Australia’s Not Perfect

Some of my regular readers and friends (and not just the non-Australian ones) have tentatively suggested that I might want, perhaps, to refrain from writing yet another one of my yay-I’m-back-home-in-Australia musings. They’re tired of my overly rose-coloured view of my home country and wish for me to start dishing the dirt. As one of them put it: "Australia’s not perfect, you know. Nowhere is. Not even your precious Sydney. Write something critical for a change. I’m bored."

Their wish is my command. Here are my trivial (not in the mood for being serious) objections to my homeland:

I was back home for less than two days before I heard an ABBA song. Did you know, my dear fellow Australians, that there are parts of the world where you can go months—months I tell you—without hearing ABBA once? Shocking, but true. Why, we were in Mexico for three months earlier this year and I never heard an ABBA song. Not one. (Okay, except for that time I got a wee bit tipsy, climbed on the roof and sang "Mamma Mia".)

Sydney is now infested with Starbucks and Krispy Kremes. They are a blight on the landscape. They are wrong, evil and produce horrible smells. (Can someone explain the Krispy Kreme thing to me? I mean, they’re doughnuts. Overly sweet batter fried in oil. I have eaten them in North Carolina—apparently the home of Krispy Kreme, where they are at their very best—I have feigned delight in doing so to appease my obsessive Krispy-Kreme-loving friends. But they were just doughnuts. Oily, sickly sweet, horrible doughnuts. I don’t get it.)

Many Australians are just the tiniest bit parochial about Aussie food. There is, in fact, I’m not making this up, people, good food available elsewhere on this fine planet of ours. Lots of it. All over the place. I can’t think of a country I’ve been to—even England—where I haven’t had some good tucker. Sydney and Melbourne are not the only sources of fine nosh. Truly.

And on that subject—and this one will come as even more of an assault to your delicate Australian sensibilities—but here goes: there’s even good wine to be had elsewhere. I swear on my grandmother’s grave. I’ve had spectacular wines from Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, even—and this one will shock you—the US of A.

It will never cease to make me sad that no-one in Australia ever says, "Don’t come the raw prawn with me", much less "stone the crows". Actually I say "stone the crows", but even I am aware that it’s a sad, pathetic attempt to keep the phrase alive. Someone else please, please join me. Do you people really want our language to die?

Everyone’s obsessed with real estate. At least here in Sydney they are. I do hope it’s just a Sydney thing. We’ll be in Melbourne and then Brisbane over the next few months, and I swear I’ll tear off my own ears and eat them if I have to listen to more natterings about whether it’s a buyer’s or a seller’s market, how much rents are, how much that cute little terrace in Redfern went for, or how much interest rates are going to shift. Aaargggh! Talk about something else, people! Some of us have never, and most likely, will never own property and we just don’t care!

When I’m home in this fine sunburned country it is impossible to forget that the British royal family exists. In the past year I’ve been to Mexico, Argentina and the USA. My friends in those countries—lucky buggers—have no idea what the names of Diana’s little boys, the British royal princes are. Well, I know. I don’t want to know, but I do. Here you can’t open a magazine, turn on the tellie, or listen to the radio without hearing about them. Who cares? I mean, honestly, does anyone truly care? And why? These are people whose only achievement is to be born. Well, I managed that. Come to think of it every single person on the planet pulled that spectacularly untricky accomplishment off. At least movie stars and pop singers and all the rest actually did something to get famous. Even marrying someone is a bigger achievement than just popping out of someone’s womb.

And, hey, people here vandalise sacred Dickens’ sites, (though they also fix them afterwards).

There you have it: my country not perfect. Happy now?

Sydney, 26 November 2004