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 café 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.