When life makes you addled, make Adelaide

We’ve been taking it rather easy, for us. Adelaide is a pleasant smallish city, quite walkable. The tram (there’s only one tram line) is free in the center city and when you pass out of the free area a conductor comes around selling tickets from a little machine at his waist. How quaint. We commented on how long it had been since we’d seen a human conductor and he admitted that he was an android. (No, really, he actually said that.)

There are flocks and flocks of colorful parrots here, squawking and chirping in the trees. I’m not used to parrots as street birds. It’s like encountering a herd of poodles, in full show trim, in the wild.

We have encountered a few Australianisms in the wild as well (as opposed to terms like “fair dinkum” which are on the postcards and such but I haven’t heard anyone actually say it): “hooning about” (meaning to act like a male teenager and/or drive too fast), “spruiker” (meaning huckster, hawker, or tout), and “no worries” (a generalized politeness noise, meaning sorry or excuse me or thank you or you’re welcome). And yes, they do say “g’day.” The Australian accent does not seem to involve the parting of the teeth or lips, which has been described as “speaking as though a million flies were trying to get into your mouth.” We’ve been told that “Americans enunciate so well” (!?).

The sun comes in from the north, of course (one sees real estate ads bragging about northern exposure) and having the traffic on the wrong side of the road is subtly disquieting. Kate noticed yesterday that looking at the street’s reflection in a shop window was calming. When crossing the street, it’s important to meet the “passenger’s” eyes to avoid being run over. Also disquieting: the crescent moon lying flat on its back. This is apparently a result of our low latitude (35 degrees) rather than being south of the equator.

The day before yesterday we went to the Royal Adelaide Show, which was very much like a state fair. One difference is the presence of “showbags,” bags of assorted goods sold out of booths in an enormous hall. I `still don’t quite “get” the whole showbag thing but I can see intellectually how it evolved over decades from “free goodie bags” to “nominal charge for a bag of samples” to “great value for this bag of merchandise” to an annual ritual of “Daddy, Daddy, it’s the showbag catalog, I want this one and this one and this one.” Many of them involved large quantities of candy and/or licensed characters (Spongebob and the Simpsons were popular). We joked about the Louis Vuitton showbag ($1500, it’s empty). We did wind up buying one showbag: a bag of assorted chocolates to take to a party.

Sheep are, of course, an important part of the show. We went to a sheep-shearing demo, which used an old-fashioned steam-powered shearing machine just like the one we’d seen at Mungo. The shearer was very methodical, the sheep remarkably calm about being wrestled to the ground and forcibly shaved. At the end of the shearing the sheep is gently punted down a chute. The fleece comes off in a single huge sheet (mostly) which is surprisingly white and clean on the underside. We also visited the goat and alpaca barn and petted some very cute kids (which I described as looking like “goat puppies”).

Another Royal Adelaide Show tradition is the “Blooming Marvelous” show: a parade of women dressed as flowering plants, with a strong South Australian emphasis; we were strongly reminded of the Honky Tonk Queen contest. I could barely contain my snerking.

Most of the rest of the stuff we saw was pretty much the same as what you might find at a state fair back home: the hall of decorated cakes, knitting, quilting, historical costumes, baked goods, etc.; the wood chopping competition (amazing how involved we all got in whether or not each competitor would beat the previous ones’ number of blows to chop a log in half; behold the power of story); the flyball championships (dog relay hurdles, tons of fun to watch); the exhibitor/vendor hall with mop demos and samples of vindaloo.

That evening we took the tram to Damien Warman and Juliette Woods’ lovely home for a party in honor of GUFF delegate James Shields from Ireland. In addition to a passel of Australians we saw American fans Tom & Spike and Karen & Mike and Brits Mark & Claire. We talked about Big Things (giant objects found at roadsides, such as the giant artichoke in Castroville and Australia’s extremely scary Big Prawn) and whether a full-size dinosaur or Ayers Rock restaurant is a Big Thing or not.

Yesterday I was rather groggy and out of sorts all day, though Kate was feeling much better. We visited the Rundle Street Sunday market, the old Adelaide Arcade, and the Rundle Street mall with its street sculptures and buskers. The South Australia Museum is quite impressive, with a big display of whale and dolphin skeletons; opalized fossils of ammonites and ichthyosaurs; fossil prints of pre-Cambrian soft-bodied creatures, including the first trilobite and first chordate; an informative gallery of Australian animals and birds, including thylacines and other extinct ones; Australian meteorites, opals, other interesting rocks; a cloud chamber showing traces of cosmic rays (apparently the only one on public display); a Russian space suit in the mineral exhibit (why??); and an extensive exhibit on Arctic explorer Mowett (he got around). After all that I was completely pooped and fell over around 9:30.

Last day in Adelaide today. Tomorrow we have a 6:00 AM flight which (after several plane changes and some juggling of luggage) will end with us on an island in the Great Barrier Reef.

No pictures today, connectivity at this cafe is crap.

Comments are closed.