No Sex Please, We’re Different

Call me autistic, but it’s kind of weird to consider that not only may your own friends think about things in ways wildly differently to how you think about them, but that they may not realise just how different your viewpoints are.

Some years ago a good friend of mine breathlessly informed me that a woman we both knew was apparently extremely keen to sleep with me. I did not find the woman in question particularly attractive – not least because of her cigarette habit – so replied that I might consider said activity if she quit smoking.

My friend reacted as if I’d suddenly sprouted two extra heads and started singing the Whiffenpoof Song in Spanish. He was genuinely, mouth-hanging-open stunned. It was as if the concept of someone voluntarily turning down an opportunity for sex was completely alien to his thinking and understanding of the world. He shook his head back and forth uttering a confused series of ‘no’s and ‘but’s, and once he gained control of himself kept glancing at me as if I was some kind of Lovecraftian horror in the form of a human being.

So yeah. The way you think about the world is not the way everyone things about the world.

(Either that or my standards are too high…)

The Sound of Summer

As a kid in Australia in the 1980s there was no getting away from the first 54 seconds of Brian Bennett’s New Horizons, which was used as the theme to channel 9’s cricket coverage. Over the long, hot Christmas school holidays you’d switch on the TV to try and find something to relieve your boredom (which was still preferable to being in school, naturally…) and find nothing but hours and hours of cricket – possibly the most boring sport ever devised. It was probably being commentated by Richie Benaud too.

So it’s downright bizarre to discover that past the 54 seconds mark New Horizons turns into the theme from a second-rank 1970s spy thriller!

England ’86 – Part 3

And so we come to the third and final part of my day by day summary of the UK holiday my family took in 1986 (part one, part two). In this exciting episode we head for recently irradiated Scotland. Prepare for tales of blatent diary forgery, vandalism of historic sites and an encounter with the UK’s oldest living resident!

Saturday May 31st – Drove from Liverpool to wilds of Scotland with Uncle Tony. Memorable and spectacular trip through Highlands that I mostly missed by falling asleep. Checked into A-Frame cabin next to stream at Delny Highland Lodges.

Sunday June 1st – Church (of course) in repurposed Invergordon Nissen Hut, Presbyterians having grabbed all decent buildings. Then off to misnamed Black Isle (it’s a peninsula). Visited Clootie Well, picturesque ruins of Fortrose Cathedral and Chanonry Point Lighthouse from which we observed pod of dolphins. Then visited Fairy Glen which was quite nice. Aunty Mary and Uncle Doug arrived in evening.

Monday June 2nd – Entry begins with blatant fabrication about not just seeing but actually photographing Loch Ness Monster. Shameful! Drove to Loch Ness and attended the exhibition at Drumnadrochit. Particularly fascinated by bisected otter (it died of natural causes). Staged photo of fibreglass monster. Scanned the Loch from Urquart Castle but saw nothing. Lunch at Fort Augustus. Saw deer, went home.

Tuesday June 3rd – Went to the rather impressive Fort George. Dad vanished so I ran full mile around battlements looking for him. Still no sign so had lunch without him. Once he turned up headed to Brodie Castle and saw misprinted dinner plates. Then to Cawdor Castle which was hitting the Macbeth connection hard. Disappointed we didn’t get special treatment for being Cawdor Campbells on Mum’s side.

Wednesday June 4th – Drove across entire country and back to look at palm trees at Inverewe Gardens, despite having palm trees at home.

Thursday June 5th – Went to Landmark Visitors’ Centre at Carrbridge where told so much snow on the Cairngorm mountains they were considering re-opening skiing season. Diverted to the Cairngorm ski-lift to see snow. Got to top, spent two minutes throwing snowballs. then blizzard rolled in. Rode down ski-lift being pelted by snow in gale force winds. Brother spent half hour standing under hand dryer in mens’ toilets. Back to Landmark where saw a movie, walked through maze and brother saw a “facon” (or possibly “falon”).

Friday June 6th – Took advantage of services at Lodges to go for family horse ride. Dad’s horse (“Sally”) completely uncontrollable. Chased by cows. Didn’t know I was allergic to horses at time – diary says nothing but was probably miserable. Shopping in Inverness. Looked into visiting Fryish Monument but everyone too lazy and selfish to consider mere 10 mile walk. Set off for John o’ Groats but only got as far as Bonar bridge before giving it up as a bad job and turning around.

Saturday June 7th – Checked out of Highland Lodges and set off for Perth (many jokes made) via the Great Glen and Glencoe. Split between two cars. Various stops due to brother’s car sickness meant we fell behind – got caught up around Lochy Bridge where others had temerity to blame us for the confusion. Visited Glencoe – careful to keep quiet about Campbell connections as MacDonalds tend not to care about VERY CLEAR DISTINCTION between Cawdor and Argyle Campbells. Continued to Perth then Bridge of Earn where checked into chalets just adjacent to ruins of old bridge.

Sunday June 8th – Went to church, dropped Dad at the Black Watch museum then went through a car wash. Visited Huntingtower where the spiral staircases were built backwards because the owners wielded their swords left-handed (a fanciful tale told wherever there are backwards spiral staircases). Picked up Dad from the museum and went back to chalets.

Monday June 9th – Drove to Edinburgh. Made game of spotting buildings resembling ones in London – fortunate that no Scots overheard or we’d have been killed. Visited Castle, almost froze from wind chill. Fascinated by Mons Meg. Looked for place to eat, found The Witchery sited in building where witches apparently met to “talk to saten”. Ate at big table alongside dummy dressed like witch – most discomforting. Visited cathedral, walked through town for hours. No one wanted to climb Scott Monument despite gothic awesomeness. Fryish monument all over again.

Note: The Witchery is now a very swanky and quite expensive fine dining establishment and boutique hotel that no longer features dummies dressed as witches, no longer claims its location was ever actually used by witches and seems to keep very quiet about its origins as a 1980s tourist trap…

Tuesday June 10th – Toured various factories churning out pottery and glassware at Crieff. Ate haggis at cafeteria.

Wednesday June 11th – Visited Killacrankie and Blair Castle. Saw deer penned up with sheep. Impressed by sheer number of horns on display. Less impressed by state of dining room, roof of which had collapsed. Visited “friends” who lived at a coal yard. Built fort out of bricks in their sandpit.

Thursday June 12th – Drove around Loch Lomond in appalling conditions of pounding rain interspersed with thick fog. Carried on to Doune Castle – ignorance of Monty Python meant many missed joke opportunities. Caretaker showed us bats – sadly rather small and unimpressive. Back to chalets but Uncle Doug had keys so were locked out. Headed for another castle but couldn’t find it.

Friday June 13th – Went to Loch Levan and caught ferry to island with castle where Mary Queen of Scots imprisoned. After lunch visited Stirling Castle. Saw Wallace Monument across valley but no one wanted to visit it except me. Scott Monument all over again.

Saturday June 14th – Checked out of chalets and drove approx 700kms back to Warsash with Mary and Doug via Carlisle. Long drive even by Australian standards. Various stops for food, refreshments and brother’s car sickness. Mum and Dad got a day to themselves for once.

Sunday June 15th – Church (no escaping it) then to Sheila and Mike’s for lunch. Looked at Sarah’s shell collection. Mum and Dad arrived at some point during the day but I totally failed to record when.

Monday June 16th – Shopping in Southampton followed by walk on the beach. Found interesting rocks and built a miniature Stonehenge, which is the kind of thing kids did in the benighted ages before Nintendo released the Game Boy.

Tuesday June 17th – Headed off for the south west. Brass rubbing at Exeter Cathedral. Bought postcard of pipe organ lit up blue despite Mum and Dad hating it. Visited Powderham Castle. Scruffy looking man saw Mum’s interest in music box collection and activated them all. Scruffy looking man was 17th Earl of Devon. Introduced us to the famous Timothy (we fed her lettuce). Visit to grandparents of brother’s school friend Jason in Teignmouth. Checked into bed and breakfast.

Wednesday June 18th – Got lost in Plymouth looking for Dad’s second cousin as discovered by Radio Devon. Found him eventually. Went to Tintagel – only had time to look at fossil museum or King Arthur’s Hall tourist trap. Opted for fossil museum where waxwork posed in window turned out to be very alive owner. Over to castle where large American woman slipped and broke her ankle, having to be carried back to mainland across precarious bridges and walkways by two unfortunate men. Overcome by Arthurian mystique I nicked a stone from the ruined castle walls – have meant to find and return it for years. Up coast to Clovelly where walked up and down ridiculously steep streets and looked at tourist tat in Donkey Shop. Night at bed and breakfast.

Thursday June 19th – Caves at Wookey Hole. No sign of Chewbacca. Toured old paper mill, learned about paper production and played with old fairground machines. Dad extremely evasive on why he wouldn’t let me have a go on the “What the Butler Saw” machine. Drove to Glastonbury and visited the abbey ruins. Laughed at the same sign concerning the Abbot “vaulting the choir and facing it” that Mum had laughed at as a child. Visited more of those mysterious ‘friends’ and checked into a bed and breakfast.

Friday June 20th – Drove back to Warsash. Entirely failed to find a Roman Villa on the way.

Saturday June 21st – Shopping at Fareham in the morning. Mum, Mary and brother went to a bazaar in the afternoon. Brother bought me back a ceramic dinosaur which was very nice of him.

Sunday June 22nd – Diary makes no mention of church, but what are the odds? Drove to Frieth for garden party with Uncle Fran and Sally. Played with hammock in garden afterwards. Then back to Warsash.

Monday June 23rd – Bought pages for postcard albums in Fareham, and ordered even more of them. Had clearly devolved into some kind of postcard fiends.

Tuesday June 24th – Off to Winchester for the ‘Domesday 900’ exhibition celebrating (funnily enough) 900 years since the creation of the Domesday Book. Located in Great Hall and featuring lots of wax figures in Norman robes. Very impressive wood carving of the entire Bayeux Tapestry (an artifact that appears to have entirely vanished from history). Admired round table then paintings of King Arthur in W.H.Smiths. Saw ‘a play’ – a reenacted medieval mummer’s play maybe?

Wednesday June 25th – Helped (more likely hindered) Dad cut down a tree in Mary and Doug’s garden.

Thursday June 26th – Drove to the Weald and Downland Museum. Thirty-one years too early for The Repair Shop. Very impressed by mushroom shaped staddle stones. Visited ‘friends’ in Burgess Hill again – who are these people?

Friday June 27th – Into Southsea for the D-Day Museum. Tapestry not as impressive as the wooden one, but liked the tank. Across to Southsea Castle where we toured the bomb-proof tunnels. Went to a dance in the evening where the crowds and music made me extremely grumpy.

Saturday June 28th – Off to a medieval fair at “Stilbing-ton” which I presume must have been Stubbington. Was picked out of crowd to be a ‘squire’ and follow a ‘knight’ around while wearing extremely heavy chainmail and a helmet. Watched the ox roast roast. Stopped off to pick strawberries on the way home, then the car broke down 100m from the house.

Sunday June 29th – Church in the morning. Sheila and Mike came for lunch. Brother cut finger in bathroom when lightbulb spontaneously exploded – it certainly had nothing to do with it being hit by a damp washcloth we were defintely not throwing around.

Monday June 30th – Back to Fareham to order more postcard album pages (this is getting ridiculous). Got Dad a shoebox for some reason and went to “the predinked” (what?) to get prawn crackers.

Tuesday July 1st – Drove up to London to pick up parcels. Lunch with Tony and Grandmadge at the Italian restaurant with the sorbets, then “watering the ‘club’ oval” (whatever the hell that’s meant to mean). Drove back from London.

Wednesday July 2nd – Had a swim in the pool next door and saw the Fujifilm Blimp.

Thursday July 3rd – Farwell party at Mary and Doug’s. I’d like to say who came but totally neglected to record it, probably due to end of holiday depression.

Friday July 4th – Sombre drive to Heathrow. Lunch at the airport then boarded plane for home. Sadness mitigated by the 1979 version of The Plank at which I laughed so hard the rest of the passengers were laughing at me. Stop offs at Abu Dhabi and Singapore before finally arriving back in Perth.

So that’s it. A holiday the likes of which it’s hard to imagine in these cash strapped (albiet somewhat less-irradiated) days. I’ve been back to the UK on my own several times since and revisited some of these places. I hope to do so again once the international situation stabilises. In particular I mean to find that stone and return it to Tintagel – I don’t know what I was thinking.


England ’86 – Part 2

Here is part two of my day by day summary of the UK holiday my family took in 1986 (back to part one). I’ve already covered our trips to various manor houses, ancient sites and relatives, and when I left off we were hunkered down next to James Blunt’s windmill in Cley Next the Sea waiting for the radiation cloud from Chernobyl to arrive. What wacky adventures will we have next?

Wednesday April 30 -In the morning went out on a boat to see seals, but had to look at a bunch of boring birds first (undoubtedly at the insistence of fanatical twitcher Uncle Fran). Did eventually see a gratifying number of seals. In the afternoon went to look for fossils in the cliffs. Spend a few hours trying to dig out an extremely long bone that in retrospect was probably a tree root.

Thursday May 1st – Left Cley to head back to Frieth, but not before taking photos of James Blunt’s lambs at James Blunt’s windmill. Stopped off at ruins of Binham Priory, Castle Acre Priory and Castle Acre Castle, the later of which was extremely uninteresting. Had lunch at a motorway-side Happy Eater.

Friday May 2nd – Went to Windsor. Toured the Madame Tussauds “Victoria and Empire” exhibition at the railway station which was mostly waxworks of Queen Victoria getting on and off trains. Then went to the castle where we discovered that the Keep was closed, as were the Royal Apartments. We were however able to look at Queen Mary’s dollhouse and the dungeons (later to become notorious for hosting an entirely fictional species of venomous spider). Finally – for some reason – we went shopping for door knockers.

Saturday May 3rd – Headed out to Uffington as the Chernobyl radiation cloud passed over the country. Mum wisely elected to stay in bed. Saw the White Horse from close up which is arguably the worst way to see it, then visited Wayland’s Smithy which my brother found extremely creepy (either radiation getting to him or traumatic memories of The Moon Stallion).

Sunday May 4th – Church in the morning. A noticeably short service (possibly the Priest wanted to get away quickly to buy iodine tablets). Back to Uncle Fran’s to pack up and head for London. On the way I felt sick (undoubtedly radiation poisoning) and we stopped at a roadside parking area surrounded by “all sorts of junk”. Arrived at Grandmadge’s in Palmers Green in time for lunch.

Monday May 5th – Planned to walk around London but was wet in Palmers Green. Went into London anyway to see if weather was better. It wasn’t. Walked around London anyway. Mobbed by pigeons at Trafalgar Square. Walked to Piccadilly Circus via Admiralty Arch then went home.

Tuesday May 6th – Headed to Madame Tussauds. Many jokes made about Bob Hawke belonging in the Chamber of Horrors (parents dyed-in-the-wool Liberal voters). Brother and I most impressed with ‘Slush Puppies’ in restaurant. Mum – obviously ill from all the radiation – fell asleep during the planetarium show.

Wednesday May 7th – Hit up the Tower of London. Many photos taken of Beefeater who looked just like family friend back in Australia. Viewed crown jewels, spent rest of day chanting “move along please” in monotone like the guards. Visited Tower Bridge and were inside exhibition when a ship went through. Were unable to get out of exhibition to see ship go through as power was diverted from the lifts to the bascules. Contented ourselves looking out window at vertical road surface.

Thursday May 8th – Went to the Natural History Museum. Exhausted parents by insisting on looking at every exhibit including a “spcele sustmy” with computer games in it (unsure what’s worse, my spelling or handwriting). Had lunch, went to see the spiders. Spotted Uncle Tony in Children’s Gallery after which parents had to apologise to a random man with a vague resemblance to Uncle Tony. Moved to the Science Museum. Had to drag Dad away from the warplane exhibit. Went on the earthquake simulator at the Geology museum and watched a simulated volcanic eruption before heading home.

Friday May 9th – Went to Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Was shocked that we were allowed into the Crypt and then just as shocked that the Crypt was not a maze of crumbling tunnels full of skeletons and cobwebs. Was very impressed with Christopher Wren’s model of the Cathedral and quite disappointed that the real one was so toned down in comparison. Climbed up to the Whispering Gallery then refused to go any higher. Andrew and Mum continued all the way to the top while Dad had to stay behind and make sure I didn’t plunge over the railings in a fit of vertigo. Left the Cathedral to get lunch but everywhere was closed. Continued to the Museum of London which turned out to have a restaurant. Ate soup and toured the museum. Went home and had dinner at Uncle Tony’s favourite Italian restaurant where they served sorbet in hollowed out citrus fruit (unarguably the best way to serve sorbet).

Saturday May 10th – Did nothing of interest except have fish and chips for dinner while Dad and Uncle Tony watched the FA Cup final (Liverpool v. Everton at Wembley. Liverpool won 3-1).

Sunday May 11th – Went to church then had ‘a boring day’. In the evening ‘a visitor’ arrived and we ‘showed her lots of things’ which is so cryptic it would fit into in a Dan Brown novel.

Monday May 12th – Picked up Grandmadge from her sister’s place where she had been ‘having a rest’ – presumably from two hyperactive step-grandchildren. Drove back to Warsash in the rain.

Tuesday May 13th – Went into Southampton and visited the museum in the Bargate. Lunch at the cafe in the Owen Owen department store. Walked along the wall to the Maritime Museum in the old Wool House. Hit up the Archeology museum and discovered one of the towers in the city wall has the same name as Dad. Convinced the museum to part with one of their only two maps of the walls and went to gawk at said tower. Gawked at ruins of Castle and went home.

Wednesday May 14th – Went into Fareham for haircuts at random barbers. Spent entire cut gazing in astonishment at “Willy Grooming Kit” openly displayed on counter. Particularly confused by inclusion of comb, having not yet reached puberty. Barber parted my hair and sprayed some kind of lacquer on it – went out of my way to mess it up as soon as we left. Mum dropped off camera bag for repair at a shop. Went squirrel spotting at Aunty Mary’s work but they were all scared off by the lingering scent of hair lacquer.

Thursday May 15th – Were meant to go to Arundel but brother was sick so did nothing except walk into the village to post letters. Dropped one on the way, found it on the way back so went back to post it. Looked around ‘Lots of Things’ – apparently a store in the village (did we use some kind of remote viewing to show it to the mysterious visitor on May 11th?)

Friday May 16th – Brother had recovered so to Arundel we went. Visited the world famous and quite morbid Potter’s Museum of Curiosities – I was particularly taken with the diprosopic lamb. Sated chronic sorbet addiction at lunch. Drove to mechanical music museum which for some reason Mum enjoyed much more than Potter’s. Bought a tape of steam organ music that was played incessantly for the rest of our stay in the country (I still know Offenbach’s Galop Infernal by heart). Drove to World War II airfield museum where brother and I got to test out a mechanical Spitfire simulator being constructed out of assorted junk by a couple of actual Spitfire pilots – in retrospect probably the coolest experience of the entire trip.

Saturday May 17th – Quiet day. Mum, brother and Aunty Mary went to do the flowers at Saint Margaret Mary’s but I – tired of providing unpaid labour – plead off as sick.

Sunday May 18th – My brother’s birthday. Party with all the relatives (after church, of course). Gifts included various Transformers and a postcard album, and the cake was a hedgehog with flake for spines and smarties for eyes.

Monday May 19th – Headed to Beaulieu. Took in the car museum including the “Wheels” ride-through exhibition on the history of cars. Most impressed with the future of cars which is (apparently) insect-legged pods on the moon. Played with the remote control cars and rode the monorail, which seemed an odd inclusion at a site devoted to the celebration of private transport. Visited the Abbey where a sign stated that the presence of ghostly monks could be detected by a smell of roses, placed right next to a giant bowl of potpourri. Listened to a steam calliope in the carpark and were handed passes to a free tour of a nearby stately home the next day.

Tuesday May 20th – Went to the free tour at Elmer’s Court which turned out to be a pitch for timeshares. Mum and Dad happily went through the entire presentation and tour of the facilities before telling the salesman that we were tourists from Australia and hence had no interest. Absolutely savage.

Wednesday May 21st – Drove up to London. Stopped for lunch at the Fleet Services on the M3 which – due to the bridge over the motorway – I thought was the most amazing place I’d ever seen.

Thursday May 22nd – Returned to the Natural History Museum to look at bats, then headed to the Houses of Parliament. Tried to see Westminster Hall but it was closed. Went to visit Westminster Abbey. It was closed. Decided to visit the Abbey Cloisters. They were closed. Cabinet War Rooms were open. Mum annoyed by brother and I bothering her while she listened to Churchill speeches. Stumbled over the Jewel Tower museum. Walked to Horse Guards then to Buckingham Palace.

Friday May 23rd – Got tube to Victoria Station then walked to Coach Station which was “dirty”. Had lunch there anyway. Boarded bus to Liverpool. Air conditioning and all but one TV broken. One working TV played Police Academy which I thought was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. Picked up in Liverpool by Aunty Jo (the Nun) who drove us – like a maniac – to the school for the blind of which she was principal.

Saturday May 24th – Packed a picnic lunch and headed for Wales. Forgot that it was a Bank Holiday weekend and hence every other person in Liverpool was also headed for Wales. Finally crept across the border after hours in traffic and pulled into the first layby we found. Ate our sandwiches in the drizzle and drove back to Liverpool. Spent several hours playing Robin of Sherwood in the bouncy play.

Sunday May 25th – After the inevitable church we drove to a manor house to see a flower show. Discovered it didn’t start until next week. Went to a different manor house that didn’t have a flower show but did have a miniature railway and a “disco bounce” (whatever that may be…). Did penance for disco bouncing by visiting an elderly Nun.

Monday May 26th – Bank Holiday. Went to Southport, bought some new bathers and had a game of croquet with the parents of a friend back in Australia.

Tuesday May 27th – Blackpool. So windy that my brother (a skinny child medically prescribed cooking chocolate to try and bulk him up) was almost blown away down the street. Lifts in Blackpool Tower weren’t working and (to my disgust) Mum and Dad refused to consider the stairs. Won 80p in a penny drop machine but could not resist the allure of greater riches and immediately lost it. Visited a “friend” who lived in some flats. Dropped in to the Formby red squirrel sanctuary on the way back where the opportunity to photograph a squirrel posing on a tree stump was ruined by a bunch of idiots who drove in with their radio blaring at full volume. SQUIRRELS DO NOT APPRECIATE FALCO!!

Wednesday May 28th – Drove cross country to York. Queued for an hour at the Jorvik Viking Centre, but were most impressed by the viking having a difficult time in the outhouse. Took in York Minster which was still being rebuilt after God smote it with a lightning bolt two years earlier. Examined the bosses designed by Blue Peter viewers. Went through the Castle Museum and climbed the mound to Clifford’s Tower. Bought a loaf of bread shaped like a hedgehog then drove back to Liverpool.

Thursday May 29th – Went into Liverpool where we visited both the “Cristen” and “ANGLEGEN” cathedrals (Anglicans, of course, famously not counting as “Cristens”). Had lunch in the cloisters then visited the Immigration Museum in the docks. Saw a barge.

Friday May 30th – Packed for Scotland and tried again for the flower show. This time it was actually there. Had a picnic by the nearby lake. Goodbye dinner with the Nuns.

End of Part Two! Check back soon to discover what pleasures and perils await in the bonny, freshly-irradiated glens of Scotland!


England ’86 – Part 1

Here follows the first part of a day by day summary of the trip my parents, brother and I made to the UK in 1986, culled from my diary and vague memories. I’m posting it mostly for my own convenience (what is a blog if not an online notebook?) but perhaps some others may find it momentarily distracting…

Friday March 21st to Saturday March 22st – Flying from Perth to London via Mumbai (or “Bombay” as it was called at the time). We bought fancy leather wallets decorated with the Taj Mahal at Mumbai airport (mine was pickpocketed before we even got back on the plane). Met by Mum’s family at Heathrow and driven to Aunty Mary and Uncle Doug’s place in Warsash.

Sunday March 23rd – Attended Palm Sunday Mass at Saint Mary Margaret’s at Park Gate

Monday March 24th – Shopping at Fareham. How exciting!

Tuesday March 25th – Trip into Southampton

Wednesday March 26th – Brother and I drive up the M3 to London with Uncle Tony. Stay with him and Grandmadge (Mum’s stepmother) in Palmer’s Green.

Thursday March 27th – Brother and I act as two of 800 altar servers at the Chrism Mass at Winchester Cathedral. Other 798 English altar servers harass us mercilessly because the hymns are sung to different tunes in Australia and we keep getting the notes wrong. I am also quite disappointed that Westminster Cathedral is not Westminster Abbey.

Friday March 28th – Good Friday Service, I presume at Saint Monica’s, Palmers Green.

Saturday March 29th – Driven back to Warsash by Uncle Tony. Take back roads rather than motorway and are hit by a vicious hailstorm. Back at Warsash attend Easter vigil mass even though I would rather be asleep. Sang like a crow in protest.

Sunday March 30th – Easter Sunday. Brother and I wake up early and look for eggs. Don’t find any because “they don’t do that in England”. In retrospect this is a damnable lie to cover for the parents forgetting to hide them. Pick up Aunty Jo (who is a nun – Oh, did I not mention Mum’s family are Catholics?) from Southampton Coach Station.

Monday March 31st – English relatives had kept back my birthday presents earlier in the year so we could have a fake birthday party for me today. Very gratifying. Hampton Court Palace catches on fire. Less gratifying.

Tuesday April 1st – Went to the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Learned the Butser Bill Song. Visited the Butser Ancient Farm where they were experimenting with smelting iron. Got a really cool looking piece of iron ore. Went to Portchester Castle, but the castle bit within the walls was closed. Saw a set of medieval spurs that had been dug up only a few days before.

Wednesday April 2nd – Went to Portsmouth to see what was left of the Mary Rose, which was not much and mostly obscured by water cannons. Then we “saw bamby”. I presume this means we went to the movies and saw Bambi, but I have no recollection of it.

Thursday April 3rd – Dropped Aunty Jo back at the Southampton coach station, then went to an art gallery. Found a shooting range set up in the back of a truck by “the Regiment”, presumably as a recruiting gimmick. I missed everything, Dad (an Airforce reservist) effortlessly hit every target.

Friday April 4th – Went to Winchester. Visited various Military Museums and then the Cathedral. Was very puzzled about how someone could swim beneath the cathedral to fix the foundations.

Saturday April 5th – Got up “at 2:00am” to arrange flowers at Saint Mary Margaret’s. I hope I was being sarcastic when I wrote that.

Sunday April 6th – Church at Saint Mary Margaret’s followed by a long walk on the beach where my brother found an intriguingly shaped stone.

Monday April 7th – Visited Fishbourne Roman Palace, followed by Arundel Castle. Annoyed the guide at Arundel by immediately identifying the ‘unicorn horn’ as coming from a narwhal and ruining his spiel. Was quite impressed by the stuffed owl from an extinct species, apparently not realising that it went extinct because people kept shooting it to stuff and put on display.

Tuesday April 8th – The Tudor House Museum in Southampton.

Wednesday April 9th -Spent some time sitting in a car looking for squirrels in “a long driveway”. I suspect this was the driveway at Aunty Mary’s work.

Thursday April 10thNetley Abbey, Netley Castle and what’s left of Netley Hospital (not much).

Friday April 11th – Got caught by snow at Stonehenge. Retreated to Old Sarum and then Salisbury Cathedral.

Saturday April 12th – Back at Saint Mary Margaret’s, cleaning the brass work (we didn’t get paid for any of this).

Sunday April 13th – Church (naturally). Lunch at Mary and Doug’s friends Sheila and Mike’s for their daughter Sarah’s birthday.

Monday April 14th – The Dorchester Dinosaur Museum. Impressed in equal part by the dinosaur bones and a computer (it was 1986, give me a break). Stopped into another museum to identify my brother’s rock. Conclusion… it’s a rock. Visited the Roman Townhouse. Now, I know that at one point we visited Maiden Castle, but my diary doesn’t mention it. Maybe it was on our previous UK trip a few years earlier?

Tuesday April 15th – Went to the New Forest Butterfly Farm. Bought Mum a keyring with a preserved scorpion in it because that’s the kind of thing small boys think is awesome. Visited Breamore house and saw the cursed portrait that kills anyone who touches it and hadn’t been cleaned in over a century. Was terrified that Dad would volunteer to dust it.

Wednesday April 16th – Drove to Burgess Hill to visit ‘friends’. This is the first of several entries about going out of our way to visit ‘friends’. These were all people Mum and Dad happened to know but anyone reading the diary could easily assume we were involved in some kind of cult.

Thursday April 17th – Visited Broadlands House. Decided that a hidden movie theatre is the ultimate home accessory.

Friday April 18th – Drove to Wells via the Pelican pub at Serrington. Saw the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace where the swans are trained to ring a bell when they want food (which must get bloody annoying). Continued on to Cheddar Gorge where my brother saw a sign warning of falling rocks and spent the rest of the drive cowering in his seat with his arms over his head. Visited various caves and their associated tourist traps. Was not impressed by one of the caves having a concreted floor.

Saturday April 19th – Drove to Bath. Stopped at the Pelican in Serrington again which quite freaked out the staff who (it being 1986) had no convenient Bill Murray movie to reference. In Bath we started at the Georgian Pump House where we got to try the water (which was utterly foul). Visited the Roman Baths museum, then the Baths themselves, then the costume museum which Mum loved and I found extremely boring. Walked around town to see the Circus, the Royal Crescent, the bridge with shops on it and the Abbey which has angels climbing ladders carved on the front. Finally we hit up the toy museum which the oldies enjoyed even more that my brother and I did.

Sunday April 20th – Church of course. Then an auction in the Parish Hall where we tried to buy an “owl hand pointing” whatever that may be. Got a phone call from Radio Devon who we’d previously spoken to about finding some relatives down that way. I presume they had found some.

Monday April 21st – Trailed all around Fareham trying to buy plaster of paris for some reason.

Tuesday April 22nd – Visited Titchfield Abbey which was crawling with school kids (who let them in?). Then drove to visit the Bishop’s Palace at Bishop’s Waltham, but it was closed.

Wednesday April 23rd – Left Warsash to go and stay with Uncle Fran and his wife Sally in Frome.

EDIT: It turns out Uncle Fran actually lived in Frieth which makes some of the places we visited while staying with him much more sensible

Took in Avebury along the way where parents insisted we waste a whole load of time looking at the Manor House instead of visiting every single standing stone and Silbury Hill which was my preference.

Thursday April 24th – Drove to the Bekonscot Model Village, and then took in Stonor on the way back to Frieth.

Friday April 25th – Visited Hampton Court, which had suffered a major fire on my fake birthday a few weeks earlier. This didn’t bother me as all I was interested in was the maze. Watched some people play Royal Tennis. Around midnight UK time – while we were tucked up in bed back in Frieth – some engineers in the Ukrainian SSR carried out a very poorly planned safety test on a nuclear reactor at some place named ‘Chernobyl’.

Saturday April 26th – Assisted Uncle Fran in laying paving slabs in his garden, then went for a walk in the woods to see a badger sett. Over in the Ukrainian SSR the worst nuclear disaster in human history continued on its merry way.

Sunday April 27th – Skipped church. Haha, who am I kidding? After church visited Sally’s grandmother then went to Whipsnade Zoo, of which I have absolutely no memory. We then visited the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, which was a major disappointment in every way.

Monday April 28th – The Soviet Union broke its silence on Chernobyl. Rather than wait for the radiation to come to us in Buckinghamshire we drove off to meet it at Uncle Fran’s other house in Norfolk. Took shelter underground at Grimes Graves, then stumbled over the rather amateurish Iceni Village at Cockley Cley. Finally arrived at Uncle Fran’s house at Cley Next the Sea right next to James Blunt’s windmill.

Tuesday April 29th – Went in to Norwich. Visited the Cathedral and the Castle Museum where they apparently had dragons. Appropriately we went on to have dinner at the George and Dragon back in Cley, where I imagine the conversation centred around iodine tablets.

End of Part One! Check back soon for more radiation soaked adventures in Thatcher’s Britain!


Family and Friends and Nuclear Apocalypse

White people in a white room…

At 80’s end did Channel 9,
A brand new drama show decree,
With plots to rival Ramsey Street,
Knock Summer Bay from off its seat,
Atop the ratings tree,
And there was Abigail there, and Rachael Beck,
And Alyce Platt to act did try,
And starlets eyeing record cheques,
To catch the viewing public’s eye…

Back in the year 1990 Australia’s Nine Network was getting a bit miffed about rival TV stations capturing all the ratings with their popular soap operas Neighbours (Channel 10) and Home and Away (Channel 7). So they did the only logical thing and decided to launch their own soap, a saga about rival Anglo and Italian Australian families with a Romeo and Juliet style forbidden romance named Family and Friends.

(Channel 10 also had E Street, but more about that later)

The advertisements for Family and Friends mostly consisted of the cast standing in a white room gurning at the camera, but they managed to capture my attention nonetheless by the simple expedient of playing Kate Ceberano’s Brave over the top, which was – and still is – a fantastic song, as you discover for yourself below.

They did not of course incline me to watch the show, teenaged me having far more interesting things to do with my time, and it seems their effect was similarly poor on the rest of the Australian population as the series turned out to be a ratings disaster, surviving only three months before being axed – its cast dispersing to roles on its rival soaps and leaving the saga of the Rossi and Chandler families forever incomplete.

This impressively stark failure however sparked an idea in my mind, an idea that has lurked in the deepest caverns of my memory for over 30 years. An example of what the young people today would refer to as ‘trolling’ although back in the ancient days of the 90s we would have simply called ‘a prank’, and it is this idea I share with you today.

Create a brand new soap. Hire staff and writers and a cast, get production underway, and start a major advertising campaign about the hottest new drama series to hit the airwaves – possibly using a Kate Ceberano song to catch people’s attention if you think that’ll help.

Premiere the series and let it run with the standard kinds of plots you find on the streets of Erinsborough or the sands of Summer Bay. Build up an audience (hopefully) and get established as a part of the TV landscape.

Then after four or five months, with absolutely no warning, have – in the space of a single episode – World War III break out, the town get nuked and everyone die, followed by an announcement that that was the last ever episode.

Yes, it would be an incredibly expensive prank to pull, and – particularly in our modern age – difficult to keep a lid on before it happened, but can you imagine peoples’ reactions? The viewers’ heads would implode!

Anyway, the reason I mention all of this is because I recently became aware of the final episode of British TV series Byker Grove, a teen drama set in the northern English city of Newcastle, which finished up in 2006.

This man is a Geordie

(I was vaguely aware of Byker Grove prior to this thanks to occasional online references to the startling facial hair of one of the characters, but couldn’t have told you anything else about it. Oh, and it’s apparently the origin of Ant and Dec, who I understand are like a British version of Hamish and Andy, and equally as annoying, for whatever that’s worth.)

Anyway, it seems that someone at the Byker Grove production offices back in 2006 was having thoughts about TV finales similar to my own, as the final episode of the show featured the cast realising that they’re characters on a fictional TV show, an attack by a tyranosaurus rex, a Neverending Story style nothingness consuming the world, and a last ditch “save the youth club from the developers” plot which culminates in said youth club blowing up, killing everyone who hadn’t yet been eaten by the dinosaur or consumed by the void. Now THAT’s television!

I don’t think anything on Australian TV has ever come close to that level of blatant and wonderful insanity, although the final couple of seasons of the aforementioned E Street had their moments (see, I said we’d come back to it). In an attempt to prop up falling ratings the writers introduced such elements as werewolves, angels and a psychic serial killer named “Mr Bad” – which shamefully just isn’t the kind of thing you see in Neighbours these days. I mean what’s Harold up to? Is he even still in the show? Could they bring him back as a Vampire? Now that would get me watching!

And to finish off with here’s the song Wait by Gyan which I include because it came out about the same time as Kate Ceberano’s Brave and I always used to get the two confused, and it’s a great song, and I have no other idea how to end this post.


The shape of the Australian continent and its position on the globe means that Perth summers are plagued by hot winds from the east.

A high pressure system halts its drift eastwards over the shallow waters of the vast bight that cuts into the continent’s southern edge. Its anti-clockwise winds sweep out across the Tasman Sea, swing north, then west, crossing the Queensland coast laden down with heat and moisture from the tropical waters of the Coral Sea.

Continuing west they encounter the ancient line of the Great Dividing Range, whose complex ridges and plateaus wring out the moisture like a fist squeezing a sponge. The warm, dry air rolls down the far side of the range into the vast plains of the interior. As the wind continues westwards the land becomes dryer and drier until it transitions into the red-dirt deserts of the continent’s dead heart.

The wind races across the Tanami desert of the Northern Territory and crosses the Western Australian border into the Gibson, soaking up heat from the burning land and blazing sun. It starts to swing southwards, passing out of the deserts and across the Wheatbelt, rattling the kernels on their stalks, and ascending the gentle rear slope of the Darling Escarpment before finally cresting the ridge and falling upon the city, bringing all the heat of the central deserts with it.

As long at the high pressure system remains in the bight the easterly wind grows stronger, hotter and more northerly until the city – buffeted by scorching gales – bakes in temperatures in excess of 40 centigrade. But eventually the pressure behind the high grows too great and it grinds back into motion, resuming its eastwards course. The winds shift dead north, fading away to nothing, then return from the south, cooler but laden down with moisture from the Southern Ocean, and the city perspires until the humidity fades, a new high moves into the bight, and the cycle begins again.

My primary school (elementary school for Americans and other aliens) stood on top of a hill with the parish church at one end of the block, separated from the years one to three classrooms by a narrow gap, leading to the grotty old toilet block and the long grassy slope down to the school oval. A concrete pathway hugged the school side of this gap, the rest was theoretically grassed, but the baking summer sun and the regular passage of hundreds of juvenile feet meant that it was usually a morass of hard baked sand and stone shards. The gap was oriented south east and when the summer easterlies got going it formed a perfect wind tunnel, scouring the bitumen assembly yard at the school’s front with gale force furnace blasts, laden with grit from the exposed ground.

So it happened that one baking summer day my best friend Gerald (stress on the second syllable please) and I were perched on the low wall surrounding the church, just in front of the gap. We were about nine years old and the easterly was howling through, pelting us with sand – but sitting in the wind felt slightly cooler than sitting in the still, baked air of the verandah or lunch area. We were discussing whatever it was that nine year old boys discussed in the mid 1980s when I felt a sudden, intense, stinging pain in my left foot.

Looking down I beheld a tiny wasp – no more than five millimeters long, pinned by the wind against one of the leather straps of my school uniform mandated sandal. As it struggled to free itself it raised its abdomen and plunged its stinger into my foot for a second time.

I swatted it away and – not being a particularly robust child – immediately burst into tears, crying and wailing at both the pain in my foot and the brutality of the universe in general.

Gerald helped me limp across the assembly yard to the school office where we expected to find Mrs Marsh – the school secretary – who could always be relied on for a sympathetic ear no matter how ridiculous our problems. Instead we found Mrs Billington the school principal, who on being informed of my dilemma immediately lowered herself somewhat in my opinion by asking if I’d got the sting out, despite my clearly stating that I had been stung by a wasp.

Entomological ignorance aside I was soon furnished with a cold drink, some anti-inflamatory cream and a bandaid and was allowed to lie down in the sick room for a while, which is really all a healthy nine year old requires when stung by a microscopic insect.

So that is the story of the only time I have ever been stung by a wasp.

Don’t Say Suicide

NOTE: This post discusses issues of suicide and self harm. If this may be triggering or upsetting for you, please feel free not to read any further. If you feel like you need help in this area then please contact a crisis line for assistance

OTHER NOTE: I AM FINE! This post is about stuff that happened at high school many (far too many!) years ago. While I am certainly no paragon of mental health, I am not in any kind of distress and am not contemplating any kind of self harm. I just feel like discussing some high school memories in my usual irreverent manner. Thank you for any concern, it is appreciated but I assure you quite unwarranted!

One particular year back in high school everyone suddenly seemed very concerned about suicide. I don’t know if there was a particular event that triggered this concern, I certainly can’t recall any of my fellow students attempting self harm, although to be fair it was not the kind of thing that would be openly discussed in the early 90s and I was not sufficiently connected to the school’s gossip network to pick up any rumours. Possibly it came down as a dictate from the Catholic Education Department, perhaps triggered by an incident at another school or as some kind of reaction to the rising popularity of Grunge music. In any case, without warning all our Religious Education classes suddenly switched to telling us why trying to kill ourselves would be considered a very bad move, both personally and spiritually.

Now, this in itself was no bad thing. No one could seriously suggest that trying to prevent teenagers from harming themselves is problematic. What puzzled my friends and I at the time however – and continues to puzzle me to this day – was the very strange way the anti-suicide message was presented. Whether this was due to the powers that be having to quickly come up with materials, some odd strictures of the Catholic church, or simply someone in an important position suffering from a chronic case of Dunning–Kruger is a mystery that will probably never be solved.

According to the information presented to us, teenagers attempted suicide for one of two reasons…

1: As an attention seeking strategy

2: As a means of revenge against people who (they feel) are mean to them

…and as such all the anti-suicide material we received was aimed at showing us how self-harm was an ineffective method for dealing with either problem.

For instance, in the first case, we could end up dead! Think about that! Our attempts at drawing attention to ourselves by taking a bottle full of pills, or cutting our wrists, or jumping in front of a train ran a very real risk of killing us! We didn’t want to end up DEAD did we? Of course not!

The second case was best illustrated by an anti-suicide video apparently obtained from the United States. It started with an angsty looking teen standing in a black void angrily making statements like “That’ll show them! They never appreciated me! Well now I’ve got the last laugh! Hah! They’re going to feel so bad now!” And then a deep voice, trying to sound – I seem to remember – like James Earl Jones but not quite succeeding, came out of the void and asked “Well what now?”. The teen, still seething with self-righteous anger, asked “What?”. The voice asked again “What will you do now?”. The teen looked shocked and stuttered “I… I don’t know…”.

While we considered the metaphysics of this, the video continued into a documentary about a second rank hair-metal-band who felt they had to do something about the ‘suicide problem’ among teens, so recorded a song called Don’t Say Suicide. They talked at length about how important the song was and how it would help prevent kids from self-harm – they even went into detail about how a teenager rang up a radio station and asked them to play his favourite song because he wanted to hear it before he killed himself, and the DJ played Don’t Say Suicide instead and the teen called up afterwards to say the song had changed his mind, and the band felt really great about that!

The tone of the piece was very strange. It seemed to veer between suicide prevention, a band-promo and a whole bunch of humble-bragging. At the end it cut back to the teenager in the black void, realising that he’d made a mistake and was now stuck in the black void forever. Whoops!

All of this education about why killing yourself was not a good way to get either attention or revenge was capped off with a reminder that suicide was a mortal sin, so if you did it you’d go to hell for all eternity – which is presumably that black void where not-James-Earl-Jones would question your choices until the end of time. So don’t do it kids!

The inanity of all this was best summed up by a friend of mine who sitting in art class after one of these R.E. sessions posed the question “What if you want to die just because you’re really tired?”. Our carefully administered regime of suicide-proofing provided no answer to this at all.

I guess out teachers did their best to address a difficult subject with the materials presented to them, but even at the time we students could see the inadequacies of the program. I sincerely hope that no student across the education system suffered because of them – although it’s almost certain that they did. And I presume that today’s schools recognise that self-harm and suicide are complex issues requiring more than sitting students down in front of a video of a hair metal band and threatening them with eternal damnation to solve.

(The friend who posed the question in art class is still with us, and turned out fine, just in case you were worried.)

When writing these kinds of posts I generally make it a practice to write down what I remember first, then check the actual historical details. As such I have now determined that contrary to my recollections, it was not an obscure hair-metal band that recorded Don’t Say Suicide but (apparently) well known Christian rock musician Rick Cua.

The song is simultaneously catchier and more religious that I remember, neither of which is surprising considering I only heard it once almost 30 years ago.

‘Tective Man a Say, Say Daddy me Snow me What?? – The Tales of The Geek Underclass Soundtrack Part 3

And so finally we come to the third and last volume of the Tales of the Geek Underclass soundtrack. You may wish to check out Part 1 and Part 2, or just plunge onward and try to figure out what’s going on from context alone (good luck…)

21: The Stutter Rap – Morris Minor and the Majors – 1988

Religious education was of course a major component of our time at high school – probably no more so than in year eight when we were still young, impressionable and generally dazed and confused from our transition out of primary education. As such the year eight RE curriculum was focused very heavily on Catholic doctrine, aiming to get as much of it as possible wedged into our brains before we could get oriented enough to develop some kind of resistance. One unit in particular concentrated on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude… uh… Splendour… errr… Industry and… Pierre Barthès?

In any case towards the end of this unit we were broken into groups and ordered to prepare a song highlighting said gifts for performance later in the week. Ryan and myself found ourselves teamed up with Abraham Blemmy, and – for lack of any better idea – the three of us got to work rewriting the lyrics of the previous year’s smash novelty hit Stutter Rap by Tony Hawks MBE.

It was not the greatest thing ever written. Much of it consisted of swapping words out for more religious ones – “Church” for “Club” and “Bible” for “Bottle” for instance. Then we whacked three hastily composed verses about the Holy Spirit onto the end and called it a day, assuming the success of our performance assured by the fact that Ryan had the song on cassette single, allowing us to play the distinctive intro riff before hastily hitting the STOP button and launching into our own version.

I don’t recall much about the performance, but have a feeling it was well received, probably because three nerds humiliating themselves by doing a piss-poor parody of a pretty good parody of the Beastie Boys was likely the funniest thing anyone had seen all week.

22: Girl’s Life – Girlfriend – 1992

It was rule that all of our schoolwork had to kept in a large lever-arch file. In something that was either a bold statement of rebellion or – more likely – sheer laziness, I would rarely if ever actually clip my papers in, I’d just shove them between whatever papers were already in there. I also never bothered to add any kind of protective or decorative cover on the folder – it remained bare, increasingly distressed, cardboard. As such my file become a notorious menace.

In English Lit one day Lauren Alighieri decided to take matters into her own hands and made me promise to add a cover to it. To get me started she pulled out a promotional flyer for Australia’s proto-Spice Girls, Girlfriend. “Do you like them?” she asked.

On the basis that, a) I thought they were kind of hot, and b) I would have said I liked fresh dog turd on toast if Lauren had suggested it, I replied “Well, they’re OK“. Lauren immediately grabbed a glue stick and stuck the flyer to the inside of the file.

I had a fair bit of explaining to do to my friends about why I was suddenly walking around with the least credible and least manly pop group since the Backstreet Boys decorating my schoolwork – at least until I ripped it out and covered the entire file with riveted metal plating made from olive oil tins instead.

I still have that file somewhere. I also still have a deep seated dislike for Girlfriend’s insipid pop music, but here there are on the soundtrack nonetheless.

23: Everything About You – Ugly Kid Joe – 1991

I found Ugly Kid Joe’s novelty ‘hate song’ very enjoyable, particularly the first verse where Whitfield Crane explains that he despises every possible location a person could visit – which was a pretty good summing up of my attitude to family trips at the time. Ryan however seemed to prefer their grunge influenced cover of the Harry Chapin classic Cats in the Cradle – or at least he’d randomly screech “MY BOY – WAS JUST LIKE ME!!” for years afterwards.

24: Infomer – Snow – 1993

Like everyone else in 1993 we were captivated trying to figure out what the hell Canadian rapper Snow was talking about. Something about Nana Mouskouri going ‘blam’? And ‘lecky boom boom’? Anyway it was catchy as hell no matter what he was jabbering.

Mark actually bought me a copy of the cassette single, which I suspect was a low key attempt to convert me to whatever slightly odd variety of Christianity his family practiced. As a result I am not only familiar with Informer, but with the B-Side Lonely Monday Morning, which is basically just Informer slowed down with a different chorus. Such variety!

25: The Grease Megamix – 1991

‘Megamixes’ were a thing in the 90s. They were a cheap way to manufacture a hit song by taking all the good bits from a bunch of vaguely related tracks and slapping them over a drum machine. The genre was pioneered in 1981 with Stars on 45, but it was the success of Jive Bunny and the Mixmasters and their 1940s themed Swing the Mood in 1989 that resurrected the idea for the ’90s.

As such it was inevitable that the release of Grease on home video would see the creation of a megamix. And what a megamix! It dominated the charts for weeks and was the third highest selling Australian single for the whole of 1991.

It was fun, it was catchy, and most of all it meant you could enjoy the music of Grease without having to actually suffer through watching Grease.

26: Joyride – Roxette – 1991

I make no apologies for Roxette being one of my favourite bands of the 90s. Their songs rocked then, their songs still rock now, and I will fight any man who says differently!

(Well, maybe apart from The Big L, I mean that one’s not great…)

Strangely I remember Joyride as their first big hit, but research indicates that it was just about their last. Maybe I was just very late getting on the bandwagon.

27: I’m Free – The Soup Dragons – 1990

While we generally held dance music in disdain we could recognise a good jam when we heard it. This track definitely qualified, probably because it was originally a Rolling Stones song.

28: Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 1991

You couldn’t get away from this track back in ’91. It was another that we composed a parody to, this one about one of our less effective teachers. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a teacher, I just sit here and talk to my best friend…

The Chili Peppers toured Perth the following year and numerous girls in Justin and my physics class were quite excited to see them, particularly since they were known for performing wearing only a single sock each. “Where!?” commented a scandalised Justin. “Where would you put a sock if that’s all you had to wear, man?” I asked him by way of explanation.

29: December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) – The Four Seasons/Ben Liebrand – 1993

This remix was a huge hit in our final year at high school. I particularly remember it being played on the year 12 retreat at Jarrahdale – presumably on cassette since radio reception down that way was notoriously horrible.

30: Last Train to Trancentral – The KLF – 1991

It is difficult to convey how much we geeks idolised, nay, worshipped the KLF. Their smash hit album The White Room was like holy scripture to us. We sang it. We quoted it. We ascribed strange powers to it, like the time the sign at the Home of Peace retirement village lit up one evening just as the line “…war and peace…” from Church of the KLF came sliding out of the car stereo. I memorised the rap (inaccurately as it turns out) from the Stand By the Jams version of Justified and Ancient and would recite it at such speed that it resembled speaking in tongues to try and impress girls (this never worked). We pondered the mysteries locked within Justin’s unplayable copy of History of the Jams, made efforts to obtain a copy of the aborted White Room movie and even christened Justin’s land rover The Justified.

We regarded Last Train to Trancentral as the greatest of the Stadium House Trilogy, not just because of the music, but because of the awesome model train layout (or in Justin’s case Wanda Dee) in the video.



Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

31: Two Princes – The Spin Doctors -1991

The Spin Doctors had a sizable hit with Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, then followed it up with this even bigger hit. It cropped up repeatedly during our high school years, Mark discussing the lyrics in art class, Justin arguing that the video clip mocked overweight people, and being played towards the end of the graduation ball, during which we geeks mostly sat around a table slamming back cola and watching everyone else dance.

32: Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen – 1975

The Geek Underclass soundtrack would not be complete without Queen’s classic rock-ballad-opera-anthem-epic.

Everyone was a bit unsure about Queen. I mean, they were a gay band right? If you listened to Queen you might be gay – or be thought to be gay, which was something we geeks suffered through on a daily basis anyway and didn’t want any more of. We all changed our minds however in 1992 when the combination of Freddie Mercury’s passing and the song’s appearance in Wayne’s World rocketed it back up to the top of the charts for weeks on end and we all realised just what we were missing.

Apart from Satanic Shaun Bettar of course. He didn’t care if Freddy Mercury “wanted to break free”, he simply refused to acknowledge that anything lighter than Metallica could be considered rock music. But hey, that just meant there was more Queen for the rest of us.

And so we come to the end of the Tales of the Geek Underclass soundtrack. Thirty Two songs (assuming I’ve counted them right) that sum up my weird, strange, horrible and awesome high school years. There were many more tracks that could have been included, but I think these ones provide the best impression of that crazy half decade. Peace out, be excellent to each other and make mine a 99!

All the Russians Wanna Rock – The Tales of The Geek Underclass Soundtrack Part 2

Welcome to the second part of the theoretical soundtrack to the Tales of the Geek Underclass! If you haven’t read it already you may want to head back to Part One – otherwise, enjoy!

12: Sacrifice – Elton John – 1989

About halfway through our high school careers the elderly and hardly ever seen school Chaplain was replaced by the young and dynamic Father Jack. He was about as cool as any Catholic priest could hope to be, which was probably down to him being a Franciscan (all Franciscans harbour a touch of anarchy in their hearts) and his taking his dog with him everywhere, even up on the altar at school masses. We geeks ended up sharing a cabin with him on the year 12 retreat, which was certainly better than having to bunk down in the dorm with all the jocks.

One thing he did seem to miss the boat on though was the meaning of Elton John’s song Sacrifice. He played this incessantly at school religious events, linking it with Jesus’s crucifixion. Unfortunately it’s actually a song about infidelity and relationship breakdown. Not such a great choice there Father!

13: Momma’s Gotta Die Tonight – Body Count – 1992

Mr Feverson, the school art teacher, liked playing music in class. This generally varied between classical works such as Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess and tracks from a ‘self-esteem’ CD he apparently thought suitable for the edification of teenagers rather than kindergarten children who might actually feel encouraged rather than talked down to by a song titled My Magic Brain.

I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances that lead to him authorising a student to play Body Count’s Momma’s Gotta Die Tonight. He stood by the CD player with an interested expression as the song began, an expression that became increasingly troubled as Ice-T rapped about discovering his mother was a racist. By the time Ice was beating his mother to death with a baseball bat Mr Feverson’s face was drawn and pale, and when it got to distributing her body parts all over the United States he looked ready to either burst into tears or pass out.

Personally I found the song to be so ridiculously over the top as to be hilarious. I can’t imagine seeing one of his students laughing hysterically at this sordid tale of matricide made Mr Feverson’s day any easier.

14: Jesus Was Way Cool – King Missile – 1990

Similarly bought in and played by a student was this meditative piece by King Missile. It was in Mr Eggar’s Religious Education class in 1993, our senior year. At the start of said year Mr Eggar had informed us that he didn’t believe in forcing religion down people’s throats so he would teach us whatever we needed to pass any tests and otherwise we should treat his classroom as a place to hang out, catch up on any study or homework we were lagging behind on, and generally just do whatever we wanted as long as it didn’t disrupt our fellow students. Forget Jesus, Mr Eggar was way cool.

One day someone bought in King Missile’s album and asked to play this song. Mr Eggar allowed it and we listened. We all agreed that it was pretty cool, and then asked Mr Eggar if we could play King Missile’s other well known track Detachable Penis.

Mr Eggar jumped up like he’d been shot and grabbed the CD player, stating that with ‘Fruitbat’ Romero as Principal there was no way in Hades he could allow us to play such a song. He maintained this line firmly despite much begging and my own explanation that the song was “just another way of looking at life” – a statement even I found puzzling as soon as it left my mouth.

15: So Far Away – Dire Straits – 1985

For reasons I can only attribute to the fact that their music is so damn good, Ryan and I became massive Dire Straits fans in high school. This was decidedly uncool – while the other kids were listening to Nevermind and Blood Sugar Sex Magic we were grooving to Brothers in Arms and swapping pirated tapes of On Every Street (my sloppy handwriting making My Parties look like My Panties was the source of great merriment, particularly as I’d filled up some left over space on the cassette with Single Handed Sailor). We’d challenge each other to identify Straits songs by their lyrics – Ryan notably baffling me by quoting The Blues (a rare track that I didn’t rate so much).

Dire Straits were also called into action when a couple of our geeky comrades forgot to bring in examples of ballads for English class. I happened to have Money For Nothing on me that day so Adam was assigned Tunnel of Love, while I managed to come up with a somewhat convincing argument for Walk of Life for Mark.

As such the soundtrack would not be complete without a contribution from Mr Knopfler, and what better than this classic tale of loneliness?

16: Jukebox in Siberia – Skyhooks – 1990

By 1990 glam rockers Skyhooks were looking rather worse for wear, but they managed to pull themselves together enough to commemorate the thawing of Russian relations with this hit novelty track.

We geeks had a somewhat mixed relationship with it – it should have been terrible on every level, but the the lyrics were pretty clever and the tune was really annoying catchy. We compromised by singing along with slightly altered lyrics – Jukebox in Siberia! A pain in the posterior!

17: Just the way it is Baby – The Rembrandts – 1991

Every time I hear this song it takes me back to the summer of 1991-1992, lying on my bed in my newly cleaned bedroom, listening to the radio and reading a graphic novel adaption of Dragons of Winter Night with the sun streaming in the windows and the entire school holidays in front of me.

18: You Could Be Mine – Guns n’ Roses – 1991

Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II both came out in 1991 and were regarded as almost holy artifacts when one of the bogans bought copies of them with him to the year 11 retreat at Jarrahdale. The obvious track to feature would be the awesome November Rain – particularly after Fabian spent hours and hours transcribing the violins by ear to reproduced them in a tracker program, but I’m instead featuring the decidedly second rate You Could Be Mine simply because Satanic Shaun Bettar almost punched me in the face when I mistakenly attributed it to Metallica during a discussion about Terminator 2 in art class.

19: To Be With You – Mr Big – 1991

Desperate efforts were made during the year 11 Jarrahdale retreat to try and pick up a Perth radio station for some decent music (the bogans refusing to yield either Use Your Illusion for general consumption). Fiddling with the aerial eventually picked up a crackly and distorted signal long enough to listen to Mr Big’s To Be With You and Zucchero and Paul Young’s Senza una Donna before it faded back into static.

20: What’s Up? – 4 Non Blondes – 1993

The current generation tend to know this as the HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA song, but back in 1993 we were blown away by the astonishing vocals (and most impressive hat) of Linda Perry.

So there we go. Be sure to check back soon for the third and final installment of the Tales of the Geek Underclass Soundtrack!

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