Sunday, February 04, 2007

Canberra 2

OK. We've moved up to Central Coast again and the old BiL has taken me to task for getting out of sync with my blogging. He knows that I left our trip to Canberra unfinished because we visited the Don Bradman Museum of Cricket on the way back to Sydney. We are doing so much it is difficult to keep up with everything. So I'll do an abbreviated round up of the rest of our trip to Canberra.

This is not to denigrate the country's capital in anyway, we loved it. Indeed we stayed an extra night there as there was so much to see and do. We have less than a couple of weeks left in Australia. I can't believe how the time has flown, four months gone in a week sort of thing. Phisht, just like that. Our Antipodean Adventures continue in New Zealand. We have a couple of weeks touring in South Island followed by two weeks in North Island on our third house swap.

Anyway, on with Canberra:

We took an early tour of the Botanical Gardens to avoid the heat later on but need not have worried as the route we were taken on was shady and cool. We then wandered on our own. I think we have been spoilt by South Africa's Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens but enjoyed it all the same. It is obviously a popular meeting place with the locals and there were family groups picnicking later on. Concerts are held on the Eucalyptus lawn and near the Café quite often in the summer which would be special.

We popped into the National Archives, a large part was closed as a new exhibition is being prepared and as it was a Sunday the reading rooms were closed but there was an unexpected Leica Documentary Photo exhibition which gave a fascinating glimpse into Australian life.

As well as State Documents and so on the National Archive holds a full collection of passenger lists from 1924 onwards and some go back to 1852 and BiL could track his arrival at Woolloomooloo as an immigrant on the SS Australis in October 1970. To talk to a researcher who will pull out the details and photocopy them for you ring 1300 886 881.

A quick whizz into the National Library while we were passing showed us a 'stately' library - modern 'classical' architecture, concrete and rectangular columns, and a huge entrance foyer. Interesting new acquisition display of Patrick White's papers - the only Australian Nobel Literature prize winner I think. Used their free Internet access, of course, to check our e-mail.

Then back to the hotel via Blundells Cottage. One of the three remaining Duntroon estate cottages that predate Canberra. It was tiny 1860s stone cottage with corrugated iron roof, basically four rooms with 2 more added for the family of 8 in the 1880s. A 'slab shed' outside housed blacksmith equipment although the blurb said it would have been used for soap and candle making with no reference to what was actually in there. There was also an outside dunny and bread oven.

I find it difficult to get my head round these relatively late artifacts being given such a high status. But I guess when that is all the history you have access to that is what you are going to revere. Aborigine history is a lot older but it is an oral tradition and there are very few items surviving. Although bound up in the history of the country Aborigine history is not the same as the European migrant except when the two collide and then such unspeakable atrocities were committed you would not want to include them as part of your, or your nations history. Its a problem. No proud beginnings for a new nation.

There is still a problem with all the various States doing their own thing. The Federation still seems to take second place to individual States, in peoples minds anyway. This state of affairs is not helped by the current Prime Minister, John Howard, whose constituency is in Sydney and that is where he remains and where his family live. We moan and groan about everything in England being London centric but at least our strong centre provides a focus for the country. Australians don't know where to look and there is a lot of rivalry between Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Oh well, no doubt a bit of competition can be a healthy thing!

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