South Australia's capital is like the Jan Brady of Aussie cities. She gets unfairly compared and overlooked for Sydney (Marcia) or Melbourne (Cindy). She competes with neither but is the butt of both their jokes. She hasn't the traffic, crime or house prices of either, but has the weather, food, wine, festivals, quality of life and attitude that both would give their Harbor Bridge or dopey Docklands for.
My love for Adelaide - or Adders for short - is not just one-eyed favouritism from someone who's never lived anywhere else. I was born in Murray Bridge before arriving at the scary, big city of Adelaide to study and work before spending two years in London, six years in Melbourne and a couple in Darwin. We'd seen pollution, crime, over-crowding, poor house design, rough neighbourhoods, drug-dealings, vandalism and racism.We returned back 'home' to South Australia and Adders in 2000 after Sapphire arrived - we needed family, familiarity, security, better jobs than the very few on offer after graduating and an affordable house in a decent suburb. We got all those things and more.
Adelaide is the kind of place that you find yourself stripping off to a t-shirt during a winter lunchtime, with crisp mornings and clear, clean blue skies. Gorgeous 19th Century wedding cake and bluestone architecture is on display right next to a so-called traffic jam on North Terrace which is directly in front of the beautiful Botanic Gardens which is in turn overlooked by patients at the Royal hospital. Not a bad spot to wait for my bus.
We have dog-friendly parks wrapped around the city mile and boats called 'Popeye' that punt up and down the river in an experience as endearing as it is daggy. We drink more flavoured milk per person than anywhere in Australia or the planet due to our magnificent Farmers Union Iced Coffee and go to great lengths to enjoy a good frog cake, fruchoc, pepper pasty or bee-sting buns*. Our beer is revered, as are the footy teams and our wines are quite honestly the best in the world. Let's not forget the chocolates made by Haigh's (adopted by intelligent cacao lovers in Sydney and Melbourne as well) or the Central Market for food as fresh and as varied as anywhere else in the world.
Adders can confidently host an arts festival the same weekend as the bogan-friendly Clipsal 500 car race with both parties meeting up for drinks and genial piss-taking banter in Rundle Street.
Our city only has a million people which means that you always bump into a friend of your parents', an old school mate, a work colleague or an ex-boyfriend every time you're out shopping in the Mall. It's the kind of place that has websites and facebook pages dedicated to Johnny, the speedo-and-gumboot wearing Aboriginal Mall Man, or to the 'Men in Black' cardboard cut-outs that have lived in the window of a house on Cross Road for a dozen years. We all go to see the Christmas display on every year at the West End Brewery and it was front page news when an unseasonal flood caused their wooden whale to take an impromptu swim further downstream.
Adelaide has suburbs where neighbours will take in your bins for you when you're still at work, drop a bag of lemons by the back door or offer to keep their car in your driveway when you're away. My 'burb is still a place where people nod or say "'Morning" when they pass by or tut-tut very loudly if any Maccas rubbish blows into their gardens. Any suburb worth its salt has a bakery and a coffee shop that only the locals know about, like a well-kept secret.
It's the city that extends from the hobby farms of the hills to the golden sands and seafronts and koalas can actually be found in the outer areas.
A mate of mine found one in the middle of Kensington Road during a downpour, all dazed and confused. Traffic duly stopped and a few car blankets were thrown over the muddled marsupial to load him into her car and to take him to Morialta. Another friend in Rostrevor has them snorting and barking in her garden, keeping her awake during their mating rituals. Still another has one setting up home under the decking.
We Locketts aren't quite in Steve Irwin territory, but have our share of Cockatoos, Rosellas, Galahs, New Holland Honey Eaters and Rainbow Lorikeets who love to rest and nest in the gum trees. Milly and I are regularly swooped by Magpies, but all is forgiven when we hear their strangely melodic "Bawdle Oodle Argle" song straight afterwards.
If we choose to, we can also visit the snobbier shopping and coffee strips to remind ourselves that there's some urban culture to be had, or head further east towards parklands, bushwalks and historic little towns. Or drive further out to Murray Bridge and beyond, where the rainshadow disappears and the grass turns to dust and Mallee and still be back home before tea time.
Adelaide - the only place where one city street can host a tattoo parlour, writing centre, mountaineering equipment, top restaurants and performing arts venues within the space of 100 metres. In fact, I feel like a Cibo gelati right now.......
* A traditional, German-inspired bun filled with honey cream and topped with streusel, NOT someone's butt after an attack by an angry hive.