Sunday, July 30, 2006

Greetings from Manuka

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.

Yeah!!!!!!

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 cafĂ© 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.

15 comments:

Sophie said...

If you had no luck with the Fred Perry top I can tell you where to get one in Melbourne.

Lucy Tartan said...

The canberran blog contingent (Zoe, Ampersand Duck) sure seem to have a pretty good time living there. My brother just moved away so now I have no reason to ever go there.

This post reminded me that I did work experience at the Fletcher Jones factory in Warrnambool, it was very enlightening.

Richard Forster said...

You are right of course David, the Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium)is a New Zealand plant, and a relative of the Australian "tea tree". It has many medicinal uses and makes a great honey.
Not having spent any time in Canberra myself, this was quite a relevation for me, that the early federalists were fans of NZ flora. Are the other suburbs named for other plant species, I wonder?

David said...

Richard, how nice to see you here, it's been a long time!

Since Canberra is named everywhere with things evocative of Australian places, things, and dead white males, I am sure there are some place names from Australian flora, but Manuka's prominence seems to be a bit of a freak, as there is no actual place (I've just discovered) called Manuka; just the Manuka shops, which occur between Forrest, Barton and Griffith, and which seem to take their name from Manuka Way, the southernmost section of a road called Telopea Park (look at the Canberra Gregory's map 61 and you'll see why I describe it this way). Telopea is of course an Australian plant name.

I don't know how much they had to do with the naming (probably not much; there aren't too many street names that sound typical Griffin) but the Griffins were bigger fans of native Australian flora than practically any Australian at the time. I note also that Manuka is pretty much at the site that the Griffins chose as the 'initial city',i.e. the place they would start construction of Canberra, in 1914. Though this proved not to be the 'initial city' because they ultimately realised that for the integrity of the city plan's execution it wouldn't do to concentrate too much on one area at the expense of any other, nevertheless it shows they were thinking a lot about this part of the Canberra plan. The 1914 plan is reproduced in John Reps' Canberra 1914 on page 272.

Lucy, you have the Australian National Library as an excellent reason to go to Canberra, and the fact that Canberra is incredible as another reason.

Sophie, I hear Fred Perry items are available from some place in Little Collins, is that what you were thinking of?

David said...

Further to the above, it's page 262 not 272. Further to the initial post, Ainslie is only arguably part of the original Griffin plan; they did plan for the area but someone has rejigged to make a little more of a dog's breakfast out of it, presumably this happened in the 1920s.

Kathryn Clarke said...

A present for me? But really, you mustn't. I've made a habit of having birthdays annually, and I take care throughout the year never to do anything that makes me deserving of a present.

Richard's right about the honey - great stuff. No doubt some enterprising Canberran has set up a trendy Manuka Honey stall at the local market, with the real stuff imported from NZ. (I believe we can't get it in WA for quarantine reasons. Secession is imminent.)

David said...

Secession won't help
Happy birthday for was it yesterday? Sorry I'm hopeless with birthdates

Kathryn Clarke said...

Yes, yesterday. Thanks. I feel like I spent most of the day cleaning up gifts from Izzie and Rupe. (They're puppies, dear readers, puppies.)

David said...

So it was probably less gifts and more stuff that came out of them that they barely noticed. Or maybe I'm wrong - maybe it was gifts? Cute either way.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Canberra -- grew up near Manuka (in Narrabundah) -- and still feel friendly towards the place. How do you explain that Dr Dave?
Probably just wistful about my childhood, I spose...

David said...

Your comment almost reads as if you are wilfully misunderstanding me. I can't understand why anyone would not have feelings of enormous kindly sentiment and bounteous warmth towards Canberra, whether they lived there or no. I can't explain why many people I have encountered who have lived there do not feel this way. Perhaps you know some people of this nature? In any case I exaggerated. My friends Saul and Adrienne who have lived there for seven or eight years now are very happy to be there. I know some others who are favourably inclined towards it who have not lived there for a long time. Anyway, my point is, I love it.

Sophie said...

I neglected to say that I am very fond of Canberra. on Fred Perry - I was thinking of Prime, on Brunswick ST, about half way between Johnston and Gertrude.

David said...

Great, thanks

boy said...

Prime is where I got those two Fred Perry shirts you envy

*cackles demonically*











*Still Cackling*

Gordana Milenko said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.