A little bit of Holland Down Under
In a continuation of the reorganising frenzy that saw me practically catalogue my books according to the Dewey Decimal system, I have lately been tidying up my hard drive. Generally, I use my computer as an expensive word processor and storage device for nearly 600 hours worth of music, but the highlight of this tedious task was revisiting the hundreds of photographs I have taken since I purchased my beloved Macbook, Felix Jr.
For me, photography has been a saving grace. Not only do my images serve as reminder of times past, but a window to my quirky worldview which brings me comfort during times of depression and hopelessness. Moreover, nothing allays my tendency to experience anxiety in foreign places and social situations like being able to hide behind the camera.
Last night I came across a collection of photographs which were begging to be blogged, a record of one of the best days of my life; the day I visited the Clog Barn in Coffs Harbour.
People who have travelled along the east coast of Australia may be familiar with this landmark which is admittedly dwarfed by its more famous mate, the Big Banana. Indeed, anyone who is lucky enough to have spent time on the North Coast during the 1990s would be familiar with its jolly jingle promising “the best fun in Coffs Harbour”, an earworm matched only by the tunes for Bangalow’s Abracadabra,“right on the highway, west of Byron Bay”, and Coffs Harbour Zoo “where they all come up to you” (an institution sadly no longer with us).
The day I visited the Clog Barn was special for me not only for my unique encounter with the culture of the Netherlands. I had just returned from a two-month stay with my beloved Aunt and Uncle in Adelaide, who are second parents to me, a time which was both one of the most rewarding and difficult periods of my life, during which I suffered my first manic symptoms of Bipolar II. This road trip was to be a reunion with my old chum Mr History, my wingman in zany road trips.
Mr History and I share a deep appreciation of the eccentric and the absurd, and we have spent countless hours over the past two years discovering new ‘worlds’: the brazen and bizarre ‘architecture’ of the kit homes and incongruous landscaping of new housing estates encroaching on the beautiful hinterland of the east coast; the forgotten worlds of historic cemeteries; the sights and smells of cattle sales; eclectic country homes; countless colonies of garden gnomes; and best of all, unique cultural icons such as the Clog Barn.
Though a lesser-known attraction on the scale of Australian icons, the Clog Barn belongs in the pantheon of ‘big’ monuments alongside the banana, the merino, the prawn, the pineapple and the countless other eccentric tributes to the diversity of our great land.
The realisation of a dream of Dutch-born Tom Hartsuyker, the holiday park is a celebration of Dutch culture ‘down under’ and features a clog-making workshop, an extraordinarily extensive gift shop, and for refreshments, Big Oma’s Coffee House, specialising in crepes and the ubiquitous Dutch treat poffertjies (Big Oma knows a thing or two about pancake batter!)
The highight of the Clog Barn experience though is the model village. Admittedly, I was already having an emotional day, but I actually fought back tears when I saw the tiny world inhabited by tiny people connected by their tiny model railway; the delight of seeing someone’s passion manifested in such a carefully and laboriously constructed tribute to his cultural heritage was palpable. I will let my photographs speak for themselves.
Meanwhile, Mr History and I will continue to seek out worlds within worlds.