Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wombats Are Perfectly Normal

It's Wednesday, therefore it is Madhouse time . . this week "Normal". I wanted to do something quintessentially Australian when I actually found a piece written by an Englishman on what we consider 'normal' in Australia which foreigners might find rather confusing. Makes sense to me . . enjoy!

Douglas Adams' View of Australia

Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the Bottom half of the planet. It is recognisable from orbit because of many unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the girting sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it the "Great Australian Bight" proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory, but they can't spell either.

The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. Typically, it is unique in this.

The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep. It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all. But even the spiders won't go near the sea.
Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on), under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.

Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the Odd) that are more dangerous. The creature that kills the most people each year is the common Wombat. It is nearly as ridiculous as its name, and spends its life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides. During the night it comes out to eat worms and grubs. The wombat kills people in two ways: First, the animal is indestructible. Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds muscles that outclass Olympic weight lifters. At night, they often wander the roads. Semi-trailers (Road Trains) have hit them at high speed, with all 9 wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed. They express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away. Alas, to smaller cars, the wombat becomes a symmetrical launching pad, with results that can be imagined, but not adequately described.

The second way the wombat kills people relates to its burrowing behaviour. If a person happens to put their hand down a Wombat hole, the Wombat will feel the disturbance and think "Ho! My hole is collapsing!" at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of its burrow with incredible force, to prevent its collapse. Any unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause the Wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from seeking assistance. This is considered the third most embarrassing known way to die, and Australians don't talk about it much.

At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus, estranged relative of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays eggs, detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel, and has venomous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.

The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants. First, a short history: Some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and lot of them died. The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories. Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in Autumn (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died.

About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since. It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick. Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended Holiday and became Australians.

The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories.

Be warned. There is also the matter of the beaches. Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world. Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock, and has venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain) and surfboarders. However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk.

As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful, and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger, unless they are an American.

Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile disarmingly and look for a stick. Major engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud.

Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land "Oz", "Godzone" (a verbal contraction of "God's Own Country") and "Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth." The irritating thing about this is they may be right.

There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveller, though. Do not under any circumstances suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer. Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt. Religion and Politics are safe topics of conversation (Australians don't care too much about either) but Sport is a minefield. The only correct answer to "So, howdya' like our country, eh?" is "Best {insert your own regional swear word here} country in the world!".

It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will 'adopt' you on your first night, and take you to a pub where Australian Beer is served. Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It is a form of initiation rite. You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul-taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes. Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off any legal difficulties with "It's his first time in Australia, so we took him to the pub.", to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook.

Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australian you encounter, adding new embellishments at every stage, and noting how strong the beer was. Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.

Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.
Ettamogah Pub and yes . . we have one just down the road . . . see . . . we're perfectly normal!


nick said...

Brilliant summary. How true it is, only you can say. He doesn't actually tell us much about the sheep, but I suppose there isn't much to say. Feedem, fleecem and eatem.

The plane looks a bit wrecked. Presumably the pilot had some of that extra strong beer.

Brian Miller said...

amazing post. lol. loved it!

on a side blogger acting wacky? did not get this post in my reader...and as far as i can tell mine never went out either.

Grow Up said...

Next Monday is Towel day, do not forget your towel!

hokgardner said...

I read that piece ages ago, and it's still just as funny. Australia is high on my list of places to visit, right behind Patagonai, spiders and sharks notwithstanding.

Moon said...

Just perfect ... Bill Bryson does an excellent version of this in hos book, if you haven't read that, you must, made my side split with laughter, esp once you know the country !, his explanation of Cricket stays with me always ..

Wonderful stuff

laughingwolf said...

the number is still forty-two! ;) lol

Hails said...

Love Douglas Adams - and I'm with Moon on the Bryson book, it's brilliant!

I really want to go to Australia. Hopefully as a means of avoiding winter this year. :) I want to see all the Big Things...

Marianna said...

Oh I loved this post!! I wanna visit Australia NOW lol

Have a great day

Ronda Laveen said...

I had no idea wombats were so dangerous. I thought it was just a funny name. Lovely post.

Grannymar said...

Were you flying that plane after a bottle of Chardy?

Terence McDanger said...

+ 1 for Bill Bryson as well.

The guy was absolutely bricking it every time he was anywhere near wildlife. I'm scared of rabbits myself like so I can hardly talk either.

Then again, some rabbits carry knives and you can never be too careful.

jay said...

That was just so funny! I do love Douglas Adams!

I read quite a lot of that out to OH and Son No. 1. Made them laugh, too.

Whereupon Son. No. 1 related a little tale which seemed fairly uncomplimentary to Australians, and I told him if he did it again I'd tell. LOL!

i beati said...

I find Australians to be the most resilient people even the imports---

Did you like th e movie Australia- in a cineamascopic way I did , or was I just looking at Hugh

And how about the Dr. this week who drilled the boys head and saved him!!

Christopher said...

Very funny, but why would Australians not share a friendly word with an American? I'm American and I've met quite a few Australians who were quite friendly, and one who practically talked my ear off and only left me alone because he had to go up on stage and sing. That was Paul Killingly. Super nice guy. I'm glad I bought his CD because I'd have felt guilty otherwise.

Nuw Zullunder said...

Bro Nuw Zullund is su much bitter

Don't Bug Me! said...

I do love Douglas Adams - a very funny man. And, for once, I am going to have to agree with my brother, Moon. It doesn't happen often, but Bill Bryson's Australian book cracked me up.

padraig said...

I miss XXXX. I wish it was exported to the U.S.

Baino said...

Haha! Nick that's pretty much what we do to poor sheep. I don't like lamb! I'm a national disgrace!

Brian I think it was being a bit of a dick a couple of days ago but seems OK now.

Towel day! How on earth did you remember the date? Well I'll be at the Hotel Windsor using ALLLL their fluffy white towels, swanning around in their fluffy white slippers and fluffy white gowns! Big tribute to the Adster!

Well Hoki, you're welcome at the Bainbridge Homestead but the kids will have to sleep on the floor!

Ashamed to say I haven't read Bill Bryson's book but I will, promise.

42 it is Wuffa and a damn fine number too!

Hails, we got big things a plenty but they're spread around. I'd avoid the big potato - looks like a rusty poo!

Marianna we're about to go to the city with the second largest Greek population next to Athens . . Marvellous Melbourne!

Ronda I've never had a run in with a wombat. In fact I've only ever seen one 'in the wild' and he'd got himself caught in a public toilet so I left him to his own devices! Take it from me . .they're not killers.

Hic! Caught out again GM!

Terrence our rabbits move concrete blocks . .I kid you not! They go were once a month!

Jay, one thing we can do is laugh at ourselves so let son No 1 Rip!

Actually iBeati I did like Australia. Many took it as the way we really are and some of the colloquialisms were absolutely true even if the story was a little far fetched!

Chris it's a national past time to rag Americans, affectionately nicknamed 'Septic Tanks'. But I don't think any of it is really serious unless directed towards your ex-President! We love Obama!

Paduan . . if Nuw Zullund is so grit why are thuy all coming tu Ustraylya? Bund Meetung and Roll Call . . NOW!

Ok Ok DBM, I get the message. I'll defo buy it.

Pat you've been here? I can arrange export for a fee but there's better beer than XXXX . . .Boags St George . . Tassie's best!

River said...

Great reading Baino! Where did you find this? Every word is true. I love the Ettamogah Pub picture. I remember the cartoon of same that used to appear in a magazine (don't remember which mag.), it had the blue singlet, baggy shorts clad "boozers" with the bobbing cork hats to keep away the clouds of flies. There was always a scruffy little dog in it somewhere.

River said...

P.S. Have you ever seen the movie They're A Weird Mob? Made in the sixties, it tells the story of Nino Culotta (played by Walter Chiari) who arrives from Italy to find his brother or uncle has run out on him leaving a debt, he gets taken in by a mob of Aussie builders and learns the Aussie ways pretty quick.

Baino said...

Hi River. . .I've never been to the one in the photo but they built one here, right up against a four lane highway with Dan Murphy's out the back it's an eyesore in the burbs! Yeh, I remember the Weird Mob! Although I think The Castle and The Dish are also great quintessential Aussie movies . . "Ahh the serenity . .*zap*!"