The sleepy holiday village and her glad rags

Byron Bay, NSW, AustraliaEnvy is a happy companion of mine on holiday. Waitresses in restaurants, shopkeepers selling postcards, receptionists telling you the same thing they told the previous guest; “yes, we are lucky with the weather here”. They’re not working, they’re just passing time on their eternal holiday.

Byron Bay is one of those towns that leaves you wondering what happy misfortune you need to experience to be sentenced to life here.

The cool, azure water is blessed with such transparent honesty it seems impolite to refuse her invitation to refresh your senses. And the lush, rolling hills surrounding the coast give you a sense that she wants you to enjoy the experience from every possible angle.

Yet, amongst this relaxed spirit, there’s a cheekiness that just doesn’t quite agree with her happy disposition, like a little black dress hiding in a closet full of yoga pants.

It comes out to play on weekends, destroying the peaceful atmosphere that’s worked hard to calm the many frayed suburban nerves seeking solace from the city.

Byron Bay

As the sun begins to wane on a Friday afternoon a flood of noise begins to seep into town; buskers crowd every corner and visitors unpack the chaotic and boisterous lives they’d shoved into their suitcases alongside their Ray Ban sunglasses and Element boardshorts.

For those of us here before the outbreak, there’s a sense that Byron would rather be at home in her yoga pants than accommodating carelessly discarded beer bottles and food wrappers all over the beach.

Never-the-less, she offers her hospitality gracefully and the locals manage to hide their winces behind well maintained smiles.

The cowboy and the bench

In a small coastal town, in northern NSW, that long ago surrendered its identity to a parade of homeware and genuine antique stores catering to the tidal flow of tourists escaping sand and sunscreen, a cowboy sat on a bench.

He wore a silver suit with a dagger of red hanging around his neck that clashed politely with purple socks. On his feet, two-tone shoes hailed back to a time when Al Capone patrolled the silver screen. Finishing off the outfit was a white cowboy hat from a distant prairie and silver mirrored sunglasses that perfectly accented his shoulder-length hair.

His handle-bar mustache dripped low, beyond his chin, and his white sleeve cuffs were crisp and standing to attention while a kaleidoscope of jewels glittered on every finger.

No one had noticed, but he hadn’t moved for almost 30 minutes. Even the wind dared not disturb a brittle whisker. His feet were anchored to the pavement and his hands rested calmly on his knees; his right hand poised to take up the pen he’d been furiously scribbling with before he fell into his silent contemplation.

The cowboy showed a commitment to posture and silence, grooming and fashionable flair, that left a smile bubbling on my lips all afternoon.