Call me Cyril

For the last 6 weeks before Christmas, I was highly diverted, as were many others, by the ABC TV series Rake.  It deals with a fictionalisation of the persona that Charles Waterstreet (whom I have stalked on this blog more than once) cultivates in his column in the Sun-Herald, his occasional books and, dare I say it, in his life, translated as the “rakish” and criminal barrister, Cleaver Greene.  (Apparently the “Cleaver” bit was a nod to the shared Albury origins of Waterstreet and the actor who played the part, Richard Roxburgh, and its 1970s mayor and big man, Cleaver Brunton, but for whom, to paraphrase them, Albury would be no more than Wagga Wagga.)

It was a small world kind of thing.  A couple of actors I know personally from long ago popped up in bit parts.  It was fun to spot the locations around town, especially in the legal precinct, including the now-abandoned Sydney Law School “city campus” dolled up as Cleaver’s chambers, but also playing itself.  I even found myself appearing opposite a very upright and conspicuously self-righteous barrister in a matter against the ATO who seemed to be the spitting image of a similar character.

I guess I was slap in the middle of Rake‘s target audience in many ways.  There was a certain world-weary cynicism with vestigial and inextinguishable optimism which resonated appealingly, though I suspect it is even more familiar to criminal defence lawyers.  Plenty of my colleagues know Waterstreet or know of him at most one degree of separation, and were aware of the real life origins of some of the most apparently far-fetched plot lines. If we had a water cooler where I work (we don’t, but we do have a kind of refrigerating tap fixture thingy, which replaced the Neverfail cooler in a fit of economy), discussions of its plot lines would have qualified as water-cooler talk.

The series had some implausibilities (especially too many adjournments of the “In my chambers! Now!” sort so beloved in US courtroom television) and sure, it was played broadly for laughs, but I recommend it.

All of which is just a pretext to continue my stalking on the occasion of Waterstreet’s latest column (as you might expect, they are of variable quality) in the Sun Herald, where he discloses that, when ordering coffees from Starbucks (I find that a bit hard to believe: I suspect that’s an ever-so-slight popularisation for the sake of a broader audience) he gives a false name to the barista, rather than wait for his order to be called out for “Charles.” The names he offers range widely, from the plausible to the risible. The title of the piece “Just call me Daisy” comes from this.

When I drive to or from Canberra, I always like to pause for a coffee at Goulburn at the fake-colonial pie shop just next to the Big Merino. It’s about the right point in the journey, their pies are OK or better than that (well, critical faculties vis-a-vis food are dulled by the drive) and the coffee surprisingly acceptable. But they, too, do this thing of calling you to collect your coffee by the name you give. Maybe it’s because my given name is a little unusual and feels just a bit too, how shall I say, urban, but I always feel a little cringing embarrassment and desire for privacy – what business is it of theirs who I am?

These days, the name I give is “Cyril.” It’s my own tribute to The Naked Vicar Show, an ABC radio comedy (later a commercial TV series) roughly-contemporary with Cleaver Brunton’s heyday.

OMG! One more little link between us! This is really spooky! I expect the cyber-AVO any day now.

Postscript – February

I have just driven back from Canberra with the customary coffee stop. At Goulburn they call me Cyril no more: at the “bakery” they now dispense those red-light-flashing pagers with the coffee orders.

2 Responses to “Call me Cyril”

  1. Neil Says:

    I enjoyed Rake and would love to watch it again. There were some brilliant stretches of dialogue in it, just to pick on one of the many qualities that lifted it above average,

  2. M-H Says:

    I agree about the calling-out of names. I never given mine as ‘Mary-Helen’ – they’d only get it wrong, I think. So I give ‘Mary’ and then have to keep reminding myself to be alert for the sound of it. And I really enjoyed Rake too.

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