Day off, Brisbane

I have a patchy nap after the long morning of circadian chaos. At 1PM I make plans. I’ll head for the Brisbane Museum in the city and explore from there. The museum turns out to be a fairly predictable municipal affair housed in the handsome neoclassical city hall. There are a few rooms of generally hideous paintings with a couple of interesting cityscapes from the thirties, especially Vida Lahey’s Central Station 7:30am. A group portrait from 1952 by Margaret Cilento (Sunday in Moorooka) catches my eye as does a lovely small portrait which turns out to be by the same artist but in a different style. But there’s a lot of dross and many of the exhibits (as is the way) are for children. But it’s free and it’s air conditioned. I eschew a trip up the clock tower and head back into the throng of a very busy city centre. A man by the metro plays his electric guitar with a touch of soul and I donate all my change. I notice he accepts Bitcoin.

I head through open air shopping malls, nicely planted with trees, towards the river. I stop halfway on Victoria Bridge surveying a very Thames-like scene. I’m about to turn back when I notice an interesting early eighties development housing the Queensland Art Gallery. They call this the South Bank and its redolent of London’s, with several buildings of the same sleek style housing various art spaces stretched along the river. It’s a lovely place — beautifully proportioned and laid out. And it contains some lovely things. A cute little Rodin depicting a pair of finely balanced acrobats, a classic Degas figurine, a Henry Moore miniature. In the garden there’s a haunting Jacob Epstein figure — a standing woman with twisted, anxious hands. There’s a lot of indigenous art, some on a massive scale. I don’t really understand any of it through sheer ignorance of its traditions. The building is stunning. You feel like you’re drifting through a Stanley Kubrick film.

Back across the river the city is buzzing with commuters. This is the most urban atmosphere so far. Students, office workers – city people getting on. There’s a broader range of ethnicities than the last two towns and an energy I like. You’re more anonymous, part of the hive. With the heat and the trees it could be Philadelphia or it could be Hong Kong. I sit in one of those absurd sushi places with a Generation Game conveyor belt. There’s a tablet at each seat for drink orders. Everything is slathered in sweet brown sauce or mayonnaise. It’s food for adolescents. That doesn’t stop me tanking down six plates. Funnily enough they give you a handwritten paper bill to pay at the cash desk. Not automated counting dishes yet, then.

I walk back homewards in the muggy breeze that carries a threat of heavy rain. I stop and sit on a shady bench by the hotel as the sky darkens and sinks into the deepest bruised blue. A woman glides past with the campest dog of the day, a miniature poodle with a haughty air and a rapid, mincing gait. It’s beautiful to be out.