Bryant: Debunking Australia's stereotypes
As you will have noticed, we have a new home. But, at the risk of veering towards the evangelical, the mission remains the same: to show that the tourist advertisements that you see from down under offer a very incomplete snapshot of this genuinely confounding land.
Admittedly, they get some things right. The blokes still drink beer; the beaches are populated by men and women who seem impossibly beautiful; barbeques are still aflame, like Antipodean chariots of fires; and it is still possible to cuddle a koala within two hours of stepping off the plane.
But the simple fact that you will most probably be met at the airport by some surprisingly officious quarantine, customs and immigration officials hints at a sterner and less congenial Australia.
Though the country likes to think of itself as laid back and relaxed, it can be disconcertingly authoritarian and ridiculously bureaucratic. Though it prides itself on its egalitarianism and fair play, those national ideals have not always been extended to the original occupants of this land or its latest arrivals.
Though patriotism and nationalism has been on the rise, state loyalties and rivalries still run deep. Queenslanders like to think of themselves as super-Australians, for instance, while some Western Australians continue to flirt with secession. For all the veneration of the bush and the outback, this is one of the most urbanised countries in the world.
For all the massive ethnic and demographic changes that have overtaken the great southern land over the past 50 years, and for all its reorientation towards Asia, the umbilical relationship with Britain remains one of the single biggest keys to understanding modern-day Australia.
Put simply, real Australia is not always the same as assumed Australia, and the aim of this blog has always been to hurl a wrecking ball at a few national stereotypes rather than offering them much buttressing. But the disco ball comes out a lot, too, to reflect the fun, irreverence and hedonism of a country that can also lay claim to being one of the world's great lifestyle superpowers.
Please do give us feedback, and tell us what you think of the new format. You don't normally hold back. And, as it says in the blurb sent over from London by colleagues who understand these kind of things, please remember to add this page to your bookmarks and RSS feed. The old blog will be archived here.
On a final housekeeping note could some of you please leave your personal feuds in our old home rather than bringing them to the new.
With all that out of the way, the first thing I would like to do in our new premises is to send good wishes to Clive James who, it was revealed over the weekend, is battling leukemia.
My hunch is that no Australian has done more on the cultural front to insert the word creep where cringe once belonged. The New Yorker once described him as 'a brilliant bunch of guys,' and, at the risk of both mushiness and selfishness, I hope that the one finishing the second volume of Cultural Amnesia is currently getting the most brain- and keyboard-time.