Blood in the Water
What to do when the surf explodes
22nd July, 2004
In me, the infuriating sea.
It's too big today. All down the line of the beach the breakers are crashing home, six to ten feet high.
Even the most daring surfers
are exploding in the waves, their boards shooting straight up into the air, their bodies cast down.
Those waves can smack you right down onto the sea floor, breaking your neck.
It boils and boils. Too big for me. I sit on the beach. Wait for another day.
What to do, in Australia, when the ocean defies your regard?
Your options here are the same as anywhere:
(a) Watch TV
(b) Have a coffee
(c) Talk to someone.
We Interrupt Our Usual Adverts..
Watching TV. Australians see themselves as superior to English and Americans. Poms and Yanks.
Australian TV stations want to support this attitude so much, that they are prepared to sacrifice their entire audience.
They have adopted the following strategy:
First, all programs are British and American imports or, British or American TV concepts.
It's Law and order, the Bill and Idol, followed by Law and Order, CSI and Big Brother.
Then, have an ad break every thirty seconds. So it's annoying ad break,
cut to half a sentence of Frasier, cut to annoying ad break, cut to two seconds of David Attenborough, cut to YET ANOTHER
BLOODY AD BREAK...
Result. Madness. Intense pain and frustration associated with Pom or Yank voices.
The feeling that anything, anything
would be better than this. And them.
The mental readjustment continues. SBS runs foreign language programs at all hours. These are never interrupted. There are no
ads. Maybe the audience consists of me, a senile language teacher, and a crazed ex-Nazi hiding out from the Mossad..
Be that as it may, the only relaxation possible in front of Australian TV is to the sound of world programming.
On the other hand, if you find yourself hurrying home just to catch a series starring a
German dog detective, or a documentary about
Spanish balloon races before the war, perhaps it's time to examine the other options.
With no TV, stylish coffee houses may prove a draw.
You choice of coffee shop depends on several qualities. There must be music. And the music is always floppy.
Music that excites no emotions, has no form, and serves no purpose other than to fill gaps in conversation. The closer it sounds to an old woman humming to herself while piddling on a plastic tambourine the better.
There must be chairs. Not ordinary chairs, but great, soft, enormous couches. The huger and softer the better. A successful
coffee couch is the one that can suck in your entire body, leaving only a single shoe behind, the only evidence that you were ever there at all.
Finally, moody lighting. The lights should be dim, and concealed behind artistic lozenge-shaped lampshades, throwing
cozy shadows and textures in the dark. Moody lighting, and the mood must be that of of a short-sighted kite-fancier fumbling for his sandwich.
Thus, the coffee shop. But then, if the thought of stumbling around in the dark, to the sound of a dying whale,
before being eaten whole
by an item of furniture doesn't compel, perhaps you should give the coffee house a miss.
You don't talk as such to Australians. Instead, you divide your time by dividing words. This is a curious game.
There is no word so short, that an Australian will not make it shorter. So, poker machine becomes pokey.
Wetsuit becomes wettie. Tasmania becomes Tassie. Lord Palmerston (1784-1865) beomes Palmie.
Grevious bodily harm becomes bashing.
Bashing becomes a word more and more on your mind as you try talking to an Australian. Dividing words may be the game,
but they are they only ones who are allowed to play. You are not allowed to start shortening words. You don't know the rules.
Aussie: Hey, mate! Nice sunnies!
Aussie: Sunglasses, mate. Heaps better than mine!
Me: Thanks, mate.
Aussie: Watch out for your leggie!
Aussie: Legrope, mate.
Me: No problem. I'm taking it home to stick in the washie!
Aussie: What are you talking about?
This goes nowhere.
I'm not allowed a full part in a conversation, the coffee houses scare me and there's nothing on TV but the adventures
of a Russian toilet cleaner,
it's back to the sea I must go.
In the Spray
The ocean boils and boils. As I walk along the strand, the surfers explode and crash, explode and crash.
The blood that runs in our veins is of a quality very similar to the ancient sea in which our primeval ancestors swam.
The sea rages inside us, coursing as the sea boils, calling to us, invoking the ancient link.
It draws me to it,
the ancient home, the killer. But for now it is too big.
There is nothing to do today but wait.
I sit on the strand and watch the waves defy me.
In me, the infuriating sea.