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August 5, 2007 THE SUN-HERALD

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EXTRA>COVER STORY

Fish and chips off the old block
AS best he could recall, it was back in 2010 he first heard the whisper. Somewhere out there was the last fish and chip shop in Australia. Most people scoffed at the tale. They said the last fish and chip shop was just a legend, a mythical place like Neverland, Xanadu, King Solomon’s mines or Mosman. But something in his water told him the tales were true. This was his quest, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, and it took him down countless highways and byways in cities and towns across the continent. Mostly, his inquiries were met with blank stares, sometimes with derisive laughter and on a couple of occasions with threats of violence. Yet there were enough clues to keep him from losing heart – a rumour here, a vague recollection there – and as he went on his journey he often harked back to where it all began. It began with chicken salt. Etched in his memory was the day when, at his local, latelamented fish and chip shop he was asked: ‘‘Do you want plain or chicken salt with that?’’ He was aghast. Suddenly, flying in the face of tradition, there was choice and the way it always goes with choice is that as soon as you give people one they expect more. And more. Next thing he knew, he was asked what kind of fish he wanted. What kind? He’d never been asked that before. ‘‘Does it matter?’’ he asked. ‘‘I mean, take a selection of the world’s rarest and exotic fish, fillet them, batter them and bung them in a deep fryer and they’ll all taste exactly the same.’’ And that was the attraction. Consistency. You ordered fish, chips, scallops, battered savs and didn’t have to think about it. Consistency made ordering almost instinctive, but now someone or something was sucking all the consistency out of life and oh how he wanted it back. Before long, choices included tartare sauce or lemon wedges, breadcrumbs or batter, then a choice of batters. Did you want your breadcrumbs white, wholemeal or rye and do you prefer straight-cut chips, crinkle-cut or wedges? Rock salt or sea salt? Black or green pepper? Balsamic, white- or red-wine vinegar? But it was a losing battle. In the age of food snobbery, the traditional fish and chip shop was unable or unwilling to compete, doomed to be replaced by restaurants, cafes, delis, bistros and bars offering anything you fancied. Anything, that is, except fish, chips, scallops and battered savs wrapped in paper. One by one, the chippies closed and became a dim memory. Our hero was musing upon this maudlin thought when, on a nondescript street in a nondescript town, he turned a corner to see before him the warm, welcoming glow of a shop window. And across the window, in faded letters was: ‘‘The Last Fish and Chip Shop in Australia’’. So the legend was true! Hardly daring to breathe, he stepped through the beaded curtain and joined the waiting customers. On the lino floor and at laminex tables, some were reading the paper, some watching the telly on the wall, some just standing there enjoying a good oldfashioned think. Behind the counter, a man with arms like hams was working magic with a deep fryer, and the air was thick with grease and familiarity. ‘‘What’ll it be, matey?’’ asked the man behind the counter, and somehow our hero knew exactly what to say. ‘‘The usual thanks Spiro,’’ he said. And suddenly the world was young again.

Let’s talk about sex
From page 51 announced it would begin building a $US26million ($30.3million) complex that would include a dedicated wing for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people. The project is believed to be the first of its kind. University of Newcastle Honorary Professor Rachel Heath says wealthy gay couples are moving to set up private facilities in US states such as Florida and predicts that there could be similar moves here. ‘‘It’s starting to become quite an issue for the lesbian, gay and bisexual community,’’ Heath says. ‘‘How they will fare as same-sex couples in traditional aged care facilities?’’ Heath, author of the Praeger Handbook Of Transsexuality, says ageing well is emerging as an important issue for transgender people. There has been no research on the longterm use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) among transsexual women, and there are concerns that several decades on the drugs could start to take a toll on their hearts. Anecdotal evidence shows many transsexual people do not like to reveal their past – even to their partners – and could suffer major health problems if they are admitted to a nursing home and their HRT drugs are discontinued. ‘‘In a place like Sydney there is every chance that you’ve walked past two transsexual people in the past week and not even known,’’ Heath says. ‘‘They wouldn’t even have told their husbands yet. These people just disappear into society so it is really hard to tally the numbers.’’ why it doesn’t happen so often,’’ he says. ‘‘She is so into her profession and extremely dedicated, and that means she works long hours and gets tired.’’ The myth that good sex is only for the young is a ‘‘generational thing’’, Joe says. He admits he did not want to know what his parents did in the bedroom and says his children would also shudder at the thought. He says their children ‘‘didn’t want to know about our sexuality’’. ‘‘I reckon the same thing happened with me. My folks never discussed it and it occurred to me only after I left home that I’m sure they had a healthy sexual life. ‘‘It’s still fantastic for us. I’m aware that perhaps my performance is not as good as it has been but I know I was a better lover when I was 50 than when I was 25.’’ Dr Elizabeth Farrell, from the Jean Hailes Foundation For Women’s Health, takes a different view. She believes baby boomers will help break down the taboos surrounding sex and ageing, like every other social norm they have toppled. ‘‘In the past, people accepted that sexual function reduces with age, and there are some cultures where you get to the menopause and it’s something that you don’t do any more,’’ she says. ‘‘But because we baby boomers still think we’re young, there is the idea that we really want to maintain all of our bodily functions for as long as we can.’’ Certainly, Farrell says, sexual dysfunction in older years is problematic, but that does not mean men or women lose interest in sex. ‘‘Over the transitional stage from perimenopause to post-menopause we see a doubling of sexual dysfunction in women,’’ she says. ‘‘Every week I would see women coming in complaining that they have a reduction in their sexual desire. Many of them feel cheated, particularly if their husbands or partners are still feeling very active sexually. Occasionally, it’s the other way around.’’

TERRY SMYTH

‘They forget they have to have safe sex. I say: ‘‘Do you use a condom?’’ – they look at me as though I was twitty’

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OR FORMER marathon runner Joe*, sex remains an important part of his married life. He says he ‘‘absolutely’’ hopes it will continue into his 70s and 80s. ‘‘But when I say that, I understand that it will not be at the same level, that it will become less important,’’ the 66-year-old says. ‘‘At the moment, it’s quite important and I don’t see my wife as being a non-sexual partner.’’ A semi-retiree, Joe and his 53-year-old wife, Marlene, have sex twice a month. They have been married for 22 years, and although he would like sex once a week, she is at the peak of her professional career. ‘‘There is 13 years difference between myself and my wife, and I think that’s part of

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HE INCREASE in divorce has spawned new intimacies. As men and woman seek new partnerships after death or the end of a marriage – often on online dating sites such as RSVP which boast more than 115,000 over 50s , – they inevitably plunge back into the cycle of dating and sex. Sadly for many older women

this means learning about safe sex the hard way. ‘‘Very occasionally, we see women presenting with STIs – genital warts, herpes, chlamydia,’’ Farrell says. ‘‘They are totally devastated because it’s not something that they would expect at that age. ‘‘The baby boomers didn’t use condoms, we went on the pill, so if women are going into a new relationship and contraception isn’t an issue they forget that they have to have safe sex.

Father plans Hicks’s re-entry
Five years older and a lot wiser, but this prisoner will find freedom particularly hard, Bernie Fraser writes.

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ERRY Hicks, father of convicted terrorism supporter David, knows well the toll that years of incarceration have taken on his son. ‘‘He is institutionalised from the Guantanamo experience,’’ Terry Hicks says. ‘‘For five and a half years he was told when to sit and when to stand. ‘‘There was always someone chaining him up, or escorting him with armed guards. Now that’s not happening . . . Guantanamo to the [Adelaide’s maximum security] Yatala prison system is like chalk and cheese. ‘‘He wasn’t really coping when he first arrived at Yatala. They’d unlock his cell for exercise periods but he didn’t know what to do. There were no armed escorts. He’d stay in his cell because nobody came to get him. ‘‘Simple things like turning lights on and off. He never had power over that. Now he does.’’

David Hicks has been placed in G Division, which houses 24 high-risk prisoners, under constant surveillance with 23-hour lockdowns and a daily one-hour exercise period. Some are in protective custody. They include Bevan Spencer von Einem, the suspected serial killer serving 36 years for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old schoolboy; Snowtown ‘‘bodiesin-the-barrel’’ killers John Bunting and Robert Wagner; and serial pedophile rapist and former magistrate Peter Liddy. Hicks’s arrival upset the status quo of the sex offenders and child killers, who feed off their own notoriety inside prison. ‘‘I have a feeling that they think David is a little bit more high profile than they are, somebody who has stolen their notoriety,’’ Terry Hicks explains. ‘‘They have got nothing to worry about, though. David is virtually there for five minutes and they’re there for a long time. They can still sit on top of the heap when he’s gone.’’ Hicks is isolated from the other prisoners, but his father says he has a good rapport with the guards. ‘‘When David first rocked up, they weren’t really sure of what was going to happen but they found him to be a polite young fellow who just wants to get in and out.’’
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