Saturday, December 21, 2013

No Christmas spirit – or beer and wine – for Charters Towers council workers. The Grinch decrees a dry Christmas.

Yup, as the great Dr Suess said ‘the term grinchy will apply, when Christmas spirit is in short supply’. Or was it just a bit of payback?

Also, further news about why that Strand Park V8 concert ballyhooed and unquestioningly promoted in the Daily Astonisher a week or so ago WON’T be happening - not there anyway …

The Magpie remembers his time close to Ronald Biggs, and the (true) inside story about how he evaded Melbourne wallopers by just minutes …

And given the clicks on Facebook, we’ll just have to repeat The ‘Pie’s favorite Peter O’Toole line ... all that and lots of other nonsense here in the nest at

Out Charters Towers way, the new rule is … don’t mess with the mayor!!!  
Charters Towers Mayor Frank Beveridge.
The local bat population has been discovering that Frank Beveridge is a tough customer when he wants to be, but now it seems, a few miscreants on the Charters Towers Regional Council payroll have discovered this dictum as well.

Here’s the yarn, as posted by The Magpie in the comments section of the blog on Thursday.

Staff in all sorts of organisations look forward to the annual Christmas party thrown by the boss, right? And if you don't actually feel like attending the knees up for a variety of reasons, you don't have to, do you, right?

Well, wrong actually, if you work for the Charters Towers Regional Council.

In what appears to be an extraordinary bit of grim payback about as far from goodwill as that shown the local bat population, CTRC staff have received an email  'ordering' them to attend the council Christmas party, whether they want to or not. (Doesn't sound quite legal, actually, but it appears the council reckons the staff are still being paid when they stage the party at the local showground tomorrow (Friday 19th) ) from - would you believe it - 12.30 to 3pm. 

A hot time in the old town tonight ... err, day.

But OK, what the heck, sounds like a bit of enforced fun, ... then you find out there will be NO ALCOHOL allowed, not even BYO, and its not clear if there'll be enough shade cover if the expected couple of hundred turn up. Top temp tomorrow in The Towers is predicted to be somewhere in the high 30s. 
Amazingly grinch-ish, which has plenty of staff offside. Bigtime.

The 'Pie is told that the background is that the more traditional hootenanny last year, at night with staff on their own time, was anything but dry. In fact, it is understood that several well oiled staff decided as the night progressed to give the Mayor Beveridge a free character reading and informal performance assessment, delivered in blunt if slightly slurred basic Anglo-Saxon.

 That didn't go down too well, and looks like the mayor has decided on a bit of a get-square - or at least avoid a repeat of his previous 'assessment' - and despite some opposition, put the idea to council who apparently voted in favour of tea and bikies instead of beer and bravado. 

It is now clear why staff were 'ordered' to attend, otherwise there might be a lot of soggy corn beef and pickle sambos left over.

The 'Pie is just wondering if some may be pissed off enough at this very stingy arrangement which to throw caution to the wind and let Mayor Beveridge (note the irony of the name) know what they think of his catering and event arrangement skills.

Got the makings of a bloody good film, you'd reckon.

When the national news website sought comment from the council, Crikey reported that he came up with this piece of prize bullshit (The ‘Pie’s words, not Crikey’s) 

Charters Towers Regional Council CEO Mark Crawley
… spokesman Mark Crawley pounced. "It's a change from what we've done in the past, basically it's an opportunity for staff to come together in a bit of camaraderie and celebrate the 12 months that's just passed," he said. Crawley said with the function on work time and staff driving there, it wasn't appropriate to serve alcohol -- but the 200-odd attendees would get a free sandwich or a burger and a soft drink. Staff on RDOs or leave were not required to attend, he pointed out, and yes -- there are two buildings, so there should be enough shade’.
Of course Mr Crawley was surely being a bit ingenuous, using the nanny state excuse of not drinking on council time (bet the councillors don’t take any notice of that during the year) but mate, that begs the oh-so-obvious question … why hold it during the day anyway, why not whack a few bob on the bar after work, like just about every other organisation does around the entire country (with the exception of Holden, maybe)? What was the real reason for this drastic departure from tradition?
Well, anyway, the party went as planned, with maybe a hundred or more staff coming along for a hamburger and orange juice. There were a couple ‘Geez, we’ve had a good year, and next is going to be better’ speeches. At the end of his few words, at about 1.30, the mayor then told the staff they could have the rest of the day off, and not to worry about the 3pm cut-off.
With that, The Pie is told, 90% promptly marched off home, or to the pub for a different sort of beverage, or whatever. If it is true that the mayor has a good memory for past slights, he can bet the staff will be similarly diligent in remembering this year’s Big Merry Dry.
And here’s another party that just won’t be happening at all, or at least not at Strand Park.  

Strand Park
You may recall this story in The Astonisher, memorable more for what it didn’t say than what it did say – well, it was by Anthony Simpleton after all. It is now clear that it was written straight off a V8 press release, with a couple of tame, say-nothing quotes to make length. Admittedly, those tame comments are curious in themselves, given the subsequent facts. (Note the unquestioning parroting of the absurd and just plain wrong statement the move to Strand Park would be closer to restaurants and bars … it would in fact be further away from Palmer Street and about the same for Via Vomitorium – but Simpo wasn’t in a revealing mood that day, apparently, so he didn’t question anything about the story, really.)

Shame, because it turns out that it’s wrong.

Realising the chaos such a crowd and traffic would cause as well-oiled rev heads tried to cram into a too small space,  council staff including Jeff Jimmieson, the TCC events organiser, most councillors, local  residents and not surprisingly many V8 fans themselves have thought it the silliest idea they’ve heard of.

When contacted by The ‘Pie, both Deputy Doo Dah Vern Veitch and Clr Tony Parsons said if it came to a vote at council, they wouldn’t allow it to happen, and they ventured that that seemed to be an almost unanimous feeling, up to and probably including our rev head mayor. It seems also that the council is adamant that there will be no TCC financial support for another venue.

So whose idea was it, then?

Why, the V8s, of course.  The arrogance is astounding, basically trying to blackmail-by-embarrassment this community’s council into a hare-brained and ignorant move.  

Now get this. When the council first learned of the concert plans, they specifically asked the V8 people NOT TO INCLUDE STRAND PARK as an option.The V8s have failed to explain to anyone why they wanted the traditional concert moved in the first place, from what seems an ideal venue in Reid Park, unless they’re trying to make a shady quid out of it with a bit of a double dip. Seems the V8s weren’t satisfied with reefing $750,000 from the ratepayers (up from $500,000 as of July this year), especially since the state government couldn’t be bullied and withdrew quite a bit of funding.

Well, subsequent ‘negotiations’ with the council have it as an even-money bet that the concert will stay at Reid Park, and race goers will be able to attend for free, as they always have done. (Actually, you can bet a component of the ticket price was added on to cover costs for this wildly rapacious mob.)

As they used to say in the Saturee Arvo fillum serials, To Be Continued.

Bentley reckons the big story of the week was our Ashes victory ... and who could argue. Well, the MCC could, about the sacred urn's resting place ... staying in pommyland because of poor health, apparently, all when it's ours.  

Is he talking about the team?
A couple of famous names passed into the ether this week.

Florence of Arabia aka Peter O’Toole went to that big oasis in the sky.

Vale Peter O'Toole.

 Judging by the inexplicable hits for a Magpie comment about a memorable O’Toole line, one supposes it is worth repeating. Last Thursday, The ‘Pie wrote:

'So Florence of Arabia has carked it, another little nibble at our mortality by the possums of posterity.

The 'Pie's most memorable  Peter O'Toole line was from a lesser known film called 'My Favourite Year', where O'Toole, playing an aging matinee idol with a reputation for - ahem - looking after the ladies - was caught short in a TV studio an dashed in to the nearest relief station - the ladies toilets. Just as he completed the requisite final shake (of the O’Toole), an officious but startled woman came upon him.

'But, but ... ' she exclaimed ' this is only for women'.

'Willy in hand, O'Toole suavely replied, 'And so is this, madam, but I run a little water through it occasionally'.

One can't help but think this Irish hellraiser had something to do with that line.'

Ronnie Biggs also cashed in his ill-gotten chips.

 The ‘Pie was a work colleague of Biggs, in a sense. We both worked for GTV 9 in Melbourne at the same time, But we never crossed paths, although we may have sighted each other in the canteen made so famous by Graham Kennedy. The Pie was a reporter/producer in the newsroom, and Ronnie was a carpenter on the floor below making studio sets.
Biggs (with wife Charmaine) as he would've looked in Melbourne.
(Pic 5 years later in Brazil.)

The story of how he eluded police and headed off to South America still makes old coppers grind their teeth. At the time, in 1969, there was a newspaper war between the traditional afternoon Herald and an up-start start-up called Newsday. The newcomer had lured away many seasoned journos, none more so than the legendary crime reporter the late Jack Darmody. The competition was fierce.

Just after noon on Friday, October 17, the Melbourne detectives  unwisely called a confidential media ‘advisory’ that they had found out where Biggs was  (he was living with his wife under the assumed name Cooke), and they planned to nab him at 3.30 that afternoon. They didn’t say where, and anyway, GTV wasn’t at the briefing, so no one at the station knew anything about this. The information was strictly embargoed until Biggs was in the bracelets.

Jack Darmody, burly, bustling ex-pug that he was, didn’t always respect the rules, so, aware that Newsday was in a circulation fight to death, he managed to break the news in the 2pm edition of Newsday … a front page screamer as you would imagine. By chance, someone in the carpenters’ workshop had the paper and was chatting about it.  Ronnie quietly left the workshop, never to be seen there again. He hot-footed ahead of the coppers by a mere 20 minutes, and managed to get out of his home that night, and somehow onto South America - remember this was way before computers and such. 

Darmody managed to get a job in Sydney soon afterwards, his worth as a crime reporter in Melbourne completely over.

Speaking of hot-footing it, The ‘Pie sees that the one-legged Heather Mills, Paul McCartney’s famously cranky ex, has been chucked off the Pommy Paralympic ski team. 

Heather Mills.

Less than chuffed when she was told her prosthetic ski boot was ruled illegal, (not the boot on the other foot, presumably)  Ms Mills more than stamped her foot,  she flew into a spectacular rage (hopping mad?) pushing and abusing the luckless official who delivered the news.

But the harangued official can look on the bright side – if she had been given the job of telling Oscar Pretorius that his pogo legs were not kosher, it might have been a bit more than shoving and words. However, he’ll be back in the Olympics anyway, head of the South African pistol shooting team.

But the rules and regulations governing modern day sports  - especially performance enhancing substances  – are increasingly complex and getting a tad ridiculous. Why, just the other day, The ‘Pie heard tell of three Aussie wheelchair athletes were banned for using the performance enhancer WD40.

Most of our diggers in Afghanistan are back home for Christmas, and three years for them and their thankless task of recent years. Predictable scenes of family reunions at the airport were beamed across the country, and there have been similar scenes in other countries involved in the Afghan conflict. 

But in America, a group of returning soldiers decided the time was right for a special Christmas surprise for their loved ones, especially their kids. Wonderful idea and wonderful reactions from the kids – you’ll be as gooey as plum pudding sauce when you have a look at it here. Anybody out there with strong Defence links, please forward ... it really is nice.

The ‘Pie wishes both his readers (and you too Third) the merriest of Christmases and suggests you keep an eye out early in the New Year for an expanded blog with lots of other info coming along. The old bird will probably make a briefish appearance for the last blog for 2013 next Saturday. Keep an eye out for comments between now and then.

Thanks for everything and warm wishes even to you, David, Daniel, Paul, Simpo,  Messagebank and Mullet et al … the Nest would be nothing without you. (You too Grumpy you old bugger.)


  1. Merry Christmas,pir

  2. Seems to be some questionable tourism data thrown around by TEL!.They quote tourism numbers are up 8-11% but the airport says that traffic due to a drop in Government and FIFO traffic is down 3.5%!.If the tourists are coming by car then why did TEL let the information centre going south close due to roadworks?

  3. Merry Xmas to you Magpie. You are a small island of insanity in a bleak & grey ocean of muppetry. PS, please fix this stupid commentary mechanism.

  4. Great blog as usual, Pie, and perhaps your funniest of the year. Hope you and yours have an excellent Christmas and look forward to your expanded blog next year. Cheers, Gonzo

  5. Ding,song merrily on high.....i can't believe 1 in 20 Australians are on a disability pension.

    Sagely Yours,

    Miss Lou.

    1. It makes the unemployment stats look better, specially when the 'disabled pensioners' are the over-50s laid off when the GFC began to bite. Few of them can expect to get back into the workforce now, so it's hardly surprising the most common 'disability' is depression.

  6. Merry Christmas to all lets all have a safe one, and look forward to a good New Year.

  7. Oh Pie, the goodwill and merriment is intoxicating!!!!!!!
    Maybe even the Mullet, Messagebank and all the other Labor lackeys you harass in this blog will soak up some of the festive mood and send their season's greetings, after penning a note to Santa letting him know who has been naughty (nothing nice about this blog).
    Sorry, but it looks like no presents for you this year Grumpy, old chap.
    But don't despair, I'll chip in with another bar of Palmolive Gold.
    See I told you the mood was intoxicating!

  8. Happy Xmas to you and yours pie. Another year done keeping us the great unwashed educated and informed. Looking forward to the expanded of. As always - love your work Malcolm. Cheers

  9. Merry Christmas Pie,

    Lots of Love,

    Rupert Murdoch.

  10. Merry Christmas to you and yours, 'Pie, and let's all raise a glass or three to Peter O'Toole and his fellow hellraisers -- blokes like Peter Finch, Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed -- "purple-prosed poets with vast hearts and shrivelled livers" (to quote Hannah Betts in yesterday's The Daily Telegraph.
    We will never see their like again because, as Hannah goes on to say about today's leading men, "There may be the odd infidelity rumour or talk of occupying the closet, but Hanks, Clooney, Damon, DiCaprio, Cruise and the like are nothing if not manicured, pedicured and cured of all possible lawlessness."(Possible exceptions for me are Robert Downey Jr, Michael Caine and Irishman Colin Farrell).
    It's a bit like today's colourless crop of young journalists,a motley assembly of mealy-mouthed milksops who wouldn't last two days in any of the many newsrooms we have inhabited over the years.
    I await with bated (or perhaps that should be 'baited' after festive drinkies) breath for your new, expanded blog.

  11. Magpie, thanks for providing a platform for alternative thinking and criticism. Thanks also for the humour and cartoons of the past year.

    To you and your readers, a happy,safe and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

  12. Pie, thanks for all your wonderful work this year.

  13. (Posted dec 21)
    Magpie don’t know about you but I find Tony Raggatt’s article in today’s Bully very much off the pace compared to Dennis Shanahan’s article on the Abbott Government in the Australian. Don’t think Raggatt is up to speed at all.

  14. State of confusion? Where are all the subs, long time passing, eprisode 2,391.

    It is accepted that with words flowing passed their eyes every working moment, even the best journos need a sub editor as a second pair of checking eyes.

    Case in point in John Andersen in Tuesday's Bully.

    Writing about the apparently successful banishing of the bats in Charters Towers, reclaiming Lissener Park for the local people again was, Ando wrote, 'a bit like the raising the flag on Iowa Jima'.

    Umm, Iowa is a mid-west state of the United States. Iwo Jima is a Island south-east of the Japanese mainland. Not much in this, of course, except that 'the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima' is said to be the most re-published photogtaph of all time (that's because there was no papparazi when Eve was fig-leafing around), and is therefore well known. The famous statue near Arlington Military Cemetery is based on it.

    Well, Ando, we all know how good help is hard to find - locally anyway. But Merry Christmas and have yet another great new year, anyway, old mate.

    1. Yeah, subs were a good idea... weren't we? :sigh:

    2. ‘Pie, I have another problem with Ando’s piece.

      “A bit like raising the flag on Iowa (sic) Jima” ???

      How can you possibly equate successfully moving along a bunch of bats – no matter how annoying they were – to a scene from a WWII battle that cost the lives of 25,000 men? Get a grip, man – have you no sense of perspective? Or respect?

      Hyperbole! Best thing ever!!!

      Perhaps fittingly for you, the actual photograph was a bit of fraud. The US flag over Mount Suribachi was actually first raised by US Marines earlier in the day to when the photograph was taken. The famous photograph was taken in a re-enactment a few hours later when the original flag was replaced by a much bigger one. True to the breed, a politician attempted to claim the original flag, but was passed off a counterfeit one by a canny Marine Officer.

  15. Sounds a bit like the "famous" storming of the Reichstag film, which too was a re-enactment.