I’ve had a lot of contact with bogans over the past few weeks, and I love it. After working on the Victorian election, a few visits from extended family throughout the holiday period, and my first visit to Canberra’s Summernats, my exposure to boganism has gone from a medium-rare to burnt-to-the-bloody-sh$t-house. Before I go any further I’d like to distinguish between the fun-loving, piss-taking Aussies, and the ferociously feral, bigoted, and violent wild-life found in half-human form.
I’m wondering whether Canberra harbours a special kind of bogan; a smarter, more fragile, and gentler bogan than in most other parts of Australia. I think we do.
Some years ago when I was a labourer I met a man who, over time, became a good mate. He goes by the name of Piggie, and he was my superior in the work shed. Piggie’s vocabulary is laden with words that begin with the letter ‘F’ and then often followed by words that begin with the letter ‘C’. His face is grog-blossomed bright red, and he once accidentally tore the blouse off of a female police officer… needless to say, he knows what it feels like to be beaten to a pulp. Nearly every day of Piggie’s adult life, he has woken up at a sparrow’s fart, knocked off at 3 or 4, and then drank himself to sleep.
A few of the other fellas in the shed thought it quite funny to put me to work with him. They didn’t think that a classically trained musician could work with someone like Piggie, and they made bets on how long I’d last. The worst, a few days; the best, a few weeks.
Piggie would test me. He’d make me lift things that I couldn’t, and say things that I wouldn’t. He would shriek obscenities at me, and find joy in trying to ‘crack me’, as the other fellas would put it. I would persevere, and never really let on that I had a much more diverse and rough upbringing than he might have imagined, not until much later anyway. To his frustration, I enjoyed his company. I’d ask him questions about his life until it came to the point where I knew more about him than many of his other workmates who had known him for years.
Everything changed about two-months in when we got talking about music at smoko. I asked him what music was played at his wedding (he’s not married anymore, ‘the grog got too much’, he would say). He said, ‘Ave Maria’, and I just whistled a bit to him in the final minutes of our break. I saw his yellow eyes remembering of a time that was and could have been.
Shortly afterwards he invited me to his ‘after work drinking hole’ to meet his mates. It was there I saw him in his element. I don’t have enough time to write about him but, for instance, he’d tap his mates on the back after they’d lost everything on the pockies and give them a ‘red-back’ (twenty dollars) just so they could get by for the next few days. His mates die in their 50s, 60s, and 70’s. They don’t make it to their 80’s and 90’s like mine will. Many of them will never make it to the pension, and if they lose their jobs they rarely make it back into the workforce. Canberra just doesn’t accommodate for them.
I noticed that Piggie and I were very similar but just in utterly different worlds. We both have an anti-authoritarian stance, and a willingness to speak our minds to the points of our own detriment. We both have strong convictions, yet we both take the piss out of ourselves.
I’d give my life for Piggie, and he’d do the same for me. Piggie is a bogan, and I’m proud of him.
Piggie wouldn’t let me take a photo of him, but he says, ‘they’ll kind of guess anyway, don’t reckon?’