Four Weddings And A Dog Show

It’s funny how the joy of the open road can fade so quickly. Yesterday was just about perfect even though the weather wasn’t. The Great Ocean Road had met every expectation and even though the weather wasn’t great, the scenery was stunning. I’d found a quaint small hotel in Apollo Bay with a gorgeous fish restaurant and after an evening stroll along the beach, enjoyed a beautiful meal and a glass of wine looking over the bay silently toasting to the future. Life couldn’t get much better, I thought. (Life didn’t get better, in fact it got much worse but I wasn’t to know that then.)
It’s the year 2000. I’d just completed my MBA and with a job already lined up, I’d headed off to Australia. Later in the week, I’d drive from Melbourne to Sydney via the Victorian Alps in time to get there for my friends’ daughter’s birthday party, then the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics with Kylie Minogue, a few days of sport and some serious photography in a city I loved from my first visit six years previous. It felt like nothing could go wrong.
Twenty four hours later, my mood had changed. I’m in the middle of the Southern Grampians in Victoria. There’s nothing out here. The clue was in the name; it always is. It’s just like the Grampians at home. It’s nice enough, but there’s only so much green and sheep a man can take and I have been driving for hours. I’ve underestimated the distances once again. It’s dark and I’m running low on petrol. I don’t think I’ve seen another car for about an hour now and travelling at night isn’t the greatest idea in a small car. Most vehicles out here are pickups or serious 4X4s and they need to be. Hitting a kangaroo at night tends to be a messy affair and, as cute as they look, kangaroos didn’t have the benefit of the Green Cross Code man telling them to look right, left then right again as they were growing up. I slow down to conserve fuel and turn the headlights onto full beam. There’s no phone or radio signal out here and it really does feel a lonely place.
After about another half hour or so and several kangaroo carcasses later, I see lights from a town in the distance. It doesn’t look that big but it’ll have to do. There’s a sign as I drive in saying that it’s the ‘Wool Capital of The World’. This doesn’t auger well. Anything with sheep isn’t a good sign.
I drive round for a while getting my bearings. This is a rough place. I know these types of place. I grew up in one. There’s also a distinct shortage of hotels in this place and an even more distinct shortage of vacancies. There’s one hotel left and that looks heaving too. I park up and head inside.
‘Jeez mate, it’s Saturday night. We’ve got four weddings and a dog show on tonight. Everyone’s in town.’
I plead my case. The receptionist looks at me as though I have come from another planet. I feel the same.
‘Look mate, there’s a room at the back…’
‘I’ll take it’. I say just a little too quickly.
The room is at the back of the hotel. When I say a room, it’s more of a cupboard really. Everything has seen better days. The carpet looks like it’s designed to give people a migraine, full of purple and yellow swirls. There’s a fridge that probably came from America in the forties. But there’s a bed and the door locks. It’ll do.
‘Look mate, we’re not doing food tonight, there’s four wedd…’
‘Four weddings and a dog show, right. I’ll find something in town.’
I head downtown. A drunk is being thrown out of a pub. Every one else looks drunk and several people have broken limbs. Maybe I’ll skip the pubs tonight? I wander down the high street. There’s a Chinese open and there’s nothing else. Chinese it is then. The meal is forgettable, the fight less so. I’m still not sure why sheep encourage such violence but there’s a full on scrap here. I leave some notes on the table and leave. It’s not a tip, more a donation towards some new furniture. The hotel is buzzing, the dogs are barking and there’s an argument going on in the bar. I pass on the nightcap too.
The room is freezing now. There’s only one plug so it’s an easy choice to unplug the fridge which is making a noise like a washing machine and plug in the electric heater (probably least checked for electrical safety in 1963). The dogs are still howling, not much chance of sleep. I look out of the window onto a neighbouring cemetery, as the shouting from downstairs continues. Last night the ocean, tonight the dead.
I slept, but on a £/minute sleep it was probably one of the most expensive stays I’d made in any hotel. In the morning I picked my way towards reception through the bottles and cans strewn around the floor.
‘Sorry it’s a bit of a mess, mate. It just kind of kicked off. We had four wedd…’
‘Four weddings and a dog show, I know.’
‘Yeah, did you have a good stay?’
‘It was an experience, definitely an experience.’ I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I paid up and headed for the door.
‘Come back and see us soon, mate!’ shouts the receptionist.
‘Yeah, I’ll bring my sheepdog next time.’ I reply not bothering to look back.
I pulled out of the wool capital of the world and headed back for the city. It felt like I was heading in the right direction.


About Peter Domican
Marketer and change professional. Writer and photographer.

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