This morning on my homepage – which is admittedly a very junky homepage that I stick with because its inanity never ceases to entertain me – I was greeted by a headline (illustrated with suitably serious headshot) that said Matt Damon’s horrifying Australian experience.
‘Oh bugger,’ I thought. With a certain amount of fatalistic resignation. Nobody wants their country’s less attractive habits splashed across the media, but every country has a few (unattractive habits) and it’s no use pretending we don’t or getting indignant and defensive when visitors point them out. ‘What now?’ I thought. ‘Not a déjà vu all over again rerun of Johnny Depp’s dogs.’
Although that, I have to say, I consider to be more a matter of Johnny Depp’s unattractive habits than Australia’s. Johnny Depp brought his two [sic] adorable puppies into the country on his private jet, thus circumventing Australia’s strict quarantine laws. This came to the attention of then-Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce (who is in my opinion one of Australia’s less attractive habits but on this occasion, that’s beside the point) when Pistol and Boo were spotted spreading the love – and potentially the rabies – among the clientele of a Gold Coast dog groomer’s.
Our quarantine laws are strict because there are certain bugs and diseases we don’t have yet, and we don’t want them. Given their lifestyle, the chances of Pistol and Boo having rabies (which we don’t have yet) are about nil, but that’s not the issue. Our quarantine laws are strict etc etc, and in Australia, that means no one is exempt however rich and famous they might be. So Pistol and Boo were deported, Johnny Depp was outraged and then sniggered and poked fun at the idea that Australia’s ridiculous laws should apply to him, and at (the eminently lampoonable) Barnaby Joyce, and Australians said ‘Stiff shit, mate,’ and went about their business – namely, keeping out the bugs, diseases etc.
But to return to Matt Damon’s horrifying Australian experience as told to Ellen DeGeneres…
Seems Mr Damon and his family were visiting Chris Hemsworth and his family in Byron Bay (northern NSW coast) and decided to go for a surf (as you do, in Byron Bay), and his 6-year-old daughter was ‘stung by a jellyfish’.
Now see, this is where it all gets a bit surreal.
‘It was the worst thing,’ Mr Damon said, ‘the worst thing!’ And if it had been a box jellyfish it might well have been the worst thing, but it wasn’t. It was a bluebottle.
Bluebottles are not nice. The ‘bottle’ part floats on top of the water almost indistinguishable from all the other bubbles floating about, but the tentacle lurks underneath, swishing gently backwards and forwards with swirl of the water, and latching on to anything it touches with fierce tenacity. And it hurts. A lot. I’m not surprised that Stella Zavala screamed the place down. And I don’t blame Matt Damon for being horrified by the red welts encircling his daughter’s chest – but Australian parents are pretty used to this. Bluebottles float in every so often in summer depending on the wind, and getting stung is almost a rite of passage for Australian kids at the beach.
So Matt Damon’s horrifying Australian experience?
In a world of ISIS, Las Vegas and Donald Trump, I can only imagine that the person who thought up this headline is suffering from a touch of the la-las.