Thursday, October 6, 2011

TALES FROM DUN ROAMING - THE CUSTARD CAPER

LOVABLE LARRIKINS OF DUN ROAMING

Cartoonist Alec Gurney created Bluey and Curly, two Aussie Larrikins of the war years – a close resemblance to my two, but obviously not them.
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For years now various friends have been urging me to write about their, and other’s,  many weird and wonderful escapades.  I’ve resisted because many of these  stories have dubious content and I’m not quite sure where the Statute of Limitations begins and ends  in relation to breaking the law. 

Very minor offences I hasten to add. More like school boy pranks.  Truly. 

And because the stories heavily involve the very people who are doing the urging I feel one of us should at least try to protect  and uphold what little is left of their tattered, though legendary reputations.

I’ve come to the conclusion the only way to get round these little battles with my conscience is to cloak their identity in anonymity, allot different names; change entirely the scene of their crimes, invent another paradise altogether, that I will call Dun Roaming.

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THE TOWN OF DUN ROAMING

The town speaks for itself, it’s name indicates a population of residents who all started life elsewhere, well a lot of the townsfolk anyway:  There is a resident hard core of incredibly respectable inhabitants whose families go back well before the days of Captain Cook, and what they make of the Lovable Larrikin newcomers is anybody’s guess.

I think the first time I realised this little community had an even slightly larcenous background  was when I sighted a tough little bush pony casually tied to a signpost in the local cemetery that clearly read, HORSES AND STOCK NOT ALLOWED  IN THE CEMETERY, signed Town Council.

That, and the funeral party  on the barge bringing a coffin back to Dun Roaming for a family burial to the accompaniment of esky loads of beer, almost prepared me for the ‘laugh a minute’ life that lay ahead.

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BEER – DUN ROAMING’S NECTAR OF LIFE




I though it best, under the circumstances, not to publish their true identity, this though is pretty close to the real thing!

When the world thinks Australia, they visualise an Aussie bloke downing a stubbie of beer, and they’re not far wrong.  For most Aussie men beer is what makes their world go round.


For years our local pubs... hotels, saloons for you more gentrified readers, were the bastions of their manhood.  Women were forbidden to enter the public bar and had to be content with sitting demurely in the lounge area where most times they could hear the raucous noise made by their better halves, but remained unseen to them and therefore out of mind.


Women’s Lib put a stop to that.


Not that it ever really mattered in Dun Roaming, the blokes there had the Chook House and no self respecting female ever wanted to be seen inside its cavernous walls, much less pause to partake its amber liquid.


My personal Larrikin was a Johnny come lately to the town.  He had already amassed his own private history of escapades back in the big smoke and probably thought there was nothing new the country blokes could show him.


How wrong he was. 

Two sets of hands,Two sets of legs, but only one set belongs to one of the other Larrikins...
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CLEVER MICK AND SPARKY

It’s not easy to dream up new names for these characters, their own tell the story much better, but sensibilities dictate the need.  And my gut instinct tells me someone has to protect them from themselves.

Anyway Clever and Sparky were just part of the Dun Roaming clique of like minded souls.  All of them were mates,  they fished together, drank together, got up to mischief together.  When my bloke the City Slicker turned up, they gingerly at first, admitted him to their ranks.

Now Slicker knew a few things the country fellahs didn’t.  For a start he had the evident few years advantage on them.  Not all that much mind you, but the wisdom of age did come with a certain wariness and respect for the law. 

I mean my Slicker knew the cops had a job to do, without them there would  be anarchy on a gigantic scale, and if you were going to drink excessively then you did it in private, in inaccessible venues. Out in the bush, somewhere off the beaten track. Inside your own four walls.

 Or else you had a responsible someone always ready at the wheel when your vehicle touched back onto bitumen.

Clever Mick and Sparky were also extremely community minded.  Always ready to help out a mate, fix a flat tire, replace a blown light bulb, fill in when the regular driver couldn’t work the Meals on Wheels job.

I wonder, do any of you observant readers see where this story is heading?

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THE CUSTARD CAPER

You could say these two are right larrikins, but they’re still not the Clever Mick or Sparky of this story...

Up to now, I must admit, their escapades had been relegated to a more harmless Runyon scale.  I’m sure most of you will have heard of, or read, or even seen Damon Runyon classics like Guys and Dolls.  You haven’t?

Think then John Travolta in Get Shorty, or Danny de Vito, or heaven help us the hapless mob of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World...

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When the emergency call came through Clever and Sparky were already well on the way.  What do you mean, ‘what do I mean’? 

They’d already downed a few, emptied a few cans, sampled the local beer and what have you.  There was a gleam in their eye accompanied by the reckless desire to continue imbibing.

This I might add in the early mid morning following what should have been a full and long night shift at the establishment that helped pay their household bills.

Don’t get me wrong here.  Both Clever Mick and Sparky were highly thought of by their respective bosses, absolute whizz kids at their jobs.  In time they would actually become top bosses themselves, but that unbelievable future, at this stage is still in the realms of make believe.

But to get back to the Custard Caper.

Then came the call, the phone call.  Obviously being the clever little detectives you all are, you’ve placed the time frame in the era of mobile phones.  Barely in that era I might add.

The gist of the phone call?  The driver who usually delivered the three course Meals on Wheels to Dun Roaming and it’s satellite towns had done himself an injury, could they take over, just for today until a replacement was found?

‘No worries’, said Clever, ‘I’ve got my mate with me, we’ll do it standing on our head.’

Of course the Meals on Wheels supervisor didn’t realise Clever Mick was speaking literally.

They arrived in the company truck, I did mention this was a work day, a normal work day that up to that point had been conducted in a fairly normal routine manner.  Albeit of course, by now they should really have been clocking off.  It had after all been a hard days night and not all of it working.

Anyway all the Meals on Wheels gear was duly loaded on the back, together with a list of where to go, which old dear was to get which meal, the idiosyncrasies of some, special needs of others.  A piece of cake observed Sparky.

They did Dun Roaming first, the customers all knew them. ‘G’day Mick, how ya doing Sparky?  Fish biting?’...all that chitchat.  Soup Bowls, meat and three veg, bowl of custard, names crossed off the list, on to the next address.

The next community was much the same, only a few, all eagerly waiting their main meal of the day.

Then came the 15 minute drive to the last satellite town. 

By now they’ve worked up a fresh thirst.  The esky in the back seat is empty, but there’s a pub at the next town so no worries, replacement supply in sight.

Going through the S bends they’re in a jovial mood, the radio’s on, they’re singing country and western, when suddenly, out of the bush darts a little wallaby.

Clever hits the brakes, does a little swerve, the wallaby hops away safe and sound, but in the back of the truck the meals on wheels, unknown to the two volunteers, are now sloshing about in an interesting and murky mix, leaving a trail of containers and equipment behind.

When they finally reach their next delivery,  Clever takes one look in the back of the truck and is understandably speechless.

‘Crikey’.   Sparky looks at the mess.  He probably used a few other Aussie euphemisms but I’m too lady like to put them in print. 

Clever Mick is suitably wide eyed by now, but heavily in denial mode.

‘Gee, it’s not too bad Sparks.  All we have to do is shovel the stuff back into the containers and no one will know any different’.

‘You think so?’  Sparky’s not too sure.  Of the two,  he  may have been the more clear headed.

‘Trust me.  Quick, get a move on before someone drives past.’

Somehow, slurpy soup is separated from  trembling custard,  an approximation of meat and three veg replaced on dishes.  They stand back, looking with pride on their handiwork. 

‘Um Mick’... Sparky is busy counting and recounting meals against recipients and slowly realising all doesn’t quite equate. 

Clever does a finger count, and biting his nails, has to agree.

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Thirteen into eight.  They’re short five meals.

Clever Mick’s mind is darting each and every way.  An executive decision is needed.  Like the Sword of Damocles, he delivers his edict.  (Haven’t read your bible lately? Think imminent disaster.)

‘So some of them go on a diet. Its only for one day. We’ll give a couple soup and custard and the others can have the meat and veg stuff.  They won’t know the difference.’

The end result looks unspeakably like an unkempt dogs dinner.  But the deed is done,  deliveries swiftly made with a low degree of eye contact and the two make a swift, dry return back to Dun Roaming.

If any of the meals recipients made a complaint, Clever and Sparky never heard a dickey. 

Come on, you know what that means, dickey bird, not a word! 

Passersby in the interim must have wondered though, at the mess of cardboard boxes and containers strewn along the S bends. 

One eagle eye in particular was a local oyster farmer on his way home from a mornings work out on the bay, who couldn’t quite believe the treasure trove he stopped to collect, knives and forks and spoons festooned along the highway.

He dined out on that story for ever more, which is more than the old timers did on that last lap of Sparky and Clever Mick's delivery route.  

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Okay! I surrender.  While I won’t reveal their true identity, I will admit this final snapshot is much akin to the Larrikins of Dun Roaming.


...and no, the rather tall fishy character in the middle is neither Clever nor Sparky.

And there ends yet another tall tale, and true  from the make believe but totally believable community of Dun Roaming.

The Loveable Larrikins, many years later, continue to amuse and scare me to death, sometimes both at the same time and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Robyn Mortimer ©2011