Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fossicking, New England sapphires and the love of discovery

Photo: Australian sapphires

Some Australians like digging round in the dirt, some don't. For those that do, Australia still offers many opportunities just to find that magic nugget or gem stone.

I mention this because the folks from Big Sky Country have put together some material on fossicking in New England, one of Australia's major gem areas.

For details see Fossicking in New England.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Regional Living Australia - visitor interests

Every so often I do a quick check on visitor interests measured by entry pages to this blog.

The leading entry point is Australia's Regional Differences - Melbourne vs Sydney. This post, one of a short series, is (I think) a good post.

On equal first came Australian Wool Fashion Awards - a few photos from 2007. This was followed by John Brack - an Australian Regional Artist.

Then came three posts on equal ranking - Regional Australia - Migration Matters ; Guyra, New England - the birds of Bradley Street; and then the archive for May 2007.

This was followed by a further three equally ranked posts - Getting the Best out of Regional Living - Wagga Wagga case study; Tree Change & the Job Search Process - the story of Katrina and Tom continues; Cloncurry Qld - a new type of solar power.

In all, a fairly varied mix!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

In praise of Rex's country feel

I grew up in the country, townie not land. I really like the country feel - I define this simply as a sense of community.

Recently I have flown on Rex a number of times. I have really enjoyed the service.

One experience captured this. I came into Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. The same girl was on duty who had been on two weeks before.

We had chatted briefly then. Now she remembered me. That is what I call country service.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Visiting Canberra - driving around, lunch, dinner, Sunday at the National Gallery

Photo: National Gallery, Picture Parade, Asia-Pacific Photos 1840s-1940s.

Loaded with our Murrambateman Ravensworth sangioves, bread, imported cheese plus Ligurian olives, we left Manuka for a drive round the areas of Canberra that we had both known.

As reported in Canberra's changing life style - past and present, I was struck with what I saw as the deterioration in some of the older suburbs. I know that water restrictions have had an impact, but it was more than that. But many of the suburbs we knew so well have become drab and untidy. Still, we did enjoy our drive.

About 3 pm we returned to our hotel room for a picnic - the Ravensworth sangiovese, fresh bread, Barossa fine foods salami, Ligurian olives, Roy de Valles semi hard cheese at $88.11 per kilo, Gorgonzola Piccante at $57.50 per kilo. This was a very expensive picnic, but it was fun.

A sleep, and we were ready to go out for dinner in Kingston. We had wanted to go to La Rustica but this was full. Instead, we got into Figaro on a cancellation.

This proved a good choice. Our waiter was friendly and helpful, able to comment on both food and wine. So we settled down with a bottle of Danzanti Pinot Grigio 2006 from the Venezia region while we made our choices. We chose this wine because youngest was in fact in Venice, but it was rather nice.

I do not have all the notes on our food, I will have to remedy this if I am going to do more posts like this one, but I would put the food at 8 out of 10, the service 10 out of 10.

Home to watch the Tour de France.

Morning and breakfast in the hotel. This was pretty ordinary. Too few Australian hotels can do a decent breakfast, although I admit I have high standards here. Then to the National Gallery.

I love Australia's National Gallery. It's not as big, monumental, as some of the European Galleries. Living in Canberra I was a member and often went there over lunchtime just to wander around.

Now the trees have grown changing the external feel, but internally it's still remarkably compact. We worked our way round, although I would really have liked multiple visits.

After coffee we got on the road, and so to Sydney. It had been a fun trip.

Back to the introductory post in the series.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Visiting Canberra - wandering round Manuka

Breakfast over, Dee and I went for a wander round Manuka just to see what had changed.

I am not a shopping person. I am not a shopping person. My wife and daughters are. Give them a shop and they will enter, even if they cannot afford to buy anything! Still, in this case I went along because I wanted to look at the shops myself.

One advantage that Manuka has over Sydney shopping centres is that the shops are in a self-contained space. This makes it very easy to browse.

We started at the Sheridan shop. I really liked this one because it had so many towels and sheets in one place. I was not in a buying mood, but I do like bright colours. From here we went to the various clothes' shops.

To me, Carla Zampatti is Carla Zampatti, just a name. Still, I was struck here and in other shops with the winter range. Like Melbourne, Canberra's winter climate means that there are clothes that you will not find in Sydney. This I liked.

Still, as a mere male the prices amazed me. Those who have known Manuka from the past will know that Millers of Manuka has been there for a very long while.

Millers used to be a middle of the range store. Not any more. It was sale time, so I looked at some of the labels. There was, for example, a nice Kenzo jacket. This had been discounted so that it was an absolute steal at a price of a just $1,630! I could see why so many of the people in Manuka seemed to be well and expensively dressed.

In all this, my favourite store was the Wine & Cheese Providores.

The wine can be found in the lower level store. I simply cannot afford some of the wines there, but it was nice looking. I was especially interested in the local wines, and here upon recommendation we bought a bottle of Murrambateman Ravensworth sangiovese for $22. I had not tried this grape before, but the wine was highly recommended.

Then we went outside and up the stairs to the cheese section. This is also a cafe. There we bought some bread, imported cheese plus Ligurian olives to go with our our sangiovese for lunch.

Entry post in this series here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Visiting Canberra - breakfast at Manuka

Because I was using a conventional camera, I still do not have my photos of Manuka back. But I cannot wait for them. So my story of our Canberra visit continues. You will find the introductory post here, including a full post list in this series.

Saturday morning I awoke much refreshed after one of the best sleeps I had had for a long while. We decided to go to Manuka for for breakfast.

In Visiting Canberra - history I set out a little of Canberra's history.

In Canberra's first period, Manuka and Kingston were the city's shopping centres. When I first came to live in Canberra, Manuka became my centre. Here I had my post office box, my bank.

In some ways, Manuka does not exist. There is no suburb called Manuka. It is just the shopping centre in Griffith. Yet Manuka has always had a presence independent of its formal existence. Today it has become Canberra's style centre.

As we drove out from the hotel to go to Manuka, there was a bad sound from the engine. We got over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Then, just outside the Treasury building, a dreadful rattle developed. We pushed the car into the Treasury parking lot and called the NRMA.

As we waited, I looked around. I worked in Treasury for thirteen years. I knew this parking lot like the back of my hand.

In Saturday Morning Musings - Australia's old Parliament House I spoke of the area around old Parliament House. Standing with my back to the Treasury building looking round, the scene was very much the same. Finally, the NRMA man arrived, fixed the car, and we got going again.

At first sight, Manuka was both familiar and different. Thetis Court had been roofed in, but The Lawns still seemed the same.

Cafe society, a feature of modern Australia that I greatly like, had clearly arrived in Manuka. In fact, Manuka appears to be Canberra's breakfast capital. Everywhere you looked there were cafes with the ubiquitous outdoor tables and heaters.

We stopped at Zucchero's in The Lawns. This was a mistake.

Big English style breakfasts are very popular, certainly I like them, but they have to be well done. Too many modern establishments cannot do them properly. An overdone fried egg on top of mushrooms and poorly cooked tomatoes with a some limp strips of bacon is not a proper English breakfast. My own efforts are far better than Zucchero's best.

As we ate, I looked around and took notes on the scene and its people. Again there was the same slight sense of dislocation - things were the same, but still different.

Canberra's ethnic mix is different to Sydney, closer to Melbourne.

The strong Asian feel that you get in Sydney was missing. This was a European crowd, but one that reflected the first round of ethnic mixing from the mass migration program after the Second World War. Migrants involved in the building of the Snowy Mountains Scheme or in the construction of Canberra itself settled in Canberra.

At the table next to us, two older European men chatted in Spanish while drinking their coffee. Next to them a man with a somewhat shaggy white beard in a military style outfit - double breasted coat with many buttons, a cap - sat talking to himself while drinking his coffee.

At the risk of upsetting Sydneysiders, the passing parade was far better dressed than you would find in Sydney.

When I commented on this to Denise, she pointed out that Canberra was cold. Sydney is casual, in Canberra you have to wear jumpers and jackets. This led to greater colour and variety in outfits. While Dee was right, I also felt that the Manuka crowd was simply more expensively dressed than you would find in most parts of Sydney.

I will report on the reasons for this in my next post in the series.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Visiting Canberra - arrival

Getting away from Sydney for a weekend is always hard. In this case, we did not start until 6pm. And then there was the traffic. Coming out of Sydney it was almost bumper to bumper. The red rear lights stretched in an almost solid stream for miles.

Part of the traffic was certainly snow traffic. During the snow season thousands of cars and buses leave Sydney for the snow fields. Part, too, was dues to Sydney siders escaping from World Youth Day.

The modern road to Canberra is far faster - around three and a half hours drive time - but also much more boring. Just sit there and stick on the 110 kilometer hours speed limit for much of the journey.

The first real excitement came as we descended onto the shores of Lake George, now dry. This meant that we were almost there.

My wife and I have often been to Canberra in recent years. However, this was the first time that we had come by road and at night. I suppose the thing that struck us most as we drove over the hill and saw the Canberra lights for the first time was the sheer size of the place. The lights just stretched.

We both knew Canberra well, so did not bother with maps. Yet as we came in, we realised that we were not sure how to get to our hotel, the old Hotel Ainslie. We need not have worried. Sheer instinct guided us!

We finally arrived a bit after 9.30. So we had dinner there - Thai - and planned the next day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Visiting Canberra - history

Photo: Opening of Australia's new Parliament House, May 1927. The pictures and historical material in this post are drawn from the Wikipedia article on the history of Canberra.

For the benefit of international readers, when the Australian colonies came together to form the new Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney meant that neither city could become capital of the new Federation.

Eventually, a compromise was reached: Melbourne would be the capital on a temporary basis while a new capital was built somewhere between Sydney and Melbourne. Section 125 of the new Constitution specified that the capital must be placed in a Commonwealth territory within New South Wales, but at least 100 miles from Sydney.

After an extensive search, a site was chosen in 1908 in the foothills of the Australian Alps some 300 kilometres south east of Sydney. In 1910, the NSW Government formally ceded the area to the Commonwealth of Australia to form the Australian Capital Territory. The following year after an international competition, the American architect Walter Burley Griffin was selected to design the new capital city.

Various names were considered for the new city. Finally, at midday on March 12, 1913, the city to be was was officially given the name Canberra by Lady Denman the wife of the then Governor-General, at a ceremony on Kurrajong Hill (now known as Capital Hill) and building officially commenced.

Neither ministers nor public servants were keen to leave the comfort of Melbourne for the isolation of the new bush capital. While a new Parliament House was opened in May 1927, development of the city remained slow and sporadic, coming to an effective halt during the depression.

Development continued during the war, then accelerated rapidly in the late 1950s and 1960s as the headquarters of various agencies shifted to Canberra. The effect of this can be seen in Canberra's population timeline.

Both my wife and I worked in Canberra. When I first joined the Commonwealth Public Service, the city's population was around 70,000. By the time we left Canberra, it had grown to 250,000. Today it is over 300,000. If the satellite cities and settlements that have grown across the border in NSW such as Queanbeyan and Yass are added in, the population of greater Canberra is now over 400,000.

This growth has had profound effects on the surrounding regions, drawing them into Canberra's growing sphere of economic and social influence.

While we had visited Canberra many times since our departure, this trip we were going as tourists to look at the changes that had taken place through the prism set by our past experiences.


For two somewhat nostalgic views of Canberra's past see:

For the opening post in this series see here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Visiting Canberra - Introduction

Next weekend my wife and I are going to Canberra for a break. We both lived there for many years, so we are really looking forward to it.

We are going to stay at what used to be the Hotel Ainslie, now Olims Canberra Hotel.

I had to laugh when I saw the Olims' site. The Hotel Canberra is the Hotel Canberra. Olims tries to present their site as though it is the Hotel Canberra. It is not!

I will report on the trip as we go.

For posts in this series see:

Monday, July 07, 2008

Climate change and real estate prices in Regional Australia

Thinking about climate change the other day, I wondered what it might mean for real estate prices.

Normally this type of question falls in the what-if category. But as the evidence mounts, we do need to think about questions like this. So here is a test for you!

What part of NSW has above average rainfall, is high enough to avoid problems with mosquito born diseases, and has good infrastructure?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Problems with petrol - and their implications for Regional Australia

In all the discussion about rising petrol prices, rising food prices and climate change, no one appears to have really focused on just what all this means for life in Regional Australia.

Take a simple example.

Much public policy has focused on centralised service delivery, as has commercial activity such as supermarkets. All this assumes that people can travel. But what happens if, as an example, petrol prices reach the point that long distance travel to shop or receive medical care at a centralised location is no longer possible?

My personal view is that local delivery will, once again, become important. If so, this will lead to profound changes in regional dynamics, recreating the smaller service centres.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Explanation for a pause in blogging

I just got further and further behind on this blog. I had part completed posts, and then face a choice. Try to catch up, or draw a line.

I hate leaving several months without a post, but there comes a time when one has to start again!