A year in Shirleys

I had been five weeks in the job before I met the women who run Bunbury. I didn’t know it then, and I’m sure they still don’t suspect their own power.
Their name was Shirley.
The two Shirleys had decided to start a Bunbury branch of the Shirley Club, and I was doing a story to help them attract more of their namesakes.
The ad had run in the paper’s Community Billboard.
“Calling all Shirleys. Come and socialise with other Shirleys in the Bunbury branch of the Shirley Club. Interested Shirleys can contact Shirley on XXXX, or alternatively Shirley on XXX.”
They gave me a cup of tea, and I took a lot of notes.
A few months later, a Shirley called me because she and her friend Bev had recently returned from a holiday in Russia.
I met Bev, had a cup of tea, and wrote a fluff piece about seniors waiting until retirement to travel the world.
A month after that, Bev called me to talk about trucks. Delivery trucks were using the driveway of the Bunbury Women’s Club, blocking access to the members parking. Bev was president, and she asked me to put the wind up council.
Bev introduced me to Carole, the club’s heritage officer. She was handling heritage grants, and we ran a few stories on projects to restore the 140-year-old building.
This month a murder trial was held at the Bunbury Supreme Court. Two days before it was to start, I got a call from a court reporter working in Perth. He wanted the name of a local court artist, and Carole from the women’s club had told him I was the person to contact.
We had never used a court artist, but I made a few calls anyway. I didn’t find one, but I told him to look out for our court reporter before the opening remarks.
Our reporter was not able to attend every day of the case, but that was ok, because he had a friend in the Perth journalist. That journalist called when the verdict was about to be announced, and when some of the audio evidence was released to the media, he flicked it through to us too.
Murders are pretty rare in Bunbury, and the audio evidence allowed us to ramp up our coverage to match the size of the story.
I met one of the Shirleys again last week. She was holding a flower arranging workshop.
Women like the Shirleys know everyone. They have had tea with everyone in a town the size of Bunbury, or at least with their mother.
Young journalists are advised to connect with the local Rotary, Apex and Lions clubs when they arrive in a new town.
All good advice. Me, I’ll skip straight to the Shirleys.