Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Celebration of a Nation

Excuse my cynicism if it rears. It's just that I've just discovered that I'm a great, big Aussie hypocrite.

Yesterday, along with the rest of Oz, I went to the stupid-market to get supplies for Australia Day. And came away feeling a little crapped off because I'm apparently one of the few things in there that came from a Land Down Under. When the deli didn't have any West Aussie Exmouth prawns on display, I was offered some from Vietnam. Shocked, I abruptly demanded the adolescent server go out the back and find prawns from Exmouth because I am NOT buying Vietnamese prawns. Did Hoges throw an Asian shrimp on the barbie? I think not. Whilst waiting for my true blue crustacea my mind wandered ... to the fact that half the furniture in our house and part of my shoe collection are Vietnamese. Hmmm, but not my bloody prawns. They're Aussie. It's different.

I then found some Aussie lamb (because we apparently need to eat dead local animals on Australia Day) and bbq-ed tofu burgers don't quite cut it. Thought a coconut might be nice on the beach, but they were from Samoa, which was a bit of a dodgy decision considering half of the National Rugby League players and most of our Pub bouncers are Samoan, so it's 'kind of' Ok.  The pomegranates were Californian, so that was obviously no good (nothing yank on Australia Day... only Oprah!) and I decided against a five dollar Mango as well, just because it was too expensive. Nothing wrong with a bag of Aussie chips on the beach, I reflected, whilst passing through a carpark full of imported cars wearing Aussie flags made in China.

I was listening to the ABC radio broadcast of the cricket in the car this morning and today was described as 'Australia's national public holiday'.

What exactly are we celebrating on Australia Day besides white European settlement/invasion of this continent? The fact that we've got a day off? Am I meant to be wearing a polyester flag bikini, a funny headband with green & gold pompoms and singing Kylie Minogue songs whilst BBQ-ig my lamb? What are the rules anyway?

Brad the Tradie has it sorted. He reckons Australia Day is about cricket, relaxing and drinking some of the bottle of home made bourbon he procured from Davo (father of Lara next door) made in a good old Aussie backyard with a still. Jake with the boat is off to catch crays with his brother Luke and some mates for dinner. He can't remember if his boat flags are made in China, but if they are he reckons they've done well, "coz mate I've had em for a bloody long time". The adolescent, BHG, is off to the city to see the fireworks. She's celebrating all that is good about Australia, like free public events with reduced-priced public transport, fireworks and music concerts full of acts from Australian Idol.

The radio and telly ads are telling me to celebrate 'what's great' today. And it's been quite a week for Ozzzz-tray-le-ah, so there's lots of 'what's great' still fresh in our minds. Oprah seemed to find a lot of it. I was so taken by the Australia Oprah presented that even I wanted to go there. Especially with the treatment she got. I want that Australia in my package. When piles of tourists come as a result of this campaign, dear God, let's rope off Blacktown, Redfern and Coburg.

But still, even for us ordinary Bogans without a yellow brick road, there's lots of 'what's great' about Oz.

Here's my What's Great list for 2011 in case you're stuck writing yours:
* I reckon you've gotta love the way Aussies help clean up. Doesn't matter if it's a flood, fire, backyard party or Christmas lunch. We're all in.
* I love that I can say I'm a true blue Aussie even though my heritage is a combination of Dutch and Irish. In fact, my mother's side are what we might now call 'boat people' (before we developed some sort of national intolerance towards them), fleeing post-war Europe. As Con the Fruiterer says, "Duzzzent matter mayyyte!" We're Aussie.

* Cheering on Aussie Kim Clijsters at the Aussie Open tennis today. She from Belgium, but she's forever Aussie because she was once engaged to Lleyton Hewitt (before he did the truly Aussie thing of snagging a Home & Away actress). And we can say her name. Kimmy. Kim versus Hittheballbackerorova. We like Kim because she's funny and she's a brute of a chick. With boobs. We like that.

* We're a nation of people who take everything for granted. Including public holidays. We try to be grateful occasionally, but it's hard, because we've got it so bloody good! Because we work to live, not live to work, we make sure our public holidays are packed with relaxing. And fun. We're Aussie. We invented the word "whatever".

* We're girt by sea. In the middle of nowhere. And as such we have lots of weird and cool stuff. Like animals with pouches to cart their young in. What a cool idea huh? "Come on kids, jump in, we're off down the billabong." Like the animal kingdom's version of a ute. Wonder if I'll see any Roos with pouch flags hopping about today. Won't be long and they'll be on the bandwagon. I reckon it was the kangaroos that started the 'Eat Lamb' campaign to stop being eaten themselves. Smart little buggers.

* Chicks are in charge in Oz. From the nation's top 'ranga to your mum's kitchen, we've trained Aussie blokes to be strong, tanned, pussy-whipped creatures who know their place. In front of the Telly or out next to the BBQ.
* In a similar vein, today we celebrate that Bogan cricketer Shane Warne can snag a hot chick like Elizabeth Hurley. Maybe she likes mobile phone sexting. I want to see Madame Boganette roll the arm over at the G with Warnie then down some VB. THEN I'll believe that she's smitten with our top Aussie Bogan. But you go Warnie! Cop a feel mate!

* Bunnings is open on Australia Day. Handy, in case you need screws or paint or something. Which Brad the Tradie did, so we went to Bunnings earlier (before the home made bourbon obviously). I was particularly impressed with the spirit of those working on our 'national public holiday', especially the sheila operating the 'throw a thong through the plastic dunny seat' competition. She was much perkier than the facepainter artfully drawing Aussie flags on squirmy small children. The snag cookers in the sun seemed to be even less thrilled to be working today. Ah well, all for the greater good of having a fully-operational hardware store. Hardware's important to us Aussies.

* As they say (and sing), you can always widely roam and call Australia home. Live overseas, fly to the moon, whatever. You're allowed back in mate, as long as you're an Aussie and you can pass Quaratine. Especially Hugh Jackman. He's always allowed in. Preferably topless.

So, on this Australia Day, I share with you a Facebook post from my bogan mate Tan (as in "Tannn-yahhhh!!!") who's got her Aussie flag polyester bikini on in front of the computer today. Sing along Poms and Yanks. I know your bloody anthems from the Olympics and the cricket, so you can stand for our ode to 'work to live' (if you can by this time of day...otherwise stagger) and help celebrate our nation:
Australians all let us rejoice
The weekend now is near
We've worked all bloody week for this
Dear God let's get a beer.
Our desks abound in paperwork
Our hands are stained with ink
In desperate stage, we'll fly the cage
Advance to Friday drinks!!
With joyful strains, destroy our brains
Advance to Friday drinks!!

Celebration of a Nation, Official Australian Bicnetennial Song, Les Gock, 1988.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Surfin' W.A.

Don’t blame it on the sunshine
Don’t blame it on the UV
Don’t blame it on the good times
Blame it on the Boogie (board)
OK, So I live in some sort of fantasy-land.

Google. This is truly how it happened. I swear. Don’t hate me. It was luck. When Brad the Tradie and I decided to up sticks from Boganvillea, there were a couple of criteria. Not many, but...
• There had to be one of those Paradise Lost beaches near my lovely new house,
• Close proximity to International Airport and Cruise dock (one doesn’t like to travel in order to travel if you get my drift),
• There had to be family no more or less than an hour away (close enough to get to, but far enough for them to have to make an appointment),
• I got to quit work to do whatever I felt like each day, and
• We’d have no mortgage.

Not many criteria, but… you know, I am a bit demanding. How was Super-husband supposed to fulfil the brief? Using the bloody Netterweb of course.

Within a blink the man had Googled our new life.

Beachvillea. South West Western Australia. He showed me Google Earth this and thats of a block of land and house floor plans and … blah blah… I saw the ocean and said, “Yeah, go for it.” Given that I was getting permission to chuck in my job and live like a beach bum, the only thing left to worry about was lady fur removal from the nether regions really. And building up a decent collection of thongs.

I grew up with no ocean.

Which, if you consider all the advertising for Australia and the ‘typical Aussie’ whatsits, made me feel a bit ripped off. Nope, I wasn’t even a farmgirl. A bogan towngirl in the middle of nowhere with a public high school and a river (yes, one of those rivers that would break its banks and flood the town every now and then), dreaming of beachside living with a man called… Brock, or Brent, or Brick… or… some other Br name. And a snorkel.

And so here we are, our first summer in Beachvillea and as it turns out it’s bloody nice here.

Like… reallllly nice. I have a snorkel. I splashed out, and after much research, braved it at Rebel Sport, where all the ... ummm... sporty people hang out, spoke to an adolescent in board shorts and bought a snorkel.  I go to see my fish each day at our beach, which has a reef just out a bit. We play a game, the fish and I. I look for them. They swim a little. I follow. They swim faster. I swim faster. They win by hiding or swimming away. Simple, yet fun and excellent exercise. Good for that ‘back of the knees’ tan that I’ve been aiming for. When I get sick of that, I lie on the beach and read the free books the over-funded public library likes to buy me. Whilst I haven’t fallen asleep yet… I may be slipping into a lifestyle coma.

Which is why it’s good that the adolescent (BHG) invited the BFF from Boganvillea to come stay for a bit this summer holidays.

Two fifteenish girls built like praying mantises (praying mantii???) who don’t so much eat, but ‘harvest’ and keep me young whilst making me feel old. They giggle. And like mini hair-straighteners. And buy each other gobstoppers and have sleepovers in each other’s rooms and all those other cute things.

We call BFF ‘Bounce’. She’s the Energiser Bunny who just keeps on keeping on. An impossibly nice and cute little gymnast, who, in her size nothing pink wetsuit, managed to learn to surf in three days. The next time she gets in the water Bounce will possibly be doing a three and a half rotations twist with perfect ten landing whilst riding a pipeline wave. Whilst photographing Bounce and BHG (who can stand on the board which is much better than expected… I was hoping for anything above a trip to Emergency) I pretty much felt like Greenpeace might come along and roll my nearly forty year old self back in the water. Except that all the other parents with cameras were much fatter than me and some were jiggly with VERY low hanging boobs, which, I must say, gave me a moment of indulgent vanity. I had a nicer pair of togs on too. And I got to point at my two gorgeous twiggies and say, “Yes, they’re with me. Which one’s your child? The ugly fat one who can’t stand up on the board? Or the one that’s drowning over there….”

It hadn’t computed with me, or the twiggies, just how much we’d rely on the water for entertainment in summer.

Bounce met me at the Qantas counter with luggage resembling a mini-fridge for a ten-day beach break. Whereas what we wear ‘round these parts is pretty much togs and thongs. Took me ages to get used to that too. I have a walk-in-wardrobe full of high heeled boots and leather jackets, yet arrived here with one pair of rubber thongs. Actually, we even skip the thongs unless the sand’s hot. Accessories consist of a beach bag and a water bottle. Maintenance is a shower afterwards. And yet, funnily enough, you end up with clear skin, fab hair and a healthy glow. And a few tanlines. And a thing for vacuuming sand off everything. I have my own ‘man with a Br name’ now too. He doesn’t like to use my snorkel because it’s purple. Real men have a black snorkel apparently. Like Darth Vader.

So with Bounce now gone and BHG the locust off learning to sew with her Gran (yes, Western Australia is SO quaint isn’t it?) I’ve been left to go spend time with the fishies, pretending to chase them and watching them laugh when I try to dive under and choke on sea water in my snorkel.

Surfin’ W.A. is quite noice though. There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean with a bevvie in one hand and ‘Bucket of Skin’ in the other. It’s worth exfoliating, waxing, shaving, moisturising, vacuuming and ummm… doing that all over for. Any day. Every day. You can hate me now.


Surfin' USA. The Beach Boys, 1963.