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I’m just back from a long weekend in Tasmania. One of my good friends lives down there and we had a whirlwind tour of the beautiful Apple Isle. Wanna see what we saw? C’mon then.

First was the tiny but beautiful city of Hobart. Compared with the enormity of New York City it is but a dot on the map. The best thing about its size, though, is that it is easy to get around. Not many traffic jams here. Yep, Tassie has a much slower pace. The people are generally more friendly than back on the mainland and the buildings are to die for. I have never seen more well-preserved convict buildings. Breathtaking… if you love architecture.

Tassie offers so much to the tourist. My local friend popped on her ‘tourist’ glasses for a few days as we jetted about in our four-wheel-drive. First was pizza at Salamanca; a popular and trendy part of Hobart. The food was sensational and the ambiance modern and cosy.

 

The next day we found ourselves in Richmond. A grand old historical town boasting Australia’s oldest bridge. We walked, we talked, we got lost, we walked across a weir to get back on track.

How adventurous were we? Then stop at the old fashioned lolly shop before heading somewhere even sweeter…

…the chocolate factory. Who doesn’t like chocolate? Hands down… strange people. This ordinary looking building houses the ingredients of Cadbury’s finest choccy. We sat through an information session which turned my pal off white chocolate forever (it’s made of fat people! Say no more). Back to another trendy part of town for some late lunch… day’s end.

The next day the sun shone and the Salamanca markets were jam packed with tourists just like us! We elbowed our way through the crowds, offering a polite, “excuse me” as you do in Tassie. The coffee was outrageously good, the parking a nightmare but we saw, we shopped, we squinted in the sunshine. Paradise!

With the clear skies, the next stop was a no-brainer, Mount Wellington.

Round and round we drove. Higher and higher. Through trees of green and towns of cuteness. We arrived. I staggered over to the edge of the viewing platform, feeling a bit weak of knee but keen to take in the breathtaking view. It was incredible. So darn high, looking over gorgeous Hobart with its waterways, other mountains and green, green everywhere.

After such a high, we were ready for a rest. Touring is hard work baby.

When the babysitting arrived, pally and I hopped in the car with packed bags and headed down/up to Port Arthur for a girls night away. We popped on our pjs, ate some delectable, sophisticated junk food, drank some Midori Splices (oh yum) and watched a sad, sad movie. The next day we headed to the Port Arthur site.

A spot of rain then blue skies for 5 hours. We walked, we sailed, we read and learned and listened. This is an incredible place. Not only is it famous for convicts and oldy worldy stuff but in 1996 it was the site of a horrific massacre which makes it feel very eerie. It’s like you walk around it ever so gently and respectfully. So much horror, so much history and sadness.

When we hopped in the car the rain began to pour down. We headed back to Hobart town and back to a sense of normality. This was my last night. As with all last nights a chilling was in order. We ate toasted sandwiches and watched another movie. Bliss!!!

So to Tassie and my exceptional Tasmanian friends! Thanks for a fun and peaceful time. Think I will bring the Tassie way of life back to crazy Sydney!

Boys and guns. Boys and swords. Boys and lightsabers. “Pateeew, pateew, pateeeww!”

My son loves to rumble, fight, shoot, kill, slice off heads, dance-fight, crush, defeat, battle… WIN! It seems like an inbuilt thing in boys. And most men love the idea of war. Look at the success of The Pacific and Band of Brothers. And before that there have been countless movies made about war. The first ever Oscar winning film was called Wings (1927) about men and war (see my review http://oscarclub.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/best-picture-wings-1927/). There seems to be an insatiable hunger out there  for war stories, heroes, good overcoming evil. From violent video games to paintball, men (and some women) seem obsessed with the thing.

When my husband and I visited the Dachau Concentration camp, many of the people there wore somber faces, taking in the seriousness of the place. One particular fellow looked like he was having too good a time. He was rushing about the place with his camera rolling with a kind of an obsessed look on his face. This guy was taking the war, buddy-buddy, hero thing way too far. It was quite disturbing actually. On the memorial at Dachau they have the words ‘Never Again’ in five or so different languages and that is the general feel of the place. It really brings it home that war is nothing to be sneezed at.

image by Forrest R. Whitesides

Boys/men are wired for adventure. I look at my bouncy son who likes to fight and roll and hiphop dance and I see his lust for adventure right there in his testosterone. For boys and men alike, war is often seen as a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of thing. It is overseas, you get to wear funky uniforms, put black and green stuff on your face and carry a real life gun! You can grunt and fart and be crude if you wish, it’s all ok. But then something happens. When the first battle is fought, the first gun fired, the first soldier killed, that’s when war is no longer exciting. It is hell on wheels (I know, cos I’ve seen the movie/miniseries etc).

There is bonding to be had in this place. I can understand that. But war destroys these men, these families, these countries. It is a humbling experience, one that we, in Australia, have not known for a long time. Perhaps that is why we can run around with video cameras sucking in as much war history as we can without really grasping the devastation that has occurred. We can play violent games, watch disturbing movies as we sit in comfort, eating, drinking (sometimes sleeping) without really being moved at all. We may have thought the world was going to end with September 11th but then it went away and we ate our tinned food and locked up our bomb shelters.

We are living in a time of relative peace in Australia. Our boys may enjoy the “pateww, pateeww” of the imaginary war. In many parts of the world, this pretend world becomes all too real. While we experience the horrors of war from our comfy lounge rooms let us not forget the evils that are happening everyday as well as the lessons of the past.


 

I am on the Oprah band-wagon! After a week or so of ‘Oprah this Oprah that’, I have found myself drawn into the Oprah hype and here I sit. Every night I find myself hungry for the next Oprah-hit. But it’s not Oprah I’m excited about.

With hand on heart and eyes reflecting a waving Australian flag, I find myself in awe of Australia and grateful that it is finally on the Oprah map. Which, of course, means it is on the world map. You’re not just a randomly shaped continent anymore ‘stralia-ee, oh no. Now you have a voice. And it’s LOOUUUUUDDDDD!

Love her or hate her, Oprah is good for Australia. And having her here kinda brings the ‘star’ down to earth don’t you think? She looks kinda overdone in the light of our Aussie sun. The make-up and the taffeta clothes. It’s too much for a climate and culture such as ours. I hope next time she’ll pack a sarong, thongs and a singlet. Then, she’ll really have an Australian experience.

Seeing our grand country through the Oprah lense makes me appreciate this vast island. I have only experienced this level of patriotism when I travelled. You know the feeling when you come across a fellow Australian, you give them your broadest “G’day!” (do we REALLY say that?) and share your Aussie perspective on wherever you are. ie “how bad is the coffee around here?”

Because the good coffee is in Australia (and then there’s Italy.) There’s the good food, the great weather, beaches without flaws, animals galore and sport, culture and ancient history.  It’s all here people and we should be damn proud of it. And it shouldn’t take a television super star’s visit for us to realise how very lucky we all are to live here.

Sure it’s a nightmarish flight away from the ‘mainland’ and the rest of the west but that’s what makes it special. It is remote and wild and cultured and relaxed and darn beautiful. Every time I go to the beach, I come home with bruises. There’s so much pinching going on! How did I get to live here? The water is clean, warmish (tbc) and the weather is generally perfecto!!!

So you thought this would be a gush about Oprah, didn’t you? You cheeky little blog readers! But no, this little Aussie battler has given you a taste of my Australian pride. As Oprah boards her private jet, will my  hand on heart go a bit limp? Will I forget?

I may need to keep my Oprah-glasses a little longer to appreciate the paradise I find myself living in. But this shouldn’t be too hard. It’s Christmas, it’s summer, and we have the BEST beaches in the world.

Image by Andrew Parnell

I have a confession to make. I am a reverse racist. And I’m trying to decide whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I love people. I love the variety of people we have in Australia; the culture, the stories. I love my  claim that I am related to a Samoan New Zealander. I think that’s quite cool and I’m proud to have some relation to some heritage.

You see, I have no culture. I am a bitser and here it goes,I will prove it to you.
My Heritage, by Emma Watson:

  • Part English, Irish, French(?), Scandinavian, Jewish, Portuguese, Greek and Australian (whatever that means)
  • I am part Viking or part of the French upper crust or some such what!?!
  • I am a country bumpkin, a beaches bumpkin, a ‘city’ dweller and have a history in rural Australia (Go Lismore!)
  • My eyebrows are from Greece, my height from Scandanavia, my skin from Portugal and my sense of humour…. Irish???

 

 

 

 

Is it any wonder, then, that I am drawn to people with culture? Those that have definite characteristics of some deep and strong heritage. Here I am, bobbing up and down in a jelly sea full of possibilities yet sadly lacking in definites.

I cling on to my Irish friend with the thick accent, cos maybe there’s a bit of my heritage somewhere in those rolling ‘rrrrrs’ and haunting panpipes. I have tendencies to smash plates and throw my hands up in the sky. But alone, it just seems wasteful and silly.

My language is plain, dull, Aussie with a touch of okka and upper. There are no cultural celebrations to partake in. I tried the Samoan dance at my cousin’s wedding, resulting in a robot, stiff type of dance. I am not loose, hip, swingy when it comes to dancing. I am simply white when it comes to dancing. There goes my Greek/ Portugese / Jewish heritage. What would my forefathers say?

To all the culture-rich out there, count your blessings, my friends. For the rest of us walk around, eyes darting back and forth, looking here, looking there, to find our identity, our past, to give meaning to who we are today. Don’t think I am a terrible person when I am being a reverse racist. I love diversity, I love variety. And when it comes down to it, I’m simply envious of your vast riches and wanna be adopted by you!

 

I don’t know about you, but for me, tv shows of the eighties and nineties bring back memories. I can’t remember exactly what I was doing and what was happening but those ancient episodes take me back, way back, when the pimples were just brewing, the tantrums were age appropriate and the smells were sweeter.

And back I shall go… For us Aussies, the ‘must-see’ shows of the eighties (in a G rating) were A Country Practice, Hey, Hey It’s Saturday and The Flying Doctors. We all remember the moment that Molly died on ACP, on the chair outside while Chloe played. Do you also remember when Donna died in the car accident? If only she could have made that seatbelt work.  I remember like it was last week. I was a kid and it was one of the first ‘adult’ shows I was allowed to watch.

Hey, Hey It’s Saturday reminds me of the hour when the babysitter was due to arrive. There were usually cupcakes or other delectables on the coffee table and it was Saturday night, afterall. What could be better?

The Flying Doctors took flight when I was a little older. It was dramatic, endearing and who wasn’t in love with Sam? (played by Peter O’Brien) Oh yes. Those were the early crush days. In those early days, my television was filled with many Australian shows. And quality ones at that!

Then I realised there was a country to our left (or right depending on the map) where the streets were paved with gold and superstars were being made. And my love affair with American television was born! Alf, Happy Days, Cosby Show, Roseanne, Family  Ties, The Greatest American Hero, Who’s the Boss and later 21 Jump Street, Booker then on to Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210 and beyond. So, I dumped poor Australia and dove into the sugary world of American television. There were so many options! Eye opening options. America was cool. Australia, its nerdy little brother. And England, I’m afraid you became the sickly, pale, shadow of a cousin hiding in a bleak corner of the entertainment world.

I love looking back on my life according to what I was watching. Did my parents approve? Was it a happy time? Full of conflict and drama in itself? Was tv the great leveler? I remember my mum banning Young Talent Time in our house, when I was eleven. I really wanted to watch it, so I did. She asked what I was watching and I said, “It’s a new show called, Y.T.T” I was busted, however, but I’m pretty sure I got points for creativity. Ah the memories.

If the country was run by kids, there would be no double-talk. If you’re ugly or fat or stupid or drunk, the kids would just say it how they saw it. And you could always tell when they were lying. Their little eyes would point to the ground, shifting from side to side.

If the country was run by kids, poor people would have beds because they should; and toys too. They would make sure that everything was fair, that everyone got what they should. Kids love justice.

If the country was run by kids, meetings would be run by grown-ups in animal costumes speaking in high pitched voices. There would be balloons, lollies and music. They would just go with the ‘prettiest’ idea.

If the country was run by kids, factions would change on a daily basis, “You’re not my friend, today.” And conflicts would be resolved by sharing snacks and toys. “I’ll give you some star wars figures if you let this bill through.”

If the country was run by kids, arguments would end in tears, nap time would be  enforced for all Australians and  their days would start at 5am with ABC kids.

If the country was run by kids, there would be tantrums and lying and game playing and insults and friend swapping and arm twisting and popularity contests and name calling.

I guess some kids never grow up.

Two by two, clean and free. Socks on a line. Sunshine on the socks on a line. Birds OFF MY SOCKS ON THE LINE! Don’t like birds.

Sunshine has invaded our Autumn. What gives, sunshine? We’re confused. There’s nothing like socks on a line in the Autumn sun. It’s still hot too. The wardrobes of Australia are mighty confused. Winter/Summer/Winter/Summer. Winter comes in the morning, a chill in the air, dew on the grass. Little beads of cold sweat stick to the flyscreens.

By mid morning it’s summer. Layers are peeled, eyes squint and sunnies are donned. This is Australia. This is global warming, apparently. And still the socks are on the line. The socks don’t mind. As long as they dry. Why should I?

My dear Robin Williams,

Thank you for your feedback on Australia. We are sorry if we offended you with our red necks. Unlike your country ‘red neck’ in Australia just means that you have been in the sun too long. Perhaps you experienced too much sun also?

We are aware that our citizens have been invading Hollywood land, your home town and for that we also apologise. We have tried so hard not to step on your toes and we have failed dismally. We just cannot help producing such incredible talent.

As for your comments about our Animals, yes they are weird. I’m sorry you couldn’t find anything more intelligent to mock than our beautiful wildlife. If you are scared of our animals, next time feel free to fly on to New Zealand where no snakeys can hurt you! I apologise for the high cute factor of our Kangaroos, Koalas, Bandicoots, Possums and Platypus. We’re sorry that our animals put yours to shame. We are not a nation that takes pride in boasting.

Your imitation of our accent was darling, Robin Williams. It was a good try. We appreciate your effort to encourage other Americans to visit our beautiful shores. Please do not feel obligated in the future.

Thank you Robin Williams for loving our country as much as we do and pointing out to the rest of the world, how unique, sunny, fun and amazing our Australia really is. It truly rocks, Robin Williams.

Yours sincerely,

Australia

Driving the same old road can be a little dull. Over the past twelve years I have seen hundreds of signs nailed around the ‘billy’ bends. They are snippets of life. They are tearful farewells, excited “Hello”s, stupid ‘bag-outs’, or strange clues that only the ‘in’ crowd would really get.

I have always though it should be documented. It is a fascinating glimpse into our local life. A brave and time rich person has done just that. It is fun to guess what people are trying to say to each other. For example, this week there has been something like “Nanna and Pop, the kids will miss you”. Meaning we won’t though or the kids really like their grandparents.

For those living past those infamous bends, it is always good to know that you will always be entertained either heading out of town or back home.

see roundthebends.com for updates on our beloved signs!

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