The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View -

THIS must be the only coun­try in the world where a prime min­is­ter, even on of­fi­cial oc­ca­sions, will walk over and say hello, and look quite pleased to see you. This is al­most in­con­ceiv­able any­where else, even at a lower level of so­ci­ety. In South Africa, for in­stance, I was friendly with the ed­i­tor of the news­pa­per for which I worked and of­ten dined with him and his wife. In the of­fice, how­ever, I called him Mr Louw, even though we might have been hav­ing a head­stand com­pe­ti­tion the night be­fore.

Of course, we were all a lot younger; head­stands have be­come about as out­dated as Danny the Red and Wood­stock. We’re all yes­ter­day’s peo­ple.

This doesn’t re­ally make me a bit­ter per­son, but the birds in our gar­den do. In­grates. I’ve es­tab­lished a bird­bath in the shady cor­ner, care­fully filled with large peb­bles and re­fresh­ing wa­ter, and hung some­thing called Trill! in the tree. It’s all to make up for my car­bon foot­print; don’t call me not up to date.

But I am plagued by crows and not an­other winged crea­ture. My neigh­bour tells me she has hun­dreds of beau­ti­ful coloured birds on the other side of the fence, chirp­ing mer­rily away, but my plot may as well be ground zero. Jones the gar­dener guf­faws and says all I have is a wet ceme­tery for mozzies. Of course, he’s even younger than my son.

So is the pos­sum man who came around to give us a bit of coun­selling. He sports an afro and is un­quench­ably cheer­ful, as I sup­pose deal­ing with re­cal­ci­trant hu­man be­hav­iour to­wards fauna would make you. He said it is against the law to move a pos­sum more than 50m away, so, re­ally, what’s the point; you may as well just leave them to eat the flora and be done with it.

Of course it would be ab­surd to re­main stuck in the ’ 60s, as many of us still are. I’ve been read­ing about the epiphany of 1968, and it has me a lit­tle puz­zled: I was there . Wear­ing dresses em­broi­dered with small mir­rors, white lip­stick, burn­ing bras, ohm­ming? Oh, please.

Of course the new gen­er­a­tion of politi­cians in Aus­tralia is in­ter­est­ing.

Many of them live to­gether with­out both­er­ing with the trek up the aisle, the women, by and large, hang on to their names, and at least one of them was sworn in ac­com­pa­nied by her fe­male part­ner; no one turned so much as a hair. They are the new brooms sweep­ing clean.

I’ve seen a bit of John and Janette Howard over the Christ­mas pe­riod; I’ve known them quite well for at least 300 years. It could also only hap­pen in Aus­tralia that a for­mer prime min­is­ter of world renown could be seen at the cricket and look com­fort­able and at home with his new role as Mr Man in the Street.

And the best thing about it is the lack of bit­ter­ness: they’re both as happy as the prover­bial kook­abur­ras. I, for one, would like to have more of th­ese around the place.

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