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DAY 218: Submitting to Boars and Whores

6 Apr


THE moment I clapped eyes on Boars and Whores magazine (not its real name, but pretty close) in a servo in rural NSW, I knew I had to be in it, somehow.

It’s all blokes in camos and night goggles, girls in blood-stained bikinis, and boars with their jaws propped open by sticks. Compelling stuff.

While my mate Stacey is determined I go to a ‘Dog a Hog’ gathering and enter the wet T-shirt competition, I’m hesitant. I need to stay true to myself when hunting down new a new experience (AND SLITTING ITS THROAT), and I like animals. My fundraising efforts for the RSPCA as a child were of what you might call fanatical proportions; I once stood up knock-kneed in school assembly and proposed we test cosmetics on prisoners; and if I hadn’t discovered booze and rock’n’roll and selfish things like that, I’d probably have had an illustrious career breaking into labs and liberating things from cages.

However, Boars and Whores does have a kiddy section, whereby chips off the old block can just send in their artistic impressions of Mum lying atop a freshly slayed grunter in her smalls, or Dad brandishing a Remington and a stubby. That can’t hurt to join in.

A kiddy-wink's pic in the latest issue.

I draw my own depiction of a boar hunt and send it in for consideration. I’ll let you know how I go.

My effort.

Keeper? Yes, I think I will submit more rubbish to magazines.

DAY 215: Playing pool like a pro

3 Apr

THE problem with being a louche, snake-hipped debutante is it makes you innately rubbish at playing pool. It’s all about the stance, as Tino Fulgenzi, proprietor of the ultra-chilled Red Triangle in Fitzroy, explains with great patience.

STANCE

I’ve always kinda leaned on a pool table like I’m telling a good yarn, with the cue sawing around somewhere off to the right. This is incorrect.

I’m to imagine a line drawn from the ball through my body. My right foot (I’m right-handed) needs to sit at 45 degrees on that line. The left foot comes forward and sits parallel to the line.

“Lock your back leg and put your weight on it,” says Tino, trying to find a solution to my bendy back problem. (Hey – I’m great at backbends.) “Then bend your front knee, keep your hips facing forward, and you’ll find your body automatically aligns straight on with the cue.”

Like magic, I hit the ball and pot it in the far corner. Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk: I pot the entire lot. Okay, I’m not hitting another ball en route, but trust me, this deadly aim is a vast improvement.

It takes me a while to get used to my new stance, so I’m Shakira-ing my hips around the table for a good half hour. It’s zumba time!

FOLLOW THROUGH

When it comes to cueing the ball, Tino offers the analogy of a karate chopper aiming beyond a stack of wood so that his hand is still accelerating when he makes contact. I follow through with the cue about four inches past the white ball’s original position. “You can tell the difference in the sound,” Tino says. “That sounds much nicer.”

CHALK

Tino bemoans the way most people chalk their cues, burrowing the tip into the bluey nook and swivelling it like they’re trying to start a fire. This both fails to chalk the sides of the cue tip, and starts creating holes in the chalk cube. Instead, you should hold the cube at an angle onto a tip, rotate the cue with one hand and dust the tip with a sharp downward movement. Stylish. You particularly need to chalk your cue when you’re hitting the ball anywhere but dead centre – if it’s up against a cushion, for example.

TAKING AIM

I’ve been holding my cue all wrong – Tino tells me to shorten my grip and widen my bridge. He means the ‘bridge’ that’s the distance between the pool tip and your hand, rather than the ‘bridge’ that’s your hand. Confusing.

“Lower your bridge,” says Tino, referring to the latter now – and I flatten my hand like a limbo dancer. This is to stop me hitting the ball too high and cease the seesawing motion. In theory.

“Hmm,” he says, circling me critically. “Something is not right. What is it? Aha! We’ve found the culprit. Your elbow drops dramatically. Why would it do that?”

I love the way Tino sees my mis-cues as an interesting, mathematical conundrum, rather than the actions of an uncoordinated idiot.

To stop me dropping my elbow when I quit aiming and actually take the shot, he tells me to lock my shoulder and elbow and only swivel my forearm. It works a bit, but all goes to hell as soon as he introduces a second ball. Time to call it a day.

“Walter Lindrum’s dad only let him use the white ball for a year,” Tino reveals with a misty expression.

Keeper? I’m keen to try some trick moves, but in the mean time, Tino offers to lend me a cue. “Go home and practise aiming into an empty, plastic milk bottle on the kitchen table,” he advises. “Without touching the sides.”

DAY 214: At two-up school

2 Apr

AFTER sundown, we huddle on hay bales set in a circle around the front yard of this 1850s miner’s cottage, as a fiddler scratches out some tunes and tots of whisky are passed around.

Local chap Brian McCormick is going to teach the ruddy-cheeked, sentimental throng the basics of two-up – a game that took hold in the Goldfields of Victoria back when religion and pugilism were enthusiastic bedfellows. My experience of it is limited to wide-eyed viewings of Wake In Fright and halfheartedly standing around backpacker games in Bondi.

  • The spinner places his money in the middle of the circle and bets heads. Someone from the circle matches his bet, by placing their money on top of his: tails. The spinner must always bet heads.
  • Around the circle, players yell out their preference: heads or tails, and how much. The amount must be matched by someone betting the opposite side of the coin, and the person betting tails always holds the cash.
  • The boxer – your compere for the evening – yells, “Come in, spinner.” The spinner takes a kip with two coins on it. The coins are always placed tails up, to avoid the spinner cheating with a double-headed forgery.
  • Everyone hoos “Fair go!” and the spinner twists the coins into the air. If a head and tail fall face up, the spinner spins again. If two heads are shown, those who bet on heads take the money from the tails punters. And vice versa.

The seriously spooky Tutes Cottage has been ‘cheered up’ through the centuries with wallpaper of varying degrees of horror.

The bloke next to me keeps betting his entire hand of fake shillings and pounds. Each time his eyes light up with a fervour and he gets a maniacal grin about his face. Someone’s going to be two-upping themselves into a 12-step program in no time at all.

After about an hour of feverish gambling, a real-life rozzer drops in and busts us. He’s come from the local cop shop but has dressed up in Ned Kelly-day uniform nicked from the local museum.

He fills us in a bit more on the legal side of things: two-up has always been against the law, and is only above board in the seven days leading up to Anzac Day (and Anzac Day itself) – and then only if it’s played in an RSL and if it’s honouring the diggers. He brandishes his baton for a few oohs and ahhs. “You’re only allowed to go for the soft bits,” he says. “Just give them a bit of a tap.”

Luckily I am out of baton–shot when I ride off without my helmet.

Keeper? Yes, I’m given my own kip and pennies to take away with me. The whole thing was bloody lovely, actually; I wanted them to adopt me.

DAY 209: Watering down footballers

28 Mar

The mountain's called 'Arthur'.

“YOU’RE not putting lipstick on, are you?” Old Dog growls.

“Only a little bit. Why not?”

We’re in Lilydale, a Tasmanian mountain town, and Old Dog’s arranged for me to be watergirl for the home team reserves in their first game of the season. They’re playing Old Scotch, who have a nasty habit of kicking arse.

I’d pictured bush footy as being a bit of a jolly boot around in a paddock – having not actually given it much thought – whereas in fact the whole town’s turned out to scream community-spirited abuse, likely between mutters of “who’s this sheila fannying around the oval in her jeans and lipstick?”

I go and sit down away from the thumping commotion and musclebound nudity of the clubhouse changing room. Bucket comes over and sits by me. Thank you, Bucket.

Bucket looks how I feel.

It’s safe to say everyone here knows the etiquette of Aussie Rules but me. I’ve lived in Australia for five years, but I’ve never barracked for anybody, and whenever I’ve gone to a match I’ve wound up glassy-eyed, thinking about sex. Not because of the aesthetics of the players; just because those are my default thoughts when I’m bored stupid.

Old Dog takes me on the oval and runs through the rules – no being in the semi-circle when the bloke’s holding up a flag; no being in the square when they’re throwing the ball in the air.

“I take it I’m only offering water to our team?” Yep.

A young lad is also acting as water carrier, so I take the opposite end and decide to just mirror what he’s doing. And we’re off!

“Water?” I apologise to sweating footballers with thousand yard stares. They grunt like buffalo, barge each other and ignore me. I feel like a crazed spaniel that’s run onto the pitch in a panic.

“Oi waterboy!” one of the crowd hoys, to laughter. I ignore him.

“Are you a scotchy?” some bloke from the opposition’s interchange box asks incredulously as I reload. I’ve no idea what he’s on about, but I suspect the answer is 50:50 yes or no.

“Yes.”  I run onto the pitch.

An old dude runs after me, takes the water bottles off me, and furnishes me with two from my own team’s supply.

No.

By halftime, our team’s down 88 to 1 or something, and there’s a fair bit of spewing, spitting and gasping going on as the coach bawls them out. Old Scotch have won the last four premierships and have not lost a game in over two years. Our boys, meanwhile, have been thrown together this week. Old Dog points out that their half-forwards are pushing down to half-back and making enough numbers around the contest to run the ball forward and over our loose men with handball. (Actually, that’s a direct quote – make of it what you will.) His coach’s answer to this observation, however, is to keep it simple:

“They’re college boys. Hurt them.”

It seems to work. With half a game of playing alongside each other under their belts, the locals go the man a bit, and match Old Scotch in the second half – regaining a bit of idiot pride and, while not close, making the scoreboard far more respectable.

The seniors are up next, so I get to experience life in the crowd – with all its inventive violent abuse. Whenever someone bellows out something particularly murderous and foul, everyone laughs like they’re at the panto. I’m introduced to Porto, who has hands like rusty shovels, and he and Old Dog discuss a bullyboy on the other team.

“Thinks he’s up here,” Porto says, raising his hand high, “when he’s down here.” He mimics fucking someone rigorously from behind.

The seniors win their match and we all crowd into the clubhouse to hear them sing their song – I might be ambivalent towards footy, but I’m not averse to soaking up a bit of glory. Lilydale wear the same colours as the Melbourne Football Club, so the song’s the same.

It’s a grand old flag, it’s a high flying flag, it’s the emblem for me and for yoooou…” they yell, and I nearly shed a tear.

Nusty, Old Dog’s partner-in-crime with a physique made sturdy from drinking, has played as hard as he can with no pre-season. He’s exhausted and has been chucking up ever since the reserves game ended.

He reels outside for one last spew.

“Bloody oath. Can’t be good with blood in the cunt,” quoth he, regarding his mess in sorrow.

Keeper? Not sure how useful I am on the pitch, so I’ll be angling for a physio role next time.

DAY 205: Trying two new watery things

24 Mar

Next time I'll wear clothes. Sorry.

“YOU swim like you’re trying to fight your way out of a paper bag,” observes Old Dog critically. After some coaching and a few fluffed attempts, I body surf my first wave. Yeah, I know – but as I’ve said before (and heaven forbid I slap on the Slough-wegian stuff too thick), I’m from England, and we don’t do that. We ‘paddle’ (that’s wading), and even then only when drunk or delirious and in long johns.

As I towel off, I notice Old Dog casually skimming flat stones across the surf, each skipping around six times. I’ve no excuses for not having done that – English beaches are generally great piles of shingles, after all. I give it a go and manage to bounce a couple once. GROUSE. As you say.

Watery things still to do: Water ski, jet ski, scuba dive, be a decky on a crayfish boat, lounge around on a nudist beach, swim to an island.

Strange Tasmanian marine life.

Keeper? Yes.

DAY 200: Crewing in a yacht race

19 Mar

Peter, Ken and your humble narrator.

KEN doesn’t know me from a bar of soap, but agrees to let me help crew his yacht in a race around Apollo Bay. There are five boats competing, from two-man dinghies to our three-bedroomed, $300k (with $30k of “add-ons”), 39-footer. “Your boat’s all cocaine and champagne,” another skipper sniffs, although actually neither are forthcoming.

Cruising out of the harbour with the motor on, we pass flotillas of stingrays and a lone penguin, then kill the motor and hoist the mainsail (pronounced “mainsull”). Rob is the mainsail trimmer. He keeps his sunnies attached to his head by cords and his cap attached to the back of his shirt with a little bungee rope – he’s not taking any chances. Right now he’s got the sail going full-flap, but if the wind’s blowing like buggery, he might take it up one reef (about 30 per cent) or two (50 per cent) so that he can control the boat easier and avoid us keeling over.

Peter unfurls the foresail (also known as the jib, genoa, or “headsull”). My job’s mainly to make sure ropes (“sheets”) don’t completely escape their winches.

When we get to the course, marked out by buoys, Ken lets loose an oath. They’re short lengths, much better suited to smaller boats. The umpire begins the five-minute start sequence – basically a series of flags hoisted upon his rescue boat. At one minute to, he pulls down the Blue Peter and Ken gives the order to do a 360 degree turn to stop us from drifting over the start line ahead of time. We turn too slowly, though, so when the klaxon sounds we’re facing the wrong way. Curses!

“If you lose the first 30 seconds, ya buggered,” Ken observes grimly, gripping the wheel.

Once back on course, we tack through the glassy water before pirouetting widely at the first buoy and completely blocking the passage of the yacht behind us. Boo! Foul! Consult your etiquette handbook! Etc. Ken’s getting flustered.

The second leg’s interminably slow, before we gybe back towards the final buoy – but we’ve come in third despite having superior wood finishes.

Race two is postponed twice for boats drifting over the start line or conditions not being right, and each time we have to go through the five-minute starter sequence. Eventually, we’re off. I think.

“Have we started?” I ask.

“It is a bit like that,” Rob says. “I dunno about the term ‘yacht racing’ – it’s just yachts going around in circles.”

The wind vane up top’s another thing going around in circles, first one way, then the other. We’re stumped.

The smaller boats have stopped altogether and I can hear a plaintive noise from across the way. “Sail whisperers,” says Peter. “He’s whistling the wind.”

By the time we get over the finish line, one yacht is still on the first leg, and hasn’t moved for so long that its skipper is having a swim. The umpire cranks up the motor of his start boat, shifts it over to the yacht and honks his finish line horn. Over the past two hours the wind has dropped from 10 knots to half a knot, so it’s time to pack it in.

“That was shithouse,” Ken proclaims, but I think he’s had fun.

The rescue boat/umpire. Reassuring.

Once the engine’s running and we’re heading for harbour, it’s my job to brace against the cabin and push the mainsail as far starboard as it will go, holding it there. In doing this, I can feel the rhythm of the wind as it threatens to dislocate my arm in perfectly evenly spaced bursts. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow… I’m surprised, as I’d assumed the elements to be more random than that.

“You really get to notice patterns like that when you spend time on a boat,” Peter says.

After bagging up the mainsail, which involves pulling it down and clinging on for dear life as the boom swings wildly around, the crew are insistent that I go up front to the bow and have a Kate Winslet moment.

“I’m the king of the waaaaah!” I utter, as Ken yanks the wheel sharply to the left. Ho ho. I slither back across the cabin on my belly.

Keeper? I’ve always wanted to drink in a yacht club bar, so yes.

DAY 198: Wrestling and manhandling

17 Mar

DING fucking ding! It’s The Perculator Vs. Legs McSqueal, throwing shit down, on the beach.

“The Perculator’s not so much about wrestling,” my mentor growls, hoiking up his shorts. “I like to think of him as a metaphor for people too dumb to think of good metaphors.”

With that, he spits on the ground, snarls, and grabs me around the neck. I bell clap his ears, rake his chest and knee him in the head. As he drops to his knees, I slide in for a flying dropkick to the guts. Such a crowd pleaser.

No crowing for too long, though – The Perculator’s just kicked sand in my face. Like, really. And he’s back up!

I remember my uncle’s love of the likes of boombas Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, but today we’re apeing the more classical moves of World Heavyweight Champ Mario Milano, who started life as ‘Black Diablo’, and American legend Red Bastien, or ‘Texas Red’. Mario’s finishing move was the atomic drop, which does sound quite final. He still lives in Australia today, after coming here to wrestle in the 1960s.

The Perculator and I work through a sequence of Greek wrestling holds, submission holds, scissor kicks, Chinese racks, backbreakers, suprexes, and that one Daryl Hannah does with her thighs in Blade Runner. That’s good, that one. We take turns to be the heel. Perko’s the inventor of the proctologist’s elbow, so I respond with my own signature move, the loving fistful.

There follows leaping, reeling, grunting, red herrings, leaping over heads and outlandish cries of pain, to the alarm of perambulating old ladies and their yappy dogs.

Keeper? Yes. I will need some pretty good moves up my sleeve when The Perculator discovers Mr Thumpy has nibbled the corner of his 1967 World Championship Wrestling Holds souvenir.