Thursday, January 1, 2009

Footy, funerals and fish.

Leigh was keen to catch some fish. He'd even bought a little fishing rod in Sale, Victoria - where we'd stopped for a breather before we drove into a hurricane on Wilson's Promontory. As we cruised down the coast from the Prom, dodging trees and pieces of peoples' houses littering the roads, Leigh waxed lyrical about our good fortune.

"See, Loz - the fates were with us. Nothing bad happened to us at the Prom. Granted, the tree that crushed your tent while you were up having a leak put the wind up me a bit, 'cause, quite frankly, I didn't know how I was gonna explain to your lovely wife why, after your demise, I'd continued on to the Flinders Ranges in her Volvo. I would have given you a decent burial, though.

"No, the only bummer at the Prom was that it was too wild to have a fish. But we'll sort that out at Sorrento tonight, Loz  - I'll go and get a few whiting, then I'll cook them up with some ginger, lime and chili: perfect." 

He dozed off, no doubt dreaming about the culinary delights attendant upon fish hunting, while I drove through a town called Fish Creek that had the singularly weirdest street sign I have ever seen: "Caution - Funeral in Progress." I had to reverse up to it to assure myself that I was not hallucinating, but there it was, fixed to a metal pole concreted into the ground, and obviously rather old. I drove on, wondering whether Fish Creek was some doppelganger of the fictional Midsomer, with a murder a week de rigeur. Whatever, it was a peculiarity that bespoke much of the odd proclivities of Victorians.

One other of these is the enthusiasm - no, the psychopathology - Victorians exhibit for AFL football, possibly the most idiotic game ever to waste valuable parkland. We pitched our tents in a very odd little camp-ground at Sorrento, and Leigh ran off to the beach with his rod and a bag of prawns, and the gradually muted cries of "Come here you little fishy bastards", or something. I decided to reconnoitre the famous Sorrento Hotel instead.

Inside, I fetched the inevitable pot of beer and sat down to take in the ambience. Around the perimeter of the room, where walls met ceilings, was an array of television sets all screening different games of AFL. I nodded to a fellow drinker who was looking rapturously at one of the screens, and asked "Who's playing?"

"Oh, it's a repeat of the 1978 grand final," he replied quite seriously.

"What about the games on the other sets?" I asked, with a kind of urbane nonchalance that masked a rising panic.

"Arr, that one's 1982 quarter-final between Essendon and Hawthorn, that's the 1990 G.F. The other one's live, but I'll watch that on replay later."

Yeah, in about 2035, I thought, wondering whether the publican was some kind of time lord.

I very quickly finished my beer and hurried out before the Daleks came on for the change of shift, and finally met up with Leigh at the beach, who was still fishing, and chuckling at the same time.

"Any luck, mate?" I enquired.

"Not yet, Loz." I asked if he'd had any bites yet, and got the same response.  I was just about to suggest that we pack it in and get a pizza when he hooted with laughter and said "I've run out of bait, anyway."

"Then why is your line still in the water?"

"Cause this is brilliant, Loz. I love fishing."

Eventually I coaxed him to reel it in, and we set off for the township of Sorrento, where, I must say, the pizzas were delicious. Leigh was keen to visit the hotel himself, so we ambled in again. The place was packed to the rafters, it being about 8p.m., with the assembled locals having a very jolly, noisy time, every one of them watching a replay of the 1972 grand final.

The following day we set off for the Great Ocean Road. But first, of course, we had to pay a visit to the beach where a former prime minister, one Harold Holt, had drowned while in office. To many people, the idea of the leader of a nation ambling down to the beach by himself on a Sunday morning, then throwing himself into a gigantic surf, only to never reappear, is strikingly odd. Where were his bodyguards, his minders? Well, the simple fact is that in 1968 no-one in Australia thought it odd at all. After all, he was just bloke who happened to have a fairly high-falutin' job. But, apart from that, his day off was his own business.

So Harold, who was in his late sixties at the time, decided to test the waters at Cheviot Beach. Leigh and I were making some breakfast by the beach, while waves of a similar stature to those that were the undoing of Harold came booming in at the shore.

"Loz, I reckon that there must be somethin' left of old Harold out there still. I might go out for a look." So saying, Leigh donned his blue boardshorts, paddled into the surf, and was, in fairly short order, obscured from view by fifteen-foot waves. I didn't see this as too much of a problem, at first. After all, he wasn't a prime minister, and, secondly, I hadn't finished my avocado on toast. Leigh was a reasonable swimmer, and although he hadn't taken his floaties with him as usual, I was sure he'd be alright. I settled down for a post-prandial snooze.

I was awoken by the sound of a helicopter's rotors beating a dull ostinato above the surf. I looked up to see a rescue worker, dangling from the helicopter, fighting to get what appeared to be a draft horse collar around a small, red-haired figure in the water. I could just hear the strident voice of my mate floating across the waves.

"Piss off, you idiot - I'm just waitin' for the next set to come along. Leave me alone. What right have you got to interfere with a bloke's freedom to have a bit of a surf?" He went on and on, all the while trying to belt the rescuer, whose natural concern was to pull what was obviously a raving lunatic out of mountainous, shark-infested seas.

Eventually, the rescuer subdued him, and Leigh was dutifully hauled into the cabin of the chopper. By the time it got back to the beach, he was barking mad and in no mood to party. I opened the Esky. "Here, mate, calm down and have a beer."

His mood changed immediately. "Aw, that's very good of you, Loz - did you see what these kill-joys were doin'? I just reckon they don't want me to discover the truth about Holt's disappearance. I got to the bottom, Loz, and I tell you, there's bits of submarine with Chinese writing on it down there."

As the rescue helicopter's crew were obviously looking as though strait-jackets would be the next phase in the rescue mission, I piled Leigh into the Volvo and we took off at high speed. 

Somewhat further down the road, as Leigh was rubbing his neck, which was beginning to show some ominous bruising from the horse collar, he said "Jesus, Loz, there were some good fish out there. I should've taken my rod."


Tezcatlipoca said...

A true fisherman

grunted said...

The true art of fishing is to dangle not angle, but I'd suggest putting some grub on the line - you've got to feed the poor buggers.

phil said...

I'm glad you're not making all this up but even if you were, it'd be worthwhile.

Laurie said...

OK, OK - I make a little of it up!

Sharon said...

Perfect little story. Loved it.