At the recent coming and going of Australia Day 2014 I was blissfully removed to ‘the bush’ west of the Blue Mountains on 30 hectares (70 acres) and 250 km (155 miles) from any celebrations taking place in Sydney Harbour.
I paused out there in the sun scorched plains to brainstorm what Australia Day means to me after living here all my life and having circumnavigated this vast country by road in a Kombi.
Here is what I came up with:
Not much room for celebration in these words! I was referencing the plight of the Aboriginal people when the majority of our forebears arrived on these shores and raped, pillaged, decimated etc etc.
Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Sydney Cove, New South Wales, and raising of the Flag of Great Britain at that site by Governor Arthur Phillip. In contemporary Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community.
To read more, follow this link:
I was appalled to find the amount of mostly non-recyclable paraphernalia available at discount pop up shops and supermarkets bearing the Australian flag in the lead up to the day. There seems to be more and more for sale each year. Or perhaps I am just getting more and more cynical! All the items I picked up for closer inspection – beer stubby holders (aka cultural cringe!), caps, t shirts, singlets, pens, rulers – were made in China.
Author, journalist and talk back radio host Richard Glover puts a very funny spin (which made me laugh out loud) on how to speak Australian:
I recall when 3 years ago we took our son and a friend to the Gold Coast to visit Wet n Wild, SeaWorld and Movie World.
Australia Day that year saw us queuing up for an hour at a time at Wet n Wild to get on a ride in the blistering sun and on the hot concrete, everyone on their ‘cozzies’. Whole families dressed were up in their waterproof Australia Day gear.
We started off our sojourn to the north on uneven footing: our flight from Sydney had been cancelled at the 11th hour. We found out when we got to the airport and had to queue to change our flight. So much for getting two thirteen year old boys there by 6.45am for our 7.30am take off!
At our destination it was teeming. The hire car company had surrendered our vehicle as we had done a no show at the agreed earlier time. They were operating out of the boot of a station wagon in the parking lot in the soaking wet. This made filling in forms a bit of a challenge. A woman in a high visibility jacket with what looked like a light sabre from Star Wars waved us on when we tried to park near where the teenagers were waiting for us at the terminal.
We got to our accommodation at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast by lunchtime in the still teeming rain. Our host was from the north of England. A pixie of a man with a lined face and cargo shorts. His wife was French. Diminutive. Elegant.
They were very apologetic for the weather and empathetic of our story. And very helpful. The boys made a beeline for the pool and spa, ignoring the drizzle.
That night we dined nearby on cheap Mexican followed by gravity defying gelato cones. The latter proved difficult to manoeuvre in the wind and wet with an umbrella as we tried to eat them en route to our apartment.
Unknown to us our teenage charge blew 2/3 of his spending money at Sydney airport on a watch, before we had even taken off (we thought that the pair were harmlessly window shopping while waiting to board our flight). It gave up 2 days later when he dived in to the pool with it on.
That holiday will be most remembered for the teeming incessant rain. It sounded like a kettle boiling during the night. Palm trees were soaked and flapping like cloth in the wind. Those growing close to our apartment windows were beating furiously against the glass and looked more like triffids than benign tropical plants.
We were wondering what to do with the sequence of wet days, with two disappointed teenage boys in tow, them being from the glass-half-empty generation.
But we weathered the storms and blew a lot more money than we expected to do, spending time in shopping malls and cafes, the nearby beaches being too dangerous to even walk on. The sun did come out, eventually. Just in time for Australia Day.