Proctor : August 2018
51 PROCTOR | August 2018 Show time! Sugar is sweeter when your parents pay As I write this, my children are busily planning their expedition to the Royal Brisbane Show, better known as the Ekka, or the Show, or – to parents – the GFC, since attending the Ekka these days costs more than a royal wedding while delivering a slightly higher volume of animal waste. This is ironic for people of my generation (note: my generation does not have a letter, as the alphabet had not been invented) as we recall the Show as actually being fairly cheap fun. Granted, a lot of this was because our parents were paying, but there was also some value if you worked at it. For younger readers, who never look up from their phones, even if they are lying on the hood of the car which has just hit them because they have wandered onto the M1 while playing Candy Crush and Facebooking their scores to their friends (one of whom is probably driving the car with their eyes glued to their phone), and so have never heard of the Show, I should explain. The Show is a big gathering held every year around flu season, designed to allow country folk to show off their fine produce and to allow city folk to be exposed to a variety of flu strains which they would otherwise not encounter unless they swam naked across the Ganges and then slept in a medical waste dump. I strongly suspect that the Show is underwritten by Big Pharma and major tissue manufacturers. The chief attraction for young kids is the showbags, which contain samples of various types of junk food which cannot be sold in shops due to health and safety regulations, and the sorts of toys that break if the atmospheric pressure varies by a tenth of a percent. They are called showbags because calling them ‘toxins and rubbish’ bags would make them hard to market. In any event, as I said there was value once upon a time, and we generation nothings felt that the showbags best represented this value. We spent countless hours going through lists of showbag contents (which were helpfully printed in the newspaper, directly opposite a whole-page ad for Carbolic Smoke Balls and Vicks VapourRub) to see which one represented the best value, as determined by overall sugar content. Now, every member of my nameless generation who read that last line and said ‘Sunny-boy Bag’ raise your hand; thought so! As we all know, a primary school child could probably survive for months on the contents of a Sunny-boy bag alone, although nobody can be sure because the bags rarely lasted a week. The result of this was that we all returned to school from the Show with our blood running at around 85% sugar, which may explain why so many teachers got ‘the flu’ around that time. The point is that the bags had value because they were very cheap, which the companies could do because the contents were largely sugar in all three of its physical states – liquid, frozen and gooey. The only non-sugar items in these bags would usually be something like a yo-yo that functioned in either the up or the down position, but not both, and a couple of surplus comic books with titles like ‘Mathematics Man: Crime Equals Zero with this Algebraic Hero!’ and ‘Martha Ritter, Undercover Knitter’. This all started to change when big corporations realised that some of our parents were leaving the Show with money in their wallets, and decided that they should put a stop to this. They went about this via the time-honoured approach of taking something we kids already liked and producing a cheap and breakable version. For example, I recall my excitement when the first Spider-Man bag hit the Show, complete with a cheaply-reproduced copy of a comic I already owned, a plastic Spider- Man mask through which I could neither see nor breathe, and an actual pair of web-shooters just like Spidey’s. OK, so they were a little different in that they shot suction-cup plastic darts that would not stick to the walls, so they fell off a lot, but they certainly did less harm to me than the sugar- filled bags (and would probably have been more nutritious had I happened to eat them). The important thing is that these new bags – there were versions for all the popular super heroes: Batman, Superman, Martha Ritter – delivered all this quality for a mere five times the price of the other bags, thus achieving their main purpose of getting the rest of our parents’ money. This is a tradition that continues to this day, with showbags now – at least, based on price – containing both the materials and instructions necessary to construct your own functioning nuclear reactor, including the uranium. On a slightly more serious note, the Show actually is a good day out with the family, especially if you avoid the showbag pavilion and actually look at the animals and produce that are the reason for its existence. We’ll be there this year, looking at (and also aromatically detecting) puppies, cows, horses and a variety of animals that my suburban kids would otherwise not see. It is a vital lifeline between country and city, and worthy of our support. Our society is defined by these traditions, and I hope we can keep them alive – the tradition of wonder in the eyes of children, the tradition of encountering new and different things, and my most dearly held Show tradition – the tradition of my parents paying for it. Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2018. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.