The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

I hear that train a’comin’

The Maldon Steam TrainI spent Melbourne Cup Weekend, the official start of spring in these here parts, at the amazing event that is the Maldon Folk Festival. It was my third time performing there. It’s been going for more than 30 years. Around 4 to 5000 people come into this beautiful 19th century village in the goldfields of Central Victoria to hear and play folk music. And by folk music I mean music created by ordinary people, not marketing companies and corporations. All kinds of music, styles, players, ages – each with their own preferences and prejudices.

They come to relax and chill out from the weary blues of the humdrum workaday world. They camp out, catch up with friends and acquaintances. Do a slow crawl around the pubs, cafes, venues and sessions. It can take two hours to walk down the main street, catching up with people you know, listening or participating in impromptu sessions along the sidewalk. Old-timey, dance hall music, bluegrass, blues, traditional Celtic music with whistles and accordions, Australian music, world music. Every one has a good time, especially when the spring sun shines down upon the town as it did this weekend.

These folk enthusiasts become a community for three days – that’s the easy part – it’s being a community the rest of the days that’s more problematic. But for those three days, people are polite, friendly, and strangers say hello to each other. All the usual social divisions and ranks are irrelevant. You can find yourself sharing a fine bottle of Irish whiskey with total strangers and singing Irish and Country ballads until the wee small hours. The mild-mannered fellow who sings lovely songs and plays guitar spends his work days wearing a suit and tie in an office, paying the bills, and looking forward to the next music festival. People living to hear and play music. It’s a shared passion and commitment. And all run by volunteers from within and out of town. Organisation, catering, first-aid, security – police, SES, the CWA, the Shire, and local schools are all involved. Makes you proud to be a member of the human race. The usual concerns of the world seem way off in the distance, even if they are often topics for song.

In my travels at Maldon I was trying not to mention politics, although the subject of John Howard came up a few times. The response was always one of simmering resentment and anger, tempered with the bitter frustration of despair. Of course this may be well what you’d expect from people who go to folk music festivals – some of them even used to be hippies. But people are not impressed with the current state of play.

Driving down to Geelong through this beautiful Australian countryside you can’t help but notice the rural culture, its history of struggle and collective endeavour evidenced by numerous small communities and old towns. It makes me appreciate a little more the characters I have come to know in this part of the world. Hard-working, straight-talking, big-hearted battlers – usually just managing to scratch a living. But they are tough and determined by and large, with a generous sense of humour – characteristics which you need to survive out here.

The signs of the drought are everywhere. Many people who live here eke some kind of living from the land, trying to do the right thing, contribute to their community – creating a little lifeboat to sail the tempestuous sea of existence. I was listening to Dave Steel’s new album on the way home, and like he sings ‘if the rain won’t fall, the river won’t flow’. We’re heading for a tough time this summer with everything drying up.

Looking at all these properties out here – all those trying to make a living from the land are going to do it hard without water. This will exacerbate the regional economic downturn, which in turn will have a depressing effect on the rest of the economy.

I sense that people are thinking it’s time for change. I certainly hope so.

Filed under: Environment, Music, Politics

One Response

  1. […] year ago, on returning from the Maldon Folk Festival I wrote a post called I Hear that train ‘a comin’ and observed: In my travels at Maldon I was trying not to mention politics, although the subject of […]

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

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