Posts Tagged ‘Trocadero’

My first Christmas at Revesby

September 11, 2012

Christmas in cold climates involves snow that covers rooftops and streets. It deadens noise and yet has a sound that defies reasonable description. Perhaps the closest is when in olden times and at funerals of kings or queens, the drums and sticks would be cloth covered and the rolls became muffled. This gave somberness to the occasion fitting the importance of the procession of the uncontrollable grief sobbing of thousands following the coffin. Not that I can actually remember ever having followed a queen or king to a grave, nor having witnessed grief sobbing of thousands, but it reads rather nicely, don’t you think?

For me the Christmas was the time for our dad installing a real Christmas tree which was always a prickly spruce bought a few days before. The tree would be decorated with candle holders that had to remain reasonable upright having to carry the weight of the candle. This was always tricky, especially when the tree aged and dried out and branches started to hang.  The tree was supposed to last till the three kings met the fallen star. Now, my religious memory might be a little hazy or unsteady, but was this a period of 30 days? Anyway, in our family the tree would be exploited till the very end of festivities. This was usually when snow had melted, the toys either lost, eaten or broken, and we had to go back to school.

Going back to the candle holders and hanging branches. It was inevitable that we would experience a dying dead and tinder dry spruce on fire. My dad in his pyjama and early in the morning got up out of bed and without a word, grabbed the burning tree, opened the window and hurled it outside from three stories high. The burning tree ended up in the chicken coop belonging to the tailor living at the bottom floor, much to the consternation of the chickens. Those living at the bottom floors were always the envy of the neighborhood because they had a garden and could keep chickens. We had been playing with matches and had lit the candles, one of which had sagged and started licking the dry branch and needles near it. I think that the burning Christmas tree might well have been the catalyst for my parents’ idea of migrating elsewhere.

After the ensuing migration and settling in Australia’s Revesby our first Christmas was different. The spruce morphed into a pine with long needles and for us less gracious looking. My dad went about decorating the tree, but now very wisely, changed to electric lights. Instead of snow (and muffled drums) there was heat and flies. The congregation in the church smelled of beer and there were huge moths flying about the size of small birds. There was a hellish noise coming from the bark of some giant gum trees in the next garden which, at that time still had an old farm house on it. At night we were bitten by mosquitoes. We missed the snow!

Later on, and after some years, we learned to associate the noise of cicadas, the giant bogong moths and the smell and cheer of beer and prawns, the glass of a chilled Barossa Pearl with mum and dad, the friendly neighbors with the pouring of foaming beers from brown longnecks and the sticking of Christmas cards through venetians to be part of a Christmas just as joyous as the ones left behind. As kids we soon got tents and started to discover beaches and Blue Mountains, 22 rifles and rabbits and some years later, motor bikes and sheilas with concrete ‘lovable’ bras. Dancing lessons from Phyllis Bates and The Trocadero in George Street. My first ‘dipping of the wick’. The Christmases’ became associated with all that and more.

It is just different, that’s all.

Social Intercourse amongst the Dagos and Reffos

March 16, 2012

We know there was always some kind of town or village center where people used to meet up, mingle and gossip. The old water-well did not always contain the bodies of the missing loved ones, more likely to hold endless tales of folklore and the latest news, perhaps spiced with the regaling of the latest sexual maneuverings amongst the libidinous of the village… It has always been like that!

In the larger towns and cities it was the square in front of the cathedral or market place where the same was served to keep the locals in contact with each other. Look at Pieter Bruegel’s paintings. The dalliances of the locals together at town’s centers could never be told with any more precision. The kicking up of heels during the 1530’s has, as far as I know, never been surpassed since. Even Michael Jackson’s Moon-Walk pales into a rather limp expression of a dance. Talk about dancing, whatever happened to those mirrored balls suspended from ceilings spitting glitter around the dancers? Has it all gone into the pails of history?

In the 1960’s one of the best places to pick up a sheila, was Trocadero in George Street, Sydney. There was a strict protocol. The slightest whiff of alcohol and you were barred. There were special men,  trained connoisseurs of breaths, reputedly able to detect, with great precision, the difference between a sprinkle of Eau De Cologne and a lager. The odour disguishing help of peppermints was always a trick that only worked towards the end of the evening when the alcohol had worked itself out of the system, at that stage; everything gets a bit limp anyway. The only beverage available, once broken through the cordon of breath sniffers, and finally inside that Mecca for picking up sheilas, was a generous supply of, (another Australian icon on par with the Victa lawnmower) Fanta orange drink.

Alas, even Fanta is now foreign owned together with the Victa. In China they have built an entire high rise city of 150.000 people totally geared towards the manufacturing of Hills Hoists. This city is called “happy clothes dryers-“快樂布烘乾線 “After 2 years of hard work, employees receive a free Victa, after 20 years a much revered free Hills Hoist. I remember digging out a concrete lump that surrounded the base of the hoist, a job I would now not be able to do anymore. How the years creep up in all those little things that one used to do and so much enjoy.

Meanwhile back at the Trocadero in the fifties and sixties, the picking up of sheilas was a serious Saturday evening pursuit well worth foregoing the alcohol. The only snag during that period was the oversupply of men. There were all those sturdy muscled miners from Finland, dazzling blond hair all shiny and brilliantined up and expert tango dancers. I’ll never forget those cane cutters from Queensland, many from fascinating East European backgrounds called ‘reffos’.  The competition for a dance was fierce, feudalistic amongst the men, often on a knife’s edge. My rather lanky figure in Julius Marlow shod feet had to compete with those and the (less popular but infinitely better looking Dean Martin’s look-alikes) swarthy Italians and Creeks, called “dagos”. I was occasionally successful with the business of Sheila picking-up but always looked forward to the Fanta as well.

One made the best of what was available.