Saturday, 21 March 2015

Small Towns and Exaggerations.

On Thursday evening, I was lucky enough to play bridesmaid to my cousin as she married a man in the beautiful Hunter Valley region here in New South Wales, a place that I have long wanted to visit. It is known for its fantastic wines, its friendly people, and its beautiful Autumn colours. Unfortunately, we're a little early in the year for the latter, but the trip was still gorgeous. 

While the majority of the trip might have been focused on the wedding, I of course still took the time out to do some wandering, some snapshotting, and some people watching. Because above all, new settings spark my sense of adventure. And to my great pleasure, I took from this trip a better understanding of small towns.

I've always loved the idea of small towns, and I find that I use them in my work a lot. But even I don't find my way of writing them believable - they just never seem real. So it was nice to finally visit one in person, to really see the differences between these and the city of Sydney.

The town in question was Cessnock in the Hunter Valley, and I fell in love with it the moment we got there. Driving in it was surrounded by bush, and some of the first things I saw were a rundown old barn, a burned up car, and train tracks not surrounded by six-foot steel fences. You don't often see that in Sydney, and it thrilled me. I had always wanted to take photos of train tracks without needing to climb fences! (And knowing that the trains weren't passing every fifteen minutes was a bonus.)

The layout of the town was basically the way I like to imagine them - with a main street filled with places to shop, a local complex that had all the major supermarkets and department stores, and suburbia surrounding all of this. At the end of a dead end street my cousins and I found a dirt path that led into bush, and when we followed it through the trees we came out on the other side of town. It was nice to know that a little town could indeed have woods for a character to get lost in. And on my final morning in Cessnock, I walked to the end of that path and looked out on fields drapped in the thickest fog I've ever seen. 

We drove through that same fog after the wedding, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. I always thought that when people said, "It was so thick I couldn't see a metre in front of me!" they were exaggerating, but the fog was literally like this. So it was nice to learn that such a terrifying, magical thing could be real. 

The locals were something to wonder at, too. Walking down the street, everybody seemed to know everybody else, and even though myself and my family were strangers, we still got polite smiles and nods. But one of my eye-opening moments was when my two cousins and I crossed a street, and the two locals coming towards us didn't run for the lights. In Sydney, locals would have run to make the lights before they changed, but these locals were content to just stroll along. It was nice. 

The night before the wedding, the bride and bridesmaids (myself included) stayed in a house that was, to me, literally in the middle of nowhere. It was half an hour from civilisation, out in the pitch black where you could see the stars more clearly than you could ever hope to see them in a city. There were no neighbouring houses for miles, and there was a vineyard in the backyard. 

The house was surrounded by bush on all sides, and there was a little pond off to the right. It was like something out of a dream. 

One day I'm going to go back and explore the area more, when I don't have to worry about anything else. But for now, I plan on using my experiences there to help me write better.

What's your opinion on small towns? Did you grow up in one, or in a big city like myself? Which do you prefer?

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