Monday, July 28, 2008


YET another Aussie icon has undergone genetic modification to make it fit the nuances of the times. The Chiko roll, first sold by Bendigo boilermaker Frank McEnroe at the Wagga Wagga Agricultural Show in 1951 – in an early instance of cooperative federalism, Bendigo being in Victoria and Wagga in New South Wales, two rival and fictionally ‘sovereign states’ separated by the Muddy Ditch, aka the Murray River – has been raising cholesterol levels nationwide ever since.

Now, Hector notes, the promotional effort by their makers, now an American company (what else is new?) has been re-engineered to make it more “appropriate”. Since Chikos appeal most to males aged 18 to 25 (who eat nearly 15 million of the things a year, apparently), he wonders why the makers have dispensed with the poster girls in tight leather sitting sexily on Harley-Davidsons with slogans such as "Hit the hot spot" and "Couldn't you go a Chiko roll".

That’s nearly as good a come-on as Harley-Davidson’s own micro-tee-for-chicks that states: “I wanna ride your fat boy”.

However, in these times male adolescent dreams – they extend well past the age of 25 says Hec – are Not Favoured by the Thought Police. Well, not in public, anyway.

So the hot chiko on the Harley has been replaced by a shot of a comely 23-year-old (her name is Annette, which may be a little long for many Chiko devotees) on a push-bike. “Eat Chikos, Get Fit,” seems to be the pitch. So even in this modern age, truth and advertising still do not meet.

A Chiko spokesperson says: "The previous Harley girl posters were done in about 2000 and were a bit controversial. From our point of view these days have changed and it's probably not appropriate to have those leather-clad images."

Damn right. They skin you alive for wearing leather now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


SOME lovely friends of Hec's, reading his July 18 post on the inclemency of the ambient temperatures at The Cage, sent him a great photo of the intemperate ocean just outside their beachfront home on the West Australian Riviera. He says it shows exactly why cockatoos seeking a quiet life should not pretend they're sea birds.

Hec traditionally avoids spending too much time at the beach; mostly on the reasonable grounds that you can so easily find yourself getting gulled there. And as for those chippy little waders, well, you wouldn't waste Home Brand poppy seed on them ...

He contrasts the stormy scene here - which he says is enough to scare the processed poppy seed out of anyone - with the view of the distant ocean from The Cage.

That's as close as he likes to get, he says. Plus The Cage is well above the tsunami line in any circumstances short of some happy clappy turning up and saying to you, 'Friend, a giant meteorite is going to vaporise Java. Repent and run.'

Friday, July 18, 2008


Poor Hector was discomfited today when, awaiting his breakfast seed in the Bale Bengong (gazebo) that graces The Cage, he noticed that the breeze was finding its way – just a tad uncomfortably – between his feathers.

His thoughts turned briefly to the Khyber, as they always do when something nasty gets up his tail. But then they turned elsewhere. Had he not, that very day, checked up on the weather his mates down south in Western Australia were ‘enjoying’, and found another horrible tale?

Well, yes he had. It seems a strong cold front was sweeping in from sub-Antarctic ocean regions, bringing thunder, rain, strong winds and hail to ‘Mediterranean’ Perth, the capital place that now houses all the statistics the stickybeaks in the Australian bureaucracy have on him.

Worse, it might even snow on the top of the Stirling Ranges; these are mere pimples, far below the out-of-ground-effect flight ceiling of an energetically inclined sulphur-crested cockatoo. Moreover, there might be a bit of wind about; and, going on the marine forecast, none of his mates on the ‘West Australian Riviera’ would be venturing out crabbing for a while.

And it occurred to him that the blame for unusually chill conditions – like everything else nowadays – must be laid at the feet of global warming. Why else would he have to have rugged up the evening before when taking his modest, not to say meagre, portion of warming nightcap? Obviously if the temperature’s plunging, Planet Earth must be warming up. Such is the science obtained from computer modelling, after all.

Clearly things are very unstable – and he refers here to the climate, not to climate-change advocates – if chillness is to become a factor at altitudes approaching sea level in Bali, on Latitude 8 South.

Of course, the benefit of being in Bali, Indonesia, rather than, say, Balingup, Western Australia, is that even if the air’s temporarily chillier than normal, the sun in the equatorial zone is always hot. But is that a benefit? According to the latest rites promulgated by the fairies at the bottom of Mother Earth’s garden, we all have to prepare to fry unless we first asphyxiate.

There’s ample evidence that Mother Earth has always had difficulty keeping the temperature and other conditions equable at her house. We know that between the 14th and 18th centuries – and that’s like an hour ago if we’re talking geological time – as well as on earlier occasions, she adopted the practice of leaving the freezer door open.

(That’s not to overlook the several occasions on which she crazily decided to turn the whole house into a freezer. Or the several other occasions when, just to be perverse, she sealed the house, lit the oven, and caused everyone to lie around groaning "Gee, it’s hot" as they watched all the pot plants turning into coal.)

Perhaps since the most recent freezer incident the kids have been trying to keep the windows and doors open to let in some warmth and now Mum’s finally twigged to their ruse? Or is the cat making a statement with that rudely forked stick it’s put in the kitty-hatch? And then of course, we hear that some of the neighbourhood bother-boys have lately taken to smoking out the back behind the trees, polluting the atmosphere.

There are abundant opportunities for domestic science inquiry into these deeply disturbing and wholly unresolved questions. Who burnt the cakes? Alfred! Get in here now! Hector strongly recommends renewed searching inquiry.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


It’s not often Hec gets the chance to burst into verse himself. He’s a modest chap; some might say shy. He’s never gone in for FIGJAM self promotion. He says fig jam is only good on toast, if there’s no old-style thick-cut orange marmalade available.
But he does break out sometimes, in a good cause. Privately he fancies himself a lyricist (and ignores unkind mates who suggest that he is actually a ‘limericist’).

After all, as he would never tire of telling people were it not for his immeasurable modesty, he’s a lifelong Wagtailean student. His favourite Willie Wagtail drama is ‘The Vulture of Venice’ – he often likes to quip that he always wants Moor of that – although in ‘Loves, Labours, Lost’ he admits to finding a measure of tragic inevitability.

So, anyway ... he does go on.

Getting to the point (ahem), he has recently burst into verse – of a sort – to mark the eight decades notched up by his great mate John Dwyer, of ‘Further Out’, Clumber, Queensland. Olympian; journalist; publican; farmer; carer and tutor of Hector the First, once Queensland’s most famous sulphur-crested cockatoo; and lover of Limericks, John is from Hec’s perspective the most Irish of Australians. He even does the accent, though not when he wants to be understood. And he’s a mean hand at a barbecue too.

The big day itself was July 10, but Mrs Dwyer – Nan, whose name in Bali would surely be Meng Lueng (mother of all) – organised a ‘gathering’ on Queensland’s Gold Coast a little earlier, timed to catch as many family members and friends as possible. Sadly, Hec and Mrs Hec couldn’t get there, but they sent some verse of their own to help proceedings along.

Here’s Hec’s:

An Old Bird to Count On

Ode to a Fine Mate on his 80th Birthday
(Scratched at The Cage, Bali, by Hector the Second)

‘Far Out!’ said John Dwyer (long before he went Further)
‘I’ve got me a parrot, by heck. I’ll teach him to sing. I’ll teach him to count.
‘He’ll be the best bloody parrot that’s ever been seen.
‘And I’ll name him Hector; that I will. It’ll help with his erudition.’

And thus was born Hector, no bird to ignore.
Nor for that matter pleased to be ‘parrot’:
‘A cockatoo is what I am, a sulphur-crested one at that!
‘Does this bloke think I’m A BUDGIE?’

Now John being a journo is not one for sums,
(That’s a task for accountants; and possibly wives.)
But that didn’t stop him: ‘Hector must count.’
Though Hec thought he did; being wise, for a bird.

So mathematics was taught and Hector soon learned
A sequence of numbers to invoke when heard.
‘One ... two ... three ... five.
‘Missed the bloody four.’

His party piece; a parroting delight.
It gave everyone, including Hec, a fright:
So did the language, too salty for some.
‘John!’ exclaimed the long-suffering Nan.

If the original Hec were here to enjoy this affray,
He would doubtless complain at being left out of the play.
‘What’s this eighty?’ he’d ask. ‘Where does that fit in?’
‘I’ve missed the four, the six AND the seven.’

Happy Birthday, John. You’re a good bloke.

Friday, July 04, 2008


SINCE today is America’s birthday, the annual celebration by the cousins of their significantly successful outcome in that nasty little blue with poor old George the Turd, Hec has been musing about the Land of the Free. Specifically, that is, the culture that comes out of it. No, he kids you not. And he’s not talking Oregon organic low-fat soy yoghurt, either.

Musing upon the largely unwanted but defiantly indelible deposits dumped by the Americans on the formerly fertile ground of English (even on Australian English, which, let’s be frank, isn’t the best), he was amused to read today in his old home-town newspaper, the Brisbane Courier-Mail, an item that noted young Australians were adopting American speech patterns and accents. Apparently they define this as cool. Hec rests his case.

According to one keen observer of semantics, University of Queensland linguistics professor Roly Sussex, teenagers are extremely susceptible to imitating what they see as “snazzy or powerful”. (This must be why Hec was such a fan of Seven Up when he was a fledgling. So coool ... and all those zesty little bubbles up your beak.)

It’s the prestige model, according to Prof Roly, who notes that prestige is a very powerful model. He’s been around, this bloke.

Says Roly: “They see or hear these things being used by people like on MTV for example, and think ‘gee, I want to be like that’.” Gee, no wonder we’re dumbing the world down even faster than all those doomsayers say we’re warming it up.

Mind you, the bloke’s got a point. Like Roly, Hec hates first syllable emphasis: DIS-tribute, RE-search, DE-fence (Hec has always considered defenestration a suitable penalty for that offence) and CIG-arette. These make him nearly as mad as he gets if he hears al-loo-minum for aluminium and noo-klah (or worse, as in GW Bush, “noo-kah-lah”) for nuclear, when uttered by a non-American.

It seems young Aussies no longer like to use the footpath, preferring the sidewalk. They tend to use a park brake instead of a handbrake. They fool around and fall in lurve instead of love, having listened to far too much bad music. And since none of them can spell anyway, they probably don’t even notice when they pass a “center” instead of a centre. As in service centre, or sports centre.

To young Australians today, things are great, cool, neat, filthy or fat. Nothing is ever ace or grouse any more. Most of the words of approval they now use are American; Australian terms like ace and grouse are almost invisible. So it’s hooroo to all that, it seems; even if the Aussie accent itself remains determinedly intact. At least our keep-the-flies-out, pursed-lips twang hasn’t yet shot through like a Bondi tram

Of course, it’s not just young Australians who have swallowed American speech patterns along with all those Big Macs. And neither is it altogether a bad thing, since (1) the Americans are as entitled as anyone to render language dysfunctional; and (2) the dynamic genius of English is unsurpassed.

The trick is simply to ensure that all English-speakers can still actually understand each other.