Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tonight's guest is a lovely lady from Bongaree ...

I rarely allow guests on this blog. Usually I'm either stealing someone's quotes who I like, or linking someone's comic who I'm a fan of. Today, however, comes a brief missive from Mele so you can all get a bit of perspective on what it's like to live on Bribie, other than my almost full-stop-free, smart-arsed, semi-true complaining.
Take it away, baby.

Culture Shocked
with Mele

1. Sam is acquiring a Queensland accent. He is not saying 'pewl' for pool or 'kewl' for cool yet, but his 'yeah' is getting longer and he has started talking through his nose.

The RSLs of this place are loaded. They have more money in them than the normal pubs. State of the art furnishings and mod cons for the old fashioned at heart. Weird.

South Australia is barren and savage in terms of wildlife. Dead kangaroos, galahs, pigeons, feral rabbits, stumpy lizards and magpies are the usual go back home, but here there are sand frogs-yes, frogs in sand!-pods of dolphins, fish that actually JUMP out of the water, sting rays, geckos (Sam found one in my bra the other day), butterflies that are yellow, brown and white (rather than the standard white cabbage butterfly back home), pelicans (without thousands of seagulls in tow) eagles, ibises that strut across our lawn, soldier crabs and slugs that take up residence on bedroom doors. Most amazingly, we live 200 m from the channel between the mainland and the island, and every night at dusk thousands of bats (yes, kids, thousands) stream across the channel turning the sky black. Oh, and when you throw a line in the water, things actually bite.

Queenslanders are about ten years behind in food culture. I once ordered a pub meal from a fancy island pub that was deep fried with old oil and served with a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato and shredded cheddar cheese with no dressing. I actually cried from culture shock. This kitchen was so bad it made Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares look good. Adelaide's cheap, genuine ethnic food is sorely missed, and I'd give my right arm for a meal at Ying Chow or some of my nonna's melanzane.

Everyone here is whitey whitey WHITE. No wogs. Literally. There is half a wog on the island, but not a whole one. That half comes from me.

Nothing ever dries. I am never dry. My bathrobes stay wet for days, and I'm partially damp due to skin lotions, wet bandaging and oil baths. I go to bed at night with my t-shirt clinging to my skin and wake up the same way.

The tap water here is marginally better than Adelaide tap water. The bottled water here comes in plastic containers that make the water taste plasticky. Gross. Have given up and am currently drinking from the tap.

QLD media is quite insular in an American scary way. There is little world news on any commercial channel (aside from brief mentions of Obama and Mugabe). The news is all about infrastructure and the Gold Coast. Whoop-de-fuckin-doo.

People on the island are friendlier and more laid back than in Adelaide, and the driving culture is amazing. You can idle at roundabouts, forget to signal, do 20 ks under the speed limit and never get beeped by other drivers. All you have to do is give way to pedestrians, whether they are walking with frames or stopping at stop signs in front of you with their gophers. No kidding. A station wagon (me) and a four wheel drive (behind me) was stuck waiting for an old man and his gopher to stop at the sign, drive on at 5 k to the next give way and then move out to the main road. Nobody beeped. The island's average age is 55, so old people rule here.

The library is the hub of the locals. It might not be cool but I'm pretty nerdy so it's strangely comforting.

It's hard to make friends when you spend all day writing and treating your skin, can't get a job and be part of the normal world. I'm just like a lot of old folk here, and it's nice to be the youngest pensioner on the island as well as the only half-wog.


  1. It doesn't sound as if it's all that good for your skin, Mele. I hope things improve hugely -- except of course for Sam's accent. There's nothing wrong with Queensland vowels. Mt brother in law never said, but maybe the reason he and my sister left Bribie earlier than they intended was because he -- being Maltese -- grew tired of being the only spot of non-Anglo-ness.

    The Header: someone's hair, ready to be pulled out with frustration?

  2. G'day Mele
    Nice post. Can completely understand why you cried at Qld food - they resemble Murray Bridge's golf club meals circa 1977. We're bloody lucky to have the variety and quality we have in Melbourne.

    I hope your skin is getting better up there - if you think nothing is getting dry now, wait until the 'build up' and then the Wet. In Darwin we used our spare bedroom as the clothes and towel drying room - the ceiling fan was left on 24/7.....

    Whiteys, eh? In my burb here in Adders, we're about the only true whiteys around - I feel quite bereft!

    Final qu: do you have a blog or are you sensible like my husband (Love Chunks) and do other things in your free time?

  3. SHIT. I can't believe I wrote MELBOURNE instead of ADELAIDE. Freudian slip there folks, plus a bit of 'where do we want to go in our lives' chat over pizza in Norwood last night perhaps....

  4. The average age there is 55? Gee, I'd fit right in. Oh, wait, I don't yet have a walking frame. Better stay in Adelaide......

  5. GTH--humidity giving Mele permanent bad hair days?
    Or Franzy's hair standing up after running his hands through it with frustration at yet another failed coffee? Aargh!!

  6. the header: wild half-wog hair; bongaree; circa july 08

  7. Mel
    re the RSLs - think about the demographic - veterans from WW2, Korea, Vietnam, and possibly Iraq - all retiring, all playing the pokies hoping to supplement their pathetic army pensions = cashed up Russells!

  8. I'm a Queenslander, so i feel i am duty bound to defend. Except i can't be bothered. I will say that apparently Bribie food is crap - but don't tarnish the rest of Queensland with that brusb. We have some mighty decent food in fair Brisbane. you just have to know where to look. I won't argue about anything else you wrote, because it's probably about right.

  9. Nice to see you on board Mele..hope to see more from you (not that I don't love your writing Sam!!). I am just chiming in to agree with anonymous that Bribie is hardly the thriving metropolis in which to find fine foods and authentic cuisine. You really need to venture off the island for that. And as for the whitey-whiteness of the population...Sumit and I get stared at on the best of occasions, but on Bribie, make that 3 fold. It's really odd, if not a little sad. Just as well the place is so beautiful and house all my family!!!

  10. Mele replies:

    thanks everyone for the comments...i hope I didn't give too negative an impression of QLD-for all its quirks there's no denying the weather is fantastic, and I'm truly glad to be missing another arctic Adelaide winter.As Shelley has commented,Bribie is a very beautiful place and it's nice to be near the QLD branch of the family.

    Jonathan, I guess my skin doesn't sound good from my description, but I was far sicker to Adelaide and I couldn't leave the house without breaking out all over.Here I can get out and about on good days, so I'm feeling a lot better.

    Shelley, it's good to know that you and Sumit can sympathise with the stares, and I'm not just being paranoid whilst out shopping here! I'm hoping that sam, sumit, you and I will go to some Brisbane restaurants in the future...I'm sure you're right that Bribie is a bad example of QLD food, not the rule.I can't help but miss Adelaide's cheap prices,restaurants open until 2 am and apples that don't wilt in humidity..fortunately the bananas,avocados, mangoes and strawberries are much better here than in SA, so you win some, you lose some, I guess.

    Kath: I used to have a travel blog, but once I got back to Adelaide I lost interest in it.I've been feeling the urge to blog now that I'm living in QLD, so I might be a regular contributor to Franzy's blog...that is until he gets annoyed with me and tells me to get one of my own.

  11. I don't think you were being too negative..don't worry!! Most of what you were saying is embarrassingly true!!! You'll be hard pressed to find a restaurant open till 2am anywhere here unless you're looking for a particular fix of the golden archers.
    How is Sam feeling about the overwhelming response to your post?? :)

  12. The thing I found about queensland is that I could never get used to the fashion.

    Those jibes about Melbourners all wearing black all the time don't make much sense until you're surrounded by 150 people ALL WEARING WHITE PANTS.

    (and you know, tops, obviously, but it's the ubiquity of quite pants that I found quite amazing)

    The SECOND time I travelled there for work I made sure I packed brightly coloured clothes. It was a challenge.

  13. white pants, I meant WHITE pants, that second time.

  14. I can recommend some great cheap restaurants in Brisbane, being a uni student who loves dinner. Anytime you want a list, let me know!

  15. I don't know who's head that is in the photo, but it looks like they've just drunk a can of "SHOCKOLATE" (which is legal in QLD), so they probably have the strength of 400 Babys and are full of MENERGY!!!


An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32