Last Saturday, 26th January was Australia Day. A day to inspire national pride, put aside our differences and feel proud and grateful for the country we live in, no matter who we are or where we came from.
Australia Day was pretty much a non-event in my childhood, I can’t remember any significant memories of the day until 1988 when I watched via television, the tall ships sailing into Sydney Harbour, re-enacting the First Fleet’s arrival on 26th January 1788. Since then however, the day has grown with people all over the country taking the time to attend community gatherings, Australia Day Awards and citizenship ceremonies and catching up with family and friends.
Last weekend arrived with a welcome cool change that dropped local temperatures to a very pleasant 30°C and sunny. Unfortunately a Saturday morning sleep-in caused me to miss our local Lions Club’s Australia Day breakfast in the Riverside Park but I survived nicely on Vegemite toast courtesy of Sam, with some of my favourite locally grown produce; avocados and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Nowadays I celebrate Australia Day with epicurean patriotism. Like Hush, the baby possum from Mem Fox’s classic Australian children’s book, Possum Magic, I like to eat Vegemite sandwiches, lamingtons and Pavlova… as well as chops, salad and watermelon on our national day.
This year for lunch, the boys and I set up our table down on the riverbank and together with family and friends we enjoyed barbequed lamb chops, boiled spuds, a mixture of salads and fresh bread and butter. To finish the meal we indulged in that great Australian icon, the lamington. Squares of jam-filled sponge cake rolled in chocolate sauce and desiccated coconut, this marvellous gastronomic invention is attributed to Lord Lamington the Governor of Queensland (1896 – 1901) and his household.
Sunday was the day of the annual Great Aussie Lilo Race organised each Australia Day weekend by the Koondrook Barham Football Netball Club. Competitors gathered at the Koondrook boat ramp for what is arguably the most colourful community event of the year. A rainbow of air mattresses and life jackets, inner tubes from trucks and tractors and various other inflatable water toys. The race is floated, swum and paddled (in varying degrees of competitiveness) from the Koondrook boat ramp, downstream on the Murray River to the Barham boat ramp. With cooler morning temperatures than Saturday, the boys decided 23°C was too cold and abandoned all ideas of entering the Great Aussie Lilo Race.
Although I felt deflated (like last year’s punctured lilo) by this family mutiny, I was still looking forward to the big float. A quick phone call had me securing a spot in the girl’s team, Aussie Sheilas, with Mandy, Erin and Theresa.