I always wanted to live in one of those ultra cool share houses, full of ultra cool people with ultra cool things to say and do. Thus my love of The Secret Life of Us in the early 00’s. For a while, I lived with my soul sister and that was loads of fun, but it was also in my late twenties, when I had no money, we were over parties and the wild life and both of us were being screwed by full time work and for me, full time study.
That’s what I loved about Byron Bay. Yes the festival was fun and I bought some great books, heard excellent writers talk and had amzing chance encounters with people like Tim Ferguson… but it was played out against the backdrop of the fabulous house and the even more fabulous collection of writer friends living in it. At night, when it was quiet (yes, I enjoyed several nights of insomnia) the motion of the waves floated up over the scrappy bush along the beachline and up through our window. A relaxing (but apparently not sleep inducing ) symphony, weaving and mixing with the gentle sound of of Jason breathing in the bed on the other side of the room (damn him for sleeping!)
The entire weekend ended up being better than expected. No share house goes without it problems, and yes, we had ours… but in a way, it made the perfect moments even better. You get to see people at their best and worst and in a way, you can only love them more for seeing both sides.
…The shared Tex Mex burrito experience the first afternoon we were there, in the near to perfect hot winter sun at the beach, the shared BBQ on the deck the first night we were there, meeting much missed friends, glasses of bubbles, bottles of beer, Margo’s most fabulous cocktails, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, random encounters with lovely young Penguin editors, morning coffees with people you wish you could enjoy every day of the week, lots and lots and lots of conversations about writing, stories, characters and the imortal “in your pants jokes”. And yes, at the ripe old age of 37 I got to short sheet my first bed.
Perhaps the most humbling experience was missing those who could not be with us – especially Adam Byatt, Laura Meyer and Lily Mulholland, not to mention all our favourite overseas based writers including (for me) my two bestest writing mates Chris Chartrand and Dan Powell as well as Paul Anderson my business partner(who for the last four years has had to put up with drunked phone and text messages while I’ve been at Byron).
On cold, lonely nights I’ll think back to the weekend just gone, and be grateful for the beautiful, generous, funny writing friends I have and try not to pine too much, or too deeply for the next time we’re all brought together again, knowing it will always be bigger and better (perhaps the only time in life?) It’s the heightened experience of living which feeds the soul. And my soul is amply sated.