The sacred and inviolate institution of Australian mainstream journalism has been graced with many by-line geniuses for so long, it is difficult to imagine such icons of truth and courage in reporting in any other occupation other than what we have come to know and love them in!
Here, I offer some alternatives for your amusement … or whatever:
When I try to imagine Mr Oakes in another occupation other than the one he is in now (just WHAT is he again?), I see him with one of those dull-blue, full length dust-coats on, the middle button is missing and the coat bulges there. There is some fidgety piece of something in his stumpy, work-stained hands and a vague questioning look on his face … it is obvious from residual crumbs on his cheek that he has just eaten. A self-employed service-mechanic … probably whitegoods, specialising in microwaves (he is recognised as a whiz at getting that ‘finish-bell’ to DING! just loud enough). His workshop is cluttered, the front counter greasy and it always takes three weeks to get anything fixed because “the part has to come from Melbourne”.
When you once again ring the desk bell with the little hand-written note next to it; “Ring Bell” that echos weakly in what must be a vast shed “out the back” to inquire on the progress of repair of an essential white-good, you get fronted with the once again dull surprise of said service-man holding an object in his hands and proclaiming in dull monotone that it is the “ffflllummmthing off the centrifugal drive-pump and it’s broke”. You are inclined in a moment of impish sardonic humour to inquire if it is those damn slithy-toves again … but you know it will be wasted, because he is just as likely to blithy say “no” and once again regret that it will take a while to repair because the part has to come from Melbourne … and you always leave cursing that he is the only service centre in the town and swearing you will get a new machine next time it breaks down, rather than darken his door again!
Ms Grattan, on the other hand, could well fill the role of librarian … not in a state library, nor local council or university, but rather one of those ‘lost around the back-streets’ “Institute Library” of some anacronistic group like “The Ancient Order of Druids” or the “Oddfellows Society” or in her case; “The Steam Engines Assoc Institute”.
In her younger years, when she first started there, she was known as an innovator of style …she is recognised as the instigator of the “clutch ‘n’ carry method” for librarians carrying books … a colour-tinted photograph appeared in the “Woman’s Day” magazine of Feb 1953 demonstrating her unique grip on a large load of books … she has a copy archived at home and a cutting prominent on the wall behind her desk. She also gained a mention in “The Binder”, an inter-institute mag’, on her innovation of using different colour “tags-for-topics” on her Dewey-fileing system … that also is archived and a cutting etc.
She has no time for ‘untidy’, chatty people and denies she ever “encouraged” Mr Glanville Bartlett to propose and never regretted placing Sam “side-valve” Duggin’s donated, almost complete ‘Biggles’ collection on the “For sale – cheap” table by the front doors … citing one particular book; “Biggles Sees it Through” as rather too racy and suggestive a title for her library!
On one occasion and only the once was she asked at the desk by her old nemesis in literary knowledge; Gerry Dooge if she had any copies of “The Hite Report” on female sexuality, she haughtily replied; “What is THAT?”
She is still in situ.
Fran’s tongue protruded slightly onto her lips as she placed the last stitches to tighten the “body-suit” of the doll she had just completed for the “West Wyalong Horticultural and Steam Engines Society extravaganza!” She sat the finished doll against the large, cross-stitched cellophane “trinket-box” she had entered in the 2001 show. The sorry memory of THAT moment brought a bitter twist to her lips … although she had gained the third place ribbon, it was a very distant third behind Lorna Roesler’s “Applique Autumn” tea-cosy and with it’s –just out of line-lid, it looked rather tawdry on the “winners circle” table next to Lorna’s entry. That cruel condescending smile from Lorna said it all.
To cap it off, at the end of the show, when all was being packed away, that crude and vulgar lump of “agro-culture” (as Fran describes him) Herman Saegenschnitter, picked her trinket box up in his big, dirty, clumsy hand, turned it over a couple of times, flipped the lid back and asked in his loud, vulgar voice:
“So what is it … a fart box?” … and he looked around to the others there and laughed and laughed … and then several others joined in. Not a memorable day at all.
Funny, ‘cos Fran used to enter and win many times in the cake section … that is until Annabel, that up-start “blow-in” from Woy Woy, with the Bondi Bouffant, pretentious foreign words and flamboyant dress-ups swept all before her with a new style and range of Italianate cup-cakes that made Fran’s Strawberry Lamingtons and Frog-cakes appear dowdy in comparison.
“Ahh … the world is a changed place”, she sighed.
Fran was talked into entering the “craft-doll section” by her old school chum; Michelle, now a Librarian in the big city. Michelle was entering too, she had made a replica “cabbage-patch” doll of unique expression … it reminded Fran of someone … but she just couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
Again she carefully perused her “Piglet” doll from “Winnie the Pooh” with her crafty eye for any defects of structure and character. All looked well … except … no, not really … but then perhaps … it was the mouth … that fine stitching that created the smile with the dimpled cheek … just there, on the right side … one stitch just a tad too tight had perhaps created a bit of a snarley look. And as she stared at the doll, she could not help but think of a picture she once saw of a Middle-Eastern king:
“Now who? Oh yes … Feisal … old King Feisal with his “curled lip” … oh dear!” she sighed. And she once again, just hoped they wouldn’t notice.
Bazza swilled the ice-cube around the bottom of the tumbler in the dregs of the scotch whisky … he was a bit piqued that his favourite barman; Ron, wasn’t taking him seriously. “No-one takes me seriously anymore,” he thought.
“You see, Ron, I’ve thought about it … It’s the name: Bazza!” Ron was really too busy polishing glasses to be concerned … it was the latest ‘Barryism” in a long line.
“What’s wrong with Bazza?” he sighed. Barry continued:
“Well, it’s a “slogan name” isn’t it? You know, someone enters the room spots you, stops and in an exaggerated way “pistol-fingers” you with both hands and shouts so the whole room hears; “BAZZZAH!” like they’ve just had a eureka moment … how’s that make a bloke feel?” There was a depth of silence … “It’s like you gotta jump off your stool, face them arms and legs spread like a 96 lb weakling full-back trying to block a Jonah Lomu charge single-handed!”
In truth, Barry lamented his fate. He had the perfect situation, he had a captive audience, yet no matter how he pressed his point of view on a topical situation, they just didn’t seem to take any notice of him!
“I can’t understand it, Ron … the other day f’rinstance, I had Barnaby in the “big chair”, and I was asking him about all these Chinese buying our agricultural land and all he could do was to tell me Irish jokes! They just don’t take me seriously any more!”
Finally Ron had enough, he put the cloth down, the glass on the bar and looked Bazza direct in the eyes …
“Bazz … you’re a barber, not Parkinson. People come to you for a haircut, not a grilling on the economy … just do your job, charge your fee and be happy!”
Bazz blinked a couple of times, but Ron could see it was a wasted effort … the lights were on but nobody was home.
“Glad you reminded me, Ron. Quick, give us another shot of that scotch … I got Tony in the chair this afternoon for a short back and sides … I wanna have a steady hand with the cut-threat!”