Saturday, 17 December 2011


For the first time in about eight years, I will not be attending Summersong, an adult music camp located at Lennox Head on the NSW north coast.  A lot of people look at me like I'm weird when I first tell them that every January I go and spend time sleeping in a bunk bed in a dorm with shared toilet and shower facilities and strangers in the same room.  And that I do this willingly.  And pay for the privilege.

Summersong is one of the greatest gifts of creative, supportive music making that I have been fortunate to receive in my adult life.  It sounds corny, but it's true.  A fantastic community of musicians and writers has grown and there are people whom I only see there once a year but I count them as important friends.  I even found work through the Summersong network.

It's not just music making, rehearsing, creating, practising and doing homework!  There's also party celebration night.  The women dress gloriously - think tropical beach adorned with flowers - and the men, well the men wear no pants. Instead they wear sarongs (or any variation).  Some of the fellas go all out and frock up in a way to rival the women.  They look great!

The sarong is not without its dangers for people who have never worn them before.  One year I was in a cabin with a woman from Scotland.  She wasn't really up on the whole sarong thing, so I lent her one of mine. She went very quiet for about 15 minutes and I asked her whether she was ready to go.  She was still standing there examining the sarong.  The sarong is hardly a staple of the average Scottish woman's wardrobe, especially if she usually lives in Scotland.  I swooped in, wound her around, tucked a bit here, folded a bit there and tied it all together.  Voila!

She looked nervous.

"What wrong?"  I asked her.

"How will it stay on?"

"Oh it will stay on."

"But how will it stay on?  How do you know it will stay on?"

"Ok.  Listen to me.  At the fresher toga party at university I tied my best friend so securely into her toga she was still wearing it three days later."

The Scottish woman breathed out and decided to trust me.  She was fine.  Although I have been suddenly abandoned by a succession of men on the dance floor clutching the only thing between them and complete freedom as they dash to find privacy.

Getting ready for the party reminds me of the frantic crowding around mirrors and fighting for showers that used to happen at boarding school.  The fresh dimension at Summersong is semi clad blokes wandering around trying to find a frock or get help with their sarongs.  (This usually only happens in the first year - after that they're packing a frock and certainly are well versed in the liberation of sarong wearing.)

One year I heard one calling out for help with his sarong.  I called back "1800 SARONG.  Hello, how may I direct your call?" It's become a running joke.

I just received an enquiry via the facebook page worrying that the 1800 SARONG helpline had been disconnected as I would not be attending this year.

Of course it hasn't closed!

"I appreciate your concern.  1800 SARONG has not been disconnected.  Your call is important to us.  Our operators are busy helping other people with their sarongs.  You'll appreciate the difficulty of providing this guidance by telephone.  There will therefore be a longer wait than usual.  Please hold the line. Or for only 3 tiny monthly instalments of $99 you can receive our printed help guide.  As a bonus we'll throw in the DVD which shows not one, not 2, not 10, but 25 different ways to wear your sarong.  For a tiny extra  amount you can receive the extended mix with 400 ways to wear and tie your sarong.  That's right, for only $150 per month over 3 months, you'll be able to wear a sarong all summer long.  If you take up this offer today we'll even throw in the sarong.  And some glue. And maybe a staple gun."

Apparently the staple gun is enough to convince clients to put their fears of being recruited to Scientology aside.

And that's the other wonderful thing about places like Summersong - you get to play and be silly!  When was the last time you got down in the sand pit and allowed yourself to be playful? And laughed your head off?


  1. I have a hole in one of my sarongs, caused by a nervous Summersong man pinning it on. And I had another man fall in love with a swishy black skirt of mine, and ask for it again every year.
    I'll miss you :(

  2. Now it's not every day you hear a story like that Merryn...where the man falls in love with a swishy back skirt. Do you do repeat loans? Pins are the death of the sarong I must say. At 1800 SARONG we never recommend them. Sorry to hear about the hole.
    Thanks for missing me - you'll make new friends.