Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Country Hall

The mid-west was once home to numerous small settlements, but with progress [?] what were thriving townships, today leave a barely visible footprint on the landscape. Here and there a tiny, elderly, stone church shelters under a tree; a lonely cemetery sits behind a country fence guarded by a dilapidated wooden gate; or ruins of what was once the local school, hint to a past existence.


The hall, sitting near a railway siding with two or three houses nearby ... the only remnants of a small settlement ... is still the scene of a lively country dance. Once, before insurance placed strict prohibitions, or raised premiums on particular events, this hall welcomed the spinsters and bachelors of the community to dance, mix, and perhaps match. By all accounts the ambience of a Ball, which sounds exceptionally grand ... one has visions of country lasses floating around the dance-floor in floor-length ball gowns, elbow-length white gloves, new but necessarily comfortable dancing sandals, and wafting in a cloud of the latest perfume, while the bachelors clothed in suits, shirts with the top collar button fastened, ties, their feet encased in fine woollen socks rather than the thick work socks worn on the farm, and shoes polished until it was almost possible to see the reflection of their shiny faces ... not only succeeded in bringing the unattached together, but was an important social event for the district.

I have never attended one of these affairs; the above is my interpretation of a B and S Ball. Even the title B and S somehow lends an air of graciousness to a ball designed to encourage friendship and perhaps marriage amongst the local farming community ... notwithstanding the fact they probably had already met at the local store, or pub, or football match.

It seems a shame that such an honest ball had to be abandoned, for an insignificant reason ... the insurance companies deemed it too much of a risk. Admittedly there was the chance that some exuberant behaviour might occur towards the end of the ball, when perspiration lost on the dance floor was replaced by liquid refreshments. It could be assumed that some athletic dancer could fall in a graceful execution of the Twist [do they still do the Twist?] or swung his partner too vigorously in the Supper Waltz, thus making a claim against an insurance company. Or perhaps a car, or ute which is the most common form of transportation in this area, may assume a life of its own and back into a tree that was not there ten minutes earlier.

However, the local population ingeniously found a way around this dilemma. Substitute the words B & S for Harvest. The insurance companies, with their main offices in the depths of the city, high on the seventh floor of a concrete and glass building overlooking the river, the ferries, and the swans swimming ungracefully against the swirling eddies sweeping across the waterway from fast boats, were evidently in accordance with this new event. After all don't the churches have a Harvest Festival where the congregation sings with gusto such a wonderful hymn as 'Bringing in the Sheaves", and where harvest suppers are served in the Sunday-School hall attached? Perhaps it was this connection that decided the insurance company to take a chance on the Harvest Ball? While the title of the event of the year may have changed, little else has.

A small corrugated iron hall, sitting in what appears to be the middle of nowhere, takes on a social life of its own, once a year.

Of course this once a year extravaganza is not the only use such a building could be put too. Perhaps badminton, or meetings of local farmers, are still held behind ancient walls? No matter what, these halls are a link to the past, and as such help keep the community together.
There is a P.S. to this blog. Whilst typing it I suddenly became aware of a small dugite snake wriggling from under the kitchen cupboard, very close to where I was sitting. I screamed, MM came in, I saved the blog, and waited until we were certain it returned to the great outdoors, where it belongs ... not in my kitchen!

1 comment:

clare's craftroom said...

Shirl we have "met" on the craft forum . What a delight reading your blog , you write beautifully !