Don’t Mention the garlic …continues

The extremely efficient German company ALDI got back to me.  It was your standard customer complaint response.

Dear Marina

Thank you for your response over my disappointment with ALDI’s Garlic # 77203.

I note that there was no attached Aldi compensatory voucher to cover my said disappointment.  This disappointment is, I can fairly claim, to be on the profound level of disappointment.

I also note that you say “your experience with ALDI’s product has been documented and forwarded to the appropriate departments.” 

I am unsure what this actually means. You will remember from my first piece of correspondence I wanted to actually know how ALDI was going to ensure that no further profoundly disappointing produce would appear on their shelves again (read here sad brocollini and rotting garlic).  I assume that the appropriate departments are Quality Control and Customer Assurance, however I will be awaiting their fulsome response with great interest.

Marina, your suggestion of taking the receipt together with the rotting garlic back to the store of purchase is indeed an excellent one. Given that the place of purchase was Ballina and I actually reside in Balmain (Sydney) this could cause a minor problem – logistically that is.  I believe that is actually a distance of around 740.2 kilometres between the two.

Look Marina – I want to work on this logistically challenging issue with you.  I could fly up to Ballina as I note that Virgin Airlines are doing some great deals at the moment – can you believe $89 would get me up there tomorrow and the same amount for the return journey?

Now obviously there would be transfers to and from both airports but I’ll leave that up to you clever and efficient people at ALDI to work out whether it is worth you covering my travel costs to return to the scene of my profound disappointment. 

So I suppose where we are at now is I will wait a reasonable time to get my fulsome response (and hopefully an ALDI voucher).



Swings and soft touches and an all-rounded education

I was in a cafe at the pointy end of the suburb where I occasionally sleep last Sunday morning.  It’s Balmain – the suburb where ‘boys’ allegedly never cried.

After ordering a cup of get-up from the flash bloke behind the percolator I spotted a prosperous family of five.  They were happy.  Led by a chinless Charlie and a pouting consort they filled their sensible upper middle class mouths with flash food while the kiddies dined on exotic juices and dealer marshmallow infused caffeine.  There were no arguments.  No one spoke.  They were all glued to their various devices from iPhones to iPads.  No need.  Why bother? Time was up and running and the favourite was indifference.

I’m not saying the good old days of Balmain were all beer and skittles either. There was a time when a round or two for a pound or two was de rigueur for a relaxing Friday night. People talked, shouted and shoved. Granted the subjects discussed may not have been put options or periodontitis but they talked.  Like most inner-city suburbs you are now more likely to be hit by a SUV or a pram than one of Blood Roddy’s indiscreet haymakers.

And so next morning at the cafe while I watched the daily dull flow of blazered Herberts and Harriets heading to their private fun factories, I found myself in a bit of a funk.  This was not my time and some may say that it actually was never my time.   But then in a flash I had my mojo back.  I was swinging on the cherry chandelier. The inside back page of the Daily Dread’s sporting pages was all that it took.  A glimpse of the good old days.  A story of a weekend of ill-tempered stinks, slurs and a sex scandal –  all involving rugby league players.  What a joy!  The old values.  A bloke, a rugby league player having a good old Ronnie Coote in a car with an actress old enough to be his Mum.  Lordy it’s almost enough to make you believe in Amway.

But of course when a few lads go off the path some clown has to come out and say that this sort of behaviour is stopping parents from letting their kids play rugby league.  I beg your pardon.  This is exactly what these soft croissant-fed poor wretches need if they are to grow up Renaissance men and women.  They do not need an exclusive daily dose of ballet, oboe and tai chi.  That does not cut the mustard in educating the whole child.   Sure buy them a subscription to the New Yorker and let them play an instrument other than the pink piccolo by all means.  But at the same time let them get a bloody nose on the field of dreams and screams, walk to their local school and then reward them with a TAB account on their ninth birthday.

You see some may say that there is little evidence to support this idea of exposing our youngsters to the common man’s arts to help the holistic development of a kiddie.  Evidence you say?  Well I’ll give you a couple of examples of people who have sadly not had a rounded education  – ‘Peanuts’ Packer and ‘Gilligan’ Gyngell.

Now here are two men who attended the elite Cranbrook School and have lived a sheltered and incredibly privileged life.  Now in their middling years they wield great power and influence.  Fortunate lives some may say.  And like our rugby league bad boys who may be considered to have unfortunate lives, they have also not had the breadth of opportunities, for other reasons, of mixing parlays with Puccini but they still end up the same way. On a Bondi sidewalk fighting, frothing and frotaging like two large rutting stags.

The upside of course is that now very few mothers will ever want their sons and daughters to grow up the same way and become sad, narrowly educated persons of influence.



The Fat Merchants of Menace

I recently spent what seemed a lot of time up at Bogan Bay.  For those who don’t know where that is you just head up the M1 about 150 clicks north until you reach Lardtown and then turn right.   It’s an area where a lot of fat people congregate.  A bit like a gym.    Fortunately in late January most of the crowds that flock to the beachside area to wash had either self-immolated or been arrested for crimes against fashion. But there were still enough large specimens there to cause concern.  On the beach there were still the outcrops of large whale-like women who bobbed like giant watermelons when swimming accompanied by men with labourer’s tans who attempted to sand strut but in reality waddled, weighed down by excess body hair, oil and chains.  Some groups were decent enough to erect barriers in the form of large cheap tents to protect young kiddies from the end results of high fat, sugar and salt diets.   However there was still the danger that small children could be lost for days in the lava flow of convenience fat.

I want to make it very clear this is not a case of tagging the fatties.   However I do understand how it must seem as at one stage I was in favour of installing weighing machines at the gate of every school. If you were too fat – bad luck no school until you cut down the lard, fatso.  Simple but it probably needed a tweak.  My teenage obesity strategy of having a candidate risk a HSC percentile downgrade for every five kilos they were overweight also created comment.   I simply think that I was before my time or possibly didn’t properly sugarcoat the concept.

Look I have fat friends –  like Porky Rind who visibly shakes, sweats and gets an engorged member near a McDonalds – so I get it.  My caveat however is that I would not stand between Porky and a cream bum.  But what I don’t get is the lack of legislative action to stop these fat merchants of menace dominating the advertising landscape with impunity and sentencing an increasing number of people to a declining quality of life and ultimately an early death.

It’s no news that we are getting fatter as a nation and are losing the battle to remain moderately healthy. Figures compiled by Adelaide University’s Public Health Information Development Unit found that Bundaberg had the highest rate of obesity of any local government area.  Go Sugar Town! The obesity figures come after a Murdoch Children’s Research Institute study of 4000 Australian children which found that kids from poor families are three times more likely than the wealthiest kids to grow up obese.   We are heading towards a Gold in the Global Fat Olympics, according to the latest report of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia now ranks fourth in the list of the fattest country in the world. The Unites States, Mexico, and New Zealand are sitting comfortably at the first, second, and third positions, respectively.  Bloody Kiwis!  What a joke.  We are not even good enough or fat enough to slide into Bronze.

So to our summer of cricket and the role of the clown commentators in selling fat futures to the kiddies.  Over after over the Channel 9 commentators Slats, Heals, Bats, Bumhole and Tubby and every other minor character who ever waved a willow or bowled a bumper stepped up, dribbling, to eulogise the sponsors of their Summer of Fat.   Schooled in the subtleties of cross promotion they stepped up to the crease to baste us with never ending yarns about KFC.  They even had the pommy dope Michael ‘Vac’ Vaughan perched in some suspended sky-high dining room over the SCG eating a bucket of congealed chicken.  I’m not a believer but I prayed to the Creed (as in Saint Graham) for a violent windstorm to send ‘Vac”‘ and his fat-coated bucket heads crashing to the turf.

These are all people of privilege who have earned considerable wealth from sport.  These are the clowns that pay personal trainers to scythe off their winter coats because they can.  All come with the income, the education and lifestyle to know that eating this fat soaked rubbish is not good for you.  But still dribbling like deranged salesmen within an inch of their quarterly targets they continued to sell to all a relentless summer of salt, sugar and shite.

Of course ‘they’ claim that it is about education and parental responsibility.  It’s about choice. The marketplace.  They may say if people are too lazy and too stupid then it’s nothing to do with them.  Well I’m sorry you sad, selfish lot you may think that it is not your fault.  But you are wrong.  You have ignored your responsibility to the community that has afforded you a life where you can and should say no to the excesses of this fatzkrieg.  You Mark Nicholas, Michael Slater, Mark Taylor, Ian Healey and other minor mutes are simply a bunch of greedy, unprincipled, fat fuckers.

Howzat for a summer of fat and foolishness

I was unlucky enough to be in the same room as Ian ‘Charity’ Botham in mid-November. ‘Charity’ was there to speak, for a fee I assume, to a gathered group of people who were there to support the fundraising efforts of the wonderful Randwick Petersham Cricket Club.  Apart from sticking the boot into one of Australia’s past cricket captains, ‘Charity’ was his usual pugnacious self declaring it was to be a 5-0 whitewash to England.  He wasn’t alone as many declared Poodle Clarke’s lot no chance.

Some seven weeks on the Australian press is full of praise for ‘our boys’.  We cannot get enough of the redemption of Stinky Ink Johnson, the Woman behind the Warner and the glory days of Box Head Haddin and rightfully so.  We don’t like the Pink Poms.  We actually don’t think the Barmy Army is actually that amusing anymore and most think despite Charity Botham’s ‘good work’ that he is truly a work of self-exploration.

But while I too was momentarily swept away on the tide of the good times I foundered on a reef of grief when I opened today’s Sydney Morning Chook.

Hadn’t these boys learnt anything from what had happened at Lords last August?  The Independent as did many other papers reported on, “Star players such as Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson reportedly queued up to relieve themselves on the strip while team-mates cheered wildly.”

So what do we see on page 2 of the Chook?  Well what you see is a photograph of the Australian players and support team on the SCG pitch at midnight pouring beer over each other.  You also see one distinguished player mid-ground on his knees with his strides pulled down with his freckle on display.   Beneath the Southern Cross he kneels.

Top stuff. This is how we celebrate.  Down on our knees with grog running down our crack.  Such models these boys.  Arhh just letting go after a hard 12 months.  Common cut us some slack. But it’s not the only way we celebrate is it?

Firstly we sing the amusing ‘Under the Southern Cross I Stand” on the strip after the last wicket falls so every impressionable kid can clearly hear the last line, courtesy of Channel 9, “Australia, you fucking little beauty”.   What poetry.  These Renaissance men clearly have the full quiver of arrows.  It’s the tradition you wowser.  Sure, however inane and silly the song is, that’s their choice – but in the shed dopey.

I wonder if Stink Ink, Box Head or Chunky Cheese Taylor would like it if some clown at the pre-school started to read slightly different nursery rhymes to their little ones? Nursery rhymes like “The Three Fucking Pigs” or “Thomas the Cock Sucking Tank Engine”?  How do feel you about that boys?  No just having fun chaps, you know, nudge-wink-wink…just a case of boys being boys.  Counter the first photo with that of Clarke and coach Boof Lehmann walking arm in arm around the SCG.  Boof with his beer and Poodle with his Frog Fizz.  A lovely photo of a moment of reflection.

So we can now enter on the plus side of the summer cricket ledger an incredible Australian Test Series triumph against odds.  Sadly on the debit side we now have to place in large, the increasingly turgid television burger that is the commercial television coverage of cricket in Australia.  The burger is seemingly composed of small slivers of cricket coverage smothered with cheap talking sauce that is sandwiched between excessive amounts of advertising for fat food and bad beer.

From our ledger we can also remove the opportunity of elite players to show some respect for the sporting public and to further show that the celebration of a victory doesn’t mean you have to act like some tatted yokel in a Kings Cross beer barn.

In defence of calling James Packer a mean-spirited prick

I have often lain awake after a night on the claret cordial thinking whether an informed jury of my peers would convict me for ever calling Jamie ‘Al’ Packer a mean-spirited prick.  Unsure of the blurred legal lines between opinion and fact when defending oneself against a defamation case I also wonder what evidence I could tender to support my claim.  The biggest weakness in my defence would be that I do not have concrete evidence that Jamie Al Packer is a prick so I would naturally never call him one.

However in theory, if they were mounting their case against me Al’s legal eagles may be able to use the principle of precedence by raising the ghost of an earlier indiscretion that I allegedly committed against the young Jamie some decades ago.   It happened when I was a ‘guest’ in one of the boxes at the Sydney Cricket Ground.  From memory, it was the then State Bank corporate box.  The State Bank had recently morphed from the Rural Bank that once proudly claimed “We do more for you…personally”.  This was a distant time when customers were king not the shareholders.  I’d cut a hole in a few bottles of Tyrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay and was well on the way when I went out onto the balcony.  I glanced left and there was the unmistakable Packer profile.  The bull-like build and the extraordinary chin that goes on forever.  Easter Island had come to the SCG.  Without thinking I blurted out “ Son of Goanna!”. 

Al kept his eye on an ordinary game of league but his companion, Chris ‘Lucky’ Murphy, solicitor to the stars and scallywags, didn’t.  ‘Lucky’ gave me the death stare as he brushed dandruff off his shirt.  The only thing I could think of at the time was why do people with snowfall-like dandy brazenly wear black?

A bloke I do like who makes a quid from cartooning once told me he had been at a dinner party where Al claimed that his Daddy Go had “saved cricket”.   The Meg Ryan obsessed Michael Parkinson was also at the dinner.  Parky took offence at this airbrushing and berated young Al for mistaking greed for philanthropy.

But let’s not dwell on the past, your Honour, for in more recent times Al’s bid for putting the bingo into Bangaroo and the seemingly extraordinary acquiescence of the people in charge of the process to treat him like a protected species does raise questions about undue influence.  I raise this in the interests of background only, that in Sydney the slipstream to success seems to be predicated on pleasing people like the Parrot and the Packers.  These are the people who pick and stick regardless. So as the increasingly befuddled and scrubbed Parrot struggles to find facts (see Media Watch) in his world of radio dribbles, Al struggles to hold a girl for longer than the length of Parrot’s talk-back radio delay.  They are people who like to get their own way and give very little grunt to the public good despite ‘leaked’ faux good deeds.   The fabled good deeds?  Daddy Go funding hospitals so he could get a bed and slipping dealers and waitresses a slim wad when he made millions at the tables.

But does Al’s uncanny gift of getting his own way make him mean-spirited or at worst a prick?  I think not.  In the Obedian world of NSW it makes him just another player.  Please note, your Honour, I do not wish to raise any matters of undue influence over process nor the dud figures that consultants used to support Al’s attempt to civilise the city.  I mention them purely as context.  I would in support of my claim that he is mean-spirited, table what he and his Crownie colleagues have done by changing the rules of blackjack.  In the Age newspaper last year, Jason Dowling put it well.

“They say the house always wins. At Crown casino they have gone to great lengths to ensure the adage holds true.  Rule changes at the casino mean the house does not lose when it has a hand of 22 in Blackjack Plus – a version of the world’s most popular casino card game.  Blackjack is also commonly referred to as 21 because the aim is to get 21 and not go over. But under Blackjack Plus, which is the form of blackjack on all low-bet tables (sic below $50) at Crown, a ”stand-off” occurs if the dealer’s hand is 22, meaning no one wins. Players are not given the same leniency if they go over 21.”

In other words you are well and truly rooted at Crown if you have limited funds and cannot afford to bet big at blackjack.  The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation found ”the rules of the game to be compliant with principles of player fairness and game security”.  Anti-gambling crusader Tim Costello said if Crown was allowed to get 22 playing blackjack then ”Essendon should be allowed to have 19 players on the field”.  I love the Good Costello and while I totally agree with the sentiment I believe the world would be a significantly better place if there were both less Crowns and less AFL players.

Your Honour and the esteemed jury, as to my claim that Jamie ‘Al’ Packer is a prick.  I wish to call an expert witness to the stand.  An authority without peer. Would Mr Alan Jones please come forward…

Back to the future – getting Rugby out of the Funk

I was dragged up in the world of unlimited tackle rugby league on the coalfields.  A time of wet Saturdays where glue-like churns of cricket pitch mud turned local games into wet ugly propositions of no quarter given.  Then in the late sixties and seventies I was slowly seduced into the foreign art of rugby union through the ABC’s Saturday coverage of the Sydney competition. Post Depression sensibilities meant that there was no colour television in our house.   One waited for such things.  One bided one’s time before making such an extravagant purchase.  We didn’t need one.  The prism of enlightenment was a flickering black and white television screen and it was more than enough because what I saw was a world that was tough, fast but ultimately terribly exciting.

When Kenny Catchpole and the Ellas (Rube, Quin and Rose) danced the wonderful magic and a flowing mane of hair called Russell Fairfax dropped kicked from half-way all was well with the world.  Even on wet Saturdays I was happy to be thoughtfully lectured by a science teacher-like Trevor Allan in the art of rugby and warmed by the bonhomie of Norman ‘Nugget’ May.  Trevor Allan, a Wallaby of distinction, was no shirker.  He was typical of the era, he played above his weight, firmly and fairly and without fuss.  As a teenager he shared an ice-run with one of his brothers and would haul 28-pound blocks of ice on a hook in either hand sometimes climbing three or four flights of stairs to make the delivery.  He didn’t let opportunity melt in his hand, he had a job to do – it was that simple.

This was a time when I felt that all was good with the world.  The ginger nuts weren’t falling into your cup of tea and the mail was getting through.  I knew that blokes who worked in a bank or at the local school were turning up and having a go.  Some decades later in 1999 when Stephen Larkham kicked a field goal in extra time to beat the Yarpies with his Dad’s ringing endorsement “He’s never kicked a field goal in his life” this ‘have-a-go’ spirit was still alive.  And in Wellington in 2000, we saw an impossible victory with the towering big fella John Eales booting a penalty goal and clasping the Bledisloe Cup ever so closely as if it held his Nonna’s special pomodora recipe. I smiled with relief that ‘we’ had done it….it just doesn’t get any better.  And it didn’t.  We moved into the funk.  We were becalmed despite some interesting times and then we entered the ark ages when the vandals from the north turned the lights off.  A time when England made ten man rugby successful again.

And so to now.  After a stumblebum performance against the Pumas a week or so ago Australian Rugby has it’s neck securely held in the national laughing-stock.   Despite a scrambling one point win against the Meat Lovers people rightly lined up to throw corn, enchiladas and fruit at this rag-tag bunch of poor struggling boofheads.  Then at the same time as Ewen McKenzie was lauded as the “new beginning of Australian Rugby” by Fairfax Media, the Little ‘O’ (James O’Connor) was refused access to a flight to Bali due to the island having exceeded their September Bogan Quota.

But if Ewen is the new beginning I really want a touch of back-to-the–future.  Nothing against Ewie mind you, he’s having a go, but despite panning a few flecks of gold with the Reds I don’t think he is the answer.  I don’t think he has the ability to challenge and to create something new.  He is of the old school of potatoes and corned meat with white sauce (and there is nothing wrong with that) but it is a new game and we haven’t adapted very well.

I’ll be honest with you unlike a lot of people who bother to write about rugby – I don’t know anything about the game.  But a lack of knowledge obviously hasn’t stopped some people so why should I stay in the shed.  However what I do know is that the current national team plays like a bunch of tight-skirted, moon-shined hillbillies.  They have delivered to us a couple of years of tosh and broken promises under coach Deans.  And now under Coach McKenzie we were promised a change but we got the same old, sad, tired game that has been trotted out for a decade.  Is this the best we can do?

You see to me the logical choice for a new coach was Jake ‘the Peg’ White. White coached the Brumbies to an unlikely Super Final and they were the only provincial team to have a win against the touring Lions on a bitingly cold evening in Dull Town.   ‘Peg’s’ problem was despite his success (and being a South African) he didn’t fit the bill according to the ARU’s current “thinking”. If I can I will try to paraphrase the ARU’s current thinking – it’s high order stuff so you may struggle to understand – it goes like this;

“Let’s think for a minute…. We tried a foreigner but it’s gone pear-shaped and ‘Computer’ doesn’t get on with him…we should go for home-grown talent…take your time….oh bugger we don’t have any…mmm ok who hasn’t been DUI in the last twelve months…has he got a suit? “

That’s about it.  That’s the current thinking that’s guiding our poor boys.  So my suggestions are these.  Firstly, a good old-fashioned weed-out.  Get rid of self-centred inked dopes like the Little ‘O’, Computer’ and any other flash Harry who thinks they can piss-up the privilege of playing for their country and put in decent, hard-working blokes who will have a red-hot go until their legs fall off.  But that’s only the start. Then let’s try something new.  The plan is we put ‘Nobody’, ‘Noddy’, ‘Bernie’, ‘Bumshaft’, ‘Biscuits’, ‘Boxhead’ and anyone else who can tie up their shoe laces in a room for a week.  We give them plenty of biros, butchers paper and Bundy.  Their task is to come up with a new style of rugby.

We then march forward – we have a new plan – in fact it’s an old plan.  We get out of the funk.  We actually try to do things differently, completely differently – like catching the ball. Now wouldn’t that put things back in black and white again?