When Sue Dee asked me to write an occasional column for Focus, the question was, what was the focus
So I thought that the focus should be on Armidale and its hinterland and on all of those things that are the icing on the cake.
I wasn’t always a Pollyanna by any means, nor even a ‘glass half-full person’. It took a lot of different life experiences in a lot of different places.
Maybe it’s – ahem – maturity that makes me look at the pluses in life now.
But Armidale certainly makes it very easy to do so, and it doesn’t need a season of goodwill for those of us who live here to know how lucky we are.
Although more and more people are coming to join us, the city is actually nearly the perfect size for what used to be called ‘civilised living’.
As my son said years ago, it is big enough that people don’t inevitably know who you know and what you’re doing, but small enough that when you are strolling down the Mall with some time on your hands there is always someone ready for a chat.
There has to be a critical mass living here for us to deserve all the things we have and often take for granted – the range of educational opportunities from pre-school to university, the cultural and community opportunities, the sporting facilities, the range of shops and businesses, the ability to still relate to the earth and the seasons and what they can produce rather than to be distanced as so many metropolitan people so sadly are, and the incredible natural wonders that surround us only minutes away.
Education is without a doubt the major business in the town – the economic multiplier effect from the schools, the University of New England, TAFE, the Conservatorium, NERAM etc. etc. spreads out into most businesses.
Without the university, Armidale would be a very much smaller place with a lot fewer services, and a lot less opportunities to be taken up by those who seek them out.
Armidale is beautifully placed as a true university city and beautifully placed to capitalise on that in ways that benefit everyone, by no means just those directly involved in education. We have to make sure we maximise our possibilities.
But we have those heart/barbecue stopping attributes here too.
Armidale is the University City with a Portal to Gondwana – how cool is that!
The World Heritage people are pretty happy about it too. This is an aspect of where we live that I’d like to talk about in the future.
With all those wonderful other attributes that can make life here so pleasant, well – that’s all the icing on the cake. This month, make it a nice dark fruit cake with marzipan icing.
Season’s greetings, Susie Dunn.
P.S. (Sorry, I always have to have at least one other word).
Down the track I’d like to talk about the incredible job that organised sport does in this community, how we come to have 150 locals presenting opera with the Armidale symphony orchestra, the highly organised trading culture of the aboriginal people over millennia, the reasons why Hunter S. Thompson’s chum Ralph Steadman talked of “the little community of Armidale who dream of a New Universe and a clean world”, the fact that eels leave the pools at the foot of Dangars Falls to make their way to New Caledonia to breed and then make their way back up the ranges again, the amazing story of Signor Vertelli walking the wire across the same Dangars Falls in 1866, why the New England Regional Art Gallery is worth all the stresses that have surrounded it recently and why and how we should capitalise on the many visitors who come here for other reasons than ‘just passing through …’ Oh, what stories are out there … Icing on the Cake …!