At Decent Intervals
In the build-up to implementation of FAP [Federal Annihilation of Pollution], travel was in the air. A generation of burb-dwellers was thinking they wanted to get out in the vehicle and take a look round. Be under different skies, see some of the big name places.
National circumstances were complicating, a decade after the giant Subsidence when the layers above, or in open-cut cases, around, the almost continuous of ore-, coal- & mineral-mines simply sighed and fell inward, 50 metres on average, and 20kms across the whole coastal rim. Fortunately, the Rainbow Serpent miraculously awoke and rose to the rescue, looping like a ring-cake or coil around the Island Continent of Australia.
The Rainbow Serpent it is that’s pretty much stopping the whole country going under, from the Tasman, Pacific, Arafura, Indian, coasts inland.
(The RS was naturally declared a National Living Treasure, and a public holiday, RainbowSerpent Day, established in all states except Tasmania, with free rainbow cake, fire works and Reptile Information Centres.)
Now, Keith, on the long drive cross-country from Adelaide into NSW, steering with an old map across his knees, pulled the camper-van off the road and climbed over the table-drain, his trusty birding binoculars in one hand.
It’s pretty unusual for a solitary middle-aged man in short-sleeved shirt and shorts to just stop in what seems like the middle of nowhere, just to have a look.
Great Recruiting Marches Re-enacted in Time for Anzac Day
“Keep the Zac in Anzac. Join the March in April” is the campaign slogan in a major rethink of this year’s national ceremony on 25 April, sponsored by Anzac BiscuitsÔ.
This year’s Anzac Day is the first in an entirely new-look joint initiative resulting in the ‘Re-live the Heroes: Join Up in The National Capital’ advertising campaign. Tickets and transport are available from ANZAC Inc., online or at the nearest ANZAC Inc. Defence Force outlet.
Under this plan, small towns will no longer need to close off their main street at both dawn and 11am for Anzac services, incurring cost to community for policing, hire of barricades, Porta-Loos, wreaths etc.
[NOR need grown-ups spend all day ingesting alcohol to deflect (traditional) emotions of inadequacy and self-consciousness generated by the doubtful faces of the town’s few children each year because official curriculum teaches the little kids to long for unimaginable glory-days when all young men in grand- & great-grand-father generations fitly ran to meet up with the epic marches of thousands across the country to the Big City, where recruitment centres had been set up for joining the Army and Navy and Air Force from here, this very district.]
And so Keith had set out in the Winnebago to kill two birds with one stone, as it were: actually take a trip himself, and have a bit of a go at feeling a Hero, which would, he thought, make quite a funny change.
At present he was crossing the dry table-drain and thinking that it’s not in curriculum that there was no march back to the little towns, many returning only to the very tall plinths under soldier-statues accommodating the ‘fallen,’ the ‘lost’ who might indeed now be 100% lost if it wasn’t for the trapping of their names in gold or black lettering.
Four [an apparent diversion but actually related] Interval
The Flannel Flower. Common.
A robust, bushy plant with velvety or woolly grey leaves on lower stems. Upper stems bear one or more white ‘flowers’, 1 to 5 cm across. Each flower is a downy pale green or white disk of many florets surrounded by spreading white bracts which look like petals cut out of fine white flannel, sometimes green tipped.
Late C19–early C20, as popular as wattle as signifier of Australianness.
Public Notice is hereby given
The term Flannel Flower has been amended to and copyrighted as The Flanny Flower. Australian Emblem, “you don’t get more Australian than this”
Necessary though Short Taxonomy
NOW, the multiple colours of an easy-to-grow hybridised variety of flannel flower is reminiscent of the lines and squares of a traditional old-time tractor-driver’s flanny (flannel shirt), they are, to tap-the-side-of-the-nose-and-wink type people, not only an obvious reference to a much-loved Australian icon, but also to—and here’s the bit that’s hard to explain quite how the whole process was thought out—a ref. to traditional Aussie sporting spirit, ie the winning streak, that Guinness-Book-of-Records-level desire to totally exterminate, wipe off or extinguish, all competitors. The clue is in the flower’s botanical name, Actinotus helianthi de Candolle, which articulates a secret motto, ‘(the) Act Is/Was Not Us’, a reference in code to not copping it, ie not wearing accusations of failing to most love and care fiercely and passionately and therefore know best how to look after land, environment etc. YOUR OWN country that is in particular the part that you own & will bloody well do what you want with. Hence anywhere the Flanny Flower appears in a logo, a motto, on business cards, t-shirts, websites and so forth, it’s like a special handshake shared throughout organizations like OPPOS, the Outraged Private Property Owners Society, founded by ex-head of Farmers’ & Graziers’ Assoc of Australia charged with bulldozing, burning and lazer-levelling one of two only-remaining, heritage-listed, conservation-legislated wetlands on his own newly bought ‘property’), and another group, the Personally Offended Lobby,currently fighting outrageous laws by which certain members of the Government and other ignorant idiots think they are able to dictate what you do on and with your own property. With your own land. As if anyone except a few ferals, Greens, left-over Bolshies and illegals gave a rat’s arse about wetlands and legless lizards anyway.
Which information —although he had never heard of the flanny flower, it being pretty much an eastern states sort of botanical event — will background you on how Keith ended up getting an overseas trip, after climbing across the table-drain with an old map that showed he might see a spotted craik pottering in a wide wetland, with river red-gums, paperbarks, reeds and towers of tussock.
If he was lucky.
Instead he faced fallen trees, brown reeds and slashed scrub all pushed into long rows on a cracked earth. Thinking his wetland must be further from the road, which made a kind of sense, he set off between prostrate trunks, smashed branches and roots sticking up in the air. Still nothing there; couldn’t see it even when he climbed a heap. Annoyed now, and wishing he’d bought a new map, he walked on. The next time he turned round he couldn’t see the van.,He kept on, thinkinghe knew pretty much where it had to be, and that might be the edge of the wetlands he could see as a smudge a few kms off. Closer up, it was a young crop, and the autumn sun was nearly down. Things quickly turned into a matter of tripping over broken-off roots and scattered branches, uncertainty about the road, feeling lost and tired and frustrated in complete darkness. He had begun to despair when he thought he saw, between the long rows of pushed-up timber black against the stars a dim but unwavering light. Feeling better he tested each step methodically until he was within a few metres of the little glow, a faint light in a lozenge-shaped outline. He could have wept with relief. It was home, the Winnebago, and he’d left the sliding door open.
Five: who embodies
Keith caught up with the Re-Enlist! ANZAC™ March a few days out of Canberra. Of course people were not actually marching, but taking a seat in the buses as they came through each town, or, more often, joining the cavalcade in their own vehicles*, as he did now (though that had not been the official plan for anyone except the pilgrims with personal mobility issues). *A few hardy old sons-of-sons of the Light Horse rode astride big whiskery horses each day in ill-fitting khaki wool uniforms. How they got from town to town in time to join the camp each night is a mystery I can’t explain.
On the long-awaited morning of the 25th, record-breaking crowds numbering tens of thousands surged into Canberra before daylight, filling the great Anzac Parade and the side streets below the War Memorial. Less fortunate ticket holders like Keith joined in from the other side of the Lake, but were almost fully compensated by screens mounted on semi-trailers volunteered for the day by their drivers, who sat proudly, members already of the Unsung Heroes, ‘the new army of today’, under the monster screens attached above their vehicles and necessary even quite close to the solemn military rituals, sorrowing funeral-type display and inspiring speeches. It all had simultaneously a bigger-than-human and mysteriously funky spunky upbeat feel it was hard to put your finger on, not only all the kids under about 18 but many, in fact nearly all, adults no matter how old or individually obese or lacking in personal mobility, it is fair to say each one of them, old or young, experienced intense pangs of longing for the honour to be in someone else’s boots, the boots of people on screen, to wear that uniform, and salute your Commander-in-Chief™.
Emotion at that ceremony became almost unbearable at the point when it was possible to see relayed on the plasma screens, a personal-emotion tear gathering in the corner of the right eye of nearly every single one in the serried ranks of personnel—army, air and navy alike—saluting their Commander and their Prime Minister and their President as if with a single arm, even though there must have been a thousand each side of the much-raised steps at the top of which the Important Three stood before the remodelled War Memorial (to be named after this year the War Achievements Pavilion, the name selected in an Australia-wide referendum which had, contrary to all referendum-history-precedent, been won by a huge majority of yesses over no).
“At the going down of the Sun,” intoned the President in his mellow tones through the microphones and loudspeakers so the very hills gave off deep reverb,
“And in the morning…
“We will revenge* them”
With unAustralian conviction, “Ozzie Ozzie Oy” suddenly erupted and ricocheted throughout the vast and til now respectful crowds.
“You shall grow not old…”
Thousands surged forward out of their personal motorised buggies and wheel chairs, to be gently restrained by cordons of police in their navy blue with long white gauntlets.
Now this year the screens overhead showed flocks of Australian birds and animals appearing to rush in thousands towards the viewers and the Memorial. Just as it seemed too scarily like they must crash into spectators gazing upwards, they appeared to swoop just as gracefully towards the ground, or in the case of the animals, to lock their joints so as to brake, in a manful way, and begin to halt at which point the birds, in close-up now, seemed to raise their right wings at the beak ever so briefly, to attempt a salute.
“Ozzie Ozzie Oy” chorused the dazzled spectators rather less enthusiastically except for the younger children. The service ended.
And somehow, in spite of everything, numbers of people were secretly saddened overall. Keith himself was one of these, and as soon as he decently could he turned the Winnebago out of the caravan park with all its post-service barbecues, flags and games of two-up, and headed west.
[*an inspired spontaneous change from ‘remember’ made by the President the year before and quickly condemned and challenged by an obscure group of descendants of Australian, NZ & US Vietnam vets also convinced the behaviour of the sun itself was affected by climate change. The case had been dismissed in court on grounds they were unfit to plead.]
Muscles Employed in Maintaining the Position ofAttention
Six. A Parallel Taxonomy of Flannel Flower
Keith, his aunts always told people when he was younger, owed his personality to his Uncle Jess whose character, career trajectory & life history were summed up by these hard-core old-school Presbyterian-Australian aunties as A bit of a no-hoper (a).Had the same aunties been sounding off over the tea cups now in Keith’s adult life, they would have accused himof reincarnating Uncle Jess to the letter. Wh. letter(s) kind of morph into the regional application of term flâneur.
This key term, (first tapped or pencilled in a way you could get a real handle on by Uncle Jess’s contemporary [Uncle] Walter Benjamin, [who, I am certain, was described as (a) by his own aunties, Presbyterian in temper if Jewish by faith]), is identified with that natural Aussie icon, the Flannel Flower. Here, acoustemology must prevail over etymology per se.
Keith’s Uncle Jess had unfortunately succumbed to tuberculosis before he could be drafted into any army, thus leaving only a stack of fine b-&-w photos of big picnics, town parades and narrow alleyways. Over time the flâneur-dom inherited by Keith turned out to be more the sort that made him take the old van out in the bush of a weekend and see what flowers were out, or if the Regent Honeyeater was back. Plus a terrible curiosity not fully quenched by his life of jobs in a sequence of pay offices, hence his decision to make the long drive to Canberra for the Anzac Service he’d heard so much about.
Seven. Breaking News Item. Invention by Australian Scientist of the Century Released
CSIRO Breakthrough Device, “Patrio-Cue”™
An Australian invention has clinched years of research by the outstanding scientist at CSIRO. Described by a major American-based company spokesman as ‘the most exciting development we’ve heard of in years’, it identifies an area of the heart in which patriotic love is experienced. The Kit traces normal people’s feeling from stimulus-cue (reader may visualize personal selection here) to front and rear cerebral lobes, winding through a pathway of nerves to the heart muscle and back along reverse path bearing patriotic love to the brain. Accepting his award as Scientist of the Australian Century, Professor Edge said though he saw a theoretical potential for abuse he had only released his research after an undertaking by the Federal Government the kits were to be manufactured exclusively in Australia and available only to the governments of free and democratic societies.
Simple technology has been devised so that an easy, 3-day induction of personnel in use of the Neuronatrac™, also marketed as Encephalo-Kit™, is available. Any personal-fitness-trainer can run tests with the kit from an ordinary power source, thereby taking much of the pressure off overworked and stressed Dept of Immig [DImIA] staff, sorting sheep from goats in context of applicants still clogging up the proverbial Works with applications for permanent residency and citizenship.
His discovery looks set to create a big rise in international respect, and spawn a large industry, with sales o/s particularly to ‘our future allies’ and ‘democracies in the making’ which view non-patriotism as seriously as our own such that dark, soundproof and filthy cells beneath city-block-size police headquarters exist from which occupants rarely emerge much resembling at all the person who entered for even initial tests let alone full assessment vis à vis the national interest—
Eight: Surprise Findings by Scientific Invention
Despite unrest predictable among civil rights groups, an assessment Australia-wide of individual population was undertaken by teams of experts in the Neuronatrac™. Great surprise that considerable numbers, including elderly Regional Ockers, have been found not registering appropriate emotional excitation at key patriotic cues.
What to do, what to do. Don’t want their negativity undermining the nation and/ or possibly corrupting the healthy majority, who of course do register high levels as recommended.
A bit of good old Aussie improvisation saw a plan was devised and authorised by Commonwealth Government Canberraâ reclaiming the islands and lands excised at the beginning of the century. In Exercise Exfluxia, ships contracted to enter major ports will collect the low-patriotism types, and convey them as humanely as possible to Nauru, Ashmore Reef etc and offload them there, despite a predictable disquiet in certain circles; after all not all these people have been universally throughout their often long lives entirely destructive or even negative in their part in Australian society, though as a saddened Attorney-General said, ‘What can you do? The evidence is right there on the graph. And it’s not as though they’re going to another planet.’
And failure to act would send the wrong message to our neighbours. As a compromise, a ballot will be held on the island after three years and if those whose numbers come up wish, they can be retested, and return to Australia.
Keith was not really surprised by the results of his patrio-cue test. He took his time driving up the map, over the RainbowSerpent Ridge and into Darwin. He locked the old Winnebago in a carpark near the wharf, putting the key in his pocket. ‘Bugger ‘em,’ he thought, hoping it would cause a bit of trouble.
This can’t be the whole story either, he said to himself, shrugging on his backpack and joining the queue at the gangway.
Images 1 to 3: Manual of Physical Training, By authority, British War Office. McCarron, Bird & Co, Melbourne, 1931 reprinted with amendments 1941.
- · ‘Living’ here believed by different parties to be literal, spiritual, metaphorical-national or natural as in ‘living rock’.
 With considerable overlap of members, few of whom ever wear flannel.
 The extremes to which ordinary Australians can be pushed by inopportune attention to existence of these relatives can be seen in the late Father Corby on Schapelle’s half-bro:
‘We don’t where he came from. He doesn’t belong in this family, f’sure. He’s a real no-hoper dead-beat.’