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Tuesday 26 July 2011

Come to Canberra: For Typewriters

It has long been a favourite past-time of Australians to denigrate their national capital. Canberra has most commonly been described as a "good sheep station spoiled". It has for many years now had an unjustifiable reputation of being lifeless and boring.
But even Canberrans are happy to have it referred to as the "bush capital". They like the idea of living in a large-sized city, one with all the necessary amenities and attractions, but all the while closely confined within an easily accessible country environment.  Sydney and Melbourne are Sodom and Gomorrah, sin cities; Canberra is still relatively "clean" - at least the air is generally fresh, if often chilly.
Quite what purpose is served by  "Canberra bashing" is beyond normal comprehension. Canberra is a beautiful, vibrant place, albeit one beset by all the evils of any city of its size (population about 385,000). It's got, in other words, sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll.
Canberra spreads to the edges of the Australian Capital Territory, a pocket of land within the state of New South Wales, no more than a three-hour two-lane highway drive from Sydney.
I can't speak for Washington, but of the "man-made" capital cities of the world, I'm certain Canberra ranks way ahead of Brasilia. It's no longer the soulless concrete canyon it was as little as 40 years ago, when I first visited.
I have lived here now for more than 14 years. Happily for me, about six years ago I came to the realisation that Canberra had once been the "typewriter capital of the Southern Hemisphere". Thanks to its academic institutes, the public service, and the migrants who drifted here from Europe in the 1950s, some having worked on the Snowy River hydro scheme, typewriters - many hundreds of them - had come to this city from all over. They were, not so long ago, to be found in abundance in op-shops and recycling centres.
Canberra was designed at the turn of the last century by an American, Walter Burley Griffin. It started to become a bricks and mortar settlement in 1913, and the Federal Government was finally moved here in 1924. But it took another 60 years for it to start to truly "come alive" in its own right.
Canberra had developed such a bad reputation in the early 1970s, the Government felt it necessary to promote it as a desirable place to live for public servants. A brochure published at the time has, in the past few weeks, been yet again uncovered, scanned and posted on the Internet. These pages went, in the modern idiom "viral". Small things amuse small minds, as they say ...

Getting a bonus for being able to type at a leisurely 50 words a minute is indicative of the easy, laidback lifestyle of Canberra .. then, as now.

1 comment:

rino breebaart said...

I like Canberra. It's a very calm city; has some great bookstores; and perfectly dry air.

A good friend once lived there for a while, and I miss taking a flight down and having a good writing session over Steely Dan and wine.