A fortnight ago I headed off late on a Wednesday evening to meet up with someone who I had never met who was giving me a lift to a tiny little town that I had never been to, to shoot a TV pilot for the next two days. I caught the train to Sutherland, I squished in like a sardine to one of the compartments. While I endured the 40 minute trip to the station, I had a rather unique experience.
I sat on a step next to a muslim woman. Behind us was a guy, drinking from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. The man tapped the Muslim woman on the shoulder and asked whether she was born in Australia. She answered that she was. He then asked if her family was. Again she said yes. The man then asked why then, was she dressed like a muslim. I began to feel a little uncomfortable. The woman answered that she chose to according to her beliefs. The man then said “No disrespect, but why would you choose to live like that?” The woman responded calmly all of her reasons. The man was insistant on getting to the bottom of this and then asked about her partner. I felt he was getting very personal. Yet the woman remained calm and answered all his questions. The man was practically breathing on the back of our necks now and the woman was starting to wear thin from his rude nature of questioning. The man held out his hand to greet her and she replied that she “doesn’t touch men”. I felt for sure he was going to loose his manners and patience at this point and outrightly confront her. But he humbly withdrew, made a slight negative remark and wandered away. I found myself in awe at the patience of this woman and felt a growing respect for how she had dealt with the situation. Obviously that has stuck with me. I hope if confronted in the future I too can stick to my guns, remain cool and calmly explain myself.
I got off at the station and met my driver ‘Luke’ and we headed off to BOOROWA. As we drove through Goulburn to our stop for the night, I was reminded of a feeling I had as a kid. I watched from the passenger seat as all the gum trees lining the road were lit up by the 4WDs headlights. I suddenly felt 6 years old and viewed the trees as if they were ghosts. I had always remembered, as an adult, that I use to think the Gouldburn had ghost trees, but could never remember why I thought that. It was only then that I recalled all of the trips into town, or to friends properties in the evenings that I would have seen the trees appear in such a way. And even though It was almost 20 years later, I still looked at them the same way.
We stayed the first night with a friend of his, Dave, on a farm in Taralga. When we entered the house I was greeted by two large dogs and a lamb (Sean). Eventually making my way through the mob of animals I managed to get inside the house to meet another two cats and a dog. This place was a zoo! As we settled in, we shared a bottle of red and watched the trailer that Luke and Dave had made a few years earlier and I got my first insight into what to expect the following day.
The next morning I woke at 5am. I looked out the window and felt I was in a dream. The ground was coated in frost and everything seemed pink.
We left an hour later, driving for a good hour, through Crookwell to Boorowa. I was asked to drive the second car which was a manual 4WD. I normally drive an automatic Hyundai excel, so it was certainly a mean feat getting used to the size of the vehicle. With the lads ahead of me, perhaps pushing the speed a bit, I just had to keep up. It was a bit of a nerve-racking experience, but extremely fun at the same time.
I felt we were being paid off for getting up so early and blessed with gorgeous scenery. There was a thick fog most of the way and at times only the tips of a large hill or the tallest trees would poke out the top of it, while other areas the sun seemed to shine so brightly everything seemed golden. I had definitely been away from the country for too long.
We finally arrived in Boorowa and I soon realised that I had been there before. In 2007 I moved out of home in Bathurst and spent 2 days driving to Canberra where I would live for the next 2 years. On the way I stopped in Boorowa and decided to start making a collection of photos of things that I saw in ‘real life’ that stood out and seemed beautiful to me. I now have a whole album.
I then met with the producer and we started filming. Luke and Dave were the two hosts and it was their mission in the show to meet local people and have them cook for them. I won’t tell you much more as I’m sure you will see it in the show.
Each segment was improvised. The guys had a back & forth dialogue between them unlike anything I had seen before. I knew instantly that the world would love them. With their improvised and sometimes untamed conversations, it was hard to contain myself from laughing. I felt guilty for a moment until I realised the producer was in stitches beside me.
The highlight of the trip for me was going to a bee farm, where we all had to wear bee suits. As fun as it was, it made it very hard to focus the camera. It was hilarious watching Luke as he attempted to compose himself and talk to the bee farmer while he was very quickly being covered by bees (which he had admitted to being allergic to and terrified of).
By the first afternoon we had created quite a stir by driving up and down the mainstreet, Luke on the back of the ute and Dave singing into a megaphone. We attracted a healthy crowd, one such group asking whether we wanted to ride their horse down the street. Luke and Dave agreed immediately.
Within ten minutes we watched a car pull up beside us with a short fat horse in tow behind it. The question on everyones mind was “Can this horse handle a 6″ man riding her down the main street?” Apparently she could, though it was a sight to see as Luke sat upon the tiny steed, playing his guitar. We then learned that the horse was not fat but pregnant. Not sure WHY the owners offered to have him ride her in that condition…
That night in the pub we had the pleasure of meeting the locals, One older man argued with us that we didn’t understand good food as none of us admitted liking cabbage. He then spent the next half hour highlighting the various uses for cooking with cabbage, I don’t think I’ll think of it the same again.
The following day we arrived in a small town just towards the borders of Boorowa which, up until that point, the locals had questioned why we were going there, each ending with a remark about how they hope we returned. We heard it was filled with people with only 6 fingers. I had no idea what we were in for. Upon arriving we discovered an adorable little town with a tiny school house, church and a few scattered homes.
We arrived at one and were immediately met by 6 Shetland ponies in the front yard. As the crew piled into the house, I ran back to the car to grab my jacket. When I returned I discovered 4 of the ponies on the wrong side of the gate. I attempted to wrangle them back into the yard. It seemed they wouldn’t budge. I was soon joined by Luke, Dave and the producer and we all co-ordinated ourselves to heard the ponies back into the front yard. Finally we managed and we settled into the home of a very normal woman. Though she DID have a guest visiting with only 9 FINGERS. Though, I believe this was thorough some kind of accident.
That evening we ventured back and I left feeling like I had had two of the most action packed days in my life. I had lived and loved every minute and met so many people in that time. It was such a rewarding project to have been a part of. I hope that you all get to experience it in the future.