So yesterday, 26th January was Australia Day, it is the day when all Australians turn to eachother and say, ‘Struth, mate, it’s been a while since we had a public holiday! Chrissie was ages ago. Let’s have another day off so we can set our livers’ recovery back another three weeks.’
Here are 10 things I have learnt in 2016 about Australia Day.
- The republicans will want to make it all about them. I have dual nationality, so do not really care if Australia decides to kick out the monarchy as I will still have personal access to Buckingham Palace on account of my British passport. For 364 other days of the year, Australia just behaves like many other countries, but come Australia Day, the republican movement will start waving petitions around to get a Queen Kicking Referendum organised, so Australia can finally rid itself of those pesky mother-country apron strings. They will fail.
- They will also want to change the flag so it does not have the Union Jack in it. Calls will be made for new suggestions. I happen to know a little bit about vexillography since I saw this great TED talk on the subject – which was also done as podcast by Roman Mars on 99 Percent Invisible. If nothing else, it taught me that my design suggestion of a meat pie and a sixpack being carried by a kangaroo who is bouncing over Uluru while singing Waltzing Matlida probably won’t cut it.
- There will be fireworks. Big firework displays over the river.
- At least one lobby group will call for the fireworks to be cancelled and for the funds to be directed somewhere worthy. These are people who are passionate and compassionate, but who clearly lack knowledge of event management and the logistics and timeframes associated with blowing up 10 tonnes of coloured gunpowder.
- The fireworks will be choreographed to music. Except they won’t. The music will play and the fireworks will go off, but there will be little or no discernable correlation between the two, and even if there were, no one will hear it because they will be too busy going, ‘Ooooh’ and, ‘Ahhhhh’ while looking at the skyline.
- The one place to avoid is the fireworks show over the river. It will be jam-packed with sunburnt revellers, who got there early to grab a good place so they could listen to their radios telling them how many hours it is until the biggest event of the year* and who have been drinking since breakfast. There will also be a lot of mosquitos and never enough loos. You will get there nice and early, wait all day and then watch fireworks for half an hour. It will take you four hours to get home and you will be hot, tired grumpy, busting for the loo and already wondering if you are going to get enough sleep so you can function at work tomorrow (see 7). *So far.
- Whoever moved the public holiday is an idiot. Australia Day has always been on the 26th January, but used to be celebrated as part of a long weekend, so it could be a proper three-day-last-hurrah-before-we-begin-the-long-trek-to-Easter kind of event. Now it happens any day of the week the 26th falls on. Granted, that means four times out of seven it still happens on a day that abutts the weekend, because if it falls on a weekend, you get the Monday off in lieu, but what of those other days? Tuesdays and Thursdays are a pain in the neck, because you either have to fully commit to the party and take a bridging day off to link it to the weekend, or spend the interim days drifting around filling in time and wishing you were at home planning what to take to the fireworks party. Wednesday is worst day of all, because it effectively creates a week with two Mondays. If I were Thursday, I would be pretty annoyed about this. Normally Thursday is a good day, it slides us happily into Friday, which is basically a weekend day by proxy, but if it falls after a Wednesday off, that is bad, and as the second Monday of the week, it becomes not bad, but twice as bad. Poor Thursday, what did it ever do to anyone?
- Australia in summer is basically one big fire hazard, so what better way to celebrate the national day than to encourage millions of people to set small fires in their backyards in order to cook raw meat? Yes, the BBQ really comes into its own on Australia Day. All you need is a man prepared to risk his home, his life and the ridicule that comes from wearing a humourous apron and FIRE. Neighbourhoods around Australia send up pillars of smoke, smelling of charred flesh in a ritual as old as time itself.
- Somewhere there will be someone in a newsroom directing the rookie to get out to there and find me some COLOUR. This does not refer to the thorny problem of Indigenous rights. No, this is all about that fact that for some reason, newly arrived residents who wish to become citizens, are encouraged by their local councils to do it on Australia Day. Inevitably some of them like to dress up in elaborate costumes to celebrate the fact that (a) they have managed to pass the citizenship test, which contains questions so obscure most Australians would need to study for it and (b) they too have now earned the right to contribute to the national fire hazard by having a barbie. Inevitably some new citizen will dress up in the Aussie flag, or wear a red white and blue wig, and you can bet your bottom dollar that when they do, the local press will be there to capture it.
- All of this does not matter if you are me, because your parents will try and swap the phone handsets they use from one room to another and in doing so will disconnect themselves from the internet and you will go over there and spend half an hour crawling under desks and tracing lines from routers to surge protectors and back out to something behind a filing cabinet and when you finally sort it and get home you will find your husband watching an international women’s cricket match, because this is Australia, and no matter what the day, there is ALWAYS sport on TV.