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 no 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 The Parentals’ 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 Road, 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 too 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. 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 after he spent Christmas in Australia with his Australian clan. 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 this 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, 47 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 wounds.)

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 governed, managed 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! 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 abodes of either 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 Rick Astley next month and 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. And I have been informed that for those who enjoy 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’s café 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 café! 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 Australian Democracy. And nestled behind Old Parliament House is the National Archives of Australia, where, as of July 2015, I now work as a Gallery Host. 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.

Post edited and updated by LKE, 10 October 2015

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