Kiama

On Tuesday morning I went to this place whose name I can nae remember, but it’s the national film and sound archive [i.e. The National Film and Sound Archive – how hard was that to remember? – Future Robyn]. There were two exhibition halls. One had a history of Australian film/radio/music/television. My personal highlight was Scott and Charlene’s wedding from “Neighbours”. I heard a lady shriek, “I didn’t know Jason had a mullet.” Because back in ’87 it wasn’t a mullet; it was cool haircut. The other exhibition hall had a special 1984 exhibit, to commemorate 20 years of the archive. There’s only one Australian film from 1984 that I care about: “BMX Bandits”. When I was nine it was my favourite film, ever. It doesn’t matter that it was Nicole Kidman’s first film (I didn’t even care about her cos she was a freaky ginge). It had cool kids doing cool BMX tricks around Sydney. Tragically, it appears not to be deemed worthy enough to have been given a DVD release.

Next I acquired a rental car. Hey, you know that thing when you’re driving on the motorway in Auckland and you miss the Nelson Street off-ramp because it’s on the right-hand side and so you end up going all the way over to the North Shore? Well, I did a similar thing in Canberra twice as I was attempting to get back to my hotel. It had been six months since I’d last driven, so I was in this pedestrian frame of mind.

So after having got out of Canberra, I headed over to the coast. It was a really nice duel carriageway which made me weep bitter tears as I thought of the state of State Highway One in Aotearoa. Along the highway there were those kangaroo warning signs. It seems that if a kangaroo came leaping out across the highway and your car hit it you’d both be completely rooted, but at least the complete rooting wouldn’t come as a surprise, thanks to the signs.

The road eventually lead me to the town of Kiama, which is famous for its blowhole. Though it should be noted that it never did the blowhole thing while I was there.

Yesterday I went to a nearby rainforest and walked around it and then did the steep detour walk to see a waterfall. Thankfully the waterfall was all nice and scenic and stuff, so it made the walk worth it. There was also a lyrebird that was walkin’ around like Mike Jagger, scratching the ground and making these noises.

In the afternoon I went for a hoon up the coast and around Jervis Bay. That was also nice and scenic and stuff. I finally managed to tune in Triple-J, so I had that keeping me company. Radio without ads is so good. I might start listening to National Radio when I return to NZ. I accidentally drove to another national park, complete with another $10 entry fee. I wasn’t sure what to do there, so I just drove around a bit. I found a botanic garden, so I went for a walk around there. Um, yeah, there were trees.

This morning I drove to Wollongong. I’m not actually sure where in Wollongong I am or, indeed, what the lovely city of Wollongong offers. There appears to be some sort of teen beauty competition at the nearby mall.

This morning on the news I noticed that on average New Zealand’s main city temperatures were about 10 degrees lower than the temps around here. With that in mind, I shall go outside and get my money’s worth.

Canberra Ii

Yesterday I went to the Australian Museum. It’s a lot like Te Papa in that rather than just displaying items, it attempts to tell stories. It also reminded me of Te Papa because it seems that finally New Zealand and Australia have been around long enough to have some history and stories to tell of their own, instead of having to cling to British history.

There was plenty of Aboriginal history, including one section about a group of women who decided to resurrect an almost lost skill make a possum-fur cloak. Possums are a protected animal in Australia, so they had to get the skins from New Zealand. Well, it’s a more worthy use than those pseudo nipple warmers.

Next I walked around the lake and across the bridge to the National Gallery. This might sound like a quick stroll, but it was actually several kilometres. Canberra a very spread-out city. I was going to complain about it being more an automobile city (and indeed it does seem to have very car-friendly streets), but its spread-out design is a lot like parts of Paris and London (and probably Washington DC too) – it’s very regal and very capital city. The squat, compactness of Wellington seems like an anomaly in contrast.

The National Gallery was good. It’s an interesting building and has a good selection of art. Arrgh, see my complete lack of ability to describe art? Yes. I never studied art history at school or nothing, ow. There was one painting up in the Australian section that got me. I stood there looking at it, knowing that this painting had to be part of my life from now on. I didn’t want to take a photo because that didn’t seem adequate. I bought a print of it in the gift shop, but that’s not really adequate either.

I discovered the TV in my hotel room had captions, so I watched the live elimination of X-Factor with captions. It looked like it was done through respeaking with voice-recognition software, but they had song lyrics prepared. I wasn’t sure whether to feel trashy for watching X-Factor or nerdy for doing something kind of work-related on holiday.

Ok, today I’m going to steal a car and hit the highway.

Canberra

Canberra is interesting, it’s unusual, it’s different.

100 years ago Canberra didn’t exist. It was sheep farms. Then, to stop bickering between Sydney and Melbourne over who was cool enough to be the capital city, the government decided to pick this spot of land about equidistant between the two and declared the sheep farms to be the site of Australia’s new capital.

The city streets were designed by and American landscape designer. He lined up stuff with mountains, so there’s this very pleasing perfection in the city. The city didn’t really start being built until after WWII, so there’s a lot of modernist and brutalist architecture, which happen to be two of my favourite styles. Canberra feels like a good city.

Yesterday I went to Parliament. It lives on top of Capital Hill (which lines up with mountains and stuff). Actually, it’s not so much on top of the hill as in the top of the hill. I mean, when you’re living in a democracy, you don’t go putting a giant palatial parliament on top of a hill for the plebs to look up to. No, instead you put it inside the hill and the plebs can go walking up the hill and below their feet are the upper and lower houses. It reminds me a bit of New Grange in Ireland. I’d link to it, but I can’t seem to be able to open any more brower windows.

The Australian Parliament buildings are so big that it’s about a 2km walk all the way around. I discovered this the hard way, yes, I did. But it’s that big because it’s designed to house everything and everyone for the next 200 years.

It makes the New Zealand Parliament’s mishmash of buildings seem very inadequate. Hey, can’t we make a new capital city in the middle of the Manawatu?

I also visited the Old Parliament. It’s just down the hill from the new one, all lined as up and stuff. It’s probably not the oldest building in Canberra, but it’s one of them. My favourite parts weren’t the older bits of the building, but the newer wings built in the 1970s. I especially liked the Prime Minister’s office, which last housed Bob Hawke, and its Bob-and-Karen-style wood-panelling.

My favourite room was the one dedicated to the 1975 Fraser/Whitlam hoo-ha. Using all the dramatic TV footage of the day (complete with ads from the era – “One day you’re gonna get caught with your pants down”) it relives the events that lead to the Governor General firing Prime Minister WHITLAM.

Y’know, somewhere in the New Zealand Parliament there is an upper house. It’s an empty room used for functions, but I like that it’s there and maybe one day New Zealand will have an upper house that will cause trouble. Yeah.

It’s nice and hot here. Like Sydney was, it’s like New Zealand on a really nice summer day (as opposed to those summer days that are freakishly cold, which seem to happen a lot lately). There are heaps of trees around here with heaps of naughty, noisy birds.

Last night I caught a bit of “The X Factor”, which is like an Idol show but includes oldies and groups and the judges mentor the performers as well as judging them. It was good, but it still had that kind of emptiness that Idol has at its heart.

Today there shall be museums and art galleries and I shall also wonder why there appear to be no convenience stores in downtown Canberra.