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The Magpie

Saturday, November 15th, 2014   |   93 comments

***PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS G20-FREE BLOG *** No eyes or ears have been harmed in the making of this edition of The Magpie’s Nest – although some egos may take a hit.

The height of hyperbole … The Astonisher tries for the last vestiges of non-existent reader outrage. But on the other hand, the paper makes a pioneering move in the craft of reporting … the formula is simple – say it on the front page and deny it in the Iditorial.

And it’s all about the vibe … a makeover for a much loved Townsville matriarch.

Bentley bends over backwards for Clive Palmer – sort of .≥.

… and a newsflash for the rapidly derailing Ewen Jones … and its from Canberra’s inner sanctum, chum, so you’d better have a squizz.

First, a quick note in passing.

Gina Rinehart, having trouble getting her rocks off (off to overseas markets that is), is turning to other ventures. She now wants to start supplying baby milk to China.



Well, it looks likes she’ll have enough to go around.

And overseas, the person who is famous for … well, being famous, Kim Kardashian, looks like the latest to have joined the botox set … only she appears to have botoxed her bum for a magazine shoot.

Botoxed bum?

Botoxed bum?

That even puts the Serena Williams freak show in the shade. But while we’re in the Kardashian orbit … not often around here, I can tell you … make of this what you will.

That IS champagne .. we think./

That IS champagne .. we think. …

(Grumpy, Groper, stop it … move on, keep reading …NOW, BOYS!!)

Back home, another somewhat addled female, our own Senator Jacqui Lambrain is proving to be God’s gift to cartoonists, outdoing Abbott’s ears and speedos and Shorten’s shorts again this week. The volume amped up again with the Tasmaniac tail again wagging the PUPPYdog, and (mixed metaphor alert) like a cat with a stricken, struggling bird, toying cruelly with the language and with her putative bloated boss.

Bentley can see where it’s all going.

backflip copy

Maybe that should be a ‘hard Lambieing’?

But let’s face it, the fascination factor has sucked us all in. This senator manages the rare feat of being a hoot and horror at the same time, leaving the nation like a bunny caught in the headlights, not quite believing the disaster so clearly approaching. The inimitable Larry Pickering has been moved to arm Lambie with a hands-on weapon made famous by another of his uppity females subjects.

08112014 Strapon back S.png

Which inevitably led to this …

13112014 STRAPON FOR CLIVE p.png

Larry’s third projection in this series is eagerly awaited.

Here in the ‘Ville, Canberra’s representative in Townsville, Ewen Jones, has again been consolidating his title as The Tool of Townsville with a barking mad foam-flecked attack on the Townsville City Council … and he’s got it wrong to boot – yet a-bloody-.gain.

Ewen Jones - in Canberra, he's known as the Tool of Townsville.

Ewen Jones – in Canberra, he’s known as the Tool of Townsville.

Dumbo Jumbo continued his new ploy of feeding the chooks at the Astonisher by ringing them up with irresistibly daft belches of faux indignation. This time, his waffling outrage was with the TCC for not starting work on renovations to the Entertainment Centre with the federals $5M signed over in August. Bloody August? In fact, just eight or nine weeks ago, but our foreman material MP somehow decided Walker Street was dragging its feet.

Two matters here, boyo.

As the mayor made crystal clear (a rarity in itself but moving on) the council has been ready to go with all the required works since the start of the year, and was just waiting … and waiting … and waiting for you to get off your ever-expanding arse and deliver the dough on your blustery promise. But what happens? August finally rolls around, the money is finally made available … but by this stage, the Jupiters business (which includes he Entertainment Centre) is in the transition of ownership, which meant nothing could be done until those myriad legal issues could be settled and the new owners brought up to speed on the required work. On their property. Now, work will start within a week or so … not 12 months, which is your own hypocritical timeframe.

It is obvious that Jones and the Bulletin have the same regard for facts (i.e. none) because he went ahead with his claims, and Josh Alston went ahead with his story, leaving the clear explanation about the ownership change until well into the story – which of course made it yet another non-story.

Dumbo seems to have the idea that knocking the council is a popular vote catcher, something he may find not exactly right.

But here’s the thing, straight from Jones betters in Canberra (yes, yes, that could be anybody, but this ‘better’ is somewhat higher up the food chain than Jones’ average ‘better’ – it’s not single cell), It is indeed from a senior minister … who ensured the following was dropped into the nest.

Down there, they’ve tumbled to Jones shameless brown-nosing self-interest, seeking a title with which to expand his wallet with a role as some minor factotum, and in fact everybody finds it all a bit gauche and amusing (that’s where the Tool from Townsville originated). Even with Wingnut Abbott’s predilection for sock puppets, the word is Ewen is paddling a barbed wire canoe upstream in  shit creek with a bent safety pin for a paddle.

And the minister was clear on one crucial matter. He said that ministers and the leadership generally want their local members to sometimes have a go at the government and always stand up for their constituents … in the way of politics, that hopefully translates to the member keeping the seat and the minister keeping his ministry. Jones understanding of this principle has prompted the commissioning of a special statue of him – as The ‘Pie REVEALS in this EXCLUSIVE preview.

rock head statue

Hmmm, the sculptor will have to bulk out the lower bits considerably for a more realistic representation of Dumbo Jumbo.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a week without highlights from the Flinders Street Follies.

Seems they’ve stumbled onto a unique new policy, gob-smacking in its honesty. Put simply, splash a nonsense story on the front page ….

feral front page

… in essence, some demented boofademic reckons we can fix the cane toad plague if we EAT the slimy bastards. Make an export industry out of it. Of course, have to find a way to get rid of the poison. It’d also have to look different. And we’d have to call it something different. Yeah, why hadn’t we thought of that (these acadils and boofademic buggers get paid for this sort of utter tosh).

The first thought for many is what is this silly season tripe doing on the front page, let alone anywhere else in the paper. And guess what? Among those thinking exactly that is the man who put it on the front page, Iditor Pinocchio Heywood! You reckon The ‘Pie jests? … then riffle through to p14’s iditorial last Monday.


The last line confirms this is the Townsville Bullsheet. So hope you got your $1.30s worth, folks.

What next, will be the suggestion (possibly from PM Tony Abbott) that we could solve the aging/pension problem in the same manner … instead of cane toads, just quietly whisk us pesky pensioners off at night to the canning factory. Although cleaning us probably be a prohibitive cost, and quite a few will be pre-pickled. Sadly, while this could be expanded to other groups (independent senators?) it could never be a way of ridding ourselves of the ever-present plague of newspaper editors … potential consumers would be put off by the complete lack of taste.

The Bulletin seems to be totally unaware of the mirth it causes around town with its occasional poster. The latest was for yesterday’s edition. Having failed in a long disinformation campaign to whip up the requisite riots in the streets about Strand developments now being allowed up a storey or two, the paper gave one last lunge at outrage.


That would be about another (gasp!) five or six metres.

Friday fronter

Sadly, the story was the usual professional, matter-of -fact and unhysterical work of Tony Raggatt, who presumably did not write the poster or the headline. They do love making themselves look like chumps, these lovable laughables.

But for The ‘Pie light-hearted joshing of our stellar daily publication, he must admit to some positive points. The Astonisher has enthusiastically reported that there is a big innovation conference coming up, highlighting businesses at the cutting edge of technology. And the Townsville Bulletin will not just be there to get the story wrong, the paper will be there at forefront of the innovators, strutting it’s own unique boast of futuristic tools for the information gathering trade.

EXCLUSIVE ALERT: Here, no doubt to much embarrassment, The ‘Pie has scooped even the paper’s own Simpo Templeton, and offers this sneak peak at the revolutionary news crew vehicle they will be presenting at the conference (patent pending).

iditor Lachlan Heywood and  Cruella Roebuck (Ann Roebuck's granddaughter) go for a revolutionary spin.

iditor Lachlan Heywood and Cruella Roebuck (Ann Roebuck’s great-granddaughter) go for a revolutionary spin.

What do you mean, of course its revolutionary – it’s got wheels, hasn’t it?

The first will be allocated to John Ando Andersen for his outback trips – his petrol costs are apparently unsustainable. He’s now searching forn a dog with long enough legs.

Other matters.

Now here’s some welcome local news. Yes, it’s all about the vibe, folks, the makeover for a matriarch.

Michel Reno Pic 013

For the past 24 years years, the austerly elegant surrounds of Michel’s Resturant on Palmer Street have been home to the movers and shakers, the big bucks and the big noters, the roistering special night outers and big eventers, the vamps and the visitors from out-of-town.

Twenty-four years!

Ah, if only tables could talk, what stories they could tell. His Radiance Mayor Mooney held court here often during his reign, and entertained premiers, ministers and – perhaps, a bit hazy – a prime minister. (Can’t have been Gillard, the cutlery count at the end of the night was OK).


Take table 74, nudged into a corner on the main floor near the bar and allows you to see the comings and goings. A favourite of those whom are wise enough not to have their back to the door. Table 74 has hosted a Mooney, a Magpie and a Big Bazza Taylor birthday – needless to say, all on separate occasions. Even this week, on Thursday night, table 74 was joined up for Lozza Lancini to celebrate his 54th birthday bash.

The ‘Pie well remembers a 2010 quick working lunch, when Big Bazza was there at his favorite table 74, with then Astonisher Iditor Typo Gleeson, discussing The Magpie’s contract negotiations over his resignation from the descending Townsville Bulletin, while two tables away, the old bird and his barrister discussed the very same matter. Thin lipped smiles were the order of the day – which made it any day like any other day for our legal eagles.

Michel’s has always been the place where the boss shouts his staff lunch or dinner for a job well done, where those unlucky in love get the bad news, and those about to get licky (not a typo) meet up at the start of that night of nights before getting the good news.

Then there the other 70s tables near the window, where back packers sashaying up the street provide a diversion from the de riguer of business bulldust. Or then, there has always been the option at lunch of a table window on the other side behind the cashier’s desk for a more discreet daytime assignation or a bit of business hushhushery. A sideways glance lets you know who is heading in or out of the loo.

That is just a small cameo of what this pioneering restaurant is all about.

When Michel and Jenny Flores created Michels (moving across from Le Boulevard (sigh, it’s missed) in Flinders Street East, they knowingly and professionally created an entity that they made part of this community. When Michel himself eventually decided to take the foot off the pedal of this shiny Harley heaven of food and frivolity, he passed it on the existing chef-partners Jason Makara and Craig Smith. These boys well knew the legacy they were inheriting, and successfully set about maintaining it.

But human nature, like time, is what it is, and longevity alone creates its critics. People get picky when they seek change. Sometimes unreasonably so, but sometimes with a point.

Yes, very occasionally, some have, or claim to have had – this area is very subjective – a less than satisfactory experience. Hey, it’s a bloody restaurant, but the trick is always to right obvious wrongs and negotiate a diplomatic way to handle perceived problems – good luck with that when rampant egos, grog and bad manners are involved and unforeseen domestic disputes or thwarted intentions bubble up and require a diversionary outlet (‘Waiter, this lettuce leaf is fattening!!!). But Michel’s staff – at least in The ‘Pie’s experience as an observer, not the subject – have been able to handle these matters better than most.

Michel’s has always been as much about the people who go there, who feel comfortable and at home there, as it has been about the generally high standard the food and service. (As they said in the Cheers theme song, it’s nice to go to place where people know your name.)

But a successful 25th year is an achievement in this industry – nationally – and would clearly be the ideal moment for a makeover.

So Jason and Craig have decided that like all vibrant ladies of the street, Michel’s needs to head for the powder room for a freshen up to ensure the much-loved sparkle stays in the eye for a new generation of diners. And imbibers.

So next February there will be a whirlwind, four-day ‘freshen-up’ (don’t ask about dollars, The ‘Pie shudders). The bar will be revamped, aiming to cater for those who want a civilized apres work drink and maybe an early light meal if they so choose. The menu will become more ‘family friendly’, and the initial impression will be aimed at being (Jason’s words)  ‘less daunting’ to those who perceive Michel’s as a fine dining experience only. There will be some structural work done, and the handsome but, as said, austere surroundings will be livened up with splashes of colour on the walls and a more open dining area.

The menu will be revamped to meet modern tastes, there will be some price modification,  particularly on the special luncheon menu, and the whole exercise is aimed at making Michel’s, in that unfortunate modern term, ‘more accessible’. What that really means is that the boys want the tourists in shorts and casual shirts to not feel intimidated with the current ‘top end dining’ first impression of the place. All that without dropping – in fact possibly improving on – their already high standards.

So it is 25 years since Michel’s opened on Palmer Street, and the restaurant industry is a shape-shifting business.

Jason and Craig know they have some top notch competition out there, with the likes of award winning Matt Merron metres away at Jam Corner, the more prosaic but well received Rumps and Ribs over the street, and Touch of Salt and The Brewery a hop, skip and stumble across the Victoria Bridge in the CBD. Be interesting to see how they meet the challenge, sounds like they’re not resting on the laurels of being one of the much-loved foundation establishments of a once-nascent Palmer Street. Sure they have history on their side, but they know that ain’t enough.

As a long-time unabashed Michel’s fan, The ‘Pie is looking forward to it – and reckons they’ll nail it.


Now finally, a great little vid for anyone who loves flying in light aircraft, This mountainous approach and bush landing in America’s mid-west is a magic couple of minutes that make you believe in the fairytale that is flight. Enjoy.

Enough now it is away to Poseurs” Bar, perchance to bebubble a comely companion and speak of botox and baby formula, and perhaps later, the possibility of soaring to new heights. But as one demure lass recently observed, maybe not everyone can soar like an eagle, but at least wombats don’t get sucked into jet engines. Or into anything (sigh).

The Magpie's Nest is now more than five years old, and remains an independent alternative voice for Townsville. The weekly warble is a labour of love and takes a lot of time to put together. So if you like your weekly load of old cobblers, you can help keep it aloft with a donation, or even a regular voluntary subscription. Paypal is at the ready, it's as easy as ... well, easy as pie. Limited advertising space is also available.

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