Sunday, June 29, 2008


Hector’s sense of solidarity with other species of bird life has been boosted by the sad tale of Percy the peacock, who after three years of allowing the 500-odd humans of the English village of Martin to wander unmolested and with their customary aimlessness within cooee of his digs, is to be ‘rounded up’ for bad behaviour.

Hec gleaned this information from his assiduous browsing of the virtual pages of the ‘Expat Telegraph’, the cybersheet produced by the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph, a publication that seems determinedly dedicated to keeping alive the traditions of eccentric Englishness.

It seems Percy’s human neighbours were OK with him while he was single and he was a “local character”. But when he collected a mate last year and thereafter fathered a selection of hatchlings, things are said to have gone downhill. They claim Percy and the boys began attacking scores of cars, not to mention pinching parsley, runner beans and sundry other consumables from people’s gardens (a shocking crime!), and waking everyone up with a frightful racket at about four in the morning.

What first drew Hec’s attention to Percy’s predicament, beyond the fact that he could perhaps spend a useful short holiday here in Bali training up the local chooks on how to stick with a schedule for racket-making, was the fact that his home territory is Lincolnshire, a bucolic county in eastern England that by coincidence houses Hector’s own Head of Flock.

As well, he has significant sympathy for Percy’s predicament. He remembers – well, just – several instances of playful vandalism that he committed himself in former times. He is proud of his youthful service in A (Amuck) Company, the First Battalion, The Hues and Cries (Motto: Last In, Your Shout), for which he received the Unbecoming Conduct Medal and Bar (or quite possibly, Bars) and a commendation for exemplary misbehaviour.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


HEC’S attention has been briefly diverted from matters of importance – the rising cost of premium poppy seed for the feed box in The Cage being of primary concern – by yet another instance of Aussie foot in mouth disease.

Hot on the heels of manufactured outrage over the fact that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s youthful media flack, Lachlan Harris, hasn’t yet grown up and is rude to everyone – the little fellow is 28, however, and should have worked out how to get along with people by now – is the sad story of Boris Johnson’s new (and now ex) chief political adviser at City Hall in London.

James McGrath, who is 34, was appointed with much hoo-ha after Johnson won this year's election as Lord Mayor of London, the city which McGrath, according to a profile published in The Australian newspaper in May, considers to be the centre of the universe.

He is from Nambour in Queensland, Australia, which is certainly not the centre of the universe, or indeed of anything else. Those in doubt about the need the ambitious among the locals have to exit the place have only to check the origins of the said Kev and his sidekick Wayne (Swan), who also long ago migrated to regions more favourable to personal advancement.

McGrath’s mistake was to state the bleeding obvious: that if people from other places didn’t like what was happening in London, they could go elsewhere. Unfortunately for Mr McGrath, the people to whom this advice was publicly proffered were immigrants. Ergo, Mr McGrath committed a race-based sin in opening his mouth – indeed, even in thinking such dark thoughts.

Hector is an amiable fellow, for that matter an immigrant himself, and cares not a whit where other cockatoos of his acquaintance came from, what they look like, what they eat, how many other cockatoos they share their cage with and under what arrangements, or how they spend their time, provided it’s legal. Well, those black cockatoos from around Canberra way are a bit of a noisy nuisance; but hell, you make do, don’t you?

The trouble is that many simple truths have been firmly thrown into the dark pit of the ‘Don’t Mention the War’ file.

Today, the preferred view of the chatterers and activists who spend their time dreaming up imagined ills and then squawking about them is that if you’ve generously decided to bestow your favour upon some other country by migrating there, the polity you have thus blessed must immediately change to accommodate your desired outcomes.

That’s all nice and warm and touchy-feely. It’s also bullshit.

The real benefit to newcomers lies in the existing protection and opportunity that living in a democratic and well serviced place offers people – native or immigrant. Most immigrants (to anywhere) implicitly know that. They also know that no one owes them a living or has an obligation to change their own historic cultural precepts or belief systems on their account. They know that if you decide for whatever reason that you don’t like living in London (or Britain itself, or Australia or New Zealand or Canada or the United States or any other free society) then your option is clear: Don’t.

They know that if you seek change within a democratic system, you owe it to everyone to use the regular social and political mechanisms available to you, to argue for a different way; and they understand that it certainly won’t happen last week, is likely not to do so this week, and indeed may not happen at all.

They also know that the worst enemies of migrant populations are those from within their own ranks who make a living out of going on ‘We Want’ missions.

These are the noisy, selfish, self-important people poor chaps like Mr McGrath stumble over. He should have known that what he said would result in losing the fine view of London from his office that he so enthusiastically spruiked in print so recently. He should have known that his new boss, Boris the Bonker, having so lately secured office as Chief Star, Centre of the Universe, would cut him loose if he became an embarrassment.

If Mr McGrath, Falling Star, late of Nambour and London, didn’t know all that, he shouldn’t have got the job in the first place.

Friday, June 20, 2008


HEC was all atwitter this morning, when he heard a report on Australia's Radio National, which doubles as world headquarters of Worryworts Inc, that Australians are virtually all tubbies.

Not Teletubbies, of course, engaging little creatures though they are - and such a hit with Indonesians, for most of whom the term 'tubby' is just a dream, or a nightmare if they're among those who are convinced The West is A Bad Thing. But Aussies are probably a tad tubby, from watching too much television, eating too much junk food, and generally not doing enough exercise.

Among the cures for their condition lately promoted is additional tax deductions for gym memberships (the Nanny State is not only alive and well Down Under, it's positively plush, especially now Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has revealed his membership of Wowsers Worldwide). Of course, they don't really need tax concessions to get off their bums. They just need cranes, apparently.

It's interesting, Hec notes, that the Australians' claim to be the world leaders of fat has been swiftly knocked back by the Americans, who traditionally claim have the biggest, best and greatest of anything going.

But perhaps the Canadians should also lodge an official complaint. Hec treasures a moment from long ago, when a nice little Aussie bird of his passing acquaintance who had lived for years in Hong Kong told him, while on a visit to Edmonton, that she was glad she was in Canada: She no longer had the biggest arse in town.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


WHEN he was but a fledgling, Hector enjoyed British food. He had to. He was one of that polyglot ethnicity of former up-and-at-‘ems at that time; although a privileged one, spending much of Britain’s post-WW2 rationing period ‘abroad’, in that latter-day Outremer where people always ate well in comfortable contrast to the poor peasants at home.

A recent article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph – a publication that sometimes seems to suggest that not only is the spirit of Empire alive and well, or at least kicking, but also that it was a wholly English confection (hrrmph) – set his mind to reminiscence. The article had to do with the rather recent discovery that British food can actually be good for you. Since this is not a theory Hec has had to put to the test since 1969, he is unsure of the scientific basis of the claim.

But he clearly remembers (really) that in those distant days – in that fabled Outremer, glowing in the last fading rays of the sun finally setting on the Empah – there existed a state of beneficence and plenty. Notwithstanding these attractions, especially in the culinary department, the vicarious rewards of ‘British cuisine’ were deemed immediate; a warm tummy. No one in those days got tense about the future imperfect (risk of obesity and heart attack, etc, etc) which is all you hear about nowadays, because people have nothing better to talk about and can often actually see their navels, the better to contemplate them.

He looks back on those times with a certain nostalgia: in particular to the staple fare of prepubescent males of the day; war comics, so much more reflective than the do-it-now, drum-those-digits, zap, ‘!@#$!’, cybergames of today’s world.

These comics, works of art and fine fiction in their own right, were those in which Fritz, Hans, Hermann, and assorted other cruelly caricatured Germans ran around doing ‘don’t panic’ routines on various battlefields – places where derring-do was exclusively a Brit domain, carried out by cheery chaps in Monty berets – screaming ‘Donner und Blitzen!’ and, if really pressed, ‘Gott in Himmel!’ Not a ‘scheissen’ within earshot; and never an overly-explicit Saxon adjective.
Even then, in his very tender years, Hec was wont to ponder: ‘!@#$, did they really?’

In fact, while the victorious Brits were complying with their American ally’s post-war demand to abolish their Empire, a process in which Hec played a small noddy walk-on part as a naff schoolboy, Gott truly was in his Himmel and everything was pretty much right with the world.

You would sit leisurely over a memorable curry lunch – the sun beating down and the natives beating about the bush, playing at being mad dogs (if cross) or Englishmen (if on the public payroll) – and enjoy the luxury of safely speculative contemplation of the fabled properties of Spotted Dick. Or treacle pudding. Or even – these for aficionados only – semolina or tapioca pudding. Toad in the Hole often sprang to mind while nibbling on Middle Eastern, Indian and other exotically oriental delicacies. Favourably. Really.

Potato cakes (so much more fun-filling than hash browns, though the Brits of the era hadn’t woken up to the fact that the chaps from their first empire had invented them). Yorkshire pudding. Yum.

And that old-time favourite, rhubarb crumble. A regular treat, as Hec used to jest.