From 1965 to 1975, Australia was a land of body shirts and no social media on which to show off (or shame) them. A land where housing prices were downright reasonable. And, as Richard Glover dutifully explains, there really were no avocados – or near to none. It was also the land of rubbish coffee, rubbish TV reception, rubbish (and unsafe) cars, scungy caravan-park holidays, corporal punishment in schools, unpoliced drink driving, unfenced swimming pools and unprotected sunburn. (“The main summer occupation, particularly among young Australians, was shedding skin.”) Couples couldn’t get divorced without hard evidence of adultery (or worse). Rape in marriage was legally sanctioned. Married women had to quit their jobs, and couldn’t hold a passport without their husband’s permission. Homosexuality was illegal; “…at the first Mardi Gras parade, activists wore fancy dress and masks in order not to be recognised”. Though we remark now that shades of the White Australia policy remain, in The Land Before Avocado (HarperCollins, 2018) it was quite literally the law.
To his credit, Glover recounts all of this with great humour (he is Richard Glover after all), and at a cracking pace. You could happily devour this hilariously grim retrospective over a weekend at the beach – or like I did, over a couple of long-haul flights – all the while grateful that you know the benefits of Slip-Slop-Slap and aren’t surrounded by a cloud of mile-high cigarette smoke.