Girt by snarky David Hunt has re-written Australian history from Megafauna to Macquarie in masterly antithesis sort of way.
It is caustic, satirical and mocking of the "royalty" who first surveyed, plundered and settled our "wide brown land" just over two hundred years ago. Even if you are offended by his "take" on the country's history he won't mind as he is very capable of having a good old belly-laugh on his own. In fact he has done just that by writing another volume.
The book is dedicated "For those who come acrosss the seas" and I surmise this is not only a nod to the people he lampoons in Girt, and to all of us who have a bit of "fookin eejits" in us, but it also meant for future Australians. Although one wonders what these new Australians will think of the "history" they have inherited?
David Hunt begins at the beginning. The first two chapters set the tone for the book with his explanation of Foreigners and Aborigines. With that out of the way he says he can now start with the real stuff,
"jolly convicts, villainous governors, rum, squatting with sheep, rum, gold diggers, token women, rum, geographically-challenged explorers, plucky Irish outlaws and rum".p49
But I am getting ahead of myself. First, Hunt tells us about the advantages of being "girt by sea" and how this "phenomenal girtage" kept Australia incognito for tens of millenia. It was this "girtuosity" that allowed Aborigines their nomadic way of life for 60,000 years where "not much happened besides some finger painting" and who are the original, "un-original non-inhabitants" who did not exist until Mabo and the High Court of Australia said they did in 1992.
"Black people had been hiding in our backyard for
60,000 without paying rent." p31
While Captain Cook is credited with discovering our "Great South Land" first, which by the way, was proposed by Aristotle; the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch East India spice traders, French, Chinese, Indonesians had all dipped their big toes in to Australia's blue waters and lost many sailors to the scourge of scurvy and disease. They decided, like Abel Tasman who discovered Tasmania, not to embark due to the "lack of facilities."
Due to Australia's isolation Hunt refers to us as "giant petri dish ...that was able to grow a unique culture".
"In time, a new and distinct people emerged from Britain's colonial kitchen...a people who bathed regularly." p3
While previous explorers had dismissed Australia for its isolation, Britain embraced it. It needed a place to stash its upsurge in undesirables due to the Industrial Revolution and America's petty refusal to pay tax on tea or take any more convict imports.
"Britain fervently hoped that the tyranny of distance and the despotism of lots of water would prevent its undesirables from walking back to London." p2
The mad romp through recent history now turns to Captain Cook who "drove the boat" for his plant buddy Joseph Banks. We have Arthur Philip who believed in the sharing of scarce resources when he discovered that Australia was not the "land of milk and honey" and Banks, who had recommended it was a "lying bastard."
Unfortunately, Arthur Philip's socialist policy was quickly undermined by the entrepeneurial Macarthur.
"An early investor in the (rum) corps racketeering, but his real money came from privatising NSW." p144
Rum was both the drink of choice and the currency of the fledgling colony. It even built the colony's first hospital which is now the NSW Parliament in Macquarie St, Sydney.
"The convicts gratefully received their wages by the bottle and bundy on as soon as they bundied off." p153
This riotous behaviour continued until 1794 when England, weary from war with Napoleon, turned its attention back to the colonies and a crackdown on licentiousness, profiteering, hypocrisy and rivalry amongst its governors and citizens and the rest, as they say is... er, history.
No scurvy Orange Cake
2 medium oranges
2 cups self raising flour
(or 2 cups of almond meal and 1 teaspoon of
baking powder if you prefer)
baking powder if you prefer)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla essence
4 eggs beaten
4 eggs beaten
1/2 cup of sugar
(or one cup of sultanas for sweetness)
Boil two whole oranges for 45 minutes. Remove the oranges from the pot and allow to cool. Once cool blend whole oranges to a pulp. To the orange pulp add 2 cups of self-raising flour, half a cup of sugar and 4 beaten eggs. Pour in to a prepared loaf pan and bake at 180 degrees for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Alternatively, replace the flour with the almond meal and a teaspoon of baking powde; and the sugar with sultanas. I have done it both ways and it always turns out. Tastes great with a spread of butter (or not) and a shot of spiced rum (or not) and a cuppa.
GIRT by David Hunt 2013 ISBN 9781863956116