Land Of...

Land Of...

The theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method is “Land Of … ” Bloody hell Jon, I am trying to pack for my trip I leave next week and you give us that as a theme.

OK, a couple of deep breathes to calm down. Have a bit of a think… I got nothing.

No wait – click here to find out

Ed Bates is preparing for a few months break with me phoning the segment in so this is his last contribution for a while. I am sure he will be back when I return. Thanks Ed

Land Of…

“It is a land of great opportunity”

Bruno smiled as he recalled the theme repeated in all his father’s letters to the family – only now he sensed a loneliness as well as optimism in those words written half a century before.

Stanislaw Lucek – or Stan as he became in his adopted country – emigrated to Australia in the early fifties to work on the Snowy Mountains Scheme

The rest of the family – his wife Olenka, daughter Irena and Bruno, followed two years later.

When Olenka, developed heart problems the Lucek’s moved to Melbourne, where Stan found work on the construction of the King Street Bridge.

Struggling with the language and pining the communal atmosphere of village life taken for granted in their home country, the Lucek’s tried desperately to make friends and become part of the community — but in reality there was very little community to be part of.

The neighbours were pleasant enough – the official welcoming committee bearing home made Anzac Biscuits harder than Kryptonite accompanied by “If you ever need anything don’t hesitate to call” – but in reality, outside the normal courtesies afforded those living in close proximity, they preferred to be left alone.

It wasn’t a racial thing —- it was just you couldn’t be a neighbour and a friend.

Saturdays, husbands nodded to each other from the nature strip, saved from conversation by the roar of their Victa mowers – while on Mondays and Fridays housewives chatted politely outside the butcher’s shop, lamenting the weather, the neighbours and the rising cost of just about everything.

But kids saw things differently.

Bruno was a giant, twice the height of anyone else at school — including the teachers.

All he desired from this “Land of opportunity” was to make friends and blend into the pack – the latter being somewhat optimistic given his height.

Ironically, most kids were slightly scared of him – intimidated by his imposing stature and apparent standoffishness – which they discovered later was due entirely, not surprisingly, to his limited knowledge of English.

Fortunately ‘Spanner’ Chaplee took Bruno under his wing, which made for an interesting combination, given one spoke little English while the other, outside of the odd grunt rarely spoke at all.

The real ice breaker proved to be Mrs Lucek’s cooking.

Most kids in the neighbourhood would arrive home from school to an Arnott’s Tic Toc and a cheese stick.

At the Lucek’s you were greeted by a table chock full of exotic homemade savouries and desserts – a banquet every day — and not a single bloody cheese stick to be seen.

Some afternoons there’d be a queue out the front gate.

Mrs Lucek may have had trouble socialising the adults but the kid’s needed no further convincing —- except for ‘Pig’ Mills.

“Wog food” he called it, certain the cabbage rolls, which no-one knew existed until the Luceks arrived, were poisonous.

“The stinking cabbage is green” he muttered “Green!”

“Your normal, everyday, proper, Australian cabbage is white – what are they trying to pull.”

‘Rabbit’ tried to explain to ‘Pig’ that his narrow comprehension of all things edible was somewhat skewed by the fact his mother boiled the Jesus out of any and every vegetable that went on his plate –  but ‘Pig’ was having none of that.

Still, it didn’t prevent him scoffing half a dozen chocolate cream cakes, four orange slices, two honey and almond rolls and a plate of plum filled pastries.

In ‘Pig’s’ gastronomic universe it appeared Cabbage Rolls were ‘Wog’ while dessert, in all it’s glorious forms was international, which in ‘Pig’s’ eyes made it Australian.

In the 1960’s, unless you were advertising cigarettes or coffee, incorporating ‘Australian’ and ‘International’ into the same sentence was a complete oxymoron.  Whereas ‘Pig’ — Well ‘Pig’ was just a complete moron with or without the oxy.

“Got ya” he chuckled to himself as elbowed past Lindy Dent to commandeer an entire plate of Apple Fritters.

“It’s a land of opportunity alright” he belched — pity about those stinking cabbage rolls!”

© Copyright 2009 Ian Bland

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