I have arrived.
In two days it’s Australia Day. I shall have been here for 4911 days. It’s time to take stock.
They don’t use the word ‘naturalised’ any more, when you become an Australian citizen. Something to do with the implication that you were unnatural previously.
Yes, well… I was wondering how naturalised I’ve become.
I’ve tried. Truly I have. I’ve eaten spaghetti bolognese in sandwiches and driven with one hand hanging out the window, but I have to admit it didn’t come naturally.
I still wear socks inside my sandals and I still prefer wine to beer.
I am getting a grip on the language (see above) but I still can’t say ‘good’ like they do in the supermarket queues: “Hello, how are you today?”
“Gud” (even when you’re dying).
What’s more, I’m inclined to say “Jolly good” when I am, which causes them to snigger.
And when someone mentions football I think of a round thing, and shaven‑headed Neanderthals clubbing each other to death in the stands.
And I’m sorry.
And that’s another problem. I can say sorry.
A true Australian can’t get his mouth to form the word (John Howard would understand this). I asked one to try.
“You’re not actually apologising for anything,” I assured him. “I just want to hear you say the word.”
“S…s….s…s – piss off!” was what he said.
But that’s all right. Being insulted gives me a sense of belonging. A young man gave me the finger yesterday when we were both heading for the same space on a roundabout. I felt… included.
I yelled “Thank you very much!” but he probably thought I was having a lend.
It’s not as if I haven’t been practising. I am the only Australian I know (naturalised or not) who can recite The Man from Snowy River right through.
I have picked up a snake in my lounge room and returned it to the wild, where your average Australian would have hacked it to bits with a spade.
And that, mate, is the heart of the problem. Your average Australian doesn’t worry about it. He just does it and bugger anyone who cares.
He goes to a barbecue in the park and strikes up conversations with complete strangers over the same hotplate. He doesn’t care what your father does for a living and he’ll talk to anyone regardless of their regional accent.
I still have trouble with these things. Actually I don’t have trouble with talking to people. It’s the barbecuing that beats me. Complete strangers tear the tongs out of my hand and shriek, “Jesus, mate, not like that!”
Sometimes they’re women.
But it’s Australia Day on Monday. It’s the day we celebrate Arthur Phillips landing at Sydney; the Hill’s Hoist and the Granny Smith apple; Shakespeare’s birth at Stratford (Cairns); and the birth of Christ in the stable behind the Birdsville pub.
And I’ll be there. On The Strand probably, where people will say, “G’day mate. How’s it going?”
And I shall say “Gud,” tear the top from my stubbie with my teeth, take a swig and belch.
I’ll leave the socks off, just to show willing.
I’ll refer to my wife as ‘the windbreak’.
It’s a great country — where else could you do that and get away with it!