Canberra – August 2016

We left Melbourne early on a Monday morning.  Stealthily, we disguised ourselves as Northern Territorians for our visit to the nation’s capital.

Toilet stop in Benalla, where I took a photo of Lake Benalla looking nice and full.

Next piss-stop was Holbrook, NSW, a small country town in inland Australia where they have a submarine concreted into the town park.  Because of course they do.


Actually, it makes a bit of sense.  Not only is the town named after a celebrated submarine captain of WWI, it has a submarine museum and links to the Royal Australian Navy.  The HMAS Otway (for that is she) was built in Greenock, Scotland.


D and the conning tower…


While a submarine concreted into an inland country town in Australia appeals to my humour, so does this nice memorial Holbrook has to Australia’s submariners…


Straya.  Where we celebrate a submariner by not only not doing something water-based, nor even at ground-level.  Nuh – we shove him up in the air!  :D


Arrived in Canberra just after 3pm on Friday.  I never did go and investigate where this sign at our digs was pointing, but I can only assume a bank of treadwheels where lowly campers toiled for their lodging and kept the rest of the grounds bathed in artificial light and the telly in our heated cabin working.


After acquainting ourselves with our bush-adjoining digs, we ventured the extraordinary distance of 7km to the centre of Canberra.  Evening had fallen by now, so we had only a very quick drive around to orientate ourselves as best we could in the dark through drizzle and wet car windows (“All I can see is a big black nothing – must be the Lake!”).  And though I’ve never thought too much of the new Parliament House, I gotta say it cuts quite a dashing figure when it suddenly emerges from the gloom looking all bloody huge and floodlit and flagpole-y and vaguely Italian Fascist.  But that was to be the closest we got to it.  Food, and more importantly, beer beckoned.

Ate in a pub called The Moosehead, then adjourned to the Uni Pub where we met up with D’s cousin & her very-soon-to-be husband for a few hours of ales while watching the pouring rain falling sideways outside.


Saturday morning started with finding a) Chifley and b) A Bite To Eat for breakfast.  I had a breakfast curry!  It was fab.  We sat directly beneath their chockers pinboards – a map thereon helpfully showing us how we got there.


And D decided to add one of his business cards as evidence that we (or at least he) had been there.  Now the good people of Chifley have contact details for the Melbourne Swordplay Guild.


It’s the arse-end of winter, so plum blossoms.  Of course.


After brekkie we repaired to the Australian War Memorial in which we planned to spend most of the day.  And we did.  This is it from the side, where they have the 2/2 version of the lovely Weary Dunlop statue (Melbourne’s St Kilda Road has the 1/2).  I actually think the Memorial looks nicer from the side than the front because…


…the front kinda reminds me of a late 19th / early 20th century power station.  I mean, don’t get me wrong – turn of the century power stations had some thought go into them and most of them are pretty bloody beautiful, but still.


With your back to the (front of the) Memorial, this is the view out.  Old Parliament House being the white building in the mid-ground and (New)Parliament House to the rear.


D in the third section of the honour galleries.


We both really liked this statue of Victory in the museum.  But the information provided on her left us with so many questions.


It says she used to be on a 20foot high plinth in Marrickville.  So how did she get here?  What happened to her lower half?  What happened to the plinth?  Why did Marrickville say goodbye to her?  Questions questions questions!


This is George.  I was a just a tad excited to come face to face with an actual Lancaster bomber, I must say.  And they’re huge!  D mentioned it reminded him of standing in the skeleton of a sperm whale in the South Australian Museum in Adelaide back in 2002


For reference, here’s the photo I took in 2002 of D doing just that.  So yeah.  Lancaster bombers, sperm whales.  Remember that for your next pub argument.




D on the reconstructed bridge of HMAS Brisbane.  He was amused by a particular button he’d spotted among myriad banks of buttons…


…the all-important No button.  (Every warship needs one.)


This gallery was difficult to take photos in, so you’ll have to excuse these next two, but for history’s sake, I had to include them.  I’d never really thought about what must have happened to the Japanese midget submarines that attacked Sydney in 1942 (“They got blown up, maybe?”).  The War Memorial museum has one of them.  Or two of them, kinda.  It’s a composite craft, made from bits of two.


And yeah, they’d got blown up.  Quite sobering, actually, being able to stand right next to this vessel and think about what happened.


Weirdest. Footy field. Ever.  Ample opportunity for scoring points on both wings, and I think it’s a Super Goal if you can kick it through the triangular bit.


Sunday morning we went to Old Parliament House, which is very open to the public and contains the Museum of Australian Democracy.  Stood on the steps, in the spot where Gough Whitlam made his Dismissal Speech – and this is the view.  Mount Ainslie (I think), with the War Memorial in mid-ground.  To the left, the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy.  To the right, the new Tent Embassy.


Got D to stand in Gough’s spot, too.  “Stand there.  Right there.  Okay.  Now, look like you’ve just been sacked.”  But that just made him laugh.  :)


This is taken inside the Prime Ministerial Secretary’s office.  She had a peep-hole!  That is the best thing I’ve ever bloody seen.  :D  Every secretary’s office should have one.  It’d make life so much easier.


To demonstrate, here’s me standing in the Prime Minister’s Office.


The PM’s inner sanctum.  Only three PMs actually got to use this room before the new Parliament House was built.  So really, this is Whitlam’s, Fraser’s and Hawke’s office.  The windows look out on pretty much the same view as you saw from the top of the steps.  (“Why would he have his back permanently turned on the War Memorial?” D wanted to know.)  Beneath the clock, the 3rd shelf down (the larger one), see the tiny hole at the top of it?  PEEP-HOLE!!  Never gonna be over that.  Brilliant.


Me in the cabinet room.  “My fellow Australians…”  Haven’t included the shot that includes the door to this room, but jesus it’s like a bank vault – no eavesdropping at this room’s door.  (they leave that up to the ASIO bugs that are no doubt littered all about the place)


You know there’s only two copies of Magna Carta outside of England?  One’s in Washington D.C., the other lives in Canberra.  Unfortunately it’s held permanently in the new Parliament House (which okay, yeah, makes sense, I guess) so we didn’t get to see it.  But Old Parliament House has an entire hall devoted to it and includes a rather Star Trek-y zoomable display screen that lets you explore the digitised version of it.  A sound knowledge of medieval sword manuscripts means that D can actually read a goodly amount of this…


Outside, in front of and to the side a bit, there’s a statue of He-Man riding a hobby horse.


Okay, so it’s actually a statue in memory of George V, but seriously.  That horse ain’t walkin’ nowhere.  (A portion of the original Tent Embassy to the left there, too.)


Late Sunday arvo was D’s cousin’s wedding (the whole reason we were in Canberra, actually).  And first thing Monday morning we were back in the Northern Territorian car again and headed back home.  This is an uninteresting photo, but “Wide Open Road” by The Triffids had just come on the stereo as we crossed out of the ACT and into NSW and we had many hours driving ahead and it just seemed the right thing to do.


I would surmise from this photo that we were approximately 5miles from Gundagai.


Our stealth car in shot here.  Had a very nice breakfast at this Oliver’s place (approximately 5miles from Gundagai).  “It’s not a bear!”


Aaaaaaaaand home.  We are no longer disguised as Northern Territorians.