At lunch yesterday someone's meal arrived with chips - not something you'd remark on in Belgium, almost one of those things where you're actually saying the same thing twice, (oxymoron?) There, if a meal didn't arrive with chips, it would be a very remarkable thing.
But I'm in Australia and yesterday only one of the three meals we ordered for lunch arrived with chips. By the end of the meal though not one of us had resisted their allure. As a result, I began to wonder if anyone has ever in the history of the world since chips were invented been able to sit at a table with a bowl of the things and not eat at least one or two.
(In the same vein, I remember someone who lived in France wondering if a baguette had ever reached anyone's home after purchase, without the end being nibbled off.)
While we were in the restaurant, it started raining pretty heavily. At the end of lunch, going out into the street behind a group of people I did not know, I heard the one at the front observe to their companions that it was 'pissing down', and the next thing I knew I found myself forgetting about chips and wondering instead about when 'it's pouring down' was replaced by 'it's pissing down'. The latter seems to me to be far more the common usage these days, sadly, in my view. But I shall restrain myself from pulling out the soap box and climbing onto it to rant and rave about the sad decline in contemporary taste and manners.
Besides, I had a wider horizon on which to wonder - namely, whether as a species we are too far decayed to be redeemed. It was the dreadful murder of a British MP by a frenzied madman, possibly egged on by things he'd read and seen on the Internet, that prompted this line of gloomy wondering. For a change, the man's rage had not been whipped up by misinterpreters of a religion, so far as I know, but by haters of a different kind.
People have, since the event, been lecturing anyone who'll listen about not using inflammatory language, but it's too late for that, I reckon. Now the Internet exists, with all its wild pockets, that horse has well and truly bolted and there is no stopping the madness. Maybe trying to stay in touch with each other, attempting to lessen isolation between neighbours, might help, even if some of them seem a bit nutty. Easier said than done though, if your neighbours are slightly terrifying.
I felt pretty miserable as I pursued this line of thought. I was in the car by this time and the radio news was on. Some gotcha journalist had dug up the fact that the Prime Minister of Australia, while making an attempt to bridge gulfs between different groups by having a dinner to do with Ramadan at his house, had unwittingly entertained a guest who has in the past advocated violence to homosexuals.
As the guest's name was Shady, it does strike me that someone in the checking process probably ought to have given him a second glance, but it isn't really the most enormously huge deal, in my view. From my perspective, it looked like one of those increasingly regularly whipped up little storms in teacups beloved of journalists these days, the kinds of things that make me wonder whether the media has got muddled and begun to think that provoking outrage is their main role, rather than providing information.
Anyway the journalist asked their snidey little question and the Prime Minister began to answer it and I drove along half listening and feeling sad about the world. And suddenly the Prime Minister started talking about love and how really it is the only thing that matters and that had been the only point of the occasion, to promote love, which really is at the heart of everything and actually the most important thing in all of existence.
And as he spoke, I saw a bus stop on my left, and in it - the bus stops in Canberra are hideous, circular concrete things to look at from the outside but, much as I hate to admit it, really rather cozy when you are inside them - there was a young couple sitting on the curved bench running around the inner wall. They were holding hands and chatting. They looked happy and possibly not without love. The sight of them reminded me that not all humans are frenzied madmen or homophobic preachers or gotcha journalists.
Sadly, since that cheering moment, I have been unable to find any footage of the Prime Minister's odd little outbreak. Until I heard it, I'd been very unsure what I thought of him, but the honesty and lack of spin his words seemed to contain made me wonder if perhaps he is really quite all right and we may be in safe hands, (at least until 2 July, when we hold our election and he might find himself feeling no love from the Australian people).
Mind you, someone I'm very fond of suggests that what he said - as I recounted it - was just motherhood stuff and a frightful load of cliche. She may be correct - but she didn't actually hear it. And maybe I didn't either. Maybe I slipped briefly into a parallel universe or I had a moment of delusion. If so, it was nice while it lasted.
Sadly, that wasn't very long.