18th February 2019
We landed in Brisbane early one evening by jetplane. We were reminded that Captain Cook on the Endeavour, in 1770, had sailed into Botany Bay near Sydney, and planted the first British Flag which binded the Brits to the Aussies for many years to come. This means that to this day, we have a shared language and to a great extent an element of shared culture.
The Aussies, although totally independant and in charge of their own affairs in 2019, still opt to share our Royal Family in spite of ceasing to be a British colony in 1901. Media interest in the comings and goings of glamorous young royals is similar to at home, although perhaps a bit more intrusive?
What is completely different are the challenges posed by their messy relationship with indigenous people, whom it is considered, have been negatively impacted by the colonisation. (Obviously our fault.) It feels very much unresolved. Probably more of that later.
Cook sailed North from Sydney in a creaking Endeavour and landed further up the coast in Queensland, where we are now. He disembarked to fix a large and potentially fatal hole in its hull, caused by an encounter with an uncharted coral reef. I wont attempt to get into the narrative of his early encounters with indiginous people, but needless to say, it did not go entirely well.
We had a much softer landing. Still without Landy, we took a taxi (with an Indian driver) to the suburb of Inderoopilly, where a bed and an Aussie welcome were awaiting us.
Brisbane is really beaut! (You get the picture?). It is close to the sea, divided by a river, intersected with striking roads and bridges, some of which had been built by the former husband of our host. Roads either led to the centre of town where there were theatres, galleries, cathedrals and malls and others meandered off to remoter suburbs with wooden terraced bungalows, occupying streets with stunning flowering mature trees which spread across the roads.
Did I mention the hills? The town is situated in a hilly domain. Roads built along former goat tracks, twist, climb and tumble. Great fun to drive around. This also means that you are afforded fab views from many vantage points. Standing on top of Mount Coot Tha reminds me of looking over London from the top of Greenwich Park. Except here, the default weather being sunny and hot! (Unless there is a cyclone!)
As I write, we have been staying with Aussie cousin number one for a week or two and she will tell you that I still can’t pronounce Inderoopilly correctly. But I have worked out how to buy groceries from Aldi and separately wine from the Liquor Store. (Them’s the rules).
We were taken on our first day for a whistle stop tour of the neighbourhood in a sporty little Mazda and realised that our Brisbane home was nestled into a leafy, hilly suburb surrounded by thin eucalyptus trees which swayed in the breeze and almost glistened in the bright sunshine.
On incongruous patches of open space, neat empty children's playgrounds waited invitingly for customers and strict signs warned against taking to the wooded footpaths on horse back or motorbikes. At the curbside, we were warned to watch out for hopping kangaroos.
A lone Kookaburra, with its ubiquitous cackle, was sitting on a climbing frame and flew off as we wandered past. OK this one is on a tree in our back garden, but you get my drift?
We trundled up a dappled footpath near the house between the trees with their multi-coloured trunks. Underfoot, the ground is littered with thin bark slices, which seasonally peeled off the tree trunks.
We were taken to a nearby nature park and introduced to creatures native to Australia and almost before our feet had touched the ground we had seen wombats, koalas, dingos and any number of wallabys and kangaroos.
Admittedly these animals were behind a turnstile, but as we wandered around also we saw huge lizards not in captivity.
These would be totally out of place in Europe and yet they seemed totally unphased by passers by. Their necks were craning and flicking around like minature dinosaurs searching for dinner! The one below was begging for scraps at a cafe outside the city’s main art gallery. Imagine this at our South Bank? Strutting around with the pigeons? Respect.
And we were to see many more of these and a variety of oversized native birds (Bush Turkeys and Ibis), not in a far away estuary or wild national park, but scuttling around the streets and parks in busy suburbs and gardens of a modern city, home to 2 million people.
Indeed our host kept her cat indoors in case it became lunch to the wildlife in her garden. Whilst, in 25 years, she had never seen a snake in her neat tropical garden, she warned ominously that she had heard them rustling!
Unbelievably whilst we wait for the car to emerge from the port, we learn that Brisbane is potentially in the eye of a massive tropical storm, Oma, threatening to bring a deluge of rain and huge winds to a city already affected this week, by unusually high Spring tides and flooding. We are watching with interest and the port tell me that the hanger in which the car is stored has never flooded! What is good is that it is covered over, because the roof is never great in a heavy downpour and we are expecting lots.
As the Bureau of Meteorology update us every few hours, the severity decreases. However, we will be holding on to our hats.