They're here. The World Youth Day/Week/Whatever it is juggernaut is rolling onwards. Hundreds of pilgrims are arriving on the streets on Sydney at what seems like an hourly rate. Hoards of happy, smiling young people are wandering the streets of the Emerald City wearing backpacks, massive grins, national flags and inappropriate weather for winter.
I've already seen quite a few of them out and about. A largish group descended on Coogee beach on Saturday. They were sitting on the sand, Bibles in hand, spaced out like carefully planted seeds. At 11am they rose and gathered in a circle for what looked like a group prayer before leaving as peacefully as they arrived. No mess, nothing but footprints and possibly bottom shaped indentations as evidence of their visit. A rather more civilised group of young people than the drunken mess which is found in and around the drinking establishments of the area on the same Saturday night, half dressed drunken backpackers and young Irishmen in nylon football shirts. At least the pilgrims aren't vomiting and falling over.
Mind you, my pilgrims were silent. A work colleague reported today that she'd been on Bondi beach at 8am and groups of pilgrims were there singing and bashing tambourines. At 8o'clock in the morning! This was news to the rest of us as we were under the impression that the pilgrims wouldn't be on the loose before 10am. We'd all fallen victim to this misapprehension as all travel advice to commuters and Sydney residents is for us to make our journeys between 7 and 10am if our aim is minimum inconvenience. Obviously the tales of a Catholic curfew were greatly exaggerated.
Anyhoo. They're not hurting anyone. Sure, they're clogging up the footpaths and they look far too happy for this misery guts but they've been nicely behaved so far. Not everyone is chuffed with the constant singing, dancing and bashing of noisy musical instruments but I suppose they're all going on Monday, at least they'd better be. I did catch the tail end of a news report tonight that said someone had sprayed religious slogans on the War Memorial but that's all. I'm sure the Catholic Church will be more than happy to pay for the graffiti to be removed as soon as possible - in fact it'd better be gone already, Georgie Boy - as you don't touch the War Memorial, you just don't.
So, why is it that I still find myself watching World Youth Day coverage with a look of horror on my face? I know it's there, I have to close my mouth after each news report. What is it about these religious people that's getting right under my skin? Could it be that George Pell, a single, unmarried and childless man announced this week that we should all have more children? Fuck off and have your own, George. No, there must be more to it than that. Am I allergic to happy clappy Christians? Am I naturally suspicious of cheerful people? Did my 70s primary school teacher scar me for life with her renditions of Kumbaya? Have I inherited an anti religion gene? Maybe I'm just an intolerant bigot.
Moving swiftly on........the good news is that the annoyance laws were overturned this afternoon. The bad news is that the numpty to the right in this picture was seen by yours truly on this evenings news exercising her right to hand out condoms to Catholic pilgrims. Handing them out to children. Two of the girls she buttonholed were 13 and 14. Not clever, love, just more inflammatory than neccessary.
5 more days. Just 5 more days.