Elections can be rather polarising affairs across all spectra – at a social and personal level. I tend to become rather short-tempered during campaigns, responding with at times intense emotion to the events as they unfold, generally through fear of a conservative victory. Without any true party of the left in Australia, however, every election seems to be a conservative victory, irrespective of whether or not the Liberal or Labor Party wins. That said, there is little point in disguising my hatred and contempt for everything the Liberal Party stands for, and it is the prospect of their being elected that frightens me the most.
All this makes it difficult to remain level-headed, especially when living in the Paddington / Woollahra area, which is overdosed with conservative prats. Their smug, carefree and occasionally disgusting affluence flies in the face of any hopes one might harbour for a sustainable future where personal greed and indulgence are marginalised in favour of the greater good. But what really upset me most of all last Saturday night, was the awful blandness and barbarism of many present in this electorate.
I needed to get out, somewhere, anywhere, “where there’s music and people and they’re young and alive.” With a loose arrangement to meet a friend on Queen Street, I thought it best to stay within the vicinity, so I wandered into the Light Brigade Hotel on Oxford Street. I should have known better, having been there many times in the past on account of its proximity. It was early evening but the place was entirely packed. Australia was playing New Zealand in the rugby, about which I would have been happy to remain ignorant. Rugby is a tiresome, messy game, which people continually tell me is tactically more sophisticated than Rugby League. Empirical observation however, has shown it to be merely a bunch of violent boofheads jumping on each other, then kicking the ball first chance they get. Where exactly the skill or tactics reside in this dreadfully boring mess is a mystery to me.
The crowd was not unlike the usual collection of dullards, however, on this occasion, multiplied by a significant factor. A most moribund collection of collared shirts, tucked-in! and that most awful type of person – the man who wears a suit on a Saturday WHEN HE DOESN’T HAVE TO. I have never really understood this phenomenon, with the exception of say, a fine-quality three-piece retro number or something in blue velvet. But this was like a real-estate agents’ convention. Pretty well everyone else was attired in striped-shirts, with the effect that, were an alien observer to take this random sample, they might conclude that the human species generated offspring through a process of cloning.
I pushed my way through to the bar thinking, hell, I’m here now – one beer then out. I figured I could lean against a wall, sipping away, and at least not feel as lonely as I had done prior to entering. Indeed, my initial response was more positive than the above paragraph would suggest. Yes, here were people and plenty of them. What harm could it do to warm up for the evening in a warm atmosphere?
It was surprisingly easy to get served, after which I found a great spot to lean against the wall. This vacancy was ensured by the fact that, from this vantage point, it was not possible to see any of the two-hundred odd screens with the rugby on. I surveyed the crowd, noting here and there the rare individual who had made some effort, albeit a conservative one, to appear to be an individual. It struck me immediately that from this bunch, the Liberal Party was getting a big fat number 1 on the ballot paper come August 21. The true awfulness of the people, however, was yet to reveal itself!
This was the eye of the storm. I had entered during the half-time break, and once that whistle blew time on, all hell broke loose. The loud chorus of banter now began to show more uniform emotional responses. Approval or disapproval erupted in bursts of emotion, in accordance with the fortunes of the shaved apes on the screen. Yet, there was something very disturbing about it all – both the positive and negative shouts seemed fuelled by anger and invective. One rather frightening-looking fellow, standing a mere four feet from me, was swearing his head off. “Fuck you” this and “Fuck you” that, apparently oblivious to the presence of a civilised human-being within his earshot. Indeed, it occurred to me after a time that he thought this sort of behaviour might earn approval from those around him – something even more frightening to consider.
The game was not going well for Australia, or so I gathered, and my delight at this grew with every angry shout from these hideous barbarians around me. And why not let the New Zealanders have it? It seems to mean a whole lot more to them anyway. Clearly some of the fools in the pub needed a good dose of humility. Anyone who finds it necessary to shout “Die, you cunts!” at a rugby game, has their priorities wrong. I could understand if John Howard had appeared on the screen, though of course, amidst this crowd they would be far more likely to applaud.
It wasn’t long before I’d had enough. I had come here to feel less lonely, but now I felt more lonely than ever. These people really sucked balls, to put it mildly, and they were, with each passing moment of Labor’s fumbled election campaign, moving ever closer to an insufferable joy at the victory of that Catholic misogynist Tony Abbott. The idea was so dreadful that I simply had to get out, and so I did.
I freely admit that it had been a gross error of judgement to go into the pub in the first place, yet to then follow it up by walking down to the Woollahra hotel, borders on the criminally insane. I have long known that this is a haunt of the worst kind of toffs imaginable, and yet, still awaiting contact from my old friend, who was somewhere in the locale, it seemed to make tactical sense to remain hereabouts.
I walked down Queen Street, enjoying the cool air. I was free for now, and some levity returned to my mood. Indeed, I felt as though my loneliness were beginning to vanish on the back of a wave of self-appreciation. There wasn’t a great deal to appreciate, with the exception of the fact that I was not one of those people I had left behind. Negativity is rarely a good starting point for positivity, yet for now it was working.
The Woollahra Hotel was at least blissfully quiet. The rugby was on too, sure, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly loud and the crowd was comparatively thin. It was, however, equally unpromising. Not only were the same clones present as had been in attendance up the road, but the suit count here was even higher, and despite the apparently higher socio-economic status of the clientele, the taste on display was, to put it mildly, extremely disappointing. Suits and ties on a Saturday, with no discernible motive are bad enough, but sloppy, ill-fitting suits on sloppy, under-exercised men are positively revolting. Bad suits, bad ties, bad vibes. And, ye gods, the few ladies present were, to quote René Artois from ‘Allo ‘allo, “dressed-up like the dinner of a dog.” Perhaps it is unfair to judge people by their appearance, but when they have spent a lot of money on rubbish, thus displaying extremely questionable taste, and are likely to vote Liberal, it’s very very hard to like them.
What on earth was I doing here? I was in the heartland of the enemy; the very people who want to turn this country into a gauche playground for the mega-rich, while all artistic sensibility was crushed beneath the weight of their four-wheel drives. They glanced at me occasionally as though I were some odd curiosity; clearly out of place for not wearing the regulation uniform of the rich and dull. I sank into a chair, again, lonely and persecuted, only now, angry and a little exhausted. I knew there was only one thing to do, and I should have done it long before. Finish up and get the hell out of the eastern suburbs. Surry Hills was calling, and, a few minutes later, off I went!