Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Shopping for the nephews - what a gift

Actor Sinbad (l) with Arnold Schwarzenegger in scene from film "Jingle All the Way" Source: News Corp. Australia

THE 1996 comedy Jingle All The Way, like many Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, is not a piece of film-making to remember.
Still, every December I find myself sympathising with Schwarzenegger's Howard Langston - a put-upon dad who decides he can win mega brownie points with his son by picking up this year's "must have" Christmas toy, a Turboman action figure.
Of course, every dad in America wants the same toy and so ensues a whole film's worth of hilarious antics and thigh-slapping high jinks as our hero goes to extreme lengths to get his hands on that plastic Holy Grail.
The film sucks, really, but as an uncle of three boys, Howard's struggle speaks to me.
And to millions of other adults, too, I suppose.
Every year at least one of my nephews sets me a Turboman challenge of my very own. And usually, I rise to it.
A few years ago, it was a toy from the animated series Ben 10. But not just any old toy, mind.
The object of desire that year was a super duper "Omnitrix" alien viewer wrist-watch - the Turboman of 2008.
My tactical error that year was leaving my run too late.
And that meant an epic midnight mission to every toy department in Adelaide, just to look at the empty shelf space where, a week ago, this apparently magical timepiece sat in bountiful supply. If you saw a man sobbing quietly in your local Kmart, it was me. I got one in the end, but that was an age ago.
We don't care about Ben 10 anymore.
Now we're into Nintendo Something-or-others, science toys and anything to do with reptiles.
"Have you got any lizard-related items?" I caught myself asking the girl in a Melbourne toy shop the week before Christmas.
A lady who was shopping looked up and giggled. She'd been there.
But this time, lizards weren't my problem.
My Turboman challenge this Christmas past was platypuses.
Nephew number two is currently obsessed with them.
In the course of trying to satisfy that obsession I made a discovery that should shock and shame every Australian; the platypus is this country's most under-represented native animal.
What began as a simple web search for a platypus T-shirt soon evolved into an epic quest spanning three states, four major department stores and at least three zoo gift shops.
They were all virtually monotreme-free zones.
Eventually, I decided my best bet was one of those souvenir shops specializing in "Australiana" you always walk past but never patronize ... until your nephew wants a platypus.
It is in these kinds of shops where Australia's active contempt for the poor old platypus comes sharply into focus.
Because not only are platypus products in desperately short supply, their availability is inversely proportional to the supply of those other rock stars of the Aussie bush - the kangaroo and koala.
You can buy those furry bastards literally by the kilo. And there's something not quite right about that.
Australia's most high profile platypus seems to be a cartoon character called "Perry", who for some reason looks like a green pig with a pine cone for a tail.
Worse, the series is made in America!
Oh, why do you hate the platypus, Australia?
Good enough for your small silver currency, but not good enough for a fully-fledged range of toys and products, beyond the odd key-ring or hard to obtain T-shirt or hand puppet.
Even the Bilby gets an Easter egg.
And what has the Bilby ever done for us?
This column was first published in The City Messenger and on