“Lucie? Lucie Robson, right?”
The mayor of Cessnock recognised me on sight. I was amazed, having never set eyes on him before, or so I believed. He went to to explain that his son, who has now graduated from Law, was a friend of mine in preschool.
And so it is in Cessnock, where faces from my childhood still abound and everybody smiles when they see you on the street. I grew up here and am back for a short time to fill in for an absent journalist at the local newspaper, The Cessnock Advertiser.
In my first week I drove around town with a camera, chatting to locals about neighbourhood disputes, new building projects, people winning awards and sporting competitions. The warmth and community spirit of everyone I met and worked with have really struck me.
I never much liked living in a town with only one of everything, where the exciting outside world was only accessible by driving for hours. Trips to the big smoke were like Christmas and left me longing to be in a place where you could just walk out your door and find a nice cafe, or some trendy people, or an art exhibition. Where Things were Happening. I wanted to be Sophisticated.
After six years of living in various cities around the world, I feel differently. As it turns out, there are plenty of things happening in Cessnock. Social problems remain, but the population seems to be growing and surprisingly enough, there is not enough space in the newspaper to fit all the stories in every week.
People still read the newspaper, too. The phone is off the hook with people wanting their stories or community notices to get printed, or booking classifieds for various occasions. The Advertiser has an important place in the town, even if a lot of it is classic “small town news”. And working as a reporter at the paper is a good insight into the glue that keeps the community together.