2003 – Year in Review

John Williamson, Pixie Jenkins, Warren H. Williams, James O'Brien at ABC Studio, Tamworth
John Williamson, Pixie Jenkins, Warren H. Williams, James O’Brien at ABC Studio, Tamworth

I started off 2003 at the Lewisham Hotel at an event called “Retrovision” featuring – you guessed it – music from the 70s and 80s. The music, with a few notable exceptions, wasn’t the usual camp and girly music you might expect; it was an eclectic combination, combining everything from Starship’s “We Built This City” to The Sweet’s “Fox On The Run” and of course, ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”.

I knew it was 2003 when, at a few minutes past midnight, several people used their mobile phones to SMS friends. I discussed the pros and cons of this at work later in the week, with one bloke observing “oh that’s nice”, while another wondered “why do they have to tell someone what they’re doing, why can’t they just live the moment?”.

When it was all over and done, ABBAMAILER Paul and I headed towards Newtown, hoping to get into the Imperial Hotel, a pub I haven’t been to for ages. Unfortunately, they had reached the “lock up” stage of the night where they were only allowing previous patrons (with stamps) back in – or at least that’s why they told us – so they suggested we try a bar on King Street which neither one of us had heard of before. As Paul wrote to ABBAMAIL, it was “full of ugly men and rank moles”, so after a couple of beers we left.

Unlike last year, which I spent a fair deal of out of Sydney, this year was mostly spent hanging around the greater metropolis. This year I made a definite effort to get out and about more to discover more about Sydney, visiting places such as “The Great Synagogue” – the first thing I noticed, on entering the synagogue, was the security provisions, having to pass through an x-ray machine, and being asked where I was from and why I wanted to visit the synagogue – and “Goat Island”.

Griffith Visitors Centre
Griffith Visitors Centre

It’s New Years Eve and I’m in Lismore, contemplating what I might do tonight. Any suggestions?

I also had quite a few trips to the country.

In February, Sue and I spent a few days in February at Point Lonsdale, a small holiday resort on the western head of Port Phillip Bay, near Geelong. As it was not far from Barwon Heads, the place where they filmed “Seachange”, we went looking for “Laura’s Beachhouse”. Although there was something at the caravan park called “Laura’s Beachhouse”, it looked NOTHING like it did in the television program. Anyway, there was nothing to Barwon Heads. And we noticed another nearby town also claimed to be the “Home Of Seachange”. Very confusing.

I also had a wonderful work-related trip to Mudgee. I stayed at a wonderful guesthouse called, Wild Wood. I understand that Henry Lawson lived on the property for some time and the “Sapling Gully” that he wrote about was about 30metres from my window. The couple who run the place, Rob and Ann come originally from Sydney, having made the “seachange” about seven years ago. The guesthouse was built by a reclusive figure who no longer lives in the area complete with compressed earth walls. Overall a lovely place to stay, with breakfast prepared every morning and a
relaxed attitude from Rob and Ann.

The other work-related visit was for the NSW Palliative Care Conference at Griffith, where I was invited to perform the role of MC.

I took part in some of the Peace Marches this year, including the big one on Palm Sunday where I ran into Colin. I thought the speeches were long and some were unecessary, which led the crowd to call for them to cut short and for us all to “get marching”. There was also a strong anti-Israeli element in some of the speeches which I personally felt a little uncomfortable with. There were some great slogans, including “Somewhere in Texas a village is missing an idiot.” I also liked “Bisexuals For Peace”, commenting to Colin, “Well, at least they’re sure about one thing!”

I also marched – inadvertently – with Fred Nile. A couple of months ago, I was awoken by a phone call from my friend, Yvette asking me if I wanted to join her for a march from the Domain to Hyde Park for a Bali rememberance. Sure, I said, and so within about 15 minutes I was showered and waiting for her on the corner of her street. We wandered down to the Domain, picking up a coconut slice and can of Coke along the way. When we arrived there the crowds we had expected were nowhere to be found. Instead, we joined a group of a couple of hundred, mostly Christians taking part in an inter-denominational march, including Fred Nile.

I didn’t, however, go to Mardi Gras this year. Although organisers claim it was the weather, terrorism etc. that kept numbers down this year, my guess is that Sydney, generally, and many others are “over” Mardi Gras.

I went to quite a bit of theatre this year. One particularly memorable occasion was in February, when Damien and I went to see a play at Belvoir Street called “Mother & Child”, a translation of the Norwegian play, “Mor og Barn” by Jon Fosse. It concerns a young man returning to visit his mother in Oslo after many years apart. As he was raised by his grandparents, they have many “issues”. The focus for the play is their inability to communicate, although they are, in many ways very similar. One of the most amusing parts of the play was the reaction of the mother to the appearance of a cockroach on the sparsely decorated stage. Sensing some members of the audience were being distracted by it, she looked at it (totally in character) with some annoyance, walked over and squashed it. The audience loved it.

Colin and I also became regular Friday night theatre-goers with “Muftee Cabaret”, featuring Hayden Tee at The Stables Theatre.

Muf-Tee’s director, Les Solomon, has created a chat show with Hayden Tee as the host and the musical director, Nigel Ubrihien, as his sparring partner. By having a couple of cabaret-performing guests each week, they have a format which – like its small-screen counterparts – can constantly reinvent itself. It is a strange case of art imitating TV. – Sydney Morning Herald.

Well worth going. however, my favourite theatrical experience of the year was seeing the Christine Johnson show, “Decent Spinster”. She’s an amazing performer. Another magnificent night was seeing jazz-singer, Barbara Morrison perform at Wine Banc. Amongst those in the crowd were jazz singer, Emma Paske and trumpeter, James Morrison, both of whom performed with her. Musically speaking, it was a very memorable night. Once we found a couple of chairs and located a good space, we sat back, enjoyed the music and enjoyed some excellent French wine.

It’s great being on the freebie list. On one occasion, we ALMOST made the social pages. On the opening night of “Birth Rights” by David Williamson, Damien and I met at about 7pm at Opera Bar and had a drink or two before heading upstairs. On arrival, we noticed a couple of celebrities including the actor, Gary McDonald, but thought that it was a fairly standard Sydney opening night crowd. A photographer from the City Weekly actually asked if he could take our photograph. We said yes. I’ve never really been in the social pages before this. He asked us what side of the bridge we were from, since publication would depend on which version of the magazine we would eventually appear in. All was fine, until Bryan Brown and Rachael Ward and numerous other REAL celebrities arrived. And that’s why I never appeared in the social pages, despite going to so many opening nights!

There was nothing to report on the romance front. However, I did fill in one of those internet-based personality tests. The report told me

You’re loved, and for good reasons. You’re smart, insightful,
and have an insatiable curiosity about life. You have a vision for how you want your life to be, so you refuse to settle long-term for a boring job or doing something just because it’s expected of you.

Life should be “balanced” with plenty of time for fun, spontaneity, and romance! Because you’re independent and a little shy, you only let a few people get especially close. Still, you have an emotional depth that most men lack. You’re ready and able to experience romance and a powerful
“spark” with someone special.

Unfortunately, the report told me You face two major challenges in finding the love of your life.

First, because you’re shy, you feel like you have to be someone else or “wear a mask” to go out and meet new people. You’re left feeling like a distant observer, and men find it hard to truly understand you. Second, although your compassion for men is a very attractive
quality, your focus on him can get in the way of getting what you want and need. It’s crucial to find a way to “go with the flow” in dating as you already do in other parts of your life.

From time to time this year I have toyed with the idea of moving back here, since my sisters are now getting a little bit older. I’m not sure if I could do it though. The place has changed, but not that much. What brought it to focus was in May, when I went to the Sydney launch of the book, “Belonging in the Rainbow Region (Cultural Perspectives on the NSW North Coast)”, published by Southern Cross University. The contents list suggests it’s a post-1973 history, focussing on all the “amazing things” that have happened since the Aquarius Festival. I also met quite a few people – mostly blowins – who have lived in the area. I actually sensed a little discomfort when I told them I was a local, born and bred. I really sense that a lot of the people who have moved to the area view the white locals as a bunch of inbred rednecks and that the new arrivals were the region’s saviours. Although it is hard to quantify, it is a feeling I have sensed for quite some time. It needs further investigation. Perhaps the Pacific Highway by-pass and more local students going through Southern Cross University will help make these “blow ins” less insular?

And so, here it is, New Years Eve in Lismore.

In February, I’m off to Perth to spend nine months working there. Who knows what the future may hold?

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