negotiable depending on suitability.  Does that mean the rounder you were, the more the salary was?  What they actually wanted was a handyman.


Lastly today, I saw an advertisement that just had to be read.  Orica is a company I have dealt with when ordering and using chemicals so thought I would be au fait with the kind of vocations they might be offering.  In Cowal, they were looking for a Open Cut Shotfirer.  So I read on.  Due to continued growth in their business, the required expressions of interest (isn’t this just applying for the job) from individuals in the position of open Cut Shotfirer.  Still none the bloody wiser.  Then I read that you got to drive MMUs.  These are mobile manufacturing units –big mother fucker trucks.  You little beauty I thought.  You also got to load and fire blast holes!  The downer was that you had to do it in a safe manner.  What a job.


Even the best job had an advertisement that read different from the heading.  Let this be a lesson to all writers of signs and adverts etc.  I spend a lot of time reading but I don’t always ‘get’ what you want me to.  Sometimes we just have a laugh at your expense and that’s after you have had the expense of the sign or notice in the first place.