Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Oct 29

The verandah overlooks the main street of the village of Yungaburra on the Atherton Tableland, behind Cairns. People are streaming from the Yungaburra Folk Festival, which is starting to dismantle its marquees and stalls on the other side of the road, towards the pub which squats in wooden, two-storied splendour on this side of the road. But I'm not in the pub. (Surprised? So am I. I really do find the huge old wooden pubs of tropical North Queensland very attractive. And the Yungaburra pub is one of the best. It's a warren with elegant dining rooms, polished floors and stained glass windows. There are photos of bearded white men leaning on huge saws beside massive logs that used to be the rainforest here. And there is beer…) But no, I'm on the verandah of a little eatery just up the street called The Vienna Inn. On the street, Campbell the swaggie is getting in one more poetry performance before rolling out the swag that lies at his feet. Under that battered old hat is a battered old head chokkers with poems and stories collected from all over this wide, brown land. In front of him his billy begs for coins. I don't know how Campbell survives. People are not generous to swaggies. Especially poet swaggies. (I think they're envious. Secretly, they would swap their Subaru Forester for the freedom of a swag in a flash.) I'm having dinner with my good mate and comedy partner. We've just finished our last show at the festival. (Yes folks, I have another life away fromThe Echo office.) The shows have gone very well and I'm feeling pretty chuffed. (I love being loved. It's my weakness…) The owner of The Vienna Inn brings us two wine glasses. His name is Alex. From Austria. Alex meticulously shines the glasses with a white cloth. He opens our wine with a flourish and pours a splash for me to try. The wine is a local one from a bloke up the road who specialises in fruit wine. I swish it in my glass to release the aromas. I smell… alcohol. Good. “That's fine,” I say and Alex fills both our glasses, and leaves. From the pub comes an Irish reel. Alex returns with menus, silverware and napkins. He fusses over the cutlery, placing them just so, as we peruse the menu. Inside, his wife is lifting a batch of greasy chips from the deep fry. A couple of teenage girls waits at the counter choosing Cokes from the fridge. The last time I was in Yungaburra this place was called Kenny's Takeaway. Chips, Chiko rolls, scallops… You can still get that sort of stuff here. But Alex has a dream. Alex and his wife bought Kenny's Takeaway three months ago, changed the name, put tablecloths on the tables, vases of fresh flowers on the tablecloths, pictures of old Vienna on the walls, and added goulash to the menu. Alex's father was Hungarian. From Szeged. And Alex makes goulash like his father did. “The proper way,” as Alex says. Campbell pockets the coins from his billy, humps his swag and trundles off towards the pub. The girls pay for their chips and coke and titter down the street. We order goulash. That puts a big smile on Alex's face and he promises it'll be “the best goulash we ever eat”. Then Alex spreads not one, but two, napkins across our laps. One for each leg, like they do in Austria. Or Hungary. Or maybe it's a Yungaburra thing. ]]>

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