Friday, January 27, 2006

Adelaide - My two cents

Local?..Yeah we're local!

After spending six turbulent weeks in Adelaide I feel a sense of duty in giving my account of this strange but rather charming place.

The best way to sum Adelaide up is, it’s a big small place.

Adelaide is the capital of South Australia but firstly let me make something clear. Australia as we are all aware, is a big, no scratch that… VAST place. I’m not telling anyone anything new, I know this. So with this in mind when I say the capital of South Australia It’s not a region, it’s virtually a separate country, hell it even has its own politicians.

Adelaide manages to tick all the proverbial boxes of both a city and a town. It has the museums and art galleries you’d expect from a major city whilst having numerous independent café’s, bakeries and restaurants that you would expect from a small town in Italy or France. The Central Business District (CBD) is laid out on a grid system with roman efficiency but with a mere 20 minute tram journey you’d be at the seaside suburb of Glenelg. Let’s get this straight too, this was no ‘surf dude haven’ the last thing it was, was trendy. It was like 70’s Brighton on acid. I went to the local Cinema and Christ in a sidecar looking at the electric blue asymmetrical patterned carpet I thought I was on acid!

Only after six weeks we felt like we had ‘mastered’ Adelaide, we knew the places to be and the places not to be. Don’t get me wrong there wasn’t a lot to master. It’s a pretty sleepy town but it definitely had charm. It has sun, sea and an affordable lifestyle. Which oddly enough is very rare in Australia. Melbourne, doesn’t have particularly good weather (by Oz standard at least) Brisbane, has the sub tropical climate but no beach very near by and Sydney has good whether (apparently …see my last blog) it has a the famous bondi beach but its expensive to live there.

People make places, and the people in Adelaide were to the rest of Australia what the Irish are to the English. By that gross generalization I mean that they always had time to chat. I’d never made conversation which as many complete strangers at bus tops in my life, if it wasn’t at bus tops it was in the local bottle shop (English translation – Off License) or the surf shop/travel agent. Even in the shops there was an air of sincerity that is often lacking elsewhere.

I think the south Australian government should get a shout out. They really are the blueprint on how to bring a flagging region up to date. For instance, there are free bus services around the city, not all, but some and they even have the audacity to run on time (do you hear Britain!) and to add insult to injury they are gas powered! On New Years Eve the local authorities stumped up and paid for a comprehensive free bus service after midnight so everyone could get home safely. In Britain, when ordering a cab at 9pm on new years eve you’d hear the muffled laughter of the controller lying through her teeth telling you it would be ’10 minutes’ in Adelaide I waited a lengthy 3 minutes. It should also be noted that when the word got out that my company was going under the south Australian authorities contacted the company to ask if they could assist. This comes from a government who was actually in the black come budget time, yep you read that correctly, there were contemplating a tax rebate for everyone.

Adelaide was not without its drawbacks. The food by and large was pretty ordinary to put it the nicest way I can, we never felt compelled to go back to a single place, though the red wine as you'd expect was fantastic. Barely a weekend would go by without someone getting into dramas (English translation - having an unfortunate situation with) with a white pointer (English translation – great white shark) oh yeah the coast was rife with them. There were the ultimate annoyance that were the sandflies, almost unbearlable in their sole pursuit of getting in ones mouth..nice! Oh yeah and before I forget the local TV adverts that looked like they had the budget of 6 pack of four x but to make up for their apparent lack of sophistication and quality were played and repeated again and again to a level that I wanted to go into the said carpet shop, beat the guy to a bloody mess on his own range of rugs and then tell him it was still okay to haggle.

I guess the real point is that the Adelaide people are proud of who they are, as one super market banner states ‘proudly south Australian’ with no hint of the white van man we associate with national pride.

The Channel 9 slogan really sums it up ‘local? Yeah we’re local’

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