Australia and its People

sign announcing cane toad racing

Some people have very unkindly said that Australians are uncultured oafs who wouldn't recognize fine art even if it came up to them in a pub and punched them in the face.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, as I hope to demonstrate by this photographic documentation of a multi-faceted cultural event which I had the privilege of witnessing when I visited Magnetic Island some years ago.   As you can see from this very artistic sign advertising the night's proceedings, even the toads in attendance are expected to wear bow ties.

attaching colored ribbons to the cane toads

Yes, and if you thought that was not a real requirement, then shame on you!   Here's the evidence,  a charming yellow bow tie being put into place for the evening's performance.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, that thing immediately below the toad isn't a bear rug, it's the leg of the Master of Ceremonies for tonight's performance.   And the bright blue thing behind the toad is a, well, how should one put it?   A gut.   Yes, truly a gut, doubtless called into existence by a lifetime's quaffing of fine wines and aperitifs.   All in the name of artistic excellence, of course.

auctioning the toads

And here is that paragon of Australian Manhood in all his splendour, surrounded by an audience of eager connosieurs of Fine Art.

Tell me now, I dare you, that culture isn't simply oozing from this man's every finger, stretching Adam-like towards the divine muse which called him into being?   A true Renaissance Man, comfortable in the Higher Echelons of Learning and Power, but still able to commune with the lowly shoeless masses!   Truly, Majesty is oozing not just from his fingers, but from his toes also!

Seeing him hold forth here in the limelight, can any genuine soul question his articulate grace and quiet dignity?

start of the cane toad race

Ah, but I promised a multi-faceted cultural experience, and a multi-faceted cultural experience you shall have without further let or hindrance, and with no more prevarication, equivocation or verbal foppery!

For this is no mere puerile ritual of cane toad torture for the amusement of the leering Ocker masses.   No!   This is High Art walking down a primrose strewn path hand-in-hand with Sport of nail-biting intensity, an Existential Fiesta of the Mind and the Emotions!

This isn't just one cane toad, it's eight cane toads - racing, racing forward with the hopes and joys of the cheering hordes willing them on to higher things than any bug-eating toad ever dreamed of!   A race of visceral power, made more poignant and potent by that one constant golden thread running through the tapestry of Australian Culture!   Yes, I'm alluding to the mystical rite of gambling!   Gambling on cane toad racing!

Each toad bedecked with a different coloured ribbon like all the colours of the rainbow, and each raffled off to one worshipper in the great Australian Temple of Delight!

the winning toad about to cross the finish line

And there they go, eight little hopping sparks of the immortal Essence of the Universe.   Hop, little ones, hop!

And as for those inhabitants of The Lucky Country who you reviled just moments ago - did you ever see a more heartfelt appreciation for the splendours of the natural world, or such delight in this pageant of God's creatures in all their glory, and all coupled with the timeless and heart-wrenching thrill of the chase!

The winner has to kiss the toad before he can collect the winnings!

And for the lucky punter, male or female who can tell, one final redemptive act before collecting the night's winnings - kiss the toad!

Gracious and noble, the host of tonight's bacchanalian revelry draws the evening's proceedings to a close, a fitting tribute to All That Is Good about the wonderful Land Down Under.