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BARE ESSENTIALS: The annual world naked bike ride is on this Sunday in Byron Bay.
BARE ESSENTIALS: The annual world naked bike ride is on this Sunday in Byron Bay. Jacklyn Wagner

SURVIVORS of the hippie era who moan that Byron is not the free-lovin' paradise it used to be should check out the San Francisco Chronicle's take on the town after a recent visit.

SF, remember, is where it all began, so the Chronicle's writer should know when he reports on "counterculture Australia, 1973".

Noting "a young woman in a flower-printed granny dress offering cranial sacral massages, a didgeridoo player in the wool felt hobbit hat, a dreadlocked dad with his baby in a tie-dyed sling leading a drum circle and a white-haired couple with the beatific expressions of long-time meditators sitting behind baskets overflowing with organic passionfruit", the writer feels he's been transported back in time.

Yoga classes, a kayak ride with dolphins, a visit to the Lighthouse, with its "worn Oriental carpets and perfectly retro kitchen appliances", confirm his view.

"Perhaps the explanation is Australia's geographic isolation, which has turned it into an environmental time capsule that's kept species like the platypus alive ... or maybe it's just plain magic," the gullible Yank hypothesises.

He goes on: "1973 was the year of 10-day Aquarius Festival in the nearby town of Nimbin and somehow, everybody seems to have managed to hang on to those 1973 ideals without being infected with one ounce of irony".

A quick shufti at Nimbin today may have disillusioned the innocent abroad very rapidly.

THE true state of Centrelink's Byron services has been brought to The Scout's attention.

A visit to the office in Byron St revealed a desolate and cavernous space, with a couple of lost souls standing around looking bewildered. And that was just the staff members - a grand total of two that day.

A few "clients" were visible, tapping at computer keyboards or waiting on the phone for a "customer service officer" in some far-off realm to pick up and speak to them.

Face-to-face contact, which the Department of Human Services swore would not suffer from the replacement of people with computers in January, is non-existent, according to an informant.

Having failed with his home computer to inform the department of income changes, this very tech-savvy person went in person to set the record straight.

He was guided to a phone, through which he enjoyed classical music for 15 minutes before asking staff how long he might have to wait.

"Twenty to 25 minutes," replied a complacent official.

At which our friend heard a small popping noise in his temples and said he had understood he might be able to speak to a human being - viz the spin poured out at the changeover.

"You can," he was blandly assured. "Through the telephone or the internet."

THE Scout hears last Thursday's council meeting was particularly animated, with plenty of argy bargy between councillors and some lively interjections from the gallery. Perhaps it had something to do with the councillors' new supply of coffee from their you-beaut new Lavazza coffee machine - which itself became a source of contention between the mayor and some of the council's senior staff.

At the morning tea break, Cr Barham made it known to anyone within earshot that she thought the new machine was excessive, and out of step with council's recently adopted corporate sustainability policy. "I would have been happy with a plunger and a bag of local coffee," she said.

NOTHING on this weekend? How about a cycle around Byron in your birthday suit? It really is a matter of bums on seats for the annual world naked bike ride, which is on again this Sunday. Bring bike, body paint, helmet and a sense of humour to the old Byron Bay railway station for a 2pm start.

Toodle pip!


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