I just asked Dee why she liked Brisbane and she said “Triple M”.
“Fair enough,” I said**. But perhaps, just for your sake, I’ll delve a tad deeper into why this town has a hold over me.
Although I wasn’t born here, this is where I grew up. (Forgiving the fact I spent 6ish years in Sydney for a tiny bit of primary and all of high school.) And so I was born 45kms away in Ipswich, and Ipswich has, and continues to be, a big part of my life – but my earliest memories are here. Brisbane.
My Nanna’s house on Whitehill Road – where my mum grew up and I spent many Christmases and weekends and days during my infancy.
It was, and still is, cool to diss Brisbane. And I am not going to try to defend this town. But below I will just try to focus on the positives.
WHY GOOD PEOPLE LEAVE
A good bunch of people choose to leave Brisbane. I am told it used to be far worse. Before the Internet and the Giant Kangaroo at the Commonwealth Games and the GO-CARD it was incredibly hard to be different in Brisbane. We had a horribly corrupt government, we had no venues and no real interest in progressiveness.
And so in this context we all grew up. But still there was, and continues, a culture of exodus. I know in America (a much more de-centralised society than here) there is a cultural impetus that kids go away to another town for college. That rite of passage – means just that – passage. Movement.
So perhaps this is Brisbane being ahead of the rest of Australia. After all – Queensland is the most de-centralised State in Australia.
Thus – most of the people I have known that have left here – they leave for Melbourne (About 2000 kms south in the state of Victoria). And I know this may be controversial – but a lot of those people left knowing (and having the saftey-net of knowing) that there was a whole big bunch of other Brisbane people in Melbourne. It seems like Melbourne, just like other major capitals was growing a micro-nation – a “Little Brisbane”.
So it seems the rest have left for London and a few have gone to Sydney and the last smattering have disappeared for other far reaches of the world. And it should be said, one or two friends have left for regional places in Queensland.
And so I’ve thought about leaving, and sometimes really, really wanted to. But I’ve stuck by this city.
In my heart of hearts – I am quite sure I am here cause I have historically been a pussy. An utter deadshit, completely petrified of change. But now I am older, not so weak and worried, I will try to tell you why I am glad I have stayed (-so far*).
THE RIVER SPREADS THINGS OUT
Apart from the fact we actually have a “River” – not a glorified creek (or in some cities – a drain) I think the way our River snakes it’s way through the city – although it cuts it in two – the River’s meander splays the appeal. It’s almost democratic. It doesn’t immediately look that photogenic or compressed. But then you get a new vista around every corner and it’s a tale that keeps on giving. To me a city like Sydney has no choice but to put all its eggs into one basket. This makes for amazing scenery, but it’s just too much, and too much ALL the time. And this also creates such rich property. The best views of Sydney are owned by stupidly rich people and us plebs only get to glimpse them as you battle traffic, or squint through dirty train windows as you cross the Harbour Bridge. That is – unless you travel by bike.
BRIDGES ARE COOL
Various views of Brisbane’s first bridge: Victoria. Destroyed three times, twice by floods.
I like bridges. They are big, grand and take some skills to build. They are like artificially perfect hills and give you altitude and generally awesome (and exposed) views and although I think our bridges here in Brisbane are horribly ordinary – their essence is still cool. Even in this modern, increasingly-sterilised and homogenised city we live in – they still connect two very different worlds. The journey across the Victoria Bridge (the very first bridge in Brisbane) from south to north is still a revelating “journey” even though I do it almost every single day. The view of the city upon this approach is quite inspiring.
Indeed one side of every single bridge in Brisbane is very different to the other. So one side is one world, and the other side is a totally different universe. Trust me.
Brisbane was a product of the River. It is quite bizarre the north-side became the centre of town, because south of the river was where the timber, the civilisation (Sydney etc) and expansion (into central Queensland) was.
I really hope we get another bridge soon. (A mayoral candidate has recently mooted a new pedestrian bridge – maybe from Norman Park to New Farm).
WE IS YOUNG
Patrick Mayne. The subject of an incredible book. It alleges he murdered and horrifically dismembered a timber-cutter up from northern NSW to spend his new fortune. An early version of the Story Bridge hotel was the setting. Parts of the body ended up in the river, a well and on a gate. Another man was tried and executed for the crime. Mayne then used the proceeds to initially start a butcher shop in Queen Street (where the Brisbane Arcade now stands) – the build a real estate empire in protozoic Brisbane. He was involved in local government then developed a sickness – maybe syphilis – that led him to his death-bed where he apparently confessed to this crime to clergy. The story escaped and that is not the end of the story. Read the book – you will not be disappointed.
We have very little history, but it’s quite rich. I got utterly mesmerised by the book “The Mayne Inheritance” recently and I am a regular visitor of the blog “Your Brisbane Past and Present”. Amazing.
It is quite bizarre to know we had bomb shelters all down Elizabeth Street, or the money for the land the University of Queensland sits on was almost certainly ultimately sourced by a very heinous murder. And the floods and fires this town has experienced are quite apocalyptic.
THE BIKE RIDING
I have biked all over the world, (and in Australia), and I am perhaps reluctantly convinced that Brisbane is actually quite blessed. But I qualify that by saying we still have some of the worse drivers anywhere that are so hostile and unconditioned to bicycle traffic. We have that River which gives us that “Riverloop” and the bikeways along it’s reaches. We have bikepaths on all but one bridge crossing. We have Mt Coot-Tha just 7ks from the city for honing our mountain skills. Then we have Nebo for just some more variety. We also have amazing weather for biking. And I say that as a ginger that is quite hopelessly compromised by hot weather. (I am learning to do big rides in winter and shorter, less challenging stuff during summer).
The only thing I lament is we don’t have the multitude of low traffic country roads with crazy scenery about 50kms out of town like Melbourne – something that Andy rubs in all the time!
I HAVE FRIENDS HERE and I have BRISBANE FRIENDS OVERSEAS
Even though I would kill to move away for a while – ultimately – this is where all my friends are. And the friends that have moved away just mean I have someone to party with in some random place on the other side of the world.
And I keep saying this to all that will listen – but the secret of happiness in life is quite simply – human interaction – and lots of it. It can be good or tragic, but usually the good stuff is best. Feeling is important. And Brisbane makes me feel. It incites a reaction in my soul. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I care about it.
The Little Lovers “Red Devil” film clip. That’s me on the wall and all our friends dancing around. Good times.
* I will always covert a dream of living overseas