Wednesday, January 26, 2011


26th January: time for a public holiday, a barbecue and a day at the beach. Oh, wait....where am I? As this year's 'Australia Day' dawned, my first as an ex-pat, I did the right thing and had toast and Vegemite for breakfast. Not only was it an extremely patriotic thing to do (we skim lightly over the fact that the iconic black yeast spread is made by a multi-national company), I also like it. They do say that one must be brought up to Vegemite, it is not a taste easily acquired (although I do know a Polish Antarctic Base veteran who loves the stuff, having been stuck on an Arctic ship which had a large supply of it.) (Hi, Mikolaj!)

At the gym this morning I mentioned to Dan that it was Australia Day. 'Oh, no!', he cried. 'The streets will be full of drunken Aussies tonight!' Surely not. After the gym I swung by The Australia Shop in Maiden Lane, not because I needed to buy anything, but just out of a little twinge of homesick nostalgia. The place was packed to the rafters with Australians - the shop had extended its opening hours for three days to cope with the rush - all stocking up on various necessities for celebrating a proper Australia Day: Tim Tams, BBQ Shapes, Twisties, Bundaburg Rum, an inflatable crocodile, satin boxer shorts made of the Australian flag...If I may digress here for a minute, why is it that burning the flag is considered a heinous crime but wearing it as underwear doesn't raise an eyebrow?

The Australia Shop: essential supplies
So what are Australians in London doing to celebrate our National Day? Quite a lot of partying, if this website is to be believed. Why have I not been out partying, you ask? Well, possibly because I wasn't invited; or possibly because I had a lecture on the Early Modern Philosophers tonight; or possibly because this doesn't seem my kind of thing:
Calling all expats: get your thongs on, paint your faces and wave your flags. On Sunday 23 January, Infernos will play host to the day-long annual TNT Australia Day Party, featuring everything from Jumbuck’s pies to Aussie beer, DJ entertainment and Bogan Bingo. Come dressed as your favourite Aussie celebrity and you could win an On The Go Anzac Digger tour to Gallipoli.
My purchases at The Australia Shop today.

It is reported that there are 600,000 ex-pat Australians in London these days. Isn't that as much as the population of Adelaide? (Just joking...) I picked up  copy of a weekly paper called 'Australian Times', which reports on the conferring of the ex-pats' own Australia Day Honours. We confer, apparently, an 'Australian of the Year in the UK' (Stuart Devlin, a goldsmith - how interesting); a 'Young Australian Achiever of the year in the UK' (Tim Minchin); and - wait for it - 'Honorary Australian of the Year in the UK'. This one is for (and I quote) 'non-Australian residents of the UK who display 'Australian characteristics' or who have contributed significantly to Australia'. Who makes this stuff up? Aren't there enough potential award-ees amongst 600,00 to find three of our own people? Nevertheless, I don't want to denigrate the recipient, who has the divine name of Alistair Goodlad. Actually, he's 'Lord Goodlad', which is even better; and he is a former UK High Commissioner to Australia who, it seems, has maintained close ties with the country since he returned from his post. The paper doesn't mention what, if any, 'Australian characteristics' he may have developed.

So what else is going on around town while I am sitting here writing this? Well, the Jetlag Bar in Marylebone is running an Australian Movie Marathon. Heath ledger features heavily. Over at the Grange City Hotel in Cooper's Row they have rounded up all the Australian artists presently performing in West End productions of Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon to entertain business types. Canapes and drinks included. The Commonwealth Kitchen at The Commonwealth Club (I have to find that) is also going down the drinks and canapes route, this time with entertainment provided by 'The Untamed Edna Experience'. My mind is already boggling. (It's a performer who impersonates Barry Humphreys impersonating Dame Edna. Here 'tis.)

The Redback Tavern in High St, Acton has been open since 11 am, with free t-shirts, free BBQ, Triple J music and - of course - pies. Belushi's ('venues all over town') are running 'Occa of the Year Awards', with 'plenty of Bundy rum'. betcha Lord Goodlad doesn't win that one. Waxy O'Connor's in Leicester Square is celebrating Australia Day 'due to popular demand from their antipodean customers'. Beer, pies and Triple J again. The King's Arm's in New King's Road has a similar approach and invites us to 'come and sizzle a sausage on the bbq'. (As all true Aussie will know, that is a mis-quote, but their heart is presumably in the right place). There's a "Big Day Out" (only smaller) kind of music festival going on today and tomorrow at Shepherds Bush Green, called Walkabout. But The Underdog in Clapham Common has a surf simulator! I think they win.

Happy Australia Day!


  1. Don't forget to spare a thought for indigenous Australians, for whom Australia Day can be quite painful (many call it Invasion Day).

  2. @Jess: agree. official line is at I couldn't find any references to this aspect in the UK ex-pats' observance of The Day.

    @Sue: of course. But Vegemite is all yeast, really, so not too much of that on the menu :(