Only very occasionally do the various strands of my writing life converge. Usually, this blog about moving to Australia, my everyday work as a writer, and the various books I work on as side projects, all occupy different orbits. But on this rare occasion, I feel justified in allowing them to meet and to share each other’s space.
I have a difficult relationship with flags and the past few weeks haven’t helped. From the loutish behaviour of a few English football supporters in Marseille, to the feverish nationalism surrounding the Brexit vote, to the trampling of flags following the exit of the England football team from Euro 2016. Flags have a lot to answer for.
It’s 3.30am in Canberra, and I’ve managed the jet lag from my trip home badly. For an hour now, I’ve had this line from a song going round in my head: “Twenty-five planes this year, and it’s only July.” It’s from a favourite Everything But The Girl song and, as sleepless thoughts go, it took me on an interesting journey.
There are times when, as a newcomer to Australia, a topic of hot debate is brought up and, while others raise voices, all you can do is raise your eyebrows.
One of the things that took us by surprise when we arrived in Australia was how unremarkable our tale seemed to be to others.
Compared to our arrival in Denmark as new migrants, which was greeted with interest and more than a little puzzlement, our arrival in Australia was largely treated with, well disinterest.
We’re coming up for our second Christmas in Australia and, just like last year, as native Europeans, it’s hard to reconcile the time of year with the weather outdoors. If this feels like familiar ground, then you’d be right – I wrote a post about this ‘Tis the season… except it’s not’, this time last year.
I’m revisiting the point though because of an old newspaper article I chanced across which, I have to say, makes my own uncertainty pale with its agonising over a mid-summer Christmas, and concludes that the only thing to do is to move Australia’s Christmas to 25 June. I kid you not.
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.
One of the things that Canberra excels at, is placing people at the heart of the Australian story.
There are museums aplenty, frequent ‘one off’ exhibitions, and numerous monuments to what it means to be a part of this nation’s history.Continue reading