The streets were completely deserted this morning as I rode to work, with just a few remnants here & there of the previous day's bacchanalia - a single Australian flag thong paused pensively at the edge of a culvert onto the storm water drain before commencing its long journey north to the pacific garbage patch - a lingering olfactory trace of cold grease and charred flesh haunting the local park - and in the new cycleway between apartments which connects Barkly Street with Brunswick Road, evidence of an atrocity committed in the temporary babakuaria on the balcony of someone's dogbox, several storeys above.
Further along the route, at the corner of Bourke and Swanston, the dominant odour was the same as it's been for some time now - the smell of hundreds of bunches of flowers people have placed on the ground in each corner of the mall, after the murders there last week. It's too hard to look at them for very long. Today, I hated myself for noticing and feeling cross that a small forest of Australian flags has grown up through the carpets of flowers. Presumably they were left there by people who'd gotten tired of holding them after watching the Australia Day parade yesterday. (In a similar way, if you are in the city much you will have noticed the infestation of gerberas in inappropriate places, emanating from the Viktor & Rolf exhibition at NGV International - the idea, reportedly, is that visitors take a flower and are instructed to give it to someone they wouldn't normally engage with, in practice this means either leaving them somewhere annoying like wedged between two seat cushions on the tram or at the foot of the Edmund Fitzgibbon memorial (!!) or far far worse, handing it to a homeless person, a scenario that just makes me shudder with the absolute, blinding cringeworthiness of it.)
I went to work yesterday for a short time, to reject the holiday - and of course, you can imagine how exquisitely pleased with myself I was this morning when I read how Barnaby Joyce scoffed that people pushing for a change of date should bypass the public holiday and go to work, as if that was just the stupidest thing anyone could possibly imagine. (Incidentally it is a source of some sadness to me now that I didn't think to use this blog to document the whole Barnaby vs. Johnny Depp war on terriers saga of yesteryear. That was probably the best thing that's ever happened in Australian politics, even better than when Ben Chifley broadcast a message to the nation at the end of the Second World War and thanked Australian airmen for covering the skies and Australian seamen for covering the seas. [Tried to find a link for the text of that speech and couldn't, you will just have to look it up in the library, do you good to get out for a bit.])
After I left work I joined the invasion day march, which started with some sad and moving speeches at the parliament, then poured down Bourke and into Swanston where just a few minutes previously the Australia Day paraders had straggled past. Gosh it all made for an interesting day: the bewildering variety of activities taking place, people taking part, and agendas being advanced within two square kilometres in the heart of the town was, well, bewildering. The parts of the parade that I saw were kind of like the Mardi Gras only straight and dismal, and with no common purpose or language to the cosplay - just little clumps of people acting out their widely divergent senses of why we were all there. Loads of dress-up groups: Chinese, Maltese, Polish, Sikhs, more Chinese, naval recruits with their sweet dumb faces and their optic whites, those freakazoids who like to wear Great War soldiers' uniforms and nurses' clobber, a mob of people wearing t-shirts with "I Dig Gold" printed on them, "the Early Settlers Association", people dressed as pirates, as convicts, as sulphur-crested cockatoos, a detachment of people dressed as Doctor Who, and I didn't actually sight these last two myself but the informants are rock solid reliable: a girl cosplaying Shrek, and one sad and solitary Aussie flag-caped crusader, with all the gear, the flag cap and thongs and shorts and singlet, the temporary tatts, and the giant inflatable hand with one finger pointing up, up, up, up, up.
About 90 minutes into the march the RAAF aeronautics squadron flew into the sky over the city, to do a series of loop-de-loops above Government House. Here's a confession of sorts: I've discovered, to my deep surprise, that I actually love this particular variety of warmongering shit, and fancy / weird / old planes roaring in formation through the air above my head causes me to break out in tiny little goosebumps of pleasure. But it was entirely surreal to see them over a Swanston St crammed full of people carrying Aboriginal flags, banners, chanting clapping and singing etc.
What the fuck is an Australia Day meant to be all in aid of anyway? When the great shame and insult of a staging a 'national day' on January 26 is finally done away with I guess we might have a chance to find out.
As I write I've remembered another Australia Day post I wrote, in 2006, a classic example of the type of thing I read now and feel like it's largely been downhill with me since then, certainly as a writer able to find and catch and preserve the ridiculous glories and delights of everyday life. A complex feeling and not entirely true I know, but not wholly false either. I think my blog was more fun to read then, and probably to write, than it is now or will ever be again, but it wasn't really very truthful. I used to work pretty hard at constructing this ongoing narrative which was calculated to produce certain effects often at the expense of capturing a more durable and complete reality. Documenting the climate and colours of the inner reality and connecting it in some meaningful manner to the outer experience is what I'm trying to do here, this time. Seems a worthwhile endeavour. (The inner teenager is doing things just a little bit rough right now, thank you for asking, but it'll be ok. it'll be fine.)