Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tasmania: Explore the Possibilities

I know that's the current slogan for tourism on our minge-shaped island, and some smart cookie who must've moved here from the mainland (did you know Taswegians call the big island "the mainland", and mainlanders think that's really weird?) who thought of it won the Tourism Office's We're-too-slack-to-come-up-with-something-ourselves award; but to me it is a bit like saying "you have to shut your eyes and imagine it's better than is possible". It says "possibilities" not "actualities". Not that there is anything wrong with this fair island, aside from the fact that six degrees of separation is a way of life, french tourists come here to live in trees in the deep south where most locals have never been, the most famous bit of fauna has a horrible disfiguring cancer, summer bushfires are usually started by bored teenagers from Gagebrook, waste from a pointless pulp mill will soon be pumped into the already disgusting northern water source and ancient forest gets cut up into tiny pieces and shipped to Japan. If you've ever wandered around Salamanca on a lazy weekend or managed to get a clear day at Cradle Mountain or spent hot summer days (yes, they do happen) cooling off in the Cataract Gorge, you might realise there's more to Tasmania than two heads and daggy souvenier tea towels. Drive-holidays will tell you we also have an abundance of natural lavender and/or honey products, timber products, fudge, wine, trees on the tourist trail, possibly a fox or two and we're all also descended from chain gangs. The same one, apparently.

I got thinking about this island I actualy don't mind calling home, after seeing other parts of the world and appreciating the sometimes clear air and ble skies and the fact it only takes 10 mins from the most outer suburbs to get to the CBD. I also read a hilarious article in Frankie (YES a review is coming, I'm just taking my sweet time reading the actual mag first) by Justin Hazelwood, who grew up in Burnie ("a cross between Summer Bay and Chernobyl") where he talk about the unifying effect of isolation. It's a corker of an article. Yes Tasmanians are the butt of all jokes, but in a weird way it sort of brings us together with a type of "ruffian pride". He writes: "In the high school of Australia, Tasmania lurks down by the bins, watching beautiful Melbourne and Sydney laugh and frolic, hoping even weird kid Adelaide will sit next to it at lunchtime". And to be honest, on the world stage Australia gets similar jibes thrown at it: "the cool kids hanging behind the gym - London, New York, Berlin. And where's Australia? With New Zealand, playing Squatter in the library...again". A favourite joke among Poms (who by the way generally don't realise we call them that, so to really confuse sunburnt backpackers please call them by this moniker) when going through customs to get into Aus, is: "Do you have a criminal record?" "No, I didn't realise I still needed one". So essentially, Tasmania is a microcosm of our fair country. Stand up and be proud of it (as long as no-one is watching). Hazelwood's article concludes: "You can take the man out of Tasmania, but then it's just 'Tasia', which sounds like a small Asian electronics company." He's also written a bewdy of a state anthem:

Australians please let us rejoin/For it is one degree/With oldies loyal and health in turmoil/Our shops are shut by three/Our land is ground into nature's chips/Forestry's stripped us bare/It's a mystery gays were allowed to stay/Advance Tasmania where?

It should be our new tourism slogan - this is what we are, it sucks a bit but it's not too bad. Is it better then where you're from, hmmm? Actualities, not possibilities.

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