ANZAC DAY BREAKFAST CONVERSATIONS OF TEA, SWEET PASTRIES AND FRUITS.
ANZAC DAY is a solemn day of remembrance of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who fought and died for their country.
It is celebrated on 25 April each year, regardless of on which day it falls. The day is a national public holiday, and there is no replacement holiday provided if Anzac Day falls on a weekend (except in Western Australia).
On 25 April 1915, the armies of Australia and New Zealand entered into their inaugural battle of the First World War, at Gallipoli Cove in Turkey. At that time, Australia had been recognized as a federal commonwealth for only 13 years.
My maternal Grandfather was born in England and travelled to Australia as a teenager to work as a jackaroo on properties in northern Victoria. His mother’s cousin was already doing so and my Grandfather was encouraged after his schooling to ‘see the world’ before marriage. In 1915, my Grandfather enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (the AIF). He fought in three theatres of war with the Australian Army: Turkey, Egypt and France. He was awarded his military honours and became a ‘Knight of Gallipoli’.
It is, after all, only 14 weeks to ANZAC Day and the Australian War Memorial and other War Memorials around Australia and New Zealand are now working on their event management activities for that commemorative day. One event which is welcomed is the ANZAC Day breakfast at the AWM in Canberra which is held after the Dawn Service.
In 2018, we had taken time early on ANZAC Day to be part of the conviviality of a breakfast held between the Dawn Service and the Morning Service at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in 2018.
We were placed at a round catering table under a large plane suspended from the ceiling in a darkened corner of ANZAC Hall. That Lancaster Bomber certainly draws attention and light to itself. I was told that the overhead lighting was part of the atmospherics to assist diners in viewing the television monitors showing historical footage of Australians at war.
The breakfast provided by the new caterers for the AWM was delicious. Plenty of coffee and hot English breakfast tea, freshly-squeezed orange juice and a large platter of sliced summer fruits were provided to our breakfast table.
The hot breakfast was perfect for an Autumnal day and the caterers did not hold back with their offerings. Neither did me or my breakfast diners at table 14. Just like at a boarding school, the table was full of good food and we had hearty appetites after an early start to the day’s events. The sweet pastries and autumnal fruits were delightful additions to the hot, cooked breakfast.
One of the waiters approached our table with a large silver-plated tea pot. He wanted to know if I drank tea or coffee: because he “only had tea”. He said, “It’s just tea”, seemingly to apologize. I said I’d have tea. I mentioned to him that if placed on a desert island I’d be allowed one item from home and, for me, that would be the humble tea pot. I cannot live happily without my cups of tea … so we were each glad that he was able to serve “just tea”.
As the other waiters came around, I was fortunate enough to be offered two cups of tea which were placed before me filled to the brim with piping hot tea. It was a lovely breakfast and I very much appreciated the kindness of the attentive tea waiters.
As the breakfast progressed, several speeches were made by the Director of the AWM, Dr Brendan Nelson. Several keynote speakers filled the gap so well between courses that I almost got hungry again. The video footage and photographs on the screen were graphic and the voice-over narrative was in a distinctly Australian accent.
My stomach growled at the upset thought of some many men dying and being filmed and photographed post-partum. The idea of being photographed against your consent, which unfortunately happens so often these days, was clearly evident in 1918. There was much footage of bodies though happily none too easily identifiable.
At the coffee break, we swapped tables to ensure that our policy of “working the room” at public events was maintained. Our new table companions were in fine form and happy to accept a couple of newbies who just wanted to view the video monitor from a different angle. After another short speech from the AWM Director, it was suddenly time to leave.
The young woman at reception who cloaked my coat deserves a special mention for her thoughtfulness that early morning. It was a pleasure to be greeted so well and to see that she was still “at her station” as we left. So often it’s a passing parade of casual staff who last for one hour at one post and then disappear. Hours later they re-appear in a different uniform as the waiter, usher or concierge. So, we were able to say ‘Thank you’ to a staff member who was genuinely interested in our breakfast attendance and who sincerely wished us a ‘Good Day’.
Sadly, although it was a good day, the rest of ANZAC Day seemed very quiet in comparison to the morning’s passionate events. It was an ANZAC Day breakfast to remember.
Written 26 April 2018 and 9 January 2019. Uploaded 9 January 2019.
Text copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2018.
Photograph copyright Fiona Rothchilds 2018.