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Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Woman in the Hat

One reason I love Murwillumbah is that in some respects it reminds me of the Launceston of my childhood (which has grown and changed since then). There are streets and buildings which ring bells for me, and there’s the way you can’t go to Coles without running into half a dozen people you know and stopping for a chat.

I also love the scenic beauty, the sub-tropical climate, and the fact that this is a powerful energy centre, as many people who live here recognise and even take for granted — a claim I don’t intend to substantiate here and now, but may elaborate on at some stage.

Another reason is that it’s the place where, as I like to tell people, it’s cool to be daggy. (‘Daggy’ is an Australian word that defies translation; the closest you could come might be to translate it as ‘uncool’. So you see, there is a paradox involved.) It’s certainly a place where my spiky purple hair, psychedelic tops and rows of knuckle-duster rings occasion few remarks, all of them approving.

So I thought I’d start an occasional series of Murwillumbah vignettes, to celebrate this unique town.

A joyous encounter stays with me: that woman we saw coming out of Vinnie’s the other day. [The St Vincent de Paul op shop.] We’d never seen her before, in 16 years of walking around Murwillumbah. She was old, small, thin, with a faded taupe shirt, limp black pants, and wispy grey hair — surmounted by the most glorious hat. Its huge brim was covered in colourful flowers; rich, improbable colours. We stopped in delight and exclaimed how beautiful it was.

‘Did you make it?’ Andrew asked. Yes, she had. I told her that I don’t wear hats, but if I did I’d want one just like that.

‘I wouldn’t wear hats either,’ she said, ‘If I had hair like yours.’ She said to Andrew, ‘Isn’t she colourful? You’ve made a good choice!’  And wandered off, tiny as a fairy, dull as depression, yet crowned by this wondrous hat, which looked as though it must be too big but fitted perfectly.

She was a mystery.


  1. Great story about Murwillumbah. It's a daggy town, but not as daggy as it used to be!

  2. Thanks for the comment!

    I hope it doesn't lose its dagginess altogether. :)

  3. I love your description of the woman in the hat. I'm looking forward to more vignettes. :)