SUNDAY 10 MAY LORNE STATION
It was another normal morning at our establishment, with one of us sleeping much later than the other, and one of us reading and sewing outside the van, in the morning sun.
I received a Mothers Day text from daughter.
We drove into town, in time for lunch at 12 at the Bowls Club, resplendent in our “whites”.
The dining room was very crowded. The lunch event was obviously popular. I guessed there were not a whole lot of dining options in town. However, no other bowlers were evident. You know that feeling of being the odd ones out, and wondering if you have made some sort of mistake?
The $15 lunch was a buffet. There was a variety of salads, most heavily mayo’ed. The grain bread was excellent. There were some casseroles; I passed on those, which may have been pre-cooked then reheated. My gut doesn’t handle reheated protein well. There were desserts too – pavlova, mud cake, fruit salad. I had never seen chocolate mousses disappear so fast!
After lunch we made our way out to the bowls greens. Aha! THAT was where all the bowlers were. Given their absence at the lunch, I wondered what they knew about the food that we didn’t? But, to be fair, the final games of a big weekend tournament were in progress, occupying many of them.
Our social bowls started nearer to 2pm than the supposed 1pm. The game was meant to be a fun event, with winners decided by the draw of the results cards afterwards, not by actual scores. The entry was free – and with dinner thrown in! So that’s what the other bowlers knew. Meal after the game. …
Some of the other participants had not played before, which made things “interesting” but light hearted.
After the game, we went inside for drinks. We sat with L and W, who were good fun. L was a jeweller’s widow. She used to be an excellent opal cutter, before her hands clawed. Like many on the opal fields, she was of European origin, with a fascinating French accent.
Opal cutting is a valued skill. Anyone can learn the basic techniques, but it takes real skill to work out the best way to sand off unwanted surrounding rock and potch, to bring out the best colour in the stone, without shattering the opal.
We also met P, who was a psychologist with the area health service; he had “owned” a claim since he was nine years old! He lived out on it, but was too busy to do much mining.
We sat through the “market night”. One bought a range of tickets; then numbers were drawn. If your number was drawn, you went out and chose from a very impressive array of prizes, lined up on tables at the front. There were items like an electric BBQ, a heater, electric blanket – substantial stuff. Presumably local businesses had been generous in supporting the cause. I think they must have drawn about forty numbers in all. We didn’t win anything, but L got a toaster and jug package.
We then moved into the dining room for dinner, which was roast lamb and vegies, followed by sticky date pudding. It was very good – we hadn’t eaten so well in one day for ages.
All the women present were given a box of chocolates and a raffle type ticket.
L’s team won the bowls card draw – she received a bottle of port for that. In the free raffle, I won a potted chrysanthemum. I am not really into travelling with plants, and was able to swap it for L’s port – she said she had lots of the latter at home. Apparently it was a usual bowls prize. That alone said something about the nature of Lightning Ridge!
We made an arrangement with L to meet at the social bowls day on Tuesday, so she could try out John’s bowls. She was looking for a new set and his were the modern variety starting to be adopted.
John got talking to a man who currently worked a claim. He told us that the opal fields immediately around Lightning Ridge were pretty well worked out, and that most of the currently operating claims were now in the out of town areas like the Grawin, Glengarry, Sheepyard Flat and Coocoran. He told John we absolutely must go and look at these outer areas.
John also talked to another man, who told him about picking up abandoned claims for $2000. I could tell that John was about to become hell bent on becoming an opal miner! I was going to have to have stern words along the lines of: Hey. Stop. Think. WHY are these claims abandoned? Could it be something to do with having no opal left? Maybe also a reminder that he does not like underground….
He chatted with a couple who came from Victoria’s Goulburn Valley – almost “home”. They spent half of each year – the cooler months – on their claim here, and summer at home. Best of both worlds. I got the impression they were not really miners – it was more a lifestyle thing, like a holiday house. Now that I could understand.
All in all, it was a great day and evening, much better than I had expected. We had never before encountered such hospitality at a Bowls Club. It was a huge club – a typical NSW one with lots of poker machines. They hold big tournaments here, through the year, with thousands of dollars in prize moneys. There was a similar free dinner and fun event for Fathers Day.
Son had texted whilst I was bowling, then phoned when we were back at the van, about 8pm. So i’d had contact from both my children. Just about a perfect Mothers Day, after all.