Thursday was Australia Day. The day that Australians the world over gather in drinking establishments to commemorate the First Fleet shoring up in Sydney Cove in 1788, and thereafter establishing a culture shaped by sunburn, dangerous animals, very simply prepared meat and Castlemaine XXXX.
I wasn't going to fly out to Australia for the official national day of Australia. Thursday morning, I didn't even know that it was the official national day of Australia. I'm not Australian. I'm English; to me nationality is not something to be flaunted. You hide it away – like garish socks, or an embarrassing spouse.
Fortunately, my saviour came, not for the first time, in the shape of a shit chain pub. I made my way to the heaving Walkabout bar in Shepherd's Bush, aka London's Australian Embassy, to ask a drunken diaspora what it really means to be Australian.
This is what I found out.
Anne-Marie, originally from Gold Coast, Queensland.
VICE: Hey Anne-Marie, what does Australia Day mean to you?
Anne-Marie: Freedom and steak.
Do you think us English should do more to celebrate Australia Day? Maybe we could co-opt it as an excuse to get drunk, like we did with St Patrick's Day.
No, an England Day in Australia would be fucked up. No one would celebrate it.
What makes you say that?
We do in Australia, but not in England. Back home, everyone goes to the beach or surfs. The beaches here are all brown and horrible. I miss Australia.
How do you think English people would celebrate England Day, if it existed?
Yorkshire puddings? Drink beer out of Yorkshire puddings?
Ben, originally from Brisbane.
VICE: Happy Australia Day Ben, are you drunk?
Ben: [long pause] Yeah. [mumbles unintelligibly] I need a piss.
Should England have an England Day?
No. [stumbles off and back again]
If we did what could we do to celebrate?
I would make a – [sways, long pause] a mushy pea challenge. English people always drive on about fish and mushy peas.
Do a lot of Australians come to this area of London because it has the word 'Bush' in its name?
Do you save a lot of money on sunscreen being in England?
Nah, I never buy it anyway.
Don't you burn?
[long pause] Well, yeah.
Alright, look after yourself.
Steven, originally from Upper Hutt, New Zealand.
VICE: Hey Steven. You're a Kiwi, why on Earth are you here?
Steven: I love the Australians, I always celebrate Australia Day.
Don't you have a New Zealand Day?
Course we do. We celebrate it in a different way, though. We just do a fucking haka and be done with it.
Could you do a haka for me right now?
Not right now. I'm going to go home, I'm probably in a bit of trouble with the girlfriend.
How could English people celebrate a hypothetical England Day?
They should have a cold pork pie and get the flags out.
What about vegetarian English people?
They can fuck right off.
Steven was actually really nice, which is good, because in essence national days all about presenting the world with an image of how you and your countrymen see yourselves.
What do Australians see when they look in the mirror?
Invitations to buggery.
Fighting and crying simultaneously.
Half-hearted attempts at stealth public pissing.
Neve (left) and Kayla, originally from Sydney.
VICE: What's so good about Australia Day?
Neve: What's your problem with Australia Day?
I haven't got a problem with Australia Day. I came down here to learn what Australia's all about.
Neve: Well you should celebrate it, too!
Kayla: I think you're a little bit afraid.
Neve: You don't really know us. You prejudge us, you think we're just messy, drunken pain in the arses.
Sounds like my love life, mate. Why are you here?
Kayla: To see Europe, we want to see the world.
Neve: We're going to Prague and then Bath.
Kayla: And then Ibiza. And then to Oktoberfest, in Spain. I mean Germany.
At this point, this woman turned up, shouting: "You can all fuck off, you bigoted cunts! Fuck Australia! Fuck Australia! This is fucking England, fuck off home!"
Richard (left), originally from Brisbane, Australia, and Donald, originally from California, USA.
VICE: Donald, as an American, what do you think of Australia Day?
Donald: A lot of Americans are pussies. Australians don't give a fuck, they are legends.
Richard, what do you think?
Richard: With Americans, there's three in a million of them that are good. 97 percent are brainwashed.
Donald: I'm in the three percent.
Richard: UK is about an 80 percent, 20 percent split of brainwashed people to OK people. But Americans are all fucking virgins, mate.
Well I'm glad that you found your man in a million to spend Australia Day with this evening. You guys seem to be having a lot of fun.
Richard: Well yeah, but January 26th is bullshit. It's the first time white people stepped on Australia and took the Aborigines' land, it shouldn't be celebrated, it should be mourned.
Do you really believe that?
Richard: Yeah. Actually, some people do. They call it 'Invasion Day'.
But you're here getting pissed.
Richard: Yeah, it's Australia Day!
Donald: Do you wanna see my balls?
I was just leaving my new Australian friends when this man, Steven from London, showed up and became agitated with Richard and Donald. What followed was a meeting of minds: American, Australian and Englishmen uniting to share their knowledge of the world.
Steve, originally from London.
English Steve: You're Australian?
Australian Richard: Yeah.
English Steve: [imitates throwing up into his hands]
Australian Richard: What's that?
English Steve: That means you're gay! [imitates throwing up into his hands again]
Australian Richard: You're a fucking faggot!
American Donald: [Imitates oral sex on a vagina, not sure why]
English Steve: I'm not gonna go out of my way, but I will because you're a cunt.
Australian Richard: You have nothing to do with my life, who the fuck are you? You can go fuck a duck for all I care.
English Steve: I don't mean to be confrontational, but the only reason you're a cunt is –
Australian Richard: Your economy's so fucked you need immigrants to come over and give you money.
English Steve: [angered] What the fuck are you doing over here then you cunt? Fuck off!
American Donald: We're here for English pussy.
Australian Richard: English pussaaayyyy!
English Steve: Australian pussy, mate, I've had –
Australian Richard: English pussy is the easiest!
American Donald: Haha. Suck my balls! Ah, [to me] these shorts are really tight.
So they are.
English Steve: I've had more Australian pussy than you, you motherfucker! [English people can't use that word]
Australian Richard: How many times?
English Steve: Twice.
Australian Richard: You've got pussy twice in your life?
American Donald: You fucking loser!
English Steve: [to me, explanatory] But she wanted it in the ass.
As Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" blared from the club, nightmarish approximations of people began to topple out of the Walkabout. With dirty nightclub feet, they wobbled into couples and became amorous near me. Forty-odd oesophaguses grappled for supremacy on the pavement. I was completely sober. I felt like I was being initiated into a culture that I didn't yet understand. I'm not sure that I ever really want to.