Written by Erskin Quint
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Thursday, 12 August 2010

image for Letters To The Editor - Public Information Letter From Rolf Harris A Beaver Dam Yesterday: The Keen Student of Hydraulic Engineering Will Find The Study of These Constructions Very Rewarding

Dear Sir,

How are yer? Notice that I didn't say 'Good day, Sport!' Oops! Now I did! Silly me! Yer can take the larrikin outa Perth but yer can't take Perth outa the larrikin! Jeez! Never mind, she'll be right, mate! Fair dinkum, cobber!

Kids and water, they love it. Rivers, canals, even the lily pond in the garden. Yer can't keep 'em away from it. Estuaries, seas, lakes. They can't keep out. Confined aquifers, just you try stoppin' the little blighters digging down into those beauties! And as for the Roman aqueduct system, and those cute little chute and stepped spillways they have all over the place these days - well, what can I say? Though my little girl was always most fascinated by bell-mouth spillways like the inverted bell at Chaffey Dam, New South Wales. And she was always far more interested in floodgates and levees than watching me daub me pictures with a household paintbrush! She never could be bothered to play 'can you tell what it is yet?' And as for listening to my records, she'd groan at me, 'Oh Dad! Can't you see I'm reading up on the Itaipu Dam in South America? Why can't you play the eponymous symphonic cantata by Philip Glass written in honour of this, the largest operating hydroelectric facility in terms of annual generating capacity?'

Well, all right, fair dinkum, she didn't use the word 'eponymous', but you get the gist, right?

Water has a fascination for children. I should know. When I was three years old I fell in the water at the Hoover Dam. Couldn't swim. Somehow managed to scramble my way to safety up those canyon walls. Frightened the wits out of my Mum and Dad. I mean, they thought I was visiting the Dworshak Dam in Idaho, you know, the straight-forward gravity dam. The last thing they expected was that I'd be swimming at an arch-gravity dam like the Hoover!

You can bet they had me taught to distinguish the various types of dam very soon after that! In fact, while my mates were off huntin' abos and skinnin' wallabies in the bush, yours truly was up to his already-burgeoning trademark beard in hydraulic engineering textbooks. When the other blokes were drinkin' hooch with old Len Dubbo, the abo bludger, and coppin' blow jobs off his daughter Juicy Jemima, I was jettin' round the world on a whistle-stop tour of major hydraulic projects.

I dunno for sure, y'know, but I think maybe this is what made me the man I am. I reckon this is where I get me detachment, that wistful, sentimentalised view of Australian life. The slightly corny, cringe-worthy perception that has manifested itself in so many childish, faux-naive songs and crude, impressionistic paintings. The faintly patronising and insulting caricature that is the Rolf Harris cartoon version of Southern Hemisphere living. Remember 'Fijian Girl'? 'Nuff said. Strewth!

But, you know, I just had to write to your magazine. Because there's more to old Rolf than a stylophone, a song called 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport', and an irritating wobble board habit, and, as I'm not getting any younger these days, I reckoned it was time to let the people know.

About these abos and the like for a start. Never mind all my romanticised rubbish, all that blether off my old TV shows. All that 'Sun Arise' nonsense. Remember 'Fijian Girl'? 'Nuff said.

No way. The thing with yer abo is, just look at all the dosh yours truly has made out of his culture. The way I made what you might call a commercial commodity out of it. I worked bloody hard to get all that money. It ain't easy mastering the bleedin' didgeridoo. But I did it.

I mean, you look at the money and fame I made from all this, and then you look at these abos, lyin' around in the sun with the flies buzzin' round, drinkin' beer and smokin' dope. Either they've boozed all their profits away, or they're too bone idle to have made anything in the first place.

Not many people know that I once felt a bit public-spirited, where these abos are concerned. I went all the way back home, to Bludger's Creek, where I went to school. Set up an Education Centre for the abos. People were accusing me of making money out of their culture, so I tried to put something back.

Never again, mate. I wasted 6 weeks of my life trying to teach those ignorant bleeders how to play the stylophone. They weren't interested. They only came for the free tucker.

Any one of 'em, if they'd had the gumption, they could have made good money off the stylophone. Like I did with their didgeridoo. But did they? I think you know the answer.

Another thing you won't know, is that me and my wife went to Vancouver by mistake in the early 60s - I mean, who would ever go there on purpose: it's like Bludger's Creek with street lights - and yet I ended up doing 2 shows a night at the Arctic Club, until it burned down.

Have you heard of Oliver Polip the Octopus? He was one of my characters, way back before the octopus was a creature so widely regarded as a zeitgeist-meshing celebrity cephalopod, like that one - what was his name, Peter? - who predicted the football scores this summer. Then there was Willoughby - geddit? - who I drew on a specially-made board right back in the early days of TV in the 1950s.

So have your children taught to recognise and distinguish the various types of dam and other tools of the hydraulic engineer. They're never too young to start and once they get that confidence in the hydraulic engineering text books, they love it. Ask at yer local Institute of Hydraulic Engineering. All right?

Or if you can tell the difference between a rock-fill dam and an earth-fill dam yourself, why not teach 'em yourself? It's fun. And it's gotta be easier than tryin' ter teach a load of abo bludgers to play the stylophone, or convince the great unwashed that there's more to Rolf Harris than a fungus-faced old drongo who can neither sing nor paint and has made a bloody good screw out of those disabilities!

See ya,

Rolf

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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