This may sound like an uncomfortable scenario but it was far from it as the night before I had parked on a small lane in the shadow of Mount Warning with a church behind me and lush green trees and bushes all around. In addition I had the seats down and was stretched out over five sumptuous sheepskins I’d prepared earlier. I was in Uki, NSW.
I’d arrived the day before to go to a performance in the Uki Community Hall by Oka, a funky, trancy band from the Sunshine Coast with a bass, guitar, drums, keyboard and didgeridoo… and various interludes of flute, mini saxophone and vocals.
The music was powerful and the people moved so naturally free with the rhythm, almost oblivious to what was going on for others so being truly themselves in the moment. The various ecstasies being relished were communicated through faces and bodies radiating in their displays. There was a tallish dark haired girl I watched for a while. She had medium long hair and a black halter neck top; there was also a wide sequence strap hanging down between her shoulders. She almost writhed to the rhythm in a beautiful expression of femininity. I watched her dancing in a world of her own as if she were moonlight personified.
I was out with Brendan, one of my best mates here in Australia for a bush party catch up which we haven’t done for a while. To give you some perspective, this little town’s catch phrase is, “Uki, where the mountains touch the sky.” There is one street through the verdant bush and we are actually in a caldera, a volcanic rim around an ancient volcano. Mt Warning in the centre, also called Wollumbin by the indigenous , is a volcanic plug and the volcanic soils intrinsic in this area have propagated the most amazing vegetation and terrain. As a result, the tiny village literally has a few shops, town hall, a large pub and a few houses. It is, however certainly big enough to be an intermittent Mecca for party nights, talks and markets when required.
So we chatted and ate cake and drank chai and caught up and danced our socks off … actually I suppose we literally did as we were dancing bare foot! It was a brilliant night and afterwards Brendan drove home to the Gold Coast so I wandered through town to my car and with the boot open, I slept safe, a prince in his kingdom yet free to be wandering it.
This morning I awoke to birds singing and water flowing in the distance. After packing up all the bedding which I have down to a fine art, I drove to the general store and returned to the Community Hall. This has now transformed into a small bright Saturday market. I ended up talking to a warm chatty American man, Dennis. He has been in Australia since the mid 1970s and has just celebrated his 66th. He said he likes to do something memorable for each birthday so he can remember that year; for example, this year he went and drove along Route 66 as his anniversary treat. He had some delightful tales and he was the main reason for me deciding to write today.
Dennis met his wife in America at a disco and some how they hooked up. Six months later they were married and the two of them have been married 45 years now. They were both Catholic and getting married was the norm so very soon they had two children. The first child was born autistic. The second child was born autistic. Dennis explained that it was unusual that they should have two children affected in this way in the same family. At the time, it was difficult getting support in America and the methods of diagnosis were still developing so when he saw an advert offering highly subsidised tickets to emigrate to Australia, he decided to take up the offer.
When he first arrived in Australia he was the only BMW supplier for 4 years and apparently it was almost mandatory for a doctor to have one. This resulted in him having to drive all around the country delivering them. On one episode, remembering this was the time of unsealed roads, they were returning with a trade-in vehicle and the windscreen got smashed in transit. They had to drive 4 hours with no windscreen and then get a temporary replacement before the final leg of the trip.
In the 80s he was importing and selling designer kitchens from Germany. This was the time of everything booming and people didn’t seem to care how much money they spent. He said that for one particular customer’s requirements, the freight alone was going to be $25,000, but this didn’t deter the purchase. After a conversation with a client one day regarding new markets, the suggestion of moving to New Zealand to satisfy demand by all the hideaway-millionaires who had retired far from the rest of the world, Dennis decided to move his family again.
During all these adventures, Dennis and Mary, his wife, were brining up two autistic children. They are now aged around 40 and have their own places and the family catch up weekly. He said that after looking after them for 30 years, eventually the government helped in such a way as to take the children off their plate with appropriate caring and support. His major tip was to get people with autism to eat a gluten free diet and have a vitamin regime. He believes that recently he’s seen a marked improvement in their behaviour relating to letting go of anger and this has coincided with the new diets and regime.
Finally his mother, now 87 with her hearing and other age-related illness, will likely need his support over in the US so he’ll be heading back to join her. She sounds like a bit of a hoarder and she chose the perfect industry to satisfy her lust – she was in the antiques business. Dennis described artefacts worthy of Indiana Jones’ collection under the bed or in crates at her place. Boxes of silverware dating back to the 17th centaury, original signed memoirs of famous American Commanders, numerous hand carved walrus tusks and more. Dennis enjoyed reading the handwritten words of the memoirs with a smile realising he was literally holding history in his hands.
His view on life is to get living it NOW so we don’t look back with regrets.
Thank you Dennis – what a lovely adventure you shared. I’ll be in touch.