Last week I was back in Bangalow to finish the final facet of the Bangalow Parklands toilet block mural. One that depicts the park’s history from pre-European settlement to the felling of The Big Scrub, to the eras of dairy and orchards and the present land care regeneration of forest. In it too is the heyday period when Bangalow weir was a swimming pool. A meeting place of its own no doubt, where secrets could be kept hidden beneath the skirts of the weeping willows (long since removed … they are weeds, you know).
I took my poodle/jack russell-cross Duncan with me. He free-ranged it over the days I spent painting. He met myriad people, families and dogs who enjoy the park’s fresh new looks (thanks to the brilliant team of volunteers Terry, Lyn, Christobel, John and Martin.) The park has become a meeting place and the mural has become a reason to walk around in circles and chase tails.
Community. It’s all about community. I met so many wonderful people. I witnessed the struggle of a few (the public amenities are their bathroom, their car their bedroom). Such stark contrast to the well dressed littlies who swing carefree, whose mothers meet to picnic and chat (while their sons and daughters let Duncan lick their watermelon unseen by them but my eye strays …)
Then there were the calamitous moments when Trish, arms on hips, came belting out of Heritage House because Duncan had been ’terrorising’ customers. Trish and I are close friends. We still are, I think. Bacon is seductive.
The highlight though was the sunny day when a large group of elderly people enjoyed lunch. One had Duncan on her lap the whole time, her back to me. Their carer came over and commented on the mural, how she would like aged facilities to have murals. I gave her a card. Within minutes she reappeared “There’s someone here who knows you”. It was Bob. Bob and Shirley were my friends over 20 years’ ago when they bred a dachshund I had for a short while. Bob’s eyes were smarting, we hugged. “Come and see Shirley” … I sat on the warm grass in the sun holding her hand, she asked me questions about my life and I about hers. She patted the dog, we joked about dachshunds and how Duncan is relatively normal. Then it was time to say goodbye. Bob walked me back to the mural, “Shirley is 93 now and she has dementia Sam, you could probably tell. But she remembered you.”