A tale of two cities

It’s a tale as old as time, said someone other than Charles Dickens about love and hate and everything in between. It’s also what comes to mind when I read letters to the editor or online comments about the Fraser Coast’s duelling siblings—Maryborough and Hervey Bay.

I’m in the unenviable position of having a foot in both camps. I grew up in Maryborough, worked there briefly after University and continue to visit my mother there to this day. However, as a child I spent weekends and holidays in Hervey Bay, which became my home after I made a seachange two and a half years ago.

Via rainbowbeachaustralia.wordpress.com

Via rainbowbeachaustralia.wordpress.com

I was working for the (then) Maryborough City Council at the time Hervey Bay first really started to outgrow Maryborough. It was the early-mid 1990s, the tide was turning and a rivalry developing between the two councils. We’d always been lumped together as a region for State and Federal Government purposes but the sleepy satellite city of Hervey Bay was suddenly on everyone’s map. I had no problem with this and worked closely with my counterpart in the Hervey Bay City Council. Opportunities to collaborate and garner economies of scale were a no-brainer.

Fast-forward twenty years and Maryborough really hasn’t grown at all. It’s far from the bustling city of my youth. Hervey Bay on the other hand, continues to grow exponentially. Unsurprisingly, services and facilities gravitate to the more populated area. That was once Maryborough. It is now Hervey Bay. And that’s the cold hard fact that many struggle to accept.

I had a conversation with a long-term Bay resident recently and they reminded me that Hervey Bay-ites once had the same issue—just in reverse. It wasn’t exactly a lightbulb moment but I was forced to remember my Urangan-based grandparents travelling to Maryborough to the supermarket, for medical appointments and to visit government offices.

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Via seahavenbeachvillas.com.au

I don’t remember them whining about it and I think that’s because it was all they knew. Anyone over 35-40 can still probably recall Maryborough in its heyday. They remember when it was hub and Hervey Bay the toddler gadding about and babbling incoherently. They’re the ones who feel Maryborough’s changing fortune more than others. Younger people have no idea and struggle to believe Maryborough was once bigger and better-serviced than Hervey Bay.

Like I said, I understand where Maryborough peeps are coming from and its dying CBD devastates me, but I also understand the logic in services, facilities and shops gravitating to where the people are. And – sadly – that’s not Maryborough. It’s a vicious circle because it means people subsequently move to where the services are located.

So… is Maryborough doomed? I hope not. Perhaps things will turn around again. Who knows?

I just believe though in the meantime, rather than bicker about ‘who’ has ‘what’ we should accept reality and work together and at least try to get along.

I submitted this to the Fraser Coast Chronicle a few weeks ago (but think it's too long and a bit convoluted!).
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Making the most of what’s on offer

Last week I submitted my first ever article for publication and amazingly the Fraser Coast Chronicle printed it. Because I am *ahem* somewhat verbose, it was much longer than required and had to be culled. A friend suggested I put the entire thing on this blog, given that it’s got a local flavour, so here we go…

My biggest fear on returning to the Fraser Coast after a couple of decades was that that I’d find the region a cultural wasteland.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly the opera-going type, I dislike most stage shows and don’t hang out at music festivals every second weekend. But Brisbane, like most large cities, always had something on offer. So even if I was happier at home watching DVDs and recovering from my working week I knew I could go to trendy markets, a local festival or catch a comedy show.

Which is why I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found on offer since returning to the Fraser Coast.

I’m not normally a ‘joiner’ but have been busier here than I was in Brisbane. In fact, in my first year back I was kept so busy I even suffered from event-going-fatigue.

IDA

Maryborough Regional Arts Council – foreign film night. May 2015

Many people I meet complain there’s nothing to do and yet when I ask them if they’re heading to Relish Festival, Paddle Out For Whales, Sunday Riverside or Flickerfest they screw up their collective noses.

“I can’t be bothered,” they might say.

Interestingly, it’s not the out-of-town shows or big names performing at the Brolga Theatre catching my attention; it’s the Council and community events I most appreciate.

While I’m more than happy to bag the Fraser Coast Regional Council when (I believe) it deserves it, I love that it’s making an effort to entertain its residents and foster a sense of community and culture. Purists and traditionalists may argue for a focus on roads, rates and rubbish but people won’t stay here if there’s nothing to do. We’re not all great at entertaining ourselves and for many—pubs, clubs and weekend sporting fixtures just don’t cut it.

The first time I attended Gatakers By Night I looked around wondering where this eclectic group of people usually hid. Even my mother who knows half of Maryborough saw a lot of different faces.

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Although you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to a museum, I also recently visited the dinosaur display in the Maryborough City Hall, hoping the Friday night pop-up bar attracted other likeminded Fraser Coasters keen for something different. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t!)

I’ve started attending the foreign film nights run by the Maryborough Arts Council and will be at upcoming events like the Mary Poppins and Whale Festivals with bells on. Or at least with a vague sense of enthusiasm.

Of course not all events are free, but many are and most offer something for everyone. I don’t always appreciate the music on offer at Gatakers by Night but Iove its festive feeling and take the opportunity to have a couple of wines and visit the art gallery each month.

And although (quite frankly) I hate crowds, it’s wonderful to experience the energetic atmosphere of Relish or the Seafood Festival and celebrate with other Fraser Coasters.

Most importantly however, I’m just turning up. I’m making the effort to support what’s on—conscious we may ‘lose it, if we don’t use it’.

Although I’m a well-seasoned whinger it’s not enough to sit back and complain if you can’t be bothered making the most of what’s there. And that’s something even I need to remind myself every so often.

Duncan Chapman: an accidental hero

This first appeared in my Debbish blog on 25 April 2015 
but I thought it apt to share it here as well.

One hundred years ago today, the first ANZACs landed on the beaches of Turkey to engage in a battle they would not win. Twenty-six year old Queenslander Lieutenant Duncan Chapman was the first ashore.

“To me was given the extreme honour of being actually the first man to step ashore on this peninsula, to lead a portion of the men up the hill in that now historic charge.

What a living hell it was too, and how I managed to go through it from 4 o’clock in the morning of Sunday, the 25th April, to Wednesday, the 28th, under fire the whole time, without being hit is a mystery to me.”

Part of a letter from Duncan to brother Charles.

I’m sure Duncan had no idea when he set foot on the soil at Gallipoli in the early hours of 25 April 1915 that a century later he’d be immortalised in bronze in the town of his birth.

However at dawn on Friday 24 April 2015 a statue commemorating his achievement was unveiled in Maryborough, Queensland.

Duncan Chapman statue

Source: Fraser Coast Chronicle

Duncan Chapman was my great great uncle. Born and raised in Maryborough, he was my father’s great uncle and my grandfather’s (maternal) uncle.

Duncan was living in Brisbane (in Albion) and working as a paymaster when he left to serve his country in the war to end all wars.

Maryborough peeps have worked long and hard over recent years to confirm Duncan’s achievement and raise funds for the $60,000 statue. I have to confess I’ve struggled a little with the occasionally OTT fanfare.

Although chosen to be in the covering group; it was pure chance his towboat was the first ashore and that he happened to be in the bow at the time. For this reason I’ve felt* a little uncomfortable with the hero-status afforded him and… I suspect he would be too.

Source: Anzacsightsound.org

Source: Anzacsightsound.org

Indeed, comments on the local newspaper’s website indicate others are a bit frustrated that Duncan has attracted so much attention, when MANY young men from Maryborough formed part of his 9th Battalion.

Naturally however, I’ve wondered about Duncan the man. Although he wasn’t married I wondered if he left behind a girlfriend. Or two.

I’ve read some of his letters and found myself thinking I’d like this man who lived 100 years ago. His letters are well-written. I can only assume he was relatively well educated and articulate. He’s obviously overly fond of punctuation and the occasional adverb… so I feel I can blame my genes for my own predisposition in that respect.

I attended the dawn service yesterday for the unveiling of Great Great Uncle Duncan’s statue. Extended family from interstate had travelled and formed part of the official party. Given my mixed feelings I was happy to stay in the background rather than meet his other great nieces and nephews and great-great nieces and nephews.

I was relieved when the service itself however, while honouring Duncan, paid tribute to other Maryborough men who fought alongside him. Many of whom (like so many Aussies) died on Turkish soil.

Despite my natural cynicism I found myself tearing up when I learned that rocks and sand had been provided by the Turkish Government (from the beaches and cliffs of Gallipoli) which were used in the surrounds of the statue. In fact, the sand was fashioned into footprints and set into the concrete to reflect those who followed Duncan across the beach at (the now) Anzac Cove. *sob*

I realised—perhaps for the first time—that it wasn’t really about Duncan or a town desperate for some fame and fortune. The celebration was about what (and who) Duncan represented. It was the war which coined the term ‘digger’ and—although we didn’t walk away victorious, our fighting spirit became part of our national identity. Sure we’re larrikins who sometimes have little concern for authority, but we’re tenacious bastards.

Duncan was promoted to Captain the day after arriving at Gallipoli. Unlike so many of his fellow ANZACs Duncan survived the Dardanelles, serving in Gallipoli until the evacuation in December 2015.

He did not, however return home. Serving with the 45th Battalion and promoted to Major, Duncan died on the battlefields of Pozieres in August 2016, like so many of his countrymen.

** You may recall the clip I shared recently of this tragic episode in our military history—during which time we lost 23,000 soldiers in just seven weeks. Only to gain 10km of ground. If you haven’t watched that video I’d recommend you do**

In that previous post I talked about the futility of war. I realise today is not a time for such discussions and I have great respect for those who’ve fought and/or died for our country. I do believe it’s an opportunity (however) for some reflection.

The local TV news interviewed a former WWII soldier a couple of nights ago. He doesn’t attend ANZAC day ceremonies, he said. He believes the day should be spent educating young people. His lesson: “There’s no glory in war.”

Lest We Forget.

* I’ve also inherited my father’s EXTREME sense of ‘fairness’.

Wil Anderson, Lindsay Webb and pissed punters

I haven’t seen a lot of live comedy. Not for any particular reason other than – in my previous life I was occasionally apathetic about doing ‘stuff’. My working week felt really full-on; so much so that on weekends I really just wanted to hibernate.

In fact, other than seeing the guys from Oz TV show, The Chaser at a writers festival, the only other comedy act I can recall seeing was an Irish comedian / actor – Dylan Moran. (Who I find bizarrely attractive in his role as Bernard in the TV show Black Books!)

But, because I’m trying to be a ‘joiner’ in my new hometown, I’m doing more than I would previously have done. That means going to some festivals and shows which I’d prefer to avoid as well as those I’m keen to attend.

When I saw Wil Anderson was coming to Hervey Bay I was stoked. I’m not a rabid stalker-like fan, but I remember the days of The Glasshouse and love the Gruen franchise. A friend and I bought our tickets as soon as they went on sale, lest we miss out, and a month or so later rocked up to the RSL (my first visit other than for meetings!).

wil

There was a good crowd. 300+ I think, which is great. I loved that there were a wide range of peeps there as well – crisscrossing the generations. Indeed there seemed to be entire families in attendance.

And support act (Brissy comedian) Lindsay Webb was friggin’ hilarious. He mostly chatted to the audience, thought on his feet and had us all in hysterics.

Although it was during Lindsay’s performance… we started to see the ugly side of attention-seeking pissy patrons.

Sadly by the time Wil appeared a few members of the crowd were fairly shit-faced.

I suspect I sound like a nanna; but I enjoy a drink as much as the next person. Back in the day I had those nights when I was as pissed as a fart or struggled to remember what happened between arriving at the races at 2pm and being in my kitchen 8hrs later.  But I like to think I was never rude or disrespectful when pissed. (Although I’m fairly sure I was amazingly witty and hilarious!)

I guess live performers are used to the ‘great unwashed’ rabble, but I was really disappointed in the behavior of a few attendees. They’d obviously been drinking heavily before the show started and others at our table agreed that it was a waste of $40 to come to something like that and struggle to remember any of it the next day.

Worse than that though, they ruined the show for other punters. One woman constantly shouted out comments throughout the show (although was silent at the end and I was wondering if she fell asleep); another guy chatted to friends at his table constantly; a couple of pissed women stood to one side (near the bar) and talked LOUDLY – seemingly not paying any attention to Lindsay or Wil; and one woman interrupted Wil’s routine with a ridiculously inane question about our foreign Minister. I mean… What. The. Actual. Fuck?!

I felt terribly embarrassed: We have quality performers coming to our town and we disrespect them?!

Earlier in the day I saw a tweet from a young person complaining about Hervey Bay residents.

Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 9.02.55 AM

“Oh, that’s a bit harsh,” I thought when I read it. But just hours later I was thinking the same thing.

Having said that – and had my whinge – I know that the majority of people in the town and region and those at last night’s show, aren’t rude or ignorant. However… sometimes it’s easy to forget that.

#Inothernews, Wil was also great. He was a bit thrown by the Julie Bishop question but other than that I loved his rants about the media – particularly talkback radio (as I just had a similar rant in my Debbish blog!).

PS. And Sarah… I’m fairly sure Julie Bishop is female. Had your question touched on her competence or policies it might have provided Wil with some comedic fodder, alas…

Too much of a good thing?

The inaugural Hervey Bay Food and Wine Festival took place on the weekend – a two-day event held in the Pier Park at Urangan.

Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 9.42.21 AM

I was keen to attend (as I live near the Pier Park where it was held) but prevaricated a little. On one hand I like to try to support local events and – well… wine, music and food – what’s not to love? On the other hand, I’m a bit festivalled-out.

I gather (from talking to friends and family) that others feel the same. There have been A LOT of big events packed into the last six or so months here on the Fraser Coast: Relish, Mary Poppins Festival, Craft Festival, Whale Festival and the Seafood Festival.

In the last month alone in Hervey Bay, we’ve had the Pier Festival, 150th birthday celebrations, Tour de Bay and now the Food and Wine Festival. On top of that we’ve got the Beerfest,  Torbanlea Races, Maryborough Open House and Melbourne Cup celebrations in the next month. To cap all of that off, there’s my one-year-back-on-the-Fraser Coast-anniversary! (Obviously a cause of celebration. Or national holiday or similar! 😉 )

I know (from the Festival’s Facebook page) that the $15 entry fee turned a lot of people off. I understand the need to charge a fee: but Relish was $10 – and included a lot more activities for your money; and the Seafood Festival was $5.

I don’t go out a lot however, so was prepared to pay the entry fee and went along for a few hours on Sunday.

On a positive note, the entry fee meant that the festival probably attracted a different crowd to those who usually attend local markets or pub events (ie. no one was likely to get wasted and vomit on you or yell obscenities at the band).

wine1

I hadn’t known about the event until just a couple of weeks before it was held, so I’m not sure how far ahead it was planned. I know the organisers were still working on the music the week before the festival – so I was worried about what I’d find, however… I was pleasantly surprised.

I understand there were a few hiccups and organisers hope for bigger crowds in future, but in essence the event seemed quite successful – for we festival-goers anyway!

There were more wine-tasting options than I expected (though I know some would have liked to see more local wineries). And the ability to buy a glass/bottle of wine or champagne (or beer etc) to enjoy on the day was great.

After my disappointment at the Migaloo Starlight Swing, I was happy to know that there’d be a few food options and indeed Aquavue was on hand serving some salads (my friends partook in a prawn and mango salad with orange and mustard dressing which was apparently yummy); Wild Lotus offered up a steak sandwich that was much more – deliciously tender beef on sourdough etc. My friend who hates steak sandwiches, RAVED about the beef. Bayswater Hotel was serving antipasto platters and a squid salad; and there were pizzas and pancakes as well as coffee vans. (Something for everyone – though as a non-salad-eating coeliac – I struggled a little.)

wine2

I was also pleasantly surprised by the music. The acts had a bluesy feel and I was a tad tempted to hang around longer than planned to kick back, partake in more champers and enjoy the atmosphere.

Happily undercover seating was provided and as the day wore on there was heaps of shade for those who’d brought blankets or their own chairs.

I’d definitely go back, and I know organisers are thinking of running the festival again, but I do wonder if it could be paired with something else rather than being yet another separate event. And – feedback will be interesting – but organisers may also want to look at the cost in future years.

Did you attend, or did (or would) the $15 entrance fee put you off?