If you don’t know Canberra (I can’t say I really KNOW Canberra but I am acquainted) you will know Manuka is kind of the Toorak Road Toorak or at a pinch the Oxford St Paddington – or perhaps more the Edgecliff? of Canberra, and today – the 28th July 2006 – it just looks groovy, like a seventies’ architect’s drawing, with a few little ironies thrown in the way architects did in those days. I don’t know if I’ve seen too many Marion Mahony Griffin tree drawings/Canberra drawings/ Canberra tree drawings (could that be possible) or if it’s real but so often in Canberra your whole landscape seems to be bisected by trees that leap out of the picture.
I am not sure but I believe Manuka is some kind of New Zealand plant and its usage as a place name here connects to the assumption of those who named Canberra that New Zealand would eventually get it together and become a state/states of Australia. That said I remember reading a federation parliamentarian’s musings from early in the C20 that he’d just heard New Guinea was going to become a state; what happened to that idea? And why isn’t nothing named after PNG around here? Maybe it is and I don’t know. I don’t know nothing about PNG. Imagine how my world as an Australian urban historian would be upset if Australia ever did expand its borders. I would have to gorge myself on more useless facts on the new territory. Life would become unbearable.
I shifted hotels today. The old hotel was a crock, it was something I booked at the last minute and it stunk, I won’t mention its name but it was just foul, in the middle of – not nowhere but certainly a backstreet and it just had nothing going for it, man. It was built the previous week to a plan based on the palace of Versailles but you will be pleased to hear the bed still had one of those upholstered bedheads glued – alright, it might have been screwed – to the wall. Ridiculous!!! I didn’t use ANYTHING from the minibar, I didn’t even use the phone because I didn’t want to have to sign some stupid credit card receipt for 70c worth of phone calls and bugger them all. I have high hopes for the new hotel – the Brassey – it looks fabulous and it’s very close to Manuka.
My plan today (it’s 11:06 at this juncture) is to spend the afternoon at the Australian National Library, which is so fucking fantastic I am love of it, and do some photocopying and stuff and just basically follow my dreams, and then in the evening maybe do some shopping like buying Kathryn Clarke a 41st birthday present, something tres Canberran, and a Fred Perry tracksuit top for my partner, if I can find one, and of course I will drop in to Fletcher Jones and just say hi, I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than a Fletcher Jones store in Canberra, I would write a poem about it if John Tranter hadn’t already come up with that great line about frosty hockey sticks.
Saturday – I had an interesting chat with Saul a few days ago about how when I come to Canberra I always think ‘oh, that could only happen in Canberra’ (thinking particularly of being asked by someone in an office if I knew where the little boy’s room was) but as he said, and I agreed, it’s probably more about being outside your usual social situation anyway.
So, that said, I don’t want to dis Canberrans per se, or praise them even, for rare events that probably aren’t typical. But it was hilarious to me to have the following demonstrations of egalitarianism in the service industry in Canberra:
1. I was in a café this afternoon looking at a menu and was asked if I wanted anything to drink. As I was turning to the drinks page of the menu the woman serving me said ‘we only have apple juice, orange juice and coffees’. I said ‘Do you have any…’ and she said ‘NO!!! WE ONLY HAVE APPLE JUICE, ORANGE JUICE AND COFFEES’. That was funny enough. But then (2.) at the airport when I asked for some tea without milk and was given it with milk, I said ‘I asked for this without milk’ and the girl (as she was) said ‘That’s OK’. Like, bonus I wasn’t being charged for it! Man I love Canberra for this and many other reasons.
Ainslie was a suburb I have never really seen before and it looks simply superb; I imagine (too lazy to check – sorry) that it is part of the Griffin plan – oh, it must be, because all the houses look late 20s and they’re pretty sumptuous. I mean, the more new monster houses are built, the more you appreciate small houses, and these ones are pretty beautiful, I wish I had some pictures but I ran out of film and was too mean to buy more, though come to think of it I did have my mobile which let’s face it is where all but about two of the images on this blog have come from, so what was I, or wasn’t I, thinkin’? I was dazzled by Ainslie. Ah yes, they say, Ainslie does that to you. It makes you forget your cares, obligations, responsibilities…
I am glad to be back in Mel, but I have such a soft spot for Can, I am very uncertain why but one thing I do know is that anyone who has lived there for any period of time will tell me for free that you can’t feel that friendly towards it if you’ve actually lived there.