Hey, hi, from Hay High, and apologies for that. I think you'll agree that it had to be done.
It’s week three of the Outback Story Generator and here I am in the town of Hay.
Hay is a much smaller town than Griffith, and it really is Legit Outback. This much became clear on my first night in town, when I got to attend a country music festival 30km out of town in a little old pub called One Tree.
Claire (Creative Producer of Outback Theatre for Young People) booked us some spots on a council shuttle out to One Tree and we sat back and watched ourselves being flung down a highway of bare open spaces. One straggly tree every few hundred metres, but otherwise: empty.
We set up camp chairs on the grass and watched the sun slowly sink down the horizon as we were entertained by famous country music stars. I give it an 11 out of 10.
And speaking of sunsets. Well, until you’ve seen a sunset in Hay, you haven’t really seen a sunset. They are epic and beautiful here, with flat ground stretching on forever, orange and pink and purple flashing through tufts of white cloud, and an orchestra of flies to make sure you don’t get too relaxed.
Hay is a small enough town to also be really friendly. You can’t walk down main street without sharing a greeting and a little chat. When you go to a café to order a coffee, you also order a conversation about what brings you to town. It’s not nosiness: it’s interest.
For example, there's something very funny about the school students all knowing which cottage I'm staying in because my boss's dog is out the front, and they already have an inventory of the pre-existing black labradors in town. It couldn't be more different to the level of anonymity I've been accustomed to in large cities, where you're practically invisible in your day-to-day routine.
I can already see the challenges of living in a small town – there are no big supermarkets and chain restaurants that you get used to having in a city, you can’t dash out for an emergency grocery visit after 6pm, and the hot dry air likes to remind you that you’re many hours away from the ocean.
However, these are pretty minor deals in light of some of the sunsets I’ve seen. Similarly, when you’re soaking up rays in Hay's (free-entry) Olympic-sized swimming pool, or sharing a yarn with the ladies from Havachat Café, or cramming in knowledge in one of Hay’s five museums, it’s hard to want to be anywhere else.
And let’s not forget the busy and exciting pace of my work with Hay Memorial High School, and the welcome I’ve received from staff and students.
From story writing with Year 10s for the Outback Story Hub, to dramatic writing skills with the Year 9s, to devising and drama games with Years 7&8, my first week at Hay High has kept this city-slicker busy and excited.
Hay might be a small town, but so far, the pace is cracking.