When I started blogging I don't think I ever anticipated that my family and old friends would use my blog as a way to keep up with my life. I think I expected it to reach a small audience of knitters and maybe of people whom I didn't know in the life I've lived so far. But I now have old friends saying things like 'I noticed you'd not been blogging for a few days so I thought you might be out of town' or family members commenting on an opinion I'd expressed in my blog as if it were part of an ongoing conversation with them. I guess I just have to accept that my blog has become an integral part of my life.
This is all by way of saying that I've been out of town and away from my computer for a few days and feel as if I need to account for my absence. I've been baby-sitting (or perhaps in deference to her four-year-old status I should say 'child-sitting') for my grand-daughter - the dotee - in Brisbane. The child-sitting went very well, although I've come away with an increased appreciation of why you have children in your twenties and thirties - maybe forties - but definitely not in your sixties. I've answered many questions; a few with expertise and many with creativity or confessions of limited knowledge. I was particularly chuffed by questions about word meanings; I love having someone around who's already so interested in language and how it works.
But I really meant this post to be about Brisbane. I think I'm probably repeating myself, but I'm always struck when I visit by how it seems to be more brightly coloured than Sydney. The vegetation is more riotous and brilliant, the sky seems to be a more intense blue, and it generally seems to sparkle. It's not a subtle city, but it's engaging.
So, some random things I like about Brisbane:
* The river. It's not the Seine or the Danube and it's not Sydney Harbour, but the Brisbane River is a central part of Brisbane's identity. I love the way it twists and turns upon itself so that so many suburbs have the river as part of their neighbourhood. And the river cat ferries often allow you to combine the pleasure of a river cruise with the necessity of travelling from place to place.
But then, of course, as the floods earlier this year demonstrated, so much of the city is also vulnerable because of the river. I imagine many people must still be suffering the ravages of the floods, but as you travel up and down the river there's no longer any evidence for the casual observer that the floods ever occurred. The recovery seems miraculous, though you know it must be the result of much hard and cooperative work.
* Queenslanders - not the people, although I'm sure they're as nice as people generally are - but the houses. My daughter has recently moved to an old suburb of Brisbane with lots of these modest and often modified wooden houses raised on stilts. Brisbane's hilliness always surprises me and these houses seem to perch precariously on the steep slopes. They're unpretentious and everyday and seem to sit very lightly on the land.
* South Bank. The cluster of museums, galleries, the State Library, and parklands, with its view back to the city, is such a gift for Brisbane. That it's well-served by public transport increases its pleasure.
The dotee and I spent an afternoon at the library that has a most wonderful section for children with books, cubbies, craft materials and dress-ups often thematically related to exhibitions in the arts complex. At the moment the theme is the sea and islands as the Museum currently has an exhibitions on the Torres Strait Islands. However, the main attraction for me just now is the extensive exhibition of photographs at the Queensland Art Gallery by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson worked from the 1930s to the 1970s and travelled widely. He had the luck or good management to be present at events and within periods that were formative in countries' histories. His back and white photos, however, are not usually of the main historical players (though the exhibition does include some of his superb portraits) but of the bystanders, or even of the neglected and unaware. I'd love to go back for another look.
* Leaving the best things till last - the dotee. It was good to have extended time with her.