Category Archives: Australia

A photo a day in December: days 26-31

Click on any image to enlarge

Happy new year! I am chilling out at my parent’s house, having stayed up until 2 last night and then driven the 400-ish km from Albany to Perth today — in fairness, I only drove half of that, but at any rate I am cactus. Also, I never got around to taking a photo on the 27th, so I only have 5 photos to finish off the photo a day  challenge…

  • Perth skyline. I would love to know what the story is about the vacant block I took the photo from: it’s been empty since I was a kid but it must be worth an absolute fortune;
  • A paperbark tree near Ocean Beach in Denmark;
  • Rubbish bin, park bench, and very bright shed in Kojonup;
  • Rocks and the ocean at Cosy Corner beach, near Albany;
  • Albany itself — or at least, Middleton beach.

So there we have my 30 photos in 31 days. Actually, I took 213 photos in 31 days, most of those with the hope of getting a good shot to post here. (And, ok, some dorky selfies.) I definitely wouldn’t have taken so many photos if I weren’t challenging myself like this (neurotic over-achievers represent!) and I definitely got some decent shots I wouldn’t otherwise have, so I’m calling this photo-a-day malarky a success.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here


A photo a day in December: days 21-25

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Happy Christmas, if you celebrate it. As promised, some photos with actual sunshine and blue skies! And more cookie photos, because I am essentially a one-trick pony.

  • I believe these trees are called flame trees, at any rate they’re rather festive;
  • Pretty sure my grandparents have the best bathroom wallpaper;
  • Yeah, cookies, I know;
  • Graffiti-covered fence;
  • “Peace”.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

Words I never realized were Australianisms until I left Australia

Advertising Tomato Sauce
“Advertising Tomato Sauce” by Michael Coghlan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I’m not surprised that some Italians have trouble with my accent — after all, Italian is all about the beautiful distinct vowels, and I’m not sure vowels even exist in Australian English. (Is a vague “uh” noise a vowel? Because in Australia, it is EVERY VOWEL.)

What throws me off is when I’m talking to another English speaker and they look at me oddly and I realize… pretty speccy (meaning, “quite impressive”) isn’t actually a standard English idiom.

So here’s a list of some other I-never-knew-they-were-Australianisms. With the disclaimer that probably a lot of these are also used in New Zealand… (But then, it’s my patriotic duty as an Australian to claim all of NZ’s best stuff as coming from Australia.)

  • Doona for duvet
  • Yummo! which is what you say to small children when trying to convince them they really do like the food they’ve been given
  • Op shop for charity shop/thrift store
  • Bottle shop is where you buy alcohol — what do other countries even call this? I’m guessing not “bottle shop” and definitely not the standard abbreviation, bottle-o.
  • Maccas for McDonalds
  • Gumboots for Wellington boots/rain boots
  • CBD for city centre/downtown
  • Arvo for afternoon — IN MY DEFENCE… I did realize it wasn’t standard English, but I had this idea that at least some British English dialects used it
  • Glad Wrap for clingfilm/Saran Wrap
  • Heaps for lots (“Thanks, that’s heaps” to the person dishing up your dinner)/very (“That’s heaps good”)
  • Classic! an exclamation meaning that something is particularly amusing
  • Tomato sauce for ketchup. To this day, I can never remember how to ask in Italian for tomato sauce on my burger because I know the Italian word is the same as the English but then I blank on what the word is in everyone else’s English
  • Bring-a-plate for bring-and-share/potluck
  • Rockmelon for cantaloupe
  • Singlet for… a sleeveless undershirt but I just remembered having a massive discussion recently about what those things are called in other Englishes and now I’m not brave enough to offer a translation
  • Texta for felt-tip pen
  • Milo is a chocolate malt drink. It isn’t actually an Australianism: it also exists in (I’ve been told) Ghana and Malaysia, but not Britain or America, oddly enough.
  • Cheers big ears… Honestly I’m not sure anyone really says this in Australia either

I liveblogged my reaction to that article about fairy bread.

Epicurious posted an article about fairy bread. It was… quite something. Here I liveblog my response.

Fairy Bread.jpg
This is an accurate photo of fairy bread. This is not the photo Epicurious used.
By GemslingOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Ooh! An article about fairy bread! I can already feel the nostalgia for every kid’s birthday party in primary school except mine, because Mum wasn’t into processed foods. While I’m airing grievances did I mention we were only allowed one teaspoon of Milo in our milo, that’s not milo that’s just vaguely brown-coloured milk.

The cover photo is cute, but what’s with the long hundreds & thousands? Is this one of those weird regional variations, like how apparently in parts of New South Wales they call “slides” “slippery dips”? (True confessions: a friend once called a slide a slippery dip and I have never been able to get over it. 70 years from now we’ll be in nursing homes and every few months I’ll be hologram-calling him or whatever, to say you really call a slide a slippery dip?)

And is that confetti on the lower-right one?

“[T]he name gives it an air of complex, unknowable magic”. Sure. Whatever. If you’ve read this blog a while, you know how I feel about purple prose food writing. Also, apparently fairy bread is “sparkly and fun and colorful and weird”? That’s several orders of magnitude more whimsical than I’d have thought fairy bread warranted.

I’m getting worried… “a slice of bread generously spread with butter”. Butter..? I mean, I suppose if you live in some kind of dystopian future that doesn’t have margarine, that sickly yellow margarine that doesn’t taste anything like butter or like vegetable oil or like anything edible really. That is what you use for fairy bread. But if you don’t have that, I suppose you could use butter. If you really had to.

Oh hey, it’s that food-writing paragraph about the history of the dish. Fairy bread was inspired by a Robert Louis Stevenson poem. Not by a mother of school aged kids saying will you stop whinging about how hungry you are, you know where the fridge is, fer cryin out loud.

And we eat it “as breakfast”. I dunno, maybe other kids did eat it for breakfast and it was just my healthy eating mother who made me have cornflakes instead. We also eat it “after dinner” — yeah nah, in my family it was tinned peaches and evaporated milk if we were lucky.

But more to the point… Toast. What. “Fairy toast”. No.

No really, toast??!!

Isn’t the purpose of fairy bread — to get all food-writerly — to show off the varied textures of the ingredients: the chewy soft white crap-bread, the crunchy layer of hundreds and thousands that are slowly dissolving into the slick greasiness of the margarine below them. How does toast possibly fit into that picture?

Effin’ toast. I am done.

Ok, I’m not quite done. They not only want me to use butter, they want me to make my own butter. Get out of here.

And “sparkly sanding sugar”. What even is that? I ask the friend who posted this on facebook. Probably a known carcinogen she replies.

“And don’t think you have to be a child to enjoy fairy bread: everyone deserves a little sparkle in their snack, even grown-ups.”


Update: My mum comments on facebook…

I must have made fairy bread at least once when you were a kid because I’ve still got a jar of hundreds and thousands in the cupboard But I agree about the toast. Mum xxx

Busselton Jetty, Australia

‘Straya Day: a primer

Tomorrow is Australia Day, Australia’s creatively-named national holiday on the anniversary of the start of British colonization of Australia.

Actually, Australia Day is a multi-week event. It starts in early January, with Meat and Livestock Australia trolling vegetarians everywhere with an ad urging everyone to eat lamb on Australia Day and maybe also set a vegan’s coffee table on fire if you have the chance. That last bit is literally from this year’s ad, which I will admit gave me a decent chuckle when I saw it at 4 in the morning in Frankfurt airport a couple of weeks ago.

Having opened ceremonies with the traditional I’m a Vegan And I’m Rather Cross dance, we then move on to a rather more grim slanging match, in which various Aboriginal Australians point out that maybe having a national day celebrating the start of years of attacks on their people by Europeans is a bit, I dunno, in bad taste, and then various white Australians say things like “Can’t you, like, move on? It’s at least a couple of decades since we forcibly removed your children form you” and various other white Australians say things like “yeah nah Stan Grant totally makes a good point” and then continue with the status quo up to and including not even seriously entertaining the idea of picking a less contentious date for the national holiday.

Meanwhile, the Eff Off We’re Full Brigade stocks up on Australian flags to wear as capes and the Multicultural Inner City Squad mutters things about “National Dickhead Day” and people (like me!) write blog posts about How Australia Day Reveals the Divisions in Australian Society although fortunately we get countered by articles like this moving collection of stories from a range of Australians about how they came to Australia.

If you don’t live in Australia, then you get an extra bit of pre-26th tradition which is that somehow — regardless of whether you bring it up — a few days before the 26th your non-Australian friends find out that it’s nearly the Australian national holiday, and you get to have slightly awkward conversations explaining all of the above to people who really just wanted to know that it’s common to have a barbeque on Australia Day.

And then the 26th comes around and lots of alcohol is consumed and if you’re in Perth you get a decent fireworks show and that’s it for another year.

(Oh but you really must watch Stan Grant’s speech on racism in Australia, it’s a powerful piece of rhetoric and it went viral for good reason.)

Winter view of the Alps from Turin

Notes from my extremely glamorous life: back to Italy

I got back to Turin last Monday. Walked through my front door, put my bags down, and thought, I love my apartment.

Partly, I think, because it’s the first place I’ve lived by myself for more than a couple of months (which I enjoy a lot), but conversely because the space is touched the people who have spent time here. Looking around my kitchen now, I can see postcards from friends who have travelled onwards, a beer bottle with my name on it that was left over from a party and I can’t bring myself to put in recycling because umm hello it’s a beer bottle called “Zoe”, a tin of Taiwanese tea that a friend brought back from her trip home there one summer, a pair of rain boots sitting near the door left by a friend who moved away, which I still haven’t used because it still hasn’t rained yet this winter.

My trip back was uneventful in the way you want inter-continental travel to be, but I did get a full 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur in between flights so I got to do a bit of wandering around.

I arrived in the evening and stayed in a backpackers hostel. You know how all those “how to travel” articles carry on about “stay in hostels! you’ll meet people to hang out with!”? I always stay in hostels; I never meet people. But Back Home in KL seemed to magically be a hostel that was social but not a party hostel, and I spent the next day doing a hop on hop off bus tour with a girl I’d met at breakfast, who was from the Netherlands and on her way from New Zealand to India.

Traipsing around an unfamiliar city with a total stranger is definitely an experience I’d recommend — if nothing else it was fun to see where our perceptions converged (“ugh it’s so hot!” “yes!”) and diverged (her: “it’s so clean and orderly here!” me, having just flown in from Perth: “I guess…?” her: “well, I suppose I’m comparing it to Jakarta”)

I’m not totally convinced the hop on hop off bus was really worth the money, but it did take us past the KL Tower, which we went up and which was worth it just for the feeling of looking across the skyscrapers and highways as if we were playing a giant game of Sim City.

20160110_155128 (640x480)

Things I have explained about Australia in the past week:

  • yes, Random Guy in a Cafe, as far as I know, if you want a longer working holiday visa in Australia you have to work on a farm, but I’m really not an expert on these things and I do hope you manage to find someone better to ask…
  • yeah, Work Colleague, you are right to think that pretty much the whole of Australia has been on fire at some point this summer, except for the bits that flooded.
  • me: pass the chips
    friend: you don’t call them crisps?
    me: no, that’s the English
    friend: so then you call the other things ‘fries’ like the Americans?
    other friend, also Australian: nah, they’re also chips
    friend: …
    me: or if it’s not clear from context–
    both aussies, laughing: “hot chips”
William St, Perth

Australia: you fluent, then?

An observation that I present without comment (ok, I present it with amusement actually, because this cracks me up every time): everyone I talk to here, when I tell them that I live in Italy, replies with some variant on “Oh wow! You must be fluent in Italian then!”

Which I invariably respond to with awkward laughter because, well, fluent is not a word I’d use to describe my Italian usage. Unintentionally hilarious would be a better fit. Or maybe, vocabulary of a 4 year old.

The one exception  was when I went for a haircut yesterday, and the hairdresser said, “No way! You marry an Italian or something?” But she was herself from Naples so I think this falls under the heading of Italians Who Can’t Believe An Australian Would Move To Their Country, which should maybe be the subject of another post.

Dinosaur with Christmas hat in West Australian Museum

Australia: it’s all about the festive dinosaurs

I feel like a dinosaur in a Santa hat with a tinsel garland pretty much sums up the Christmas season in Australia. Spotted this guy in the foyer of the Perth Museum. I know the tendency to dress up statues isn’t exclusively Australian (the Wellington Statue in Glasgow is world-famous after all) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in Turin.


The Swan River, Bassendean, Perth

Australia: afternoon by the river

Late afternoon. The sky an exaggerated blue. Later as the sun gets lower, the eucalypts reflecting bronze. The sea breeze not properly set in yet and instead a light easterly blowing warm and dry against my skin. The shade just cool enough to be comfortable, as long as you realize you won’t feel cool until after the sun’s gone down.

I’m sitting by the river with a novel. Bull ants are crawling around my feet, but I can’t be bothered moving. Nearby, a family is fishing. I wonder if you can swim this far upstream in the Swan? I’ve never seen anyone swimming near here, but is that because of water quality issues, or folklore? I grew up being told the River was nasty. We went canoeing sometimes for outdoor ed in high school, and were half-convinced that if you couldn’t keep your canoe upright you’d die of horrible river diseases. But I’ve seen people swimming in water a lot worse than this elsewhere in the world.

And it definitely does my head in to think this is just a park in the suburbs, an everyday part of this city.

Australia: gone down the beach

Hello from Perth! I’m here until the weekend and very much in holiday mode (ahhhhhhh…) but I thought I’d kick off the new year with a short post every day between now and Friday about my time in Australia.

Met a friend for lunch the other day at Clancy’s, an… assertively nautical-themed pub-restaurant at City Beach. Think fishing nets draped from the walls and brightly-painted buoys hanging from the ceiling, and a seafood-heavy menu. Comes with an alright view, but:


Just before I took this photo, my friend and I looked at the view, looked at each other, and said, “We do live an enchanted life, don’t we?”

On the way there I thought, “Here I am, it’s summer, I’m going down the beach, listening to Triple J, I am so Australian.”

And then I thought, “When I lived in Australia, I never did this.” I’ve never owned a car. I’ve never been to the beach more than a handful of times in a year.

And then I thought, “Well, my internal monologue did just say ‘going down the beach’ for ‘driving to the beach’, so I must still be at least a bit Australian.”