Being un-Australian

I have a small confession to make. Well, actually, quite a big one, and one that I fear may result in our Australian visas being cancelled and see us ushered onto the first flight out of the country by clench-teethed officials.

You see, despite living here for more than a year. Despite our professed love of the Aussie way of life. Despite our attempts to assimilate into the Canberra community, there’s one thing that marks us out as not quite belonging.

We don’t actually own a barbecue.

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Christmas in the middle of summer

Christmas tree baubles from multiple countries.

Christmas for migrants often means a mix of traditions from several places.

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.

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Canberra, city of literature

Four authors sit at a table during a Conflux session.

A panel of authors ready to share their tips at Conflux 11.

As a writer, one of the big attractions of moving to Canberra was the observation from afar that the city had a vibrant creative community and the kind of writers’ networks I could only dream about in Copenhagen.

Over the past few months, I’ve been dipping tentative toes into these waters and have travelled from daunted, to doubtful, to impressed. Continue reading

Political science

The flag and mast above Parliament house, seen from below.

The flag above Parliament House changes direction less often than Aussie politics.

There’s a wonderful old Randy Newman song called ‘Political Science’, which was brilliantly covered by a favourite band of mine, Everything But The Girl. Its opening line goes: “No one likes us, I don’t know why/ We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try…”

These words, and the song’s title, buzzed around my head this week as the landscape of Australia’s politics shifted following Malcolm Turnbull’s successful ousting of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a Liberal Party leadership challenge.

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Canberra’s club culture

A table-top promotion for a 'Fast 50s' prize draw.

Every club runs a series of nightly promotions which are frankly, baffling to the newcomer.

Any Brit who moves abroad, no matter how much he or she loves their new home, will always find a pang of nostalgia for the good old British pub, with a name that evokes centuries of history, oak beams felled during Shakespeare’s era, a warm atmosphere and hearty food.

Family pubs don’t really exist in Australia. The closest equivalents are ‘hotels’ but these don’t tend to be as family-friendly, and certainly don’t have the same atmosphere as a traditional community pub.

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Canberra’s local tourists

Tourist information centres aren’t just for tourists, they’re great for locals too, and the one in Canberra is a particularly useful resource, especially if you’re new to town and don’t quite know what’s on offer.

We discovered Canberra’s tourist information centre by accident when we were on a research trip to the city a couple of years ago. We left laden with enough reading material to give us cause to check our baggage allowances, and nearly all of it came in handy as we planned our permanent move. In fact, most of the brochures that appear in the CBRbound header came from that impromptu visit.
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Sporting heroes

A participant's ribbon from the mini-triathlon.

The boys definitely participate in sports a lot more in Canberra.

Regular readers will know that my two sons, mini-CBRbound (8) and maxi-CBRbound (11) were big factors in our decision to move to Canberra.

There were all sorts of reasons why we thought Australia would be good for them, but a big one was the prospect of a more outdoor and active life, made possible by the climate and the Aussie obsession with sports.
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Not sulking at all

Long distance shot of a cricket match.

The West Indies take on Zimbabwe at Manuka Oval in Canberra.

For those old enough to recall it, there’s a fabulous episode of the original 1960’s Star Trek series (and a concept revisited many times by its successor shows) called ‘Mirror, Mirror’.

It imagines a world where, but for a turn of fate here, a different decision there, the universe might be a very different place. In ‘Mirror, Mirror’, the end result is an aggressive Vulcan race and a Federation that is more warrior than explorer. It’s kind of ‘Sliding Doors’ for sci-fi geeks.
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When Canberra comes out to play

When we lived in Denmark, one of our favourite days out of the year was the Roskilde Dyrskue, or agricultural fair. It always provided a wonderful mix of great weather, pet and farmyard animals, interesting and bizarre sports, and attractions for the kids. In short, it was the perfect day out and one that we thought we’d miss after our move.

A view of the show's main arena.

Show-jumping in the foreground and a funfair in the background at the Royal Canberra Show.

Not a bit of it, because Canberra has an agricultural show all of its own – the Royal Canberra Show – and it offers all the things you’d expect, plus a few surprises too.
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Changing who we are

Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, gave a speech to the Australian parliament last week, largely in response to the security questions raised by the Sydney siege a few months ago, but also in recognition of the lone-gunman attacks in other countries such as Denmark, the trickle of Australian nationals making their way to fight with Islamic State in Syria, and the highly publicised call for attacks on western shopping malls.

A few days before, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt made a similar address in Copenhagen. But, while Abbott’s speech focused largely on security measures, Thorning-Schmidt included an important additional point: “We have to understand what has hit us, but we must insist on acting as we do. Think and talk like we want to. We are who we are.”

News of the shootings in Copenhagen rolls in on the TV.

The shootings in Copenhagen shocked Denmark.


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