Grain in Ear: Mockingbird loses voices

December 21st, 2011
by Jo Law

The maxiumum temperatures recorded at Bellambi AWS for the past 5 days stayed above 20ºC. Monday 19th December reached the montly highest overnight minimum to-date of 19ºC as well as the highest relative humidity to-date of 91% recorded at 15.00. The high humidity coupled with warm air temperatures make the sun feels intensely hot. The wetter summer has brought mixed blessings for farmers and growers around the country. Heavy rainfall downgraded harvested grain crops in parts of New South Wales, hail destroyed spinach and other green leaf vegetables in Victoria, and storms ruined fruit crops in Western Australia. At the same time, summer vegetables’ bumper harvests are making vegetarian Christmas lunches an attractive option for tight budgets.

The summer fruit and vegetable harvests in Australia rely on passing travellers, foreign backpackers, and seasonal guest workers for their labour force. As reported in the ABC Rural News, the drop in backpackers visiting Australia as well as a reduction in their lengths of stay and mileage traveled, believed to be caused by the high Australian dollar, have affected the small crop industry; while a permanent program to engage seasonal guest workers from our neighbours including East Timor, Papua New Guinea, and many of the Pacific islands, is to be put in place next July to ease labour shortage. Interestingly, it is said that the original purpose of the summer vacation in Normandy was to free up workforces to facilitate grape harvest.

In Europe, the summer break remainled largely a privilege until relatively recently. The warm weather would see the upper classes would relocate to their summer residences. Later, it also became an appropriate season to visit resorts and spas in the pursuits of good health. In the mid-19th century, the middle classes (and later, the working class) gained enough resources to follow suits, vaccating their urban residences in favour of the seasides.  Jacque Tati’s excellent Les vacances de M. Hulot (or Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday) presents a hilarious portrait of this newly holidaying class. The idea vacationing at the same location every year still presists to this day. From mid-December onwards, Coledale Camping Reserve begins to be filled up with the same caravans, families, and clans. Some of these holiday makers proudly claim the number of summer they spent in Coledale can be measured in decades. I am told that bookings for the peak holiday season are done years in advance.

Our relocation to the east coast sadly brought our annual camping holiday at Wychinnicup National Park to an end. At this time every year, we would pack up all our gear into our little Daihatsu Charade and head 5 hours south of Perth along Albany Highway, fretting all the way about ‘our’ camping spot (as there are only 9 campsites with no bookings). But living by the sea  is perhaps compensation enough. Afterall, residing in seaside holiday village is like being on a permanent vacation, or does it?

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