Obama delivers Gillard a handball in the Oval Office
A pair of sixty-oners they may be but two things Julia Gillard and US President, Barack Obama definitely do not share are: a love of Vegemite, and an understanding of Australian rules football.
Or perhaps that should be an understanding of Vegemite, and a love of Australian rules.
Either way, both came to the fore yesterday as one 49 year old ribbed the other for nearly busting a valuable Oval Office statue of an American icon and beloved saviour of the Union, Abraham Lincoln.
In a moment of shared irreverence hard to imagine with past combinations of leaders, Ms Gillard had backed up her gift to the President of a new Sherrin football, with instruction on the basics: kicking and hand-balling - and she’d done it in the stately Oval Office no less.
And while the Americans failed to grasp the nuances of the game, there was much appreciation for the effort.
``I’ve been trying to describe it to the President,’’ Ms Gillard told puzzled school students later at a Virginia High School as she and the President took questions.
``It can be a bit hard to understand.’‘
Clearly, it was not successful as the official White House record shows with the transcript recording the term, hand-bowling, instead of ``hand-balling
``She brought me an Australian football,’’ the bemused President told them, warming to the theme.
``She was kicking it in my office. (Laughter.) Almost broke a bust of Lincoln.
``That’s not true, guys, just making that up,’’ he added feigning fear of sparking a diplomatic incident.
But on Vegemite, the niceties disappeared entirely. Word has it that the one-time Indonesian resident, had once had an Australian girlfriend and she had tried to feed young ``Barry’’ as he was known then, the cultural cornerstone.
``It’s horrible,’’ he told the students after one had asked Ms Gillard what on earth it was.
``It’s actually a by-product of making beer, apparently,’’ she added in a futile attempt to defend national honour impugned.
``It’s a yeast paste. I’m making this sound really good, aren’t I? (Laughter.) It’s black, and it’s quite salty.
`` The beginner’s error with Vegemite is to put too much on a piece of bread or piece of toast. You don’t put it on like jam or anything like that. You’ve got to do it very lightly, spread it very thinly, and it’s good.’‘
But the Big O, like the students, was having none of it.
``So it’s like a quasi-vegetable-by-product paste—(laughter)—that you smear on your toast for breakfast. Sounds good, doesn’t it?’’
Er, ah, no, now that you put it that way, it sounds fairly appalling.
So, after the obligatory reference to all the cultural sterotypes (Crocodile Dundee was mentioned earlier in the day by a US military official at a speech at the Lincoln Memorial) the score-line is clear.
Sherrin 1. Vegemite nil. I guess that’s why they called it ``The Oval Office’‘.
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