The Family Of Alternative Brands

My father drank Crest Lager (“Brewed for MEN! A taste that is crisp and VIGOROUS!”, baritoned the 1970 TV advertisement)  and Courage Draught rather than the dominant Carlton beers: Fosters Lager, Melbourne Bitter, Victoria Bitter, and Carlton Draught.

Remember Abbots Lager? At the time of writing I came across a reference to it in Barry Humphries’ ‘biography’ of Edna Everidge. The cardiganed old Sandy Stone is standing in the hallway with a glass of Abbots. His glass would have been the now extinct 200ml standard or perhaps even the 140ml ‘pony’ filled from a 750ml bottle – stubbies and (meshed steel) cans were rarer, perhaps deemed too expensive in those economic recessive times, or less sociable.  Sandy’s beer would have turned flat the instant it slid down into his Sunlight Dishwashing Liquid – lined glass.

Mother chose Vita Brits over Weet Bix; AktaVite and Ovaltine over Milo and Quik. I’m not exactly sure why this preference for obscure brands. A bit of an outsider himself, dad, I think, relished the idea of a company attempting to break a monopoly and the consumer narrow-mindedness that it relied upon.

I remember him  pawing over the catalogue for the newly released Leyland P76 and telling everyone who’d listen about its features and the advantages it had over the already iconic Holden Kingswood and Ford Falcon. I can’t remember him harping on about the Chrysler Valiant though which, with its more stylised (albeit American) look, was probably deemed a little too ethnic. The Valiant was popular with the recently arrived Greek and Italian immigrants. Its pointed ends and exotic grilles seemed to match the owners balustraded palatial homes.

Later, when choosing a company car dad requested a Mitsubishi Magna -rather than the more expensive Commodore and Falcon. And lying on the back floor was his UBD street directory, not the standard Melways.

I wasn’t immune. After a camping trip as a teenager I developed a penchant for jeeps – real tin jeeps, not the luxurious AWD SUVs driving around suburbs today. Not being able to afford one as a first car I bought a Mini Moke. I also carried around a brochure. It was faintly patronising, mentioning several times that it only had lap seat belts in what was essentially an ash tray on wheels. No doors and a canvas canopy for a roof, its fuel tank was in the side chassis; luckily the passenger’s side. There was no need for a fuel gauge. I would simply lean across, open the metal lid and peer inside.

Dad’s Crest Lager was my first beer – at four years of age. I can still remember seeing the bottle sitting on the mantlepiece as my parents were farewelling their guests. The golden hue and thick white head of beer had always fascinated me. Expecting it to taste of honey and mock cream the metallic bitter taste was a nasty shock. Wanting it to taste how it looked I took another slug. Anyway, my parents found the empty bottle under my younger brother’s cot and me hiding/slouching behind the door (could a near full 750ml bottle of beer cause brain damage in a 4 year old?).

I was a big fan of Abbots Lager. Its white label was less crass than its lolly coloured brothers: Fosters (blue), Melbourne (red), and VB (green). The charcoal sketch of the CUB brewery in Abbotsford (from which it got its name) gave it a monastic credibility. Looking at it’s label today it just looks like a  a factory. And it was no Rochefort 10, of course. It had the same bitter metallic taste of all the CUB “brews”. The powerful aroma of malt wafting from that common orange-red  brick ‘monastery’ promised so much more.

Mum’s brand choices were most likely based on a belief, spawned by the words “nutritious” and “essential vitamins and minerals” on the labels, in their health benefits. AktaVite must have been healthy because it looked like tapeworm and had the cloying aftertaste of all  “pleasant tasting” medicines.

The Real Reason Australia Lost The Ashes

Ricky Ponting made uninspired decisions and had no luck with the toss. The selectors left out Stuart Clark when he should have played and left him in when he should have been out. Johnson’s fear of Lord’s and his mother was very costly. Australia failed to turn advantage into victory and had more batting lapses. Yes, all these factors contributed to our recent series loss in England.

But I believe the Ashes were gone the minute England unveiled its impressive armoury of …. underbiters.

For the Australians, arriving at the crease was like entering a malocclusion horror show. There peering from between the stumps and sniggering was the Muttley mug of Matt Prior. With a shudder you turned only to be confronted with the Graemes Swann and Onions, their prominent mandibles quivering in anticipation.

In the second innings at Edgbaston as Swann skipped in to bowl “THAT BALL” Ponting was focusing on THAT MOUTH!

In the first innings the commentators believed Onions got Ponting out attempting to hook when in fact Ponting was attempting to turn away from the Onions face.

If  that wasn’t enough, our dismissed batsmen trudging from the field  had England team director Andy Flower’s misaligned masticator grinning down at them from the balcony.

Ian Bell, squatting at silly mid wicket, tried his hardest to put off the Australians by highlighting his squirrel-like lips with zinc.

Australia countered, with some  effect,  by having Peter ‘Gingivitis’ Siddle frighten the umpires into giving batsmen out by also wearing zinc on his lips. Unlike Andrew Symonds, Siddle’s teeth aren’t in great shape and when contrasted with the brilliant white of the zinc take on the yellow-green hue of trench mouth.

When appealing he resembled the psychotic circus ringmaster from The League Of Gentlemen, Papa Lazarou (“You’re my wife nooow!”)

Papa and Peter Lazarou

Pete and Papa Lazarou

Long White Socks Never Did Anyone Any Good

Opposition supporters say they’re chokers. Wayne Bennett said they were unlucky. But I know the real reason St George-Illawarra failed to win the premiership: LONG WHITE SOCKS.

Wearing long white socks never did anyone any good.  They were for scrawny men in safari suits and five year old boys forced to go to Sunday School.  There was a packet of Holeproof  Long White Business Socks (and a couple of Speckled Fawn) that remained unopened while doing the christmas present rounds of our extended family for the entire 1970’s. 

White socks highlight the moving legs which is the aesthetic domain of dancers, football (soccer) players and piston-legged sprinters.  Put them on a rugby league player and he looks like Margot Fonteyn running with the bulls. 

The high number of female spectators at such a masculine game can’t just be explained by unfortunate wives, girlfriends and mothers being dragged along. Many will enjoy the game itself but there must also be those there to stare: the female gaze.

Firm behinds and muscular thighs, arms and chests, not to mention the sculptured calves of Matt Cooper, seem to rate highly on the scale of women’s sexual aesthetics. And these all-white, second-skin kits certainly highlight these regions.

However, as women also know, white jumpers make your torso look bigger. Adding a white jersey to the ensemble may give you a slight  psychological advantage when you’re standing in front of the opposing prop (commentators are often sucked in: “Aren’t they a big team?”) but if you don’t have the svelte muscular frame things are going to get really ugly. 

The muscular but rotund Wendell Sailor looked like a pot roast in white Glad wrap.

And Eorl Crabtree is a hulking 6ft 6in, 122kg prop but wearing his England all-white strip and ponytail he appears to want to be more than that. I can just imagine him in the bar after a match untethering his hair and twirling his head about like Terence Stamp in Priscilla Queen Of  The Desert.

Rugby league has it’s share of exhilarating dancing with the twisting, sidestepping and stomping of Greg Inglis and Jarryd Hayne. Ultimately, though, the game is about power and impact. 

St George should have dressed for that, not Swan Lake.

NEXT WEEK: England’s Underbites: Why Australia Lost The Ashes

A Summer Of ODIs and STDs

The new season of international cricket is almost upon us. It will be a summer cricketfest of 3 Mobile Tests, KFC Twenty20’s, ODIs and STDs. Sorry, what was that last one?

As we know (and wish we didn’t) Shoaib Akhtar missed this year’s World Twenty20 after treatment for die genitalen Warzen

Warts? Surely, as in the recent television ad, you just call the umpire over to apply some Wart Off. 

But apparently not. For genitals, Wart Off is a no-no. So what  type of wart removing procedure is serious enough to put a cricket player out of action? And how do these strutting, rutting sportsmen avoid the  embarrassment of having their transmitted afflictions, some contracted extramaritally on some Trent Bridge toilet floor, from becoming news on Sunrise?

To find out I go along to the  Sexual Health Centre to interview some of the doctors who have the thankless and unsavoury task of dealing with diseased nether regions.

It is situated at a discreet distance from the CBD but close enough to visit a cafe for a double shot espresso after your genital electrofulgration.

Approaching the counter timidly (there’s a sign saying: “Stand back from the counter until called”) I tell the solemn looking chap behind it that I’m here for an interview. He directs me to the waiting room.

It looks like any medical waiting room. But there is no coughing here, just a hot silence. What do people wear to a sexual health clinic? There are varied fashions but mainly casual. Smart clean looking pants belying the ungodly fermenting truth within. Trousers that can be quickly taken off  and then put back on so the wearers can get the hell out of there. There are also  a couple of primly dressed girls and a middle aged woman dressed to the nines in a Mediterranean outfit.

A young student couple arrive with the man off to see the triage nurse while the girl laconically writes up study notes. There are some reddish faces and greasy hair. Up on the wall there is a poster proclaiming: “Anyone can get genital herpes”. I shift uneasily in my overly warm seat.

I’m greeted by the surprisingly cheery Dr ‘No’. “Hello Andrew!”, he chortles, proffering his hand. Mine is wet and hot from nerves but what’s his excuse? As we head off I notice a blond bloke with meaty fingers texting the triage nurse on his Xun Chi 138. We enter the doctor’s office where in the corner there is an examination table with baking paper on it.  

I  mention the Shoaib Akhtar revelations and how embarrassing it must have been for him.

“There really is no need for anyone to be embarrassed by genital warts. It’s a sympton of the the Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) which well over half the population has”, notes Dr ‘No’.

But surely the treatments can’t be serious enough to stop him playing. “Oh yes”, said Dr ‘No’.

“Mr Akhtar had an intense dose of electrofulgration where his warts were basically electrocuted off. He needed ten days to heal and achieve skin cover before resuming playing. Running would have been very painful.” “There is also surgery”, a voice announced behind me. It was the resident dermatologist and cricket fan from India Dr ‘Yes’ who had popped his head into the room. Apparently surgery is only an option if your warts are so bad they resemble one of those multi-coloured models of a molecular structure. But with surgery, Dr ‘Yes’ warned, “you have to watch out for the bleeding!”.

 The more common and less severe treatments involve freezing (ie burning) with liquid nitrogen or the application of a special cream. In these instances the warts simply drop off after a few days ( “Oh sorry I can’t make the christening. I’m waiting for my warts to drop off”) but do involve some scorching. Was this a health clinic or purgatory? With the electrocutions, the bleeding and the stench of burning papillomas it would be hard to tell.

What measures can a prominent sportsperson take to prevent their condition becoming public knowledge I wonder: “We strictly abide by doctor-patient confidentiality but of course if they want to they can use a false name.”

“Do you have any idea what percentage of clients do this?”, I ask. “About ten to fifteen per cent” .  A Dr ‘Maybe’ enters the room with “Oh I’d guess a lot more!”   

Not expecting an answer I ask if they have treated any cricketers who have used false names. Incredibly, Dr ‘No’ , not being a cricket fan, had got Dr ‘Yes’ to retrieve a number of files for the interview. “Yes, well when I said they could use false names they must have misunderstood because they appear to have given me their nicknames.

“Let’s see now,  there is a Punter here. Oh yes I remember him, a nervous little chap, chewing his fingernails all the time. He thought he may have picked up something from the Caribbean. After I gave him the all-clear he still didn’t relax… he was mumbling something about not knowing she was Chris Gayle’s girlfriend.

“Dr ‘Maybe’ treated someone going by the name of Binga. It was syphilis,with complications. Antibiotics did the trick but he had left it a bit too long and will probably experience a weakening of his joints and have a susceptibility to side strains.

“There are two who had genital herpes….a Mr Cricket and….Pup. Mr Cricket had severe itching and hasn’t been able to keep still for the last two summers. Pup was fuming that he had waited so long to lose his virginity to a model only to get herpes.

Before leaving I ask Dr ‘Yes” if that was Warnie out in the waiting room. “Oh yes, he’s come for his free Hep B shot”

 Glad to be out of there, I step out onto the street trying not to look like I’m leaving a sex health clinic (is that a CCTV?) and go for a nice strong flat white.