God’s Waiting Room
By eight thirty on any morning, the residents of this little seaside of Kiama, two and a half hours by train south of Sydney, who can walk, are out in the bright sunshine.They walk alone, sometimes in twos, a few with purpose, most with exaggerated arm movements. Otherwise they wander aimlessly across the lush green sports fields, paths that zigzag over the headlands capped with Norfolk Island Pines, around the several bays, up to the lighthouse and along the beaches. Those who dont walk, gather and natter in groups at the ATM, sit outside at the Pie Shop, and numerous coffee shops on Terralong Street, Kiama’s ‘cosmopolitan’ high street. Here the shops have a hint of thrift about them. Window dressing is checking how your sarong looks with sling-backs in a shop window; ‘cosmopolitan’ because every other shop is an Asian take-away. There’s a heavy hint of Brit about the place; they’re almost exclusively ‘flat white’ like the coffee.
I was told by an old stager that there’s a little place down the coast that’s known as ‘God’s Waiting Room’, but I suspect he’s talking about Kiama. The biggest development in town is an imposing health centre just back from the beach. There’s every possible ‘ology’ available and Bingo twice a week. There can’t be many places as lovely as this to while away final days. The early morning scattered walking reminds me of birds circling before migration.
I chatted to Liam, Manager of the Kiama Shed Project while a group of 4 men watched another man plane a piece of wood clearly imparting a sense of manly well-being and providing a place to retreat from loneliness and domestic routine.
Im being unfair…
Kiama is a beautiful little town; a little nostalgic with a lacy edge of promise. How can it go wrong with a breathtaking coastal walks, four sandy coves, one black, two rock pools for those who like to swim, one in a spectacular location close to the BlowHole and the lighthouse that looks perfectly natural. The busy little fishing harbour lands excellent fish and offers deep sea fishing experiences; the sea bream fish and chips at the restaurant/takeaway on the quay was as good as it gets.
The Patrolled Surf Beach is choice of young men who might have attended the local primary school behind the Lifesaving centre where children runaround energetically in maroon floppy hats chasing balls on the green field by the beach, with an eye on the brand new secondary school high in the hills behind the town, offering the ‘best in Comprehensive Education’. There’s no swimming or golden sand at Black Beach. Other more gentle beaches are dotted with a few locals, otherwise empty now schools are back. Ladies in flimsy floral dresses can be seen in numbers on Terralong Street walking sometimes with bandy-legged consorts enjoying coffee and ice cream, topping up their tan; their skin already as tough as old boots.
Up on the dramatic promontories, public land is close cropped, paths neatly chiseled and helpfully signed for dog walkers and lovers of fauna and flora. Several Norfolk Pine tree topped Promontories nose out into the ocean and provide spectacular views for the ‘haves’ in their horizontal glass and block eyries muscling the clapboard, tin roofed, extended verandas of homes of earlier arrivals. Pretty little cabins in lush planted shady heights can be rented for by the week year round at an extortionate price; theres more than one kind of high roller in town. It’s a place to do nothing in.
For excitement there are two blow holes out on the rocky reaches of Lighthouse Point, which made me jump the first time I heard it. A small group of Chinese visitors were unmoved. The jester who dives into the hole and gets blown skyward was away on his holidays in New Zealand. This is a proud little town, well managed and spotlessly clean: a smart resort attracts smart people with time on their hands.
Nothing much happens in Kiama. Headlines in the local paper shows a picture of Ivy Burgess (93) who won her first ever ‘ribbon’ at the 165th Kiama Show this year. She entered her three-piece infant set made for her Great Grandson. ‘This is the first time I’ve won anything!’
Corralled in a circular picket fence in the deep shade of the overhead railway track I found a curious remembrance. George Weighman, one of 4 ill-fated leaders of the Pentrich Revolution in London in 1817 is remembered for his part in encouraging uprising in England against the extravagant war taxes needed to shore up the Napoleonic Wars. He was found guilty and sentenced to hanging later commuted to transported for life. He settled in Kiama and by all accounts was a model citizen and died in 1865 aged 68. I bet a firebrand like George would have been a leading light in The Shed Project.
The morning I left to return to Sydney I was woken by the blood curdling screech of big black birds in a pine nearby, for all the world sounding like children being tortured in their beds. While i’m here I wish to note that birds on this continent do not sing, but hurl insults. However, the sun was shining brightly, rollers crashed and swept up the beaches and the good people of Kiama walked the headlands on neat sweeping pathways of this earthly paradise.