Don’t get me wrong. I love this town. I have since I first moved here in 1985 to start my university life at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education. I’d been here before. Like every other primary school-aged child in the nation, we’d made the trip from Orange to check out Parliament House (way before there was an old and a new) and the Australian War Memorial – this is how old I am, such institutions as Questacon, the Australian Institute of Sport and the National Museum of Australia weren’t even built.
But there was plenty of open space and it kind of felt, even then, like the country town I grew up in, just bigger with a bit more on, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
There’s a lot to love about Canberra: that we truly are the bush capital, our schools, our sports events and theatres and live music venues. I love the weather, both hot and cold. And Canberra never really gets cold, see above where I grew up in Orange. I love our restaurants and bars, our bike paths, and galleries and tree-lined streets and access to interesting walks.
I was driving down the Tuggeranong Parkway the other night, it was raining. I was leaving my two or so chevrons between me and the car in front but some idiot decided there was room for their SVU right in the middle.
While I’m not one to succumb to road rage (well, not too often) some swear words did escape my otherwise innocent lips and it got me to thinking about how much I hate Canberra drivers … and from that what other things I hate about our otherwise perfect city.
Driving me mad
I love Canberra traffic because there is no Canberra traffic. Generally speaking we have great roads, every place you want to be is easy to get to, the light rail network has been a success, I even love roundabouts, driving in the occasional half circle is great fun. But I hate Canberra drivers. You, not me, take all these things for granted. Nice wide lanes don’t mean you can speed, or sit in the right-hand side. Merging isn’t hard people, be polite and patient, let me in and next time someone will let you in. There’s no better indicator of how entitled Canberra drivers feel than the school pick-up line. If you know your kid isn’t going to be out for half an hour after the bell, don’t pull up early and sit in the middle of the line and disregard everyone around you. Move forward. And how hard is it to park between the white lines?
Not our fault
I blame the late political journalist Peter Harvey for a lot of the national hatred towards Canberra. Bless, he was a fabulous journalist, a stalwart of the press gallery at Parliament House, seeing off four prime ministers – Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard – in his time there. But every night, anyone tuned into the Nine news, would hear him sign off, “Peter Harvey, Canberra”.
This town is not to blame. Yes, the people you voted for to represent your hometown are here for a few weeks every year, but we, Canberra, are not making the decisions you deem have screwed you over. I guess this isn’t a reason to hate Canberra, as such, but a reason to hate the rest of you.
I remember a day in the office where certain journalists were arguing about whether the west side or east side of Northbourne was the better side of the inner north. Can’t get much cliquier than that. We all pass judgement when we find out where someone lives. Belco, the Creek, Gungers or the Valley. How many of us, even before COVID restrictions, ventured too far from home base? I can’t remember the last time I shopped at the Hyperdome. Is it even still called that? We need to be better, people. Open the borders.
Why is it that the powers that be deem we need to be celebrating the festival of something every month of the year? Floriade, Enlighten, folk festivals, multicultural festivals, balloon spectaculars, international music festivals. At least we can say goodbye to the festival of bogans, Summernats, for a while. Maybe I’m jaded because year after year we have to cover these events and find fresh ways to talk about tulips.