Robbery! Muggery! Aussie skulldeggery!

The Aussies were seriously lacking in skullduggery at the Adelaide Test last weekend. But that didn’t stop us from having a good time at the Adelaide Oval. Even if it did seem to involve a full day of watching England’s mercenary South African batsman Kevin Pietersen spend the whole day smacking Australian bowlers around the pitch.

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Oh, wait, that was exactly what it involved…

I know that most of my readers aren’t cricket fans but I choose to believe that this is due to ignorance rather than indifference*. I’m firmly convinced that if you are a generally a sports fan and someone takes the time to explain the Byzantine rules of cricket to you that you will become a fan of the game. If you’re not a sports fan, well I can’t help you.

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Yes, it is slow paced. Yes, it can go on for days – by design. Yes, you can score 500 runs and still lose.  All of these things are true and they are only a few of the things that make cricket such a compelling sport.

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And The Ashes? Well, the Ashes is cricket at its finest. Every couple of years since for the last 120 or so, the finest that Australia and England have taken the field for the summer to battle over the eponymous trophy, purportedly the ashes of a bail that represented the death of English cricket. A demise brought on by the first defeat of the English side by filthy colonials in 1882.

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Over a century later, it is still the biggest sporting rivalry between England and her erstwhile colony. So much so that for several glorious weeks in December and January, ‘the cricket’ rules. Staff was pretty scarce on the ground at work on the first day of the Adelaide test last Friday and those of us cursed with meetings or other unavoidable work engagements spent a lot of time refreshing scoreboards on our phones.

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Having lived in each country, having one son born in each, I have the advantage of neutrality in the series. This may be all the more advantageous this time around, because it looks as if barracking for Australia is going to be a hard slog.

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And if all this doesn’t convince you to care about The Ashes, well, many of us know that The Ashes are “vitally important for the past, present and future safety of the Galaxy”.

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*That’s right, insulting your readers is bound to keep them coming back.

There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very little good music about cricket. But Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy managed to put together a cracker of a side project concept album. The Duckworth Lewis Method is remarkably uncampy and a good listen for both the cricket fan and music lover alike.

Find the heat over the bay or in the scraps of someone’s plate.

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This will be our third summertime Christmas and I must say that I’m warming to it. I don’t know if it is having young kids to enjoy it with or whether the seasonal reversal removes the S.A.D.component of my typical holiday dread, but I find myself looking forward to Christmas this year. If you’ve known me for any period of time you will know just how surprising a sentiment this is for me.

Christmas in Australia is all ass backwards, it’s true. There’s the expectation of sitting down for a full roast dinner on a day that temperatures might reach 40°C. There’s all the same trappings of Christmas – plastic snowmen that nearly melt in the brutal Antipodean summer sun. But now that  I’m beginning to get my head around it, I’m beginning to see the charm.

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Christmas in Australia is days at the beach. It is barbecues on sweltering, sunny afternoons. It is long weekend days watching test cricket, listening for that distinctive sound of leather on wood  that precedes the bails tumbling. Christmas down under is ice cream and mangoes and cherries and mince pies. Not all at once, of course. It is sunny days on Rundle Mall singing along to ‘Winter Wonderland’ or ‘White Christmas’ in shorts and sandals.It is hot, dry northerlies and ineffective air conditioning and sweating on the verandah with my feet in the kids’ paddling pool. It is splashing toddler boys hosing down the dog, each other and occasionally their mum.

Christmas in Australia is ass backwards. Absolutely. But it is also about redefining the holiday. It’s about new traditions for a new life. That is what I came here for and Christmas by Christmas it is what I’m getting.

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Everything’s gonna get lighter, even if it never gets better.

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Forget all your politics for a while.
Let the color schemes arrive.

I knew it would happen eventually. The American Left and the American Right have moved so far apart that they’ve backed into one another. I heard both MSNBC ranter Keith Olbermann and talk radio screecher Mark Levin shouting about new safety regulations at American airports. I wonder if they know that they agree with one another.

American politics: the best reality show Mark Burnett never produced.

My Mom asked me why I moved so far away, which I’m fairly sure was a rhetorical question. It isn’t because of the absurdity of the American political system, as much as I would enjoy declaring that to be the case. It isn’t for any one reason.

It is because I never felt at home anywhere until I left the States.

The sky here is a different shade of blue. Richer, with a clarity that is almost impossible to explain until you get off the plane on a sunny day from anywhere else in the world.

And there’s a wind as spring turns to summer that comes whispering in from the North. And as summer turns to high it starts to howl, maddeningly.

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Every morning I wake up with the sun and caterwauling magpies, kookaburras and lorikeets. And I walk to the bus in the full glory of an Australian spring morning.

But I do miss Thanksgiving and the family and friends and the warmth that comes with it. And I was to lazy to replicate it this year. I’m thankful though.

Thankful that I’m not flying through an American airport.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

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As for the accompanying track, what I wrote back in 2008 still applies:

“The latest record from the husband and wife team Mates of State is the perfect example of that latter criteria. There’s nothing groundbreaking or original about “Rearrange Us” – it is just perfectly crafted pop music. It’s wonderfully written. There isn’t a bad track on the record. And it’s perfect to sing-along to. Do you need more? The record kind of got panned by the critics. I don’t know why. It’s as close to a perfect pop album as I’ve heard in years and it was my favorite album of the year. I can give you A Free Man guarantee that if you buy this one from  you will not be disappointed.

Coup d’etat in Australia?

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Without an election, or even much drama, we have a new prime minister today. Julia Gillard, who will be Australia’s first female prime minister, took over from Kevin Rudd in a “bloodless coup“. Not as exciting as it sounds – it was actually a planned leadership vote in the Labor party, and Rudd stood down quietly to allow Gillard to take power. Not exactly a Carribean coup d’état.

It’s probably a good thing, especially for a middle class socialist like myself. Rudd was plummeting in popularity – he was ineffective in getting the Labor message out there and pretty effective at being a dickhead. And it certainly won’t hurt blokey Australia to have a woman running things for a while.

But most of all, it is good news because Gillard may be the only hope to keep this guy from taking power after the next election:

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This budgie smuggling buffoon is Tony Abbott, the bastard child of George W Bush and Sarah Palin. And the leader of the opposition Liberal Party.

“Laugh and think, this is Australia.”

It’s a shame about Rudd, but I have been impressed this week with Labour Environment Minister, and former Midnight Oil frontman, Peter Garrett. Want to know why? Check out my monthly post at The Greenists.

Images:

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Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

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It is winter in Australia which means that it is football season it Australia. And by football, I don’t mean steroid stuffed giants in full body armor standing around for three plus hours, nor overpaid Brazilians kicking a round ball around for an hour and a half in the quest for a nil-nil draw. No, I’m talking about that odd game that you may have seen during a spell of insomnia that involves thirty skinny Australians occasionally kicking a rugby ball in between bouts of beating the crap out of each other.

Ah, footy. For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to develop a passion for the game with only minimal success. Why bother, you sensibly ask? A couple of good reasons. First of all, tea time conversation topics. I work for a pretty ‘blokey’ school and was advised early on in my employment to choose a team as it would make Monday morning tea conversations flow a lot more easily.

True that. Most of the words bouncing around the walls of the tea room on Monday morning are ones like ‘Crows‘, ‘Power‘, ‘Cats‘, ‘Magpies‘, and so on. Over the last couple of years I’ve been able to learn the jargon well enough to feign interest, but I still don’t care that much about who’s atop the ladder or the weekly Crows crisis.

Secondly, and more importantly, I’m on a mission to give my kids a true blue upbringing despite being the children of immigrants. They’re boys. Aussie boys like sports. Aussie sports are cricket and footy (at least in SA and Victoria). Now we’ve got no problem with cricket, I took to cricket straightaway. It’s baseball, more or less, so no problems. (No worries.)

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But this damned football, or footy as the locals call it, is just a bit too bizarre for my taste. Far too much punting. And I don’t understand why they haven’t developed the forward pass. I mean, I know Australia tends to lag a bit behind their North American and European cousins in adopting technology, but the forward pass has been around since 1906.

Whatever. We need a team. How to pick a team if you don’t really care for the game? Well, I figured it out – let the kid decide.

Now, without getting too inside footy, we’ve got a couple of AFL (major league) clubs in Adelaide – the Crows and the Power – both of whom suck. They also play in one of the worst stadiums I’ve ever seen and charge an obscene amount of money to sit in the rain and watch bad teams lose badly.

But we’ve also got the South Australian National Football League, a collection of local teams that would be kind of homologous to a AAA baseball league. They play at smaller ovals around the city, charge $10 for adults and nothing for kids and, best of all, let you go out on the pitch during the quarter breaks and kick your ball around. The latter, for a two year old, is the clincher.

A couple of weekends ago, Boy Z and I headed off to watch the Sturt Double Blues play host to the Glenelg Tigers, the two closest clubs to our house. I made the decision before we went that whoever won this game would be ‘our team’.  But while we were watching, I had a moment of genius  – ask the boy who he liked.

“Boy Z”, I said, “the blue ones are the Blues and the black ones are the Tigers. Who do we like?” Maybe an unfair question, because Boy Z knows that ‘tigers’ are fierce giant cats and ‘blue’ is just the colour of our Mazda hatchback.

“Ti-ers.”

Ti-ers it is my boy. Ti-ers it is. We’ve got ourselves a team.

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We’ve been to a handful of games now and everything is now Tigers. He wants to wear his ‘Tigers’ shirt every day. We’ve hunted down ‘Tigers’ socks, although a few sizes too big. Stupid Australian sizes. He sleeps with his ‘Tigers’ football. We have endless conversations about the next time we’re going to see ‘Tigers football’. (Answer – the next time it isn’t raining on game day).

And I’m actually starting to like the game myself.

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Image credit:

Glenelg Tigers

“You’ll never take me alive”, said he.

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Saturday was our two year immi-versary, the anniversary of our immigration to Australia. I stumbled off of a 24 hour flight into to the blazing South Australian with Dr. O’C and a seven month old Boy Z. I’d never been to Australia and despite befriending several natives (including the one I had lived with for seven years) and doing extensive research into my Antipodean future home, I hadn’t a clue what to expect of the place. I was jobless, carless and clueless. It certainly wasn’t my first move, it wasn’t even my first international move. But I’ve never felt so lost.

We arrived the day before ANZAC Day. I hadn’t a clue what an ANZAC was, nevermind why he/she/it/they had a day. All I knew was that when I managed to wander my way down to the closest grocery store to the faceless suburb into which we had landed was that it was closed up tight.

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Two years later I’m not quite as lost. Inexplicably I’ve still got Dr. O’C. I’ve got a two-and-a-half year old budding fascist dictator in Boy Z and his rapidly growing lieutenant, Not Max. I know my away around my adopted city like I’m a native. I’ve got a job that I love a car that Dr. O’C keeps bashing up and a place to lay my head with a sea view when I wake up. I even know where to buy a carton of milk on ANZAC Day.

More importantly, I’ve come to feel at home in my home. I don’t feel Australian, but I feel comfortable among the Australians. I feel a part of Australia, that I can participate in things Australian. I feel a part of, something that I haven’t in the six and a half years since I left the country of my birth.

And I can tell you about ANZAC day. It’s a day of remembrance for the Australian and (less importantly) New Zealand Army Corps that fought at Gallipoli in World War I. The Battle of Gallipoli involved allied British and French troops landing in Turkey in a futile attempt to take Constantinople from the Turks. It involved a significant Australian presence and something like 8,000 Australian casualties. They tell us on ANZAC Day, that Gallipoli helped to established Australian national identity. I find it a bit odd that a thrashing at the hands of the Turks marks the beginning of Australian national consciousness, but it’s one of those idiosyncrasies that make Australians such a winsome people.

So the groceries stores are closed and there are dawn services around the country and in Gallipoli. And we have biscuits. And football. And I’ve learned, on this my third ANZAC Day and the second anniversary of my arrival in this enchanting corner of the world, that if you get out of the way and let it, life keeps getting better from one year to the next.

April 2008

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April 2009

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April 2010

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