This week marked film composer John Williams’ 90th birthday. You know him from the music to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET and much, much more, including the Olympics and the nightly news. It seems like every Australian state capital – but Sydney – is marking the occasion with a concert.
I had already booked tickets for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s April performance in Brisbane, but when I saw a free concert in Melbourne and another in Adelaide this weekend I desperately wanted to go.
Now, if only B would have let me drive all the way to Adelaide or the skies above Sydney were not stormy and I could muster up the courage to fly, then I would right now be listening to the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra perform John Williams tracks I’ve never heard live before.
But that didn’t happen, so I’m in Beechworth. Tomorrow I’ll keep driving down to Melbourne to listen to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform John Williams outdoors in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
After our recent road trip to Adelaide I really felt like getting straight back out there to the tiny towns and motels of rural Australia. Driving for no good purpose but to explore.
This isn’t quite that trip and I am mostly following the well worn Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne. But I tried to make a few different stopovers.
Under rainy skies I drive straight from our house until tiny Jugiong by the Murrumbidgee River. The bus from Canberra to Albury would always stop there and I loved it as a pretty but terribly quiet place.
My main purpose in stopping there today is to tune the radio to ABC Classic FM. All week Dr Dan Golding has been celebrating John Williams with a midday program on the radio. He’ll also be presenting the Melbourne concert.
On the way out of Jugiong I finally have a chance to swing by the scenic lookout across the valley. There are many great views on this route, but most of them are quickly passed by in a car.
My intention is to stop at The Dog at the Tuckerbox near Gundagai to buy more ginger Turkish delight. But it’s so close that the radio show hasn’t finished, so I just relax in the car until it does.
By now the clouds are scattered, big fluffy balls in the sky, and the air is hot. Once the show is over I buy the sweets, then drive a little further up to Oliver’s for lunch.
I don’t know why, but I want to try them. Their billboards feature a paper cup of green beans instead of potato chips. But when I look at the menu they are missing, replaced by edamame beans that I’m sadly not a fan of. Nothing looks worth the price of ordering and the staff are loud and harsh.
I drive off, keep going until I hit Tarcutta, where I fill up with petrol. Our favourite, the Horse and Jockey, is apparently temporarily closed, it’s 2pm and past lunchtime, so I order the “French Onion Pork” from the roadhouse. I’m sure it will be bad.
Maybe they just sprinkled some French onion soup mix over the pork. It’s covered with gluggy brown gravy and the veges have seen better days, but hey, it’s food.
A car with “Canberra Convoy For Freedom” emblazoned on it rear window pulls up for petrol, disgorging a couple of antivax/sovereign citizen/Trumpist nutters.
I continue driving. For the first half of my ride I had random selections of music, many tracks by John Williams, playing from my phone. Now I switch to a six part podcast on John Williams, covering each of his musical periods in great detail. Long drives are about the only time I get to listen to podcasts. That and the vaccuming.
The family have given me a mission to return with treats, especially jelly slices, from the Beechworth Bakery. I initially thought of stopping at Albury, which has a branch, for the night. But it’s still only mid afternoon, so I continue on to Beechworth itself. If there’s no accommodation I’m sure I’ll find something in Wangaratta or elsewhere.
The countryside around Beechworth is very pretty, a combination of Australian bush with lush farmland. Beechworth itself is a well preserved, rather upmarket, old gold town.
I park by the bakery and purchase a selection of pastries. The accommodation I found earlier is no longer showing online, but I drive across the road and ask at the desk, just in case.
Luck, and cheaper than online too! I’ve been here before. It’ll do.
It’s late in the day and the shops are closing, or are still closed for summer. I buy a couple bottles of the very nice local cordial, return to the motel to drop them off and collect a bag for more shopping.
In the silvery skies above, high cloud and patches of puffy cumulus, the sound of airlines passing high above. Should I be up there? I am torn. I just don’t want to wreck it with another bad experience.
I’m here now, on the ground. I walk around the town, back to where Silver Creek gurgles past willow and oak, following the trail.
Tired, I decide to eat my dinner in my room, grab a few supplies from the local supermarket, including more interesting sounding drinks from the cordial maker. More treats to bring home for the others.
The one benefit of travelling alone is that I can setup my Bluetooth speakers in the motel room and listen to music instead of the television. More John Williams, of course.
Filed under: JW90