15 March 2024

So what do you like best about Canberra? For us, it's always been the bees' knees

| Sally Hopman
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Canberra public servants in shorts and socks

Why women came to Canberra to find husbands back in the day – need we say more? Just sock it to us. Photo: National Archives of Australia.

As a media platform, we like asking questions – and it’s even better if our readers answer them.

It helps us to know what you’re interested in, the meaning of life, for example, and what you’re not interested in – like what journalists have on their sandwiches.

It used to be that we’d do “vox pops”, where journalists – usually the young ones who weren’t brave enough to say no to their editor – were sent out somewhere where there were a lot of people to ask them what they thought about something. But none of that motherhood statement stuff: more about whether they preferred buses to trams, another service station or a cafe, or that old curtain-raiser, daylight saving.

On our sister platform, The Canberra Page, we asked this week that always-guaranteed-an-answer-question: What’s the Best Thing About Canberra? And, yes, lots of people responded with the always-guaranteed-answer – the road out of town.

But wait, there was more. Some people raved on about the good old days, when Canberra men wore long socks and shorts and Canberra women came here to find sensible public servant husbands – with great legs.

But it also came up with the sort of answers that bring joy to the heart, a spring on to one’s scooter – and a relieved sigh for tourism operators. What’s the best thing about Canberra …”the people”, other people said. They were “lovely, warm, generous” – and more adjectives than you could poke a stick at – although it’s best to keep your sticks to yourself, unless you have a tail.

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They also had a thing for trees, the weather – although winter was “often too cold” – the Raiders, the early days, the Phoenix, balloons, leaving (but apparently that was a joke according to the emoji), male brothel, “it isn’t Sydney”, the Chinese cafes in Dickson, roundabouts, the ocean (?), Summernats, the airport departure lounge, “great government” and the “Welcome to NSW” sign.

But wait, there’s more: a dark sunglass-wearing, fist-pumping obvious fan of emojis responded with “probably me”, and there was something quite rude from a fellow who should know better, although he did have a familiar-sounding name, Ken Behrens.

So what do you think is the best thing about Canberra – and please don’t say anything about highways, exits or ruined sheep paddocks.

Chances are you live here for a reason – unless that reason is that if you don’t live here, you won’t have a job.

Old Canberra promotional brochure

It might be politically incorrect today but it worked back in the 70s – how to get men (and women) to move to Canberra, glossy brochures of women pointing to something. Photo: File.

With the ability many of us have to work from home, yes, we could live anywhere. But there’s something about this place which is just, well, quite capital.

Just keep away from houses on hills, Civic at 3 am, dimly lit bus interchanges – aren’t they all – and Manuka plant pots.

What should you stay near? Good people. Inside, we recommend air-conditioning in cultural institutions, whilst outside, gazing at the sky in James Turrell’s visionary Within Without installation at the National Gallery.

Also outside, the place where something bad was made good – and because it grows on you – the National Arboretum.

Last, but never least, The Green Shed. Buy something old before it all becomes new again.

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Lefty Boomer8:54 am 22 Mar 24

I’m loving the short sleeves, shorts and walk-socks!
Family brought out from Scotland in 1841 to work for Campbells at ‘Duntroon’ in the dairy. Moved out to Yass, Gundaroo, Boorowa over the years but still our place. Might move back eventually.

Gregg Heldon8:21 am 19 Mar 24

Canberra used to be great. Been here since 1975 and even returned here after living overseas for a few years but , in the last 10-15 years it has changed and not for the better.
It is a snobbish and dividing City. Very black and white, not much grey or any other colour. It is full of judgement and, if you are different, you are pushed to the margins. Tolerated at best.
Heaven help you if you have mental health issues here in Canberra. If you have, it’s a lonely and isolating place and very hard to get treatment, or support, for various mental health issues.

The best thing about Canberra? Garden City & Bush Capital – even now, you’re only 20 minutes by car from the bush/Tidbinbilla/Namadji/even Arboretum/Black Mountain in the centre of town.

If ever we become the Lego-Block Concrete Capital, we’ll have lost so much.

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