Monday, December 2, 2013

The start of summer

Sometimes Canberra outdoes itself. A beautiful sunny day transitions into a cool afternoon - perfect for bike riding. We cycle past the Kingston Foreshore and wonder about the signs to Kingston Harbour...things have changed in this part of town, but a harbour on a man-made lake?

Not so long ago Kingston Foreshore was an open gravel field, fenced in by a peninsula of overgrown shrubs on one side and the Canberra rowing club on the other. I used the drive the old wagon down there with Barney in the back and he'd love to go swimming and chasing ducks. I'd always be a bit nervous down there on my own with utes pulling in filled with beer cans and fishing rods, looking to start a camp fire. And there was me, with my black and white hound - who inevitably would be off swimming just a little bit too far away for us to make a quick exit. The next 15 minutes would be a charade of me trying to get him in the car so we could get away before the serious beer drinking started. To herd a wet dog into the car was hard enough but that dog is a serious optimist, and at any chance he would sneak away hoping I'd throw the yellow frisabee just one more time. Eventually there would be angry words and I'd grab him by the scruff of the neck and shove him in the car. Sopping wet, he would bounce around the back and try and nudge into the front seat all the way to the yellow house in the u. On reflection it was often an unpleasant experience for me, but at the time I went there because he just liked it. I'm glad I did that because tonight, more than anything, I wish he could still go there now. 

So back to the bike gang. We made our way to the wetlands where things have stayed the same. The ride is quick and cool and before you know it the path brings you into the open fields - and if you look around in those fields, you could be just anywhere. Well if you use your imagination and don't look to your left at the Telstra Tower. With the hum of traffic in the distance, the overgrown grass mixed with wild aniseed and rabbits hopping from our path we decide South of France (or North, or North East or anywhere that isn't Canberra). Cycling turns to daydreaming about riding from town to town with a fresh breadstick and cheese in the bike basket living the French cliché. 

But Canberra, while not France, holds its own this afternoon. The ride weaves in and around the lake, past the hospice which always makes me a little sad. The hospital smell is faint but the heavy hearts of the folk standing out the front is hard to ignore - even for a fleeting moment on a speeding bike. 

By the time we make it to the Carillon there are so many people out enjoying the afternoon. The Carillon is one of those Canberra landmarks that gives you that sense of familiarity and comfort, a building I remember from trips to Canberra as a child. But as I write this I'm not sure why is it spelt Carillon and not Carillion - or is this another thing I've spent my entire life mispronouncing? Whatever its called, there are lots of people around this part of the lake and we whiz past couples hand holding, friends strolling and a group of boys lighting cigarettes using a box of matches (three strikes to get one lit). 

By now the lake is framed by the setting sun and the distant hills. We cross the second bridge back onto the southern shores and the best part of the ride is the last ten minutes. A canopy of oak trees (or something green) just near the library create a tunnel of the faintest dappled light. The sounds of the flagpoles - a kind of metal jangling in the breeze create their own kind of melody. The sculpture garden to the right is elegant as always and I love the idea that we can just ride past the things that people travel the world to see. The path hugs the lake until we get to Bowen Park and the sun is almost gone. Once stopped, I look up into the sky and there is a swarm of midges above my head. Summer has finally arrived in a way that only Canberra knows how - hot bright sunny days turn into an evening chill and with it something changes. I don't know exactly what it is, but it makes me think that this year, I'm going to make the most out of summer.

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