Australia day means different things to different people. For many, it’s a nice family day out with face-painting and fireworks. For others, it’s just a welcome extra day off. But for the vast majority, it’s an excuse (as if they needed one) for beer, BBQs and the beach. I was keen to enjoy the festivities, but wanted to retain my sense of Englishness (not that people let me forget it with the cricket results the way they are at the moment). I was half-tempted to paint the George Cross on my face to counter all the Southern Crosses out there, but in the end just went for wearing my England shirt and quoting Little Britain as often as possible.
I spent the day at a colleague’s house with a couple of guys from work, eating, drinking and making merry, although it wasn’t without its own share of strangeness. At around lunchtime, an old woman, who I’ll call Dora, wandered into the front garden and asked us for help. I couldn’t get the exact story, (in fact, I’m fairly certain there isn’t an exact story), but the gist of it went something like “Hello, could you call the police? I’m being held hostage by people in my own apartment. They tell me I’m schizophrenic, but I’m very gentle. I’m not sure how I got here, I live a couple of suburbs away. I’m on some kind of medication, so I’m very passive, so don’t worry.”
She was clearly disturbed and I felt quite sorry for her, so we got her a chair and a glass of water, called the police and then spent the next 25 minutes trying to get her to stay put until they arrived. During this time, she’d stand up every couple of minutes and say she couldn’t see them yet and could we call them again, getting more and more excited as time went on.
Matters were complicated further when another passerby noticed my England shirt and started chatting to me about Rugby (the place, not the sport). I was up on a balcony, he was on the pavement and Aussies don’t really understand me at the best of times, so you could imagine how smoothly that conversation went. So I’m having a pretty weird, frequently repeated conversation about how this guy’s mother used to live in Rugby and did I know anyone there, at the same time as trying to keep this disturbed old lady calm, and all the while English wickets are falling like pins to the loud delight of my Aussie colleagues.
Then Dora asked the guy if he could call the police because she was being held hostage, at which point I had to rapidly explain that she wasn’t being held hostage by us and that the police were already on the way. Rapidly explaining anything in this country doesn’t seem to work for me, so I repeated that a couple of times, with an urgency that probably made me look like exactly the kind of person that would kidnap a little old woman. When he finally understood, he gave this nervous little laugh, told us good luck and left faster than William Webb-Ellis corrupted the game of football.
When the police did arrive and one of the officers took down the details in her notebook, we were able to see the other incidents she’d attended today – Assault, Assault, Domestic Violence, Assault. It seems that alcohol = violence is a sadly universal truth, no matter where you are in the world. They took Dora for a little walk, returning after some time carrying an extra bag of belongings. I’m not sure where they took her next, but I hope she’s doing ok.
With that excitement over, I was keen to return to the cricket, only to find that the intended Day-Night game had been emphatically resolved while the sun still shone. Instead, we broke out the Nintendo Wii and had 4 player tennis, followed by boxing. Wii is perhaps the first console where it’s more fun to watch the players than it is to watch the screen. If I hadn’t just gone to New Zealand, I’d be buying one next week.
The BBQ, by the way, was awesome, with a veritable mountain of meat, comprising chicken, sausages and of course, lamb. When it was all over, I had that Christmas afternoon feeling where your belt is suddenly two notches too tight and you have the overwhelming feeling to fall asleep on the couch. All that was missing was a Christmas film, or at the very least, Crocodile Dundee…