All time

On Australia Day at my local beach I watched a charming fellow scream "you f---ing slut" at a policewoman before offering to have sex with her in an unconventional and painful manner.

The constable and her male partner were 10 metres from this chap. He was in his early 20s and intent on giving the impression he'd just been released from a North American prison where he'd learnt complicated handshakes and slouching.

I was stunned. It seemed a needless provocation, so I leant against a railing to watch the cops give him his wish of jail time. Instead, they walked off.

I was on patrol for my surf club, wearing a fetching quartered cap and lurid red and yellow shorts, so my bad-boy friend certainly wasn't fussed by my presence.

I left him to his histrionics and, as I'd been assigned to "rove" the beach, headed out to the point - a sandstone headland where kids and kiddie fiddlers congregate because it's out of sight of the sand.

Instead, my colleague and I found a colourful party going on. A generator and sound system thumped on the rocks where about 250 people were drinking, dancing and occasionally diving into deep water off a slippery ledge.

The police worked their way out there as well, a group of six officers, who good-naturedly ignored all but the most flagrant flouting of the blanket alcohol ban.

Another fellow enamoured of American thug life screamed "Po po coming!" and the party guests shoved beer bottles, wine glasses and joints into rock pools, crevices and hand bags.

High tide was approaching, there were a lot of drunk people and, at dusk, still three hours away, the boozers would have to make their way over 200 metres of slippery, sharp rocks.

The police were damned whatever they did. Break up the party, they were wowsers, let it go and someone could break their neck and no doubt sue the local council. Or the cops.

As I walked back to the sand, I reflected that the battle between these opposing forces was increasingly defining our national day, in fact almost any public holiday, whether it be Christmas, New Year's, Anzac Day or the Queen's birthday.

Most of us see them as days off where we can relax, maybe have a drink, enjoy our families or lie in bed, while others view it as a free pass to do whatever they want, behave however they want.

Anything that fetters that right is wowserism, it's "unAustralian".

It used to be you'd go out looking a good time and, if you were lucky, you had a great time. For many people, nowadays, even that's not enough. It has to be "epic", it has to be "all time".

At the patrol tent, a young lifesaver reported he'd just seen a couple having sex on an inflatable lilo out in the surf. Moments later, a drunk girl appeared clutching a broken forearm after falling on those slippery rocks.

We helped her to an ambulance, then I headed home, happy to leave the celebrations to others.

Unfortunately, a rooftop party next to my apartment had drawn more than 500 people. The crowd choked our street. Revellers urinated outside my door, broken bottles and vomit caked the path where my daughter should have played on the weekend.

A group of guys in my own building smashed bottles on the road, and ripped the roof racks off my neighbour's car. When they were challenged by another neighbour, five of them threatened to bash him.

I tried to sleep but I was wired by anxiety.

I felt invaded.

I felt like I'd just got really old.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.