Sunday, January 23, 2005

Desperately Seeking Bananas

Our #1 commenter over at the Pop (you know who you are, you don't need your tyres pumped!) challenged to write about some things in order - starting with bananas...I have just the's a cautionary one...

Desperately Seeking Bananas

I mentioned before our school dentist, and her never ending desire to get the kids at our school to eat more healthy food. She even, as i said, dressed up some poor benny in yellow suit and called him Mr Cheese. This was far from the only attempt to add a little extra healthy edge to our diet. There never seemed to be a day go buy bar someone was pushing the values of apples and oranges on us. Mark, our school benny, was once taken aside from a maths lesson because a teacher had spotted him munching on a jelly doughnut he said to his friend Clayton was "his breakfast" - he was given a chart on healthy eating, and promptly ate it, so as to win 5 bucks on a bet. The irony was, munching on the healthy eating chart made him ill and he had to go home. He wasn't the school benny for nothing.

Claire and I, in our youth, were really good runners, who made the Victorian state relay team (only to screw up the changeover on one occasion, and have a trackside argument, before we were friends). When you are young in Australia, the ability to run really fast makes you quite cool, and very good as kiss chase, but that's quite another story. The Victorian state relay team, even when we were 8, was a full on affair. You got tracksuits, you got shoes, you got measured up for a singlet, you were given a lyric sheet of chants - the Premier of Victoria (whoever that was) even turned up one time to watch. There was definite pressure - one girl, called Alison Bentine, from Western Australia, looked at my singlet and said, quote, "Victoria sucks!" - not standing for that, I said "No, you suck" and we exchanged dark glares from across the track at each other for an age, as if by running round a track really quickly, we'd settle the state vs state battle once and for all.

We were sponsored by Uncle Toby's that year, and Sanitarium, who make Weetbix, so we had all the free breakfast cereal and choc chip muesli bars we could handle. Our school, naturally, was proud of us for making the team, along with another girl, Margaret Vynan, who threw the hammer. The prinicipal made sure that we were often paraded on stage, to tell deep and meaningful stories to our classmates. In short, we were held up as examples of healthy living, although obviously Mark, our school benny, was deeply uninspired, as one time, in the middle of a lecture about how anyone could work hard and run for Victoria, he let out an enormous burp, and then giggled about it as if someone had said "pants".

On the second last day of the school year, we were called up again, and by now, we were seasoned media professionals. They still wouldn't let me bring my agent on stage with me though, which I still rue. We stood in our pre-determined positions, me up front, smiling, Margaret Vynan taking up half the stage, and Claire trying to squeez between us. "Today," said our principal, "we'd like to pay tribute to our Victorian state little athletics representatives." Claire swears to this day that Mark, our school benny, said "Get on with it" but I don't remember that. He then threw to a surprise guest, Steve Walters from Uncle Toby, who was holding three bags, each with our names on a label. I was getting free stuff! He had also brought a friend, Toby: rarely a day went by at our school by we encountered a crap mascot, Toby merely being a guy dressed like a surf life saver in red speedos and a cap. Had I been older, he would probably have been cute, but he looked pretty bored, as if he had three schools and some nude modelling to do before bedtime.

Steve spoke about healthy eating, healthy living, plugged the company for all it was worth, then lead the school in the most 1/2 arsed round of appreciative applause since Emma Cobb came third in a statewide crossword competition. Steve handed us our bags, clapped Mags V on the back, shook hands with Claire, and gave he a hug. Even at a young age, I was worried about wandering hands. He whispered in my ear something that sounded like "keep up the good work, we need you": I hope that's what it was anyway. Then he and Toby got in the Uncle Toby mobile and drove off to the next school. Actually, they made a cute, subtly homo-erotic couple.

We went backstage to compare our loot: Mags V got chocolate, stickers, a ruler and a hat with UNCLE TOBS on it (the Y had fallen off in the bag). Claire got the same, except her hat had the Y still on it. Me, I didn't get any chocolate, I got a lunchbox, a bright blue Uncle Toby's lunchbox, which contained a banana, a salad sandwich and a fruit box. I also got my stickers, and my hat, but also an Uncle Toby's jumper and a pair of socks, plus a medal that said "Outstanding Achiever".

I took all of this in for a moment, and stared at the lunchbox - clearly, they had got me mixed up with someone else, an actual proper achiever who had done something worthwhile. That explained the hug, that explained the extra gifts - I was pretty happy to keep it all though, especially the medal, but at that moment, I went right off little athletics - I mean, if you were ordinary, you got chocolate, but if you did well, you only got a banana and a salad sandwich. No one at Uncle Toby's had heard of the incentive scheme clearly.

I give my banana to my friend Megs B, because she loved bananas, with a monkey like passion.

"Do you want me to autograph it for you?" I said, proudly holding up my medal.

"Nah mate, I want Toby to autograph it for me," she said, with a faraway look in her eyes. I had found out that running wasn't worth much, and had lost the attention of my friend to a bored surfy male mascot who looked kinda cute. It was a day of valuable, life changing lessons, that only a banana in a lunchbox could truly provide...


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