Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Game of Thrones…and Egos…

People say living in Canberra can be dull, but I’ve decided the next few months are a chance to inhabit a world that appears to be a combination of Elizabethan politics and Westeros.

To whit: the rule of the redheaded and childless queen Julia Gloriana (Juliana?) is undermined by rumours that she knifed the previous ruler, a mercurial and strange albino whose ghostly presence refuses to depart this earthly realm.

Betwixt assassination attempts by her own advisers the queen is forced to defend herself from the one with the sobriquet of The Mad Monk, who stands against the age of reform with a growing power base of conservatism.

Meanwhile, beyond the Wall

The parallels aren’t that surprising. Around about the third week of every April, Canberrans start to sound like we’re living in Season One of Game of Thrones. “Winter is coming,” we mutter to each other in hushed undertones, piling on the blankets until we can turn on the heater after Anzac Day. 

There are some differences of course, in Westeros anything north of the Wall is so deadly and dangerous  it must be kept out at all cost. Here in Canberra we think the same way of anything south of Lake Burley Griffin. Hmm, actually, plus anything north of Telstra Tower.

The danger is encroaching though and there are those of us who, while out quaffing mead in taverns of ye olde Manuka and Kingston, have spotted the bespectacled one whose pale skin and white blonde hair is uncannily like the dread appearance of the White Walkers (surely this paleness on one who hails from Queensland must be supernatural?).

And considering the Australian Labor Party has redefined the old adage “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” to mean “your most deadly enemies are those in your own house”, I hope Queen Juliana will not accept any invitations to upcoming weddings. The wedding planner might claim the Red Wedding theme is a homage to her fiery locks, but don’t believe it, a blood bath is a waiting.

What it all means of course is that the game is afoot and the count down is on to…

The Ides of September

Yes, okay, the Ides of September would actually be the 13th September, not the 14th. For anyone who thinks it should be the 15th September, here’s a quick lesson in the Roman calendar.

Each month is marked into three: the kalends, the nones and the ides. The kalends is nice and easy, it falls on the first day of every month. The nones and ides are a bit trickier to get a handle on though, because of the number of days in each month differs. Months with 30 days have the nones on the 5th and the ides on the 13th. For months with 31 days they fall on the 7th and 15th. So March, which has 31 days, the ides is the 15th March.

I got myself all tangled up not so long ago trying to memorise the months that had the ides as the 13th and 15th in order. And then my brain went ‘click’ and I realised the months with less days were the same as in the mnemonic “30 days has September, April June and November…” along with August and December.

So I am being a smart arse trying to link the 14th September with the Ides, but the change over from the Julian to Gregorian calendars meant we lost a few years here and there and the number of days in our calendar months have changed slightly anyway. Julius Caesar’s Ides of March is now thought to be on our 14th March. So I reckon the 14th of a month has to be ominous for any big political occurrence.

With Parliament sitting in Canberra for only one more week (as I write this on a Sunday afternoon, Canberra airport is no doubt bustling with pollies and staffers returning to the city they fled on Thursday evening), I wonder if there is a susurration echoing eerily down the sombre halls…beware the Ides of September…

But Greeks bearing gifts are okay

That other well known classical allusion has been put aside though as support is sought from anyone who looks even vaguely non-hostile. Well, it’s been put aside so long as Senator Nick Xenophon doesn’t try to leave behind any wooden horses in Juliana’s antechamber.

Togas, ruffs or chain mail?

So with all the Roman, Elizabethan and Westeros similarities popping up around town, getting dressed for work is like going to a costume party every day!

But isn’t there an even older political trope about giving bread and circuses to keep the masses distracted? And something about letting them eat cake? Why on earth would our political leaders be trying to distract us at a time when there is an ever growing undercurrent of xenophobia, sexism and lack of compassion spreading through the Great Southern Land?

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