Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ashmore and Cartier Islands

For negative marks, this is the number one place in the world (don't you just love the word-play behind that paradox!). There are no wars, no quarrels, no squabbles, no rivalries on the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, and never have been at any point in their history. They are, indeed, humanly perfect, and this is because no one lives there; though Indonesian fisherman have been known to seek their catch on and around the islands, and in the recent past immigrants being smuggled into Australia from Indonesia were briefly harboured here. The four islands are a territory of Australia, set in twelve nautical miles of tropical sea. The sand and coral are magnificent; but tough, you can’t go see them, as the place is closed to tourists and everything is a nature reserve. Even the CIA website has nothing to say about them; the BBC does not offer a profile and has no news item since 2003; Wikipedia has a page, but it is probably factually inaccurate (no, I have not bothered to check this slanderous presumption and apologise unreservedly for apologising unreservedly for any slur); and has nothing but bald statistics of a completely and often absurdly useless variety - e.g. "about eight times the size of The Mall in Washington, DC". How large is the The Mall in Washington DC anyway? And which Mall? The shopping mall at the Reagan Center? The entire cultural mall of the Smithsonian? Tyson's Galleria? Crystal City Shops? The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City? (Isn't that just so cool, that there should be a fashion centre at the Pentagon: spies in Armani suits and soldiers with Gucci designer labels;  or Boss more likely; Hugo Boss designed all the uniforms for Adolf Hitler. Ashmore & Cartier watches, dare I suggest?).

I am offering a prize (an all-expenses paid two-week vacation in the Ashmore and Cartier Islands - bring your own food and bedding) to anyone who can explain the image in the nation's flag, depicted here. Both parts, the existence of the Union Jack when this is not a territory of the UK, and whatever that strange creature is on the right, a griffin or centaur, some mythological beast out of Borges or Dante or Ovid, with the head of a pineapple, the body of a 1950s swimsuit, the arms made out of palm trees and yes that is Queenie's crown upon its head.

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