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.