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Route 181 (182) City to Lanyon Marketplace

Date: 18 July 2023

Route: 181 (182) City to Lanyon Marketplace

Sights: Brindabellas with snow

Weather: 3 - 17 Cool with sun

Time taken: 3 hour round trip

I have had a two-week break from bus trips and writing about them. This time was filled with outings to galleries, catching up with friends and recovering from a lurgy (not Covid). I found I missed the structure of the rides and the discipline of writing. My desire to write had been flagging a little. When I do anything on a regular basis there comes a point when I just go off the idea. I had got to that stage with this project and two weeks away from it has given me a new injection of enthusiasm. The writing and the riding were not the only thing I missed: casually chatting to others about their bus rides or lives is now also an intregral part of mine.

As I was otherwise engaged in the morning I set my sights on one of the commuter buses that start to run after 4pm. I have taken one of these before to its end point (182). There are three commuter buses that travel from the city to Lanyon Marketplace by slightly different routes. The 181 travels to the west of the ACT through Weston, onto Kambah, then continuing south through Greenway, Bonython to Lanyon Marketplace. I have covered much of this area before and was not that excited about the trip; it is long.

As I stood waiting I noticed the Melbourne Building. The paint is peeling in places, some of the shops have closed and have “For Lease” signs in the window. Under the large verandah, there is a homeless woman who has taken up residency that looks more permanent each time I pass. The building has a majesty to it. Although only two floors, it looks taller. The roof of Italian terracotta tiles looks more worn on this building than the one across the road and its mirror image, the Sydney Building. The wooden hoardings, now covered in fly posters for gigs and concerts and events, are also looking worse for wear. The graffiti across the posters obliterates the information.


Built over a twenty-year period (1926-1946) these buildings make up the gateway to the north in Civic. As Canberra developed, the plans for these buildings were not undertaken by one owner. Due to the financial restraints of the time the plans were divided into plots under a Crown Land lease for 99 years and each of the owners built their section to the plan. Today there are over 100 land titles in the two buildings with each owner responsible for the upkeep, development and internal plan for their own part. This has led to an eclectic mix of business: many restaurants, a couple of wine stores, Smith Alternative (music venue), physiotherapists, and a Quest Hotel. The laneways that run behind both the buildings have recently been developed into a space that can be used for outdoor entertainment and allow the larger venues to spill out in warmer weather. Verity Lane, a food and wine venue, a large bar with a number of different food outlets (think very up-market food hall) has windows onto the laneway that open up to make this an inside-outside space.

Designed by Sir John Sulman in the 1920’s, the design was influenced by the Foundling Hospital in Florence built five centuries earlier, the colonnades providing much needed shade for the shoppers. There was a variety of businesses that opened in the 20s too: hairdressers, newsagents were the first with cafes and the first licensed bar to follow in 1928 after the end of prohibition.

Times were tough and many people in Canberra preferred to shop in Queanbeyan as it was established with many businesses in close proximity, and they would travel to Sydney for larger items like furniture. During the 1950s both buildings had fires that left extensive damage, but given makeovers before Queen Elizabeth II’s visit 1954.

Since that time the businesses have changed hands and moved on; more food outlets, fewer haberdashery shops, but they still struggle. Shopping moved to the outer suburbs that housed shopping centres and still do, where customers could buy all their goods in one place, having parked at the venue.

Phots: National Archive


As I stood in the sun waiting for the bus at platform 9 I checked NextThere. I had just over 10 minutes to wait. There was only one other couple at the bus stop but I knew from my previous experience that the bus stop would fill up as the scheduled time approached. A few more people arrived. Then the 182 pulled in. I heard it coming before I saw it as it was an electric bus and the door-bell-like sound was ding-donging. Impulsively. I got on the bus. I knew I had done this route before but the allure of the still new electric buses was just too strong. I justified this decision to myself a number of ways: I am ahead of my schedule (37 out of 64 bus routes done), I will have time over the remaining few months of the year to fit in the 180, it does not really matter if it is this bus today and another on a different occasion. And I have a demon bunny, just like Jeanette Winterson's in Psalms her story in Oranges are Not the Only Fruit about Ezra who encourages her to do bad things. These things are never wicked or cruel but just things that go against expectation. My rabbit does not have a name, but I feel their presence. The other two commuter routes will have to wait. If I give it a couple of months it will not be so dark, or cold, when I take the trip.

The E-bus still smells and feels new. It was warm like it had been sitting in the sun. It has the same still air my car has when I get into it on a warm day. The driver gives me a very cheery hello. Maybe he likes to do these long routes? I know it will take over one hour to get to Lanyon Marketplace but there is a lot to look at on the way.

As we head to the Legislative Assembly stop, workmen are taking down the Winter in the City festival infrastructure: wooden huts, the ice-skating rink, that has operated over the school holidays. There are a few people on the bus, some looking out of the window but most staring at screens of some sort. Two people have got books, yes real books, and are using the time to read novels.

I like to take photos of the trip I am taking, but, as I think I have mentioned before, the ads on the outside of the bus prevent this. I would prefer the bus did not tell the world about its environmental credentials or that it runs on a battery, I want to take photos.

As I stare through the little dots of the ads, I notice the pin oaks on Constitution Ave are still holding onto their leaves. We are heading for a large black cloud in the distance. If a storm rolls in, although one is not forecast, the trees will lose their leaves.

At the Edmund Barton Building many people get on. Public servants pile out of their buildings. Most people are dressed in black although there are fewer puffer jackets in the public service community than in the general bus-travelling population. Some of the new passengers are still working; instructions being barked into phones, a round up of the day, a timetable for a morning tea event the following day.

As I concentrate on the internal parts of the bus I notice all the seats have USB ports to recharge phones. New buses are great. A one-hour ride on a bus gives passengers time to read, think, recharge!

The light outside is magic; the golden hour, I have timed my trip really well. As we head away from Russell back towards Parliament House the yellow light filters through the dark clouds. As we approach Kingston the blue light off the Lake shades the apartment blocks in the same blue hue. The bus is now full; not one seat to be had. It picks up pace towards the railway station.

The woman in front of me is scrolling through her Instagram feed. It is awash with unnecessary information. She scrolls past the exercise videos, trailers for the Barbie film and ads for wine but hovers over the life hacks. Putting a piece of muslin in the base of a plastic flower pot means the dirt does not fall through. Turning IKEA kitchen equipment into an up-cycled looking table. How to do heated curls, without the heat but bits of fabric overnight (Just like my granny did). How did we live without all this stuff filling our heads? She is not interested in the recipes but watches a reel about not putting up with bad behaviour from your teens. (I am close enough to read the subtitles)

The traffic has increased and the bus slows. Canberrans (or Ken Berhens) love to complain about the traffic. The rush hour (more like 10 minutes) happens most days, especially on the roads to the south that have many roundabouts that slow the traffic. I can hear the bus driver muttering above his radio. He is listening to Drive on the ABC; lots of talk with a couple of songs. I agree the 80 sign we pass seems like a slight insult as we crawl past.

The black cloud we have been heading towards has let down its load. The rain is heavy but does not last for very long. The fields, on both sides of the road, have a strange light. The wattles on the nature strip and in the paddocks are just coming into bloom. The bright yellow balls of fluff picking up the yellow light so they seem to glow.

We stop at the shops at Chisholm and many people get off. The two doors open to allow this to happen and let in the cold air; the warm cocoon has been breached. The woman in front takes out her ear pods but keeps an eye on the reel. As the bus sets off again she stands to leave.

We travel across another roundabout that gives me the full sight of the Brindabellas. They look dark, some of the higher hills with white caps. A hole in the clouds looks like a cherub might look down on us. The shaft of light highlights the bus stop. The woman gets off.

One woman, dressed in black with big headphones has a backpack with an embroidered red hat. I presume she is part of the world-wide group of women, over 50, the Red Hat Society that encourages women to grow old playfully. The name of the group, taken from the Jenny Joseph poem, “Warning”, which starts “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.” (Full poem below) I got a little excited as I thought there might be a chapter here, in Canberra. I already wear a lot of purple. I like the idea of women getting together to do activities that have joy at the centre of them, bringing out their inner bunnies. A quick look at my phone and a Google search inform me of an IT company, also called Red Hat, and here in Canberra. Commonsense tells me this is a more likely answer to the red hat on her backpack, but for a moment I revel in the knowledge that older women, on buses, might have something in common .

The rain has stopped and the dark has enclosed us. The bus pulls into the back of Lanyon Marketplace with its ding-dong sound. I have spent the last hour on this bus and seen

beautiful things: scenery, weather and people. I alight, entering the sharp cold. I cross the road to get the R5 back to the city; the commuter buses only work one way. I decide to buy sausages for tea.


By Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat And eat three pounds of sausages at a go Or only bread and pickle for a week And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry And pay our rent and not swear in the street And set a good example for the children. We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


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