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Democracy Sausages

We had a federal election here on Saturday.  Voting is compulsory in Australia, and while some people in other countries think that’s terrible, the truth is, you don’t HAVE to vote — you just have to turn up to vote and get your name ticked off.  Once you’re given your ballot slips to fill out, you can do whatever you want — write nothing, do an informal viote (ie fill it out wrong or incompletely, or whatever. You just have to do your duty and turn up. Otherwise, unless you have a good reason (illness, religious objections, etc) you will be fined.

 The polling stations in my area are mostly primary (elementary) schools, and when you turn up to vote, it’s a bit like a fete — there are kids running around and playing, and games taking place — all quite impromptu.

The people handing out how-to-vote pamphlets are not allowed on the premises or in the schoolyard — they have to stay outside on the footpath, so going to vote ends up being quite a lay-back, friendly affair.

There might be music playing, or the kids might put on a show,  and the schools and the parents’ organizations generally use the occasion to raise a bit of money, so there are cake stalls, produce stalls, plant stalls, and more.  Some schools even advertise. . . 

One year I bought a jar of the best marmalade I’d ever eaten, and though I know the parent who made that has long gone — their child would have finished school by now — I still live in hope of finding another such wonderful jam. But the stall most of us look forward to is the sausage sizzle. 

It’s just a sausage in a slice of bread with maybe fried onions, mustard and/or tomato sauce (ketchup), and as they’re being sold on election day, they’re called “Democracy sausages.” The name is just a bit of a joke, really. We Aussies love our sausages (also called snags) in bread, and  they’re often sold as fund-raisers. You might find the Lyons club, or a bunch of Rotarians or a church group running a sausage sizzle on a Saturday morning in the main street of a country town, for instance. 

Yesterday a couple of  dads were manning the griller and some mums and a few dads were doing the assembling and  selling. And the lines for the “Democracy Sausages” were longer than that of those waiting to vote. It all makes for a very pleasant voting experience.



I’m moving house. So if I don’t respond to emails or comments on the blog immediately, I hope you’ll forgive me.

I’ve been in this house forever, and I thought I’d stay here for the rest of my life, but it badly needs renovating — new kitchen, new bathroom, new laundry and more — and that’s been on the cards for several years now. Friends have been urging me for years to sell this house and buy another, but I’ve resisted that. I love my little house, and it’s in a nice quiet street, with nice neighbors and is close to public transport and walking distance to shops and a few good restaurants, and just down the hill is dog park where I walk my dog (see pic below). So I haven’t wanted to move.

But I’ve had continuing bad luck with tradesmen, and now, after waiting more than three years for the last one — with no contact at all over the last 18 months (though I know he’s working), I’ve given up. Last week, in a rush of blood to the head, I bought another house, and now am madly getting this house ready for sale. 

Which involves a great deal of decluttering. Having been in this house so long, I have accumulated so much Stuff, I can hardly believe it. Books, beads, clothes, craft stuff, workshop notes, and who-know-what. So I’m trying to divest myself of a lot of it. If I had more time I could sort and cull things more thoroughly, but I don’t have the time for that.

And I have to bite the bullet and get rid of things I am attached to. But I don’t use them, and it’s pointless taking them to the new house, so they’ve got to go. I know I’ll feel so much better — and lighter — when it’s all done, but oh, it’s hard. So many little things send me down memory lane and it’s hard enough not to get distracted, let alone give the things away. 

But I’m getting there. Not that you’d notice at the moment — the house looks like a bomb has hit it and my poor little Milly-dog is slinking around, worriedly following me from room to room and getting underfoot, wondering what on earth is going on — because this is not normal! Poor little sausage, she likes her routine.

The new house is gorgeous. It’s the same era as mine, and looks a lot like it from the outside, but it’s a little bigger, and fully renovated. The only thing I’ll need to do when I move in is get a dog door put in for Milly. And unpack. And do some more decluttering. I wanted to take with me only the stuff I was keeping, but the timeline is tight and I don’t have time to sort everything now. 

So please forgive me if I don’t write back to you for a while. I do love getting your comments and emails and I appreciate the time you take to write. Normal service will be resumed in a few weeks, I hope, and in the meantime, I’ll try to keep you up to date here on the blog.

This is dog park, and I know we’ll miss it when we move. But the new house is only five minutes drive away, so it’s not as if we can’t come back here for walks and to play with other dogs.

Happy New Year — again

Hi everybody, and Happy New Year — yes, I know I wished you that a month ago, but now I’m talking about the new lunar year, which in Chinese terms is the Year of the Tiger.

Lunar years are important in many Asian cultures including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan and many more. They’re also celebrated in western countries that have significant populations from these cultures — certainly it’s big in my Australian city, Melbourne, where we have big Chinese and Vietnamese celebrations, and cities like Bendigo and Ballarat, which have had significant Chinese populations since the 1850’s also celebrate in style. I also enjoyed the celebrations in Malaysia when my parents lived there.

  An old friend of mine has a birthday on 31st January, and I recall one year, when we were students, a group of us had gone for Yum Cha at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in the city. We’d forgotten it was Chinese New Year — the date changes every year — but we saw all the decorations in Chinatown, and thought it all looked great. We were happily tucking into our yum cha when into the restaurant came a lion dance, which circled around us and the other tables — it was fabulous and fun and really made our day. After our yum cha we went down into Little Bourke St (the heart of Chinatown in Melbourne) to join the celebrations.

Other years I’ve headed over to Richmond to join in the Vietnamese New Year celebrations. I’ve taught a lot of Vietnamese people over the years and it’s wonderful to be able to join in the celebrations there, often bumping into former students.

Customs and traditions vary widely — most people prepare by thoroughly cleaning their house, getting rid of old or worn-out clothing — and buying new clothes to put on in the new year. Some people decorate their homes with all sorts of red ornaments — paper cutouts, hanging ornaments — red is considered a lucky color. Many families gather for a big family dinner on New Year’s Eve. One thing that I love about the “lucky” food served at New Year is that often the “luck” is because of the names, which sound like desirable things like money or health. Food as a pun — I love it.

Fire crackers are set off, and gifts of money, real or imitation is given in red envelopes. The imitation money is burned to send good fortune to the ancestor spirits. It’s all in the hope of bringing good luck, wealth, and longevity. 

There are too many different ways of celebrating the lunar new year to cover here, but google them and be delighted.

Celebrations generally last for 10 days or more and are immediately followed by the gorgeous lantern festival, which is one of my favorites. Happy new lunar year to you all. 

Are there Lunar New Year celebrations where you are?