We are enjoying photogenically foggy mornings (lucky Canberra is by far Australia's foggiest city), and Yu Jo Chua has sent us this eerie photograph.
He testifies that: "I was out on Saturday morning by the Molonglo taking photos of the dense fog".
"I was walking along the cycle bridge near Duntroon when I saw what I thought was a paddle boarder making his way towards me from Molonglo Reach. It wasn't till I got home and was cropping the photo in post-processing that I realised it wasn't quite what I thought.
"A few moments later he crossed paths with kayakers paddling upstream. I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces encountering this in the fog."
The photographer is calling this picture Charon on the Molonglo. The well-read among you will know that this is a reference to Charon of Greek mythology. In the highly-plausible story Charon is the ferryman of the dead. The souls of the deceased are brought to him and Charon ferries them across the river. The dead pay him a coin for their passage. Those who cannot afford the fare or who have somehow displeased the ferryman are doomed to wander, as ghosts, on the banks of the Styx (or in the ACT's case the Molonglo) for 100 years.
Depending on where his business (the ferrying of souls) takes him, our local Charon may ply the water of the lake at Yarralumla, at the spot where the inspired designs of the 2013 Lodge On The Lake met the waters.
New thoughts of our having, one day, a new Lodge for our prime minister, are kindled by the news that the old Lodge is more decayed than we thought. News reports say that the repairs under way at the Lodge will cost $8.84 million. Given that even at Canberra's Upper O'Malley, site of some of Canberra's most swaggering mansions, one could build at least a modest, new, 15-bedroom pleasure dome for a sum like that, fresh thought is bound to be given to a new lodge.
And can you imagine, readers, a 21st century Australian prime minister declining to go and live in his or her designated residence because he/she feels it is too grand, because to live in it would make him/her look like a toff? A 20th century prime minister, James Scullin, elected in 1929, refused to go and live in the 40-room Lodge.
Instead he moved in to the Hotel Canberra so as to be as ordinary-looking as all the other MPs staying there. A Labor man, no doubt with some residual socialist marrow in his bones (not a problem for any Labor parliamentarian today), he felt it wrong to go and live in grandeur in a Canberra in which, with public servants arriving by the charabanc load, accommodation and office space was scarce.
In late October 1929, the press reported Scullin declaring that: "I feel very comfortably positioned at the Hotel Canberra".
"At a time [the Depression was under way] when the economy is so urgent I think we should set the good example at Canberra. The maintenance of the Prime Minister's residence costs a good deal more than the taxpayers understand."
He liked the idea of the Lodge being let for some useful purpose.
By January 1930, the Lodge was deserted save for a caretaker plus a gardener tending the roses and arranging the gnomes on the rockeries. But with public servants arriving in flocks, the press was reporting that the Lodge was cleared and earmarked for office accommodation.
"All the furniture has been removed from [the Lodge] and placed in store, and the tableware and furnishings, some of which are being used by the Prime Minister in his suite at Hotel Canberra, have been placed in the custody of the Federal Capital Commission."
Something about the Lodge's virtual emptiness for so much of the time has agitated some Canberrans. In late September 1945, there was some seething in Canberra's Advisory Council.
"Canberra Lodge For Old Men's Home" one newspaper trumpeted.
"CANBERRA, Monday. - The Prime Minister's Lodge at Canberra would make a comfortable old men's home, said the Superintendent of the Canberra Hospital (Dr. L. W. Nott) at the Canberra Advisory Council.
"Councillor A. T. Shakespeare [founder of this newspaper] asked the Commonwealth Surveyor General (Mr. F. M. Johnston) to obtain a report on the allocation of the Prime Minister's Lodge to ease the Canberra housing position.
Councillor Gardiner fumed: "It is wicked to keep a big house like that vacant, except for two or three weeks a year," and Dr Nott mused that it might be used as a home for destitute defeated election candidates.
Yes, some fine new Lodges were imagined Lodge On The Lake