Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Otto? Isn't he Mr. von Bismarck?

Not having written for a while on eligible females who turn out to classless and nowhere near as intelligent or broadminded as they believe themselves to be, it is time for another in the series.

The star of this episode was yet another who dwelt in an inner city suburb in one of our great metropolitan areas, Sydney. I never did find out which suburb she lived in, nor her occupation. But it would have been something suitably "toney".

Conversation with her was certainly a challenge, as to her celebrities & the Sydney "A-list" social scene was the most highbrow of subjects. (You're already starting to get the picture)

I would never be so narrow minded as to call those topics the most trite, trivial and irrelevant of subjects (not to mention pretentious). In the interests of charm & better interpersonal relations I made an effort. Nothing is as novel or broadening to the mind than to meet & interlocute with someone whose worldview is entirely different from one's own.

However I fell at the first hurdle.

This broadminded & savvy city girl, with the most cosmopolitan of outlooks (yeah, right!) made a comment (without any sense of irony) about "pretentious types" and how they "sit at Otto's" and watch the world pass by.

Years later I was to learn that "Otto's" is/was a Sydney restaurant frequented by the "A-list", however at the time it meant nothing to me, she may as well have spoken in Greek.

Thankfully she kept talking and gave me some context, it seemed Ottos was a fancy noshery prone to trotting out highbrow tucker.

It just so happened that the day before I'd been at a place called "Cafe Otto" in the suburb of Glebe.

Thinking this was the place she meant, I made an observation about not only the attractiveness of the .. er... view onto the street in Glebe, but the tucker produced by this cafe.

As I found out years later, this was not the cafe she meant, nor the view she was speaking of. It wasn't even the same suburb.

Without another word she got up & left. Just like that!

For some time I pondered what faux pas I'd made. It would have been handy had she at least had the courtesy to say "bye" or something.

After considerable reflection the most plausible explanation I could come up with was that she believed I'd deliberately & obtusely pretended to not know of "Ottos". (After all, the whole world knows the restaurants in Sydney where the A-list linger over brunch).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Misson Creep

The council health inspector attends the Wayside Tavern for an "inspect & certify" of the kitchen.

Usually a routine event, this year it has a new dimension. The health inspector is a new one, a recent graduate in his forties.

He looks like a forty year old uni student too. Scruffy hair, nose ring, slighly offbeat manner, etc.

He has a lot to say about "sustainable kitchen management", and has far too much to say about our "use of plastics" in the kitchen (mainly tupperware containers & glad wrap).

It gets to the point where Mine Host, through slitted eyes, wishes the hippy would skip the greenpeace lecture and just get on with looking for cockroach infestations or whatever it is he is supposed to do.

Finally the hippy/sermoniser tears off the white copy (or is it the pink copy) of his inspection sheet and hands it over.

The inspection is finished.

His job is to inspect for defects & the like. He exhibited little to no interest in that (ie, his job).
He degree of interest in the "sustainability"(?) of our kitchen management, and in our use of plastics, was a most unhealthy one.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Your Blessing is Requested!

"The Splintered Shingle" were a musical duo (Rusty & Jenna) who played the Wayside Tavern from time to time. Rusty was a big, lean, rawboned type, Jenna a petite & worldly blonde.

.... In the middle of a song, one of the patrons staggers forward to speak with Rusty. This often happens, someone will ask one or the other muso do they know this or that song, or somesuch.

This request is different:

"Mate, is it okay if I root your missus?" The bloke doesn't even seem all that drunk. He'd have to be though, or suicidal, to rile up such a rough looking bloke as Rusty, who'd be three times his size.

The look on Rusty's face was priceless.

His instinct is to reflexively drop this feller with a straight right.

Rusty stares down at all the gear around him, looks back up at the... er.. hopeful suitor, looks back down, you can practically see what he is thinking: "This is a $2,000 guitar I've got strapped to me, I can't just throw it down & belt this joker into next week...."

While Rusty ponders his dilemma, the hopeful suitor loses interest in the deal & wanders away, disappearing into the crowd.

For the remainder of the night, in the break between each set, Rusty runs a thoughtful & very careful eye over the crowd.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Squalid Third World People

Mine Host has sponsored quite a few immigrants to this land.
Some of them have even been worthy of it.

It is a reasonable assumption that cultural differences notwithstanding, that some courtesies or good manners are universal. This should go without saying.

Not so!

A sponsored migrant (Singapore Chinese) working at the Wayside Tavern, was offered accommodation in Mine Host's own house. Free of charge. This isn't any imposition. Mine Host is often away on business, and doesn't spend much time there anyway.

However cultural norms of sharing someone's house for free are very different in Singapore. (Or so it would seem.)

Coming from a developed western nation, one with a reputation for cleanliness & orderliness, one would expect to find someone who is culturally & civilly on much the same wavelength as Australia. After all, migrants from Singapore are all over the country, fitting in without problem
(yea yea, Singaporeans can be robots, but for comparison look at the "adjustment difficulties" that come with Sudanese.)

One would expect the following behaviour, as it is how Mine Host would conduct himself in similar circumstances:
Use the house like it is your own, watch the TV, use the kitchen, relax in the garden etc. Pull your weight in the household & houseyard chores, share & share alike the food, keep the place tidy, don't break anything, don't rock the boat. In short: Act like it is where you live.

More or less the unspoken rules of house-sharing.

However, not in Singapore! (or so it would seem)

At some point the housemate purchased some potatos. As you do. These were stored in a basket used for that purpose in a darkened part of the kitchen.

The potatos sat there for so long they rotted. This can happen. When detected, perhaps by the rotting smell, one simply throws them out & cleans up the mess.

Not in Singapore. (or so it would seem)

The potatos rotted to the point that you'd think it would be impossible to not notice, they turned to mush & dripped down to form a rotten mess on the floor.

Ahh... she can't miss it now. It is more or less in the middle of the room. It'll soon be cleaned up.

However the mess lingered.

By this time kitchen hygiene Singapore style was on trial.

Then Mine Host went away on business. He did not return to the house for a month.

Upon returning (the full month later) it was noticed that the *splatter* of rotten potatos was still right there on the kitchen floor tiles. Though it was well & truly dried by now.

You actually had to move the kitchen chairs to avoid stepping in it. At this Mine Host point decided to see just how long before this woman cleaned up her spuds.

She didn't.

Three months later, when the Singaporean couple moved out, having bought their own house, the *sploop* of rotten potato was still there on the floor.

It was actually Mine Host's mother who cleaned it up.

Friday, November 25, 2011


The Police "Liquor Compliance" squad (or whatever they are called) are in town. We've seen these two officers before. They are most tiresome.

Lurking outside the doorway, the officers stare at the public in an unfriendly manner, intimidating the meek. (Crikey, we're in the hospitality game, & these goons strut around acting like SS, & generally putting out an atmosphere of aggression!)

Then it really goes pear-shaped.

One of the departing public, having ceded inhibition to Bacchus, makes a gesture or something that rouses the ire of the shaven headed Constable Brutus Spartacus of the Police Liquor Compliance squad.

A few words are exchanged. The departing patron is clearly unhappy with the Police Liquor Officers. This is understandable, the officers are exuding an air of aggression that seems deliberately designed to raise the hackles of passers-by members of the public.

Suddenly the departing patron is face down on the footpath, officer Brutus Spartacus atop him, truncheon around the patron's throat.

"Call me PIG! Did you call me PIG?" squeals officer Brutus Spartacus in a high pitched voice (thus confirming the diagnosis).

Everybody in the street has stopped & is watching. Horrified.

Then officer Judas McDumbknuckle releases his victim, stands up, & allows the young man to stumble off.

Anyone else care to try doing that in public to a passer-by who (so softly that nobody else hears it) allegedly uses a nasty-wasty namey-wamey on you?

Sometimes events such as this assault reinforce to the observer that the lapsing of the code duello is possibly most lamentable moment in history.

For officer Trueheart Stoutman wouldn't be so quick off the mark were he & his victim to be each holding an "equaliser" & allowed to shoot to kill.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Life Skills

You spend your life surrounded by people who have skills you take for granted so much that you don't consider them skills.

Then you have a moment of shock when you discover that an otherwise functioning adult does not have a skill that is possessed by everybody you have ever known.

In my head I can conceptualise the difference between 10,000 acres & 10,500 acres. I know exactly how big each is. I can do the same for square miles. I know 900 square miles from 800 square miles. But I don't expect many people outside my upbringing to be able to do the same.

But some things you believe are universal.

I can remember the stunned moment when I first realised there are adults who haven't a clue about distance, that telling them something is "a hundred miles away" meant the same to them as saying "ten miles away" or "a thousand miles away".

A bigger shock was when I realised there are plenty who have little understanding of temperature.

Today I encountered a business owner aged in their thirties, who is totally unable to read a weather map. It was nothing more than an abstract drawing to them.

To me the chart said "we're going to get under some very heavy rain in a few hours", and as it is a picture, said it much more clearly than were it to be printed here in text in the English language. A weather map is something you grow up deciphering & reading.

Or so I thought.

It seems that us country boys have some skills that our urban cousins never get around to developing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Police Fabricate a Law!

The next pub along is having a busy night, then all of a sudden they just up & close, pushing everybody out onto the street a couple of hours too early.

Wonder why?

It seems that a cop walking the beat ordered them to close, for no reason other than there are "too many" patrons inside for the number of security guards on duty.

This was a curiosity, now it's turned into the funniest thing I have seen in ages!

For I happen to know the Liquor Act. (Gee, wonder why?)
There is no requirement for any ratio of patrons to security guards.
In fact there not even a requirement to have any security guards.
Police do not have the power to arbitrarily order a pub to close.

The constable who ordered them to close is obviously completely clueless. (How dumb can you be, using powers you don't have?)

Then again, that publican, a greenhorn know-it-all, without the faintest clue of any of the provisions of the Liquor Act, has gone ahead & complied with a false directive.

Nothing like seeing one who believes they are smarter than you making a public fool of themself. I'll stop laughing in a few months.

There is a wiser head in the station though (probably sitting on a Sgt's shoulders), as by the time the incident gets into the newspaper it is written up as: "Police advised that there may be a safety risk due to overcrowding, and the venue manager voluntarily closed early".

Rubbish! The joint wasn't anywhere near to a capacity crowd. In this jurisdiction there isn't even a fire regulation on the number of people that can be inside a building. You can crowd a pub with people until the walls burst outward, if you wish.

I'll stop laughing in several months time!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weight & Balance

Dave Harris is a regular at the Wayside Tavern. Short & cheerful, a tyre fitter by trade, he works hard & drinks hard.

A deep thinker he isn't. He's also rather a worry at times. Drunk or sober, he rarely comes accross as fully coherent.
He's also physically one very tough cookie, as tyre fitters tend to be.

There are circular bar tables, the right height to sit at on a stool.

This particular night he climbs atop one of these tables, and stands there. This is scary stuff, the table wobbles, he is drunk to the point that he has a "sway-up" anyway. It will be quite a fall.

And fall he does.

Tap dancing when he should have shuffled (or something), the table flies out from under him, scrabbling with his feet to stay on it, he manages only to point himself headfirst at the tiled floor.

When he hits, his head is likely to split open like a ripe watermelon.

Halfway to the floor a hip snags the seat of a barstool. This levels him, and he lands *splat* horizontally on the tiled floor (instead of head first).

He stands up, shakes his head, remarks that that "sure dazed" him a bit, weaves his way to the bar & has a few more rums. Observing him most carefully there seems to be nothing wrong. Well, nothing more than usual.

He goes home at closing time. Full of trepidation I barely sleep. He'll almost certainly have a brain haemorrage. In the morning he'll be dead in bed.

This is the sort of unhappy & unpredictable event that results in a life changing lawsuit.

However the next afternoon he is in again after work, as usual. He gets drunk & seems no sillier than usual.

After a few weeks have passed, and nothing adverse seems to have happened to him, I put the incident out of my mind.

Years later he's still going strong. Still not making any sense, still working hard in a tough job.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Do it with Style

The leading vice amongst the staff is excessive promiscuity.

As vices go this isn't all that much of a worry for me. Except for the minor irritation of enforcing the rule of no "friends" in the living quarters.

The only other associated problem is that excessively promiscuous staff very quickly "go through" much of the town, thus swiftly reaching their use-by date.

For certain staff, once they are at the point where very few of the clientele are trying to seduce them, their work performance drops off. And so there is the problem of firing/hiring.

Most of the excessively promiscuous staff are rather unhappy at the social contempt that accrues to them as a result of lifestyle.

If he can get to them early enough, Mine Host informs them (if they are prone to listening) that most of negative fallout resulting from excessively promiscuous behaviour is due to not going about it with style.

That were they follow the example of ladies who are products of English Public Schools, they won't be having these problems. For they can get away with doing just about anything, provided they do it with style.

This usually gives them something to ponder. Most of them are quite tickled at the thought of being viewed as "stylish", rather than as "town bike".

Occassionally one of them actually manages to carry it off with style, and dare I go that far, sometimes even with panache.

Usual behaviour: Discuss over the bar, publicly, in coarse detail, who will be doing what to whom. Do it in the manner of a coarse XXX film script.
Stylish behaviour: Actually discuss this sort of stuff discreetly, in private.
Usual behaviour: Leaning forward over the barbeque in the backyard with tonight's one-night stand behind you, hoist skirt up to the armpits and right there under the spotlight remain passive while one-night stand collects payment for the dozen or more vodkas he has bought you. (repeat each night with a new one-night stand).
All this under the spotlights, without a thought that the rest of the staff may be still up, silently drinking on the verandah & able to see everything.
Stylish behaviour: Mysteriously disappearing, without being obviously in the company of anybody. Reappearing in the same manner, with dignity intact.

It isn't really all that difficult. Yet so few of them manage to make even the first step toward "stylish behaviour".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

They'll Fight Each Other (if nobody else steps up)

Reasonably quiet night in the pub. Only a few New Zealanders in the bar. Maoris all. Not much else happening anywhere else in the building.

Ooops... spoke too soon. There seems to be some sort of bad blood among the Maoris.

Oh no.... they're from two different tribes. Someone is carrying on about how high-born their mob is. This is not well received by the other mob.

The mood feels nasty. The younger blokes are starting to hiss & clench fists. This could be really really really violent.

A quiet chat to a couple of the older (grey haired) blokes. They don't want any trouble, they just came down with their respective clans for a few cold ones. They nod to each other & then use their clout as elders to silently order their mobs to stop it. A quiet lecture is given about how they are not there for this.

The one who started banging on about how high-born he is gets taken aside by his elders & advised that he should go home. He complies.

As a courtesy the elder fellows are given a couple of drinks on the house.

There is no need for this, as they all among some of the highest paid workers in the nation. Which is why they have all left New Zealand & come to beyond the black stump.

Phew! That was close. Anybody who has seen serious Maori on Maori violence will know what I mean.

Anybody else can get an inkling of what I may have been in for by watching "Once Were Warriors"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fixing Problem Gambling

A few years ago, Queensland had a really really memorable Premier guy, hopeless except for two things:

He was a great retail politician & a larger than life identity.

His performance as custodian of our state was such that he should be in Jail. For in a time of booming resources, of the state being in receipt of royalties you can't showjump over, he managed to pretty much run the state broke.

All that aside, one populist stunt of his was a measure to "reduce problem gambling". Specifically poker machines & the "damage" they did.

In the current writings about proposed poker machine reform, it has escaped the notice of all Qld journalists (trained investigative reporters, one & all) that poker machine protocols in Qld are very different to NSW.

The maximum bet per spin in Qld is Five Dollars. Half that of NSW.

Qld poker machines will accept banknotes up to $20 denomination. NSW poker machines will accept any denomination banknote.

Qld used to accept higher denomination notes. Then 10 years ago this really smart Premier guy decided to "limit problem gambling" by eliminating from poker machines all notes above $20.

Actually it went much further than that. The amount a player could insert into a machine was limited to $20 (4 spins of the reels) during play, when the amount of credits lowered, a second $20 or other note would be allowed to be inserted, but total credit could not be more than $40.

You can imagine how this went down with the players, constantly having to stop & feed money in.

This worked. Poker machine play in Qld came very nearly to a halt. Within a couple of days some very high profile publicans were phoning government ministers to gloatingly inform that their pub no longer was liable to pay the extra super-tax applicable to high gaming turnover pubs.**

Govt ministers failed to see the joke. They had implemented the reforms in the belief that it would make no difference to poker machine turnover.

Within a few days the government demonstrated their committment to gambling reform by reversing the limit. To save face, the limit to $20 notes remained, but players could now shove in enough money to buy some serious "zone-out" time at a poker machine.

The story does not end here. For now comes the really good part, that is known to very few, is now revealed by whistle-blower me:

When the abovementioned restrictions were slapped on poker machines, the following day the TAB saw one of the largest turnover increases in history.
Even though the poker machine restrictions were reversed within a week, the gamblers who went to the TAB did not return to poker machines.

There are people whose gambling needs involve placing a significant amount of money at risk.

They can do this on the horses.

In the Wayside Tavern people bet up to $5 per spin on the poker machines. In the PubTAB there are punters who will bet up to $10,000 on a single race. Some of these fellows will make several bets in the range of $2,000 - $6,000 over the course of a single day.

This eclipses poker machine activity.

No measure to minimise the harm of gambling is going to work unless all forms of gambling are equally restricted (including scratch tickets & lotteries), but especially the new forum of online gambling.

Attacking poker machines is merely a populist political stunt by unsophisticated (read: none-too-bright) plonkers who have little to no knowledge or experience of any form of gambling.

**(Yes, there is a super-tax on "very high" pub gaming profits in Qld, has been for more than 10 years, something else that has slipped past every last member of Qld's cohort of trained investigative reporters.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some you just Can't Please

A travelling couple have their evening meal at the Wayside Tavern.
They complain about everything. But especially about the price.

$7.50 for a square meal (with steak!) was the price at the time. A very good deal.

They whine to the kitchen staff about every aspect of their meal, the time it took to prepare, the quality of the staff (that went down a treat with the kitchen brigade) the quality of the cutlery, and of course the price.

Apparently where they came from, at the Dumbville RSL club, one could get 10 times the meal for a much lower price, blah blah blah.

She was a slatternly looking slug, he a sour visaged grump. One could easily believe they had chosen to excise all joy from their lives.

Their parting comment was that the unhappy dining experience at the Wayside Tavern had "tarnished" their round-Australia trip!

Just how bitterly they felt became apparent over the next few months, as a series of postcards arrived from various places on their journey.
These postcards raved about the low prices, good service, & great range of goods on offer in every town they visited north and west of the black stump. Unfavourable comparisons were drawn between every pub/newsagent/supermarket and the Wayside Tavern.

When they returned home they even sent a postcard from Dumbville. It had a photo of their church, the message stated that they were praying for a rapid bankruptcy for the Wayside Tavern, which they maintained shouldn't be far off, given the poor quality of the staff, the overpriced meals, etc etc.

They were praying for some good person to take over, so that other travellers would not have their life ruined by experiencing the horrid meals & dreadful service I was providing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hot Trio

Phone call from an acquaintance who may or may not be a bookie.
The call is brief. Three races & three horses.

This information is written on an easel blackboard in the bar.
Two of the horses come in. Those who bet on all three tips clean up properly.

Several staff & customers are most distressed that they didn't know about the tips. "Mate, if you've ever got information like that, phone me at home, at any time!"

Nope. The tips are written up in the bar. You've gotta be in there to see them.

Nobody ever knew where I got the information from. (er... assuming hypothetically that I was receiving such information)

This may or may not have happened every week for a couple of years, ending only when the bookie passed on.

In all that time, either two or three of the three tips would win. Once, and once only, did only one of them win. (Assuming this story is real, that is).

The punters had a reverence for that small easel-mounted blackboard that had to be seen to be believed. (Assuming this story is true, that is).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wait Your Turn Mate

Scene: Hospital waiting room
(What used to be called "Casualty", now thanks to lots of people being unable to separate real life from what happens on a TV screen, it is known by some inappropriate american term, "emergency" or somesuch)

Time: After midnight.
Cast: Mine Host, injured relative, another injured young male person (he looks like a Ringer).

Injured relative: (noticing that another injured person is clutching his arm & is grimacing in pain.) "What'd y'do to your arm mate?"

Ringer: "Pretty sure it's busted, fell off a horse" (his hat is tucked under his arm)


Injured relative: "Mate, it's after midnight, what're y'doing riding horses at this time of night?"

Ringer: "I wasn't. I've been sitting here since 5 o'clock this afternoon. It happened while we were yarding up earlier today."

Conclusion: Qld health service needs to bring back Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen. The health system actually worked when he was in charge of the state.