Great Britain has a strange relationship with its Antipodean cousins. Quite what we thought the punishment was for the thousands of prisoners shipped over is beyond me. Miles and miles of sandy beaches, the best surf in the world, beautiful landscape and enough room to swing a hundred thousand cats – yup, send them all over there, and let the law-abiding citizens remain in the twisted dark streets of Britain, scratching out an existence in the filth and violence of Georgian England. We sure showed them.
Fast forward to present day. Australia has been independent for over 25 years (Yes, it’s true – although it was a self-governing federation of states from 1901, full independence was not granted until The Australia Act 1986 – and they get to keep Elizabeth II as monarch and we get Laura Robson). Britons are still scratching around in the dirt and danger of our mediaeval towns and cities, and over in Oz they have Christmas on the beach and have year-round tans. January in Britain is a dull and bitter month. We moan if it snows and we moan if it doesn’t. We moan about the neighbours tree growing over the garden fence, and we moan about the traffic jams and dark mornings. The Aussies, well they’re playing cricket in the sun and drinking awful lager.
Now in this digital age there’s a new thing that we do. We set our alarm clocks and get up early to watch Australian tennis! The Brisbane International is 10 hours ahead, so an 11am match means a 1am wake up call for us. It’s dark, it’s cold, the wireless is on the blink – probably to do with snow or lack of it – but there on the screens of our computers, laptops and tablets, like a cluster of sapphires is the Australian hard-court.
I’ve tried to get a little of the ambiance of Australia into my front room. There’s sand down on the floor, but it’s not sand, it’s the salty grit that we de-ice our roads with (It was handy), I put a stupid hat on and grow a moustache. I’ve developed a 1970s approach to women’s lib, Mrs Nash isn’t to happy about being called Sheila for the month, but she’ll be okay in the long run. I have to pass on the cheap watery lager. Not only is it foul, but it’s the morning and that won’t do really? Kinda screws up the whole day if you’re drunk by 8am. I might make an exception if Andy Murray reaches the final – or Jamie Murray in the doubles, both are through to the QFs.
It’s not quite the same though – I’ve never been down-under, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption to make that scattering dirt over the longue floor and wearing a hat isn’t quite the same as being there. Smelling the shrimps as they grill on the barbeque, feeling the breeze punctuate the blazing sunbeams, hearing the tinkle of brown bottle on brown bottle as Pancho and I toast another bikini-clad beauty frolicking in the surf, tasting the weak fizzy wee they pass off as beer in Australia. Ahhhhhh, no it’s not the same, but I can dream.
So in the spirit of the Commonwealth, I cheer on the Scots in Australia from England – good luck boys, if you get to the final I’ll get on the beer before breakfast – something I’m sure Scots and Aussies would appreciate…!