My Corner of the Planet

Wow, this background colour sort of reaches up and grabs you by the eyeballs doesn't it.   I used it because this is pretty close to the colour of my country, the wide brown land.   Beyond the coastal fringe of our  island continent is a vast interior, an empty vista of low craggy red hills, dusty ochre plains dotted with silver green vegetation above which soar empty blue skies that just go on forever.   Hence the colour scheme which represents that place we call the Outback.

You can set your heels to some places in the Outback where it is easy to believe that you are theonly human being to have ever trod that ground.   We are the last great wilderness, the driest continent on the face of the planet and some believe,  the oldest.  It is a harsh, beautiful country, unspoiled in many places and unique in most.

It is the harshness of this interior that causes most of the population to hug the coastal fringes.   Australians have a reputation for their love of the beaches and I am no exception.   Happily there are many sandy strips where you can escape the pressures of civilisation to get some of that very important sand between your toes.   In this section of the site I will do my best to impart some information about where I fit into this country and what it is all about.

Yoo Hoo We're Down Here.   They call it the Land Down Under so break out your Globes and look south.   Australia occupies that space between Papua New Guinea and Antartica which would otherwise be empty.      It acts as a buffer,  preventing  the two bumping together during rough seas and provides a home for a lot of beer drinking Aussies.   This essentially means that the top of the country is almost in the tropics (hot and humid - ideal beer drinking climate) and the bottom is cooled by the Antartic (pretty chilly and windy - ideal beer drinking climate).   The bits in the middle are in between (hot in summer, cold in winter - ideal beer drinking climate).

 This is a great spot in which to kick back and take the piss out of the  rest of the world, which we do frequently (one day the rest of the world is going to catch on to this and become very cranky).   It is also the most politically stable country in the world (primarily because Aussies are too damned lazy to revolt - we've been kicking the idea of becoming a republic around now for about 98 years !!).

Australia is NOT a little country in Europe where the people all  *wear Lederhosen and the men drink huge jugs of beer, although in October we would like to be.   There are actually people out there who still confuse Australia with Austria which beggars belief.  There are also people out there who believe the stereotypes, such as hats with corks around the brims, kangaroos down the main streets and a kookaburra in every gum tree.   The dills!!.

*Note:   The Lederhosen, beer drinkiing thing is a deliberate exercise in stereotyping to illustrate a point and is not intended to be             insulting to Austrian people, who, as far as I know probably get confused with people who wear cork brimmed hats and
            ride kangaroos (and drink lots of beer)

Waving Frantically ...... Look, Here it is, the funny looking Island

My Bit.   If you refer to the rather conspicuous map I have provided here you will notice Australia sitting way to buggery (Aus. sl for a considerable distance)  away from Asia and doing a fine job of stopping Antartica from ruining New Guinea's nice tropical weather.

There are eight states or territories in Australia.   These are from left to right across the continent, Western Australia; Northern Territory (centre top); South Australia (center bottom);  Queensland (right top); New South Wales (the yellow shaded  portion); Australian Capital Territory (the small blob in NSW) Victoria (right bottom) and Tasmania (the island below Victoria).

The Capital city of Australia is Canberra which is located in the Australian Capital Territory.   Canberra is conveniently located next to a few hills, a very large lake and bugger all else and was designed by an American architect and town planner who won a competition.   The biggest city in Australia is Sydney, capital city of NSW.   Thats where I live and where the 2000 Olympic games will be (or was - depending on when you read this and how lazy I am in updating the page) held.

Minnie of Oz, Nik and Kye live in Sydney too, about 15 minutes away from me.   Mysterious lives in the Northern Territory and Bondman in Queensland.   Who are these people ???   If you have to ask that, best you check out my Cobbers Page   or my Links Page.

I have lived in all states of Australia with the exception of the Northern Territory and Tasmania.   Thank you the Australian Army, best travel agent on the planet.   It is hard to pick a favourite place because I have thoroughly enjoyed all the places I have visited.   It is also hard to define my bit.   Having seen lots of the country (I have crossed the tropic of Capricorn on both the eastern and western seaboards) so  it would be reasonable to say that my bit is the bit that stops Antartica drifting up and bumping into New Guinea.

Populist Icons.  Apart from Minnie, Bondman, Mysterious and myself there are some icons which define us as a country and make us an easily recognisable cultural entity to the International community.   First there is our flag  the Blue Ensign.   The Union Jack in the corner denoting that the Brits got here first, stole all the land from the aboriginals and proceeded to turn the joint into Little England, a prison colony from home as it were.   The rest of it is the constellation Southern Cross on a blue background denoting an extreme lack of imagination.   We'll get round to changing it if we can ever come up with a design we all like.   All suggestions so far look as if they would be more at home on the arse end of a Boeing for the time being we are staying with what we have.

Next we have Vegemite, our most internationally recognised foodstuff.   Invented in 1922 by Dr Cyril P. Callister from brewers yeast, vegemite is a spread for bread and toast and can be found in most Australian kitchens.   In  1928 the name was changed to Parwill.   This gave rise to the saying "Parwill but Ma wont" which I suppose was considered very saucy for the times.   We grew up on this stuff but overseas visitors, understandably, cannot always get used to the flavour.   If you have an insatiable desire to learn more about Vegemite, have a dekko (Aus sl.  for look)  at my Links Page where you will be able to visit the Vegemite homepage.

While I am giving Aussie products a free plug, why don't I mention beer ?   Well, OK, I will.   It seems appropriate, given we are renowned as a beer swilling mob of uncouth yobbos, to introduce another aussie icon, namely Fosters Lager.   This  example of the Australian brewer's art is gaining quite a high profile overseas.   I started drinking Fosters in the 70's in Victoria, where it originated.   Personally I think there are better beers around, but each to his own and face it, several bottles of this could save you from dying of thirst in the desert, so it has its place.

Here is my favourite tipple,  Tooheys Old, a robusly flavoured, fruity ale brewed with malt which gives it a dark colour ...... or to put it another way .... "a bloody good drop!!".   At 4.4% alcohol it is a quick but delicious way to discover that you are wearing your wobbly boots.   Each 100 ml of this refreshing, mood enhancing nectar imparts a mere 40 energy calories.   I have absolutely no idea what that means but it sounds good.

  Another fine beer is Southwark Premium (pronounced Suffolk - for reasons which escape me).   This is a very good little thirst quencher on a hot day in South Australia.   Aaaah the military, bless them for allowing me to refine my tastes in beer by posting me to so many different outlets!!

The overseas visitor  would do well to visit one of our beer boutiques (pubs in the local vernacular) and sample some of the local drops.   Some tips for the traveller:   The most common container for an Aussie beer is a small bottle (like the Fosters one pictured above) which is called a "stubbie".   There are 24 stubbies to a "slab" and it is more economical to buy a slab than half a slab.

   For many years it was said that Australia rode to prosperity on the back of its wool industry.     The Merino was the breed  of sheep responsible for this success and therein lies a tale.

In the early days of settlement this was a very very inhospitable country, vastly  different from England and Europe insofar as climate and geography are concerned.   Special adaptations were required and finding a breed of sheep that would tolerate our harsh conditions was one such thing.

John MacArthur, an English officer decided to try Spanish Merino sheep.   Problem was, Spain had first dibs on the Merino and wanted to protect their own wool industry.   This did not deter John who simply smuggled some out of Spain, into Australia and the wool industry was on its way.   This wooly fellow is so much of an Aussie icon that in the pre-decimal days he even had his face on an Australian coin, the only farm animal that I know of which has been so honoured.

The last icon I will illustrate here is the Sydney Harbour Bridge.   We lovingly refer to it as the coat hanger for obvious reasons.   If you care to climb up inside the front left pylon you are assured of stunning views of our beautiful harbour of which we are very proud.   It is best viewed from a railway station called Circular Quay, where you alight from the train, walk ten feet and are presented with a view of the bridge close up.   Views from any of the Harbour ferries are aslo very good.   There is a tour available whare at great cost and a hell of a lot of exertion, you can actually climb to the top of the bridge and enjoy the views while dressed in funny looking coveralls.   Its the coveralls not the exertion which puts me off the idea ..... honest.

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