‘Straya Day

Australia Day. It creeps up. Just back at work, just over the New Years’ Eve fireworks and bam, 26 January, public holiday. 
My massage therapist asked me what I was doing for Australia Day. I asked him, “What do people DO for Australia Day?” “BBQs and the Triple J Top 100”. And then I managed to get myself invited to an Australia Day bbq where they played the Triple J 100, had a BBQ AND had the Australian Open tennis on mute on the telly. Living the dream. Yip. Golden country.

To be honest, at this particular ‘Straya Day event, there were quite a few New Zealanders and once we had got the discussions about ANZAC biscuits, chocolate weetbix slice and whether or not Pavlova was ours, we discussed the controversial nature of our own New Zealand Day, Waitangi Day, and there was some talk about the fact that Australia Day is not nearly as confrontational and controversial as our own 6 February. And yet, this year saw a marked change. News footage showed a scared looking Julia Gillard being bundled into her car by her bodyguard amidst fairly confrontational protesters. Names such as Invasion Day and Survival Day underline the disgruntled feeling that for some Australians, particularly indigenous Australians, Australia Day has become symbolic of the adverse effects of British settlement on Australia’s Indigenous people.

For my part, I agree that this is a serious issue and one that needs to be addressed. I am grateful to the Australians who welcomed me to their bbq, didn’t mock my accent, but instead showed me a harmonious coming together of antipodean unity. Kia ora bros.

 
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Love 40

The Australian Open. How could I be in Melbourne and not go? I went today. 34 degrees. I think the Australia Open has to be experienced in 34 degrees to get the full experience. When I say full experience, as full an experience as you can get on an el cheapo  ground pass.  The ground pass is pretty good. You can wander around the outdoor courts at your leisure. You just can’t go in to the big and fancy-pants Rod Laver or Hisense.
The Australian Open is one of the four  Grand Slam tennis tournaments held around the world every year. There are also the French Open, the US Open and Wimbledon. SInce 1972, the Australian OPen has been held in Melbourne, but before then it was played in five Australian and two New Zealand cities (yes, lyttel town….Christchurch had it in 1906). Originally, very fe foreigners made the journey to the far-flung Antipodes for this tournament. In the aforementioned 1906 tournament in Christchurch, there were only 10 players, two of whom were Australian, the rest were New Zealanders and it was won by a New Zealander. Now it is huge. This year, there are over 300 players from many different countries.

 Margaret Court Arena

 Women’s Doubles: Begu and Niculescu against Kuznetsova and Zvonareva.

 The umpire of the women’s doubles sounded like God and looked like Lenny Krawitz.

 Men’s Doubles: Lipsky and Ram against Lindstedt and Tecau. Amazing tennis. Fast. Powerful.

Call me loyal

Loyalty cards. I’ve never had so many. Are Australian consumers more loyal? Are Australian companies, brands, services more loyal? Do I belong to the community more by expressing my loyalty through plastic cards? Words such as family, VIP,  secret…surely I am in just by owning cards that bear such weighty promises…

Golden

…living life like it’s golden
French restaurant for dinner before David Sedaris next door at the Athenaeum Theatre.

 Goats Cheese Souffle

 Hanger steak

David Sedaris is a clever man. Writer, humourist, commentator, radio personality. He travels the world on ‘lecture tours’, which, as he says himself, is really just him reading aloud. He reads his own work aloud. His thoughts, his articles, his diary entries. He is an astute observer of people, culture, language. I would like to be as clever and as articulate as David Sedaris.

“When asked “What do we need to learn this for?” any high-school teacher can confidently answer that, regardless of the subject, the knowledge will come in handy once the student hits middle age and starts working crossword puzzles in order to stave off the terrible loneliness.”
David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day
On French:  

“What’s the trick to remembering that a sandwich is masculine? What qualities does it share with anyone in possession of a penis? I’ll tell myself that a sandwich is masculine because if left alone for a week or two, it will eventually grow a beard.”
David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day
 
 
 
 
 
 
   And walking back to the car across the bridge, I was small amidst the bigness of the city and the sky was doing its thing and the lights reflected in the river and I felt happy to be part of this and to have seen this moment of beauty.

Leather on willow

The MCG, or ‘the G’. Melbourne Cricket Ground. Largest stadium in Australia. Tenth largest in the world. The MCG is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. On 30 January 2009, the MCG was named as one of the seven wonders of the sporting world. It is referred to within Victoria as the “Spiritual Home of Australian Sport”.

 My first outing to a cricket match. The KFC T20 Big Bash League. Melbourne Stars vs. Perth Scorchers.

 Nothing like test cricket. T20 Big Bash League features eight privately-owned, city-based franchises. A lot of high-profile players come out of retirement to play in the Big Bash League and it gives rookie players the chance to play alongside the greats, such as Shane Warne. I saw him. I didn’t see Liz, but apparently she was there.

Now, I don’t know much about cricket. I thought it was about 22 guys dressed in white, standing around for six hours a day chasing a red ball. Or rubbing it on their white-clad crotch and leaving a dirty mark. But the game I saw was more about smashing and crashing as many runs as you can, as fast as you can. T20 matches take just over three hours from start to finish and deciding the winner is simple. The team with the most runs wins.
And it is all about crowd entertainment. There are clearly those who go all the time and understand that the action, if not the rules, in the stands is as important as the action and the rules on the field. There are Mexican waves that go around the stadium and everyone knows that the members stand won’t take part, the rest of the crowd will boo but the wave will continue regardless. But if you are caught starting a Mexican wave, you will be escorted from the stadium. And everyone knows that there will be beach balls being whacked around between spectators around the stands. Again, if a ball is caught by security, it will be deflated. And everyone knows that Bay 13 – directly opposite the members’ stand – will be the most poorly behaved section of the grounds, with drunk and disorderly antics which inevitably lead to a string of offenders being escorted by police from the grounds. All to cheering from the rest of the spectators. All of these MCG Big Bash usuals totally lived up to their reputation. Fantastic!

Brighton Beach And Arctic Monkeys

 Brighton Beach, clean, fresh water, golden sand and the Brighton Bathing Boxes. There are 82 brightly coloured, yet uniform bathing boxes. They are Victorian in their architecture and their enduring sentiment of being a place to get discreetly changed in. Nowadays you can pay the equivalent of a small apartment to buy one of these and they tend to get handed down through generations of beach-goers. 40 degree day. On the beach by 9am. Good.

 The Arctic Monkeys played in Melbourne on the 2nd of January at the Palace on Bourke Street. I was there. The Palace is a big old-school venue with a big lower floor area and then layers of stalls up to the back. The Arctic Monkeys are from England and this year marks 10 years of making music together. They were one of the first bands to come into public favour via the internet. Lots of energy. Good amount of English accent coming through the lyrics. A couple of flying drumsticks. And one pair of way too tight white jeans. Very rock star.

NYE Torquay and Bell’s Beach

If the start of 2012 is anything to go by, this is going to be a great year. Good people, relaxed times, sun, beauty, laughter. Nice.

The Great Ocean Road begins at Torquay and travels 243 kilometres along the coastline. The beaches along the coast are some of the greatest surf beaches in the world. Particularly Bell’s Beach.

A walk along the coastal path from Torquay to Bell’s Beach, blue skies, indigenous plants, cliffs and crashing waves.

Although many believe that the final scene of Point Break is set at Bell’s Beach, it is actually set on a beach called Indian Beach in Oregon, USA. But it does feature in the 1966 documentary, Endless Summer.

They have strange signs in Australia…