Anyone who also has kids will know what I mean when I say that sometimes it’s hard to find the time to step back and take stock of life when there’s always just one more errand to run, or one more call for help to respond to.
But today, while driving along with mini- and maxi-CBRbounds in the back of the car, maxi confided in me that he thought our first summer in Canberra had been the best of his (admittedly still short) life.
It’s not hard to see why. Canberra has had a multitude of things to do and see on offer over the past month and we’ve benefited from them on three levels.First, and I’ve already written about this, but there really has been an unprecedented bonanza of sporting activities taking place in or near our new backyard. Last weekend, Mrs and maxi-CBRbound disappeared for a weekend at the Australian Open. Coming from a country where tickets to the major tennis tournament (Wimbledon) seem to be handed down through families along with hereditary peerages, simply being able to book tickets and go along was a big enough treat, but for our fledgling tennis star to see Rafael Nadal and his contemporaries in the main arena, and then Martina Navratilova and other legends on the outer courts was a genuine thrill. He even bagged a few autographs into the bargain. Meanwhile, the Asian Cup has been in full flow and the final Canberra-hosted game was the best of the lot – a 3-3 draw between Iran and Iraq which went to extra time and then penalties before Iraq won the day.
This summer we’ve benefited on a second level too. Canberra is a well-merited tourist destination for many Aussies and international visitors. As new Canberrans, we’ve got to play tourists in our own hometown, taking in as many of the city’s tourist attractions as we’ve had time for. For the kids, the highlight has been the science and technology centre Questacon, but for me, it would be hard to beat the poignancy of the Australian War Memorial (particularly during this, the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings) coupled with the size and extent of the accompanying museum covering Australia’s military history.
And then there’s been a third level too, what I call the ‘real life benefits’ of being a fully paid-up Canberra resident. The school holiday events and activities here have astonished us, and overwhelmed the kids. They’ve had surfing lessons down at the coast, been to tennis camp at the tennis club, pony camp at the riding stables, and football camp at the Australian Institute of Sport. Last night we watched the brilliant Horrible Histories show at Canberra Theatre and all month long we’ve been enjoying big screen re-showings of classic Disney movies at the National Film and Sound Archive. And there’s still lots on our shopping list.
It was important to us that the kids grew to love Canberra quickly, so that they were fully immersed in their new lives and not focused on what they’d left behind in Europe such that it prevented them embracing Australia and the future.
To be honest, I’d have settled for a: “We like it here Dad. I think we could come to call this place home.” But to get a “best summer ever” has made it, well, the best summer ever.
It’ll be hard to re-create. You’re only new to a place once. But I’m happy to know that, one day, when we’re all much older, and reminiscing over old photos during some distant family gathering, one of us will look up and say: “Do you remember that summer when we first arrived? Wasn’t that brilliant?” And it has been.