Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Long Hot Summer

It was 46.5 C in Melbourne today. Thats about 116 o F in old money. It's in times like these that you go out onto the stoop and fry eggs on the porch just to see if you can. (You can.) According to the news this is some kind of record for Melbourne; the city is ringed by bush fires, train lines are buckling, roads are melting. The fires have actually killed people in New South Wales and the air here smells of smoke. My sanity hasn't been helped by my daughter who, like all Australian school children apparently, has been brain washed into the Abba cult. Until the CD player met with an unfortunate accident I heard Waterloo 11 times today. The opening lyrics have been burned into my frontal lobes:

My my, at waterloo napoleon did surrender/Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way/The history book on the shelf/Is always repeating itself/Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war/Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more/Waterloo - couldnt escape if I wanted to/Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you/Waterloo - finally facing my waterloo.

The entire song is premised around the fact that Napoleon surrendered at Waterloo which of course he didn't. Not even the Old Guard surrendered as anyone who has read Les Miserables will recall (Victor Hugo spends about 47 pages praising the officer who shouted "Merde!" after the British had politely asked if he wanted to spare his men further suffering). I think the key to understanding Waterloo is when Benny and Bjorn admit that the "history book [is] on the shelf." Swedes have largely been absent from the exciting bits of European history for the last two centuries but really that's no excuse - get the book down and give it a read chaps. I'm also not a fan of the song's gloomy Scandanavian acceptance of destiny and fate; around the same time as Abba were reaching their apotheosis John Lydon, in the best traditions of British empiricism, was saying that the past was not a good indicator of the future .