Sharing our tale with Canberra’s story-tellers

For nearly two years before we arrived in Canberra, I had the internet radio in our kitchen in Denmark tuned to one of Canberra’s local radio stations – 666 ABC Canberra.

My logic was, if you really want to find out about a city’s good and bad points, there’s no better barometer of that than the calls people make to local phone-in shows.

This week, largely thanks to this blog, I was invited to appear as a guest on one of my favourite shows, Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs.

Mark standing outside 666 ABC Canberra's studios.

Mark, the face behind CBRbound, just after being interviewed on local radio about what makes Canberra a great place to live.

The invitation came via a circuitous route. When I started this blog, I also started a Twitter account with the same name, @CBRbound, largely as a means of alerting readers to new blog posts. That Twitter account helped me to forge numerous connections within the Canberra Twitter community, one of which, resulted in an invitation to the Canberra Tweetup’s Christmas dinner.

What’s a Tweetup? It’s where people who know each other only through Twitter meet up in person and have chats that are unconstrained by the usual ‘140-characters per comment’ limit.

As a new arrival in Australia, and a relative newbie to Twitter, I approached the dinner with a little nervousness, but when your only local friends are your family and your dog (and even he’s not really speaking to me since the quarantine thing), sometimes you just have to be brave and optimistic.

I’m glad I was. Everybody who attended was charming, interesting and friendly. Conversation ranged from Twitter (very briefly, actually) to the best places to eat in Canberra, to great travel destinations, via politics, tales of absent friends and a glass or two of wine.

One of my dinner companions revealed she was a radio producer at ABC and, a few days after the dinner, tweeted me (what else?) to ask if I’d like to appear on Genevieve’s show to talk about my family’s move to Canberra and why we chose it as our new home.

“Sure,” I said, thinking it would be a two minute quick chat.

Then I remembered listening to the Mornings show from Denmark and I recalled how Genevieve likes nothing more than a good yarn and will happily chat away with guests for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Was our story really that interesting?

Regardless, a promise is a promise. So, on Thursday, I pitched up at ABC’s Canberra studios and signed in at reception, waiting to be escorted to the studio. Ahead of me in the queue was a musician, an actor and a Labrador – apparently all part of a preceding item to promote a run of TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’.

The trio gave a fascinating interview, although in fairness, the Labrador didn’t say much, and then it was my turn. Genevieve made a quick public service announcement about a low-flying plane and we were off.

It was strange, sitting across from someone I’d been listening to for months from 15,000km away. To its listeners, a radio voice is a disembodied thing that exists on its own and you don’t really consider that there’s a real person behind it, challenging politicians eye-to-eye, coaxing stories out of nervous guests, and ignoring snuffling Labradors while they deliver updates on local traffic snarl-ups.

In a way, it’s no surprise that Genevieve and her colleagues have been charged with telling Canberra’s stories, because they epitomise that Canberran spirit that drew my family here in the first place.

666 ABC Canberra is a pretty lean operation. Yet its output is consummately professional. Canberra is a small city by Australian standards, but the station’s output beats with the pulse of this nation’s capital. It’s eclectic, small, community-focused and endlessly interesting – just like Canberra itself.

Before I knew it, my time was up and Genevieve bridged to the news. She gave me a warm handshake and, as the producer ushered me from the studio, I committed the cardinal sin of asking if I was any good.

“You were great,” she said. “Thanks so much.” Then I watched her, doing a thousand things at once as the news ended and they started taking calls. And I knew. She’d been far too busy to listen to my interview. She was just being kind. There’s a lot of that in this city.

666 ABC Canberra logo
666 ABC Canberra doesn’t have an online ‘listen again’ archive, so they kindly sent me a recording of my interview for me to share with friends and relatives. As a reader of this blog, I’m pretty sure you qualify. ABC retains copyright of the recording and I thank them for having me on and for allowing me to share this with you.

The book I mention in the interview, Keeping Mum, was published earlier this year and is available in hardback and e-book format from the publisher here, and in paperback and e-book format from Amazon and other places.

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