Bert Kelly, “When the Member first went on show,” Queensland Graingrower’s “Family Living” lift-out magazine, May 27, 1987, p. 2.
As this Modest column, number 898, will be the last of a long succession that began in the distant past, I thought it proper that we blow gently on the embers of the past. It was written in 1977, when I was still in Parliament, but was never used. It is a cheerful note to end a very happy association. — B.K.
Every year when the show season approaches Mavis preens herself so as to be ready.
Long experience as the wife of an MP has taught her not to flaunt any new hats or new outfits in the face of the wives of the show officials.
When I first became a member she used to rather overdo the dressing up and it wasn’t long before whispers began to reach me that, though Mavis’ new splendour was obvious, it was not always appreciated.
So now Mavis has a show outfit which is neat but not gaudy — one which blends into the background, as it were.
This she wears at most show occasions and the show ladies are able to sneer at her in a nice way because she usually wears the same outfit.
This gives them a desirable feeling of superiority and this Mavis is prepared to endure so long as it gets me votes.
I regard this as a noble self-sacrifice on Mavis’ part. So indeed does she.
Mavis also goes to some trouble over what I wear.
“You must try for a simple air of rustic elegance, dear,” she says. It’s no good parading about in your best dark suit. People will think you’ve got a swelled head.
“Try wearing a tweed sports coat, preferably one with patches on the elbows. That makes you look dignified in a poverty-stricken way and that’s the image your constituents appreciate in their Member.
“And please, dear, don’t wear a hat; you will forget to raise it to people and that does you immense harm.
“The last time that you wore a hat to a show you left behind a trail of resentment.”
So now we go off to shows having carefully arrayed ourselves to give an impression of carelessness. I also put on my politician’s smile while Mavis wears a fairly old hat and a look of grim determination that she is not going to let me down.
When we reach the showgrounds, Mavis is taken by the show ladies on a tour of the flowers, eggs, cakes, fancy work and so on.
I will do almost anything to avoid this duty. All eggs, cakes, flowers and fancy work look the same to me and I can never think of anything to say when the lady steward asks me, with obvious pride, to comment on the superior shape of a dozen eggs which look to my untutored eye exactly the same as the dozen eggs nestling alongside.
But Mavis never lets me down. She has cultivated a look that is a blend of satisfaction and surprise and she does me credit as she oozes her way around.
I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time peering at cattle, particularly bulls.
I have learnt to press them with the tips of my fingers while exclaiming in an excited way, “He has a great depth of fleshing, I can feel it with my fingers.”
I can’t, of course, but neither can anyone else. But they won’t admit this after the judge has given a similar performance, so I hide safely in his shadow.
The best beef bulls have obviously been foster-mothered on dairy cows, but with typical political cunning I pretend not to notice this.
There was a time, when I was new to the job, I would give the exhibitors a long lecture about their foolishness in preparing bulls for show in this way.
But it didn’t take long to learn that there were no votes in trying to put the world, or them, right.
The dogs put me in my place and make me feel unworthy.
I used to like dogs once, particularly my sheepdogs, which were competent and cheerful animals.
But show dogs are not like that. They have great long pedigrees which weigh heavily on them and they sneer at me.
And their owners, who are mostly elderly ladies with determined expressions, look surprisingly like their dogs. They all look down on me.
I have described on other occasions how I open shows to the utter boredom of everybody except the editor of the local paper, who will publish almost anything so long as it is predigested for him.
He is so busy that he doesn’t really care if I don’t actually use those splendid eloquent phrases that I have written out for him.
But I have not yet descended to the ultimate depths.
When I was a fledgling MP, I asked an old, Mr X, how he handled the shows in his district. He answered, “I send a small donation to the show secretary, asking him to announce over the loudspeaker every half-hour the simple message, ‘Would Mr X, our Federal Member of Parliament, please come to the secretary’s office’ and then I stop home.”
Mavis won’t let me do this.
Goodbye. It’s been nice knowing you. — BERT KELLY
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