Noone who knows me from a bar of soap (and let's just say, without probing too deeply into Harlot's Water Conservation & Personal Hygiene policy, that bars of soap and I don't have overly much in common) - as I say, noone who knows me from a bar of soap - will admit any doubt that I have always been one of our generation's foremost nationalists. Every morning I have hoiked up the flag to a rousing rendition of "Reveille" on banjo and lagerphone, and then removed my akubra for not just one, but two national anthems: "God Save Our Gracious Matilda" and "Advance Australia Fair". For three years I have religiously observed the ANZAC biscuit diet. I have trodden the inferior soil of inferior nations, like Italy, wearing nothing but a pair of blundstones, a drizabone, and a Ken Done jumpsuit. Merely typing the words "Rolf Harris" has made me break out in cold wobble boards. I rest my case: I have been the jingo belle of the ball.
What better person, then, to lead the faithless back to the light on the hill? What better time for it than Australia Day? Thus I found myself last night reviving old traditions with my acolytes-in-Australianism, Bernhilde and Timotheos. I led them by
bus to Coogee. We battled our way through acres of bodies clad in Australian flag bikinis (such reverent national pride! it brought a tear to my eye!). We observed as a young man, so overcome by the sheer joy of his citizenship and his Tooheys New, removed his clothes and pranced stark bollocky naked across the picnic ground to the resounding praises of his compatriots. This reminded us that "genitalia" is one of few words that rhyme with "Australia" (also "swamp azalea" and "dismal failure"). Undeterred, we found our spot on the hill, and the rituals of nationhood began.
While the rituals of nationhood in our immediate vicinity were matters of beer, mosquito repellant, and vaunting one's despicably perfect buttocks (see young man, above), ours was a rite of pikelet mix, a fruit tin, a candle, a cigarette lighter. Twenty years ago, at Brownies (yes, yes, yes, I was a Brownie), I cooked a pikelet on top of an old fruit tin by the heat of a candle. For twenty years, I've been longing to do it again. Last night was my chance, and I had called out Timotheos and Bernhilde as my support crew. Unfortunately, in planning for this event, I had neglected to punch holes in my fruit tin to allow the candle's smoke an escape route. Also unfortunately, I'd selected a stubby little tealight, whereas I needed a taller candle to make flame contact with the top of the tin. After three hours of trying vainly to heat pikelet mix on the top of an inverted fruit tin with a tealight candle, we were thoroughly disgusted with Australia Day. The "Young, Hot and Aussie" t-shirts were starting to look tawdry. The abundance of naked flesh tattooed with stick-on Australian flags was becoming downright sinister. And still we had 300 mL of cold pikelet mix.
What is worse, though, is that I had started to lose faith in my skills as an ex-Brownie. Surely the lessons we learnt from Brown Owl were meant to be lifelong? Surely I could still, if called upon, erect a viable shelter with six wooden stakes and a pair of superannuated stockings? Or stuff a hotdog into an empty milkcarton and cook it by setting the milkcarton alight? Or save lives with nothing but a handkerchief and a 20c piece? Surely, surely, I did not still need Brown Owl to make my pikelet cooking appatarus work? Nay, the slimy dribble of pikelet mix put paid to all my Brownie pride. My recent fridge acquisition success receded back into perspective.
Today I am practising my clovehitches and studying semaphore. I must recoup my Brownie skills before I move to the 'Bourn. An interstate soloist needs her reefknots and her tracking signs. Who knows when the Melbourne tram system might suddenly grind to a halt, forcing me to erect shelters out of toothbrushes and dental floss? Noone knows (except, perhaps, the Freemasons). That is why we must always Be Prepared.