Saturday, December 22, 2007

Strange Turns

The Weekend Australian

Given the above article I decided to finally run a tale I first wrote for the Saturday edition of the West Australian, Western Australia's only daily newspaper. In its original form it was rejected by The West's lawyers.
The lawyers were concerned that Peter Foster might sue. I think in the original I called him a "fraud".
I rewrote the piece about five times, trying to get it right for the legal brains, but never succeeding.
Here is the version we are left with.

Every so often this column takes a strange turn.

I think it is important to note that the writer is still me, but not quite me, not the full me, the me you have grown to know and love, more a channelled sort of me, from somewhere else within me.

Are you still with me?

Thing is, truth is stranger than fiction and most of us can tell the difference, but every now and then you meet someone who can’t.

Along the way I have met more than my allotted share of these folk and, I must say, for the most part, I enjoyed their company.

Indeed, I lived in Israel for three years and while there I met five men who claimed to be the reincarnated Jesus Christ.

One was a train driver from Arkansas, another a bookkeeper from Wyoming, one was a butcher from Scotland and two were very crazy men who confronted me in Jerusalem and yelled at my face and behaved in a way that led me to believe they were not Jesus after all but people desperate to be somebody. So I gave them both time and a little money.

Along the way, many of us, due to accident, biological distortions, life circumstance, or excessive imbibing of one thing or another, manifest some of the characteristics of people without a good grip on reality.

As someone once said: There is a fine line between sanity and it’s opposite.

And someone else, George Santayana, a Spanish-born American philosopher, added: Sanity is a madness put to good use.

After all those freeform, earlier years, my life has reached another, tamer stage and is heavily influenced by a long-term and stable marriage, fatherhood, regular intakes of fresh fruit, vegetables, especially locally grown garlic, and nothing more intoxicating than air skimmed off the Great Southern Ocean.

I’ve tried stand-up comedy, street theatre, television, movies, live theater, video games and badminton, but none of them match the early days of abandonment.

What moves the blood a little is body surfing, certain kinds of performing, meeting the occasional psychopath and reading.

My tastes are eclectic. I read anything from Phantom comics to Nobel Prize winning novelists, gritty crime, rampaging adventures, philosophic meanderings and academic works on psychopaths.

Psychopaths fascinate me, always have.

I’m not big on the violent criminal psychopath, the people everybody thinks of when they think of the genre, people like Hannibal Lecter, American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman and WA’s own David Bernie.

They still fascinate me, but I don’t fancy meeting them.

The folk you and I are more likely to meet are the ordinary every day psychopaths, the workplace psychopaths, the corporate psychopaths and range of people seemingly not conversant with a the standard moral code.

In an earlier column I referred to Peter Foster, not a psychopath, but well known as a con-artist and corporate conman, a man I have never met, although I claimed in one of these columns that he was a family friend.

The corporate conman also fascinates me and recently I almost threw out a sack of newspaper clippings collected since the early 1980s, but curiosity got the better of me and the resultant lingering produced an article from the Sydney Morning Herald of June 1988, all about a much younger, recently bankrupted and much photographed, Foster.

When I say photographed, it’s not really him they want, rather his busty British ex, Samantha, his Gold Coast stripper, Tina, or his whatever from wherever who is inevitably blond, striking and adoring of himself.

But let me get back to psychopaths, who abound, according to Australian Dr John Clarke, psychologist and author of Working with Monsters, How to identify and protect yourself from the workplace psychopath.

Dr Clark describes the corporate criminal psychopaths as having behaviours that “may be criminal and/or sub criminal (ethically and/or morally wrong but technically not illegal) to gain a financial or other advantage for themselves at the expense of other people. This category includes bank employees who defraud their employer, stockbrokers involvd in scams, builders who con clients, real esrtate agents wo dupe homeowners, lawters who spwend their clients trust funds ….”

Given the tameness of my current life I rather like the ability of the mind to take the strange turn and, when writing about people who I think are somehow disconnected from social mores, or psychopathic, rather than mocking them in the traditional, arrogant manner, I prefer to find the disconnection within, the bit that lives inside me, let him out, and see where he takes me.

So next time you read this column and think: Either this bloke’s nuts, or this is complete claptrap.

Then you’d be right: I am, or it is.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


It has been confirmed.
Today, Saturday December 1, 2007, John Winston Howard is no longer the member for Bennelong, NSW.
He lost his seat, he can't find it, it was taken from him, he was told never to come back that, henceforth, it would be occupied by another.
The new owner of the seat is Maxine McKew, a former ABC journalist, who delighted in squeezing French phrases into interviews with people who seemed to enjoy them, for no apparent reason.
Most people think she will be good in the chair.
There is no doubt she will be better than the man who left it, often, for long periods of time and who now has no claim on it.
John Winston Howard will be remembered as a mean spirited man who walked with a jerk and smiled like one too.
For all that, he did send troops into East Timor when others before him had fainted and he did stand up and hug people when they cried because other people he had sent to Iraq died, or were killed.
And, to be fair, during the period of his Prime Prime Ministership, he did learn to hug, seemed to embrace the hug, almost require the hug and may well have hugged the incoming PM, The Man Who Looks Like a Fish.
Kevin "The Fish" Rudd may say sorry, he may not, he might offer an apology, he might use the word "regret", we don't know, nobody does, but he will decide.
Whatever happens, we must not loose our sense of the ridiculous, this is, after all Australia.
Good luck.
(For those of you not in Australia, it is useful to remember this number: 7.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Howard out - Howard in .....

Sorry, was there a change?
Some sad jerky old man lost his way and seems to have been replaced by a fish.
Ha, I know, you're saying: There is a big difference between a "sad jerk" and a "fish".
Yes, there should be, but is there.
Only time will tell.
It'll all come out with the bathwater.
The conveyor belt only stops when the man at the end pulls the lever.
(I have no idea what I'm saying.)
I'm confused. I need more sleep. I need some sleep.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

You want to visit Australia?

My partner received the following in an email from an aunty in the Netherlands.

As yet, don't know where it has come from. Hopefully it is safe for me to take and paste and I cannot be sued for breach of copyright. If I am sued, I will take you all with me.

It is claimed the material was posted on an official Australian Tourism website and, thus, the responses were written by officials, bureaucrats. I hope so. We know we have a sense of humour, sometimes those who represent us seem to have forgotten it.

For now, let's just read and relax.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.
Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.
Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks Sweden)?
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.
Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?
Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in
Australia? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe.
Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not
... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.
Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get
here and we'll send the rest of the directions.
Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.
Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is . oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.
Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? ( UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?
Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers.
Milk is illegal.
Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can
Dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from.
All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and
make good pets.
Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.
Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth.
Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.
Q: Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female
population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay night clubs.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.
Q: I was in Australia in 1969 on R+R, and I want to contact the
Girl I dated while I was staying in Kings Cross. Can you help?
A: Yes, and you will still have to pay her by the hour.
Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Garlic is in!

Yes, that's me in garlic.
The crop is ready.
It looks good, it looks great, years will be added to people's lives.
This crop was planted after Easter this year and grew with enthusiasm.
All I did was water it and weed around it.
So simple, why don't more folk do it?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Here's a waitress I want when I go to a restaurant

The press in the US went crazy yesterday over a story that Hillary Clinton's team had eaten in a restaurant and failed to leave a tip.
The waitress, when questioned, said she did not understand all the commotion.

“You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”

Read the full tale here:

Monday, November 05, 2007

Biograpgy of Bill Clinton? Not!

My last entry, "Who the heck is Jon Doust" worked so well getting this blog back on Google's first page of Jon Dousts, I wondered if it would work for Bill Clintons.
Only one way to find out.
Here it is.
Which brings me to the US election.
It's none of my business and I do not wish to be accused of interfering in the internal politics of a foreign country.
And that what it is, a foreign country, the US.
Its democratic processes are foreign to me. I don't get them. The electoral process in deciding who the next President will be seems as democratic as that of mainland China.
Indeed, mainland China's processes are completely unknown to me and they may well be even more democratic.
What is clear is that in China it is not the richest bloke who wins, so he must engage in some kind of lobbying process that gets him there, which more than likely means making mates and gathering votes.
Let's see if this works.
If you want to read a real biography of William J Clinton, go here: Bill.
Then there's Bill Clinton jokes: Joke.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Who the heck is Jon Doust?

While surfing the net, checking if this blog would still rate on Google, I happened on the above heading.
Guess what? There's another Jon Doust plying the vapour world.
And he reckons he's better looking than me.
Check him out:
Not bad.
He lives in France. Got a business there. Was there during the rugby world cup and wasn't sure who he should yell for.
I was yelling for the All Blacks, poor buggers play beautiful rugby every day except the one that matters.
Now check me out:

Sorry, that's another bloke.
Obviously a bloke who has played too much rugby and always lead with his face.
No idea who he is.
This is me:

Notice the fine cheek bones and the square jaw, all characteristics of the Southern Hemispheric Dousts.
(I think the other Jon has a similar jaw. Must be cousins.)
Ok, why am I searching Jon Dousts on Google?
Well, I'm not really, just been a while since I made an entry and I wondered what that meant.
It means, this blog has slipped down the first Google page.
What does that mean?
It means I either get back to it, or it slips further.

Here's some other news
My garlic is almost ready to harvest.
Pics coming.
I have very high levels of lead in my urine.
This house we live in is for sale.
We have another house in Albany, deep south of Western Australia, where we will live from December this year.
It's colder, wetter, greener, nicer, wilder.
Yes, all good reasons.
It is on the tip of this side of this continent and the only place to follow is Antarctica.
Humpback whales love it and regularly pass by.

Let us hope that the insane decision of the Japanese government to kill 500 magnificent humpbacks fails in its implementation, because the humpback mob will remember and may not pass by again, or may even take their anger out on folk who love them.
While you're here, why not sign this:
Or even give money to these courageous people:
Or take a look at the other Jon Doust's blog:
Jon Doust
Or go here for the latest news on a new book:
The Last Whale

This blog shows up on Google's page 22 of Jons.
Have to work on that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Travelling around NZ, The Weekender (Albany) Sept 20, 2007

Full text:

When I told a city friend I was moving to Albany and he asked why, I replied: “Because it’s too late to live in New Zealand.”

Last year when I got off the plane in Christchurch the sniffer dog almost bit my leg off to get at the WA grown garlic and ginger in my bag, but this year I was well prepared: I packed nothing edible.

On decent towards Wellington, the small jet looked like it was headed for a large hill, or wide stretch of water, but instead it settled on a thin stretch of land between Cook Straight and the inner harbour. And therein lay the answer for the small jet, the big fellas can’t land there, not enough room.

An old friend from Curtin University met me and drove up a hill for a view of greater Wellington. Three things were immediately obvious: the wind was cold as ice; flax grew wild; the broad view of water with single-hill islands reminded me of Albany.

We didn’t stay long in Wellington, too many old times to go over, newer times to discuss and mountains to climb, so we headed north towards Mt Taranaki, or Gliding Peak.

My friend assured me we were travelling a unique route: “No-one drives up this West coast,” he said. “It’s dismal.”

We bypassed Palmerston North, made famous by John Cleese, who once said “If you ever want to kill yourself but lack the courage, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick”. We missed it not because my friend agreed with Cleese, because he didn’t, but because it wasn’t “anywhere near dismal enough, in fact, it’s quite a nice town”.

We spent our first sleepless night in New Plymouth, not because we sat up all night talking, but because at 1.30am five blokes on a building site next door decided to get out the jackhammer and give the town a damned good shake up.

Next day we drove into the Egmont National Park and this was my first good view of Aotearoa, the Maori name for New Zealand, in its natural state. On my 2006 trip along the South Island’s east coast I had seen a land taken over by European and Australian flora and fauna.

And when you learn that native vegetation once covered around 80percent of both the North and South Islands, you can imagine the original beauty of Aotearoa, which means, you probably guessed, The Land of the Long White Cloud.

At the base of Mt Taranaki tourists were decked out in essential gear, eager to climb a slope, fall down a slope and, eventually, conquer a slope, but being the proud owner of more broken bones than is advisable for an aging man, I had one major aim while in the middle of the north: a hot spring bath at Lake Taupo followed by a massage.

On our way we had to stop for the house with the bike fence. If there’s one thing you notice about New Zealanders outside the cities, they know how to liven up a long drive.

In Taupo my lack of bathers was no obstacle. The staff simply offered me a hot-spring room of my own, where I could bath with my privates in private.

Our drive around the North Island was over in quick-time because my friend had a business to run in Wellington, but on my own I caught the ferry across Cook Straight, where I hired a car for another whirlwind tour of the top-half of the South Island. I nearly didn’t make it back to the ferry.

South of Blenheim I spotted some fascinating rock formations on the beach, stopped the car and ran down a heavily pebbled bank, lost my footing and launched myself into the midst of 200 angry seals.

They barked and flopped in all directions, while I picked myself up, shook the fear out of my system and cursed the lack of camera, which sat useless in the car.

Of I went for another hot-spring bath at Hanmer Springs, a delightful drive through the heavily wooded Victoria Forest Park and down to Greymouth, which seemed aptly named.

Then it was a long drive up the west coast, a long stop at Punakaiki to marvel at the blow-holes and the pancake rocks and the beaches tormented by the Tasman Sea, rocks and great southern squalls.

Three days later, back in Wellington, or Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Great Harbour of Tara, I spent two days in Toi Te Papa, Art of the Nation, a museum that reveals the art of Aotearoa in its full extent, covering a wide range of cultures, but particularly that of the Tangata Maori and the early Pakeha, Europeans.

Then it was back on board the little jet and up up and away, eventually, to Albany, Wellington of the West, Noongar Boodja, Noongar Country and home to Sprung, the best little writing festival in Gondwanaland.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Garlic, as at 6th of August.
Isn't it beautiful?

Uncut: the last


Right, this is it, the last. It didn’t last long, but I had fun. Some of you did too and at least one didn’t.

How do I know? Well, my email address was always at the bottom and a number of you made the best of it.

One bloke from Augusta took advantage of my good nature and asked me to send garlic. I did. He then googled me and later apologised: “Sorry, mate, I thought you were a landscape gardener.”

A number of old friends emailed to try and get back money they said they lent me in 1973, or 1987, or some other year I wasn’t in the country, the country next door, or one they had difficulty spelling.

And the one bad? Well, hard to tell, but certainly a bloke stuck in a literal world with no underlying meanings and no pleasure to be gained from running a brain over a crafted gathering of words seemingly chosen at random. Or he banged his head getting out of bed. Who knows.

Maybe you’ve heard already, but in case you haven’t, let me help. Next week this entire page is leaving this page and when you pick up the lump on Saturday morning, this will not be this, but something entirely different.

Same with me.

Instead of waking up in a blind panic, knowing the next column deadline will more than likely creep up and bite me on the back of the neck, I’ll just lie here while you run onto the front lawn desperate to read what wise crap I have imparted.

Don’t email me. Don’t call. I’m asleep.

Now, so you know what you will miss with me missing, here is a taste of what was coming up.

First and foremost was how the on-line, user-created, user-managed, user-used encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, changed my life. Seriously, until recently I always referred to tomes created by dead academics and living hacks riddled with personal agendas.

And, yes, there was another column on palms and I intended telling you about Cliff Reeve, Radio West legend, who told me about waking up inside his Bunbury house at 3am in a blind panic as the walls around him burnt to the ground. Well, not the walls but his beloved palm trees, which, fortuitously, he had planted outside and I said: “Who did it, Cliff? How can I find them? I need to know?”

“Are you a palm lover too, Jon?”

“No, Cliff, I want to fund their operation.”

And with all the tales in the papers about Mafia style behaviour and the Sopranos being my favourite TV show of all time, or just about, I fully intended running by you the tale of my brush with the Japanese Yakuza.

It happened in Osaka, comedy capital of Japan and where Morley Senior High School legend Chad Mullane learnt the comic art of manzai, the double act. But that’s another story. The one I’m sticking to is how a Yakuza boss walked into my coffee shop, the only one I could find after five hours of wandering the vast underground city that is Osaka.

As soon he walked in I knew I was in trouble and I could see even more brewing as his moll peeled off and sat down next to me.

“You very handsome man,” she said.

“You need glasses?” I replied.

“You very handsome man,” she said.

It didn’t end there, or even close, but I can’t get to it because of the other end that’s fast approaching.

If you want the rest, email me, but not today, I’m still in bed.

Ah, the future. This time next year Hildegard and I will be building a house in Albany, on the other side of the harbour, near Frenchman Bay.

It will be a house that embraces its setting, that respects the environment, that is solar active and wind resistant.

And, as I say goodbye, I issue a challenge to every one of you with lawn and palm to get right back out there, remove the blights and plant native vegetation and garlic.

If you can’t get locally grown garlic knobs, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with that bloke in Augusta, the one who got all my remaining stock.

Uncut: Manjimup


It’s not cold enough. Nowhere near.

And when the temperature does drop it doesn’t stay low enough long enough.

All right, I should explain.

It’s all about cherries.

Thing is, every year, in December, there’s a festival in Manjimup, my other home town: The Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival.

Yes, I know, I’m a Bridgetown boy, but I’m also from Manjimup, another town full of people named Doust, Giblett, Blechynden and Muir. All right, there are also some Fontaninis, Ipsens, Omodeis, Radomiljacs, Reeves and Easts and some of them even married some of us.

Manjimup is one of those towns that was blessed from the beginning. It had everything: magnificent timber, excellent rainfall, healthy rivers and rich soils.

Along the way, some folk arrived blind, or became blind, or looked the other way, got something stuck in their eyes, or couldn’t help but look back to where they came from.

In short, they couldn’t see the blessings.

Thankfully, things and people change.

When I arrived in 1969, battered and bruised from a twelve month stint as a bank-johnny in Papua and New Guinea, I was blind too.

Manjimup was cold, wet, full of cousins I didn’t know existed, big men with big hands, three football teams and my father wanted me to run the family’s supermarket.

I stayed four years, regained my sight, played football for the mighty Deanmill Hawkes, fell in love a couple of times, added retailing to the list of things I didn’t want to do and met the finest group of people it had been my luck to encounter in my entire 24 years.

Rick Sneeuwjagt, then a fiery young man with a trunk like a karri tree, befriended me and invited me out to Deanmill, a mill town and home to one of country football’s legendary teams.

The mill has taken a battering over the years but the club hasn’t missed a beat.

The great John Todd started out there as did legendary weatherman Gary Boterhoven, one of the finest exponents of the drop kick ever. During a game against Boyup Brook Gary kicked a ball out of the ground and they found it one week later in Donnybrook.

Then there were these blokes: Harvey Giblett, or Three-trunks as we called him; Arthur Reeves, a noisy, tough bugger who once broke 15 jaws in an opposing team, all before half time; Peter Fontanini, a man who was a legend even before he was a legend; and Juggy Rice, named, not because he could scull a jug of beer in record time, or because of the shape of his person, but rather because the top of his head only came up to the average jugular.

My supermarket days included exciting events like a truck load of produce, an occasional break-in and disputes with the landlords over ablution block cleanliness.

If that wasn’t enough, there was always the annual illegal potato buy-up. It was a cat, shop-owners, and mouse, Potato Board Inspectors, game.

It was scary, thrilling and just what a young shop manager needed to keep him on his toes. Once, while on the shop-floor dripping sweat and evil smells, the team and I were confronted by a local politician who ranted about the evils of the black-market spud, the spud bought from dirty unofficial spud sellers. Friends of ours. I always wondered if he knew that as he droned on and on his wife was busy buying 10kilos of the devil’s tasty tubers.

Those days are long gone, of course, the Dousts no longer run a supermarket and all potatoes currently sold in the Shire of Manjimup are true blue Western Potatoes.

Cherries, however, are not blue, or a tuber, they are a fruit, red and Manjimup cherries are the finest, juiciest and reddest.

The Cherry Harmony Festival was born on a cold day in September in 2002, when 300 people gathered to talk about the town, its past, future and beyond.

2002 was shaping up as an ugly one for the Manjimup community, but four handsome women stood out from the crowd after I yelled “What this town needs is a cherry festival” and screamed “Yes it does and we’re going to do it”.

It did, they did and they are still doing it.

And if the weather gods give us 300 hours under 7degrees Celsius between now and December, we might even get a crop.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Uncut: pyschological models


It’s an inconvenient truth, but we’re all different.

When I’m not writing this column, I work with a number of psychological models, all of them based on the work of a Swiss bloke called Carl Gustav Jung.

Jung, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, was for many years a great mate of Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and father of psychotherapy.

They had a helluva time in the beginning, lots of hi-teas and late night conversations, but then Jung went and wrote a couple of books Freud didn’t appreciate, or understand, or the pages were stuck together. I can’t remember.

Jung also made up his own mind about a couple of things Freud was very keen on and one day blurted out: “Oedipus, smedipus, give it a break, Siggy.”

Or something like that. Or nothing like that but whatever it was it was the end of their relationship.

All these models I work with are based on Jung’s book, Personality Types, first published in German in 1921.

When I’m not hard at it thumping words into keyboards, that’s what I do, not that I need to work, of course, because this column, as you can imagine, pays a lot of money, more than enough to pay the mortgage, the small loan on the other property, the big loan on the private jet, send all the kids to private schools and make sizeable contributions towards the International Monetary Fund debts of several South American nations.

One of the characteristics of a person with my particular profile is that we are easily distracted and tend to go on a bit in a way that seems to have very little to do with the point we are trying to make. Have you noticed?

Now, the beauty of a simple psychological mode is that it helps you come to grips with the fact that there is a kind of mind that will answer the simple question “How much are you paid to write that crap?” with a simple answer: “$50”.

What the model helps you realise is that most minds you interact with operate differently and people are not being the way they are in order to intimidate you, or incite you, it’s just the way they are.

Then again, some folk just can’t help being pricks, whatever their personality types.

Then there is another kind of mind, like the one I mentioned earlier, that will seem to disappear into a surreal world of crazy references, contradictions and weird juxtapositions, when all you wanted was a simple: “$50.”

You might have guessed by now, mine is a bit like that.

So is Terry Gilliam’s, the film director of Brazil, Baron Munchausen and the creator of the graphics for Monty Python. So was John Lennon’s. And Bill Cosby’s.

The strait forward mind, very much like the one my dad had, sees everything for what it is, nothing more, or less.

Hildegard has a mind like that too and often I would take a phone call from dad to be told: “Put your wife on will you. I need to talk some sense.”

The problem is, of course, those people with the seemingly crazy mind think the people with the strait-forward mind are boring and those with the strait-forward mind think those with the crazy mind have overdosed on some mind altering substance.

So, you can see why dad and I didn’t see mind to mind.

Mind you, he had a great sense of humour, and once said to a Manjimup Shire Officer who told him he couldn’t write on the pavement: “Didn’t I pay half the cost of this pavement? Right. Well the top half’s mine and the bottom half’s yours.”

Dad and Hildegard were pretty much aligned in most aspects of their personalities, but, at the same time, they were very different. Why? Good question.

Well, for a start, Hildy is a woman and dad was a man and dad was a born and raised Aussie, whereas Hildy was born and raised in Holland.

So, from time to time, if you have been reading this column and heard yourself saying “I wish he’d get to the bloody point”, it might be that you are not like me and need a point, while my point might be that I don’t.

Uncut: tennis


1961 was a great year in Australian sport and great year for me too.

This was the year I stood up, I hit my straps, got on with it, made my mark, signed my name and started eating spinach.

It was the year of my first Wimbledon appearance and the 74th time tennis legends from around the world gathered on hallowed lawn to do battle for King and country, but mainly themselves.

It was also a year that saw the arrival of one of the all time greats. No, I don’t mean me, my time was coming, or not coming, depending on how you looked at it.

All right, I can hear you plead, who were the winners that year, because time and bad eating habits have rendered you incapable of remembering, or you weren’t there, you’re not sure which.

Guess what, a British player, Angela Mortimer, won the women’s title beating another Brit, Christine Truman and Rod “The Rockhampton Rocket” won his first of four titles, beating Chuck “The Yank” McKinley.

It was Rod’s time. He had been runner up in the previous two years and it was cause for celebration that he beat an American rather than one of his own.

But the Rocket only got there because he thrashed me inside three sets. I played as hard as I could, wore my racquet down to a cat’s gut, gave it everything I had and finished up flatter than a snow pea.

In short, it was a bloodless massacre. Not surprising, given I was 12 at the time.

Oh, I knew all about Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall and Ashley Cooper, but I’d never played them. They were just stories passed on by dad and his dad, or seen at the local picture theatre during the Kookaburra News, sometimes a year or so after their wins.

Rod Laver had already beaten me earlier in the year in the Australian Championships on his way to defeat by Roy Emerson. Roy beat Rod again to win the US Championships.

No-one beat Rod the next year, 1962, he thrashed everyone and took out the Grand Slam.

Back then my attitude was fight hard, never give a champion an even break, chase everything, bang my head against a brick wall for a laugh, swim in a shark infested ocean, eat a barrel of rotten plums and take on anyone.

And don’t forget the cricket. What a year that was.

I had to face the great Fred Truman in the third test at Headingly when he tore us apart, taking 11 wickets and then I had to watch as Colin Cowdrey slapped my best balls as though they were peanuts.

We eventually won the series 2:1 and I will never forget Bill “It’s All Happening” Lawry’s 130 in the 2nd Test.

By 1965 I was retired, finished, washed up on a sandy beach clutching an open 26oz bottle of Emu Bitter.

All right, fair enough, I’ll admit I didn’t really play all those games against all those legends, but I imagined I did, because in 1961 I had a transistor radio attached to my ear and my father often threatened to have it surgically removed.

I wasn’t alone. My grandfather had one on his auricle too and sports broadcasts took us both into venues and up against greats and it also led me, about ten years later, to my first ever media job, down in the bowels of ABC Sport alongside three other greats: Wally Foreman, Dennis Cometti and George Grljusich.

George frightened the hell out of me but Dennis and Wally took me under their collective wings and taught me how to collect stats and make coffee.

What really happened in 1961 when I was 12 was my parents packed me off to boarding school with a brand new transistor radio and it was through its tiny speaker that I listened eagerly to the dulcet tones of Alan McGilvray, the croaks of Vic Richardson, the poetic musings of John Arlott and the unbridled enthusiasm of Norman “Gold Gold Gold” May.

And why does all this come back to me now? Well, Wimbledon is on again with a plethora of new players I’ll never play and, of course, I have to fill this page every Saturday morning.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Uncut: laptops


Simplicity has lost its edge. I know this because recently I bought a new laptop.

In fact, I am writing this offering on my brand new, super-fast, memory-laden, handsomely designed, sleek laptop.

Looks great. Made by one of the world’s foremost laptop manufacturers. Promised everything. Had all the right specs. It’s driving me mad.

Right now, I am fighting back an almost uncontrollable urge to fling it out the window and let it rest by the racing bike up against a tree.

Good question, why is a racing bike up against a tree?

About 18-months ago I found the bike up against a tree in the public open-space in front of our house. It sat there nice and neat for three weeks.

At the end of the three I realised I had grown fond of it, so I took it and set it up against a tree on my side of the open-space.

Hildegard questioned its appearance and I innocently replied: “No idea how it got there but I quite like it.”

Life went on until the next curb-side collection when I noticed a proliferation of bikes, as though the householders had grown tired of them, forgotten to water them, feed them or care for them and had decided to dump them.

Driven by an urge to ensure my lone racing bike had a family of its own, I collected five of the lost souls and placed them all against trees and would have collected more until Hildy put a stop to it: “Enough, Jon. This is not a junkyard. It’s a domestic dwelling.”

Maybe so, but a dwelling housing folk of compassion, understanding and a willingness to take in lost machinery of all species and care for them, whatever their state. Junk maybe, but not discarded as though never having made a contribution to the forward lurch of humanity.

Bikes when bought are generally bought to last the lifetime of a rider’s riding legs.

Which brings me back to this laptop.

When purchasing I assumed it would at least last the lifetimes of this writer’s writing hands and I imagined it would be faster than anything I had ever driven before, faster than a blink, easy to get around, all commands logical and easy to implement.

Nuh. No way.

Its time is almost up.

It’s painfully slow.

I can’t find programs I know are there but it won’t help me find them and programs I thought I had closed-down keep popping back up to haunt me as though operated by a family member I once insulted who is no longer of this earth but has found a way to crawl inside a laptop.

Then there is the intensely irritating habit this particular piece of software I’m using now has of suddenly leaving the bit of page I am currently working on and darting over to another section and inserting words that make no sense whatsoever having seen the blue pineapple when it blurts yes nearly won a bazooka, oh, no, there it goes again.

It’s junk and I paid a handsome sum of money, so much that Hildy will never allow me to lean it up against a tree alongside a bike, even if it is an artistic statement highlighting the absurd claims of laptop manufacturers.

It’s unbelievable, have you seen the variety of cheeses available in your local supermarket? There’s light cheese, extra-tasty cheese, mature cheese, semi-retired cheese, sliced cheese, diced cheese, cheese crumbs, cheese bombs, cheese warts and cheese knees.

Sorry about that, that last paragraph made its way in from next week’s column.

The first laptop I owned was a large machine made by a prominent car manufacturer. I needed a fork lift to get it out of the car and on my lap.

It was a simple machine and I had to learn MS Dos, the Microsoft Operating System, to get around it.

I bought it 20 years ago and it was slow, cumbersome, unwieldy and, now I think of it, a lot like this complex piece of junk that Hells Angels would you marry pineapple fritters over my dead Paraguay baked ricotta.

Which is why I, when I decided to get back on a bike, that I didn’t go out and buy a brand new racing bike, I simply waited for the right one to appear during a roadside collection. Oh, no, that’s not the one up against a tree, this handsome machine is firmly tethered to the house.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Uncut: sociopaths


We all have dark sides. Oh yes, even me.

Hard to imagine, I know, given the joy and happiness I spread each week from the confines of this very page.

But I do and some days I wake up I wonder why I bothered. And there are others, the really dark days, when I wake up and I wonder if I’m really me, or that other bloke, the one who thinks he’s Tony Soprano, a sociopath, a tyrant, a man who has a need to get his way no matter what it takes.

All of us occasionally hanker for absolute power, like when the people down the road, for example, rip out the native garden and plant palms, or, even worse, lawn.

Obviously there are a few things working against me being Big Tony, size for a start, me being a weasel man and Tony a massive brute who lumbers around his house sending nearby Richter scales crazy in anticipation of a major quake.

For those of you not sure who I’m talking about, Tony is the Mob Boss in The Sopranos, an American TV series, a good one, one of the best ever and, I know, I can hear your voice: “No way, American TV is crap.”

Hang on, don’t forget MASH and I Dream of Jeannie. All right, sorry, you’re right, I don’t dream of Jeannie, never did, but there was time when my dad did and I had to put up with it.

This month it all came to an end, The Sopranos, not here, but over there, in the US of A, it won’t finish here until it starts.

I’m not going to tell you how it ends, even though I know, even though I haven’t seen it yet, because it’s not pleasant and I don’t want to upset those folk who look to Tony Soprano for inspiration.

As I might have suggested, I’m one of them.

You’re probably thinking: You? Yes, me and I’m not alone.

There are others who enjoy dressing like Tony, all in black, with dark glasses and then walking around as though ready to whack anyone who looks at them before they look at them.

For some of us it doesn’t come natural, we have to work at it, acquire it.

Take Carl “Baby Face” Williams, well, they have taken him and now he’s doing the time because he ordered the taking of around 29 people who gave up their lives so photographers and journalists could make daily Soprano references.

He took out all those people because he didn’t like the way they looked at him and because he’s a Melbourne gangland leader and that’s what gangland leaders do when they have the power.

Then there’s Antonios “Fat Tony” Mokbel, recently nabbed in Athens sitting in a cafĂ©.

Fat Tony ran an organised crime network called “The Company”, which is funny, not funny ha ha, because back in Sicily, before we were born, around 400BC there was bloke called Dionysius they called The Tyrant of Syracuse.

So what?

Good question.

Who helped him become all powerful in his home town and further his dream of conquering all of Sicily and defeating that island’s greatest enemy of the day, Carthage?

A secret organisation called, guess what, “The Company”.

Everything changes and everything stays the same.

Like Carl Williams, Dionysius could be seen in all the papers, on the telly, smiling, laughing, charming journos, holding small children, or walking beside fabulous looking women like butter would sit in his mouth forever.

Then there’s Stalin, Big Joe, whose mum said he was the most sensitive of small boys who loved flowers and once cried over spilt milk.

Joe didn’t muck about when he took people out and the average historical punter reckons about 20 million lost their lives to Joe-led purges.

Of all the things their mums said about these sociopaths and psychopaths, kind to animals, played with dolls, very sensitive, one thing they never said was: “Had a good old laugh at himself.”

And that’s why, when we wake up on the dark side embracing Tony Soprano, the first thing we must do is grab a notebook and write it all down.

There, I’m done, now I can get back to sleep.

Uncut: airports


Airports, well, you can’t leave home by air without one and many decades ago you could find me living in one for weeks, waiting for flights that came and went without me.

Not anymore. These days I book a flight, depart, arrive, complete my tasks, depart again and return. Too easy.

Back then chaos was my preferred lifestyle and airports my home base.

I had no need for visas, onward tickets, ready cash, credit cards, or any visible means of support.

This often led to detention by authorities and a couple of stints in airport lockups.

But I do love a good wait in an airport lounge and a chance to view the chaos along with the assorted fashions, religions, cultures, shapes and shoe sizes.

That last long weekend, for example, on the Friday, I spent most of the afternoon and evening in a lounge.

At first I was there on my own business, flying to Palm City (Geraldton), returning, picking up an American friend and heading back to see her off on the first stage of her return to New York.

My flight north was characterised by my fellow passenger, a financial advisor, who swore vehemently that Kevin Rudd’s Labor would destroy civilisation as we knew it and then declared he chastised large numbers of his clients for investing in stocks that enhanced global warming.

In the evening we arrived to find a classic airport departure lounge, one packed with nervous, anxious travellers, eager to get on board, to leave, to say goodbye, to get home, to find someone old, someone new, someone one they were looking for who they hoped they would never find.

Angela, our American friend, was a classic.

As we loaded her five large items into the car, along with two smaller bags, we warned her that there were baggage limits, but she remained convinced there was no such thing and we wondered if it was because she was American.

Angela is an academic, a person who knows everything about everything she needs to know, but nothing about anything else, like fresh fruit, fridges, parking, electrical equipment, or water.

Apart from the occasional flood, power blackout and crockery catastrophes, she was a lot of fun around the house and insisted on buying more items than she broke and responding to our Aussie jibbing with hysterical laughter and apologies: “I’m sorry. It’s because I’m American.”

At Perth Airport we found the longest queue available and settled in for the night.

I’m not one for silent queuing and so quickly began a conversation with the chap behind who informed me, almost immediately, that he was “Darius,from Iran and, you know, Ahmadinejad is not as bad as portrayed by the Western media. Also, he will not be President of Iran next time, because nobody likes him”.

He also said he was flying to Brisbane with three cans of beer in his bag and was determined to become one of us because he loved Australia.

Then someone with a loud voice declared Brisbane was waiting and all those on flight Q-whatever should break ranks and run.

The last we saw of Darius was his laughing face yelling: “Are there really more girls in Brisbane?”

Not one to be left high and dry by the departure of an old friend, I turned to the next person and asked where she was going.

“I’m going to Melbourne, to the footy,” she said.

“Are they all, with you?” I asked, nodding at the 400 lined up behind her.

She laughed and our conversation ended because the loud voice took over again to inform all people flying to Melbourne that their plane was boarding.

Angela took it all in her stride and walked calmly to the flight attendant who broke out in a sweat when I said, no, there this was not the luggage of three people, just one, an American.

Twenty minutes and $480 later Angela, stumbled towards her plane with more luggage than the baggage handlers and I remembered why I spent 30 hours in a Dutch prison, because the authorities deemed I had no luggage, although I was more than happy with my sack containing one pair of underpants, a typewriter, a toothbrush, a roll of carbon paper and a copy of the Guardian Weekly.

Back then, chaos had a certain naivety.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Uncut: apples


I’m waiting for them. They are usually here by June, the tree ripened granny smiths.

My farming brother and his overworked wife pick them, pack them and ship them, via their children, the university student and the scientist.

One year, around June, when I headed back to Israel to visit old friends, ex-wives and fast changing communities, I asked if I could take apples. The Israeli Embassy official said yes. So I did.

My brother found six of the biggest, yellowest, juiciest looking grannies you can imagine and I packed them in the middle of my case.

When we arrived at Danny’s house, north of Tel Aviv, I unpacked the six, showed him one, found a knife, cut it into neat quarters and asked him what he thought: “You know, Jonathon, when we worked together in the kibbutz, I thought the apples we grew were the finest, but you have proved me wrong, and I hate you for it.”

Then we laughed. And ate another one.

In an ideal world there would be peace in the Middle East and I would drive the long drive I know so well, down South West Highway, through Pinjarra, Harvey, Waroona, Dardanup, Donnybrook, Balingup and Greenbushes and pick the yellowing grannies myself.

And in another ideal world I would live there, under the trees, where I was born, raised and where I will be buried when my time ends.

My mother, who has now joined my father up high on the hill that overlooks the town, once confirmed that her favourite memories centred on our orchard life, back in the days when the entire family picked, packed and shipped.

Back then our Grandfather Roy made the apple boxes with jarrah slats and a rhythmic union of hammer and nail. He stood, bent over his workbench, a mouth full of nails and a hammer that seemed less wood and metal, more skin and bone extensions of his arm.

In the tiny shed built in one corner of our thirty acres of apples, peaches and plums, the family worked like Trojans, laughed like hyenas and exhausted themselves so folk in the Mother Country, England, could eat the very best apple that ever was and ever will be.

Mum and Gran were the packers and, boy, could they pack.

Into the box went the tray and in fluid movements you had to watch carefully to see, they brought an apple and a slip of tissue paper together, wrapped one in the other, and slotted each one into a vacant bed.

Before each grab for tissue they would lick their fingers and the youngest of us would sit spellbound, trying to catch a fault. I never saw one: finger lick, tissue, apple, wrap, box; finger lick, tissue, apple, wrap, box.

We couldn’t sit for long because somebody had to bring in the apples, and the some bodies employed were always us, the boys.

Early pickings were a hard slog, but the late run was a feast, because there is no finer apple on this planet, or any other planet I have been to, than the tree ripened granny smith. I would start one end, pick and eat, pick and eat, pick and eat, until my body screamed: “No more eating, stick with the picking.” And sometimes it would let me know in the traditional way a body does when it has too much of something.

But the memory that lingers clearest is of the day dad drove over a younger brother’s head.

It was early pickings, dad took a corner a little tight between two rows, the brother fell of the back of the tractor and under the trailer wheel. This was one time we thanked God for a lack of rain and the soft, powdery soil that allowed the brother’s head to sink under the wheel and come back up almost the same.

There were bruises and some swelling, but after mum had applied her legendary date and walnut cake poultice it soon went down and we all laughed our heads off until the neighbour’s cows went home.

Ah, the memories, and each and every year I sink my teeth into a Bridgetown tree-ripened granny, they flood back.

Every year but this one. Where are they, the student and scientist? Why have they forsaken me?

Uncut: Growth hormones


Before I start, let me make it quite clear, no human growth hormones were used in the preparation of this column.

In addition, following the regular testing that all columnists on this paper must undergo, no evidence was found of any growth hormones normally used to enhance the performances or recoveries of horses, greyhounds, or racing pigeons.

In fact, nothing was used in the preparation of this column other than the two fingers on my left hand, the three on my right and the lump on my shoulders.

At one point I broke off for a small cup of coffee, made excellently and expertly by the neighbour who brought it over after I had assisted her husband in bringing down a palm tree.

This was a joyous job. There is no finer sight in the suburban garden than the recently-brought-down palm. Apart from, that is, the recently burnt-to-a-cinder palm or the disappearing-to-the-nearby-tip-on-the-back-of-a-truck palm.

All right, I don’t like palms and I take it seriously.

The palm is a tropical tree and, forgive me if global warming is moving faster than I am paying attention, most places where the palm is planted in this great state of ours are a long way from the tropics, sub-tropics or Bremer Bay.

Peter, not his real name, attacked one side of the palm with a tomahawk he had nicked from my shed, while I attacked the other side with a large axe I had bought in the local hardware shop.

After we returned to our respective sides of the fence I continued to work on a stump that has stumped me for a month and while swinging my axe in typical manly fashion, like I knew what I was doing and this was the most important task I would ever undertake, I crunched my hand between it and one of the pointy bits.

It hurt like hell. I screamed like I was in hell. Peter and Penelope, not her real name, did not appear over the fence to ask if I was ok.

The first thought that came to me was: I have ruined a perfectly good hand and the only way I will be able to reduce the ever expanding swelling and complete next week’s column is if I find some human growth hormones to speed up the recovery.

But this would never happen, because if there is one thing my addled brain does not need it is more medication and my body has long preferred fresh air and home grown garlic.

Eventually, like a lot of men I know who are in pain, I fell onto the settee and watched a perfectly healthy band of fit young men run onto a football field, fall over a ball, run into each other and two hours later return to their shed with their heads low and their faces showing a pain much deeper than mine.

I refer, of course, to the Dockers.

Now, I know about the rumours, each and every one of them is false and clearly started by columnists working for other papers, or politicians who were not mentioned last week.

Let me say once again, categorically, I have never taken illegal substances, parked illegally, worked in a fast food joint, trespassed, or even jay-walked, to assist in the production of this column.

All right, just the once, there was the time I left the keys in my car for 24 hours just to give me a topic, an idea, a starter, but once I got started, everything else was as factual as it can be in this modern world of spin, turn, twist and backflip.

Before I leave you, let me say that I understand the need for growth hormones, especially if you must constantly parade yourself in public, on film, or television, or there is someone at home who thinks your personality will be improved by massive doses of testosterone.

There is no need for that in our house. Or next door at Peter and Penelope’s.

And, rest assured, you have my word, no human growth hormones have been smuggled into this paper to endanger the equilibrium or health of the reader.

So please, read on.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Uncut: Spam


They are starting to give me spasms again, the spams.

Not that they plug my inbox in the way they used to, in the beginning, when spam caught us all off guard, and we looked forward to it, because it fascinated us and we wondered where it all came from, who wrote it, who sent it and how did we get on their list, but now I have very efficient anti-spamming software that diverts all junk immediately and with precision.

Most days.

Not last week.

All of a sudden, without any warning, my anti-spamming spammer collapsed and my inbox jammed with news from across the world with my incredible luck and good fortune and the incredible bad luck and misfortune of others.

It stunned me, that I could be so lucky, at this late stage in my uneven life, while out there in the wide blue yonder, so many were copping it tough.

Were those stricken with the bad the victims of a pendulum swing towards me? Isaac Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

I knew what to do.

Getting through the mail took time, wading through the inevitable penis enlargement promises, the cheap Viagra, the pleas from the Russian mothers living in single rooms with 37 children, the Belgian chocolate sales and the strange English Lord who claimed he had a cure for earache which involved a long stick, a lump of butter and if only he had the funds to get it off the ground he could get people listening again.

By the time I got through, I was through, but I kept going because I knew there was a column in it.

I tried to categorise and systematise but a couple of mails helped by not requiring a response, like this one from Frankfurt: “I have not been long with the Children, but, I am certain my captain will give me leave to escort my sister home.”

Then there was the inevitable lady from Russia, Kazan this time, along with two photos and assurances that she was “Your new the girlfriend from Kazan Elena”. Then the “Mail Delivery Failed” message informing me an email I had sent about a drug store in Toronto did not make it. That was lucky, because I realised there was no way I would be able to fill any orders for “low-price meds”.

On top of my list were the persistent chaps from Nigeria, not those promising money, but those requesting money for the final preparations necessary before I would receive $US870,000,000 for doing nothing other than sending them money, believing in God and trusting that my cash was only a token contribution to assist with streamlining matters at their end.

And then, out of nowhere, a note from a US soldier in Iraq: “I am a Captain J. G. Douglas of the US Marine Corps on Monitoring and Peace – keeping mission in Baghdad-Iraq, as you may know every day, there are several cases of insurgents attacks and suicide bombs going on here. We managed to Move funds belonging to some demised persons who were attacked and killed through insurgent attacks. The total amount is $23.2M dollars in cash.”

This was great news. I implemented my plan immediately.

Without hesitation I forwarded his email on to David Emeka from Nigeria, who required some initial funding and informed Captain Douglas that the entire $23.2M should be deposited in David’s account, and told David to forward his bank details to Capt Douglas.

Then, ecstatic as I was about winning the UK National Lottery, I knew I could never accept the money while there were others in need.

I replied to Mr John Mark, the Lottery’s Foreign Services Manager, Payment and Release Order Department, stating that that my entire winnings, “£3 million British Pounds Sterling national currency, should be signed over to Dr Edward Campbell from VIAGRA & CIALIS, email and postal address attached”.

Dr Campbell had informed me that my dosage was too low and I “urgently required renewal”. I told Dr Campbell that I had no idea how he “kept it up and I am only too happy to pass my windfall onto you so you can retire and ease the pressure on my inbox”.

None of the ungrateful bastards responded and now my spammer is back to normal I will never know if they do.