Holidays – William McInnes

Who you gunna turn to if you need a good belly-laugh from a book??? Well, Mr McInnes is as capable as anyone writing in Oz today to entice great guffaws from me and his latest did not let me down.

It is an art-form, is writing comedic prose. It’s been a while since I’ve emitted even chuckles from my book-reading. Probably the last to induce such-like was Nick Earls’ glorious publication from last year, ‘Analogue Man’. Earls writes fiction. So does McInnes – and he does okay at that too, but it’s his volumes of memoirs that really do the trick for me. ‘A Man’s Got to Have a Hobby’ was such a complete joy. I laughed so much it bought tears to the eyes. Tears featured as well with ‘Worst Things Happen at Sea’ – but for a very different reason. It was co-written with his now deceased wife, Sarah Watt – and for the delight in question the author delves into his past again. Tears came for both happy and sad reasons in ‘Holidays’.

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In this recalling of the past he again displays what a memory he has – I wonder if he kept a diary. For the life of me I can only remember childhood incidents in broad stokes. He brings them to us in fine detail. Most of the gut-clenching humour came in the first half – it tendered to peter out as he started to become a tad more deep and meaningful – but this is not to say the final chapters were lesser for that. They just spoke more of the human condition. And the ending – the final stanza, was, well, just heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

The man can write and it helps that you can picture him in the scenarios he weaved as the central figure. He’s graced our screens for a few decades now, first coming to my attention in the never-to- be-forgotten marvel that was ‘SeaChange’.

The book opens on Brisbane’s Redcliffe Peninsula, setting of William’s childhood and his scallywag adventures. His yarn about the Kosy Korner Karavan Park was priceless, a rib-tickler of the first order. For our young hero the Peter Stuyvesant fag ads on tele in those days were the height of sophistication. The only place he could imagine in his world as a possible location for such-like to be made in Brissy would be said Kosy Korner. It would surely be where the international jet-setters would go to smoke and drink martinis, served to them by the pool by stunningly sexy women in bikinis. Or so he thought till he actually braved the grounds of the place.

Another adventure of his youth – this time of an amorous nature, when he was obviously much older, involved being naked and draped in beauty contest sashes. His love interest led him to meet a certain Mr Tait, the travel agent who never travelled. Why would he? He had visited the opening of Wrest Point Casino down in Hobart and saw Jerry Lewis perform. No holiday could surely top that so why waste money. His life ambition now was to sell some punter a Scandinavian vacation. I wonder, as does McInnes, whether he actually succeeded.

It seems the television star has a soft spot for Hobs. ‘Hobart is a beautiful city, perhaps the prettiest of Australian capitals, with marvellous restaurants and glorious landscapes.’ Of course these days the jewel in the crown of the city’s gems is MONA. One day, at a loose end in our burb, he sought advice at reception. ‘The bloke behind the desk brushed one side of his porn-star moustache with his forefinger and then said, ‘Go to the museum mate. The museum’s a good place.’ And so it turned out, although he was bemused at the number of kiddies that were on the loose in a place supposedly just for grown-ups. He reported the place was, in his estimation, most impressive. ‘The eclectic scale and verve of the collection is stupefying, moving and glorious.’

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Being such a public figure, our author on vacation is recognised by many – but sometimes the punters get it confused. At various times they thought they had been greeting him as bonkers former Labor leader Mark Latham, sex-god Colin Firth, ‘Wait There’s More’ Demtel Man (Tim Shaw) and even, not Jeff Kennett, but his brother!!! The one that was much to his horror was being mistaken for execrable Sam Newman of ‘Footy Show’ infamy.

So many glorious stories William McI tells in this tome. There’s the bush pilot, on being informed that stormy weather lay ahead in the flight, offered to play Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper for the already nervous author. Then there is the perennial problem of what to give up for Lent. One year he decided it should be his propensity for swearing. To get around the difficulties that involved he decided to insert a more suitable word instead. For some reason he hit on yallop – the surname of a former test cricket captain – but of course he spun this yarn out too to make it hilarious.

It’s a bonza book this. McInnes gets my recommendation for a guernsey in our National Living Treasures list and I’ll be yalloped if you’ll find a funnier read this year. It’s full of all that’s wonderful about our great, taking the yallop, national sense of humour.

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