It is Australia Day - cue newspaper columns overflowing with maunderings on the never-often-enough-asked, (hem hem), question, 'What does it mean to be Australian?'
In this context, I would like to draw the world's attention - or at least such of the world as wanders by this blog - to a poem by the incomparable Les Murray. It highlights the one passion that, I think, unites almost all Australians:
From the metal poppy
this good blast of trance
arriving as shock, private cloudburst blazing down,
worst in a boarding-house greased tub, or a barrack with competitions,
best in a stall, this enveloping passion of Australians:
tropics that sweat for you, torrent that braces with its heat,
inflames you with its chill, action sauna, inverse bidet,
sleek vertical coruscating ghost of your inner river,
reminding all your fluids, streaming off your points, awakening
the tacky soap to blossom and ripe autumn, releasing the squeezed gardens,
smoky valet smoothing your impalpable overnight pyjamas off,
pillar you can step through, force-field absolving love's efforts,
nicest yard of the jogging track, speeding aeroplane minutely
steered with two controls, or trimmed with a knurled wheel.
Some people like to still this energy and lie in it,
stirring circles with their pleasure in it - but my delight's that toga
worn on either or both shoulders, fluted drapery, silk whispering to the tiles
with its spiralling frothy hem continuous round the gurgle-hole;
this ecstatic partner, dreamy to dance in slow embrace with
after factory-floor rock, or even to meet as Lot's abstracted
merciful wife on a rusty ship in dog latitudes,
sweetest dressing of the day in the dusty bush, this persistent
time-capsule of unwinding, this nimble straight well-wisher.
Only in England is its name an unkind word;
only in Europe is it enjoyed by telephone.
I wonder if showers are included on the list; I must go and look. (I have to admit, I don't understand the last line - any explanations very gratefully received [oh I am a dimwit - I've just realised, of course: he's referring to those awful showers on cords that a) never stay in the brackets you're supposed to hook them onto and b) look less like something in the bathroom than a speaker on some odd kind of telephone.])
Talking of Ivy Compton-Burnett... - Three years and more since I read Hilary Spurling's brilliant *Ivy When Young* (see here and here), I have moved on to the concluding volume, *Secrets of a...
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