Bulldog & Roo

by Ant Stone on August 20, 2008

in Australia

Ever get the impression that you’re standing still, while the world rolls past like the fantastic backdrops of a euphoric pantomime? Try it. Stand still – or just sit, as you like. Now close your eyes, and imagine multi-storey backdrops of neatly trimmed parks; wide tram-lined streets with mismatched facades; market stalls and quirky pedlars fizzing with punters; a floodlit stadium fused with dashes of red, white and blue; a cosy lit bar with top hats and guitars; a room cornered by a bed and a bookcase; or a crowd of jubilant tourists applauding a swanky unicyclist. The vibrancy of life, being whisked passed you faster, brighter and more fluently than you ever imagined life could be. Day after day a new backdrop is sketched, and then daubed with pizazz before the frame is hoisted upright and marched passed your overawed body. “Today I saw some pretty hats, tomorrow, I’ll come and buy one – from stall C36”. Who said that! You? It was the quirky girl at the market stall. It’s. It’s all. It’s all, you’re real?

Melbourne’s stage undulates like the sound waves of your favourite song. It’s a stage where dancers are dressed in pinstriped suits, arching backwards from the hook of their pocketed hands; the trendy stride by in skinny jeans and layers of seasonal shades; the less-desirables saddle white nylon hipsters, saggy black puffer jackets and cheap gold jewellery and they flirt side by side with the haunted, the sweet, the mumbling and marvellous. It’s winter here, in case I haven’t mentioned it before. Australia does have one after all. The blue skies have recently begun to swell grey with afternoon rain and everywhere people mutter “one more month, just one more month”. We spent a week searching for a place to drop our backpacks and rattle our own cutlery draw, first we scoured the websites and then we scoured the streets. Too cold. Too many girls. Too many guys. Too posh. Too far from town. The first one we were offered, we had to politely turn down. The girl had boastfully admitted she played keyboard to a high standard, ‘but don’t worry, I wear headphones’. Can you imagine a more torturous sound, than a silent keyboard’s sticky keys tacking to a silent chorus? We eventually found somewhere, a homely bungalow in the Jewish district of Caulfield North. It was already home to a twenty five year old girl (an aspiring writer to keep me on my toes), and a heart-broken gypsy musician. That’s to say, a gypsy music musician. Not a gypsy who is a musician, or a musician who is a gypsy.

I’ve tried to avoid the trance inducing television, but I’ve found my macho-side reminding me that at nine-thirty on Thursdays I have to turn on Channel 9 and watch grumpy middle-aged men argue about the AFL. The AFL? Oh my god. What planet are you on? The Australian Football League, Aussie Rules! You know, that game where they throw a rugby ball around a cricket pitch until they’ve punched and elbowed enough of the opposition for the ref to be intimidated into awarding a goal. Or a try. Or a gypsy musician. Whatever. I saw this first hand, as I broke my AFL virginity and attended a game at the city’s Telstra Dome; the Bulldogs (112) tore down the eighteen Kangaroos (106) in an entertaining bout (bout is the right word). Imagine that, a pack of bulldogs blitzing a mob of kangaroos. This post could go off on a real tangent but I’ll hold it together. This gives me the opportunity to quickly note the Australian’s have that annoying habit of degrading football, to “soccer”. Fools. The Footy Show has also delivered some memorable quotes (in the two shows I’ve seen); the line “I’m a great swimmer. My mother was a Venetian street walker” had me bamboozled for a second before its genius hatched, this preceded the quip “apart from scuba divers, he’s one of the quietest sportsmen around”. Still, none of this topped the little kid I sat opposite on a tram one morning who asked his mother “is it next Sunday yet?” Not yet, son. Soon.

It’s also a novelty being in a country that is positive about the Olympics. Australia is one of those nations, which is naturally good at everything. Don’t get me wrong, Team GB is having a fantastic games and I cheer them on anytime they get a look in on Australian TV. I’ve cheered at least twice. The Australian coverage centres around the courage of its athletes, just being there is good enough for most whereas my mum confirmed last week that the BBC were concentrating on much more important things; like an advertising board that was out of place.

The spirit of the Australian population is such that it’s a genuine disappointment when someone is rude (like the librarian who stormed off with his hands flapping through the air exclaiming ‘I can’t be doing with this!’ I only wanted to open a membership). It’s a rare day in Melbourne when a mere glance at our tourist map doesn’t make the bushes rustle with plain-clothed assistance. Don’t confuse yourself, they’re not employed, it’s just in their genes to be good-natured. Banks insist I have a nice morning and shop assistants suggest I have a good afternoon, I guess it’s only a matter of time before I get a good night phone call from the baker. One guy walked us from a tram to a faraway train station, and when we disembarked he threw us cautionary glances to make sure we took the correct exit. The same guy was also clutching a glass bottle of Bundaberg Ginger Beer and spent most of the walk there telling me how remarkable it was “that it’s beer, but there’s ginger IN it. Ginger Beer, see. Look at the label. Have a smell, it’s potent! Remarkable really. I saw Coca-Cola under surveillance just now, because it’s got cocaine in it but nobodies supposed to know!” I assure you the Ginger Beer’s alcoholic content is about as high as Holland and the cocaine content of Coca-Cola is at least ninety years out of date. Still, it had him staggering and slurring and it found us on the wrong train with a spare moment to laugh confusedly. This is the great thing about arriving somewhere and knowing you’re not in too much of a rush, you have all the time in the world to follow ginger beer drunks around the sets of Life while considering the possible outcomes of a battle between the bulldog and the ‘roo.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

[F]oxymoron August 20, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Ant, love the lead in paragraph and the GingerBeer man! Can you imagine a GingerBeer man in a Shrek parody?

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Ant August 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Fox, with my imagination I can imagine Ginger Beer man snatching the 100m gold from Usain Bolt (after travelling back in time, sponsored by Coca-Cola)

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