THIS contribution to these august columns is written in such a way as to protect the integrity of those not named herein, those who may or may not read it and those who, if in dire straits on the Overland Track, may need it if they run out of soft dry grass.

I refer to an article that took up some 90% of page 3 of The Mercury of 15 March, 2006. The article included two photographs one of which was of a gentleman in dark clothes, including a leather (or plastic) jacket, white hat and dark glasses who is standing outside what looks like a twee little hall in a twee little suburb of Hobart. The gentleman has his hands spread out in front and pushed forward, seemingly pleading for help by way of money or directions to the nearest public toilet. He looks a reasonable sort of a bloke and had I been there I reckon I would have found a dollar or so to help him out if money was what he was after. Nothing wrong with that, you know. We all have our setbacks in life.

The other photograph is of a lady and a gentleman standing in front of a twee little cottage with a dormer window and what appears to be a profusion of delightful flowers and shrubs in front of the house. The lady is wearing a jacket over a T-shirt and a seemingly simple, unadorned necklace. She is squinting into the sun, perhaps discomforted by the close proximity of the gentleman next to her who is dressed in a casual shirt with spectacles hanging over his chest. The gentleman looks very serious, perhaps due to a corporate collapse or the fact that his hair has receded faster than he would have wished. In the latter event I know how he feels.

It would appear from the accompanying text that the citizens represented in the above-mentioned two photographs are concerned at certain events relating to a recent contretemps concerning coffee roasting in an inner city suburb of Hobart where public disputation is a not normally a frequent occurrence but that may be changing, rapidly.

Polite and sympathetic

It is proper that — as a citizen of the state of Tasmania, amiable coffee drinker and self-proclaimed decent citizen — I declare that I know two of the aforesaid. The first I have only met on the telephone when I called him some sixteen years ago to inform him that, on the previous evening, I had dined at the restaurant he then operated in the inner northern suburbs of Hobart and returned home with a shocking dose of the “squitters” with barely sufficient time to get to the old two-seater, just past the Kentish cherry tree at the bottom of the garden. (“Squitters” is a technical term for a sudden and explosive bowel disorder.) Said restaurant owner and operator , while not elated to receive my call, was polite and sympathetic. I was mollified by his assurance that he would follow the matter up and set things right in the kitchen of his restaurant. I never returned to see if he honoured this assurance but I’m sure he did. He looks a reasonable type to me.

The other gentleman, photographed with the lady, is well known to me because we once worked together — well, actually not together and some may regard the word “work” as something of a misnomer — when I was seeking to advance the cause of good governance during one of my many employment follies. I believe that during that time I may have described him as a “bloody dill” and I seem to recall that he called me a big … (word rhyming with ”third”.) That, however, was the argot of that particular establishment at that time and I am sure that were we to meet again we would eschew bad language of any kind. Indeed, he is a very gentle and charming person and I would not question his integrity nor that of the lady with whom he is photographed. I would even be happy to be photographed with them, separately or jointly.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to tell you that said duo in the photograph on page 3 of The Mercury are taking anti-discrimination action against said gentleman on the left with the dark shirt and white hat.

So that I may be seen to be entirely clean, I also declare that I have never been guilty of the following in relation to all or any of the three above-mentioned persons or any of their associates — discrimination on race, gender-sex and political activity; humiliation due to constant teasing; calling anyone a mafia don; come at anyone from behind a curtain; treating someone as an inferior person; discriminating against or harassing others; promoting fantasies; and all the other misdemeanours mentioned on page 3 of The Mercury of above-said date.

All this preamble is necessary to give context to the following questions and observations.

First, why do the protagonists in such matters find it necessary to conduct their petty feuds in public? This seems to be a particular tendency of those who were disenchanted when the city fathers(and mothers) chose to endorse the application for coffee roasting in Battery Point.

Flogging the media

Secondly, why does The Mercury favour the disputants with such substantial coverage? That respected journal has not been equally avid in bringing us the minutiae of brawling in other towns and suburbs of Southern Tasmania. (Yes, fair enough, I guess it is news — of a kind.)

Thirdly, has it not occurred to the disputants that many observers of this petty sparring would prefer that they go away together and seek common ground or, at least some better understanding of what the respective parties are on about?

Finally, if the complainants are really so distressed about the situation why don’t they seek to control the Battery Point progress group, or whatever it is called, and do the same with the Hobart City Council? If they are sufficiently determined and professional about it — by getting in there and working the numbers and cracking a few kneecaps — who knows, they may even achieve their objectives. What is certain, however, is that they are unlikely to get far if they confine their representations to flogging the media and looking mournful in photographs.

What is even more certain is that, if they continue as they are, they will win Olympic and Commonwealth gold medals for preciousness.

In short, I trust that it is not in vain that I hope that the noisy ones depicted on page 3 of The Mercury of 15 March, 2006 will bugger off and let everyone else get on with their lives. That is, if they refuse to take up any of the other options canvassed above. Please note, too, that I am not levying any charge for the advice provided above.