Every three months we come to town, this time it was Anzac Day.
I used to watch my father march from the George Street side of the Westin. The Boss. That was the only time he liked to walk other than when he was playing golf. He was an artist on the course. He used to reckon I was a bullshit artist off it.
It’s about midday in the city and the bands are coming back along Elizabeth Street, all done with playing, some rag-tag little pickles of kids toting heavy kettle drums and flagpoles amongst the big time pipe bands. There’s one in the hotel restaurant, they’ve left their bearskins and drums, pipes and flutes stacked against the walls while they scoff a Sheraton buffet. Fifty or so, all men. Hairy Scots with Australian accents.
Before they left for the bus to take them home, they assembled on the hotel stairs and played a few Anzac laments. Twenty pipes, six drums. Battlepipes to raise all the hairs on your arms.
He was standing on the same steps, a phone to his ear. Officer’s cap on, two rows of ribbons on the left breast of his khaki uniform. The body under his leather cinched uniform looked square about the shoulders, hard about the waist and firm on the foot. A fellow takes a few steps up to the soldier after he puts away his phone, and speaks to him.
‘Scuse me, mate.’
The soldier looks down at the older man, who’s a step lower. He smiles.
‘I promised my old father that every Anzac Day I’d walk up to a soldier and shake his hand. He was a fighter pilot. Dead now.’
The old boy stuck out his mitt and the soldier shook it good and hard.
The Hummer and the daiquiri.
The hotel forecourt is busy, this is Tedley’s turf. He directs the flow, he also has the loudest whistle-up of the forecourt crew, when Tedley lets one rip every taxi in Elizabeth Street does a U-Turn and heads for the hotel entrance. Tonight, the world’s biggest Hummer sits on Tedley’s drive, waiting to pick up at least twenty people for an in-car piss-up and tour of Sydney.
There’s a bar in there, rows of glasses and bottles, a sink. Couches all around and a big screen on the wall. Hushed nightclub lights, this colour and that colour. The vehicle is immense and a man in tie and shirtsleeves is leaning against the bonnet. Another man approaches him.
‘Scuse me, mate?
Shirtsleeves and tie turns at looks.
‘You the driver of this thing?’
‘Could I have a banana daiquiri?’
Two cops and a flash car.
The corner of Market and George Streets. There are two uniformed police standing on the curb talking to a couple of people and across the road is an Official Hoon Chaser: the flashest cop-car you will ever see in this country. Just sitting there under the gaze of these two coppers, it seethes with impatience. One of these lads has stripes, the other, pips. Serious Anzac Day copperage. A fellow roves up to them. When they are done with the tourists he speaks to them.
‘Who’s got the keys to that thing?’ The fellow nods towards the parked beast.
‘I do,’ says the uniform with pips and he holds up and jingles the keys. This bloke must like to hold them all day, even when the car is parked across the road and he’s chatting with all and sundry.
‘You’re kidding, aren’t you?’
That was the end of that. This was no time for a drug test.
Young men in suits, wearing a chest full of medals each.
On Anzac Day everybody in the services wears his uniform, this is gospel. But what of the Special Forces, where do they march and what do they wear? These are the soldiers who’s faces are always blurred in photographs.
It is understood. These days it’s better that way.
They were seen clipping down George Street after the event, as fast as some can run, about six of them, all young. Everyone of them looking sharp in his suit, with rows of fruit salad pinned on their left breasts. A couple of them slipped across the road between the traffic like it was a game.