Lost in a Small Town

So it’s a rainy grey afternoon in Tasmania. It’s after 5pm, on a Sunday, during school holidays. And I’m all alone.

Alone in the second biggest ‘city’ on the Island, Launceston.

I just flew in from what locals call The Main Land – from Melbourne – The Big Smoke. I feel like I’m lost in a small town and everything seems closed. Not a soul on the street or to be seen. I don’t know my way around like I do Hobart (the capital) my actual home town.

I am in search of some common folk that I can connect with, as I wait for my husband to arrive from the boat from Devonport.

I have 3 hours to kill and counting. I need to find some of ‘The Tribe’ who I can connect with. Folks who resonate with me and mine. AND I am not going to let the old North-South Tassie rivalry stop me from connecting with the locals! But, where could they be?

Unfortunately, they’re not at my first stop – The Hotel Tasmania. It’s filled with Pokies, Kino, TAB, and all the types of sports betting you can imagine. With only local beer on tap at the bar, no wine from a bottle and of course – no women. Except of course for the poor waitress in the empty dining hall – but she is paid to be there and I can tell she wishes she was somewhere else!

They’re not at the Food Court by the cinema. Where families and young couples spend ‘quality time’ under the fluro lights, piped-in easy listening elevator music and the over-priced take-away food stalls.

But thankfully, they ARE at The Royal Oak.

The Royal Oak on Brisbane Street – A shining beacon of hope on this cold grey afternoon in a small town on a small island south of The Mainland. As I walk toward the Pub I can hear the Celtic Folk Session from the front bar – well underway.

Now, when there are only three choices – to gamble, to consume en-mass or to be surrounded by live music with a drink in my hand– I know where I’d rather be.

As I walk in the bar – I see – ye –olde – fiddlers three – and a couple of ‘young’ guitarists (probably in their 40s) and even an accordion player – who looks just like Santa with his white hair and beard! So I raise my glass of red to the circle.

I prop myself at the bar and settle in to enjoy the next two hours wait for my husband and for my little guitar to arrive. With each glass – my Dutch courage increases. And as I rummage through my bag I discover my portable musical device – My percussion egg! So I slip from the bar stool into a recently vacated chair and I join in the merry tune with a shake of my egg to the beat of the song.

And so it goes, around the circle, song after song – time stops dragging – and before I know it – I’m in the gang – JUST as my guitar (and my husband) arrive! Finally a chance to play my own little tune and sing my own song!

The circle is silent as they wait for the key – and I start to play a song I wrote called ‘Sarah Boden’ – a tribute to women, to nurses during war times, the hardest fighters of all! And the circle joins in, following my lead with attentive ears and nimble hands. And as the song comes to a close, I hear a round of applause! My heart lifts – I am part of The Tribe – accepted!

And to top it all off, or to solidify the deal, I get a drink placed in my hand, and a request for one more song.

Nothing beats playing a song and having a drink in a circle of strangers, now newly found friends.

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