While driving along this morning on my way to Exmouth (for some odd reason pronounced X-Mouth, not X-muth) I was listening to that jingoistic ABC program “Australia all Over” delivered by the irrepressible Macca (a man who seems to prefer to be known by this puerile diminutive; Macca, rhymes with okker). Anyway, amongst all the syrupy Mother’s Day filler that was supposed to bring a lump to our collective Antipodean throats, he threw in Dorothea McKellar’s reading of her own poem, “My Country”. Ah, patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel, as Samuel Johnson once claimed.
Most Australian and many non-Australian children have at some time had this sentimentally dreary doggerel pushed down their throats and it was with highly conflicted emotions that I drove along Highway One to the educated and rather un-Australian tones of dear old Dot as she recited her most well-known verses. On the one hand I was moved by passing through the “sunburnt country, the land of sweeping plains”, she described. On the other hand I saw that poem as the anthem of those who would wrap themselves in the flag while pushing away the boats of refugees, reluctant to share the love of this “wide brown land” with anyone other than those born here.
I had been increasingly experiencing the narrowing horizons of this wide brown land. “No overnight stopping”, “No camping except in official campsites”. No this, no that, no entry, no cameras, no fires,etc etc. McKellar, in the final lines of her poem says,
“Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.”
There will soon be sign that says “No homing thoughts without a permit”
Well that was a somewhat discursive rant as I sit here in an “official” campsite in Exmouth Shire surrounded by the monster 4WDs and caravans of the grey nomads. I know where I would rather wake up and that is where I was yesterday and this morning. In the lee of some white barked eucalypts watching the rising sun colour the nearby ranges, in an “unofficial” illegal campsite I had found for myself on the banks of the Fortesque River, far enough from the road to make the sound of the passing road trains no more than a sibilant surfing whisper.
So finally, here are a few objects I discovered by the roadside in McKellar’s sunburnt country…