AS we approach the end of January the discussions between Aussie expats in London seem to revolve around two things: where are we travelling this year? And, what are we doing for Australia Day?
The travel question is more important to those Aussies, like Hubby and I, who will be saying goodbye to the UK when our working visas expire. On this side of Christmas it suddenly dawns on you that you can’t continue to live it up in London because you will never have enough time to tick off all the destinations of your European bucket list. You might even consider joining a 60 day European tour with the other drunk or hung over 18 to 30 year olds just so that you can see everything.
Rather than being miserable in rainy London, complaining about your lack of time or money to travel the world (first world problems much?), you sit down with Aussie Times to work out where all the best Australia Day parties are going to be. After all, you have to find somewhere to listen to the Triple J countdown, even if you don’t know which songs to expect or what to vote for.
Last year, our first Aussie Day in London, we pre-purchased our tickets to line up in ridiculous Aussie paraphernalia to get into the infamous Infernos. On the Monday after, a work colleague laughed as he told me that he had witnessed a line to Infernos extending down the block as early as 8pm that evening. I didn’t tell him that I had been there for Tim Tams and Jumbuck Pies at 11am or that I was one of the last to be served a Bundy Rum before it ran dry at 1pm.The Infernos party was great, but there are only so many times you can channel your inner bogan to listen to Fitzy and Wippa’s “Gangam Style” parody followed by “Home among the gum trees” and Men At Work’s “Down Under” on repeat.
There are many venues across London that will be putting on Australia Day celebrations for thousands of homesick Aussies (and sometimes the odd Kiwi). You can check out Gigalum, Belushi’s, Waxy O’Connors, Clapham Grand, Jetlag, Walkabout Temple and The Church. But for those that want to listen to the Hottest 100 countdown live, expect a long night. The coverage starts at 1am on Sunday morning and will not finish until the sun rises.
We have seen many negative comments about Australia/Invasion/Survival/Citizenship Day (or whatever you want to call it) in the media. Some will boycott our national holiday out of respect for the Indigenous Australians, while others use it as an opportunity to loudly campaign for an immigrant free country. Many will simply get drunk, plaster their face with green and gold and wear the Australian flag like a Batman cape.
For me, Australia Day is a time for reflection on our history as well as creating a history that we can be proud of. We are not a “young country” and I respectfully recognise the hardships and wrongdoings that were pushed on our Indigenous by generations past. But I do celebrate our current achievements and values that we can pass down to future generations in the hope that they will do better.
Even though I currently live in and love London, Australia is a country I am proud to call my home and a country that I will be proud to raise my children. We are the country that gave the world the cervical cancer vaccine, Ugg boots, Cathy Freeman, the best beaches, ACDC, a 5-0 Ashes win in 2013/14, great wine, kangaroos and koalas, the dual flush toilet, Steve Irwin, polymer bank notes, delicious coffee, wifi, and the entrepreneurial Aussie spirit. We have so much to be grateful for, so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to.
This year we will be taking advantage of the very mild English winter by listening to the Hottest 100 replay at a BBQ with fellow Aussies. Luckily, we have recently stumbled upon an off licence in Dollis Hill that stocks Shapes, Burger Rings, Tim Tams, Violet Crumbles, James Boags, Little Creatures and Extra Dry’s. I imagine that we will hoard as many Aussie goodies as we can, fire up the barbie, crack open a TED, turn up the stereo and let the ruckus ensue.
However you end up celebrating Australia Day, I wish you a good one!