‘Belt up or feel the pain’ was the message written on a road sign which we saw while driving through Melbourne, warning people about the importance of fastening your seat belt. We didn’t see any further road signs instructing us whether we had to leave our seat belts unfastened if we were re-fuelling. Maybe they have those in the petrol stations, or perhaps the whole seat belt re-fuelling thing is based on a weird Australian superstition, or maybe it’s just a rule specific to that particular Australian airline company.
So, we’re only three days into this trip and already there’s been a bit of a hitch. But there’s no need for concern (no worries, as the Australians say at least twice a minute; It’s probably one of the most commonly used phrases in Australia). As we passed the ‘belt up or feel the pain’ sign, we noticed a hitch hiker at the side of the road. The three of us decided to pull over and see if we could offer a lift. Sean and Michael’s motives were purely altruistic, whereas I made the choice hoping that it might provide something interesting to write about for the Dollop.
We pulled over and asked her where she was going, which turned out to be the same place as us. So She got in our car, whilst thanking us profusely, we answered by instructing her to belt up or feel the pain. Unfortunately, it turns out that the roadside slogan isn’t particularly common throughout Australia. Panicked, she attempted to escape the car, but the doors have an automatic locking system, and before she could decipher how to unlock the door, Michael had pulled away and was now speeding down the motorway. We tried to placate her by saying “no worries,” but it doesn’t sound as friendly in a Teesside accent, in fact it sounded almost sarcastic and threatening, which only heightened her distress.
OK, I might have exaggerated the story a little there, although I’m sure you’d gathered that. It wasn’t actually a motorway, it was in fact an A-road. I thought motorway made it sound more dramatic.
Our hitch hiker was twenty-two, originally from Germany, who apparently went by the name Pony. We enquired whether that was her actual name.
“My real name is Annie but everyone just calls me Pony.” I assume that everyone called her Pony because she asked to be called Pony, unless people just randomly started calling her it, and she decided that life would be a lot easier if she just went along with it. She seemed to be using the argument that everyone called her Pony as a reason for why she was called Pony, but surely this was an active decision on her part. So we asked her why she was called Pony.
“I used to have a Pony when I was a child.”
Again this didn’t really offer much in the way of illumination. I mean, I used to have a train set when I was a child, but I don’t call myself it. OK, train set is two words, so that really doesn’t work very well as an example. I suppose I could always hyphenate it and be double-barrelled, which might also have the advantage of bolstering my social status, although actually I don’t think Train-Set Eagle would really ingratiate myself with the posh upper-class types. It sounds more like a name befitting an experimental jazz musician than an aristocrat.
Who could forget Train-Set Eagle’s legendary festival gig in which he spent the first half an hour playing everything out of time. Still, in fairness, he did apologise for the delay, and the performance started to pick up from there. But then Train-Set and his band started miming playing their instruments, and after a couple of minutes of this the audience started complaining that they couldn’t hear anything. Train-set Eagle rebuked the restless crowd, telling them that they were in the designated quiet zone. The gig continued for another five minutes, but then, halfway through a flailing whistle solo, he stopped the gig and refused to continue because a leaf had fallen on to the stage.
“That’s it, I’m never playing an outdoor festival again. It’s just too much of a chewchew,” he screamed at the baffled audience. He gets a stutter whenever he’s angry, hence the repetition of the word chew. You were probably assuming it was a typo. The audience hadn’t seen Train-Set this angry since the time when someone heckled him for going electric. This was in the 80s and signified a highly controversial move, with many of his fans disowning his music. Before that time, his music was always totally run by steam. He grabbed hold of the heckling audience member and hauled him over the coals. Fortunately, the coals weren’t remotely hot, because he was doing an electric set, in fact, I’m not even sure why he brought the coals on stage with him; probably just out of habit.
Train-Set Eagle sarcastically apologised to the audience for any inconvenience caused, and then stormed off stage. That was the last time he ever performed. He became an alcoholic and a drug addict, completely going off the rails, until finally he terminated in London Kings Cross, where he’d been living rough on the streets. His band valiantly tried to go on without him, but it didn’t last long, and they eventually split in Sheffield, with one half going down to London and the other half going up to York.
Well, I was planning on this Dollop being principally about the hitch hiker, but I’ve spent most of it going off on a tangential meander about a fictional aggressive experimental jazz musician. I know a few of you had placed a bet on that happening at some point in this consecutive daily blogging challenge, so well done to you. Anyway, I must leave this Dollop here, as we’re now setting off to play our first Australian gig, at the Port Fairy Festival. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow. I am confient that I will at least make it up to Dollop 73, because we’re staying in the same hotel for the next few nights and it has free, working WIFI. So back tomorrow.