Thursday, 4 July 2013

Whatever Happened to the Eurogliders

To those who've never heard of them, (the majority, possibly), the Eurogliders produced this rather sweet song:


According to Wikipedia (I'm using Wikipedia so often that this blog is beginning to resemble an advertisement for the organisation, but consulting it is so much easier than actually knowing things, don't you find?) the song came out in 1984 and the group were Australian, a fact I'd somehow managed to miss till now (I didn't ever see the clip, I should add in self-defence).

Anyway, that's enough about obscure eighties bands. This post is actually about heaven, which I've mentioned before from time to time. I was reminded of the subject while reading a collection of John Betjeman's writing for newspapers. In amongst them I found a piece which, at first, appears to be going to be a record of Betjeman's visit to Australia, (I didn't know he'd made one, and after reading the piece I'm not convinced he actually did, but never mind [I'm resisting the urge to ask Wikipedia about it]). The piece turns out in actual fact to be a vision of Betjeman's idea of paradise - (which includes, to my surprise, a vegetarian restaurant). He describes this vision via an entirely imagined scenario of what goes on on Kangaroo Island:

John Betjeman's Kangaroo Island, 5 January, 1968

"The most enjoyable surprise of my life was a visit to Australia. I was only there six weeks, and wished it could have been as many years. Among the thousands of places I didn't see was Kangaroo Island, off Adelaide, which looks, on the map, larger than the Isle of Wight and in an area enjoying an equable climate. I like to imagine what Kangaroo Island is like, although many people may tell me I am wrong and that it is a desert or penal colony.

Having the sea around gives a sense of security. There is an old fishing port in a sheltered fissure in the gigantic cliffs of the west coast where the seas are tremendous. The old port is so placed that no winds reach it. It is famous for shellfish, enormous and very cheap local oysters, mussels and cockles and delicate prawns. Another town is on the milder, more tropical north coast. It consists of a stucco crescent and a square, not unlike a miniature Brighton, and the gardens are varied by palms, fuchsias, magnolias and mimosa. It is sheltered from the prevailing wind by the mountainous country in the interior of the island where no conifers grow. The interior is partly unexplored, and hidden cities may be buried there.

The capital is in the southern part of the island, slightly inland and on a river. It is stone-built and the public buildings, like the art gallery, the theatre and library and museum, display the wide variety of local building stone - slate, granite and limestone. There is also a street of local brick, looking rather like a Dutch picture, where the doctors live and the solicitors.

Communication between these three towns should be by narrow-gauge steam railways whose rolling stock is at once highly coloured and comfortable. Services are frequent and punctual. No motor cars or motor bicycles or lorries should exist on this island. In the towns the roads are cobbled, which deters bicyclists from using them. Pedestrians are always in the right. From the end of every street you can see the country. I would like to think that there are electric tram cars to the two suburbs of the capital. One of these suburbs has a splendid church built by Butterfield*  in 1852, making full use of local materials. It was built 'High Church' and always has been. The other suburb of the town was built about 1890 by admirers of the 'simple life' and has cottage-style houses rather like Hampstead Garden Suburb, built of mellow brick and local stone. The church here is a cathedral of the Arts and Crafts movement. Its pews are of adzed unstained oak. Its electroliers are like magnified Art Nouveau jewellery and its stained glass is a dark, rich purple and red, enlivened with gold. In this suburb there is an excellent vegetarian restaurant.

The island has advantages for people of less specialised tastes. There should be no licensing hours, no breathalysers (these are not necessary, because of the absence of the motor car), and of course there is no tax on drink or tobacco. Pleasure is a virtue and the enjoyment of life is not a vice. There are, therefore, several theatres and a great many cinemas. The island is unique in its extensive library of first-class films dating back to the silent film. There is every sort of golf course, natural, park-like and miniature. There are two racecourses, one flat and one with fences, and the trainers may be found in the varied farmland in the centre of the island. There are no newspapers and no critics. What news there is, is promulgated by the town crier, and it is all good. There is a flourishing local school of artists and craftsmen.

Litter and playing transistor sets in quiet places are crimes. Speed is a crime. But the greatest crime is priggery, that is to say, thinking you are better than somebody else, intellectually, morally or racially.

As this island is Anglican there is no persecution of any other religions. Hospitals are places where you can live until you die. People are so glad to live on this island that they willingly pay taxes because they are a tribute of thanksgiving and not an extortion to pay for other people's ideas.

There are kangaroos on Kangaroo Island - and wallabies, seals, emus, opossums, platypuses, koalas and 2,000 or more human residents. This ninety-miles-long island lies six hours from Port Adelaide by a twice-weekly drive-on, drive-off ferry, or only forty minutes by the daily air service (cars can be hired).

Accommodation needs to be booked in advance, though development is under way to cater for the swell in population in summer, when temperatures are a welcome six to eight degrees cooler than on the mainland. But today it is still essentially unspoilt."


PS I managed to eschew Wikipedia, but I couldn't resist an Internet surf on the subject, which led me to this nice poem, suggesting a trip this way really did take place.


* [yes, in the link Wikipedia leaps to the fore yet again- I admit it; I'm an addict]

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