Random Play by Graham Reid

Mate, how bad was that?

You don’t have to be in Australia long before you fall into bad habits and start saying things like, “Mate, how good was that?” I was there a week -- not Australia actually but Surfers Paradise which is another thing altogether -- and I started dumbing down.

Don’t get me wrong, this is no anti-Aussie bash (there’s a lot I love about the place) but at Surfers there was a pool outside my motel door, constant sunshine, the local newspaper contained nothing worth reading, and the television channels didn’t show any international news. Quite an enforced holiday.

We were there to scatter my mum’s ashes but the flights were so cheap and the motel only $50 a night so we turned a weekend trip into seven nights, hired a car and tootled off to Byron Bay and Brisbane. Mate, how good was that?

Once I had finished my book -- Spoken Here by Mark Abley about dying or endangered languages, really good -- I was forced to read the local papers.

New Zealand was mentioned twice, and neither time favourably. First there was the Helen Clark thing about John Farnham, the second was about the yobbos at the cricket pelting the Australians with bottles and suchlike. Mate, how dumb was that?

It was tough being a Kiwi in Paradise last week.

Of the former it was hard to get any hard information but locals hooted about how sour our PM looks and of course John Farnham, whatever you think of him, is a cross-generational icon in Australia. I don’t mind the guy, anyone who can go from Sadie The Cleaning Lady to being The Voice of his homeland has done pretty well.

Clark may well have been right about the Gallipoli thing -- although Farnham isn’t quite that insensitive and his few songs were utterly respectful of the occasion, it was never going to be a rock concert. But I have some difficulty with the way in which she phrased her comments. It was as if, because she hadn’t heard of him he somehow didn’t count. That’s the kind of arrogance we are seeing too often from this government, and hear too often from the Dear Leader.

It was on off-the-cuff comment which speaks volumes about ego. Mate, how arrogant was that?

And why would you wave your ignorance like a flag?

Anyway dumbness is everywhere right now. I picked up the Gold Coast Tabloid and read of a sad case where a guy had backed the car over his daughter in the driveway. The interesting thing was the big sort of public service sidebar which was full of advice like: always know where your children are; look carefully before backing down the driveway, and so on.

Do people really need to be told such basic information? It seems they do. Attune yourself and you’ll see what I mean. There is a dumbing down everywhere.

When we got back home there was nothing to eat in the house so we went shopping at the local Foodtown. No, it wasn’t the one where insecure idiots think if someone is speaking something other than English they are probably talking about them. (Doesn’t that strike you as arrogant, that some think they might be worthy of someone else’s conversation?)

And it wasn’t the Foodtown where they have bilingual announcements. Mate, how ka pai was that?

This one did have announcements, but if this is public service then I think we’re in serious trouble and getting more stupid by the minute. The sweet lady’s voice announced a wine tip from Bob Campbell, one of the country's most knowledgeable wine writers and a man whom I’m always happy to take advice from.

So I tuned in, and people around me must have wondered what I was laughing my arse off about. This is what Bob said: if you are having trouble opening a screw cap top hold the top in the palm of your hand and turn the bottle from the bottom.

Mate, how dumb was that?