It was around six thirty on a cold wet Melbourne Day. A long day for me, including a mid-morning appointment with a new psychologist. First appointments are all about background – what your condition is, personal and family history and all that other stuff that they need to know to get a useful idea of who you are and where you came from.
So I spent near an hour giving her the $100 tour of my dark places – even, for the sake of expediency, a quick glimpse of the very darkest one which I’ve rarely revealed to friends because they’re entitled to their faith in human nature. Or something like that: it’s a distressing little story to tell and it distresses people who hear it.
Six and a half wilfully stupid hours after I caught the bus from the psychologist’s office to the station to get home – but didn’t get as far as the station before I got off the bus – I was in a local fish and chip shop, tired & emotional, waiting for an order of minimum chips and two potato cakes. A snack to eat at the bus stop while I waited for the bus that would finally take me home. Comfort food.
There was a TV set into on the wall above the drinks fridge. It was showing one of the commercial TV news broadcasts – either Channel 7 or Channel 9 – or maybe it was commercial ‘current affairs’. I looked at it – there was footage of an asylum seeker boat – and quickly looked away again. The last thing I wanted to pay any attention to in my current mood was Tony Abbott’s grandiosely named ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’.
The guy who was serving me – probably, I guess, the shop’s proprietor – had noted my glance at the TV and took it as an invitation to open a casual conversation. He said it was a good thing the new Federal Government was finally doing something to stop these people getting into the country. They shouldn’t be coming here, they had no right to, they should sort things out in their own countries. They didn’t belong here and that was that. What did I reckon?
I said something non-committal; I’d come in to buy fried up spuds not get into a heated argument about asylum seekers. It wasn’t non-committal enough; he puicked up that I disagreed with him, so he challenged me on it – so I was on their side, then? I just said that they were coming from some pretty bad places, in as friendly a tone as a could manage. Yeah, well, that might be so, but they shouldn’t be coming here. I held my peace and that shut the discussion down.
A couple of minutes later I got my chips and left the shop. On the way to the bus I decided that was the last time I’d be buying anything from that particular chippie. They were very good chips but all the same I won’t be visiting that little corner of Tony Abbott’s Australia again.