Music Festival Top 5

I love music festivals and I love taking photos. Last weekend I got to do both. How lucky am I!
How did I end up doing that you might ask? I’m not exactly a professional photographer and fairly new in the game of using a DSLR camera.

The trick is volunteering till you get there. Which is what I did a few months back when I saw the call out on one of the photographer groups I belong to. It was a spur of the moment decision, so I really had no time to consider it too much and talk myself out of it because of nerves. I said yes on a Monday for that weekend. My first was Kiama Folk Festival and I Loved every minute of it even though it was pretty nerve-racking and exhausting. My first time being part of a media team, so felt daunting. With the team being really supportive I soon enjoyed it and forgot about my nerves. Plus it’s​ not every​ day​ you have an excuse/permit to make your way up front to allow you to take some great shots.

I loved it and they obviously loved my work. I just loved being able to get the exposure and get into the music festival for free. So when I was asked for the bigger festival, The 33rd annual Illawarra Folk Festival, I had no hesitation. Once again I had the best time and the performers were top shelf. I love how you always get to listen to bands you may never have seen if it wasn’t for the festivals. So much talent but also so much competition so it’s not an easy industry. Like many creative industries, it is very hard to get to a level of success where you can live on your passion.

So I would like to give some praise the ​performers and let you know about my Top five acts. I know it will be hard to narrow it down to just five as I loved so many of them. But here goes, and in no particular​ order:

Handsome Young Strangers


The blurb​ notes:
“The undisputed kings​ of Aussie Bush Punk, Handsome Young Strangers have been touring for years with their high octane take on Australian Folk Rock”

I loved their upbeat Aussie flavour, they made you smile and it was hard to not tap your feet. They have obviously played together for a long time evident by the fun banter and tight musical collaboration​. I would normally not sit through a whole performance if taking photos but this time it was too good to leave. A feast for the ears. Plus the stage was in an old Chapel up in the hills of Bulli making it an easy place to chill and listen to good music.

The Button Collective


The blurb​ notes:
“Exciting high energy Irish band. Their guitar-driven sound borrows from traditional Irish​ folk songs and tunes, with the spirit of fast-paced American old-timey music”

Great music mixed with the charm only the Irish seem to be so expert at. Performing on a Sunday morning proved sometimes a struggle for the vocals of the main singer, but didn’t​ phase him one bit. His charm carried him across any ill-placed​ note. A few blunders could not take away from​ the​ quality singing and music this band produced as a team. Every band member contributed with their individual high-quality​ music skills. I will be looking out for them around Sydney.

The Northern Folk

The blurb​ notes:
“The Northern folk are a collective of eleven musical ambitionists spreading their unique brand of folk​/pop/stomp/funk from intimate ballads to bigband boot stompers”

This huge band from Melbourne is relatively new to the festival scene but are definitely going places. I only saw them perform on Saturday​ evening​ but many festival goers had seen them on Friday night​ and came​​back forv2nd and 3rd performances. Their repertoir would take you from quiet ballads to high energy songs. So much talent is rare to see in such a large band. Everyone with their own set of musical skills making this band a must see.Do yourself a favour and check them out when next in your area.

Nick Charles

The blurb​ notes:
“Known as Australia’s virtuoso​ acoustic​ roots and blues, Nick has released albums worldwide, toured the USA and received awards including Port FAiry folk Festival Artist of the year 2014”

This guy has been around for a while and he knows his stuff. Being a lover of blues and roots I instantly loved his performance. He has a real ease about him and makes playing the ​guitar look a breeze. But trust me I know from my own experience it is​ not easy. I never tire of good guitar music and his voice is smooth and easy to listen to. If you like acoustic guitar then check Nick out.

Dan Walsh


The blurb​ notes:
“At the heart of Dan’s music is British Irish and American folk​ music delivered with a healthy dose of funky grooves​ in his unique​ style on clawhammer banjo. Add poignant songs- wow audiences across the world”

This young man can certainly dazzle you with his banjo playing skills.I knew as soon as I walked into his performance he would be a treat. I had planned to just pop in to get a couple of photos ​but ended up sitting down and doing a live stream. Really just an excuse to linger as I enjoyed his performance too much. Only in Australia for a month so be quick and check him out while you can. Or maybe some of my UK readers already know him already?

So that is my​ Top 5. But seriously I could have listed​ so many more. Keven Welsh, Josefine Poulson, The Protestors​, Lizzie​ Flynn & The Reckoning to name a few. But then I would never finish this blog and sometimes you just have to make a line in the sand.

What is your favourite band or style of music?

Photos by Sal Gallaher
Blurb notes from The Illawarra​ Folk Festival booklet

My Last Love

My second short story published first on Short Fiction Break in September 2017


He was not my first love. But he ended up my biggest and my last love.

It was a short love affair, but the fall was intense. We both knew it would not be an easy road yet it was a road we both desired and had to travel. Almost like there was no other option.

I saw it in his eyes across the breakfast table in the hotel cafe busy with people enjoying a last weekend away before fall. We seemed to be the only people by ourselves.  I was wondering if he had a partner. But he remained on his own. Our eyes locked and we both smiled. I think that was the moment I fell. Something in his face, the way his smile seemed to not only make his lips move. His whole face and body smiled. I felt instantly warm, secure and immensely content. My whole body felt alive. Longing raised to the surface so overpowering I could only go with what my soul urged me to do. Both feeling the pressure of time and a need to let go once more and just dive in for the fall.  Dive into falling in love.

We had both given up on finding love again. Settled for life as it was. Content with friendships and family catch-ups. Life was good. But the longing was always there. The longing to connect and to love again. The longing to have another human being to share life’s little moments with. To rid you of the loneliness that would creep in at night like a silent thief robbing you of your contentment and leaving you with sadness wondering if that was all there was left.  But you kept going each day suppressing the loneliness and focussing on all the positives in your life.

We were both at that point in our lives. I saw the reflection of my life in his eyes when we smiled across the tables. The instant attraction was deep. I normally would never do what I did next, but it felt so natural. I got up and walked over to his table.

“Can I join you?” I uttered cheerfully. His grin said more than yes. That was the start and the end for both of us. No return.

We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the sights together. We laughed and smiled a lot. And we talked. We talked for hours. It was like we both knew we had limited time together. We wanted every minute to count and to be the best we could.

We spoke about our lives and realised how close we had been to crossing paths on a number of occasions. Our travels throughout Vietnam in our twenties, staying at the same hostels only days apart. Our children attending the same universities and graduating the same year. We would have been in the crowds cheering for them. Both with partners then. Both unhappy staying in miserable marriages for the sake of our children. Both finally divorcing and starting our new lives in our late 50’s. Settling into single life only a few suburbs apart. Eventually, both settling for life as it was. Single and content, but always longing.

The weekend ended too soon, but we exchanged numbers. His hug enveloped my whole body and reached beneath my core into my soul. It penetrated the loneliness and brought feelings to the surface that overwhelmed and surprised me. I felt like crying. A need to shed the loneliness I had suppressed for an eternity. Even with partners, I had always felt lonely. With him, I felt complete. I felt joyful. I felt love.

“Let’s catch up again soon” he whispered in my ear. I nodded and saw my own reflection in his moist eyes when we said our goodbyes.

We spoke every day after that and started our love affair. We kept it a secret to avoid trouble and the inevitable backlash. Our families would not approve easily, but we were committed to making this work and would tackle any issues together.

Our time was filled with romantic dinners, drives to new places and movies. Always talking, always laughing, always exploring new activities together. We loved with such intensity it sometimes didn’t seem real. Like being the main characters in a romance novel. Yet it was extremely real. Our feelings raw and real. Intense and beautiful.

We loved with no limitations, we read each other like open books. We didn’t always agree, but we never quarreled. We accepted each other with no questions as to who was right or wrong. Our families and friends eventually accepted us being together. Except for my daughter. “It’s just wrong” she yelled and slammed the phone down when we last spoke. “She will come around in her own time” he reassured me in his kind loving way.

We had six months of pure bliss. Pure unadulterated bliss feeling like nothing could stop this love or change our lives. But something did.

I saw it in his eyes as soon as he walked in the door. I had prepared an easy meal for a movie night at my place. Outside was windy and rain had started to set in. A perfect night for snuggling on the couch. We hugged, but I felt his tenseness. Then his body shook. He held me tight, his tears quietly rolling down my neck. His body told me he was holding back the sobs. I held him till he relaxed. Then he looked into my eyes.  I saw the reflection of the end, I felt his intense pain. I took his hand and led him to my bed and we just laid there in each other’s arms. I knew he would tell me when he was ready.

I could feel he was relaxing as I caressed his face. I looked at him, my eyes full of questions, my heart full of fear, but I was ready to hear what he had to say. I needed to hear it. His voice was filled with sorrow and despair when he uttered the six words that changed everything “I have cancer. I am dying”

My world stopped then. I struggled to take in the words at first. I don’t think I wanted to take them in. I cried. Then I kissed him intensely. We tried to make love, but we both just cried. We gave up and just hugged. Dinner stayed in the oven and burned to a crisp. We stayed in bed all night, just hugging, kissing and talking.

A routine checkup had revealed the headaches were not mere headaches. A large brain tumour had been growing inside his skull while we had enjoyed our love affair. Silently sneaking into our lives with malicious intent to rob us of our last chance of happiness and love. At our age, the fall season of life, it does not come easily or often.

The days following was a rollercoaster. He pushed me away at first saying he didn’t want me on this journey. He wanted to spare me the sadness, he wanted me to leave and find a new love. I shouted at him for the first time in our time together. I screamed and used words I didn’t know I knew. The result of my sickening fear, sadness, and despair came out in my yelling. Through it all, we both ended up accepting our needs to be with each other no matter what. Till the end. I could see that he wanted me there deep down. My eyes and emotions showed him I wanted to be there too.

We accepted our limited time. Our lovemaking returned. It was as deep as before but tinged with a sadness that we couldn’t escape. As the visits to the hospital increased and he grew weaker we mostly just held each other quietly throughout the long nights. Or we cried till we both slept. In each other’s arms, savoring every moment we had left. I would wake often. More than him. I would watch his face and listen to his breathing. Capturing the image for my memory bank to keep forever.

I laid in his arms, in the hospital bed, on his last night. Just listening to his breathing and taking in his beautiful face. His family had left for the night, vowing to return in the morning. I wished my daughter would accept us like his family had.

He woke up briefly at 4 am. His eyes were clear and looked deeply into mine when he whispered “I love you, Sam. Thank you for loving me”

He never woke again. He took his last breath shortly after in my arms. I stayed in his arms for a while longer then I called my daughter. Still with my head on his chest, I looked up as she walked in. She came over, hugged me and whispered. “Dad, I am so so sorry”

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Filed Under: Fall Writing Contest 2017


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2 Kavitha says
September 6, 2017 at 11:20 pm



◦ Sal says
September 11, 2017 at 5:36 am

Thank you Kavitha


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4 .children

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7 Karen says
September 9, 2017 at 1:57 am

Poignant and beautiful.


◦ Sal says
September 11, 2017 at 5:37 am

Thank you Karen!


8 #comment-##

9 .children

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12 Sally says
September 10, 2017 at 5:37 am

I can totally recognize this story – so beautiful and touching.


◦ Sal says
September 11, 2017 at 5:37 am

Thank you Sally!


13 #comment-##

14 .children

15 #comment-##


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Focus Retriever


Positive Thought 18/1/2018

Podcasts and audible books – a blessing on a longer than normal commute.

Caught up on podcast episode 218 of So You Want To Be A Writer on my way to work this morning. Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo always make me smile.

Brene Brown’s Braving The Wilderness entertained me on the way home with her wisdom and beautiful view of the world.