The roar of the traffic on the six-lane highway, leaving Melbourne, was deafening. Wild drivers weaving wantonly across the lanes. Madness! Their car was a throbbing part of this mayhem, the Sat-nav piped out instructions of where to turn and when, these instructions were sometimes missed, drowned out by the excited chatter of the ladies in the car, then a redirection would be ordered and highlighted on the screen. Mod-cons, how different from having to stop and consult the Melways.
The farther west they travelled the traffic lessened, after the Geelong turn-off it was quite pleasant to pass through small towns with beautiful old buildings lining wide streets, with central parks for locals and travelers to admire. Time seemed to slow. Stops for coffee and lunch were positively delightful, no hustle and bustle, the city left far behind, forgotten.
The trip had been arranged by The Watercolour Society of Victoria, the three ladies traveling and staying together were members thrown together by their enthusiasm for painting, they got along well and the three days stretched ahead full of promise. After an unusually wet spring the weather forecast promised sunshine and to top it off a Blood moon.
Port Fairy is a fishing port, its fine buildings testament to the wealthy trades in gold and wool during the last centuries. Now it is the host of a folk festival once a year and looking around, the obvious retreat of people who can afford a nice holiday home in a peaceful spot.
The first day of painting saw twenty painters selecting prime spots along the gentle, sheltered river, to take up the challenge that boats of all sizes presented. The backdrop of houses dipping their toes into the water, and the magnificent Norfolk pines made the compositions daunting for some, while others reveled in the vibrant environment.
Each night the ‘artists’ met for dinner and postmortems on their daily efforts.
The second day saw many of us in town, sketching and painting the many enticing scenes. Many locals stopped to chat, out of season visitors also enjoyed watching as we attempted our masterpieces. I should perhaps have said, we as a group are older, never old. Five of us were busy on the corner near the Old Post Office, when a very large fit man approached. He was wearing a Kakhi T-shirt with Afghanistan on it and look every inch a young veteran.
“Would you like to come and paint at my place?” he asked, “I have a property out of town. I’m renovating it to host weddings, the gardens are magnificent.”
One of our group asked if he was a ‘Mass Murderer’ to which he gave no answer. He persuaded us to meet there on the way home to the city.
The property was indeed magnificent, gardens in full bloom, beds of roses and many garden rooms to explore. He told us he had been a prison guard and a soldier, he had left the city behind and had thrown himself into this project. His dog was as huge as he and would certainly scare off any intruders. He provided us with bottled water and wandered around, interested in our work.
One of our members finished a beautiful painting of the house, and when our host admired it, said at once, “It’s for you. Thank you for your hospitality.”
I looked up at the big, tough guy and saw tears roll down his cheeks.