It’s called Port MacQuarie, not Milton Keynes on Sea. I wake up and the rain’s still coming down, in mardy drizzle rather than the stair-rods of last night. For the first time in 60 odd days of travelling, it looks like Rain Stops Play.
Reminiscent of that part of the Summer Holidays of teenage years where due to the rubbish weather you’re housebound. Draped sloth like over sofas and chairs watching Rory Bremner’s Creased Up (Hello China! Hello Rob!) or playing Subbuteo or World Cup Cricket (Hello Will! Hello Tom!) rather than out and about.
Good has come of it already, I swap my recently completed 70 Rupees worth of Le Carre brilliance for Faulks’ Birdsong in the hostel’s book exchange. A day of reading, blogging and looking for work awaits.
Something in the third bit of the last sentence stirs me into life. If this place really is Milton Keynes, it’s best I examine the evidence on foot. The rain holds up for the briefest of moments and I’m so keen to get out and about, I forget, loyally stowed in my backpack is a waterproof and some appropriate footwear.
The view across the bay is miles better than Willen Lake. Down the hill, I make for the water. New Conniburrow stands defiantly in the way. Feinting to the left, I escape the unlovely, domineering housing estates and reach the sanctuary of the boardwalk. The bay opens up in front of me and I ignore the concrete jungle to my right, taking in the underemployed pleasure boats and the encroaching melancholy skies while carefully avoiding the ruddy big swan that stands Schmeichel like on the jetty.
Following the path round the bay, I reach Town Beach and Port MacQuarie’s answer to the Concrete Cows; the expansive rows of painted rocks that aline the harbour. Tourists and locals have done their bit to give the place some individuality by liberally slapping slogans, cartoons, tributes and other such brush strokes on stone. It’s kitsch, it’s hip, it’s different. It reminds me of a Downs Barn community project.
The rain’s back. It doesn’t help. I make for the shelter of the trees and Flagstaff Hill.
Staring back towards town from this pleasant vantage point, it strikes me that a town planner came out here on holiday once and thought, “that’s a nice coastline, lets ruin it a bit” and, Hey Presto!, Port MacQuarie as we know it was born. In the foreground is a scene from a Swift or Stevenson novel, in the background, Campbell Heights.
The sun makes a brief cameo appearance before another deluge ensures Flynn’s Beach is as far as my Port MacQuarie adventure is ever going to go. I turn back towards the hostel and figuring my reserve set of espadrilles have suffered enough I tread nervously inland.
Further comparison with Buckinghamshire’s favourite New City is found through The Point, a shimmering edifice of steel, concrete and glass that overlooks the cliff. No red fluorescent lights on this one though.
If the apartments are an eyesore, the motels are even more vacuous. New towns will never be my thing, even ones as brazen than this. Apparently, there are more places like this lying in wait for me up the coast.
I shrug then smile. What a horrible, vain, snob of a man I am.
Besides, I’m sure it’s lovely when the sun’s out.