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Panoramic pavilion a drawcard

Canberra's brides-to-be would have been excited to see a new addition to the National Arboretum taking shape.

The ''reflective pavilion'' or non-denomination chapel now has a roof on it and, from certain angles, has a bit of an Opera House vibe going on.

But, as chairman of the arboretum board John Mackay said, the $3 million building would be used for all kinds of functions, not just weddings.

It should be at lock-up stage by the public opening on February 2 and ready for functions by March.

And the new visitors' centre next door has already been put to use with VIP ticket-holders at last weekend's Voices in the Forest enjoying a shin-dig there after the concert.

Lip fuzz causes a prickly situation at home

Good to see United States ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich getting into the spirit of Movember and looking just a little bit Hulk Hogan in the process.


The ambassador says even his protection detail have got in on the act and ''are currently sporting a collection of Fu Manchus, goatees, soul patches, and some mangy beards and peach fuzz''.

''In their black suits and ties, they look like a bikie gang on their way to court for a parole hearing,'' he said on his Facebook page.

''I got started a bit later, because no one - least of all Secretary of State Clinton - needed to see me looking like Kris Kristofferson first thing in the morning during ministerial meetings.'' Son Matthew is also participating in Movember.

Bleich recently had some lessons in facial hair growth from none other than Wolverine when he caught up with Hugh Jackman who has been filming in Sydney.

And he is happy to put up with the fuzz for a while, saying, ''If it helps men remember to get a prostate exam, or for people to support cancer research, then I am happy to accept some scorn and abuse,'' he said.

But we really wanted to know what his wife Becky thought of it?

''She's proud of me and Matthew for supporting this cause. But she's set our alarm for one minute after midnight on the 30th of November. If I don't shave it then, she may do it herself,'' he told us.

Loving life in the city

The beautiful people were out in force this week for an end-of-year rooftop soiree held by the In the City magazine.

It provided spectacular views of Canberra at sunset on the rooftop of The ApARTments as 200 guests walked the red carpet.

The magazine's editorial and creative director Mils Achi had his signature attention to detail all over the event which kickstarted the party season for the national capital.

Among the guests were the stylish Dominic and Sarah Kelly. Sarah was wearing a Mary Katrantzou for Topshop dress and revelling in taking in the incredible views.

''It was just one of those wonderful opportunities with such an eclectic mix of Canberrans, the social side of things, business and the creative aspect as well,'' she said.

Lord Denman dies in Britain

Some sad news this week with another link to Canberra's origins passing away.

The 96-year-old Lord Charles Denman, the nephew of Lord Thomas Denman, who was the Governor-General at the time of Canberra's naming in 1913, died at his country estate in Britain last week.

Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer and historian Dr David Headon met Lord Denman in London just a few weeks ago as part of their international tour to spruik the national capital's 100th birthday.

Despite his age, Lord Denman had wanted to travel to Canberra next year to be part of the festivities. His family remain committed to the event and his son and successor to the title, Lord Richard Denman, might still travel to Canberra, Dr Headon said.

They are also expected to loan items such as the golden trowel used by Thomas to lay the foundation stone the day Canberra was christened on March 12, 1913 for an exhibition Dr Headon is putting on at Parliament House.

Big Splash water park is open

It was reported last week that Big Splash water park in Macquarie was having trouble getting planning approval for its new slides from the Gold Coast. Unfortunately, some people have assumed that all the park's slides are out of action. In fact the park, with its eight existing slides, is very much open and owner Ron Watkins hoped there'd be a good turn out this weekend. ''We're certainly open as normal, and we're hopeful that we'll have things sorted out with the new slides soon,'' he said.

Alumni return a world of knowledge to ANU

A historic gathering has been under way this week at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University.

Distinguished alumni from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have returned, most more than 20 years after they completed a PhD in economics, to attend a conference about policy choices for Vietnam.

They have gone on to hold important positions in their home countries and some are affectionately known in Hanoi as the ''ANU Mafia''. Most were funded by AusAID and the Asian Development Bank to do their studies, often among the first of their countrymen to complete an education in the West.

ANU chancellor and former foreign minister Gareth Evans  stressed the importance of travel to forge connections and foster understanding. He praised reciprocal study programs - ''the kind that led the Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natelagawa to study here at ANU, and to help support himself throwing The Canberra Times over front fences each morning''.

Behind the Lines, boots and all

One of Canberra's most popular exhibitions, Behind the Lines, featuring the year's best political cartoons will open to the public on December 11 at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

The exhibition will stay open until November next year.

It features the work of many talented cartoonists including The Canberra Times' own David Pope, who recently won the Gold Stanley for Cartoonist of the Year from the Australian Cartoonists' Association. (And is also responsible for the Julia and Tony being used to promote this year's exhibition.)

And while you're at the museum, check out the Prime Ministers of Australia exhibition where former PM Kevin Rudd's RM Williams riding boots are on display (not to be confused with Ruddbots).

Rudd was wearing the size 9G boots when he tabled the motion in Parliament on February 13, 2008 apologising to the stolen generations.

The orange Hugo Boss tie worn by Rudd while delivering the apology speech is also on display.

Surely Prime Minister Julia Gillard's now infamous blue wedge should be given its own glass cabinet at the museum some time soon.


■ The Old Bus Depot Markets will be open every Saturday and Sunday in December in the lead-up to Christmas starting from this weekend. Opening hours for both days are 10am to 4pm. The markets are on Wentworth Avenue, Kingston.

■ The Gorman House markets also have extended night-time trading for Christmas starting from Saturday when they will be open from 10am to 9pm in Ainslie Avenue, Braddon.

■ The Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival is on from 10am to 4pm in City Walk, Civic on Saturday. Learn all you wanted to know about the cars, including rides.