Sunday, September 09, 2012

Cultural change in Australia - a dearth of bookshops, Gunnedah & the rise of the olive


Do you know, I don't think that there is a bookshop left within a ten or fifteen minute drive of where I'm now living? This includes the big Eastgardens shopping centre. The ABC shop has a few books, but the range is very limited.

I want to buy two books this morning for birthday presents, but blowed if I know how. I could drive to Bondi Junction, but that's just a bit far given time constraints.

This is one case where I would have been better off living in Gunnedah. There I was pleased to see  at least one bookshop.

I did buy one book this week at Parramatta, but didn't think to buy presents then. The book, by the way, was suggested by one of my regular commenters. I apologise, but for the life of me I cannot remember this morning who actually made the suggestion. The book? Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia.  So far it's very good.  P1000600

Returning to Gunnedah and one element of the themes in my last post, Saturday Morning Musings - Coal, Gunnedah & that boom, I was struck by this Gunnedah shop front.

If you study it, it's really a most remarkable cultural mix, incorporating Australian, country and noodles. I stood outside in the early morning light just studying it for a while before taking my photo and moving on. It made me grin. 

With cultural change, it's often the small visual things that provide clues. In it's way, this is an old fashioned shot with its emphasis on Australian and country, but it's still a sign of change.

The somewhat upmarket Gunnedah cafe and wine bar with it's breakfast, lunch and tapas is another sign of change. But then, so are some of the colours used in the paint work.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of posts on the spread of olive growing in Australia. This is an example from December 2006 - Olives in Regional Australia - Introduction. The post begins:

When I was growing up in Regional Australia olives were still an alien product. Yes, we ate them sometimes, but we never used olive oil. In fact, as a child I confused olive oil with cod liver oil, a nasty tasting substance that our mother used to give us sometimes when we were off-colour.

P1000603 Now look at the photo on the right. This is a pub outdoor cafe. Note the name, but also the colour of the sign. The cafe and wine bar that I referred to earlier carries the same colour at its entrance. That's a sign of change, as is the dull olive colour of the olive groves to be found outside Gunnedah. The olive tree proved to be so suited to Australia that we now have a problem with feral olives, wild olive trees. The idea of feral olives made me smile when I first heard it for it created visions of wild olives storming across the landscape. I still smile, yet it is an issue.

At the time I first wrote on olives I had never seen them growing. Now they are instantly recognisable. Twenty years ago, I ate olives but never used the oil in cooking. Now I use it all the time and indeed would not use anything else for most purposes. The brilliant yellow of the canola crops outside Gunnedah, the duller yellow of the sunflower, have largely lost me.  I have become an olive person. And so the changes roll on.

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