Archive for the ‘Canberra’ Category

Rockin’ out in Canberra

Monday, November 13th, 2006

Last week Bec and I flew up to Canberra to visit our friend Kate D, who works at the Australian War Memorial. I know everyone says this, but Canberra really is strange; it’s just like a collection of Lego buildings plonked down in the middle of the bush. Visiting diplomats must be shocked if it’s the first Australian city they visit – it’s so much like a country town, it makes that Simpsons episode look almost realistic.

Kate’s housemate Sarah, a curator at the war memorial, picked us up at the airport. In the car we chatted about her job, and I happened to mention my favourite WWII story, the tale of Horrie the Wog Dog, a puppy adopted by an Australian batallion in Egypt and smuggled back to Victoria after the war.

“We’ve got him,” she said. I thought she meant they had photos of him on display. “No, we’ve got him, he’s stuffed,” she said. She should know. Horrie’s not on display, but it turns out that one of Sarah’s jobs is to shine a torch up his bum every now and then to make sure carpet beetles aren’t nesting there. Glamorous job, curating.

Sarah dropped us off at their place, where Kate had left her car for us to drive around town in. Bec asked if I wanted to drive or navigate. I chose to drive. Then I reversed out of the drive way and straight into a lampost, denting two panels of the car and breaking the tail light. So, again, sorry about that Kate. Oops.

Over the next couple of days we checked out the galleries, the war memorial and Parliament House (also, a couple of panel-beaters). I drove very carefully. The interior of Parliament House has a heck of a lot of 1980s-era salmon-coloured furnishings. “It’s the same pink as the flowers of the gum tree,” the guide said. Same colour as off calamine lotion more like.

The war memorial was actually pretty interesting, and certainly the most attractive building in Canberra. The displays are really well put together, whatever you might think about the amount of taxpayer money spent on it. Something that struck me was the amount of rather sexy statues, paintings and photos of buff Diggers, many of them stripped down to their shorts and army boots. And the funny thing was that although a huge effort had obviously been made to include material about women and their role in the armed forces, all the images of women were quite noticeably prim and asexual – the nurses all had uniforms buttoned up to their throats and caps over their hair. There’s all sorts of things I could say about double standards and how objectification works, but I’ve lost the energy for that kind of thing lately…

By Friday afternoon we’d seen all the touristy sights, and we had a couple of hours to spare before I flew home (and Kate and Bec headed north to Sin City). So, inspired by a trip Chris took to Canberra a few years ago to visit Christos and see the seamy underbelly of Canberra, I dragged Bec out to Fyshwick to visit a sex supermarket. I don’t know that I really thought it through, mind you. What did I expect other then, well, ew? (One weak laugh: a blow-up cowboy, with the label on the box: BAREBACK MOUNT-HIM.) There was definitely more erotic imagery at the war memorial.

So I arrived home with two big-eyed children paintings for Chris (from a second-hand shop down the road from the panel-beater; in the more tasteful picture a little urchin holds a chamber pot and has knickers around her ankles, with the Eiffel tower in the background), and my retinas seared with the image of racks of polyster French-maid costumes. When I came in the front door the dog shrieked, then wet himself with excitement. Which was nice.

Soon to come: photo of me patting Simpson’s donkey.