One of the things I love about Brisbane is the contradictions of it all.
For the last fifteen years we have lived out of town in semi-rural-reclaimed-from-pineapple-farms-countryside. There is a plentitude of space and QUIET and animals and birds out there and I have loved it. However, we have now moved into town – just five minutes or so from the city centre, where we are entertained by sirens throughout the night, the impatient honking of horns, YOUNG PEOPLE having a GOOD TIME in the pub down the road - and yet in some ways it feels more countrified than our Pullenvale idyll.
We are in Toowong, possibly one of the older parts of Brisbane (?), in a Queenslander jungle. For those of you who don't know what a Queenslander is – it's traditionally a wooden house, generally built on stilts. These days a lot of Queenslanders are built in situ, but you can still buy them from um, Queenslander shops? Queenlander dealers? Queenslanders warehouses? Not sure what you call them, but there is a plot of land next to the Bruce Highway (the big freeway which runs betwixt Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, is called the Bruce Highway going North and the Sheila Highway travelling South) where you can go pick your own. Sometimes, if you are out very late at night, you might meet an oversize truck, trundling along with a Queenslander on its back, on the way to meet its owner.
Queenslanders have pitched, corrugated iron roofs, high ceilings, hard wood floors, verandahs which sometimes wrap round the entire house. They are often beautifully decorated with plaster rococo ceilings and iron gingerbread around the eaves and verandahs and are cool and spacious – even the small ones. The one we are staying in at the moment is quite typical, in that it has a partly built in underneath, where you can hang washing and go and be cool in the hot weather. There is a Poinciana tree, Another Tree of Indeterminate Sort and a mango tree.
Yesterday, the girls and I walked to the local park, in the cool of the afternoon. The sky overhead was black, lightening flashing across the sky and the grass was glowing thick emerald. All around the park the trees were dripping with hundreds and hundreds of bats, which gibbered and knickered at each other, stretching their wings and yawning, as the trees stirred in the wind. After the kids had determined that yes, I am still too much of a wuss to be flung from a swing at 30 feet, they got bored and so we walked home, the long way, thus getting lost, but it was a walk of real discovery.
Every house we passed seemed to be an old Queenslander, each one a different size, some standing high on stilts, some low to the ground, some on a plot which was flush with the road, some seated atop its own private hillock, some white, some a pale green, or pale blue or pink. Whereas, out in Pullenvale, the gardens are all manicured to within an inch of their lives, (except ours, of course) every bush or tree planted for effect, oceans of mulch spread everywhere, these gardens, so close to the city, were all overgrown, full of crumbing statues, huge old poinciana and jacaranda trees, bougainvillea bushes in pink and white and yellow and orange, frangipani trees starred all over with flowers rich in perfume, mango trees, aloes and masses of fat bromeliads tumbling over rock walls and down stone steps. For many of the houses, the paths to the front door were hidden beneath the grass, or low, overhanging passion fruit vines, making us wonder whether anyone actually lived there, and whether, if so, they ever ventured out. We passed one huge old poinciana tree in which a sulphur crested cockatoo, a magpie, two butcher birds, several rainbow lorikeets and some miner birds were deep in screeching debate, like an illustration from some sort of Children's Guide to Birds.
I would advise anyone coming to this city, to maybe skip the extortionate fees charged to be hoisted a couple of metres in the air by our version of the Millennium wheel and take a few hours to wander the back streets of the city instead. I am sure you will get a better view of Brisbane this way.