An Ipswich Hour

Yours truly, digging deeper into suburban soil. What's this, is Cornelius finally settling down? Read on to find out...

Yours truly, digging deeper into suburban soil. What’s this, is Cornelius finally settling down? Read on to find out…

Disclaimer: This post is written under the influence of heavy prejudice and a self-centered cultural bias. Be prepared for gross generalizations and faulty facts.

I was hanging out in Brisbane for a day and catching up with Aussie friends that I had met while in India. Going from one outback destination to another, I realized that this was my first truly urban experience of Australia.

Brisbane is about twice the size of Copenhagen but no less provincial for a large city. About two million people inhabit this hilly hub and it is often referred to as the little brother of Melbourne – known for its cosmopolitan air.

Now where did that image go?

Brisbane is the capital of Queensland with a population of 2,146,577.

Nevertheless, Brisbanites love their cradle, and just like Sydney scoffs at Melbourne and Melbourne laughs at Brisbane, so Brisbane has its own laughing stock – Ipswitch. I was going there on Brisbane’s extensive train network, only to driven even further away from the coastal suburbs and into the so-called Scenic Rim hinterland.

But that last part didn’t seem to overshadow my brissie friends’ pet hate: ”Ipswitch, what the hell are you going to Ipswitch for?”, they all asked. ”Well, I just want to get there before dark so I can hitchhike the rest of the way out to…”, my reply was cut off: ”Damn straight you want to get out of Ipswitch before dark!”, they exclaimed and smiled knowingly at each other, ”nothing but Bogans and hill-billies out there.”

Boganville

I had heard about Bogans before and I knew that this was a popular term describing deeply racist, mullet-sporting, mustachioed, low-income – and even lower intelligenced – white Australians with tacky tattoos, cowboy boots, sleeveless T-shirts and foul mouths. They have kids at 14, drink beer all day, shout at their grimy barefeet kids, and live on the dole in run-down houses with rusty old cars in their back yards.

Now where did that image go?

Last year, Ipswich won the regional “Tidy Towns Award”. It also was selected to be Queensland’s most sustainable city. Note the beautiful mountains in the background and the absence of sky-scrapers. Only the Health Plaza Mall is bigger than the cathedral.

With my hair on the verge of mullet-hood and a proud mustache under my crooked nose, I felt grateful for my distinct Danish accent to distance myself from the terrible  Bogan-label.

Arriving at Ipswitch Station I was expecting the worst. Did the Bogans really exist and if so; could this really be their capital?

At a glance, yes, this was indeed boganville. About a dozen bogans were waiting for the bus, a few of them muttering indestinguishable words to invisible individuals, others busy studying their tattoos, chain-smoking and scowling at my mandola-bearing, backpack-strapped self.

Pokies & Porn

I went for a walk around town. ”Mates Rates From 5-7pm” a sign said outside a no-frills pub, proudly advertising their pokies on the facade. All I could see was a leather-necked crowd of tough me with working boots firmly planted on the grimy floor and chauvinist jokes competing with their beers for attention. Not really my scene.

Now where did that image go?

All over Australia, old buildings are cherished and proudly preserved. Except in the case of this shopfront – this is what we in Danish call an eye-turd.

On high street I finally saw something familiar; a bicycle shop! Every imaginable bike except a standard commuter-bicycle. I guess around here bicycling is a hobby.

Further down came a shop-front completely covered in beige with ”Adult Shop” written in large letters. Everything was left to he imagination here. It didn’t seem as busy though, as the neighbour, a Gaming & Hobby store, crammed with chips-eating, role-playing, acne-plagued Fantasy-fans.

Across the street I saw the ”Ipswich Hospice Bargain Centre” and my imagination had a great time wondering what deadly deals one could find there. What an interesting strip of commercial units…

Money Makes The Belly Go Round

Now where did that image go?

Approximately every 20 years, Ipswich turns into Venice as incredible amounts of water floods the whole area. Pretty as it may seem, it is no fun for the people who lose their homes, not to mention the few unfortunate ones who lost their lives about 2 years ago when the last flood happened.

I also spotted something like 5 car-dealers, apparently walking isn’t big around Ipswich. Fronting the road they had flashy 4×4 monsters waiting for the next guy looking for a potency-extension. Only chemists matched the car-dealers in numbers. Literally on every corner I saw one, offering quick fixes for the symptoms of a lifestyle that pays no regard to the limitations of the body.

According to the shop fronts, the Ipswich lifestyle also doesn’t seem to care much for financial limitations. ”Fast Access Financing!”, ”5-Minute Loans Arranged Here”, in the windows you could see cash-needy people’s precious items, pawned for God knows what sad reason.

I was getting slightly unnerved by Ipswich at this point, when suddenly I came upon a Night Market, edging the pavement of two blocks of artsy stores. I got talking to the lovely and hip-looking Kate who was selling home-made notebook covers. I asked her if she liked Ipswich and to my great surprise she beamed me back a big smile of ”yes, it’s a great little community!”. Instantly recognizing a hipster-hangout, I put my bags down in a smart cafe.

Bin Of Brisbane

While  waiting for my trendy “flat white“, I jotted down a few notes and wondered; How could a hippie-type like this place? Ipswich seemed to me a garbage bin for the nearest main-stream city culture of Brisbane; a place for those who cannot afford the increasingly high cost of living in a city that aspires to be more cosmopolitan than egalitarian.

Now where did that image go?

At the top end of Ipswich main street is where you will find the cafes and coffee nooks. This is about as hip as it gets in Ipswich.

According to the fashionista barista who made my coffee (and a damn fine one too, the coffee I mean…) Ipswich is a city in fast growth. About 170.000 people live here and every day brings new settlers into this only 108-year-old city. The barista was obviously hoping for more urbanites to come and enjoy her cafe’s image-enhancing products.

Hipster Or Hillbilly?

As I sat there, waiting for my ride out of this strange suburbia-turned-city I wondered where exactly I would fit into this picture myself? Snobbish hipster? Working class poet? Average Joe? Depressed office worker? Day-dreaming dandy?
Now where did that image go?

Here is Anton laying down turf for a new lawn for $20 an hour. I can now tick off “landscaper” on my list of professions.

A few weeks later I got my answer; I was to be the hard-working hick from the hillbilly outback near sleepy-town Boonah, coming into big-city Ipswich like some immigrant hire-a-hand, breaking my back for 20 bucks an hour, putting down the fake green lawns of the newest additions to Ipswich’s very own expanding suburbs. So much for my hipster self-image 😉
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