If you aren’t an Australian – and I know there are some of you out there – you may not have been to, or even have heard of, Brisbane. It’s the capital of Queensland. Other than that, some people know very little about it.
I knew a friend of a friend from Sydney once who hated Brisbane. Sydney was better than Brisbane in every possible way, he said. It was livelier, had more entertainment, was faster, bigger, more interesting. He had definite opinions about this and expressed them to visiting Brisbaneites such as myself on a continual basis. I could hardly say anything in his presence without him disputing me as an ignorant Queenslander who really had to be pitied for not living in the greatest city on Earth (Sydney).
One day I asked him when he had been to Brisbane, since a lot of his information was out of date. “Oh,” he replied with a straight face, “I’ve never been there.”
He said it proudly, as if visiting Brisbane was like catching malaria.
He had all those opinions, based on no personal experience.
There was another man I knew, many years later, also from Sydney who hated not only Brisbane, but Queensland generally. Everything was better in New South Wales. One day we were standing in line waiting at a work-related barbeque (Australians are good at barbeques, and waiting in line for them is an art form). He was behind me in the queue drinking a particular brand of Queensland-brewed beer. He took a swig, made a face, and looked at me. “Even the beer is bad here,” he said. I made no reply, but he no doubt caught the look on my face and he shut up. I later commented to someone else that if he hated Queensland so much, why didn’t he go back home? Eventually he did, but he stole teaching materials belonging to other teachers and the school in doing so.
Now, I have nothing against Sydney or New South Wales. It was mere coincidence, I’m sure, that both of these Brisbane-knockers came from there. They are just the other side of the tick gate, after all.
(The tick gate is the wonderful border between Queensland and New South Wales that prevents Queensland nasties like ticks and fruit flies crossing over south. Like a gate is going to stop them doing that. It’s probably as effective at keeping out unwanted alien bugs as the US/Mexico border is at keeping out Mexicans.)
Anyway, I’m not wanting to maintain what Brisbane has over Sydney, or any other place for that matter. Brisbane is its own soul. May as well compare London and Lima, or San Francisco and Seoul. They both have people in them, that’s about it.
What I would like to do is list some of the things I like about Brisbane. I’ve lived a sizeable chunk of my life here, and there are some things, places, institutions and attitudes I’ve some to love. So here they are:
1) The Thomas Brisbane Planetarium.
This is such a cool place it features in my novel ‘Plato’s Cave’. You can lie back inside and see the night sky outside. It’s educational and awesome at the same time.
2) The way public transport passengers say “Thank you” to the bus driver or the ferry deckhand as they leave. That’s nice.
We are known as The River City. I’ve written about the City Cat ferries before. They are a great way of seeing the place. But the river itself is also very scenic and immensely practical. It floods more often than is desirable, but the city is built on a river plain. It’s remarkably flat and, yes, a wide river flowing through a flat plain is going to flood with monotonous regularity. But the old Queensland-style house, up on stumps, is designed to deal with that. Pity they don’t make those anymore. And while on the subject:
4) The architecture.
Queenslander-style houses. The Banana State’s contribution to house design. Brisbane is a mix of old and new. I know a lot of cities are, but here we have places like Spring Hill that resist the new to the death and give the old a lovely charm.
5) We beat New South Wales at football every damn time.
Sorry, I had to slip that in. Queenslander!
6) Mount Coot-Tha.
This is the highest point around this flat river plain. They put the TV transmission towers up there and they make a distinctive skyline. The mountain is also full of bush walks and waterfalls, etc. And besides, how many other cities have a mountain with such a weird name? Mount Coot-Tha. It’s actually pronounced ‘Mount Cootha’. You can tell who the tourists are.
7) The Story Bridge.
Another Brisbane icon, also featured in my novel ‘Plato’s Cave’ – look, why don’t you just buy a copy? The bridge’s distinctive shape is eye-catching.
8) Queen Street Mall.
It’s not large, it’s not the best in the world, it’s not awe-inspiring. But it’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by. I frequently do. People watching can be a great pastime. Street entertainers also make things…well, entertaining.
9) Moreton Bay.
Coochiemudlo Island in particular. We have had a holiday house there since the early 1970’s.
10) The weather.
A few weeks ago, in the depths of what passes for winter up here, someone wrote to the local paper complaining about Brisbane people rugging up against the “chill”. There is a bit of a chill here in winter (which usually occurs on a Friday in July). He was from Canberra (which is REALLY cold) and thought we were a bunch of weaklings for dressing like it was cold and complaining about the temperature being below 20 Celsius. Well, you see, the temperature isn’t often below 20, so when it is it makes a real difference. Our weather is great. Warm, sunny (except when it rains, and then it really does rain. Remember that flood-prone river?) and a little hot in summer, but then that’s when all the southern people come to Brisbane for the Christmas holidays, so they mustn’t complain about that too much. But Brisbane’s weather is amazing no matter what it’s doing. Sunshine, storms, rain…it has it all.
There are things I’ve left out, but this is just ten off the top of my head.
Remember, I’m not saying Brisbane is better than anywhere else. It isn’t. But these are just some things I like about it.
And if you want to complain, just go back home.
Russell Proctor – www.russellproctor.com