I’ve often thought that I am a bad Australian. I prefer European History to Australian History, I haven’t visited a great deal of my own country, I haven’t read much Australian fiction. I think my uncle was horrified a couple of weeks ago when he asked me if I had read Cloudstreet, Tim Winton’s classic Australian story, and I told him that I hadn’t liked it. Everyone is supposed to love Tim Winton, apparently!
However, I like that reading the 1001 Children’s Books list I have delved a bit more into Australian fiction. I recently read Playing Beatie Bow, which I loved, and this year I have read Picnic at Hanging Rock and Seven Little Australians (and possibly Ash Road – I can’t remember if that was this year or last year). For the most part, I have really enjoyed them, but it has also given me a bit more understanding of where Australia has come from. Picnic at Hanging Rock had a severe English streak through it, which was faded a bit, but still present in Seven Little Australians. These two books, however, had a kind of clean, proper feeling to them, whereas Playing Beatie Bow showed a different side of living in Australia – it was a bit dirtier, a bit rougher. You could feel the hardship of people’s lives in Playing Beatie Bow that was absent from the other two books. Ash Road was set much closer to the present day, and had elements of a recognisable Australia, but thinking back on Playing Beatie Bow and Ash Road, I could see how the latter could be in the same land as the former.
My Mum’s family owns a farm, which I remember visiting every holiday when we were living in Australia when we were little, and whenever we came back to Australia when we were living overseas. I hadn’t visited the farm for about five years until a couple of weekends ago, when we went down for my cousin’s 21st. It felt so comfortingly familiar, almost like I was coming home. It reminded me of when I was living overseas, desperate to come ‘home’, dreaming of living in Australia again and having the space to run around and have a dog and seeing the bright blue sky, rather than being cooped up in a gloomy apartment. I realised that, although for the past few years, I may have felt like a bad Australian because I didn’t know its books and history and geography, when I was younger, I was a very good Australian, as I longed for it so much.
Looking over my photos from the weekend, I think it would be impossible not to long for such a land. Australia is so beautiful. Not in an quaint countryside way, but in a rougher, dirtier way. But I like it like that.
(Ps the adorable blondie in all the photos is my lovely sister Annabelle.)