Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Shop

The shop at the headland (now appropriately called "Headland Cafe") has not changed much at all since I saw it first as a little girl, and yet it is entirely different. When I was 7 it was owned and run by Mrs Jones. George (he was never called Mr Jones and she was never called... I don't even know her full name) drove the ute into Nambucca and Urunga to get the supplies, delivered the milk and papers, big blocks of ice to those who were camping and had no electricity, and I think even the mail for a long time, but he never set foot in the shop. He wasn't allowed or trusted by Mrs Jones. Or at least that's the way I remember it.

Last weekend I was there again. I have visited it regularly ever since that first day. This time I ordered the chargrilled vegetable turkish which is my favourite thing on the menu and in my opinion, hard to beat even in more sophisticated environments. (They got the order wrong again and I got the veggie burger - but that's OK; it's nice too.) While I was waiting I was again looking at the old photos of Mrs Jones, the shop and 'clientele' that could have been me (but I don't think my swimmers looked like the ones on the girl in the photo, so it probably isn't), I suggested to the 'shop keeper' (I have to call her that because that was Mrs Jones' title, and it seems only proper) that she sell 'Mrs Jones' postcards. She laughed and said that would be a funny thing to do. I said I'd buy them. I would. Every time I went there. I'd buy them.

It is an indication of how Mrs Jones affected the residents of Valla Beach, temporary and permanent, that her photos are hanging in the shop she last was in herself, what, I'm guessing 20 years ago or more. She was the glue of the community. Two-pack epoxy strength glue! When I was 7 there were 20 permanent residents in the village, but many more houses as it was the favoured destination for holidays for the families of inland towns. Mrs Jones had a key to just about every house. With George as her eyes (she was ALWAYS in the shop) she 'kept an eye on' each home. She knew who was where and why. In the holidays the sides of all the roads down to the beach would fill up with tents and people. George drove around to each tent and house several times a day. But it was Mrs Jones who was in charge. She pulled the strings and George made it happen.

In the shop she sold the best cheese, a huge wheel of cheddar wrapped in cheesecloth. Even in those days that was unusual as plastic wrapped processed cheese was the norm. She had one packet of everything on the shelves. I guess she got George to replace them when they finally sold. Except the tins, she would have 3 or 4 tins, each one so old the can was well and truly rusted. The packets were old too. I remember Rice Bubbles that had the texture of marshmallows. She had a fantastic collection of lollies in huge old jars. Her musk sticks are still the best I've ever tasted, so stale that they were astonishingly crunchy. I loved them!

She had hints for everything. I still remember her telling me how she came to have such beautiful skin. (I don't think a 13 year old can really appreciate how beautiful an 'old ladies' skin can be, but I listened anyway, you always listened to Mrs Jones.) She said she put rolled oats in her bath water and wiped metholated spirits on her face after washing it. I stuck to both these suggestions religiously, for a while anyway. Such was the power of Mrs Jones words.

I will still visit the shop. We always just called it 'the shop' and I always still will. The food is fabulous and fresh now, but somehow I still feel sentimental thinking about those ridiculously crunchy musk sticks.

I did this sketch in my rebound sketchbook The Function of Voluntary Muscles. The right hand page is one of the original book pages reinserted when I rebound it, with a layer of gesso over it. The watercolour is done over the gesso, but the original words are still visible, ghostlike.

1 comment:

scb said...

I've been wanting to find a book to do that to... very interesting! By the way, thanks again for the award: my secret counter on my blogs logged a 10-fold increase in visitors to The Daily Drawing today and the only thing I can think of is that people read your blog and then went to mine, so these things must really work! Sara x