It seems to me that this year will be, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra,1 “déjà vu all over again”.
Not because of the pandemic, although the script for that does seem to be the same as last year… masks, lockdowns, food shortages – and everything, from the Kennedy assassination to the disappearance of Harold Holt, being Scott Morrison’s fault.
No, I mean because it is starting to seem a lot like the ’80s. For a start – and this is a good thing – my gym has started playing decent music, by which I mean music from the ’80s. Admittedly, the fashion might not have been so great – I recall at one point wearing an outfit that consisted of yellow trousers, a green shirt with a yellow stripe and even yellow joggers.
If you think that doesn’t sound that bad, understand that we are talking shades of yellow and green so bright they could be seen from the space shuttle; my friends have probably developed melanomas from simply standing next to me, or at least they would if they had been prepared to stand next to me while I was wearing that (which they weren’t).
The big way this feels like the ’80s, however, is that Tony Fitzgerald is back conducting an inquiry into corruption. This also happened in the ’80s, and was big news, especially among recently graduated law students who were full of opinions about the inquiry (which had been formed by combining the fire of righteous indignation, with complete cluelessness about the actual issues).
Then-premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen also had an opinion on the inquiry, famously noting that if you lift up a piece of tin, you’ll find one of two things under it: “a snake or a dead cat”. The premier underestimated Tony Fitzgerald’s enthusiasm, however, with the inquiry lifting the tin and finding dozens of dead cats, more snakes than an Indiana Jones movie and the Loch Ness Monster. That won’t happen this time, with tin-lifting off the agenda and a pallet of bricks dumped on the tin to make sure.
Anyway, there are some risks if we are going to relive the ’80s, with the one that bothers me most being that I might have to attempt to learn the rules of rugby union again. I encountered rugby at high school, having never even seen a game prior to that point; the first line-out I ever saw I was actually in (for those who aren’t familiar with rugby terms – which is everyone, including the refs – I can say it is an activity where the players line up and attempt to throw one of their teammates at the ball. I am not making that up).
I had played cricket, soccer and rugby league in primary school, but rugby union was new to me. My high school most definitely did not play rugby league, and only allowed soccer to be played to provide comic relief. So I found myself having to learn rugby union.
The problem with that is that the rules of rugby union are longer than the Bible while making far less sense – I think they were written by the same people Bob Hawke got to do his tax legislation. Nobody is sure where the rules of rugby union came from, although inscriptions made on the pyramids at Giza by ancient aliens seems a safe bet.
In addition, nobody can agree on what the rules actually are (possibly due to the problems of translating inscriptions written in Martian),2 so pretty much anything you do in the game can be seen as wrong – certainly everything I did was. Thankfully that meant I wasn’t made to play any actual games, and so am enjoying an ambulatory adulthood.
So we don’t want all of the ’80s back, but the music is important, and becoming more so. The quality of music has become very important in our household, or, to be more accurate, in our carhold. My children are now old enough to have strong opinions on what should be played on our car’s sound system when we are heading off on holidays, and they also have the tech skills to hijack said system remotely.
This means that in order to enjoy a peaceful trip, an accord needs to be established, playlist-wise, and the process makes me sympathise with the U.S. diplomats currently dealing with Russia over the Ukraine situation (told you the ’80s were coming back). Indeed, they might want to get some veteran parents over there, because I reckon teenage kids would run rings around the Russians, so our experience in negotiation would solve the problem in a couple of days (especially if we started playing teenager music during the discussions – “No, no, turn it off; you can have Ukraine, you can have the Crimea back, just no more Justin Bieber!”).
Another thing that needs to be worked out before travelling with kids is the toilet break. This is because not all petrol station toilets are created equal, a fact we discovered a few years back when my son returned to the car refusing to use the toilet because it was so disgusting. Suspecting an overreaction, I took him back there, only to discover that he had been mild in his criticism.
This may have been Queensland’s most disgusting toilet (indeed, I sure hope it was). One look and I was pretty sure this was where the creatures in the Aliens movies had spawned, before moving out because even they couldn’t stand the place. Had Joh hidden his secrets in this toilet rather than under a piece of tin, Tony Fitzgerald would never had gone near them.
Thankfully, most petrol stations are now run by large corporations with concerns about reputation and a genuine fear of being sued by parents, whose children were dragged off and cocooned by aliens living in the bathroom facilities. So now it almost never happens, and if it does there will be decent compensation (and the music in the car will be better).
© Shane Budden 2022
1 The famous baseballer, not the famous thief of picnic baskets. Berra was known for his interesting turns of phrase, with comments such as “you can observe a lot by watching” and “always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
2 Before you write me angry emails, I know there isn’t any intelligent life on Mars, but the ancient Egyptians didn’t.