In that town of men there lived this boy slim and pale though worthy of Yale he was nice to everyone family though he had none walked his dog all arvo a black spaniel so bravo came from a slaughterhouse became more like a spouse bounding eagerly through the town bearing his name tag like a crown such was the dog’s devotion to the boy whose only motion was to share his milk and cookie in rearing though he was a rookie knew that two packs on supermarket haul was the secret to a life without a brawl the talk of town they remained for long the lovable guide dog and its blind boy
Like wine was our relationship those mellow tones at the beginning, deep and divine flavours soon evoking it could cut through all bitterness each sip unlike the one before left us both whining for more every day we cherished our prize drowning sorrows in sweet shiraz our conversations revolved around it giving expecting voices a chance to rise halfway through lightheaded we were having said too much already to take shoving pizza helped calm the nerves a temporary solution for aching insides like plaster made of oil and water only so good before it slides all over for unlike ever before we’d talked and what a shame to stop progress now past that intoxication point and so we plunged on, on and on draining the last of the fine wine inhaling like oxygen under water exhaling grape breaths of regret oh, those eight servings of wine gone without even lasting four laid out flaws in plain vain sight the gluttony, greed, hidden hatred ending the mighty fight for high all that remained, of wine, of us was a broken bottle and a slit wrist
“I […] picked up the notebook and pen and, after a minute’s thought, wrote, “Canberra awfully boring place. Beer cold, though.” Then I thought for a bit more and wrote, “Buy socks.”
Then I decided to come up with a new slogan for Canberra. First I wrote, “Canberra—There’s Nothing to It!” and then “Canberra—Why Wait for Death?” Then I thought some more and wrote, “Canberra—Gateway to Everywhere Else!,” which I believe I liked best of all.”
Excerpt from In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson.
I read that piece of prose about a month before I moved to Canberra. A good friend, American, suggested that I read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country as a way of getting into the moving mood. Of course, my friend meant well—though he couldn’t recall Bryson’s exact feelings about Canberra, he did mention that Bryson covers the whole of Australia from an American comedian’s perspective. And that’s just what the book does.
I’d done some research on my own and everything I learnt hinted at a great place to live—a quiet small town with lots of greenery and large lakes, stunning autumnal sunsets, and frostbiting winters. And so it surprised me to read the author had suffered great boredom in Canberra. In the book, Bryson moves on to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, narrating his observations along the way. And sure enough, in comparison to those metro cities, Canberra is rather subdued and humble.
But Canberra is far from a boring place. I’ve been exploring the area and town life every day since I moved here a month ago. And there’s not a single thing that didn’t amaze me. Aside from the old parliamentary building and the old law-making systems, the national war memorial that brings to life each war Australians suffered, and the museum of modern history that plays host to thousands of years’ history, the city by itself has a story to tell.
The National Capital Exhibition is a smaller building than the other tourist attractions. However, it hosts hundreds of interesting titbits about the city that’d make any Canberran swell with pride.
Canberra is a planned city. When the government decided that neither Sydney nor Melbourne can serve the purpose, they weighed various criteria to choose the capital city. With sufficient resources for agriculture and cultivation, natural scenery that’d attract visitors and locals alike, a secure landmass away from the coast and naval invasions, and an accessible location from all over the country, Canberra became the ideal capital. As I read through each point in favour of Canberra, I found myself nodding in agreement. This is a great place. And the best part—not many people have discovered it yet, giving it an excellent population balance.
In the exhibition is a large 3D model of Canberra’s layout, lit up, and highlighting the geometrical marvel that the city is built upon. The parliament building is on top of a hill. Looking right across from the top is the national war memorial serving as a constant reminder of the consequences of any decision made inside the parliament. Branching away from the centre are the main roadways—the spines for the many suburbs woven around them. From above, Canberra looks like a spider’s web. It’s well spread out and yet interwoven to make sure you can drive from one corner of the city to another in 30 minutes or less.
And then there’re the lakes. Although artificial, Canberra’s primary lakes, Burley Griffin and Ginninderra, complement the many natural forests around the city. Footpaths go around the lakes and the bridges over. It’s as if no humans can ever disrupt the calmness of the lake or disturb the babbling ducks in it. Looking at the Lake Burley Griffin through a window, I wondered how much the city’s designers (Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion) would’ve appreciated and yearned for nature that they decided to plot such big lake right in the middle of the city.
Sure, Bryson was right in a few aspects—the shops close at 5 and the night scene is still quite bleak, but this is the bush capital. If you like yourself some greenery, Canberra won’t disappoint.
Parting thoughts: Never judge a place based on a few authors’ descriptions. Everything is subjective.
What a mother she once was wearing scars of child bearing for years she nurtured them with care that none deserved spewing endless love across her arms stretched, welcome she enclosed a world within and stood proud ever beaming with firm grasp on the ground a spine supporting a tall back stood the mother many an age though forces came her way shaking and sucking her youth ever unyielding, always protecting never she’d taken any her way for only given away all her life until a warm, fateful day in May kids now grown and all knowing felled her from the roots to tip dragging off to where she’d die withered, weather worn, and sad betrayed and tortured, forgotten rested the mother awaiting a devil the chipper that made firewood