Australia Day…or Invasion Day, Survival Day, Day of Mourning? I’m in the ‘change the date’ camp with this one.
And then there’s the block-headed and deliberate leftie-baiting with the day’s honours. Margaret Court! For all she’s one of the rare women awarded a big shiny gong, she is an even worse choice than last year’s low, Bettina Arndt. Religious and political conservatives and their News Corp minions must be rubbing their hands with glee, for they can now have fun with all the politically correct outrage. It’s all so predictable, and I’m just as liable to indulge a bit of confected outrage myself. Whenever I see an Australian flag in someone’s yard, I think, “White supremacist”!
Anyway, the date. 26th January. After frowning and shaking my head over the morning’s newspaper, I’m ignoring or perhaps abstaining from Australia Day. I’ve just come back from a walk in the Botanical Gardens. Last night’s heavy rain had freshened everything; as I walked under the huge old oak trees, the breeze shivered the leaves and little showers of raindrops spattered down. Snobby gardeners may sneer at colourful municipal mass bedding, but the display of multicoloured coleus looked spectacular.
People of all ages, were out walking, running, strolling, ambling or powering along. Some were obviously there for a leftie alternative to the official Australia Day celebration. But streams of older folk with yoga mats were heading towards the flat area around the rotunda for some kind of class and kids were hopping like fleas around the playground. Dogs – all kinds, from greyhounds to those little white things that look like animated fluffy slippers – did their own canine versions of meet and greet while I constantly exchanged “good mornings” and smiles with my community.
And I came across the storywalk. It’s a Mount Alexander Shire project – a book, page by page, fixed to stakes to be read as you walk along. My Two Blankets is an award-winning picture story book by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood.
A little girl moves to a new country. Everything is so different and foreign; the very words people speak sound so hard and strange. Fearful, she clings to her old blanket, her old words, for comfort. But a little girl she meets in the park makes friends with her, and begins to teach her new words. Her world changes. Now she has a new blanket; she has two blankets.
All that communal greeting and smiling and tail wagging must softened me up, because – soppy old me – I read the story, stake by stake, page by page, and was moved to tears.