I am in Chicago at present, which means it’s well below freezing. Quite different from the New Year’s Eve I enjoyed several years ago in Sydney, Australia: sitting on the grass, glass of wine in hand, summer dress and sandals on, enjoying the parade of boats covered with lights, the bands on the moving stage provided by passing barges, and the astonishing fireworks show that concluded the evening.
So while I’m not there now, I’m still thinking of that warm, sparkly night–so wanted to share what it looked like this year with everyone. This is just a brief excerpt of the fabulous fireworks display, but it will give you a feel for the event.
Happy New Year, everyone, everywhere.
If you’ve read my book Waltzing Australia, you’ll know that I have celebrated Christmas in Australia, and it was indeed a “scorching summer’s day,” as is celebrated in this fun, Aussie version of “Jingle Bells.” As for some of the terms in the song, if you’re an Aussie, you’ll know them, and if you’re not, check the glossary in my book. That said, it’s fun, regardless of whether or not you understand every word.
Merry Christmas, wherever you are.
On my first trip to Australia, I was fortunate enough to witness the remarkable response to the annual running of the Melbourne Cup. It is called the race that stops a nation–and it really does. Businesses close on the day of the race. Traffic stops during the running of the race, which takes place at 3pm on the first Tuesday of November, and has done so for more than a century and a half. It is hard to imagine how far from civilization one would have to be to not hear the reportage of the race.
This year’s race was remarkable for two things: the horse that won, Prince of Penzance, was a 101-1 outsider, and the jockey was a woman–Michelle Payne–the first woman to win the prestigious race. Remarkable day.
And if you’d like to see the “surprise ending,” here’s the race.
Filed under Australia, Video
It was fairly early in my first visit to Australia that I encountered the iconic confections called Lamingtons. These traditional sweets consist of rectangles of sponge cake dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in shredded coconut. Hard to beat that combination. I found them from one end of Australia to the other. Here’s a video that takes you through the whole process of making them — though one can simply buy sponge cake, rather than making it from scratch.
For Americans, be advised that caster sugar is what we call super fine sugar. If you don’t have super fine, just put regular granulated sugar in a blender for a few seconds. Icing sugar is what we call powders sugar. Corn flour is corn starch. And 180 decrees Celsius is about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I think everything else will be familiar. Hope you enjoy this Aussie classic.
I couldn’t leave you with the kangaroos dying from the mosquito-borne disease. Here’s the video that follows up with the mob 10 months later, when the survivors are rebuilding their lives.
Nature is amazing, but it is not always kind or easy. In this video, a kangaroo mob is besieged by disease-carrying mosquitoes. While the mob will recover in time, it is sad to see them suffer–and while I realize that death is often a key part of how nature keeps itself strong, it still makes me want to spray the whole place with DDT.
While I find koalas interesting, the Aussie animals I love most are kangaroos and wallabies. Such remarkable creatures. I’ve discovered a splendid BBC series on kangaroos in particular, and I thought it worth sharing. Note that a group of kangaroos is generally referred to as a mob, and if you listened to the video I posted last January about magpies, you’ll recognize their caroling in the background of this video.
Clearly, it’s not easy being a ‘roo in the back of beyond.
Filed under Australia, Video
A very interesting fact about koalas just popped up in a video from SciShow — a series that offers scientific explanations for various phenomena. Someone had asked why koalas hugged trees, and researchers have now found out why. Fun stuff.
I don’t actually play golf. That’s a sport that belonged to my dad and brother. Their passion and skill, however, led to my having an appreciation of the game and of the courses on which it is played. I used to walk the course with my dad, and I’d often watch tournaments with him. So even without having played more than three times in my life, I do understand what makes a great course — and what makes a crazy course. While I know for a fact that there are many splendid courses in Australia, and some great golfers, I have of late learned that there are also a few really outlandish courses — as one would expect in Australia. I imagine it is only because I never considered a golf holiday in Oz that I never heard of them until now, but simply because of what they reflect of the Australian personality — especially humor and determination — I thought they were worth passing along, now that I do know about them.
The lunar landscape of Coober Pedy in South Australia is home to the 18-hole, 72-par course of the Opal Fields Golf Club. There is no grass at all, just sand and rock, and the “greens” are simply oiled sand, to make them smooth. One golfing site relates: “The grassless fairways create a lot of roll and the oiled sand greens create a surprisingly smooth putt.”
The longest course in the world is also in South Australia — or, rather, starts in South Australia. The 848-mile Nullarbor Links actually stretches across a couple of states and takes about four days to play. But at least there is grass — some of the time.
Hope this gives a few of you golfers out there something to add to your bucket lists.
Another of my personal favorites from Slim Dusty is “Australia’s on the Wallaby.”
“The Wallaby” in the title is short for the Wallaby Track–which really is no track at all, but refers to the roads and wilderness walked by itinerant works and dispossessed families in search of work. The term dates to the 1800s, and was even the title of a poignant painting –On the wallaby track — created in 1896 by Australian artist Frederick McCubbin. The painting shows a young family alone in the bush, with the wife holding an infant and her husband boiling the billy can over a small fire. So the term predates the Great Depression — but during the Great Depression, people again took to the Wallaby Track, though in greater numbers than ever before.
During the Great Depression, 1 in 3 Australians became jobless, and so a stunningly large percentage of the population was wandering in search of any kind of work that paid. Australia was, indeed, on the Wallaby. A book titled On the wallaby: a true story about the Great Depression in Australia in the 1930s, by William Kidman, reinforces the identification of the term with this period.
The “cooee” in the song is a cry used in the Australian bush to connect with other wanderers, to attract attention, or to indicate one’s location.
This particular video is not in particularly good shape, but you can hear the song clearly. I hope you enjoy it as much as I always have. The song is, like most Australians, cheerful despite difficulties being faced.