Rules, rules everywhere.
Having spent a fair old chunk of my life in the Middle East, I have always appreciated just how liberal the UK is. Notting Hill Carnival, Glastonbury, the Naked Bike Ride, bonfire night, drinking on trains, smiley Policemen, Vivienne Westwood, Camden, no helmet laws for cyclists, minimal media censorship, proper pints, page three girls.
Being half-Australian, I have also always known that Australia is a conservative place. I was prepared for a distinct lack of British liberalism, but I wasn’t ready for the nannyish mollycoddling that seems to step in time with the conservative-or is that liberal-or perhaps it’s labour thinking here.
You have to wear a helmet to ride a bike, many festivals only sell low beers. Bright yellow road signs that I always read as ‘refugee island’ tell you when there is refuge island, whatever that is, ahead. Drinking alcohol from open vessels is prohibited in public areas, newspapers won’t show much flesh and are choked by legal restrictions. The policemen are scarily fit, almost bionic-looking to the point that they give me the heeby-jeebies. I shall not commit any crimes, ever. The list goes on. I am an adult, surely I can make my own choices about the type of beer I choose to drink.
But no matter how uptight some of the many laws here seem to be, there is one thing that can’t be beaten down by overpowering government interference. And that is the great Aussie barbie. Like every good, solid institution, they are accessible and free: parks are dotted by gas, coal and wood barbeques which are maintained by someone else and paid for indirectly – so painlessly – through tax. They are little beacons of good, clean fun and long may they remain so. Now, if only we could legally crack open a cold beer to enjoy with these freshly barbied steaks, eh…