A Quiet Word | A Woman in The Crowd
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A Woman in The Crowd

Why did I come to this bustling, beautiful place? It’s overwhelming and oppressive. Too much friendliness. Too many demands on me to be generous. Too many invitations to overt. Too many sustained looks from men and their hidden meanings. I feel as stripped, threatened and naked as a young pole dancer at a buck’s night. I want to flee.

You’re hopeless in public; you should have stayed home.

The promise was to “Soak up the atmosphere in Salamanca Place, where Hobart’s historic, creative and cultural heart beats.”

But it turns into an awful indictment. The culture intimidates me. The convict steeped history is depressingly awful. My creative heart beats with terror and trepidation. I should feel laid back and invigorated but anxiety sweeps like a brush fire through my chest. Rushing, prickly heat. The hormones of fear.


The apple seller and her family are weather worn. I imagine they work hard and have always had simple aspirations. They look like they have a life that might have its source in the hippy idyll of the Sixties. Thousand of young people fleeing the conservative mainland to the promise of Tasmanian communal, self sufficient living and lashings of free love. Young people with Crosby Stills Nash and Young in their hearts. For many however, their newly won lifestyle becomes a waste land of disappointing relationships and evaporating dreams. Or possibly abusive, brain washed years living in an oppressive cult. Other more resilient seekers, persevere with the labour and disappointment, forging a prison of subsistence living, hand-to-mouth days and short horizons, which might be bearable enough. Better than living as a convict.


I smile at my lovely apple seller and take a tourist shot with my i-Phone. I admire her quiet strength, her resilience. I quietly measure myself against her, woman to woman. I feel a certain strength in myself when I’m with her. If she can survive then so can I. I ask for her permission to keep her photo, as she admires it briefly and thanks me for asking. I buy two Pink Ladies and they are delicious.

Later I notice that her eyes are closed in the photo I’ve taken.

Stupid! What arrogance to think you are a photographer?

Reflecting on the photo and this woman I have briefly met, I decide that her pose is just right. A tired battler, selling her wares in the noisy bustle of Salamanca Market. Wearily she shuts her eyes briefly for respite. That image and my meaning please me.

Wandering amongst the colour, craft, food and pageantry of Salamanca Place, reminds me of the Australian country town friendliness from my parent’s generation. Such a contrast to the intense aggression that inner city Melbourne has become and in which I’ve made my home.

I’m fleeing my childhood but pursuing …….what? I’m full of self-doubt and hesitancy. What is my value? What is the right step forward? Will I ever be happy and content?

The apple seller, that simple, worn out but friendly woman, warms my heart. Strangely she also suggests a foundation for my life. Staying resourceful and purposeful. Gradual movements forward, flirting with little, self-contained life experiments. Manageable bites of life that could be micro successes or failures but somehow this seems sustainable for me.

A life in which I might build some hope.

I feel a little lighter, less fragmented. I can begin to creatively imagine my future as though I am looking ahead at a patch of cobalt blue sky through a tiny chink in the dark clouds.

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