Monday, April 02, 2007

Tyranny of Distance

I am probably the only person in the world, well the only one that I know who says that their favourite country in the world is Pakistan. That is I used to think that because it had been so long since I had been back to Australia for any period of time.

As the author Bill Bryson notes in his book “Downunder”, Australia is the only country in the world which has lost a Prime Minister. It was back in the sixties, but yes we lost a Prime Minister, he went for a swim and disappeared. If the rest of the world wants to know who shot JFK, we want to know where the hell is Harold Holt.

Perhaps it is one of those things that define Australians, well it happens but then again as long as you get beetroot on your hamburger then everything is ok. You cannot have a genuine hamburger in Oz unless it has hamburger on it.

There are so many things about Australia that you forget like people genuinely smile at you and say G’day mate. It is not a cliché from a movie but an acceptance of friendship. When you drive and want to say anything from hello to thanks to another driver all you have to do is lift your finger from the top of the steering wheel as you pass.

In country towns Traffic Parking Inspectors still walk around with pieces of chalk to mark your tyres with a time to see whether you illegally parked. Magazine racks in newsagents stock Caravan Weekly alongside trashy Celebrity magazines.

Talkback Radio deals with cutting issues like whether Meat Pies are healthy at the footy, and naturally Melbourne remains totally obsessed with AFL football. It still amazes me how the second largest city in the country still to this day revolves around a game that is played no where else in the world and they do not care if that is the case. The one thing everyone agrees to in Melbourne is that the best place for a steamed dim sim is still South Melbourne Market. If there is a gourmet treat downunder trust me the humble steamed dim sim from the market in a lined paper bag with soy sauce on a cold morning is the equivalent to a New Yorker telling you about a slice of pizza.

I went back to the suburb I grew up in Melbourne and walked around the shops in the street, no fancy mall or mega centre, but a strip of shops with the bakery still there along with the second hand office furniture store. Only one of the four milk bars exist and even the fire station is gone, but the bench on the corner where we as kids spent hours growing up is still there. But Green Grocer we called “Pat the Gibber” is now a outlet store for cheap Chinese imported shoes.

There exists in Australia a zest and zeal for life which you find no where else in the world, because the rest of the world is so far away and that is fine. Because in so many ways I found myself again no longer will I say that Pakistan is my favourite country because somehow your own backyard is somewhere we forget to look.

On a funny aside it took a trip downunder to come up finally with a title for my book, that people keep asking me whether I will ever write, and if I ever do write a book about the things and events I have seen then most likely it will be called …..

Footnote. Just got a message on my phone from Israel apparently the IDF attacked Gaza some kid is injured in a critical state another day in the Unholyland before I return.


Anonymous said...

Bill Bryson you say? Good grief Mal...we think he lives up the canyon from us in an old mining shack. Old fella, wears Ugg Boots? Crusty? Is their a reward for finding him? Will split with you if there is.
Thank you for this blog. There is no place like home but your home sounds better than most to us. A zest for life is missing in most parts of the world and in some parts has been replaced by a zest for death. Hate you are so soon returning to one of the latter. We enjoyed your vacation much. We hope you do write a book and please include lots of pictures. You are one of the good guys. We like you. :) ;)
Annie & Neatie

Widescreen said...

Since I am a Melbourne boy, and barrack for Melbourne in the AFL and will only eat South Melbourne Dim Sims..........

Good Post.