Democracy Manifest! The Great Sing Along Election

It’s genius.  There’s simply no other word that comes close to describing it.  To dissolve parliament and submit your fate to the will of the people is one thing.  To deliberately go out of your way to ensure that a Federal election occurs simultaneously with the finals of the Eurovision song contest is nothing short of totally brilliant.  Frankly, it’s been long overdue.

It was only a matter of time before they were brought together.  Whilst each event is great on its own, combined they’ll be unstoppable.  Eurovision is a splendid thing.  But if there’s one thing it lacks, it’s this: sausages.  You can’t tell me that the latest power ballad from Lithuania wouldn’t be vastly improved with a snag in bread.  Our electoral traditions will take Eurovision to the next level.  I’m not sure what that level is called but it’s probably somewhere between ‘awesome’ and ‘magic’.  Similarly, Eurovision will make our democracy stronger by introducing some much-needed pizzazz.

Election time is such a special time.  Already, I’ve seen my local Member of Parliament for the first time in three years (hooray!). Doubtless, that’s because he’s incredibly busy and, well, truth be told he lives somewhere other than the electorate he’s paid to represent.  By which I don’t mean that he’s slightly outside it because of a quirk of redistribution but, rather, that he chooses to live somewhere entirely different.  Nevertheless, it’s lovely when he visits.  

I spotted my local Parliamentarian whilst I was out running.  He was standing talking to local residents whilst dressed head to toe in cycling lycra.  I have to be honest and say that he looked terrific.  There was not a trace of sweat or a hair out of place. As I drew closer, I was caught up in the tractor-beam of his cologne.  I’m embarrassed to say it, but the man smelled like nothing else I’d ever smelled before in my life.  Like a cross between fresh cut flowers and freshly baked biscuits. It was intoxicating.

Rendered incapable of speech by his magnificent aftershave, I could only slow to a crawl and watch on as he weaved his magic.  He was chatting to a group of men who were also dressed in lycra.  It then dawned on me that my local member of Parliament seemed to be the only person dressed in lycra but not in possession of an actual bike.  If not dressed for cycling, he was meeting (if not exceeding) the dress code for Eurovision, where bike shorts without a bike is totally acceptable.  Granted, to get the full Eurovision effect, it’d be better if he was also crumping whilst belting out some kind of banger, but you can’t have everything. 

Whilst it’s wonderful that our election and Eurovision are occurring at the same time, that’s not enough.  To get the full benefits of synchronicity, they ought to be combined into a single event.  The vote for our nation’s parliament should only take place after a full gala performance from aspirant candidates.  Major policy announcements shouldn’t occur on random building sites by people in hi-vis.  No, sir.  They should occur on a stage, in song and with dancers, feathers and sequins. I, for one, am looking forward to the power ballad on franking credits, to say nothing of the full-on rave-up banger about childcare subsidies.

With Eurovision and our election now a full-blended event, expect candidates to wear a lot more white.  And don’t be surprised if, mid sentence, an aspiring politician reaches up and pulls down an invisible object from the sky (it’s a compulsory move at Eurovision).  Granted, there will be missteps – catastrophic miscalculations that rather than attracting voters will, instead, send them scurrying to the hills. It’s not hard to imagine some of the minor parties giving performances that don’t so much divide audiences as they do usher them out the door for their own safety.  But, overall, it’ll be a good thing.  When we’re not busy using our hands to cover our ears, we might just be tapping our toes…

Consider this – tight races could be resolved with a sing-off.  Or even a rap battle. It’ll be a vast improvement on the traditional election debates.  Instead of ‘the worm’ purporting to tell us whom the audience likes, politicians can, instead, perform ‘the worm’ as part of their act.  It’ll be great.

And whilst I’m looking forward to the performances from our elected leaders and those who would challenge them, I can’t wait for the commentary.  The only way to improve Antony Green would be to throw some Terry Wogan into the mix.  Granted, Terry’s moved on to the great Eurovision in the sky, but I really don’t consider that an impediment.

Buckle up.  The next few weeks will be an all-singing, all-dancing calamity from which a winner will eventually emerge, reflecting the will of the people. To say nothing of Eurovision. But I’m glad that these two events are finally coming together.  If nothing else, it adds momentum to my push for a thirty metre statue of Mr. Eurovision, Johnny Logan, on top of Oliver’s Hill.  Let the music begin!

Why Frankston Urgently Needs a Thirty Metre Statue on Olivers Hill

Heroes should be celebrated.  They should be lauded, worshipped and generally adored, close up as well as from afar.  If they’re not already on a pedestal, then one should be provided to them pronto.  Because heroes, I feel, are wonderful.  Their achievements put a ‘spring’ into a life of otherwise flat-footed drudgery; they fill our lungs with breath so that we can proclaim their general magnificence. 

Frankston has produced it’s fair share of heroes.  Stanley Melbourne Bruce, who was the eighth Prime Minister of this country until, in a somewhat unfortunate twist, he became the first sitting PM to lose his seat at an election.  Stanley then went on to a productive career as a bouncer at the 21stCentury Dance Club on Thursdays to Sundays.  Frankston also produced the fabulously named Sir Harold W. Clapp who ran the railways for nearly twenty years and introduced mind-blowing innovations to locomotive transport such as air-conditioned carriages.  I, for one, am grateful.

But whilst the city has produced a laudable crop of political and locomotive heavyweights, it’s the arts where it really comes into its own. The King of Australian television, Graham Kennedy, chose to live in Frankston.   He could have lived anywhere, but chose here.  Perhaps he’d got wind of the crystal light display at the Frankston cinema and simply had to see it for himself.  Joan Lindsey – author of Picnic At Hanging Rock – also lived in Frankston; although rumours that the first draft was based at Arthur’s Seat have never been confirmed.

The exceptional Toni Watson (better known as ‘Tones and I’) who achieved the extraordinary by topping the charts in almost every country on earth but, for reasons that will never be fully understood, was given the ‘Meat Loaf slot’ at the AFL Grand Final, is also from Frankston.  The list of local heroes is almost endless.  And yet, some of the most amazing legends ever produced by this fair city have failed to get the recognition they so richly deserve.  I speak, of course, of Johnny Logan.

I was going to say ‘for those unfamiliar with his work’ but, I suspect, there’s no one who’d fit that description.  Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, Johnny Logan is buried deep inside your subconscious, like a repressed traumatic memory, ready to emerge at the least opportune moment.  If the name ‘Johnny Logan’ doesn’t ring a bell of any kind, then it’s only fair I disclose that he’s also known by another name. Specifically, he’s also known as ‘Mr. Eurovision.’

On the off chance you’ve been living in the wilderness for the past seventy odd years, Eurovision is ostensibly a songwriting competition that doubles as a test of endurance.  Essentially, it’s a chance for European nations to produce a piece execrable easy listening music, generally performed by someone dressed like a total lunatic and to gang up on whoever England decides to send. (They never get any votes. It’s sort of cruel, actually.)

Into this musical minefield, filled with the wreckage of power ballads gone wrong and continental techno-vomit, strode Johnny Logan like an absolute colossus.  How, you might ask, does someone from Frankston end up at Eurovision? Simple.  Johnny Logan was born in Frankston whilst his Irish parents were out here on tour and before you could say ‘chrome gnome’, he was away back to Ireland. 

Johnny competed in 1980, performing the song ‘What’s Another Year?’ with such power that, along with his oversized lapels, it crushed all who dared stand in his way.  So powerful, in fact, that he didn’t even bother getting up from his bar stool until about the three minute mark; just after a saxophone solo so exquisitely tasteful that the instrument itself may as well have been wearing a tuxedo. A win at Eurovision is an extraordinary feat, far beyond the Nobel Peace Prize but perhaps slightly short of earning the Coach’s encouragement award at the Tyabb Under-9s Junior Football Club. But he didn’t stop there.

In 1984, Johnny Logan wrote a song that someone else performed that came second.  In 1987, dressed head to toe in white like some intergalactic goal umpire, Johnny Logan performed his signature hit ‘Hold Me Now’, producing one of the most dramatic moments in Eurovision history, when he crouched down, knees bent, voice dripping with emotion as he strained for the high notes.  An unstoppable force, he once again took out the title.  You’d think that’d be enough.

Despite this, there’s nothing to celebrate the achievements of Mr. Eurovision.  Not a plaque, nor a street sign.  Zip.  It’s no way to treat a hero.  It’s time to do something about this appalling state of affairs.  The campaign starts here – to build a monument to Johnny Logan. Modelled on the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, giant Johnny Logan will sit astride Oliver’s Hill, head to toe in white and knees bent.  Thirty metres of concrete Eurovision magnificence will stare out across the bay.  It’ll be awesome.  Sure, it’ll be incredibly expensive, but you can’t put a price on inspiration. Don’t bother trying to talk me out of it.  To paraphrase Mr. Eurovision himself, you couldn’t hold me (back) now if you tried.   

The Disastrous Dumplings of Destiny

Dumplings.  I absolutely love them.  Little parcels of joy that slip off your chopsticks before tumbling like an Olympic springboard champion head first into a bowl of soy sauce.  But unlike an Olympic springboard champion, there’s no avoiding the splash and the resulting soy sauce souvenir on your work shirt.  For me, they’re the ideal take away meal, which is why I decided to order myself some last Friday night.

It was just after seven o’clock; kinda late by my standards, when I called to place my order.  To save time, I said I’d be in to pick them up, rather than run the risk that some hapless delivery driver would be ambling aimlessly looking for my house because the number lacks sufficient illumination. But dumplings take no time at all to cook.  I’d be home again before I knew it, so I reasoned.  They say pride comes before a fall.  In my case, it was an intoxicating blend of confidence and hunger.

The first clue was when I rang the landline and it went through to message bank.  Perhaps more significantly, the message bank made no mention of the restaurant, but was one of those automatic messages that simply advised I had reached a ‘private number’.  This gave me no confidence at all and I decided to use the mobile instead.  Someone answered.  Better still, they showed real interest in my order, repeating it back to me so that I could be confident that it had been received in full.  ‘It will be about twenty five to thirty minutes’.

These words rang in my ears. I should probably have regarded that as some kind of warning or, possibly, a sign that I should get a new phone as I’m semi-confident that having words ring in your ears is not normal.  Thirty minutes was longer than I expected.  But I did a quick calculation and reasoned that I’d have dinner on the table by a quarter to eight.  Not ideal, but I’d forget all about it the moment I started eating.  I explained to my guests that I’d need to disappear for a few minutes.  I was, so I explained, keen not to keep the restaurant people waiting.

In retrospect, the signs were obvious.  When I got to the restaurant, there were other people waiting to pick up their orders. Without exception, they looked absolutely and utterly miserable.  Some appeared to be downright agitated.  Clearly, this was a place of great unhappiness.  I looked up and noticed that hanging above the cash register was a sign that read ‘Abandon hope al  ye who enter here.’  I should have left then.

But, optimistic fool that I am, I enquired about my order.  I was informed that they were waiting on a couple more dishes, which gave me the very real impression that my meal would be ready in a matter of moments and that I’d soon be clutching my take-away bag, swanning past the gathered hoards of the downtrodden who were gathered in the doorway.  I would feel a little sorry for them, but not much.

I paid and began waiting. And waiting.  And waiting.  The person whose job it was to collate the takeaway orders seemed to be having a terrible time of it.  She looked incredibly confused and, from time to time, she called over somebody else to stare deeply into a docket as though they were trying to solve a riddle.  It was like watching an episode of ‘Survivor’ when, after starving them for weeks, they make the contestants solve a puzzle and some of them end up staring at their fingers as if they’re never seen their own hand before.

As a rule, you know you’re in trouble when the staff avoid making eye contact with you.  This meant they were failing to manage the growing crowd of restless and, by this stage, incredibly hungry people waiting in the doorway.  It was ages since any meal had been completed at all.  I raised my hand to my chin to ponder what on earth could be going wrong when I discovered that I had grown a full beard whilst waiting.  I’m not talking about a little bit of stubble, but the kind of growth that would see me get a full time job as a roadie with ZZ Top.  In a mix of boredom and desperation, I began to plat my new beard.

A lady who’d arrived before me asked for her money back.  They refused, claiming that her meal, much like Christmas and the apocalypse, was coming.  When it arrived a few moments later, she didn’t appeared relieved.  More broken.  I texted my guests who had wondered how far I’d travelled to get dinner. When I told them I was just around the corner, they were shocked.  As time dragged on, I began to bargain with myself.  Specifically, I began to convince myself that this was not, as I feared, a really late dinner but could now be considered an early breakfast.

When my meal was finally ready, the person giving it to me said ‘sorry’.  I panicked, unsure of whether he was apologizing for the colossal one hour fifteen minute wait or for the food itself.  Like others, I was tempted to let him know what I really thought but, instead, took my food, began crying and offered to help out in the kitchen, as they clearly needed all the help they could get.  I hope they were just having a bad night.  I know I certainly was.  Ultimately, I can’t stay mad at dumplings.  And my first shift in the kitchen was a great success.  Until we try again.