Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Bush Salute

With warmer temperatures have come the flies. I can't give a better description of this than Bill Bryson's in "In a Sunburned Country:"
I had gone no more than a dozen feet when I was joined by a fly--smaller and blacker than a housefly. It buzzed around in front of my face and tried to settle on my upper lip. I swatted it away, but it returned at once, always to the same spot. A moment later it was joined by another that wished to go up my nose. It also would not go way. [...]

Flies are of course always irksome, but the Australian variety distinguishes itself with its very particular persistence. If an Australian fly wants to be up your nose or in your ear, there is no discouraging him. Flick at him as you will and each time he will jump out of range and come straight back. It is simply not possible to deter him. Somewhere on an exposed portion of your body is a spot, about the size of a shirt button, that the fly wants to lick and tickle and turn delirious circles on. It isn't simply their persistence, but the things they go for. An Australian fly will try to suck the moisture off your eyeball. He will, if not constantly turned back, go into parts of your ears that a Q-tip can only dream about. He will happily die for the glory of taking a tiny dump on your tongue. Get thirty or forty of them dancing around you in the same way and madness will shortly follow.

And so I proceeded into the park, lost inside my own little buzzing cloud of woe, waving at my head in an increasingly hopeless and desultory manner--it is called the bush salute--blowing constantly out of my mouth and nose, shaking my head in a kind of furious dementia, occasionally slapping myself with startling violence on the cheek or forehead. Eventually, as the flies knew all along, I gave up and they fell upon me as on a corpse. (p. 140)
I couldn't find a picture that adequately shows what Bryson is talking about, but I did find this one on my Google image search. It seemed to fit.

4 comments:

The Author said...

This is a charming post! I shall add the book to my wish list. Btw, I like all the things you've added to your site. In the words of my 13-yr old... "coolness!" I should note however that I've an extreme dislike for bugs. The con list for this move is getting longer.

lwbblogger1 said...

I've also added this book to my wish list! It sounds like a great read!

Mooselet said...

Bwahahahahahaha! I've read that book after my mother left it here last year and it's hysterical. And 100% correct. When we were out in Longreach poor Clive looked like a baby you'd see in a Unicef ad with all the flies in the corners of his eyes.

Tors said...

Ahhh... I remember that book, and I remember that passage, too. I also liked his description of the game cricket. It's great! Would definitely recommend it to anyone
(and I believe it's titled "DownUnder" in Oz)

(Of course, I haven't really forgiven him for calling Darwin a "wino's paradise" *g*)