A warm spring evening in Hobart. It’s been a long two days, delivering pre-disaster-season briefings with Julie to a lively bunch of Tasmanian staff and volunteers. We finish a little earlier than expected and I dump the laptop and participant evaluation sheets, change clothes and head out into the late afternoon sunshine.
The Radiance of the Seas cruise ship has dominated the waterfront since we watched her dock at eight this morning. I stroll past, photographing the bulk of her, wanting to board just to have a look around, never to be a passenger.
Past Mures and the moored fish and chip shops at Franklin Wharf, past our favourite Fish Frenzy (The Frenzy of the Fish, as Julie calls it), a fire alarm spilling post-work drinkers, waitresses and short-order cooks out onto the pavement in good-natured bewilderment.
I walk behind three young women, dressed to the nines. One has the dangerously short red lycra dress and the substantial thighs I myself had in my early twenties. The look didn’t look great on me either. Her friend is stick-thin: she is having trouble keeping her tiny tight skirt covering her barely-existent behind. The one in the middle has a few more pounds on her, and a few more acres of fabric. Despite everything, she looks better than the other two who are just trying too hard.
Aurora Australis, the Australian Antarctic Division’s exploration ship has gone south for the summer, leaving a gaping hole at the dock beside Shed Number One on Prince’s Wharf. I head down Castray Esplanade, past the beautiful homes once owned by harbourmasters and ships’ captains. I detour briefly through Prince’ Park and continue on through the historical Battery Point area. The sandstone houses and single-storey artisan cottages transport me back to Dalkey, to Sandymount, to Malahide, to Wicklow Town. These few nineteenth-century streets are part of the reason I love Hobart so well – it reminds me of home.
As I pass the Franklin Dock the Radiance of the Seas gives three long blasts of the ship’s horn. Her engines are going astern, and she is off to the next port. I stand with a young family and a handful of tourists as the mammoth cruise ship floats imperceptiby away from the dock. The captain gives another three blasts of the horn, then another, and finally she is off. I continue along the waterfront towards the Henry Jones Art Hotel, passing lobster fishing boats, back to my hotel to freshen up.
Later I retrace my steps through even larger throngs of people out for the evening. The HoTown crowds are out in force, the balmy evening producing even shorter skirts on the girls and even fancier shirts on the boys. I am stopped by a gang of six women looking for a good place to eat. It’s the third time in twenty-four hours I have been stopped on the street in Hobart and asked for a restaurant recommendation. Luckily, I have plenty of opinions. Salamanca Place is buzzing as I stroll past, and I opt for Ciuccio’s, a frequent haunt of mine and a perfect place for this early summer’s evening.
A couple of glasses of McLaren Vale shiraz and one garlic chill prawn pizza later, I brave the crowds once more. It is after nine at night, not quite dark and still over twenty degrees – not at all typical Hobart November weather. The atmosphere is party-like and the crowds belie the fact that is merely a Wednesday night. It feels more like Christmas Eve.
I wend my way back along the waterfront to my hotel room, feeling lucky that I can visit this town as often as I can and that I am almost always blessed with perfect weather when I do.