“Do you want a lift over town?” is one of the phrases most commonly used by my family in Lismore. Even though we live only a few hundred metres from the main shopping centre, there’s a level of confusion, even suspicion when I tell members of my family, “No it’s okay, I’ll walk”.
In Sydney, every day I walk several kilometres to and from work and the shops. For me, it’s nothing to walk those distances, and to not even think about it, unless of course it’s raining.
But in Lismore, like many country towns, where public transport is in short supply, the car is king. You get in the car, you drive to town, and even then, when you’re in town, if you need to go to another shop around the corner, you get back in your car, and you drive again. It’s one of the contributing factors to higher levels of obesity in regional areas, I’m sure.
The other day I accepted the offer of a lift to Lismore Shopping Square, but said I’d be walking home. It’s about two kilometres from my house, and an easy walk. I was given those confused, suspicious looks again.
As well as being able to help save the planet, and get a little exercise, it was also a wonderful opportunity for me to take a walk around town and take a close look at the places of my childhood with a viewpoint you just don’t see from car window.
As I walked back from the shopping square, I walked past my old high school tennis courts. They’re named after the one set of traffic lights which Lismore had and which existed for a decade or so nearby. There was much excitement in the late 70s when they were introduced, though they were eventually replaced by the roundabout, Lismore’s great contribution to road transport infrastructure in NSW. The courts don’t appear to have changed much in the last thirty years.
I also walked past the Gollan Hotel. Famously, the Queen stayed there on her visit to Australia in 1954. It’s part of local folklore the Queen was spotted drinking a beer on the hotel balcony, and that her visit “caused the big flood of 1954”. A friend of mine’s uncle and aunt owned the hotel at the time, and he claims to have in his posession the pillows from the Royal Bed. “The stories they could tell”, he would often say. As I walked past the Gollan, I noticed they’ve begun to commemorate this visit with a window display of photographs, which was lovely to look at.
And then I wandered down the street and noticed Shoppe 117, once just a tiny little giftware store had expanded dramatically. Their sign, “Pretty to look at, pleasant to hold, but if you should drop it consider it sold”, haunted me as a child as I looked their for mother’s day presents, and remains in my mind thirty years later.
I would never have noticed these things if I’d travel to town by car.