I once got into trouble here in the newsroom (it happens more than you think) when, years ago, we all had to contribute to a story about why we all loved our own suburbs so much. There are way too many of us (which might not come as any surprise, left-leaning woke bunch that we are) living in the inner north so I decided to write about Fyshwick.
I said something like I loved Fyshwick because it was the only suburb in Canberra where you could get your car serviced, buy a lounge suite and visit a brothel in your lunch hour. I don't think it actually got through last time. Hopefully it will now. Times are a changin' was an advertising spiel we plugged at one time, wasn't it?
And I do love Fyshwick. I love the eclectic mix of shopfronts.
Here's a world-class coffee roaster next to a family-run window framer. An adult store across the road from one which sold nothing but bibles and other Christian paraphernalia. Here's someone selling Porsches, duck around the corner and get cash for cars. There is no suburb like it in Canberra. And now we're leaving. In our 95th year, The Canberra Times is heading back to the city.
I never worked in Mort Street. I am the longest-serving editorial staff member of The Canberra Times (I don't believe it either, I must have been a mere child when I first started here) but my first night was in Fyshwick. It had been a couple of years since the move but the old-timers were still full of stories about the shenanigans which went on in the city.
But back in the day, the Fyshwick site was like a resort. To lure staff out of the city, the owners built a swimming pool and a tennis court, a gymnasium with a squash court and a gym room and an actual sauna. There was even, allegedly, subsidised petrol for a while. The bowser was there for years, a lonely reminder of the hey days.
Like any grand old building, the place started to show its age. Changes in public liability insurance saw the tennis court removed and the pool filled in. The sauna had been turned off years ago, the rumours which circulated around who actually used it late at night, collecting like dust in the pine-scented corners.
But there was nothing I loved more than being in the building when the press started up. When we installed the big German press in the mid-1990s I had the honour of being responsible for the first thing that came off it.
A colleague in the sports department, Fiona van der Platt and I were putting the race guide together that Friday afternoon and it was the section up first. What a thrill it was to see those big drums spin and the guide come out, cut and folded at the end of the process.
When my children were young I arranged a class excursion every year so the kids could see the papers thrumming along the conveyor belt, feel the building rumbling under their feet, get ink on their fingers as they grabbed a paper, literally hot off the press.
It makes me so sad that there's a generation of young journalists who will never get to experience that sensation. But then these are the kids who are more likely to be concerned with clicks on websites and engagement times. These are the kids who spend time hassling producers to get their story in the prime spot on the homepage. They're not out the back in the pre-press room, flirting with the old compositors trying to get them to change something at the very last moment.
I will miss Fyshwick. So much has happened in my career there. So much has happened in my life there. Even my children admit they'll miss the place too. They've kind of grown up there as well. Former editor Jack Waterford would carry them around on a forearm when they were tiny babies, they'd spend the occasional school holiday tucked away in the tearoom, their first school photos are still pinned on the wall near my desk.
I will shed a tear when we leave, there's no doubting that. Over a silly over-sized building in an industrial suburb.
But I am excited about our move into the city. Excited by what the future might hold for The Canberra Times as we head towards our 100th year. If the past few years have shown me anything, it is that change can be liberating. And I am up for it.
Canberra is our home, and it's her stories we'll continue to tell wherever we are.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: