I was born in The Land Down Under. While it wasn’t exactly an accident of birth (heck, I was even conceived in Oz) my birthplace is not one of my more salient facts. If you met me today absolutely nothing about me screams, or even whispers, Australian. I am relatively unsullied by and downright ignorant of things Oz-related. The closest I’ve to Australia in the past few decades has been in travelling SE Asia and, culturally speaking, attending a Midnight Oil gig at the Paradise in Boston way back in the day. (Oh, yeah, and I read The Fatal Shore some years back) You see, my parents were expatriates at the time and we left Oz when I was still a wee sprog. Realistically, I’ve not really been there…and yet, in a rather important sense, I have.
It’s funny how seemingly insignificant facts can influence one’s life. I feel like the Mariner in Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Australia is the Albatross around my neck. It’s a fact that I’m not allowed to forget and that I am required to explain the circumstances of ad infinitum. This is no slight on Australia, by all accounts I hear it’s a lovely place and the Australians I’ve met, without exception, were surprisingly OK . You’d be surprised how many official and professional documents require to list your birthplace. Often these documents assume your birthplace=your nationality which always requires further explanation for people like me. For some reason, this singles me out for extra questioning at Customs/passport control without fail in Anglophone countries. “Let’s see, you were born in Australia, you are X nationality, you’ve traveled widely and you live in Y country”. So you’re obliged to give the whole spiel about who you are. Interestingly, Customs agents in non-English speaking countries don’t bat an eyelid – never question it. I wonder, when I do eventually visit Australia, if Australian Customs will even notice. It’d be hysterical if they didn’t.
A few years back I found myself in a fairly stressful situation. I was being interviewed by a committee and they had my dossier. The forms in my dossier asked for my place of birth but not my nationality. I should note that this interview was not in English so while I have a slight Anglophone accent, it’d be rather hard to judge my nationality. Anyway, they lit up like Christmas trees when they saw the word Australia and people started to wax melodic about Sydney, the Outback, Barossa Valley, etc. I just smiled and made non-committal comments, neither denying nor confirming my Aussie-tude. The rest of interview went swimmingly, better than I can could have imagined. Cheers, Australia.
Those of us of a certain age will remember things Australian were hugely trendy in the 80s – at least in North America. This was largely due to a God-awful movie called Crocodile Dundee, a film that has not aged well at all. Honestly, try watching it now, it’s painfully bad. North Americans at that time just couldn’t get enough of Australian accents – it was a veritable strine-mania. I remember briefly thinking they sounded cool without giving it too much thought. Now, though, I watch Australian TV shows (via Netflix and UK-based TV) and I can’t help wondering why Australian accents were considered cool. They’re just as horrid as any other accent, but that’s not necessarily a pejorative. It means they’ve got character. I lived in Boston for 12 years and during that time I had a complicated relationship with the real Bawstin accent, theah. It grated on me after a while. Now, when I hear a real honest to goodness Boston accent, I can’t help but smile, I love it. The Boston accent has character, it’s like no other US accent you’ll hear. It’s also a reflection of the culture, it’s an unapologetic, unique mindset of its own. People from Mass (aka Massholes) can be loud, brash, bordering on the obnoxious sometimes but also funny and really good-hearted.
So I am thinking of finally visiting Australia next year. Mostly sticking to Sydney and Melbourne but I’m open to suggestions. I will also probably visit, for the complete heck of it, the city of my birth as it’s between Sydney and Melbourne. Also looking to visit the best powerlifting gyms I can find in those locations. If anybody has suggestions about what to do in Australia in general or powerlifting gyms in particular, I’d be much obliged.