Life Be Out Of It
I heard on the news the other day that the government wants to bring back Norm, a cartoon character couch potato from the ‘Life Be In It’ fitness campaign in the 80s. It reminded me of the time I answered an ad looking for enthusiastic people to work at the Royal Melbourne Show.
It turned out to be the Life Be In It stand. Our job was to show young kids how to do a forward roll, climb a rope, swing along monkey bars and generally stop them from doing any serious damage to themselves and each other. The job seemed pretty cruisey, the money was OK, and I think they included me in the team because
I was tall, managed to do a forward roll without falling over sideways, and exuded an air of confident authority.
Well, that’s how I saw it anyway.
The interviewer leant over to me ‘We’ll tell everyone you’re Norm!’ she whispered. Oh, great.
It was the year that every child was carrying a bopper – giant inflatable Fred Flintstone clubs almost as big as they were. I was keeping an eye on a busload of 8-year-old girls in the queue for the monkey bars, when one of them prodded me with her bopper and said ‘Oi, you – hold this for me’.
‘What about Mr Please?’ I asked. She stopped, turned around and gave me a withering look.
‘Just hold the bloody thing willya’, she ordered, pushing it into my hands.
‘Like this?’ I asked, giving her a light tap with it. She dragged it back from me. ‘Jeez you’re a f***kin’ Dag!’ she yelled, then proceeded to beat me across the head with it, much to everyone else’s amusement.
So much for my air of confident authority!
Anyway, this year my GF and I decided to go to the Show as she hadn’t been before. She organised
a couple of tickets (yikes – $35 each!) and off we went. I hadn’t been to the Show since I used to take my daughter Fifi Trixibelle and some school friends, until it became uncool to be seen there with a parent.
But as we got off the train I could feel the Show hadn’t changed much in the intervening years. The crowds, the noise, the Carny folk, the heady aroma of hot lard… ooh, that smells good – I wonder what it is?
I went off to investigate while my GF went off to get us a couple of teas, and I found a stall selling the new taste sensation called a Korean twist, a.k.a. Koronary-on-a-stick.
What’s that, I hear you ask? Well, a large potato is stuck on a long wooden skewer and cut into a spiral, like a very coarse thread screw, dipped in a light batter and then chucked into the deep fryer until golden and crispy. What’s not to like? It looks like a deep fried medieval torture device, but very tasty!
Full of tea and twisted potato we then wandered down to the dog zone to watch the dog agility program. This is where well trained excited dogs run around an obstacle course of steps, zig-zag poles, jump over fences and run through a tunnel with a bend in it. The owners/trainers are allowed to run around with them pointing where to go.
The dogs are so excited to be doing it, and often forget where they are supposed to go. This leads to calls like ‘Tunnel, tunnel, tunnel… or not!’ when the dog misses it completely and jumps into the owner’s arms.
Unsurprisingly, no-one appeared to have tried to train any Afghan hounds to do this! They had all chosen the ‘low hanging fruit’ of easily trainable Border Collies, Kelpies, Poodles, German Shepherds etc.
On the way to the rest of the animals we had to pass through the scary ride section.
As far as I could see this hadn’t changed at all since I first went to the show with school friends on the much-missed Show Day holiday. The only difference is that the rides are scarier, much more expensive and the queues are longer. The only thing the same is the music on the ride.
The massive doof of bass and squawk of overdriven midrange on old rock songs is still there. The Carny folk have just dubbed the old worn out tape onto an old worn out mp3 file! On the stage in the Entertainment zone, though, there were no such sound worries. A neat well-tuned line array handled all the TV show stars, celebrity chefs, dancers, singers, old Uncle Tom Cobley and all, without any problems.
Which just proves that what can easily turn into a nightmare gig for anyone mixing these shows can actually work out well with a bit of thought and planning. I know, because I’ve done both good and bad ones!
And talking of queues, if anybody asks you to bring them back a showbag, tell them they’ve run out, unless you fancy standing in the blazing heat while three people try to serve a crowd that’s getting bigger and more disorderly, while you don’t progress anywhere nearer the front after half an hour’s wait.
Anyone who drives to the show has rocks in their head or an unrequited love affair with traffic. Or else loves being robbed blind by avaricious homeowners charging extortionate hourly rates for parking on their minuscule front lawn, while trying to fit four cars into a space that could barely fit one.
The only alternative is paying to park in the official parking area, which is a short 3km bike ride to the showgrounds! And an even longer 3km ride back when you’re tired, cranky, full of Korean twist and just want to go home!
The smart money is on the trains, which run every ten minutes to Southern Cross station. When we’d had enough of the show, that’s what we did. We sat in relative comfort all the way home, after flashing my Seniors card at a family whose screaming kids were swarming all over the allocated Seniors seats.
Which is more than what happened on my trip home, back in the 80s. When my shift finished, I had a couple of beers with my fellow Lifers, said goodbye and got on the train. The carriage was laid out with the seats facing each other running lengthwise down both sides of the train carriage. A peak hour layout I would have said, one that enabled as many people as possible to stand.
But not me, I just sat there gently rocking from side to side. The carriage was warm, and the effect of the few beers was making me feel quite sleepy. In fact, very sleepy. Very, very sleepy indee… WHAMMO! With a thud I pitched forward face down on the floor of the carriage, sound asleep until the second my face hit the floor!
I rolled over onto my back and looked at the other passengers. Not one of them was looking at me! They were all looking out the window desperately trying not to make eye contact with me. Mothers were putting their hands over their children’s eyes and telling them not to look at the poor man.
‘Why is that man on the floor Mummy?’ ‘Is he drunk?’ ‘Sshh, don’t look’ etc. etc. If it had been today they would all be staring at their phones and secretly filming me for the evening news.
My 15 minutes of fame eluded me once again!
From the November 2018 edition of CX Magazine. CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues – available in print and online. Read all editions for free or search our archive www.cxnetwork.com.au
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