When it comes to grumpy, what really irritates me…  

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When CLIVE WILLIAMS analysed the things that irritated him he found most of his gripes could be grouped under a few headings: doubtful art, discourteous behaviour, unsympathetic building development, poor use of English and a couple of contemporary issues.  

AS comedian Dylan Moran said: “Some people have told me that I’m grumpy; it’s not something that I’m aware of. It’s not like I walk around poking children in the eye… not very small ones, anyway.” 

Author Clive Williams.

When I analysed the things that irritated me, I found most of my gripes could be grouped under a few headings: doubtful art, discourteous behaviour, unsympathetic building development, poor use of English, and a couple of contemporary issues.  

Clearly, grumpiness is a personal thing, but no doubt some of my gripes will resonate with other Canberrans. 

First, doubtful art. Poor-quality art works are often praised by experts as profound, but I note that prize-winning art chosen by “art experts” rarely coincides with the people’s choice (emperor’s clothes come to mind).  

There are some examples of doubtful art in the current Contour 556 exhibition around Lake Burley Griffin. As one example, most competent photographers would consider the black and white photographs on display by Kings Avenue Bridge to be very amateurish.  

Contour 556 is Canberra’s free public art biennial “held around the designed heart of Australia’s capital city: Lake Burley Griffin”; Contour 556 artists “have been selected for their ability to respond to the designed city of Canberra: represented by Australia’s political, cultural and physical history”. 

Pretentious artists’ descriptions of their work are another turnoff. One artist represented at Contour 556 claims: “This series is informed by my innate tendency for biophilic and techno curious speculation…” whatever that means.  

Second, discourtesy. Perhaps the most common example is car drivers failing to acknowledge a courtesy, such as another driver giving way to them when they didn’t have to.

Another is driver thoughtlessness – such as leaving a large gap in front of his or her vehicle at traffic lights causing vehicles further back to miss the lights.  

Unnecessary use of car horns seems to be linked to ethnicity, so those drivers are probably not retrainable. 

On the non-vehicle front, when I was at school, we were told it was bad manners to talk to someone when wearing opaque sunglasses – police officers seem to be prime offenders.  

Constant attention to smart phones has become obsessive behaviour for some people. It should be a courtesy to turn phones off when socialising with others.  

People who noisily spit and blow their noses in the public shower booths at the local swimming pool (and perhaps pee silently while showering) are another concern.  

Third, land development. I have no problem with urban and suburban renewal when it does not impact on residents or affect heritage values, but am very much opposed to developers being allowed to build on green spaces or governments that ignore public opinion – as with the pending West Basin development. 

Fourth, misuse of English. It grates when people who are paid to communicate effectively, such as radio announcers, say “haitch” for “h” and “yee-ah” for “year”.  

Radio interviewees who start every response with “Look” are irritating as are those who use “like” as a filler word.  

In recent years there’s been an unnecessary tendency to redescribe work – “staff” are now “team members”, the Mugga Lane “tip” is now a “resource management centre”, and a “discussion” is now a “conversation”.  

Meanwhile, I try to avoid buying anything with a price ending in “99” because it is psychologically misleading, but unfortunately one has no choice with petrol. 

I will conclude with COVID-19 and public hypocrisy concerns.  

This includes foolish COVID-19 public dictates – such as walking clockwise around Lake Burley Griffin, inconsistency in the application of safety regulations, interminable public health briefings and Auslan gesticulators on TV when subtitles would be more effective. 

On the public hypocrisy front, I’d include the common speaker preamble “I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today…” which is meaningless humbug given the way we’ve treated the land and the Aboriginal people from whom we took it.  

No doubt many will disagree with me – or have their own pet dislikes, but I rest my case for the time being and hope I might have some small influence on reducing irritating behaviour in Canberra. 

However, I’m not obsessing about it. As Ted Danson said: “You use and lose a lot of energy being grumpy.”  

Clive Williams is a Canberra writer and commentator.

Grumpy is an occasional column dedicated to things that get up your nose. Readers are invited to vent (typically around 300 words, please) at editor@citynews.com.au


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