Upon debut as a columnist some explanatory notes are surely in order. Like the American columnist George F. Will I feign a passing interest in politics to fund a serious sports writing addiction. I love cricket and am privileged to write about it for the evil Empire presided over by Rupert Murdoch, whose stable also hosts some of the finest writers currently describing the game. Steeped in the culture of Australian cricket from a young age, I have acquired two rather boorish but persistent habits, both of which I displayed earlier this year and they led ineluctably back to my original home as cricket scribe – this august journal.
Firstly, I am an inveterate sledger. I deliver sledges. And I return sledges. I quite relish engaging in a bit of chirp. In an age of social media this is neither a useful nor a healthy proclivity. It got me into trouble when I hurt the tender feelings of an Australian Army Officer in a series of tweets. It damaged me and involved me in a media imbroglio on New Year’s Day. I still get too snippy on social media. Note to self….
Secondly, like every self respecting Australian, I never walk. The last Australians to walk were Burke and Wills. This defect involved me in my second media controversy of the year, just three weeks after the first. In the words of the Chicago Democratic ward heeler I ‘cast asparagus’ on the credentials of our illustrious Australian of the Year. It was poor of me I concede. There was no Decision Review System in operation so I should have walked without demur. To my discredit, I metaphorically gave the umpire an earful on the way to the pavilion.
My effort was nearly as graceless as Malcolm Turnbull’s homily on the election night – or more correctly in the early hours of the day after the election. I was applauding loudly on my sofa when he pulled that number, secure in the knowledge that I had dodged the sorest loser in 2016 accolade by the narrowest of margins. Well he won. But then, I still reckon so did I. As an aside I have never been quite so delighted to read a headline ‘Man Simulates Sex With Dog’ as I was on Australia Day. As I now do with our PM I feel a deep spiritual kinship with Mitchell Pearce. His effort saved me at least two days on the front page of the tabloids during a quiet news cycle. Of course, as a supporter of marriage equality I need to be cautious in appearing to condone bestiality. But I was under a fair bit of pressure. And he only simulated sex didn’t he?
Of course what redeemed me completely was the actual performance of The Australian of the Year. So much for my slur that he was the safe, boring choice! First came that inane video seeking to curtail the use of the word ‘guys’. That effort even eclipsed that episode of the television series The Office, in which David Brent brings his guitar to the group training session at work, as the most cringe-inducing footage I have ever seen. Though I should add the caveat I reach that conclusion without having seen Mitchell Pearce’s challenging creative work.
There is, after all, some fellowship and solidarity among us small band of recalcitrant Australia Day pariahs. We have becoming a despised minority, like people who insist on using words like ‘guys’ or leaving their lights on during Earth Hour. You didn’t hear it from me, but I have a mate (a guy) who has done both. Sorry guys, that should have been preceded by a trigger warning, shouldn’t it? In mitigation may I plead that I have not been myself since I ceded my monopoly on being the most famous Australian soldier to wear high heels in public. By donning heels my old boss really stole my thunder. Basically I have not been asked to delver a fifteen thousand dollar speech since. The lengths he went to hurt my feelings on one little sledge. But to be fair the extra height suits him.
But ultimately Fate was kind to me. Despite getting a king pair before the first month of the year had elapsed I lived to fight another day. I now write columns for a News Limited tabloid, which among sophisticates is the ultimate passport to really chic events like The Spectator Writers Lunch and the greyhound racing. It’s not cricket, but when you live in Canberra you grab your thrills where you can. While the fallout from Australia Day was disconcerting, I can say with hindsight the panel got it right. David Morrison personifies everything that Australians hold dear. Accordingly, he should be the last recipient of the title as I think we have actually come of age as a nation of scolds. From now on our National Day should be a day for celebration in the authentic Australian fashion. Sledging. Challenging umpires decisions with bad grace and simulating sex with dogs. The stuff that has made us a great nation, the envy of the South Pacific. Let’s dispense with hand wringing, hectoring rants about our original sins of racism and sexism and jingoism.
The funniest commentary on the absurdity of the Australian of the Year process came from Rowan Dean in his AFR column. He dubbed me Caitlyn McJenner AM reality military star. I paid that. It was bloody funny and I told him so when we finally caught up. In a bleak week, when I felt like the life support system for a target I burst out laughing at my local coffee shop and showed the ‘guys’ with whom I hang out on Saturday mornings the column. We were all in splits and the name stuck. Hence this column was born. My inspiration is of course the salacious Tamzin Lightwater, The Speccie’s Notting Hill Nobody. I am now she, though confined to being a Nobody around Parliament Hill. Rowan assures me if I give you a few laughs he may even let me write about cricket.
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