Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saturday Morning Meanderings - English summer, shorts & entitlements

I was struck by this image courtesy of Legal Eagle. In fact, like Mebourne weather, the absence of English summer is a bit of a myth.  Still, it appealed to me.

Email from Ramana:

I find this incredible.  Extract from Bill Bryson’s Down Under.  Are these things true?

The extract referred to the death of Australian PM Harold Holt and the purported nuclear test by the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo sect in Western Australia.

Australia does breed strange stories. I give you this example without comment.

Staying with Ramana, Shorts To Work looks at an element of Ramana's past. Ramana asked in the post:

I understand that Australians do wear shorts to work in the summer and I request Jim to confirm whether this is true even now.

Sadly, I had to advise Ramana that shorts have never been acceptable work wear in white collar jobs outside Australia's far north.

It may seem odd, but Australia has always been a remarkably formal country in certain ways. Australians don't see this, nor do some visitors. I remember a British diplomat remarking to me just how open and informal Australian officials seemed to him. He compared this with the UK experience.

He was right of course, but this Australian openness at one level does not detract from formality at another. I was wondering how I might explain this to a non-Australia audience and, maybe, to Australians themselves.

A brief discussion between Winton Bates and I on the question of entitlements ( Lorenzo on monetary policy, Winton on Laura Tingle, death of Helen Beh and some Sydney lights) got me thinking. It seems to me that that word entitlements has become, to use an ugly but useful modern term, a code word for a much broader ideological debate.

Entitlements used to mean the fact of having a right to something or the amount to which a person has a right. This is the neutral meaning. Now it has acquired a heavy semantic overload.

Well, time to finish. I had more I wanted to say, but I have run out of time.

Postscript: I apologise for the missing image. There was some corruption, the image was lost, I could not trace the original.

8 comments:

Michael O'Rourke said...

Jim -
"Shorts have never been acceptable work wear in white collar jobs outside Australia's far north."
This is largely correct but I seem to recall that long socks plus shorts did penetrate south of the Tropic of Capricorn in about 1965-75. Memory is frail but I think, for example, even among bank staff in Sydney?
(Disclaimer: I was a 'semi-cool' 19 yr old 'long-hair' in 1970, and so wd not have been seen dead in shorts, regardless of my pale pudgy legs! Shorts were only OK on the weekend in daytime.)
Cheers
M

Neil said...

In 1966-1969 I was rebuked by the Principal of Cronulla High, Eric Pidgeon, for wearing shorts -- as a then juniot member of the English staff. He seemed to think my knees would excite adolescent girls and further argued that if he could get through the New Guinea campaign without wearing shorts, then... I do recall, however, some connection between wearing shorts and teaching Maths.

Rummuser said...

Thanks for the plug Jim. The more I read Bryson, the more I want to see Australia in detail.

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Anonymous said...

de rigeur Summer rig for Newcastle white collar workers (esp bank, law and insurance clerks) mid 60s-ish; the 'dress' short; also known as the walk or bermuda short with long socks, short sleeved shirt and tie. Often an attache case at hand in which to carry one's lunchtime sambo and banana. A little later (ref Neil)common among male teachers, and yes, a definite maths/short correlation abberation well into the 90s.

Jim Belshaw said...

How absolutely fascinating, Anon. I wonder how many other comments we will get?

Neil said...

Three spam comments here -- the monosyllabic ones.

Jim Belshaw said...

Removed, Neil!