As well as being home to many of the institutions that preserve and re-tell Australia’s history, Canberra has a pretty interesting story of its own to tell, but uncovering it has been a frustrating and, ultimately rather unsatisfying experience so far.
Having visitors is always a good prod to get out and about in your home town and so, when Nanny CBRbound came to visit from England recently, we did a grand tour of all the things Canberra has to offer.
High on our list of ‘must visits’ were the two parliament buildings – I’d been to Old Parliament House once before, briefly, when they held their grand Easter egg hunt for kids, but the place was packed out and I wanted to return on a quiet day to more fully take things in. And despite driving past ‘New’ Parliament House dozens of times, and even running past it during the Canberra 5km, I’d never ventured inside.
When we first told people we were moving to Canberra, non-Aussies would invariably ask where Canberra was, while Aussies would usually say something like: “What do you want to go there for? It’s freezing.”
But we’d seen the pictures of sunny Australia from afar, and had already gone through our wardrobes ditching thick jumpers and winter coats in anticipation of year-round pool-life in the lucky country.
So, now we are knee-deep in our first Canberra winter, how cold is it?
This past weekend has been one of those special ones. You know the type, where nothing spectacular takes place and yet, on the Sunday night, you find yourself looking back and smiling contentedly at the simplicity and happiness of family life.
It brought something else to the surface too – a recognition that the way we think and speak about life in Canberra had morphed from slightly forced, positive thinking, to a genuine appreciation of what we have already built here in six short months.
I’m sitting here, watching the UK election results roll in. The BBC keeps thanking me for staying with them through the night, but in truth, it’s not much of a hardship from my Canberra desk with beautiful sunshine streaming through the window.
Although I’ve been gone for ten years now, I still retain an interest in UK politics. However, I don’t vote any more – largely on the ethical ground that it feels unfair to vote for a government that I’d never have to live under.
My interest exposes a strange fact of expatriate life – that, while you retain voting rights in the country you have no intention of returning to, without citizenship, you get no say in the government of the country that takes and spends your taxes.
Canberra has its fair share of critics, and much of the mud thrown at the city is unwarranted, so I want to be careful about criticising any of the capital’s attractions, lest I should unwittingly join the ranks of the Canberra-bashers.
But there’s one feature here that really could do with a little more imagination and TLC than it seems to have received of late, and that’s the needlepoint landmark that is Telstra Tower.