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Showing posts with the label Australian culture

Writing Wipptee — a little mystery, a little romance

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 It's five years since I moved to the country, and I've wanted to write about it since the first day. I've always been a city girl, and I imagined the country as a quiet, somewhat behind the times, place. I was so wrong. There's a boiling cauldron of politics, and while retail is limited, there's no shortage of informaton or internet access. And the idea that people live and die in their native town isn't true either. People move all over the place. There's constant change. Another shock — the country is industrial. Trucks, machinery, warehouses, factories, and now wind and solar production, are everywhere. Some of the great issues of our time converge in the country. Animal rights, farm invasions, the right to protest, the destructive potential of agriculture, people's lifelong dedication to landcare and land repair, and mining rights, create a potent mix of conflicting views. In this book I try to capture some of this, against Maddison Debranz's qu

Reading journal: Rusted Off: Why country Australia is fed up by Gabrielle Chan

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Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2018 Date read: September 2018 Gabrielle Chan is a journalist who lives up the road from me, in Harden, New South Wales. This interesting book pulls apart the social structure of a country town and explores the point of view of people who feel unrepresented in Australia’s political system. It’s true that highly educated city dwellers find it hard to see things from a rural perspective. It’s a two-way street though. And Harden is only an hour away from Canberra. People travel between these towns all the time; in fact, many rural people are highly mobile, following work opportunities more than city people may do, and often have family all over the place. I enjoyed the book but was not totally convinced by the arguments. Governments in recent times have ignored everyone except their mates, and some of those mates were well-heeled country people. The argument is more one of connections, opportunities and funding than location, I think.

Spring downunder in Australia

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about spring. Spring goes from 1 September to 30 November. Technically. Sometimes it only lasts about a week. It's freezing, you blink, and it's suddenly baking hot. Spring in the north of Australia is less exciting, as of course it's the tropics. In fact, the tropics really have entirely different seasons, the wet and the dry. We don't pay as much attention as we should because only small numbers of people live in the tropics compared to the southern cities. What we don't have  Spring break, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. We don't have spring break because spring is the end of the academic year for us. Halloween just doesn't mean anything on a warm spring evening looking forward into summer. Of course a few people do Trick or Treat, especially my Canadian in-laws, but it isn't a national past-time. Thanksgiving is not part

Reading journal: The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2017 Date read: June 2018 A story of a future Australia where the inland is in permanent drought and the inhabitants have been forcefully relocated or herded into camps. But there are hold-outs, people who hide from the Creeps and eke out a precarious living. The story begins with a football match against a passing First People caravan, and the return of Bill’s friend Tobe from his wanderings. Bill and Tobe are close, and share a tragic past. Bill’s loyalty is tested when Tobe insists on an exploratory trip into the badlands, but he follows Tobe faithfully, even when they must abandon their bolthole, only to be betrayed in the end. (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler). This is an interesting book. I enjoyed it as a writer, seeing how Walter has varied the pace to create atmosphere. The structure of the book is interesting too, a classic story structure with a strong inciting incident which I didn’t identify until the very end, even tho

Winter downunder in Australia

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about winter. Cold miserable duck Winter officially goes from 1 June to 30 August. In the north it is warm and dry, which explains why people like going to Queensland for holidays at this time of year. In the south it is cool to cold, and miserable. Most rain in the south falls in winter., except when there is drought, of course. Australian cities are on the coast and rarely go below zero, but you will get light frosts. Snow is pretty much limited to mountain areas. We don't need snow plows in our cities. From a northern hemisphere person's perspective, Australia doesn't really have any winter. It's my least favourite time of year, because the days are shorter and it feels dark and gloomy. July seems to drag on forever. And winter has no public holidays at all, just when we could really use them. It does have school holidays, which is a total

Reading journal: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2014 Read: March 2018 This book is subtitled “Black seeds: agriculture or accident?” Pascoe’s short and readable book summarises the output of a range of primary and secondary sources that examined the economy of Indigenous people in Australia before European settlement destroyed that economy forever. Most convincing are the quotes and illustrations from the diaries and reports of early inland explorers, describing flourishing grain production and harvesting, robust houses, fishtraps on rivers, smoking fish and other meats for preservation, yam planting and harvesting, maintenance and protection of wells and the use of fire to maintain the environment in a useful grassy state. All these methods of making a living from Australia’s intermittent rivers and thin infertile soils were gone within a few years of the arrival of European stock animals and crops, and the environmental degradation continues. Pascoe argues that it is the Europeans who w

Autumn (fall) downunder in Australia — Party time!

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about autumn. Autumn goes from 1 March to 31 May. It's the best season in most places. Weather is calmer, temperatures more moderate (your milage may vary, I'm talking about you, 2018!) We have festivals at this time. Mardi Gras in Sydney, Moomba in Melbourne, the alternative arts festival WOMADelaide in Adelaide, the Sydney Easter Show, Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, and many others. You get the idea. Party time! We celebrate Easter with public holidays on Good Friday and Easter Monday. For many this is an opportunity for a long weekend, the last chance to go away before the nice weather finishes. Of course, the whole message of renewal, new life, Easter bonnets, bunnies and so on, m

Summer downunder in Australia

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, Australia's seasons can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about summer. Summer is officially December 1 to February 28. DECEMBER December is the end of the school year and the university (college) year. Think end of year formals (dances) for high school kids. Think crazy pace of shopping for Christmas with all the kids underfoot. Think office Christmas parties and huge numbers of people off on holiday. Christmas Day on 25 December is a public holiday. For some it means church, for most it means family get-togethers and opening presents. Christmas is the main family event in Australia, and people travel long distances to be with family. Food is excessive. Some have traditional roast meat with pudding, others have barbecues, salads and seafood. Boxing Day 26 December is for retail frenzy, the after Christmas sales. I've never been to them. Also, the start of the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, which looks excel

Australian outback icons, windmills and Holden cars

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Wind power isn't new, it's been used for generations to pump water for stock from creeks or dams or underground artesian wells. Windmill, Shear Outback, Hay Another pretty windmill, this one from Jugiong a long way upstream from Hay. Windmill, Jugiong On display at the Shear Outback museum in Hay, an old Holden car as used in the iconic shearing movie, Sunday Too Far Away , a harrowing story about the debilitating effects of the shearing life and alcohol abuse on families. Great movie though. Holden car that has seen better days, Shear Outback, Hay

Sheep shearing museum, Hay, New South Wales

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I visited Shear Outback, a museum about sheep shearing in Australia. There's a lot of historical and technical stuff, different kinds of shearing combs and techniques, and plenty of cultural and social context as well. I liked the display showing the amount and kind of food typically eaten (up to 6000 kilocalories per day, 25,000 kilojoules), as well as a sports science type analysis of the effects of shearing work on the body. No wonder people's backs packed it in after a couple of decades. Shearing shed Across from the museum is the Murray Downs shearing shed where shearing displays are done every day. Sheep pen floor Shearing area Sheep move from the pens to the shearing area and then back out through the chutes after they are shorn. The wool is cleaned up a bit, classed, and baled, then shipped off to buyers. Chutes Apparently people are now experimenting with chemical injections that cause the fleece to basically shuck itself off the sheep. Sca