I Love Lismore.
I love Lismore. Bastion of “arcades” – places your grandmother would take you to before she too embraced the first “Mall”. Every Christmas, I stay with my parents who live in a nearby town and my visit to Lismore has become a cherished annual ritual. An unhurried parade of ambling country types, hippies young and old, funny old art-deco pubs, antique book and bric-a-brac stores and green grocers that don’t seem to have changed their colourful signage since 1967, this classic country town of Northern New South Wales draws me like a magnet. Indeed, for some extra reason I’ll put my finger on some day, I just feel Good there.
On the rainy morning of Christmas Eve, the arcades, cafés and bookshops of noble Lismore were lively. I was there with me old Dad, bless ’im, and asked if we could visit my annual favourite, The Mecca Café. Which was there before there WERE cafés in Australia. Dad said fine but suggested we go to the place next door whose excellent coffee he had recently discovered: Just Grounds. Nice name. Sitting at an outside table, a young girl played the Irish lyre for us – a Celtic harp. Which is nice as early Lismore was populated by the Irish, and that’s me Dad. After our coffees, we did a runner, rounded a corner to the most wondrously-smelling shop in the world, Caddies coffee, where, luckily, Dad has credit. While he ordered packs of their legendary stuff, I, as every year, just stood there and sniffed, and eyed the fudges.
Our business concluded, we strolled on to Lismore’s Book Warehouse – another yearly ritual of mine – where I was poised to do my Christmas shopping for Dad. I found the book he was hankering for, The Making of Modern Australia by William McInnes and, just before we could do our second runner for the day, a nice woman asked me if she could help. I thanked her, saying I’d found my father’s Christmas pressie and, awkwardly, explained I was actually just checking in the Biography section on the remotest off-chance that my own book might be in stock, though not expecting it would be. She said, and I quote, “Who are you?” I gave her my name and she instantly responded, Oh, Goodbye Crackernight? Oh yes, it had originally been in the Biography section of the store but had since been in the Australiana section as it had really struck a chord with local readers as a portrait of Australian life. After the paramedics had revived me, the lady said I should let her know in advance when I would next be up with my folks as the local library put on really excellent author events, do all the necessary publicity and Book Warehouse would bring my books to sell. (!)
I was soundly thrilled and amazed that this person, with her exposure to an unending procession of books, not only knew mine but, as she made clear, had read and enjoyed it. She even took me out the back to meet the manager and offered me a piece of cake. Such an utterly unexpected happening, I could not have wished for a nicer Christmas present.
I love Lismore.
Happy New Year to All
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