On Thursday, this correspondent’s favourite Australia novelist, Robert G. Barrett, died after long battle with cancer. I’m not a big reader of books, so I make this observation from a narrow perspective, but if there is a better exponent of Australian vernacular – I’m not here. Robert G. Barrett wrote 27 books and the majority of them feature Les Norton – the “big red-headed ex-Queenslander meatworker”. “You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids” was the first Les Norton book which was released in 1985. I’ve re-read it numerous times, and it never fails to amuse. “He probably hadn’t had a bath since the Battle of Hastings and when he opened his mouth, it reminded you of an oyster lease at low tide”. Priceless stuff and uniquely Orstrayan. His love of Sydney is apparent, and I relate so much to the statement “Norton loved these early winter mornings…days like this you wouldn’t be dead for quids. Robert G. recognised that he was on a good thing and pumped out a Les Norton book with reasonable regularity. They were pretty fomulaic, but that really didn’t matter. The location of the tale might vary, but there would always be more than a few blues and brawls where noses are squashed like rip figs, a minimum of two roots, a shady deal or three and detailed descriptions of gargantuan grog and grub consumption. Most of all though, there was guaranteed to be a new colloquialism that would stop you dead in your tracks. Hopefully someone will turn some missing Les Norton manuscripts so that Christmas holiday reading can include some Les for a few more years yet. Farewell Robert G. – thanks for the reads and I’m sure I’ve misappropriated some of you choicest phrases on these pages.
There’s no smooth segue into the beer tales of the day. Les Norton drank like a fish and would have a bottle-shop owner’s dream customer as he’d purchase slabs of beer, bottles of “shampoo” for the ladies and Jack Daniels to make a “delicious” or an “ice and Splice”. My daughter had her 18th last night and I need to stock up on some booze. Les was no connoisseur of the amber fluid – cold, XXXX and quantity were what mattered. I think that’s the same of most 18 year olds and ALDI and Dr Dan’s came into their own with same very economical cases of beverages that barely passed for beer. No matter, the young folk lapped it up – though there’s a few leftover for what hopefully will be a hot summer. Rivet – a “Full Flavoured Lager” is brewed in Vietnam for ALDI. At $24.99 for a case – it is hard to think of a cheaper full strength beer. The cans are full and there is some flavour – but insipid comes to mind. TUN Bitter comes from a stable of Dan Murphy beer brands – “WOW Brands”. Hard to work out the economics on this. TUN Bitter is brewed in the US – surely Dan Murphy could source piss like this from an Australian brewer without having to import it – particularly with exchange rates being what they are. Anyhow, perfect for this particular occasion.