Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Speaking Frankly the Aussie Way

The British have a reputation for beating around the bush
and being so polite as to be incomprehensible to
foreigners, though I have to say I think this
reputation is wearing off pretty quickly. However so
far as plain speaking goes they definitely have some
way to go before they catch up with the Australians.

About six months ago I went for an annual check up
with my Australian GP. Annual is a bit of a misnomer
as it had been a couple of years since I last took
myself, as opposed to offspring and husband, off to
the doctor. I strolled into her office with the
virtuous glow of one who has done the sensible, adult
thing and scheduled a medical check up. I am the same
weight I have been for about five years during which
time I did manage to see a doctor on an annual basis
in the US. These American sessions were generally a
mutually enjoyable time where we congratulated each
other on our continuing good health and stayed off
contentious subjects such as amount eaten and drunk on
a regular basis. The Australian GP smiled
reassuringly, and then launched into brutally frank
mode. Her first comment was that I should loose a
number of kilos. Given I generally work in pounds and
stone this then involved a complicated multiplication
involving the size of an average bag of flour in my
head, in order to work out the enormity of the
weightloss she was advocating. She then assessed my
alcohol intake, a friendly smile encouraged relative
honesty on the amount I drank. Another frank opinion,
better to let the liver have a day off at least twice
a week.

I staggered out feeling rather like an aged Bridget
Jones and resolving to be a better woman and lay off
the chocolate and wine for a bit. As part of my new
fitness campaign I took up slow jogs round the local
park or oval during the early morning. On day two of
this regime I spotted a group of frankly middle aged
(eg slightly older than me) and plumpish (eg about the
same size as me) women doing what used to be called
physical jerks under the stern eye of an instructor.
I sidled up and asked what they were up to. Patrick
the instructor explained they were a female ‘boot
camp’; code for a group of unfit masochists who like
being shouted at. Giving my stout tracksuit clad
frame a disapproving look he said he was sure there
would be room for me if I wanted to join. Inspired by
the thought of a new me I did only to find that as
soon as I rocked up for my first session all the like
souls had disappeared to be replaced by a pack of
lycra clad twenty year old fitness fanatics. I trail
around in their wake, but I have to say it is doing me
some good and I am looking forward to bursting back
into the GP’s room and demanding to be led to the

It’s not just the GP who feels free to comment on my
personal appearance. I am still traumatized by my
latest leg waxing experience. To be fair, I had been
postponed the appointment until my legs were at a
hairy peak reminiscent of a Scottish rugby player in
his prime. However I was completely taken aback when
after a swift assessing glance, the girl in charge of
the ritual torture session said casually, “and would
you like your feet and toes done too?” I sat bolt
upright in horror. I would be the first to admit to
hairy shins but I am not, I repeat not, some kind of
troll. I emphatically do not have hairy feet and
toes. I escaped without having hot wax flicked round
my feet but I now catch myself darting worried glances
at my feet, bare for much of the year here, just in
case I’m developing hobbit-like tendencies around my
lower regions.

Australian advertising also has a certain refreshing
frankness to it. Political Correctness doesn’t seem
to have caught on as a concept here to the same extent
as it has in the UK. My particular favourite that is
being shown on television and in print at present is
an anti speeding campaign that draws a direct link
between speeding and the perceived small size of the
speeder’s penis! But I think the final frank word
award has to go to my local council that decorates all
its street bins with the memorable slogan “Don’t be a

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