A thin sliver of intense red sunlight, like a giant bloody fingernail clipping, cuts above the horizon and soon vanishes up into clouds gathering off Cape Byron. It’s sunrise on New Years’ Day, 2017. Hundreds of people are sitting meditating, quietly holding hands, gazing east. Above us, the twin beams of the lighthouse slash through the sea mist like giant light-sabres, in perfect time to the crystal bowl music going on below: a dazzling, natural, sound-and-light show. Love is in the air and magick loose upon the landscape. As the daylight intensified and we all chanted three Oms, patches of fog broke up and flocked south with the northerly, like ghosts from the past rushing out of view, allowing a new light to shine through. Holding Suzi as we lay on the grass, I suddenly thought of friends we’d lost and realised it was moments like this that had drawn us to Byron in the first place, a community of like-minded souls…

An hour later, I am cycling home via Paterson Hill on a detour to avoid the drunks still shambling around town, and also the many patches of broken glass – little bicycle landmines, now scattered in glistening splotches all along the main roads and footpaths. These will cause punctures for weeks and months to come. But at the summit of Paterson Hill I find another Byronian mountain-top scene: a pack of shirtless and legless young men, occupying the middle of the road, their cognitive abilities enfeebled by fourteen-straight hours skolling Bundy and Colas. Their cars are scattered, open-doored, spewing rubbish all around the bottom of the water tower, their nearby toilet waste just starting to attract a bevy of flies in the early morning heat (and yes, that’s our drinking water tower). Thanks to my slim bike profile and rapid peddling, I manage to avoid eye contact with the puffed up hooligans and slip through their silly, informal blockade.

Two hours later a friend of mine was not so lucky. Driving over Paterson Hill to a yoga class, her car was effectively blocked by the same group. One fool jumped on her bonnet, another on the boot and a third on her roof, giggling and poking his ugly head through the window, insensitive to the complex public, personal, and third-party property liabilities now in play. Here was a woman, alone in her car, on a major public thoroughfare, being put upon by bunch of drongos at nine o’clock in the morning! And they’d been at it for hours! Where were the police? Where were Council’s Rangers? Why do we pay rates and taxes in the first place?

This was also Byron 2017, but it didn’t seem to be the one we’d chosen to live in.

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