Spring in Canberra

Quite as if by arrangement on the first day of September, designated first day of spring, the temperature rose and there was a warmth in the air that we haven’t felt for months. Spring has sprung and flowering trees are performing on cue.

In Canberra two tree species shout loud and clear that spring is here: wattle and prunus. Wattle trees are bursting out everywhere in fluffy yellow flowers, and various plum, apricot, pear and others in the prunus family are lining our streets with their blossoms of white or pink flowers.

Here are some I snapped today on my stroll to the local shop, a row of half a dozen white prunus that have just bloomed and are already dropping petals to form a snowy blanket on the footpath below. They might technically be fruiters but this stand of trees hasn’t produced anything edible in the twenty years I’ve been walking under them, which is probably a good thing since the path would be covered in squishy fruit.

White blossom trees lining a Canberra street
Standing beneath, looking up, white petals drifting down

On my stroll back again I studied a lot of bees enjoying the pink flowers on these trees that produce dark red plums, and though most of them do drop off throughout summer, there is only grass and road below, no path.

Pink plum blossoms, Canberra

Back home I felt more than grateful for this wattle tree in my back yard. I didn’t plant it and I don’t water it. It simply grew up among other plantings of mine and I remained oblivious to it until the yellow flowers appeared. I do nothing for it, yet it graciously gives me an undeserved pleasure every spring. In past years it has been a little taller but the men who keep their eye on the overhead wires command us to prune the branches that make them anxious. Even without a symmetrical form it is beautiful, filling most of the space along the back fence.

Back yard self-seeded wattle tree, Canberra
The symbol of our land…

How good life is when spring comes. It’s a yearly reminder that the end is not nigh.

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Winter in Canberra – 5

Every big city has its hip district. Canberra adopted this concept not too long ago, creating one in Braddon, right next to the city centre. Of the many cafés here, Lonsdale Street Roasters is my favourite. What does it have to do with winter? Well the coffee machine is close to the door that’s constantly opening and closing from 6.30am with the flow and ebb of coffee addicts, so on chilly July mornings even the barista wears long johns under his shorts.

Ben making coffee at Lonsdale Street Roasters!
A little calligraphical time-passing this week

And the barista’s mother sits in her house with a large gas heater at her back, playing with pens and inks, writing out the slogan for the 21st-century coffee culture which she is happy to be part of.

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Winter in Canberra – 4

In the city centre an ice skating rink is presently being set up for the school holidays and will open tomorrow. The temperatures are not low enough for our lakes to freeze but an artificial frozen pond will stay solid with a bit of help. No skating is allowed today but I did spot this workman (in black) walking gingerly across the ice.

Behind the rink is the ACT Legislative Assembly from which the pollies will have a great view of the ice skaters, perhaps even ice dancers.

Here are a couple of girls in beanies putting up a white picked fence for that quaint northern look. The blue skies of past days have disappeared behind clouds, and rain is forecast, but children won’t mind. Skating in rain would probably be fun. Snow would be better.

So, as the sign on the marquis says: Get Your Skates On!

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Winter in Canberra – 3

This morning I met my son for coffee at 9.30 and noted that everyone in the café was clad in coats and scarves. Many of them were in black, pretty typical of winter-wear here. Plenty of shops have racks of black, suitable for this city of public servants. In fact, in my early years in Canberra I wore black because I thought it was right: black turtle-necks, black overcoats, black skirts and black jeans. Then I realised I was conforming. Now I avoid it.

Here’s my son wearing a grey-black jumper, but the man behind him has a bright yellow jacket on that makes him look like he’d be at home on the sea. He’s the only dab of colour in Sfoglia this morning. (Even the Italian owner is wearing all black, including his beard.) Meanwhile at the table beside us there were several workers on a morning tea break, all in black.

In a Canberra winter, I miss colours.

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Winter in Canberra – 2

Today was a little warmer. At 10am it was 3 degrees, up a degree on yesterday morning. And this afternoon it was 13 deg when I was pruning roses. I was wearing my fluffy jumper which keeps me snug when the temperature is a single figure, but when I started to work up a sweat I had two choices: take off the jumper or go inside (Canberra houses are cold, even with the heating on).

Around the rose bushes there are a number of deciduous trees looking very bare right now. An idea came to me to put down my secateurs and take a photo or two of the leafless limbs, which made me think about a curious contrast: when winter comes I don more and more layers while the trees shed every single leaf.

Contrasting limbs

The mass of bare branches behind me in the photo is a crepe myrtle that emerged from the lawn shortly after we moved into this house many moons ago. The previous owner had shorn it off at the ground and assumed he’d executed it and death was certain. Well, you can’t keep a good crepe myrtle down. You can see how large it is now! In summer it’s pretty in pink and drops a lovely blanket of flowers on the grass below.

I got a lot of work done today, pruning rose bushes, sweeping dead leaves off the deck, mopping floors and more. Here’s another benefit of living in Canberra – low temps make me a high achiever.

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Winter in Canberra – 1

Canberra has a pretty ordinary reputation for the capital city of an awesome country. Why? It’s not on the coast (unlike every other Australian capital), it’s a place of politicians and political decisions, and it’s uncomfortably cold for three months of the year and moderately cold for another six, too much cold for coast lovers.

Warm as toast in my coat and scarf this morning, I looked up to the clear blue sky and felt nothing less than gratitude for my Canberra life. If I give you five photos this week, one a day, you’ll get a glimpse of things I love about this city, even in its winter.

Winter leaf litter defrosting in the sun

Today, 1st July, began cold and clear. At 10am it was 2 degrees and the leaves in the car park were white with frost. As the sun moved across them, the frost melted, the leaves turned soggy and wet but beautifully golden brown. Crouching close to snap the photo, I heard a passerby ask “What did you find?”. “Melting frost,” I replied. “Ah, Canberra,” she said, and walked on.

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Five shots of everyday life: Friday

Today I snapped this one of two men in Bakers Delight not looking at a poster on their right of a woman hiding her breasts with two pink buns, part of a campaign for the Breast Cancer Network of Australia.

Coincidence: I just saw the news on TV about Facebook banning these posters.

This was one of many social media controversies in Australia today. Some will be thanking God it’s Friday.

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Five shots of everyday life: Thursday

At a local university I saw some students still wearing uniforms long after leaving school.

Two Paramedicine Students and one Student Paramedic. I tried to think of a reason for the difference.

Thursdays are for thinking.

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