Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bananas and old automobiles

This morning, at the supermarket, I bought a large quantity of bananas, because I've always been an addicted banana-eater—an apple-eater, too—and bananas are remarkably cheap at present. In nightmares, I imagine a red-faced John Howard snarling viciously, as only our nasty stubborn Bush-loving lapdog PM can snarl: "Bill Skyvington's nothing more than a gutless unAustralian banana-eater!"

I told the girl at the cash desk [What's the right expression in English for such a person?] that bananas were expensive when I was out in Australia six months ago. She said with a grin, looking at the big bag of bananas I was buying: "I see you're catching up on lost time." Meanwhile, I couldn't help wondering how the South American producers of these fruit could possibly earn their living when their produce was being sold in France for such a ridiculously low price. What does one do in such a situation? I'm accustomed to buying coffee sold under an Equitable label [Google for details]. I hope that such a commercial device will come into play in the case of bananas... otherwise my favorite fruit will have a sour taste in my mouth.

On the way home, I came head-to-head with dozens of old automobiles competing in some kind of an improvised rally. It seemed to me that they were creating, unwittingly, a potentially dangerous situation, because there was no apparent control of the event by gendarmes, and the drivers probably did not know [or did they?] that there are countless sections of local roads where it is out of the question for a pair of approaching vehicles to continue simultaneously. One or the other must stop, to let the approaching automobile pass.

These ancient automobiles reminded me of the so-called sports cars I once saw in a Redex rally, probably in 1953, that went through Grafton when I was a kid. On that occasion, I recall above all the evening departure, from Pop's garage in Fitzroy Street, of two dashing fellows who fell to their death, an hour or so later, over a cliff on the road to Glen Innes. I forget their names, but they represented my first encounter with the phenomenon of death on the roads.

Incidentally, I see there's a book on this subject, which mentions the legendary Aussie driver Jack (Gelignite) Murray. [He earned his Gelignite nickname because he liked to use explosives in dissuading competitors... but that's a long story.] There's a delightful anecdote about Gelignite Jack sitting on top of his overturned automobile in an outback creek bed. Every time somebody stopped to stare at him, Jack would ask if he happened to have a 5/16 Whitworth spanner. Asked why he wanted his particular spanner, Gelignite Jack replied, pointing to his wrecked vehicle: "I thought that, while she's upside-down, I'd adjust the brakes."

Remind me to tell you the story about a legendary Aussie named Blue Adair, who put out the last gigantic blaze of an oil well lit by the troops of Saddam Hussein near Kuwait...

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