Today is ANZAC day, so the TV is on and we’re watching the Melbourne march. Veterans, returned service men, families who’ve lost loved ones, all congregate in groups through Melbourne’s city centre in a carefully thought out plan, they then wind their way up along St Kilda Road to the War Memorial in date order of battles. They are cheered and applauded all the way by people lining the route. The vets that can’t walk the whole way are proudly ferried along in open top cars and even on flat-bed lorries. Banners are made, children walk carrying photos of their relatives that have now passed while others hold their grandparents hands. Marching bands play them along, including school bands, people take picnics (it’s a long day), wave flags and wave and cheer when they see people they know, some even dart out and kiss and hug relatives as they march past. Then the city shuts down to watch the traditional Essendon v Collingwood AFL match.
This year we have Monday off as a public holiday as ANZAC day has fallen on a Sunday, offices will be shut, shops open for reduced hours and the whole of Australia remembers their fallen in wars from the Boer through to Afghanistan. (I interrupt as a Monk has just walked along the TV with medals on his robe, pause for mind-bogglement).
Yesterday we went to the Queen Victoria Markets where they were doing a roaring trade in sprigs of rosemary for remembrance, this year the commentators have said that people have been asked dress up, they don’t want people marching in jeans and t-shirts. For me it drives me crazy when you get teenagers shuffling along (don’t people get taught to walk properly by lifting their feet up any more), some on mobile phones, baseball caps on ‘just so’ and jeans halfway down their arse. Yes this is how some were marching last year, and infuriates me for a couple of reasons:
- It is disrespectful to the veterans and returned servicemen who have pressed their suits and shined their medals;
- It is disrespectful to the families that are their supporting their loved ones that have also pressed their suits and shined their relatives’ medals;
I wish those who organise it specify a dress code, and while you probably can’t stop people from marching, I wish they would haul the kids that are sullen, pouting and wearing totally inappropriate things out the parade, cover them in shrouds then shove them back in again. We’ve seen several with baseball caps on, hoodies, t-shirts and so on. This may just be something you have been asked to do by your parents, but there are reasons why this march is repeated all over Australia today. We owe them so much. If you can’t respect what they have given up, what they have lost, the courage they have shown, just by wearing smart clothes. Don’t march.
It is hard to watch sometimes, we’ve been told that 5 veterans have already been taken to hospital as they are poorly, some of the men walking along are in their 80s, even 90s, one signed up in 1934 and saw active duty in the Second World War. Some you know will be marching for the last time, but they are damn well going to march to honour their comrades.
I am grateful for the long weekend, not because it is a day off. But because we need to remember those who have fallen, every year their numbers get fewer and fewer, it is up to us to honour and remember them.
Last night we went to the MCG for the Brisbane Lions v Melbourne FC match. Matt and Lachy came with us, both Lions fans. Dan had organised passes for the Long Room and we went into the carvery for dinner. We’d planned to leave our house at 5:00, so we could have a nice long leisurely dinner. In the end we left at nearly 6:00, got stuck in traffic and while we had nice food, our table was nearly cleared by mistake as we squashed time wise right up to the first bounce. Lachy then Matt left the table to watch the first quarter, leaving Dan and I finishing off the bottle of wine. So not quite the relaxed evening we’d planned, although this had been predicted.
Our housemate Andrew, and his girlfriend Tam who’s down from Canberra, did The Centurion last night. 100 shots of beer, in 100 minutes, or about 13 stubby bottles in just over an hour. As to be predicted also, they are now in bed with raging hangovers. While I am as guilty as the next person for playing drinking games, chase the ace, the name game and so on, this one smacks of sheer stupidity; and one I am glad I’ve not done, watched or cleared up after. After the march, we will be doing housework, Dan and I will tiptoe around for so long, but we’ve got things we need to do today, hangovers in the house or no.