It is much too easy for all of us whichever country we live in, to identify some other nation to sneer at, to mock and even to underestimate. There has been a friendly animosity between Britain and Australia, for instance, ever since our relationship moved on from those early days of, well, you know, no offence meant mates, crime and punishment.
Some of my best friends are Australians, as they say, and I have long held a deep respect for Australian ability in the worlds of opera, feature film, cricket and frisbee-throwing, whoops, the last one was just a joke, honestly. Actually, the last two might have been.
Australians look good on the beach too – or so I’m told.
Then it comes to Australian television. Well, the runaway success there has to be the long-running teen soap, Neighbours and no mockery there, mate, good on yer, it has run for decades, earned a lot of Australian dollars and taught several generations of teenagers to think that the only the simplest of clichés are possible in human relationships. The stars from the series always look good on the beach too and are often supremely good at throwing the odd frisbee.
So, forgive me, Australia, when I came to watch the recent British transmission of the ABC drama series The Slap if I was expecting some kind of grown-up Neighbours. I was wrong, clichés – not one in sight, no frisbees either. Based on a novel, that I now really really want to read, this was the most gripping, original and provocative English language drama series that I have seen on British television for a very long time and, let’s repeat this, it was one hundred percent Australian. Set in Melbourne and focusing on an extended family of average, ordinary, everyday people, it showed just how complex, unpredictable, tragic but also fundamentally optimistic human relationships can be. I shall take it with me for a long time and hope that it helps me to avoid jumping to too many easy judgements about my fellow men. It was a bloody good view for an evening in with a can or two of lager too.
If you missed it – go find it. It is great.