For much of the time my relationship with our antipodean cousins in Australia is fleeting. A Hugh Jackman movie here, a story in the media about a massive Kangaroo there. Maybe the occasional Kylie interview on The Graeme Norton Show.
It’s only in deep-winter when I find myself confronted with a dose of Aussie reality.
I’m faced with a social media-filtered parade of Aussies celebrating Christmas as a summer festival; a fact which I know to be true, yet refuse to believe.
Surely they should twist the Jesus narrative to have our man JC being born in late July? They could then do Christmas properly, with chestnuts roasting on open fires and Jack Frost nipping at noses?
It’s the only way to make the songs work.
And after Christmas, of course, comes the start of the new cycling season.
The traditional way to mark this is for Caleb Ewan to win a number of parochial criteriums and one-day races – events which get a disproportionate amount of media coverage because the cycling press are desperate for anything resembling a bike race to write about – before the Tour Down Under kicks off with the Down Under Classic; a pre-TDU crit.
The north of England, I can confirm, is damp and cold at this point in January. My first reaction to the sight the pro peloton limbering up for, and then racing in, the Tour Down Under, clad in shorts and summer jerseys, is one of seething envy.
They’ve hit the physiological jackpot, these guys, with their freakish lung capacity and over-efficient blood-oxygen transfer, and their prize is sunshine. There they are, on my TV, all nonchalant. With their all-year suntans and their recommended daily intake of Vitamin D.
I hate those bastards.
But whilst I remain furious about the geographical injustice, I’m not a complete idiot. The human mind is a powerful thing. If I sit up close to the Eurosport highlights on my TV I can feel the heat of the Adelaide sun; bouncing off satellites, whooshing along cables, and radiating out to hit my translucent white skin.
Psychologically, at least.
I make the best of it by shaving my legs and wearing bib-shorts indoors.
If you can’t beat ‘em, play elaborate mind games with yourself in an attempt to feel like you’ve joined ‘em, is my motto.
As the race winds up Willunga Hill for a stage six finale I’ll be there (in spirit): just a shivering Brit, in front of a TV, craving sunshine.
(Image: Par brooxy28 — https://www.flickr.com/photos/11032134@N04/3206425434/in/set-72157612657723495, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5786774)