Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Everybody needs good neighbours.

I think it’s time to take a break from my grumpy old man monologues for a while and talk about something else. I would like to clarify something. In a previous post I may have painted the Australian TV show ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ a bad light, and perhaps this was unfair of me. Granted it was a bit of a revelation to view it for the first time. A bit like being introduced to the family of a new friend on their home turf as it were, where all pretence is dropped and the real face is shown. It was the sort of show that could only be watched and enjoyed by a home audience with an intimate knowledge of the history and foibles of the native social structure. In fairness it was no more shocking than what is, in my opinion the British equivalent (as near as there can be one); ‘Noel’s House party’, shown on the BBC with Noel Edmunds as host. Over time I actually came to enjoy ‘Hey Hey’, and was not a little sad when it was cancelled. Like many Aussie TV shows it grew on you until it had become part of your TV diet, and a week without it resulted in mild withdrawal symptoms. And that is exactly how Neighbours became an addiction for me, many, many years ago. The story goes like this…

It begins in a medium sized English town in 1988. Friends of mine were planning to emigrate to Melbourne, and in an effort to acclimatize themselves, they had began to watch Neighbours, which had just started to become popular on British TV. As with most things that suddenly become popular with the masses, I avoided it like the plague, and thus without having seen anything more than the odd glimpse of the show, ridiculed it, and those who watched it. I relentlessly teased my friends who were planning to relocate their lives to Australia about their viewing habits, but one night I happened to be visiting them when it was ‘Neighbours time’ and under protest, I sat and watched it all the way through for the first time.

The following night, at home alone, with drawn curtains and a heart full of self-loathing, I turned on Neighbours and willfully watched. That was it. I became hooked on living a vicarious life in the perpetually sunny suburbs of this wondrous new world. A world of ‘mates’ and ‘barbies’ with ‘snags’ and ‘stubbies’ in the ‘arvo’. Where It was always time to put on your ‘sunnies’ and go to the ‘oval to chuck a footy’ or take a short drive to the beach to lay down a towel on the endless golden sands.

It was the Australian dream packaged for envious British eyes. Slowly but surely the Aussie terms crept into the British vernacular. It was not long before the playgrounds from Southend to Penzance, from Brighton to John O’Groats rang with the Australianisms, and a whole generation wondered why their dreary neighbourhoods were not as bright and sunny as those of the fictional Neighbours suburb of Erinsborough. This of course paved the way for the first wave of Aussie colonization of Britain with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donavan. Generation after generation of Neighbours actors migrated north from the channel 10’s Melbourne studios to the well-worn boards of London’s West end and the hallowed halls of the BBC. Anyway, my addiction to the show grew and, I found if I was unable to watch it one day for some reason, I would tape it, but then, due to the episodic format, I couldn’t watch the next episode until I had watched the taped one - so, if I hadn’t seen it by the time the next one was shown, I’d have to tape that one too. Sometimes I would have a week or two to catch up on, and have to spend a whole weekend in a Neighbours watching marathon, which looking back on now, I realize was extremely dangerous behavior, bordering on wanton recklessness…

Ironically it was not Neighbours that precipitated my own migration to Melbourne, it was meeting up with my friend who emigrated in 1988 during a visit of his back to the UK. I decided to try my luck out there too, but by then I was not watching the show nearly as much as I had before. And so now, nearly twenty years after first watching Neighbours, I find myself living that very ‘dream’ I first glimpsed on my television all that time ago. Sometimes I spot the British fans searching for their Erinsborough Elderado. In fact they can catch the Neighbours tour bus (click here for the Neighbours Tour website), which takes them directly to it. You see them, pasty and listless, all strange haircuts and thick regional accents, waiting outside backpacker hostels throughout Melbourne city for the bus to pick them up and whisk them off to Ramsey Street, where I am sure they stand with incredulous facial expressions, saying to one another "Ay, that's brillyunt that is." and “It’s just like on the telly innit?”

I still remember my first inadvertent brush with a Neighbours cast member after my arrival in Melbourne, but more of that in a future post.

Do I still watch Neighbours? Of course I do, it’s still better than watching Home And Away!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Grumpy Old Man Monologue No. 5 - Throat Clearers

For my thoughts regarding throat clearers on public transport see the previous post, Grumpy Old Man Monologue No.4 - Sniffers, and substitute the term Throat Clearer for Sniffer, although thinking about it, not all of it will make sense, but try it anyway.