I would like to take the opportunity this somewhat public forum provides and sincerely apologise to Adelaide and to thewhole state of South Australia. I have made fun of you many a time in the past, from your supposed backwardness (pilot’s announcement: “We will be landing in Adelaide shortly. Please adjust your watches to the local time, which is 1975” – mildly funny) to your dark and disturbing murderous underbelly (a barrel of laughs? true but never funny). In my defence, it wasn’t just me; hating on and laughing about our southern countrymen and women (and the other 70 genders) is a bit of a national pastime.
I’m not too proud to admit I was wrong.
Listen, a colonial settlement dreamed up by a wannabe politician while in jail for abducting an underaged heiress with intent to marry and use her fortune to buy his way into Parliament was always going to be somewhat different from the rest of the pack. And for the past 180-odd years, South Australia indeed did not disappoint, seamlessly combining the Puritan and the radical strands of local temperament, at once the biggest wowser on the continent and the most pioneering social reformer in the British Empire (and then the Commonwealth). Never a penal settlement, it strikes me as more like one of North America’s original Thirteen – perhaps Pennsylvania – with its mix of respectable Anglo burghers and sturdy Lutheran German farmers. Even today it’s more double-barreled (note: that’s not a serial killer joke) and blonde than the rest, continuing to savour in its relative isolation at the other ass end of Australia (cf. Perth).
Adelaide itself is a charming city. It’s like Melbourne without all its shitty bits, or Canberra, if it was larger and more interesting. Without doubt, it’s Australia’s best laid out city, thanks to the compass and square and the planning imagination of the half-Brit half-Malay Colonel Light. His city centre – or the Central Business District, as these things are now unlovingly called – is a nice rectangular grid of wide alleys surrounded by a ring of parkland, an idea a century before its time. There is a lot of sandstone and a lot of space and light set against well tended greenery and a pseudo-river, more an ambitious stream, nevertheless pleasantly fronted by some ambitious public venues, including a nice stadium. It’s like somebody accidentally pulled a plug on Yarra. All this with the ocean (or a bay to be more exact: St Vincent’s Gulf) on one side and the quite steep Adelaide Hills on the other; perfect framing, if you ask me.
Speaking of which – there are four famous wine regions within an hour’s drive of the capital. I have managed to visit and sample only one, the aforementioned Hills, heavy with their Teutonic influence and cuteness, particularly in Hahndorf (plenty of wurst and an Alpaca Shop to boot). But there is also Bridgewater, with a picturesque old mill, and where the lovely ladies of the local Country Fire Service op-shop came to my rescue with a $1 black leather belt to replace the broken one in time for a wedding in the afternoon. Mt Lofty (yes it is) has the panoramic views of Adelaide and surrounds, though not the two times I went there, on the way into and out of the Hills, having to satisfy myself instead with some nice fog and a local forest rodent. Mt Barker has some of the most magnificent autumny tree-lined streets. And Grunthal has been renamed Verdun in 1917, probably as a FU to its original Prussian settlers.
Would I want to live in Adelaide? I’m pretty happy in Brisbane, but I would probably rather Adelaide than Sydney or Melbourne. It does strike me as a good place to bring up a family, like Canberra, but with fewer wankers. It certainly is a nice place to visit, particularly if you are going to explore the hinterland too. I recommend hiring a car, and as early in advance as possible, since the COVID lockdowns has forced car hire companies to downsize their fleets and you might, like me, end up booking the last – and therefore the most expensive – car still available. For some reason, maybe to taunt me, Avis provided me with a Toyota hybrid. Virtue-signaling bullshit aside, I have to say I’m a cautious convert, not least to the fact the fuel consumption was only 4.4 litres per 100km. In tomorrow’s episode, I confess how the trip made reconsider all my core beliefs and me convert to leftism. Joking. South Australia and hybrids are enough for now.
So again, Adelaide, please accept my apologies for all the past slights. You’re a freaky country cousin one discovers to one’s relief does not have two heads after all – or does, but the second one is even nicer than the first one. Looking forward to sampling more of your wine and your slightly eccentric charm in the future. Or Auf Wiedersehen, as they say in the Hills language.