Tuesday, 15 February 2011


http://shequilts.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/aussie-flag.gif?w=500Today, we're breaking BeWrite Books blog's tradition to stray from the usual subject of books and publishing ... just a tad.

Many of our authors are Australian by birth or by adoption. Many personal friends and ever-close family members live there (my own now entering their fourth generation), on the Fatal Shore that could never defeat them. "She'll be right," has proven to be no empty show of desperate optimism but a casual declaration of quiet determination.

Aussies are, by nature, kind and tough, warm- and stout-hearted, sharp-witted and informal. Among all nations, they prefer a joke to a jibe. Rarely do they boast of their mind-boggling achievements or trumpet their nationalism. Austrlia is a country born behind bars and now more free than perhaps any other on the planet. It openly apologises for the mistakes all nations' pioneers make in their birth pangs, and its current generations make amends to the very best of their boundless ability.

The country is artistically and courageously creative, it is practically innovative. It lies remote from the northern hemisphere and what is known as 'The West'. But it is a jewel in our planet's crown (though that description would make many an Aussie blush).

Only by the habit of ages do we hang our maps and position our  class room globes North Pole uppermost. There is no cosmic or geographical reason for that. A habit we might well consider dunny-worthy.

So g'day family and mates in Oz and those many others here with strong ties Down Under. The  video clip below was sent today by old true-blue Brit pal and prolific author Ian Skidmore (read about his new BB /RBP book in the blog post beneath this one).

The song he sent me beats the oft misunderstood 'Jolly Swag Man' and knocks the socks off 'God Save the Queen' when it comes to an appropriate Australian national Anthem (especially today – maybe not so especially today, come to think). It is sung, not with sombre expressions and hands ostentatiously on hearts, accompanied by military bands, but with smiles on glowing faces of all hues and of all ages in the free-and-easy atmosphere of a canteen. Must admit, it brought not a few tears to these auld een, severely watering my breakfast beer.

As did these words recently, penned by another old UK newspaper colleague; ace international reporter and former national newspaper editor, Brian Hitchen:

Some of us have covered terrible disasters, where tidal waves have swept a wall of mud before them, and hurricanes have rolled double-storey houses, end over end, until they collapsed in rubble and matchwood.

And from out of the wreckage, crawl human beings. They always do. It's called survival ... One of two things will happen.

... The survivors find a patch of dry ground, and wait. Until the international aid agencies, like the UN Food Programme, or Oxfam, trailed by television crews, arrive to feed them.

In Australia, when a disasters happen, there is no food, no drinking water, no power, no fuel, no hospitals.

But the people didn't sit on their arses and wait for the Salvation Army tea wagon to arrive. They emerged from the swamp water and the wreckage of their homes, and they got on with it. Without a bloody Oxfam guy within a thousand miles.

I am filled with admiration, for those tough, big-hearted, courageous, Australians.

So cop an earful if this, lads and lassies, Bruces and Sheilas; and I dare you not to be catch your breath with well deserved (if stubbornly concealed) pride.

NOTE: The link above now works perfectly -- thanks, Tony) 

Love and very best wishes to all those who refuse to be down under when disaster strikes, to those who climb the highest peaks of human endeavour and remind the rest of us of what's so largely forgotten in this splintered world: We Are One, But We Are Many. Neil M et al

PS: Every hit on this YouTube link adds another wee slice of Google ad income to the flood fund. If you don't click, you're missing something of great value ... but the Aussies will get by anyway. She'll be right. N


  1. Heading for YouTube right now....

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  4. And here's an earlier version, by the well-loved old band so aptly called 'The Seekers'. The writer of the words is in the enseble. I'm finding it hard to turn my head to 'real' work today after Skiddy reminded me of all this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSoGJQkKDYk

  5. Bonzer video mate. This sheila is Aussie to the core, but has lived in the US for years. I write for kids, and do penance by writing about animals and characters from Oz. "Taconi and Claude - Double Trouble," is my latest MG for boys, set in the Aussie outback of the 1900s.

    Margot's Magic Carpet - Books

  6. Good on ya, Margot. Best of luck wth the new book in your series.

    Tony, by the way has fixed the wonky link in my original blog post and it's fine for anyone anywhere now.

    And thanks to all Oz pals and family whose kind personal emails made my morning mailbag a real pleasure rather than the grim job it so often is. Bestests. Neil

  7. Ain't they just, Mare? Australian's too weak a title. Why not 'Australianaires' for this special breed? N

  8. By the way, one of Kay's comments above has been deleted as has my following response. No problem. Kay kindly pointed out a hitch with my original link to the video (not all readers could access it) and Tony has now repaired the flaw. Thanks Kay and Tony. Cheers. Neil

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  10. (earlier comment removed to expand a little)

    There's a true story I'd like to tell you about an ALL-AUSSIE pal of mine. I don't have his permission to talk out of school, so I won't mention his name, but some of you will recognise him without that. Let's call him 'Chris'.

    I first met Chris in the early seventies when we shared a Fleet Street newspaper office, several foreign assignments and more beer and fun than we could ever cover on expenses.

    He was born and bred in South Africa. But his outspoken writings in student newspapers and magazines against the deplorable apartheid regime earned him arrest and a drawn-out, high-profile court case. The charge? Blashphemy! Yup, the suggestion that black and white were brothers and sisters was BLASPHEMY. Guilty as charged. His South African citizenship was revoked and he was deported ... stateless. No country to call home.

    Chris was a wee white man with a heart of gold and liftees in his shoes. He worked temporarily in many countries. Eventually they all kicked him out. Protocol, you know. Chris was officially stateless. Yet he was everyone's friend.

    Who came to the rescue? Australia did. The country offered him a place, a chance and -- more than anything -- a home country to call his own. And Chris has been an Australian citizen ever since ... bursting with pride in his nationality.

    In Australia -- where he still operates as a freelance journalist and travel writing ace -- he met a beautiful girl. She was a refugee from bomb-blasted and genocidal Cambodia.

    They married. They both became Australians.

    With their new passports, they traced Chris' wife's surviving family in Cambodia, against incredible odds but with typical Australian true grit and dogged determination. Not to mention patience and good will.

    Chris and his talented wife have done much to promote Australia and to contribute to its energy and culture.

    'Chris', by the way, was the first to email me about this wee blog post. All is well with him and his wife (let's call her 'Suree') who have worked for many, many years as a notable reporter-photographer team from their Oz home base.

    Relatively 'new' Australians as they are (as pretty well all are), their story and their understated pride sum up the 'Nation of One and Many' to which they were welcomed and now firmly, securely and proudly belong.


  11. RAEBW officially opens today (March 6): So grab your freebies now until March 12/13. Happy reading folks. Neil

  12. Hi Neil, Great stuff - as always.Accurate history, Can't spot an error (and, believe me, I looked. . . either failing eyesight or great Fleet Street training! Seriously, the floods are behind us as is the cyclone - and the New Zealand earthquake is getting more play in the papers.
    More power to BeWrite!
    Cheers 'n' beers,
    Chris (Pritchard)

  13. Thanks, Chris. I had a feeling you and Suree wouldn't mind my wee potted history of your Oz adventure. I feel it hearwarming whenever I think of it. There are, of course, other tales I could tell about you ... but I promise not to. Not unless we're face-to-face again over a bar top and I can make up for every one by topping up your glass. Love to both. Neil

  14. Sounds a great idea, Neil . . . and it'll happen but don't know when!
    All the best,