As you can see I’ve bought my hat. It’s a little bit too flash really, more of a summer bonnet for keeping the flies off but it’ll be perfect. I’m nearly ready. I’ll dust down my old Jack London two-tone whistle and flute (‘suit’ to those of you not familiar with Cockney rhyming slang); clip on the stripy regimental tie with a louche Windsor knot, and polish my Savile Row brown brogues (the artfully faded ones from an Op Shop in Smith Street). Very nice. Very fitting. All I need now is the embossed card from the Palace with the hand-written invitation, the crisp stationery, the generous calligraphy customary on such posh occasions.
I’m sure it’s in the post. I can afford to wait. After all, it’s a fair distance from St James to St Kilda. I’m not over-concerned. You see, I do meet all the criteria: father served for decades in a Royal military corps, uncle was a warrant officer in the Royal Artillery; I studied at the Royal College of Art, am an elected member of the Royal West of England Academy, commissioned by the Royal Marines; I shook hands (twice) with the grand Old Duke of York on his recent visit to RMIT, and I’ve even got a loyalty card with the RACV. What further credentials might one possibly need? In fact, I’ve probably more claim to royal lineage than Megan M. her good self! And what of the potential marriage – an American divorcee marrying an English heir to the throne – what could possibly go wrong?
I pondered this prospect while wandering with family the vast sun-bleached beaches of Southern Australia last month. Christmas in 30 plus degrees is, and will remain, a novelty for anyone born north of the Tropic of Cancer. Beaches at Christmas are normally rain-sodden, wind-lashed dispiriting places under skies the colour of unpolished pewter. Not always, however. They can be places of unexpected surprise and delight, especially when strewn with unusual treasure trove. In 1997 a container filled with millions of Lego pieces was swept off a cargo vessel in heavy seas twenty miles from Land’s End on the far SW tip of England. 4.8 million pieces of the plastic building brick bound for New York ended up in beaches and coves. In a quirk of maritime fate all the pieces had a nautical theme: divers, aquanauts, fish of all shapes, and vast numbers of scuba kit, spear guns, life preservers, and flippers. There were also 33, 941 dragons – in black and green, please note – and 353,264 ‘Daisy Flowers in packs of four coloured white, red and yellow’ (You have to give it to the stock control folk at Lego; their data management is refreshingly specific).
Despite many hours of earnest rooting around on all fours, despite sifting through tonnes of sand I’ve yet to find one piece, not even a bloody ‘Daisy Flower’ in white, red or yellow. For some odd reason the most sought after piece is the black octopus: of the 4,200 that were swallowed by the waves only three have emerged from the sea after 18 years. Surely that’s some sort of conspiracy? Incredibly, a Melbourne local is reputed to have stumbled across a flipper that came from the same spillage! Nautical drifts of 100,000 km are not unknown. The mind simply boggles.
What’s worse than not dredging up a single piece, is that the entire episode is an environmental disaster. On land Lego may be fun (if you’re keen on that kind of ‘break and build-build and break’ play); in the ocean it’s a deadly poison for wildlife. The plastic does not decompose easily and merely adds to the grotesque gyres of marine debris that are clogging up and contaminating vast tracts of our oceans.
So, should my crisply embossed invitation card fail to make it from the Palace of St James I will dedicate the occasion to a spot of beach cleaning. However, I’m staying hopeful.
Even better I’ve made a cake, a fine upstanding vanilla-coloured creamy concoction modelled on a magnificent mound in Mungo National Park, which I had the unique pleasure of visiting last month. And as you can see my fine Titfer did its job of keeping the southern sun from bleaching my Barnet – there’s more cockney slang for you: ‘Barnet fair’ = hair.