Brace for the Aussie sum­mer

Shepparton News - - SNVIEWPOINT - [email protected]­p­ JOHN LEWIS

Wel­come to an­other Aus­tralian sum­mer swag­ger­ing up the road in a shim­mer of gold like a Hol­ly­wood Barnsey.

Ap­par­ently, it’s go­ing to be a screamer this year, packed with beer and loud board­shorts, sin­glets and sleeve tat­toos, body oil and fried egg tar­mac.

For those who rel­ish the 40°C fur­nace, sum­mer is a chance to stretch out and show their true colours — usu­ally a tan­ta­lis­ing blend of scar­let cherry, tat­too blue and wal­nut brown.

For these peo­ple, if you can’t han­dle an Aussie sum­mer, then you’re not a fair-dinkum Aussie.

For the rest of us, sum­mer is a chance to curl up with a good book — just like win­ter.

Fun­nily enough, just like a bru­tal north­ern win­ter, a fierce Aus­tralian sum­mer forces most peo­ple in­doors.

Only the per­sis­tent fisher peo­ple, the proudly tat­tooed and the sleep­ing drunks re­main out­side.

For the first 36 years of my life I’d never ac­tu­ally seen an air­con­di­tioner.

When I stepped off the Qan­tas Boe­ing at Tul­la­ma­rine on Fe­bru­ary 10, 1992, I thought the pi­lot had for­got­ten to turn off the en­gine thrusters and I was a sponge cake in a fan oven.

But no — I had just stepped into an Aus­tralian sum­mer.

To bor­row a phrase from a Louis Mac­ne­ice poem ‘‘world is cra­zier and more of it than we think. In­cor­ri­gi­bly plu­ral’’.

In Lon­don, the world was a -10°C bliz­zard.

In Mel­bourne, the world was a f loat­ing mi­rage.

All this, in the space of 24 hours.

An hour after I stepped off the bar­be­cued Tul­la­ma­rine tar­mac my friends in­tro­duced me to the Aus­tralian life­style, which in­volved stand­ing around a 500°F coal-fired blaze in the back­yard, eat­ing burnt sausages and ca­su­ally chat­ting. I felt like ca­su­ally faint­ing. For the first few years I strug­gled through ev­ery Aussie sum­mer.

Mossies en­joyed my English Beau­jo­lais blood and Aerog­ard stripped the var­nish off my gui­tar dur­ing evening ve­ran­dah con­certs with my dog.

How­ever, I have now grown to re­spect and even en­joy the Aussie sum­mer.

The se­cret is — slow down and obey the rules about mad dogs and English­men.

These days I watch the dap­pled late af­ter­noon light f licker through the bush.

I wait for the elec­tric ci­cada cur­tain to fall and I lis­ten for the thrill of a crack­ing branch at mid­night.

Some­times I strum El­ton John’s Rocket Man or The Church’s Aussie an­them for in­som­ni­acs Un­der the Milky Way.

Peron’s tree frog cack­les in the vine leaves over my head.

The mossies now leave me alone, bored by the thick­en­ing blood of an old English­man.

Then I pour an­other glass of Murchi­son Schloss­wig and think there is no place I would rather be and no bet­ter time to live than through an­other Aussie sum­mer. ● John Lewis is chief of staff at the News.

Es­cape the heat: Some­times you just have to chill out and en­joy the Aussie sum­mer.

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