Observing the ordinary

Will YeomanThe West Australian
A writing workshop in Hopetoun.
Camera IconA writing workshop in Hopetoun. Credit: Will Yeoman/The West Australian

When you think of Hopetoun, a number of things come to mind. Like, for example, the Fitzgerald River National Park. (And I’ll be writing about that, and more, elsewhere.) But how often is it that, even if you’re a local, you simply wonder down Veal Street, maybe, and just observe those things most often overlooked by visitors? The houses, the shops, the people... Seen this way, ordinary life is anything but.

As local writing group Souther Scribes and others recently discovered when they took part in a series of writing workshops run by yours truly as part of the inaugural Readers and Writers Esperance.

First we talked about pulling together a writing toolkit. Then we went for a walk, taking notes and photographs. Finally, we polished and then shared our writing with each other.

To many of those who attended, it was a revelation. Even to an old hand like me, it was refreshing to take time out from writing about and photographing more in-your-face tourist destinations and open myself up to the texture of lived life in a small town. Children playing in a park by the ocean, seagulls wheeling overhead. Walls and roofs rusted and weathered. Tradies trading stories outside the bakery...

But this is not about me. This is about the people — most of them locals — who were kind enough to take part in the workshops. So here is a sample of their work — unique, local voices. It’s not surprising that much of it takes the form of poetry. (You can also hear more about the Southern Scribes in conversation on the latest episode of The Pod Well Travelled.)

Hopetoun seagull.
Camera IconHopetoun seagull. Credit: Ayu Egerton/Supplied


This is when we walk out to beach and back...

Rosemary bush on the side road,

Much time passes, the smell so beautiful.

Bric-a-brac Blue House,

Beautiful bright sky, sun ray,

Warm day in winter.

I’m walking for the first time, so relax,

Blue ocean so calm, calling peace,

Wind blowing gentle in my face.

White sand and bird:

She’s alone, no company.

She must be so lonely.

But she looks happy.


As I gaze south to where a long wooden jetty once stretched into the indigo blue harbour, it’s not hard for me to imagine the gold rush days that birthed this small town. The original structure is long gone; its solid gravel replacement reminding us that life moves on.

To the west of the groyne is the Port Hotel which, at the turn of the century, would have welcomed hopeful prospectors to dry land. This rock-solid building still stands proudly overlooking the harbour, providing nourishment and shelter as dependably as it’s always done.

Rested and satiated, optimistic gold-miners would have crossed the wide road to the east. I can still feel the warm embrace of the pretty, fretworked railway station, as she would have sent hundreds of hopefuls off to claim their riches. Today she watches over a colourful playground as children laugh and run and play on vivid bouncy mats, oblivious to her gaze.

Hopetoun is a town of contrasts. As I wander down the main street, I simultaneously feel the proud history that’s been so passionately preserved and the radiant promise for a bright future.

I’m compelled to linger here longer and find out more.

Port Hotel, Hopetoun.
Camera IconPort Hotel, Hopetoun. Credit: Will Yeoman/The West Australian


A sensory perspective of Hopetoun (excerpt)...

We cross the wide Veal Street, a remnant of camel trains turning.

My focus is the compact war memorial.

A group of keen girls we are, to experience our town afresh.

Our leader pictorially recording this field trip,

Pointing out textures and colour,

Engaging our minds through sight, sound, smell, and touch.

And then at the white picket gate,

Closing my eyes.

Inhaling the sweet scent of roses.

Hearing the sound of a young lad running behind us,

Slapping shoes on the pavement,

My memory slips back to last month.

A word rings clear as a bell in my mind and heart:


The choirs combined voices had sung out,

A hymn of remembrance wafted over the approaching parade.

Our local heroes and the children of legends

Had assembled at the end of the groyne,

a warm sun and the soft kiss of a light sea breeze

feathered across young faces

and the veterans’ visages weathered.

They walked sombrely proudly displaying medals on their chests.


Julie Anglesy

Julia Bell

Kerryn Dodd

Ayu Egerton

Val Metz

Christine Rowe

Helen Taylor

Dellis Venning

Kay Wilson

Will Yeoman at Hopetoun.
Camera IconWill Yeoman at Hopetoun. Credit: Julie Anglesey/Supplied

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