Tuesday, 27 February 2007

A Bunch of Bankers

The Australians have many different stereotypes about us Brits, but the most annoying is that of 'The Whingeing Pom'. Having spent the height of the English summer sleeping next to a Queenslander who moaned "it's too bloody hot" I feel this label is a little rich.

However, that said I have had a week which is cause for complaint.

First I received my first pay packet (Hurray!), only to discover that a lot of what I had earned had gone astray, taken by the federal government. If I was at home I could console myself with thoughts of the NHS, but this is a country where you have to pay to see a doctor. A bloody DOCTOR! They reimburse you some money, but not all. And what kind of system is that anyway? Reimbursement? What is this, a business expense tax write off? No it's my bloody health!! I heard Aussies moan about the NHS's inefficiency, but any organisation on such a scale is bound to be pretty inefficient. At least you don't have to pay to see a fucking DOCTOR! (just underlining the point). So the rich pay a little tax, the poor pay a lot of tax, and the services provided by the state are minimal. Where then, does this revenue go? No-one seems to know. It's like the policies of Hayeckian and Keynesian economics rule simultaneously, but with only the negative points of both.

If this annoyance weren't enough I then got my bank statement to find a $1.50 bank charge for... wait for it... checking my balance! I knew you were charged for withdrawals from other banks, but paying money to check how much money you have?? Suspect every time one of these charges is processed a switch goes off & a bulldog licks the rectum of an obese, pink-faced, cigar-chomping banker who yells "Balance statement? Well, you've got $1.50 less now mate!" This on top of the $4 a month "accounting charge". And these aussies just sit back and take it. They are commendably relaxed people but they need a bit more bloody-mindedness. I'm all in favour of being laid back, but if you lie back too far you might get fucked.

I also found out that Haribo sweets do not exist here. The only gummies they have feature words like "natural" and "pure" on the packets. These aren't gummies, they're like some disgusting organic crap that an Islington mother would shove down the throat of Tristan, her ungrateful, long-haired, bourgeois sprog. I wouldn't even eat these if they were in the shape of the Venus Di Milo. Proper gummies are crammed full of sugar and pig remains, there's nothing "natural" about them. Boy they do things weird out here.

On the other hand I had a haircut yesterday and was handed a complimentary beer. For all their faults they are, occasionally, way ahead of us.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

The Lollyman Cometh

I sit here tired from my day of issuing court dates for the Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal. It is dull work, but I get to use a stamp that says "EXHIBIT A" so I am happy. There are also occasionally interesting cases that I can snoop at. Last week I read of a woman who purchased a well-behaved horse, which subsequently turned out to be a wild horse that had been drugged. She was demanding a refund. There was also a man who arranged to have his house demolished, only to cancel the arrangement. Unfortunately for him the demolition company did not take sufficient note of this and proceeded to demolish the house anyway. He demanded recompense but had been foolish enough to make the cancellation a verbal agreement only, and his case was subsequently thrown out. Owch.

This Bureauarbeit was today alleviated when the staff pelted around the office declaring "the lollyman is here!! the lollyman is here!", which to my sweating person was a great relief. What better a refreshment than an ice lolly?

Imagine then my surprise when I discovered that in Australia, "lollies" are sweets. Any sweets. Much like how in Old English 'meat' meant any food substance rather than only animal flesh. So he did not have anything cold, just several rather sad looking plastic bags full of toffees. For shame.

This is not the only gastronomic discrepancy I have noticed in this land. For example, in cafes when one orders the Full Breakfast (note the lack of the word English) it is standard to receive avocado and spinach, but there is only a fifty per cent chance of seeing a sausage. This is bad enough, but of course the major issue for the outsider down under is the national allegiance to the dreaded Vegemite. Whereas in England Marmite is the quintessential 'love it or hate it' foodstuff, in Australia Vegemite is more of a 'love it or die' kind of food. I have not met a single person who does not like this sickening glop. Of course the comparison is not entirely fair, for there is, apparently, a difference between Marmite and Vegemite, although to me being shown this is like a bushman pointing out the subtle difference between two opposing piles of kangaroo shit.

The food is, to be fair, largely much fresher and it is commendable that it is almost entirely domestically produced (a recent damage to the Queensland banana crop sent prices up by 50%, as they do not import them from somewhere else when this happens as we would in Blighty) but they have a little to learn in the savoury snacks department. No scotch eggs, no black pudding, no Bovril. Beautiful fresh fish is a blessing, but every now and then a man needs a pork pie.

If my reader who left comments on an earlier entry is reading, this is simply a nostalgic (in the Greek sense) lust for snacks, not an imperialist tract. Calm down dear boy, calm down.


Thursday, 8 February 2007

The Lizzard of Oz

The government here is incredibly sinister, and I believe that I know why.

Whilst strolling in town the other day I noticed a building named London House, which was accompanied by the familar City of London crest. Merely an interesting and nostalgic curiosity at first, I then was reminded of David Icke's theory that the dragons on the crest are representative of the reptilian race which secretly control the earth. He proposes that William of Orange was a shape-shifting lizzard and that it was he who gave the City of London the neccesary powers to financially dominate the world. Could there be a connection?

Further intrigue developed when I strolled into the Royal Arcade, one of Melbourne's many beautful arcades (they would make Baudelaire orgasm in his pantilooms) and saw two monstrous statues banging a clock. They were copies of the statues of Gog and Magog built at Guildhall, in 1706, copies of which also strike the clock of the St Dunstan-in-the-West church on Fleet Street. According to legend (as reported by Geoffrey of Monmouth) these two giants were captured by the Trojans in their war against the ancient Britons and forced to fight against them. After the conquest they were used to guard the Trojan castle at the site of Guildhall. Thus the new British Kings were Trojans, descendants of Aeneus, as were the Romans. So two great empires stemmed from the original Trojan lizzards.

And now they are in Australia, another Anglo-Saxon outpost. It all fits so well, if only I could believe that an alien reptillian race controlled the earth. It would make things a whole lot simpler(and more enetertaining!). Unfortunately Gog and Magog also occur in the Hebrew Bible, the Q'uran, Magyar mythology, and many other places. They are, in fact, amongst the most popular icons in Western mythology.

So they aren't lizzards, we aren't Trojans, and (much as many 19th century Scots wished it to be so) the name Angus is not philologically connected to the name Aeneus. Still, it was something to ponder on during a nice stroll around Melbourne.

Those who still sense a reptile presence and believe my refutation to be part of the conspiracy may turn here for further reading:


Goodnight, and good luck

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

The Mundane and the Maddening

Melbourne seems to be a city that has developed rather than being aggressively "re-developed", the one major exception being the South Bank complex, where I was informed by a promotional board that the amazing project I now stood on (a row of anonymous wine bars) formerly housed countless abattoirs, factories and brothels. For shame! Who would not prefer the venal excitement of the latter to the banality of the former?? Probably most people, and that is cause for a large sigh. But even here there is a sign of hope as a large chimney that looms over the city is covered in protesting grafitti. Imagine such a thing in central London.

Perhaps the main thing I enjoy is the lack of converted urban apartments or office spaces. Those corporatist, vacuous, and ghostly structures that are currently purging inner-city London of "undesirables" and raping the historicity of central Manchester.

There is some kind of 'exciting project' being proposed in St Kilda but I received several leaflets against it this weekend, which is at least a sign that where such ghastliness exists it is being actively resisted, rather than gulibly swallowed down with an unhealthy dose of provincialism. Perhaps my first impressions will be proved wrong, but at first glance it appears that there exists here a type of civic pride which does not involve petty, unquestioning submission to the dark forces of property fiends. Manchester Evening News take note.

I have been asked to give more details of the day to day mundanities of my trip and so here we are; It is very hot some days, though very temperate on others. Apparently Melbourne is the only place in Australia to experience four seasons in one day, as the locals never tire of telling you. This is a slight exaggeration but four seasons in one week seems entirely possible. It is apparently getting extremely hot next week but for now it's a satisfying twenty-six degrees.

As well as my restrictions of working I found out that my tax rate is significantly higher than that of Australians. The Howard government, which seems so keen on laissez-faire apparently doesn't extend this to UK visas, where protectionism rules the day. Just another reason to despise this racist junta (the word multicultural was recently removed from the Immigration Departments' name and replaced with citizenship, thus the emphasis changes from accommodation to integration). They have already provoked me to writing an angry letter to the newspaper after describing Aboriginal history as "rubbish". Shira had forgotten how terrible and embarrassing it was but it's at least a relief from the Butskellism of home.

And now my coffee maker whistles so...