The laid-back charm of William McInnes
“Hello old chum, how are you?” And just like that, you are chatting with author and actor William McInnes as if you were old mates who’d run into each other on a day where neither of you had much on.
A fixture of Australian television since 1991 – think Blue Heelers, The Slap, Kath & Kim and Deep Water to mention a few – and the author of eight books, his voice (in both the literal and figurative sense) is engrained in the Australian psyche for anyone over 30.
Look up “laconic” in the Macquarie and there could just be a picture of Daryl William Mathew Gabriel McInnes, born September 10, 1963 in Redcliffe Queensland.
He’s the kind of bloke you strike up a conversation with in a country pub during the lunch break in the cricket and find that you’re still talking at tea.
Because this man is a crafter of yarns, a conjurer of narratives. His latest book – Full Bore – examines the often-fascinating stories behind the objects treasured by individuals, items many others would dismiss but are in fact as grand, moving and idiosyncratic as any summit scaled, goal achieved or exploding epiphany.
Coffee is just one example. “I grew up with tins of Pablo, which featured a man in a sombrero on them. They looked like floor sweepings and my dad used to say the granules tasted like they came from a cane-cutter’s armpits,” he says.
“Go anywhere in Australia and coffee is now a cross between an art, a cult and a food group. The things people tell their baristas is extraordinary. If a priest could set up an espresso machine in a confessional, they’d do a roaring trade.”
Another gem lies in the back of a Rice Bubbles packet McInnes saw framed at a dinner party. “We concluded it was the pack that included the toy which completed the owner’s full set,” he says.
“Which got me thinking about how much we prized these toys. Which in turn got me think about my mate Neville who got sick of being diddled out his cereal toys by his older siblings, so he would actually add separate stuff to the cereal boxes and ended up with a prized collection nobody else had. He threw in a XXXX bottle top and told his mum it was from ‘The World Of Beer Bottle Tops’ collection. I don’t know whatever became of Neville.”
William McInnes is one of Australia's funniest authors
Although he is clearly adept at focussing on minutiae, McInnes is also a wry observer of the broader national picture. “When I was growing up, Australia defined itself on an international stage through sport – we had these incredible tennis stars, cricket teams, golfers, Olympians. The more that sport has become a business, the more Australians are now lauding our artists, actors and writers instead. It’s a different playground we find ourselves in.”
Aside from writing Full Bore, 2016 has seen him “supporting a daughter through Year 12”. He says, “The key is knowing when to gee them along and when to shut up. There’s so much more stress and pressure put on kids now. When I was her age, I messed about, went to uni, carried on like a bit of an arse and ended up where I wanted to be. I’m trying to get the point across [to her] that although you need to have a crack, it’s also not the last chance saloon.”
Not that it’s a bar McInnes will be bellying up to anytime soon. He is, at 53, a contented man. At least by his own definition of contentment: “Not having to worry about paying bills, having a car that starts on a cold Melbourne morning, being able to find a drink of something whenever I want it and being able to go to a restaurant knowing I can order whatever appeals to me on the menu. And that’s really it for me. Because at the end of the day I’m just a bit of a poncey boofhead who got lucky. Or so I’ve been told.”
Full Bore by William McInnes, $32.99 (Hachette) is available now.
(Feature image: Facebook / Better Reading Au)
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