Tuesday, May 6, 2003

The quality of Autumn, part II

I’d forgotten the quality of the light here. Sure, you can get a smog haze – not from traffic but from everyone turning on their wood-fired stoves and fireplaces at the same time, which in a valley can result in a nifty “atmospheric inversion”, but generally the air really is clearer than most other big cities. Strict planning laws enforcing a lower man-made skyline also starkly bring that Australian “big sky” right into the heart of the city. The result is that concrete can have a dazzlingly high albedo here, shadows stand out stark on a blazing field of white. Lunch is definitely a time for sunglasses.

And I’ve written about the balloons before.

That said, being back in Canberra (and staying on my own) after living in Melbourne and Sydney feels bizarrely, well, agoraphobic. There’s too much space for too few people. It’s a town where change occurs, but certainly not fast. I get bewildered by little things: the Canberra Centre shopping mall extension, the new crop of eateries and bars, the fact that one of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, Little Saigon, has moved across the road from where it used to be and its corner-store shopfront is now a Lebanese takeaway. Seeing faces from my own past occasionally only adds to the surrealism of my impressions.

Like standing up too fast and getting head-spins, it feels pleasant in a weird small way.

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