My place. Tuesday, 8.30am
‘Why don’t you have a tap at the sink?’ Granddaughter asks, watching the stainless steel bucket fill from a hot water tap in the breezeway. The tin roof pops in the morning heat. Startled, she looks up.
‘What’s that?’ she asks.
So many questions.
Summer is here. Finally.
It’s only early and already the sun is a fierce monster, hanging over the eastern ridge, drooling UV, the dappled shade caused by the iron barks barely muting the sun’s leery aggression.
Ah, the Australian summer. Barbecues and beer, beer and beach. Celebration of an Australian lifestyle that delivers a smug but fragile nationalism, liver degeneration and melanoma. As summer burns towards Australia day, the beer coolers are decorated with the Australian flag, people lie baking on Australian flag beach towels, and the meat industry is using Australia’s penchant for war as a marketing tool. (Come on, 15 years of war-making is a penchant.)
Patriotism is on the rise. This makes politicians and merchandisers happy, but makes me nervous. I don’t think it’s healthy for Granddaughter.
I am not, of course, at the beach. I’m at home.
‘The sun makes the metal on the roof hot and it expands. That makes the creaky noise.’
My shack under the cliffs is a shady retreat from the debilitations of propaganda, merchandising and oi oi oi. Apart from the rise and fall of the cicada chorus, the popping roof and a distant brushcutter engaged in the constant war against grass, all is quiet on the western front.
I don’t particularly like the beach in summer. My body, whose genes call Scandinavia home, is scarred where skin cancers have been removed. Hereditarily for me, the beach is a rocky shore where a bloke, his mates and a swag of weapons could land a longboat for a bit of weekend pillaging in the snow.
But as a young Viking stranded in a sunburnt country taken without agreement, payment or legality from the first Australians (who have appropriate skin for the climate), I spent too much time at the beach, trying to cultivate a cool tan, but only succeeding in cultivating a pre-melanomic pinkness with peeling bits.
Don’t get me wrong; I like the sun – it gives me electricity, makes the plants grow, dries the washing, and gives the Earth something to revolve around – but I don’t like it on my body. It’s a narrow temperature range that can support human life.
‘The hot water system is just near this tap. So the hot water comes out straight away. If I put the tap all the way over near the sink, there would be a lot of cold water before the hot water came through,’ I explain.
‘And water is precious,’ she says. (She’s smart. She wouldn’t understand why water is treated so disrespectfully in this dry southern land.)
I hope the politically expedient militirisation of our nation, doesn’t rebound on her. A lot of angry karma builds up when you bomb other countries. I hope the covering up of real issues with a manufactured fear of terrorism, doesn’t leave Granddaughter in a burnt-out land of eternal summer and war.
With a warming planet, a rapid decline in biodiversity, out-of-control population growth, rampant water contamination and a global capitalism that believes you can eat money, it seems weird that many Australians perceive the biggest threat to their lifestyle is an old religion. Suddenly eating lamb is a patriotic duty. It’s a national trait. (Like it is in the Middle East.)
The bucket is full. I carry it to the kitchen and pour it in the sink.
‘Your house is funny,’ she says.
‘You’re funny,’ I say.