Wadeville. Sunday, 5.15pm
This really is my favourite watering hole.
Set among the regenerating hills on the unfashionable side of Lismore, the bush shop squats on a low rise and squints across the valley at Mount Billen.
Parked along the road are old trucks, new utes, dinged Corollas, curtained vans, dusty Nissan X-Trails, a seriously muscular and shiny 4WD thing, and a bunch of Subaru Foresters (mine among them).
Yellow NO CSG stickers glint in the fading light.
The local folk have rolled in to drink the Sunday sun down and listen to a couple of local boys play banjo and guitar.
And they are local boys. They are brothers, Barkers Vale brothers. Born and bred not far from here, these lads have the musical talent to fingerpick a sunset trail to country music heaven: hot licks from wise-cracking, flanneletted seraphim.
Under a tin roof beside the shop and bottle-o, we sit. Women dance.
The wooden seats are hard but the vibe is comfy. The sun bites, but the atmosphere is cool. The decor, like the building, is not trendy. Tin and concrete. It’s functional, not pretty, despite the redecorating efforts of the new owners.
There’s something refreshingly honest about this place. We live in a theme-park world, where every building makes a style statement; where people are fashion crippled; where communities are sponsored, words are spun and friendship is a key pushed.
This is a building with no theme; no derivative style. It’s honest. It’s a building. It keeps the sun and rain off your head and out of your beer. It’s not punk-industrial, trendy-alt, fake-federation or hippie-chic.
The tables are set in a concrete floor so they can be left out at night and won’t be nicked. It has a communal fridge where you can stow your beer or white wine and no-one will take yours.
Young and old mix together, as it should be. Kids run around noisily until some adult tells them to keep it quiet: ‘There’s people playing music’.
The kids do what the adult tells them. As it should be. These proper adults would not deprive children of education; refugees of help; land of its water.
I sip on a Rosnay red. Not bad. One dancer’s skirt flares as she twirls to the hillbilly rhythm. She dances the spirit of here and now.
I have ordered a cheese plate. Cheese plates aren’t on the menu here, bit too fancypants, really. But I talked to the bloke behind the counter and after a brief consultation with the kitchen, he said no worries, they’d get me a plate with cheese and crackers.
Yes, here are real people.
They’re not the excruciatingly shallow caricatures with ridiculous hair that populate our media, nor the lying, conniving, heartless constructions that have somehow usurped our political process.
The unreal life spawned on screens in every home is replacing real living with shiny baubles of superficial stimulation. It’s a corporate fog which blinds us to both the awful tragedy and the blissful beauty of the living world around us.
We will not save our country from CSG mining by pressing submit on an online petition. We will not find real leadership in the cynical, childish games of Parliament. We will not find real happiness in a world where the batteries can run out.
One dancer’s arms snake like a Hindu goddess’s. She has a beatific smile and articulate hips. She spins like a planet in a universe. She is the maypole of the moment and we are all connected to her by ribbons of community.
The bloke from the shop brings me the cheese plate. It has salami, as well as cheese and crackers.