Remembrance Day

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
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Trip End Jan 08, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Saturday, November 12, 2011

Before chronicling the day's events, a couple of observations have been made over the last couple of days.

1) It’s taken me 2 months to realise that Australia doesn’t have 1 or 2 cent coins in its currency. The lowest coin denomination is the 5 cent piece. So what? I hear you ask. Well, like Britain prices of goods often end in 99 cents, e.g. 3.99, but if the 1 cent coin doesn’t exist, so what do the shops do about your change? They round it up, e.g 4.00 dollars. This may not sound like much, but if the really big shops are doing this, they must be making money hand over fist as they take anything from 1 – 4 cents off each customer. I’ve been told that the sum can be rounded down, but I can’t believe that shops are losing out over this. Just another example of big business taking advantage of the little guy.

2) Here’s something positive though. In Australia, everyone has to vote or incur a fine. Now I know I’m not one to talk as I haven’t voted in years, but it seems right to me that the population at large has to participate in the running of the country. I know that having to cast a vote doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll vote for any particular party/politician, but it still means that you have to actively abstain rather than not be bothered to vote (like me).

3) No offence is intended here, but I believe the great Aussie character is best represented in its flies...the insects, that is. Back in Europe, the flies just buzz around, but are easily shooed off, here, however, they have a certain brazen quality and are not easily denied. As much as you shoo them off, they’ll just keep on coming at you to eventually fly up your nose (not good), in your mouth (even worse) or in your ear. They have a tenacity which sums up the Aussie battling spirit.

Back to Perth: without really thinking about the date, Helen and I had decided to visit Kings Park today. Kings Park is a combination of a botanical garden and park, just outside the CBD. It also happens to be a little over 2.8 times the size of Hyde Park – of course, everything in Oz is bigger and better! The park contains an elevated walkway (sometimes known as the treetop walk), which is cool as you walk through the tops of the trees, it also affords you great views of Perth.

In the park, I became a bit of a bird watcher. The park was teeming with crows. Now, I can’t say I know what crows sound like back home, maybe they’re the same, but I’ve come to the conclusion that crows sound like cats on heat...being strangled. And they never shut up! I also managed to see my first kookaburras in the wild; I was alarmed to find that not only do the crows sound like horny cats, but the kookaburras sound like angry chimpanzees!

Of course, the date was 11/11/11: Remembrance Day, and the war memorial is in Kings Park. Naturally, there was a big service at the memorial, which we attended. The weather up until today had been mild, but today the sun finally decided to come out in force. I got caught out badly (no hat, no sunscreen and no water). The service was in the memorial, which is like a very small amphitheatre with no shade. There were a few schools in attendance, including Lilli’s school – despite the solemn occasion, Lily’s friends thought it was hilarious the amount of sweat that was streaming off me. They were taking bets at how long it would take for my head to explode from the heat!

If it was bad for me, then it was worse for the armed forces cadets (15 – 17 years old) who took part in the ceremony. The nature of the Australian armed forces was encapsulated by how the cadets withstood the conditions at the service. They were required to stand to attention throughout the service (one hour), without moving. One of the air force cadets had to leave, because he was feeling the strain, while 3 navy cadets passed out from the heat! The army cadets just took it in their stride. Strangely there were some old (and I mean old) veterans who, also standing to attention, were not fazed by the ordeal. They showed the young whippersnappers the true meaning of endurance!

The service itself was very good, even the state governor was there to give a speech about the meaning of the day, but more importantly, I got to hear a brass band play 'Waltzing Matilda’ and hear everyone sing the national anthem, "Advance Australia Fair". All in all, it was a moving ceremony. There was a even a jet fly by, although it was so quick that if you blinked you missed it, but the noise was deafening – it was the only thing to silence the crows for a few seconds. It’s odd that Helen associates a minute’s silence with crows, as I had been wondering what would happen in that time. Well, it was exactly that – complete silence, except for the sound of a hundred cats on heat...being strangled.

The evening was spent in true Aussie style; down the pub, listening to some live music and then a kebab to round off the night. Kebab’s will need a whole separate entry as they are completely different from both Britain and Spain. Suffice it to say that the place we went to was a shrine to football, with pictures of footballers from Europe. Paul didn’t know any of them, which gave me the opportunity to finish the night talking total bollocks about the beautiful game – I think he regrets taking me there now.
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Comments

Rod Musson on

I have many things to say, but as I am a little blog medieval I will wait until you finally return. Suffice to say mate I am really enjoying your diary entries and this great Samuel Pepys style you have cultivated. Its like bloody Radio Four!

Christine on

I enjoyed reading that as I've enjoyed reading all your posts. When I was in the Brownies back in England we always sang that song " kookaburra sits in the old whatever".....I always loved that song but thought the kookaburra was some kind of bear. So cheers for teaching me something new!

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