Charles and Diana – My part in their downfall

A new season of ‘The Crown’ has been released. Season 4 of ‘The Crown’ covers the years 1977 to 1990 and, apparently, one of the episodes is set is set in Australia, based on a tour by the Prince and Princess of Wales.  This prompts the obvious question – who will be playing the (presumably) significant part of, well, me?

This is not the first time ‘The Crown’ and I have crossed paths.  Earlier episodes focused on Prince Phillip’s time in the Navy.  His friend, Commander Parker, lived out his days in Melbourne and was the chair of an organization that ran public speaking competitions for school kids, which is how I met him. It was weird to think that the kindly elder gent I met back then is now the subject of a fairly dramatic episode of ‘The Crown’.  Now, it seems, it’s my turn.

It was 1985.  Prince Charles and Princess Diana were touring Australia.  In response, we did the not-so-obvious thing and put on a rock concert at Hamer Hall when, for a more uniquely Australian experience, we should have invited them to a B & S Ball in Ouyen, with his Highness responsible for drawing the winner of the meat tray.  In retrospect, it’s obvious, but we seldom thought to have dignitaries watch circle work back then.

The concert included ‘I’m Talking’ (Kate Ceberano’s band), The Models and INXS.  And ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ which accounted for my attendance.  Being just fourteen, I wasn’t a member of the band.  Rather, I was in a choir that was to be wheeled out during the performance by ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ to give one of their songs some much needed emotional heft.

In the eighties, if you wanted to say something big, you’d stand on something big – preferably a mountain, building or, if you’re Cher (and let’s be frank – who hasn’t wanted to be Cher at some point in their lives), a naval destroyer.  For mystery, get some venetian blinds and – hey presto! – instant mystique.  For heartbreak, show flowers being thrown to the ground in slow motion.  In fact, pretty much anything in slow motion is shorthand for emotional turmoil.  Then there was the music.

As a result of something I like to refer to as ‘We Are the World-itis’, quality music in the eighties had to stand for something. And if you had something profound to say, it wasn’t enough just to say or, for that matter, sing it yourself; you needed a choir.  That’s where we came in.

The song was called ‘Current Stand’.  The chorus was incredibly uplifting and featured the lyrics: ‘Do what’s needed, meet still the sorrow, this is the way we stand’.  To this day, I’ve no idea how anyone might ‘meet still the sorrow’.  But it means something profound, reinforced by the sweet, sweet sounds of a choir. That’s how we ended up on the recording and, later, at a performance for Charles and Di.

I’ll be the first to admit, I was worried.  Having just turned 14, my voice was becoming a little– shall we say – unreliable as it transitioned gradually from pre-pubescent squeak to adulthood.  The stress of it all was so great that by the time it came to the day of the concert, I had a cold sore on my lip so large that it could be seen from space. 

The day itself is something of a blur.  It could have been that a lot was happening or, alternatively, it could have been the cold sore medication I was taking.  When it came time for the choir to strut our stuff, I gave it my all.  My voice had other ideas and I sounded like a wounded walrus, fracturing under the strain of a lethal combination of over-exertion and teenage hormones. I was horrendous.  After it was over, I was struck by a deep sense of shame.  

Having just witnessed my performance, Charles probably thought that Australia becoming a republic seemed like a pretty good idea. Later, we were escorted to a balcony when the Royal couple made an appearance.  Cue general mayhem.  Somewhere amidst the madness, I thought Diana glanced in my direction.  There was an expression on her face, a mix of pity and admiration.  Clearly, she knew that behind the colossal cold sore on my face was someone of indisputable quality and charisma.  Someone profound.  This was reinforced by the sound of ‘Current Stand’ by ‘Kids in the Kitchen’ playing in the background.

Clearly, this what they call in the biz, ‘the money shot’ around which the entire season of The Crown should turn.  Hugh Jackman will play me.  Granted, we’re the same age and he’ll stand about three feet taller than the other choir members, but he’s so talented that he can do anything.  And the part demands someone who can convey the emotional heft the moment requires…

I’ve just finished watching season 4 of ‘The Crown’.  It seems the producers have elected to focus on the couple’s 1983 tour of Australia rather than the altogether more compelling 1985 tour.  There’s no ‘Rocking with the Royals’, no ‘Current Stand’ and no Hugh Jackman in the highly prized role of the younger me.  Naturally, I’m disappointed.  So disappointed that might go right out and meet still the sorrow.     

Chinese Diplomacy – A Beginner’s Guide

Last week, a Chinese diplomat issued a list of grievances. Ostensibly, it was a catalogue of things we’re doing that are said to be ticking off the People’s Republic of China.  Some might consider the issuance of such a list to be disappointing, if not a little juvenile. I, on the other hand, find it refreshing.  It’s the kind of candor should be welcomed, if not celebrated.  That it has arrived in list form rather than say, for example, arising in direct dialogue, is little more than nitpicking.  

Whilst I expected them to take issue with foreign investment decisions, I was surprised to find ‘Pre-game entertainment at the 2020 AFL Grand Final’ made the list.  Granted, it was a little on the dour side and, with the benefit of hindsight, should have been a more upbeat.  Really, the AFL have only themselves to blame for ignoring my suggestion to bring back Angry Anderson and have him do some serious circle work at the Gabba in the Batmobile whilst blaring out ‘Bound for Glory’.  

Perhaps more surprising still was the position of ‘Pre-game entertainment’ in the list, coming in at number seven. Granted, I don’t think the Embassy stated that the grievances were in order of significance, but I think it can be implied.  If we haven’t already booked them, I strongly suggest we lock in ‘The Killers’ for next year and for every year after that, if possible.  Problem solved.

Hook turns’.  Sure, they’re pretty confusing for the uninitiated, if not a little intimidating, but if they’re that upsetting to the people of China then I, personally, would be happy to have another look at them.  Again, I’m a little surprised that hook turns should be given the kind of diplomatic pre-eminence usually reserved for territorial incursions, but I’m sure they are plenty of Melbournians who would probably agree with China. 

Item number twelve is as simple as it is understandable. It simply reads ‘MAFS’.  Whilst it would be easy to take offence at the fact that China regards one of our most significant cultural exports to be a catastrophic hot mess, I see it as an opportunity.  As with any list of complaints, what you’re really looking for is any common ground you can find.  And, I feel, most people will be ready to sacrifice the cesspool of human misery that is ‘Married at First Sight’.

Active wear outside a gym setting’.   Honestly, this feels like they’re being too sensitive.  I can recall back in 1979, when the Chinese President Deng Xiaoping said he found Faberge jeans to be an affront to human dignity. I, of course, have similar feelings about the re-education camps in Xinjiang, but each to their own. Apparently, there was something about Fabber-grabbers that really got up the collective nose of the powers that be in China.  Now it seems that disaffection has found a new home in the form of opposing gym clothes when not actually exercising.  Frankly, this historical prejudice against skin-tight apparel has me baffled.  In this instance, I think we should stand firm and suggest they build a bridge and get over it which, as luck would have it, is what the whole ‘Belt and Road’ initiative is all about.

The use of the term ‘Chinese whispers’ comes in at number ten, sandwiched between foreign interference laws and this country’s stubborn insistence on preferring VHS over Betamax.  I think we can all agree that, in this day and age, we probably shouldn’t be using a term as loaded as ‘Chinese whispers’ any more than we should refer to ‘Dutch ovens’. I, for one, would be happy to replace it with ‘careless whispers’.  Not only does it avoid insulting a nation of over one billion people, it has the added advantage of making you think of that wonderful saxophone riff from the George Michael song every time the phrase is uttered.  

Gratuitous Use of the Word “Girt” in our National Anthem’.  They’ve got a point.  Other than when singing our national anthem, under what heightened circumstances does anyone ever use the term ‘girt’?  Lucky for us, the list isn’t just a series of gripes. It also includes constructive suggestions; the adoption of which will resolve China’s issues.  It’s not what you think.  Rather than propose a slight tweak to ‘Advance Australia Fair’ to remove the offending term, the Embassy has proposed it’s wholesale replacement.  Apparently, the proposal to substitute our current anthem with ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ comes directly from no less than Xi Jinping himself, who is a massive Acca Dacca fan.  

Most disappointingly, is number two, which reads ‘Nuisance phone calls’.  If I may be so bold, they’re only nuisance phone calls if you don’t call back.  Treating Ministers of the Crown as if they’re telemarketers trying to flog rooftop solar should, perhaps, be on a list of our own.

I’m feeling inspired.  To all the members of my immediate family who may be reading this and are expecting a present this Christmas; think again.  This year, you’ll be getting a list of grievances. I promise that my complaints will be both many and varied, stuffed deep into a stocking.  Or, alternatively, perhaps we could have a conversation.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Trump’s Next Big Career Move

Soon it could be over.  In a very short period of time, the fate of the presidency will be known. There’s no way to describe the past four years as anything other than extraordinary unless, of course, you prefer ‘cataclysmic bin-fire’.  But if it turns out the world’s largest-known Oopma Loopa is suddenly out of a job this November, the question arises – what will he do next?  Or, more accurately, what won’t he do?

There’ll be a book, obviously. Having already published ‘The Art of the Deal’ – which he not only wrote but had translated from the original Russian, it’s inevitable he’ll write the story of the Presidency from his perspective, given that everyone who so much as delivered the milk to him has already done so.  But what would a (former) President Trump call his memoir?  Something punchy like ‘Donald J Trump: Witch Hunter’ or ‘Fake News v. Fake Tan’.  Or, in recognition of his antipathy towards the ‘Black Lives Matters’ movement, maybe ‘Orange Is Not The New Black’. 

It’d possibly be the first political memoir ever to be written ALL IN CAPS.  Or to have chapters only two hundred and eighty characters long. Or to feature an endorsement on the cover not from the author himself.  Presumably it will be something along the lines of ‘A lot of people are saying this is the greatest political memoir of all time.’  Doubtless, Kim Jong-Un will prepare the Foreword.  Whether it’ll be successful or not is another matter.  Sales figures, much like inauguration attendance figures, are likely to exaggerated if not wholly invented.

Most former Presidents build a library as a monument to their legacy.  Rather than a Presidential Library, I can see Donald Trump building a mud-wrestling arena.  Or, if he does go with convention (although I have to ask, ‘why start now?’) then it could well be the first Presidential Library to filled solely with comic books.  Or to offer a free taco upon entry. That’s probably a bit unfair – chances are that the Trump Presidential Library would be filled with books, albeit solely with remaindered copies of ‘The Art of the Deal’ and ‘Orange Is Not the New Black’.

A career in stand-up comedy beckons.  He’d be the kind of comic who avoids punch lines and is more ‘observational’ in nature.  Personally, if he were not in a position to cause World War III, I’d find him hilarious.  You can’t me tell that when you pull down on his comically-long red tie that water doesn’t come squirting out one of the buttons.  Or, notwithstanding that he once paid someone else to sit his high school exams, perhaps he could pursue a career as an educator, specializing in teaching Latin, given that he so clearly understands the meaning of ‘qui pro quo’.

He could voice your car’s navigation system. However, you’d end up only ever turning right, before turning right again and again.  But honesty matters with on-board navigation. It’s no comfort if you back into street sign only to be told that ‘a lot of people saying that this was the greatest example of reverse parking probably since Lincoln’ even as the airbag deploys.  Even when hopelessly lost, the Trump navigation system would refuse to concede.

Perhaps it’s not possible to contemplate a post-Trump presidency without thinking about his BFF (or, at least, his BFF whenever Vladimir Putin is out of town and now that Geoffrey Epstein is permanently unavailable): Rudy Giuliani.  I can see them pairing up as either private detectives or a country and western duo.  Ideally both. They’d sing sweet, sweet harmonies together at a performance at a redneck bar (although it may not have been a redneck bar prior to their arrival) before getting a message that some mystery needed solving and the pair of them would throw their banjos in the boot of Rudy’s Ford Festiva before launching an investigation.  

Starsky and Hutch, Laverne and Shirley, Laurel and Hardy – Rudy and the Donald would join that elite group of crime fighters. Scouring the countryside for incriminating laptops from hell, preferably obtaining them from someone with an enormously convenient case of face-blindness, the pair would turn in stories to the New York Post, delivered in hand-written pages shoved through the night slot.  Wherever there’s injustice, you’ll find Rudy and the Donald; if not perpetrating the injustice themselves, then describing those that do as ‘very good people’.  

He could go back to TV but I’m sure he’d be loathe to repeat himself and simply return to ‘The Apprentice’.  I see advertorials in his future.  There’s nothing that guy can’t sell.  He’d promote ‘Regeneron’, the experimental drug he took whilst suffering corona virus as well as the steroid that made feel fit enough to compete in the Olympics notwithstanding that it would have seen him disqualified.  

Of course, there’s the possibility that he doesn’t lose and there will be another four years of tweets and mayhem.  Nixon was in power when I was born.  Perhaps it’s just as well that Twitter didn’t exist then; no one wants to read ‘I AM NOT A CROOK’ followed by a smiley face emoji.  It’s been a tough year.  I just want something good to happen and for life to finally get back to something that approaches normal.  Here’s hoping.    

Bill Gates: Succubus of the Universe (Or ‘Things the Internet Taught Me’)

Sometimes I feel a little sorry for Bill Gates.  Not often, but sometimes.  You’d think that his spectacular success and billions of dollars would shield him from both wild conspiracy theories and his abominable haircut, but apparently not.  Even the most cursory glance at the Internet will tell you two things: firstly, pretty much everything is the fault of Bill Gates.  Secondly, there are a lot of different food delivery options out there right now.  That has nothing to do with Bill, but they’re everywhere.  

Since cashing in his (micro)chips, Bill has taken an interest in philanthropy.  Once upon a time in the not too distant past, philanthropy was considered a good thing and not something to be destroyed at all costs. In fact, the term ‘philanthropy’ comes from the Greek work ‘philanthropia’ which translates to ‘loving people’.  Not normally the kind of thing you’d expect to make people bubble over with molten fury, but these are not normal times.  Bill, so it seems, has become something of a target.

The claims about Bill are pretty wild.  So wild that they don’t bear repeating, lest it should inadvertently add further grist to the rumour mill.  Suffice to say, COVID-19 is Bill’s fault.  And his efforts to develop a vaccine will, apparently, either result in millions of people being wiped off the Earth or, alternatively, in Bill being able to control the thoughts who takes it.  I’m not sure what Bill would do if he controlled people’s minds. Probably tell them to always wear a pair of pressed Chinos and a sensible sweater.  Had he really wanted to control people’s minds, Bill would have stayed at Microsoft.

According to either an Essential Poll or, alternatively, something I managed to Google from the Internet, a staggering one in eight Australians believe Bill Gates was involved in the creation and spread of coronavirus.  Confusingly, one in eight Australians also blames the spread of the coronavirus on the 5G network.  It begs the question – is it the same one in eight who are blaming both Bill and 5G for the pandemic?  Are they completely separate groups, each of which regards the other as heretics? Or is there some kind of ‘Venn diagram’ with an unknown degree of overlap between the two?  

Worryingly, the results are particularly poor for the 18 to 35 year old demographic, with one in five blaming Bill.  Personally, I’m a little surprised that one in five 18 to 35 year olds have heard of Bill Gates, much less know enough about him to think he’s the source of all their troubles. I’d like to think that they’d misheard the question.  Perhaps they mistook Bill Gates for, I dunno, Satan or BTS (if there’s a difference).  Somewhat ironically, the webpage I looked at to research 5G conspiracy theories is chock-a-block full of Telstra adverts.  I’d never thought of Telstra as having a sense of humour, but there you go.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, humankind went through a period of philosophical and intellectual enlightenment often referred to as ‘The Age of Reason’.  This movement later culminated an album of the same name by John Farnham.  The video clip, in particular, really summed it up, as one J. Farnham stood on top of a large rocky outcrop whilst wearing a pair of leather pants and Ugg boots; sporting a mullet that could be seen from space. (Clearly, the Enlightenment did not extend to fashion sense.)  To make it even more miraculous, he was also wearing leather trousers.  Ever gone mountain climbing in leather pants? I didn’t think so.

But just as John Farnham eventually climbed down from that mighty apex, so too has humankind come down a notch.  We’ve moved from the Information Age to the Disinformation Age with barely a pause.  Remember when the Internet was ‘the Information Superhighway’?  Nobody calls it that anymore.  What we thought would be eight digital lanes of cruising comfort has turned out to be a gravel road loaded with potholes where, if you don’t hold tightly onto the steering wheel, you’re likely to end up in a ditch.  Quite literally, anyone can say anything on the Internet and there’s almost zero accountability. 

Some might expect me to defend Bill Gates.  Quite the opposite. Instead, I’ve decided to blame Bill Gates for everything.  Out of milk?  I’ll fall to my knees, raise my clenched fists to the sky and cry ‘Bill Gates!’ at the top of my lungs.  Can’t find a shoe?  Blame Bill.  A lot of people think that the Bermuda Triangle is some kind of supernatural phenomenon that eats boats but, guess again: Bill Gates.  In fact, floods, fires, El Nino, VHS rather than Betamax and the failure to screen ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ next year are his fault.  From this day forth, millions will curse the name ‘Bill Gates’ down through the ages until….

It just occurred to me that everything I know about Bill I read on the Internet.  Which, given all I’ve just said, should be treated with caution.  In fact, I’m writing this story using a Microsoft program.  Perhaps Bill’s not so bad.  Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all.  Bill, if you’re reading this, the kettle’s on.  Come on over for a cuppa anytime.