1 December 2017

Give me a home among the gum trees song by John Williamson

I was recently introduced to this humorous, heartwarming song which is sung so skillfully here by John Williamson.  I love the up-beat tune and the lyrics are so funny.  One gets a real appreciation for Australia and all things Australian just by listening to it although people who have never set foot in this beautiful island, country, continent may need some help understanding the meaning behind the jargon in the lyrics.  The wonderful lyrics are co-written by Bob Brown and Wally  Johnson.

Give me a home among the gum trees 

I've been around the world
A couple of times or maybe more
I've seen the sights, I've had delights
On every foreign shore
But when my mates all ask me
The place that I adore
I tell them right away
Give me a home among the gum trees
With lots of plum trees
A sheep or two, a k-kangaroo
A clothesline out the back
Verandah out the front
And an old rocking chair
You can see me in the kitchen
Cooking up a roast
Or Vegemite on toast
Just you and me, a cup of tea
And later on, we'll settle down
And go out on the porch
And watch the possums play
There's a Safeway's up the corner
And a Woolies down the street
And a brand new place they've opened up
Where they regulate the heat
But I'd trade them all tomorrow
For a little bush retreat
Where the kookaburras call
Some people like their houses
With fences all around
Others live in mansions
And some beneath the ground
But me I like the bush you know
With rabbits running round
And a pumpkin vine out the back

So, here is a key explaining some of the jargon in the lyrics so that everyone who listens to this song will be able to understand it.  I have provided some of the explanations and others such as the name of Australian fauna are definitions from the internet.

Gum tree - is a local term for a type of Eucalyptus tree.
Mate - is another term for friend.
Kangaroo - is
 a large plant-eating marsupial with a long powerful tail and strongly developed hindlimbs that enables it to travel by leaping, found only in Australia and New Guinea.
Vegemitea type of savoury spread made from concentrated yeast extract.
Possums - a tree-dwelling Australasian marsupial that typically has a prehensile tail.
Woolies - is a colloquial name for Woolworth's which is a large supermarket.
Bush - a term used especially in Australia and South Africa for a native forest which has not been exploited.
Kookaburra - a very large Australasian kingfisher that feeds on terrestrial prey such as reptiles and birds.

Give Me a Home Among the (or Home Among the Gum trees) is a popular Australian song written in 1974 by Wally Johnson and Bob Brown (aka Captain Rock). It was originally performed as a satirical number in Johnson and Brown's comedy act at the Flying Trapeze Cafe in Fitzroy, Melbourne and was first recorded in 1975 on the Captain Rock album Buried Treasure on Mushroom Records.  At that time the Australian Government had decided to scrap God Save the Queen as the national anthem and was running a contest called the Australian National Anthem Quest to find a replacement. The Gum trees song was Johnson and Brown's response (it did not win).

In 1982, the bush band Bullamakanka reputedly found a copy of the Captain Rock album in a music shop sale bin (although this story is not confirmed by all members of the band). They recorded a cover version of Gum trees, which then became a hit. The song was later recorded by popular Australian country music singer-songwriter John Williamson, thus increasing its popularity (many mistakenly believe Williamson to be the original composer). Bullamakanka made some changes to the lyrics, which were also retained in Williamson's recording. These tended to water down the original tongue-in-cheek nature of the song. This song has become one of the most frequently recorded Australian compositions of all time and is a standard in Australian folk music. 

21 November 2017

A Guide to the SPIDERS of Australia

The front cover image is apparently a "male in the Jumping Spider genus Maratus, the Peacock Spiders, which belong to the most spectacularly coloured spiders in Australia.  Maratus speciosus is known from sand dune habitats in south-west Western Australia."

I borrowed this excellent, comprehensive tome from the library following an unexpected encounter indoors with a large (approximately 15cm in diameter) Huntsman Spider which is in the family Sparassidae at 01:30 in the morning.  Even though I have a great respect and fascination for spiders however, seeing a huge specimen at this time of the morning very near me almost caused me to have an acute myocardial infarction brought on by fear.  It was large, dark and hirsute as one would expect.  My husband urged me to get a glass and a sheet of paper or cardboard and he then put the glass over the spider which was difficult because the Huntsman was so large it almost did not fit inside the glass and slipped the piece of paper between the glass and the wall and was able to carry the Huntsman outside and release it.  

Reading the chapter on the Sparassidae on page 266, I learnt that "Huntsman Spiders are generally large spiders with a more or less flat body and a crab-like ('laterigrade') arrangement of the legs.  In addition to two tarsal claws, they have dense pads of hairs on the ends of their legs, which allow them easily to climb any vertical surface.  They may even be seen scuttling on the ceiling."  The chapter also mentioned that the Huntsman Spiders were active at night and did not need a web to capture their prey instead relying on their ability to run extremely fast and thus chase and capture their prey.  Apparently, "Despite their large size, Huntsman Spiders are not known to inflict a serious bite on humans.  They often show very aggressive behaviour when disturbed and bites are relatively frequent, for example when people pick up logs under which they hide, or if they cause stress to a spider that was hiding in washing on the clothes line.  Effects are local, including puncture marks and minor bleeding, with associated pain which only last for a short time.  Systemic effects are very rare but may include nausea and headache."

Finding out information about the Huntsman has helped me.  This is not to say that I will not jump out of my skin if I have another close encounter with one.  At least it is comforting to know that they are not venomous.


ISBN 9781921517242

19 November 2017


Vegemite, as well as being a quintessentially Australian breakfast spread is also an acquired taste.  I have not yet "acquired" a taste for it.  I think it is one of those foods which you either love or hate.  

As well, it is worth mentioning that Men at Work, the Australian rock band from the 1980's who became known around the world for their 1981 hit single "Down Under" included their beloved Vegemite in the lyrics of their song. 

"Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles
I said, "do you speak-a my language?"
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich."

 So, for anyone who did not understand the meaning of the lyrics, a Vegemite sandwich, is a savoury food which is spread onto buttered toast and typically eaten at breakfast.

Vegemite is a thick, black Australian food spread made from leftover brewers' yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives. It was developed by Cyril Percy Callister in Melbourne, Victoria in 1922. The Vegemite brand was owned by Mondelez International but was acquired by the Australian Bega Cheese group following an agreement in January 2017.
A spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits as well as a filling for pastries, Vegemite is similar to British, New Zealand and South African Marmite, Australian Promite, MightyMite, AussieMite, OzEmite and Swiss Cenovis. Vegemite is salty, slightly bitter, malty and rich in umami – a glutamate similar in flavour to beef bouillon. 

The photograph of the buttered piece of toast smeared with Vegemite is from my husband's breakfast plate. 

11 November 2017

Lest We Forget

It was Remembrance Day today.  At 11 o'clock in the morning, on the 11th day of the 11th month people in Australia observed a minutes silence to honour the courage and sacrifice of the Australian servicemen and women who served in all armed conflicts.

 They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

The "Ode of Remembrance" is an ode taken from Laurence Binyon's poem, "For the Fallen".


A photograph of poppies which are currently in flower in late Spring in Australia.  Red poppies are traditionally a symbol of remembrance and are worn on the lapel of a garment during the month of November up until the 11th of November.

The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower that has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war, and represents a common or field poppy, Papaver rhoeas. Inspired by the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields", and promoted by Moina Michael, they were first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers killed in that war (1914–1918). They were then adopted by military veterans' groups in parts of the British Empire. 

Today, they are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to commemorate their servicemen and women killed in all conflicts. These small artificial poppies are often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day/Armistice Day, and poppy wreaths are often laid at war memorials. In Australia and New Zealand, they are also worn on Anzac Day.

7 November 2017

Melbourne Cup 2017

The Melbourne Cup is a prestigious international Thoroughbred horse race which takes place at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia every year on the first Tuesday in November.  The race was first run in 1861 when there were two organising committees controlling the horse racing in Victoria, the Victorian Turf Club (1852) and the Victorian Jockeys Club (1857).  It is the richest "two-mile" handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races. The event starts at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November and is known locally as "the race that stops a nation".

 Qualifying and race conditions
The race is a quality handicap for horses 3 years old and over, run over a distance of 3,200 metres, on the first Tuesday in November at Flemington Racecourse. The minimum handicap weight is 50 kg. There is no maximum weight, but the top allocated weight must not be less than 57 kg. The weight allocated to each horse is declared by the VRC Handicapper in early September.  The Melbourne Cup race is a handicap contest in which the weight of the jockey and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to a nominated figure. Older horses carry more weight than younger ones, and weights are adjusted further according to the horse's previous results.  Weights were theoretically calculated to give each horse an equal winning chance in the past, but in recent years the rules were adjusted to a "quality handicap" formula where superior horses are given less severe weight penalties than under pure handicap rules.

 Entries for the Melbourne Cup usually close during the first week of August. The initial entry fee is $600 per horse. Around 300 to 400 horses are nominated each year, but the final field is limited to 24 starters. Following the allocation of weights, the owner of each horse must on four occasions before the race in November, declare the horse as an acceptor and pay a fee. First acceptance is $960, second acceptance is $1,450 and third acceptance is $2,420. The final acceptance fee, on the Saturday prior to the race, is $45,375. Should a horse be balloted out of the final field, the final declaration fee is refunded.

International horses (New Zealand not included) that are entered for the Melbourne Cup must undergo quarantine in an approved premises in their own country for a minimum period of 14 days before traveling to Australia. The premises must meet the Australian Government Standards.

Prize Money
In 2017 it was $6.2 million Australian Dollars.

Melbourne Cup 2017 Results
1st   22 Rekindling
2nd   7 Johannes Vermeer
3rd   9 Max Dynamite
4th   13 Big Duke 

My husband and I are now ensconced in Australia which seems a world away from Tel Aviv, Israel in so many ways.  In distance alone it is a mind boggling 13,759 Kilometers away which is 8549.11 Miles.  Then there are other factors which are worth noting such as the time difference.  Melbourne, Australia is +9 hours ahead of Tel Aviv, Israel.  I suppose one of the most prominent differences are the seasons.  As Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, it is currently Spring here whereas in Israel it is Autumn.  Then there are other differences such flora and fauna.  One other difference for us is that throughout our various overseas postings we have always lived in major cities whereas here we are living in the countryside.  In the coming days and weeks I will gradually get back into blogging again on a regular basis.

Getting back to the Melbourne Cup, I placed a bet for the first time in my life for $5 on a horse called Johannes Vermeer, hoping it would win but it came in 2nd place.  Having said that, I am not disappointed as it was thrilling to watch the race on television.  I will hopefully have better luck next year.  What amused me was that due to the race it was apparently a public holiday in Melbourne.  I have never lived in a country before which has a partial public holiday in a particular city in honour of a long standing horse race.  Oh well, as they say there is a first time for everything.  I am very much looking forward to living here in the state of Victoria in Australia.

10 October 2017

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua)

Carob is the name of an evergreen tree native to the Middle East which has the Latin name Ceratonia siliqua.  Carob is also the name of the dark brown nutritious fruit which can be eaten as a tasty snack and is also used by vegans as a substitute to chocolate.  It is high in dietary fiber, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and iron.  It contains no cholesterol.  Interestingly, the etymology of the word carat which denotes a unit of weight has its origins in the seeds of the carob tree as the seeds are all uniform and are the same shape and size. 

26 September 2017


Cappadocia is a semi-arid region in central Turkey known for its spectacular cone shaped rock formations as well as churches and dwellings carved into the rock by early Christian settlers and its underground cities. It received international recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1985.  It is said that the geological rock formations of this eerie landscape were formed when three mountains namely Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz which used to be active volcanoes erupted and scattered layers of volcanic ash and mud some thirty million years ago.  The peaks of these mountains which are now extinct volcanoes still dominate this area.  The rock formations are made of compressed volcanic ash otherwise known as tuff.  This area is now a popular tourist destination and is frequented by hikers, mountain bike riders, people wishing to go on a hot air balloon ride as well as Christians who wish to visit the ancient rock churches.  It is also of special interest to geologists and volcanologists.

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