Nearly there. Post season.
It’s a thing here in Australia that sports clubs and community associations host sausage sizzles at polling booths. It’s a cheeky barbecue to raise some much needed funds. I’m sure it happens in other countries, but it’s a tradition down under.
The sausage of democracy is your reward for exercising your responsibility as a citizen. You cast your vote to help decide who runs the rules around here. Then you buy a snag.
It costs a paltry $2 – and you get optional onion (it’s not an option though, lets face it – eat the onion) and your choice of sauce for free.
But think on the true cost of it.
Generations of the poor rising up against the rich to have fair representation.
Decades of fight from women prepared to chain themselves up for their right to be heard when even their husbands wouldn’t countenance their point of view held any value.
The centuries of being dismissed by a white majority refusing the basic respect and dignity to even be counted as a human being.
You can keep your fancy Michelin star menus. The humble sausage of democracy is the most expensive meal you’ll ever taste.
27 April 1997 – South Africa’s Freedom Day – and 3 years since Mandela had won the Presidency. A small group of us travelling overland through Africa took the day trip out to Robben Island. A bus met us at the jetty and we drove around the island first. We went to the quarry where the prisoners dug a schoolroom and taught each other to read. A quick stop at the old car painted with a welcome message to the All Blacks rugby team. Past the house Robert Subukwe was kept in by an act of parliament – 6 years longer than his sentence.
And then to the prison to get out and walk. The island had been handed over to the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology and they had invited back prisoners to work as guides. Our group was guided around by Lionel – who had served 7 years here as a prisoner.
In flicking through my journal from that day, he had so many stories to tell us. About their punishments for “offences”, having to pay for study, receiving one censored letter every 6 months and so on. He took us to Mandela’s cell – and we all took turns looking into the smallest of spaces – trying to imagine it holding for so long the man who was now President.
One room where the prisoners spent their time talking. This is the place Lionel got emotional. He said the wardens had made a mistake by allowing them to be together – that the government should have split them up.
He said that it was in this room where they put their ideals into practice. In D Section – with prisoners from different backgrounds/political ideologies/races/education levels and so on – was where they learnt tolerance and their humanity could shine through. In this room they lived a micro-version of what they all hoped and dreamed for outside the prison walls.
Strange, isn’t it? The place the government sent Mandela to punish and break him, was the place where he triumphed.
The “race that stops a nation” was run today with a reported $300m swapping hands (mostly in one direction towards the bookies, I’m figuring).
I won $100 on the sweeps at work – but for years I didn’t enter them. As a child, every teacher would run a class sweep for the Cup. I named my beloved toy donkey ‘Think Little’ as he was my very own baby brother to the mighty Think Big. I’d won a purse made out of a coconut for drawing him in my grade 1 sweep. Then I had a few lean years.
Tragedy struck in Grade 5. We all got to draw a name out of the hat for our classroom sweep. The year was 1979 and I drew a fantastic horse called Dulcify. He was a favourite but ‘broke down’ at the last turn to the straight. I didn’t understand what had happened until the tv showed him down on the ground with the vets all around him. I cried and cried.
A by-the-by line in the media gave away the news that a horse was destroyed at Flemington today.
“Oliver had a rollercoaster day after waking to headlines questioning whether he should be riding at all.
His ride in race one – Write the Cheque – finished well down the track, then in race four mount Rose of Peace broke down and was destroyed.”
And just like that, I’m back in grade 5 and I remember Dulcify. Won’t ever forget him.
Last night I got hooked into watching The Queen with Helen Mirren playing Her Majesty. I’ve never watched it before, and missed a bit of the start, but it brought back a lot of memories. The day of the election of 1997 was my first day in England. The 2 May I went to the front of Buck House to see the changing of the guards (as you do) and both John Major and Tony Blair presented themselves to the Queen. One to get his golden handshake and the other to be invited to take on the job.
I was in London when Diana died. I slept on the Mall the night before her funeral. There didn’t seem to be any other place to be, really. I remember talking to so many Welsh people who’d driven down to pay their respects. Lovely people, saddened they’d lost a woman they’d claimed as theirs. It’s the ‘being claimed’ that was their reason for why they mourned so openly in public. The People’s Princess.
I remember debating whether it was appropriate to photograph the funeral procession. I rarely go anywhere without my camera. I’d taken photos of the flowers at Kensington Palace, Buck House, and Westminster Abbey. I wasn’t sure the procession of the casket was something I should be snapping at, more I should stop and bow my head and focus on prayer. I had an interesting discussion with an Irishman about it. He thought I was nuts to be troubled about it – said ‘this is history’. I’m still not sure to this day, but I did take photos. I feel like I invaded the family’s privacy – even though it was there for all to see. Such sadness, such stoic propriety, such an intense atmosphere.
I remember the comments about the family not coming down, the media full of poisonous judgement. But the Princes did come – Andrew and Edward. They walked up to Buck House and were mobbed with people thanking them for being there. Thanking them for being with the British people. Extraordinary times.