Boris Johnson, My Part in his Downfall

It happened again last night.  There I was, fast asleep at two o’clock in the morning when I was awakened by the sound of a small stone tapping against the window.  I was, of course, suspicious.  Small stones don’t tend to tap themselves against windows.  They require assistance.  I turned on my bedside lamp, put on my slippers and picked up the emergency cricket bat I always keep on hand in case of intruders, before walking to the front door.  I gripped the handle.  I gritted my teeth.  I flung open the door and was confronted by the unholy sight of Boris Johnson.

Without hesitation, I used my cricket bat to give him an absolute thrashing.  As he whimpered, ‘It’s me!  Boris!’ over and over and over again; it never dawned on him that he was being beaten precisely because he was Boris Johnson and not as a result of mistaken identity.  After tiring, I threw the cricket bat to one side and let him come in. He thanked me profusely and scurried inside before perching on the couch, at which point he started rocking back and forth.

There’s no point denying it – for some time now I’ve been giving Boris Johnson advice.  It is not going well.  He emailed me after seeing my ad in the Western Port Times, offering strategic guidance on geo-political matters and basic grooming.  We skyped each other shortly afterwards and, after catching sight of the man, I’ll admit I viewed it as something of a personal challenge.  However, I’ve begun to regret ever agreeing to help, as he seems determined to turn even the sagest of advice into an unmitigated disaster that makes the Hindenberg look like a minor fender bender.

Gripping his knees and rolling back and forth, he began to mumble.  ‘It’s breakfast,’ he whispered.  Not again, I thought.  ‘Look, I’m happy to walk you through the toaster once more but this is the last time….’  His head snapped up, his red, tear-stained cheeks began to puff. ‘No, no, no!’ he wailed. ‘Not breakfast.  ‘Brexit.’  I’ll admit that made more sense.  Boris and I had agreed weeks earlier to abandon the toaster in favour of an ‘Up and Go’ to avoid confusion.  He explained to me that he’d just been required to return to work against his will.  I suspected it was not the first time this has happened to him.

‘I’m having an absolutely beastly time,’ he explained.  ‘I tried to prorogue Parliament, just like you suggested, but the Supreme Court said it was blooming well out of order!’  My heart sank.  I asked him which imbecile had been so mentally bankrupt so as to suggest cancelling Parliament before he looked at me from beneath his blonde mop and said, ‘It was your idea.’  Incensed, I looked around for my cricket bat before the penny dropped. ‘I never said prorogue.  Not in a million years would I suggest something so totally stupid.’  He looked hurt and began shaking his head. 

I realized then that, when last we spoke, I had cleared my throat in such a way that, to a dimwitted mature-age Etonian, it may have sounded something like the word ‘prorogue’.  Then again, it would also have sounded a little like ‘Poroit’, but I don’t see him growing a little moustache and speaking in a Belgian accent – after all, not speaking in a Belgian accent is kind of what the whole Brexit thing is about.  Besides, the only mystery that needs solving right now is how a giant cabbage patch kid managed to take something that was broken and bust it up beyond recognition.  In the same way that someone might decide to fix a flat tyre by setting fire to the entire car, so too has Boris managed to louse things up; in spite of my excellent advice.

‘What should I do now?’ he whimpered, a hangdog expression sitting on his face like a wet towel.  Desperately keen to move beyond the reach of those European overlords who, according to Boris, were being ‘quite beastly about the whole thing’, the answer was obvious – tow Britain out to sea.  Forget negotiating an exit deal; those bureaucratic thanatoids will struggle to find the UK much less cut a deal with it.

I could see he was thinking it over because his lips were moving.  ‘But what about Ireland?’ he eventually asked, probably for the first time ever in his entire adult life.  I leaned in. ‘Exactly,’ I answered. Granted, towing the old island out to sea might seem a bit like running away, but I told Boris he should think of it more like doing a runner at a restaurant after being served a lousy meal.  But as he mulled things over – which he did by rolling his eyes around and groaning, I told him to think about the consequences of leaving.

Indeed, leaving the European Union might be the single biggest over-reaction to getting rolled at Eurovision since Dustin the Turkey got trounced in 2008.  But Boris seems determined.  It’s just that he doesn’t seem to be much else other than determined.  It’s probably not enough.  To say nothing of re-imposing an Irish border without any consideration of the consequences. By now, I’d had enough of Boris. Using a muffin to lure him outside, I then shooed him away with a broom handle.  Last I saw, he was galloping away on all fours, chasing random cars and barking at the moon.  Hopefully, that’s the last I’ll see of him.  

The Eastern Freeway is the Eighth Wonder of the World

I’ve had enough.  The groundswell of cynicism, the avalanche of snide remarks; it’s simply too much.  That people react to joyous news with such unbridled skepticism and unquenchable scorn is a dark stain on humanity’s shriveled soul.  Enough!  I, for one, won’t stand for it.  I renounce every snippy remark and piece of poisonous commentary and declare that I am over-the-moon happy.  Whereas others greet the news that part of the Eastern Freeway is being considered for heritage listing with a spray of invective, I say ‘about time’.

I mean, seriously, what took them so long?  Who hasn’t been stuck in traffic waiting on the off-ramp to Punt Road and been overwhelmed by the wonder, the beauty and pure concrete grandeur that is the Eastern Freeway? Frankly, a heritage listing doesn’t go far enough.  I intend to continue campaigning until the most visually stunning piece of freeway known to humanity is declared the eighth wonder of the world.  The Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Forest, Uluru and the Eastern Freeway; they should all be celebrated and protected.

It’s going to be great for tourism.  As news spreads, they’ll be turning up here by the planeload in the hope of getting a glimpse of the thing.  Ideally, busloads of tourists will use the Eastern Freeway to travel down and visit the Fairy Penguins, thereby experiencing two of our greatest attractions in one afternoon. The only thing I’m concerned about is that the emergency lane may not be sufficient for buses that wish to pull over so that eager visitors can take photos.  It’d be a crime not to take loads of pictures.

The possibilities are endless. I see postcards, hats and key rings.  Posters, commemorative plates and spoons as well as snow domes will crowd the shelves.  I’m not quite sure how to approach soft toys, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out.  Apparel that says ‘My Grandma visited the Eastern Freeway and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’ will be keenly sought-after.  There will be DVDs too, featuring slow motion images of the freeway (which is how it often feels when you’re stuck on it) with a voice over by Sam Neill describing our most historically significant stretch of road.  

So much has happened in that bit of freeway.  There’s the spot near Bulleen Road where Bourke and Wills, along with their camels perished after getting stuck in peak hour.  There’s the stretch where President Bill Clinton was forced to wait when returning from a top-secret trip to Tyabb to do a spot of presidential antiquing whilst Hillary was fishing for flathead on Frankston Pier.  Then there’s the bit just before the Punt Road off-ramp where Albert Einstein got a flat tyre and developed the Theory of Relativity whilst trying to get the wheel nuts off. It’s a little known fact that the Treaty of Versailles was not, as many believe, signed somewhere in France but in the back of a maxi-taxi on our very own Eastern Freeway.  ‘Versailles’ was, in actual fact, the name of the driver.  This is history that should be celebrated.  

This is not the kind monumental paradigm-shifting event that can be commemorated with a mere plaque.  We need to make a proper fuss.  Some type of ceremony with dancers, music and an appearance by the Little River Band could do the trick.  Or perhaps a festival that lasts a week and is capped off with a public holiday.  No festival in the history of the universe will ever have been so suited to having food trucks.  Marvel at the drainage.  Bathe in the splendour of the transit lane.  Ponder the meaning of life as you gaze upon the Chandler Highway overpass.  There’ll be something for everyone.  Bring the kids.

I get that there are some incurable cynics who prefer to scoff at the news that the Eastern Freeway will be heritage listed.  I find that sad.  What those professional naysayers fail to grasp is the sheer potential that has now been unleashed upon Melbourne.  Because if the Eastern Freeway is eligible for heritage listing then, truly, anything is possible.  Think about that for a moment.  If a congested stretch of concrete and bitumen can be safeguarded for reasons of cultural or aesthetic significance, then there’s no reason why any one of us might not be named Secretary General of the United Nations.  Let your imagination run riot as you consider all that could be.          

If the Eastern Freeway is heritage listed, then I look forward to Punt Road being nominated for the Gold Logie.  Camberwell Junction deserves an Oscar.  The big roundabout at the top of Elizabeth Street should absolutely be up for a Grammy.  How it didn’t win ‘Best New Artist’ after they installed the traffic lights is a complete mystery.  Personally, I’d like to see the roundabout on Coolart and Mornington-Tyabb Roads shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize.  I am personally willing to travel to Oslo for that. Doubtless, I’ll need to travel on the Eastern Freeway to get myself to the airport.  That seems fitting, somehow.  

Everything you wanted to know about a possible free trade deal with Europe (but had no time or, indeed, actual inclination to ask)

You’re welcome.  Although it’d be nothing short of a pants-incinerating lie of Trumpian proportions to tell you it was my ‘pleasure’, I am more than happy to spare you the agony that I have so recently experienced for myself. Granted, it’s several days that I’ll never get back and it’s more than likely that a small piece of my soul has died, but I didit.  What’s more, I did it with a smile on my face, albeit one that was drawn on with texta and will take upwards of a month to wash off, but that hardly matters.  I have read the proposed free trade agreement between Australia and Europe so you don’t have to.  Thank me later.

First, the bad news: Australians may no longer be allowed to use the term ‘feta’.  As a cheese-loving nation, this is quite the blow. Frankly, it feels like something being sought more out of spite than principle.  But as Australians, we really know how to roll with the punches and I’ve already come up with a bunch of alternatives.  For fans of Star Wars, we could call it ‘Bobba Feta’. To the best of my knowledge, our great nation is not currently attempting to negotiate a free trade deal with George Lucas, so I am semi-confident that we can get away with it. Although, to be fair, George Lucas is a lot more powerful than Europe.  Suffice to say, if he parks the Death Star outside your house, best to stay indoors.  

Alternatively, as a salute to modern elocution, we could rename the product ‘feddar’.  I doubt anyone would notice.  Perhaps some kind of celebrity endorsement would help us preserve the status quo; I, for one, would be happy to purchase a hundred gram pack of ‘Roger Fetarer’.  Dare I say, you could ‘serve’ it to anyone.  (No need to write in – just insert your own comment about that joke being a ‘double fault’ and move on….)  Or we could try something descriptive like ‘stinky crumble cheese’. Sounds delicious.

I feel we should stand our ground, especially on the touchy subject of cheeses.  ‘Gouda’ isn’t a reference to a milk-based cheese from Holland.  I’m pretty sure ‘Gouda’ played half back flank for Essendon in 1987 before going on to run a small caravan park in Patchewollock.  If memory serves, his full name was ‘Peter Gouda’ and he is best remembered for having a mullet that could be seen from space.  Although that could probably be any footballer from that era.

A ‘Camembert’ was a small sedan produced by Holden in the sixties.  A ‘Gruyere’ is an ornamental chisel often used to shimmy open a stuck kitchen drawer.  A ‘Buxton Blue’ is a disagreement with a real estate agent and a ‘Melton Mowbray pork pie’ is a blatant untruth told by someone who lives half way to Ballarat.  These terms cannot be taken away from us – they’re an intrinsic part of our way of life.  Back off, Europe.  If you remove the term ‘Devonshire’ from my favourite snack, it will leave me devastated and in need of a scone and a cup of tea.

There are plans to take these restrictions even further. For example, the French are planning to prohibit anyone else from using the term ‘de ja vu’, although I feel may have done that before.  The Spanish are seeking to reclaim the term ‘siesta’ meaning an end to daytime naps as we know them.  ‘English ham’ will no longer refer to a pork-based product but may still be used when referring to Ricky Gervais.  Sadly, a ‘Dutch Oven’ can only be used with respect to an actual oven.  If they keep this up, we’ll have no choice but to resign from Eurovision even though we’re clearly the best thing in it by an absolute mile.  (Kate Miller Heidke was totally robbed last year.  Robbed.)  Good luck watching Estonia, suckers!

We have to retaliate.  Great Australian inventions like cask wine, tramp stamp tattoos, hook turns and the tall poppy syndrome should be withdrawn from the continent entirely.  Terms like ‘stone the flaming crows’, ‘fair suck of the sauce bottle’ and ‘drongo’ will be flat-out banned, meaning every episode of ‘Home and Away’ featuring a scene with Alf Stewart will have to be majorly re-edited.  The folks in Brussels won’t know what hit them. I can’t even recall the last time European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opened her mouth without using either the term ‘flaming galah’ or ‘drop-kick’ at least once.  Hugh Jackman will no longer speak to them.  Forget ‘Brexit’ – Jackxit is where European resolve is truly tested.    

If you’re thinking about reading the proposed free trade deal for yourself, it seems only fair to warn you that it is not a riveting read. Although it will make you hungry. I’d tell you more about it but I don’t want to give away the ending.  I just hope neither side goes overboard.  After all, what does it matter what it’s called so long as it’s still delicious?  They say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Except you can’t call it a ‘rose’ anymore and, instead, are legally obliged to refer to it as ‘perennial flowering bee magnet’. It must be super awkward for the negotiators over dinner.  I’d say ‘bon appetite’ but I suspect it’s not allowed.   

Tips on attending a Presidential State Dinner

I’ll admit to being surprised. It’s been positively yonks since I’ve been invited to attend a State dinner at the White House and – if I’m being honest – I had my doubts I’d ever be invited back. All I can say that, last time I was there, the final thing I remember is agreeing to do tequila shots with Madeleine Albright. Everything else is incredibly hazy except for the Secret Service report that was incredibly clear and vivid and placed a lot of stock on my unauthorized use of a golf buggy. Apparently crashing an electric vehicle head first into the marble staircase whilst yelling ‘liberty of death’ is frowned upon. You live and learn.

Who’d have thought Donald J Trump would be a fan of mine? Turns out, he never misses an edition of the Western Port Times, especially the real estate section. Ever since the deal for Greenland went sour, he likes to get our local paper on the off chance French Island might come up for sale. But, apparently, he’s an avid reader of my column and considers all the things I’ve written about him over the past few years to be incredibly fair, even going so far as to concede I have a point about him being a unhinged maniac who’s elevated human kind’s on-going existence from a statement to a question. Good on him for being willing to engage in a little self-reflection.

You’ve got to feel for our Prime Minister. There’s a lot of pressure in being the guest of honour at a White House State dinner, even if you haven’t previously written off a golf cart. Luckily, he sought my advice on the way over. I, for one, am proud we have a PM that believes so strongly in car-pooling and is prepared to extend the principle to the Prime Ministerial plane. It was kinder still of him to drop through Tyabb airport to pick me up. It gave us plenty of time to strategize.

‘First’, I said, ‘Make a bold impression. Do something that Donald J Trump and the First Lady have never seen before and that they’ll remember forever.’ ScoMo looked concerned. Clearly he had no idea what I was talking about. Tuxedo with a ruffled shirt? Greeting the President with a nipple cripple instead of the traditional handshake? Parachuting onto the lawn whilst on fire as ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ blasts away in the background? With both hands I gripped the Prime Minister’s shoulders and gave him a solid shake for at least three minutes, maybe four. Then I produced a box and held it high so that he could bask in its dazzling glory. ‘Cadbury Roses,’ I said. ‘Wait ‘til the President cops an eyeful of these little beauties.’

It worked a treat. When the PM, his wife and I trundled up to the front steps and gave the doorbell a tweak, you could tell the Trumpster was truly touched by our Antipodean gesture of goodwill. By the time he said ‘come on in’, he was elbow-deep in the box with trails of caramel deluxe dripping down his chin. He tried to shake my hand but I pretended I was looking the other way after spotting an entire peppermint crème crunch stuck to the Presidential palm, half way to melted.

Things had changed since I’d last been. Gone are the libraries, works of art and antique furniture; replaced by a Foosball table, a mud-wrestling pit and a mini-golf course. The entire interior fell under the gaze of a thirty foot framed picture of ‘Dogs Playing Poker’ on loan from the Smithsonian. ‘I like what you’ve done to the place,’ I said to the President as he moved from devouring the contents of the box to the box itself.

A short time later, my night started to go downhill. In retrospect, it was foolish of me to accept his invitation to play a round of Foosball. It was downright idiotic of me to win. I simply couldn’t help myself. After handing the President (in metaphorical terms) his backside on a platter, there was a distinct shift in tone. Within seconds, I went from feted guest to sitting somewhere between China and kale in the Presidential pecking order. Even ScoMo looked embarrassed.

I knew I was in trouble when I found myself nearly two full miles from the head table and seated between Julian Assange and the bloke that used to advertise vacuum cleaners for Godfreys (apparently, the whole ‘vacuum holding a bowling ball’ thing went down a treat Stateside). Neither of them would shut up. Little wonder I took solace in drink. Besides, it was my idea that each table should be stocked with the finest fruity lexia money can buy in a four litre cask, so I was quite literally enjoying the fruity lexia of my labour.

The second Julian Assange drew breath and stopped talking about himself I made my move. Stumbling away from the table, I approached the Marine Corp Band, slipped them five bucks and asked them to perform a full military rendition of ‘Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?’ Luckily they knew it, and were only too happy to oblige. As I stood on top of the speakers, red-faced and leading a full-throated sing-along, I was gang tackled to the ground by Mike Pompeo who, despite his obvious physical heft is surprisingly agile. Springing to my feet, I leapt aboard the Presidential golf buggy and careened over the front lawn yelling, ‘liberty or death!’ before running it into the duck pond. What a night! I can’t wait to be invited back.