There wasn't a single movie on at the local theatre that interested me this weekend, so we headed up the highway for a nostalgic visit to ye olde Sovereign Hill. The last time I was there, I was about eight or nine years old, and I suffered a great great disappointment that has haunted me ever since. It was time to seal and heal that old childhood wound. We're talking bucket list stuff. More about my trauma later.
But first we had to get through Daylesford, cutting straight through the middle, which meant I yet again had to giggle when we went down the main drag (my sister and I go around when we head for horse riding). I'm sorry, but it's almost a programmed reaction ever since I read this 2009 article by David Sedaris in The New Yorker in which he threw this evocative paragraph at his readers:
Our destination that afternoon was a place called Daylesford, which looked, when we arrived, more like a movie set than like an actual working town. The buildings on the main street were two stories tall, and made of wood, like buildings in the Old West, but brightly painted. Here was the shop selling handmade soaps shaped like petit fours. Here was the fudgery, the jammery, your source for moisturizer. If Dodge City had been founded and maintained by homosexuals, this is what it might have looked like.Then it was on to Ballarat and a highly entertaining and interactive afternoon of watching blacksmiths, coach builders, candle makers, tinsmiths, bakers etc strutting their stuff the old fashioned way, redcoats marching, caped policemen keeping law and order, people panning for gold (we swished a few pans of grit, but no fortunes were made, so my castle with a moat and a writing turret located on a isolated hill must wait a while longer), and of course saw lots of mining machinery. We also went down a couple of mines to get a vague sense of the hard conditions the miners endured, and hearing a whistling tune from one of the side drives while our guide exhorted us to stay together and not wander off of course triggered a story about someone (a kid, I suspect, a good kid) who does wander off, following the ghostly tune of a dead miner... See, writers are always on the job. When above ground, we constantly jumped out of the way of horse-drawn carriages.
I especially enjoyed the re-enactment of Lola Montez whipping Henry Seekamp, the editor of The Ballarat Times, in the main street after he'd published a bad review of her infamous act and condemned the salacious Spider Dance that had miners throwing gold nuggets up onto the stage while she performed.
I've always loved reading about Lola's exploits. Now there was a woman who lived life to the full and didn't give a fig about what folk thought of her. If time travel ever eventuates, I'd sign up just to go back and catch her Spider Dance at our local theatre (she stopped off here and collected a small fortune before continuing on to Ballarat). It'd be fun to see what the fuss was all about. Probably not much by today's standards.
Then it was time to close the circle on my unresolved childhood issue. You see, way back when I was a kiddie and the whole family went to Sovereign Hill, I wanted with all of my youthful heart one of the horseshoes you can get at the blacksmith's with your name stamped into the metal. I was denied this prize (my dad pitched some completely unreasonable argument about if I got one, my siblings would also have to have one each, and the cost would add up to too much for, it was implied, such useless rubbish) and never quite recovered, especially when a few friends turned up at primary school proudly showing off, well, you guessed it, horseshoes from Sovereign Hill with their names on them. How I coveted those metal crescents. My envy was only surpassed by my great sorrow at not having one.
But today, for the princely sum of $8.00, I finally put an end to my longing and got my horseshoe. It's over my writing desk now, proof that it's never too late for wishes to come true, and that sometimes dreams are surprisingly cheap to achieve.