Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 84: Australia Day.

If you want to talk major piss-ups, Australia Day is your humdinger. It is a day when the nation that prides itself on (among other things) its beer consumption and prowess at handling its drink, comes out in force, stubby in hand, to celebrate in the scorching summer sunshine. It's a fun day. Barbies abound (for the uninitiated, that's barbeques, not a pack of blonde, leggy dolls), beaches pack out, radios pump out Triple J's annual Hottest 100 countdown, and Australians everywhere wet their parched throats with ice cold beer, wine and bubbly, plucked from well stocked eskies and beer fridges. And hordes of bogans (sorry, this is getting very jargony) roam the streets on their way to or from events, draped in Australian flags and plastered in green and gold face paint and southern cross fake tattoos (this part I find a little scary, and generally try to avoid). This year, in an attempt to minimise violence (the not-so-fun side to sinking lots of piss), alcohol was banned at most of the major beaches. I hope it made a difference, although people I know who did the beach thing still managed to get pretty plastered. For my part, I attended another notoriously boozy Aussie institution, the races. As I have found often to be the case when attending events known for their drink factor, my only pangs hit on entering the place. The pre-programmed expected behaviour patterns kick in and you find yourself thinking you're about to order a glass of champagne. But then your actual brain snaps back into action and you order... a lemon lime and bitters usually. It's the drink that alcohol drinkers will most readily and happily allow you to order, I've found. They find it less appalling than if you started straight in on the mineral waters. In fact, the sum total of my liquid intake at the races was three drinks: one lemon lime and bitters, one sparkling mineral water, and one, wait for it, raspberry and coke! This last drink I reserve for moments when I feel like going a bit ape. Hilariously enough, the colouring and sugar content does seem to give me a hit, akin to the kind I experienced at birthday parties when I was a kid. My first sip always makes me smile sort of uncontrollably. Happy associations I suppose. And it's delicious. My race day experience was indeed, pretty much pure fun. My drinking pals tended towards the giggly, funny and happy end, and weren't drinking excessively. We were all frocked and suited up fabulously, and the amazing looking animals that were the horses themselves kept thundering by in all their shiny-coated, muscle rippling glory. Splendid. I followed this very pleasant event with another equally enjoyable one: a fair dinkum Australia Day barbie thrown by real Aussies, my work mate Kylie and her partner Ian. As a New Zealander, making it to this all-Aussie event felt like an honour and an achievement. And it had all the trappings I would expect, including beer infused barbequed chicken, Australian flag stubby holders, and Triple J tunes filtering out over the grassy, nicely styled back yard. We dined on an awesome array of gourmet nibbles, fresh salads, barbied fare and tropical fruit, and I drank dry ginger ale with fresh lime. Maybe it was just the nature of this relaxed yet sophisticated party, with its emphasis more on good food and conversation than on pissing up, but I genuinely did not notice that I wasn't drinking. My drink was exactly what the warm evening called for, and I had no hankering whatsoever for anything of the alcoholic variety. And while not drinking on Australia Day might be construed by many as "un-Australian", I didn't feel any less celebratory as a result. Certainly, none of the Australians I encountered felt strongly enough about the booze factor to even mention it. People, I think we're making progress.

1 comment:

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