Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Australia - Prepare Yourself!!

The following gem is by Douglas Adams of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" fame. It is an amazing insight into Australia – prepare yourself!

Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the bottom half of the planet. It is recognisable from orbit because of many unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it the "Great Australian Bight" proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory but they can't spell either!

The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. Typically, it is unique in this.

The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep. It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However there are curiously few snakes, possible because the spiders have killed them all.

But even the spiders won't go near the sea. Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on), under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.

At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus - estranged relative of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays eggs, detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel and has venomous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.

The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants.

First, a short history:
Sometime around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and a lot of them died. The ones who survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things and spiders. They settled in and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories.

Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died.

About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since. It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick.

Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on extended holiday and became Australians. The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories. Be warned.

There is also the matter of the beaches. Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world. Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock and has venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain) and surfboarders.

However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk. As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger.

Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile disarmingly and look for a stick. Major engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud. Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land "Oz", "Godzone" (a verbal contraction of "God's Own Country") and "Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth." The irritating thing about this is they may be right.

There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveller, though. Do not, under any circumstances, suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer. Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt. Religion and Politics are fairly safe topics of conversation, (Australians don't care too much about either) but Sport is a minefield.

The only correct answer to "So, howdya' like our country, eh?" is "Best (insert your own regional swear word here) country in the world!". It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will 'adopt' you on your first night, and take you to a pub where Australian Beer is served. Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It is a form of initiation rite. You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes.

Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off any legal difficulties with "It's his first time in Australia, so we took him to the pub", to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook. Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australian you encounter, adding new embellishments at every stage and noting how strong the beer was. Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.

Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.

Typical Australian sayings:-
* "G'Day!"
* "It's better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick!"
* "She'll be right mate."

Tips to Surviving Australia:
* Don't ever put your hand down a hole for any reason WHATSOEVER.
* The beer is stronger than you think, regardless of how strong you think it is.
* Always carry a stick.
* Air-conditioning is imperative.
* Do not attempt to use Australian slang, unless you are a trained linguist and extremely good in a fist fight.
* Wear thick socks.
* Take good maps. Stopping to ask directions only works when there are people nearby.
* If you leave the urban areas, carry several litres of water with you at all times, or you will die.
* Even in the most embellished stories told by Australians, there is always a core of truth that it is unwise to ignore.

Australia Day, our national day, is 26th January. To read some more interesting, humorous stories I recommend you wonder over the my good mate Lilly's Life blog. Lilly is a fellow Aussie AND Sagittarian, she has a wicked sense of humour, so be prepared and settle back with a cup of coffee/tea/juice/water/wine and enjoy the ride.

Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia - May 2007

Kings Canyon, Northern Territory, Australia - June 2007


Lilly's Life said...

Wow Peggy what a fabulous post. I learnt so much that I didn't even know. AND what are you doing with your hand in such a dangerous position? What a fantastic photo!! Your tips to Surviving Australia were the best, fair dinkum!!! I am printing this post and sending it around to others! Thank you for the link too!!

Lilly's Life said...

PS I notice Jackson Browne is on your playlist. I have loved that man since I was 17 and even named my dog after him at one stage! You will notice that I am loitering again listening to your music. We have similar taste in music it seems.

miruspeg said...

Lilly - After reading your fabulous posts on life "down under" I thought it would be a fun idea to do something similar. I hope we are not scaring our overseas friends too much. Nothing compares to the Aussie sense of humour eh!

Regarding the first photo, they told me the 'croc' had just eaten and it should be safe to tickle his tongue!

I have loved Jackson Browne's music since 1976 when he released "The Pretender" album. Did you know he shares his birthday with John Lennon and John Entwistle of The Who. Added some more of Jackson's music for you and got a better version of "Stay".

Thank YOU for the link as well.

McMGrad89 said...

Ah Douglas Adams! My brother and I loved his books which we read so long ago. He is an amazing writer and I see he has used incredible wit to give us a descriptive picture of your homeland.

I say the tourism board should do much like the Hawaiians do in handing out leis upon arrival and give each visitor a STICK and picture guide of all 9 poisonous insects along with this article.

Thanks for letting me know what I am up against should I ever visit that neck of the woods.

Ron said...

great post, my friend

I love Douglas Adams .. love the four part trilogy of "Hitchhikers Guide"

Jan said...

I LOVE reading your posts! This one has so much interesting information. Additionally, I think your pictures are always fascinating! Thanks for brightening my day! Love, Jan

Dina said...

I LOVE that.

It's a great summary of Australia.

Thanks for posting it.

SILVER said...

Cool pix! I am packing.. Australia here i come! (You're right, Lilly's Blog is awesome!)

Octamom said...

And then of course is my favorite Aussie--Miss Peggy!!!


Anonymous said...

G'day!! I managed to add a post!!! (I changed my browser - and hey presto!)

Fly Girl said...

In spite of the arachnids, jellyfish, stonefish, and other such creatures, I would love to visit (with thick socks and a stick, no less!)

miruspeg said...

Annemarie - I have devoured all Douglas Adams books, it is a shame is he no longer with us.
When you come to Australia I will make sure I bring a stick with me to the airport!

Ron - Thanks for dropping by and glad you enjoyed the post.

Jan - Thanks for the compliments, hope your shoulder is nearly mended.

Dina - Nice to make your acquaintance, I'll pop over to your blog shortly. It's always great to meet new bloggers.

Silver - Great to meet you as well. Lilly certainly has a huge fan club, and rightly so.

Octamom - How sweet you are. Can't wait to meet you and your beautiful family.

Healingstones - Glad to hear from you, fancy it being a browser problem.

Roban - You and your family as always welcome down-under. You bring the socks and I'll bring the sticks.

Caroline said...

OK...that was hilarious! Never stick your hand down a hole...(cuz your gonna get bit by one of those poisonous spiders, right?). I have to get my butt "down under."

miruspeg said...

Caroline - You sure do have to get your butt down-under! I think I will have to embellish the "stick" story in another post.

avtcoach said...

What a wonderful post. I loved the way Australia hosted the Olympics, it was such a wonderful celebration. That is about all I have known except of course for Nicole Kidman and her sister, and Hugh Jackman (right?) What I do know is that you are an amazing ambassador for your homeland through your blog and your way of reaching out to all of us. It was great fun reading about the fun one would experience when visiting. I will try to make a list of travel warnings for you when you visit OK and/or TX.

Stefunkc said...

What a wonderful post! I can certainly feel your love for your home. Can't wait until the day I get to visit!

miruspeg said...

Coach and Steph thanks for stopping by.
I do love my country, I feel so blessed to have been born here.
No matter how far I travel I will always return to this land down-under.
Lots of love

Scrapaholic Sherry said...

Thank you Peggy for the wonderful comment on my blog pics & SBs! You're a wonderful online friend & I appreciate it so much!
Take care & love ya!

drjon said...

The following gem is by Douglas Adams...

Ohhhhh no it isn't... this is actually by a writer named Jeremy Lee, aka Orinoco, in a very funny essay he wrote called Australia: The Confusing Country. Sorry.