Field Guide to Falling in Love in Tasmania

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  • Ross Stop

    Ross Stop

    I used to skateboard with a young man who had been born in San Bernardino, California, and had since relocated with his mother to Ross. It seemed a long way, not only geographically, but notionally. San Bernardino sprawls in a hot, dry valley basin east of Los Angeles; it is the 100th most populous city in the U.S. Ross is a handsome village in the midlands of Tasmania, occupied by sandstone cottages and other convict-built edifices.

    I never really found out how my mate had ended up in Ross, but I did take the bus down there to visit him a couple of times during my teenage years. And since I have returned many times, like plenty of Tasmanians, en route between Launceston and Hobart.

    Sometimes I do this on the Redline bus (although not often, as it is a rather overpriced service, if I may add my two cents). I look up from my book whenever
    turns off the highway, at Tacky Creek or over the famous bridge at Macquarie River, depending on from which direction we’re coming. Chugging gently into the town, I would hear the bus driver say – although ‘say’ is perhaps too strong a word, as it was more as though he was clearing his throat or perhaps struggling with the effects of strong drink – the words, “Ross stop; this is Ross stop.”

    And at this point, all too often, a lone Japanese woman would step out of the vehicle, and wander off, as if dazed, into Church Street. I marvelled that they could interpret the bus driver’s ‘announcement’, and wondered wonder what these poor individuals were doing, staggering off into the tidy main road, and where now they would go. It was often a bit early for a seat at a public table, so I would presume that these lonely wayfarers were going to the bakery, for a famous dish, such as a scallop pie or vanilla slice.

    I later discovered that the Ross Village Bakery attracted tourists, and particularly those from Japan, for other reasons. The bakery is said to have been the model for the setting of Kiki’s Delivery Service, a popular 1989 anime film. As Chris Norris has shown in an enjoyable thesis titled A Japanese media pilgrimage to a Tasmanian bakery, a ‘cult geography’ has formed around the place, one to which most of us as we rumble through the village are oblivious.

    But we each have own personal geographies. The bakery guestbook reads both “I never forget that I watched a movie in Kiki’s room” and “that was the best pie I’ve ever had”. Here in Ross, I got drunk for the first time,
    and Mitch kissed a girl I adored, the day she got her braces taken off. Many years later I rummaged through the antiques store and bought The Australian Ugliness and a percolator.

    Countless times, I have gone to look at the sandstone bridge with its “hallucinatory composition of Celtic carved motifs and gargoyle-like human faces”, including one of a personality from history to whom I’ve devoted far too many hours of study.

    More importantly, John Helder Wedge, a surveyor in Van Diemen’s Land in the days when it took some courage to traverse this island, and who came and went through this town many times over, noted in his diary in the 1830s that on one occasion, on his way here, that he “rode in a jaunting-cart, sitting opposite the lovely Miss Watts”.


    Here is a personal geography of the Midlands Highway.
    And here is the story of the Man O' Ross Hotel.

    This is the bloke on the bridge, to whom I've devoted too much time.

  • Jack Badcock's Moment of Glory

    Jack Badcock's Moment of Glory

    As a teenager, my best mate lived in the town of Westbury. In his paddock, in summer, we strung up a long white net to act as the wicketkeeper, and played one-on-one for hours on end. One morning I scored 249 from 252 balls. My poor mate was working hard.

    These giant stumps commemorate the rich history of cricket in the town of Westbury, although my exploits in the back paddock in Adelaide St. are not recorded. Instead, the honours go to Clayvel Lindsay Badcock – better known as ‘Jack’.

    Born in 1914 in the nearby hamlet of Exton, Jack Badcock was the descendant of Cornish free settlers who had come to Van Diemen’s Land almost a century earlier as agriculturalists. Jack began playing for his state at the age of just 15. The bushy-eyebrowed batsman flashed the blade for Tasmania for several seasons, before moving to South Australia, taking up a job as a furniture salesman.

    In 1936, Badcock was called up to the Test team to take on England. His first games were poor; dropped, he recovered his form in the domestic league, and was brought up to play against the old enemy once more.

    It was the Fifth and final Test of the Ashes series, February 1937. The series was levelled 2-2. Jack Badcock, despite his brilliant statistics in the national competition, had only failed at Test level. But in this decisive encounter, he rose to the occasion: scoring 118, he became the first Tasmanian to score a Test century.

    Australia won the match, and the series.

    It would be great to paint Badcock as an underdog hero who eked out a win for his country, but truth be told, Australia smashed England in that Fifth Test. When Badcock stepped onto the wicket, Don Bradman had Australia well and truly in front. Badcock was one of the three century-makers, and Australia’s bowlers made short work of the Poms.

    Badcock’s 1938 tour of England was equally insipid, and he never played again. While he averaged more than 50 in the domestic competition, in his seven Tests, he scored 160 runs, at an average of 14.54. 118 of his runs, had of course, come in one innings.

    Nevertheless, he got to bat with the Don, one of Australia’s greats. Bradman described Badcock as “a lovable and completely unspoiled personality.” Sciatica getting the best of him, Jack Badcock retired from the game and returned to his family’s farm in Exton, having gone a long way for a simple Tassie lad.


     

    Westbury has also had connections with the famous Nant rebels.