Posts Tagged ‘swallows’

The last few procrastinating swallows finally left Sydney last month where they have spent a playful Winter teasing Muppet Dog every morning in the park. Like miniature aerobatic aircraft they would twist and turn with amazing agility flying tantalisingly close to Muppet’s head. Being a dog, he needed little encouragement in this request to play and would lumber into action on yet another pointless chase he could never win. The migratory flight down to Tasmania is a distance of 1050 kilometers (750 miles) and once there, I presume they then spend the Summer annoying Tasmanian dogs in much the same way.

No hold-ups for once and a smooth flight on a virtually brand new Boeing 737-800 meant Friday’s journey down to Tasmania was a lot quicker, and certainly much less effort, than the swallows would have endured. It wasn’t all wonderful though, for a start I had the reclining women from Hell in front of me and a neurotic elderly American lady on a ‘see everything and nothing’ tour of Australia sitting to my left. After getting up and down about hundred times, she then swallowed a cocktail of 20 assorted prescription drugs. At last she finally settled in her seat and put her black raincoat hood on her head backwards. She looked like some weird urban Ninja bag-lady. Apart from people thinking she was with me, I didn’t mind how mad she looked, as long as she kept still for the rest of the one hour forty minute flight. At one point, so lacking in movement had she become, I remember thinking perhaps she’s overdosed and died. Dismissing the thought quickly I reasoned that even if she was now a corpse, nothing could be done until we touched down, and so went back to my book. As I had booked my flights a while ago, I was able to take advantage of one of those loss-leading advertising fares. Unbelievable value at only $32 plus $44 taxes, so $76 ($53US/£30) in total each way. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did feel a little bit superior knowing that this was certainly a lot less than ‘Sleeping Grasshopper’ next to me would have paid, or indeed most people of the flight for that matter.

I was travelling to Tasmania to catch up with my sister and her family (and to temporarily escape the doom and gloom of the global financial meltdown). Sixteen years ago my sister amazed us all with a rather remarkable event, that of the birth of her third child. What was notable about this particular birth was that this baby also shared the same birthday with both her older siblings, then two and five years old. I may have contributed to my sister’s post-natal depression when I alerted her that in sixteen years time on Saturday 11 October 2008 she would have a 16th, an 18th and a 21st birthday party to organise, all on the same day! That day has now come and gone and the party, though a frightening concept back then, went off without a hitch and I can confirm it was a totally befitting celebration of such a maternally mathematical accomplishment.

This kind of thing seems to run in my family actually. One of my brother’s children has the same birthday as him, and all three of his children are the same ages and gender as ours. The three lots of corresponding cousins were all born within no more than two weeks of each other. I have no idea how this could occur. We certainly didn’t discuss our plans with them nor they with us. In fact, we were trying for three years to have Princess and another two years for Soldier Boy. Despite no medical reason to stop us from conceiving, it simply wouldn’t happen. When, out of the blue it finally did, the pregnancies then progressed quite normally with large healthy babies popping out the conventional way some 42 weeks later.

Tasmania is a very interesting place with a lot of history, for example, the first Australian telephone call was made in Tasmania (1874). It has the oldest pub in Australia (1825) and the oldest bridge which was built by convicts (1823) and is still in use today. Hobart is the second driest capital city in Australia after Adelaide, but unlike all the others, it has an abundance of drinking water. Tasmania produces just 0.2 per cent of the total Australian wine crush but over 10 per cent of the premium and ultra-premium wine market. Atlantic salmon, ocean trout, tuna, crabs, crayfish, abalone, scallops and oysters all thrive in the crystal waters around it’s shores. It has the cleanest air in the world and its rainwater is so pure that it’s considered one of Australia’s sporting secret weapons and is always sent to our athletes at the Olympics. Tasmania has the lowest crime rate in Australia and is closer to the equator than Rome, Chicago or the Azores. The 1930’s Hollywood actor Errol Flynn was born there, as was Crown Princess Mary of Denmark née Mary Elizabeth Donaldson of Hobart.

So why is the population so small, with visitors outnumbering residents every year? Why doesn’t everyone from the mainland want to move there? Well, as idyllic as it sounds on paper, it’s also unbelievably parochial and can, at times, feel like a giant aged care facility. Obesity and Education continue to be a challenge and of course it’s really quite isolated even by Australian standards.

But hey, I love to visit the place and while I could never live there like my sister does, I always enjoy the wonderful hospitality offered in abundance by the majority of Tasmanians each time I’m down there. They are extremely proud of their state and the fantastic wine and sensational fresh produce they produce. While Australia is a huge diverse place to visit, ‘Tassie’ as it’s known locally, should certainly be included on your itinerary when visiting Australia. You will eat and drink like a King and the scenery is stunning. Just make sure you go in Summer and have no desire to rave all night.

The author was not a guest of the Tasmanian Tourist Commission


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