I’m off to the US soon, and have just seen an interesting set of observations from a visitor from the other side of the Pacific… A yank Down Under.  Thought I’d save this here and revisit it when I get back.

‘Value what you have and don’t give it away.’

There’s a lot to admire about Australia, especially if you’re a visiting American, says David Mason.

More often than you might expect, Australian friends patiently listening to me enthuse about their country have said, ”We need outsiders like you to remind us what we have.” So here it is – a small presumptuous list of what one foreigner admires in Oz.

1. Health care.
I know the controversies, but basic national health care is a gift.
In America, medical expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy.
The drug companies dominate politics and advertising.
Obama is being crucified for taking halting baby steps towards sanity.
You can’t turn on the telly without hours of drug advertisements – something I have never yet seen here.
And your emphasis on prevention – making cigarettes less accessible, for one – is a model.

2. Food.
Yes, we have great food in America too, especially in the big cities.
But your bread is less sweet, your lamb is cheaper, and your supermarket vegetables and fruits are fresher than ours.
Too often in my country an apple is a ball of pulp as big as your face.
The dainty Pink Lady apples of Oz are the juiciest I’ve had.
And don’t get me started on coffee.
In American small towns it tastes like water flavoured with burnt dirt, but the smallest shop in the smallest town in Oz can make a first-rate latte.
I love your ubiquitous bakeries, your hot-cross buns. Shall I go on?

3. Language.
How do you do it?
The rhyming slang and Aboriginal place names like magic spells.
Words that seem vaguely English yet also resemble an argot from another planet.
I love the way institutional names get turned into diminutives – Vinnie’s and Salvos – and absolutely nothing’s sacred.
Everything’s an opportunity for word games and everyone’s a nickname.
Lingo makes the world go round.
It’s the spontaneous wit of the people that tickles me most.
Late one night at a barbie my new mate Suds remarked, ”Nothing’s the same since 24-7.” Amen.

4. Free-to-air TV.
In Oz, you buy a TV, plug it in and watch some of the best programming I’ve ever seen – uncensored.
In America, you can’t get diddly-squat without paying a cable or satellite company heavy fees.
In Oz a few channels make it hard to choose.
In America, you’ve got 400 channels and nothing to watch.

5. Small shops.
Outside the big cities in America corporations have nearly erased them.
Identical malls with identical restaurants serving inferior food.
Except for geography, it’s hard to tell one American town from another.
The ”take-away” culture here is wonderful.
Human encounters are real – stirring happens, stories get told.
The curries are to die for. And you don’t have to tip!

6. Free camping.
We used to have this too, and I guess it’s still free when you backpack miles away from the roads.
But I love the fact that in Oz everyone owns the shore and in many places you can pull up a camper van and stare at the sea for weeks.
I love the ”primitive” and independent campgrounds, the life out of doors.
The few idiots who leave their stubbies and rubbish behind in these pristine places ought to be transported in chains.

7. Religion.
In America, it’s everywhere – especially where it’s not supposed to be, like politics.
I imagine you have your Pharisees too, making a big public show of devotion, but I have yet to meet one here.

8. Roads.
Peak hour aside, I’ve found travel on your roads pure heaven.
My country’s ”freeways” are crowded, crumbling, insanely knotted with looping overpasses – it’s like racing homicidal maniacs on fraying spaghetti.
I’ve taken the Hume without stress, and I love the Princes Highway when it’s two lanes.
Ninety minutes south of Bateman’s Bay I was sorry to see one billboard for a McDonald’s.
It’s blocking a lovely paddock view. Someone should remove it.

9. Real multiculturalism.
I know there are tensions, just like anywhere else, but I love the distinctiveness of your communities and the way you publicly acknowledge the Aboriginal past.
Recently, too, I spent quality time with Melbourne Greeks, and was gratified both by their devotion to their own great language and culture and their openness to an Afghan lunch.

10. Fewer guns.
You had Port Arthur in 1996 and got real in response.
America replicates such massacres several times a year and nothing changes.
Our religion of individual rights makes the good of the community an impossible dream.
Instead of mateship we have ”It’s mine and nobody else’s”.
We talk a great game about freedom, but too often live in fear.
There’s more to say – your kaleidoscopic birds, your perfumed bush in springtime, your vast beaches.
These are just a few blessings that make Australia a rarity.
Of course, it’s not paradise – nowhere is – but I love it here.
No need to wave flags like Americans and add to the world’s windiness.
Just value what you have and don’t give it away.

David Mason is a US writer and professor, and poet laureate of Colorado.



Fifty Shades of LOL


Fifty Shades of Grey
                            – A poem by Pam Ayres

The missus bought a Paperback,
down Shepton Mallet way,
I had a look inside her bag;
… T’was “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
Well I just left her to it,
And at ten I went to bed.
An hour later she appeared;
The sight filled me with dread…
In her left she held a rope;
And in her right a whip!
She threw them down upon the floor,
And then began to strip.
Well fifty years or so ago;
I might have had a peek;
But Mabel hasn’t weathered well;
She’s eighty four next week!!
Watching Mabel bump and grind;
Could not have been much grimmer.
And things then went from bad to worse;
She toppled off her Zimmer!
She struggled back upon her feet;
A couple minutes later;
She put her teeth back in and said
I am a dominater !!
Now if you knew our Mabel,
You’d see just why I spluttered,
I’d spent two months in traction
For the last complaint I’d uttered.
She stood there nude and naked
Bent forward just a bit
I went to hold her, sensual like
and stood on her left tit!
Mabel screamed, her teeth shot out;
My god what had I done!?
She moaned and groaned then shouted out:
“Step on the other one”!!
Well readers, I can’t tell no more;
About what occurred that day.
Suffice to say my jet black hair,
Turned fifty shades of grey

I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar

The Small Child has an oral assignment coming up… yes Grade Two and they have oral presentations every week on various topics such as ‘My Favourite Family Holiday’, ‘My Family’… good fun yes?  In a couple of week they have a topic of ‘An Australian song or poem’ which I took to be a golden opportunity to torture the Small Child with a poem that my Dad inflicted on me 🙂

He loved the Banjo Patterson poem – "Clancy of the Overflow".  Not sure why but he sure inflicted it on us often enough as kids but it came to be one of my favourite also (when it’s not being murdered by a seven year old).  So I decided why not?  The Small Child has to do an Australian song or poem so it seemed as good a time as any to learn it – and I’ve convinced him if he learns this one and learns it well… he could well avoid ever having to study another Australian poem for the rest of his school career!   Yes… he’s seven, so he’s gullible like that.

Problem is… in order to have him rote learn the poem I’ve now exposed myself to numerous awkward recitations until he gets it right.  Even the best laid plans of … Mums in this case, have their repercussions so I shall ‘Suck it up Princess’ before anyone even gets the chance to tell me to do so.   Though I resevere the right to inflict it on anyone else here so  – if you’re not familiar with the poem (ie – you’re a foreigner like Mr K) here ’tis….

Clancy of the Overflow

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the
Lachlan years ago;
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just on spec, addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow."

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar);
Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:

"Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy, visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
in the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plain extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city,
Through the open window floating, spreads it foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street;
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me,and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,

While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal
But I doubt he’s suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow.

Speed Poetry from BluddyMary

BluddyMary, who obviously needs to be more challenged in her current employment, just sent me a poem she wrote in her lunch break!  Now ordinarily I’d be saying ‘Don’t work too hard Mary’… but I see there is no danger of that!  Thanks for the sentiment… ’tis very cute!

Reflections on a woman’s place in the Middle East..
from my desk in Chatswood

Ms Robyn’s gone to Quetta

Pakistani soldiers to protect her
So Al Quaeda doesn’t get her
Diggers would be better

Observe local customs to the letter
So the Mullahs will not vet her
Do I see flesh? You’d better
be quick and grab a sweater!

That was ten minutes well spent Ms Mary, I sure appreciated the giggle while stuck here in my pampered prison ….    ‘Yes, Shahid… I’d love another cup of tea… by the way… do we have any fresh mango from the market this morning?’  🙂