Posts Tagged ‘Brisbane’

A mere half an hour after I’d blogged my potentially offensive summary of Brisbane’s shortfallings, I had a phone-call inviting me for an interview at the English school I’ve been training at.  I saw it as a sign.  Having all but booked my ticket out of Brisbane, I felt a truthful account – warts n’ all – of the place would be the right thing to post.  But I was rushed and even as I pressed ‘publish’, I knew I’d probably not seen some of the more positive aspects of Brisbane and secretly hoped no Brisbanites would alight upon the blog and feel offended.  And so the job interview was a wake-up call to look properly at what is around and pull out the positives.

Today, I had the interview…with some success (another story) and have the day to explore the city and focus on some of the more positive aspects of the place.  Almost before consciously beginning this task, I looked up whilst waiting to cross the road at one of the busy inner-city junctions and saw a statue of a koala mum and her young – the building, quite aptly, named ‘Koala House’.  I’d just last night watched a documentary about the survival adaptations of koalas living on the outskirts of Brisbane’s suburbs.  Last Friday, I saw and stroked my first koala of Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo.  I like koalas.  The statue made me smile. 

Moving on to the Queen Street Mall area, despite a host of overpriced clothes shops and grim-looking fast food chains, the reception at the shops I browsed was none other than first class.  Bright, positive, upbeat and doing a very good impression of actually being interested in whether or not the potential customer is having a good day.  What’s more, outside the mall, the street is lined with musicians: a oboe player slumped moodily in a exit door alcove, eyes closed and melody soaring; an accordion player looking much like the sea-shanty singers of a good old English seaside shindig: full white beard and colourful waistcoat and an ukulele-player: crisp sound bubbling onto the city streets. 

I’ve now taken a seat at the river-side bar/coffee shop, attempting to find some solace in this river in the way I do with my river at home.  The sun is sporadically shining, interspersed with a welcome breeze; CityCat ferries glide past, some stopping to unload passengers; passers-by seem relaxed, content, not friendly but certainly not hostile.

So between the koala statue, the musicians, the friendly shop-service and the pleasant river setting, I’m doing my best to pull out the positives of this ‘soft city’.  Now, I just need to decide whether to stay here or move on.

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Brisbane: the soft city?

Posted: January 31, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Every six months or so when I remember the existence of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Sunscreen’, I listen to it and smile at the lyrics: ‘Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern Carolina once but leave before i makes you soft’.  I’ve lived in neither New York City nor Northern Carolina.  But I have lived in London and I have lived in Devon.  I’ve also visited a number of other places most of which I’ve been able, at least loosely, to place into one of these two categories.  Brisbane, however, has me stumped! 

Before coming here, I might have assumed that a city which does not threaten to instil ice in your heart and hatred in your eyes would be a blessing.  But somehow this city manages to evade all a city’s usual rudeness, pollution and cynicism and yet has replaced in with a sort of indescriminate void. 

I’ve been challenged a number of times over the past weeks to offer my opinion of my new temporary home.  Try though I have to spare the feelings of these rather friendly individuals, and indeed maintain at least a sheen of credibility in the ‘decent sociable human being’ ranks, I’m afraid I’ve invariably answered with phrases such as ‘it’s a bit soft’; ‘it’s lacking something’ and on one particularly downtrodden day, ‘I just look around and think…really?!!’.  I hear myself saying these things and generally attempt some form of back-peddle, offering either placatory anecdotes such as ‘but one woman did smile at me yesterday’ or else aim to even the scoreboard by insulting my own country, ‘If only England didn’t have such god awful rain’ (not even true). 

But most remarkably, most people at least partially agree with my somewhat underwhelming assessment of this city, adding such things as ‘yeah, it doesn’t look that great does it’ and ‘yeah, you need to get away from here quite often’.

Now, I say ‘you need to get away sometimes’ about my town of Dartmouth in the UK – an infinitely smaller (three-streets-big smaller) and, in my opinion, infinitely more beautiful and charismatic place.  I can cope with the insularity, occasional gossip-mongering and limited entertainment options because it means I get to live by the beautiful River Dart, a short country-lane walk away from the beach ad surrounded by luscious green countryside and woodlands.  Most importantly, it’s crammed with charismatic people waving and shouting greetings across the road and welcoming you with a pint in the pub. That’s why I ‘sacrifice’ to live in a place you ‘need to get away from now and then’.  What on earth possesses people to do the same for Brisbane.