Brace for the Aussie summer

By Shepparton News

Welcome to another Australian summer swaggering up the road in a shimmer of gold like a Hollywood Barnsey.

Apparently, it’s going to be a screamer this year, packed with beer and loud boardshorts, singlets and sleeve tattoos, body oil and fried egg tarmac.

For those who relish the 40°C furnace, summer is a chance to stretch out and show their true colours — usually a tantalising blend of scarlet cherry, tattoo blue and walnut brown.

For these people, if you can’t handle an Aussie summer, then you’re not a fair-dinkum Aussie.

For the rest of us, summer is a chance to curl up with a good book — just like winter.

Funnily enough, just like a brutal northern winter, a fierce Australian summer forces most people indoors.

Only the persistent fisher people, the proudly tattooed and the sleeping drunks remain outside.

For the first 36 years of my life I’d never actually seen an airconditioner.

When I stepped off the Qantas Boeing at Tullamarine on February 10, 1992, I thought the pilot had forgotten to turn off the engine thrusters and I was a sponge cake in a fan oven.

But no — I had just stepped into an Australian summer.

To borrow a phrase from a Louis Macneice poem ‘‘world is crazier and more of it than we think. Incorrigibly plural’’.

In London, the world was a -10°C blizzard.

In Melbourne, the world was a floating mirage.

All this, in the space of 24 hours.

An hour after I stepped off the barbecued Tullamarine tarmac my friends introduced me to the Australian lifestyle, which involved standing around a 500°F coal-fired blaze in the backyard, eating burnt sausages and casually chatting.

I felt like casually fainting.

For the first few years I struggled through every Aussie summer.

Mossies enjoyed my English Beaujolais blood and Aerogard stripped the varnish off my guitar during evening verandah concerts with my dog.

However, I have now grown to respect and even enjoy the Aussie summer.

The secret is — slow down and obey the rules about mad dogs and Englishmen.

These days I watch the dappled late afternoon light flicker through the bush.

I wait for the electric cicada curtain to fall and I listen for the thrill of a cracking branch at midnight.

Sometimes I strum Elton John’s Rocket Man or The Church’s Aussie anthem for insomniacs Under the Milky Way.

Peron’s tree frog cackles in the vine leaves over my head.

The mossies now leave me alone, bored by the thickening blood of an old Englishman.

Then I pour another glass of Murchison Schlosswig and think there is no place I would rather be and no better time to live than through another Aussie summer.

John Lewis is chief of staff at the News.