Stranger #33: Helen



Helen is vibrant and full of life. Her laugh rolls around the Bowls Club where I met her at the Parkinson’s Support Group Christmas function. Helen is the coordinator of the support group and moves through the group stopping to chat with each person: sitting down for a quiet word with some, patting others on the shoulder, giving another’s hand a squeeze.

She sets the tone for the group and it is enlivened through her presence. Helen’s husband of 32 years, Fred, has Parkinson’s and as well as being his wife she is also his carer – something many of the women in the group have in common with her.

Helen can barely sit still long enough to tell me about her life … she has get-togethers to organise, trips away – for the carers as much as sufferers – and people to farewell as the Christmas function draws to a close.



Stranger #32: Julie


Julie is an exercise physiologist who works with veterans. She calls them mate, and encourages them gently to bend just that little bit more, squat a bit lower, and balance on one leg for just a bit longer. She’s gentle, but persistent. She’s worked with veterans for almost a decade and feels a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that she’s making a positive difference to their lives.

She enjoys the relationship she develops with the old blokes, and sometimes allows their wives to join in the exercise routines.

Stranger #31: Alex


Alex is an acrobat; part of the Afrikan Warriors. He started in acrobatics when he was 11 in Tanzania and has been performing ever since.

Alex arrived in Australia in 2006, and when you think about it, Tanzania and Tasmania aren’t that different!! In name at least …

Now based in Launceston Alex and his acrobatic partner, who have just returned from six months in Fiji, are performing at the Salamanca Market in Hobart each Saturday.

They will also be performing at the Taste of Tasmania Festival.

Their routine is high energy … and amazing!

Stranger #30: John


In 1947, then 22 years old, John (now 88) began ringing the bells in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. John continued ringing when he moved to Adelaide in 1993 after he retired from his position as Archdiocesan Archivist in Sydney.

John claims that bell ringing helped develop his confidence: he went from being very introverted to someone who was more able to interact easily with people and stand up for himself.

Bell ringing was never John’s full time job; rather it was a hobby which saw him ring bells around the country, including at St Paul’s in Melbourne. Bells were rung for weddings, funerals, special occasions, civic celebrations as well as on Sundays to call the faithful to worship. There was also plenty of bell-ringing practise, usually a few nights each week.

In 1999, not long after John moved to Murwillumbah in northern NSW, he put an ad in the paper seeking scrabble partners. He’s a gentle and kind scrabble partner, keen to teach those new to the game the intricacies that might not, at first glance, be apparent.

John also loves teaching others to ring bells … and would like to ring handbells, but ‘not to ring* tunes.’

“No disrespect for those who do ring tunes though!”

* After reading this, John contacted me to correct one point. I had originally written ‘play tunes’ when the correct term is ‘ring’.

Something else I learnt from John is that ‘change ringers’ are otherwise known as ‘campanologists’.

Stranger #29: Hoel


Hoel (pron Hurl) owns and runs the kind of bookshop I have been dreaming about owning and running. The location is idyllic, at Tyalgum in northern NSW, and while the days are quiet, there is plenty of scope for reading, writing and playing his guitar.

A record, yes that’s right … a proper vinyl record … was playing as I wandered into the shop and struck up a conversation with this quietly spoken 36 year old.  Hoel, originally from Jarrow in North East England, moved to Tyalgum in 2007 from central London.

From working in theatres in London (doing the messy jobs not many people want/like to do) to The Orpheum* Bookshop and playing guitar at Flutterbies Cafe on Friday nights. It’s quite a journey.

* Orpheus is the god of music and poetry. Hoel’s middle name just happens to be Orphean.


Stranger #28: Kim


Kim is a Ferrari enthusiast. He not only works for Ferrari, but he owns one as well … a red one. To be more specific, a 360 Spider.

I ran into Kim (luckily not literally!) at the Ferrari Club Day Christmas Function held recently on the Gold Coast. The Club held a Concourse display and even to a non-car enthusiast like me, it was pretty impressive to see (and hear) expensive red car after expensive red car manoeuvre into position. We were very mindful of keeping little fingers off the cars!

There are 200 registered Ferrari owners in Queensland and 120 of them are club members.

Kim is taken with the passion and excitement of owning, driving, and working with Ferraris.

Stranger #27: Alison


Alison (75) is a fierce scrabble player. She knows all the two and three letter words that make up the scrabble player’s arsenal as well as she knows the 130 acres of Moocooboolah Farm which has been her home for 45 years.

Alison moved from Sydney with her husband, six children, two pianos, and mountains of books in the late 60s. Chooks laid eggs in the second piano, the house expanded, Alison planted trees – every tree that is now on the property was planted by Alison. She built stairs in the middle of the lawn at the back of the house where her ‘kids’ perform. Alison is a speech and drama teacher – still – and has been preparing young people for eisteddfods for 30 years. Her students still top the state.

At the age of 70 Alison married for the third time and after the ceremony skipped down the aisle with the young people she teaches.

Alison loves Moocooboolah Farm because it’s ‘quiet, safe, and no one fusses’.