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Posts Tagged ‘drivers’

We’re the last to leave the party
The first to ask for more
– The Choirboys, 1987

It was at Woolies in Dickson that I first realised Summernats 23 was here.

Wednesday afternoon and more than the usual quota of feral children were being dragged through the vegetable section by hatchet-faced women. The deli was three-deep with blokes in thongs, shorts, tats and stubble. At the checkouts, Woolies staff were actually working as traffic control, waving customers towards the least lengthy lines. In the carpark there were a lot of 80s-model Commodores with mags.

Summernats has undergone a makeover in the last 12 months according to organisers. Founder and roughnut raconteur Chic Henry sold the festival to Australia Day Concert producer Andy Lopez, who this week pledged to make the festival more “family friendly” (though he stopped short of making it an actual family event, saying “It’s not meant to be like a day out with Humphrey B Bear”). In addition to the usual burnout competitions and street machine parades, the program offered highlights including fireworks and the Choirboys. The ACT Government offered free chlamydia tests.

Thursday evening and green lights on Northbourne Avenue were met with squeals as clutches dropped. Arms dangled out windows, holding stubbies. The Bald Man and I were driving across town when a bunch of blue lights caught our attention. A group several hundred strong were converged on a servo in Braddon, along with several dozen police. It was unclear what was going on, but there didn’t seem to be much action so we rolled on. What was clear was that for those who didn’t fancy heading out to EPIC showgrounds and paying a fat fee to get through the gates, a kind of mini-Summernats parade was happening downtown.


So Friday evening we made a special trip back to see it for ourselves. Although it was still light when we arrived at Braddon, hundreds of spectators were already lined up on the footpaths to watch the passing parade of cars. Many had folding chairs and eskies to ensure comfort. And surprisingly, it was a family event. Along with the many (bearded and bellied) blokes, there were a lot of children (with extraordinary mullets), women (with hard, hard faces) and teenagers (with tattoos and muffintops). We stationed ourselves diagonally opposite the Debacle and breathed deeply of the petrol fumes.

Bald Man is an unreconstructed petrolhead, so he had quite a good time looking at the cars and crowds. Frankly the informal parade was pretty motley, but there were a few gems amongst both cars and drivers. The highlight was Roger, a genial local bloke with a genuine GTHO which he bought from the original owner right here in The Berra a decade ago for a tenth of what it’s worth now.

I soaked up the atmosphere, of which there was plenty. For a start, the landmark Mandalay was actually open for business, the first time I’ve ever seen it so since moving here. It was so remarkable I felt we had to buy and eat something from it, which turned out to be a Canberra Dog for Bald Man and a Dagwood dog for me, and no, I am not ashamed. It was all part of the experience. Walking down Lonsdale St one admired cars parked in little family groups: XYs, Celicas, Toranas, Monaros, Mustangs and so on.

At some point in the evening a roar went up from the servo across from us. A meathead decked out in white trackpants and bling had pulled up in a hotted up Mazda RX3 and was revving the engine when some rozzers snuck up behind him and ordered him and his mates out of the vehicle. The police then wheeled out an RTA inspector, who started to go over the car, and then it began to escalate. A crowd gathered, first dozens and then hundreds. More police arrived, and then more – no less than eight cars and more than 30 uniformed bods.

It was a very long half hour while the car owner argued aggressively, various cops stared back at him impassively and the crowd hooted and jeered. Finally they let him go without a canary, but looking at the width of those tyres it was probably a close thing. Had they been the fashion police though, this bloke and his mates would have got life.

Perhaps what’s so fascinating about the Summernats is the side of Canberra it brings out. Most of the cars doing laps of Braddon were local. A friend commented over dinner on Saturday night that a bogan car show wasn’t the kind of thing you’d expect to see in the Berra, which did take me aback. Summernats shouldn’t be a surprise at all, for like every other Australian city the Berra has plenty of outer suburbs where bogan culture thrives, and the layout of this town actively supports a strong car focus. But there is definitely a so-called-cultured and affluent middle class here that has no idea or interest in what goes on beyond the Parliamentary triangle and inner suburbs, and that’s not healthy. Boganism may not be in good taste, but willful ignorance is inexcusable.

Finally after a few hours we had had enough. We attracted only a few jibes as we hopped on our bicycles and rode away.

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I see trouble on the way
– Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969

Human beings are mostly water (or, after last Friday’s dinner party, mostly wine; I am meeting some very hospitable Berran locals). It’s no wonder then that so many of us seem, like the tide, subject to phases of the moon.

The full moon is the one we discuss most, usually in terms of weird complaints and aberrant manic behaviour from the public and colleagues alike. But I reckon that there’s a corresponding effect in the days at the opposite end of the scale, around the dark of the moon. I’m still studying it, but it seems to bring out a sort of negative, cranky-pants streak, a helpless-belligerent, passive-agressive sullenness, or else a kind of deer-in-the-headlights cluelessness.

On the weekend the road users were all nutso. In Fyshwick, despite having the right of way I slowed down for a bike rider who clearly hadn’t looked towards me. When he did, and noticed I had slowed for him, he pursed his lips and shook his head at me, to signal I was clearly a villiage-idiot-Volvo-driver who drove too slowly. What, he would rather I barrelled through the intersection dragging his mangled bike and person because I had right of way? Well, I rather wish I had, he made me feel so small.

I was still fuming sullenly a little later when, while cruising a narrow road beside Lake Curly-Gherkin, a fellow in a very large Landcruiser leaned over to fiddle with something and began driving directly at me. Too shocked to honk, I took evasive action and narrowly avoided a head-on with both the Landcruiser and various walkers and ducks. Really, it was too much. I had to go home and have a lie-down on the couch.

And I’ll spare you today’s details; a Monday from hell, the kind of day that makes one wonder how it is people don’t go postal more often.

All the tramping around on the weekend was in search of an item of second-hand furniture: a dressing table, to compensate for the dab of a bathroom in my funny little house. I’ve realised a curious thing about the Berra that is unlike any other city or town I’ve ever lived in before. There’s almost no second-hand furniture. All the usual sources, like the Salvos and Vinnies, are wastelands of 80s clothes and 70s pottery knicknacks. No furniture.

Wow. What do the Berra students do? In my salad days I would have slept and studied and ate and everything on the floor if I had not had second hand furniture. In fact, as I look around the loungeroom now, the only item I bought new was the couch. Once I would have thought, I should grow up; now I am embracing my inner recycler. Why do I need so many new things made from stuff freshly chopped down or dug up, when oftentimes there’s a perfectly good old thing that has outlived its original purpose and needs a new home? And if acquired for a bargain, so much the better.

Not that I run an orphanage for old unloved stuff. Much. Except for a lovely vintage bookshelf from a garage sale in Armidale. CD shelves made from recycled timber and copper by a clever friend in Nundle, that somehow go with a wing-backed timber and green vinyl armchair. The TV / stereo stand from the junk shop in the former Walcha theatre. Some funny old stools from those Melbourne salad days, a green vinyl footstool from the Hobart tip shop to go with the armchair. A little round dining table I don’t much like except that it was my Grandma’s, and I still miss her. And now – well, while I’m still searching for the dressing table, I didn’t come home empty handed. Check out this example of the Berra’s style heyday: a 70s coffee table, all dovetailed timber and curves. Delicious.

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