The 2017 Hazem El Masri Cup

Greetings Tipsters


Perky Girl works with me on Saturdays and we have burgers and chips when we’re done.  We stopped at Hungry Jack’s in Wiley Park.  It’s the suburb between the newsworthy Lakemba and Punchbowl.  Dad grew up around here, Gran and Grandad rented 259 Lakemba St from the late 1930s until 1975, when Gran died and Grandad went to live with Monica, his daughter, and her family in Canberra.


Satarvo and the schoolkids are having a blast at work.  There was one staff member who looked about 19 or 20, I almost asked the girl who took my order if everyone was at school.  We sat down to wait – it wasn’t that fast, this food – and I wondered about the halalishness of these burgers.  The kids, mostly Muslims, didn’t seem to mind.


Looking at the customers, there’s two young blokes off a building site, a chunky Islander and a lean Leb.  Several young families of Mediterranean, Indian, Malaysian origin.  A Vietnamese couple in their late 60s, looking sharp in 70s styled threads.


Four boys came in, around 15 or so, ordered burgers and ice creams and soft drinks, I guess their antecedents were China and Persia and the Levant,  looked at them and thought, yes, this is Australia, I went to school with Khourys and Caramaschis and Ngs.


I’m the only one here with four Australian grandparents, let alone six great-grandparents.  A Skip like me, once a year event in a place like this.


Honestly, folks, it did feel a bit weird.  I’ve done work for Muslim clients, usually speak to mum, she’s around my age and wearing the robe and headscarf, I don’t notice it.  The girl who took my order looked about 17, Somalian, long sleeves and an elegantly draped scarf over her hair.  Maybe it’s just me wanting kids to be crazy renegades…


I take issues with the whole coverin’ the womenfolk thing but folks are folks and they have a right to their choice, if it hurts none, do what thou will, I’ve never being bothered by this before but it ever so slightly rattled me today.  The burger was tasty but sloppily assembled, maybe that had something to do with it.


Only other time I recall a similar moment, 2012, I was a train guard, stopped at Wiley Park, a young woman got off the train, the whole cover, just a slit for her eyes in the black tent, but she was wearing beautiful red slippers, a hint of personality leaking out.


I saw a pretty teenage girl get off the train somewhere down near Fairfield and kiss her boyfriend.  An hour or so later she got back on, detrained at Wiley Park wearing a long buttoned-up cardigan and a headscarf.  I drafted a screenplay about that.


I grew up in strict Irish Catholic world, I saw my sisters go through that shit, I had a couple of months at a posh school where the prefects would report you for loosening your tie on the homeward bus.  In 1980, Beverly Hills Girls High School students wore the most economical uniforms ever known, in 2017 the Far East girls still do, the Near East girls don’t, yet many tear it off as soon as they’re beyond the prefects’ reach.


Today I saw a woman in headscarf and all driving one of those oversized 4WDs with a rego plate ‘SXY-80D’, it may well have been her choice.  Political groupings can make us forget that everyone is an individual with wishes, hopes, dreams, choices.


Twenty oh five, I did some paving work for a mate who lived in Lakemba, had to collect tools and left-over bags of sand and cement, my transport then being a hotshit motorcycle, I recruited a mate with a car.  While waiting for him, I greeted friendly folks walking their grandchildren, told the young blokes lounging around the cars that I might need some space and they couldn’t have been more polite or needlessly swift in clearing space.


I’d spoken to the neighbours, told ‘em what I was doing, it was Ramadan and when Jeff and I were hauling the bags away at dusk the cooking smells were wonderful.  I knocked on the door when we were done, spoke to the teenage daughter and commented on the gorgeous odours.


“You like that?”


She was surprised that a Skip might enjoy Leb food.  (Cue now the Hard Ons song, ‘She Hated Wog Food’, that band came together at Punchbowl Boys High, a Sri Lankan, a Korean, a Yugoslav vegan, Ray’s dad was a fighter pilot.)


We all like to think that we’re open and grooving with it.  Newtown dubs itself ‘multicultural’ – for heavens’ sake, it’s 90% white middle class, like the Shire and the Peninsula.


I had a point to make somewhere back there.  Like the Australian suburbs, it got lost in a sprawl of traffic and people.  The Monaros won for the suburbs, even if the suburbs didn’t know it.  Maybe one day they’ll be known as ‘The Wogs.’


Cheers Tipsters


P&C, a Stop Privatisation Of Footy Production, a division of Trans-Dementia Inc.

Brought to you with the assistance of the radio and the noises I hear from cars and vans and utes and trucks and buses and motorcycles.


About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.


  1. I hear you Earl. I grew up in SA in the 60’s which was the most anglo environment possible. We were taught to be “tolerant” but why do those black people (not that there were many in SA) have to drink in our beautiful public squares.
    Working in a US corporation for a couple of years in the late 80’s was an eye opener for me. My bosses were all better educated than me and black. I understood but it somehow didn’t compute initially.
    The big lessons for me were the “walk a mile in my shoes” years in the early 2000’s. Until then it was all abstract “acceptance”. Then it was sitting down with folks for no bullshit yarns around the same table. I was full of shit and they were full of fear and anger. Who knew?
    I’ve come to a place where I’ll talk to anyone and try to understand where they come from (personally as much as geographically). I dislike greed and narrow minds. My triggers are Chinese (a greedy boss sacked me unfairly once) and Yanks (’nuff said). But I try to suspend my knee jerks until I have got to know them a little.
    Keep ’em coming Earl.

Leave a Comment