Monday, January 30, 2006
Australia Day is January 26th, so this year it fell on the Thursday. My sister Julie and I were invited to that great Australian tradition, an Australia Day barbecue, at the home of Madeleine's parents.
There were about 14 people there, which would be a crowd for some suburban backyards, but not for their place. Madeleine's parents live in a home which is right on the borderline between a large house and a small mansion; built about 1840 the grounds originally ran all the way down to the bay. It's not that big today, but there was still plenty of room for us all on the old croquet lawn.
Madeleine's brother Ashley (who's the Consul for one of the Scandinavian countries) arranged the chops, sausages and prawns with a deft hand and smoke and sizzle were soon filling the garden. Refrigeration for beer and wine was provided by the simple expedient of filling a wheelbarrow with ice and leaving it in the shade of a handy magnolia tree.
Mad's husband Joe regaled us with stories about his trip to Moscow and the intricacies of arranging rail travel in Russia. The merits or otherwise of the Orient Express were debated and stories about life in Antarctic bases were recounted.
It was perhaps typical of the city of Hobart and of the calibre of our hosts that we noted later that all the women had been to Collegiate, while most of the men were Hutchins old boys. If I'd thought about it, I would have worn my old school tie!
The food and wine flowed freely as everyone chatted freely, moving occasionally to keep their chairs out of the fierce January sun. As time went on, a few couples drifted off - either homeward or to take the guided tour of the house - and I took advantage of a vacant sunlounger to stretch out and close my eyes for a moment or two. It was all very relaxing - the hum of voices, dappled shade from the leafy tree above, the gentle breeze blowing across the grounds and the buzz of a passing bumblebee.
Madeleine and Joe leave this week to return to Canberra. It was good that they were able to be here for Australia Day; I think this is the longest time that Madeleine has spent in Hobart for a few years. We shall miss them.
At the end of the afternoon we returned home almost stupefied by our dose of high living. Fortunately we had a while to collect ourselves before switching on the television for the Governor General's Australia Day speech. Not as essential as the Queen's Christmas Message, but interesting to listen to.