Australia Day is when people have barbecues, eat baby sheep (because apparently it's "un-Australian" not to), flock to the beach and temporary tattoos are given out in the local papers to be pasted on children's cheeks.
Australia Day is a manufactured day that marks the day that white people came here and dispossessed, oppressed and murdered in large numbers the Indigenous peoples that had lived here for 40,000 years.
Seems a twisted day to "celebrate" does it not? This is why we choose not to celebrate.
Any time we have an occasion that encourages national pride a really rather ugly side of Australia comes out. It happens on ANZAC Day, during any international sporting event and Australia Day. Xenophobic Australians drape themselves and their cars in flags and drink lots of beer and generally act like meat-heads. (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Oi Oi Oi). This is apparently patriotism.
Why is this?
I think that one of the problems is that nationalism has been usurped by people who wear T-Shirts with slogans like, "Speak English or Piss Off" and the rest of us shrink from patriotism.
We feel the cultural cringe when a cartoonish version of ourselves is flaunted to the world. The brainless "G'Day Mate" blokes who sound like Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin. We are confused that sporting heroes are given more cultural recognition and status than pioneering Australian scientists, thinkers and humanitarians. We are perplexed as to why we still have a flag with the flag of another country in it's corner and why we don't have a constitution that recognises Aboriginal people and protects all of our civil rights. We feel the inappropriateness of fostering a singular national pride in a country of immigrants and in a world where national distinctions are broken down by multi-cultural cyberspace communities based on commonality not division.
And most of all we feel enormous sorrow and shame of our past and continued treatment of Indigenous Australians, immigrants and asylum seekers.
There are times I have felt swelled with pride at being an Australian, it's when we've been brave. When we finally had the cathartic "Sorry Day" to apologise to Aboriginal people for past wrongs. When we brought in tough legislation to control gun ownership. When we elected a woman who chooses to be single, atheist and childless as our prime minister.
If we one day: became a Republic, changed our flag and paid scientists more than footballers, I would happily celebrate that positive day.
Everyone knows that seven year old boys are philosophical geniuses.
I've spent a frustrating few days cleaning out our spare (junk) room that is going to become our Incredibly Organised and Tidy Library/Study. I've been pulling things out of the cupboards that are going to be demolished, sorting paper, throwing out things (ancient power bills and bank statements, random bits and bobs that belonged to some-thing-or-other that has long ago been lost or broken etc) and generally feeling like I'm getting nowhere fast and making more horrible mess!
This morning I decided that we should have a big clean up of the whole house as school holidays, renovating and the "sorting" was making every room a tip and the whole thing was bringing me down.
"Where are we going to start?" I asked rhetorically looking around in dismay at the imposing MESS.
"Well, mamma, when I play a game on the computer I always start with the easiest levels and work up to the hard levels as I get better. I think we should start with the least messy room first" said Linus.
Hmm, I really would have done it the other way around but he's right. We now have three really beautifully tidy rooms and plenty of time to make inroads into the fourth and maybe fifth rooms . . .and if we don't finish them all, who cares! We have places to feel good and relaxed in.
There's a deep life lesson for you;
Start with the easy stuff and work up to the hard stuff when your skills are better honed.
Then you can beat the mega tough big boss at the end of the level!
Five kilograms of flour weighs quite a lot (well, it weighs 5 kilos but you know what I mean). Especially as you carry it home walking from the shops on a hot summer day.
I want to lose two of these bags in weight! This is weight that I've put on since having Astrid (five years ago!)...It's fat that obviously likes being on me but the feeling is not reciprocated. I lose some it and then it sneaks back on.
But now I'm serious! And I'm posting it to the world so that you will keep me strong and honest. I don't want to see myself in photos any more and think, "who is that fat woman with my family that sort of looks like me but fatter?".
If I imagine how light and springy my steps will be when I don't have to lug around two of these enormous bags of flour with me every day it may give me the strength to stop eating this:
But there's no reason that you shouldn't enjoy it;
Rye and Caraway Bread
4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (2 packages)
300mls warm water
125ml plus 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
40g melted butter (cooled to lukewarm)
1 tsp. salt
500ml rye flour
1 litre plain flour
2 tbls caraway seeds
Stir together yeast, warm water, and 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar in mixing bowl. Let sit until mixture is frothy, about 10 minutes.
Using a wooden spoon stir milk and melted butter into yeast mixture. Gradually add molasses, the remaining brown sugar, and 1 tsp. salt. Stir in caraway seeds, rye flour; add enough of the plain flour to make a soft but firm dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead dough lightly until surface is smooth; place in a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
Punch down the risen dough; allow to rest for 15 minutes. Then form dough into loaves and put in two loaf tins. Sprinkle tops loaves with some more caraway seeds and allow to rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375º. Bake about 30 minutes.
Then let your family eat it! Resist the temptation to put butter and cheese on the freshly baked, delicious smelling bread...think of the bags of flour, think of the bags of flour, think...of...the ...
Last night we had what could be described as an "incident" or as Astrid would later call it an "accident".
Just as Linus and Astrid were going to bed we discovered that Linus's favourite toy (a snow leopard, called LinKitty) had been left outside after their earlier adventures. So I went out to fetch him and then tossed him to Linus's welcoming arms in his bed. I then went to settle Astrid down.
Suddenly Linus sprang 2 metres in the air and out of his bed. He stood in the middle of the room pointing a shaking finger at his bed, "S...S...Slug!" he whimpered.
Astrid sat bolt upright.
"What did he say?"
I knew where this was heading and time was of the essence, "Oh, nothing, never mind" said I promptly ushering the trembling Linus out of the room before he could divulge any more details. "Go talk to your dad in the lounge".
"He said, S...S...Slug, didn't he?"
Then the screaming started.
We're talking blood curdling, incessant, horror flick style screaming here. There were pauses just long enough for her to draw breath and then it would continue with renewed gusto. I bundled her up and whisked her away from the bedroom of "horror" to the Historian who was sitting with Linus trying to get him to explain through his stuttering what was happening.
Her hysterics started Linus screaming too, he had after all been the "injured" party. It had been on his ARM, he needed his ARM washed and disinfected immediately, it might have "laid spores!" ?
Louder and louder the screaming got as both children tried to climb on top of the Historian's head as though it was the only slug-free island in a slug-infested sea. Surely the neighbours would be calling the police by now but while we were trying to make calming noises it was hard to do so while laughing as hard as we were.
The offending creature was about 2cm long and trying to extremely slowly escape the scene, it seemed to look grateful as I released it back into the "wild".
Astrid had never even actually seen it.
That's thing thing about perception, it's all how you look at it. Astrid loves little critters. She adores pill bugs and slaters for example, making little homes for them and taking them on picnics. To her they look like this:
But somehow she can't bring herself to see slugs like this:
In Queensland 15 people are currently confirmed dead with 50 missing and presumed dead; suddenly and without warning, swept away in their cars and houses. Brazil's death toll is 500 and climbing rapidly. Numbers of dead in South Africa, Philippines and Sri Lanka are taking longer to estimate but there is little doubt that there will be scores of tragic losses.
Thousands and thousands of animals have perished; wild, livestock and pets. Thousands and thousands of people in all these countries have lost homes, belongings and livelihoods. More deaths will result from the aftermath as water-borne illness, food and clean water shortages, looting, economic devastation and incredible psychological trauma all take their toll.
With this indescribably horrific tragedy occurring simultaneously over such a huge and varied swathe of the globe and touching people of so many different cultures, religions and economic circumstances can we please now stop the F***ING around and get serious about banding together as a WORLD to do something about Climate Change?
Disasters that were once coined, "once in a hundred years" have now the potential to occur any old day of the week. 2010 was the hottest and wettest year on record. Flooding rain in Sri Lanka means no rain in Western Australia and the conditions ripening for out-of-control bush-fires here.
Is this what we have to get used to? Is this what we want for our children's children to have to contend with every day of their lives, an alien apocalyptic version of Earth?
It will be hard for some to change the way of life they are accustomed to but is the idea of your loved ones burning alive in bush-fires or drowning in flash floods not enough to make you get off your arse and do something?
There are people who love cars. You know, the ones who go to car shows and museums (Hi dad) and talk on and on about transmissions and donks?! I'm not usually one of them. Although I have had small love affairs with a few.
My first car was a white Morris 1000 called Horace.
My friend (Dette) had a dark green one called Doris and another friend (Sez) had a Morris 1100 called Boris. So it was Horace, Doris and Boris Morris and their madcap adventures.
Horace was a really uncomplicated old bloke. He had a button you pressed to turn him on and when his fuel line blocked (which was really rather too often) it was really easy to take it apart and blow though it by the side of the freeway and then be on your merry way again nightclubbing. He rattled and squeaked and threatened to shake apart if you went over 80km/hr and I was a little obsessed with him.We had to sell him when it seemed his floor was going to rust away and I was in danger of having to stop him Fred Flintstone style. I was sad.
As endearing as Horace was I don't think I want to be performing emergency maintenance by the side of the road or carrying a brick to chock behind his tire when stopped on a slight incline any longer and so the idea of an old car again is sort of out for me.
But then Dette sent me this link a little while ago and now I'm obsessed again! These beauties aren't old, they're built in 2006 or more recently. Who knew that Brazil never stopped making Kombis (apart from you dad, of course). AND this lovely hire place sells them too (including left hand drive and water cooled ones)...I want one so badly. The Historian is fanning the flames too with all sorts of schemes and plans to get one of our own. Yes, I know they're in London....so there are some obstacles, love is never easy.
I think these curvy characters with sweet old names (Elsie, Flo and Cilla) are in my genes (thanks dad)...In the meantime I'll have to be content with crocheting a granny blanket for her...I may call her Tallulah.
Shortly after we moved in here a fellow, lets call him Alfonse, introduced himself to us pausing briefly on one of his, what we were to discover regular, evening power-walks past our house. He lives three doors up the road and used to own our house as a rental property for many, many, many years.
As our renovating involves piling lots of stuff for removal on our front verge, he gets a daily snapshot of what we are doing inside and out.
He stopped to comment with thinly veiled horror when we removed the horrible dirty cream carpet to have the beautiful wide jarrah floorboards polished;
"That carpet is only a couple of years old!" he exclaimed.
When we removed the falling down wonky picket fence out the front to replace it with a low limestone wall and lavender hedge;
"I built that fence myself" he sobbed.
When we pulled out the hideous kitchen to replace it with one that wasn't inhabited by crawling things.
He walked straight by just slightly shaking his head.
So, safe to say, that Alfonse is responsible for most of the things we are now undoing in our renovations.
He buried the 50 or so enormous concrete slabs all over the back yard that the Historian had to remove in back-breaking toil.
He put in the "death trap" (quote by our plumber) gas heater in the lounge room and various dodgy electrical s**t-f**kery all over the place.
And he slapped cheap yellowy cream (we call it "Tenant Yellow") paint over everything without any form of preparation (including over dust and dirt!) so that it now has to be completely scraped off by hand and the walls primed before repainting! The lounge room took us an incredibly long time to prepare and now we are struggling with the dining room.
It's not many people that have the daily opportunity to kick their nemesis in the shins as he walks past.
Fortunately for Alfonse the Historian is restraining me.
There was a time that doesn't seem too long ago when the idea of being at home on a Friday night was completely unthinkable. The idea of being at home on New Year's Eve was akin to The End of the WORLD.
Now I can't imagine a better way to celebrate the end of the old year and the welcoming of the new.
We've got all the predictable resolutions for 2011, including; "must lose weight". So to go out with an enormous BANG, we gorged ourselves on the BEST Rocky Road ever!
For those Australians looking for a replacement for Dumlekola, I can tell you that Pascall's Choc Caramels are a great substitute. I would absolutely make this again for the easiest of dinner party desserts . . . after we lose the aforementioned kilos, of course.
Happy New Year and fabulous 2011 to everyone from us!