Grandmothers are supposed to represent warmth, comfort, reassurance - a cosy presence in their grandchildren’s lives. They should, wherever possible, spread fairy dust and spin a cocoon of love and safety around
their precious ones.
So why, I wonder, when Faris the Rascal asked my help with his Australia project, did I choose to tell him all about the dangers of Life
Down Under? Did I really need to relate, with such relish, the names of five of the most lethal creatures of their kind - the funnel-web spider, the box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, stonefish and paralysis tick - which all reside in Australia. Should I
really have regaled him with the information that Australia has more things that could kill you than anywhere else in the world?
Shortly after despatching all
this gruesome information, I received a short video from my grandson, filmed by his mamma, the Middle of the Darling Daughters, in which he protested that he didn’t want to go to Australia anymore because “I might get KILLED!” His mother
followed this up with a photo montage of the Lethal Five (not to be confused with the Famous Five) and a screaming Rascal. I think he was only pretending...
Rascal has hit upon a most enjoyable way of doing his school-work by involving all his mother’s family and friends on Facebook. He does this by posting adorable videos explaining what he needs help with this time and why. Importantly, he always follows
up his request later with a sincere thank you and a picture of the completed work. This results in all of us experiencing a fuzzy feeling of well-being, knowing we have helped out (in our fashion, in our way) by sharing our collective knowledge and giving
Wikipedia, Google and the Children’s Encyclopaedia a run for their money. We have, after all, helped out with the important task of home-schooling in Lockdown. Last time, we were asked to participate in some important customer research about favourite
super-heroes; this time around The Rascal needs facts and figures - the more interesting the better - for an Information Sheet he is preparing.
It is astonishing
just how involved we all become in helping Faris with facts for his Australia leaflet. “Who could resist this request?” asks my friend Stephanie. So very true. In responding to his earnest plea, I reckon we all learnt at least a few things
we didn’t know about that sunny country on the other side of the world. Some people post photographs - I particularly liked the map of Australia with Great Britain drawn inside to demonstrate the fact that Australia is 32 times the size of the UK. I
imagine the Rascal’s favourite fact was probably that koala babies eat their mum’s poop because they can’t digest eucalyptus leaves when they’re newly born.
There are interesting facts about the climate, the boomerang, the didgeridoo, the Flying Doctor service, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef. I now know that dingoes, those wild dogs native to Australia, can turn their heads through 180
degrees, that a lamington is an extremely delicious cake and that Australia can claim the longest fence in the world (it’s 5,614 km long - though because I’ve never managed to convert myself from miles to kilometres, I’m not exactly sure
how long that is.) Faris’s cousin Eleanor volunteers the information that there are eight times as many sheep as people in Australia - I wonder who counted them?
Then there is the indigenous Quokka which, quite apart from sporting a permanent smile which makes it look like the happiest animal on earth, must surely also delight many a Scrabble player's heart.
Youngest of the Darling Daughters is delighted to see a photo posted of Coober Pedy, a town in the Australian outback where summer temperatures are so steamingly hot that residents live in homes underground. She visited the place on her year Down Under and
remembers it well.
My youngest daughter was determined from the age of around thirteen to visit Australia and saved up every penny needed from a series of part-time
jobs which she fitted in around her studies. A whole year she planned to be away...As the Rascal is discovering now, thanks to so many helpful people, Australia is a Land of Multiple Attractions, many unique to that country.
I can’t remember if I told my daughter about the stonefish, the blue-ringed Octopus, the paralysis tick, the box jellyfish and the funnel-web spider?
The Lure of Down Under been what it was, is, and ever will be, she went anyway....