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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Australia: Cygnet

The search for traditional Australian music was beginning to feel like an impossible task. The contemporary Australian bands I'd come across on Triple J1 were great, but the only rootsy music I'd heard was didgeridoo music packaged up for tourists, and myriad chill-out albums with titles like Tropical Rainforest, Red Desert and other such inspiring names. I wanted to discover music from the days of convicts and colonies, and the Huon Folk Festival in Cygnet seemed the perfect place to try.

The Metropolis of Cygnet

I eventually got to the hostel on Friday night, a lovely place perched on the side of a valley 2km out of Cygnet. It was beautiful – the view down the valley to Cradoc was spectacular, and the perfect setting for a folk festival. The people at the hostel were very friendly, especially three of them: Tommy from Ireland, who taught English at Sydney University and was on summer vacation, and Cathy and Maureen, both lawyers from Adelaide. It wasn't long before the four of us were heading into town to check out the food and the folk scene, accompanied by a fifth hosteller called James, who was buzzing with entertaining stories about how he'd slept on the beach at Broome for six blissful weeks...

Scrumpy and Love

That set the scene, really. The next day we bought tickets for the various concerts and marquees around, and just went from pub to concert to pub to concert, meeting people on the way. We bumped into James and found out he'd stayed in a teepee that night, which had really set off his hay fever, so he was looking for the chemist; the poor bugger's face was like a balloon. There were some stunningly good performers on offer, such as Alistair Hulett, a brilliant nationalist Scottish singer; Danny Spooner, an overweight, overbearing Londoner; and the Fagans, a prodigiously talented family ensemble that elicited as much jealousy as joy from the other performers. I'd never heard of any of these people before, and it made it all the more fascinating to discover them.

Folk Remedies

The formula for Sunday was similar, except Mo and Cathy had to fly back to the mainland, leaving just Tommy and me to fly the folkie flag. We spotted James in the street, on his way back from visiting the local Russian witch; she'd prescribed him some herbal drops that had completely sorted out the problem... which, funnily enough, seemed perfectly normal and in order.

Someday boy you'll reap what you sow,
You'll catch a cold and be on your own,
And you will see that what's wrong with me
Is wrong with everyone that
You want to play your little games on.
Poetry and flowers, pretty words and threats,
You've gone to the dogs again and I'm not placing bets
On you coming home tonight anything but blind...

And at that line the man whom everyone had been referring to as the 'Master of Ceremonies' – an ancient guy called Colin who was obviously highly respected as an elder of the festival – shouted out, 'That's me!' referring to being 'anything but blind' (drunk), and it totally threw me. I had a complete mind-blank as to the rest of the song, but they all wanted me to continue, so I finished off the chorus, and they loved it. Imagine: me, a folk singer! Thank God I was drunk...

Home Sweet Home

You've never seen anything like it. The house sat on the shore of the river that flows through Cygnet, quite a long way from the town, where the river looks more like the sea (possibly because the mouth of the river is very close). The owner Rob, originally from London, had built the entire house himself, from foundations to roof to furniture to plumbing to goodness only knows what else you do when building a house, and he'd done it all single-handedly. We sat on the shore, drinking coffee and eating toast, as I slowly became more incapable of staying awake. The next thing I knew Delores was waking me up, the sun was about to start frying me, and I was dreaming of huge, menacing blowflies. I've never been so happy to take up the offer of a free bed to crash in.

1 Triple J is an excellent national Aussie radio station that plays alternative music pretty much all the time. Anyone wondering what modern Australian music is all about should check it out; the fact that Aussie music doesn't tend to break beyond the country's shores is no reason to ignore it. When Australians rock, they rock.

2 Here's one of Delores' jokes for you, just to give you a feel. Take note of the emphasis in the punchline and imagine, if you can, an animated Delores telling it...

A man walks into confession, sits down and says, 'Father, I'm a married man, but last night I slept with two gorgeous blonde 18-year-old twins, and I don't regret a thing.'

'That's disgusting', says the priest, 'How can you call yourself a devout Catholic if you don't respect the holy union of wedlock?'

'I'm not a Catholic,' says the man.

'Then why on earth have you come to confession to tell me that?' says the priest.

'I'm telling everyone!' says the man.