What Do Reading, UK and Canberra, Australia Have in Common? They’re Both Gateways to a Load of Better Places

My wife and I are going on holiday. What to do with our pet plants?

My wife and I are going on holiday to the ACT this weekend. This has raised a problem: what to do with our pet plants.

The weekend is forecast to be a stifling 40°C. Our tomato and strawberries do love the sun, but not that much sun, especially without anyone to water them. I would leave them in the trusty hands of my boss, who has a flourishing garden at the front of the bakery, but the reason we are going away is that the bakery is closed. We briefly discuss bringing the plants with us, but there are risks as to whether they can cross the border with us. It’s all very serious.

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The weather is also putting paid to our original plan of staying in our usually quite liveable van. We’re updating it and there’s no mosquito netting yet, which hasn’t been such a problem in the cooler months. In these temperatures though we can’t sleep with the windows closed. We will perish.

And so we find ourselves shelling out for a room in a hotel with our friends. Ever-practical Chandler makes a poll for deciding where to stay.

“If you vote for Chandler’s hotel with the bunk beds, you can sleep on the sofa tonight to test out how you like the space,” I tell my wife sweetly. He votes for it anyway.

I vote for my suggestion, a hotel with a grimy outdoor pool that’s strictly on the edge of NSW rather than in Canberra. I have made a New Year’s resolution to swim every single day, and this will be helpful. The pool will almost certainly be filled with screaming children and their hairy dads as it is the last week of the summer holidays. It’s fine — my definition of enough of a swim at this point, only 22 days into the year, is allowing my feet to leave the bottom and be suspended momentarily in the water. This is in part to do with a recent jellyfish incident that my adrenaline glands have yet to recover from. The Ibis Hotel, NSW also has a billiards room, which is how I try to sell it to the boys, both of whom are snooker tragics.

The double benefit of it being over the border from Canberra seems to be precisely that it’s not in Canberra. I start canvassing suggestions for places to visit while I’m working. While I make coffees I question anyone who looks like they might be half up to having a dialogue before caffeine. I am essentially ransoming coffee for information.

“You should walk or cycle round the lake,” suggests one customer.

“Just don’t go in it,” another customer interjects. All the surrounding people agree, vehemently. In this way, I elicit a dozen “must visit” places in Canberra. Half of them are not in Canberra.

I tell my boss, who used to live in Canberra, that where I used to live in the UK, Reading, is known for having fantastic transport out of town. The best thing about Reading? How easy it is to leave. She laughs. “Canberra’s the same. Funnily enough, where I used to work in Canberra — their headquarters are in Reading.”


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