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Archive for October, 2013

The Many Varied Histories of Australia

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Richard Morgan, my five-times great grandfather, was convicted at Gloucester of assault and robbery (some say wrongfully) on 13 March, 1785 and sentenced to 7 years in Africa.

For a time he rotted on the prison hulk Ceres in the Thames. However, Morgan left Britain on 13 May, 1787 as a convict aboard the barque Alexander in what came to be known as The First Fleet. He was bound for Botany Bay – the first settlement of Sydney, Australia.

Richard Morgan wasn’t a volunteer or an invader. He was a survivor embarking on one of the most perilous adventures of the day. Against his will. In servitude. Without human rights.

The First Fleet consisted of two Royal Navy ships, three store ships and six convict transports that sailed an arduous voyage to Rio De Janeiro, then Cape Town, with a journey through the Great Southern Ocean around to Botany Bay (now Sydney).

The Alexander arrived in Botany Bay, after 251 days, on 20 January, 1787 having suffered the greatest loss of life in the fleet and an attempted mutiny. The Alexander was the largest transport in the First Fleet.

The next four brutal years laying the foundation for settlement was so close to the razor’s edge of failure through starvation (and lack of women) that a strong bent back and intelligent mind were noticed. Morgan, after all, wasn’t a guttersnipe, but a working man.

The point that needs to be made is that life doesn’t offer us a single history. The history of colonisation. The history of invasion and occupation. The history of being forced onto ships and sent on a journey that in their era was as incredible as our journey to the moon. There is a history of British records that states Richard Morgan committed crimes; there is a version of history that says he was wrongfully convicted.

The indigenous history of Invasion Day is entirely correct from that perspective. But so is the British version of Australia Day. And the convict version of history. And the modern immigrant or refugee version of the new Australia. History is a multi-layered faceted creature that we need to embrace from all angles.

One thing we need to do in our lives is be prepared to suffer the burden of accepting each others’ version of history. To some, my great great great great great grandfather was a criminal and an invader. To others, Richard Morgan was a hard working survivor. History is like that.

poem for ross langdon (31 Oct 1980 – 21 Sept 2013)

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

becoming earth & dust
at mother’s feet;
she reads TaTa to me
over shards of tears
that soak through grass
& clumps of turned earth
right down into the gum roots
& blunt Tasmanian rock;

mother weeps quietly
& weeps constantly,
tears of tiny hands
& fingers
that i cling back to
from the past
as though light broke
over Slopen Main, then stopped,
a moment before the black.

i can see the mountain
from my slope;

i can see the river
that sang with whales
before our land filled with rabbits;

i can see the clock that stopped
on Africa-time, early afternoon,
near somewhere else;

& i can see my tiny rabbit’s face;
as i imagined her into being
beside elif.

i now make mud bricks
with mother’s tears & TaTa’s words
on a windy hillside beside kunanyi;

i am earth & dust.

Mead is a Contemporary Craft Brew

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Mead has been experiencing a revival in the last half a decade as craft brewers and smart marketing slowly shifts the public perception away from medieval festivals and into high class bars and restaurants.

The major putsch of this perceptual realignment in the marketplace, from old school towards contemporary beverage, has primarily been driven from within the United States of America. We spend so much of our time paying attention to that market in the expectation that it presumes the direction of the Australian market.

For example, some restaurants now offer signature mead cocktails that may be served in mason jars with sprigs of this and dashes of the other. Fruit melomels and cysers have a propensity to be just about anything the modern mazer and licensed establishment would like to offer so the gate is open in a race to invent the best mead cocktail recipes and ingredients.

And the most interesting part of this new mead paradigm isn’t that mead has been pushed forward as a faux-wine product and found acceptance with the social elite. No. Quite the opposite. Mead has thrown the rule book out the window and challenged the common plod alongside a good old craft beer or cider. Micro brewers on the nimble edges of the industry have opened the once-unopenable gateways by throwing in hops to make hybrid beverages, making tart and sour carbonated beverages, embracing contribution from wild yeasts, shipping in cans and all manner of mead heresy.

Yes, there’s a strong market where traditional meads made well are healthy and growing product lines. But gradually the consumer will become more curious about the mavericks and heretics at the craft brewing fringes where many of these new ideas will eventually chew into the over-saturated and increasingly competitive landscape of the traditionalists. We’re still in the collegial stage of mead (even for those in the United States), but eventually this has to change as competition continues to enter.

Smart marketers know how to tempt and expose a new generation of mead drinkers with non-standard heresies. Simply, breaking the rules is a sexier sell than conforming to them. These mead heretics are about carving out new ground rather than fighting for established empires; they’re making a business choice between entering an established market segment or creating a brand new lucrative niche. Invent a new taste and/or experience and then educate the market to follow.

Meanwhile, we see a global resurgence of previously low key traditional alcohol varieties entering the Western market. It’s like a crack opened in Wonderland and suddenly people realised there were more options for Alice than a finite block of approved drinks our Anglo heritage has hereto dictated. Traditional drinks from Africa, Ireland, China and South America are making their way into our consumer consciousness. We’re individually becoming more open to new ideas and tastes and learning to trust our instincts.

Contemporary mead could easily revamp that old World War 2 recruitment poster – Be All You Can Be [with Uncle Sam’s finger poking you straight in the face]. And, if history has taught Australians anything over the last century… Australia will follow.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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