“Apparently they’re checking for weapons. Must be true, I can’t imagine it takes very long to rush in there and vote the way TNT magazine told you to.”

It was Monday night outside Australia House, and Karen and I were there to vote. At the back of the queue stretching along Aldwych, we tried to protect ourselves from the cool wind of an English summer with a hidden can of beer and some notebooks. We’d taken the beer to amuse ourselves, and the notebooks to pretend we were reporters to get people to speak to us. Or was it the other way around? It didn’t take long to confuse the two.

The crowd ahead was the usual mix of Aussie expats in London: a sprinkling of 18-year-olds on working holiday visas taking some time off from their busy schedule of hanging out at the Walkabout Pub, a large gathering of “young professionals” with faux English accents they adopted to get locals to take them seriously, and some older voters who probably haven’t been back to Oz since the Whitlam dismissal but still hold on to their Australian passports for sentimental reasons.

Like a pair of dirty star f-ckers, we’d hoped to spot some celebrities. Germaine, Kylie, Ricky Ponting. No joy. We would’ve even settled for Crikey’s own Guy Rundle (without the f-cking part).

Instead, we got Brad from Whittlesea.

A newcomer to London, Brad had managed to land a job as a door-and-window salesman. He’d moved over with his girlfriend, and they were living in Wimbledon with four other Aussies and an Italian guy (for an authentic European experience, presumably). Brad and his girlfriend were here to “do the travel thing” before they settled down.

I was interested by Brad, not only for his commitment to the particularly Australian life trajectory of Contiki–London–Contiki–Gallipoli–Contiki–outer suburbs with two kids and a mortgage, but because my grandfather, an 85-year-old lefty still active in the local political scene, also hails from Whittlesea.

“Oh, my granddad lives in Whittlesea! What a small world,” I exclaimed in my faux English accent. “So, McEwen! That’s an exciting seat to be voting in! With Fran Bailey’s resignation, anything could happen, right? What do you think will happen? Who are you voting for? Tell me, tell me!” Karen leaned in, grabbed my empty beer can and shoved it back in her bag.

McEwen, always one of the most exciting seats in Victoria, again is on a knife edge, according to analysis I nicked from my imaginary boyfriend Antony Green’s website. The Liberal candidate is a well-respected local policeman who was elevated to hero status after the Black Saturday bushfires. Brad was one of the special ones, a voter with a real chance of having a direct influence on the election result. I wanted to know what it was like to have that power.

“Yeah, nah, yeah, I dunno. I think I’ll see who’s on the list and decide once I’m in there,” mumbled Brad.

“But, why, Brad, why? Why not think this through? You’re not in Australia now, but you’re going back. Don’t you want to think things through?” My Carlsberg had well and truly kicked in.

“Nah, well, you know, like, it doesn’t really matter, does it? You’re here in London. Why don’t you just have fun and not care about politics at home?” Brad retorted.

“Err, well, err, cos it’s funny, and I’m angry, and, well, I care about democracy, and making a difference to society, and the political process ‘n sh-t.” Yeah, take that, Brad. I can talk politics with the best of them.

“Whatever,” he said, looking away and recognising my initial friendliness for what it really was, a shameless attempt to bait bogans.

I stared at my shoes, waiting for the queue to move and avoiding a conversation with the pink-haired Greens campaigner. Another group of young fun lovers showed up at the back of the queue, taking leaflets from the Liberals campaigner claiming that a victory to Abbott would “stop the rot in the west”. Sigh.

Maybe Brad was right. Perhaps if I thought more like him, more like his mob, I wouldn’t be finding it hilarious to drink beer outside Australia House.

As we made it to the front of the queue and finally received the security frisking, I realised that Karen was also right. Instead of caring passionately about the political situation at home, I should’ve just voted the way that TNT magazine said. That was, like, my god-given right.