It’s a warm February afternoon in Manly, and I’m rushing to get to my local gym (Anytime Fitness, fact fans) for my usual 3:30 appointment with my personal trainer, Max Trevisan.
I live in (ahem) Fairy Bower, a slightly affluent hilltop suburb perched above the Cabbage Tree Bay and nature reserve. As I walk down the steps at the end of my road, down to Manly Beach and the usually sunny South Steyne, I notice an awful lot of flashing blue lights and men in uniform. As I pass the mighty Manly Wine, which, surprisingly isn’t a bottle shop (off-licence to my compatriots back home in Blighty) but a boutique bistro attached to the sumptuous Sebel hotel, I notice the roads ahead are all blocked off, and rather a lot of people, tourists and locals alike (yes, after a year here I can spot the difference a mile off), are standing around looking either bemused or nonplussed, and sometimes both.
I then notice the words written boldly on the back of the navy uniform of what is, I can now see, at least three different types of police teams that have just swarmed the area: Public Order & Riot Squad. I’m more than slightly startled. Australia has such low levels of crime compared to my homeland, and beautiful Manly in particular such a friendly and relaxed locale. Then as I try and cross the junction of Wentworth Street and the Steyne, one of the more regularly attired police officers tells me in no uncertain terms I am not allowed across the road.
Christ, whatever is going on must be serious. Hostage taking, rabid protestors and – god forbid, a bomb threat all cross my mind. I then notice a convoy of cars, their every move tracked by a series of police motorcycle outriders, approaching me to make their way in the direction of the Sebel.
People start muttering amongst themselves, speculating wildly. “Well, Adele’s in Sydney at the moment. I reckon it might be her.”
All this for an outsized chav from Tottenham? I rather hope not. What has the world come to? It’s at that moment I notice the number plates of what appears to me the main car in this seemingly infinite convoy. It has diplomatic plates.
It can’t be Adele then. She’s about as much of a diplomat as I am. Except that she has a fatter bottom.
I start to get a litle annoyed at this impertinent inconvenience, as I’m now worried I’m going to be late for my PT appointment, especially as I’d just consumed my pre-workout supplement before leaving the house and it’s not the kind of buzzy booster you take to chill.
“So what’s the big fuss about?”, I demand of the copper, with a face approaching thunderous – mine, not his. “I’m not able to say, but maybe you can work it out.” I then overhear an old dear alleging the subject of the charade causing a commotion is the PM, Malcolm Turnbull. And then it clicks, as I vaguely recall hearing about a criminal had arrived in Sydney a couple of days ago. It’s not the Prime Minister of Australia, it’s the Prime Minister of Israel, the frequently revolting Benjamin Netanyahu.
Agitated and annoyed I’m being held up by one of the most repellent and reptilian politicians on the planet, and determined not to be impressed by the unfolding circus gridlocking my hood, I start to cross the road when I know I’m not supposed to, but I feel a subliminal influence from the scripture tattoo emblazoned across the shoulders of the chap in front of me: “Don’t ever stand aside, don’t ever be denied.”
It’s more Oasis than biblical but right now it works for me… until Mr Policeman puts a firm halt to my defiance. So much for the Aussie egalitarian society.
“Look, all I want to do is get to the gym. Do you think that’s in the realms of possibility at all?”. I’m huffy, he’s stuffy, and like an unblinking automatron, he redirects me to an alternative route, which, it has to be said, hardly adds no extra time to my five minute journey, though it’s always a more fulfilling experience when you’re able to choose the route by which you wish to travel yourself.
“Bibi” as he’s known by his acolytes, went for a walk along the beach then a late lunch at Manly Wine, no less. I read that when a reporter from Channel 2 News asked jokingly if he was planning to go scuba diving, Netanyahu replied with his own attempt at a sarcastic joke, alluding to the corruption investigations awaiting him back home: “There are enough sharks in Israel.”
If that’s the case he really should get wet more often. I made it to the gym in time by the way.