Sunday 16 October 2011

Nasty, brutish and long

Eighty minutes watching rugby is too big an ask for me - even ten is a trial. So I certainly won't be glued to a screen tonight at any point of the game; though I will be keen to find out the final score. NZ v Australia: it's going to be a needle match, the biggest one of the whole tournament, quite possibly even more keenly followed than the actual final. (Either us or them against France, alas: shame the Welsh got knocked out last night.)

We have this thing about the Aussies and, to a lesser extent, them about us. They're loud, cocky, brash and, what's worse, have good reason to be confident: they do tend to succeed. We always feel smaller, on the hind foot, having to try harder, and get touchy about being teased. I don't think I've ever been on a mixed-nationality group tour where the Kiwis haven't been singled out for some special put-downs. For some reason, the jokes are mainly to do with unsavoury relationships with sheep - as if the Aussies don't have a bigger flock than we do. A former Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon, once said that the stream of New Zealanders emigrating across the Tasman raised the average national IQ of both countries, which was the only positive thing I remember him for.

And I really like Australia, as a destination: it has fabulous scenery quite unlike anything we have, the distances are mind-blowing, the wildlife is endlessly bizarre and appealing, the crocs and sharks and jellyfish and snakes and spiders definitely add some excitement to being outdoors, there's great food and wine and history, the shopping, even for a -phobe like me, is enticing, there's all sorts of fun to be had there, and the people are, jibes apart, friendly and welcoming. I really can't take too much of the accent, though - after about a week of it, my ears get tired. And they make fun of our accent! "Fush and chups" they reckon - they, who say "feesh and cheeps".

I read about some graffiti near Sydney airport written by a disgruntled Aussie: 'New Zealand sucks'. Shortly afterwards, an inspired Kiwi added: 'Australia nil'. That will do nicely, tonight.

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