THE arrival of Australia Day invariably brings up discussions of this country's past - the European settlement, the treatment of Indigenous people and, on a far less serious note, the way people like to hang those little flags out the windows of their cars.
If there is one good thing about Australia Day that I can say I have observed, it is that most people don't seem to take January 26 too seriously.
Sure, use the day off to go out and enjoy the freedom to which we should all be entitled in this country, but leave the flag waving and patriotic bleating to Americans.
There was a point a few years back where I started to fear we were heading down the same path as the US, with droves of people donning flags, Southern Cross stickers and tattoos and various Aussie flag thongs, singlets, board shorts, hats and beach towels.
In actual fact, "fear" might be the wrong word.
I have never feared anyone with a Southern Cross proudly displayed on their body, utility or shaved into their dog's fur.
"Puzzled" might be a better word to describe it, because I never fully understood where all this cosmetic national pride came from.
Was it the boat people controversy, the war in Afghanistan, or some new generation of kids who didn't get the email telling them we Australians don't need to go around showing off a $2 piece of cloth to prove which country we were born in.
People weren't just showing the Aussie flag for the one day, they were leaving them stuck to the car for a whole week, perhaps longer, somehow eager to let everyone know just how Aussie they were.
Some people opted for a tattoo of the coat of arms, or the classic "Made in Australia" tag as a tattoo - just in case anyone suspected they were outsourcing conception to the Chinese too.
The practice of taking Australian pride too seriously is one of the most un-Australian things you can do.
We were never a country full of flag wavers - not from my experience - but something went wrong in the mid-2000s that thankfully seems to have died off somewhat in the past couple of years.
I am a proud Australian myself, but there is no way in hell you would catch me with an Aussie tatt, waving a flag out the window of the car or donning a wife-beater that reads "Aussie Pride."
At the same time, I fully support your right to wave as many flags and thongs and banners and Aussie-related merchandise as you please - so long as you don't expect me to get down on my knees and kiss the flag every year on January 26.
If that is the case, then you can stick your flag where the harsh Australian sun doesn't shine.
For me, being an Australian was never about any of that symbolic stuff, it was and still should be about enjoying your freedom.
So whether you are black, white, yellow, orange or purple, have a nice weekend and try to relax a little - it's the Australian way.
Pommie press sent packing
AS IF sending a couple of the English cricketers packing early wasn't enough, now it seems we're doing the same thing to a couple of their esteemed sports writers.
Changes to Australia's immigration laws, relating to temporary work visas, means The Sun's John Etheridge, the Mirror's Dean Wilson and the Daily Mail's Newman will miss the last week of the so far disastrous English cricket team's tour.
The trio was aware of the fact they would only be granted visas for 90 days each but was hoping to sort out the problem before they were sent home.
The journalists will miss out on the two remaining one-day games, plus three T20 matches between Australia and England.
I think Etheridge summed it up the best when he said words to the effect of; "Another 10 days and I might have finally got to see England win a game."