Canberra's Cock(ington) is Green says Robyn

PopGoesCanberra for the first time welcomes guest writer. She's a full-time servant of the Public, and part-time Swedish Robyn of "Be Mine" and "Show Me Love" fame impersonator.

Oompa Loompa, Oompa-di-doo. Cockington Green, open from Mondays to mini-Mondays, is a wonderful interlude on the Canberra miniature theme park itinerary. ‘Strange,’ I thought, as we wandered past the miniature turnstile in the miniature entry, after paying the not-so-miniature admission fee, ‘This place looks so much smaller than when I was here last...’ Ahh, like sand through the hourglass… Like all those things that were wondrous and normal sized when you were a toddler, now they’re miniature and – strangely camp. I couldn’t help but wonder, as we gazed over the miniature English scene before us, what the bus-load of Chinese tourists who entered before us made of all this miniature stuff. Seems a bit odd, surely, for the nation’s capital to have an English village scene painstakingly reproduced in miniature on its outskirts. And the ‘Australian architectural icons’ in the ‘International’ section. Sounds like a country ready to snap, if you ask me. But, miniature camera poised, I rushed headlong into the Lilliputian world, ready to conquer any miniature obstacles in my path.

The first one was the rather crudely placed sign, surrounded by miniature Australian flags, announcing that the PRIME CAUSE of all damage to Cockington Green was perpetrated by children. While we reeled back in shock at these statistics – otherwise known as THE FACTS – I paused to consider that this miniature world was not, in fact, built with a juvenile clientele in mind. Juvenile in spirit maybe, I thought to myself, as I kicked over a Cornish village and turned to survey the Kentish Oast house. Yes, you read correctly: ‘Oast.’ Built to house oats, according to the miniature signage. No one ever accused the British of having miniature brains, did they? In fact, looking over at all the wee little houses, stuffed with tiny people falling out of the windows in various stages of undress, it suddenly dawned on me why my ancestors decided to emigrate from England in the first place. Too cramped, obviously. Too cosy. Too quaint.

Swiftly maneuvering our way past the miniature bog and miniature housing project, we paused by the miniature British Rail train, marooned half a metre from the local Cockington Green station. ‘Mind the gap,’ I quipped half-drunkenly to myself, taking another tiny gulp from my miniature bottle of Baileys. ‘Look! A bee in a flower,’ shrieked my mother, training her camera on a gigantic insect. Momentarily unaware that the bee was the same size as the animals grazing on the lawn nearby, we crowded around the ordinary spectacle, attracting a large group of Chinese onlookers, recording the event with their minicams. Embarrassed by the attention, I scurried over to the miniature Stonehenge installation, where tiny druids sipped mulled wine and drew truncated straws to see who was sacrificed next. Ritual murder on my mind, I pushed past the infants in blocking my path and tripped up the stairs to decode the mini-maze, trimmed by hand (according to the sign) with nail scissors and tweezers. ‘Shudder to think of the sciatica,’ murmured my mother, grimacing, ‘And the arthritis…the RSI.’ Yes indeed – occupational health and safety – an issue for the miniature theme park workers of the country. What’s their union called, anyway? The miscellaneous miniature model-makers and associated shrunken and sundry workers?

Social commentary is never far from ones mind when traversing Cockington Green – this was all too clear as we paused in front of the ball match, replete with soccer hooligans, streaker and overtures from the Barmy Army on miniature loudspeakers. The fox hunting diorama followed, just around the corner, and we flushed with embarrassment at the scene depicting a black ball-boy scurrying after a shuttlecock on the badminton green. ‘Not to worry,’ we cheered ourselves, ‘the International section is over yonder.’ And there it was: enough bonsai trees to make Mr Miyagi snap his chopsticks in excitement. I couldn’t help but pluck out the camera and capture the scenes before me: a diminutive Slovenian farmhouse, miniature Croatian castle, tiny Lithuanian village. ‘Present this to the next Schengen visa rule-making committee,’ I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way they won’t let you in!’ Charming. Simply charming. Tiny trains puffed past, belching tiny clouds of smoke into the atmosphere, and I began to lose all the inhibitions of the EU member states’ installations. Rushing headlong into a made-to-measure Columbian village scene, my dad raised one eyebrow and quipped (loudly) ‘Bet it’s not just coffee they’re harvesting there, eh? More likely a bit of the old marching powder!’ Only to have the slightly dark woman standing behind us sigh loudly and remark (in an obviously Columbian accent – not that I would know) ‘Oh, this scene makes me homesick.’

Cheeks burning, we turned to the more obviously narcotically inspired Inca temple, the Bhuddist worshipful installation, and the blatantly offensive South African villa. ‘Good to see that racism has a place in the miniature world,’ I thought to myself, and made a mental note for my future memoirs: ‘Cockington Green combines the grimly ironic with the morbidly amusing.’ Yes, that about sums it up. The miniature servings of food in the miniature cafĂ© followed next, although I note the miniature human at the table next to me produced not-so-miniature shrieks and squeals while I tried to focus on the gift shop. Much to my disgust, the fridge magnet purchased by my father for $4.95 managed to disappear among the tiny (empty) bottles of alcohol in my pocket and I spent the next half hour scrabbling about on my hands and knees in the car park, looking for it. Then ransacking the campervan while my parents looked on in miniature middle-aged bemusement. ‘Some people just don’t get it’ I thought ruefully. And the same goes for Cockington Green. For all the myopic viewing pleasure, I just don’t understand why they don’t butch it up a bit. Sideline the St Mary Mead diorama, I reckon, it’s time to step it up a notch. For my part, I’d like to suggest a miniature Pine Gap military installation, or a miniature Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. Hell – let’s go with a miniature LNG refinery – just to show the Chinese what we’re all about. A scale model of the Big Banana wouldn’t go astray, either. And a miniature Big Pineapple just for good measure. Dare I say it? A miniature Giant Earthworm? It’s all a bit academic, really, isn’t it? A bit academic.

PopGoesCanberra EXCLUSIVE: Chanel, Tiffani and In-Grid tell ALL on their South Coast hideaway!

EXCLUSIVE: After the revelation on Fop that Chanel Cole, Tiffani Wood and In-Grid have moved in together, CFBGoesPop revealed that not only were they living together, but they were living together in a flat!

Now PopGoesCanberra can reveal that Chanel, Tiffani and In-Grid also have a sublime NSW South Coast GETAWAY. You may have seen its modern, angular design before on the reverse of the A*Teens Teen Spirit album cover. That's right. Chanel, Tiffani and In-Grid's country estate was used by the A*Teens when they visited Australia to take shots for their Teen Spirit album cover. That's not the only connection they have with the Swedish foursome. The A*Teens producers are now leasing the home to the girls in the hope that their inspiration will flow and a new Aussie/Mediterrannean girl group with a Swedish flavour will be formed! But have the hopes instilled in the Swedish pop svengalis' lease agreement reaped rewards? The girls tell all....

Chanel performingTiffani relaxing at home

Chanel Cole reclines in a sumptuous lounge chair whose creamy tones would not be out of place underneath the ample girth of Maggie Tabberer. She looks out over her homeland, the lush, green Bega Valley. "I love this place. The cheese. The photographics shop. The cows. But now it's a lot more. It's like...I've found my place...with these two girls." She pauses. She has a certain air about her. A freshness that wasn't to be found in any other Idol finalists, nor in the likes of Hayley Aitkin, Brooke McClymont or Hannah of No Relief fame. An originality that would certainly work wonders in a new Australo Swedish "Med" trio.

Tiffani Wood sighs as she stands on the deck that sits high above the shiny grass that Rex Hunt mows once a week. "Rex and I met at the Bega Cup. I saw the fire in his eyes. Maybe it was the devil in his soul. It wasn't love. It was a connection that just said to me, 'You must mow my lawn.' And so he did."

Rex while not at work chez the girls

There is a certain bitterness that Tiffani tries to hide, but PopGoesCanberra sees through it. We ask her about the choice to release the crappy rock version of her new single. "It wasn't what I wanted. I wanted the pop version. But it wasn't to be." I can see that tensions still run high, so I let be.

In-Grid makes a rare Google Search appearance

In-Grid comes out on the deck with a Campari and Orange Juice. "The oranges are from western News South Wales, the orchard district, " she notes, in her lilting Italian tones, "...but the Campari is ALL Italian." The girls laugh and giggle together. A touch of tATu? No, these girls are Red Blooded Women, "count backwards five, four, three, two, one" they chime as Rex shouts from below "I'm heading down to Tathra Wharf to catch you sheilas some big ones!" In-Grid runs to the kitchen to prepare a Mediterrannean feast that her mother back home would cook. "I miss my family. My man in his convertible. The coastline. But you know, the Australian lifestyle is not that bad. Not since I met these two." She nods her head in the direction of Chanel and Tiff. How did they meet, I ask In-Grid. "I was tango-ing alone, la la la. And then they joined in." What simplicity. She returns to her olive de-pipping and sun-dried tomato drying.

While the aperitifs are pleasant and the laughter convivial, I know there is something these girls are hiding.

"So, tell me about the music..."

Silence befalls the open-plan lounge as the lights of Bega sparkle in the distance. I can almost hear cow-bells, but cows in Australia don't wear bells.

Idyllic country NSW

Tiffani takes charge, as she often does. "It's scary you know. Knowing you have the next big thing in the palm of your very hands. But it's a dream excitin', and it's over ridin'." Chanel motions with her hands and her bosom bounces as she smiles excitedly. "When Daniel and I are making love on a deserted South Coast beach, I feel just...amazing. And that's the same way I feel when we're working in our studio. Making amazing pop. Think Da Buzz. Think In-Grid's previous work. Think Kate Ceberano Love Dimension. Think me on Idol. Think big baby." I laugh. I almost choke on an unshelled pistachio nut. In-Grid cuts in- "Chanel no one is supposed to savoir that we have our very own atelier here in the hills outside Bega." PopGoesCanberra speaks enough French to know that that means that these three ordinary young women are working on the most extraordinary of projects. The fusion of three art-forms. Think Chanel Cole meets Tiffani Wood meets In-Grid. In my head, as these girls bouffe their antipasto feast along with Rex's fresh snapper Napoli style, I try to fathom ways to think what these girls' musical style will be like. Swedish-Australian-French/Italian. Robyn + Kylie + Johnny Halliday? Alcazar + Missy Higgins + Gigi d'Agostino? I have a feeling that the sum will be greater than its parts.

A light knocking can be heard at the door. I feel this may be my cue to exit. I pick up my things to leave, overwhelmed at the possibilities that await the Australian recording industry. A renaissance!

Chanel answers and greets a familiar looking face. It's Shirley Clamp! Shirley and I last saw each other in Stockholm at a Christmas party, fresh off the stage. So much has happened since then, the terrible loss of Att Alska Dig at Melodifestivalen, and a career and climate change, doing the weather and kids TV for Prime in country New South Wales. "Hej" she manages to exclaim in delight, shocked from seeing me at her friends' pad. "How do you ladeez know each other?" I ask. "She's doing backing vocals for our album" they chime as they kiss, Mediterranean style of course. They don't even notice as I slip out the door, my heat beating like a drum. Dam Dam Dam.