Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Filtering by Tag: Adelaide

Adelaide needs a good dose of crazy, an openness to weird ideas and alternative lifestyles

LAST week Advertiser food editor Simon Wilkinson captured touching video of an old bloke dancing without a care to the blues riffs of a street musician on Hindley St.
But if there was anything wrong with the moment it was the fact that something so sweet and innocent stood out as something so strange and remarkable in a city of 1.2 million people.
It is not the kind of thing you see here every day and yet, why not?
I think it says something about Adelaide.
That we’re a city still evolving, a city becoming cautiously more confident about letting its hair down but a city still more at home … well, at home.
I reckon Adelaide needs a good dose of crazy; a new spirit of openness; more characters who feel comfortable to express weird ideas and alternative lifestyles.
We like to boast about our socially progressive history and all the positive reforms of the Dunstan era and rightfully so.
Rundle Mall identity Johnny Haysman at a Test match at Adelaide Oval in 2001.
But for all the ways our society has become less stuffy, Adelaide remains sufficiently conservative that the sight of a fat bloke in a Wonder Woman costume happily strolling down Rundle Mall would still turn heads and feature on every TV news bulletin in town.
(We’re also still very iffy about certain kinds of art and have been known to rise up against silly T-shirt slogans).
I miss the madness of big cities such as New York where a person might have bats sticky-taped to their eyelids and no-one would bat an eyelid.
Some cities, such as Austin, Texas, have moved to fully embrace their offbeat culture, adopting the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan to help support local businesses and plastering the mantra on T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Websites curate weird weekend adventures in cities such as Baltimore, home to Edgar Allan Poe, the guy who patented the Ouija board (his headstone is a Ouija board) and the grandaddy of all things weird and gross, director John Waters.
Of all the cities in Australia, Adelaide, where it’s still possible to see men wearing happy pants, is the place to take the culture fully weird.
State Governments have spent much time trying to make SA like all those boring cities on the eastern seaboard.
It’s time to play the freak card and give our state a real point of difference.
And while they may be few in number, the city has had its share of offbeat pioneers.
Remember the gentle, fiercely individual, leotard-wearing Johnny Haysman?
How his legend grew with every rare sighting and how, just by being himself, he made Adelaide a more interesting place?
Remember when South Australia had a premier who actually wore pink shorts? When a giant tin spaceship weirdly broke up the uninspiring drive on the Port Wakefield Highway?
When Adelaide had a one-way freeway and giant poo mountain?
More, please.
I expect this column will force the Tourism Commission to convene an emergency midnight meeting to get the ball rolling in a weird direction.
Forget uranium, SA should be running on freak power.
Get it right and we’ll all be dancing in the streets.
Greg Barila is The Advertiser’s social media editor

This article first appeared in The Advertiser and on

In the ghetto: slumming it in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs

A street in Hackney, Adelaide. Photo by Bianca De Marchi

“ON a cold and grey Chicago morn / A poor little baby child is born …. in Hackney”.
*Sound of needle ripping on vinyl.
That’s right. If The King hadn’t checked out on the throne way back in 1977, and wanted to update his 1969 hit In The Ghetto, the song wouldn’t be a lament about the squalid living conditions of The Windy City, but about the desperately underprivileged settlement of Hackney, in this very city.
As reported in the Eastern Courier Messenger, the wretched citizens of Hackney are living in fear that their already-God forsaken suburb is about to be turned into a “slum” and “ghetto” if a housing plan on the old Sanitarium Weet-Bix site, next to St Peter’s College, gets the go ahead.
TAKE HEED: A shanty town in Rio, Brazil. Or, Hackney in a couple of years.
Those are serious, emotive words but break down it down by definition and I think you’ll find the residents are on the money.
Ghetto n. quarter of city inhabited (historically) by Jews or by minority groups.
Slum n. dirty squalid overcrowded street, district.
The old Weet-Bix site. Photo by Bianca De Marchi
It’s almost as if Mr Oxford had Hackney in mind when he scribbled down those definitions.
The agent managing the sale of the land predicts the project will be at the “upper echelon” of Adelaide’s property market, while the council’s planning rules set out that developments in the area should be “compatible with the established character of the area”.
In other words, the development would be tasteful.
C’mon. You and I both know that’s code for “slum”.
And worse, a slum for dirty no good renters *shudder*.
As several pundits on rightly asked, why do we even need this new abomination? What’s wrong with the status quo?
“I’m sure an abandoned Weet-Bix factory looks so much nicer than modern housing”, reader Marty rightly observed.
And why settle for a boring old apartment complex, anyway?
What about something less ho hum, something more visionary, something befitting the former production centre of a company that sits on practically every Australian breakfast table.
“How about just putting a giant Weet-Bix on the site, modelled on the old Magic Mountain,” reader Sid demanded to know.
“That’d look nice”.
It surely would. It might even inject some much-needed tourism dollars into the area and save poor old Hackney from the certain penury it currently faces.

Is it time to rethink the Great Australian Dream and change home ownership expectations?

AUSTRALIA has spent decades trying to get taken seriously on the international stage
But with Aussies off waging holy war in the Middle East, alleged terror plots being hatched on home soil and the PM squaring off with aggressive superpowers, maybe we should be careful what we wish for.
Some commentators declared the Sydney siege as the day Australia “changed forever”.
They’re wrong about that.
But Australia is growing up. And that means we’re maturing in ways that we may neither like nor want but which we cannot stop.
One of them hits close to home.
The Great Australian Dream is dying.
I realised it as I drove back to Adelaide during the holidays, listening to a property guru wrap up the year in real estate on Melbourne radio.
When the discussion turned to prices my ears pricked.
More than $600,000 for a house out in the burbs?
The median price closer to the CBD was more like $1 million, the guru said, putting Melbourne up there with Sydney and London on the league table of Cities Where You Should Pretty Much Forget About Ever Trying to Afford Your Own Home.
I took my stunned surprise to Twitter where Melbourne-based former Adelaide journalist Melissa bemoaned the extortionate state of the local housing market.
“Don’t remind me,” she tweeted, ending her thoughts with the hashtag #WhyDidIMove.
I don’t know Melissa’s reasons but maybe she upped sticks for the same reasons so many young South Aussies have waved goodbye at the border – for better job opportunities and the fast energy of a big and interesting city.
And therein lies the rub.
While housing affordability is a national problem, the barriers to entering the market remain considerably lower in Adelaide where the median house price is a full $200,000 less than in Melbourne and about $300,000 less than in Sydney.
Of the capital cities, only in Hobart is it cheaper to get into your own home, which sounds like a great story for SA to tell ... until you think about it.
Tasmania and South Australia remain among the worst performing economies in the country with SA’s jobless rate above the national average and industries closing left, right and centre.
A Deloitte report from October 2014 declared, “South Australia’s economy is in the slow lane” and that “more pain is on the horizon as it stares the closure of car manufacturing in the face”.
This must be why so many young people have decided the price of greater job prospects and the cultural sophistication of a big city is a million dollar mortgage.
And that the price is worth paying (or attempting to pay).
But if it is, is it time to rethink the Great Australian Dream?
Time to change our expectations about home ownership?
In the big cities of Europe, the UK and US, many young people spend precious little time worrying about affording their own home, so unrealistic and out of their reach is the goal.
Circumstances here already seem to be forcing young people to accept a similar fate, with recent news reports revealing some couples have already given up on their dream of ever owning a house.
Is this what we want?
To be a nation of renters?
What would our priorities be then? More travel? More dining out at fancy restaurants? More time to volunteer in our communities? Would it bring its own kind of freedom? Or a new kind of bondage?
If the Great Australian Dream continues on its nightmarish trajectory, it’s a conversation we’d better start having sooner rather than later.
Greg Barila is The Advertiser’s social media editor.

The burghers are bitter about Hungry Jack’s

Residents have helped block three Hungry Jack’s outlets in Adelaide in the past 12 months
FOR years, a popular fast-food chain has boasted proudly in TV ads that “the burgers are better at Hungry Jack’s”.
But if you live in SalisburySouth Brighton or St Peters you’ll just have to take their word for it.
Because the burger giant has attempted to hang its shingle in all these suburbs in the past 12 months and every time the people have said, ‘‘Not so fast’’. Suburbs starting with an ‘‘S’’ unite!
Cheesed-off locals have railed against the chain because they fear the foul aroma of frying burgers and worry about extra rubbish, traffic, noise and around-the-clock trading.
In South Brighton, some residents have said they also worry a new junk food joint would send the wrong message about healthy eating to all the kids at nearby schools.
The people have pushed petitions against the new outlets and rejoiced at every decision to halt their progress.
Yes, the burghers are bitter about Hungry Jack’s.
“I live right next door to where the Hungry Jack’s was proposed and if this went ahead … it would’ve completely destroyed our lifestyle, Alexander Paschero told the East Torrens Messenger after the St Peters application was flame-grilled by the local council.
Aasha Shaw, who runs an organic market at Somerton Park, said she and her neighbours were looking to lead healthy, active and sustainable lives and “I don’t believe Hungry Jack’s fits in with our philosophy”.
Poor old Hungry Jack’s isn’t the first burger business to get into a bun fight with the public.
In 2010, locals mounted a successful campaign, with support from Maggie Beer, to slap down plans for a McDonald’s at Nuriootpa, on the basis that the restaurant might threaten the Barossa’s reputation as a mecca for gourmet food.
Advertiser reader Scott of the Barossa called the decision what it was — “ridiculous”.
“It’s another victory for the affluent, arrogant, selfish upper-class of the Barossa”, he wrote.
It’s hard not to see this kind of resistance as snobbish, narrow-minded and an attack on free choice.
Hipster burger joints with funny names and fancy logos are popping up all over town. So far, no one’s felt the need to sharpen the pitch forks and run them out of town.
It is also, I think, symptomatic of a broader cultural cancer in which we must ban everything we don’t like.
I say this as someone who lives close enough to a KFC I can smell the chicken cooking every Saturday morning.
And here’s the thing. Yes, sometimes wayward burger wrappers and milkshake cups find their way to the verge outside my house (I’d rather they didn’t). And sometimes (can you keep a little secret?) I buy a cheeky burger there myself.
Fast food isn’t a new concept in this country and chain restaurants have somehow managed to coexist in the cities and ’burbs for more than 30 years.
There are no fewer than 57 McDonalds outlets in South Australia, 37 KFC stores and more than 40 Hungry Jack’s and, like it not, South Australians patronise them.
But that also keeps hundreds of local people in work and this state needs every job it can get.
If fast food isn’t your bag, it’s easy, don’t eat it.
Oh, and have a nice day!
Your say: Do you live near a fast food joint? Do you have a problem with it? Should the government be looking for different kinds of business investment in the suburbs? Have your say below, on The Advertiser’s Facebook page or Tweet with Greg @GregBarila

Watching a dying business try to pretend the carnival isn’t over is one of the saddest scenes

Vale the Brickworks Markets. Bulldozers demolish buildings to make way for a $38 million Woolworths supermarket and speciality shops.
RIGHT to the end, the ribs, grilled beautifully over an open pit, were worth the trip alone.
But on those last few visits to the old Brickworks Markets, we sat there licking greasy fingers and watching a few stragglers wander aimlessly around a ghost town – past faded signs and broken railings, quiet beer halls and shuttered market stalls.
Watching a dying business try to pretend the carnival isn’t over is one of the saddest scenes there is.
Just take a drive out to the Junction Markets at Kilburn if you don’t believe me. Actually, on second thoughts, don’t.
The Brickworks operated as a market for 30 years and were such a fixture of my growing up, that it’s hard not to feel emotional now they’ve finally given way to a huge Woolworths, grog shop and speciality stores.
And I know I’m not Robinson Crusoe there.
“Ahh the Brickworks. What a great day out it was with mum & dad,” Alan of Henley Beach wrote in a comment on
“All that great food ... especially that outdoor BBQ with the char-grilled ribs.
“It was the main rival to Magic Mountain and our preferred place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
“From the age of 6 to 16 I’d say we spent 100 Sundays at the Brickworks”.
Yeah, I know, progress and all of that.
But it’s hard not to ask how and why a place that once thrived for three decades as a weekend family attraction could have wound up dying such a miserable death.
It’s also not the hardest question to answer.
It was there in those last depressing days, in the smutty T-shirts, tacky merchandise, dusty bric-a-brac and faded infrastructure.
The Brickworks was great in the ’80s. And there it is.
Adelaide moved on and the market did not; didn’t invest in the future, adapt to offer products people wanted to buy, offer experiences they couldn’t get at their local Westfield.
And it’s a great pity because the Brickworks, with their beautiful tunnels and heritage-listed kiln and chimney, are unique and should be one of the city’s major selling points.
The Government has done much to promote the regions to the rest of the country and world.
But when it comes to transforming historic gems in the heart of Adelaide, like the Brickworks, the old Islington railyards, the tunnels under the city, our tourism officials have apparently been M.I.A.
Don’t even get me started on the missed opportunity that is Port Adelaide.
But anyway, the bulldozers have done their work and a mega-supermarket complex is happening apace.
Huge concrete walls are rising quickly where once, and for decades, they made bricks.
The best bits of the market – the fresh fruit and veggie sellers, the butcher, the Indian grocer, the fish shop – have all been displaced to a shed on the corner of South Rd and Manton St.
But with a major expansion of South Rd around the corner, who knows what will happen to them?
There’s talk of the traders coming back when the Woolworths is finished in the next few months.
And I’m not the only one with fingers crossed the markets can be revived somehow.
Adelaide needs a lot of things, but a vanilla-flavoured shopping centre isn’t one of them.
“Would LOOOVE to bring this experience back to life,” Alan of Henley Beach wrote.
And bring back the barbecue ribs.
Greg Barila is Social Media Editor at The Advertiser.

Move over Big Brother, it’s time for My Council Rules

Blake and Louise from the reality TV show, The Bachelor Australia. Still: Channel 10
IN Asia, and the Middle East, and all the places in the world where the people have to fight for it, it’s reasonable to look at the struggle for political freedom and ask — “What price democracy?”
In those places, who can say?
But if you live in a particular borough of Adelaide, the answer is about $900 a week.
That’s how much the good ratepayers of the City of Prospect have apparently been shelling out for the council’s weekly meetings to be video recorded and uploaded to YouTube for anyone who should want to keep an eye on the inner-workings of their council without actually having to attend.
The outrage was revealed in a staff report and those around the council table were suitably shocked and troubled.
According to the report, they’ve been doing it for a massive weekly prime time audience of about 30 people a week! (Or slightly better ratings than Songs of Praise on the ABC).
“My council doing similar with audio recording — not much interest, unfortunately,” Marion mayor Felicity-ann Lewis (and past president of the Local Government Association) lamented in a tweet.
Here’s the thing — councils like Prospect and Marion should be applauded for at least trying to take democracy to the people, even when the people can’t (or have never been so moved) to come to it.
But $44,000 a year? C’mon, it’s 2014.
There’s a long list of free, or relatively cheap, and easy-to-use platforms on the market (Google Hangouts, Ustream, Spreecast) that let you broadcast live via the internet, and capture your results for playback later.
But even if our councils can get their costs down, clearly they are suffering from an audience engagement problem.
Luckily, I’ve got an idea to get the masses tuning in. Let’s turn weekly council meetings into a reality TV experience, with all the most compelling bits from the genre — a weekly rose ceremony, election immunity for the most popular councillors (as voted by you!) and weekly cost-cutting challenges to balance the budget.
Councils are already accustomed to expelling rogue members from the chamber. Hello??? Live eviction.
But what to call it? “My Council Rules”? “The Shire”? (already taken) “The Block — Planning Approval Edition”?
I don’t know about you, but I’d watch the pants off that.

There’s a Christmas tree on top of the new RAH - know why?

Christmas tree on top of the new RAH for the traditional "topping off" ceremony. Photo: News Corp. Australia.

Accidents involving cranes, union troubles and fears the project could run over schedule have dominated news headlines in recent months.
But the new RAH reached an important milestone last week. It happened so quietly without fanfare you probably missed it.
I learned about it in a curious tweet.
“Can anyone explain why there is a Christmas tree on top of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital building?” Alison Kershaw tweeted, along with a picture of – well, exactly like she said – a Christmas tree sitting on top of the hospital between a pair of cranes.
You can almost set your watch by stories trumpeting the arrival of Christmas ephemera in our supermarkets in September – but on top of our buildings? That’s a new one – or maybe not. About half an hour after her first message, Alison followed up with a second tweet, with a link to Wikipedia.
“Thank you internet, there is a tree on the Royal Adelaide Hospital building site because of ‘topping out’”.
Apparently this is a real thing; ‘topping out’, also known in the building trade as “topping off”.
TELL US: Do you know of any other peculiar industry riturals? Share them below.
The ritual was well described by John V Robinson, a US writer specialising in bridges and “heavy construction” – how one man can handle so much excitement I have no idea.
“Topping out” is the term used by ironworkers to indicate that the final piece of steel is being hoisted into place on a building, bridge, or other large structure,” Robinson wrote.
“The project is not completed, but it has reached its maximum height.”
“To commemorate this first milestone the final piece of iron is usually hoisted into place with a small evergreen tree (called a Christmas tree in the trade) and an American flag attached.”
If the project was big and important enough, the ceremony was sometimes rounded out with a “topping out party” in which the construction crews are treated to food and drink”.
Robinson said one reason workers observed the custom was simply because they were first to the top.
“I guess the impulse to commemorate the achievement is similar to that of mountain climbers – or astronauts landing on the moon for that matter”.
A lengthy article in the New York Times, in 1984, tried to reach back further to find the origins the peculiar custom.
While some details remain sketchy, many of those quoted in the article agreed the tree ritual dated back to Scandinavia 1300 years ago, “perhaps symbolising bringing life to the building”.
“We do have solid evidence that about 700 A.D, the Scandinavians were the first to be using trees to symbolise the topping-out,” William M Lawbaugh, the editor of Ironworker Magazine was quoted as saying.
“The mythology in Scandinavia suggests that man might have originated from a tree and the soul of man returns to the tree after death”.
Fascinating. And rather poignant concept for the top of a hospital. A spokeswoman for the new RAH joint venture said an “official topping-out ceremony” would be held in the next few weeks.

While it’s hanging on someone else’s trees, consider it forbidden fruit

Crop theft might make for quirky headlines but for farmers it's no joke. Photo - News Corp. Australia.
“Holy guacamole! Thieves strip avocado crop!”
“Cops in a pickle over cucumber heist”.
The headlines make for quirky reading but there’s really not a lot to joke about when veggies vanish and melons go missing.
Last week, thieves somehow managed to strip an avocado crop from a farm near Barmera in the Riverland, making off with about 1.5 tonnes of fruit, apparently without raising an eyebrow.
The police will sort out how they did it. But it doesn’t take a detective to figure out why.
Avocados can sell for anything up to $3 each — and that means last week’s haul could have fetched as much as $18,000 at retail, about $11,000 of which should have gone into the grower’s pocket.
And last week’s heist was just the latest in a series of big crop and stock thefts in South Australia.
Last month, The Advertiser revealed how authorities were investigating the theft of up to $1 million worth of livestock from several producers in the South-East over five years, allegedly using forged electronic ear tags to evade detection at sale.
In 2011, veggie bandits made away with $4k worth of tomatoes from Virginia and in 2009, about$10,000 worth of cucumbers were stolen from glasshouses all over the northern suburbs.
You wouldn't steal a car, so why would you steal someone's livelihood? Photo: @GregBarila
All theft hurts.
I can’t imagine having a new car nicked from the driveway would be much fun.
But imagine how heartbreaking that loss would be if you’d not only poured thousands of dollars into buying the car itself, but also bought every bolt and screw and made the whole thing from the tyres up.
That’s what crop theft feels like.
As Con Poulos from Citrus Australia SA Region told The Advertiser after the avocado job, “Farmers are already doing it tough. This guy’s put in 12 months’ sweat and tears … there’s high costs with water, fertiliser, electricity and you don’t know if it’s the bulk of his production.”
… And then some bastard comes along and steals the bread out of your mouth, just like that.
Crop theft is a low act. I know something about what it’s like.
I grew up on a citrus farm, with mandarin trees lining the boundary running parallel to a quiet dirt road — perfect conditions for orange grabbers.
In mandy season, we listened for idling engines and the illicit thud of fruit bouncing in buckets.
The only time we enjoyed it was when we had time to creep up stealthily, part the tree from the other side and shout, “Oi! Whadda ya think you’re doin?”.
Most thieves satisfied themselves only with as much fruit as their hands or a turned up jumper front could hold.
Once my father busted a bloke who’d almost finished filling every square inch of his car with mandarins and building a mandy pyramid in the boot. He had some splainin’ to do.
It should go without saying, but evidently it needs pointing out: taking someone else’s property without permission is a crime, whether that property is Omo or oranges.
There seems to be some warped idea that stealing is something that only happens in a shop and that plucking a few bags of apples here, a few boxes of apricots there is no big deal.
As the public service announcement on those old video rentals cautioned on film piracy, “You wouldn’t steal a car ...”.
And you wouldn’t steal somebody’s livelihood.
Most farmers are decent people. Ask and ye shall receive
But while it’s hanging on someone else’s trees, just consider it forbidden fruit.

Public Relations 101, don’t do a Zoos SA

Like so many South Australians, Independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon wasted no time getti
Like so many South Australians, Independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon wasted no time getting behind Adelaide’s local iceream company when it was dumped by the zoo. Picture: Keryn Stevens
ZOOS SA has finally gotten the monkey off its back.
But somewhere, a university is writing up the Golden North/palm oil imbroglio as a cautionary tale for the next edition of the Public Relations 101 handbook. Well handled this whole thing was not.
When news broke of the Zoo’s decision to dump the hometown hero in favour of rival conglomerate Streets, which uses palm oil in its products, it didn’t take long for the sprinkle of shocked reactions to snowball into a full-blown PR snafu.
South Australians let their anger show, on Twitter and on the Zoos SA Facebook page, where inmore than 1000 comments, people pleaded with the organisation to reconsider its position.
And to its credit, last Friday, it did just that, announcing plans to continue its partnership with Golden North, whilst retaining its newly inked agreement with its Giant Twin, Streets.
“Zoos SA is a member-based society and we respect the opinions of our members and supporters
and acknowledge the feedback and genuine concern that’s been raised,” Zoos SA said.
“We have listened to this feedback”.
With at least some people threatening to boycott both the Zoo and Streets, it’s hard to see how they had any other choice.
Common sense prevailed, but it took a full nine days for the Zoo to reverse its decision.
And only the Zoos SA board can say how, or why, such a ridiculous decision came to be made in the first place.
The Zoo has had its share of financial problems in recent years, and no doubt its decision to partner with Streets was dictated by the hard realities of running a not-for-profit.
But surely the board now must be wondering if the terms of the Streets contract were worth all the bad press.
As someone who works at the coalface of social media, it never ceases to amaze how often individuals and organisations can get it so badly wrong when it comes to making decisions that not only affect the bottom line but also their most important assets — their brand and reputation.
And worse, how many simply fail to suture a wound quickly, cop the blame and make amends when things go horribly pear-shaped.
No one has been left more disappointed by all this the folks at Golden North.
But what the company initially lost in pure financial terms, it more than recouped in the outpouring of support and brand goodwill.
And there, as BRW put it, Golden North “is winning the public relations battle”.
The company was savvy to engage a local PR firm toset up a Twitter account the day after the news broke and has spent a week personally responding to dozens of messages of support.
It attracted thousands of new Facebook fans and sales of Golden North ice cream in Foodland
supermarkets reportedly were up about 25 per cent on the two weeks before.
“That really has been fantastic,” Marketing Manager Trevor Pomery told me, adding that the public reaction was proof the company’s decision to go palm oil free was “absolutely” the right decision.
Meanwhile, on the Zoos SA page ...
“The people have spoken and no matter how you try to justify it with patronising rhetoric you have clearly made a big mistake. Turn your back on SA and SA will do the same.”
All they had to do was put local ice cream in the freezer, but the public put them in there instead.
And the sad thing is the whole thing could have been avoided.

The trouble with soup is it's never there when you need it most

Soup delivered to your door when you are home from work sick - could be the answer SA’s looking for? Photo: News Corp. Australia
EVEN as a foodie, I’ve kind of always subscribed to the idea that soup is an ­ingredient’s last chance to be food before you throw it out.
And before you say it, YES, I’ve had good soup. I’ve had some great soups, made by great chefs using excellent ingredients.
Don’t get me wrong. I LIKE SOUP. I’m Italian. How could I not like soup??
It’s there in the handbook, chapter 9, section ii, paragraph 7.
“Whatta ya mean a you don’t like a zuppa?! Everybody likes a zuppa! You mother make a this a beautiful zuppa and you a gonna eat it! Don’t make me get the spoon!!”
It’s not meatballs or a steak but soup and I get on just fine.
My biggest problem with soup is that it’s rarely there when you need it most — when you’re as a crook as a dog and in no condition to be sauteing onions and dicing ­potatoes.
I was sauteing onions and dicing ­potatoes at home sick last week when it suddenly struck me — why the hell isn’t this already a business? An emergency winter soup hotline for the sick. “Soup for you!”
The government is always going on about creating new jobs for South Australians.
There you go, I just created 500 new ones, not to mention opening up a lucrative new supply line for our vegetable growers and bakeries.
I can just see Jay Weatherill and I now, standing shoulder to shoulder as we launch the glossy brochure. “Strategic plan. Soup for ALL South Australians.”
The food would come in a souped-up mini-van shaped like a dinner roll and you wouldn’t even have to use your swollen tonsils to order. “Just dial 1 for tomato, 2 for cream of chicken 3 for mushroom ...”
SA’s ageing population would run the service off its feet in the winter months and in summer, well ... Jay and I still need to hammer out the finer details.
Maybe staff could retool the line and make emergency icy pole drops to homes without adequate air-conditioning.
It’s 2014. People buy apple slices in handy serve bags, ready-chopped vegetables and egg yolks in bottles.
This is a winning business idea.
Possibly my best since “The Bed-verge”, a bedside CamelBak-style drinking pouch that lets you take hydrating nighttime night-time sips through a hose, putting an end to glasses of water on the nightstand and those unsightly spills!
Or it could be the fever talking.
Can someone bring me some soup?
This column was first published in The City Adelaide and on

Looking at the internet of the future: the Internet of Things

Whole cities, like Songdo in South Korea, are being built to be fully connected via the 'Internet of Things'

IF the first wave of the internet was about connecting people with information and each other, the next frontier is about connecting objects to create a whole new “Internet of Things”.
And Adelaide is playing an important role in Australia’s move towards it.
IN June 2000, Korean electronics maker LG cut the ribbon on a new product line it no doubt hoped would do for food storage what Sony’s Walkman did for music– the internet refrigerator .
The ‘Digital DIOS’ came complete with a net connection, video phone, webcam, email and online shopping capabilities, but the big promise was the ability for the fridge to keep a running stocktake of all the food inside, using barcode-scanning technology.
Better still, as Arnie Schwarzenegger demonstrated in the film The 6th Day , the Internet fridge was smart enough to ‘know’ when you were running low on milk and to give you a gentle reminder to call in at the shops on the way home.
Alas, consumers were cold on the smart fridge, not least because it came with a price tag around $20,000, tried to solve problems people didn’t know they had, and was largely derided as an expensive gimmick.
But if the LG smart fridge, and the many competitor versions that followed, missed the mark as a mainstream consumer appliance, it also hinted at a future that only now, 14 years later, is beginning to become a reality.
A future where the internet is no longer simply a network connecting people and computers, but a system connecting everyday objects with us and with each other - an “Internet of Things” (IOT).
“(With the IOT) physical items are no longer disconnected from the virtual world, but can be controlled remotely and can act as physical access points to internet services,” researchers Friedemann Mattern and Christian Floerkemeier from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technologywrote in a paper on the subject in 2010.
So, the LG fridge was ahead of its time.
The IOT vision, Mattern and Floerkemeier argued, is grounded in the belief that electronics, communications systems and information technology will continue to get smaller, cheaper and more efficient and as they do, will be “increasingly integrated into everyday objects”, making them all-of-a-sudden “smart”.
At the same time, mobile phones have continued to evolve, with many now featuring touch screens and barcode readers, making them a perfect interface between people, objects and the net and creating a perfect storm for an IoT.
If you’ve got a washing machine, gaming console, sewing machine or Fitbit , the revolution may already be in your laundry, lounge room or around your wrist.
And that’s just a small scratch on a very large surface.
Researchers like Mattern and Floerkemeier argue our emerging ability to make formerly dumb objects “smart” will give us new powers to observe, measure and interpret our world in ways, and at a level of detail, not possible before.
And that, many argue, could deliver benefits (time, money, improved safety and security) in every sector from retail and healthcare to waste management and local government.
Think cars that can communicate with each other on the road; signals to help locate lost property, escalators that only operate when they’re needed, and barcodes shoppers can activate with a smartphone to retrieve product information from the internet.
Even the Digital DIOS may have a place in a future when devices can talk to each other.
“…a smart fridge might reduce its temperature when the smart electricity meter indicates that cheap power is available thus avoiding the need to consume energy at a later stage, when electricity is more expensive,” Mattern and Floerkemeier wrote.
It gets bigger than that.
Right now, in South Korea, a company called Gale International is working to build the world’s first “smart city”, a $35 billion venture called New Songdo that will be home to about 300,000 people, all of them wired to a digital grid.
“It’s going to be a cool city, a smart city,” Gale chairman Stan Gale was quoted as saying by tech, adding the company planned 20 more cities just like it in China and India.
“China alone needs 500 cities the size of New Songdo,” Gale said.
To help the vision become reality, the world, clearly, will require a new generation of skilled professionals.
And there, Adelaide is playing a major role.
This month, Flinders University signed an Australia-first agreement with US tech giant Cisco it sayswill put the university “at the heart” of Cisco’s global ‘internet of Everything’ strategy.
The university plans to set up an academy at its Tonsley Park building, where Cisco staff will train students to work with the latest digital technologies and where, the university hopes, they will help develop the products that will define the Internet of Things in Australia, maybe globally, too.
Pro-Vice Chancellor, Information Services Professor Richard Constantine said the university’s work with Cisco would largely focus on Telehealth and assisted living for the sick and elderly.
But the partnership was also very much about creating new jobs for SA.
“In the old days, if you didn’t have internet connectivity, your ability to prosper in your economy was pretty limited – that’s the same with the Internet of Things,” Professor Constantine said.
“They can track the number of items connected to the Internet of Things in a country – the greater the number, the greater your increase of GDP (Gross Domestic Product),” he said.
“We’re looking at creating jobs for South Australians and having people train in state-of-the-art technology in this area”.
He said the IOT was not just important - it was inevitable.
“Apple are looking at making announcements later this year in that area, probably under the guise of fitness applications and Google’s interested, so things are taking off as far as personalised wearable technologies that have got an IP address, that are connected to the internet, that are monitoring vital signs for fitness, for health. That sort of regime’s going to take off in the future definitely.
“You don’t need to be Nostradamus to know that’s going to happen.”
This story was first published in The Advertiser and on

When a quick meal isn't so easy

It looks simple enough ... but first of all you have to have the ingredients.
JOURNALISM is booby-trapped with all kinds of occupational hazards and one of the deadliest is definitely nutritional.
Breaking news (usually) always equals bad food choices. (Unless you think a soggy sausage roll at 4pm is the very picture of a balanced diet).
Ok, it’s not just journalism.
We all lead busy lives and sometimes things that should top our priorities list — sleep, a break from our devices, a decent diet — can languish at the bottom.
“Lunch breaks are for sissies”, I wrote wryly on my Facebook page after a long and gruelling day behind the keyboard. Somewhere in the distance a stomach growled.
Don’t get me wrong, I eat hearty home cooked meals most nights in the working week. But some days, when you’re running on empty, the only reasonable course of action is to call in the RAA of evening meals — pizza.
Recently on the way home, in the dim glow of a city bus stop, I decided to eschew the usual fast food option and pointed my smartphone to Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals site instead. Oliver’s “fast food at home” concept is a sound idea.
And the 15 minute meals site is a smorgasbord of proper pukka nosh, from his “Gorgeous” Greek chicken to his “Crackin’” crab briks.
But thumb through the site and two things quickly become clear — every dish looks delicious and almost every recipe calls for at least 18 ingredients I don’t have or have never heard of.
Just add a handful of fenugreek seeds ... a dash of rapeseed oil ... a spoonful of Harissa.
What happened to just bunging the whole bad boy in the old pre-heated Treasure Trove?
As for 15 minutes. Fifteen minute meals my ar ... tisan sourdough. “15 minutes IF you shop for 3 hours beforehand and prep for 2,” Anika tweeted in sympathy.
Fellow tweeter Louise said her daughter and her boyfriend once attempted two out the three courses of one of Jamie’s “30 minute meals”
The verdict? A very nice two-and-a-half hours in the kitchen and decent feed to show for it, thanks for asking.
But I’m not giving up on the 15 minute meal. I know a great one. It’s round, covered in salami and made by someone who’s not me.
That’ll tide me over until Jamie opens his Adelaide restaurant. Then he can do the bloody cooking.
This story was first published in The City magazine and on

How Victorians have found a fine way to boost income

The Victorian Government knows drivers from over the border aren’t privy to Melbourne’s peculiar road rules. Source: News Corp Australia

THEY say a week is a long time in politics. So given the State Election was a OVER A MONTH ago, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask — do you remember Steven Marshall?
C’mon, you know. You may have seen him down at your local Wok-in-a-Box.
The guy who got the most votes at the election but isn’t Premier; the bloke who told you to vote for the other team. Right, remember?
Well, all those weeks ago, when he wanted your vote, Steven Marshall did much to shine a light on SA’s so called brain-drain. A key plank in his policy platform, it was.
The term brain-drain sounds like what happens when you waste a weekend watchingGame of Thrones.
But it turns out what he was talking about was more like those stories they use to pad out the end of TV news bulletins, about the annual migration of Christmas Island’s famous crabs.
SA’s young people were packing their bags and getting the hell out of dodge.
I could have sworn I’ve seen at least three young people in SA in the past dozen years, but I must have been mistaken. They were probably just Baby Boomers who’ve aged particularly well.
“After 12 years of Labor, South Australian young people are leaving our state in droves,” Marshall said, bearing the bad news.
“Since Labor has been in government, we have lost more than 34,000 net migrants interstate”.
And net migrants weren’t people who’d switched from internet Explorer to Chrome. They were our best and brightest!
The government can thank me later, but on a recent trip across the border I found out where at least some of our young people have been going. Are you sitting down? They’ve been going … TO MELBOURNE!
And unlike Steven Marshall, Victoria was happy about it.
There they were in the Melbourne papers. Two bright and sassy young women, one telling how she’d managed to escape across the border from Sydney to enjoy the sights and delights of the coffee capital, the other telling how she was from Melbourne, which was awesome, so, you know why leave? Yadda yadda yadda.
In fact the Victorian government is running a clever interstate migrant retention strategy.
And I blew the lid on it while I was driving to Coburg.
How? By pulling up next to a tram in a lane that was shaded pink and copping a $297 fine for doing it.
The government knows drivers from over the border aren’t privy to Melbourne’s peculiar road rules.
And by fixing the fine at such an exorbitant rate, it is counting on the fact one in every 10 rivers will be made bankrupt by their indiscretion and have no choice but to live out their days in Melbourne.
Bureaucratic flypaper.
That’s why I’m proposing our government adopt a similar scheme, to attract young people back across the border.
Think about it. We could lure Melburnians to Adelaide for footy at the Oval, then slug them $500 for a series of strange and unusual offences only South Australians would know about.
We’ve already made a great start with the bus lanes.
We could also issue infringements to anyone who uses the word “grouse” when they mean “heaps good”, “pule” instead of “pool”, or gets caught bragging about the Grand Prix.
It possibly won’t add too many numbers to our net migration. But it would be a lot of fun.
This column was first published in The City magazine and on

Why Adelaide should embrace the good old American diner

This is what I’m talkin’ about. The California Club sandwich with pickle and coleslaw at Scotty's Diner on Lexington Ave, New York. Photo by Peter Holmes. Source: Supplied

I miss a lot of things about living in the US. Most of them are food-based and at least five of them, specifically, are sandwiches.
The last thing I’d want to do is imply it’s not possible to get decent sandwich in Australia. But saying Australians make sandwiches is like saying we make feature films and reality TV and participate in wars. We do. Just nowhere near as well as the Yanks.
In the US, a sandwich isn’t a square stop-gap between breakfast and dinner. And it isn’t designed for mobile consumption. It’s a party on a plate and everyone’s invited; oh look, a stack of fries, side of coleslaw and big salty pickle!
TELL US BELOW: What do you think a sandwich should look like?
I used to get one of my favourite New York sandwiches (chicken salad with sweet potato fries) from another great American institution I miss - the diner.
The Evergreen Diner, just down the street from News Corp. HQ and NBC, is frequented by every reporter in a 5km radius.
A good diner is every bit as romantic an image as any one you’ve ever seen depicted on American television, from Happy Days and Seinfeld to Twin Peaks and NYPD Blue.
The long counters, the pots of coffee, the dessert case advertising slices of cherry pie, the bus boys lugging crates of dirty plates, the always-rushed-off-their-feet waitresses with their notepads and secret code.
Forget efficient transport, grand sporting stadiums, hip coffee joints and fancy restaurants. The mark of a truly great city is the ability to order bacon and eggs at 11am and a serve of lasagne at 7am – and on this score, Adelaide is sadly lacking.
A few weeks ago, after working a long shift, powered by bad coffee and two slices of pizza, I went hunting for food and a taxi.
I ran the gauntlet of tiny skirts and stumbling drunks but couldn’t find a cracker.
Not a waffle on Waymouth St, not a kebab on King William or a curry on Currie. At 11pm on a Saturday night.
Thank god Adelaide’s famous pie carts are still around. Oh, wait…
The pie carts went away and drunk people everywhere have been sad ever since. Photo: The Advertiser.

Yes, I could have walked to Gouger or Hindley, the only two streets in Adelaide to keep anything like unordinary hours. But I was tired. I went home and ate noodles.
Adelaide is over-serviced by fast-food joints and posh, expensive eateries. But where are all the Greasy Spoons? The late-night joints serving up bacon sandwiches, coffee and pancakes, without the frills and for cheap prices?
I think Adelaide has an appetite for a place like that.
This column was first published in The City Adelaide and on

Time Adelaide started thinking inside the square

Much fun: The Royal Croquet Club, which popped up in Victoria Square during the 2014 Adelaide Fringe. Source:News Corp. Australia

I don’t know what got in to me but I really had my Festival Pants on this Mad March.
I found myself going out more often than a dodgy back to enjoy jokes every bit as good as that, and many not nearly as good.
The patchy quality of the entertainment on offer is what makes the Fringe such a beautiful, unpredictable organism.
And even the scarring experience of an hour of bad experimental jazz puppetry is nothing a few stiff drinks can’t fix.
TELL US BELOW: What aspects of the festival would you like all-year-round?
In fact the ability to have a drink, a chat, a dance and a laugh at one of the many lively bars and clubs to pop-up around the city has always been one of the best bits about festival time.
Although it’s become so big it deserves its own postcode, the Garden of Unearthly Delights still offers a reliably good time, even when the act inside the tent fails to do what the label said.
All the more reason we should be mourning the fact Mad March has all but made way for As-You-Were April.
A council worker with an oversized knitting needle went out one night when you were sleeping and pricked all the places that previously had popped up. Pooh.
The only times I’ve planted a shoe on the all-new, sort-of-finished Victoria Square, were to frequent the Royal Croquet Club to sip Pims and marvel at how pretty the city looks at night through strings of coloured lights and fireworks.
Unless there’s a building fire, and we’re forced to evacuate to the nearest official assembly point, I can’t imagine I’ll have a decent excuse to enjoy this prime bit of public space for anything closely resembling a good time until the festival rolls around again, IN A WHOLE YEAR’S TIME. Sigh.
Adelaide is blessed with a network of big and open squares but, sadly, fewer ideas about how to make the most of them.
No tables or chairs for city workers to enjoy lunch outdoors. No outdoor library for a spot of summer reading. No ping pong tables for a midday distraction.
Does anyone really think, if a cool little bar popped up permanently in a corner of the square, office workers wouldn’t pop in on a Friday night for a cold beer and a debrief with colleagues before tramming or cabbing it home? I know I would.
For once, it’s time to stop thinking outside the squares and let responsible adults enjoy a drink inside them.
TELL US BELOW: What’s aspects of the festival would you like all-year-round?
This column was first published in The City Adelaide and on

One election certainty, SA will maintain its long history of male only premiers

Kissing babies. Isobel Redmond during her time as Liberal leader
SATURDAY night will be a historic moment, regardless who wins power at the state election.

For Weatherill, leading a 12-year old government (with more baggage than a cruise liner) to victory will be a win against considerable odds.

For the Liberals, a win with a political novice at the helm, after years of in-fighting, will be a minor miracle.

But no matter who’s running the place on Sunday morning, here’s one reason this election won’t go down in history.

With all that testosterone sloshing around, it’s a good thing so many women are falling over themselves to run for election this time around, right? Ah…. well, about that.

 Of the 204 people standing for a seat in the lower house this election, less than half - just 63 - are women.

On a party basis, the Greens are running the most female candidates (17 out of 47), followed by the ALP (16 out of 47), Family First (12 out of 42), the Liberals (11 out of 47) and Dignity for Disability (four out of seven).

“ALL THE LADIES IN THE HOUSE SAY YEA …..” umm where are all the other ladies in the house?

Things look worse in the upper house where female candidates make up just 22, out of 63 candidates. 

Compare that to The Advertiser’s politics team where State Political Editor Dan Wills is outnumber by his female colleagues four to one!

There are virtually more women writing about politics in SA than participating in it.

The last time SA came anywhere close to electing a female Premier was 2010, when Labor suffered an 8.4 per cent, two-party preferred swing to Isobel Redmond’s Liberals.

We all know how Redmond’s turn at the Leadership ended. Not well.

But neither did her term as leader begin all that smoothly, having been forced to answer questions about her physical appearance and makeover her image.

“On the one hand I have to listen in case there is something about my appearance which is off-putting and stops the message getting through,” she said at the time.

“But on the other hand, I don’t want to lose myself in this process. I’m me and I’m determined to stay me”. 

The iniquities in the way male and female politicians are sometimes treated are well known, but they’re not peculiar to South Australia.

Nor are the heavy demands and crushing stress that make being a politician Number 1 on my list of “Jobs You Couldn’t Pay Me Enough To Do”.

So what’s keeping women out of SA politics? Would more women bring some fresh new dimension to the social debate?

Do the parties have a plan to promote young female talent to their highest ranks? Does it matter? Do we care?

In the first State in Australia to give women the vote, surely it’s at least a debate worth having.

Don’t forget to vote this Saturday.

This column was first published in The City Messenger and on 

Seeing our city in a different light

Linear Park really is a city treasure. Photo: News Corp. Australia

IF you were born and raised in Adelaide, I bet you like to think you know your city inside out. But how well do you know your home town, really?
A confession up front: I’m not the world’s most avid cyclist. (Shocking, I know).
But when I do feel I’m coming down with a desire to exercise, I usually lie down until the feeling passes. Hardy har.
But at other times, when the inspiration strikes, I hop on my bike and cut into the Linear Park for the punishing 8km ride through the western suburbs to finish at West Beach.
If you’ve never bothered to take a stroll along at least the smallest section of the Linear Park, don’t worry.
You’re only missing one of the most beautiful walking/cycling trails in Adelaide and one of our city’s greatest assets, natural or manmade.
I’d call the Park world class. But plenty of cities would kill to have something so special and unique. World-leading might be a better way to describe it.
But as good as the Park is, variety is the spice of life.
So on a recent burst of energy, instead of beating the same old path to West Beach, I decide to point my wheels in a different direction and follow the Park east towards the city.
Now, unless you want all your friends to think you’ve turned into an anorak-wearing train-spotter who likes his sandwiches with the crusts cut off, you should use the term ‘be a tourist in your own town’ sparingly.
I’m going to use it just this once because it neatly sums up what it feels like to go wild and crazy and actually dare to explore somewhere different and new. It’s like being a tourist in your own damn town!
Passing the now-shuttered Brickworks (sad) and crossing South Road I hop off at the Hindmarsh Cemetery to stroll through avenues of crumbling headstones and where I learn something new.
Here lies Ronald Gladstone Mitton. Born in Hindmarsh. PhD from Oxford and gained “international recognition and received many awards for his researches into the chemistry and technology of leather”.
Past the Entertainment Centre, through Bonython Park and up behind the old gaol, the new RAH and oh… look, there’s the SAHMRI, from a whole new angle.
Through the Festival Centre, a spin around the Rotunda, over the bridge, pause to check out the stunning new Oval up close, then push on home.
A lazy few kilometers from home; so how come I’d never bothered to do head that way before? *Shrugs shoulders*
Being a tourist in your own town means seeing things you’ve never seen before. But also to explore the secret nooks of a city you thought you knew from a wholly new angle; from a pair of sneakers or a bike seat, not a speeding car.
There’s another reason to mix things up. Exploring new places can not only help cure boredom but make you smarter.
In the ABC TV series Redesign My Brain, presenter Todd Sampson meets a researcher who reveals that, by simply being open to new experiences – trying new foods, finding a new route to work - people could re-train their brains to make them more creative and better at problem-solving.
If you were born and raised in Adelaide, I bet you think you know your city inside out.
I bet you’re wrong.
Here’s my challenge to you, Adelaide. See your city from a different angle. Find a different way to drive or walk to work. Look at your city from above and below. And Tweet with me @GregBarila to tell me what you discovered.
TELL US below about your favourite spots in Adelaide.
This column was first published in The City Messenger and on

Our farmers' value is worth considering

Our farmers, such as Riverland grape grower Brett Proud, are highly productive, despite facing drought and economic challenges. Picture: Sam Wundke. Source: News Corp. Australia

AS far as predicting the outcome of elections goes, I probably make a pretty good journalist.
But you don't need to be a psephologist to know a few things for sure about the upcoming State Election.
Here's one thing you can bank on - when the campaign gets going, everyone will be talking about the auto industry and virtually no-one will be talking about that other engine room of SA's economy, farming.
How highly do you value our state's agricultural industry? Comment below.
Holden's decision to quit making cars in Australia, even though we saw it coming, was a huge and devastating blow to SA's identity and confidence.
Jay Weatherill knows that.
That's why he (rightly) rushed to Canberra for urgent talks with the PM to hammer out a plan to resuscitate Australia's ailing manufacturing sector.
But with the election nigh our Premier, I think, also has been trying to work the issue to his political advantage.
To convince South Australians that car making wasn't terminal under Federal Labor and that if Tony Abbott had only agreed to loosen his death-grip on the National Purse Strings, Australia's best-loved car brand might have been saved.
I don't know about that.
And I don't know why, if they're looking to present themselves as visionary leaders, with plans to get SA's economy back on track, neither Weatherill, nor Steven Marshall, are doing much to talk up agriculture.
According to one local study, when Holden goes, SA stands to lose $1.24 billion in economic activity, 13,000 jobs and $72 million in state taxes.
Bad news, no matter how you cut it. SA's economy has lost a limb. But it has not lost its backbone.
Agriculture and wine are worth a whopping $10 billion in production and value adding to SA's economy - a major contributor to our exports.
Like in manufacturing, employment in the sector over the past decade has been going backwards - more than 4000 jobs disappeared between 2002 and 2012.
But consider this.
At the same time as our agricultural workforce has been shrinking, productivity in the sector has more than doubled.
In other words, our farmers and producers have been doing more with less, even in the face of pressures like the GFC, cheap foreign labour and the strong Aussie dollar.
According to the National Farmers' Federation, every Aussie farmer produces enough food for 600 people. And they've been doing it on their own, without the massive handouts given to the car industry.
Our farmers, not just those in SA, are among the least subsidized in the OECD, receiving government support of just 3 per cent of farming income, behind the US (9 per cent), Israel (12 per cent) and Canada (16 per cent).
It's not to say the government has done nothing to exploit SA's reputation as a clean and green producer of food.
There's been investment in regional tourism advertising and in keeping SA fruit fly free.
In 2011, the government set a target to grow food revenue to $20 billion by 2020 and the 2013 Economic Statement assures us SA is "well positioned to seize the opportunities" of the rising demand by Asia's emerging middle classes for our top notch food and wine.
But how will we get there?
And, crucially, what role could our auto workers play in helping SA realize its potential?
How does the next government intend to better support our farmers and will the foreign buy up of our prime agricultural land be allowed to go on unchecked?
Weatherill and Marshall need to answer these questions.
The trouble is, the election won't be won and lost in the dairy pastures of the South East, the sweeping wheat fields of the Eyre Peninsula, or citrus orchards of the Riverland.
It will be won and lost on the crowded trains of the Southern suburbs, at the first bounce of the first AFL match at Adelaide Oval and on the factory floor of Holden.
It will be won and lost in the city, where all the people, and the votes, are.
When he took over from Mike Rann as Premier late in 2011, Weatherill told reporters "I am utterly convinced that our best days are in front of us in this state".
I think our best days will be in front of us only when we realize we can't leave our agriculture sector behind.
This column was first published in The City Messenger and on

Breaking Bad in suburban Adelaide

Plotlines from your TV may be closer than they appear. A scene from Breaking Bad. Source: AP
BIG blue. Blue sky. Blue Magic. Fring's Blue.
Fans of the hit show Breaking Bad will get the reference.
For the rest, Big Blue was the most tangible example of the exacting standards of Walter White; a high school chemistry teacher who decides to pursue a life less ordinary by making drugs.
But not just any drug; the purest drug money can buy, advertising itself by its unique blueness, hence those funny names.
Breaking Bad was a superlative bit of television and I devoured every tense and shocking episode, just like I did The Wire and Sopranos.
But it was just television right? Things like that don't happen in real life. Or so I thought until a recent, strange encounter.
The scene: a near-deserted car park. Suburban Adelaide. Saturday morning.
Open with me, carrying a box of groceries from my local Italian delicatessen to the boot of my car.
Suddenly, a voice behind. "Pssst".
Turning, I see an Italian bloke on a push bike. He's wearing a tracksuit, helmet and an inquisitive look on his face.
"Did you just buy some olive oil in there?"
Me: Yeah, why?
"How much did they charge you?"
Me: Thirty bucks.
"Mate, that's not the pure stuff," he ventures in hushed tones. "If you want the pure stuff, I've got it. I make it myself".
I shoot a glance left and right to make sure the coast is clear. I've never done this before - bought olive products in a car park.
Me: Good is it, the stuff you make?
"Mate, it doesn't even compare. The stuff I've got is in a class of its own," he says.
Politely, I decline, explaining "I've already just bought my supply, thanks. But maybe I'll give you a call sometime."
Which was perfectly true, of course. I had enough cooking lubricant to last six months.
But my reasons for turning him down ran deeper.
Like, that a man could never really know where a spur-of-the-moment decision in a quiet car park on a Saturday morning might lead.
When it comes to olive oil, it's a slippery slope.
You start with a small sample on a piece of crusty bread and before you know it you're buying cold pressed, garlic infused and chili oil in some back lane in Campbelltown or Findon.
And then, one night, while you're eating garlic and olive oil pasta in some outside kitchen in Newton, with some Italian you just met, someone will bring out a bottle of homemade pasta sauce and it'll all be over.
"C'mon just a little taste. No-one gets addicted to this stuff". Yeah, sure.
Nah, if I want that kind of trip, I'll watch Antonio Carluccio on SBS. Or maybe I'll write a show myself.
Breaking Bread has a nice ring to it.
This column was first published in The City Messenger and on