ACT News

Gang-gang. Summernats' City Cruise fleetingly colours-in CBD's drabness.

Today's readers are owed an instant explanation of today's surreal picture of a creature part dog, part cauliflower (wittily, we suggest it is a new breed of dog called the Border Cauli).

We frequently run surreal things in this column because we know ours is a page, rare in a newspaper, where people like to come to seek sanctuary from reality. And in the case of today's surreal picture we offer a choice of two explanations of what it is.

The Summernats City Cruise down Northbourne Avenue kicks off the annual car festival in Canberra.
The Summernats City Cruise down Northbourne Avenue kicks off the annual car festival in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Perhaps the creature comes from the futurist nightmares of those agitated Canberrans (the Letters pages are throbbing now with their concerns) worried by the suggestion that we grow vegies on our nature strips.

Some fear that this will lead to the end of suburban civilisation as we have known it. And one of Thursday's trembling letters on the subject really did imagine this revolution being a potential killer of dogs.

A Stephen McMennamy combophoto.
A Stephen McMennamy combophoto.  Photo: Stephen McMennamy.

So perhaps the nightmarish hybrid of our picture is the result of a dear little suburban Canberra dog eating or, worse still (we apologise for the mental picture this notion will create) misguidedly humping, mating with a genetically modified cauliflower grown on a Canberra nature strip from Hell.

Our alternative explanation of the picture, not as plausible as the first, is that it is one of the inspired combophotos of Stephen McMennamy​.


This creative surrealist takes two mismatched photo images and combines them into one always mind-boggling, sometimes disturbing picture. At the time of writing there is a display of some of his work (including today's picture of a four-legged brassica) available at the ever-stimulating, ever-changing designboom website.  There are always wonders galore, from the world of imaginative design and design-related art, at designboom. 

Imaginative as McMennamy is we think his imagination is dwarfed by the suburban Canberrans who are imagining ramifications of vegies being grown on strips. What a shame that Canberrans so imaginative about what horrors will happen if anything new and different happens in their neighbourhoods cannot instead invest this creativity in writing poems and short stories, in making surreal paintings. Some of the anti-development submissions to government by the Yarralumla Residents Association are as literary in their way as anything by the Brothers Grimm. What if nature strip vegie growing encourages an influx of cannibal witches who lure little children into cottages made of gingerbread? 

And our thoughts turned to Yarralumla at noon on Thursday as we attended, in Civic, the Street Machine Summernats City Cruise! 

Every year we urge the ACT government and the Summernats organisers to alter the route of the City Cruise so that it winds, roaring and snarling, through the leafy, privileged streets of Yarralumla. This would be so character-building for Yarralumlans, who have almost no contact with the working classes.

But this year yet again, our suggestion was rejected. This year, again, the City Cruise took the same beeline down Northbourne Avenue and then a beeline back up it again.

As usual we joined a sprinkling of our fellow bogans on that leafy median Northbourne 'island' between the front facades of those faded matrons the Sydney and Melbourne buildings. And alas those facades are a little dilapidated and depressing now. Active shops are juxtaposed with closed, shuttered, 'For Lease' premises, giving each building at street level the look of a mouth of teeth of uneven quality.

But the City Cruise lifted, briefly, the spirits of the place. Organisers had promised "a record 300 hotted up hot rods, cool customs and specialised street machines" and sure enough the slow stampede was spectacular to see and exciting to listen to.

The major difference between our orthodox cars and the brutes of the City Cruise is that the latter seem alive. My Holden Barina doesn't make a sound and shows no vital signs and is just a device, really.

But on Thursday the four-wheeled creatures of the City Cruise menagerie all variously roared, gasped, barked, shouted, farted, cackled, coughed and bellowed as they went past. Owning juggernauts like those must be like having an exciting and temperamental animal, a tiger say, a rhinoceros or a velociraptor, for a pet.

How I envied those owners on Thursday, envying them too the elaborate tattoos displayed on the big, bared right arms they showed us as they drove. It is one of my regrets of my old age that my arms are too scrawny, now, to be the canvases for any major masterpieces of tattooing.

Exciting star vehicles of the City Cruise included a white Rolls Royce, its original upper-class bonnet transformed by the bogan-class hunch of a supercharger. Then there was a bulbous, 1950s-looking, rusting (was it real rust or cosmetic rust?) vehicle that looked as if could only have been found in a farm shed the day before the City Cruise, with bats and rats living in it. Its engine, though, was making highly-tuned, up-to-the-minute music.

The brevity of the City Cruise is always a disappointment for the spectator. It is all over in about 15 high-octane minutes. It is a fleeting experience of splendour, a kind of fling, a glimpse of what the relationship between man and vehicle could be. Afterwards everything feels drab.

We all went off to the car parks to look for our nondescript orthodox cars. My Barina and I greeted one another without enthusiasm, me depressed by the car's lack of muscular grunt, the car wishing it had a driver with young, bemuscled, attractive arms.