Last Day

The morning was spent packing and cleaning before a quick trip to Palana. I’d been meaning to get there and Arwen said it was worth a visit, if I hurried I could just squeeze it in. Unfortunately, it was a windy day and blowing straight into the beach so not the best day for it but it was a stunning beach, straight off a postcard, like all the beaches on the island. It must be amazing in fine weather.

I visited Trousers Pt to say my goodbyes and felt quite sad. This is where I spent most of my time and it was like saying goodbye to my new best friend. I hope that I’ll be back some day.

The airport experience at Whitemark was a world away from just two weeks earlier. Helen drove me in and we wrestled for my bag in the car park. “No” she said, “I have to take it in. If people see you wheeling it in they’ll ask me if I didn’t like that one.”

So I let her wheel it in.

At the counter I rummaged through my bag looking for my ticket while the man behind the counter said “You’re Karen aren’t you?”  Now I KNOW I never met him.

“Yes” I said.

“Put your ticket away love, this is Flinders Island.”

Taking a seat and greeting a few familiar faces, Helen said “Do you think you’ll come back?”

“Definitely. If I ever get a book deal and need a place to hide away and write, this is the place I’m doing it. I think I’d probably house sit.”

There are 56 houses on the island owned by people who live ‘away’ and house sitters, especially over winter months are always in demand. We discussed the idea and I made some mental notes.

I said my goodbyes and sincere thanks to Helen Cassidy, one of the most impressive women I have ever met and she slipped away before I could hug her. I’ll get her next time. I’m going to miss her smiling face.

The tiny plane was being loaded just in front of us and I watched through the glass as three guys in hi-vis struggled to get my bag up into the baggage hold from the tarmac. Suddenly the magazines were interesting. I picked up a Womens Day and read with interest that Eamon Sullivan and Samantha Rice are rumored to be splitting up. A check of the date on the cover says 2008. I hope that ends well.

In the lounge I’d said something about being relieved that the weather had cleared, I didn’t fancy flying through bad weather in the ‘tiny plane’. That was a mistake, everyone, and I mean everyone, pointed out the baby twin engine plane on the far side of the tarmac.

“It could be worse” a man said. “We used to have to get that one.” The plane was so small that you’d have to sit on the pilot’s lap. My mouth went dry.

I flew out of Flinders Island feeling utterly relaxed. I was busy chatting and missed the safety talk completely. At Launceston airport I asked another passenger where the taxi rank was and was immediately offered a lift. They didn’t even know where I was going.

Launceston was a happy surprise. I stayed in a historic hotel in the old part of town. After dumping my stuff I went looking for food. I couldn’t find anything but completely forgot about my hunger when I saw the architecture. I’ve always had a thing for historic architecture. Particularly Georgian and Art Deco. Building after building shone in restored glory. I had no idea. Tomorrow I’d go wondering and take a better look.

Ravenous now I called in-room-dining and asked if they could send up a bowl of chips, I couldn’t wait for dinner. Chips with mayo – what a revelation. Tasmanian food is so exotic. This was my indulgence night. I’d spent ages researching the hotel room with the biggest bathtub in Launceston when I booked it and I wasn’t disappointed. It took 25 minutes to fill. I even splurged on a ridiculously over priced bottle of wine from the mini bar and a room service meal. I only made it half way through both when exhaustion took over and was asleep by 8.

The park! I want to LIVE there. All the original fountains and gates and rotundas. And the detail, everywhere. Sydney has lost most of its Georgian buildings but here even the shoe shops are proudly historic. Like being in a real life Jane Austen novel.

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There was only time for breakfast and a quick walk. I was kicking myself for not staying another night. My ancestor was a convict sent to Launceston in the very first wave. He brought his family here later and they built a pub on the waterfront somewhere. I would love to find the place. I must have a bunch of distant relatives here. Maybe the man who served me in the coffee shop was my third cousin. I certainly felt very much at home, it’s the perfect city; not too big and not too small, historic, cool weather and close to the islands. I don’t think Grandpa Thomas was as keen a couple of hundred years ago, it was nothing but bush. If only he could see it now … I’ll google real estate later.

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I think it was the announcement that we would have to circle Sydney airport due to congestion that snapped me out of my bubble. Did that all just happen?

This was my first residency experience and I can’t imagine that they get any better. I am so grateful to Lila and David Tresemer for the opportunity, not just for myself but for all the artists who pass through the doors at Mountains Seas. I’ve seen some of the diverse work produced here and it is mind blowing. If anyone is interested in applying, here is the website for more information. Go. Do it. It will be a life changing experience.

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