How Not to Behave in Court

 

We’ve all been there. You’re attending some sombre event, maybe a funeral or some such thing, and for no apparent reason something strikes you as amusing and against all your efforts to remain appropriately stony faced, as small smile makes itself known. One place where you don’t want this to happen is in a courtroom, but alas, happen it did to Yours Truly.

A former affiliate of mine was requested to attend court to answer quite a serious matter which I won’t go into here. Maybe ‘requested’ isn’t quite the right word, I think they called it a ‘Notice to Appear’. But anyway, I’d never witnessed a real court case and so I thought it would be interesting to pop along and just see how the whole thing operates. As a result I was actually quite fortunate to not end up with a ‘Notice to Appear’ myself.

The trial was due to be heard in the early afternoon, so I went to work and did a half day at the old grindstone, knocked off, had a bite to eat and made my way to the courthouse. As expected there were security scanners on the way in which caused me no real concern, so imagine my surprise when, after putting my bag on the conveyor belt and it popped out the other side, the nice burly security bloke said unto me “would you like to explain this please, Sir?”

Now I must digress to explain what the aforementioned nice burly security bloke was concerned about. About two weeks prior it was my birthday. At the time I worked for a particular Government Department which shall remain nameless, but let’s just say if you wanted to Licence a Weapon in Queensland, I worked in the office that you’d go to.

I was a smoker at that stage and as a birthday present my colleagues had all chipped in and bought me a cigarette lighter……….in the shape of a small handgun. It was a wonderful reproduction and at the end of the day I put it in my bag to take home, and promptly forgot it was there. Can you see where I’m going with this?

So we jump forward a couple of weeks and that big burly security guard. As I look to where he’s pointing at the screen, in perfect profile is what appears to be a small handgun. Not just that, it had what appeared to be a silencer on the end. Knowing what it was I found the whole episode quite hilarious and started laughing, but Mr Security didn’t seem to share my mirth. I explained that it was a lighter and he asked me to retrieve it and hand it over, which I duly did.

Justice statue
Sometimes it’s good that justice is blind. You can get away with more.

Still highly amused by this episode I wandered into the cavernous magisterial room, full of polished timber and leather seats and right up the front, a good two metres higher than the level set aside for the great un-washed was the exalted heights of the Magistrate’s Chair. All very impressive and intimidating. The Counsel for the Prosecution wandered in followed by the Counsel for the Defence and my former affiliate. Then the Beak herself wandered in, all black robes, grey hair and imperiousness.

For the most part the trial itself was very formal, with none of the theatrics that you see in TV and movies, and it seemed to drag on, but was also quite interesting in terms of the process they all went through with the acknowledgements to ‘my learned colleague’ etc, etc. Cases for and against were presented and then came the big moment, the verdict.

Or so I thought. Apparently the Beak needed to ‘consider’ the case and rather than head off to her chambers she remained in her seat, perusing the paperwork in front of everyone. I thought to myself “what could she possibly be looking for that the two lawyers hadn’t already presented?” And then it struck me, she’s building the tension and doing it brilliantly. Now with my already jovial frame of mind as a result of the lighter incident, I found this tension building to be utterly amusing, and that grin I mentioned in the opening paragraph tried to break through.

Imagine the scene dear reader. At some point in the very near future, there is every possibility my former associate could be requested to enjoy the hospitality of Her Majesty in one of her fine establishments. The Judge is pointedly perusing the papers while everyone else is waiting with heightened tension for the result. And there I was trying to conceal a grin that just wouldn’t bugger off. The harder I tried to get rid of it, the funnier I found things and the wider I’d smile. At one point I actually suffered a spasm of silent laughter which, through the greatest force of will power I ever mustered, I managed to contain. And still the Beak held off on making her pronouncement. Geez Louise, I was nearly dying trying to hold it all in.

Finally, mercifully the verdict was read out. “Guilty” but no gaol term. With that the Judge rose and exited stage left, and I bolted for the door to try and get myself under control before having to offer condolences for the guilty verdict and congratulations for not serving time, which thankfully I managed.

You know, sometimes I think those who are born with a sense of humour deficiency have a much easier passage through life. They don’t end up doing inappropriate things just for the fun of it, and their lack of a sense of humour doesn’t carry the associated risk of imprisonment for surfacing at the wrong time. They’ve never bordered on being arrested for ‘smuggling a handgun’ into a court or any of the subsequent shenanigans. Jesus, it must be a boring existence.

Take it easy.

A Town Full of Melons

 

Every couple of years the little township of Chinchilla comes to life in the celebration of all things watermelon, known by all and sundry as the Chinchilla Melon Festival.

For those of you who don’t know about Chinchilla, I’ve done a quick search on the intergoogle and I can reliably, and with some authority, advise you that Chinchillas are a species of crepuscular rodents native to the Andes mountains in South America…..oh wait a minute, that may not be entirely accurate. Um….go make a coffee or a tea and I’ll be back in a moment.

 

Ok, well that’s slightly embarrassing, but I can now reliably, and with some authority, advise you that Chinchilla is a small town on the Warrego Highway in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, a bee’s whisker under three hundred k’s from Brisbane. Normally populated by around 5 500 locals, this weekend the population rose by an extra 15 000.

This obviously puts accommodation in the small town at a premium, as witnessed by the rows and rows of caravans packed, sardine-like, into the showgrounds. Now to many travellers, this type of high density touring might be appealing, but this husky gent does not. So we headed about 10 km’s out of town and threw down the swag at the Chinchilla Weir campgrounds. There’s about a dozen powered sites if you’re into that, but we had our own power so we just picked a nice shady spot to set up.

The rope swing hanging from a tree about twenty metres from the water’s edge is a pretty fair indication that the water level was somewhat below its peak. When it’s full though, I imagine it would be a great view. But regardless of the low level, it was still a nice spot to spend a few days and have the occasional swim to escape the heat for a while and to also have schools of small fish gently exfoliating your skin while you sit in the shallows. Seriously, people pay big money for that kind of treatment at a fancy spa.

Speaking of the heat, bugger me. It was as hot as a Swedish backpacker in a bikini. The mercury spent much of the daylight hours in the high 30’s and low 40’s, instantly scorching any bit of exposed skin on the unwary traveller. But then again if you head west in the middle of February and expect cooling sea breezes and mild temperatures then you should probably do a bit more research while sipping your latte and waiting for your smashed avocado in your trendy suburban café.

But they’re a tough breed out West and the temperatures didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the locals or us visitors. We got there on the Friday, so missed the Twenty20 Big Bash cricket held on Thursday evening, but we made sure that we were in time to catch Friday night’s Rodeo.

Now as surprising as this may sound, for a bloke who grew up in a country town I’d never been to a rodeo before. I’d always seen the big 10 gallon hats, checked shirts and dinner plate sized belt buckles and just thought it’s just an impersonation of the American ‘Good ol’ boys’ with all their Yeehaws and rootin’ and/or tootin’. While all that is fine and dandy in the land of the Red, White and Blue, anyone who knows me knows how much I hate the steady insurgence of American culture in Australia. But dear readers, you are now to be witness to a momentous occasion, because right here and right now I will admit I was wrong.

It was a fantastic evening. There were some serious skills on display, and not only from the poor buggers sitting on top of angry bulls and horses. The people who get the animals into the pens and help the riders mount down to the blokes ensuring the gates are opened swiftly are an amazing example of organisation in not only keeping things moving but also in ensuring the safety of the riders.

I think my horse is broke

After a few brief moments (for some riders they were very brief moments) the next lot of unsung heroes come into play. The ‘clowns’ who rush in front of the horns or the kicking legs in order to distract the bull and prevent serious damage to the cowboy are an absolute joy to watch in action. As are the horsemen who manage to manoeuvre their trusty steeds alongside a jumping, twisting and kicking horse to give the rider a safe way of dismounting once the eight seconds have been achieved and then take control of the horse to ensure it too leaves the area without injury. Very impressive and it certainly won’t be the last rodeo I go look at.

So anyway, after a balmy night in the swag Saturday rocked around. This is the main day for events related to the mighty melon. We had all the best intentions of participating in some of the events of the day, but the water of the weir was way too inviting and so we missed the registration. Oh well, we still got to watch other people making the most of the events.

My personal favourite was the melon skiing which basically consisted of participants being shod in watermelon skins and being pulled along a watered plastic sheet covered in smashed watermelons. Much hilarity ensued as all sorts of people lined up to test their mettle. Most face-planted within the first couple of metres and were treated to a further 40 metres of ploughing through the red and green debris to be dumped unceremoniously at the end.

Others had more success and made it part way down before they too ended up with their melon-clad feet in the air and a face full of sun-baked watermelon carcases. Very rarely, with the planets aligned and the omniscient bellybutton fluff appropriately consulted, some magnificent athlete would make it to the end, upright and triumphantly punching the sky in ultimate victory…..only to have one of the organisers give them a face full of watermelon.

Melon skiing. It’s a thing.

There were many other events of course, watermelon bungy, tug-o-war, pip spitting and a chariot race. A bustling market filled the main street with all the usual wares as well as some more unusual items. They even bought in a couple of lads from Showtime FMX – that’s Freestyle Motor Cross for the uninformed among you. So all-in-all an action packed arvo in the ‘chilla as the inhabitants like to call it…well they might, I never asked them.

But anyway it was time for another cooling dip in the weir before the free concert and laser show was due to kick off. Upon returning to the area the old bobcat was busily scraping up the crushed remains of hundreds of watermelons as we set up our seats for the concert. Things were going well until a storm started to roll in, and some inkling convinced me that we needed to return to the campsite. While things were calm for the next hour or so, quite suddenly the wind picked up and it became apparent that one peg in each corner of the gazebo wasn’t going to be enough.

I’m sure anyone who has camped on a regular basis will be familiar with what followed. With the wind trying to throw the gazebo in all directions, my better half was holding it down while I went around in the dark, attempting to bang more pegs into the ground. I probably missed more often than I hit but we got there in the end, and after the storm blew itself out we got to spend a slightly cooler night with some light rainfall, which was much appreciated.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and so on Sunday we bid farewell, but not before posing with a couple of strategically placed melons in front of the Chinchilla sign. Just as we finished up, another fine cultured young bloke also rolled up with a couple of melons of his own for the same photo opportunity. Great minds think alike.

That’s a big pair of melons.

It’s on again in two year’s time, and I can guarantee that I’ll be there again, lapping up the fantastic atmosphere of a country town letting its hair down. See ya in 2019 Chinchilla.

Don’t Come the Raw Prawn Mate

 

We like to discuss the big issues at work and I have to say I really do enjoy the way a simple question can lead to a robust debate among colleagues. For example, about three weeks ago the question was posed…. is it peanut butter or peanut paste?

I told you we tackle the big issues.

But like a said, this simple question has led to a debate which is still raging nearly a month later, but oh how it has expanded. No longer content with the nuances surrounding everyone’s favourite peanut product the discussion has expanded to include cupcakes vs patti cakes, togs vs bathers, ice blocks vs icy poles vs ice cream and even scones vs scones (ya know the two different ways of pronouncing the word).

Now, I have long been an advocate for upholding the wonderfully unique Aussie vernacular since Christ played full back for Jerusalem, just ask my kids, they’ll tell you. But I must admit I had begun to despair that I was the only person who cared about such things, that I was a relic from a by-gone era, but it appears that I’m not. It seems that quite a few of us are pretty keen on staying true to our oratory roots.

So with that in mind, why don’t we see more Australian slang in our media, TV and elsewhere? Is it considered a bit un-cooth, not sophisticated or is it just that we’ve all been so heavily conditioned to Americanisms through the media bombardment from the good ol’ United States of ‘Murrica that we just don’t notice it anymore? Why is our wonderful way of communication being assaulted by cookies instead of biscuits, gas instead of petrol, candy instead of lollies and pharmacies instead of chemists. For the love of Hoges our media even says our dates in the American way these days! Stone the bloody crows, they say the month first, then the day. So today for example would be October 25th. The 25th what?

Well bugger it, I say. When the Aussie media is no longer fair dinkum and they try to come the raw prawn with us by using the lingo of the Septic Tanks, I reckon we’ve got no choice but crack the shits and tell them to get a big black dog up ‘em. If we have to have a bit of a blue and go off like a frog in a sock, then so be it I’ll be as game as Ned Kelly and I’ll snot the bludgers. If all my Cobbers join in then surely that’d make the snobs drop a dark one in their Reg Grundies and that’ll set things straight and then we can head down to the rubbery dub and blow the froth off a coldie.

Maybe we should start a movement eh? Take a leaf out of the Greenies’ book and start putting a bit of pressure on the pollies to demand our right to have our vernacular in our media. Picture the scene if you will. A bunch of blokes, all with a face like a bucket of smashed crabs, marching on Parliament House in their Jackie Howes, stubbies and double pluggas. And steadfastly marching with their men, the proud sheilas in their t-shirts and trackie daks demanding their rights to freely hang a bag of goon on the clothesline if they so desire. Imagine the tide of Hipsters, spilling their de-constructed lattes and tripping over their moccasins in their haste to escape the encroaching, unstoppable wave of proud Aussies. Oh Sweet Dame Edna Everage what a magnificent vision!

Um, sorry I went off on a bit of a tangent then didn’t I? Oh well, I’m Australian, I’m allowed to.

So, to sum up, I reckon that we still have a window of opportunity to preserve the wonderful, colourful and unique vocal mannerisms that so many people around the world seem to love, but which our own intelligencia seem to loathe. But in the words of the great Darryl Kerrigan they can ‘suffer in their jocks’. Personally I love it when a Pom or a Seppo stare at me with a complete lack of comprehension when I say “G’day Knackers, you look as dry as a dead dingo’s donger, let’s go get a Fourex” and if the Australian media don’t like that they can take a long walk of a short pier.

Oh and in case you were wondering – it appears that in the 1930’s the Queensland Dairy authority objected to the use of the word ‘butter’ being used in association with a non-dairy product and so legislation was passed to ban the term peanut butter. Some other states came on board, but others didn’t. So it comes down to where you grew up. Personally I reckon who cares what it’s called, eat Vegemite instead.

Narrowly Avoiding the Austral/Russian War.

 

Not many people know this, but in the late 1990’s Australia and Russia nearly came to blows, and I’m sad to say I may have been the cause of this international diplomatic calamity, or to be fair me and another bloke may have been the causes.

You see, not long after I left the army and decided to give up swinging spanners for a living, I kind of drifted towards doing a bit of DJ work, not through any conscious drive in that direction but basically just carried along on life’s current until I found myself working for a local Brisbane DJ. Turns out that it really wasn’t for me and I only ended up doing two gigs.

The first was a fun night accompanying the boss to a birthday bash for some partner in a legal firm. Now if you want a rocking good night full of hi-jinks and hilarity, then you could do a lot better than a bunch of middle aged legal eagles. Oh how the chardonnay flowed, or trickled more like it, and they mostly stood around in small groups talking legal stuff. Yawn. And to make matter worse the music the boss DJ was playing was a definite cure for insomnia. My job was to keep track of the songs the boss had dug up from the depths of bargain bin.

But, I thought to myself at night’s end, this DJ thing can’t be all old and boring professional type people and much to my delight next weekend’s gig was to be a 21st birthday celebration for a young Russian bloke. And even better, the boss was staying home and I was to do the gig with another young bloke who was into his rock music as much as I was. Bring it orn!

And so it was that the next Saturday afternoon found me and, oh I don’t know let’s call him Eustice, at the Russian Community Hall in Brisbane setting up the turntable, speakers and lights. The young bloke came up to us and welcomed us with a friendly smile and encouragement for what he was sure would be a great evening. Then we met the Patriarch of this family.

So you know how Russian men are widely known for their laid back attitude and wild sense of humour? Yeah me neither, and this bloke was the epitome of the Russian man. I think he may have smiled at some stage way back in his teen years, but he had quickly banished that smile to the salt mines of Siberia. After his son had welcomed us so warmly, the cold stare that Dad shot us was enough to freeze molten lava, and so we lost a little bit of confidence that this was going to be a great night.

We got in and set things up and, as is the norm, we started playing a bit of low volume music just to provide the ambiance for the early arrivals. Everything was going swimmingly as the sun began to set and the rest of the guests arrived. Before long we had maybe 100 – 150 friends and family in the small hall, generally relaxing and having a good time. Then Dad approached us.

“Did you bring any waltzes like we asked?”

Eustice and me looked at each other in confusion. No one had told us about any waltzes and to be honest the only waltz I ever heard of was Kevin Bloody Wilson’s “The Last Lager Waltz”. You know the one “two steps to the south and three to the north….oops sorry mate, did I chuck on ya car? I really didn’t think I could chunder that far.” If you have never heard that song, stop reading now, head over to Youtube and dial it up. Go on, we’ll wait for you.

Dum, dee dum dum.

Ok so you’re back. Funny hey. So anyway, there we were looking at each other dumbly while Vlad the Impaler was looking up at us waiting for us to confirm that we did indeed have a box full of waltzes. Eustice had the gift of the gab so while he spoke to the old man to advise that the boss hadn’t told us about that particular requirement, I frantically searched through the records and mercifully found one, the Blue Danube I think it was. So quickly we threw it on and all the old Russians were able to get out on the floor and ponce around.

The son, obviously well versed in smoothing out his father’s wrath, soon had things in hand and all was good, although Stalin was less than impressed that the Blue Danube was the only waltz we had to offer.

Before long it was time for the evening meal, and we were requested to turn the music off while the formal part of the meal took place, so we did as we were bade and took a break. With a respectful silence filling the room, in walked the Russian Orthodox Priest, in his long black robes with a huge bible clutched in one arm, beautiful bushy black beard and a plaited pony tail which had to be at least three feet long.

I wasn’t expecting this level of formality and I found the whole exposure to different cultural practices to be fascinating, so I sat and watched as everyone turned to face the cross on the wall as the priest said the traditional prayers in Russian. Eustice on the other hand couldn’t give two nobs of goat shit, and was passing the time with the headphones on, lining up a few tunes and generally keeping himself amused.

Now because I couldn’t understand Russian I didn’t realise that the prayer was coming to an end, until the assemblage all made some sound in unison and the Priest lowered his hands and bowed to the bible and made to leave the room. The patrons at the table nearest us then motioned to me that it was time to re-start the tunes, and so taken a bit by surprise I gave Eustice a nudge and he realised that the people were waiting for their dining music and so he pushed the “go” button on whatever song he was listening to at the time.

I’m sure we’ve all had that gut wrenching feeling when you suddenly realise things have taken a very nasty turn for the worst. Well as the first few lines of the chorus flew out of the speakers I knew we had just managed to deeply offend a room full of Russians, because the song which Eustice had been playing was none other than that old George Thorogood favourite “Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job.” One hundred-odd Russians had instantaneously formed the opinion that we were taking the mickey out of their priest with his long hair and everything. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a room full of seriously pissed off Ruskies staring in your direction, but take my word for it, it ain’t pretty.

Eustice scrambled to change the song as fast as he could, but from that point on things were never going to end well. But to his credit, the birthday boy once again smoothed things over and the meal was had without serious incident. He even organised for the kitchen staff to bring out some Russian tucker for Eustice and me so we figured our chances of making it out alive had gone from somewhere between none and bugger-all to a more fair to reasonable rating.

Our survival prospects headed northward again when, through a total act of serendipity we actually had a copy of the theme from the Moscow Olympic Games, appropriately called ‘Moscow’, when we were requested to play it. So while the speakers were blasting out “Moscow, Moscow, see the Russian teddy bear, dancing in his underwear, ha ha ha ha ha hey!” or however it goes, the young men took to the dance floor for a display of traditional Cossack dancing with the squatting down and kicking out of the feet thing. Once again, a fascinating insight into a different culture.

So now with everything being a positive love-fest even Dad had loosened up a little and decided that Eustice and myself had actually done a decent thing and we could share a bottle of good Scotch Whiskey between us. In hindsight I don’t think he meant for us to share it between us on that particular evening, but we did anyway. With a predictable result, we got a wee bit drunk, messed up a few songs, got a bit loud and joined the party. The young’s didn’t seem to mind but occasionally in the corner I could see Vlad the Impaler’s mood darkening.

Anyway after a few more hours of drunken shenanigans it was time for everyone to head off and we started packing up the DJ gear. But with most of the party goers departed the only thing keeping Vlad’s fury in check had also departed, and he let us have it. I have no idea what he said, as in his rage he had forgotten to speak English, but the message was definitely clear. The tone transcended all language barriers and we knew that we were being given a taste of what the German’s had received in Stalingrad and had been given ten minutes to bug out or he was going to perform deeds upon our personages which only the KGB would know.

Sufficiently chastened we made ourselves scarce and somehow managed to avoid sparking a war between Australia and Russia, but it was a close-run thing.