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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Men of Letters - To the Woman Who Changed My Life - November 10th 2013

My dear,

It’s been over 30 years since we were introduced to each other and perhaps you were beginning to wonder whether today would ever happen. The thing is it never felt right before. But it does now. There is a question I must ask you and I do hope you’ll say yes.

My dear adopted motherland of Australia,

I cried when mum told me we were moving here. I can still picture the scene, as if I’m floating above it. We’re sitting at the top of the carpeted stairs inside our two storey cottage in the northwest of England. It’s 1980. I’m 8. Mum’s 33 and has recently suffered the loss of her second husband – my step-dad – to cancer. But she’s met an architect from Brisbane and we’re off to live in you!

I cried, not because I didn’t want to meet you. (I mean, this Aussie bloke that mum was about to marry was all sorts of fun. He was into filming trains on his Super-8 camera, and we would chase all over the English countryside. He also designed The Big Pineapple. Which, as a child, I thought was pretty cool. Even today, if you ever hear me on radio defending the Big Pineapple – and I think I’m probably the only person in the media who still does – now you know why!) No, the reason I cried was because I would leaving my Dad behind in England. Still, he bought me the 1981 Muppet Show annual at the airport… and you took us in.

Talk about a "Sliding Doors" moment. Where would I be today, if Mum and I hadn’t come here? That moment – and you, Australia, my adopted motherland – changed my life forever.

But I’ve been disrespectful towards you. You educated me (even if that did mean sitting me next to one Kyle Sandilands at Manly State School), you introduced me to my wife of 17 years, you employed me – including that dream uni job as mystery shopper at McDonalds! (How can I ever forget sitting in loo at Maccas shoving a thermometer into French Fries?) – and you embraced me in a very prominent and public position as a breakfast radio presenter on your national broadcaster. In short, you have cared for me as you would one of your own.

Yet for all of these 32 years, I have continued to think of another as my motherland. It has taken me all this time, but I finally see how this must hurt and confuse you. So today, I am writing to ask – dear Australia, please can we formalise our relationship? Will you have me as an Aussie?

Perhaps you’re wondering - why now? What’s changed? Well, it’s complex and even I don’t fully understand well enough to articulate why I’ve never asked you before. When people do find out that I’m not a citizen – and it’s been so long that most just assume I am (a very good friend of mine was shocked when I told her why I was writing you this letter. She had no idea) – I’ve always just said: I love you, I live in you, I pay taxes to you, I hope to die in you, but I just need to hold on to something from my past. And that something has been the fact that I am British and not Australian.

Yes, I know you can be both. In fact, I kindly went and made my son a dual citizen without asking him first. But I always had this fear that the British Government would pull the pin on dual citizenships and I’d be left without that link to the UK – which really means a link to my father, who still lives there.

I always said it was something in my heart that I didn’t feel the need to justify – and I stand by that. No one should pressure you into something so deeply personal.

And I always considered it a blessing that, as someone whose job involves talking on radio about politics, I simply cannot vote. I have never had to crystalise in my mind which side of politics I would support.

But a couple of things have brought me round. At the deli, I picked up a free magazine called “The Local Bulletin”. It’s all about Kenmore and surrounding suburbs. And inside was a photograph of a small, local citizenship ceremony. I never fancied the big flashy showy affair at City Hall – the one that’s on the telly every Australia Day, boasting it’s the biggest in the country. Suddenly I saw the beauty in becoming Australian alongside others from my suburb and community – people I would bump into at the shops or school gate.

Secondly, just before election day in September, a couple of recent arrivals to Australia were bemoaning the fact they couldn’t vote. They wanted to but couldn’t yet. That made me realise the value of being able to – and that I shouldn’t throw that privilege away.

And then, for some bizarre reason, I keep thinking about a scenario where I’m convicted of something – no, I’m not planning to join a bikie gang, or even chalk “I heart bikies” on the footpath – but in theory, I could be deported to the UK. Thousands of miles from wife Nikki and son Jack and you, dear Australia. I don’t want to think about life without you.

So you see how you’ve changed me? You can’t entirely take England out of the boy, but this boy left England long ago. He just didn’t realise it.

Australia, I have loved you for a long, long time. Will you have me as one of your own?

I know you’ll want to put me through a test. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I’m pretty confident. In fact, I am refusing to look at the sample questions online. I might not be able to spell Kosciusko or Palazszuk without checking, but I do know Bradman’s batting average so I’ll think I’ll go alright.

Are you going to ask me to quote some lines from that Franky Walnut song? I do hope so! I’ve been learning the words: “I’m as Australian as a sheep’s turd in the shape of Australia riding on the back of a sheep named Bruce who’s been shorn in the shape of Australia/I’m as Australian as a pie that’s been run over by a ute being driven by John Williamson while he narrates a documentary about Australia/I’m as Australian as a red-back spider and a funnel-web spider having a root inside a kangaroo scrotum purse/I’m as Australian as/I’m as Australian as.”

My dear Australia, I have attached the official paperwork. I await your response. Yours, if you’ll have me, Spencer

PS I may still support England in the Ashes
PPS Can I let you know after the Second Test?

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! And, yes, it's still OK to support England in the Ashes - think 'state of origin'.