The other day, the ruddy Dr John Arbuthnot and I were indulging in a spot of canasta around the divan in my parlour when, who should burst in unannounced but that Simpson fellow? Along with a donkey. Abdul, I think he called it.
We often receive such visitations from our fellow deceased. Truth be known, we encourage them as they do help to pass Eternity. And in fact, this Simpson cove is a regular visitor although he usually leaves the donk at home.
Unperturbed, the good doctor and I immediately invited our two unexpected guests to a friendly tipple of Dry Sherry and a game or two of the old four-handed.
‘Simmo’, as Simpson insists we call him, was full of startling news from the north. The somnolent, sub-Antarctic shores of Apollo Bay are usually unruffled by any but the most violent exhalations from the twin cesspits of Melbourne and Sydney. So imagine our shock when we heard tell of the sad demise of that nice, fresh-faced Johnny Brogden – apparently ‘stiffed by his own mates’, as Simmo very tactfully yet graphically put it.
This shocking story had us all sobbing inconsolably into our cups, as no doubt were all of Brogden’s erstwhile colleagues in the Bear Pit.
But who, we asked ourselves, would now become Her Majesty’s Loyal Legspinner and part-time Leader of the NSW Opposition? The elder statesman of the NSW Parliament, Morris (‘Don of all the Dons’) Iemma, had looked a certainty to take over that exalted position after the next so-called election. But after Brogden’s Icarus-like fall, nothing is certain, and it may be that Iemma will be forced to bestow that honour of opposition on the Libs for another term.
Simmo’s maudlin mood improved markedly when he next launched into an uproarious fable about a knight-errant called Solomon (‘Wiseguy’) Trujillo and his merry band of Zapatista freedom fighters liberating a fair damsel named Telstra from the clutches of a malevolent dragon called Public Ownership. It seems this posse of jolly pranksters secured the damsel’s release by first telling everyone she was worthless, and then chopping her up into very small pieces and offering these shares up for sale to their mothers, cousins and maiden aunts. Counter intuitive, I thought, but according to Simmo it worked a treat!
By this stage we had drained the Tio Pepe dry and Simmo (despite our earnest entreaties) had moved on to the Midori. The only other morsel of News worth repeating, from over the Otways, was about that lovely, domed Dr Nelson. According to Simmo, the gorgeous Brendan has had the splendid idea of trying to brutally beat some civilised values into as many Australians as possible.
Repeatedly. My views on the therapeutic benefits of Flagellation are well known, and I needn’t rehearse them here, but suffice it to say that few things focus the mind more than a good thrashing.
We repaired to the parlour at this point, and after a few rounds of 500 (Arbuthnot and I went out the back door twice, and Abdul cashed in with an open misere hand of stellar beauty) we packed up the cards and sauntered down Piggery Lane to the Apollo Bay RSL, for a tankard or four of the local ale. That’s when the trouble began.
There was a momentary contretemps at the front desk of the RSL when Simmo discovered that he had forgotten his Veterans Card ‘somewhere back of Lethe’. Abdul stepped into the breach and, flourishing his own Veterans Card, he signed us in.
I must admit we were all slightly taken aback at this, but the publican chortled that we’d be ‘surprised at the number of donkeys I’ve let through these doors.’
That should have been the end of the matter. But Simmo felt he had something to prove and nothing could convince the publican – a large, boorish man with more teeth than brains – that our man had been a bona fide ‘Digger on the slopes of the Dardanelles,’ as he put it. (At least, I think that’s what Simmo said.
The blighter has a Geordie twang that could juice a lemon, and because old Arbuthnot’s as deaf as a clam these days, I was forced to do most of the translating myself, mainly with the aid of Abdul the donkey.)
From what I could discern, Simmo was mortally offended and insisted on treating the publican’s rejection as a matter of principle (or perhaps a ‘mattock of pork apple’). Words were exchanged. Scuffles ensued.
A fist was thrown in anger, but to little effect. And the Evening seemed destined for some exuberant, albeit minor, tragedy. Unfortunately, Simmo is endowed with a surfeit of the choleric humour of many of his countrymen, and especially after a guarana or two, he can be a tad pugnacious. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. Abdul calmly took the publican aside and defused the situation with some whispered enticements. He slipped the publican a 50, purchased a generous supply of longnecks on his Amex, and hoisted a by now exhausted Simmo onto his back.
Our valiant band of brothers then staggered back to my humble abode in Piggery Lane to recover. As Simmo slept off the effects of his monstrous imbibing in the trundle bed on the veranda, Arbuthnot and I settled down inside, with the longnecks, a few snifters and an elegant array of aromatic cheeses, for a long and spirited chat with Abdul. Turned out to be quite a lovely chap. For a Mohametan.
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