Friday, 15 February 2013

Australia Day in London: It’s Got To Be South, Mate

A quiet evening spent in the company of a couple of Aussies, by Sophie Marie Atkinson.

Invasion Day. That’s what the Indigenous people of Oz call Australia Day. I can only assume that they named it so because they witnessed my experiences in Clapham on January 26th 2013.

Disclaimer time: I’m by no means an Australian-hater. Au contraire. I live with one; in the marital sense. My long-term boyfriend is a through-and-through Aussie. A Perth boy. He surfs. He plays Aussie Rules. He wears ‘bathers’. He visits the ‘bottle-o’ (I have no idea either). His favourite meals are in fact all cooked on a BBQ. Cut him open and he’d bleed Fosters and Vegemite.

And yet, when I was tasked with visiting Clapham South’s late-night bar Gigalum on the Great Day, he refused to join me.

“Clapham? On Australia Day? Are you taking the piss, Shelia?! Ya flamin’ galah!”

[I may be paraphrasing slightly…]
So the duty fell to a wonderful friend in whose debt I shall forever remain (her words, not mine). And, after a few glasses of wine for Dutch courage, it was into the lion’s den we went…

I imagine Gigalum is busy enough on a normal Saturday night; but when we arrived at 7:30pm on Australia Day, it was already one-in-one-out. Gulp. Despite this, we squeezed in and we were offered a selection of ‘grog’ (could a nation have come up with a less appealing name for booze?). So what was left for us to do but give it a whirl.
Despite the place being positively teeming with punters – the bar area inside was mobbed with almost as many people taking advantage of the beer garden and patio heaters outside despite the rain and 0-degree temperature – the staff could not have been more pleasant and helpful. They kept us fed and watered and even, somehow, provided us with table service; bringing us with a selection of pretty tasty snacks including satay and sweet potato fries. Although, they forgot to bring us cutlery, which made eating the tasty chorizo in red wine sauce an interesting challenge…
The atmosphere in the aforementioned bar area was hotter than the Australian outback. House music thumped from a DJ booth (we didn’t hear ‘Land Down Under’ once!) and revelers, at least 20% of which were wearing Australian flags as capes and had said flag painted on their cheeks, mingled and swayed, all in mightily good spirits. If not a little sweaty…

I’ll be honest, I’d expected bedlam, but was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Yes, it was rammed; but you know what? We got into the swing of things and before we knew it, we were in the heat of it all ourselves: schooner of sauv blanc in one hand, inflatable kangaroo in the other (the result the next day being that my mouth was drier than a dead dingo’s donger).

So next year, come Invasion, I mean Australia, Day, I’ll be donning my thongs, grabbing myself a tinny, some face paints and heading down to good ol’ Clapham. Leaving my preconceptions behind. But not my inflatable kangaroo.

No comments:

Post a Comment