Galleries, museums and adult scooters: what more could you want from a holiday?
Leaving the house before caffeine has never been my preference; as such, dragging myself out for breakfast has always been a painful operation.
When I wake in our 4-person wide bed at the hotel, I am very well rested. The air-conditioning was worth it — all of us slept under duvets last night, despite it being 25° outside. “It feels even cooler, knowing we’re contributing to the heat outside,” I tell Steve. However, because I am still on bakery time and have usually had several coffees by now, I have a banging headache. It is not helped when I smack my head on the bunk while pulling the sheet up across miles of bed.
We consult my survey-based list over breakfast. We have already ticked one thing off just by having a meal in the dimly lit, expensive cafe we are in. This feels like quite the achievement to begin the holiday with.
We wander through all the galleries. Nobody else wants to read the signs. In fact, they seem to relish leaving me in the dust. It therefore takes me many more hours to get through each exhibit. Whenever I manage to catch them up, I tell them facts about the objects around us. They are all extremely interested.
“If you’d read the sign, you’d already know that,” I point out.
“We don’t need the signs,” says Chandler. “That’s what we have you for.”
We rent adult scooters, ostensibly for Steve’s dodgy knee. I climb aboard one, taking a wide stance and bending my knees. The luminously coloured scooters are sturdy, if embarrassing.
“We are in a low-speed zone. Drive safely,” a woman’s voice tells me as I connect my phone to it.
“I’ll try,” I mutter grimly.
My wife powers past me, offroad, and almost smacks into a lamppost. He is undeterred, swerves just in time, and continues on at pace.
“Your helmet’s not on properly!” I shout after him. Everyone disappears off around the corner. I am finding it very hard to keep up.
“Put it in high-speed mode!” someone shouts back, a distant echo.
When I catch up I shout across to my wife again: “Your helmet’s not on properly!”
“I heard you,” he says. “I am choosing to ignore you.”
I take one hand off the handles to scratch my back and almost end up in the lake. At the Commonwealth Park we run into a big crowd. The governor-general is up on the stage. Everyone’s in black. Later, we find out Scomo was there and curse ourselves for not finding him and wishing him a “flash day”. Instead, we pootle through on our scooters, looking idiotic. The crowd starts singing the national anthem. Two security guards laugh at our helmets. “I feel as stupid as I look,” I tell them, gliding past helplessly.
“Just think,” says my wife as we overtake people, “We could be exercising.”
We scooter on. On King’s Avenue bridge Steve stops suddenly and we all almost collide in canon. “Selfie time!” he says. We glide down a big smooth loop from the bridge to the lake, overtaking walkers and pathetic manual scooters. The breeze feels lovely.
I am becoming the person I have always ridiculed. A strong headwind slows us down. We are the RAM drivers of the pavements, overtaking packs of people at riotous speed. The scooters have quite some acceleration and round corners at a not-inconsiderable angle. At 25km an hour, every bump in the pavement becomes a wallop that shakes all my bones. After several hours wandering the National Galleries at glacial pace, everyone has developed a need for speed.
We are suddenly back in the sculpture garden. It is all over too soon. It begins to rain lightly.
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We trundle through town in our old rumbly vans, almost smashing through a height restriction sign and turning the wrong way out of a “right only” lane.
“We’re classic Brits abroad,” I say to my wife, watching Steve wave apologetically to a car as he cuts it off. “Plus you,” I add, my Australian man.
“You lot are dragging me into this,” he says.
We are tourists, so we make sure to do the tourist things. We go to the top of the Telstra Tower. As we pull into the car park, my wife says: “Can someone please tell me why I only have two bars of signal?” He has a point.
We look out across Canberra and the ACT and trace the map from our vantage point. “There’s where we had dinner last night… There’s the old Parliament House, there’s the new Parliament House…” I manage to convince my wife and Chandler I can see a giraffe poking its head out of the foliage at the zoo, ten kilometres away. For some reason, this makes them angry. Clearly, it is dinner time.