Illustration by Rocco Fazzari.
At this time of the year, my sleep is a cavalcade of dreams. Too much family stirs the mental pot. One thing leads to another and the next minute Tony Abbott appears, sitting backwards on a bicycle and wearing an Australia Day T-shirt, a proxy for some oppressive childhood memory no doubt. He goes at a good clip along an avenue of gums and shadows, pedalling round corners without so much as a rearward glance, and still managing to talk. "I have a resting heart rate of 30 beats per minute. To put that in perspective, a resting crocodile's is 28. Malcolm Turnbull's is 76 on a good day. Even John Howard never clocked less than 70."
He is winding up a steep hill now, through a forest, standing on the pedals - don't ask me how.
"The more regularly one drives up the pulse, the more it falls at rest. With brutal exercise I have recorded rates that are the human equivalent of an Etruscan shrew.
"To rip through the rind of comfortable existence and enter the lowest deep of pain is my pleasure. I am an endorphin addict. It is how I know myself. Without exercise - at a dinner, for instance, or reading a briefing paper - I struggle to remain convinced that I am not hibernating like a python in a cave.
"Only when I exercise do I feel truly alive; yet the more I exercise, the less alive I feel when I am not. It is the paradox of my existence."
At that point he shoots down a fire track, and I wake and dictate all this into my smartphone. Once asleep again, I find him in a forest clearing, standing bow-legged on an old-growth tree stump and spouting to a gathering of lyrebirds. With his blue swimmers visible beneath a tattered toga, he might be the prophet Isaiah, but for some reason Thomas the Tank Engine also comes to mind.
"My fellow Australians," he says. "Today we celebrate Australia's remarkable progress from convict settlement to the great nation in which we live today. Surely no people on the planet have more reason to be joyous.
"How magnificent we are! What a future lies before us! What a past behind! We must remain true to our Judaeo-Christian values, and steadfast and fearless as the Anzacs. Great challenges lie ahead - the Budget challenge, the education challenge, the national broadband challenge, the arrival of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George in April.
"Let us now resolve to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, to make sure we can't think of anything else while they are here.
"By all accounts Prince William is a keen adventurer like myself, and I have already invited him to join me in an ironman contest and to go a few rounds in the ring. I urge you to flock and fawn and hang your flags up and down the land. Buy the souvenirs and mags. Leave them in no doubt that the sun will never set on your affection; that you would rather die than live without them.
"The future king and queen will have scarcely left our shores when we begin the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. And, as if that were not enough excitement for one year, nine months later we have the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli. What else can one say but 'Yippee'?"
The lyrebirds oblige. The forest resounds with their mimicry. And he goes on.
"Of course it goes without saying that these last two are solemn events. We should not commemorate historical episodes that saw the deaths of millions with the unbridled gaiety we bring to Australia Day, which - putting aside the destruction of an ancient civilisation and a legacy of rank injustice, suffering and despair - commemorates an event that caused the deaths of comparatively few. A couple of hundred thousand perhaps, if you count the disease and alcohol and so on, over several generations. Maybe half a million - tops.
"That is a good many more than the 60,000 Australians killed in World War I. I know. I can count. But what are we supposed to do - get out the black armbands again, and bow our heads and fill our hearts with awe and sorrow every January 26? Not on your Nellie. That's what we do on Anzac Day.
"Yes, there is a downside to our history. In much of life there is a downside. It comes with the upside. You can see that in the example of my heart rate. Difficult things happen sometimes. Besides, many of the deaths were not deliberately inflicted: the worst we could say of most of them is that they were careless; incidental, as it were, to the colonial and national projects on which the furtherance of our Judaeo-Christian values depend. Most of them were no one's fault, really. And frankly, some of them were their own fault, partly, frankly. And unlike the Anzacs, they were defending no one's freedom or values, or the Australian way of life - unless you count their own. It's chalk and cheese - well, chalk anyway."
At this point, silence descends on the gully. All birdsong stops. The leaves of the trees cease to rustle in the high breezes.
"It's all relative, you see. It's all a matter of context. It ain't necessarily so, and all that. What's important is not truth so much as ..."
And here he hesitates, and a preternatural and nightmarish grin takes possession of his face. His eyes roll back and beads of sweat bubble on his brow. When at last the grin has gone, he exhales and mutters, "Sorry, just stretching my glutes." And he continues:
"There is no need to go into the micro details of history. The important thing is not to politicise these commemorations. Under my government, Christopher Pyne - a bravura example of Western civilisation and Judaeo-Christian Anzac values if ever there was one - will put a stop to the rewriting of history by postmodern, multicultural, left-wing relativists. We will decide what we know of history, and the circumstances in which we know it. We will make an end of it."
And then I'm wakened by a possum chattering on the roof. Or so I think, but it might be one of the lyrebirds.