Monday, 25 February 2013

Antipodean heart on sleeve

Traipsing after crakes and rails and pigeons and the like I often reflect on these beautiful English names and also on the early naturalists, who knew their field so well and how exciting it must have been for them to find crakes and cranes and herons and quail here in Australia, in the places or niches it would be reasonable for them to find them. Of course there were plenty of wonders too, like the platypus and echidna and bizarre birds such as the emu. Even the black swan was an oddity. The expressions black swan event, black swan theory and black swan problem are based on the improbability of a black swan occurring and I assume pre-date the Australian experience where black is the only way swans come. I've already commented on the expression a whiteness of swans elsewhere on this blog.

Growing up in Australia, it never occurred to me that I was in any way backward or down-under or an outsider. My place is my place. As a child I couldn't have cared less that people applied fake snow to shop windows midsummer for Christmas, or that traditional Christmas lunch was a little heavy for the climate. Leaves changed to red and seasonally fell off trees in other parts of the world? Ponds iced over? Yeah really? There wasn't any ice down my local swamp or billabong. I recall thinking that the idea of the Mediterranean as the middle of the earth was an ambitious claim but it's only as I get older that my appreciation of my true antipodean status grows.

Here's one thing. Clockwise. The hands on a clock travel round the same direction as the shadow on a sundial right? Try it, though if you live in the southern hemisphere the results might be nasty.

Then there's the southern hemisphere horoscope. I don't pretend to understand but I believe it gets messy fast. Even Feng Shui needs to be adjusted for the southern hemisphere. If horoscopes and Feng Shui aren't your thing, perhaps you are acquainted with the wee small hours for live tele coverage, for important events like Netherlands in the World Cup, reinforcing Antipodean remoteness from the centre stage.

And now, yes there is a birdy point to this post, I learnt today, that the link with St Valentine's Day and romantic love, is all about when the birds take their mates, just not in my hemisphere of the planet! Apparently Feb 14th is not even a good approximation in the northern hemisphere, but if you are after a scapegoat, Chaucer is the fellow. I read about it here and recommend you do the same. 

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