For the last episode of Australia with Simon Reeve he travelled down the east side of the country from Gold Coast to Melbourne. In Gold Coast he did the obvious surfing thing (and met the Meter Maids who wander round the streets in bikinis and buy new parking tickets for cars that’ve stayed past the end of their ticket). Then he spent a while exploring the less polished side of the city – first by accompanying the police on their rounds one evening. They told him that organised crime is a big problem in the city due to the heavy drug-using culture in Australia, particularly in this area, and pointed at the biker gangs as the main components of this. Reeve then visited a biker gang for the other side of the story – they were saying that they were just misunderstood. That offending rates go down once someone joins a biker gang. And somewhat undermined that with the “if you don’t mess with us we won’t mess with you” attitude that definitely came across as a threat.
Reeve next visited the Liverpool Plain which has some of the richest farmland in the world, and talked to an old couple who’ve farmed there for all their lives. The region is gradually being encroached on by the mining companies, because it’s resource rich (like the rest of Australia) and this couple & their neighbours had recently won a battle against having their land purchased to be mined. Looking at how the mining is done (strip mining on a large scale) it seems daft to do that to farmland that is feeding the country. And on a similar daft note he talked to environmentalists trying to save the koala about how close to extinction they are as the suburbs spread out into their habitat. Again given how much land there is in Australia and how comparatively few people you’d think it would be possible to leave more koala habitat to the koalas.
In Sydney he talked about the growing multicultural society in Australia since the “whites only” immigration laws were ended in the 1970s. Now one in ten citizens are of Asian descent, and he talked to a couple of very different examples. A muslim woman who’s part of the first Muslim ladies Aussie Rules team, and a billionaire who was born in China and has built about 5% of the highrise apartments in Sydney. From there he travelled to Melbourne, visiting a bushfire on the way. He didn’t spend much time looking at Melbourne, just a bit of time at the Australia Day celebrations.
I’ve liked watching this series, Reeve had a knack of pointing out the issues & bad points as well as showing the scenery & the good sides of life there. There was quite a lot about immigration & integration of different peoples into society – noticeable by their almost total isolation were the aborigines, only in the army did we see them involved with the rest of Australian society. And the programmes also looked at the various environmental “challenges” facing Australia, despite how it’s a vast resource rich land it’s still finite.
The Tube: An Underground History was a programme made to celebrate the London Underground’s 150th anniversary (which is this year). It was a combination of old footage (I wondered if a lot of it had been recycled from a 100th anniversary programme) and interviews with people who work there now. In the hour it covered the history of the Tube, from its beginnings as a collection of private companies in Victorian times through the nationalisation of the 1930s, the post-war decline & then renewed investment after the fire in Kings Cross Station. And it also showed us the things that’ve been done earlier this year to celebrate the anniversary – running a steam train along the first ever section of line running from Paddington to Farringdon (filled with politicians & bigwigs, just like the first ever train was). And Charles & Camilla visiting and solemnly riding on a tube train (a normal one not the steam one).
It was entertaining to watch, they’d picked their interviewees well – including the station supervisor at Farringdon who was a complete drama queen but funny with it. And a train driver who’s a bit obsessed with the tiling patterns at the various stations (designed to let you distinguish the stations even if you couldn’t read the signs). They also interviewed a descendent of Charles Pearson who had the idea and got together the funding for the first segment of line – apparently he’d tried to get permission to do it & investment based on the way it would be a social good (allowing people to move out of the slums near their workplace & into better, cheaper housing in the country) but had failed several times. Then he hit on saying that the congestion on the streets would drive business out of London & people funded him based on the idea that this underground railway would prevent this. And obviously the programme also talked to graphic designers, given how iconic things like the logo & the map are – both the guy who now is in charge of this for the whole company, and a man who was a friend of the chap who designed the tube map.