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Soup of This Day #142: Tempted By The Promise Of A Different Life

February 25, 2012

Perth from the ISS
Perth, Western Australia. Possible birthplace of the pavlova – Definite birthplace of Longworth72. Kings Park is the dark green area at the bottom of the image. Above the park and to it’s left is the Perth CBD and winding across the image, from left to right, is the Swan River. At the top of the CBD you can just make out the circular WACA ground, with the oval Gloucester Park harness racing track above it and between the cricket ground and the Swan – Image, ISS016-E-22772, courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. The Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center has no affiliation with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

New Zealand is not part of Australia.

They were part of the colony of New South Wales (now an Australian State) until 1841 and they had the option to join in when Australia’s states federated to become the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 but they chose to go it alone. This is to our (Australia’s) loss as New Zealand is a wonderful country who would have made Australia that much better. It is to New Zealand’s gain as being part of Australia would surely have made them that much worse. I can back that statement up a bit with this:

We gave New Zealand’s indigenous Maori people the right to vote in Australia in 1902, some 35 years after New Zealand had provided the same. We gave our own indigenous Aboriginal peoples the right to vote in 1962. We’re not always very nice on our side of the Tasman Sea.

The Kiwi’s independence needed to be cleared up because we’re both all the way down here and there can be a tendency for everyone to lump us in together. To be fair we don’t help – Claiming successful and talented Kiwis as being Australian is pretty much a national pastime here. Sam Neill is a New Zealander – The man owns homes in Queenstown and Wellington and a winery in Central Otago and yet somehow he is an Australian treasure.

Don’t get me wrong, Sam Neill is somebody’s treasure, it’s just that it seems he should be New Zealand’s.

Russell Crowe too is, like Sam, from the Land of The Long White Cloud, yet we claim him as a fair dinkum Aussie at least partly because he won an Oscar and he owns 1 of our rugby league teams. The throwing-a-phone-in-a-petulant-rage-stuff had nothing to do with us though – All New Zealand that was.

We even claim the pavlova, an iconic meringue-based dessert, as being Australian when the evidence seems to suggest that the Kiwis got there 1st. Several theories are out there – That the dish was created at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth, Western Australia in 1935 or that it was developed by a hotel chef in Wellington in 1926. My favourite theory is that the pavlova 1st appeared in a New Zealand cookbook, written by an Australian. Either way the dessert was named for a Russian ballerina so perhaps we should just accept it as an international win for our taste buds.

On the sporting front we’ve done pretty well at poaching from across the Tasman too – Phar Lap, dubbed ‘Australia’s wonder horse’, was actually born in New Zealand. Although the Kiwis did geld him so possibly he was happy to migrate to Australia as a yearling. Regardless of his personal affections, when he died, his skeleton was sent to Wellington while his heart and hide stopped in Melbourne. Possession being 9/10ths of the law he’s bloody well ours now. Mostly.

I don’t think we plan to mount Sacha Jones in multiple museums – She’s still very much alive for 1 and until recently was New Zealand’s No.2 ranked female tennis player.

Yeah, she was New Zealand’s No.2.

In December of last year the world No. 274 boldly chose to defect to Australia on the basis that Tennis Australia had better resources with which she could further her career. Given that her now fellow Aussie Sam Stosur won the US Open last year while New Zealand’s No.1 ranked player, Marina Erakovic (world No. 61), won nought then this is probably a smart move to a position of strength.

New Zealanders don’t always leave because they’ve been gelded or because they’d like something more than a Totem tennis set to practice on – Sometimes they arrive in Australia as a sought after commodity. Take Wallabies coach Robbie Deans – A man coaching Australia in a sport that New Zealand is rather good at – The All Blacks are the reigning World Champs after all. Now if only we can steal some of their players too.

Oh, wait… We did. James O’Connor and Quade Cooper – 2 Wallabies who played in the recent 2011 World Cup are both from New Zealand.

The good news for the Kiwis is that the traffic isn’t all 1 way. Dean Brownlie is a Perth-born lad who has been making an impression with the Black Caps – New Zealand’s national Test cricket team. He grew up as a Western Australian cricketer, representing the state at under-17 and under-19 levels before crossing Australia and the Tasman Sea in 2009. Late last year he was a stand out batsman for the Black Caps in the tied 2 Test series with Australia.

Luke Ronchi, the Western Warriors wicketkeeper is the next cab off the rank. Ronchi was born in New Zealand and after spending most of his life in Western Australia has decided at the age of 31 to head back there and give himself a shot at playing for his native country. This kind of move might seem a little counter-intuitive – New Zealand has snow boarding fields and bungee jumping. We have water skiing and a 10m diving board. They have the Lord of The Rings and glaciers. We have Red Dog and red dirt. It’s not the same.

Ronchi might be leaving Western Australian cricket in good shape after a period of struggle – It’s been 13 years since the Western Warriors won the blue-ribbon Sheffield Shield. This season they are in a position to end that drought – They currently top the table, having obliterated New South Wales in their most recent match.

The Blues had travelled to the WACA, just across the road from where the possible pavlova creating Esplanade Hotel used to be, with an experienced and star-studded line-up. Meanwhile the Warriors had to contend with injuries to a couple of their key men. And even those who could take the field were a little shaky – Paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile was struggling with food poisoning and wasn’t even sure if he’d take the field on Day 1 – He did and reaped 4 for 20 as NSW collapsed to a dismal 91 all out in their 1st dig.

In reply the Western Australians belted out 3 for 560, waiting only until opener Liam Davis had notched a triple century before declaring. Needing 470 just to make the Sandgropers bat again the New South Welshmen barely managed to surpass their 1st innings total. This time spinner Michael Beer was the chief destroyer, taking a career-best 7 for 46 as the Blues limped to 146 all out and a defeat by the soul-destroying margin of an innings and 323 runs. Luke Ronchi took 3 catches behind the stumps but wasn’t required to be 1 of the 5 Warriors who had a bat – Tellingly Liam Davis scored enough all by himself to beat NSW by an innings and 65 runs.

Perth is 5,200km from New Zealand’s capital Wellington so Ronchi has quite a move to get started on. That kind of distance is not a unique hurdle for citizens of Western Australia’s capital – To the west and it’s another 6,900km to Madagascar. On the way there you’ll pass Mauritius at the 5,800km mark but that’s about it in terms of population centres in the Indian Ocean. To the north of Perth and it’s 3,000km to Jakarta while to the east it’s 2,100km to Adelaide. Head to the south and it will take you around 6,000km to hit the coast of Antarctica.

We’re kinda alone down here.

This Monday just past, the 20th of February, 2012 we celebrated an anniversary that both encapsulates that isolation and gives it a healthy sense of perspective. 50 years ago on that day John Glenn became the 1st American to orbit the Earth, circling the planet 3 times as part of the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission. On his 1st pass, he crossed the Indian Ocean, noting how dark it was, before coming across Perth on the west coast of Australia. The good folk of Perth had arranged to turn up as many lights as they could find, just to let Glenn know that he wasn’t alone.

And so the city and surrounds (including the satellite settlement of Rockingham) stood out, a beacon surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. That act earned Perth the sobriquet, ‘The City of Light’ after Glenn gave his thanks from orbit. In 1998 when the then 77 year old Glenn went overhead once more, this time in Space Shuttle Discovery for STS-95, the lights got switched up again.

Whether it’s via cricket or just a shout-out to passing astronauts, Perth, Western Australia, shines.

Tempted By The Promise Of A Different Life

  1. Loving Sam Neill on Fox’s Alcatraz right now. Call him an Aussie-Kiwi treasure?

  2. Australasian treasure. That covers both.

    We’re a bit behind in Alcatraz, only 4 eps in. It’s intriguing – Seems to have the vibe of Lost but with a police procedural feel as well – More of a direction and with each ep being a bit more self-contained. Sam Neill is great casting for sure.

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