And away we go:
31. Place names. From redundant to melodious, all the way to silly, Australian place names are particularly memorable. Ben Elton, in his novel Stark, muses on the obvious, plain nature of Aussie place names: the Great Sandy Desert, Shark Bay (where a man was, well, taken by a shark). The Great Australian Bight. Everyone hears about places like Kalgoorlie and Woy Woy (occasional home of Spike Milligan), and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert brought silver-screen glitter to the rough-and-ready outback towns of Broken Hill and Coober Pedy.
Some of the favorites I've actually encountered:
Black Bob's Creek - who was he?
Three Legs o'Man bridge - the flag of the Isle of Man looks like this. Must've been discovered by a Manxman, I suppose.
Bumbalong Road - I just like it.
Dry Farm Road - no prizes for guessing what you'll find here.
Tumbledowndick Hill - surely, there must be a Jane nearby, and they must be related to Jack and Jill.
Remarkable Rocks - A natural formation on South Australia's Kangaroo Island; they are, in fact, remarkable.
Curl Curl - My favorite Sydney beach, along with Narrabeen and Collaroy.
I could go on, and perhaps I will, a bit later.
32. The Sydney Opera House. It is one building that very much speaks for itself. While it might resemble the inside of a dishwasher, or a queue of turtles, it's a striking edifice. Its position of prominence on Bennelong Point - central both to Sydney Harbour and to the CBD (central business district, or "downtown" to the Yanks) - is fitting; it's an extraordinary sight from a distance, and just as much from up close. It's a well-used complex as well; opera, symphony, drama, and all sorts of public events take place there. A cocktail party on the balcony, overlooking the Harbour, is a grand and quintessentially Sydney experience. It's ironic, in a way, that an opera house is so beloved in such an un-stuffy country, but the SOH is. She's a beauty.
33. Mambo. Funniest, most wacky t-shirts and gear around. The best of their gear is the Reg Mombassa art (Reg is also a member of iconic Aussie band Mental As Anything). You might know his art from the cover of Public Image Ltd's greatest hits album. My favorite of his is the "Australian Jesus at the Footy" image, taken from the Book of Reg, wherein Jesus feeds the 5,000 with only a couple of meat pies and a warm tin of VB. Also, the series of Mambo Dog shirts are great; the best-known are the dog farting (musical note) and, er, showing affection to a leg. Funny, funny stuff. (I'll leave you to search for these, rather than transgress on image copyright.)
34. Christmas in Summer. What could be better? Prawns on the barbie, or sausages, cold beer, and beach cricket. With my in-laws, we usually have a picnic out in the bush and some fly-fishing on Christmas Day. There's a big traditional Christmas dinner in the evening, with turkey, mashed potatoes and the lot -- as is the case with many people, us still being in the Commonwealth and all -- but by then we're all sunburnt. Oh, that reminds me: don't kid yourself with the sun when you get here. It's hot, and sunburn comes fast and strong. Lather up with the sunblock, and wear a hat and sunnies (AKA "slip, slop, slap").
I finally discovered the Bucko & Champs Christmas CD's last year; they're classic. If anything, they're over-the-top ocker, but good over-the-top. A sample of their Christmas spirit:
Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden ute
Kicking up the dust
Esky in the boot
Kelpie by my side
Singing Christmas songs
It's summertime and I am in
My singlet, shorts and thongs
(c) 1994 Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion
35. Rocket. You may know it as arugula. It's a salad green -- thickish stem, oblong sort of leaf, about six inches long. It has a somewhat spicy taste, like radishes. Baby rocket is less than half the size, less pungent, and more tender. Both are fantastic with a bit of balsamic, or just olive oil and parmesan shavings. Plus, the name 'rocket' is great. "I'll have a rocket salad." *chuckle* Right-o, Buck Rogers.
36. Tin Roofs. Corrugated tin is commonly used here as a roofing material (that and ceramic tiles; I don't miss seeing tarpaper at all). Rain sounds fantastic on it. Like a canvas snare drum.
37. Flavoured Milk. In the US, nobody above the age of about ten drinks chocolate milk. Here, it comes in all sorts of flavours -- chocolate, vanilla, malt, coffee, strawberry. Adults and kids alike drink it -- it goes an absolute treat with meat pies (see earlier post).
38. Multiculturalism. It's just the way things are. Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Croatians, Italians, Greeks, Irish, South Africans, Lebanese, even Americans. They're all here, and it's not even worth noticing. But there's no reason to pretend one doesn't notice, or to pretend that nobody's different. Look, we are different. It's good that we are.
There certainly are, er, troubles here over differences -- big ones, sometimes. The Cronulla riots, the rise of One Nation, and the debate over the Government's refusal to apologise to the 'Stolen Generation' (aboriginal children taken from their families and placed in white Australian homes) are a few recent examples. But what I observe here is, by and large, an extremely heterogeneous community interacting peaceably -- no, cordially -- and appreciating what everyone brings to the community.
It does seem that, to a large extent, aborigines exist separately, and the balance between supporting their autonomy and including them in mainstream society appears extremely difficult; I don't claim even to begin to understand all the issues there.
But the existence here of a broad range of cultures is a wonderful thing, and it's an enriching aspect of life here.
39. Clever Everyday Things. It's amazing that some of these things aren't used everywhere; they make so much sense, and they seem so obvious here. Like:
- Half-flush toilets. Most toilets here have two flush buttons: half-flush and full-flush -- I guess you could call them the #1 and #2 buttons. The half-flush button only pushes the valve down half as far, so it uses half the water. Completely sufficient for 'lighter' applications.
- Power-point switches. All power points (electrical sockets) have switches. So the socket doesn't have to be live all the time. It makes things just that much safer; now that my not-quite-two-year-old son's learning new tricks every day, the power-point switch is a necessity.
40. State of Origin (thanks, JJ Cooper for the suggestion). Every year, during the middle of rugby league season (see earlier post), there's a two-out-of-three All-Star series between New South Wales and Queensland -- Blues vs. Maroons (why is it pronounced 'Marones' up there?), the Cockroaches and the Canetoads. Sure, the grand final's good and all. But if you're only going to watch one match all year, you'll want it to be Origin. Play goes up a couple notches, and the hits are harder. Guys who play on the same team all year belt the living daylights out of each other, all for their states. There's nearly always a punch-up; one year, the biff started eight seconds after the opening kickoff. Pulsating stuff, without fail. Even - maybe even especially - the 'dead rubber' matches, like this year, when Queensland won the first two matches, clinching the series. The third match was the best of a great series; no way the Blues wanted to go down three-nil. And they beat Queensland at Queensland, meaning that the Maroons got to collect the trophy, but a bit of the pop went out of the celebration.
Coming up: Roundabouts, year-round golf, Paterson's curse, comedy films that are funny, and more.