Went with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on their 24th annual Taronga Park Zoo visitation. We’re told to wear sensible shoes, a hat, and that the event will go ahead in all weathers. The first highlight is the amazing ferry trip across Sydney Harbour, with a view of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the visiting Queen Mary cruise ship.
Mostly international Mardi Gras visitors attend this excursion so they can appreciate our local fauna, and the Sisters, led by Mother Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation, provide a hilarious commentary of poems dedicated to each animal and – to the shock of attendees – early colonial recipes for eating them! Kangaroo tail is to be made like oxtail soup, and black swans should be cooked in a moderate oven for two hours. There were also tips on how to make a delicious Galah Pie and Roast Wombat!
Spotted lying flat on a box (far behind the counter at Vinnies) ready to be put on the shelves, the ABBA Photobook (with $75 price tag on it from Kinokuniya and nicely covered in protective plastic). Asked nonchalantly: “Oh, is that ABBA book for sale?” $20! I flicked through it studiously to check it was OK and the sales assistant seemed surprised anyone would want to buy it! Gave me that thrill again of finding stuff in secondhand shops when looking for ABBA stuff pre-internet!
Still on my wishlist is ABBA The Backstage Stories (my birthday this month) if anyone has a spare copy they want to offload!
Just finished 8.5-hour ABBA fest, from 1pm to 9.30pm. ABBA Monopoly was played and lots of rare vids, thanks to youtube. After three hours of playing ABBA Monopoly, we still hadn’t passed Go to collect $200 even once! Because every time we landed on an ABBA song (which had a title deed) or ABBA member, we’d get so excited and chat about some aspect of ABBA trivia. The tokens are great, I had Bjorn’s star-shaped guitar. There was a disco boot, Napoleon’s hat (Waterloo), a telephone (Ring Ring), a gold record, and several others. The Take A Chance and Community Chest cards mostly had ABBA references and were written in English and Swedish. We all wanted to get the Take A Chance card that said: “Land on Agnetha Faltskog …” D said: “I’d give up several Hotels for that!” Was lots of fun.
Started with LOTS of discussion re: Frida’s latest heart-felt revelations on the Homage to Frida page. Read them here, including her four favourite dinner guests ever and her deepest held beliefs.
Have held a couple of If You Are The One fests at mine. I’d watch a zillion episodes and edited them down savagely and we’d watch from 1pm to 7pm. So many heart-wrenching emotions!
About 7 guests turn up and we order tummy-filling Chinese food from Happy Chef.
I’d selected bits that reflected Chinese culture. So we got lots of zany stuff about not dating Westerners, choosing people on the basis of single or double eyelids, preferences for Asian women with fair skin (even to the point of the guy insisting the woman play sport at nighttime so she didn’t get a tan), comments on Westerners’ “three-dimensional” faces, their thoughts on the “one child policy” and the dating trials faced by female PhD students (any woman who studies too much finds it harder to get a date). Le Jia said Westerners would be arrested by making such racial distinctions, if saying that in America.
I like all their philosophical wisdom: Le Jia said to a young man: “You pay an unnecessary price for being too sharp.” Meng Fei: “When you get to a certain age, you’ll put on weight even if you drink water!” Everything Huang Han says is brilliant, especially about Aristotle: she’s very good at arguing the finer points with arrogant candidates.
Regarding the one-child policy, Le Jia and Meng Fei pointed out that couples didn’t need to have children, they could “devote their time to serving others and socialism”. Or they might want to “give love to children who don’t have parental love.” Huang Han says having a child shouldn’t be a filial duty, but should be done because the couple wants to have a child.
In Chinese society, it seems the most desirable traits are that women are pure and simple and men are sunny and carefree.
B made delicious coconut and lime cake, Ant brought Singapore orchids, Kris brought fortune cookies, and I provided Lychee tea, pork buns and shrimp and meat-flavoured crisps (recommended by Asian bloke at Asian supermarket).
I will be holding another IYATO fest for a special person who missed out, being overseas at the moment.
Whenever four of us former Eastern Express staff get together every year or so for the past 25yrs, we always toast the inimitable Bill Ranken “who’ll outlive all of us!” we predicted. He was such a ball of positive and energy with an endless work ethic directed towards socialising. We’d worked with him 1990-94 when he reinvented himself as a Society Spy social writer as a “youthful” 60-year-old.
His forte was the relentless drive to go out, and everything was devoted to that aim. All we knew at the time was that he lived in a little studio flat, and used to jog every morning to keep trim. He was fitter than all of us and we were in our early 30s! He knew all the socialites by their first names, and was very discreet. I’d have to try and interpret his laughter to my questions to get any gossip.
We trained him in the gig: he had a photographer and wrote names in his notebook. Early on, he often lost his notebooks but soon realised the importance of getting all the names, or we wouldn’t use the photos. His opening sentences were always a bright splash of hyperbole: “There were more stars than in the galaxy …”
I subbed and laid out his social spreads for 4.5 years until the paper folded, and it was always a joy when he visited the office. He couldn’t really write, but he persevered in this profession anyway, knowing that taking photos and mingling were his strong points.
He was always gracious and never a snob. I was in my “punk” phase at the time, holding a “Flatmate from Hell” flatwarming party in Bondi and, of course, Bill said: “I’ll be there!” He came along on a Saturday night in his trademark suit and bow tie, his daily free rose from Carla Florist, Double Bay, in his lapel, and was his usual buoyant self, working the room.
As he got older, our admiration only increased, as it would be harder to fit into those young social circles and we knew he’d alienated some people with his shenanigans. But he was still up at the crack of dawn every day, jogging away, as tanned as ever, and out on the town every night: he just loved people, and helped out at the Wayside Chapel. He was an inspiring story of accepting who he was, his limitations, but still giving life everything he had, every day til he dropped.
Last time I bumped into him was on Oxford St, outside the Beauchamp Hotel, where he was bending down to tie his shoelace, then checking in a mirror to see he was looking polished. I said hi and he was as friendly as ever.
Now that he’s passed (into another ball of positive energy somewhere, I believe), we see his tragic back-story and it makes his humble choices even more amazing. He was worth $30million when he died, tied up in family land, which, though he was the eldest son, he encouraged other family members to take on. He would mention how he lost his eye and during the recuperation time he realised he wasn’t suited to the farming life.
More tragedies: his younger brother who took over the property died, and then his sister’s husband who took over was killed too. A year after this last death, Bill arrived at the Eastern Express, while going back and forth to help on the property as much as he could. He had a big heart. You can read elsewhere how he’d been a consort to Princess Margaret and a playboy in his younger years: but later, when he had no money to show, he still went out diligently, as he loved people and loved Sydney.
Fittingly, his last published words: “I’ve had a wonderful time. To the socialites of the eastern suburbs, I insist they all keep hosting fabulous parties.”
This song sums up Bill for me: formal, a bit nerdy, wholesome in his own way, ever-cheerful and sunny, add a dollop of old fashioned kindness. Oh, Darling, and Anything Goes!
And Music To Watch Girls By
One Thing – Bill stuck to the one thing he loved, socialising.
Maggie’s Pet Rescue Trivia night totally went off at Marrickville Bowlo. Was sold out and raised $11,000. Protia Turbo was the host (who has adopted several rescue pets)and did a terrific job.
At my table, had a chat about the Radikal Faeries and sand-pit therapy (2 types). G named most of the books in the Old Testament (except about 5), amazing. Cos, ask her about Kate Winslet coffee, everyone was gobsmacked. H won a big TV, so it’s Eurovision at His. A couple of people at our table won Silent Auction items. There was fantastic dog and cat paintings (with the paint still wet).
Lots of fun and a great night. Oh, and G said he’d scored 2 tickets to Kate Bush! Me, am going to wait til it comes out on DVD.