Monday, 1 March 2010

Hobart: Epicurus Found

This week, part two of guest blogger Narrelle M Harris' quest for freedom, friendship and contemplation in Hobart, Tasmania…

Thanks to Alain de Botton, I know that the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus agreed that people needed to have the basics covered – a roof over their head, clothes to wear and enough to eat – but that true happiness was achieved through having good friends, personal freedom, and time for contemplation.

In the old days when I had a dull office job, holidays were for running around madly and packing as much excitement in as possible before returning to the drudgery.

While I still enjoy the odd stimulating holiday, my week in Hobart was specifically about slowing down. I even went so far as to leave my iPhone at home in Melbourne to take a break from the pressures of constant connectivity.

This was a big step; and I worried that I would pine without it.

Freedom

Instead, I discovered that I could live without needing to know what the world was up to every damned second of the waking day. Every time a phone with my ringtone beeped in my vicinity, I would tense up, then relax as I realised it couldn’t possibly be for me. I didn’t know I had needed peace and quiet so much. Without the constant pull of Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal and email, I had time to take time.

I slept in every morning, an unheard of indulgence. I took long bubble baths and read Mills and Boon books, because it didn’t matter if I dropped them in the bath (I already knew how they’d end). I then realised that I’d rather read a proper book in the bath than ever touch another Mills and Boon, because you can’t relax in a bath when a book is making you angry. And then I learned that actually I could read a proper book in the bath without dropping it.

I sat at cafes and read in the sunshine; I lay on the grass at the Cascade Brewery and laughed out loud at Catherine Deveny’s brilliantly evil mind (expressed via her book Free to a Good Home). I sat, caught like a cat in a sunbeam, on an armchair in our hired apartment and read and read and read.

I’m a writer and a book lover, but somehow rarely find time to read. This trip, I read five great books (and three terrible romance novels, but I’m not really counting those). I have returned home with the resolution to set more time aside for reading, because if I don’t make the space for it, time will never magically appear.

Friendship

I both met old friends and made new friends in Hobart. Without a phone, we had to arrange meetings with our Tassie friends the old fashioned way – setting a time and place and showing up as planned.

It was fun meeting up; not having to rush off, and without being interrupted by mobile phone calls that take us thoughtlessly from the people we are actually with, to someone who we could probably call back later.  We caught up on months and years of ideas and developments. I also met up with someone I knew only slightly and we talked for hours about writing.

I also made temporary friends on the buses, with charming locals who were only too pleased to help me find my way to the 1914 State Cinema.

I had a lovely natter with the woman who had explained the local bus fares, and she told me about the property she and her husband were setting up with green power and organic crops while they worked part-time in the city. An older gentleman let me know when we’d reached my stop and then walked with me across the road and up the hill to the cinema. It was wonderful to have time to make time for strangers, who had so kindly made time for me.

Contemplation

And there was the time I spent with Tim, reading in companionable silence; walking the three kilometre trail through the Hobart Rivulet Linear Park to the brewery while we discussed life and nature; enjoying simple meals; and going to Wrest Point Casino see the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra perform with The Whitlams after Tim bought the tickets on impulse.

Since I returned, I’ve had time to contemplate further; I know now I don’t need to be so compulsively attached to the Internet, and I need to make time for reading.

Hobart was the perfect Epicurean getaway for me; filled with good company, freedom from schedules and demands, simple but excellent meals, and the time to appreciate them all.

Find details of Narrelle's vampire novel The Opposite of Life at her website, along with details of her other published work.

[read part one of Narrelle's Hobart experience here]