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Soup of This Day #18: A Home Girt By Sheep

June 17, 2011

Combo Waterhole
Under the shade of a Coolabah Tree… Combo Waterhole in Queensland. Possibly the inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing MatildaPhoto: Alun Hoggett, 2006. Alun Hoggett is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Australia’s unofficial national anthem is Waltzing Matilda. It’s a catchy tune about an itinerant vagabond who steals a sheep and then sits down to eat it next to a large pond. Confronted by the law he drowns himself. All throughout this saga he implores everyone and everything, including the sheep apparently, to dance with him.

We know. It makes no sense to us either.

To be honest our official national anthem, Advance Australia Fair has parts that make little sense too. For instance, according to one of its lines, ‘our home is girt by sea’. Girt means ‘surrounded by’ and if it is true and our homes are enclosed by the sea then global warming will be a problem. So will public transport. And football.

But that’s how we roll in Australia. Even with something as sacred as our national anthem you always have the lingering suspicion that somewhere, somehow, someone is having a laugh. ‘I got them to sing ‘girt’ and they bloody think it’s serious’ you can hear Peter Dodds McCormick say. Actually Pete, we do it because it confuses the shit out of everybody else in the world and lulls them into thinking we’re a bunch of quixotic yokels who roam the outback. This then frees us up to obliterate other countries on the sporting field, often larger, better funded countries who have anthems, official and unofficial that make sense.

To assist us with this strategy we like to name our sporting teams after animals and other things that aren’t really that intimidating. At least half of our teams seem to be named after kangaroos, such as our men’s football team, the Socceroos, our women’s field hockey team, the Hockeyroos, the men’s basketball team, the Boomers (Large male kangaroo) and even our ice hockey team, the Mighty Roos. Yeah, that’s right, we have an ice hockey team. Actually we have a league, the Australian Ice Hockey League. One of it’s teams is the Gold Coast Blue Tongues. A Blue Tongue is a lizard that, like a lot of reptiles, needs warmth to survive. So using it as the mascot for an ice hockey team is stupid. See what we did there? You’ve been lulled haven’t you?

The rest of our national teams use the names of everything from a bird that laughs, the men’s field hockey team, the Kookaburras, to the more conceptual Outbacks – Our national American Football (We call it Gridiron) team. It’s like the whole Jamaican bobsled thing. You laugh… and then we pound you, because we’re really quite good at most sport. Sometimes we take a little time to learn but eventually, if we set our minds to it and cough up the funding, we’ll win. Usually instead of building a new hospital but hey, no one said we were sane down here. It’s a big country and the sun is really hot.

All of this is by way of introduction to our women’s football team, the Matildas. Named for the song, we’ve overlooked the fact that a Matilda is slang for your bedding roll that you’d take with you in the bush. Go on, snigger at the Australians. We’re ok with it. Because you see, the Matildas are good. They’re ranked 11th in the world and have qualified for the 2011 World Cup. The tournament kicks off in a couple of weeks and the Matildas (Still laughing? Good) are a real chance to go further than the quarter-finals, their previous best. One player of note is defender Ellyse Perry. It’s Perry’s first World Cup as a footballer but not her first in sport. She’s also played for the Australian Women’s Cricket Team (The Southern Stars) at the 2010 World Cup of 20/20 Cricket. She’s a decent right-arm fast/medium bowler and took 3 for 18 in the final, won by Australia, possibly because the opposition were laughing at the stupid Australians. Anyway good luck to her and the team – Girt them good and proper guys and then make them… ahhh… waltz?

Song-wise the Boston Red Sox keep it a bit simpler. The Standells Dirty Water, an ode to Boston, plays after home wins. Not quite sure what the Tampa Bay Rays belt out when they win. Didn’t get to hear it this morning because they got beat again by the Red Sox. Fragile Clay Buchholz had the start and he did ok for the time he had out there. He gave up a run in the 2nd but by then the Sox had 3 of their own, thanks to an Ortiz walk and RBIs from McDonald and Pedroia. Jed Lowrie left the game in the 1st after feeling his shoulder ‘pop’ with Mike Scutaro a decent replacement. Meanwhile Buchholz took a break after 5 innings and 81 throws, handing over to Aceves, who generously gave the Rays back a run. It remained tight from there but Bard and Papelbon (a bit shaky) got them home with no further damage. Gonzalez (again) got an insurance run with a solo shot in the 9th and it ended 4-2 to the Sox.

Boston now 41 and 27 with a 1.5 game lead over the Yankees heading into a home-stand against the Brewers. Lackey (4 and 3) with his work cut out in Game 1 – The 39 and 31 Brewers with the 7 and 2 Marcum starting will be a test. Here’s hoping we hear Dirty Water, preferably without a vagrant stock rustler in it.

To help and maybe to muddy the waters a bit more here’s Tom Waits playing his own version of Waltzing Matilda, with lyrics helpfully explaining… oh who cares. Watch it and be lulled Milwaukee.

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