Mattel may sue me for using the title above without ™. However, I am referring to the great Aussie tradition of the barbie, barbecue, barbeque, or BBQ. I have noted South Australia’s great public spaces and places through the eyes of a foreigner. SA has parks dotted around like hundreds and thousands on a fairy cake. I find the preservation and utilisation of public parks in SA to be much more than commendable. I find it exemplary.
Yesterday, we went to Sutherland Park, Glenelg on New Year’s morning to find the bins emptied, the playground cleared of any aluminum or glass receptical remnants of that same morning, and a full roll of toilet paper in the conveniently located public amenity.
To a seasoned European traveller nothing fills one with quite so much glee as discovering a full roll of toilet paper in a public toilet – let alone on New Year’s morning. I wanted to shriek with pleasure and run out and tell the Australians; but I didn’t. They would point and laugh at me. In 2011, I travelled the Eyre Peninsula and was constantly amazed by the fact that public toilets had toilet paper in them. Nice toilet paper not the scratchy looks rather sullied before use type. A nice proper roll of toilet paper. My Australian travelling companion found my glee considerably more fascinating than the fact that miles from anywhere, on a dirt road to nowhere, a public convenience would actually have toilet paper in situ.
That said, when we drove from Dublin to Valentia Island via Wexford and parts of Cork in 2012 the aformentioned companion was filled with mutual chagrin at the complete lack of public conveniences available anywhere, at all, anywhere™×∞! We did at one stage find a public convenience after a good 30 minutes driving around ‘random town whose name I cannot remember’ and a previous 60 in the car singing loudly to cheesy power ballads to keep our minds off the urinary urgency. With a swift illegal U-turn and a cross-legged dash through a four-laned intersection I got to the holy grail to find it: dead-bolted. The dead-bolt was rusted over to boot. We found the €3 coffee in exchange for loo access along the N25, N24, N73 & N72 a complete rip-off which is, in all practicality, counter-productive. My advice when undertaking a road trip in Ireland – bring a potty.
Sutherland Park is a lovely park which has just about everything a mini-residential park should have. A public use tennis court, playground, grassed area, shaded man-made spot, picnic table, public convenience (complete with fancy loo roll), and two public use barbeques. Australians love a barbie and I have to admit, now, I do too. Not solely because of the food but because I love the community spirit they promote.
Yes, an Aussie barbie has a cultural resonance beyond mateship and fraternity. It is not simply a masculine construct, per se, but a broader cultural one. I am forever fascinated by the Australian culture of Bring-Your-Own (BYO). Having done no research whatsoever I am convinced this stems from the BBQ culture or, at least, mirrors it. The fabulousness of BYO is that it translates into all organised or semi-organised events, for example: Christmas dinner. The host provides the facilities. Drinks, meat, accompaniments, and desserts are both provided and BYO. The relaxation of being either a guest or a host for huge family events is, in my opinion, translated from the beach style barbie to the formal Christmas dinner and everything in between. The BBQ BYO culture is, in essence, a huge cultural exhale.
I am most enamoured with this philosophy of come together and share. There is little social boasting, ego-flattering, and outdoing your neighbour in comparison to European social norms I have encountered. I’m not saying there is none. I’m just saying there is less. Furthermore, I am not saying a communal attitude is unique to Australia. I am not saying it doesn’t exist in Europe and the rest of the world in comparable and multifarious ways. I am saying: I, for one, adore the Australian BBQ BYO culture.
Yesterday morning we went to Sutherland Park to gather with friends and their children. We could do number ones and number twos in a modest and hygienic fashion. We watched the children play, talked, played ourselves, and shared food and drinks. An evocative start to a New Year doused in community spirit. And all for simply paying our rates.
Similar parks, including chichi bog roll, are sprinkled all over South Australia: gratis for travellers.
The sunshine was, as it always is in SA: free.