Wednesday 16 July 2008

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Miserable Malone

© John Sawyer – July 2008

Fair dinkum! If there was a quid in it, Miserable Malone could make a fortune haunting houses. She is the saddest person I’ve ever met. She has a small gaunt face and a tiny pinched lipless mouth. Her big round milk bottle glasses magnify the sorrow in her already mournful eyes. All this misery is framed by a mass of reddish, mousy hair that’s recently been permed into a ball of tight curls that double the volume of her head. She’s not real short, but she is extremely and unhealthily skinny. When Miserable speaks, the words come out in a high pitched lifeless drone that doesn’t appear to involve any movement of the lips or tongue. She also has no chin.

Miserable’s hobbies are smoking and whinging so she’s not real popular with the staff and members of the various community houses and drop in centres around the housing estate. She generally lasts about 3-4 months anywhere before she has a falling out with the other participants and locks herself away in her flat. After 2 or 3 weeks of hurt contemplation, she emerges and delivers her misery to another community group, whining endlessly about all and sundry from her last target.

Miserable has at least one other quality, persistence. Senior Constable Kelly Saunders certainly underestimated this persistence and is extremely sorry she dealt with Miserable’s original complaint.

I’ll give you some background.

I was surprised to see Miserable at our demo. “Hello Monica. Thanks for coming along.” Miserable’s real name is Monica, Monica Malone.

Miserable kept her head down, lifted her doleful eyes and whined at me: “They told me I should come along. My flat’s bloody awful but I don’t want nobody selling it from under me.”

Wendy and I were holding a banner and Miserable stood next to me and grabbed an edge. The banner probably said something like “Save Public Housing” or “Defend Public Housing”. It was the Kennett years and Wendy was kept pretty busy painting our old bed sheets. “Save Richmond Secondary College”, “Defend Local Democracy”, “Defend Public Libraries”, “Stop City Link – NOW!” I was even getting reasonably good at the 10 second grab.

The Government had decided to sell off some of its public housing stock and today they had scheduled 5 houses for auction. The first one was right next to the high rise estate and 300 to 400 people had turned up with pots, pans, voices and other noise makers to protest. The street was blocked, the buyers couldn’t get near the auction and no one could hear the auctioneer anyway, so the auction was abandoned and we trouped 100 metres up the road to the next house.

There were only about 30 demonstrators when the second auction was due to start, but we were enough to cause the auctioneer to change the venue slightly: “Anyone interested in this house, please follow me inside.”

I said: “We’re certainly interested in this house. Let’s go in.” and I led the banner holders in a centipede-like line into the property. When we reached the backyard gate, the auctioneer saw his commission disappearing, saw red behind his eyes, rushed at me and tried to push me out the gate. My feet got caught in an old bicycle, I lost my balance and we fell like a set of dominos along the path with me landing like a sack of spuds on poor miserable Monica.

Someone mentioned assault and amidst more yelling we abandoned that auction and all adjourned for lunch. A local media savvy priest made sure the midday news on the ABC and 3AW carried the story that “City of Yarra Mayor in fist fight during Public Housing demonstration in Richmond…” The usual inaccuracies: I was no longer the mayor and I hadn’t thrown a punch. By the time of the afternoon auctions, the government had announced the sales were postponed and would proceed later by public tender. A minor but temporary victory in the fight for a reasonable amount of low-cost housing.

Miserable rang me a week or so later and whined down the line: “I want a bloody apology for what happened last Saturday. I’m all bruised. I was at St. V’s all Saturday afternoon and I’ve got really sore ribs. I’ve had a bloody headache ever since.” “I sorry Monica…”

“Nah, not from you, that stuck-up arsehole salesman from Kew.” “How do you know he’s from Kew, Monica?”

“There’s a picture of the turd in the local paper. Advertising. Back page. I rang him and left a message. The creep didn’t ring back so I’ve made a complaint for crime compensation with the cops. Can you go in and make a statement? Senior Constable Kelly Saunders…”

Senior Constable Kelly Saunders was a reasonably attractive woman-in-uniform with good teeth and bottle blonde hair pulled into a tight pony tail. She was also pretty hard and cynical. “Thanks for coming in Mr Sawyer.” “Yeah no worries.” I told my story and she typed it into her PC as a statement adjusting it slightly so that the process was more of a negotiation than a transcription. She even tried to get me to “say” that the bloke was only doing his job and that Miserable didn’t have a leg to stand on. She’d read my conservative business suit as an indication that I’d somehow want to give the bloke a break. I added a paragraph that I’d been assaulted after being invited to enter the property during a peaceful and lawful demonstration.

Kelly Saunders then went into a delaying obstruction mode and over the next 3 years she delayed proceedings by not attending court, losing my statement and even denying that I had given it to her. Miserable kept me up to date with frequent reports and whinges about “that lying blonde bitch”. Eventually Miserable found someone at the legal service who took a sustained interest and reassembled a new set of statements and presented them to the original Magistrate who was now at Frankston Court.

“The beak got real angry. He made a bloody order that the bitch copper had to attend the court with all her stuff or he’d throw the book at her. Even then she tried to lie but the beak knew and he gave me $600 compensation. I’ll share it with you if you like.” “No thanks Monica. That wouldn’t really be appropriate.”

I don’t know why the estate agent didn’t apologise, I don’t understand why Kelly Saunders was so obstructive, but I think she didn’t like Miserable standing up for herself. I don’t really understand why the magistrate kept the case going during his transfers between courts, but I’m glad that he did. I still don’t understand how Monica Malone persisted and was so excited with the piddling amount of compensation, but I’m not Monica Malone. Perhaps it was a fight to get justice for an injury she got because someone lost their cool and used violence. I’m sorry that Monica didn’t get her apology from the estate agent – she got it from the State instead.


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