Wandering Thoughts

July 4, 2015

Reading the signs: Canberra

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 4:13 pm


Good ol’ Canberra. Here’s a question for a philosopher: even if you view an individual as possessing right to get high, can you also argue that it is someone else’s responsibility to slow down for them when they go for a walk to the nearest servo to address their munchies?


October 9, 2014

Sweden Strikes Back!

Filed under: Staying Places — terence @ 9:34 pm
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My memory isn’t what it used to be (or maybe it never was, I’m not too sure about these things anymore). This isn’t always bad. Seasons bring surprises, for example.

I’d forgotten the things spring does to campus. Willow trees swaying in the westerly, plump with leaves they could never possibly lose. Late blossoms. Early flowers. And something gone to seed that has set flurries of cotton-snow drifting over the grass and whirling by buildings.

It’s pretty. Though not nearly as pretty as this. Sweden, and country and western: what could go right?

Everything, it turns out.

August 24, 2013


Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 4:34 pm
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Watch, while it’s only a sky filled with friendly, empty blue. And Mount Franklin daubed white by the last of the westerly gales. Colour climbing out of skeletal trees. People on their ways. Remember it now. While it’s warm. Before it bakes. Before the haze of bush fires. And before the air is thickened, clogged with thirst and heat.

July 28, 2013

On Mt Ainslie

Filed under: Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 8:37 pm

On Mt Ainsie at the end of the day. High thin clouds. A skinny grey English artist wearing a rain coat loading a giant easel onto a tiny, skinny car. Chatty Chinese tourists with cameras. Street lights turning the suburbs into constellations. Ranges of hills losing their depth. Bending, coloured sky. The horizon taking the last of the light, folding it into tomorrow.

February 6, 2011


Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 10:04 pm

For the first two weeks of the year it rained almost every day. The sky was cluttered with damp, dreary clouds and the air almost cool.

The end of the rain came one morning when, instead of gathering, the clouds gave way to the insistent sun. And from then on it was dry, defying the weather bureau who kept confidently predicting showers. The dry built. Culminating one day with temperatures of nearly 40 degrees and a hot, arid wind that felt like it was blowing from a desert somewhere. And then the whether turned again. Still hot but humid now, with most days ending in booming thunderstorms, purple strokes of lightening and flooded streets.

With it the water brings life. After the rain, the park behind our house fills with what we think are tiny whistling frogs chirping from the tops of trees. Insects too. Our flat is home to a bunch of gangly, spindly house spiders that hunt mosquitoes, moths, and the little black flies that are everywhere now. At night either these spiders, or some secretive cousin of theirs has taken to criss-crossing the flat. Abseiling from ceilings, and sailing across the spaces between walls, trailing thread in their wake. I don’t know why they do it, the single strands can’t possibly catch anything. Maybe they’re safety ropes for arachnid alpinists, or the bungees of base jumping bugs. Either way they’re left waiting for us in the morning, long after their owners have retreated to dark distant corners.

And so the barely awake stumblings of our early mornings are accompanied by gossamer tickles. It’s too fine, and not sticky enough, to be unpleasant. Just an almost intangible aid to awakening, courtesy of the Canberra rains, and everything that flows from them.

June 30, 2010


Filed under: Staying Places — terence @ 9:14 pm
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The people on the bus ride home suggest there’s more to Ainslie than the cozy suburban street where we live:

A ramshackle guy speaking into a big old cell phone.

“If I could just get to see a psychiatrist or something.”

Pleading with someone: his wife? a case worker?

Another rough looking bloke is drunk, almost asleep on one of the seats. Somehow, despite being barely conscious, he remembers his stop.

Tired people. Old people. Tidy people. Shabby people. Drunks. Kids.

Teenager’s mill around, foils for the rest of us. Young and healthy. Groomed and good looking. Awkward in their way, with the hunch and poise of those not quite yet grown into themselves.

Sitting next to me are two women. One, in her forties or early fifties, is tidily dressed. With a sensible swoop of hair and glasses that sit neatly on a crooked, determined nose. The other is older, her hair’s still dark but the curls are thinning. She’s rounded and bent down a bit, wearing a cheep pink fleece and wrinkled old pants.

The younger woman’s doing the bulk of the talking. She’s calm but her words have a force.

“…too many drug addicts and alcoholics, not good people. I’m not happy there.”

“Could you find another church?” The older lady’s voice is weaker. I have to strain to eavesdrop.

“That’s what I’m doing. It’s difficult for me – on my own. One guy used to keep calling me up asking me to drive him everywhere. And there’s a big woman, who bosses me around. One of those big women. I can’t put up with that.”

“Maybe another church would be better.”

“That’s right. I’m going to move. But I told the big woman, and now she wants to come with me. It’s difficult for me on my own. You must know what it’s like. When did you say your husband died?”

“30 years ago.”

“Do you…”

“…I still miss him sometimes. It’s been a long time.”

“You see. It’s different for me. I’ve always been on my own. I think I always will.”

The older lady’s looking for words, but her companion starts up again before she finds any.

“I’m used to it. But I still get lonely. It was better when I worked you see, but now I’m just on my own. And the people at church are no good.”

“No, I think you should change churches.”

“Oh that’s my stop.”

“See you later. Good luck. I’m Mary by the way.”

Surprisingly, for someone who talks so much, I’m not a sociable person. With the exception of my wife and a few close friends, I find socialising hard work. Nevertheless, I think to myself as I limp the last little bit of my journey home, I’d crumple in an instant under the weight of that much loneliness.

Lady, I really hope you find a better church.

June 17, 2010


Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 12:26 pm
Tags: ,

In March, we arrived in the rain. Sunday evening, Canberra airport, and a thick clingy drizzle. Being Wellingtonians this wasn’t anything particularly new. We just adopted our weather posture (a hunch, shrinking back into one’s clothes like a tortoise into its shell) and hurried to the rent-a-car, trying to keep our bags dry.

Rain in Wellington is so common it doesn’t even warrant comment. This isn’t the case in Canberra though. Over the next few days people advised us that the drizzle which had welcomed us to the city was really quite something.

“Several days of it.”

“Most rain we’ve had in 4 years, mate.”

Over time, and with the occasional intermittent deluge, that number increased.

“Dams haven’t been this high in 7 years.”

“Hasn’t been this much rain for 14 years.”

Finally the TV weatherman gave the official verdict.

“Canberra has had its wettest month in 20 years. The drought is over.”

That last comment made me chuckle. The drought breaking weather we’ve been experiencing – the most rain in 20 years! – equates to one, maybe two, days of rain a fortnight. Small bursts of wetness punctuating otherwise blue skies.

I’m pretty sure Canberra’s recent wet-spell would qualify as a plant destroying drought in Wellington.

Anyhow, I’m not complaining. Although, today, the weather is actually really, really bad. Even by New Zealand standards. A low, grey, damp, blanket of clouds across the sky. Windy, wet and cold.

Safe to say, I’m feeling more or less at home.

April 4, 2010

Canberra in a nutshell

Filed under: Going Places,Staying Places — terence @ 3:49 pm
Tags: ,

My friend Paul, over for work, summed it up perfectly:

This isn’t a capital city; it’s a capital suburb.

Which isn’t a bad thing. At least for an arch-suburbanite like myself.

March 30, 2010

New Things

Filed under: Going Places,Staying Places — terence @ 9:27 pm
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Things I like:

Sunset on Mount Ainslie, waiting as is Canberra is mapped out by its street lights, watching as the last of the red ebbs from the continent and into the sky.

Driving east on the Kings Highway, on dawn, down towards the coast, in and out of half asleep mist. On the way to the beach, anxiously watching for Roos.

January 9, 2010

Yes We Canberra?

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 2:16 pm

Well, all going to plan, Jo and I are moving to Canberra. Me to do a PhD; Jo to work. I’ve still got a couple of administrative hoops to clear before the PhD is 100% confirmed but I’m definitely looking forwards to the chance to study and learn. While at the same time feeling perturbed by the task in front of me.

And, of course, the key uncertainty is health. Or, more specifically, my health, field research and developing countries.

We’ll see how we go…

September 25, 2008

Canberra Reconsidered

Filed under: Going Places — terence @ 4:17 pm
Tags: ,

My first visit to Canberra was very nearly my last. Some years back, me and my partner at the time took the train down from Sydney to see a Freida Kahlo exhibition at the National Gallery. The gallery was a wonder, but the city surrounding it appalled us. The pomp of the parliamentary architecture, the sterility that always accompanies pre-planned cities (unless they’re in Brazil)…and what’s worse we were there in a weekend, and so had to wander near-empty artificially-wide streets. To be frank the effect was eerie, like we were on the set of a zombie movie. I half expected to turn a corner and discover undead civil servants descending upon us, their wrecked throats groaning out ‘polliicccy’ instead of ‘braaains’.

Needless to say I didn’t race back. But earlier this year my wife and I vaulted the Tasman and found ourselves returned to Australia’s capital. And I found myself loving the place. We arrived to grumpy grey skies and a temperature low enough to have me purchasing the first scarf I saw. And yet, weighed down by that sky, the buildings seemed almost dignified, while the deciduous trees, that ought to have been out of place like colonial nostalgia always is, actually felt right, losing the last of their leaves in the wind gusts.

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