Friends, you know the feeling when too much excitement is barely enough? Today was one of those days. Apart from a Ferrari missing a left hand turn 50 meters from the start and going straight into the lush Tasmanian trees, and a Lambo just running off the road, and a lunch at the Latrobe Football Club that rivalled our Shitbox Rally dinner two years ago in Thargomindah, we had communication problems.
First let me remind you of that famous 2106 meal.
No, Thargomindah is not a typing error. It’s really the name of this village, which on arrival reminds one of those quaint towns in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Dinner was in the Thargomindah community hall and school (an all-in-one concept our political leaders should take notice of since it also features a bar. And you and I know there is no better way to get primary school kiddies ready for a tough day on the pens and pencils than a few sharpeners at morning tea).
Now it’s good to see Australia’s and Tasmania’s fine tradition of crook food hasn’t completely disappeared from all parts of the nation and territory. And of course this is real man and woman country. None of the wussie vegan caper here. No, just three meaningless blobs which one of our scientists later confirmed were steak and sausages. And didn’t we wash them down with many plastic glasses of Coolabah’s best red in a cardboard box. There’s a reason they call Thargomindah the culinary capital of Thargomindah Country.
Now of course we had to drink the red, mixed with a few of Thargomindah’s best ales, because the water here comes straight from artesian bores (if you’re going to be bored, why not by an artesian?). The ground around here is rich with sulphur and oil and gas that gives the water that delightful aroma of perfume de sulphur. Drunk straight, it mixes with your natural fluids to form hydrochloric acid and taken by way of shower it leaves your body with the rich smell of ancient lava and manure.
Anyway the good folk at the LFC made their own bid for culinary fame with three forms of curry: lamb, beef and chicken, on a cardboard plate that also doubled as a double stubby holder. As an old racing driver let me give you a big hint. A few schooners of Boags from Belly’s Bar right there in the LFC club house really does settle the nerves for an afternoon of 200kmh rallying around roads with one thousand foot drops on one side and huge boulders on the other. Michael McMichael who not only navigated and drove the mighty 1990 BMW 3 series with the Alpina engine and the M3 running gear and the special blue go fast tape holding our stickers on, he did all of those together and at the same time while performing free brain surgery (of course every operation on a Tasmanian person meant he had to double up) on needy people like Nissan Skyline owners and Tasmanian Devils owners, while also giving nude faith healing and tantric sexual healing lectures to the 430 drivers before the beginning of every stage.
Surely in a country like ours, for a man like this we can make an exception and have Michael kneel on the Investiture stool while Betty Windsor lays the big silver sword across his shoulders and says “Arise Sir Michael of Michael McMichael Motors of Stepney Street next to the bloke who reconditions taxi engines for cash. Michael McMichael Motors now has the Royal Warrant and is the Official Supplier of BMW Servicing and spare parts to Her Majesty The Queen”.
Look I think this would renew loyalty to the Queen and the whole Royal Family in Australia. Well at least in the Kensington Hotel situated on the appropriately named Regent Street in the equally well named Royal Borough of Kensington. The Kenso is of course home to the Michael McMichael Lodge as well as Sneaky Beer on Fridays from 4pm to 6pm, open uke night and $12 burger and pint night every Thursday. Betty has often said that when she and Phil and the kids visit South Australia their first port of call is the Kenso. “My husband and I head straight for the kenso and share the platter for two. At only $38 plus $19 per extra person you get halloumi, duck spring rolls, sticky pork belly, sweet potato and salmon croquettes, dip and pita. Try and get that on the Strand!”
Anyway back to the rally.
Like every aspect of modern day life, in rallying good communication is critical. Let’s use a real life example from one of today’s six stages. As you know the roads are closed to the public so we can use both sides of the road. The only problem is the driver (in this case Michael) has never driven on this road before and has to rely on the skills of the navigator (in this case John). So we are driving at a leisurely 190 to 200kmh and just about to pass a slower car. Here’s the problem. As we were passing the car we were also heading up a crest so only I knew whether the road over the crest stayed straight or it made a ninety degree turn in which case Michael would have driven the BMW into much the same sort of lush Tasmanian forest that Mr Ferrari and his navigator found. When Michael asked the question “Can I pass him now?” I could have been a churlish sort of chappy and said “Well I’m not going to tell you unless you agree that I can drive the next stage”. Of course I am not that sort of person but I did drive the next stage.
Then there’s the problems we have been having with our in car communications. Our helmets have head sets and microphones and are hooked up through an in car radio. Michael thought his gear wasn’t working at one stage so he tried to make up for it by yelling loudly at me. Since his loaf of bread was totally enclosed in his helmet, very little sound emerged which only made him very frustrated and yell even louder. Of course I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his radio equipment was working perfectly and I had just turned his sound off so I could have a few laughs.
Anyway despite him driving extremely well, I drove appallingly and we are still running last even behind the Ferrari and Lambo that didn’t finish.