Morning glory

I’m off work sick (not COVID), meaning I have the telly in my bedroom to drown out the coughing and the swearing. This morning, I woke up and turned the telly on to continue drowning out the misery, and what came on the screen? Sunrise morning show with Kochie and that grinning idiot Sam Armitage.

I know they’re easy targets and morning TV is not meant to be high-brow entertainment but I was blown away by the subnormal format. It was like watching two grown adults discovering that their genital region has a hidden function, yes, the joys of masturbation. That moment when you discover that you can run solo during a drought, or fill time with some jolly self-gratification.

Kochie: And now we have a segment on the dangers of Facebook. Oh my good god my willy does something other than peeing!!!

Sam: Yes, online bullying is every parent’s worst nightmare. Oh, my giddy aunt, sitting on this vibrating washing machine makes me feel all tingly downstairs!!!

It’s all exuberance and no substance, not even the consistency of diarrhea to whet the pallet. And what’s worse, it’s dated. This same shit was on morning shows when I was a kid but at least Paula Yates got into bed with her guests instead of grinning like a fuckwit, and spewing mediocrity into the face of her viewers.

Pass me the remote …

Headbanger

For two months, a bird’s been attacking my window with gusto. In fact, I now call the bird Gusto because I’ve never encountered a creature with such tenacity and mindless courage.

The first time Gusto slammed into my window, feet, and headfirst, I almost shat myself because I was doing the dishes and the window in question is about two feet from my face. When Gusto hit, I did that thing from Jaws where Brody sees blood in the water and the camera performs a dolly zoom, AKA a Hitchcock shot. That’s when the camera is dollied either forward or backward while the zoom on the lens is pulled in the opposite direction. A bit like life. Easy!

After ten seconds I reached for the bottle of whisky that’s no longer there because I’m a recovering alcoholic with a ghost addiction. I regard these reactions in the same way that amputees claim to still feel a missing limb. I sometimes wake up with a phantom hangover on Saturday mornings.

Apparently, Gusto is a Pee Wee and part of the Magpie family. In the realm of birds, I’ve always regarded the Magpies as the traditional 1920s mobsters and the Indian Myna Birds as the Eastern European gangsters. So, Magpies and their ilk are getting fucked over by the Mynas and that’s why I’m not too bothered by Gusto. The poor fucker’s the last of his kind and I feel a bit like that too.

And why? Because I’m drowning in a sea of miserable absurdity. I understand why Gusto is smashing himself against my kitchen window because he’s done with it all. It’s an existential crisis, poorly disguised as a reflective territorial dispute. We all have territorial disputes in our minds. Think paranoia versus reality, seasoned with good old-fashioned vitriol. But life’s not bad, it’s just problematic. Well, that’s what I tell myself in the dead of night as Gusto continues his attack on my kitchen window. Neither of us knows what’s next. My dreams absorb his attacks.

But we are at one, that concussed bird and me because I get his absurd task, and I hope he never stops, or at least stops before he breaks his neck. Before he does break his neck, I want to invite him in, have a sneaky whisky with him and tell him all my hopes and fears.

Maybe that line of communication will make him realise that all is not lost, it’s just a wee bit out of reach for now.

BTW this is a dolly zoom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5JBlwlnJX0

A lockdown fairy tale

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about Melbourne bogans and I’ve been extremely interested in how my bogan mates from the old days spent lockdown. There are numerous assumptions I could make involving bongs, smoking inside, Studio 10, KFC, and four-litre casks of wine from the local BWS but that’s all hearsay and outdated stereotyping. So, what I did was contact a friend of mine who is a self-professed, card-carrying bogan from way back. Let’s call him Ed.

Ed owns a Jim’s Mowing franchise because he likes being on the road and working for himself. He has an offsider called Spoons, who’s his mate’s eldest son. Come lockdown and the end of all non-essential services, Ed and Spoons were temporarily out of a job. And so, began Ed’s long, dark descent into Netflix and kidney failure.   

Ed lives alone. He’s divorced and sees the kids every second weekend. He and his ex are on good terms but not mates. She moved on, while Ed stood still in his one bedroom flat in Melbourne’s outer north and smoked a dart while looking out of the window at a dog sniffing around a dead bird on the pavement.  

On the first day of lockdown, Ed got up, showered, brushed his teeth, got dressed and grabbed the keys for his ute, only to remember that he was in lockdown and had no lawns to mow. So, he sat down on the couch, flicked the cap off a stubbie, and turned on the telly. He’d never watched free to air morning TV before and promptly signed up for Netflix.

Within a week, the world of Netflix became Ed’s entire world. When mates called him, he talked about stuff he’d watched on Netflix, when he talked to the kids he talked about Netflix and when his mum called him to tell him her sister died, he talked to her about Dead to me on Netflix. Ed was transfixed by the haze of the Big Red N and he spent his days and nights bathing in its warm glow.

After a week, Ed stopped going to his local supermarket and started getting his supplies delivered via the endless array of online delivery services. At first, it was groceries from Safeway and alcohol from Jimmy Brings. And then one day he gave up on cooking altogether and started to rely on Netflix’s partner in crime, Uber Eats.

Ed’s flat had become a one-stop delivery destination and the thought of going outside didn’t even cross his mind. At this stage, the phone stopped ringing and Ed’s home looked and smelled like a compost heap but at least he was up-to-date with Vikings and Peaky Blinders, and he’d been smart enough to panic buy toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic.

What Ed didn’t realise, was that for everyone else, life was slowly getting back to normal. With Netflix and Uber Eats in his life he didn’t need things like outdoor activities, a job, or the news. He had new friends in his life because Netflix had every episode of Friends available to watch whenever he felt like watching his new friends having madcap adventures in Manhattan’s West Village.

And it was during an episode of Friends that Ed first noted a dull ache in his lower back that he attributed to hours of sitting on the couch.  

The ache got worse and worse and one morning he looked at himself in the mirror and his eyes were bloodshot and his skin looked mottled and his lower back now felt like somebody had battered him with a sledgehammer.

When Ed woke up in hospital, he had no idea how he’d gotten there. Apparently, Spoons had come round, knocked on the door got no reply, so had a look through the kitchen window and saw Ed in a heap on the lounge floor next to a pile of Uber Eats bags and a bottle of Penfolds Port. He called an ambulance and the rest is history.

Ed tells me he’s getting better but has lost a lot of his kidney function and has type 2 diabetes, so Spoons and his mate are running the business until Ed gets back on his feet. Since his hospitalisation, he’s canceled his Netflix account and deleted the Uber Eats app from his phone, and now gets all his food delivered by Light n’ Easy every Monday morning. He’s completely given up on TV and now listens to a lot of true crime podcasts and sometimes Russell Brand.

I talked to Ed on the phone yesterday and I asked him if he had any regrets about how he spent lockdown and if he had his time back would he do things differently. He paused for a moment, drinking in the question, and then said: “Well, obviously there are the health concerns and all that but I did get to watch some awesome stuff on TV and Spoons has said that he’ll give me one of his kidneys if I get desperate. So, things could be a lot worse. At least I’m not starving to death.”

And that’s Ed’s lockdown story. I was looking for a funny bogan story but instead, I found a story about a man who fell foul of laziness and all the online products and services we have that prop this pandemic of laziness up.

So, the next time you find yourself in a pandemic/lockdown situation, think about Ed before you get comfy, switch on Netflix, and brush your index finger over the Uber Eats app. Kidney failure is only a 30-minute wait away, and you can track its progress on your phone, while you watch Friends!

Riding the 19 tram (pre-COVID lockdown)

Once upon a time when I was a commuter …

The 19 tram is a fickle beast, prone to fits of madness, rage, and the inevitable delays of Melbourne public transport. For the most part, I like my tram route because it goes up Royal Parade past Princes Park and glides up Sydney Road spewing commuters onto the pavement and into the many bars and cafes along the way. It’s like a Mallee Ringneck feeding the road with tiny morsels of consumerism.

I can’t remember my first ride on the 19 tram but I do know that I’ve used it almost every day for the last nine years and I can even hear it clanking away at night, as I eat my dinner up in my wee flat amongst the trees.

I think it was the Bedroom Philosopher who wrote about the 86 tram a few years ago and he captured the spirit of the journey perfectly and some of the pretentious shitehawks who use the service. The 19 tram has a slightly similar ambiance but it’s also different in many ways. The main difference being that the 19 tram has a strange sense of nobility, particularly if you watch it stop and start, as it makes its way northward up Sydney Road from Brunswick Road. I love watching it slowly crawl up passed Blyth Street and disappear into the Land of the Hookah, the sun reflecting off its back windows. It reminds me of being a kid in Scotland, watching my Dad walk up David Street with the day’s takings tucked under his arm, in an old biscuit tin. Just a reassuring feeling of familiarity that makes us all feel at ease when perched on the edge of perpetual trepidation.

However, on a bad day, the 19 becomes my biscuit tin of nightmares. I only catch it a few stops down the road but when I see it approach my stop with its windows misted over and people packed in around the door I’m filled with dread. Why not walk I hear you ask? It’s only a few stops down the road. I’m constantly running late, so I end up having to squeeze myself in and just take it like a commuter. It’s that feeling of impending doom as I mount those stairs and squeeze myself into that jigsaw puzzle of arms, legs and torsos that pisses me off the most. Being stuck next to the person with a bag that’s far too big for what they really need to do that day. Music from earphones that’s too loud and never my cup of tea. Sour coffee breath, cheap deodorant, bullshit conversation, and that erratic pulse of unease from people just like me.

Poor morale is infectious and a bad start to the day.

But on the whole, I like the 19 tram. No, I love the 19 tram. It’s frequent, double carriaged, has mostly un-vandalised upholstery, runs most of the night/morning on Friday and Saturday nights and there’s something reassuring about coming home on the tram and getting off on Sydney Road and navigating your way across the road to Barkly Square. Crossing Sydney Road is an art form and is definitely an example of real life Frogger (see Seinfeld, season 9, episode 18).

So, next time you’re on the 19 tram have a think about its strong links to Sydney Road. It dominates that strip of road, which unfolds between Brunswick Road and Bell Street; a huge metal worm muscling its way up the asphalt in all its glory. One of the few trams in Melbourne with a soulful journey, as it passes through the ever-changing history of Brunswick and Coburg, disappearing into misty mornings and reappearing somewhere just beyond the Phantom Tollbooth.

And now, a poem about the morning commute on the 19 tram, by Bianca Frost:

The steel spine of Sydney Rd

as night gives way to yawning day
songbirds quarrel
the e-class grumbling awake
defibrillating shocks
into the electric current

circulating

inertia into motion

soiled steel bones grating scapular over knee
out of the old depot
resentfully onto old road Sydney

shuddering sputtering spat
the hacking paroxysms
syncopating coughs
mimic the percussion of smokers
splattering oily phlegm pocked
pearl purple green
with petrochemical carcinogens
accrued
on the daily lug every morning

up and down

arterial route 19

stop starting staring weary down the hill from Coburg
the twin lumbar spines of Moreland
stretching each articulated vertebrae

tensile

along the track

like a great glob of cholesterol
choking the straining heart
of commuters up the rabid carriageway

festooning turning rims with sprays of carbon grit
as it meets the expectant faces
of passengers ready to ride

not such a bad way to start the day
rumbles the tram with pride

Image of 19 tram courtesy of Bianca Frost (2015).

Searching for joy in the pandemic

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The supermarket is now a dangerous place to be. People who might be sick move up and down the aisles searching for hand sanitizer, pasta and a way to wipe their arse. It’s a depressing sight, watching people navigate their way through a human obstacle course. However, today I’m not going to dwell on the doom and gloom of a pandemic, instead, I’m going to write about something that brings me joy.

There’s a coffee shop, well a window, down the road from me that sells coffee, cakes, and muffins. And yes, it’s an open window right on the pavement that’s part of a residential property. Apparently, it used to be a DVD nook at the east end of their lounge that’s been converted into a takeaway coffee shop. You’d never know. It’s now called Capulus and Co.

It’s run by a family who make the best coffee I’ve ever had (I write this with conviction). They’ve secured the beans, the good stuff, the primo brown gold, and I’m one of their caffeine disciples. Most mornings, I walk 100 metres to pray at the altar of their divine brew. I order a regular latte, and after a wee chat with the barista, I respectfully maintain my distance from the other disciples on the pavement and attend to my emails.

After a couple of minutes, the barista gives me one of the highlights of my day, a regular latte in a brown and tan cup. Then I walk home slowly enjoying each sip until I reach the stairs that lead me to my place of isolation, where The King of Queens seems to be playing on repeat.

But those 100 metres to the window and back keep me sane and I’ll always remember that walk and the life-affirming coffee, as something that got me through this thing.

We all need something like that walk in the morning because it’s those slivers of joy that give us something to look forward to. And when this is over, I’m going to give the barista a big hug, hail a taxi, and get the fuck out of dodge.

Capulus and Co can be found at 9 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, Victoria and is open from 7am – 2pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am – 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.  

calling mr pritchard: tales of a wee shite

As I slide further and further into unknown territory, there’s only one thought that keeps sliding around my head: How many animals live in my attic? I’ve also gotten paranoid about any noise outside the front door. I keep a hammer there just in case, but somehow, I know I’ll never use it. Too much time on my hands invites all sorts of paranoid delusions.

However, my sanity is kept intact by watching Salvage Hunters with Drew Pritchard and his trusty sidekick Tee. Drew Pritchard runs an antique business in Conwy, Wales and he and Tee frequently travel all over the UK checking out antique and vintage stashes in stately homes, other antique dealers’ lockups, and all manner of other establishments. It’s the antiques roadshow for people under the age of 60.

Drew’s ex-wife, Rebecca, claims that he’s built a career around his personality, and I agree with her. His personality is like an advent calendar and his cheeky chappy, could be a bit of a dick, disposition is interesting to watch. I also enjoy the banter between Drew and Tee, however it’s during these interactions that Drew can sometimes come off as a bit of a dick. A lot of banter finds its roots in the heart of bullying.

Anyway, the dynamic duo spends a lot of time on the road in a white Transit van, scouring the nation for hidden treasures/bargains. They arrive at each destination, where Drew shakes hands with the client before Tee, and gets to work finding stuff to haggle over and eventually sell on his website for an inflated price to Americans and collectors (the most vulnerable of buyers).

Watching Drew rummaging around in a pile of antiques is like watching a stoner getting the remnants of marijuana residue from the pipe section of a bong with a butter knife. Tee tends to look on hoping the object isn’t going to be too heavy because it’s his job to carry it to the van and load it up, while the vaguely confused client looks on in wonder, as Drew dazzles them with his industry knowledge.

Once Drew has found an object he wants to buy, the haggling begins. Depending on the client it’s usually over quite quickly and invariably they meet in the middle. However, if an elderly client starts the bidding too low this is an opportunity for Drew to show his compassionate side and insist that they start the bidding a little higher, allowing the viewer to love Drew for a few seconds before he makes a crack about Tee’s weight and we’re back to square one again.

With all the goodies loaded into the back of the van, Tee and Drew drive back to Wales. Oh, by the way, Tee always drives because apparently Drew’s banned from driving after a drink driving conviction, which was slapped on him after a big night at his local, which he’s also banned from now, along with every pub in Conwy (I can’t whole heartedly vouch for this because I got this info from the internet but it adds so much to the story).

As they arrive back at Pritchard HQ, the team assemble to see the goodies that Drew has procured. Drew stands with the team as Tee hauls out each piece for them to review. This represents Drew’s moments of glory and you can see the narcissism glowing in his beady little eyes. Every once in a while, the shot shifts to Rebecca in the warehouse, who gives her pounds worth on each piece, which is always positive. Sometimes I wish she’d say something negative like: “they saw the little prick coming on this one!”

So, with everything hauled into Pritchard HQ the restoration team set to work while the narrator, Finchy from the UK Office, runs us through what’s going on. Then it’s over to the photographer to get snaps of the pieces to be placed on the website.

Somebody like Hannibal from the A Team would love Salvage Hunters because the plan always comes together, and Drew runs a tight ship. With his flat cap and trendy scarves, Drew strides through the world of antiques doing it his way. He definitely knows his stuff, which is one of the highlights of the show, but you can tell that Drew will die alone with a bottle of whisky on the nightstand and only Tee will attend his funeral just to make sure he’s dead.

cooking with honesty

I like cooking but I can be a right lazy bastard. The main thing I dislike is washing up. It puts me in a dark mood, even though I’m exceptionally good at it after a series of dishwashing gigs in the 90s when I was young and made no plans for the future. However, one time when I was washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant in Galway, I had a vision of my death in the diminishing suds. But enough of that, let’s take a gander at a quick meal with minimal washing up.

My main rule is that everything else should take as long as the base. For example, if the pasta takes 10 minutes everything else should be ready at the same time. If it’s not, give up and order in. There’s enough disappointment in this life without homemade meals letting you down.

Let me hit you with my favourite quick meal, Moroccan spicy chicken cous cous sprinkled with lethargy and some diluted, lonely love. When you cook alone, you’re truly alone, unless you drench it all in cheap whisky and terrestrial TV, and then get on Messenger to bother people who have a functional domestic life. Anyway …

Step one: go to a supermarket for chicken thighs, cous cous, spring onion, fresh chili, garlic, parsley, cherry tomatoes and Moroccan spice.

Step two: come home and smash down a couple of cheap whiskies.

Step three: step out onto your roof terrace and gasp at the sun setting in the west.

Step four: smash down another couple of whiskies.

Step five: splash some olive oil into a frying pan and cook the chicken and garlic.

Step six: put the cherry tomatoes into a wee oven dish, season with salt, pepper and olive oil and put into the oven at 180 degrees for ten minutes.

Step seven: chuck on an episode of Salvage Hunters, with Drew Pritchard, who’s banned from every pub in his hometown, Conwy in Wales.

Step eight: add the Moroccan spice into the chicken and garlic and add in the chili and spring onions aka scallions.

Step nine: cook the cous cous (see the back of the packet for instructions you lazy fucker).

Step ten: crush a Sudafed tablet with your maxed-out credit card (times are tough) and snort, using the shell of a ball-point pen.

Step eleven: remove the cherry tomatoes from the oven.

Step twelve: add the cous cous into the frying pan, along with the cherry tomatoes and parsley and mix through.

Step thirteen: cover the frying pan, smash a few more whiskies, snort another line of Sudafed, send a message you’ll regret in the morning, smoke a spliff and pass out.

Step fourteen: wake up at 3am, check your sent messages for potential legal problems (death threats etc.), drink some fizzy water and heat up a serve of the spicy chicken cous cous.

Step fifteen: enjoy your homemade meal in bed, while watching Ray Donovan, smash another couple of whiskies and call a mate in a different time zone.

Step sixteen: repeat steps one to fifteen ad infinitum.

See, a simple 16 step guide to feeding yourself and assuring the kind of death George Michael experienced because he quite simply gave up, a bit like Paula Yates. However, you never heard them complaining about washing up.

For more information about other quick recipes, please contact me in hell, or as Alfie Solomons in Peaky Blinders calls it, Margate.

Second Wave 2: another guest post by Cam Beatty

“If you can hear me, open your eyes,” the voice says as I come to with a sharp breath. My head is spinning, lying here on this bed in a room that immediately fills me with the frustration of not knowing where I am. Everything hurts. The woman tells me that she managed to get me back into the car before we escaped.

I glance over my arms to see bandages and gauze blotted with seeping blood. My cheek is swollen too. She tells me not to move. I’m breathing heavily and my eyes begin to dart. “Breathe”, she says, “breathe”. It’s happening again but I know it’ll pass. I don’t know what’s happened to me this time. All I can remember are glimpses of my former life, a house, a job, an existence that was somehow leading me to this point now with the outline of a woman I don’t know telling me to take it easy. It gets worse and my eyes squeeze themselves shut. A few other memories flash in front of me before my breathing starts to slow. A few more breaths and then it passes.

“You’re safe,” she says, but I want to know where I am. “In my house,” she answers. “No one knows we’re here.”

I try to get up to get to the window, but she raises a hand.

“We’re well off the track. No one can see us for miles. It’s thick bush out there. We’re safe.”

I lie back down. She stares at me for a moment and moves to touch the bandage on my arm but I pull back. I look at her in a way I’m not used to.

She tells me that she doesn’t know much about me. I don’t answer. I killed my best friend not so long ago.

She’s removed my boots, which I don’t like, and I fumble to put them back on. She tries to stop me, but I react. This bothers me because I used to be a different person. I tell her I’m sorry, I’d just like to put them back on. I don’t lie down again, but I thank her anyway.

“You’re welcome.”  

I can see a dim light squinting through the blind. It’s either early morning or late afternoon. I ask her if she has any food and she hands me a tin of beans. I’m careful to not eat any more than half for now. I can see she notices.

“Do you have any family?” She asks.

I tell her no.

She’s silent, thinking something over. “We were building this house together,” she says, “when it happened.”

I nod a few times.

“I was a school teacher. I used to love my job.” She has dirty hands and she wrings them. She adds that she doesn’t like seeing kids treated that way. She says she’s not happy with herself that she had to leave them like that, but everyone has had to let go of everything normal.

Before this everyone liked to think that they’d always do the right thing. Everyone worked so hard to find meaning, to live a life that would seem complete, to be noticed, to be respected, to be taken seriously, to be liked and loved. But most of those people are dead now, with nothing left behind but a memory.

It’s easy to think you’re one of the good guys if you’ve never been challenged, but with a gun at your head you’ll find out pretty quickly where your strengths lie. The blood and guts wash away, but that moment will stay with you forever.

I’ve lost touch with who I used to be.

I realise the woman and I have been staring at each other in silence. She barely flinches when she hears the car approaching in the distance. I keep looking at her until eventually, she says that we were followed.

I’m already halfway to the door when I tell her she needs to come with me. But she doesn’t move. Her voice is shaky when she says, “Maybe they’ll reconsider.” As I exit the door I catch one last look. I see her slowly turn her head to the sound of the car and then I’m gone.

They pursue me for three days. I don’t stop running. I take them through the thick bush, into the hills where they can’t follow me by car. It rains one day, thunderstorms the next but they stay close. I can hear them moving at night and it scares me.

By the third day I need to stop. I find myself on the edge of a cliff where I prop myself down against a tree. They’re behind me somewhere but I haven’t heard them in a long while. I don’t know if it’s over yet or not. The wind on my face calms me. It’s strangely peaceful.

I stare out over the cliff, emptiness and beauty, loneliness, and hope. I start to drift off and I let it happen. Wind and trees. Another time in my life long ago.

When I feel something touch my face I don’t have the energy to jump. I open my eyes to see a dog sniffing my cuts. I brush his snout with the back of my hand. Good boy. I had one just like him. Slowly he sits down next to me and together we watch the sunrise.

Cam’s bio:

Cam’s a very good friend of mine and a great writer. He has a dog called Mickey and he gets up at 04:30 every morning to run 37 kms. Cam’s strength of character is an inspiration to me. One day he hopes to have a Peregrine Falcon, called Patrice Mersault.

moving on, I’m still here …

It’s been an odd few months. I quit my job, woke up into a new world after a four-week drinking session, swapped red wine for stout, spent a lot of time on my own thinking about stuff and now, two significant people in my life have found significant others in a post-apocalypse landscape of hope and uncertainty.

Significant person 1: Can’t go for a walk, having breakfast with the dude from next door.

Significant person 2: I had a date last night, he works in tiger conservation!

I got both messages within the same half-hour. The first one while I was having a Poogle and the second as I had my first sip of coffee today on my terrace in the sun.

So, for the first time in years, I’m on my own and I’m kind of sad and excited at the same time. These seismic shifts in life offer us the opportunity to move on and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The old me would have bought three bottles of cheap wine, got self-indulgently drunk, and listened to Joy Division on the terrace until I passed out on my cacti. Cacti, you are safe.

I have self-indulgent tendencies. Bad ones. Ugly ones. Ones that become crazy monsters in the dark. I can drink an entire bottle of whisky and stare at the floor for hours and hours. Like when my ex left me in 2005 and I came home to an empty house and a note. I went straight out, bought a bottle of whisky, put OK Computer on and stared at the floor until the sun rose into an empty house on Rose Street. I showered, didn’t shave, didn’t pray for my sins, and went to work, where I lost my temper and threatened a co-worker with a hammer. I got sacked, went home via a whisky purchase and put OK Computer back on. Repeat, repeat, repeat, fucking repeat ad infinitum.

But I’m getting self-indulgent again. I need to avoid that state of mind or I’ll wind up back at the Sisyphean drawing board with an Albatross around my neck. I talk to my therapist about the Albatross a lot, it’s a strong theme in our sessions. She’s become the wedding guest that I’ve stopped in the street to tell my story. She has the face of an angel and this uncanny ability to deconstruct my bullshit and throw it back at me like a chimp in a zoo. Sometimes during our sessions, I stop breathing and she tells me to breathe. I like that. I’m not in love with her. She’s a lifeline, end of story. Let’s move on …

But what’s next for this tarnished jester who “struts and frets his hour upon the stage?” Now, this could be an opportunity to be a sad self-indulgent twat. No. Never. I’m taking the bull by the horns and driving that beast into the land of milk and honey. I’m going to build a beach bar in Samoa with my bare hands and “give up the booze and the one-night stands, then I’ll settle down in some quiet little town and forget about everything. Full of sound and fury, signifying” something.

And to my significant people who have moved onto significant others. Dance on. Be happy. Please call me sometimes. I’d like that.

NB. Anything with quotation marks is by Shakespeare and Gerry Rafferty. I can’t work out how to do footnotes in WordPress.

Fakin’ bacon: tales of an errant vegan

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It all started when I was 21 and moved into a share house with three vegans who were so holistic, they felt bad about having to kill the insects that were destroying their herb garden. In fact, they had a funeral for the insects in the backyard and burned incense by a little shrine they fashioned from ChupaChup sticks and Blu-Tack. I was desperate for a place to live, so I lied to them about being a committed vegan and told them I had access to cheap grass. At least the part about the grass was true.

We ate together every night and took turns in making dinner. This was in the days before mass public access to the internet, so every few days I had to hit the library and find a new recipe to maintain my charade. I maintained it for a while until I came home drunk one night and dumped a Big Mac wrapper in the kitchen bin without covering it with other bits of rubbish. The next morning, I woke up feeling a little worse for wear and decided a coffee and joint would sort me out. When I went into the kitchen, the three real vegans were sitting around the table with the Big Mac wrapper placed in the centre of the table covered in cling film, next to a pair of rubber gloves. They told me I had corrupted the sanctity of their home and threw me out. On the way out, I stole the insect shrine and for two years I would have my photo taken with it in different locations around the world and then mail the photos back to the house.

Being a shallow young man in my early twenties, I maintained the vegan illusion because I worked out that it was the early 90s and women in Melbourne seemed to like that sort of thing. I met Sarah at a Hari Krishna canteen-style restaurant not long after I was thrown out of the House of Cling Film and we hit it off immediately over dahl and an illustrated edition of the Bhagavad Gita. Three weeks later she moved into my place with her cat, Starship. These were halcyon days of pot-smoking, regular sex, vegan curries, and unemployment benefits until Sarah got a job in a secondhand bookshop down the road from the flat. Back then this was righteous employment and I was proud of her.

While Sarah was at work, I was going to uni and writing essays at home. I was also eating ham sandwiches for lunch and having a bacon roll whenever the fancy took me. One afternoon I received a phone call from a mutual friend informing me that Sarah had been spotted eating a Zinger Burger in KFC. I asked him if it was definitely her and he said, “Fuck man. I’m so sorry dude”.  I was ecstatic thinking I’d met my perfect match, so I went out and bought in a couple of porterhouse steaks for dinner. When she arrived home I had them sitting, uncooked, on the chopping board, awaiting seasoning and adoration. What I didn’t expect was her face when she saw them. It was like she’d arrived home to find a dead kitten stuffed down the toilet. Turns out that she’d suspected I was eating meat on the side and got our mutual friend to flush me out of my Ralphie Wigam style House of Lies. The upside was that I didn’t have to move out. Sarah and the mutual friend got married three years later.

For a few more years, I limped through life with my gastronomic mendacity slung over my shoulder and avoided being rumbled by my vegan brothers and sisters. However, we were coming to the end of an era and the age of holistic enlightenment was drawing to a close except for the people who were genuinely actually into it and very glad that people like me were about to jump ship and hopefully drown.

At this point in history, people were turning their backs on crystals and dream catchers and entering the cathedral of vinyl in droves, to experience a more experiential form of spirituality through the healing qualities of MDMA. When I saw friends of mine give up their veganism, I became a committed vegan and began fighting the good fight for Quorn and The Celestine Prophecy. Why? Because somehow being a vegan became something worth fighting for, it was like I’d finally found my cause in life. When the rats begin leaving the sinking ship, I tend to take the helm and sail the ship into martyrdom.

I became a zealot, a spoilsport at BBQs, a boring, preaching, predictable shite-hawk with a bicycle I made from scrap and prayer flags hanging out of my arse. After years of being a pretend vegan, I’d finally seen the quinoa on the wall. I even felt really guilty about the insect shrine and sent a long apologetic letter to the vegans from the share house I’d desecrated all those years before. I’m pretty certain they’d probably moved out long ago, so a complete stranger/s probably received a very confusing letter about an insect shrine and a Big Mac wrapper that they probably slapped on the fridge for the amusement of guests.

However, like every close relationship I’ve ever had in my life, disaster was always lurking around the corner, next to the shamed relative at a funeral and the retrenched bloke who still pretends to go to work every day. Once again, I was skint, living back in the UK and on the verge of yet another eviction. The job market was bleak and, based on experience with these situations, I’ve learned to take the quickest option to resolve my problems. In this particular instance, a ‘friend of a friend’ from my local pub needed an assistant manager to work in Grubbs Burgers; a trendy burger joint for people who have ethical problems with McDonald’s or reprobates who are so drunk they’ve forgotten where McDonald’s is located. I checked my bank balance and said yes. After three shifts, meat and I were back on track, in the form of a blue cheeseburger with shoe-string fries, washed down with a can of coke and a Camberwell Carrot, which I smoked sitting on the chest freezer in the storeroom.  And that was the end of the line.

I have never gone back to my lying vegan ways and, to be honest, it’s all rather embarrassing now, but like all fuck ups, I did learn some valuable lessons, and these are:

  1. When you’re young ‘being true to yourself’ isn’t much fun and lacks imagination; you need to play around with your personality before you even know what the ‘truth is’.
  2. Generally speaking, lies will result in homelessness.
  3. Learn to spot a cunning ruse when it’s dangled in front of your nose.
  4. Bacon is the best food in the universe, and I’ve watched many a vegan and vegetarian be swayed by its spellbinding aroma.
  5. Building a shrine to insects that were destroying your herbs is weird, especially when you’re serious about it.
  6. Stealing weird shrines is also a bit weird but taking photos of them on a Thai beach, sitting next to a bottle of Chang beer, is fucking awesome.
  7. Always know when the battle is lost and, instead of crying about it, learn the valuable lessons of defeat.

Having had a checkered dalliance with veganism, I have infinite respect for vegans who demonstrate conviction and restraint. It takes a particular kind of person to put faith in their beliefs, and in turn live their life based upon those beliefs. However, people who claim they’re vegetarians but still eat chicken and fish are fucking idiots.