19 April 2020
For such a big country (and that feels like a major understatement) Australia actually has the feel of a very small country. Driving the sort of distances we did in Australia would in Europe, for example, mean driving through towns and cities with multiple languages, entirely different cultures and very distinct architecture. One Australian country town, on the other hand, remain visually much the same as the one in an entirely different State thousands of kilometres away. Even the accent doesn’t change.
None of this means these towns don’t have their own unique character. No one could accuse Lightening Ridge of being an identikit of Beechworth or Maldon of Toowoomba. Each brought us something new in our Australian exerience. It is just that we did start to play a game we call Country Town Bingo.
The rules are simple: for each new town you visit, just tick off each of the following until you get a full house! For added excitement, collect or deduct extra points along the way.
which is actually Australian for pub.
(Minus one point if it’s for sale.)
selling savoury pies and a range of sweet things so much bigger than its population that makes you concerned about their health.
(Extra point if it claims to be the oldest bakery in Australia)
The General Store
which provides groceries and newspapers whilst doubling variously as a coffee shop, takeaway, craft shop, information centre and, in Emmaville, campsite management
The Town Hall
and usually a fairly grand one at that.
(Extra points if it has a clock tower.)
The Memorial Hall
which might be equally grand or a simple building like a village hall and sometimes it might be known as the Institute.
The Post Office
usually another old building but often now incorporated in the general store.
providing welcome shade from the sun whilst browsing the shops.
The Opp Shop
it might be the Salvos or Vinnies or some other charitiable organisation but it will be there.
and despite the size of the town probably a range of denominations reflecting a diverse migrant population.
full of 19th and 20th century graves with stories of lives cut too short or lived to the fullest.
indicating a level of lawlessness that needed firm control.
(Extra point if Ned Kelly was there.)
The Returned Services League
usually found with some sort of military hardware outside and copious pokie machines inside.
(Extra point for friendly locals!)
a tardis like super collection of random and everyday objects from the not really that distant past.
a welcome sight for any thirsty Land Cruiser.
must be weather boarded, tin roofed and surrounded by verandas and a picket fence.
(Extra points for Victorian charm)
set in a well looked after park but never actually with a band.
The War Memorial
a simple loan soldier, ambitious series of chainsaw carvings or memorial walk.
The Rest Stop
with picnic benches, BBQs and toilets for the hungry, cross legged traveller.
(Extra points for a Big Thing)
So there you are, a picture guide to the Australian country town and a game to go with them.
We should really patent that!