For audio files and list of players: ADELAIDE DAYS
49. Nationalism at Home and Abroad
(for Branny, Holly, Alison and Sal)
Julia and Anne have had the atlas* out to find Kiev and the Crimea and contemplate the long Ukraine/Russian border.
‘What is it about Russia?’ asks Anne. ‘It feels so much worse when Russia’s involved. Some sort of ancestral Anglo fear of the Russkies?’
‘Oh of course. I’d forgotten. The Charge of the Light Brigade. Why on earth were the British involved in that anyway?’
‘Interfering? Making money? Generally being thoroughly good chaps?’
‘So the Russians were baddies. Then they got Communism and were even worse.’
‘At least no one can blame Communism this time.’
‘Probably will anyway. Once a Communist always a Communist.’
‘Communist in the general sense of baddy.’
‘Yes. Poor old Marx. Once a baddy always a baddy.’
But there is a more cheerful question to settle. A member of Anne’s book group has organised a day with a Writers’ Week star and her GF. What should they be shown of Adelaide? What can they be given, what is precious enough, to express intense appreciation and admiration?
These are OS visitors who have never been to Australia before. So how do you sum up Australia in a day? And how do you explain your loyalty to Adelaide, this small dry city on a narrow plain next to an unspectacular gulf?
‘The Barr Smith Library,’ says Ro, but this suggestion is greeted by groans.
‘Honestly Ro, a library’s a library’s a library. It should be something iconic.’
Ro is miffed. ‘The Market,’ she says. ‘Or Haigh’s, if that’s all you care about. They do tours.’
But it is generally agreed that though Haigh’s is important, even iconic, you can’t ask two international guests to spend all day in a chocolate factory. Or even a Market, however lovely.
‘Those women doing the chook thing in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Fright or Flight.’
But that’s not till night time.
‘The Barossa. Or MacLaren Vale.’
‘But maybe they don’t drink?’
The suggestions get wilder.
‘The Flinders. The desert.’
‘You can’t go to the Flinders for a day. Let’s be realistic.’
They look at each other. ‘It will have to be Cleland.’
‘Good idea. Some koala hugging. Everyone loves a koala.’
‘As long as they don’t piss.’
‘And the kangaroos aren’t jerking off.’
‘Yes. I took my nephew once. They were all hanging round a female on heat, waving these sort of skinny tentacle penises …’
‘But isn’t it a cliché?’
‘What? Australia as a wanking kangaroo?’
‘No. I mean in general. Taking visitors to a wildlife reserve.’
‘Are we afraid of cliches?’
And so it comes about for the host and her two guests.
But the most important cultural exchange happens that night after a collective dinner. It is the demonstration of how to take a Tim Tam, carefully nibble off two diagonal corners, and then use the remainder as a drinking straw. The possibilities are obviously endless. You could suck up anything from milk to Drambuie. But being good down-to-earth dykes, our heroines use their Tim Tams to suck up herbal tea.
*Atlas: an archaic book used for locating places in the world. Does not induce the seasickness of Google Earth and is less bossy than a GPS.