my cowra experience

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

I love country towns. I love them for the contrasts - for the surprises and beauty they have in store. And my recent trip to Cowra was no exception.

Travelling 2.5 hours north of Canberra to this large country town for an International Women's Day event and school visits was a real experience and somewhat of an eye-opener. It's not that I expected everyone to be trudging around in their mud-caked gumboots (though I do believe that also happens!) - it's just that I perhaps expected them to be a little less... well... cityfied.

Having only made little snippety visits to country towns in the past, it was really eye-opening to spend a few days immersed in the local scene. And what I saw and learned is that there is no great division between the country mice and the city mice. Sure, we talked about sheep and cattle and boarding schools. And sure, Cowra residents miss out on a hell of lot (no local bookstore is a shocking case in point) but my goodness - country mice enjoy many lifestyle and event pleasures city mice can only dream of.

My Cowra experience began with a cup of tea at a local café with event organiser extraordinaire Kylie Wood - who told me her humble little event had blown out to largeish proportions. She was relaxed and excited yet a little nervous about the numbers that might show up.

After checking into the Country Gardens Motel, which is run by the lovely Thelma and was an absolute joy to stay at - I went out to dinner at the local Imperial Hotel with some of the local gals and their husbands - many of whom are involved with an Arts Committee that brings sensational events to Cowra - like a recent opera shindig.

Far from dining with reserved country mice who live in haystacks, I had the pleasure of dining with some super chic, highly intelligent, very worldly dinner guests who live in beautiful homes and on amazing farms, and who made me laugh and made me think.

There was our gorgeous host Kylie and her husband - a blonde Donny Osmond with a megawatt smile. There was Jackie O and her husband Lance Armstrong. There was Twiggy with her mountain husband Paul Bunyan (whose almost finished his thesis). And there was Lady Di and her business-shirt-attired Gordon Gecko. Lastly, there was John Wayne - a divine gay farmer with a killer tan.

It was amazing to hear about their lives, their work, their opinion.... and some pretty astounding coincidences made for some interesting conversation. Fascinating stuff.

I particularly loved it when John Wayne said to me "So, who are you, anyway?"

Precisely. And the reason I was so flattered to be invited to this wonderful weekend.

After a delicious dinner and lots of laughs, the coup de grâce of the evening was when restaurant owner Tommy - a gorgeously flamboyant Queen (who puts the class into Drag) - took us for a sneak peek at his illustrious boudoir on the top floor of the hotel. My oh my - Vogue Living, you need to give him a call. Stunning. And yet another grand country surprise.

On Day Two, after a relatively late night, Cowra dawned bright and warm. I headed out to the spectacular Mulligan's Vineyard, just a few kms west of town - to the IWD event venue. Held in their long wine bunker, Kylie and her team had already set up rows and rows of retro blue chairs and lined the walls with lashings of ladies-who-lunch high tea style treats, goodie bags and IWD information. Talk about stunning.

I set up my book table, met the truly lovely vineyard owners Emma and Andrew, then before we knew it, the women started pouring in - and pouring in - until there was standing room only... a really astounding and inspiring turn-out of women from all over Cowra and surrounds.

Kylie Wood made a heartfelt intro about her connection with the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia.

Then it was my turn - I spoke for about 40 minutes on how important it is for women to follow their hearts in life, no matter their dream, no matter the obstacles.

It was such a thrill to see such a diversity of women turn up at the event - Kylie had hoped to attract around 50 women, but there were well over 100 in the end. What a fantastic turn out for such an important women's event.

When I was done, the intensely soulful and talented Nerida Cuddy sang a superb song she had written just for the event, whilst plucking at her banjo. Talk about moving.

Also moving was meeting so many women who lined up to have a book signed - and tell me a little bit about themselves and their dreams. Several women had been so inspired by the event, their eyes were shining with a quiet ambition... I knew some wheels were certainly turning! and it's so exciting to think about the wonderful possibility these women are creating with their lives.

A huge thank you to Kylie and all her 'helpers' for such an incredible experience - and to everyone who turned up. It was an overwhelming weekend and one I'll never forget.

Coming soon - a post on my school visit experience.


Megan Blandford said...

Looks like a wonderful event!

No bookstore though? Thank goodness for online shopping!

Nerida Cuddy said...

I agree - we use online shopping A LOT!! But we do have lots of brilliant local places that more than make up for the few things that are missing!
Tania, it was great to have you in the central west, just adding more spark to a beautiful day, and we certainly look forward to seeing you here again...
Nerida Cuddy

Rosalind said...

Nerida is my cousin Aly's friend! Small world. Gorgeous venue x

Tania McCartney said...

Spookines!!! She is amazing. And you should see this vineyard - stunning, like walking through Tuscany in rural NSW!

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