Sir Robert Menzies was the Prime Minister of Australia from 1949 (after Ben Chifley) until he retired in 1966 (followed by Harold Holt). Now Ming was not a particularly sporty cove, although he had a penchant for cricket which saw him sitting in the stands at Lords cheering on his antipodean flannelled fools. He was barrel-chested, and barrel-waisted, with a bit of a basso-profundo. And yet, in Canberra, THE main walking track is named after him. Bit of a contradiction in terms, I thinks to meself. But there is a charming story to it.
The main walking track in question is from bridge to bridge around Lake Burley Griffin. Canberra is an engineered city, plonked in the middle of nowhere so that the nation's capital was in neither Sydney nor Melbourne. To complete the air of artifice, a man-made lake was cultivated at its centre. When I lived in Canberra, during the tumultuous period of 1974-1977, I 'learnt to exercise' around the lake. During any given lunch-hour, it felt that half the bloody city was doing likewise. I would jog 100 steps, then walk 100 steps, thereby making it around.
And so to the charming story. Menzies had a daughter who had a daughter. Hah! I know that phrase well. In 1956, said daughter the elder (Heather) would take her baby for a walk in the pram (you know, that big wicker thing that required Arnie-sized biceps to push!) The paths around their home - and Canberra more widely - were terrible and they would come home and whinge, and the old man felt compelled to put things to right. At the same time, he was getting money through the Financial Estimates Committee for the lake itself. All items coallesced, and today there is a wonderful series of walking paths around the lake, from which these photographs were taken.
Photo 1 - From Kings Bridge looking West, with The High Court on the left and Black Mountain communications tower straight ahead. You can just see Commonwealth Bridge in the distance, below the tower. The High Court is the court of last appeal.
Photo 2 - From the northern bank of the lake, looking South. With the National Art Gallery on the left, the High Court in the centre, and Parliament House on the right.
Photo 3 - Still on the northern shore, looking south-east toward the Carillon. There can be nothing nicer and more soothing than to sit on these benches and listen to the bells being played, like I did on Wednesday.
Photo 4 - Also taken from Kings Bridge. With the reflection of the Carillon, which was a gift from Britain in 1970.