Canberra: Officially the Best Place in the World

My goodness. I have not posted here for over a year. My ability to inspire myself to write anything has been sadly lacking on the social media and academic fronts. I have completed a draft, currently with the editor, for another academic paper all about rampaging nuns in Paris Hotel-Dieu, but other than that… I undertook one of those mental assessment tests with my counsellor earlier this year and the most outstanding result was my complete lack of self discipline and motivation. This was not a surprise to me, but given that my parents and both sets of grandparents are, and were, very self disciplined, I was struggling to figure out exactly where this dodgy characteristic came from. Unlike my dodgy eyesight and tendency for food intake, no matter how meagre, to lead to weight gain, I couldn’t, in all honesty, lay the blame for my lacklustre self-discipline genes at my parents’ door.

I went straight from my counsellor to see my Nan in her new abode at the Old Farts’ Home. (There has been so much that has happened in my boring little world since I last blogged. The old family home on Elliott Street, Trigg was sold at the beginning of the year, ending our decades long association with that little part of Perth. A sad day. And my parents have moved into an Old Farts’ Villa and, now that the arguments over decorating the new abode have abated, spend their time Grey Nomading their way around the country and snogging in front of natural landmarks.)

The Parentals snogging in front of Uluru. Apologies to the traditional owners of the land on behalf of my folks.

The Parentals snogging in front of Uluru. Apologies to the traditional owners of the land on behalf of my folks.

So I was telling my Nan about the results of my assessment and expressed my puzzlement at where my complete lack of self-discipline and motivation came from. Without missing a beat, my Nan said, “Well, Enid was always a lazy bitch”. (Enid being her sister.) I cracked up, not just because my nanna said a naughty word. This was comic timing at it’s best! And the mystery of my penchant for laziness and lack of motivation was solved.

Anyway…

When I last blogged, I was depressed and procrastinating over my thesis in Perth, Western Australia. In February, my brother paid for me to head to the UK, returning his son back to his hometown of Newcastle in the great English North. I took the opportunity of the one-way ticket, I am still trying not to feel offended about that, to make a life for myself in the city I think is the greatest in the world. I had abandoned London in the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch, returning to Australia with the intention of finishing my long-awaited thesis. (It is still in a state of being long-awaited. It’s 80% there, but in the past two years, I have not no motivation or self-discipline to get the blasted thing finished. And now my Long-Suffering-Supervisor has retired from academic life. Maybe it will be finished by Christmas next year. It certainly won’t be Christmas next year unless the Elves come and finish it for me.) I was in London for four months. I got an interview at Hampton Court Palace within two weeks of job hunting, but they didn’t want me and after three months, 67 job applications and 3 unsuccessful interviews, I was informed by one of the employment agencies I signed with that I was, and I quote, “unemployable”. I was so glad to hear that 23 years in various admin, secretarial and PA roles have all been for naught.

The bursting boiler and decomposing mice carcasses at my friend’s flat, where she was kindly letting me bunk while I job searched, was the final omen that London Relocation 2014 was not going to happen. I booked a car so I could go gallivanting around the North of England and into Scotland, then called The Sister who called The Father and a ticket was purchased for my return, not to Perth, a lovely city, but not the city for me, but to our nation’s capital of Canberra, which was yesterday recognised by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) as the best city in the world. (I got back in May 2014 and have been in a state of melancholy ever since, although being able to hang out with my Canberra-based niece and nephews has been salve to my wound.)

Last night, we were watching the news and commentary shows about this rather lovely honour, (with which I concur, by the way). There was no celebration of this great honour for our country, which hasn’t been getting much good international press since 7 September 2013, or even since Julia Gillard’s brilliant misogyny speech in Parliament on 10 October 2012. The so-called “journalists” and news commentators took the announcement of Canberra as the best city in the world as a chance to do take the piss out of Australia’s capital city. Rove McManus led the charge on Channel Ten’s ‘The Project’, with the Sydney-based news stations we in Canberra are limited to for our nightly “news” fix, joining the charge earlier on.

No, Canberra is not perfect. No city is because it is ruled and inhabited by human beings and we are by nature destructive and selfish. However, the reason I decided to head to Canberra rather than my hometown of Perth is because of the improved employment opportunities and, I know from my previous visits to Canberra since 1994, that it is a city with “stuff” happening to keep people amused. Indeed, after being informed of my unemployability’ by Angela Mortimer, within three days of my return to Australia, I had landed a casual job with a government department and I had a ticket to see Rick Astley! The other thing that makes Canberra a better place to live for a perennial spinster with average future employment prospects (in that I have left it too late to develop a “career”), is that housing is not so ridiculously priced that I am without the hope of one day co-owning a lovely flat with my bank, as opposed to Perth, or my second choice, Melbourne, where my only prospect was being a lodger in the abode of my parents, Aged Aunt or Jenny-Anne.

So economically, I do find that for someone in my position, Canberra does offer the best prospects. And in terms of the social and cultural offerings, well, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson: “The person who is tired of Canberra is a complete dullard who is not only tired of life, but lacking imagination.” There is lots to do, see and enjoy in Canberra, if you have the gumption and energy to get out there. Yes, London, in my opinion, might be more exciting. Some may say New York is the greatest. Australia also has Melbourne, which I think has a great cultural life to be part of. But in terms of an all-round experience, Canberra is it.

So before you join those dullards in the Australian Media with bagging the OECD’s decision, how about you actually come here and check out the place yourself before you slag it off!

Press links to the OECD announcement

The Age Headlines – spoken in a nice computer voice

Cynical Jack Waterford of ‘The Canberra Times’

Gareth Hutchens compares Canberra to NSW following OECD announcement

News.com.au taking the piss

What to do in Canberra: Lisa’s Favourites

And for those who think there is nothing to do in Canberra, I link here some of the sites, attractions and amusements that make this Australia’s greatest city for me. The following are just some of my favourite things to do, but there is so much more. Canberra has excellent cycle paths for all the lycra-clad cyclists and the amateur bicycler with only a two-speed deadly-treadly. There are sporting events, professional and amateur, every weekend. I’ve spent many a Saturday on the coldest soccer pitch in the Universe watching my nephews be brilliant at “wally-ball”, as I call it. The Canberra Theatre always has exciting local, national and international treats to enjoy. I can’t wait to see Joan Armatrading in December! I have been following suggestions from the contributors to the Her Canberra website about the places to go for the best nosh, as well as all the local goings-on that newbies, like me, to Canberra might not know about. My taste buds are being well looked after when I’m doing the “cooking”. And I have been informed that for those who enjoying pubs and clubbing that there are establishments to cater for your drinkin’ and dancin’ needs. They might not be open for all hours like London, New York and Melbourne establishments, but really people, you do need to sleep sometime!

As with any city, it’s all about what you make of it and contrary to all the piss-taking you may hear about Canberra from non-Canberrans, there is the potential for inhabitants and visitors alike to make a lot of Canberra. So Visit Canberra and check out my suggestions below to see why, socially and culturally, I think the OECD have chosen wisely.

The National Portrait Gallery – Not only is the building, opened in December 2008, visually pleasing, inside there are brilliant examples of not only the talented artists this country has created, but also the fabulous people who made this country what it is today. Or, was up until 6 September 2013. And, an added bonus, the gallery cafe serves delish cupcakes! (Because one must have sustenance after wallowing in art!)

The National Library of Australia – This place is fantastic on so many levels. One can go there to, for example, procrastinate over one’s thesis. One can check out the Treasures Gallery. One can enjoy a lecture or participatory event. The gift shop is dangerously stocked with good reads and lovely stationery, for starters. And the cafe! Oh, my taste buds are tingling now.

The National Library by Lisa Keane Elliott

The National Library by Lisa Keane Elliott

The National Museum of Australia – Yes, it’s a museum. Yes, you can go along and look at artefacts and “stuff” relating to our history. As a historian, that’s all fabulous for me. BUT! The National Museum of Australia, like the Science Museum in London, has “things” for kids and adults to take part in all year round. The Robot Tours are pretty cool for all your Techno-Boffins. If you like Stephen Fry’s ‘QI’ programme, then maybe taking part in The Museum Game might be right up your alley. Or check out the Kspace area, which I have just learned is all new and improved since my last visit. You used to be able to design your own space ship and then see it race against others in the 3D cinema.

Lake Burley Griffin – My niece and I have done many a “Photo Shoot Day” along the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, or even branching out from there to the Parliamentary Zone, as my niece and nephews have done on several occasions.

With my niece and nephews on an impromptu Photo Shoot around the Parliamentary Zone, c. 2011.

With my niece and nephews on an impromptu Photo Shoot around the Parliamentary Zone, c. 2011.

There are plenty of places around the lake for a lazy picnic or to set up a friendly game of footy or cricket. If it rains, you can take cover in The National Library of Australia, Questacon (fabulous Science museum with excellent interactive displays that you may have to fight the kids to play with!), The National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery or Old Parliament House, now the Museum of Democracy. If you like your exercise, cycle, skate, walk, run, hop, skip, jump your way along the foot and exercise paths, just watch out for all the duck poop!

My niece and I talking a walk around Lake Burley Griffin with the Black Mountain's Telstra Tower in the background.

My niece and I talking a walk around Lake Burley Griffin with the Black Mountain’s Telstra Tower in the background.

Floriade – No, it’s not the Royal Chelsea Flower Show, but it has pretty flowers, yummy food, fudge, arts and crafts, and a ferris wheel! What’s not to enjoy!

My niece and I at this year's Floriade in Canberra with all the lovely flowers.

My niece and I at this year’s Floriade in Canberra with all the lovely flowers.

Thesis Avoidance: No More!

Well, not only have I been avoiding the thesis, I have been avoiding my blogs. It’s all writing and if I can demonstrate capability for mindless blogging, then thesising should not be so difficult. The only reason my laptop has made it out of its protective sleeve in recent months has been so I can enjoy the numerous televisual joys I’ve purchased from iTunes or do work on the Finding Aid for the Access Press archive that I had been entrusted with doing for the library. Oh, and emailing my niece and nephews, not that they ever respond! Just because, for example, my nephews have been busy doing a soccer tour of South Korea with their club, Monaro Panthers, they think that’s an adequate excuse for not responding to their favourite aunt. [Upturned nose and huffy flicking of hair]

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Anyway…

So. My Magnificent Octopus, you might be wondering. How is it going? Well… I did get chapter 4 re-drafted. It was massive and apparently I got rather lost in all the great information that I wanted to share, so it need not have been so massive and traumatising. My brilliant supervisor, my brilliant and ever-patient supervisor, has done her editing magic and given me ideas on what to cut. I will do this once I have stopped procrastinating over chapter 5. Yes, chapter 5 has been getting the procrastination and avoidance treatment I gave to chapter 4, so two months on, possibly longer, I can’t bear to find out the truth on that, it’s still not finished, but it will be tomorrow! Yes, I know I say that a lot, but… Oh, and it is not as if the extraneous stuff from chapter 4 will go to waste because I have a paper on violence and emotions to write for a symposium in three weeks time, so I shall pop some of the good stuff into that. (Bloody hell! When did September decide to show up?!)

Anyways… The reason I decided to bloggy post tonight is that, THE END IS NIGH!!

No, I have not decided to stand upon a cliff top and throw myself to the mercy of the Poseidon and his human-loving shark friends. Nothing that drastic. No, I have just made the decision that I have to finish this thesis!

No, why I am here is that I am publishing my intention to FINISH the blasted thesis for a NON-NEGOTIABLE Submission Day of 2 December 2013.

There are several reasons for this, not least of which is the fact my brother is heading to England in December to collect his son, my nephew, to join us in Perth for Christmas! Apparently he has purchased a ticket for me to escort Jackson back home in January 2014. And, I’m feeling the love, my ticket is one-way! I like to look on his gesture as motivation from a loving sibling to get his procrastinating sister to finish her thesis and forget his comment about it being his way of getting me out of the country. (Charming!) So, I wouldn’t want to waste a free ticket to the UK seeing as I want to relocate there anyway.

Secondly, my supervisor has told me that she can’t be doing with me in Doctoral Candidate mode any longer and I need to get it finished before Christmas so she can get on with her life. Yes, completely justifiable after 7 years! Besides, she has threatened to take away my iPad until it’s done, so I have to show some Grown-Upedness or I’ll lose my life line to the world and my sanity. (Over dramatic much!)

Thirdly, I have a ticket to see Miranda Hart on 13 March 2014 and I can’t miss that!

Fourthly, several of my fellow Australians have just elected a sexist, racist, hypocritical moron to run the country and I can’t bear to stick around and see them all regret it. I am going to head to England where they have a Slimy Lizard slithering all over them. Oh yes. Much better!

And finally, I’m 40 years old! I’ve been procrastinating over this for 7 years! My thirties have been taken over by poor people, hospital reforms and sixteenth-century Paris! (Well, avoiding them.) Not to mention sixteenth-century French accountants with appalling handwriting and minute takers with even worse handwriting!

In addition, and not that this is a huge consideration because, quite frankly, I’m their child and they are obligated to me until death do us part, but I think Mum and Dad are ready for me to leave the spare room and, given that they are about to move into a retirement home, well, I think that might be a hint. (You can see where my brother gets his charm from!)

So, it’s happening. No more avoidance and procrastination. I’m in completion mode. Well, actually, I think Calvin of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ has put it quite well. The faucet of creativity is at last flowing and my Magnificent Octopus will finally be completed. My mental state come 2 December 2013? We shall just have to see.

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If you can be bothered responding to my bloggy post with some positive, “YOU GO GIRL!!” comments, that would be so lovely of you.

Help save Wellington’s Battle of Waterloo stronghold

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For those of you who love history and wish to preserve historic sites for the enjoyment of future generations, please read the follow article from the latest issue of the Society of Antiquaries of London’s electronic newsletter Salon, issue 304, 9 September 2013.

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“As the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo approaches, the Daily Telegraph recently published an article concerning the work of our Fellow Martin Drury as joint Chairman (with his Belgian counterpart, Count Georges Jacobs) of Project Hougoumont. This project leapt to prominence earlier this year when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that the UK Government would donate £1 million towards the £3.2m needed to restore this key Battle of Waterloo site by 2015. A further £1 million has been promised by the Walloon regional government, and £600,000 has been secured in private donations so far, leaving £600,000 still to be raised.

 

Joe Shute, the journalist who wrote the Telegraph report, describes Hougoumont Farm as ‘largely unchanged from when, on 18 June 1815, it was the centre of action throughout the Battle of Waterloo. Of the tens of thousands who died that day, 6,500 men were killed, or suffered terrible injuries, at Hougoumont. The Duke of Wellington, joint commander of the Allied army who took on the French alongside Field Marshal Blücher’s Prussians, regarded the farm on the right wing of his position as the anchor that secured his line. The French launched ceaseless attacks, pounding its walls with artillery and eventually burning down a château that occupied the centre of the farmstead. At one point, Napoleon’s troops surged inside after a burly French lieutenant called Legros smashed through the main gate with an axe. But still the 4,000 defenders held strong. “No troops but the British could have held Hougoumont,” declared a triumphant Wellington following the battle, “and only the best of them at that.”’

 

Despite being one of Britain’s most important battle sites, and one that, according to the Iron Duke, ‘turned the outcome of Waterloo’, Hougoumont has become derelict. Restoration plans include turning the dilapidated Great Barn into an educational centre. The empty chapel will be a place of remembrance and the gardener’s house an apartment available for rent to those wanting to study the site.

 

Where a flimsy metal barrier is currently placed across the entrance to keep out thieves and vandals, a replica of the North Gate, which played such an important role in keeping the French out, is being funded by the family of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Wyndham of the Coldstream Guards, one of the soldiers who helped force the gates shut during bloody hand-to-hand fighting. Appropriately, the replica is being made in the estate yard at Petworth House in Sussex, home of our Fellow Lord Egremont, now head of the Wyndham family.

 

The restoration work is informed by three sepia-wash drawings made a few days after the battle by the Prince Regent’s military painter, Captain Denis Dighton, and by sketches made by Turner on a visit in 1817. Despite, or perhaps because of, the years of neglect, it is remarkable how little the farm’s appearance has changed. Drury says preserving this haunting atmosphere is key to the project, about which there is much more, including videos and photo galleries, on the Project Hougoumont website.”

My new blog look

Yes, I am procrastinating, hence the new look blog. I need to figure out some colour scheme issues, but that can wait until after chapter 4 is finished.

No, I still have not conquered that final section to complete the blasted thing. I am not a self-proclaimed Queen of Procrastination for nothing.

I have to give credit to the lovely and talented illustrator and creative genius, Kanako of My Little Paris fame, for my lovely blog background image. I thought it represented me quite well, apart from blonde hair, slim physique and sophisticated demeanour. I am, however, a writer (albeit a procrastinating one), and a happy snapper with a fondness for cocktails, especially ones with a piece of alcohol-soaked fruit skewered with an little umbrella.

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Chin Chin

Thought for the day

“My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.” — Dave Barry

I like this mental health maintenance approach. Going with that myself. Except I will also include ‘finishing chapter four’ as I am not leaving the library today until that bugger is surfing its way across the Internet into the Inbox of my supervisor to sort the hell out!

Friends

I got to work this morning. Something happened. I needed assistance. I sent an SOS email to my friend. Thirty minutes later, she arrived at uni with the urgently required item.

That is one of the reasons a good friend is the best thing in the world.

Thank you Ariel! I couldn’t decide which ‘thank you’ image to illustrate my thanks, so you get both.

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