The weather is about to change I’m told. So I went into town this morning to record all the comments on the wall before the rain washes them off.
Standing there with my notebook I hear “Oh Karen’s here” from across the road and turn to see my helpful museum lady from Saturday turn on her heels and head back to Bowman’s yelling to her two friends “Just a minute, I’m just dropping the CWA cookbook off into Bowman’s for Karen”. I’m learning to not be surprised.
The two ladies came over to read the board and we laughed about some of the comments. The wall was now completely full. The three friends headed off on their daily walk and I was joined by the Police Sergeant who still steadfastly refused to write a comment, no matter how hard I tried. I mentioned the beautiful summery weather and that Arwen and I are probably the only people on the island wishing it would change, having come here for tempestuous Bass Strait climate and he said “Oh no, no we need the rain. It’s been 5 days, the farmers need it badly.” I wondered what my turf farming cousin in Queensland would say to a 5 day drought. It’s all relative. As he left, Helen stopped by with her box of groceries under her arm and gave him a hard time about not writing a comment.
One of the comments is about weed eradication and it interests me. Helen told me about a group of local people who periodically take a boat to one of the outer islands to camp for days, manually pulling up the weeds by hand; self organised volunteers with a shared passion just quietly doing what needs to be done. There are a few environmental groups on the island, I’d looked up community groups in the local directory, for the size of the population, it is a pretty impressive list. Everyone here is involved in something to do with the local environment, arts, music or community. It sparks an idea that has been rolling around in my head about an essay competition announced just before I left, to do with people’s connection to place. I wonder if I can fit in some more research time?
At Bowman’s I took a few minutes to look at the private museum at the back of the store. Although deeply disappointed that Joe was nowhere to be seen, I pushed through the pain and carried on. The Bowman family have owned the general store for generations and have kept meticulous records and hundreds of photos, ephemera and family memorabilia, all of it on display for anyone to look at. The old newspapers had me riveted. They’re lying open on a table in the middle of the room with a chair invitingly placed, you could spend hours reading through original cuttings from the local paper dating back decades. I had to pull myself away.
My gallivanting today involves finding a marina so I head to Lady Barron, the island’s main fishing port. I’d read that there was a tavern with a restaurant so had been planning to treat myself to lunch as well, but when I got there the sign on the locked door stated ‘Open Fri to Sun’. I should have guessed. I didn’t bring any lunch and was starving.
The marina was completely empty. With the weather so fine I had been expecting that but even the site office was empty so I didn’t venture too far onto the wharf. The boats that were in were huge, shallow drafted beasts of burden and completely unfamiliar to me. I was busting to get a closer look at the rigging but was expecting to be chased away any minute. A four wheel drive was parked beside one of the moorings, door wide open, music blaring but not a soul to be seen. It was quite eerie. I took some photos but was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to speak to anyone. Or even see anyone. Not a living being. Very spooky. I’d love to see it in action.
So I drove around the corner for a quick sticky beak before leaving and found a small bay where a barge and fishing boat were semi beached on the low tide. A couple of row boats were pushed up above the high water mark and the whole scene was just what I’d been imagining in the setting in my head. It was straight off the pages of Enid Blighton. The tide and moorings were critical, I wouldn’t have known about that unless I’d been here myself. A couple of times I’d been caught by the tide when taking photos on the water’s edge, thinking I had loads of time. The force of the incoming tide ( around twenty feet ) is not gentle, nothing is. I have so much respect for people who make their living on the sea here. Once again I mentally thanked Mountain Seas for such a rare opportunity to gather up all this precious detail and headed back into Whitemark, making a mental note to return at high tide another day.
Ravenous by now and after a week of sandwiches I was keen for a nice meal. I swung by ‘Freckles’, Whitemark’s only cafe, and breathed in my first real coffee in a week. Heaven. I was craving salad or veggies- something filling so I didn’t need to cook for one tonight, that was getting old. The menu offered a choice of finger sandwiches, hamburgers, Turkish toasties and BLT’s – sandwiches, four ways. Oh good. I considered the wallaby burger and decided to try it next time and went with a vegetarian toastie instead.
I hate eating alone in public and was starting to feel a bit lonely, which is stupid because I’m talking to people all day, but there are experiences you want to share sometimes, funny things, beautiful things, scary things or even just the quiet. There had been so many. But I had to do this alone and live inside my head whilst I’m here, that’s the whole point of a writing resi. It would be hard with someone on tow, unless they were likeminded and equally consumed. Either you get it or you don’t. This place isn’t my husband’s thing at all, he’d be bored after the first round of golf. He didn’t want to come and has taken time off instead to do his own thing. Some writers do this for months, I don’t know if I could. The concentration is too intense to sustain and I have no idea what has been happening in the world since I’ve been here. I talk to my daughters every day normally, we are very close and I miss them terribly. Victoria would love it here.
The air pressure feels like it’s dropping. In the café, people are talking about ‘the change’ that’s coming. I drive back to the retreat watching the sky for signs of Bass Strait’s infamous storms. YES, finally! As the skies darken though, my enthusiasm wanes. It’s a bit like when you finally get to the front of the queue for a rollercoaster ride that you’ve been dying to go on. Not much I can do now but jump in, buckle up and enjoy the ride.