Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

29.9.16

A Shorter History of the Bulldog.

Hawthorn has won four of the last eight grand finals, including the last three, for a total of thirteen.

Footscray has won one grand final, which no-one under 70 remembers.

It's impossible to think of Footscray (or the Western Bulldogs as they are now known) as having ever been a more successful club than Hawthorn. However, the situation was very different early in the 1960s according to one writer:
... they must be classed as the most successful of the three babes of the League - Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne - since they entered the League in 1925. ... their record is nowhere near as dismal as North and Hawthorn's - and St Kilda for that matter, even though they've been in the League much longer.
Lou Richards made the claim in his book Boots and All published in 1963 on the strength of Footscray's 1954 flag and its near-miss in its 1961 grand final loss to Hawthorn, the latter team's first premiership. But Richards saw Hawthorn's flag as something of a fluke, in a chapter entitled 'Cinderella's Hawks':
As the Hawthorn Town Hall clock struck midnight on Sunday, December 31st, 1961, the greatest Cinderella story in League football history came to an end. The toasts finished and the champagne was gone, the effervescent bubble of premiership success went flat and Cinderella had to return to her rags. ... with the football world at their feet the Hawks suffered an inexplicable slide back down the ladder in 1962 and they cascaded to their far-too-familiar role as a member of the bottom four.
Richards saw Hawthorn as a shooting star, while Whitten's Footscray was on the rise.

It didn't turn out that way.

But there are still a few old Footscray fans around who, this Saturday afternoon, hoping for a reversal of fortune, will relive the past.

They just don't know whether it will be 1954 or 1961.

*

Boots and All by Lou Richards. Stanley Paul & Co Ltd, Melbourne 1963

From Kitchen Hand's library of obscure Australian sporting history.

27.9.16

Curcumin, the supplement you'd never heard of until about six months ago.

It's one of the health fads of the moment. I keep hearing it everywhere. Curcumin. For relief of inflammation. No-one knows if it works or not, of course, just like no-one knows if fish oil works. You spend your money on hope, like betting with Sportsbet. "If your team loses by less than ten points after leading at half time - CASHBACK!!!!!" Except there's no cash back with supplements and they're a lot dearer than a twenty-buck bet.

Turmeric - the source of curcumin - is a lot cheaper and tastier, as in the following curry I made last night:

Potato, spinch and eggplant curry - with tumeric.

Dice four large potatoes and fry them in oil in a deep frypan in batches until done. Remove.

Cube four eggplants and fry these in the same pan, adding more oil if necessary. Remove.

Chop two large onions and fry until golden, adding more oil if necessary.

Into the frying onions, stir a cubic inch (guess) of finely chopped ginger (a cousin of turmeric), a heaped teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds and a heaped teaspoon of turmeric. Fry for a minute.

Now add four fresh chopped green chillies, two cans of diced tomatoes and their juice and a teaspoon of salt.

Return the fried potatoes and eggplant to the pan, along with a bunch of roughly chopped spinach and half a cup of water. Add two teaspoons of brown sugar and cook uncovered until simmer recedes. Serve over rice.

12.9.16

Home made gnocchi with blue cheese.

Home made gnocchi is big in restaurants, but not many people except for Italians seem to make it at home.

It's no big deal; just mashed potato bound with flour or eggs. Any number of people will try and complicate it by saying you need potatoes of a certain age or waxiness. I've tried all the theories and no matter what you do the resulting gnocchi are always good.

Here's an example, with another link within that post using sweet potato.

Last night I made a similar batch, drained them, rolled them in some finely chopped parsley and crumbled some blue cheese over the gnocchi in serving bowls. Then I browned them under the griller and served them, scattering parmesan over the top.

8.9.16

The New Retail Account Part Four: Dinner in Toorak.

Previously published here.

6.9.16

The New Retail Account Part Three: The New Model - Self-Generating Stock.

ADVERTISING AGENCY BLAKE, BROWNING, BURNS HAS BROUGHT IN ADMAN CLYDE P. ULSTER TO LAND A PRESTIGIOUS RETAIL CLIENT. AMIDST A GALA PRESENTATION IN THE BOARDROOM CATERED BY VETERAN TEALADY JUNE, CLYDE SHOCKS THE ASSEMBLED STAFF BY ANNOUNCING RETAIL PAWNBROKER CRIME CONVERTERS AS THE NEW CLIENT. CLYDE HAS INVITED THE ENTIRE STAFF TO ATTEND A MEETING AT THE CLIENT'S FRANKSTON HQ THE FOLLOWING WEEK. THE ONLY STAFF MEMBER UNABLE TO ATTEND IS JUNE, WHO APPEARS TO BE THE MOST PRODUCTIVE MEMBER OF THE AGENCY.

A COLD, BLEAK MELBOURNE MORNING IN LATE WINTER DAWNS. AMONG THE THOUSANDS OF TRADIE UTES PROCEEDING SOUTH ON THE NEPEAN HIGHWAY IS A CONVOY OF EUROPEAN LUXO-BARGES; SLEEK SILVER AND BLACK MACHINES DESIGNED TO DO 250 K/MH BUT CRUELLY DESTINED NEVER TO BREAK 110. HOWEVER, THIS PARTICULAR MORNING THEY ARE SULKILY CRAWLING ALONG AT 40K/MH DUE TO ROADWORKS ON EASTLINK AND AN ACCIDENT AT SOUTH ROAD.

DECLAN: Fucking traffic. And why do we always get clients who have their headquarters in places like Blackburn South, Ringwood, Vermont and now fucking Frankston.

JESS: Is that a statement or a question, Deccy? And cut the language. I haven't eaten breakfast yet.

DECLAN: You'll eat like a king in Frankston, Jess. If Clyde lets us out of Crime Converters for a pleasant walk around Playne Street.

JESS: What time are we meeting?

DECLAN: Nine o'clock. If we can get through this traffic, we'll have time to stop for a takeaway cappucino and a donut from the Seven Eleven in Seaford.

JESS(GRIMACES): I might pass. But you go ahead.

NINE A.M: AGENCY PERSONNEL ARE CROWDED INTO THE MEZZANINE BOARDROOM OVERLOOKING THE SHOPFLOOR OF A CRIME CONVERTERS MEGASTORE, SITUATED IN FRANKSTON'S MAIN STREET NEAR THE MONEY-LENDING SHOPFRONTS (BANKS WON'T LISTEN? WE WILL!), THE ALL-NIGHT X-RATED BOOKSHOPS, AND THE CENTRELINK OFFICE.

MR CLIFFORD KLOPPERS, THE MANAGING DIRECTOR, IS ADDRESSING THE AGENCY PERSONNEL. CLYDE SITS NEXT TO HIM.

CLIFFORD: Gentlemen, welcome to the world's most advanced retail model. And ladies, of course. (HE REALISES THE PARTY INCLUDES SEVERAL NON-MALES)

DECLAN: Ah, what makes it that, Mr Kloppers, exactly? The most advanced model, I mean.

CLIFFORD: Call me Clifford, Declan. Hell, call me Cliff! Crime Converters has developed a new age retail system that allows us to completely eliminate one entire level of personnel and thereby create the opportunity to produce a far higher ROI ...

CLYDE (INTERRUPTING): That's return on investment for those in creative.

CLIFFORD: ... thanks Clyde; a far higher return on investment than any other retail model existent in the current business environment.

We have no buyers. At all. None.

(BUYERS IS THE TRADE TERM FOR THE IN-HOUSE PURCHASING OFFICERS WHO OBTAIN STOCK FOR RETAILERS)

SOPHIE: Then how do you obtain your stock, Mr Kl ... Cliff?

CLIFFORD GETS UP FROM HIS CHAIR AND DANCES OVER TO THE FULL-LENGTH GLASS WINDOW THAT OVERLOOKS THE SHOP FLOOR. HE POINTS DOWN TO A SECTION, ENCLOSED AT GROUND LEVEL BUT VISIBLE TO THOSE IN THE ELEVATED BOARDROOM AND TURNS BACK TO SOPHIE AND THE OTHERS.

CLIFFORD: Watch.

THEY GAZE DOWN AT THE SHOPFLOOR. ALMOST BY MAGIC, BUT PROBABLY SOMETHING MORE LIKE COINCIDENCE OR SHEER FREQUENCY OF OCCURRENCE, THE EXTERIOR DOOR OPENS SLOWLY, REVEALING SOMEONE'S SHOE AND A SHAFT OF MORNING SUNSHINE. THE FOOT IS FOLLOWED BY ITS OWNER, A YOUNGISH BUT HAGGARD-LOOKING MAN WITH A PINCHED, TIRED, SUNKEN, SALLOW FACE TOPPED BY A JIM BEAM BASEBALL CAP. HE IS WEARING A TOO-LARGE HOLDEN DEALER TEAM TRACK JACKET. ADIDAS TRACK PANTS DRAG OVER HIS FILTHY RUNNING SHOES. THE MAN IS CARRYING, AND TRYING NOT TO DROP, TWO VERY LARGE L.E.D. TELEVISIONS, HENCE THE NEED TO PUSH OPEN THE DOOR WITH HIS FOOT.

CLIFFORD (WITH A FLOURISH): See? The world's very first outsourced retail store buying department!

1.9.16

The New Retail Account Part Two: The Announcement.

IN PART ONE, ADVERTISING AGENCY BLAKE BROWNING BURNS HAS BROUGHT IN RETAIL ADVERTISING EXPERT CLYDE P. ULSTER TO LAND A PRESTIGE RETAIL CLIENT. CLYDE HAS BRIEFED THE AGENCY ON THE HISTORY OF RETAIL ADVERTISING AND THE STAFF ARE AGOG, EXPECTING AN ANNOUNCEMENT ANY DAY.

LOUDSPEAKER: Attention please, would everyone proceed to the boardroom immediately for an important agency announcement from Wayne. Wayne is flying interstate shortly so would you please move to the boardroom swiftly for this meeting. Thanks.

TEN MINUTES LATER, STAFF ARE STILL WANDERING LIKE LOST SHEEP INTO THE BOARDROOM. FINALLY, EVERYONE IS THERE AND WAYNE (AGENCY MD) ENTERS, ACCOMPANIED BY CLYDE. P. ULSTER, WHO LOOKS EXTRA PLEASED WITH HIMSELF.

WAYNE (DOES SARCASM WITH A STRAIGHT FACE): Thanks everyone for being so prompt. I love the way you all jump to attention when the need arises.

I have a great announcement to make today. Clyde here (LOOKS AT CLYDE) has worked his arse off for several months on a very important project for this agency. He has dedicated himself day and night to win us a piece of business so important, it will propel us to number one position in the advertising industry in this city, this State, and in fact, in this nation.

PAUSE. WAYNE LOOKS AROUND.

And now I will leave it to Clyde to reveal to you the identity of this prestigious retail account; a piece of business that will give you opportunities you only dreamed about when we had Kmart. Or Autobarn. Or the Good Guys.

Over to you, Clyde.

CLYDE: Thanks Wayne. That was a very nice introduction. Thank you. And I'm sure Kmart wasn't that bad.

SLIGHT PAUSE AS JUNE THE TEALADY CRASHES HER TROLLEY THROUGH THE DOORS

JUNE: I've got a client coming in at ten o'clock and I've got to set up so can you get this meeting over with?

CLYDE: Won't be a minute, June. I am sure all of you understand the traditional glow of pleasure that occurs in working on a prestige retail account. Retail was in fact the very origin of advertising, going back to the magnificent high-class fashion illustrations in the prestige broadsheets, and the glossy department store catalogues of the early twentieth century. In the USA and Europe, the grand old retail houses competed for the best illustrators, copywriters and photographers to create advertisements to attract the rich and wealthy.

LOU (PRINT BUYER) ALMOST UNDER HIS BREATH BUT NOT QUITE: Cut the bullshit and get on with the announcement, you fat tosser. And what's the difference between rich and wealthy, anyway?

CLYDE: What was that? All right, let's move on. With that background, we carry on a proud tradition with the arrival at this agency of a great name in the retail business:

HE PRESSES A BUTTON TO BRING UP A LOGO UP ON THE BIG SCREEN. IT IS OUT OF FOCUS BUT ALL EYES IN THE ROOM CAN MAKE OUT:

CRIME CONVERTERS

A SHOCKED SILENCE FALLS ON THE ROOM. NO-ONE SAYS A THING FOR FIVE SECONDS; AND THEN MUFFLED COMMENTS BREAK OUT TOWARDS THE BACK OF THE ROOM.

GEORGINA (MAC OPERATOR): You've gotta be kidding. I was expecting David Jones, at least.

PAUL (PRODUCTION GUY): If Crime Converters is a prestige retail account then I'm Prince Charles and Pope Benedict rolled into one.

GEORGINA: He's dead.

PAUL: My point exactly, Georgina.

JUNE (CRASHES HER TROLLEY AGAINST THE BOARDROOM TABLE; YOU WOULD THINK SHE WAS DOING IT ON PURPOSE): Come on, everyone out. The next client's waiting in reception. SHE PLONKS A TRAY OF GLASSES ON THE TABLE

DECLAN (COPYWRITER): How's your CV looking, Jess?

JESS (ART DIRECTOR): Suddenly a lot better, Dec. Six months of photocopying bar charts and he comes up with Crime Converters. Christ.

CLYDE (BEAMING): I'm sure you're all well and truly looking forward to starting work on this great new piece of business! (HE LOOKS AROUND IN VAIN) There will be a brief arriving next week; but the really good news is that, this Thursday, we will be taking the entire agency on a field trip ... to visit the Crime Converters head office!

I'll see you all in Frankston at 8am on Thursday morning.

HE SHUTS UP HIS LAPTOP AND WALKS OUT

JUNE: I won't be going. I'm far too busy.

31.8.16

The New Retail Account, Part One: Clyde Ulster Arrives.

CLYDE P. ULSTER WAS A SANDY-HAIRED FAT MAN WHO HAD A RED FACE AND WORE A SUIT THAT WAS TOO BIG, BECAUSE HE THOUGHT IT WOULD MAKE HIM LOOK SMALLER. IT DIDN'T. CLYDE P. ULSTER LOOKED LIKE AN ELEPHANT IN A COLLAPSED CIRCUS TENT.

MR ULSTER STARTED WORKING AT ADVERTISING AGENCY BLAKE BROWNING BURNS ONE WINTER. HE APPEARED LIKE SO MANY CONSULTANTS DO - HE TURNED UP EVERY NOW AND THEN UNANNOUNCED; AND BEFORE WE KNEW IT, HE PART OF THE PLACE, BORING US TO DEATH AT FRIDAY NIGHT DRINKS AND LAUGHING TOO LOUD AT THE MD'S JOKES.

CLYDE DROVE A TWENTY-YEAR-OLD NAVY BLUE MERCEDES 400SEL WHICH WAS COVERED IN DUST AND HAD A BACK SEAT FULL OF JUNK UP TO THE WINDOW SILLS. THE JUNK INCLUDED PLASTIC-BOUND INCH-THICK PRINT-OUTS OF POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS, YELLOWING AND DOG-EARED. THAT MEANT CLYDE P. ULSTER HAD EITHER EXACTLY THE WRONG ATTITUDE ABOUT POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS, OR EXACTLY THE RIGHT ONE. I COULDN'T FIGURE OUT WHICH. THE REST OF THE JUNK INCLUDED RETAIL BUSINESS TENDER DOCUMENTS WITH GARISH COVERS FEATURING BAR CHARTS AND SALES GRAPHS.

CLYDE P. ULSTER WAS A RETAIL ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE.

*

WAYNE (MD) TO A PACKED FRIDAY MORNING ALL-STAFF MEETING: I'm sure everyone has met Clyde. Clyde is this country's foremost expert in retail advertising. Clyde knows more about retail than any individual in the advertising industry. Clyde knows how retail ticks in this country. He knows the psychology behind retail. He knows what the housewife buys, why she buys it, when she buys it and who told her to.

DEAD SILENCE.

Clyde knows the housewife like not even her husband knows her.

A FEW TITTERS.

Clyde, say a few words.

CLYDE P. ULSTER (STANDS UP): Aaah, thanks Wayne. My reputation precedeth me, obviously. (LAUGHS UPROARIOUSLY, BUT NO-ONE ELSE DOES, SO HE STOPS.) No doubt many of you have seen me around the place, often in the photocopying room; and wondered exactly what I have been doing. I'll tell you.

But before I tell you, let me fill you in on just a little of the history of retail advertising in this country.

HE SHIFTS HIS STANCE AND GAZES INTO THE MIDDLE DISTANCE.

ALMOST AN HOUR LATER, THE FEW PEOPLE REMAINING IN THE BOARDROOM GIVE HIM WARM APPLAUSE. BECAUSE HE HAS FINISHED.

CLYDE (BEAMING): Any questions?

FROM THE BACK OF THE ROOM: Yeah. Can we go to lunch now?

CLYDE (MISSES THE SARCASM): Sure. I know just the place.

*

BACK IN THE CREATIVE DEPARTMENT. DECLAN, COPYWRITER, AND JESS, ART DIRECTOR, ARE DECIDING WHETHER TO WORK ON AN URGENT PRESS AD OR GO TO LUNCH. THEY DECIDE THE PRESS AD ISN'T ALL THAT URGENT. THEY EXIT AND CROSS THE ROAD TO SARATOGA'S CAFE, AN ORDINARY LUNCH SPOT WITH PRETENSIONS TO GREATNESS.

JESS (STARING AT THE SPECIALS BOARD): I'll have the angel hair pasta with crab meat, chili and ginger.

DECLAN: Sounds disgusting, Jess. I can't decide between the Caesar salad or the vegetarian foccaccia.

JESS: You've got no imagination, Deccy. I mean, come on, Caesar salad? Some tired cos, a few burnt bits of bacon and a slop of mayonnaise?

DECLAN: No, the Caesar is actually good here. They assemble it on the spot rather than dredging it from a cold bain marie like most places up and down St Kilda Road. What did you think of Clyde?

JESS: Fattest bore in advertising. That's two great achievements straight away. He's supposed to be landing a big retail client.

DECLAN: It better be good. I'm sick of working on industrial boltcutters, cat enemas, pest extermination chemicals and carpet glue.

JESS: You're never satisfied, Declan. That carpet glue campaign was actually quite creative.

DECLAN: Yes, but because it was x rated, it never actually ran.

JESS: Yeah. Well, carpet glue. It kind of suggests the obvious. Anyway, who cares it never ran? It still cleaned up at awards night.

DECLAN: I know. That's crazy. You don't need to actually run an ad to enter it in awards.

JESS: Of course not. But then, award judges don't go around checking minor details like whether an ad has run or not.

DECLAN: No. In fact, they don't go around checking any details at all. They spend three weeks in Cannes snorting white dust and then pointing a shaking finger at a board like pin the tail on the donkey. It's their reward for being gurus of the industry. And old and fat and almost dead.

JESS: You'll be like that one day, Dec; and then you'll be glad of a little chemically-induced stress relief.

DECLAN: No, I won't, Jess. Because I won't be in the industry any more. I'll be retired. It completely escapes me why people want to continue working twelve hour days into their late fifties. I've known creative directors who don't know their own children's names because they never see them except on weekends.

JESS: Speaking of creative directors, here comes Leopard.

(JESS CALLS OUT TO LEOPARD)

Hey, Leonard - I mean Leopard - any idea of what big-name retail account Clyde is bringing in? We want to know whether we should practice drawing fridges, ladies' fashions, cans of baked beans or circular saws.

LEOPARD: Jess, you couldn't draw any of those if your life depended on it. So why bother worrying?

JESS: Thanks for the vote of confidence in your top team, Leopard. And I'm not worried, I'm just mildly interested.

LEOPARD: Well, I don't know. I haven't spoken at length to the fat windbag. Although I did see some case studies from some of the traditional fashion houses of Europe and the US when he dropped his folder in the boardroom and everything fell out.

JESS: David Jones? Myer? Henry Buck's?

LEOPARD: We'll see.

HE GAZES AWAY. HE KNOWS.

26.8.16

Nuts and brassicas.

Yeah, I had to read it twice as well. Some headlines do that to you.

Pasta with walnuts and broccoli.

Something to do with flavour or texture or both. Nuts go with members of the brassica family and if you underscore that pairing with something warm and bland and homely, like traditional home-made pasta, and bind it with a compatible fat - cream or cheese or both - you have the makings of a great dish.

Hence the following:

Cook the pasta. Rigatoni is my fallback when discrete components appear in the sauce, but for this I used farfalle, usually incorrectly translated as bowties for the obvious reason, but when you know it means butterflies, you will never again look upon a pack of them in a shop as an item of men's clothing.

Meanwhile, cook a finely chopped onion and a clove of garlic in some olive oil in a shallow non-stick pan. Then add half a cup of white wine, the same amount of cream, and a shower of walnuts. Stir and reduce.

When the pasta is almost cooked, throw in enough broccoli florets to populate each serving dish with about half a dozen. When just tender, drain the lot. Place in serving bowls, pour over walnut cream sauce. Add crumbled blue cheese if desired.

*

Serve the old-fashioned way saying Grace before Meals, if anyone remembers that, and add a prayer for those poor souls trapped under crumbled fourteenth-century buildings in Italy.

19.8.16

The Flight, Part Two.

WAYNE, A JADED ADVERTISING AGENCY MD, IS ON A LONG DISTANCE FLIGHT WITH AGENCY ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, TRENT, WHOSE OVER-EARNEST RAMBLINGS ABOUT THE UPCOMING BUSINESS PITCH ARE KEEPING WAYNE AWAKE DESPITE HAVING RELIEVED THE PLANE OF ITS SINGLE MALT WHISKY STOCKS. TRENT WANTS TO REVIEW THE PITCH (TO INTERNATIONAL EQUESTRIONAGE, A BETTING 'INTELLIGENCE' COMPANY) DESPITE IT BEING THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.

SUDDENLY THE PLANE HITS TURBULENCE. TRENT HITS THE ROOF AND THEN BECOMES AS MAUDLIN AS A DRUNK IN A EUGENE O'NEILL PLAY.

TRENT: You need a holiday Wayne. Why don't you take this weekend off?

WAYNE: What's a weekend?

TRENT (DOESN'T GET SARCASM): It's the days in between Friday and Monday when other people relax, have long leisurely breakfasts, go and play golf, and play with their children.

WAYNE (DOWNING THE LATEST SCOTCH AND GETTING TEARY AND MOROSE):
Oh. I must have one soon then. I've got children, you know.

(PAUSE)

I wonder what their names are.

TRENT (ALSO DOESN'T GET RHETORICAL SADNESS): Rosie and Lachlan, Wayne.

WAYNE: What pretty names, Trent. I wonder who thought of them.

TRENT: Probably your wife, Wayne.

(PAUSE)

WAYNE: Probably.

(PAUSE)

I wonder what her name is.

TRENT: Now you're being ridiculous, Wayne.

WAYNE (RATIONAL AGAIN, HAVING APPEASED HIS SORROW): No I'm not. I can't remember my own fucking name half the time, why should I remember my wife's?

TRENT: Oh, because you married her?

And your childrens' names because they're your children. You know, what you thought were the most important things in your life.

Once.

(LONG PAUSE. WAYNE REACHES MECHANICALLY FOR HIS GLASS WHICH IS NOW EMPTY)

WAYNE: Trent, one minute you're the world's greatest up-and-coming advertising executive, and the next minute you sound like a freakin' new age personal relationship columnist.

You know, people who solve the problems of world-wide recession, massive unemployment, terrorism, splintering economies and El Nino by saying read more bunny books to your kids. Great.

TRENT: Sorry, Wayne.

WAYNE: That's all right.

WRETCHEDNESS HITS AGAIN. HE STARTS TO CRY.

TRENT: What's the matter now, Wayne?

WAYNE (SNIFFLING): Nothing.

I just remembered the bunny book I had as a kid.

TRENT (SHAKES HIS HEAD): Christ. Lost the plot.

WAYNE (ALMOST TO HIMSELF): I loved that book.

I took it to bed every night. (SOBS) The bunny's name was Bobby and when he got lost in the forest I cried until he was saved by a badger called Stanley.

Now all I get to read is fucking inflight magazines full of ads for $200 business shirts and $10,000 watches and articles about carbon-neutral spa resorts in rainforests where you get to eat organic watercress. For breakfast.

TRENT: Yep. You definitely need a holiday Wayne.

WAYNE (SUDDENLY RALLIES, CALLS DOWN THE AISLE): Ah, hostess? Or stewardess or whatever your fuckin' job title is ... have we got time for another scotch before we crash?

May as well drink it.

It'll only go to waste.

TRENT IS FINALLY SILENCED.

WAYNE FALLS ASLEEP WITHOUT ANOTHER SCOTCH.

THE PLANE EVENTUALLY LANDS WITHOUT INCIDENT, TRENT WAKES WAYNE AND THEY CATCH A CAB TO THEIR HOTEL.

NEXT MORNING, TRENT'S LAPTOP MALFUNCTIONS DURING THE PRESENTATION, HE IS UNABLE TO PRESENT THE POWERPOINT SHOW, AND HAS TO REVERT TO USING HUMAN LANGUAGE SKILLS TO OUTLINE THE AGENCY'S CREATIVE PLANS.

EQUESTRIONAGE'S MD IS IMPRESSED, SAYING: 'I SACKED THE LAST AGENCY BECAUSE THEY SHOWED ME ONE TOO MANY POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS. YOU'VE GOT THE ACCOUNT, GUYS!'

ON THE WAY OUT, WAYNE TELLS TRENT, 'I TOLD YOU SO.'

TRENT IS COMPLETELY SILENT FOR THE ENTIRE RETURN FLIGHT. THE PLANE LANDS IN MELBOURNE, AND AS THEY WALK THROUGH THE TERMINAL, TRENT THROWS HIS LAPTOP IN A DUMPSTER.

11.8.16

The Flight, Part One.

Rated R: adult themes, strong language, threats of violence, extreme sexism, etc. etc. In other words, a perfectly normal conversation between mature adults in the pre-'You Can't Say That!' era.

ON AN AEROPLANE SOMEWHERE. IT IS LATE AT NIGHT, POSSIBLY EVEN EARLY IN THE MORNING. THE BLACKNESS OUT THE WINDOW GIVES NO CLUE.

WAYNE AND TRENT - OF ADVERTISING AGENCY BLAKE, BROWNING, BURNS - ARE IN ADJOINING SEATS FLYING TO A FAR DISTANT LOCATION WHERE THEY ARE TO PRESENT A NEW BUSINESS PITCH TO A MAJOR CORPORATION WHICH PRODUCES HIGHLY SECRET SOFTWARE USED BY INTERNATIONAL GAMBLING INTELLIGENCE PROVIDERS FOR THE HORSERACING INDUSTRY.

WAYNE, 41, IS AGENCY MANAGING DIRECTOR AND HAS SEEN IT ALL. HE KNOWS THE TRICKS AND CAN PICK BULLSHIT AT A HUNDRED YARDS. HE HAS BEEN AROUND LONG ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT THE ENTIRE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY IS A GAME PEOPLE INDULGE THEMSELVES IN TO PREVENT BOREDOM. WAYNE IS SEMICOMATOSE AFTER SEVERAL EXTREMELY ENJOYABLE SINGLE MALTS.

TRENT, 28, IS A TRIGGER-HAPPY ACCOUNT MANAGER AT B, B, B AND IS ON THE WAY UP. HE IS VERY CLIENT-FRIENDLY, VERY AMBITIOUS, AND NOT ALL THAT CLEVER. TRENT IS WIDE AWAKE.

TRENT (TAPS WAYNE ON THE ARM): Wayne, what exactly do you really think about the presentation, in your heart of hearts? Do you think we can improve it? I think maybe there are some parts of it that could be even better. I want to get the 'wow!' factor into it. Do you think should we run through it again right now? (HE STARTS TO REACH INTO THE OVERHEAD LOCKER FOR HIS BRIEFCASE)

WAYNE (OPENS HIS EYES SLIGHTLY): Trent, do you realise what time it is? And what time zone we're in?

TRENT: No, Wayne, I always lose track of time when I'm flying.

WAYNE: You haven't flown enough then. Plus, we can improve the presentation by forgetting about it for half an hour while I get some sleep.

TRENT (IGNORES HIM): Do you think it's punchy enough? Don't forget International Equestrialage is going straight into another pitch afterwards. They need to have ours engraved on their memories. We need to go out with a real bang. Do you reckon it's big enough, exciting enough ...

WAYNE (EYES CLOSED AGAIN): Yeah.

TRENT: Are you sure, Wayne?

WAYNE (BEING VERY PATIENT, THE SINGLE MALTS ARE KICKING IN): Yeah.

TRENT: What about the graphics?

WAYNE (MAYBE GETTING A TOUCH IRRITABLE): What about the graphics, Trent?

TRENT: Can we make them work any harder? Let's just have another look while we've got time.

WAYNE (EYES FULLY OPEN NOW): I was already dreaming about graphics - very nice graphics - without wanting to actually look at yours for the thousandth time, Trent.

TRENT (STILL DOESN'T GET THE HINT): I really think it's a great opportunity for the agency, Wayne. Accounts like this don't fall out of the sky.

THE PLANE HITS TURBULENCE

WAYNE (JOLTED OUT OF NEAR SLUMBER): Jesus! I know they don't fall out of the sky, Trent. I ought to, I've been in the business for twenty years.

PAUSE - MORE TURBULENCE; 'FASTEN SEATBELT' SIGN COMES ON

But I think we're about to fall out of the fuckin' sky though Trent, so will you do me a favour and just shut up about the friggin' presentation for ten minutes while I try and get some rest before we either land or crash?

Either way I'll need my strength, either for climbing out of the burning wreckage, or else for coping with a three hour presentation consisting of some totally boring marketing executive delivering yet another mundane marketing plan, several media executives discussing television ratings in regional areas of outback Queensland and a hundred completely unintelligible flow charts on PowerPoint.

Come to think of it, I think I'd prefer the first option quite frankly. (CALLS TO AIR STEWARDESS WHO IS PASSING)

Hostess, would you ask the pilot to crash this plane immediately. But before you do that, bring me another single malt. Life's too short to drink blended whisky.

HOSTESS (HAS A SENSE OF HUMOUR, UNLIKE WAYNE RIGHT NOW): Certainly sir, another Macallan coming up. And don't call me hostess. I'm an air stewardess or a cabin attendant. The choice is yours. However, I don’t think the pilot will accede to your request to crash the plane. It's just had its annual service. (SHE MOVES TOWARDS THE GALLEY)

WAYNE (TURNS TO TRENT; MANAGES A GRIM CHUCKLE THAT SOUNDS MORE LIKE A HACKING COUGH): Did you hear that Trent? Did you hear that? With a sense of humour like that she should be in advertising, not spending her life handing out mind-numbing alcoholic substances at 30,000 feet to jaded executives!

TRENT (SUDDENLY SYMPATHETIC WITH WAYNE): You totally need a holiday Wayne. Why don't you take this weekend off?

WAYNE: What's a weekend?

TO BE CONTINUED

28.7.16

Out of time.

An agency I once worked with had plenty of money to spend on lunches. Well, they all did; but this one had more than most.

It had a lot of government business, and when bureaucrats throw money at advertising campaigns, they don't count it first. Counting money is for the private sector. Governments don't spend their own money; they spend yours, so why stint? They can always get their hands on more.

Anyway, the agency wanted to reward its clients for being loyal. The CEO decided to take its $5 million-plus clients to dinner, and give each an expensive Swiss watch. He'd written the presentation card himself, omitting to run it past the copywriter:

'We'd like to thank you for being a client by giving you this timeless watch.'

26.7.16

What do you do in your lunch break?

Here's what I do in mine.

(Note: the AdAge article is almost ten years old; I came across it again by accident when trawling through some old writings. The advertising agency blog is no longer online - I am adapting it into a book. And yes, I still have the same sandwich and three sugars in my coffee.)

6.7.16

Soup or pasta? Cold weather dilemma solved.

The answer is both, if you serve the following for dinner. It satisfies both soup- and pasta-lovers.

Tortellini soup.

First, make some vegetable stock (or use your preferred stock). In a large pot containing about 1500ml of water, bring to the boil a large chopped carrot, a large chopped onion, a stick of chopped celery, a chopped leek, some parsley sprigs, a peeled and scored garlic clove, a bay leaf, a little dried rosemary, a teaspoon of cracked pepper and half a teaspoon of salt. Once on the boil, turn down and simmer for an hour.

Strain the stock, return to pot and add half a kilogram of ricotta tortellini, a cupful of finely shredded silver beet, a cup of peas and a tablespoon of preferably home-made pesto (basil, walnuts, parmesan, garlic, olive oil).

Simmer another twenty minutes. Serve with shards of parmesan cheese broken from the block.

20.6.16

A Streetcar Named Acquire.

St Kilda Road was once home to Melbourne's advertising industry. Some of the agency dinosaurs, such as McCanns, remain there, like fossils in a rock.

As well as being Melbourne's most beautiful boulevard, St Kilda Road also boasts the slowest trams, monstrous metal boxes that clatter slowly down the middle of the road powered by steel rods reaching up to overhead electric wires. I've often wondered why tramloads of passengers don't get electrocuted every time it rains.

In the early 1990s, I was working for one of the dinosaur agencies. One day the agency had a visitor, a US agency boss from New York by the name of Stanley. Stanley was on the acquisition trail. He wanted to buy the agency. If only he knew. But that's another story.

Stanley had been scheduled to visit three agencies in one morning, and he arrived at my agency at nine a.m., when our MD led him on a tour of the place. A few account executives were in their offices, beavering away at their core function of sending fawning emails to clients, but the creative department was largely deserted, since creative drift into work close to 10 o'clock on a conscientious day. "They're on a two-day conference in the country," the MD lied.

He and the visitor then went into the boardroom and shut the door. After a while, June the tea lady crashed the door open again with her tea trolley and probably frightened the daylights out of the visitor. He'd have to get used to it.

When they emerged an hour later, Stanley looked at his watch, said he was running late and asked the MD to call him a cab. The MD replied that the last thing you do in St Kilda Road when you are running late is to call a cab, because you will still be waiting an hour later. You're better off going down to the street, and flagging one down. If a taxi isn't going by, you can just jump on a tram. "Oh, you mean those cool streetcars?" Stanley said. Yes, those cool, slow streetcars.

Now it just so happened that I had an appointment that mid-morning at the doctor's (Dr. Headhunter, as it happened) and we took the same elevator down to the ground. Stanley, in a hurry, racewalked off down St Kilda Road glancing over his shoulder for a cab and I kept a respectable distance behind him. No taxi came along, but a tram was lumbering into view. Stanley crossed to the tram safety zone, the tram pulled up, and Stanley got on through the middle door. I followed him and got in the back door. Stanley sat up the front and leant forward impatiently. The tram lurched away. Then it stopped again, having just missed the lights. I hate it when they do that. I'd rather they just sat there for the next round of lights. But they don't. They give a little lurch and get your hopes up, and then they dash them again, and you sit there for another three minutes. Stanley sat on the edge of his seat and checked his watch and stewed.

The tram performed the same stop-start routine for the next three sets of lights; and we were still nowhere near Coventry Street. It had taken fifteen minutes to get from High Street to the old police building that isn't there any more. Stanley was sweating.

The tram moved through the Domain Road terminus and made a false start for the fourth time. Stanley jumped up and strode to the driver. The tram was an old Z-class model with access to the driver through a mesh window.

"Can you drive this thing any faster, driver?" he shouted, but it wasn't a question. It was a demand.

"Yes, I can!" said the driver. "I can drive it at seventy-five kilometres an hour."

Pause.

"But I'm not going to." He had a sense of humour.

Stanley blew his stack. "I'm about to spend several million dollars buying half the businesses in St Kilda Road, driver," he yelled through the mesh, "and I'm late for an appointment to do exactly that. And you're telling me you're going to crawl this tram at two miles an hour for the next eight blocks. Well, I'm telling you, you won't have a job when I own St Kilda Road because I'll tell my employees not to take any goddamned tram to work. What do you think of that?"

The tram crawled forward into an intersection while the driver thought about what he thought about that. Then it stopped again, because a BMW 7-series was late in turning right into Toorak Road, and it blocked the tram. The driver clanged the bell and we sat there.

"What do I think of that?" replied the driver. "This." He pointed to a button. He pushed the button and the front door opened. "Get out."

Stanley's face was so red it was blue. "You drive this tram NOW, driver. And fast!"

"Get out."

He screamed. "Drive the tram, driver. You can't tell me to get out. I'm a paying customer!"

"I can do what I like on my tram, buddy. And right now I'm going to sit here until you get out."

The driver sat. He gazed out the window. The light turned green. The tram sat.

Stanley said some words he hadn't uttered since his agency lost an airline account back in the eighties.

The driver ignored him and continued gazing out the window.

The agency boss glared, hesitated, then jumped up and stepped out the front door. At the same time, I slipped out the rear door. My headhunter's office was just up the road and I would walk the rest of the way. I watched Stanley pull a piece of paper out of his pocket, check the street number on a building, half-run a little way up the street, and disappear inside 320 St Kilda Road. I went on to my headhunter's appointment, but ultimately I didn't take the job on offer, as it was to work on a retail account, and only hacks worked on retail. I did, however, use the offer as a bargaining chip to raise my salary with my then-employer. That's how the industry worked then. Every man was his own union.

*

Later that month, our agency MD made an announcement. The acquisition had not gone ahead.

"The American agency whose CEO Mr Stanley Durstin visited last month has decided to buy several other agencies instead, including Agency X," he said. Agency X was at 320 St Kilda Road.

I was disappointed. I had wanted to see what happened when Stanley tried to enforce the tram ban.