Jean Davies discusses life and culture in Australia ; part 2
BROADCAST: Aug. 10, 1966 | DURATION: 00:18:20
Australia journalist Jean Davies discusses life and culture in Australia, part 2. Davies reads Studs Terkel's palm during the interview.
Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.
Jean Davies But getting back to Perth, let's, it would be a very quick [trip?] for you to come across here to the west. Oh my goodness me. And then you could come back and tell them "Look, I'm sure. I'm sure that"--
Jean Davies Perth?
Jean Davies Right on the ocean and even in the summertime when it can be very, very hot, really hot, towards sunset in sweeps the sea breeze off the Indian Ocean. You never have a hot night. And that's something I miss. If I don't get back soon and get some lungfuls of good salty air I'll die because I've never been away from the sea for so long. And iodine is very necessary.
Jean Davies Yes.
Jean Davies Well, I couldn't describe just the clarity of the air to get into the bush where these huge forests of gum trees. As I told you, the eucalyptus oil has a tang, a pungent sort of a tang about it. The air is so clear because never has there been anything to pollute it. Thick forests. And the birds. We've got the oddest [bods?] and sods of birds that you've ever heard. Anyway, you've heard about the kookaburra haven't you?
Studs Terkel No.
Jean Davies Well, if you're in the bush and you trip over a log or you pick a spot for a lunch that turns out to be a bull ants nest it makes things very unpleasant for you. Sure as the Lord made little apples you'll hear this raucous, screaming laughter start from up a gum tree and the offenders will be two kookaburras, laughing jackasses the early settlers called them. It takes two for the duet. One goes cuckoo, cuckoo, koo and the other goes ca ca ca ca and when they get together you know, cuckoo ca, cuckoo ca, cuckoo ca. It just sounds like fiendish laughter. But he's a most popular bird. Because there's a sort of an eerie quality about the very heart of the bush. There's a stillness and a feeling. The Aborigines know all about that and it's rather nice and cheerful to suddenly hear bursts of laughter. You feel you're not alone. But one thing I must say, getting onto Aborigines, they are the last of the Stone Age people. The real primitive Aborigine. Although there are very few of them left comparatively speaking but do you know they have the most highly developed sense of a mental sort of telepathy? Not only telepathy. Many a time an Aborigine has died in hospital up at Darwin. Nothing wrong with him physically at all and the white doctors have not been able to save him because he is so convinced he must die. He's been willed to death by the elders; punishment, whatever, he's done the wrong thing. And they used to have the word pointing the bone. If an Aborigine believed the bone had been pointed at him that was his death warrant. And, and this thought transmission--did you ever hear of a writer called Upfield?
Studs Terkel U-P?
Studs Terkel As you're saying something, Mrs. Davies, I think about myth by which we all live. It seems, each people seems to live by its own myth. You were just describing a myth, a legend, a way of life, perhaps of the Australian Aborigines, he knows, anthropologists have found, I'm sure there is a greater discussion two ways about this. At the same time myths by which we live, too. You know, each, it seems to be each people develop its own kind of myth.
Jean Davies Yes.
Studs Terkel I once, no, I once had a friend, no, I must describe her--I say this very, very--a friend of mine, named Chet Rowe. What a marvelous pianist and he'd have a certain look when he says, "You need say no more," you know, and you just offered me that sort of look, it's sort of--he would generally put his finger to the tip of his eye and he'd pull down part of the eye, you know, the skin below the eye, you see. And that's, that's a signal as though to say, 'You need say no more'.
Jean Davies Well, can I just say something? As I say I don't want to make a point of it but years and years ago I was in a public library in Melbourne one night and I picked up a book by Cheiro, C,h,e,i,r,o. Cheiro was a famous palmist that all read the hand of the royal family and all the rest of it. And I became fascinated. The psychology of hands were just the same as there are [match striking] no two fingertips, no two, you know, fingerprints--
Studs Terkel Alike.
Jean Davies Alike in all the world. Hands are fascinating. I became so interested in it, I used to madly read hands for charity. Of course it's illegal, fortune telling, but, oh, I've raised thousands of pounds for charity
Studs Terkel Dinkum
Jean Davies Dinkum.
Jean Davies Look, I'm not--I'm quite serious. You take a piece of paper and you cut it out and put it around there and you would say to round about there is 75, the allotted span. Well, lord, look at that. You got right around 100, but you can't get a cable from the queen because you're an American.
Jean Davies That is called the Girdle of Venus but it has nothing whatever to do just with sex. It's a terrific appreciation of everything that appeals to the senses: beauty, music, scenery, living. You love life and living. You feel it. You live it. You're so caught up. That is the, an obstinate thumb.
Studs Terkel Oh,
Studs Terkel Yes,
Studs Terkel Rum?
Studs Terkel For
Jean Davies have Well, Show me the right. Put that little finger out and you know I do hope you've got a manage--Oh no, you've made it, you've made it. You must give me your recipe. You see your little finger?
Studs Terkel Yes.
Studs Terkel Yes.
Studs Terkel It's
Jean Davies That is a very accurate indication that any timidity and lack of, you see, sensitive people that are creative and that are writers rarely have the necessary business-like, down-to-earth attitude about themselves without which you perish in Chicago. You must have
Jean Davies Creative ability, vivid imagination. You could have made a success at the law because you've got a terrific capacity for getting to the bottom of things. I bet you do all your own research.
Studs Terkel Yeah, it's true. Well, you are a [Studs laughs] You're marvelous. Mrs. Davies, Jean Boyett Davies, Australian journalist, offering us a few insights and memories of Australia, of the nature of it, also reading a palm at the moment indicates she's quite, how shall I put it? Very diplomatic, indeed.
Studs Terkel Well--
Jean Davies Exactly.
Studs Terkel You know, do you recall we opened and I think it would be marvelous someday if you were lecturing to people about Australia because you have a style that's colorful. But if there were, remember we opened, we opened with the wild, excerpts from "Wild Colonial
Jean Davies Yes.
Jean Davies Yes.
Jean Davies Yes.
Jean Davies Well, I do hate to disillusion you but you see Australia is the same as America. How many of your city dwellers have seen a buffalo? Lots of our city dwellers if you said to them about the "Wild Colonial Boy" they'd look at you blankly.
Studs Terkel Ah-ha.
Jean Davies But, did you ever hear of "The Sentimental Bloke"? Did you ever hear of C.J. Dennis? Well, that's excellent. It's written in the slang, you know, you'd need a glossary but it's a sort of Romeo Juliet setup; he came from the wrong side of the tracks. But the poetry is beautiful. It talks about a stoush in the chows, the Chinese restaurant. A stoush, a fight, and he copped a half a chicken with his neck. And then he falls in love with Doreen. He belongs to the mob, the push, and then Doreen's so beautiful. She's so everything that's, that's good and decent that he reforms, "The Sentimental Bloke".
Studs Terkel Mrs. Davies. Oh, before we hear, and perhaps sign off with the "Click Go the Shears" that A.L. Lloyd sings, art--there's, there is a celebrated Australian artist, isn't there, Sidney Nolan?
Jean Davies Sidney Nolan, yes. He had an exhibition of Ned Kelly type of paintings. And friends of mine have got one of Nolan's paintings called "The Blacks". It's the Aborigines that when you go through by train across the Nullarbor Plains which is over to Western Australia from Adelaide. The Nullarbor across here. A lot of desert country, you know, in Australia. But along the Nullarbor the, the more or less nomad type of Aborigines, not the real tribe ones but the ones that follows seasonal work and that, they will stand along the track and for people to throw things out to them. Lean and hungry-looking. Well, Nolan slightly exaggerates in his painting and it always used to distress me. If I were enjoying a good meal at this home I used to ask them not to sit me facing "The Blacks" because every mouthful I would take, I would feel their reproachful eyes looking oh so hungry.
Jean Davies May I just say something you said about lecturing. I would like to ask you if I may tell the listeners this: I have spoken to the business and professional women at the church on 53rd, Hyde Park, the United Church. I've got quite a lot of very good slides of Australia. Beautiful ones. A lot of them are off the beaten track. I also took the slides to the Schwab rehabilitation hospital and I'm very interested in welfare work for children. I've been guardian to more than 200 youngsters back home. Most of their mamas went into production before they had a license, you know? And if anybody is interested in having a talk, having a night to see slides and that, well, I'd love to do it and they might care to contribute something, perhaps, to the Child Care Society.
Jean Davies Yes.
Studs Terkel A Welsh name sometimes, an Australian name in this instance and perhaps we could end, Mrs. Davies, with what is it, what is it? Oh, I suppose if ladies would like to, or listeners would like to reach you how could they?
Jean Davies 5407
Studs Terkel Thank you very much for a delightful hour and let us listen to the old man trying to keep up with the 20th century without quite making it. The last of a vanishing species, perhaps the old sheep shearer, "Click Go The Shears".
Studs Terkel [laughter]
Jean Davies Talking