Writers Week has come and gone for another year and like last year, I took advantage of local libraries live streaming the festival and went to my local library to listen in. One of the talks I was interested in seeing was called City Series. This chat involved 8 different Australian novelists and writers who in 2011, were given the task to write about their home cities. The idea was to explain our cities, not in a guidebook way, but rather in a way that evoked intense memories and resonated deeply with others experiences of their own cities, or to give others a deep sense of what it’s like to live in our particular cities.
For Australian Writers Week these writers gathered together again to reflect on these books, ten years on from when they were first written, and to see what changes had occurred. In listening to the speakers it became clear that if anything, the pandemic and the shutting down of borders that happened as a result, only seems to have brought out even more parochialism for what we know and love about our cities. The common theme from all of the speakers was that you only truly know a city if you have lived in it for a long time. Its quirks, history, things you love to hate and all the things that make you say for instance, ‘that’s such an Adelaide thing”.
That got me thinking. If I was to speak about Adelaide, not in a guidebook for tourists way, what would I say its life and soul is. What defines Adelaide? I would say…
- We get sick to death of being left off national tourism stories, media, brochures and television shows in favour of east coast cities, but then we’re secretly kind of glad about that because it means less crowds for us to contend with.
- We have some of the whitest, beautiful, uncrowded secret beaches in Australia, the only draw back may be that some take a couple of hours to get to and you may not want to swim out too deep because sharks like them too.
- Everything is only an hour or two away, the standard reply to how long does it take to get to…the Barossa /southern beaches / outback / etc… is ‘oh only an hour or so’.
- Growing fruit and vegies in the backyard is par for the course and there is nothing better than sharing your bounty with neighbours and friends. Tomatoes, zucchinis, lemons and more are passed over back fences with pride throughout the year. Speaking of that, if you don’t have a lemon tree in your backyard are you really South Australian?
- We only have one tram service in Adelaide. Seriously! THE tram, as in, are you taking The tram, means you are either going between Glenelg and suburbs along the way to Adelaide and back again, or nowadays onto North Terrace in the city and on towards the Entertainment Centre. You don’t want to know about the fuss when it finally was extended to turn right on North Terrace and go as far as the Botanic Gardens!
- We absolutely love our well planned grid of city streets and the fact that they are bordered by North, East, South and West Terraces, Done!
- Don’t mention the River Torrens, it’s quite boring and the only exciting thing about it is the Popeye boat rides, bridges that cross over it and the main pedestrian bridge which now links patrons directly to the Adelaide Oval.
- Adelaide Oval is the best in Australia for cricket matches, footy, and concerts. End of story.
- The Market (Adelaide Central Market) is busy, vibrant, smells of cabbage, cheese, meat and fish and is a true working market – get out of the way of men with trolleys full of produce or lose a limb.
- Every city has its favourite food and signature dishes so you can’t call yourself and Adelaidian if you haven’t tried a Balfours frog cake, Woodroofe (Woodies) Lemonade, a Vili’s pie (and on that…seriously try a pie floater anywhere!), the doughnut of the month from Port Elliot Bakery, any South Australian wine and paper wrapped fish and chips with chicken salt, while sitting at any of the west facing beaches along the coast to watch a sunset. Made all the better when they are drive on beaches.
- Everyone at some stage in their lives (usually under 25) has done a Hindley Street crawl, driving along at snail pace at night to check out how dingy it is and watch people staggering their way from club to club. (Also known as a Mainy in any of the regional towns).
- In the city centre you will sometimes see ridiculous things like scooters in trees and e-bikes in the river, people climbing the pigeon statue or jumping about in the Victoria Square fountain or filling it with bubble bath, these instances are regularly tut tutted on social media and usually with the caption…’this is why we can’t have nice things’!
- We generally hate change in the way of high rise buildings, apartment blocks, redevelopments, but when they do go through…we are very proud of them and suddenly love them. We love our old city buildings and fancy arcades but embrace street art too. Oh and buildings get names according to first impressions, for instance the cheese grater (SAHMRI building) and the slug (the proposed luxury hotel to be built in the Barossa).
- You get a warm and fuzzy feeling seeing the Rundle Mall pigs and have to pat at least one of them, that’s why they are so shiny. If you (or your children) haven’t had a photo with the pigs you simply aren’t South Australian. And speaking of the mall, it used to be a thing…’meet you at the Malls Balls’.
- Conversations around where you’re going on holidays and long weekends range from up The River, heading to Yorkes, the south east, hitting the west coast or the Flinders.
- When we feel like a day drive we head to Victa, the river, or the Hills
- We are pretty smug about the fact that South Australia was the first Australian state to give women the vote and was the first place in the world to allow women to stand for parliament, had the first aboriginal governor, had the first female judge in Australia, was the first state in Australia to celebrate Anzac Day in 1915, became the first in Australia to issue a licence to drive, made the first Holden car and I could go on…
- Lastly I would say Adelaidians are polite, helpful and proud of our city and state, so if you need to ask for information or directions, we will tell you in the nicest way ~ where to go. Oh and only other Adelaidians can dare to criticise it. 😉
The city series books are published by New South Books and can be purchased from their website.
Love from Radelaide!