There is a great tradition in Australia that rolls around once a year. It commences at the changing of the seasons after a long, cold winter. The sun starts to come out and warm our pasty, white shoulders and we all leave our houses to bask in it. It’s wonderful. Amazing. Absolutely idyllic. But it’s just not safe.
I am routinely informed that their are many hallmarks that truly define your (white) Australian-ess. They invariably concern watching the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games (bonus points if it’s hosted by Australia), eating and enjoying Vegemite, being a regular at a Bunnings sausage sizzle and having a vested interest in whether Melbourne or Sydney is the better capital city (ps. it’s Melbourne). But there’s one more experience that truly defines what it means to be Australian.
Magpie swooping season.
It is widely acknowledged that a proper Australian has been swooped by a magpie at least once in their life time. And after the weekend I can truly say that I am Australian.
I decided to visit Living Legends on my way north on Saturday afternoon. ‘Why not visit some champion racehorses?’ I thought, ‘it’s been awhile, it’ll be nice.’
I paid my entry fee and was casually strolling down to the paddocks when something wooshes past me. And in a matter of milliseconds I managed to freeze, look up, panic and begin a sprint for my life. Above me was a magpie with death in it’s eyes.
Now, I’m well known for holding a decade old grudge against magpies. At age 12 I diligently raised a caterpillar. In time that caterpillar made her chrysalis and shortly thereafter burst out a gorgeous butterfly. I carefully placed her in our old lemon tree so she could find her wings and be free! Only for a magpie to swoop in and steal her right before my eyes. I have experienced many traumas in my life, but this was a new one and it was devastating. My Dad quickly shooed the magpie away and left me with the dead butterfly’s little body. Her shiny, new wings now tattered.
So seeing my assailant begin another dive I just legged it. If you’ve ever been swooped, you’ll know that this is the wrong thing to do. You would certainly think that removing yourself from the magpies “territory” would remedy the situation, but it doesn’t. The murderous bird followed me, swooping again and again and again.
Realising that running was not helping me I turned around and started swinging at it with the only weapon at my disposal. My iPhone. Did it work? Not really. Why did it eventually stop swooping? Because I had my eyes on it.
So if you, like me, are awaiting your baptism of magpie – do not run away. Glare at it. Glare at it so hard in those beady, lifeless eyes that it’s afraid to move. Even if that means you have to walk backwards to your car and trip over a rock.
And that is the story of how I tried to have a pleasant afternoon and instead learnt that I possess amazing sprinting powers, how to fend off homicidal birds and that I am a bonafide Australian at last.