It’s 35 degrees in the shade and here we are on the 11th hole, keeping cool in the relative shade of a small marquee. Every fifteen minutes or so the pros and the celebs pass through and pepper the small lake in front of us with golf balls before giving up and consuming more cheese and wine. It’s a bastard of a par three that requires a perfect drop onto the green. Even the pros are having trouble with it but then in this heat and after a couple of glasses of wine I’m not surprised. Everyone’s getting progressively sloshed, including the three of us: Marco, Chris the winery employee and yours truly whose collective job it is to keep the players lightly plastered and clogged up with gooey dairy products.
I feel a little like the tailor from that children’s story; I’ve far surpassed my personal best for number of flies swatted in one day. Out here in semi-rural Victoria that’s not hard as they gather in truly biblical proportions and can make life hell on a hot day. Marco’s back is a black mass of writhing insects and I imagine mine is the same. It’s all we can do to keep them away from the cheese. Lucky for us no one seems to like the goat – which is excellent by the way, a lovely little creamy number from Tasmania – so we wash that down with a nice Semillon blanc.
Wines in Australia are chosen largely according to their grape variety rather than their regional provenance. People in Europe will say “I’ll have the Bordeaux please.” and here it’s “I’ll have the Cab Sav mate.”
“Is not bad as it goes.” Says Marco in his thick South American accent after sampling a Tempranillo.
“What’s the wine like in Venezuela?”
“Is poor. We drink Rum and beer. Much better.”
“Good Rum? The prestige stuff?”
“Yes, but not even back home is cheap to get a hold of. You need to know people to get really good one. You know…in Venezuela…you need cash to do anything.” He rubs his finger and thumb together.
“Isn’t it like that anywhere? I mean look at this place, not just anyone can walk in.”
“Nah but Venezuela is a have, have not country. Opportunities are big for small amount of people.”
“Will you be going back or are you here for good?”
“I would like to stay. I like this country. Not a problem for while I do studies but longer I need work visa.”
“Is this paying for your studies then?”
“Yes but not enough. I work some nights too.”
He leans in closer.
“Topless waitering for ladies parties.”
To quell my disbelief, he stands, unbuttons his shirt and pulls it off – flies go everywhere – to reveal a seriously sculpted torso. He flexes a bicep he’s obviously very proud of.
“Not everyone has one of these.” He says with a latino grin.
Chris is uncorking a new bottle and looks worried that he might be called on as a comparison.
“Seventy dollars an hour.” Says Marco puffing out his chest and rippling his six pack.
“Wow…that’s good money. What do you have to do for it though?”
“Serve drinks. Wear little bow tie. Talk the ladies. Sometimes dance with them if they ask it.”
He adopts a Mr Universe pose then helps himself to a drink. I’d love the next group of pro celebs to turn up right about now.
“Sometimes the ladies, they, you know, they go a little crazy with the drink and the salsa music and they ask me to do things…you know.”
“And do you?”
“No no…is just dancing really.”
I sense there is more to Marco’s story, but his torso is as much as he’s willing to reveal today, in a refreshments tent, on the 11th hole of a golf course.
The sun’s started to dip and the flies go into crazy mode as the changing light brings kangaroos down out of the surrounding bushland. They lie full length on the greens and look like they’re waiting for pre-dinner drinks service. The last of the stragglers add a couple more balls to the lake as we bundle the remaining food and drink onto a golf buggy and race the flies back to the clubhouse. The flies win as always.