ACT News


Surf star well-grounded

In spite of living in tragically landlocked, Canberra (how one wishes the federal capital had been built at the seaside!) Amy Abbey, 13, of Deakin, has just become the South Coast Surf Life Saving Junior Life Saver of the Year.

The South Coast Surf Life Saving branch championships were held at Kiama Downs Surf Life Saving Club last weekend. The junior championship was held on Sunday in sunny conditions with a southerly breeze, moderate sea conditions and perhaps with dolphins looking on appreciatively.

And during the march past event of the nine junior clubs, the announcement of the Junior Female & Male Lifesaver of the Year was made. And lo and behold the female winner was Canberra's Abbey. As well as being from Canberra she is, when she's at the coast (which is every weekend), a pillar of the Nowra-Culburra club.

Now, behind every junior champion there is always a saga of great parental exertions, and sure enough Amy Abbey's commitment to surf life saving is such that she and her family travel from Canberra every weekend to participate in activities with their club. Karen Abbey, Amy's mum, told Gang-Gang on Tuesday that between September and April the family shuffles off to Callala Beach, near Jervis Bay, every weekend.

Amy Abbey is accomplished and confident in the water now (to win her title she had to be good at eight events, on the beach and in the surf) but Karen Abbey reminisces that until Amy was about 11 ''she was scared stiff of the sea. She hated going in the ocean. She was terribly frightened by it. We had some tumultuous times. But she persisted''.

Why wasn't the federal capital city built on the NSW coast, where the city's Amy Abbeys would have easy, bottom-of-the-street access to the surf? In your columnist's experience, every second Canberran believes it was because our funny, short-sighted old legislators of the early 20th century wanted to put the capital city far inland out of the reach of the guns of the Russian navy. Those Russians! They'd have blown a Broulee capital city to smithereens!


This is such a lovely piece of Canberra folklore that your columnist, while knowing better, now has a policy of doing nothing to spoil it. Truth is overrated. Disabusing Canberrans of this sweet, harmless myth would be unkind, like telling a child there is no Santa Claus.

Manuka passing shot a lightbulb moment

Readers continue to discuss what it is the evocative new floodlights at Manuka are evoking.

A Dickson reader chides this columnist: ''I am surprised that a tennis fan like yourself has not cottoned on to an obvious Manuka Oval floodlight resemblance. Aussie wags have likened them to flyswats and dunny brushes, and foreigners have been reminded of lacrosse sticks and snow shoes (seldom used in this country.) But when I first saw photos of the lights I thought they looked very much like venerable early tennis racquets … both those racquets and the Manuka lights are of slender and elegant design. Tennis is, of course, ingrained into the Australian sporting tradition in the same way as cricket and Australian Football. I will therefore be calling these striking sentries our Tennis Lights, at least until I can think of a more poetic title.''

Meanwhile Mel Edwards at her much-praised-by-this-column Nah [no] it's Canberra blog (her gallery, ever-growing, of her photographs of a kind of contrary Canberra) has imagined one of the Manuka pylons as ''The Alien Machine Overlord''.

While at her blog, click on ''Archive'' and take a stickybeak at a very different Canberra.

Tallyho and all that ...

Tuesday's column was decorated with an interview of Mark Burrell whose claims to fame include not only that he is a past High Sheriff of West Sussex, but also, of great importance to us in this centenary year, that he is the grandson of Gertrude, Lady Denman. Lady Denman, wife of the Governor-General Lord Denman (Burrell's grandfather) announced our city's name on March 12, 1913.

Burrell told us several stories about her and here is another, not mentioned in Tuesday's column.

It would not go down well with Oscar Wilde who thought fox hunting ''The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.'' Lady Denman was an impassioned hunter of foxes.

Burrell explained that Gertrude's father, Lord Cowdray, was fabulously rich and when she was a young woman he bought her the present of a grand old mansion in Sussex.

It was to become her home for the rest of her life.

''My grandmother was very keen on fox hunting and loved riding cross country, and before she was married she hunted up in the Shires [around Leicestershire].

''But then [when she was a young woman and had just had her first child] her father Viscount Cowdray bought her this lovely house, Balcombe House, with its 3000-acre estate, in Sussex. And it's said she cried for a week because the hunting wasn't so good in Sussex.''

How the other half lives!