Very Familiar

“You know you’re in Lismore when your taxi driver tells you he met his wife in a re-birthing workshop”, I told some friends the other day. They laughed out loud. When the driver told me about his experience, I had to bite my lip to stop from laughing myself. With nearby towns like Nimbin and Byron Bay, it’s such a classic “North Coast Story”.

I remember when the “hippies” came to Lismore for The Aquarius Festival. I was about seven years old, and we were living in South Lismore, not far from the railway station, so it was easy for us to walk down to take a look at things. I don’t exactly remember the reaction of other family members, but I remember being in the awe of these rather odd looking people arriving in our town. Even more, I was in awe at all of the television cameras reporting on the event, which was surely a sign of my budding interest in journalism.

Though the train station is still there (it operates as a travel centre), the train no longer comes through Lismore.

South Lismore has changed in some ways, as I’ve written previously, but it other ways it hasn’t. As I walked around today, many of the buildings of my childhood were still there, albeit with different occupants. The Station Hotel (aka Hogan’s Heroes) is still there, pretty much as it was when I was a child. Across the road, there’s a women’s hairdressing salon, which I think I’ll always think of due to the chemical smell of the brown and blue rince that mum and granny (respecitvely) would receive under the hands of Carole Beddoes.

Union Street, South Lismore on Sunday afternoon. Many of the families I grew up knowing are still there, albeit it’s the next generation and their children and grandchildren now occupying the houses.
This is the back laneway between Kyogle Street and Phyllis Street, South Lismore, linking some family homes, where we used to play.

I called in to see some extended family today. They’re getting quite old now, but still needing to keep up with technology. My job for the day was to set up their Netflix account.

It reminded me of the various times throughout my life when it’s been my job to assist family with odd jobs. During my university days, I spent a lot of summer holidays painting houses. Later, it was erecting antennas for the transition from VHF to UHF television, and then later to digital television. In the last couple of years, my odd jobs have mostly been technology related.

No doubt that will continue to be my role when I return to Lismore in a few years time, and thankfully my family won’t need to wait two or three months for my next trip home.

The Duck Pond at South Lismore. Checking out the water was always a regular “barometer” for how badly impacted we might be by a flood. It was also a fun place to play.
The Wilson’s River, as viewed from near the Rowing Club, is now known as the Canoe Club.
Having a beer at a local pub, and noting these were on sale.

So, despite the rather exotic reputation the North Coast has for alternative culture and for multi-million dollar celebrity homes, my experience of Lismore is quite ordinary.

On one side of the family, we came here in about 1908, as a group of fairly ordinary farm workers left the NSW South Coast, in search of better conditions. On the other side of my family, we came here in about 1930, due to my grandfather’s post-war job as a linesman with the Post Master General (PMG).

“There’s a bit of snobbishness about Lismore”, my friend Paul said, as we spoke over brunch on Saturday.

He and I have known since we were twelve years old. He grew up on a farm, and went away for a while, including a number of years living in Japan. He came back to Lismore when his father became ill, and has been here ever since. He and his partner have goats and cattle and make cheese under the “Nimbin Valley” brand.

“I want to go somewhere with sunshine”, I said to Paul, as talked about where we might have brunch, finally settling on the cafe at the Regional Gallery.

There is, by the way, a terrific Max Dupain retrospective at the gallery right now.
There is also an exhibition of works by Akio Suzuki. This piece reminded us of our old schoolmate, Colin Black. Colin is a musician who specialised in “experimental works”. As we walked around the gallery, we sent him a “hello, though of you” message. As someone who has worked in radio, I found this work slightly annoying. “I just want to tune all the radios properly”, I said to Paul.

As Paul and I talked about my plans to return to Lismore, he had some good advice. “You’ve either got to have 1/4 acre or 100 acres. Anything in between and you’ll spend all your time mowing the grass”, he said. He also said, “So long as you’re on the right side of the levy bank, you should be fine”.

Looking down on the Levy Bank from the Doiuble Bridges.

There’s no real reason why I couldn’t move back now. I worked from the Lismore office of the ABC on Friday, and will continue “working from home” for the next week.

You might have read, this week, about a major relocation of ABC staff from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta in Western Sydney. With apologies to Parramatta, I’ve decided to “Go North” instead of “Go West”. Home visiting the family, and staying here a bit longer than I had initially planned. So I headed in to ABC North Coast to do a few things I couldn’t do working from home
This weekend’s Editors Choice comes to you from Regional Australia!! Sunday’s episode includes one interview recorded under the doona – sound protection – in the front bedroom of Pat and Jack’s house in South Lismore. Amazingly, you CAN’T hear the rumble of heavy traffic going by.

Even so, I still really like living in Sydney, though it’s true to say my passion for Sydney no longer runs as deep as it once did. I’m also in a position with my career where it makes good sense to stay in Sydney a bit longer. But with each passing visit, the desire to return is getting stronger. I’ve spent a fair bit of the week looking at the photographs in the windows of real estate agents. And it was lovely, yesterday, to drive around with Paul and look at different parts of Lismore where I might live.

The view from the Claude Riley Lookout

2 Replies to “Very Familiar”

  1. I’d love to see the Dupain exhibition. He was so brilliant at capturing so much history.

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