Wagga Wagga

“Do you have any cash?” the woman behind the counter asked when I asked if I could pay with my card. Living in Sydney, I’ve gotten used to paying for EVERYTHING with a card, from public transport to newspapers. 

I generally keep a five or ten-dollar note in the back of my phone/wallet for situations like this, but I’d already used $3.30 to catch the bus from Charles Sturt University (where I’m staying) into town. That means I only had $1.70 left for the newspaper that costs $2.00. “That’s close enough”, she said to me.

And with the purchase complete, I headed into a cafe in Wagga and sat down to read “The Daily Advertiser”. I was keen to see if there might have been some interesting events happening around town over the next week that I’m here.

I’d already been up for several hours, as I like to get up early when I travel, to wander around, enjoy nature, and often take early morning photographs. 

The weather forecast for the next few days is for regular showers. As I wandered around the university grounds this morning I was spared the rain. 

In the distance, I could hear the sound of a truck backing up in the nearby Estella Estate, but it was WONDERFUL to walk around in the early hours and to see only one vehicle pass me by.

The only other sound was the sound of galahs. Hundreds of them. As I walked from tree to tree, hundreds would emerge and make their way into the sky.

There were horses in a nearby paddock too.

“If you go for a walk up the hill, you’ll see a mob of kangaroos”, my friend who I’m staying with told me.

By the time I’d started reading the paper, I was already across a few of the events happening such as the Garage Sale and Art Trail events happening this weekend. There was nothing much more in the paper.

Reading the newspaper took me back in time, as I realised it was about thirty years to the day since I’d moved from Renmark to Wagga Wagga. 

The “triggering” moment for that memory was seeing Graham Gorrell’s column in the paper. Graham was the newspaper editor at the time, later taking on the role of General Manager, and being replaced by Michael McCormack, who later went on to become a local politician, and, for a while, the Deputy Prime Minister. Seeing Graham’s column made me smile. “He must be a hundred years old by now”, I joked to myself. He’s probably close to eighty, I concluded, and so it was nice, in many ways to see him still writing, despite the newspaper taking a very strong anti-gay editorial stance (which I’ve written about elsewhere) during this time.

As I later sat and had a beer at Romano’s (a very well known local pub), I looked over and saw a familiar face from my time living here. “You’re Paul?”, I confirmed with the bloke sitting at a nearby table. I remembered his mother, Louise was a local drama teacher, and his father Dennis was on the city council (I think he was Deputy Mayor for a while). Anxiously, I asked how they were going, a little worried if they might no longer be alive. But Paul told me they were both doing well, and that Louise was still teaching drama. It was then I also remembered their daughter, Stephanie was once married to the cricketer, Michael Slater, and the celebrity wedding that happened (front-page news) when I was living here. He didn’t seen to remember my name or face.

As I walked up and down the street, many memories flashed back.

Down a laneway off Fitzmaurice Street is the Lum Inn, a favourite spot when I lived here.
Though I can’t really remember if the food was good or not, I have many fond memories of this restaurant which has been operating for at least thirty years.
Inside the Museum Of The Riverina right now, there’s an exhibition called, “Made In Wagga” reflecting on some of the things that made Wagga “famous”. This particular piece is a remnant from the “Gummi Races” when people would float down the river in car tyre tubes. Great fun.

I also called into the nearby Art Gallery, where there’s a terrific exhibition about Australian military personnel and their body tattoos which I first saw earlier in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial. It’s a very interesting exhibition, and the photography is spectacular. I’d highly recommend it.

From there it was just a few steps to the Wagga Art Glass Gallery. The city has an impressive collective of glass art, much more than can be shown at any particular time. Their current subset of the collection being shown is a range of works in black and white.

Dorothy Napangardi
Tim Silver
Megan Bottari

“I really love what you’ve done with the exhibition”, I said to the woman behind the counter. “I think it’s a very clever way to break up the collection as you get to see such a broad range of works”, I told her.

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