For some unknown reason, we had our Xmas breakup at the local lawn bowling club - the last bastion of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and/or Catholic at leisure, maybe. No idea what to expect, apart from the stereotype of the elderly Aussie lawn bowlers' hangout.
Signed in - Fraudster, C/- The Windsor, Melbourne. My nostrils were assailed by something foisty, faintly mothbally, and something else; essence of je ne sais quoi.
'Don't like the smell.' Fraudster curls lip, sneers a bit. 'Smells of old.' I'm sitting there at noon on Thursday before Christmas, kitted up to out-do a Christmas tree.
'Quite like it,' says Work Husband, guarding his pot of beer. 'Reminds me of my great-grandfather's house.'
The rest of the staff arrive.
'Don't forget to sign in.'
We sit in a bar around capacious ten-seater Formica topped round tables. As people make their way across the enormous wooden dance floor, some of them trying out a few tap steps along the way, their faces, too, take on that look of searching for the source of the odour.
The brick bowling club dates from late 'fifties or early 'sixties.
'Perhaps someone could pop back to school to get some music,' a teacher suggests, given the echoey bleakness of this old people's place, bedecked with pennants from bowling comps past. But that wasn't to be.
'We're here for a spit roast. You can bowl later if you want to.' That's our officious, put upon staff association leader, who'd organised the venue and catering.. (A coup was mooted by some of the young things last year, but ultimately no one either cared that much come the new year. Or dared.)
I sipped my 100 ml of Chateau Cardboard wine and tried, unsuccessfully, to savour the ambience, like waiting for a game of bingo to commence.
We lined up like refugees for our 'meals'. It was the usual spit roast fare, or what was left of it by the time I got up there, not being one to enjoy queuing for fifteen minutes in a pair of, for me, moderately high heels. It was nutritious, I suppose. The beef end was quite tender. I don't eat much.
Then the floor show:
An aussie gent, sixty-something, Ted, in washed out striped polo shirt and shorts, unceremoniously held up a used Bandaid - sticking plaster. 'If any lady's lost the Bandaid off of her nipple, I've got it here.' Embarrassed laughter ensued briefly. Is that what the old 'ladies' do to prevent high-beams penetrating their bowling shirts?
Unabashed by lack of appreciation for his jest, Ted held up the wire stopper from a bottle of champagne.
'How long's this wire?' he shouted.
'What do you mean?' called one of my colleagues.
Ted frowned, a bit put out. He spelled it out for the idiot.
'If you unravel this wire, how long is it?' Jeez, dumb teachers or what?
'Why?' called another temeritous soul.
Finally he explained that it wasn't a trick question, but a competition. Ah! The correct guess would win a bottle of wine. Next question:
'How many hankies high is a horse?' Huh?
'Men's or ladies'?' called a female teacher, getting into the spirit of it. He reached behind the bar and produced an ironed, folded men's handkerchief. Ostentatiously, he shook it out, grabbed it by two diagonally opposed corners and held it up for his captive audience. Can't remember the answer. I'd downed three 'cardies' by that stage.
I approached the bar. Ted was the barman now, floorshow being over.
'Diet coke, please?'
'You don't look like you need a diet coke,' He narrowed his eyes; leered at me. Perhaps I only imagined him licking his already wet lips. Wink.
'Ahahah!' Hilarious. 'Thanks, but I'd like one anyway.'
'But you don't need it!' He cast a raunchy eye over me, grinning lasciviously.
'Oh! Ha ha ha, too kind.' I tittered 'Can I have a diet coke, please?'
'You don't need one, love.' Same deal.
'Look, I actually have diabetes. Can I please have a diet coke?'
At that he changed tack; beckoned me along the bar, away from the others waiting for drinks.
Here we go, I thought. Wants to share his own diabetic trials, or those of his dead grandmother. Go with it.
Rictus smile on my face, I indulged him. He waved me closer, the better to hear his confidence. Okay.
With one elbow on the bar, grinning, catching me in an eye-lock, he recited some doggerel. For about two and a half minutes. A long time for me to smile and occasionally shrug politely, to feign interest. Wasn't really focused, given 300 ml of chardy, that early in the day. But the protagonist of the poem, a dog, was 'piddling' here, there and everywhere. Meanwhile, a heavily made up, coiffed bowling club lady, ceased polishing the bar, to lend a delighted ear.
The rhyming punchline of his recitation, which he'd waited perhaps forty-five years to deliver? 'That dog's got diabetes!'
'Can I have my diet coke now?'
'No, you can't. We've only got Pepsi Max,' he said, grinning like an imbecile, pleased as punch.
That piece of doggerel? The piddlin' pup.