Canberra: the bustling metropolis that is the semi-precious, quartz stone gem in Australia’s crown. This noble bastion of righteous mediocrity stands strong against the sea of actually interesting and memorable places… But alas, your dear author gets ahead of himself.
I recently travelled up to Canberra to visit friends and family who have moved there, as well in the hope of bumping into Mr Pyne so I could literally vomit on him. My first impressions of the city were actually rather positive: the hayfever that plagues me in Melbourne was almost non-existent, and my taxi driver sounded like Sean Connery. But the plusses stopped there. Given that Canberra is about as geologically diverse as factory-packed naan bread, the scenery was pretty bland. The closest thing resembling a hillock was a particularly tall person I spied in the distance. The architectural layout of the place is little better: with all due respect to Walter Burley Griffin, it feels like patchwork quilt comprised of weird triangles, octagons and circles. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer my cities to be laid out in a functional manner.
My home for the duration of my stay was a quaint share house inhabited by a lovely bunch of ANU students. It was your typical uni share house, with the same level of filth and grime you’d expect to see in any Sydney Road flat that’s occupied by arts students. My futon bed was exceedingly comfortable, which, coupled with the incredibly fast Internet, made my stay very enjoyable. The other students lived in some sort of vaguely anarcho-socialist manner that was, despite being possibly the most inefficient way a group of people could organise themselves, somewhat functional – but since this isn’t an erotic fan fiction for anthropologists, I’ll move along.
On my second day in Canberra I was feeling pretty adventurous, so plucked up the courage to head into Australian National University: the self-proclaimed “Top University of Australia”. Upon entering the campus, I was amazed – with its shady willow trees, open grassy areas and lovely creek wending through the grounds, I promptly envisioned growing old there with my four children and wife in a self-made cottage. Unfortunately, I was rudely shaken from this daydream by the raspy cry of one of the ratty bumpkins that roam the University in droves. For all their smarts, the students at ANU remain Canberrans – those from interstate and overseas who were unlucky enough to be lured here have since been corrupted into a lower form of humanity. Not only are bucket hats acceptable and encouraged here, but wearing pants makes you stand out like a sore thumb. You read that correctly – unless you are a 40-year-old civil servant, in this no man’s land between Melbourne and Sydney, pants are considered too snazzy to wear on a 28-degree day. After approaching a snatch of those students capable of coherent speech, I decided to interview a few to gauge what pastimes they engaged in. Unsurprisingly, the phrases “#2 Plants” and “Blaze it” were bandied around incessantly: definitive proof that there is literally nothing to do in Canberra that isn’t either University-related, boring or criminalised.
Given that I travelled to Canberra for the express purpose of doing nothing for a week, my trip delivered pretty well. However, the city can be likened to a sensory deprivation tank – after being stuck there for a while, there is a legitimate danger that one’s mind may begin to slowly, but surely, rot away. All in all, Canberra was alright. I’d give it a solid 6/10 – better than a kick in the pants, and certainly better than Adelaide.