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.

The Kris Kringle Catastrophes of Christmases Past

Danger! Once more we find ourselves knee-deep in the most treacherous time of year, where anything can and possibly will go wrong. Granted, on the surface Christmas is all about good cheer and bonhomie but the smallest miscalculation can cause it to collapse like a house of cards. And by ‘house of cards’ I don’t mean building materials you can use for gin rummy but a Netflix series that began to outstay its welcome midway through season one but lumbered on regardless towards a calamitous end that became an unpleasant endurance test. That bad.
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Wrong Jovi – A Tribute to Tribute Bands

We were travelling to the country. As we headed out of town, we passed a racetrack that specialized in hosting greyhound events. The venue also boasted that it was home to live music, largely tribute shows. Not that this was clear at one hundred clicks an hour. Signage along the fence line boasted upcoming shows by Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC and Bon Jovi. That these groups should perform at the dog track in Melton seemed somewhat improbable and it was only upon closer inspection that I spotted the all-important caveat of ‘tribute show’.
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A Simple Guide to Understanding Modern Politics

It’s hard to write anything at all. Which is why I am sorely tempted to communicate solely in emoji form from now on. Indeed, after perusing the various emoji options available, there’s no prize for guessing which emoticon best expresses my thoughts. I knew we’d reached a tipping point when I switched from ABC News 24’s continuous coverage on Tuesday night to Australian Survivor and, save that participants on the latter program were more sparsely dressed, there was little difference.
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Everything You Want to Know About Space Force (But Were Afraid to Ask)

It was inevitable, really: that President Donald J Trump should decide to take his unique brand of diplomacy to the far reaches of outer space where – arguably – it always belonged. And that it should be packing heat. I’m not sure who in the White House should be responsible for telling the Leader of the Free World that Star Wars was not, in fact, a documentary but a work of fiction, but it’s time to break the bad news before this thing truly gets out of hand.
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When A Meter Has Your Measure – Tales from the Hipster Zone

Parking. It’s my nemesis. My archenemy. The Moriarty to my Sherlock. The Lex Luther to my Superman. The Torvill to my Dean. We simply don’t get on. And whilst I despise car parking generally, I am especially averse to parking anywhere in the immediate north of the city. Especially Fitzroy, where the hipsters roam and beard wax is in plentiful supply. In Fitzroy, they treat parking like something requiring punishment and go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible.
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Confessions of a Beverage Snob

Even I was shocked. Some things, once said, cannot be forgotten. Even if not written down, they live on in the memory of those unfortunate enough to have heard them. They’re permanent. Words, once they leap over your lips and escape past your teeth, can never be caught. To hear my own voice speaking the unspeakable was an existential jolt to the system from which I may never recover. I began to question everything. How did it come to this? What kind of monster have I become? Is it too late to change my order? Because never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d ever utter the following words: I’ll have a skinny decaf flat white, thanks.
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A Brief History of the Middle Ages

There’s no getting around it. Not even with a Melways, a torch and sturdy pair of hiking boots. It’s just too big. Better, then, to take a deep breath and admit it outright – middle age has well and truly arrived and there is nothing left to do but to embrace it in all it’s tea-sipping, slipper-wearing, youth-pitying glory than to deny it. I’ll admit I was slow to realize. One moment, you’re an edgy, fashion-busting, envelope-pushing bona-fide young person surfing the counterculture wave with the utmost of ease. Then, almost overnight, you’re stuck in middle age and yelling at the television. Not that there weren’t warning signs.

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When A Ford Focus Looks Into Your Soul

I swear it’s trying to tell me something. Without my so much as asking, it takes the initiative. It probably means well, but the cold, hard truth of the matter is that these efforts are both unnecessary and unwelcome. Put simply, it’s reading my mood all wrong and – if I’m being honest about it – I’m beginning to find it quite tedious. It’s not helpful and every time it happens it seems like a misreading of the circumstances. Honestly, it’s as though my wife’s Ford Focus doesn’t know me at all.
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