A murky tale of international intrigue surrounds the discovery of a Pic’s look-a-like in Australia
In the summer of 2011, visitors from Australia began telling of seeing our peanut butter for sale at markets in Melbourne. Initially I smiled and listened politely, but when they continued I decided to do a little investigation.
Pumping our informants – Nelson aficionados who had visited Melbourne – I discovered that the peanut butter in question was, according to it’s vendor “made in Australia under license to Pic’s, and that the vendor had been trained in the art of peanut roasting and squashing by one of our own representatives.”
This, as you might imagine, came as quite a surprise, as I hadn’t visited Melbourne for years, and there was no way we would allow our beloved customers to eat peanut butter that we were not eating ourselves.
We put the word out to friends and friends of friends who lived in Melbourne that we were keen on seeing a jar of this stuff. It took a while, but eventually we received a parcel containing this jar:
Darryl’s name rang a distant bell in my mental scrap heap. There was some connection with that dreadful Crundlestein, surely a penniless, imbecilic Croatian refugee could never have made it on to an aeroplane, let alone flown to Australia and passed himself off as a representative of a multinational peanut butter conglomerate like Pic’s?
We had held on to a mouldering carton of Invercargill Tribune clippings, tattered envelopes bearing Croatian stamps that Crundlestein had left behind after his sudden departure. In it was a yellow plastic Clearfile stuffed with letters of the kind written by misguided peanut butter eaters like Barbara from Bach on Breakwater and Marie Crundlestein who had offered him employment and places to stay while on the run.
Stuck to the back of an Australian brochure for milking machine consumables was an envelope bearing a sticker with the name Darryl Attrill on the back. It was addressed to A Crundle in in a strangely familiar hand. I unfolded the letter. It was signed “Sandy”.
Sandy and I had travelled to London, to Paris and to Kingaroy together. She had been sharing my bed and my credit card for nearly three years. I had taught her everything I knew about peanut butter making, but in the spring of 2010 she had packed her things and vanished.
I will not shock you, dear reader, with the wounding comments she made about myself, but it was headed “Dearest Ahmed”, and signed “Yours affectionately” by my beloved Sandy. My mouth went dry, head began pounding uncontrollably as I forced myself to digest its contents.
“I am enjoying a delicious bowl of chilled borsch in the shade of a magnificent wisteria in a little town called Maroona in the hinterlands of Victoria. The property is owned by Darryl Attrill, a kind and generous man who has been a dear friend for many years. I have taught Darryl the art of peanut butter making and bottling, and he has commissioned an exquisite little factory in a disused outhouse.”
The letter went on to offer Crundlestein employment at Darryl’s facility, and accommodation in “a warm, spacious, well maintained generator shed just an easy stroll from the factory.”
It talked about the opportunities he would have for “trapping small birds and hunting the wily native bear”.
The Invercargill Connection
The letter ended with instructions for Crundlestein to contact a Mr Norbert Schellich, the warehouse manager for an Invercargill based manufacturer of rubber components for the dairy industry and sanitary plumbing trades.
Schellich was responsible for dispatching a monthly container to Darryl’s uncle, who owns a substantial mail order farm supply business in Maroona. He was, it appeared, prepared to hide Crundlestein in a shipping container and smuggle him across to Australia.
Bruce Berriman, Rural Roundup reporter at the Invercargill Tribune, was hugely excited by my story, and agreed to meet me at Invercargill airport later that afternoon. He was a heavy man of around fifty, with loose skin and a small mouth with peculiarly moist lips. He wore a tiny diamond nose stud which glinted disturbingly
“I knew there was more to that business than milking machine cups and flexible sanitary joints” he declared welty.