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14 August 2008 @ 11:22 pm
That wet stuff, it'll kill ya.  
A recurring theme in Australian humour is the deadliness of everything. Snakes, spiders, sharks, gum trees, octopuses – as Australians say "Be careful of that, it'll kill ya."

I used to think that this was said in jest, but no, most things that are not sheep will have a go at killing you. Indeed, on some country roads, even the sheep will join in.

Of course, the locals lie, and lie shamelessly. The beloved J and I were walking home one night last summer when we saw a young Englishman taking a photograph of an Orb Weaving spider who had spun a magnificent six foot web across the pedestrian laneway near here. "I'm trying to capture the colours, I think there's just enough light from the streetlamp," the man confessed as we watched him twiddling with his camera.

"Did it come out?" J asked, after the shot was taken.

"Yeah, not bad," the tourist said, showing the display. "These ones are safe, aren't they?"

J looked at the display and nodded. "Looks good." Then he looked up at the sweet, harmless spider, and said, in his most laconic drawl, "But you want to be careful of that, it'll kill ya."

The problem is that, sometimes when you think they are lying, it is in fact true. As a little girl I had a much-loved copy of Seven Little Australians, a classic children's novel of 19th-century Australia. In it, and I'm afraid it's a spoiler, the wonderful Judy is killed when a tree falls on her. As a young lass, I thought this was a plot device. Then I moved here and realised. Trees fall on people All The Time. Usually on German tourists. And I can tell you why this happens, since, during my stint working in a park, I had this conversation several times:

Me: And I strongly recommend that you stick to the official campgrounds, the amenities are better and they're cleared of trees.
German Tourist: But I enjoy pitching my tent under a tree.
Me: Yes, look, I understand that and I sympathise, the problem is that Australian trees are homicidal and they drop branches weighing tens of kilograms down on tents with startling regularity.
GT: That is fine, I will only pitch my tent under trees with healthy limbs.
Me: Alas, that won't help, they look perfectly fine and then BOOM! Split in half and crashing downwards.
GT: So really not under trees.
Me: Really.
GT: Oak trees?
Me: If you can find one, they obey the normal rules.
GT: Thank you. Also, are Drop Bears real?
Me: No, do not believe that other parks employee, he is Australian and tells terrible lies.

The upshot of all this is that Australians grow up doing things like shaking out their shoes before they put them on, because in most major population centres there are at least two or three things that could well be lurking in there that will, at the very least, hospitalise you. I do this too. It's actually a very easy way to tell the difference between an Australian and a New Zealander if the accents confuse you. That and the fact that New Zealanders take wood from woodpiles without using a big stick or leather gloves, because the things that lurk in their woodpiles are usually cute and English, not angry and venomous.

And Australian warning signs tend to say things like "Do Not Swim In Waterhole. CROCODILES!! You WILL Die." They take their warning signs seriously over here.

The other notable thing is the lack of rain. Until last November, it had been about 11 years without a good stint of rain in New South Wales. The Sydney water catchment went down below 50%, below 40%, about 30%. The dam levels moved from being read out at the end of the agricultural program every Sunday, to being read out in the weather report every night. They were last full in 1998. But it's been raining this year, so much so that the dams approach 70% and we're actually allowed to wash cars again.

However, I think that Sydneysiders have forgotten how to function in rain, and have adopted a very Australian approach to it. This explains the announcement that rang out over the train station this morning, in elegant tones:
"Attention passengers, for your safety, please take extreme care. Surfaces may be slippery when wet."

And fair enough, it has been a long time and it's easy to forget. Though I suspect an average amount of care would probably cover it. The best thing?  It was about 19 deg C. Brilliant blue skies. Glorious morning sun.
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Eeyeeyore9990 on August 14th, 2008 02:13 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love this. One of my main goals in life is to travel to Australia one day in the fuzzy far-off future. Now I will know not to pitch a tent beneath a tree! :P (Of course, I will likely stay in a hotel, but hey! I know to take the signs to heart now and smile politely while being lied to by the lovely locals.)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
As a general rule, you should believe them when they tell you various insects and animals are poisonous, because most of them are, anyway. But there are no drop bears, hoop snakes, bunyips or carnivorous wombats. Though the last DID exist in the not too distant past ...
(no subject) - shu_shu_sleeps on August 15th, 2008 03:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - winnett on August 14th, 2008 02:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
AMY 凛☆ラブ☆アタックtomatoe18 on August 14th, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
My Australian Studies teacher used to do that. Gave us a list of things that could kill us... then at the end of the lesson, he said that he was only joking. We almost didn't believe him that he was joking. Some of us still don't.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 02:17 pm (UTC)
I'd be happy to confirm or deny if you can remember any of the lists ;-)
(no subject) - tomatoe18 on August 14th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 03:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tomatoe18 on August 15th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tomatoe18 on August 15th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tomatoe18 on August 15th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on August 14th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
What sort of cute English fauna may be found lurking in Kiwi woodpiles?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
Usually hedgehogs! Which makes me very happy as you can guess. Occasionally you'll find a pygmy possum in an Australian woodpile, that's always nice!
(no subject) - norton_gale on August 14th, 2008 02:31 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
this mundane stuff called lifewinnett on August 14th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
You with the best flist post for the morning. I really enjoy reading your RL posts.

So, when you say New Zealand log piles are full of English and cute, does that mean there are lots of introduced species there?

Just curious.

And what a drought! I knew it was bad over there, but not that bad!

You should write about life in Australia and publish it. *grins*
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on August 14th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
BB is like a living, breathing tourist brochure for Australia. I am dying to go there just from reading her posts (and Beneath Boundless Skies).
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
If I can save just one person from camping under a gum tree or being worried about drop bears, it will all be worthwhile ;-)
Leochileochi on August 14th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
LOL - I love this post, especially the part about the German Tourists *g*
And I'm NEVER going to Australia. The idea of having spiders lurking somewhere is enough to make me cringe, let alone other ferocious insects with venom.
And I just love rain above all; I suppose I should move to England.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
I think it's because Germans are usually experienced campers, and then they come to Australia and half of the normal rules don't apply.

I helped a German couple plan an itinerary from Sydney to Brisbane, stopping off at several National Parks and interesting spots along the day, they had budgeted five days to do the drive in. The husband asked me how long most Australians took for the same trip. "They do it in the one 12-hour drive," I told him.

He looked at me and blinked. "They are crazy people," he said, and I had to agree.

I would check you shoes for you if you ever came over! But New Zealand is a safer, pleasanter and rainier option!

And forget England, you should move to Wales ;-)
(no subject) - leochi on August 14th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Agrevaagreva on August 14th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
I love reading your 'Australia' posts. Although if you keep letting out that there are no drop bears here, people are going to have to come up with new things to scare tourists with!

Forget not knowing what to do when it rains, I'm freaking out that its still cold here in Brisbane!

...And its also best to look under the toilet seat as well, never know when a spiders going to come out and bite you on the arse!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
After my mother terrified me for so long with the drop bears, I am the Fox Mulder of them and am making sure the Truth gets Out There!

And come on, Blue Ringed Octopuses, Box Jellyfish, Taipans, Funnelwebs -- no one needs to make up scary things here!

It HAS been cold! I have actually bought woolies this winter. You chaps must be finding it very strange. Funny you should mention the spiders under the toilet seat, J's mum was bitten on the bum twice. As you've probably guessed, she's a Queenslander.
calanthe_fics on August 14th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)
How sad that I read that amd all I could think was, 'Whoa. Bon Jovi'.

And I'm not even a fan.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
I am looking at you and blinking blankly.

My sole knowledge of Bon Jovi is remembering a Rolling Stone article that began "Jon Bon Jovi has the most beautiful hair in rock and roll", and I thought, well, if that's the best thing you can say about him, I can stick with my Billy Bragg obsession.

(no subject) - calanthe_fics on August 14th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on August 14th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
De-lurking because I have to say, as an Aussie born and bred, I love reading your blog posts about this crazy country.

Also, hee! Drop Bears! In high school, my year 9 English class had our Canadian exchange teacher avoiding trees for half a day before another teacher clued him in and spoiled our fun. We also told him that spreading Vegemite behind his ears would deter them, but we never did find out if he'd followed that advice. :)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 14th, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
That and gravy are the ONLY logical responses to Vegemite ;-)

I do love Australia, but it is quite mad. Pleasantly so, though!
i can see your house from herewho_la_hoop on August 14th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)
There cannot really be a book called SEVEN LITTLE AUSTRALIANS. Not one that you actually enjoyed. I refuse to believe it.
Joanne2amconversation on August 15th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
Why not?

It's a classic.
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 10:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - moonborn on August 22nd, 2008 01:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 22nd, 2008 02:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
Vaysh Swiftstorm: D/H_touchvaysh on August 14th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
Love your posts. And your comments to comments.

In defence of those German tourists I have to say that yes, we are experienced campers. And you do have to understand: it's a cultural thing. The German love of trees, acid rain notwithstanding, is our one (almost) untainted heritage. Oak trees give us identity (if their leaves are not twined in some Fascist victory wreath).

Um, how's that for one conflicted national identity?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 10:55 am (UTC)
The comments here are usually a fun place, my friends are all so smart!

Don't mistake me, I think the Germans were entirely sensible. And in practically any other place, the logical rules of camping would stand and be useful. But Australia is ridiculous.

I adore oak trees, too, so I completely understand the affection.
romaine24: rainumbrellasromaine24 on August 14th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
Having lived where there were scorpions, black widow spiders, and rattle snakes, I'll have you know you just scared the piss out of me with this post. I've always wanted to go to Australia but I might have to go to NZ instead. *meep*
brinianbrinian on August 14th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
At the risk of sending a "me too"....thank you for this! Made my LJ morning. I live in the land of 10 months of rain, two months of dry and can not imagine what a drought of that magnitude would be like. I haven't washed a car in years...just wait for it to start raining again!

GT: So really not under trees.
Me: Really.
GT: Oak trees?
Me: If you can find one, they obey the normal rules.

*spits beverage over keyboard* There are lots of eucalyptus where we used to live in California. They really didn't follow the normal rules (peeled horribly) and were prone to exploding in fires.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
YES! THE EXPLODING! I forgot all about that! Australian entrepreneurs convinced Americans they should plant stands of Eucalypts, I really wish there was a record of the correspondence from the first forest fire afterwards -- and they're rubbish for timber.
(no subject) - brinian on August 15th, 2008 05:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Shivshiv5468 on August 14th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
I should write drop bear fic....

blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
Ron stood under the tree. "Listen Hermione, I'm glad you brought me with you to pick up your parents, but there are going to be some ground rules if we're taking this relationship any– oof!"

Hermione watched, fascinated, as the furry missile that had dropped from the tree proceeded to unfold and sink its teeth into Ron's neck. "That's unfortunate," she muttered. "I wonder if Mr Malfoy was serious about making amends?"
(no subject) - shiv5468 on August 15th, 2008 06:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 09:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shiv5468 on August 15th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
girl; obsessed: other - ripcomplications_g on August 14th, 2008 07:21 pm (UTC)
What about the cockroaches?

blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 03:15 am (UTC)

(Though the indigenous varieties are quiet and well behaved.)
(no subject) - complications_g on August 15th, 2008 09:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 09:08 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - complications_g on August 15th, 2008 09:19 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 15th, 2008 09:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - complications_g on August 15th, 2008 09:35 am (UTC) (Expand)