At the end of January Jo and I spent a long weekend in Sydney. We have both been to Melbourne a couple of times – liking the place so much that over the years it has overshadowed our desire to go to Sydney – well, we were wrong. Now we can’t wait to go back to Sydney.
Our visit coincided with Australia Day. Just about every country has a National Day – some defining moment in their history – France’s Bastille Day, America’s Independence Day, Germany’s Unity Day.
On January 26th Australia celebrates the arrival of 1788’s ‘First Fleet’; the beginnings of European settlement. As a friend, I’m duty-bound to point out this day has never really been shared with Australia’s indigenous people, this needs working on lads. Significantly however, this year for the first time, the Aboriginal flag flew along-side the Australian flag they traditionally raise on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. That was worth seeing.
Waitangi Day is seen as our National Day, a chilled-out day for most – there’s always somebody though who believes we are not characterised by an extraordinarily unique culture – they remain sadly uninspired by our Maori heritage. We just shrug our shoulders, wondering just how homogeneous some folk can be, but still mindful that we live in a country tolerant of even the daftest opinion.
So while Aussies tip-toe toward debate, we argue the toss. But hey! we do just what they do on their National Day: Beach, BBQs and Bands. With two slight variations: Kiwis are great jokers, Aussies are bloody larrikins; we are patriotic, they are freakishly patriotic.
The Sydney music rag Drum Media (love it; tabloid on newsprint, smells of ink, 70 pgs, free) asked publicans a bunch of questions – with the introduction:
It would be downright unAustralian not to make the most of that one day a year we score a day off work to smash beer bongs, fire up the barbie… and just generally act like dickheads… discount variety shops have stocked their shelves with Aussie flag tattoos, green and gold zinc cream and fake boob aprons…
Two of a number of questions – with answers:
There’s nothing more Australian than?
Meat pies and thongs…; Calling your mate a c*** in an endearing manner; Walking barefoot to Centrelink with an Esky full of tinnies on a 40 degree day listening to triple j; Beers, blues and barefoot bowls, in the sun of course; The annual fight against fire, the smell of barbecues across our great nation, havaianas selling out across the land and lamb sales on the rise; A barbie, a case of beer and taking the piss out of ya mates.
Think of an alternative way to finish the chant Aussie, Aussie, Aussie:
Beach, Babes, Beer; Rock, Rock, Rock!; Beer, Beer, Beer!; Old mate, Cag wizard, Mazel tov!; That’s my Song!
Yeah, larrikins, the lot of ’em. Now, while they thrive on taking the mick out of each other, they were utterly charming to us; we had a ball.
We took a ferry to Manly beach, had breakfast on the footpath, walked a bit of Sydney Heads, got sunburnt, bought a case of Four Pines. In the evening we had Frankie’s Pizza and more beer, I bought a long sought after CD by the Twerps, a long over-due Go-betweens comp, got me a new favourite band in the Frowning Clouds, went home for a strong cuppa and watched the harbour set itself alight. Oh yeah, we behaved like real tourists too, I bought a hat made from kangaroo hide and Jo got some Ugg-boots. I didn’t have a crocodile burger.