During the week it was Australia Day – January 26th.
It’s a national holiday – the day we celebrate the “founding” of Australia – when British ships entered Sydney Cove in 1788 and hoisted a flag and laid claim to the country.
The aboriginal community, and those that support their views, regard the day as “Invasion Day.” A famous aboriginal footballer, Adam Goodes, was named Australian of the Year.
Goodesy is not only an amazing Aussie Rules footballer – he plays for my team, the Sydney Swans – but he’s also done a huge amount to battle racism in this country. Here’s a piece from the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on the announcement of his appointment –
Goodes grew up believing Australia was founded on a summer’s day in January 1788 when Governor Arthur Phillip staked the flag of the British kingdom in the sand of Sydney Cove.
”I’ve obviously learnt different since then,” he says. Nevertheless, he finds cause for optimism. ”We are still here, we’ve got a lot to celebrate about being here and that we have one of the longest-serving cultures still alive and kicking.”
January 26th is the height of summer in our country. Traditionally we watch the cricket, we have barbies, we drink beer and eat seafood (prawns & oysters mainly) and snags (sausages).
By the way, we don’t call prawns “shrimp.” We call them prawns. So Paul Hogan’s “put a shrimp on the barbie” was a total falsehood. No-one in Australia ever says that. But hey, it was a great marketing line…
This year I found myself in Longreach, working. Longreach is a small country town in the Central West of Queensland. In January the temps climb to 45-47 Celcius. That’s 113-117 Fahrenheit .
Because Australia Day is a holiday, all the restaurants in Longreach were closed. And by all the restaurants, I mean all four of them. Even the Chinese – the Happy Valley restaurant. The only place open was the RSL Bistro.
RSL stands for the Returned and Services League, and there’s an RSL club in most towns in Australia. In an RSL you can get a beer, have a feed, and bet on the pokies or horses.
What could be more Australian?
The Longreach RSL Bistro had an Australia Day special on – Roast of the Day (lamb, of course) and Vegemite and cheese snags. Vegemite is a dark salty paste that we usually put on toast at breakfast. It’s a bit like Marmite in the UK, except it’s edible.
Many overseas visitors try Vegemite and think it’s disgusting. Our immigration department can usually find a way to shorten their visa. I have to state that I love Vegemite, and I carry a small jar of it with me when I travel overseas. However, the thought of having Vegemite and cheese snags for dinner did not particularly appeal.
But feeling suitably jingoistic, I gave it a go. I liked that each had a little cocktail flag of Australia stuck in it.
While I tucked into my Aussie Day special, I noticed that there were several tellys catering for the various national obsessions – a cricket match between Australia and England, the final of the Australian Tennis Open, featuring Raphael Nadal, and screens for betting on the horses. All needs were covered.
I asked about the snags – they were made especially for the RSL for Australia Day by a local butcher, Savages, and cooked to perfection by the Bistro’s head chef, Andrew.
I thought sausages filled with Vegemite and cheese would be truly putrid, but they were actually quite nice. They are though a delicacy that I would keep strictly for Australia Day, and only when I happened to be in Longreach.
The evening came to a logical conclusion when Nadal lost the championship, and Australia beat the Poms.
It was a great day to be an Aussie!