Brisbane’s Changed

It’s Sunday night and I’ve just arrived back in Sydney after a week “on the road”, visiting Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Lismore.

It was really my first “proper” visit to Brisbane in fourteen years. I left Brisbane at the beginning of 1988, returned there briefly with work in winter that year, and my visits to Brisbane since have been both sporadic and narrow. Narrow in the sense that I go to visit Gloria and that’s all that really happens. Subsequently, I found myself a little disoriented and on a number of occasions actually found myself lost.

The biggest change, without doubt, is what’s happened on Southbank. Suddenly, the city has symmetry. Suddenly, Griffith University has a presence that goes beyond bushland. Suddenly Brisbane also has a China town and Brunswick Street in Fortitude Valley has turned into a mall. Despite these superficial changes, it seemed like the same old Brisbane to me. Despite assurances it was now a multi-cultural city, Brisbane still seemed overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon. Nonethless, I was told Queensland will soon overtake Victoria as Australia’s most populous state. I hope that extra population will help the place I once called home to continue to grow. In the meantime, Sydney suits me fine.

One of the funniest things I found in Brisbane is that Southbank now has a “beach”. In the shadow of the Performing Arts Centre, which currently hosts “Mamma Mia”, there is a beach, which I’m told is quite popular on the weekends.

Curiously enough, Sue was also in town from Thursday night onwards and we caught up on Friday, to discuss the life, universe and Brisbane, and how we both found it strange to be back in Brisbane. We visited 136 Tarragindi Road where I used to live with Heather and Michelle and where Sue also lived briefly. The house looks the same – it hasn’t been painted – but next door looked quite different. Ah, memories…

I also stayed with my sister Gloria. We talked about lots of family stuff and she showed me some photographs I had never seen before.

The other big change is the railway which now operates between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. For just $9.90, I was able to travel from Toowong to Robena. They’ve adopted London Tube “style-seating”, instead of the less intimidating bench-seats we’re used to in Sydney, which I thought was unnecessary, but I think it’s great there’s a train service now operating, creating what’s become known as “Bris-Vegas”.

The train service meant it was possible to make a quick visit to the Gold Coast to see Martin and Briony who both work there now. We went out for dinner, dancing and drinking, ending up at the local bar, “The Meeting Place”, which was good fun. It was nice to see them and we didn’t talk about too much radio.

On Saturday, Pat and Jack picked me up from the Gold Coast.

I’ve been anxious to get home for quite some time, especially since the birth of Michelle’s child, Lachlan. Due to problems at birth, he is severely disabled, although the full extent of his abilities and disabilities are unknown. The specialists, however, don’t believe he will have a long life. At just four months old, he has already had pneumonia four times, has an inability to suck or swallow, and probably has only limited sight and hearing. He has died several times. Michelle and her partner, Matthew, have had to make difficult decisions about his future.

But he’s a beautiful child and we had some lovely chats while I was there. With the obvious excepts, the whole family is treating him as if nothing was different to any other child. Chatting with him. Touching him gently. One of the people at the hospital asked “Does your family know how sick Lachlan is”? Michelle replied, “Of course”. The nurse obviously missed the point that it’s all about making his brief life as happy, comfortable and as normal as possible.

We also had a birthday party for Ryan at Hungry Jacks. Ryan is 7 and all of his friends are 7. In some ways it was good fun to be the supervising adult male, in other ways it was horrid. It was an experience, nonetheless.

And so I’m back… and this week, I’m heading off to Adelaide.

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