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Narrow Minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant From Footscray

The prompts from the blog platform suggest that I introduce myself.

In short, I am several things.

Firstly, I am a Narrow Minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant From Footscray. I have been describing myself as that for at least the past 15 years or so.

This description might not be totally accurate.

I am probably not as narrow minded as I boast I am.

Whilst I am of Italian ancestry and reasonably fluent in Italian, I probably think more the iconoclastic way that Australians do, having been born and lived in Australia my whole life.

Nor am I particularly observant religiously, although like most people, 1600 years of Christianity being the dominant religion (‘thank you’ Emperor Theodosius) in Western Civilisation does tend to hard wire us in a particular way. (I do like to amuse myself by claiming that the dinosaurs missed the ark and that the world is just over 6000 years old.).

Peasant? Well, my parents are from peasant stock, as probably most Italian migrants in the 1950s were, and I like growing my own tomatoes in the backyard. But I am a lower middle class office worker really, with the luxury of participating in a post industrial economy. I also have a university education, and not in agriculture.

Whilst I am very personally Conservative, both culturally and socially, I am more Liberal than Conservative, and believe in individual rights and liberties and freedom of choice and conscience etc to the point where I can get quite worked up when I hear of proposals to intervene in the lives of people or to curtail our freedoms.

I also don’t live in Footscray, although I was born there (and proud of it), and lived and went to school there during my childhood and adolescence, and the Western Bulldogs (formerly known as the Footscray Football Club) is my AFL team. I do not live too far from Footscray though. I am in Avondale Heights, which is like a north western outpost of Footscray, and previously lived in Maribyrnong. But just like people from Fremantle claim that they are from Fremantle rather than from Perth, real Footscray people claim that they are from Footscray rather than from Melbourne. I suppose, historically, that it has something to do with the fact that there is quite a distance between the eastern boundary of Footscray at the Maribyrnong River, and the centre of Melbourne, and most of that two mile distance was occupied firstly by a swamp and then by a wasteland involving docks, chemical depots (where were you during the Coode Island fire in 1991?) and quarantine grounds….

Secondly, I am a postgrad dropout. That does contradict a lot of what my first description suggests I am, but we all are complex and many layered people. The MA thesis I was planning to write was about Nietzsche, Hegel and the End of History or some such, which is the sort of topic which would have been pretty passe in 1994 when I was interested in doing it. However, life gets in the way – working full time and getting a promotion at work which resulted in me focusing my energies and attention on my job meant that I did not have much left in the tank for a 30,000 word thesis. And whilst I still enjoy reading Nietzsche for his manic and frenetic style, Hegel is really boring.

As for more? I much prefer the writings of Anthony Trollope over Charles Dickens. I still enjoy re-reading my favourite Nevil Shute novels, and I occasionally re-read my copy of JRR Tolkien. I did ditch Game of Thrones about 100 pages into the first book, and don’t regret it at all. I remain very curious as to whether some of the unpublished novels of JD Salinger from his period of seclusion (I have the general impression he wrote some) will see the light of day during my lifetime, although I loathed Catcher in the Rye whilst finding his short stories fascinating.

On doing Grand Final Eve lunch in South Melbourne

www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/south-melbourne-pub-rolls-in-100-barrels-for-the-swans-faithful-20220923-p5bkgy.html

Funnily enough, I ended up doing lunch today at the Rising Sun Hotel in South Melbourne.

I though I knew most pubs within a 20km radius of the GPO, but I had never been to the Rising Sun, a pleasantly old school pub with the most emphatic AFL theme to its decor, predominantly based on the footy club which used to play a few streets away at Lakeside.

Wendy’s burgers to reopen in Australia

The news report that Wendy’s is to open in Australia is welcome.

There is just one thing niggling away at me – obviously the reporter is not aware that Wendy’s already launched in Australia in the mid 1980s, but did not last long.

Hopefully they do better this time.

www.news.com.au/lifestyle/food/restaurants-bars/us-cult-fast-food-chain-wendys-to-launch-in-australia/news-story/a28b10ea5c61cc8cc86504a71cbf7f61

The Railway Hotel, North Fitzroy

I have been pondering for a while the sad disappearance, through either redevelopment or renovation, of most of the old school typical Australian pubs I remember from years gone by.

What I crave, I guess, is a pub with its last renovation and furnishings from the 1970s, such as red vinyl covered chairs, and laminated tables, and hopefully a bar area which was installed in the 1930s.

I did lunch today at one such pub, and it was a delight.

First, to explain the name of the Railway Hotel, which is in Nicholson Street in North Fitzroy. There used to be an inner circle rail line, disused since the late 1940s, which ran from Royal Park til Clifton Hill. You can still see traces, such as the bridge in Royal Parade spanning a disused rail line, the red brick former railway station at North Carlton, and bits of railway intentionally left where they crossed the roads in the area. Otherwise, the only remnant is a bike path along a thin strip of parkland.

And, located close to where the North Fitzroy railway station used to stand, there is the Railway Hotel.

I think this is only the second time I have ever been there, and it has a unique charm to it, particularly due to various of the historic quirks about it, beyond the long redundant name. The bottle shop window is still painted with gold letters advertising Mildara Brandy, and gold letters on the door from the public bar (closed usually) to the bistro area where I sat proclaim it as the Ladies Lounge.

As the publican said, it is a country pub in the city – which is a rare gem indeed these days. It’s last renovation must have been in the 1970s (the end of six o’clock closing in 1974 prompted many pubs to do a renovation in that era), but it is immaculately maintained, as are the chairs and tables of that era. No sticky carpet, just a well laid lino floor covering which is easy to mop.

There is a concrete beer garden out the back, past the toilets, but this beer garden has more charm to it than many, as it features a large lemon tree and a banana tree, amongst others.

All of this appeals to me far more than the bulk of contemporary refurbishings of pubs, with their purple carpets and poker machines, or the current slightly better tables and bar areas fitted out with dark red varnished timber or polished metal sheets.

Fun For All The Family! Kiss Reach The End Of The Road

And they say disco is dead!

Kiss are retiring after this tour and I am sad.

I was 11 in 1980 when I witnessed KissMania in full swing. Kiss had released their Unmasked album (FYI they did not start their makeup free era for several more years) and announced their Australian tour, with a concert to occur at VFL Park in Mulgrave in November 1980.

I am not too sure about what adults thought of this circus which was going to hit town, but the kids at my primary school were pretty excited. There were Kiss posters on the classroom walls, and heaps of kids wearing Kiss t-shirts. I recall one rather strict substitute teacher expressing his dismay at one classmate’s Ace Frehley t-shirt.

And there were Kiss cards. 66 in each set, and there were three series. The first one was with the original band and orange borders, whilst the second was of the original band with blue borders, and which continued the numbering from number 67 to 132.

And then, because there was the exciting news of a new drummer, Eric Carr, in different makeup (little did we in our childhood innocence understand why Peter Criss had decided to leave such a great band for a ‘solo career’), there was a reissue of the original 66 cards, but with new ones replacing each one which had featured the original dummer.

No Kiss toilet paper though. That must have been an oversight by their marketing department.

And then, the concert happened, and school ended for the year a few weeks later and KissMania was over. Kiss mostly then (as far as those of us of the Countdown Generation felt) seemed forgotten for a long time.

In 1996 or 97, when they did their Reunion Tour, I finally got to see them in concert – and the Reunion Tour was, for many of us fans, a bit like children of a divorced couple overjoyed to see their parents back together again, given that Peter and Ace both rejoined the band.

It was not to last alas, and when they did their misleadingly (as History has since taught us) Farewell Tour a few years later, Peter Criss had a hissy fit about money and pulled out at the last minute, never to return.

Now it is The End Of The Road. After two covid related postponements, the concert finally happened last night. I have gotten my chance to see Kiss a third and final time.

Despite Peter and Ace not being there, it could not be called a tribute act. Eric Singer is a far better drummer than Criss ever was, and Tommy Thalyer is not only a great guitarist, but his choreography with Gene Simmons onstage is reminiscent of Gene and Ace in the old days.

But then, they have had a very long time with the band, both in makeup and not, and when in makeup, they do look much as what Peter Criss and Ace Frehley did.

Mind you, getting Eric Singer to sit in front of a grand piano and sing Beth to the crowd towards the end of the night probably would cause Peter Criss to wince – he sort of wrote that song after all, and he was very proud of it (I had read all four autobiographies so I should know). But I enjoyed hearing it. And then Shandi, as the penultimate song for evening, was quite poignant, given the band is winding down after so many decades.

Even Rock n’ Roll Gods are not immortal, much as they might seem in their masks as they breath fire. They too grow old.

And so as St Paul wrote (I Corinthians 13:11-12):

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then, face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

And so it is for us now, a time to say farewell to Kiss, and to pack away those fond childhood memories of KissMania.

Tonight must last us forever….

When Gollum Was King

Shhh.. my Preciousssss

As a patriotic and civically minded Australian citizen, tonight I am incandescent with rage. I expect that my anger is shared by many of my fellow citizens. Therefore please excuse me if I launch into uncharacteristically ad hominem attacks in this post.

The news that in his recently ended term, our then Prime Minister Scott ‘Scummo’ Morrison secretly arranged to have himself commissioned as a portfolio minister for roles held by five of his senior cabinet ministers (four without their knowledge) fills me with great disgust.

This secretive conduct betrays not only the conventions of the Westminster system of government, but undermines our democracy.

Let’s start with a long standing joke to illustrate my point. During the Abbott Prime Ministership, his autocratic and highly unpopular Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, was allowed to sit in on Cabinet meetings, a violation of the convention that only cabinet ministers (elected representatives of the people rather than their hirelings) should make the decisions on how the nation is governed.

This was a very unpopular move, and contributed greatly to the fall of Abbott in a leadership spill after just under 2 years.

I have read jokes which state quite confidently that Peta Credlin was Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 to 2015.

But let’s now look at what is in the Australian Constitution and what Morrison’s violation of Westminster conventions, when put together, could mean in relation to this joke.

Section 64 of the Australian Constitution requires that no Minister of State can hold office for no more than 3 months without sitting in either of the Houses of Parliament. In early 1968, when John Gorton was first commissioned as Prime Minister, he briefly, after resigning from the Senate in order to contest the lower house seat of Higgins in a by-election, did not hold a seat in Parliament.

Now imagine, if, as is legally possible under Section 64, that Tony Abbott had secretly arranged for Peta Credlin to be commissioned to hold the office of Prime Minister in tandem with himself.

Of course there would be outrage.

What Scott Morrison did, behind the backs of his cabinet colleagues and the public, in secretly enabling himself to serve as Treasurer, and in four other senior ministries which were not vacant, was a serious affront to our democracy.

People who know me well will know that I have long disliked Morrison. His penchant for retrospective legislation from his early days as a minister, combined with his tendency for highly ruthless behind the scenes machinations, and his technocratic contempt for the Rule of Law, normal democratic conventions, and his own rank and file party members alike, showed him unfit to be a leader in an Anglophonic democracy.

Long ago, I observed that he was better suited to a ministerial post in a third world dictatorship (and not the actual position of dictator).

Now we see how awful he really was. He not only was totally consumed by the pursuit of power and desire to win at all costs, but he was a sneak who did not even confide in his colleagues, but sought to undermine them utterly.

‘Scummo’ is too kind a nickname for him. ‘Gollum’ is far more apt (apologies to the Tolkien Estate for any copyright infringements).