“This time last year…..” – An Australian Times Australia Day
AUSTRALIA DAY IN UK | Where were you last Australia Day? And what are your plans this time around? Our writers reflect on their Australia Day experiences, both in the UK and back home, and share their ideas to make this year one to remember.
Entertainment, Arts & Culture and Features
I like to think, and at times even prance around, like I’m one of London’s more sophisticated expats. However, although I sometimes pretend I’m part of The Carnabetian Army (look the part, dress the part, speak the part), every now and again I, like the rest of us, get my bogan on.
Drink a beer, quote Alf Stewart, listen to some You Am I and tell anyone who cares (or doesn’t) about how The Dragons are the greatest football team of all time. And, last Australia Day, that’s exactly what I planned to do.
Australia Day 2012. My first away from home, my first away from the sun, my first away from long time friends and heck, my first without the familiar sounds of the Triple J Hottest 100 playing as the soundtrack to the day. What to do? Or in my case, what not to do.
A planned evening of patriotic celebrations of one’s homeland with fellow Australians didn’t quite work out as planned, following an afternoon that, in the immortal words of Powderfinger, turned from “worse to bad”. An afternoon which a fellow columnist of this very paper witnessed, but thankfully also doesn’t remember.
Needless to say, I got very excited by an unexpected house full of people, covered myself in Aussie flag tattoos, wore my favourite flanno, had one to many Fosters and as a result, was sound asleep and snoring up a storm by 6:30pm. Tucked up under in the covers whilst my very patient friends, who have since forgiven me but never let me forget, were texting me to see why I wasn’t showing up to our chosen venue. Whoops. Mum, if you’re reading this, your boy is very sorry. Not his finest hour. But hey, I said I was gonna get my bogan on, so mission accomplished…I guess.
Anyway, let’s move on. Australia Day 2013 – what’s on the agenda?
At the risk of unleashing Barry (my henceforth named bogan alter-ego), I have decided to this year take a trip out of London and celebrate Australia Day with some fellow Aussies and our token English friend in the beautiful city of Budapest.
My plan – and yes, this year I intend to make my plan a reality – is to sit in a Hungarian bath in minus degree temperatures, chomping on some Goulash, sensibly downing whatever local brew I can find, but still telling everyone I happen to be sharing a bath with why The Dragons are the greatest football team of all time.
Ohh and somehow finding a podcast of the Hottest 100.
Travel, Entertainment and UK Life
Wow. It was only when I sat down and actually thought about this upcoming Australia Day, and where I was at the same time last year did I realise how much had changed.
Last Australia Day, I was barely two months into my London life. With an empty house (everyone had escaped winter for, well, Australia), I rounded up a couple of Aussie mates and headed to Elk Bar in Fulham. As Australia Days go, it was brilliant: Bundy rum was on special, the place was decked in green and gold, and everyone was there to have a good time. It felt like finding a second family of long lost relatives, and a hundred drunk Aussies belting out John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ was nothing short of epic. That night I ran into a couple mates from home, and when I grew tired of waiting for drinks and tried to sneak behind the bar, no one kicked me out – I just got served.
This Australia Day, I will be back home after almost 18 months overseas. By the time you read this, I’ll be on a flight somewhere over Singapore and deciding what goodies I’ll be purchasing duty free.
On the day itself, a couple mates and I will be road tripping from Sydney to Dubbo for a mate’s engagement party, complete with slip and slide, swags, and camping out on the front porch. Goodbye any chance of snow, and hello searing heat and swimmers. I’ll be trading pints for schooners, pounds for dollars, and beginning every single sentence with “In London…” Bonus points to the friends who won’t want to punch me in the face after the first couple times this happens.
This road trip will be an excellent reunion, as we all lived together at university. We’ve stayed in contact, so it should be just like old times. The question I can’t stop asking myself is, has anything changed at all? And if it hasn’t, will London just feel like a faraway dream?
There’s something slightly disconcerting about relocating abroad only to surround yourself with fellow Australian expats. Isn’t the whole point of this process to wholeheartedly immerse yourself in the unknown, challenge yourself with new experiences and ultimately meet new people with new mindsets? Constantly bearing this in mind, it’s the primary reason I have a tendency to avoid Shepherd’s Bush, never mutter the words SheBu and pretend that the Walkabout is equivalent to the plague so that I never have to go.
Then, something unexpected happened.
I got over myself long enough to join my friends at the Walkabout and woke up thinking, “Well, I’ve just had one of the best nights in London to date.” With the 26th of January approaching quickly, it wasn’t long before an email reached me, asking me to register for their Australia Day “SheBu Walkie” bonanza. The doors open from 8am (a truly Australian-only can-do attitude) and, wait for it, a free bacon roll if you’re in before 11am. Still, a small wave of uneasiness hit me.
Why? It’s easy to distance yourself from anything that reminds you of home; either because it reminds you too much of why you left, or because it makes it easier to suppress homesickness. But it’s a fine line. My first Walkabout night felt unbelievably fun because I was able to fully appreciate the company of friends from home, the united feeling patriotism delivers and enjoy a night that felt distinctly different from the atmosphere of London bars and pubs. There are limited places where you can feel so surrounded by a sense of home. From the surfboards on the wall to the local beers in the fridge, there really is no where like it. But how safe is it drown yourself in this safety net of home time after time? And could I possibly recreate the feeling for myself twice?
It’s all about attitude. Closing yourself off to the rest of world to play with the familiar only, will never work. Yet neither will denying where you’ve come from. You need some balance. Australia Day is the day to really pay homage to the amazing country you’ve flown out from, something that can only be fully appreciated once you’ve had the opportunity to live and experience a new life abroad. There is nothing as humbling as realising how small of a space you occupy in the world.
So in the spirit of Australia Day, I can say that I am excited to embrace my Aussie-ness, my Milo moustache and all the people that make me feel at home. I’m as proud as every Aussie expat should be that I can call Australian shores my home. I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter if this is beachside at Bondi or bar side at the Walkabout.
Although its going to take some time before I dare start calling it the “Walkie.”
‘Bron in the Don’
I don’t have a good track record with Australia Days in London. My first was spent drinking cheap mojitos at the Elk bar and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100. What was so bad about that? None of my friends could make it inside as it reached capacity at about 6pm, and those Mojitos turned disastrous when I lost my unchecked coat and had to head home in the January weather coatless. When I got home I thought it would be smart to email the bar about my lost property, and somehow broke my laptop.
Last year I was determined to have a good (albeit more sensible) day and head to the newly refurbished Walkabout at Temple. I knew going in it was going to be chaotic. Any Aussie bar on Australia Day was going to be mental at any stage of the day, but as my friends and I could only turn up after work we were confronted with extra huge lines. However, two Snakebites in and a bit of hollering to Aussie music and I was having a good time.
Turns out, my friends weren’t, as many of them were still standing freezing in the line outside in a way reminiscent of the Elk Bar. We decided to debunk and head somewhere else nearby – the Belushi’s in Covent Garden. This place was perfect, full enough that there was a good atmosphere, but no jostling to get to the bar. When we got there we found some Aussie specials such as Vegemite shots. They had to be done of course, but they were horrendous. Thankfully they were only £2. After that my more sensible night went out the window.
It looked like my Australia Day luck was on the up as I partied with my friends and we danced and sang to Cold Chisel and Men at Work. In typical tourist fashion the cameras were out and while taking a snap of my friends I promptly dropped one and broke it.
Australia Day and Electronics – 2
Bronnie – 0.
This year, I really do promise to have a sensible one…
Travel and Music
I’ve spent so many Australia Days away now that I don’t tend to make too much of a fuss anymore. However I always do try and tune in to at least of a little bit of the Hottest 100 every year, just to touch base with what’s going on with Oz music. It invariably makes me furious though – so much terrible Aussie hip hop.
Last year I was living in deepest darkest North Wales, with not another Aussie to be found within a 100km radius, so to keep the dream alive on Australia Day I made the a batch of rum balls for the office I was working in. They were very popular actually!
My favourite Australia Day though was probably the second year I lived In London. I was in a sharehouse with two other Aussies and we had loads of Aussie friends between us. We had a massive party on Oz Day complete with BBQ, homemade Anzac biscuits and lamingtons and lots of Aussie themed decorations. We turned up the heating really high and wore singlets and thongs, and we even had some musician friends play songs from the ‘Great Australian Songbook’ that we had kicking around. It was absolutely awesome. I couldn’t even tell you what I’ve ever done for Oz day while in Australia (except for sometimes going to BDO), so it definitely made it more special and meaningful being away from home.
Now I’m in Liverpool and since I’ve not met another Aussie here yet I’ll be hard pressed to find anything going on. Though there is actually a Walkabout here if I do get desperate!
Entertainment, Arts & Culture and Music
Last year I spent Australia Day in London trying to do as many Aussie things as I possibly could. The morning (well it was midday before I woke up) started off by enjoying an Aussie style champagne brunch; that is vegemite and cheese on toast with a VB.
Brunch was followed by listening to Triple J Hottest 100. Dancing around the living room and Aussie Karaoke was compulsory for everyone in attendance. We then moved onto a mini Aussie Olympics which included Twistie and Tim Tam eating competitions and thong throwing competitions.
We ended the day with sore legs and very full bellies watching an all Aussie movie marathon including Strictly Ballroom and The Castle. Australia Day 2013 will be spent pretty much the same, but this time with more Aussie themed events for our Aussie Olympics. Maybe this year I will call my parents back in Australia to wish them a very ‘Happy Australia Day!’(Daughter of the year?)
Sports and UK Life
Australia Day for me last year was spent in the most stereotypical way an Australian living in London can spend their Australia Day. I drank with friends all morning, eating Tim Tams and Twisties and listening to the Hottest 100 online, before heading to the Walkabout at Shepherd’s Bush to down some Snakebites and forget the rest of the night.
Dressed in head to toe green and gold, and covered in stick on Australian flag tattoos, we felt very patriotic. Especially when we entered the Walkabout and were greeted with not only a sea of green and gold but also mullet wigs, inflatable kangaroos, stubbies and thongs.
I’m sure this scene was replicated in every Australian pub and bar in London. Australian travellers who would normally never dream of setting foot in an Aussie Bar in London, who pride themselves on their ability to become immersed in the culture of the country they are visiting, embracing their inner bogan for one day of the year.
This year I’ll spend Australia Day at the Walkabout again. I’ll be dressed in green and gold and when Land Down Under gets played for the tenth time, I’ll still be shouting at the top of my lungs. And this year I’ve even got the perfect accessory. A token Kiwi mate to drag along!
Australia Day has always been a notable occasion for me, especially growing up. As a family I remember going to Parramatta Park to watch a concert and see the fireworks.
My last Australian based Australia Day, in 2011, was however definitely one to remember. It started with a traditional sip session at the local on Australia Day eve. Which of course went through to the early hours of one of the best public holidays EVER. A few hours of shut eye and then it was then straight to the beach for a well-earned swim.
After that was a typical Australia Day BBQ at a friends house. Decked out to the max with novelty decorations, snags on the barbie, lamingtons, lots of oi oi oi’ing and of course the token blow up kangaroo. You can imagine the photos.
Loads of beer, and lots of wine. In true Aussie style though I managed to drag myself back to work the next day and laugh at the many flashbacks as they came to me.
Aussie Aussie Aussie – OI OI OI
Last Australia Day I arrived home to find my English boyfriend in the backyard with a couple of mates, all dressed in shorts, singlets and thongs, with barbecue tongs in hand. Nothing particularly remarkable, except we weren’t in Oz, we were in Oxfordshire and it was 5pm, pitch black and about 2 degrees. They had rubbed orange paint all over their faces for the bronzed Aussie look (though the effect was more Essex than Aussie) and had an ironing board leaned against the BBQ to substitute as a surfboard. The Australian flag had also been erected – ok so it was upside down, but the sentiment was there. It was a complete surprise and I have to say I was rather touched, once I had wiped the tears of laughter from my eyes.
This year I’m planning to cook up a home-made Australian themed feast, complete with mini meat pies, lamingtons and cheese and vegemite scrolls. And plenty of booze – that goes without saying. I met my closest friend in the UK working in a pub (naturally) almost 5 years ago, and she just happens to also be an Australian (what a surprise) so I’m glad to have her to celebrate Australia Day with. And how lucky for her English husband and my English now-fiancé that they get invited along to join in on this sacred Australian tradition.
Editor Australian Times
Last Australia Day I spent sitting on a chair placed in a paddling pool, drinking a beer and sweltering in the Canberra heat. There was of course backyard cricket, lamingtons, the Triple J Hottest 100, sausages sambos on the barbie and general goodwill and casually intimate fun with some really good mates. The perfect Australia Day.
That is, until one of our friends decided to use the paddling pool as a toilet, and I abandoned festivities at 6pm to watch a 1950s movie and eat a Magnum.
More than any other day perhaps, Australia Day is when I’m going to miss my friends. Christmas is for family, but Australia Day – Australia Day is about your mates. An officially sanctioned free pass from work to gather with old friends, share a beer and catch up.
This year, the focus will be on new friends and new experiences. The only problem is – with so many Aussie Day activities on around town, what do I do to celebrate? Classic Aussie film with the boys from Bogan Bingo? Have a laugh, and a beer, at the Australian Times Australia Day Comedy Carnival? Or just don my green and gold, and blend into the celebrating crowds at any one of a number of bars and pubs hosting Australia Day parties around town?
All I know is, as long as I’m spending it with friends – new or old – sharing laughs, experiences and stories, it’s going to be good. It’s going to be Australia Day.
Happy Australia Day from us all here at Australian Times!
Tell us your Australia Day plans below: