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Of course, we were all a lot younger; headstands have become about as outdated as Danny the Red and Woodstock.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.