Monday, October 01, 2007
Roll up, roll up ... The Royal Melbourne Show
F and I have gone to the Show together every year since he was three.
That is, except last year, when he was banned from going for pulling his pants down in the schoolyard (or something like that). He was so furious, so inconsolably upset, that he lay on his bed and alternately sobbed, kicked and squealed for a Very Long Time. He would cry or run out of the room every time an ad for the show came on television. Every time he saw a kid on the train platform with showbags and fairy floss, he would hang his head, determinedly squeeze out a little tear and say, ‘it makes me too sad to think about it’.
So, this year, a year in which he has been very good and not pulled down his pants in the schoolyard even once, F was very happy to be back in the game.
This year was special for a couple of reasons.
This year, my sister was visiting from Adelaide, managing one of the showbag stands. So, F felt the puffed-up pride of having his AUNTY actually WORKING at the show. According to F, she gets all the good jobs. (She used to work at a newsagent, where he would visit her and marvel at the comics – and rejoice in the free stuff she managed to throw his way.)
And this year The Husband had grudgingly agreed to come with us, even though he hates the idea of wasting all that money on the rip-off admission price (from memory: $27 for adults, $19 for concession and $12 for kids).
Last time we went to the show, F was six. In the ticket line, I warned him I was going to tell them he was five so I could get a free ticket and made him promise not to say anything. He agreed. Two minutes later, I brightly informed the girl behind the counter that he was five. She began to put through the sale.
‘I’m not FIVE!’ piped up F. ‘I’m SIX!’
I looked at the girl. She looked at me. Behind me, the line erupted into giggles. So did the girl and I.
‘I’m really sorry’ she said. ‘That’ll be [however much it was then].’
‘Fair enough. I’m sorry, too.’
‘I’m sorry Mum’ said F, as we moved away. ‘I couldn’t help it.’
‘That’s okay. Mum shouldn’t have lied.’
F kitted up to ride the mini-motorbike course
At eight years old, the jig is well and truly up. F could probably lie more convincingly now, but I don’t think anyone would believe it.
Our first stop is the showbag stand, where my sister is already at work.
L had kept F and I entertained the night before with stories of the showbag hall. Her stand was run and staffed by a promotions company she does casual work for. This particular arm of the company specialises in hiring nightclub dancers. The main requirement in hiring people was that they be ‘pretty’ or ‘hot’. (So, yes, my sister is what you might call hot. Luckily for the people running the stand, she also has a lot of management experience and is damned smart to boot.)
Apparently, when my sister L arrived at work the day before, the girls at the showbag stand opposite were singing the song Barbie Girl. L initially thought nothing of it. Until the girls began to call across ‘where’s Barbie?’
One of the girls working for L, unsurprisingly given the hiring criteria, was blonde with fake boobs, fake nails and a passing resemblance to the plastic doll. She’s also a friend of my sister’s. So, my sister said ‘she’s sick and she has a name and it’s [whatever it is] and you should use it’. Anyway, the girls kept on chanting and singing across the hall.
This is when L’s co-manager arrived. She’s a cheerleader. So, she made up a chant about the girls at the other stand and she and L began to teach it to the troops on their side. I can’t remember the whole thing, but there was a line that went: ‘we’re pretty, we’re hot, the jealous ones are not’.
They were inspired by the cheerleading movie Bring it On.
Sadly, before the showbag hall erupted into cartwheels and catfights, the punters began to arrive and the War of the Chants was put on ice.
F had listened to all this with great interest on the couch the night before.
‘What you should do’ he advised L, ‘is add a bit about how they’re mean’.
And he composed her a line ( ‘the other girls are REALLY MEAN’) and told her where she should put it. I wondered whether I really wanted him learning how to get involved in bitch fights.
‘You KNOW what you should do!’ he exclaimed, inspired. ‘There are two things you can always say, not matter what someone says to you. You say “I know you are but what am I?” or “are not fat snot”. Just say that back to them, no matter WHAT. It always works.’
‘Hmmm. Okay then.’
He thinks for a moment.
‘You KNOW what you should do. You should make STINK BOMBS. You should make TROJAN HORSE stink bombs. Put something really stinky in a nice showbag and go over and give it to them. Like stinky socks. That will be a Trojan horse.’
‘Yes. I learned that from reading Greek mythology.’
‘That’s a great idea, but I really don’t know if I should do that.’
He thinks again.
‘ACTUALLY what I think you should do is just ignore them. Don’t pay them any attention. Then you’ll be MORE MATURE than them.’
‘YES!’ My sister and I seize on this gratefully. This, we realise, is a good lesson for F. Pity he had to teach it to us.
At the showbag hall, F wants to see who the girls are who were mean to his aunty. Luckily, he is content with just glancing at them.
These 'good food' signs hung over deep-fried mounds of food poisoning waiting to happen were everywhere and gave me a laugh.
Outside the hall, my sister joins us for her break. We sit in the sun, on a patch of lawn bordered by caravans selling hot dogs, hot chips and coffee. We empty our bags and examine our loot.
F sits with his small pile of K-Zones and blocks out the world as he devours them. I have got the Darrell Lea showbag and am now afraid that my Rocky Road and multiple bars of chocolate will melt in the spring sunshine. The Husband does not stoop to showbags.
My sister tells me about her hopeless staff. The two girls her boss hired from myspace (their photos were hot) are not turning out well.
F took this photo of a Monster Truck with the old camera I handed down to him
In the Coca-Cola arena, we sit in the front row and wait for the Monster Trucks and the motorbike stuntsmen. F sucks on a straw full of honey I bought for 20 cents while The Husband shakes his head and thinks of the sugar content. In the arena, a man with a microphone interviews a presenter from Foxtel’s weather channel about climate change and the drought. Behind us, a teenage girl oozing out of her rainbow shoestring tank top grumbles aloud. (‘What the hell is this shit?’) A small boy and his dad battling melting ice creams on my left wonder the same thing. I go in search of drinks. When I get back, I find The Husband and F grinning back at me from beneath shirts tied over their heads as protection against the sun.
When the Monster Trucks roll into the arena, accompanied by loud cock-rock and a guttural announcer, the rainbow-striped girl starts yelling her approval. F gets very angry as the first truck roars past, sending dust billowing up into our rows of plastic seats.
‘I HATE that yellow truck! That yellow truck is IN TROUBLE!’
‘Yeah! WOO!’ yells Rainbow Girl, punching the air.
He likes the motorbike stuntsmen better, especially when Wolfmother’s The Joker and the Thief, one of his very favourite songs, comes over the loudspeakers synchronised with one of the jumps.
Later, when we get home, my sister tells me that the motorbike stuntsmen shared a dressing room with her at the Adelaide Show, where she wore rollerskates and danced with a cow while giving out free yoghurt. (Okay, it was a girl in a cow suit. L even got to wear the cow suit one day.)
The motorbike stuntsmen quite deliberately didn’t leave the room when the girls were in there getting changed. They liked to play a game they called ‘Shock Ball’. It was a bit like a cross between Hot Potato and Russian Roulette. They threw around a ball that was programmed to occasionally deliver an electric shock. The electric shocks were severe enough that the motorbike stuntsmen yelped in pain when they were unlucky enough to get one. They threw the Shock Ball at the girls a couple of times, then asked them to come to the pub with them for a drink. The girls didn’t go to the pub.
F and I go on two rides. I try to make The Husband accompany him on one of them, but he refuses.
The first ride is a mini rollercoaster that goes forwards and then backwards at 120kmph. F shouts with joy as we spin around. I scream, like I used to going through train tunnels as a kid. F leaps out of our painted sled at the end. I wobble a little, my stomach churning and my head spinning.
‘Did I look like I was having fun?’ I ask, half-sarcastically.
‘Yes, you did’ says the Husband.
F does the following activities:
• Rides a mini motorbike around a course on the oval. This is VERY popular.
• Kicks a footy through a net and wins a Fit for Life drinkbottle
• Skips a lot and wins a Fit for Life wristband
• Sits in a Victoria Police fibreglass helicopter and plays with the controls
• Explores a fire engine and sees a presentation on fire safety. He gets a laminated placemat with a picture of a fire engine and a message about smoke alarms. I read it and wonder whether our smoke alarm is working or if we took the batteries out because it kept going off when I burnt the toast.
• Buys an entire set of Herald Sun football cards (over 300) from 2003, with their own album, for $5.
The Husband buys F a Sheridan football. F is delighted. Almost as much as The Husband is.
I eat seafood paella from a caravan and feel sharp stomach pangs immediately after.
My sister meets us at 4pm. She is cranky, and snaps at me not to take her picture.
As we walk to the bus stop, F and The Husband scamper along behind us, stopping to kick the footy between them several times as my sister and I stand aside and watch. (In front of the ticket booth, on the footpath by the tram stop, in a park they find along the way, on the footpath in front of the bus stop.)
‘This was the best Show EVER’ says F.
My sister has to fire the myspace girls after they brag to her boss (not knowing who he is) that on their lunch breaks, they go around the Show and sell drugs. They make heaps of money. L is relieved to let them go, not least because two items of her clothing and a suspicious amount of money from the till have recently gone missing.