This story –the result of a writing exercise – illustrates the connection sometimes made through a chance encounter between people of good will. My thanks to Camino conqueror Pat Boxall for coming up with it.
On a crowded Sunday afternoon at the Brunswick Heads hotel, you’re lucky to find a surface to put your beer, let alone your backside.
Live music draws the crowds and the afternoon sun does the rest. No one’s in a hurry to leave. My muso son and I take up a small piece of real estate at an outside table, thanks to the kindness of the two strangers already propped there. One of them, John, gets into conversation with my son. He played a bit in his misspent youth, like many of the locals in this pocket of hippy heaven.
Annie soon joins us; another traveller in need of a place to rest her weary beer. She’s come down from Fingal on the Queensland border, hoping to bump into someone she knows.
It becomes a case of ‘love the one you’re with.’
Annie’s friends never materialise but we make a close connection in the way some women do. She has just bought her first piece of real estate: a tiny bedsit in Fingal, a stone’s throw from the beach. She lives and works in Brisbane, in the hospital there. Something about her unassuming manner and the pride and trepidation with which she talks about her property tells me she isn’t a medico. In her diffident way, she describes walking along the path that leads from her little shack to the beach, seeing whales in the distance.
She is full of apologies: for the lack of a separate kitchen and the meagre living area; for the rusticity of the décor and her presumption in asking for my advice. But was I coming up that way? Would I tell her whether it was Airbnb-worthy? My holiday timetable is already full. I decline her offer. We embrace and go our separate ways.
Four months later my son moves to nearby Tweed.
He takes me for a sunrise surf at Fingal beach. Its effect is instantaneous and long-lasting. The place has a magical quality about it, untouched and unworldly. It’s a place you never want to leave.
I try to find Annie’s shack but come to a dead end. I find her number in my contacts but it rings out. Her story is now entwined in mine.