Smee

(Language alert)

In Australia there are three main commercial television stations, all of whom have subsidiary country-based, high definition and secondary channels for those that want to think they are getting a choice in viewing. We also have one Government funded station, our ABC. The Global Financial Crisis shook the foundations of every world economy and even though Australia came out of it pretty well, the coffers are vastly depleted for quality programing by our non-commercial entity. When faced with the prospect of losing Dr. Who, Sesame Street and Thomas the Tank Engine to their ad-spewing rivals, the Board of the ABC had to react quickly and decisively. What they came up with was a game show.

But this was not to be any ordinary game show full of fifteen minuters desperate for their little slice of fame and fortune. No! This was to be an intellectual extravaganza, the likes of which have never been seen before. A panel of elite judges were assembled from World Book Encyclopedia, Macquarie Dictionary and Mensa to provide the credentials the Board members wanted. Invitations were sent to the best and brightest minds from Australia’s leading Universities including Sydney, Monash and Mount Buggery (its a real place, look it up) and the whole shebang was headed up by the suave and sophisticated Mr. Roger Roget – no relation to the man that invented the thesaurus.

For the first time in the ABC’s enigmatic history, this bastion of culture and purveyor of boring British programming allowed commercial advertising to blight its lustrous landscape. Major international businesses were falling all over themselves for the three prized slots in the hour long cerebral spectacle, and the cash was flowing. Celebrities graced the red carpet on opening night, popping champagne corks with dignitaries, visionaries and luminaries. Big wigs, big shots and big guns all sat around patting each others backs and congratulating themselves on a job well done, even though the show had not yet got underway. The circus was surreal.

Finally it was time to put up or shut up and as a hush fell over the audience Roger Roget explained the rules.

“Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to ABC Studios for the first ever edition of, Mind Games.”

The crowd were hushed yet totally in thrall as their illustrious host continued to elaborate.

“The rules are simple. We invite one lucky participant from the audience down to the stage to give us a word that does not exist in the English language. If they can use that word in a sentence that makes sense then they can go one to compete for some fantastic prizes.”

Now this is where I come in. I never actually found out how I got an invitation to this scholarly soiree but there I was, three rows from the front, when my name got called out.

Surprised? Yes.

Shocked? For sure!

Worse still, I’ve never thought of myself as a wordsmith with the real English language, so making something up was going to be a challenge. Roger introduced me to the audience, the panel of experts and then the pressure was on.

“Well Mr. Roget I don’t know if this is a word but, ah, I guess I’ll go with garn.”

“And how do you spell that.”

“It’s spelled G.A.R.N.”

A flurry of activity ensued from the learned jury sitting in judgement of my performance. Papers rustled, book spines cracked and eventually they delivered the verdict of ‘not guilty’ to garn

“Well Matthew, now is the time to use your word. What can you tell us about garn?

I looked at the crowd, nodded to the committee of experts, faced the camera with the steady red light and said,

Garn get fucked.”

Well, the crowd went into an uproar, Roger Roget fainted and some security heavyweights proceeded to manhandle me off the stage and out into the alleyway behind the studios. The ABC programming director quickly threw up the test pattern on all the screens around the country and the Prime Minister of Australia called the Board directly to convey her concerns. It was a sight akin to a Jerry Springer show, without the violence and nudity.

After twenty minutes the calm was restored and the test pattern made way for the contrite countenance of Roger Roget, still clutching a little jar of smelling salts.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of everyone here at the ABC please accept my humblest apologies for the language used by our previous guest. Unfortunately some people are just not couth enough to associate with high society, but we feel confident that the riff-raff have all been ejected and that the shown can go on.”

The crowd clapped pensively. Their ears had been assaulted once and the were not entirely convinced that continuing the program had merit. The programming director knew this would be the case and decided to call on an elderly gentlemen with a long manicured beard and a kind grandfatherly face, to be the next contestant. As he arrived on stage our hero with the microphone continued his waffling.

“Tell me kind sir, what word would you like to use today?”

“Well sonny, I’d like to use the word smee. Spelled S.M.E.E.”

The usual suspects in the judiciary quickly pawed over their documents and confirmed that, aside from being a pirate in the story Peter Pan, the word smee did not exist in the English language. Roger had regained his composure and was determined to get the show back on track.

“Well sir, please use smee in a sentence.”

So I did 😉

I stood bolt upright, cast my walking stick aside, yanked the fake beard off my face, stared at the camera with the steady red light and proudly exclaimed,

Smee again. Garn get fucked.”

Knick-Knack

Way up high in the very wettest part of Northern England lies a tiny tidy town called Privy on the Verge.

It has one pub, one bank, one post office and forty two locals happily hidden away in their own little piece of anonymity.

One of these aforementioned chipper citizens is Ms. Patricia Thwackery, the assistant bank manager. Patti Thwack, as she is affectionately known to her friends, had moved to Privy on the Verge to escape the hustle and bustle of her home town of Bean Toot near Boghead. Two convenience stores was too much for Patti, who preferred the quiet country life.

As a dedicated spinster, nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to Patti until the day an eloquent frog hopped by for a loan.

“Good morning ma’am.”

Patti stared, mouth agape, at the talking amphibian. Perhaps the mushrooms she had eaten for breakfast were not as fresh as she thought. Unperturbed by her silence, the croaker continued,

“I’d like to borrow some money to buy section of the pond in which to raise my tadpoles please.”

Patti was mesmerised by the shiny green skin and large black eyes, but eventually found a voice of her own.

“I see. Well we need to fill out this application form. May I start with your name please.”

“Certainly,” replied the potential mortgagee. “My name is H.R.R Richards.”

“And what does the H stand for Mr. Richards?”

“Hoppity.”

“I see. and the two Rs?”

“Ribbit Ribbit.”

Patti blinked several times in quick succession and inhaled deeply before replying.

“Ri-i-i-ight.”

After several more minutes of form filling, red tape and boring bureaucracy the application was all but complete – except for one minor hitch.

“Mr Richards you have no deposit, no references and no collateral. I don’t think we will be able to give you the loan you require.”

Faced with the soul crushing possibility of an unfulfilled dream Hoppity remained as serene as only a frog can.

“I may not have any money Ms. Thwack but I do have this letter from my father Keith, offering to go guarantor for the loan.”

A webbed foot handed Patti an envelope. By now the entire town had heard of the polliwog powwow and had turned up at the bank to see what was happening. Even the the stuffy old Bank Manager had come out of his musty office to see what the fuss was all about.

Patti opened the letter and exclaimed, “Your father is Keith Richards!?!”

“Yep.”

“Rock star and legendary guitarist Keith Richards?”

“The one and only.”

The crowd gasped and the frog continued.

“If that’s not enough for you I can offer you my prized possession as collateral.”

Stick fingers plopped a miniature porcelain figurine with no definable features onto the counter. A perplexed Patti turned to her boss and said,

“Here is an application form, a letter from Keith Richards offering to guarantee a loan and, well, I have no idea what this other thing is.”

He replied,

“It’s a knick-knack Patti Thwack give the frog a loan. His old mans a Rolling Stone.”

I am so very, very sorry 😉

Chill Pill

My ride to work the other day was an interesting anthropological study of the public transport psyche. The first thing I saw as I entered the station were the non-smoking signs. Black text, white background, image of a cigarette with a red circle around it and a line crossing through middle, clearly indicating that smoking is not permitted in this particular place. Oblivious civilians surrounded the signage sucking down copious quantities of carcinogens desperately trying to get that tobacco hit before they were forced to undergo temporary cold turkey on the train. Ignorant, obtuse or just plain rude, I couldn’t decide. Needless to say I held my breath as I passed through the deathly miasma.

The promenade itself was alive with grumbles, mumbles and chatter. A gentleman in a charcoal suit swore obscenities as he crashed through a huddle of nuns. Apparently he was very big, very important and very late for something. School students bullied and berated each other in jest, with language that would make a dock worker blush, whilst the girls they were clearly trying to impress giggled their encouragement of the lad’s shenanigans. A young woman broke up with her partner via mobile phone in a raucous rampage of vitriolic abuse and I briefly wondered what might have attracted him to her in the first place. The indigenous beggar thanked me for my donation as his dog spit-polished my shoes with its long, lapping tongue. I reflected briefly that the person in the lowest socioeconomic position seemed to be the happiest person of them all.

Approaching the stairs leading down to track twelve I noticed the notice notifying me to keep left. What an excellent idea! If we all stayed on our own side of the stairwell then there would be plenty of room for those to enter and alight the platform. As my already broken toe was squashed by a third gruff fool grunting at me to ‘get over’, I came to the conclusion that literacy was not a required skill set for the State Rail passenger.

Entering the train was an entirely new challenge. University students with burdensome backpacks unintentionally assaulted their neighbours every time they turned around. Businessmen in nondescript suits sat on their widening backsides as the elderly women left standing shot looks that could kill. Mothers used babies in prams as pink fleshy battering rams in order to secure their spot amongst the sardines, and thousands of school kids remained engrossed in their smartphones.

Too me it was a baffling brouhaha. Another train was due in two minutes anyway.

In a perverse contradiction of the manners I was taught as a child, the young people sat as the old people stood. Finally the doors closed and the carriage lurched forward. I caught an old man by the arm as he stumbled backwards.

“Thanks son, things were certainly different in my day.”

“Mine too old mate.”

Five stops later and it was time to disembark. As I left the graffiti covered transportation I was pushed twice, kicked once and almost tripped up the stairs by impatient commuters. The time was 8:45am.

Take my advice people, there is no job on the planet worthy of this much stress and aggravation. If your boss gives you a hard time for arriving five minutes late it’s probably because he or she are not happy in themselves. Perhaps she missed the shoe sale over the weekend. Perhaps he didn’t get lucky on Saturday night. Either way it’s a simple matter of smiling, apologizing and making the time up over lunch or at the end of the day.

The world needs a chill-pill.

Pack Mentality

Apart from the obvious need to stay hydrated, one of the things that really gets drummed into you before a ‘fun run’ is not to start off too quickly. You have your own pace, your own comfort zone and your own technique, so don’t take off or you won’t make it.

It’s great advice however when you are part of a surging swarm of sweaty runners, buoyed by cheering fans and a flood of adrenalin coursing through your veins, it is almost impossible to follow.

My first foray into jogging for joy (sounds like a hippie commune sponsored by Gatorade) was the Blackmores Bridge Run. This was a simple 9km jaunt across the old coat hanger, around the Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair and finishing in Hyde Park. The gun went bang, my legs went boom and a little while later my lungs went pop. There’s probably a great photo of me somewhere, barfing up a kidney as I crossed the finish line. I hadn’t trained well enough and I paid the price. Lesson learned.

My next competitive outing was the Sydney Half Marathon. An apparently brutal race comprising over twenty one torturous kilometres through the streets of Sydney. I knew I could run this distance as I had done it many times before, so my confidence was high. As people all around me shot off like startled rabbits I remembered the rule and resisted the urge to emulate the Road Runner. Instead I held back, maintained a good pace with my running partner and as we turned the corner in the Domain, I had energy to spare. Unfortunately we had caught up to the group that started before us and had nowhere to go. I finished that race slightly faster that the Ugandan legend, Stephen Kiprotich. Of course he ran twice the distance, but why let facts get in the way of a good story 😉 My point is I had held back too much and failed to achieve my goal of breaking the two hour mark by one minute and one second. Lesson number two noted.

The City2Surf was my next opportunity to apply my recently acquired athletic education. Fourteen and a half kilometres from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach via the dreaded Heartbreak Hill. I had discovered how to dodge the slower runners and, thanks to my half marathon efforts, I had qualified for the faster group, so I decided to try a tactical approach this time instead of simply plodding one foot down in front of the other and hoping for the best.

Despite the weather the crowd was pumped. The threat of rain had not dampened the enthusiasm of sixty seven thousand runners, nor had it kept the fans away. Raincoats, umbrellas and blue painted ‘smurfs’ lined the footpaths ahead of us and when the starter pistol fired my partner and I exploded out of the blocks. We set a cracking pace, for us at least, achieving a personal best time for our fastest kilometre ever. As we approached Heatbreak Hill (a 2km vertical nightmare) I didn’t pull back. There is a drinks station near the bottom and I knew people would be slowing up for refreshment before tackling the looming tar leviathan, so I stayed my course down the middle of the road and left several hundred huffing, puffing hot shots in my wake.

Approximately a quarter of the way through the climb I eased down. There were still several thousand metres left to traverse and conserving energy was the key to finishing strongly. Besides, the apex of Heartbreak Hill is not the only lofty obstacle in our path. Just when you think the worst is over you find an equally monstrous mountain to ascend.

By the time we reached the run to the beach we had recuperated enough to give it a good shake. Unfortunately the crowds had begun to bunch up once more, as is the nature of a fun run, but we hit the home straight as hard as we could and finished the race with our fastest ever time over that particular distance.

So what knowledge have I gained that I can share with you? Here we have three races. One where I went hard and hurt myself. One where I took it easy and ended up disappointed. And one where I went hard again and everything fell into place. I guess the secret lies in three simple philosophies:

Train well, go hard and have fun.

Pine Gap Teaser 06(d) – An Inescapable Conclusion

This is the final episode in Pine Gap Teaser 06 and I promise today to be more considerate of your stomach. However, if you are a glutton for punishment feel free to check out part one , part two or part three once more.

Again they rode in silence, both officers mentally digesting the impossible horrors they had just witnessed and preparing themselves to inspect the final piece of the puzzle.

Thankfully there were no rigor-mortised remains to punish the senses on level seventy-two, only the twisted metal, shattered electrics and concrete destruction wrought by the fury of the invader. Katana shook her head in disbelief at the damage.

“Was it a bomb?”

“Nope. Stone Gollum.”

“You mean one creature did all this?”

“A Stone Gollum is a pretty big creature Major.”

Katana had never seen such a beast and she momentarily pondered on its destructive power. Finally she asked the question that had been burning on her mind since hurling on her commander’s boots.

“So what is the pattern Colonel?”

Drax kicked a small chunk of cement sending it skipping across the rubble and off into the darkness. When the echos ceased he answered her.

“Ok, the wriggling heap of maggots on level thirty was discovered fresh five days ago.”

“Right.”

“The half-man, half-prison cell on level forty-four appeared three days ago.”

“Gotcha.”

“The hanging nudist was heard screaming two days ago.”

“Ye-es”

Katana was starting to understand the sequence that would lead to Gabriel’s ultimate conclusion.

“And today a Stone Gollum magically emerged from thin air.”

“Our invaders are getting better at this aren’t they sir.”

“Damn straight Major.”

Drax looked back at the destroyed remnants of level seventy-two one last time, lost in his own musings. They only fly in the ointment was the Nat he found this morning. It was half buried in the floor yet, if it had followed the pattern he just showed Major May, it should have been running around on all six legs spitting poison at everyone.

“All I can think is that because level sixteen is such a larger space than the rest, they screwed up their coordinates.”

He had spoken that last thought out loud and Katana had heard him.

“What do you mean by ‘coordinates’ Colonel?”

“Just mulling over some ideas Major. Lets go chat to some of the inmates and see what they know.”

Pine Gap © Matthew Green 2004