I am not oblivious to British history. I am aware that over 200 years ago the English established their British colony in New South Wales after Captain Cook arrived on his ship in 1770 (on HM Endeavour to be precise). As a 24 year old having studied English, which involved reading and writing about travel from the 1700s, you would expect me to know this. No, that is not a fair statement. You would expect me to know this because I have been to Australia 3 times and as someone not ignorant to other countries culture and history. Yes, that is more like it. What I would not expect, however, is to know this at the age of 16, as I was when I first visited Australia and had my first dose of pommie bashing. A drunken Kangaroo Island chap shouted at my 16-year-old self from across the bar, “get out of my country you pommie bastard”. Oh, sure, I will just pack my bags now as you have expressed your intelligent remark and because I, personally, came over here with old Cook to live on Australian turf. I was not around 244 years ago and I did not help Cook sail his ship nor did I converse with King George III; he is the one to be mad at, not me. I can’t even sail.
Now, it may sound like I don’t have a sense of humour; well I do! I am English. I had the privilege of working at a hotel in the UK where the Australian cricketers stayed during The Ashes. It was fun. I went to their matches and attempted some Aussie bashing in return for some light-hearted pommie bashing. This was my favourite week at work, for sure. I supported Australia, because I don’t actually like cricket, but upon hearing this my fellow patriotic Englishmen unfriended me both on and off Facebook. I had the pleasure of watching Agar’s special moment on the pitch while sitting in front of his parents. They were being interviewed, and I got in the papers and on BBC News; looking at my phone. I got some bashing for that by the Aussie team back at the hotel. The crowd at this game were no longer two opposing teams. The English were as excited as the Australians as they, too, cheered after every run Agar scored. It really was a special moment in cricket history. Crowds in the hotel roared with praise as Agar returned. His teammates, our hotel guests (although they were mostly Australian), and our staff were applauding him up the stairs. Then the good old Aussie/English banter started once more between the guests and me as they took the cricket lead.
Now that I am here in Oz once more I have experienced some of the funniest, good humoured pommie bashing I could imagine. My boyfriend (English) and uncle (Australian) capsized in a lake and the Aussie boatmenat the club, as they watched in anticipation at the sinking boat, were in hysterics. As they moored up they walked towards the boatmen with another Australian, who we will call Bruce. He is married to a wonderful English lady and has, perhaps, been transformed into a bit of a Westerner, but I don’t know. These Australians know he is a fellow Aussie, but still, it’s funnier to associate him with us pommies.
“Mate, why do you always bring the pommes with you?” They asked my uncle, in good humour.
“I’m not a pommie, I’m from here”, Bruce told them.
“Shut up, pommie”, they replied.
Laughter echoed around the boat club. It was good to see some pommie bashing between friends.
The following day a Dutch-Australian experimented with the length in which he could stretch my pommie bashing sense of humour. I was conversing with a lovely lady behind the bar as her ex-husband, this chap I speak of, came strolling in. “This is Chloe, you remember her parents, they were here last month”.
“I don’t care” he replied. “Get me a drink”, he said. “It sounds like some sort of f**king pommie party in here”.
“How pleasant”, I thought.
Then the pommie bashing got worse and lost its humour and it was no longer funny. He had overstepped the pommie bashing line. The next day he was pulling his boat onto his trailer from the jetty. I walked towards him to meet my boyfriend and uncle off their boat. Obviously realising he had crossed the pommie bashing line he made light of his bashing by trying to push me in the lake and attempting to run me over in his car as a joke. Then, later, he offered us a drink. All was well once more in the pommie bashing world.
I wrote a letter to my Grandma not so long ago and went to buy an overseas stamp. The cashier gave me a stamp with the Australian cricketers celebrating their victorious win for the British postman to see every time a letter is sent to the UK. This made me laugh out loud and catching onto the fact I am English other people in the post office joined in on the banter. I left the shop laughing because it was nice to experience some friendly pommie bashing.
For some strange reason a bit of pommie bashing makes me laugh and feel good inside. Not only is being English in Australia an excellent conversation starter, not only because most of the responses are “oh, my mum came from Nottingham do you know Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem by the castle?”, but it gives people the chance to see how far they can stretch your sense of humour. As soon as they see they’ve gone too far they reign it in and stick to a consistent level of pommie bashing they know you’re happy with. I love being in Australia and I hope many more Australians continue to ask where I am from, talk to me about our English/Australian history, and remind me of how good they are at cricket.