On the first chilly Friday night in May, Port Hedland invites the whole town along to celebrate something rather special.
In honour of this remote dichotomy of fit in or fly off, last night I fitted into a bit of my favourite high heels and high fashion meets high-vis and hosted “Welcome to Hedland” for the Town. I hope I did Alannah Hill proud. Not to mention this particular Pilbara place that I fell in love with seven years ago.
I adore this annual event for its spirit, its open heart and its simple message: Strangers knock and someone always runs to open the door. There’s a joke in the north west that you don’t need to wait 25 years to be considered a local. It’s more like two weeks. And that’s stretching the truth. All you really need to do – which I forced my shyness to defy – is to accept the phone number of the local ___ (read soccer club, gardening group, art association) rep. who happens to invite you out for coffee the next day, around the corner, up the street or at one of Port Hedland’s five coffee shops. And, voila! You’re home. It’s not for everyone, but it is for so many tenuous arrivals I’ve lost count. Some people have been here a week, some more than 40,000 years. And it’s all in the choosing.
Funny thing is, by saying yes to human connection, I think I’ve had more coffees in my life in Port Hedland than anywhere else. Local friends will note the irony. Yes, it’s true they cost a dollar more, but they are made with a wink and a smile.
Welcome to Hedland, 2017 saw more than 70 stallholders spruik clubs, associations and connective activities beneath a stunning autumn night sky. Perhaps I’m just excited because I felt that rippling chill on my shoulders at about 8pm for the first time in nine months. Oh, and then the goosebumps really came because I knew it meant winter was on its way. And then I was thrilled to remember that this means the days will soon only reach 27 degrees Celcius – and I can wear boots. Boots!
When I’m not in my thongs.
If you’re new to Port Hedland, welcome! If you’ve never been, do it like I did: Have the question posed – “Should we move to that hot, red, dusty mining town, Port Hedland?” Answer in expletive horror. And do it anyway.
Someone will open the door and tug on your heartstrings.