Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday Five: Canberra Insights

Since arriving in Canberra, I've spent a lot of time reading leaflets and being a tourist. Among my ramblings I have visited the Botanic Gardens, the National Library of Australia, the Embassy District and the National Portrait Gallery. No doubt over the coming weeks I'll post more information about the above, but in the meantime here are some highlights:

5 Things I've Learned Since Coming to Canberra:
  1. Canberra comes from the Aboriginal word 'Kamberra' meaning meeting place
  2. Canberra has the lowest unemployment rate and highest average wage in Australia
  3. Patrick White is the only Australian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (in 1973)
  4. After the mutiny on the Bounty when Captain Bligh was cast adrift near Tonga with 18 crew members, they travelled 6,000km to Timor - only one man died on the voyage, killed by islanders on Tofoa when they landed looking for water
  5. King George III posthumously granted Captain James Cook a coat of arms featuring a globe (the only one to do so) and the motto 'nil intentatum reliquit'; he left nothing unattempted.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Quiet Zones

I am sitting in the library trying to work. Until our internet connection is established at home, this is the only place I can do so. And yet I am struggling, because of the deafening screams of children. Yes, that’s right, in the library.

There is a glass rectangle marked ‘quiet zone’. It looks like some sort of modern art installation or version of a torture chamber where prisoners are contained in the see-through cage with the sun beating down. It is opposite the ‘play area’ and it is not sound-proofed. It is deafening, and my idea of hell.

Inevitably questions arise: Why is there a ‘play area’ in a library? I understand the need to introduce children to the wonderful world of reading and even for the horror that is story-time, but why isn’t this separate, maybe in a windowless basement? Shouldn’t these children (and their parents) also be taught the need to respect others; for their privacy and their desire for silence? To read or study (and this library is next-door to a large college) in peace?

It’s no secret that two of my favourite things in life are books and beer/ wine. It follows, therefore, that two of my favourite activities are reading and drinking, and by logical consequence that two of my favourite locations should be libraries and pubs. Until recently, this was indeed so. Now they are all but ruined by children.

Okay, so I know that people think I don’t like children. This isn’t true. What I dislike intensely is rude and inconsiderate behaviour by people of any age. Children appear to display this more and more frequently with the tacit (and often open) approval of their parents. If you don’t believe me, just try complaining when a child shrieks in your ear as you try to type in the library or runs into you and spills your pint in the pub.

Certain areas should have designated behaviours. I wouldn’t go to a park and be annoyed by children squealing on the swings. Noisy participation is all to be encouraged at a Wiggles concert. Brightly-coloured plastic toys and high-pitched appreciation of rubber food are what I would expect at fast-food outlets. And as far as I’m concerned you can do pretty much whatever you want in your own home.

But please, just stay out of my space. And if we really have to interact in it, can we do so by the rules? Quietly? I’m not alone in this. The poor young woman opposite me, who has been trying to study, has given up and packed up her books to go somewhere more peaceful – the airport, perhaps. She sighed as she departed and wished me good luck, before suggesting I should invest in a pair of headphones if I wanted any silence in the library. Good advice, perhaps, but should I really have to?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Belated Birthday Wishes

I am snatching an hour in the local library to post on my blog. I couldn't become a member of the library until I had some bill or something addressed to me in ACT that I could use as proof of residence. I haven't got a landline or a mobile phone yet, nor are we connected to the internet at home, so I am unable to contact people in any way other than post. This feels quite isolated.

Anyway, I have now finally got a bank account and received mail from the bank, so am able to join the library and log on - for one hour per day. This is my first day and I have got so many things I need to look up (such as what day the rubbish collection is, and what are we allowed to put in our recycle bins, and where is there a laundrette in this town as we are running out of clean clothes!) but I thought I would just leap on here and post a message to all my lovely friends and family to let them know that we are well and everything is okay.

I also know that I have missed several birthdays in transit and want you all to know that I am thinking of you and will get round to sending the cards and birthday messages as soon as I get a little bit more sorted (all my stationery is packed in the container!). I shall leave you with this sage sentiment:
"Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most live the longest!" - Larry Lorenzoni