News From Home 11, Part I
11/18/2003 (updated 2/8/2004)

A glorious sunny day at the Trellises, as we make our way down to Concord Street for the Mayor’s Parade. Every possible lamppost, telephone pole, shop window and rooftop has been gaily festooned with bunting, flags and streamers in the good old red, white and blue. Rather wittily, I’ve brought along a flag of St. Andrew to wave, just to show solidarity and sow a bit of confusion. The parade is its usual mixture of amateurish and impressive; I am amused by Mr. Trewell’s float, although I can’t tell, beneath the ‘oven-ready’ radiation suit, which one he is, but Trewell and Eldridge (Funeral Directors) have done a great job with Godzilla, presumably manned by another undertaker – the latex assemblage is a winner, as are the sound effects, suitably spine-chilling – they obviously have some time on their hands, and some free space down in the mortuary to build all this stuff. I’m less impressed by the wheelchair section, featuring war veterans and members of one of those lodges that wear fezzes – and also featuring for some unknown reason, for he is neither war vet nor mason – my dear friend and neighbour, Mr. Alphonso. Mr. A is showing off again, winking at the septuagenarian crumpet, doing the occasional twirl, and insisting on self-propulsion. The Mayor is potentially a bit of a letdown; last year we had Anthony Hopkins, but this year it’s some B-list TV celeb, game show host, newsreader, whatever, sadly unknown to me; but I like him instantly on seeing him waving from an open-top ’59 Cadillac, hair perfectly coiffed like a dessert topping, teeth Liberace-perfect, tan immaculate – who could not love this eloquent symbol of American success?

I was a little put out to knock on the guest house door, and hearing no reply, walk in to find Mavis lying on top of Georgio on the bed. What was more disturbing was that they didn’t exactly spring apart as if caught in a guilty act. Mavis explained that she was helping Georgio get something out of his eye, and this was the most comfortable position. “Ay, ay, I get fly in eye”, said Georgio, to an inaudible samba rhythm, “She help me oil my pecs for the big show.” The big show, it turns out, is the Muscle Beach Open Senior Body-Building Tournament, later that afternoon, to which we are all invited. Mavis insists we all go – “It’ll be a bloody good laugh, that,” she says, missing the point, perhaps. Dutifully we turn up at about 3pm, and things are in full flow. Honourable Number One Son says the whole thing reminds him of freshly-skinned chickens at the butchers - muscles are rippling, oil is dripping, and pulses are racing, especially for one contestant, for – there in the crowd, just about front row centre, is Martina, Georgio’s soon-to-be-ex, and her beau, the current Mr. Poland, 29-ish, and looking in terrific shape. Georgio deflates as if punctured, and only manages a disappointing fourth place. I try to restore his fragile emotional equilibrium afterwards, by giving him the good news that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the new Governor of California, but that seems to send him deeper into despond. Georgio said all Arnie knew about was muscle, especially the one between his legs, and he feared he would bring shame and humiliation down onto the world of oil and grunt. He asked me if I had ever met the Governor-Elect, and I said that I had seen him a couple of times on the touchline at under-12 soccer games, shouting encouragement in German to his son, but that was as close as I had managed. Georgio promised he would introduce me some time, for it was surely a tight-knit fraternity of gym-habitues and steroid-ingesters.