What’s in an Aussie name

The Petchary loves Aussie films.  Guy Pearce is delicious, with his lined face, piercing eyes and wonderfully constructed cheekbones.  I like him as an Aussie best though, not as an FBI agent in a Hollywood movie (he’s done a few of those lately).  But Mr. Pearce is not the reason I like Aussie films, and films are not the reason why I fell in love with Australia a couple of years back, when we visited there for the first time.

Guy Pearce in "Prometheus"
Too many photos of Gorgeous Guy to choose from, but I finally settled on this one in a scene from an upcoming sci-fi movie, "Prometheus."

While going through an old notebook today, I found a list of names I had scribbled down during a drive from Somewhere to Somewhere Else.  I think it must have been from Sydney to Brisbane.  My wonderful and patient brother and his wife took turns driving.  It was a long and fascinating trip, and as we went higher the temperature steadily dropped (it was July, which was winter down there.  It’s very hard to think of July as winter).  Here are the names I wrote down, and I hope they give you a sense of the journey, and the places we passed.  Use your imagination…

Great Dividing Range, New South Wales
The beautiful and rather remote Great Dividing Range.
  • Willow Tree
  • Wallabadah
  • Goonoo Goonoo
  • Moonbi Creek
  • Jump Up Creek
  • Pikes Gully
  • Muscle Creek
  • Goanna Downs (a goanna is a monitor lizard – the largest over two meters long – the kind that would freak out any Jamaican worth his/her salt)
  • Hollow
  • Burning Mountain
  • Mururrundi
  • The Great Dividing Range (we were up there driving along it)
  • Poison Swamp Creek
  • Ben Lomond Range
  • Beardy Waters
  • Balancing Rock
Heath Goanna
Yes, the Goanna is a serious lizard. This is a Heath Goanna, one of 25 different species living in Australia. He only grows to about a meter long.

There were bowling clubs and bungalows, bottle shops (liquor stores), fire stations and court houses, hotels and motels, and RSLs (for the life of me I can’t remember what that stands for now).  Ah yes, Returned and Services League of Australia.  This is a league for war veterans, which has many branches across the continent with buildings that include very cheap canteens.  On a hungry and chilly night on our travels, we ate in one.  The atmosphere (if you could call it that) was that of a recently abandoned drug den where all the occupants had been arrested and the door had been left open.  We entered with some amount of trepidation, and found therein dozens of empty tables strewn across a terrifying sixties-style carpet with huge geometrical designs.  In one corner a very quiet group of young people in cheap jackets huddled together over a table; they looked as if they were plotting something.  Under the harshly bright lights of the food counter we found strange dishes such as fried ice-cream.

So that was our experience of an RSL.  Some other establishments we passed on our journey included:

  • the Golden Guitar Motor Inn
  • the Nemingha Superette
  • the Forest Farm Horse Motel (an equine motel, one presumes)
  • the Little Doughboy bakery
  • the Last Sock Launderette
  • the Fine and Dandy Boutique
  • the Shiralee Motel
  • the Super Strawberry
  • the Yarraford Rail Road Station

Some curious local customs were also being observed.  There was a Lamb and Potato Festival going on somewhere.  And in several places we came across the extraordinary Christmas in July Sale.  In one pub we visited (the natives were curious, in a friendly kind of way, and no doubt we were a topic of conversation after we left) Christmas in July was in full swing, with a large tree smothered in decorations, corny Christmas songs playing, and shelves laden with Christmas paraphernalia.  Although Christmas is in December of course, some people prefer to celebrate it in midsummer (sorry, midwinter) because December is just too hot.  So stores, hotels etc cash in on it with the commercial concept of Christmas in July.

Somehow, I’m not sold on it.  But I know one thing… I want to go back to jump up in that creek, and to see the beardy waters swirling.

Christmas in July
An Australian ad for Christmas in July, focusing on the food. Now, I can understand that. I mean, why not.

10 thoughts on “What’s in an Aussie name

  1. I love your trip down memory lane in what is my current home. All the things you mention were the surprises that greeted me when I moved here to Sydney 6 years ago – the RSLs, wonderful names of towns and creeks, the absolute topsy turvyness of everything – from seasons, to traditions, to the direction the water empties out of the sink!

    I’m sure you’ve heard of it but check out Red Dog on DVD. It’s a big Aussie film about a wonderful little dog and it’s quite funny too. I’m sure you’d enjoy it – unfortunately there’s no Guy Pearce though.

    Pleased to have stumbled upon your blog (and ths post) today… Come on over to insearchofalifelessordinary.com if you ever need a bigger fix of Oz life 🙂


    1. Lovely to hear from you, Russell. I know, these were my first impressions – there were a few things that seemed so “English” (my country of origin) in an old-fashioned kind of way, which was lovely! And then the really odd things. I’d love to see that film and will definitely check it out, too. Pity about no GP but I suppose he can’t be in EVERY film (why not, though?) I will definitely take a look at your blog. I would love to return if I can persuade husband to take that very long plane journey again! We stayed in Sydney for a few days and really enjoyed it – took a boat out to Manly, which is where my grandparents lived for a while. We were staying in a funny little hotel in Darlinghurst, where a flock of huge white cockatoos flew over the roof every morning! Astonishing.


  2. Fantastic! This made me so nostalgic for home – I can just see the four of you driving up to Brisbane through these small towns. I look out into Paris today – painted a London grey at 9am – and wonder when I will next get a Christmas in July, or indeed a Brisbane winter of sunny skies and 20 degrees…

    (Note: 100% spot on with the observation that Christmas in July is a cash-in concept – I have never received any presents in July, so I don’t think it has as much weight!)


    1. My dear David… Yes, it was a superb experience. I am just trying to find my travel journal (which is full of pieces of bark and leaves – I became obsessed with trees during that trip) so I can remember the name of the motel we stayed at. It was so cozy! Oh, that London grey… Paris climate is so similar isn’t it. Our garden is quietly dripping after a long and delicious rainy spell (in the tropics rain is welcomed). Enjoy Paris – rainy days are great for long, leisurely museum/art gallery wanderings. Don’t forget the Jeu de Paume – I believe my favorite rebel artist, Ai Wei Wei, has an exhibit there. Wish I could walk round it with you! Wouldn’t that be fun.


      1. Oh, I have had Ai Wei Wei on my list – going to go with Jordan when she visits from Prague next week. Will savour it for you, Em! There is also a fantastic Bob Dylan photography exhibition at the moment, which I am using as an incentive to finish this paper I am working on for uni.


  3. My favourite Guy Pearce film is Memento, and I was a Neighbours addict in my youth! I would love to visit Oz someday, have you read Bill Bryson’s Down Under? I love his mix of quirky facts and historical background, not to mention his witty observations.
    I agree with you, the names are so evocative, and I never knew there was a “Christmas in July” movement!


    1. Memento is brilliant! I have watched it two or three times but still haven’t figured it all out completely… It is so clever. I was hooked on Neighbours too for about a year or so (when I was pregnant – 86/87 and watched a lot of soap operas – the only time in my life!) I haven’t read that book – I must look out for it…


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