Last weekend the whole country had a long weekend. Monday 26th January was Australia Day and that gave the population a signal to “celebrate” . There were sporting events and barbecues, welcoming and remembrance ceremonies, favourite Aussie icons and moments were recalled and music by Australian bands and singers was played throughout the day.
I have now come to look forward to this special day. We were on Magnetic island and invited to a BBQ lunch. Guests were obliged to wear something iconic such as thongs, board shorts, T shirts, Jacky Howe singlets, caps, hats, anything with a flag on it – and one guest even came in a bikini made from flag material!
Of course there were decorations everywhere including on the tables, where the good old crocodile provided a centrepiece accompanied by a snake!
Food plays an important part of the day and typical Aussie fare, such as pies, sausage rolls, cheese and vegemite rolls, prawns and barbecues with lamb, steak and/or sausages are on every menu. This is usually followed by desserts which include lamingtons, cup cakes, pavlovas and tropical fruit and trifles.
Having been well fed, we then launched into a Trivia Quiz game where all the questions were, of course, Australian. This stretched the mind a little with questions such as “Which former Prime Minister once managed a band called “The Ramrods”? How on earth was I was expected to know that? The answer – Paul Keating. For anyone interested in politics, this would be the most unlikely person to ever be involved in rock music. So, you live and learn!
Everyone knows Kylie Minogue but apart from her popularity in the music world, it was her Hotpants that brought such an impact to Australian culture. Favourite icons are Holden cars, Speedo swimsuits, Four XXXX Beer, Vegemite, Elle Macpherson and Miranda Kerr, Waltzing Matilda, Surfing, the Akubra Hat, Qantas, the Koala and the Kangaroo. The list goes on and on.
However, what puzzled me when I first arrived in this country was the language. I spent some time in the early years travelling through and living in the Outback. This would be the most difficult place to start to comprehend the locals. I remember one day driving along a bush road and stopping to talk to a Drover who was sitting on the biggest horse I had ever seen. He asked me a question and I had to turn to my companion and ask what language he was speaking. I did not understand one word. He then told me he was once “so hungry he could eat the arse out of a low flying duck”. I was totally perplexed. He then said he had to “hit the Frog and Toad” (road) and galloped off.
Gradually I began to learn many Aussie sayings: words such as “Joe Blake” for snake, “noah” for sharks, “lizards” for crocodiles and “Japanese riding boots” for thongs are casually mentioned in conversations on a daily basis. I even find myself calling a chicken “a chook” these days.
Rhyming slang is another Aussie favourite. Phrases such as “Pass me the dead horse” (Pass the sauce) or “I’ll go and have a Captain Cook” (I’ll go and have a look) “Give me the Jack and Jill” (Give me the bill) and “on the Al Capone” (on the phone) are often heard in the bush.
It doesn’t take long, eventually you become absorbed in this totally fascinating country and its culture. Then you can call yourself “An Australian’