Phone coverage

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Luckily I’m not the type of person who can’t function without my phone close to hand at all times, but when you’re in rural areas and out of range for hours or even days at a time, you realise how useful those pesky devices are, and how much you use them for instant access to, well, almost everything. This notice is posted on a tree in the parking area of a property on the outskirts of Bermagui in NSW. Certainly not the sticks, but remote enough that reception is patchy! I didn’t want or need to make use of the phone coverage here, but the sign was hard to ignore, especially with its pleasing background of spotted gum bark and accompanying cobwebs.

New home

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The Cobargo gnomes have a new home. The block of vacant land they previously occupied has been developed, but the locals were not prepared to see the gnomes displaced. Incorporated into an improved and landscaped garden setting at the side of the new building are all the old gnomes, plus a new intake of residents including this gardener, philosopher and sage, as well as, a little further along, a painted grey statue named Grey Gnom-ad.

Benny’s

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My Summer Hill friends have gone bush, and we celebrated the new year with them in their new home on the south coast. We had planned quite a feast: a first course of local prawns with homemade tartare sauce followed by barbecued steak from Benny Bros of Cobargo, served with anchovy butter and a salad of herbs and mixed leaves. We ate too many prawns so by consensus decided to defer main course until the following night. But next evening the meat could not be found! Each of us in turn searched both fridge and freezer, and to our dismay discovered that the bagged-up prawn shells, that we thought had been put in the garbage, were still in the fridge. By then it was too late in the day to replenish supplies from Benny’s, whose closed painted glass door can be seen here through the flyscreen.

Prancing horse

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Halloween might not have a high profile in my neck of the woods, but Melbourne Cup Day certainly does. I haven’t studied the form yet, but I’d better hurry up so I can go and place my bet! As usual, I will make my choice based on several (completely subjective) criteria: the colour and design of the silks (very important), the name of the horse, whether or not Bart Cummings is the trainer (less important these last couple of years), and the number of the starting gate. I bet the Cessnock Hotel will be jumping this afternoon. The region is home to several thoroughbred horse studs, including Coolmore, just up the road in Singleton, where Makybe Diva, first horse to win the Melbourne Cup three times and highest stakes-earner in Australian horseracing history, gave birth to her foal, Rockstardom.

Wild west hotel

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Billinudgel, with a population of about 200, used to be a railway town, and although the railway is no longer in use, the pub, which dominates the main street, is still well-patronised. I have been haunted by Billinudgel. One summer long ago my family stopped there en route to Brisbane. My mother was enchanted by the classic country hotel with its wide verandahs and beautiful location, and, although not usually prone to flights of fancy, was so taken with the romanticism of it all that she wanted to stay the night. But I was having none of it. It terrified me and I could not be cajoled. I couldn’t get out of that pub and that town fast enough. As I grew older I used to wonder what it was that had upset me so—I was not habitually temperamental or wilful—and over the years, although my memory of the town faded, the memory of the experience remained strong. On my recent visit to northern NSW I welcomed the opportunity to put old ghosts to rest. Present-day Billindugel is an uninspiring industrial area (albeit surrounded by spectacular countryside) and, on the day I visited, the pub verandah was populated by yahoos. I didn’t know whether to feel sad that whatever charm my mother had responded to had so obviously faded, or vindicated that even as a child I had been right. Oh, and the wild west typeface is a slightly modified Romantiques Regular.

Best coffee

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I am seriously uninspired this morning. I have design work to do, an artist’s book to fine tune before I go ahead with the edition, plus half a dozen coptic notebooks to stitch. It’s far more tempting to sit outside in the garden, catch a few rays and read a chapter of my library book. Perhaps I need coffee from the Wallabadah General Store.