Long has my body and mind desired to take up the life of a social hermit. Years have I contemplated, over a long draw of my hash pipe, what it would be like to discard the choking shackles of society. To cry "NAY!" to the temptations of suburbia and turn my back on things that only money can buy.
Ever since my eyes read of the life of the Hobbits, my mind's eye has conjured up visions of happiness that cannot be found on the back of a serial box. Happiness that CAN be found tending one's fields, building one's own home, growing one's own wheat and barley, and brewing one's own delicious abbey style beer (with a view to share and compare with friends).... also, to bake. (oh what?!)
Social Hermit?! Yes! A hermit, by his very nature, is a loaner. They can often be observed sitting alone in caves, or hollow tree trunks. That is however NOT my desire. I desire to live away from big cities, big pressures, big assholes, and take up the simple life... with friends and seven wifes. I jest!... eight wifes!!!.... (I jest).
If a bunch of hermits group together, and live in a hermit village, are they actually hermits? Yes.. social hermits, as opposed to orthodox hermits... the mind, clearly, boggles.
The reality of the situation is that I would not be able to convince enough friends (let along girlfriend(s)(...I jest)) to join me on my dream. Hard to believe, as I'm sure my little pitch has left you with a feeling of childlike delight. In the end, my brother would probably be the only willing participant. This would, of course, cement our family's reputation as fruit-loops. Worth it? maybe! :-)
Anyway - the next best thing to setting up a hermit village and living there without the evil delights of modern society (except razors for the womens - I am no fan of the French!) is to visit a Benedictine Monastery. And to dream.
so, enough theatrical text and on with the journal.
On Sunday, upon learning that Tracy did not have to work on Monday, it was decided that a little trip to New Norcia would compliment the lovely spring weather nicely. As such, with a view to purchase bread from its famous bakery, we set off around 10:00 for a day of simple pleasure.
The drive up to the Monastery was lovely. Not oft do we head north (it always feels like going uphill), and it is now clear that 'not oft' is not nearly often enough! We stopped off at the Bindoon Bakery on the way, as it had become clear that we would not have enough time to eat breakfast before the start of our 11:00 tour. The pepper-steak pie was delicious.
Upon entering New Norcia, it became apparent that this place was a much bigger tourist attraction that we thought. There were several tour-buses there, and the carpark was almost full. I assumed that everyone would be at the Royal Show. Most of the visitors were from interstate, so the Royal Show would have had little effect on numbers.
We made it to the Tour start point with 5 minutes to spare.
The two hour tour cost $23 and kept my attention for most of its duration. Our guide was the Town Manager, whom reminded me of a sheriff. The man was completely 'neutral' in regards to religion, which I thought was a shame. The guy is a business man, not a Monk, and it showed. I don't like guides trying to 'convert' me, but a bit more enthusiasm for 'faith' would have created a much better atmosphere.
We both enjoyed the tour, which focused more on the facts of the place, rather than the religious reasoning behind it.
Rather than typing my own interpretations of New Norcia's history, I will encourage you to read its brief Wikipedia entry (Wikipedia: New Norcia), as well as the town's own website (www.newnorcia.wa.edu.au).
The buildings, considering the setting, are impressive. Don't get me wrong, they are not jaw dropping. But they certainly look grander than most country buildings, and have a lot of character. The boarding school and orphanage, as well as the Hotel are quite imposing.
Towards the end of the tour, I was delighted to learn that the Monks had (just a week earlier) launched Australia's first and only Abbey Beer!! As such, we ventured to the Hotel for a quick lunch (some soup, and dipping bread.... twas nice) and a glass of New Norcia Abbey Ale.
I had my reservations and expectations were pretty low (even though I was very excited). don_preacher and I have high expectations when it comes to specialty beers, and generally only rave about selected Belgian Beers. So was this local brew worth raving about? No! but it was a lot better than I was expecting it to be. It was quite light and fruity, slightly spicy and easy to drink. The setting most certainly added to my enjoyment of the beer, and I'm not sure if I would enjoy it as much in suburbia. I guess I'll have to try it again later :P
At $80 a carton, it's almost three times cheaper than an average Belgian beer. For that reason alone, it deserves to be given another shot.
...I have just realised that my review sounds somewhat negative... I must stress that I actually really liked this beer, and it actually managed to get pretty close to what I would expect from a Belgian beer. It is however, much more expensive that then beer I would ordinarily buy for home consumption (Little Creatures: Pale Ale | Matilda Bay: Beez Neez | Jeames Squire: Amber Ale) and I'm not sure I would enjoy it proportionately more, when drinking it at home. Especially since I have not found anyone that shares my passion for quality beer, to enjoy the experience with me.
Anyway - I have waffled on enough.