Cracker by Damian Christie

Sand and sea

Without wanting to steal Mr O’Neill’s thunder by writing about things over the ditch, I do feel compelled to type a few words about recent occurrences on Manly Beach.

But first, and uncharacteristically early into the post (even by my standards), a small diversion. Did you know how Manly got its name? No, neither did I, until I was sniffing around for some information on this latest story. But having found out, I’m duty-bound to share said tale. Don’t worry, it’s short and I’ll get back to the point soon, or at least a paragraph or three kinda resembling a point (if you squint).

Upon arriving at Manly Beach in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip was so impressed by the physique of the local aboriginal men he decided to name the place Manly. This is not only oddly literal, even for a man, but it’s also particularly gay, even for an officer of the English Navy (Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay etc., but ‘Hello!’)

Having said that, a couple of centuries later, and Sydney is the closest thing to San Francisco in the Antipodes, so maybe old twinkle-toes Phillip was on to something after all.

So anyway, the Manly council have decided to ban smoking on the beach. This annoys me for a number of reasons… and no, I’m not a smoker. But if there's anywhere you should be able to smoke, it's the beach. And while it might just be Manly today, you can be guaranteed Lyall Bay and Cheltenham won’t be far behind.

First, cigarettes are a legal product; one sold with a number of restrictions and warnings, but still legal. Second, it's an outside area, so the second-hand smoke justification, which was one reason touted doesn’t really wash. Okay, you could theoretically be sitting next to someone who was smoking, but that’s equally applicable anywhere else outside.

Third, if it’s about the 700,000 cigarette butts apparently littering Manly beach at any one time, then isn’t that about littering, not smoking? Last time I was at Manly there were no ashtrays in sight, let along anyone emptying them. And while you're at it, a little table service, anyone?

Anyway, if you’re not supposed to use the beach as an ashtray, then why do they put sand in the top of those executive ashtray bins they have in foyers? Because sand is a Natural Ashtray. It works perfectly. If you’re at the beach and intent on smoking a bit, you can even mould yourself a proper little sand ashtray using a bit of damp sand and some imagination.

And what about the Westies? What are they supposed to do? I’ll never forget that great bFM summer campaign so many years ago, ‘Westies at the Beach’: “Yeah, chuck us me fags Sharon, I’m garn for a swim”

Stop the madness I say… let’s cut the smokers some slack this coming summer.

...I’m going diving at the Poor Knights Islands this weekend, I’ll write about that hopefully mindblowing experience on Monday. I was trying to find good pictures of the kaimoana – sorry, wildlife – they’ve got there but none seem to exist. Instead here’s some excellent photos of my favourite fish, the one I’m hoping to see, although they probably don't live here in winter… wish me luck.

Oh, and finally, this Sunday on bFM I interview rockstar/author/philosopher Alain de Botton about his new book Status Anxiety and being a rockstar philosopher author in the 21st Century. Check it.