She had what appeared to be hog bristles sprouting from her nostrils.
He smelled of Old Spice, with faint undertones of old chops.
“Would you like to move the conversation back to our house for a private party?” asked Mrs Hog Bristles.
I was in some bar in Hervey Bay. I always knew there was something wrong with the place, but I never imagined it would be my ground zero; the place I’d be invited to share bodily fluids with a retired couple from Wangaratta.
Also, I didn’t have a wife with me, and I was shit-scared they were planning to do a Rockefeller on me.
So I made my excuses and sprinted up the street to a bistro full of young, attractive people, where I knew I’d be safe from molestation.
Hervey Bay is a strange place.
Sure, it’s got all the conveniences a modern city should have.
A couple of Bunnings. Aldi. KFC. Like most Queensland cities, there’s a sex shop on every corner, with a Thai massage joint next door.
But at first (and second, and third) glance, there’s little to attract the curious traveller.
Yet year round, the place is swarming with visitors, nearly all aged between 55 and 105.
For years, I’d been trying to find the secret. Now, it seemed I was on to something. Was this the keys-in-the-fruitbowl mecca for the old and disabled? Was this where randy retirees went to shag somebody else’s missus?
I really hoped not, because a close relative (my dad actually) travels there from Tasmania every winter.
It seemed like an odd choice to me. Dad’s in his 80s, and he’s never travelled much. The world could be his oyster.
But like a lot of oldies, there’s comfort in familiarity.
I asked him why Hervey Bay had so much appeal.
“Well, there’s this woman there with hog bristles coming out of her nostrils,” he answered.
Actually that’s not true. Dad’s been happily married for decades.
The appeal, according to dad, is that Hervey Bay is warm, flat, and there aren’t any waves. Simple as that.
I suggested Dubbo was also warm, flat and didn’t have any waves, but he ignored me, probably mentally planning his next visit to pensioner night at the Hervey Bay RSL (scallops and chips for $2.20 with a free glass of Ben Ean moselle).
This morning, I went for a wander around the place.
Yes, it was warm. There isn’t a hill for miles. The tide was out, so I couldn’t comment on the waves.
The oldies were out having fun, racing their mobility carts up and down the boardwalk. Everyone was happy.
Look, I’m probably being too hard on Hervey Bay (not for the first time, either).
There are some good points. Urangan pier for example runs more than one kilometer out from shore. It’s spectacular, and probably the only place you’ll see what was once Fraser Island’s tall timber.
But Hervey Bay isn’t for everyone. If you’re getting on in years and like warm, flat places, give it a try.
Or if you’ve ever dreamed of a threesome with a hairy lady and mildly smelly old man, here’s your chance.
*Tom Ellison is a writer, editor, financial analyst, and sometime cook. He’s interested in whatever’s happening in the world around him, with the possible exception of football, greyhound racing, and property market obsessives. If you’d like to talk about how he can make a difference to your publication, whether it’s a magazine, book or blog, then you know what to do.